Ten Reasons To Feel Good About Climate Change

Ten Reasons To Feel Good About Climate Change

Well, pretty good.  So much news we get is dire and I do not want to decrease our sense of urgency that much needs to be done.  But a little good news can stimulate hope-based action.  So here it is.  Wendy Becktold just published an article by this title, beginning with “Humanity’s on the brink, but signs are emerging that we’ll pull back.”  She lists these signs of positive change.

 

  1. The divestment movement is growing, forcing the fossil fuel industry to realize its stocks are stranded assets. Peabody Coal used divestment as a reason to file bankruptcy.  New York City is dumping $189 billion in fuel stocks from its pension fund.
  2. The Paris Agreement holds in spite of Trump’s attacks and at a meeting in Poland the world negotiated a set of rules on how to better measure progress nations are making.
  3. The law still rules: many of Trumps efforts to roll back former limits on greenhouse gas emissions are being challenged in the courts.
  4. Renewable energy is on the rise: now so cost effective it will replace fossil fuels in 20 years.
  5. Coal is going, going. . . . During Trump’s first two years, 20 gigawatts of coal fired plants were retired (8 times what happened in Obama’s 4 years), and Sierra Club predicts that by 2035 there will be no coal plants in the U.S.
  6. Technology is advancing including better wind generators, reforestation, no till agriculture and the possibility of carbon capture from the air by 2029.
  7. Transportation is headed in the right direction. Several U.S. regions are planning comprehensive transportation strategies to reduce emissions, electric vehicles are on the rise including school busses.  California is fighting the Trump administration to hold on to their strict tail pipe standards.
  8. The scales of justice are tipping. About 90 big companies are responsible for nearly 2/3 of rising surface temperatures and they are being sued by municipalities, unions, and environmental groups.
  9. The political winds are shifting including the 2018 Congressional elections which put many new representatives in the U.S. house who oppose Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental legislation, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who’s Green New Deal will be taken up at least in part by the new House.
  10. Youth are on the march, including the Sunrise Movement kids who did a sit in in Nancy Pelosi’s office, 15,000 high school students in Australia, and Greta Thunberg, the Swedish school girl who drew world-wide attention to government inaction. She skips school every Friday and sits on the steps of the Swedish Parliament.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is not the end of climate deterioration, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.  So let’s all get to work.

 

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A GREEN NEW DEAL: OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT

The crisis we Earth dwellers are now entering is the NEWS OF THE CENTURY. All the rest is just glitter and litter. Too much non-critical information.
We need to admit that we made a mistake in building a civilization on fossil fuels. We didn’t know back then. We do now. And we have a remedy at hand.
Newly elected representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed that the House create a powerful “Select Committee” to create a Manhattan Project style plan for a comprehensive Green New Deal aimed at transitioning us to 100 percent carbon neutral economy by 2030, and laid out the means including renewable energy, retrofitting all buildings with high R value insulation, and other practical strategies. What did the House leadership do? It created a weak committee to study the problem.
Here’s Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal.
“The select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.” The Plan will be driven primarily by the federal government but in cooperation non-government organizations. The Committee will complete its plan by January 1, 2020.
Specifically: it will include:
The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed in order to achieve the following goals, in each case in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:
i. 100% of national power generation from renewable sources;
ii. building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;
iii. upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
iv. decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries;
v. decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure;
vi. funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases;
vii. making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

The House failed to give their study committee power to subpoena and depose, a mandate to create a plan for 100 percent carbon neutral economy, or the authority to create legislation and send it directly to the House floor for a vote, or to require that members who receive money from coal and oil industry be banned from the Select Committee. Too little, too late.

If we are going to avoid a potential collapse of civilization due to climate deterioration and a skyrocketing rate of extinction, we will need a powerful grass roots campaign to buck up the House leadership, demanding that their existing Select Committee gets the powers and the charge that Ocasio-Cortez has proposed.

Biodiversity Loss–Threat To Civilization

Scientists are warning us of a hidden threat to civilization, the loss of biodiversity.  This threat is as big a climate deterioration.

The staggering loss of biodiversity in the last 4 decades is an equal threat to our survival. Since 1970, we have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations on the planet. Insect populations in German nature preserves have declined by 75 percent since 1970. The UN biodiversity office predicts that “By 2050, Africa is expected to lose 50% of its birds and mammals, and Asian fisheries to completely collapse.”

These losses are caused by primarily by habitat destruction (for example: clearing biodiverse forests for palm oil plantations), chemical pollution, infrastructure that injures and kills wildlife (glass skyscrapers, electric fences), and invasive species.  We are bleeding life from the planet and it is going unnoticed.  We are in the midst of the biggest extinction crisis since the disappearance of the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

Well, so what?  What’s the loss of some insect species to me, or some rare bird I will never see anyway?

Here’s what.  The web of life that supports us provides us food, oxygen, drinkable water, fiber for clothing, medicines, and building materials.  It is like a string hammock in which we lie.  We are rapidly cutting the strings. Beneath that hammock lies chaos and anarchy.  Stable social systems require stable ecosystems. Ecosystem stability comes from many species interacting, but ecosystems are collapsing all over the world.  Most of us live in cities and don’t see it, and the media and governments don’t have a clue either.  The UN points out that “The loss of plants and sea life will reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon, creating a vicious cycle.”

World leadership must very quickly act to establish goals for habitat protection, reducing chemical pollution and preventing the spread of invasive species before it is too late, because once gone is gone forever.

While we should be alarmed, we should not be paralyzed.  “The UN Convention on Biological Diversity – the world body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends – will meet in Egypt this month to start discussions on a new framework for managing the world’s ecosystems and wildlife.  This will kick off two years of frenetic negotiations which must culminate in an ambitious new global deal, comparable to the Paris Climate Agreement, at the next conference in Beijing in 2020.

The U.S. is the only nation that has refused to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity.  We need to lobby the federal government to join the rest of the world.  And there is also much we can do at our homes and local community level to preserve and create habitat where we live.  Every little bit of pollinator habitat helps, every little bit of forest or wild grassland saved makes a difference.  Without biodiversity, civilization is imperiled.

A Different Perspective On Peace

A Different Perspective On Peace

By Kent D. Shifferd

Think of where we are, on a very special, tilted planet that revolves on its own axis every 24 hours while it is circled by a moon that moves around it every 27 days, and both are circling the sun every 365 days, and the sun and all its planets are part of the barred galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is revolving around its own axis once every 250 million years which means that our incredible little planet is racing through space, carried along by the galactic revolution or Cosmic Year, at a speed of 500,000 miles per hour or 12 million miles per day.  Try to picture all these simultaneous movements in your mind.  We are on the outer edge of just one galaxy in a universe of 100 billion galaxies, a tiny dot in measureless space.  And yet, and yet. . . this incredible planet has life, indeed is a living planet encased in a web of creatures dependent on one another and all functioning to support the whole miraculous enterprise.  And here we humans are, conscious of all this, which ought to be both overwhelmingly humbling and awe-inspiring to the point of putting us on our knees.  To think that we are a part of this almost inconceivable cosmic dance leaves me breathless.  And I say to myself, how can we possibly harm one another and the whole web of life, for as far as we know there is no such other planet like earth, and if there is, it’s too far away get to.  This is it, here on this rapidly moving miracle planet.  So, to put it simply, let’s all get along together and nurture the unique systems of life which support us in this remote but awesome place in the universe.

Kent Shifferd is the author of From War To Peace: A Guide To The Next Hundred Years, and is the former Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies

HOW TO OUTLAW WAR

 

Several years ago I wrote the book, FROM WAR TO PEACE: A GUIDE TO THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS (McFarland, 2011). I now hope it won’t take a hundred years, but whenever the nations and peoples are ready to put an end to the barbarism of war, perhaps the treaty will look something like this.

A TREATY TO OUTLAW ALL FORMS OF WAR

PREAMBLE: Whereas war is a terrible crime against humanity and detracts crucially needed resources and attention from solving the most critical problems of the planet while contributing to their exacerbation;

And whereas all prior good will efforts to prevent war including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the current Charter’s limited prohibition of aggression, and current provisions for collective security have failed to prevent war, and;

Recognizing that we currently live in a self-perpetuating war system causing untold misery, and that decisive steps must be taken to break out of this system, and;

Whereas the peoples and States of the world are interdependent as never before so that any war anywhere degrades the lives of all people everywhere and threatens the future of well-being on the planet, therefore:

ARTICLE I: The High Contracting Parties agree that all war is illegal and a crime against humanity, including interstate war (aggression or defense against aggression, declared or undeclared), terrorism and wars against terrorism, and civil wars, and further;

ARTICLE II: the Parties agree to rid themselves of the instruments of war including standing armies (not to include lightly armed domestic police forces), artillery, armed aircraft, bombs, missiles, tanks and all that is common in such cases, and other weapons already outlawed by international treaty (nuclear weapons, land mines, gas, cluster bombs, etc.), and further,

ARTICLE III: the Parties agree to immediately train at least ten percent of their citizens in nonviolent civilian-based defense, and further;

ARTICLE IV: each of the State Parties will establish a high level Department of Peace, and further;

ARTICLE V: that violations of these terms constitute a crime against humanity whose perpetrators will be turned over to the International Criminal Court for judgment, and further;

ARTICLE VI: that the High Contracting Parties shall agree to impose economic sanctions against any States that violate these terms, as determined by eighty percent of the members of the Security Council voting without the exercise of the veto.

ARTICLE VII: that the Parties agree to submit to the mediation by the United Nations in order to resolve conflicts as early as possible using the latest techniques of conflict resolution and mediation, or to undergo the judgment of the International Court of Justice whose subpoena will have the force of international law with appropriate sanctions for any State that ignores its summons, enforceable by the police power of the United Nations, and further;

ARTICLE IX: that the United Nations shall maintain an adequately armed international police force for the deterrence of violations, to be employed as a last resort as determined by eighty percent of the members of the Security Council voting without the exercise of the veto.

 

 

A Treaty To Safeguard Humanity

A Treaty To Safeguard Humanity and the Biosphere From Potential Catastrophe’s Issuing From Artificial Genetic Manipulation

Whereas the artificial[i] manipulation of genetic material, the substrate of all life, and is “likely to be the most radical experiment humankind has ever carried out in the natural world.”[ii], posing grave and even catastrophic results equivalent to nuclear holocaust for humans, other creatures, and the global biosphere for all time to come, and whereas the same promises major improvements in human health and other benefits, it is necessary to bring these processes under the active control of humankind by means of an international treaty.

The Treaty

Article One: The manipulation of genetic material to create new diseases or make old diseases more virulent for purposes of making biological weapons, shall be a crime against humanity prosecuted according to the protocols of the International Criminal Court and any appropriate national court with a penalty of life in prison without parole.

Article Two: All forms of and practice of artificial genetic manipulation shall be strictly confined to qualified scientists at universities and other certified institutions of higher learning whose work shall be overseen on site by independent ethics committees.   No government laboratories will be assumed to qualify under these terms of restrictions.

Article Three: An independent organization of scientists, similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose members are drawn from at least twenty-five different countries will be constituted to oversee and investigate all such research to evaluate its future impact on society and on the biosphere and recommend continuation or discontinuation of said research. These recommendations shall have the force of international law and violations prosecuted under the protocols of the International Criminal Court. The scientific community shall make the appointments to the Agency independently of national governments.

Article Four: It shall be illegal and construed as a crime against humanity to manipulate human genetic material that would result in transmission to subsequent generations or to in any way attempt to clone human beings.

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What we can do

  1. Learn more about genetic manipulation.
  2. Debate and refine these provisions with others.
  3. Carry these provisions to any national or international organization to which we belong or which we think will be interested.
  4. Carry these provisions to our own federal officials and elected representatives.
  5. Carry these provisions to appropriate bodies in the United Nations, particularly ECOSOC.

[i] That is, any form of laboratory based manipulation, e.g., gene splicing, CRISPR, etc., outside of traditional methods of breeding of plants and animals by selecting for traits to be passed on via natural means to the next generation

[ii] Jeremy Rifkin, The Biotech Century: Harnessing The Gene And Remaking The World

(New York: Penguin/Putnam, 1998), p. x.

PLANETARY EMERGENCY: TWO OMINOUS WARNINGS

The first was titled “Insect Armageddon,” [i]A recent study in Germany, carried out in nature preserves, found that “. . . . in just 25 years, the total biomass of these insects declined by an astonishing 76 percent.” Likely causes? The use of pesticides and habitat destruction in surrounding farmland.

Furthermore there is alarming new evidence that insect populations worldwide are in rapid decline. As Prof. Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, a co-author of a new insect study, put it, we are “on course for ecological Armageddon” because “if we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse.” The German study corroborates others. “This isn’t the first study to indicate that insects are in trouble. The Zoological Society of London warned five years ago that many insect populations worldwide were declining, and a 2014 study published in Science magazine also documented a steep drop in insect and other invertebrate life worldwide, warning that such “declines will cascade onto ecosystem functioning and human well-being.” Insects not only pollinate over half of our food, they are also food for many fish, reptiles, birds and others. We are looking at a cascading ecological collapse easily as important as climate deterioration, toxification, and the growing global water shortage.

The second, published in BioScience, a leading scientific journal, was titled “15,000 Scientists From 184 Countries Warn Humanity of Environmental Catastrophe.”[ii] This one urges global leaders to “. . . global leaders to save the planet from environmental catastrophe. Signers include Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson, and James Hansen and thousands of others. It was their “second notice.”   The first one, issued in 1992 and signed by “only” 1700 scientists, began: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” They noted the growing hole in the ozone layer, pollution fresh water depletion, “. . . overfishing, deforestation, plummeting wildlife populations, as well as unsustainable rises in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures and human population levels.” Other than the Ozone Layer, fixed by international cooperation (The Montreal Protocol), things have gotten much worse, including “ . . .a 28.9 percent reduction of vertebrate wildlife, a 62.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions, a 167.6 percent rise in global average annual temperature change and a 35.5 percent increase in the global population.” They are adamant that time is running out and are urging leaders ““take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life.” They warn that “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”

 

It is time for humanity to wake up. As individuals and even corporations there is much we can do but it will not be enough. Only policy enacted at the highest international levels will be sufficient. And that means getting involved in politics, electing people who respect and understand science.

 

[i]   New York Times, Oct. 30, 2017.

 

[ii] Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, Nov. 15, 2017.

An Open Letter To All The Newspapers In The World

An Open Letter To All The Newspapers In The World

How many readers know that the majority of nations in the world have drafted a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons? I suspect not many, because it’s been underreported. The treaty was opened for signatures last week and there was a line to sign on. The nuclear armed states, save one, declined even to participate in developing the treaty. The State that did participate, but then dropped out because of the boycott by the other nuclear armed states was—ready? North Korea. No one thinks Kim Jong un is rational, and last summer Donald Trump said, “If we have ‘em, why can’t we use ‘em,” and just recently at the UN he called Kim childish names and threatened to utterly destroy North Korea. Now, these two nuclear-armed, emotional infants are hurling insults at each other, escalating the very real danger of a nuclear war.

I don’t exaggerate. The single most destructive act we humans can commit is a nuclear war, “New data suggest that a war involving just 100 nuclear weapons, or less than 1% of the world’s arsenals, would cause abrupt severe climate disruption, worldwide food shortages, hundreds of millions of starvation deaths, and probably a total collapse of civilization.” (“Nations take a step away from the threat of nuclear annihilation,” By Ira Helfand and Matt Bivens, CNN, Updated 7:49 PM ET, Fri July 7, 2017.) And that’s to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of prompt deaths, followed by many more dying from radiation sickness, and ecological destruction on a colossal scale.

The “old line” nuclear powers, The U.S., Russia, France, and Great Britain, long ago promised under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that they would “undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date.” They never did and now the rest of the world is fed up. It is no wonder that Pakistan, Israel, India and now North Korea went on and developed nuclear weapons, and that Iran has only stopped because of a treaty agreement with the U.S. and European States which we are about to abrogate. In other words, with regard to having nuclear weapons, they feel that what’s fair for one is fair for all, and in this case, it’s insane.

The non-proliferation regime failed and now it’s time for abolition. But first, let’s immediately stop this dangerous, bloviating rhetoric by two men who ought to be in therapy. After all, they’re risking our lives here, and the health of global ecosystems on which civilization depends.

 

A Green and Just Planet Earth

Getting To A Green and Just Future On Planet Earth

If we are to save the earth from the assaults of Hypercivilization, and so save ourselves, we need to change our minds. A number of thinkers have been suggesting what we need to do to get to a green, just and sustainable future for planet earth. Ted Trainer writes: “To save the planet we do not need miraculous technical breakthroughs or vast amounts of capital. Essentially we need a radical change in our thinking.” Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, says: “We need a positive vision of an abundant future: one which is energy lean, time-rich, less stressful, healthier and happier.” It’s what economist David Korten calls “The New Story” and “The Great Turning.” Willis Harmon reminds us: “Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in society have come about not from the dictates of governments and the result of battles, but through vast numbers of people changing their minds, sometimes only a little bit.”

We need a different set of foundational beliefs that don’t repeat the lie that we are all individuals in a zero sum competition with each other to acquire ever more material goods in an ever expanding economy. That’s not the path to the good life; it’s the road to a ruined Earth and a new Dark Age. So what might be the new cultural postulates that could undergird a green and just society? Here are twelve suggestions.

  1. The most first and most fundamental of the ideas that will undergird Ecocivilization is the idea of community, which ought to be so obvious as to be not worth stating, yet it is crucial to do so in this age of radical, narcissistic individualism. There is no such thing as a self-made person. We humans all rely on one another, but even more profoundly on the other members of the geobiotic community—trees, plants, animals, soil organisms, the atmosphere, the oceans, etc. Other foundational concepts flow out of and into this, including the following eleven changes from our present beliefs.
  2. From privatization to preserving the Commons. Water, air, soil, food, atmosphere, parks, peace and security are rights of everyone, not to be sold to profited self-seeking corporations.
  3. From anywhere is everywhere to restoring a deep sense of place. We can’t know who we are until we know intimately where we are.
  4. From treating the earth as a momentary utility to seeing the Earth community as sacred.
  5. From ignoring the limits of nature to respecting its design, knowing what we can and, more importantly, can’t do without long term harm.
  6. Moving from mindless experimentation (nuclear power, genetic engineering, geoengineering, terraforming) to the precautionary principle which says those who want to introduce changes must themselves first prove them harmless.
  7. From design by guess to redesign by biomimicry—nature as teacher.
  8. From never enough to asking how much is enough.
  9. From crude measures of economic growth to determining and measuring true happiness and well-being.
  10. From rigidity to resilience, global dependence to local independence and self-sufficiency.
  11. From our war system to a peace system. [For more, see my book, From War to Peace: a Guide to the Next Hundred Years, McFarland Publishers).
  12. From irresponsibility to responsibility, from letting corporations externalizetheir environmental and social costs to the rest of us to requiring accountability from them.

These 12 should not be considered linearly but systemically in their mutual and ongoing interrelationships. They are all interlocked with each other. All could be derived from any one of them. You really can’t think about one without thinking about all of them.

The good news is that this great post-Enlightenment Rethink is already developing. It can be found in numerous books, articles, magazines, classes and courses and in countless conversations world-wide. David Korten’s “Great Turning” is underway.

The Declaration of Peace

The Declaration of Peace

These are self-evident truths:

That all humans are a single family living on a fragile and endangered planet whose life support systems must remain intact if we are to survive;

That the well-being of the planet and the well-being of humanity are one and the same;

That the well-being of each requires the well-being of all—security is common;

That all war is a crime against humanity and nature;

That any war anywhere degrades the quality of life for all of us everywhere;

That all humans have a natural right to peace and a healthy planet;

That we live at the decisive moment in history when we will choose between break down or breakthrough on a planetary scale;

That we here now dedicate our intellectual, spiritual and material resources to the establishment of permanent peace and the conservation of nature, and,

That we are fully endowed by our Creator with the wisdom and the ability to achieve these ends.

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17 May, 2017 at Tomidhu Cottage, Crathie, Scotland,  by Kent Drummond Shifferd

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