civilization faces storm of eco & social problems

Abuse of the environment has created an ‘absolutely unprecedented’ emergency, say Blue Planet prizewinners

photo by cristina quicker/afp/getty images

by John Vidal, environmental ed, guardian.co.uk
mon, 20 feb 2012 ( reprint )

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency”, say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us”.

The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include Sir Bob Watson, the government’s chief scientific adviser on environmental issues, US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil’s secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich, is published today on the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the UN environment programme (Unep). The paper, which was commissioned by Unep, will feed into the Rio +20 earth summit conference in June.

Apart from dire warnings about biodiversity loss and climate change, the group challenges governments to think differently about economic “progress”.

“The rapidly deteriorating biophysical situation is more than bad enough, but it is barely recognised by a global society infected by the irrational belief that physical economies can grow forever and disregarding the facts that the rich in developed and developing countries get richer and the poor are left behind.

“The perpetual growth myth … promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world’s problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices”, they say.

The group warns against over-reliance on markets but instead urges politicians to listen and learn from how poor communities all over the world see the problems of energy, water, food and livelihoods as interdependent and integrated as part of a living ecosystem.

“The long-term answer is not a centralised system but a demystified and decentralised system where the management, control and ownership of the technology lie in the hands of the communities themselves and not dependent on paper-qualified professionals from outside the villages,” they say.

“Community-based groups in the poorer most inaccessible rural areas around the world have demonstrated the power of grassroot action to change policy at regional and national levels… There is an urgency now to bring them into mainstream thinking, convey the belief all is not lost, and the planet can still be saved.”

The answer to addressing the critical issues of poverty and climate change is not primarily technical but social, say the group. “The problems of corruption, wastage of funds, poor technology choices and absent transparency or accountability are social problems for which they are innovative solutions are emerging from the grassroots.”

To transition to a more sustainable future will require simultaneously redesigning the economic system, a technological revolution, and, above all, behavioural change.

“Delay is dangerous and would be a profound mistake. The ratchet effect and technological lock-in increase the risks of dangerous climate change: delay could make stabilisation of concentrations at acceptable levels very difficult. If we act strongly and science is wrong, then we will still have new technologies, greater efficiency and more forests. If fail to act and the science is right, then humanity is in deep trouble and it will be very difficult to extricate ourselves.

The paper urges governments to:

• Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital – and how they intersect.

• Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.

• Tackle overconsumption in the rich world, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.

• Transform decision-making processes to empower marginalised groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.

• Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.

• Invest in knowledge through research and training.

“The current system is broken,” said Watson. “It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self.”

ex-UN climate chief: talks are rudderless

Not alone in investing little hope in durban’s outcome
( save for the blessed, ubiquitous 99 ) . . .

environmental activists confront police as they attempt to gain access to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) during a demonstration in durban on dec 2, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Yvo de Boer said he left his job as the U.N.’s top climate official in frustration 18 months ago, believing the process of negotiating a meaningful climate agreement was failing. His opinion hasn’t changed.

“I still have the same view of the process that led me to leave the process,” he told The Associated Press Sunday. “I’m still deeply concerned about where it’s going, or rather where it’s not going, about the lack of progress.”

For three years until 2010, the Dutch civil servant was the leading voice on global warming on the world stage. He appeared constantly in public to advocate green policies, traveled endlessly for private meetings with top leaders and labored with negotiators seeking ways to finesse snags in drafting agreements.

In the end he felt he “wasn’t really able to contribute as I should be to the process,” he said.

Today he can take a long view on his years as a Dutch negotiator in the 1990s and later as a senior U.N. official with access to the highest levels of government, business and civil society. He is able to voice criticisms he was reluctant to air when he was actively shepherding climate diplomacy.

Negotiators live “in a separate universe,” and the ongoing talks are “like a log that’s drifted away,” he said. Then, drawing another metaphor from his rich reservoir, he called the annual 194-nation conferences “a bit of a mouse wheel.”

De Boer spoke to the AP on the sidelines of the latest round of talks in this South African port city, which he is attending as a consultant for the international accounting firm KPMG.

Elsewhere in Durban Sunday, the South African host of the talks called for divine help at a climate change church service organized by the South African Council of Churches.

“We needed to pray for (an) acceptable, balanced outcome, that has a sense of urgency,” said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who as South Africa’s foreign minister is president of the Durban round of negotiations. Priests laid their hands on her head in blessing during the service.

De Boer said world leaders have failed to become deeply engaged in efforts to reach an international accord to control greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming. In recent years, their inattention has been compounded by their preoccupation with the economic and Eurozone crises.

Negotiators have been at the job so long — since the 1992 climate convention — that they have lost touch with the real world, he said. But it wasn’t their fault.

“I completely understand that it is very difficult for a negotiator to move if you haven’t been given a political sense of direction and the political space to move,” he said, chatting on a hilltop terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Rather than act in their own national interests, many leaders look to see what others are willing — or unwilling — to concede.

“You’ve got a bunch of international leaders sitting 85 stories up on the edge of a building saying to each other, you jump first and I’ll follow. And there is understandably a reluctance to be the first one to jump,” he said.

The 2009 Copenhagen summit was a breaking point. Expectations soared that the conference would produce an accord setting firm rules for bringing down global carbon emissions. When delegates fell short, hopes remained high that President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, most of Europe’s heads of government and more than 100 other top leaders would save the day at the last minute.

De Boer said he spent the last 24 hours of the summit in “a very small and very smelly room” with about 20 prime ministers and presidents, but the time was not ripe for the hoped-for international treaty.

Obama still hoped to push domestic legislation through the Senate, and any prior commitment to a U.N. treaty would have killed his chances. The bill died anyway. China and India, too, were not ready in Copenhagen to accept internationally binding limits on their emissions.

Many Americans, he said, have still not bought into the “green story,” he said. In the meantime, the U.S. is losing a competitive edge against China, which is investing heavily to shift the course of its economy — from which it will benefit regardless of the global warming issue, he said.

Despite their failures, De Boer said he thought most leaders sincerely want a deal on climate change.

“I do not see the negotiating process being able to rise to that challenge, being capable of delivering on that,” he said. “I believe the sincerity on the part of world leaders is there, but it’s almost as though they do not have control of the process that’s suppose to take them there.”

could climate change deniers be half right?

. . . The most feared half

here’s naomi klein sounding off at a recent occupy wall street rally

and here’s one truly ground-breaking article that goes to the heart of the issue
i urge you to READ IT IN FULL

like paul gilding before her in THE GREAT DISRUPTION
this much gifted activist-journalist
isn’t mincing her sweeping, inevitable conclusions

what’s called for is a total paradigm shift in how we live
-rain on those loaded labels of the past!

the article first appeared on the website of the nation magazine
bit on the lengthy side for a web-read

but so vital and so well written just the same
you & i simply must’n pass it up

it is here EXCERPTED FROM ALTERNET
for shemovesme.com . . .

To Conservatives, Climate Change is Trojan Horse to Abolish Capitalism

By Naomi Klein, THE NATION
Posted on November 27, 2011, Printed on November 28, 2011

. . . Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website, ClimateDepot.com).

Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

. . . This is the true purpose of the gathering: providing a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical baseball bats with which they will club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come. The talking points first tested here will jam the comment sections beneath every article and YouTube video that contains the phrase “climate change” or “global warming.” They will also exit the mouths of hundreds of right-wing commentators and politicians—from Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann all the way down to county commissioners like Richard Rothschild. In an interview outside the sessions, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, proudly takes credit for “thousands of articles and op-eds and speeches…that were informed by or motivated by somebody attending one of these conferences.”

. . . But now there is a significant cohort of Republicans who care passionately, even obsessively, about climate change—though what they care about is exposing it as a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberals to force them to change their light bulbs, live in Soviet-style tenements and surrender their SUVs. For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion. Many climate scientists report receiving death threats, as do authors of articles on subjects as seemingly innocuous as energy conservation. (As one letter writer put it to Stan Cox, author of a book critical of air-conditioning, “You can pry my thermostat out of my cold dead hands.”)

. . .But the effects of the right-wing climate conspiracies reach far beyond the Republican Party. The Democrats have mostly gone mute on the subject, not wanting to alienate independents. And the media and culture industries have followed suit.

. . . This uneasy silence has persisted through the end of the hottest decade in recorded history and yet another summer of freak natural disasters and record-breaking heat worldwide. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is rushing to make multibillion-dollar investments in new infrastructure to extract oil, natural gas and coal from some of the dirtiest and highest-risk sources on the continent (the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline being only the highest-profile example). In the Alberta tar sands, in the Beaufort Sea, in the gas fields of Pennsylvania and the coalfields of Wyoming and Montana, the industry is betting big that the climate movement is as good as dead.

. . . All of this means that the climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback. For this to happen, the left is going to have to learn from the right. Denialists gained traction by making climate about economics: action will destroy capitalism, they have claimed, killing jobs and sending prices soaring. But at a time when a growing number of people agree with the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, many of whom argue that capitalism-as-usual is itself the cause of lost jobs and debt slavery, there is a unique opportunity to seize the economic terrain from the right. This would require making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power. It would also require a shift away from the notion that climate action is just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention. Just as climate denialism has become a core identity issue on the right, utterly entwined with defending current systems of power and wealth, the scientific reality of climate change must, for progressives, occupy a central place in a coherent narrative about the perils of unrestrained greed and the need for real alternatives.

. . . The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution.

. . . The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits, including the limits of human intelligence.

So in a way, Chris Horner was right when he told his fellow Heartlanders that climate change isn’t “the issue.” In fact, it isn’t an issue at all. Climate change is a message, one that is telling us that many of our culture’s most cherished ideas are no longer viable.

. . . the reality is that Soviet-era state socialism was a disaster for the climate. It devoured resources with as much enthusiasm as capitalism, and spewed waste just as recklessly: before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechs and Russians had even higher carbon footprints per capita than their counterparts in Britain, Canada and Australia. And while some point to the dizzying expansion of China’s renewable energy programs to argue that only centrally controlled regimes can get the green job done, China’s command-and-control economy continues to be harnessed to wage an all-out war with nature, through massively disruptive mega-dams, superhighways and extraction-based energy projects, particularly coal.
It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.

Here is where the Heartlanders have good reason to be afraid: arriving at these new systems is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades. What follows is a quick-and-dirty look at what a serious climate agenda would mean in the following six arenas: public infrastructure, economic planning, corporate regulation, international trade, consumption and taxation. For hard-right ideologues like those gathered at the Heartland conference, the results are nothing short of intellectually cataclysmic.

( i especially urge you to read these six in the original . . . 1. Reviving & Reinventing the Public Sphere, 2. Remembering How to Plan, 3. Reining in Corporations, 4. Relocalizing Production, 5. Ending the Cult of Shopping, 6. Taxing the Rich & Filthy )

. . . Shifting cultural values is, admittedly, a tall order. It calls for the kind of ambitious vision that movements used to fight for a century ago, before everything was broken into single “issues” to be tackled by the appropriate sector of business-minded NGOs. Climate change is, in the words of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.” By all rights, this reality should be filling progressive sails with conviction, breathing new life and urgency into longstanding fights against everything from free trade to financial speculation to industrial agriculture to third-world debt, while elegantly weaving all these struggles into a coherent narrative about how to protect life on earth.

But that isn’t happening, at least not so far. It is a painful irony that while the Heartlanders are busily calling climate change a left-wing plot, most leftists have yet to realize that climate science has handed them the most powerful argument against capitalism since William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” (and, of course, those mills were the beginning of climate change). When demonstrators are cursing out the corruption of their governments and corporate elites in Athens, Madrid, Cairo, Madison and New York, climate change is often little more than a footnote, when it should be the coup de grâce.

Half of the problem is that progressives—their hands full with soaring unemployment and multiple wars—tend to assume that the big green groups have the climate issue covered. The other half is that many of those big green groups have avoided, with phobic precision, any serious debate on the blindingly obvious roots of the climate crisis: globalization, deregulation and contemporary capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth (the same forces that are responsible for the destruction of the rest of the economy). The result is that those taking on the failures of capitalism and those fighting for climate action remain two solitudes, with the small but valiant climate justice movement—drawing the connections between racism, inequality and environmental vulnerability—stringing up a few swaying bridges between them.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Read more atNaomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter @naomiaklein.

© 2011 THE NATION, All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/153230/

we’ll get thru this too

Some good news about what’s ahead
in the very long run! . . .

crossing the bering strait

by Daily Mail Reporter, 11/20/11

Climate change over the past two million years has boosted human evolution by forcing us to adapt to changing conditions and allowing us to migrate to new areas. Researchers found that far from hindering our development, periods when the earth is either cooling or warming up have actually been highly beneficial. As well as prompting us to migrate, changes in climate have also forced humans to evolve culturally by encouraging us to learn to work together.

Far from hindering human development scientists now believe periods of climate change helped us evolve. Experts from the National History Museum and Cambridge University have identified five key time periods when shifts in global climate have resulted in accelerated social and genetic evolution.

The first began around two million years ago when a prolonged dry period caused forests to disappear leading to the emergence of Homo erectus – an early human adapted to running and hunting on the grassy plains.

The next major development came during the ice age which began 450,000 years ago during which scientists believe human beings were split into three separate groups. European humans evolved into Neanderthals while Asian humans evolved into Denisovans.

Those remaining on the African subcontinent evolved into modern human beings but this group had to wait until around 60,000 years ago when a prolonged warm spell allowed them to spread north. Then a sustained cold period between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago caused further changes as the freezing temperatures caused a 330ft drop in sea levels allowing humans to cross the Bering land bridge into North America.

Wild fluctuations in climate between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago prompted another period of change by forcing humans to develop agricultural techniques which enabled them to stabilise food supplies.

Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum and author of The Origin of Our Species told the Sunday Times: ‘Climate change has been a major player in our evolution.’ The Royal Society is holding a conference this week where details of recent research will be released. The scientists are keen to point out they are not suggesting that modern global warming is beneficial. Rhiannon Stevens of Cambridge University who is co-organising the conference told the newspaper: ‘What intrigues them is the growing evidence that human evolution and climate change have been inextricably linked for hundreds of thousands of years.’

Read more

moving faster -where?

Dear reader

been awhile
looks like gonna be another
before we step aside again
with words to look mother in the eye

one word pops out today
and i’ll say it: swarm
how can i decry what’s goin on in dc
or closer: what’s not

when i’m no better
i’m carried away too
in this swarm of activity
passing for life on planet earth

got a house to sell
place i hate to lose
scrubbing down for next occupant
performing my grief yet again

last weekend’s workshop leaves me
with a mountain of video to edit and
i gotta prep for next weekend’s show
pix ahead to print & mount

thought i’d let you know
what ant’s alone here?
yeah, i gotta live here too
( oh-oh less & less like once i was )

i’m weeks behind another fine read
paul gilding’s GREAT DISRUPTION
talk about out from the swarm!
it rattles plenty to get off my chest

Wbound on lake monroe bikeloop

meantime to keep timely in touch
won’t you accept last week’s glimpse
off the pedals, my backyard lake loop
one more generous smile from ma

i ride now towards bro sun
‘stead of away from his swelter
missing those bests-of-the-day
these sudden cool mornings

i’ll be back . . .

weighing in

Time to weigh in, given such
surfacing substance, by way of
so many earthy outpourings

just where YOU comin’ out, jim?
i hear you asking
i hear me asking

yes, scribbler of little hesitation
tell us how it really is,
señor ernesto evrimon

all this dawning
from earned enlightenments
of underway lineup, these eco-prereqs

sunrise over the st johns, sanford, florida 9/21/11

ok, so dazzling eurekas of global import
but what lights up here at home re:
your sad beleaguered brite blue mom?

maybe time to confess
( old tradition, comes easy )
well then, i can at least own up

check it out dear reader
either of us yet rid ourselves
of one of those cars?

or even drive them somewhat less?
or even think to turn off the a/c?
or sometimes take the slow lane?

let’s face it
we’re formed here
here’s how we live

so what’s it gonna take now that
both of us know well what’s coming
… asking yourself something familiar?

you with me, friend?

o i’ve the best of excuses myself
bet you do too
shall we compare … ?

where’s any public alternative?
besides, open air’s much too noisy
and right now i’m in a hurry

not to mention, just this side of
3/4-century mark i’m entitled
damn well fully earned it by now

and this old house older even than me
never did get the insulation it needs
how’s soc security to pay for that?

move to another place you say?
hey, i’m planning to die here
. . . shall i keep going?

got kids? can hear you too
uproot kit & kaboodle?
you must be kidding

and so our very survival’s dumped
once again down to very last place
in bulging list of what’s daily to do

while grim reality of goodbye gaia
creeps up on us sure, no matter
learnéd warnings & evidence galore

this gets weary. still with me pal?

one thing of mine long a-pestering:
sealed in here, windows all rolled up
life out there’s become IRRELEVANT

no wonder this crisis all-of-a-sudden
i’m out-of-touch, lost sensitivity
can’t tell smell of storm-on-the-way

not so my cat- like his wild cousins
first to escape the oncoming cyclone
don’t laugh- ask abby the weather!

closer by far, yon eons of touch, that
native knowing and learning and
passing along, respectful & balanced

a way of living now gradually going for
encircling family much more immediate
trading it in for something of MINE?

still, ask any person we call aborigine
even farmer -you remember farmer-
just listen what you get back …

“things are not as once they were!”
yet on march we as if no change
look: sun’s coming up, projects press,

and yes, i gotta go, i’m in a hurry!
cut back to global, the picture-in-full
if how we live that’s got us here

then what’s to do different? could
marx after all have had it right?
“FROM each according to ability

balanced by TO according to need”
current reading now takes me there
THE GREAT DISRUPTION by PAUL GILDING

with startling finale in fine crystal ball
( more on that in a coming posting )
does have this one cold warrior thinking

. . . aside from just who it is
doing the from-&-to, i’d much rather
GIFTS for that hard-edged ABILITY

helping our kids side up to their niche
but that old contest now long past
how ever’d we get off

living & breathing market has won!
well we’re sure paying for it now
our turn to fold from cold war of old

and this dear reader’s where i stop
left on my own i’m still in the woods
our way out? best keep on reading

and let’s keep meeting
at the rock in this place, ’cause
gilding, hertsgaard, mckibben & gore

agree: no matter harm already done
once awoken and made up our minds
we can do this thing

life resurrected
on orb we call
home

~ jim rucquoi

( posted by chance day following
major upheaval in human climate
centering in the state of georgia, USA )