Posts Tagged ‘Bill McKibben’
The Resilience Imperative and Civil Disobedience
I have long been a subscriber to CASSE, The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. As Casse’s home page sets out, “Perpetual economic growth is neither possible nor desirable. Growth, especially in wealthy nations, is already causing more problems than it solves. Recession isn’t sustainable or healthy either. The positive, sustainable alternative is a steady state economy.” Do take a minute to see the sense and power of this fundamentally and obvious position by reading a little more here.
But as the title of today’s post sets out, all the ideas and actions and commitments come to naught if the outcomes aren’t delivered. This recent essay by Michael Lewis on the CASSE website explores the issue of outcomes and I am very grateful for being granted permission to republish it here on Learning from Dogs.
The Resilience Imperative and Civil Disobedience
by Michael Lewis
As I was making a speech in Alberta, Canada, to a business audience, mainly from the finance and energy industries, a fully engaged participant in the front row caught my eye. He was the first to approach me after the question period and the first to get my autograph on The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy, the book that I co-authored with Pat Conaty.
During my talk, I had argued that economic growth and a casino-like financial system were taking us to the edge of a deadly precipice. I made the case that societies urgently need to navigate the turn to a steady-state economy, based on local and regional trade. I also offered suggestions on how we might accomplish this. The thesis has a bit of an edge to it, especially in a business crowd accustomed to globalization and growth, so I was anxious to learn more about the front-row enthusiast.
He turned out to be a warm, charming, and open senior manager at Cenovus Energy, a large player in the Athabasca Tar Sands. The corporation seems to be respected in Alberta and Saskatchewan because of its health and safety, community, and environmental initiatives. He rapidly brought the discussion to the issue of “social license,” a condition he acknowledged was a big problem for the tar sands operators. But his view, after many years around boardroom tables, is that the industry is becoming more transparent and responsible, and its performance is improving.
I believe this to be true; certainly Cenovus has been doing a lot of things right. However, I argued that he was missing the point; social license in this industry could only be understood in a global context, and it is not going to be forthcoming for two simple reasons: (1) economic growth produces carbon and (2) carbon is going to kill a lot of us and thousands of other creatures.
If the oil and gas sector wants to explore the potential for broadening its social license, it would have to stand shoulder to shoulder with scientists, governments, businesses, and civil society and argue for a stiff tax on carbon. Only by taking such responsibility can Cenovus and its fellow corporations expand their social license. At the same time they would be helping to set the stage for the transition to a steady-state economy.
“Nothing less would do,” I proclaimed.
“Well you know, Mike,” he replied, “I have not seen much evidence of such a move afoot.”
Why am I not surprised? “I know,” I said. “Shareholder interests are framed by the ideology of growth and profit maximization, and even when these interests are complemented by an ethic of corporate social responsibility, the ideology does not exactly encourage this vital and necessary conversation.”
A few days later I attended the launch conference of the New Economics Institute at Bard College in Upstate New York. It was a remarkable convergence of practitioners, researchers, and activists engaged in debates about economics, analysis of mindboggling challenges (both local and planetary in scale), and exploration of hopeful transformational pathways.
Bill McKibben delivered a Friday evening keynote speech to a packed audience. His laser focus on greenhouse gas emissions was at once absorbing, terrifying, and hopeful, precisely the kind of dynamic that is motivating more and more people to step up to the front lines of civil disobedience, including many scientists and even a few economists. Mark Jaccard, a well-known energy economist in Vancouver, is hardly considered to be a radical, but he joined the front-line battle as part of a 350.org action. He was arrested in May of this year [Ed: 2012] for blocking a coal train headed north to Vancouver’s coal port.
McKibben and Jaccard are picking up on the analysis of James Hansen et al. that oil and gas are a problem, but we do not have enough of it left to take us over 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Coal is the real threat. Unless we phase out coal completely by 2050, we will blast beyond this concentration, and that’s an event that many climate scientists believe will trigger catastrophic consequences. What are we to do?
McKibben and Jaccard are showing us part of the answer. But to make real progress, we need to pay much more attention to Herman Daly, the outstanding chronicler of our economic and ecological lunacy. He concluded one recent essay with this strident statement befitting of our circumstances:
Even though the benefits of further growth are now less than the costs, our decision-making elites have figured out how to keep the dwindling extra benefits for themselves, while “sharing” the exploding extra costs with the poor, the future, and other species. The elite-owned media, the corporate-funded think tanks, the kept economists of high academia, and the World Bank — not to mention Gold Sacks and Wall Street — all sing hymns to growth in perfect unison, and bamboozle average citizens.
Dr. Daly has clarified and expanded the arguments for a steady-state economy that go back to John Stuart Mill, John Ruskin, Frederick Soddy, Kenneth Boulding, and Ghandi. In the same essay referenced above, Daly also noted that in spite of all the evidence of the growing crisis, “our economists, bankers, and politicians still have unrealistic expectations about growth. Like the losing gambler they try to get even by betting double or nothing on more growth.”
Well then, perhaps we need to follow the leads of McKibben, Jaccard, and Hansen, and go get arrested. Perhaps we need to breathe deeply and act courageously to make hope more concrete and despair less convincing. Perhaps those of us in the 50 to 90-year-old set need to commit to civil disobedience to honor our children, grandchildren and our hopes for their survival. The time has arrived for all of us, but especially the post-war “growth generation” to break out of our too-comfortable zones. Stopping carbon emissions is a pre-condition, but nothing will change unless we are prepared to put ourselves on the line.
Of course, this is not enough. We have many questions to answer. How are we going to meet basic needs for energy, food, and shelter? How are we going to finance the economic transition? How do we restructure property rights to overcome the pervasive me-first culture? How do we achieve more local and democratic ownership of the means of production? How do we share jobs and income in a transition that will require less stuff and thus less making of stuff?
These are the questions we concentrate on in The Resilience Imperative. Pat Conaty and I put 42 months of serious forehead pressing into the book, and the early results are gratifying. People as divergent as John Fullerton, former managing director of JP Morgan whose focus is now on resilience and transition (good-bye Wall Street), and Robin Murray from the London School of Economics have endorsed it — they believe we have presented hopeful ideas for getting the transition going.
After presenting numerous positive examples of how people are changing the economy today, we end the book on this note:
The tasks of transition are many. The challenges are daunting. The outcomes are uncertain. Our courage remains untested. But we are a resilient species. We are not alone; there is “blessed unrest” all about. If we but open our eyes, we will SEE change is possible. If we act in ways that recognize we are interdependent, we will continue to innovate co-operative transitions to a steady-state economy.
There is one key question we need to ask ourselves. What stories will we be able to tell our loved ones about what we did to advance the Great Transition?
One sentence really jumped out at me from Michael’s essay and it was this one, “Perhaps we need to breathe deeply and act courageously to make hope more concrete and despair less convincing.” Reminds me of the quotation ascribed to Napoleon Bonaparte:
Courage isn’t having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have strength.
It is all about outcomes.
The full copy of an email received yesterday from 350.org
Breaking news about a good friend
Big news has just emerged: Dr. James Hansen, the planet’s premier climate scientist, announced his retirement as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, where he began his career in 1967.
If 350.org has a patron saint, it’s Jim. It was his 2008 paper that gave us our name, identifying 350 parts per million CO2 as the safe upper limit for carbon in the atmosphere.
But as much as for his science, we respect him for his courage. He’s always been willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come “to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,” to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so. I have no doubt he’ll go on doing science, and speaking plainly — indeed, he told the New York Times that one reason he’s leaving the federal payroll is so he can take on the government more directly.
But this is a big moment, and we need to mark it. Here’s what I hope you’ll do: honor Jim’s lifetime of work by making a public comment to the State Department about Keystone XL and tell them to reject the pipeline. In this case, speaking out is simple — click the link below to go to the page to submit from. There’s a list of ten arguments to choose from – you can mix and match or put it in your own words and just speak from the heart.
Sending a message to the State Department might not seem like much, but I think it’s actually quite fitting tribute.
One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate.” So far that message hasn’t gotten through: the State Department hired a bunch of compromised oil industry analysts to ‘review’ KXL, and unsurprisingly they decided it would have ‘minimal’ environmental impact. We need to get them to take reality seriously, and change that assessment.
Maybe — just maybe — with a truly overwhelming flood of comments, we can break through. Together with our friends across the movement, we’re aiming for an ambitious target of 1 million comments to the State Department to stop the pipeline.
Beginning this comment push is all the more timely after the disasterous tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas, where thousands of gallons of toxic oil ran freely through the streets of a suburban community.
Jim Hansen has been to jail twice to try and block KXL. When I saw him in handcuffs, I cringed. I don’t mind going myself, but it seems crazy that we have to send our best climate scientist off in handcuffs; in a sane world he’d never have to leave the lab. And in a sane world we’d just be toasting his retirement from NASA with well-deserved champagne.
But it’s a crazy world, heating fast, and so we need to mark this historic day in a way that really counts. Please do take a couple minutes to submit a comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
So many thanks,
P.S. This article about Jim’s work in the New York Times is supurb — please take a moment to read and share: nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/james-e-hansen-retiring-from-nasa-to-fight-global-warming.html
P.S. please submit your comment re the Keystone XL Pipeline; for all our sakes. This is the acknowledgement you will receive from 350.org.
Thanks for submitting your comment. We’ve set the ambitious goal of 1,000,000 comments to the State Department because our best defense against the big money behind this project is overwhelming numbers — in short, people power.
Submitting a comment is just the first step — to hit that big goal, we each need to get our friends, family and maybe a few new people to join us. The next step is to share this with your social networks. You can click below to easily share with Facebook and Twitter:
Also, emails to friends is a great way to encourage people to share as well — just include this link when you reach out:act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/
No doubt we’ll talk again soon about all this — there’s still a ways to go.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).
The final of three repostings from a year ago. To recap, I wrote on Monday, “… out of curiosity I wondered what I had published a year ago, in early February 2012. To my amazement what was published was as fresh and relevant as if it had been published today.“
So many vested opinions!
To me the arguments supporting the premise that mankind is engaged in the process of destroying our very being are powerful and convincing. But if there is any serious scientific doubt, then I am reminded of that saying in aviation circles about a risk to the safety of an aircraft, “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!” Surely, that’s the stance the climate change skeptics should be taking! Because when the evidence of global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction is drawn together and there are no skeptics left, then will the last person left alive please switch the lights off!
Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Why the Energy-Industrial Elite Has It In for the Planet
Posted by Bill McKibben at 9:39am, February 7, 2012.
Two Saturdays ago, I was walking with a friend in a park here in New York City. It was late January, but I was dressed in a light sweater and a thin fall jacket, which I had just taken off and tied around my waist. We were passing a strip of bare ground when suddenly we both did a double-take. He looked at me and said, “Crocuses!” Dumbfounded, I replied, “Yes, I see them.” And there they were, a few clumps of telltale green shoots poking up from the all-brown ground as if it were spring. Such a common, comforting sight, but it sent a chill through me that noticeably wasn’t in the air. Even the flowers, I thought, are confused by our new version of weather.
Later that same week, as temperatures in the Big Apple crested 60 degrees, I was chatting on the phone with a friend in Northampton, Massachusetts. I was telling him about the crocuses, when he suddenly said, “I’m looking out my window right now and for the first time in my memory of January, there’s not a trace of snow!”
Of course, our tales couldn’t be more minor or anecdotal, even if the temperatures that week did feel like we were on another planet. Here’s the thing, though: after a while, even anecdotes add up — maybe we should start calling them “extreme anecdotes” — and right now there are so many of them being recounted across the planet. How could there not be in a winter, now sometimes referred to as “Junuary,” in which, in the United States, 2,890 daily high temperature records have either been broken or tied at last count, with the numbers still rising? Meanwhile, just to the south of us, in Mexico, extreme anecdotes abound, since parts of the country are experiencing “the worst drought on record.” Even cacti are reportedly wilting and some towns are running out of water (as they are across the border in drought-stricken Texas). And worst of all, the Mexican drought is expected to intensify in the months to come.
And who can doubt that in Europe, experiencing an extreme cold spell the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades — even Rome had a rare snowfall and Venice’s canals were reported to be freezing over – there are another set of all-too-extreme anecdotes. After all, in places like Ukraine, scores of the homeless are freezing to death, pipes are bursting, power cuts are growing, and maybe even an instant energy crisis is underway (at a moment when the European Union is getting ready to cut itself off from Iranian oil).
That’s just to begin a list. And yet here’s the strange thing. At least in this country, you can read the “freaky” weather reports or listen to the breathless TV accounts of unexpected tornadoes striking the South in January and rarely catch a mention of the phrase “climate change.” Given the circumstances, the relative silence on the subject is little short of eerie, even if worries about climate change lurk just below the surface. Which is why it’s good to have TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, take a clear-eyed look at American denialism and just what it is we prefer not to take in. Tom
The Great Carbon Bubble
Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard
By Bill McKibben
If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet — as we shall see — it’s unfortunately largely invisible to us.
In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology. Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image [see below, Ed] shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds.
It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years. As Jeff Masters, the web’s most widely read meteorologist, explains, “The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s.”
In fact, it’s likely that the week that photo was taken will prove “the driest first week in recorded U.S. history.” Indeed, it followed on 2011, which showed the greatest weather extremes in our history – 56% of the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since “climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier.” Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters each causing $1 billion or more in damage last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: “Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”
In the face of such data — statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet — you’d think we’d already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we’re witnessing an all-out effort to… deny there’s a problem.
Our GOP presidential candidates are working hard to make sure no one thinks they’d appease chemistry and physics. At the last Republican debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted that he should be the nominee because he’d caught on earlier than Newt or Mitt to the global warming “hoax.”
Most of the media pays remarkably little attention to what’s happening. Coverage of global warming has dipped 40% over the last two years. When, say, there’s a rare outbreak of January tornadoes, TV anchors politely discuss “extreme weather,” but climate change is the disaster that dare not speak its name.
And when they do break their silence, some of our elite organs are happy to indulge in outright denial. Last month, for instance, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by “16 scientists and engineers” headlined “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The article was easily debunked. It was nothing but a mash-up of long-since-disproved arguments by people who turned out mostly not to be climate scientists at all, quoting other scientists who immediately said their actual work showed just the opposite.
It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.)Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.
Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.
Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.
Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.
When I talked about a carbon bubble at the beginning of this essay, this is what I meant. Here are some of the relevant numbers, courtesy of the Capital Institute: we’re already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with.
If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we’ll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons — five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.
Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).
If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality. So instead, we simply charge ahead. To take just one example, last month the boss of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, called for burning all the country’s newly discovered coal, gas, and oil — believed to be 1,800 gigatons worth of carbon from our nation alone.
What he and the rest of the energy-industrial elite are denying, in other words, is that the business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry. The carbon bubble that looms over our world needs to be deflated soon. As with our fiscal crisis, failure to do so will cause enormous pain — pain, in fact, almost beyond imagining. After all, if you think banks are too big to fail, consider the climate as a whole and imagine the nature of the bailout that would face us when that bubble finally bursts.
Unfortunately, it won’t burst by itself — not in time, anyway. The fossil-fuel companies, with their heavily funded denialism and their record campaign contributions, have been able to keep at bay even the tamest efforts at reining in carbon emissions. With each passing day, they’re leveraging us deeper into an unpayable carbon debt — and with each passing day, they’re raking in unimaginable returns. ExxonMobil last week reported its 2011 profits at $41 billion, the second highest of all time. Do you wonder who owns the record? That would be ExxonMobil in 2008 at $45 billion.
Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game. And it’s why that view from the satellites, however beautiful from a distance, is likely to become ever harder to recognize as our home planet.
Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
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Copyright 2012 Bill McKibben
Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth – Blue Marble 2012
January 25, 2012
*Updated February 2, 2012: According to Flickr, “The western hemisphere Blue Marble 2012 image has rocketed up to over 3.1 million views making it one of the all time most viewed images on the site after only one week.”
A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.
Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.
Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.
To read more about NASA’s Suomi NPP go to: www.nasa.gov/npp
Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
Powerful words from President Obama; now we the people must act.
I’m taking the liberty of reproducing in full the item that was published by Bill McKibben of 350.org yesterday. As I wrote on the 17th this year has to be the year that we make a difference, a call to every man, woman and child on the planet. This is a snippet from that post.
With these in mind, Doherty proposes a new grand strategic concept: “The United States must lead the global transition to sustainability.“
What a vision for the United States of America. That this Nation will be the most wonderful example of how man can learn, adapt and change.
So to the call issued by 350.org.
Here’s what President Obama said about climate change during his address today:
With words like that, it’s easy to let ourselves dream that something major might be about to happen to fix the biggest problem the world has ever faced.
But we know that even if the President is sincere in every syllable, he’s going to need lots of backup to help him get his point across in a city dominated by fossil fuel interests. And, given the record of the last four years, we know that too often rhetoric has yielded little in the way of results.
That’s why we need you — very badly — to take a trip to our nation’s capital on Feb. 17th. We’ll gather on the National Mall, in what is shaping up to be be the largest environmental rally in many years.
Click here to join us in DC: act.350.org/signup/presidentsday
Together we’ll send the message loud and clear: ‘If you’re serious about protecting future generations from climate change, stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. If you can do that, Mr. President, we can all work together to help build a climate legacy that will be a credit to your critical eight years in office.’
Look – numbers count. If 20,000 of us show up on February 17th, it will be noticed. We need you in that number. The President may have given us an opening, but it’s up to us to go through it, and we need to do it together.
Thanks for all you’ve done to bring us this far, friends. Let’s keep it up – this is our chance.
Even if you are unable to be there in person on the 17th., do what you can to circulate this just as far and wide as possible.
Sometimes one just has to scratch one’s head and wonder about life!
I can’t recall when and where I first heard the muse as to why Planet Earth has not been visited by aliens, but I recall the answer: “Because alien passers-by have not found any signs of intelligent life!“
The reason that this comes to mind is that the damage that we are doing to our planet, nay to life on our planet, if we don’t embrace the reality of climate change is truly ‘gob-smacking’!
The evidence for this statement is over-powering. Just last Friday, I republished a recent essay from Tom Engelhardt under the title of ‘The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Tom’s essay focused on the lack of any change that came out of the recent Presidential election. That essay closed, thus:
But stop waiting for change, “big” or otherwise, to come from Washington. It won’t. Don’t misunderstand me: as the residents of the Midwestern drought zone and the Jersey shore now know all too well, change is coming, like it or not. If, however, you want this country to be something other than its instigator and its victim, if you want the U.S. to engage a world of danger (and also of opportunity), you’d better call yourself and your friends and neighbors to the colors. Don’t wait for a Washington focused on its own well-being in 2014 or 2016. Mobilize yourself. It’s time to occupy this country before it’s blown away in a storm.
An inciteful comment from reader Jules was this:
“Don’t count on anyone doing the obvious: launching the sort of Apollo-style R&D program that once got us to the moon and might speed the U.S. and the planet toward an alternative energy economy, or investing real money in the sort of mitigation projects for the new weather paradigm that might prevent a coastal city like New York — or even Washington – from turning into an uninhabitable disaster zone in some not so distant future.”
A pity. Americans can do some things very well, the kind of stuff that merits some of the hyperbole of being the greatest nation, the ability to mobilise a nation and lead the world being one of them. We need heroes maybe it’s time for you lot to don that cape and be one.
Americans have such a potential for positive change – I just can’t imagine why this Nation isn’t leading the world to a more Earth-friendly environment.
This then came into my ‘in-box’ on Friday: Could NDAA be the Death of Biofuels in America? The article opened thus:
The US military is one of the most important developers of new technologies leading them to a point where they can be released onto the market for public and private use. Currently the Department of Defense, led by the Navy, is attempting to reduce its dependence on oil by as much as 50% by 2020, by producing US-made biofuels.
and the author concluded:
Nicole Lederer, the co-founder of E2, despaired that, “the military often leads major economic transitions in our country. Yet right now in Washington, some shortsighted lawmakers are poised to block a potentially major transformation of our national energy supply – and also hold back the significant economic growth and job gains that would come with it.”
Russ Teal, founder of the biorefinery builder Biodico, warned that, “the military is the biggest driver of the biofuels industry right now. If Congress stops the military from doing what the military knows is best, Congress also could threaten the growth of the Made-in-America biofuels industry.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Then more or less the same time as I read the piece above, in came the latest from 350.org, an essay by Naomi Klein.
Naomi Klein: Do The Math, The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Destroying Our Future
Naomi Klein was out in the shattered neighbourhood of Rockaway Park Queens last weekend, participating in the Occupy relief efforts there. In this interview she underscores the importance of both increasing local resilience as a response to our changing climate and addressing the fossil fuel industry’s business model directly. As 350.org’s Do The Math campaign makes clear, the fossil fuel industry’s business plan will destroy the planet. Bill McKibben reminded the “Do The Math”audience in Seattle this month that the global warming math is quite simple: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2 degrees of warming. Anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, 5Xs the safe amount. And they are planning to burn it all, unless we rise up & stop them.
So is there any hope? So easy to think not. But in terms of hope the answer is “Yes, yes and yes!” Because the decent peoples of the world are way ahead of their politicians. Take the transition movement. I used to live in the village of Harberton, just 3 miles from the town of Totnes, Devon, in the South-West of England.
126 official US initiatives
437 official initiatives worldwide
33 US states
One of the latest has just been formed in the city where Jean and I were living until just a few weeks ago, namely Payson, Arizona. Here’s a reflection from John Hurlburt in Payson, one of a group of committed citizens who, like so many millions of others around the world, just can’t wait for governments to ‘lead’ and was one of the founding members of Transition Town Payson.
Keep it Simple
We share a living planet as a living species. Corporate finance fuels political hate and denial. The divisiveness of global and national politics reflects an unprecedented escalating global crisis. We live in a world of constant sorrow.
Our stubborn ignorance is the greatest threat to the objectives of peace and well-being. We have become so entrenched in the ‘ruts’ of our conditioned opinions that any semblance of balanced responsibility is immediately numbed by the deliberate stupidity of well-paid spin-doctors across a global electronic media.
The recovery process is truly simple. Surrender to the scientific facts of our inclusive reality, clean house, and have compassion for each other. The good news is that a basic natural instinct of all life forms is to survive through adaptation.
So, on reflection, I was wrong to open with the degree of irony in my ‘voice’ that I had. This is now a world of wonderful and amazing communication channels, many of them directly ‘person to person’. The views of the world’s peoples are now so much louder than in previous times. I am confident that right, rather than might, will prevail.
An important plea to support a major road tour by the 350.org team.
There are a number of key players in the movement to arrest the affects of man on the world’s future climate and one of those is Bill McKibben. His organisation, 350.org, has been at the forefront of raising the public’s awareness as to the terrible consequences of not changing our ways pretty damn soon.
As Wikipedia puts it,
William Ernest “Bill” McKibben (born 1960) is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist.”
Anyway, something came in to my ‘in-box’ the other day that I wanted to share with all Learning from Dogs readers. This is what was said,
The reaction to our announcement of our national “Do the Math” road tour has been utterly pheneomenal.
Case in point: the event in Boston sold out in 24 hours. We’re trying to find another, larger venue to seat everyone, but the main point is this: this tour is going to be huge, and you need to be part of it.
See you on the road,
Bill for the 350.org team
P.S. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read our first announcement, I’ve included it below.
We’re getting ready for our most ambitious venture yet.
From November 7th to December 3rd, I’ll be on the road, visiting 20 cities in 20 nights (with a few days for travel in between) to help bring together the movement we need to make sure this planet has a future that we can all appreciate.
We’re calling it the Do the Math tour, but it’s not (thank heaven) just going to be me standing in front of a microphone.The goal is to jump-start the kind of movement that I discussed in the article I wrote for Rolling Stone about the scary new math of climate change. We will bring together musicians, artists and voices from across the movement to work together on directly confronting the financial and political might of the fossil fuel industry.
If you are near one of our stops, I want to make sure you’re there with us. You’re exactly the people we need to be there – folks who understand the climate math already, have experience in the movement, and are willing to step up to do more.
These events will need to be big, and reach beyond our normal circle of friends. That’s why we need to make sure that everyone knows that something big is underway. Can you take a moment to share the Do the Math tour site with your social networks?
Also, just a heads up — we’re going to be putting together a live web event so that everyone who doesn’t happen to be near a tour stop can still get together and get a campaign started in their community. Our team is still hammering out the details for the exact date and time, but please keep an eye out — we absolutely need you in this fight.
I do a lot of talks to big groups, but this is a new kind of undertaking for me, and for 350.org. We’re trying to quickly build up some serious momentum, which is why we’ve gone to great lengths to make this a very different kind of event.
Not only will we have music and guests like Naomi Klein, Jim Hansen, Desmond Tutu, in person and via video, this event is also the kickoff to some serious organizing in your community. This tour will launch our next big mission — a campaign to directly confront the economic power of the fossil fuel industry. Our message will be crystal clear: it’s not OK to sacrifice our future for the sake of one industry’s bottom line. Divestment is one important tool that we’ll discuss, but we’re ready for many other tactics as well.
Over the past few months our planet gave stark warning signs that humans have never seen before. The Arctic melted, breaking every record. The Great Plains sweltered. The West burned. This roadshow is the next big step — but the price of admission, besides the ticket, is a willingness to really go to work to change the world in the year ahead. That’s why we need you this November.
The stakes have never been this high, and I’ve never been more serious.
Please join us: math.350.org
–Bill McKibben for 350.org
So go across to that Tour site, where you will read this,
On November 7th, we’re hitting the road to jumpstart the next phase of the climate movement.
It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.
This November, Bill McKibben and 350.org are hitting the road to build the movement that will change the terrifying math of the climate crisis.
and see the link to the Tour locations and dates.
TOUR DATES & TICKETS
- Portland, OR11/8
- San Francisco11/10
- Palo Alto11/10
- Los Angeles11/11
- Portland, ME 11/13
- Washington, DC (TBA)11/18
- Minneapolis (TBA)11/30
- Salt Lake City12/3
***Click a city to sign up and buy tickets.***
Don’t see your town on the map? You can still get involved by signing up here.
ABOUT THE TOUR
This won’t be your typical lecture.
Each event will be a unique and interactive experience, unlike any talk you’ve been to before. It will pick up where Bill McKibben’s landmark Rolling Stone article left off — and everyone who comes will be asked to join a growing movement that is strong enough to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Together we’ll mount an unprecedented campaign to cut off the industry’s financial and political support by divesting our schools, churches and government from fossil fuels.
This won’t be easy: we’re up against the most profitable, powerful, and dangerous industry in history. But we have our own currency: creativity, courage and if needed, our bodies.
Never let it be said that we, as in all of us, don’t have the power to change the world. Oh, and feel free to circulate today’s post.
The cumulative effect of millions of decisions brings about change!
Yesterday’s Post was about personal change. It came on the back of a short series that was triggered by the Bill McKibben essay in Rolling Stone magazine that I republished on 31st July. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and read it soon.
The essay highlighted the challenge of how we change our ways, that is at a personal level, which is why I decided to devote a complete Post to the subject of change. There was no doubt that the McKibben essay opened our eyes to the need for change, if they weren’t open already. So being clear about the need for change and how, initially, it can make us feel less sure of ourselves, where do we go from here? As John Fisher explains, within the change process, there is the stage where things start to happen. This is what he writes about that stage,
In this stage we are starting to exert more control, make more things happen in a positive sense and are getting our sense of self back. We know who we are again and are starting to feel comfortable that we are acting in line with our convictions, beliefs, etc. and making the right choices. In this phase we are, again, experimenting within our environment more actively and effectively.
Keep this stage in mind as you journey along your individual path towards reducing your impact on the planet. It really does act as a beacon for you, as a candle in the darkness.
OK, there’s an old saying in business ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it!‘ So let’s start off by calculating the CO2 we are presently responsible for.
There are a number of CO2 calculators available on the Web but this one from The Resurgence Trust website seems as good as any. Easy to use and it provides a starting point from which to plan your attack! Make a promise to calculate your present CO2 output, soon!
Then to the plan of action! A web search on reducing CO2 produces a huge number of results and I recommend that you undertake your own trawl to find the information that ‘rocks your boat’. But on the Brave New Climate website there’s a summary that caught my eye, especially how it was introduced:
Top 10 ways to reduce your CO2 emissions footprintPosted on 29 August 2008 by Barry Brook
Solving climate change is a huge international challenge. Only a concerted global effort, involving the governments of all nations, will be enough to avert dangerous consequences. But that said, the individual actions of everyday people are still crucial. Large and complex issues, like climate change, are usually best tackled by breaking down the problem into manageable bits.
For carbon emissions, this means reducing the CO2 contribution of each and every one of the six and a half billion people on the planet. But what can you, as an individual person or family, do that will most make a difference to the big picture? Here are my top ten action items, which are both simple to achieve and have a real effect. They are ranked by how much impact they make to ‘kicking the CO2 habit’.
Then follows ten solid recommendations:
- Make climate-conscious political decisions.
- Eat less red meat.
- Purchase “green electricity“.
- Make your home and household energy efficient.
- Buy energy and water efficient appliances.
- Walk, cycle or take public transport.
- Recycle, re-use and avoid useless purchases.
- Telecommute and teleconference.
- Buy local produce.
- Offset what you can’t save.
Each of these recommendations is supported by great web links and plenty of advice. So don’t just skip through those 10 options, go here and commit to doing something!
And when you are ready to involve others beyond your family, 350.org has a great selection of resources for potential organizers.
We can make a difference!
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. - Chinese Proverb
Yesterday, in a post that picked up on the deep implications of Bill McKibben’s chilling essay on where the world is heading if we don’t change, I set out my understanding of what holds us back from that change. I wrote, “ … the process of change cannot start until we truly want to change; a total emotional commitment. And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be.”
Previously on Learning from Dogs I have quoted Jon Lavin, “The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.” I remember decades ago when working as a humble office-products salesman for IBM UK the well-worn saying, “Selling is 90% me and 10% the customer.” Sort of reminds me of Woody Allen’s: “Eighty percent of success in life is showing up.”
OK, enough of these mental perambulations. Let’s get on with the task of looking at change. Because make no bones about it, if we rely on ‘them’, on others, to turn mankind back from where we are heading then it’s all over! It comes down to each and every one of us deciding to change.
Think this is all melodramatic nonsense? Go and read the first paragraph of Bill McKibben’s article where he states, “June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average..“
Want more reason to change? Try this from a recent article on The Daily Impact:
From American Drought to “Global Catastrophe”
Some poet invented the name “Arab Spring” as a label for the tsunami of public desperation that last year took down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Poets and Pollyannas saw the events as an upwelling of love for democracy. Realists related them to the spike in world food prices that threatened the survival of whole populations and made them desperate for change — any change. Now, thanks in large part to events unfolding in the American heartland, get ready for another, worse, spike.
We are running out of superlatives with which to describe the Mid- and Southwestern drought and its effect on this year’s corn and soybean crops. According to this week’s USDA crop update the situation during the previous seven days went from “critical” to, um, worse than that. The drought is the worst in half a century. Of the largest US acreage ever planted in corn (industrial agriculture was crowing about that just a couple of months ago), only one-quarter is still in good condition. (Modest rainfall in drought-stricken areas early this week provided mostly emotional relief; the drought is forecast to continue unabated through October.)
Change really does seem like a ‘no-brainer’!
Here’s a lovely cartoon that summarises the steps of change, the process of transition, for you and me.
The most important thing to note, and this is why so many ‘change’ ambitions fail, is that change is deeply unsettling at first. When change happens for the majority of us, often ‘forced’ on us as a result of unplanned life events, we are left deeply unsettled; a strong feeling of being lost, of being in unfamiliar surroundings. Think divorce or, worse, the death of a partner or child, reflect on how many sign up for bereavement counselling in such circumstances. Big-time change is big-time tough (apologies for the grammar!).
Stay with me for a short while while I reinforce this from my own experiences.
My previous ex-wife announced in December, 2006 that she was leaving me for a younger model! It came as a complete surprise. Subsequently, I was invited to spend Christmas 2007 out in San Carlos, Mexico with Suzann and her husband, Don. Suzann is the sister of my dear, close friend of many years, Dan Gomez, hence the connection. There I met Jean, a long-term friend of Suzann living in San Carlos and, coincidentally as I am, another Londoner by birth. Jean and I fell deeply in love with each other and a year later I moved out from SW England with Pharaoh to Mexico.
Throughout 2008 I suffered from what was eventually diagnosed as vestibular migraine. It involved partial loss of vision, vertigo, headaches and significant short-term memory disturbances; let me tell you it was pretty frightening!
Eventually, in 2012 well after we moved from San Carlos up to Payson, Arizona, I got so worried that I went to see a neurologist, convinced that I was heading down the road of dementia. Dr. Goodell examined me thoroughly and said that there were no signs of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. His conclusion: I was showing the normal signs of forgetfulness that any person of my age (now 67) would show having been through similar life changes. Dr. Goodell went on to explain that back in England 98% of my life was constant and familiar and therefore adjusting to a 2% change was unremarkable. However, on moving my life out to Mexico and then on to Arizona, it was all reversed: 2% of my life was constant and 98% was change and that was a huge psychological hill to climb with all the associated mental stresses that I had been experiencing.
Interestingly, that diagnosis rapidly set me on the path of feeling so much better!
So, apologies for that personal diversion but I hope it underlined that life-change is a big deal!
In my trawl across the Web looking for change references, I came across a software engineer by the name of Dave Cheong. Dave writes a blog. In Dave’s blog was a piece about change. Change as a result of a merger of his employer. This is what Dave wrote:
As a result of the merger, lots of change is happening. Some folks are questioning where things are headed, what management have planned, how their lives will change, etc. Most certainly, there will be job losses as the two companies consolidate things, in particular administrative positions.
With the chaos that’s been unfolding, I’ve thought a bit about “change” in general. What is it? Why do people resist it? Is it always a good thing? What should I do?
And later he writes after referring to the Satir Change Process model, named after Virginia Satir, an American author and psychotherapist:
The diagram depicts several stages of accepting change. The first stage is known as Status Quo (Gray Zone), a state where everyone is generally comfortable with the way things are. The second stage is a point in time a Foreign Element, trigger or change agent is introduced. What follows is a period of Resistance and Chaos (Red Zone), personified as a result of people being scared of the uncertainties the change has brought about and how their lives will be impacted.
The level of performance generally drops off and fluctuates more greatly between the Gray and Red Zones. There are various reasons for this – people may reject the change to protect the status quo; are confused with the change and are unsure of what to do; or simply become less competent with the new tools and processes introduced.
This describes why people by nature resist change. They don’t want to become less useful than they already are.
Just reflect on that. Dave calls it being ‘less useful’ but that downplays the emotional significance of partially losing one’s self-image, one’s self-identity, the undermining of who we think we are. As I wrote earlier, life-change is a big deal!
Here’s my final example of how dealing with change is all about the self. It’s from the Best Self Help website, and opens,
Self help, personal development and self-improvement are topics of considerable interest to pretty much everyone on the planet.
In 1975 my life was a total mess. I was depressed, unemployed and my 5 year marriage was ending.
I’m not going to quote it all but it really is worth a read. However, I do want to quote the conclusion,
Finally, I Got It!!!
In the Western world, we are educated to look outside ourselves for validation. We want more money to acquire “things” with the mistaken belief this is the source of happiness.
The true source of love, health, happiness and financial success cannot be found outside of ourselves – each of these is already within us. The key is learning how to access and activate that which we already possess.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” ~Socrates~
So that’s enough for today. If you haven’t got the message about change coming from within, then not sure what else I can offer! However, if you do want to explore changing the way you impact this beautiful planet (and it applies equally to me) then drop in tomorrow.
The business of acting to make a difference.
The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi
Yesterday, I republished a long essay from Bill McKibben under my title of Stop, read, reflect and Act! Bill’s essay was called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math and terrifying the numbers are!
If you didn’t read it yesterday, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. Why? Because the process of change cannot start until we truly want to change; a total emotional commitment. And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be. An outcome that is all part of being better informed, which is why the McKibben essay is so profoundly important.
Tomorrow, I want to explore that process of personal change.
But before then, let me go back and repeat some words in Bill’s essay that really jumped off the page and hit me between the eyes.
Writing of Germany, Bill said, “… on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That’s a small miracle – and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will.“
We lack the will!!
Then in the next paragraph, Bill went on to write,
This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don’t work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.
This is what hit me between the eyes, “the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs.” That describes me to perfection. OK, we have installed solar panels as well but I admit to a significant degree of ambivalence! “ tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself“
Let me remind you of Bill’s next paragraph,
People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.
So it comes down to change; change in a timely manner, to boot!
Let’s hold that until tomorrow and I will leave you with this: Put your future in good hands – your own.