Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
Hate to say it, but I told you so. Global ecological collapse is
upon us and the human family is entering a Hobbesian struggle
for survival of the Earth and all her species including humans.
Even mainstream leaders tell us we have a decade to act before
utter ecological ruin and despair is assured. If things are
really so bad, where is the urgency? Will you fight for being?
Many mega-consumers in the over-developed world, until now
responsible for most environmental destruction, live in a world
of entertainment, abundance and great comfort. We sit stupefied
in front of our home entertainment systems, addicted to
vicariously watching the lives of glamorous stars, as the Earth
dies. Movies and TV are the modern day bread and circuses meant
to control and keep blind consumers blindly consuming.
A lifetime of global change and ecology research leads me to
conclude humans are on the brink of global ecological collapse
and only dramatic, even revolutionary, global policy responses
can save us now. The Earth system has been cut deeply, hurt in
so many ways, that barring major social and personal
transformation, it is not inconceivable that complex life is
finished. There has been enough awareness building. It is time
to act bravely and with resolve.
These are dangerous times. And those concerned with the fate of
the planet and her species are faced with a dilemma. They can
follow a failing, star-studded, corporate driven reformist
agenda which seeks to greenwash business as usual environmental
policy responses. Or you can concern yourself with what is truly
required to maintain the biosphere, ecological patterns and
processes, relatively civilized human society; and yourself,
family and friends.
Human populations have increased six fold in just over 125
years, who has a plan to reduce global population? Billions live
on a dollar or two a day while a handful of billionaires enjoy
more wealth than entire nations. The whole world increasingly
embraces as the meaning of life ostentatiously living like
celebrities. Meanwhile climate, forests, oceans and water are
failing worldwide. The sky is falling.
Humanity is facing global ecological Armageddon within a decade
or generation at most. Responses to date have been half-hearted,
and do little or nothing to strike at over-population and over-
consumption as the underlying causes of a failing biosphere.
There is little hope when Greenpeace promotes ancient forest
logging, when Al Gore states climate change can be addressed
without economic sacrifice, when Leonardo DiCaprio assures us at
the 11th Hour he only uses private jets when absolutely
necessary. These are our leaders? Their vision lacks concrete
actions adequate to achieve equitable and just ecological
Academically, at what point if ever will armed struggle on
behalf of Gaia be justified? I ask not to encourage violence,
but to ascertain what we are willing to sacrifice to save the
Earth and her humanity. Given the failure of large environmental
groups and well-known environmental activists to present a
coherent and adequate vision to save the Earth, what are we left
with? Changing light bulbs? Renewable energy? Simultaneous
global rock concerts? Will these get us there?
Is the very ecological fabric of being worthy of fighting for at
all costs? I do not know. But if indeed there is only a decade
to save the planet, our being, and very existence; are we not
justified in imagining more robust responses? I speak not of
token arson or mild larceny, but of a global eco-insurgency
adequate to topple the whole disgusting planet eating industrial
growth machine and replace it globally with decentralized
ecologically sustainable agrarian democracy. The vision is of
people living peacefully with the land, air, water, oceans and
all life; and within their ecological and bioregional limits.
A hypothetical Earth revolution must know when and how to
strike. As global ecological mayhem intensifies, it will become
increasingly evident when to begin wholeheartedly targeting
SUVs, coal power plants, ancient forest loggers and their
apologists. The goal must be prompting swift industrial collapse
and lead to a continued insurgency adequate to stop its
regeneration, even as people's needs are met by returning to the
land in relocalized communities practicing true egalitarian
democracy and sustainable permaculture. It is crucial that the
first strike not result in the entire Earth insurgency being
arrested, suppressed and dismantled.
War in defense of the Earth and our habitat is not mere
tokenism; it is a fight for all life and continued being. Given
the failure of the environmental movement and existing political
and economic structures to enunciate and implement policies
adequate to stop ecosystem destruction and meet all basic human
needs, it is time to ask yourself whether you will simply lie
down and die without fighting for mother Earth and your
children's children? My best advice is to educate yourself, band
together in landed communities, organize and protest; and begin
to stealthily prepare yourself for an Earth Revolution should we
fail. Gaia will say when.
By Glen Barry
Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). Dr. Barry is a conservation biologist and political ecologist, a writer of essays and blogs, and a computer specialist and technology researcher
Source: Earth Meanders
The 15,200 megawatts of new wind turbines installed worldwide last year will generate enough clean electricity annually to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 23 average-sized U.S. coal-fired power plants, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute. The 43 million tons of carbon dioxide displaced in 2006 is equivalent to the emissions of 7,200 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, or nearly 8 million passenger cars.
Global wind power capacity increased almost 26 percent in 2006, exceeding 74,200 megawatts by year’s end. Global investment in wind power was roughly $22 billion in 2006, and in Europe and North America, the power industry added more capacity in wind than it did in coal and nuclear combined. The global market for wind equipment has risen 74 percent in the past two years, leading to long backorders for wind turbine equipment in much of the world.
"Wind power is on track to soon play a major role in reducing fossil fuel dependence and slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," according to Worldwatch Senior Researcher Janet Sawin.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"America’s car addiction is becoming a global phenomenon with no sign of reversing,” says Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner, who authored the update. “This trend begs immediate and innovative transportation solutions to address the consumption of fossil fuels that is harming our climate.”
Friday, July 13, 2007
Chances are good, gentle reader, that you are going to have to sit next to someone in the coming year who will assert that nuclear power is the solution to climate change. What will you tell them? There’s so much to say. You could be sitting next to someone who hasn’t really considered the evidence yet. Or you could be sitting next to scientist and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, a supporter of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy™, which quotes him saying, “We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear—the one safe, available, energy source—now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”
Sunday, July 08, 2007
When Henry Ford’s neighbors watched the young inventor roll his first gas-powered contraption out of a backyard shed, they had no way of knowing how the rickety four-wheeled carriage would revolutionize human transportation.
More than 100 years later, the billionaire founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, backed out of a parking space in a
“Symbolically, this event is very important” said Stephen Schneider, PhD, one of the authors of the recent United Nations report on climate change. Dr. Schneider, a professor of environmental studies at nearby
The Google founders’ two-minute journey was part of the company’s celebration, on June 18, announcing the switching on of the largest solar installation to date on any corporate campus in the
One highlight of the event occurred when Mr. Brin tapped a key on a laptop computer to launch the so-called “vehicle-to-grid” capabilities of the “ReChargeIt” project. With the keystroke, a nearby energy meter paused and then spun backwards, showing the flow of energy out of the plug-in car’s batteries and back into the electric grid. The crowd cheered when the meter, projected on a large flat-screen monitor, reversed directions.
When Mr. Page was asked if his family roots in
This website is a WIKI for use by all the communities that have adopted the Transition Towns model for responding to the twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change.
This site provides a focal point for all towns, villages, cities and localities around the world as they implement their own Transition Initiative.
It is ‘cool’ to be an optimist.
PESSIMISM IS IN fashion. Scientists, environmentalists and climatologists are claiming that collapse is around the corner and civilisation is coming to an end. Book after book tells us that we have passed the tipping point and have reached the point of no return. The skies are saturated with CO2 and the atmosphere is filled with greenhouse gases. We are told over and over that whatever we do, we cannot reverse the rise in temperature or prevent the sea from flooding London! What happened to New Orleans will happen to New York. Global warming is here to stay. The scenario of doom and gloom is expounded by experts and activists alike.
We do not underestimate the severity of the climate crisis. We respect the scientists who are predicting a catastrophic future for humanity. We agree that our present way of life, so dependent on the use of fossil fuel, is hanging on a cliff edge. If we go any further we will fall into the abyss. So the only thing we can do now is to take a step back; let’s call it “the point of return”. We need to return to a way of life that is free from damaging dependence on fossil fuel.
At present we burn billions of barrels of petroleum every day for our food, clothes, homes, heating, lighting, transport and entertainment. This way of life is not only wasteful and unsustainable, but also very dangerous. As Sir Crispin Tickell writes in his article, it took nature 200 million years to create the vast store of fossil energy that we have almost spent in 200 years. The speed with which we are exhausting fossil energy is incredible. Sir Crispin suggests a fundamental shift in values and a radical return to a holistic worldview.
There is a word in Sanskrit for the point of return: it is pratikraman. Its opposite is atikraman, which means stepping outside our natural limits. Atikraman happens when we break the universal law. Returning to the centre of one’s being or to the source of inner wisdom is pratikraman. These two Sanskrit words provide a useful approach to understanding the current human predicament and a possible way out. A profound introspection is needed to examine the state of our psyche; we need to ask, are we meeting our need or indulging our greed? Are we healing or wounding the Earth?
In the context of climate change and global warming, addiction to oil is atikraman and a return to the energy derived from air, water and sun is pratikraman. One way to begin our pratikraman is to stop and put a cap on consumerism. We need a moratorium on motorways and runways. No new homes without insulation. We need to put an immediate freeze on industrialised agriculture everywhere in the world. Once we have put such a complete freeze on the use of fossil fuel, we can start the reduction process and the return journey to renewable resources. If we plan and manage our return journey carefully we should be able to escape the projected meltdown. We were able to repair the hole in the ozone layer by reducing the use of CFCs; we should be able to mitigate the extreme consequences of global warming if we can put an immediate cap on the use of fossil fuel and prepare to make the return journey instantly.
To meet the challenge of global warming, we need to change from being consumers to being artists; we have to take refuge in the arts and crafts. As William Morris advocated long ago, arts and crafts ignite our imagination, stimulate our creativity and bring us a sense of fulfilment. Poetry, painting, pottery, music, meditation, gardening, sculpting and umpteen other forms of arts and crafts can meet all basic human needs; produce beautiful objects to use, which need not require the use of fossil fuel. Human happiness, true prosperity and joyful living can only emerge from a life of elegant simplicity.
We are at the point of return from gross to subtle, from glamorous to gracious, from hedonism to healing, from conquest of the Earth to conservation of Nature, and from quantities of possessions to quality of life. It is ‘cool’ to be an optimist.
Satish Kumar is President of Schumacher UK, Editor of Resurgence and Director of Programmes at Schumacher College.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
The World Clean Energy Awards, announced in Basel, Switzerland, on June 15, recognize innovative, practical projects that move renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions into the mainstream. Developed by the independent transatlantic21 Association, the awards are intended to create benchmarks for clean energy in seven categories: construction; transport and mobility; products; services, trade, and marketing; finance and investment; policy and lawmaking; and NGOs and initiatives. The Worldwatch Institute was one of eight organizations invited to participate in the nomination and jury process. Eye on Earth will run a weekly feature on each of the nine winners.
Nairobi’s Kibera slum, one of the largest informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa, is home to an innovative new solar panel assembly program. The Kibera Community Youth Program (KCYP) trains local youth to construct simple, low-cost photovoltaic panels and to sell them to other residents for use in charging radios and mobile phones. The initiative, which recently won a World Clean Energy Award (WCEA) in the “product” category, has brought low-cost, environmentally sound energy to people around Kenya as well as beyond the country’s borders.Read more:
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Click here to continue
Saturday, June 30, 2007
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet
A new study by United Nations University suggests climate change is making desertification [more] "the greatest environmental challenge of our times". They report that some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification [search], and that ultimately some one-third of
the Planet's population is threatened by expanding deserts.
The process of desertification is the ultimate end result of all poor environmental stewardship, a synthesis of climate change and land clearing, that quite literally makes the Earth a burning hell. They are not making much new land, so just exactly where will the natural resources, food and water come from to care for an increasingly urban world. Hello?! Is anyone home? Is there anybody in there? How many more reports on looming environmental catastrophe can be ignored without major loss of life and a severe decline in the complexity and habitability of the Earth? Are we so into our ipods and Paris Hilton that we can not see the Earth is dying? Climate change, water scarcity, over-fished oceans and desertification; to say nothing of AIDs, terrorism, militarism and poverty; threaten our very being. Yours. Your childrens. It is essential that policy and strategy to fight global threats are integrative, and willing to propose and implement actions that are up to the task of reversing monumental adverse trends. Fifty million people, driven from their land, because we refuse to stop wantonly procreating and consuming. I am stunned, shocked, dismayed (and yes deeply hurt) to read dispassionate accounts of the ecological foundation of being dismantled tree by tree, SUV by SUV. We shall learn to live differently with the Earth or we shall not live at all.
Please forgive the emotions as I mourn the looming end of being, Eden turned to dust, by ignorance and vanity.
Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with each other and their physical environment. Sounds deceptively simple and non-threatening to the status quo, but I contend that growing ecological knowledge and re-understanding of humanity's place within the web of life is one of the most radical and potentially transformative notions ever. Awareness of humanity's utter dependence upon ecosystems and the biosphere, found in the relatively new discipline of modern ecology, has coincided with a period of unprecedented ecological destruction. Ecology may provide the only truthful answers regarding how to save the Earth and ourselves.
The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious
global risks, and it demands an urgent global response.
This independent Review was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
reporting to both the Chancellor and to the Prime Minister, as a contribution to
assessing the evidence and building understanding of the economics of climate
The Review first examines the evidence on the economic impacts of climate change
itself, and explores the economics of stabilising greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere. The second half of the Review considers the complex policy challenges
involved in managing the transition to a low-carbon economy and in ensuring that
societies can adapt to the consequences of climate change that can no longer be
The Review takes an international perspective. Climate change is global in its
causes and consequences, and international collective action will be critical in driving
an effective, efficient and equitable response on the scale required. This response
will require deeper international co-operation in many areas - most notably in creating
price signals and markets for carbon, spurring technology research, development
and deployment, and promoting adaptation, particularly for developing countries.
Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest and
widest-ranging market failure ever seen. The economic analysis must therefore be
global, deal with long time horizons, have the economics of risk and uncertainty at
centre stage, and examine the possibility of major, non-marginal change. To meet
these requirements, the Review draws on ideas and techniques from most of the
important areas of economics, including many recent advances.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Live Earth is a 24-hour, 7-continent concert series taking place on 7/7/07 that will bring together more than 100 music artists and 2 billion people to trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis.
Live Earth will reach this worldwide audience through an unprecedented global media architecture covering all media platforms - TV, radio, Internet and wireless channels.
Live Earth marks the beginning of a multi-year campaign led by the Alliance for Climate Protection, The Climate Group and other international organizations to drive individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve global warming. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is the Chair of the Alliance and Partner of Live Earth.
Live Earth was founded by Kevin Wall, the Worldwide Executive Producer of Live 8, an event that brought together one of the largest audiences in history to combat poverty. Wall formed a partnership with Al Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection to ensure that Live Earth inspires behavioral changes long after 7/7/07.
Live Earth will stage official concerts at Giants Stadium in New York; Wembley Stadium in London; Aussie Stadium in Sydney; Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro; Maropeng at the Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg; Makuhari Messe in Tokyo; the Steps of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai; and HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg.
Live Earth concerts will be broadcast to a live worldwide audience by MSN at www.LiveEarth.MSN.com.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
In the concluding part of a major investigation, Nick Davies shows how greenhouse gas credits do little or nothing to combat global warming
Saturday June 16, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call "The Special Period." The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope.
See the trailer
The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) is an alliance of sixty leading activists, scholars, economists, researchers and writers formed to stimulate new thinking, joint activity, and public education in response to economic globalization.Representing over 60 organizations in 25 countries, the International Forum on Globalization associates come together out of a shared concern that the world's corporate and political leadership is undertaking a restructuring of global politics and economics that may prove as historically significant as any event since the Industrial Revolution. This restructuring is happening at tremendous speed, with little public disclosure of the profound consequences affecting democracy, human welfare, local economies, and the natural world.
We all know the world is finite. There number of atoms is finite, and these atoms combine to form a finite number of molecules. The mix of molecules may change over time, but in total, the number of molecules is also finite.
We also know that growth is central to our way of life. Businesses are expected to grow. Every day new businesses are formed and new products are developed. The world population is also growing, so all this adds up to a huge utilization of resources.
At some point, growth in resource utilization must collide with the fact that the world is finite. We have grown up thinking that the world is so large that limits will never be an issue. But now, we are starting to bump up against limits.
Many people have high hopes for ethanol made from corn–that it will prevent future gasoline shortages, prevent global warming, be a wonderful investment, and improve the income of farmers, among other things. Other observers raise a whole host of concerns including scalability, impact on the environment, and impact on food prices. Why is there such a huge disparity in views? What is the real promise for corn ethanol?
Though the government is planning a massive expansion of transport networks, it has never considered this question.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 30th May 2007.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
In Moreton Bay, Australia, the fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour. When fishers touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.
‘It comes up like little boils,’ said Randolph Van Dyk, a fisher whose powerful legs are pocked with scars. ‘At night-time you can feel them burning. I tried everything to get rid of them. Nothing worked.’
As the weed blanketed miles of the bay over the past decade, it stained fishing nets a dark purple and left them coated with a powdery residue. When fishers tried to shake it off the webbing, their throats constricted and they gasped for air.
Others made an even more painful mistake, neglecting to wash the residue from their hands before relieving themselves over the sides of their boats. For a time, embarrassment kept them from talking publicly about their condition. When they finally did speak up, authorities dismissed their complaints – until a bucket of the hairy weed made it to the University of Queensland’s marine botany lab.
World's Spotlight Misses the True Cost of Disasters
Don't look to economic losses alone for the scope of devastation wrought by weather-related disasters, as these figures fail to capture the true extent of post-disaster suffering, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute. Weather-related disasters include those caused by heat waves or cold snaps, floods, landslides, avalanches, wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, and winter storms. While these events are often perceived as natural, many human actions, including climate change, can have a hand in their creation.
In 2006, the planet experienced more weather-related disasters than in any of the previous three years, but the economic losses associated with them fell sharply, from $219.6 billion in 2005 to $44.5 billion in 2006, thanks in part to a relatively quiet 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. With only 1 to 3 percent of households and businesses in low-and middle-income countries insured against disasters, compared with 30 percent in high-income countries, the full economic toll from disasters is often difficult to calculate, says Worldwatch Research Associate Zoe Chafe.
"For many victims, the true disaster begins when the storm, earthquake, or flood ends," says Chafe. "Injuries, homelessness, and job losses are rarely included in estimates of what a disaster costs."When floods recede or storm clouds dissipate, the real suffering begins for survivors. Nearly 5.4 million people became homeless as a result of a disaster last year, and other "secondary" disasters often follow: sexual harassment in camps, domestic violence, child labor and trafficking, poor resettlement plans, and ongoing disabilities.
While economic losses decreased, human deaths from disasters were up 24 percent in 2006. Floods, which affected 87 countries, were responsible for more deaths than any other weather-related disaster. The Horn of Africa was particularly hard hit by flooding, while Typhoon Saomai became the strongest storm to make landfall over China in 50 years, destroying 50,000 homes and forcing more than a million people to evacuate.
"The media spotlight shines on disaster," writes Chafe. "But that spotlight often fades before we understand the true extent of post-disaster suffering."
Several new initiatives aim to provide quick relief to countries hit by disasters. The United Nations has set up a Central Emergency Response Fund, which pledges to dispatch money and supplies within 72 hours of a disaster, and the World Food Programme recently issued an innovative drought-insurance policy to Ethiopia aimed at decreasing reliance on post-disaster aid.
ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION proceeds apace in spite of all the warnings, the good science, the 501(c)3 organizations with their memberships in the millions, the poll results, and the martyrs perched high in the branches of sequoias or shot dead in the Amazon. This is so not because of a power, a strength out there that we must resist. It is because we are weak and fearful. Only a weak and fearful society could invest so much desperate energy in protecting activities that are the equivalent of suicide.
For instance, trading carbon emission credits and creating markets in greenhouse gases as a means of controlling global warming is not a way of saying we’re so confident in the strength of the free market system that we can even trust it to fix the problems it creates. No, it’s a way of saying that we are so frightened by the prospect of stepping outside of the market system on which we depend for our national wealth, our jobs, and our sense of normalcy that we will let the logic of that system try to correct its own excesses even when we know we’re just kidding ourselves. This delusional strategy is embedded in the Kyoto agreement, which is little more than a complex scheme to create a giant international market in pollution. Even Kyoto, of which we speak longingly—“Oh, if only we would join it!”—is not an answer to our problem but a capitulation to it, so concerned is it to protect what it calls “economic growth and development.” Kyoto is just a form of whistling past the graveyard. And it is not just international corporations who do this whistling; we all have our own little stake in the world capitalism has made and so we all do the whistling.
Organic fruit from Chile, grass-fed lamb from New Zealand, spring water from Fiji, and plastic toys from China all have one thing in common: they require a lot of fuel to make and to move from source to market. Food travels an average of fifteen hundred miles before it reaches an American plate. That ecological footprint is usually hidden from the consumer, who may only think about fuel consumption when standing at the gas pump. Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in Britain and one of the top five retailers in the world, aims to change that.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
This world really does need more of these wonderful hereticsEvery real change, every revolutionary idea, every heartfelt gesture, whether it transforms one life or a thousand, was once seen as eccentric. Leaders are few and followers many for a reason: Change requires bucking the status quo, and bucking the status quo requires a willingness to be perceived as crazy, dangerous or ridiculous. Revolutionaries, activists and change-makers of every stripe—just like entrepreneurs—lead because they cannot follow something with which they do not agree or which limits their imaginations. They change the world because their passion and conviction won't allow them not to.
Not all revolutionaries set out to change the world per se; some set out to change their own worlds. And in so doing, they often change the way one person, or a few people, or whole communities, or entire nations or the world thinks and operates in some significant way. “The world” doesn’t have to be literal; real change can be small-scale and still be powerful. All it takes is an ability to see other possibilities and the willingness to help others see them too. As someone once said, “We are only limited by our imaginations.” I for one didn’t set out to change the way business operates when I founded The Body Shop. I just wanted a means to support myself and my two daughters. When I applied for a loan to start a small shop in Brighton, England, in 1976, the man behind the desk looked as if I’d asked him to shave his head. A woman? Running a business? How preposterous, he obviously thought. Weeks later, I went back to the same bank with my husband in tow. We had the loan in minutes. That banker could not see beyond his own nose. My company went on to show how business can be done differently worldwide, proving that women can indeed run successful companies, and that these companies can have compassion—and just plain passion—at heart instead of pure profit motive. Many people had said it was not possible. Time and again I was told it couldn’t be done, that it would not work, that I was insane. But I refused to limit my thinking to financial matters; I felt business was about bringing your heart to the workplace.
In my travels over the past 30 years, I have met thousands of activists, entertainers, theologians, women’s groups, business people, anti-globalization campaigners, native tribes and vagabonds. I have met the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. I have spent days deep in the Amazonian rainforest and on the streets of London among the homeless. After all of this, I can spot a revolutionary from 100 paces. First clue: Everyone else thinks they’re crazy, dangerous or ridiculous.
I understand now that some of my personal heroes fit this description: Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Gandhi … the list goes on. They were tenacious and driven in the extreme. They refused to say, “This is how it’s done; this is how it is” or especially “I can’t.”
Not everyone who changes the world is an iconic figure, much less a martyr, but they too can and do change the world. I think of 12-year-old Craig Kielburger in Canada who read an article in his local newspaper about child labour used in rug manufacturing in Pakistan, and started Kids Can Free the Children. As a result, the Canadian government changed its policy on child labour. I think of Charlie Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee who has focused international attention on the issue of sweatshop labour and kept it there.
I think of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the rest of the Ogoni people in Nicaragua who stood up to Shell Oil, which was occupying and polluting their native tribal lands. Their bravery cost many of them, including Ken, their lives. But it focused international outrage on exploitation of poor people by multinational corporations, especially those that are backed by corrupt military regimes. I think of the Zapatistas in Chiapas who refused to accept the status quo in Mexico with its corrupt government, its abuse of native communities and lands. I think of their language of revolution, which does not include the word “proletariat” or “bourgeoisie” or any of the words associated with Marx and Lenin. Instead of appealing to the “workers’ to rise up, they called for a rebirth of “civil society” and democracy. They delivered their manifestos not in books or long-winded speeches, but in poetry; they told stories and riddles and described the corrupt system of government in Chiapas as “an object of shame dressed in the colour of money.”
I think of the Angola Three, African-American activists who stood up against corruption and abuse inside in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, and who were then framed for crimes they didn’t commit and thrown in solitary confinement for 31 years (See “Seeking truth in Louisiana,” Ode, April 2007). Two of them are still there, but their hope and determination does not fade with time.
I think about spiritual activists like Daniel and Philip Berrigan, American priests who burned draft files with homemade napalm in 1967 to protest the Vietnam War and the Catholic Church’s complicity in it. Or Kevin Buzzacott, an aboriginal elder in Australia who rallied his tribe to reoccupy its homeland and resist the presence of a massive mine poisoning a sacred lake. Closer to home, I think of the 20 employees of The Body Shop who went to Romania to help repair and re-equip the orphanages there, especially the two who ended up staying to launch Children on the Edge, a non-profit organization that is systematically finding homes for the institutionalized children of Romania and helping youth at risk in many other nations. You feel the impact of thousands more every day, of course, even if you have never heard their names. You’ll know them by that slightly crazy gleam in their eyes. And then you will see that this world really does need more of these wonderful heretics.
Anita Roddick, an author and long-time activist, is co-founder of The Body Shop.
More information: www.anitaroddick.com
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Global production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, has risen sixfold since 2000 and grew 41 percent in 2006 alone. Although grid-connected solar capacity still provides less than 1 percent of the world's electricity, it increased nearly 50 percent in 2006, to 5,000 megawatts, propelled by booming markets in Germany and Japan. Spain is likely to join the big leagues in 2007, and the United States soon thereafter.
A radical form of “offsetting” carbon dioxide emissions to prevent climate change is proposed today – having fewer children.
Each new UK citizen less means a lifetime carbon dioxide saving of nearly 750 tonnes, a climate impact equivalent to 620 return flights between London and New York*, the Optimum Population Trust says in a new report.
Based on a “social cost” of carbon dioxide of $85 a tonne**, the report estimates the climate cost of each new Briton over their lifetime at roughly £30,000. The lifetime emission costs of the extra 10 million people projected for the UK by 2074 would therefore be over £300 billion. ***
A 35-pence condom, which could avert that £30,000 cost from a single use, thus represents a “spectacular” potential return on investment – around nine million per cent.
Optimum Population Trust (OPT)
Sunday, May 20, 2007
I REFER to the article, 'Why I am not a climate change sceptic' by Warren Fernandez (Stait Times, May 12, 2007).
For sceptics, is it possible to not believe in global warming but still take action? What if we do not presume that global warming is happening? Can we look at different scenarios and choose what to do?
Let us imagine four simple scenarios.
Scenario One is called 'Happily Ever After', where there is no global warming and no early action taken. The sceptics were right. No money was spent to implement useless plans to tackle climate change. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Scenario Two is called 'Pat On The Back', where there is global warming and early action was taken. Global warming is happening but with less impact because we took preventive actions. Money was spent but it turned out to be a good investment. We gave ourselves a pat on the back for doing what was necessary and right.
Scenario Three is called 'No Regrets' where there is no global warming and early action was taken. The scientists were wrong and money was wasted. Sceptics lambasted that the money could have been used instead to help developing countries.
But the scientists retorted that the sceptics were right with hindsight. The money spent was not wasted, it was used to make buildings and transport energy-efficient; develop alternative energy and reduce reliance on oil; and conserve trees and natural habitats.
We are not short of money, we are short of political will power and foresight. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that stabilising greenhouse gases at 535 to 590 parts per million will reduce the global economy in 2050 by 1.3 per cent. In 2005, global advertising expenditure alone was 1.3 per cent of world GDP and is sufficient to help developing countries meet United Nations millennium development goals.
Scenario Four is called 'Reap And Sow', where there is global warming and no action was taken. We see the impact of climate change, and now everyone believes. But it is too late. We reap what we sow.
Which scenario will happen?
If we take action, we either have no regrets or can pat ourselves on the back in the future. Nothing much to lose and everything to gain.
If we do not take action, we either live happily ever after or reap what we sow. Everything to gain or everything to lose.
What is your choice?
Eugene Tay Tse Chuan
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Have we already abandoned our attempts to prevent dangerous climate change?
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian, 1st May 2007
The rich nations seeking to cut climate change have this in common: they lie. You won’t find this statement in the draft of the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was leaked to the Guardian last week. But as soon as you understand the numbers, the words form before your eyes. The governments making genuine efforts to tackle global warming are using figures they know to be false.
The British government, the European Union and the United Nations all claim to be trying to prevent “dangerous” climate change. Any level of climate change is dangerous for someone, but there is a broad consensus about what this word means: two degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels. It is dangerous because of its direct impacts on people and places (it could, for example, trigger the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet(1)and the collapse of the Amazon rainforest(2)) and because it is likely to stimulate further warming, as it encourages the world’s natural systems to start releasing greenhouse gases.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
MAY 2007 sees the launch of the World Future Council, and our first major book, Surviving the Century: Facing Climate Chaos and Other Global Challenges. The book outlines a road map to a sustainable future in an age increasingly threatened by climate chaos. The eight chapters deal with the politics of climate change, renewable energy, agriculture, rainforests, cities, industrial production systems, trade and democracy. Each chapter offers an impressive vision of a sustainable future. But all of the authors make it clear that we need to make profound, systemic changes to the very basis of our culture, and to the very relationship between humans and nature, if we are to survive this and future centuries.
Richard Heinberg is a core faculty member of New College of California, and the author of eight books, including The Oil Depletion Protocol, The Party's Over, and Powerdown.
The world is entering a period of change unlike any in history. This will be an inherently perilous time, because it will involve a forced and rapid transformation in the energy system on which our societies, and our very lives, depend. The transformation will involve the invention of new technologies and the exploitation of new resources — as was the case with earlier great economic watersheds. But this time change will be propelled not merely by new opportunities. Instead, it will be thrust upon us as a result of the depletion of the energy resources that enabled the creation of industrial economies throughout the past two centuries: namely coal, oil, and natural gas — though first and foremost, oil.
Click on title to read more...
Lester R. Brown
On February 20, 2007, Australia announced it would phase out the sale of inefficient incandescent light bulbs by 2010, replacing them with highly efficient compact fluorescent bulbs that use one fourth as much electricity. If the rest of the world joins Australia in this simple step to sharply cut carbon emissions, the worldwide drop in electricity use would permit the closing of more than 270 coal-fired (500 megawatt) power plants. For the United States, this bulb switch would facilitate shutting down 80 coal-fired plants.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
"EXCEPT FOR A SMALL AMOUNT that's been incinerated," says Tony Andrady the oracle, "every bit of plastic manufactured in the world for the last fifty years or so still remains. It's somewhere in the environment."
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
The meat industry is one of the most destructive ecological industries on the planet. The raising and slaughtering of pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys and chickens not only utilizes vast areas of land and vast quantities of water, but it is a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry.
The seafood industry is literally plundering the ocean of life and some fifty percent of fish caught from the oceans is fed to cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc in the form of fish meal. It also takes about fifty fish caught from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.
We have turned the domestic cow into the largest marine predator on the planet. The hundreds of millions of cows grazing the land and farting methane consume more tonnage of fish than all the world’s sharks, dolphins and seals combined. Domestic housecats consume more fish, especially tuna, than all the world’s seals.
So why is it that all the world’s large environmental and conservation groups are not campaigning against the meat industry? Why did Al Gore’s film Inconvenient Truth not mention the inconvenient truth that the slaughter industry creates more greenhouse gases than the automobile industry?
Friday, May 04, 2007
There is perhaps no better sign of this new realization than the recent decision of the United Nations Security Council to discuss, for the first time, the impacts of climate change on peace and security. Though a number of governments—including China and Russia—raised doubts whether the Council was the right forum to take up this issue, the meeting, held on April 17, represented a major milestone, with representatives of 55 nations in attendance.
News Release - March 1, 2005:
"Extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time." Thus forecasts Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, whose twenty-five years of experience observing the world from many vantage points has helped him shed light on the most vital issues facing our planet: the causes of poverty, the role of rich-country policies, and the very real possibilities for a poverty-free future. Deemed "the most important economist in the world" by The New York Times Magazine and "the world's best-known economist" by Time magazine, Sachs brings his considerable expertise to bear in the landmark The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, his highly anticipated blueprint for world-wide economic success — a goal, he argues, we can reach in a mere twenty years. more...
Thursday, May 03, 2007
The world’s fish populations are increasingly endangered from overfishing, pollution, and overconsumption. A study late last year reported that major fish species, including tuna, scallops, lobster, and flounder, could be effectively extinct by the middle of the century. But fishery collapses are not inevitable, says Brian Halweil, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute.
Here are Brian’s tips on how to continue enjoying the health benefits of seafood while avoiding fishery depletions and the toxins present in many fish:
Eat less of the big fish such as salmon, tuna, swordfish and sharks. These are among the most vulnerable populations, and also the fish that live the longest, have the most fat, and accumulate the most toxins over their lifespan.
Eat lower on the marine food chain, including smaller species such as clams, oysters, mollusks, anchovies, and sardines. Smaller species are less endangered because they are more abundant, reproduce faster, and feed lower on the food chain (so they don’t consume other fish themselves.) They also have less fat and don’t accumulate as many toxins as the larger, longer-lived fish species.
Keep in mind how fish are caught. Some trawling nets are so large they could pull a 747 jet off the ocean floor. Instead, choose fish caught by line, pot, or net (or other artisanal methods) and avoid trawl-caught fish.
Australia will be the first country to ban the inefficient incandescent bulbs, with a complete phase out planned by 2009. “By that stage you simply won’t be able to buy incandescent lightbulbs, because they won’t meet the energy standard,” said environment minister Malcolm Turnbull. Australians are among the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters per capita, and the country has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. But severe drought in the country has led to rising environmental concern. According to Turnbull, the new law will reduce Australia’s current emissions by 800,000 tons by 2012 and will simultaneously cut household lighting costs 66 percent.
Climate change is the collapse of the global atmospheric system's processes and patterns and represents a massive environmental challenge to maintaining a habitable Earth. Yet climate is but one of several planetary scale ecological crises that threaten existence and are occurring now concurrently.
While climate change is so omnipresent that it interacts with and exacerbates virtually every other environmental crisis, it remains but one symptom of a much more malignant systematic breakdown in the global ecological system. Global heating could stop being a major issue tomorrow (it will not) and there are at least half a dozen ongoing ecological catastrophes that could still destroy the Earth and civilization such as it is.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
For the past five years, the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, which at no point on its nine atolls is higher than thirteen feet above sea level, has openly discussed plans to file a lawsuit against the United States and Australia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Tuvalu has also tried to recruit other island nations to sue for damages from climate change, arguing that while these small countries contribute only 0.6 percent to global warming, they disproportionately suffer its effects.
And Where have all the Bees Gone?
Earth Day Report by Captain Paul Watson
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
- Albert Einstein
(1879 - 1955)
Earth Day is almost here. I don't believe in Earth Day myself. I think it's a little silly to devote one single day of the year to being concerned about the environment, but I suppose one day is better than no day at all.
Having been an environmental activist since 1968, I have seen the movement go up and down like a roller coaster in popularity. It was big in 1972 with the Environmental Conference in Stockholm which I attended and it became big again in 1992 with the U.N. Environmental Conference in Rio De Janeiro that I also attended. I remember that the priority issue in 1972 was the danger of escalating human populations but by 1992, that concern was not even on the agenda.
Well we are approaching the end of another 20 year period and it looks like ecology is in vogue again thanks to global warming and a few other scary things. Green is once again popular.
I can always tell when the environment is getting to be faddish again. My indicator is the number of lectures I am booked for around this time of year. It reached its peak in 1992, practically disappeared for awhile and now it's coming around again.
What worries me is that the movement is constantly being sidetracked by the issue of the day.
It's global warming now. When we were trying to warn people about global warming and climate change twenty years ago, no one was interested. Now it's become the "in" issue and the big organizations are tapping the public for donations to address the problem although no one has come up with anything that makes much sense. But global warming is good for business if you're one of the big bureaucratic organizations whose primary concern is really corporate self preservation.
Greenpeace is even telling people that they can slow down global warming by (and I kid you not) "singing in the shower". Yep, you see all you have to do is run the water, then get wet, shut the water off, and sing in the shower as you lather up and then open up the faucet and rinse off. Ah, so simple to save the world.
The problem is that these big organizations are too politically correct to address the ecologically correct solutions.
Instead they are baffling everyone with abstract concepts like carbon trading and carbon storage or trying to sell us a new hydrid Japanese car.
Even Al Gore with his Inconvenient Truth totally ignored the most inconvenient truth of all. I'll get to that in a moment.
But let's look at the number one cause of global greenhouse gas emissions.
First and foremost it is human over-population, the very same issue that was the priority concern at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm.
It's 6.5 billion people folks.
Remember in 1950, the world population was 3 billion. It's now more than doubled.
6.5 billion people produce one hell of an annual output of waste and utilize an unbelievable amount of resources and energy.
And this number is rising minute by minute, day, by day, year by year.
And most of the people having children have no idea why they are even having children other than that's what you do. Most of them don't really love their children because if they did they would be very much involved in trying to ensure that their children have a world to survive in.
Unless over-population is addressed, there is absolutely no way of slowing down global greenhouse gas emissions.
But how do you do that within the context of economic systems that require larger and larger numbers to perform the essential task of consuming products?
Corporations need workers and buyers. Governments need tax-payers, bureaucrats and soldiers. More people means more money.
I've said for decades that the solution to all of our problems is simple. We just need to live in accordance with the three basic laws of ecology.
First is the Law of Diversity. The strength of an eco-system lies in diversity of species within it. Weaken diversity and the entire system will be weakened and will ultimately collapse.
Second is the Law of Interdependence. All of the species within an eco-system are interdependent. We need each other.
And the third law of Ecology is the Law of Finite Resources. There is a limit to growth because there is a limit to carrying capacity.
Human populations are exceeding ecological carrying capacity.
Exceeding ecological carrying capacity is diminishing both resources and diversity of species.
The diminishment of diversity is causing serious problems with interdependence.
Albert Einstein once wrote that "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
That is the Law of Interdependence.
Forget global warming folks. The disappearance of the honeybee could end our existence as human beings on this planet far sooner than we think.
And the honey bee is in fact now disappearing. Why? We don't know why. It could be genetically modified crops, I could be pesticides or it could be that our cell phones are interfering with their ability to navigate.
Whatever the cause the fact is that they are disappearing. All around the world bees are disappearing in a crisis called Colony Collapse Disorder.
And bees pollinate our plants. Everywhere on the planet, bees are hard at work making it possible for you to live and enjoy life.
We hold on to our place on this planet by only a toehold. If anything happens to the grass family, we are screwed. If the earthworms disappear, we are in big trouble. If the bees disappear, well according to Albert Einstein who was considered somewhat smarter than most of us, we will have only four years. Just enough time to get a college degree to discover that everything you learned is relatively useless when sitting on the doorstep of global ecological annihilation.
We are cutting down the forest and plundering the oceans of life. We are polluting the soil, the air and the water and we are rapidly running out of fresh water to drink.
Only corporations like Coke and Pepsi have figured out that water is more valuable than gold. That is why they are bottling it in plastic bottles and selling it. This week I saw a bottle of water in my hotel room that I could have drunk for only $4.
Unbelievable. That means that water is now being sold for more than the equivalent amount of gasoline. I hope that I'm not the only one who thinks this is insanity.
Now for Al Gore's really inconvenient truth. In his film he does not mention once that the meat and dairy industry that produces the bacon, the steaks, the chicken wings and the milk is a larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than the automobile industry. You see, Al may drive a Prius but he likes his burgers.
This is why the big organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club will not say a thing about the meat industry. Last year I saw Greenpeacers sitting down for a baked fish meal onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza while engaged in a campaign to oppose over-fishing.
When we pointed out that our Sea Shepherd ships serve only vegan meals, the
Greenpeace cook replied, "that's just silly."
We see what we want to see and we rationalize everything else.
The oceans have been plundered to the point that 90% of the fish have been removed from their eco-systems and at this very moment there is over 65,000 miles of long lines set in the Pacific Ocean alone and there are tens of thousands of fishing vessels scouring the seas in a rapacious quest to scoop up everything that swims or crawls.
This is ecological insanity.
The largest marine predator on the planet right now is the cow. More than half the fish taken from the sea is rendered into fish meal and fed to domestic livestock. Puffins are starving in the North sea to feed sand eels to chickens in Denmark. Sheep and pigs have replaced the shark and the sea lion as the dominant predators in the ocean and domestic house cats are eating more fish than all the world's seals combined. We are extracting some fifty to sixty fish from the sea to raise one farm raised salmon.
This is ecological insanity.
Yet the demand for shark fin is rising in China. Ignorant people still want to wear fur coats. In America, we order fries, a cheeseburger and a "diet" coke.
Ecological insanity folks.
Last week a reporter called to ask me if I had really said that earth worms are more important than people. I answered that yes I had. He then asked how I could justify such a statement.
"Simple," I answered. "Earthworms can live on the planet without people. We cannot live on the planet without earthworms thus from an ecological point of view, earthworms are more important than people."
He said that I was insane for suggesting such a ridiculous idea when people were made in the image of God, and earthworms were not.
What we have here of course is a failure to communicate between two radically different world views. His which is anthropocentric and sees reality as human centred and mine which is biocentric and sees reality as including all species equally working in interdependence. He sees us as divine and better than all the other species and I see us as a bunch of arrogant primates out of control.
But that's my two cents worth for Earth Day 2007.
Consider the humble honey bee and remember that the little black and yellow insect you see flitting busily from flower to flower is all that stands between us and our demise as a species on this planet.
We better see to it that they don't disappear.
May be freely published and distributed.
Captain Paul Watson Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society (1977- Co-Founder - The Greenpeace Foundation (1972) Co-Founder -
Greenpeace International (1979) Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)
Director - The Farley Mowat Institute Director - http://www.harpseals.org/
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O soul, exploring, I
with thee and thou with me, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared
to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all." - Walt Whitman
http://www.seashepherd.org/ Tel: 360-370-5650 Fax: 360-370-5651
Address: P.O. Box 2616 Friday Harbor, Wa 98250 USA
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
For many decades, the problems of transportation have revolved around the issue of private versus public. After World War II the country made transportation via the private car the top priority at the expense of public transportation. This choice is not sustainable. The private car, regardless of its convenience, can no longer serve as the principle mode of people transport. Its high cost, the depleting of fossil fuels, and climate deterioration – along with high rates of deaths and injuries – make it unacceptable. Our choice today is to determine what kind of strategy should be adopted to move the basis of transportation away from the private automobile.
Since Peak Oil could arrive sooner than expected and the depletion rate could be faster than predicted, prudence requires a backup plan other than merely changing car technology. A “Smart Jitney” system could be developed rapidly, and provide for a very sizable (50-75%) reduction of gasoline consumed and greenhouse gases generated by transportation. It could also be the model for a new and more efficient approach to personal mobility. Ultimately, it could be vital in keeping our economy going by giving people a way to get to and from work if there suddenly was not have enough fuel for private cars.
Lester R. Brown
Mobilizing to save civilization means restructuring the economy, restoring the economy’s natural support systems, eradicating poverty, and stabilizing population. We have the technologies, economic instruments, and financial resources to do this. The United States has the resources to lead this effort. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Earth Institute sums it up well: “The tragic irony of this moment is that the rich countries are so rich and the poor so poor that a few added tenths of one percent of GNP from the rich ones ramped up over the coming decades could do what was never before possible in human history: ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children in this world. How many more tragedies will we suffer in this country before we wake up to our capacity to help make the world a safer and more prosperous place not only through military might, but through the gift of life itself?”
It is not possible to put a precise price tag on the changes needed to move our twenty-first century civilization off the overshoot-and-collapse path and onto a path that will sustain economic progress. What we can do, however, is provide some rough estimates of the scale of effort needed.
To fund the needed restructuring of the energy economy, we rely on shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. For meeting our social goals, the additional external funding needed to achieve universal primary education in the more than 80 developing countries that require help is conservatively estimated by the World Bank at $12 billion per year. Funding for an adult literacy program based largely on volunteers will take an estimated additional $4 billion annually. Providing for the most basic health care in developing countries is estimated at $33 billion by the World Health Organization. The additional funding needed to provide reproductive health care and family planning services to all women in developing countries is less than $7 billion a year.
Closing the condom gap by providing the additional 9.5 billion condoms needed to control the spread of HIV in the developing world and Eastern Europe requires $2 billion—$285 million for condoms and $1.7 billion for AIDS prevention education and condom distribution. The cost of extending school lunch programs to the 44 poorest countries is $6 billion. An estimated $4 billion per year would cover the cost of assistance to preschool children and pregnant women in these countries. Altogether, the cost of reaching basic social goals comes to $68 billion a year.
A poverty eradication effort that is not accompanied by an earth restoration effort is doomed to fail. Reforesting the earth will cost $6 billion annually. Protecting and restoring rangeland will require $9 billion, restoring fisheries will cost $13 billion, and stabilizing water tables will require $10 billion annually. The most costly activities, protecting biological diversity at $31 billion and conserving soil on cropland at $24 billion, account for over half of the earth restoration annual outlay. All told, these efforts will cost an estimated $93 billion of additional expenditures per year.
Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget yields an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion, roughly one third of the current U.S. military budget or one sixth of the global military budget.
Unfortunately, the United States continues to focus on building an ever-stronger military, largely ignoring the threats posed by continuing environmental deterioration, poverty, and population growth. Its proposed defense budget for 2006, including $50 billion for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, brings the U.S. projected military expenditure to $492 billion. Other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members spend $209 billion a year on the military. Russia spends about $65 billion, and China, $56 billion. U.S. military spending is now roughly equal to that of all other countries combined. As the late Eugene Carroll, Jr., a retired admiral, astutely observed, “For forty-five years of the Cold War we were in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Now it appears we are in an arms race with ourselves.”
It is decision time. Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our modern economy decline and eventually collapse, or we can consciously move onto a new path, one that will sustain economic progress. In this situation, no action is actually a decision to stay on the decline-and-collapse path.
It is hard to find the words to convey the gravity of our situation and the momentous nature of the decision we are about to make. How can we convey the urgency of this moment in history? Will tomorrow be too late? Do enough of us care deeply enough to turn the tide now?
Will someone somewhere one day erect a tombstone for our civilization? If so, how will it read? It cannot say we did not understand. We do understand. It cannot say we did not have the resources. We do have the resources. It can only say we were too slow to respond to the forces undermining our civilization. Time ran out.
No one can argue today that we do not have the resources to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and protect the earth’s natural resource base. We can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, disease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth’s soils, forests, and fisheries. Shifting one sixth of the world military budget to the Plan B budget would be more than adequate to move the world onto a path that would sustain progress. We can build a global community where the basic needs of all the earth’s people are satisfied—a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized.
This economic restructuring depends on tax restructuring, on getting the market to be ecologically honest. The benchmark of political leadership in all countries will be whether or not leaders succeed in restructuring the tax system as, for example, Germany and Sweden have are doing. This is the key to restructuring the energy economy—both to stabilize climate and to make the transition to the post-petroleum world.
As we look at the environmentally destructive trends that are undermining our future, the world is desperately in need of visible evidence that we can indeed turn things around at the global level. Fortunately, the steps to reverse destructive trends or to initiate constructive new trends are often mutually reinforcing or win-win solutions. For example, efficiency gains that reduce oil use also reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. Steps to eradicate poverty simultaneously help eradicate hunger and stabilize population. Reforestation fixes carbon, increases aquifer recharge, and reduces soil erosion. Once we get enough trends headed in the right direction, they will often reinforce each other.
It is easy to spend hundreds of billions in response to terrorist threats, but the reality is that the resources needed to disrupt a modern economy are small, and a U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however heavily funded, provides only minimal protection from suicidal terrorists. The challenge is not to provide a high-tech military response to terrorism, but to build a global society that is environmentally sustainable and equitable—one that restores hope for everyone. Such an effort would more effectively undermine the support for terrorism than any increase in military expenditures, than any new weapons systems, however advanced.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Lester R. Brown
If you think you are spending more each week at the supermarket, you may be right. The escalating share of the U.S. grain harvest going to ethanol distilleries is driving up food prices worldwide.
Corn prices have doubled over the last year, wheat futures are trading at their highest level in 10 years, and rice prices are rising too. In addition, soybean futures have risen by half. A Bloomberg analysis notes that the soaring use of corn as the feedstock for fuel ethanol “is creating unintended consequences throughout the global food chain.”
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Don't expect a balanced report.
Here is some background information on the director of that documentary:
There is a very clear point-by-point description of how the film misled people at
It is worth reading, because there’s a need to counter the arguments used to suggest that the global warming scare has been disproved.