Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Welcome to the Day After Earth Day 2014

Earth's horizon as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, from the International Space Station.
Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Photo credit: NASA (July 2009).

We have reasons to believe that if the world doesn’t do anything about mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases and the extent of climate change continues to increase, then the very social stability of human systems could be at stake. -- Rajendra Pachauri, U.N. IPCC Chair, 2014

President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is warning that the combined crises of planetary climate change and rising global inequality in a highly interconnected world will lead to the rise of widespread upheaval as the world's poor rise up and clashes over access to clean water and affordable food result in increased violence and political conflict ... "People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There's just no question about it."  -- Jon Queally, Climate Change and Inequality Brewing Global Social Upheaval, Common Dreams, 4-4-14

Welcome to the Day After Earth Day 2014


We are in the throes of a planetary emergency. And we are witness to the greatest failure of governance in human history.  The latest IPCC report says we have 15 years left to make a meaningful difference in the Climate Crisis (which means we probably have seven years or less).

Our circumstances are dire. Perhaps hopeless. So how will you choose to live the rest of your life?

Here is some insightful analysis from a few worthy sources:

The question is not whether we’re going to “stop” global warming, or “solve” the climate crisis; it is whether humanity will act quickly and decisively enough now to save civilization itself—in any form worth saving. Whether any kind of stable, humane and just future—any kind of just society—is still possible. We know that if the governments of the world actually wanted to address this situation in a serious way, they could. Indeed, a select few, such as Germany, have begun to do so. It can be done—and at relatively low cost. And yet the fossil-fuel industry, and those who do its bidding, have been engaged in a successful decades-long effort to sow confusion, doubt and opposition—and to obstruct any serious policies that might slow the warming, or their profits, and buy us time. As I’ve said elsewhere, let’s be clear about what this means: at this late date, given what we know and have known for decades, to willfully obstruct any serious response to global warming is to knowingly allow entire countries and cultures to disappear. It is to rob the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet of their land, their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives and their children’s lives—and their children’s children’s lives. For money. For political power. These are crimes. They are crimes against the Earth, and they are crimes against humanity.  

Some scientists think it’s already too late, but let’s say they are wrong, and the scientists who give us ten years or even twenty are right. Let’s say that if every developed nation were to drastically cut its greenhouse emissions beginning today our poor old earth would mostly muddle through. Overlooking the rather large fact that these measures would cause the world economy to collapse, think what would have to happen: everyone goes vegetarian, uses cars and planes only for emergencies, gets rid of air conditioning, ceases to cut down forests to build new houses. In short, we radically restrict individual consumption in every conceivable way, while governments force industry, especially the oil, coal and gas industries, to do whatever is necessary to…do whatever is necessary. Given our system, how could any of that happen on the necessary scale, let alone happen in time? ... Climate change is the tragedy of the commons for the entire globe. For each individual, there is not enough motivation to alter our current behavior except around the edges to feel virtuous, if indeed behavior change were possible. (Americans may be driving a bit less, but how many Americans could do without their car?) For industry, the incentives are almost all the other way, and state and federal governments are largely industry's captives. Among nations, there are too many competing interests and no sufficiently powerful international mechanism to lay out a course of action and enforce it. By the time the collective damage is done, it will be too late to undo it. I hope I am wrong. 
Katha Pollitt, Climate Change Is the Tragedy of the Global Commons, The Nation, 4-22-14

Avoiding dangerous climate change will require not just rapid reductions in fossil fuel use but also a revolution in the structures of our economies and societies, according to a momentous UN scientific report on climate change to be released on April 13 in Berlin. “Scientists tell us that to avoid a rapid deterioration of the climate crisis we must immediately reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and invest massively in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Governments must act quickly following this warning. Investment in community-owned renewable energy is urgently needed,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy coordinator. “So far, world leaders have sorely lacked the political will to make the shift to low-carbon societies, for example by reducing fossil fuel use, and investing in community power,” she added.
Friends of the Earth, Society Must Change to Address Climate Crisis, say Scientists, Common Dreams, 4-7-14

If you're poor, the only way you're likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car. But if you're tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you're the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth. So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.  
Rebecca Solnit, Call Climate Change What It Is: Violence, Guardian, 4-7-14

To understand what is happening to the living planet, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold remarked, is to live "in a world of wounds … An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise ... We are being told to accept the world of wounds; to live with the disappearance, envisaged in the new climate report, of coral reefs and summer sea ice, of most glaciers and perhaps some rainforests, of rivers and wetlands and the species which, like many people, will be unable to adapt. As the scale of the loss to which we must adjust becomes clearer, grief and anger are sometimes overwhelming.  
George Monbiot, So, after the IPCC report, which bit of the world are you prepared to lose? Guardian, 3-31-14

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of nine books, including User's Guide to Human Incarnation: The Yoga of Primal Reality, Humanifesto: A Guide to Primal Reality in an Era of Global Peril and Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself. Power writes and speaks on spirituality, sustainability, human rights, and security. He blogs at Words of Power. He also teaches yoga.