Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The End of Poverty

Check out this trailer for what looks to be an excellent new movie, The End of Poverty. In theaters in November, it looks like it will do a good job of getting to the root of the major drivers of global poverty, and how our globalized economic system and our lifestyles exacerbate and increase that poverty.

Stay going.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Earth Overshoot Day!

Yep, it's Earth Overshoot Day again. Ok, not that happy an occasion, but an important one to help us step back and really let it sink it... just what we are doing here. Just what "unsustainability" means.

Here's the basics from the Global Footprint Network that tracks this stuff:

Unlike governments, nature doesn’t do bailouts. Yet as of today, humanity will have placed more demand on ecological services – from filtering CO2 to producing food, fiber and timber– than nature can provide in this year, according to Global Footprint Network calculations. From now until the end of the year, we will meet our demand for ecological services by depleting resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

...Because of the global economic slowdown, we will reach Earth Overshoot Day one day later than last year, according to Global Footprint Network projections. By comparison, in the past, Earth Overshoot Day has steadily moved four to six days closer to January 1st each year.

See yesterday's post about the Planetary Boundaries for a little more explanation on what it means to cross these thresholds, the implications of irreversibility, etc.

Stay going.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Implications of the Anthropocene

We've been slamming the table on this key point for some time in speeches, conversations, etc. - which is that as the magnitude, scope, and scale of human activity are now so large that we are a driving force in earth systems.

A group of 30 scientists just published a new article in Nature that digs into the planetary boundaries that our activities have crossed or threaten to cross... climate change is just one of 9 identified boundaries (they put the threshold for that one at 350 ppm).

Take 10 minutes to listen to the explanation:

The whole concept is a great step for mainstream science in that it begins to address inter-connectivity at the global scale and define clear boundaries and thresholds that we cannot cross. These kinds of constraints can be effective drivers for creativity and innovation (and not simply limits that imply sacrifice or lower life-quality). It essence it the same concept as sustainability principles, just taken a step further towards details and hard numbers in some of the major groups of material and energy flows. This is similar to the process any organization moving towards sustainability using the framework for SSD would do in terms of grouping activities under each principle and then measuring impacts and implementing solutions to eventually eliminate those impacts (which is in my view the only way to really ensure that we stay below thresholds and within "safe" limits).

Stay going.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Help keep the Maldives above water...

Check out this quick message from the President of the Maldives, who is helping to ring the bell for 350:

And if you're around Cape Ann, join us on Oct. 24th at 1pm at the fisherman statue on the boulevard. RSVP here...

Stay going.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A big week for the future of humanity

Lots of people are still fixated on healthcare. Or the Acorn scandal. But the real news this week (and every week until we start making real progress in decarbonizing our economies) is climate.

While the rest of the world is moving on, taking action and still waiting, asuming the US will wake up and lead, things on this side of the pond are looking pretty pesimistic in terms of liklihood of a meaningful climate bill this year and sufficient US leadership in Copenhagen. It is clear that time is tck tck tcking away.

But lots of people are stepping up to give it things a serious push this week. It's Climate Week NYC, helping to lay the ground work ahead of COP 15 in Copenhagen. Clinton's Global Initiative is going on with a big focus on climate. Obama made his first real speech on climate as president today. A group of 500 businesses executives pushed for international climate action today, stating in a release:

"Failure to find agreement would result in trade tensions and competitive distortions that not only threaten the foundations of our global economy, but also any future advances in sustainable economic and social development."

Later in the week is the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh and plenty of climate action, protests and awareness building stunts are planned. (but the Yes Men definitely took the cake in NYC today distributing fake copies of the Post - "We're Screwed" ... sad thing is, they might not be joking).

Taken all together is has the feel of a last gasp. Folks who understand the systemic challenge we're facing, the time delays in the system, the feedback loops, and the real face of climate disaster know this might be our last shot to really get serious about it. And the deaf ears upon which the message falls are filled with acorns.

But of course, we can't lose hope for Hopenhagen.... if you're on Cape Ann, be sure to come represent on Sat 10/24 at the Man at the Wheel statue - get details and learn more at http://www.350.org/capeann.

Stay going.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Carbon Crime

Generally, I'm a pretty big fan of cap and trade schemes as the best way to avoid as much climate disruption as we possibly can. I've got great faith in markets as effective mechanisms for efficiently dealing with complexity. I also this a market-based solution is a better than a carbon tax in terms of engaging a broader range of people (particularly in the taxophobic US) in positive conversations about what we can and must do.

One of the common arguments in favor of a carbon tax over cap and trade is that the latter is too complicated and confusing and open to abuse. Well, this story certainly supports that position:


It's about a scheme in Europe to profit from VAT taxes associated with carbon credits. As we've seen with the meltdown, sometimes being too efficient can lead to collapse - and the need for some very inefficient rescue measures (stimulus spending, increased regulation and enforcement) not to mention the more important non-financial suffering being endured by so many losing their houses and jobs as a result.

Don't get me wrong, I still think free-market based capitalism is the worst system, except for all the others... full of great opportunities for improvement - but given the demonstrated level of civility in the debates in the US Congress, I am more and more coming around to thinking a simple simple simple tax shift - increase a carbon tax, decrease income tax, net result is zero (except that we encourage hiring and discourage wasteful energy use).

Stay going.