Category Archives: Climate Change

Why Naomi Klein Must Not Blame Capitalism

I haven’t finished reading the book; I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate, but I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”
–Stephen Colbert, interviewing Naomi Klein (23 Sept 2014)

colbertandkleinKlein’s new book This Changes Everything sets out the urgency of climate change and how Big Capitalism works. Much of her argument chimes perfectly with Astraea’s view – that climate change is happening; that it’s extremely urgent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; that our relationships with nature must change; and that globalisation is giving multinationals unprecedented access to cheap labour, and monetising other people’s disadvantages. That’s the negative side of capitalism.

But she misses the point. Capitalism is a tool. Just a tool. It can be used for good and for evil. No better means of exchanging value has appeared. In fact, when Klein describes the globalisation and free trade zones as deals between Big Business and government to get easy access to cheap labour and similar advantates, she’s not describing capitalism. She’s describing collusion, corruption, cronyism. Business and government have failed us in policies and priorities, but it would be misleading to pretend that capitalism is broken – as Colbert’s remark underlines, it worked perfectly to get Klein’s book into many people’s hands, quickly.

Capitalism gives us power, and with power comes responsibility. If we don’t like the world, we must change it. Educate ourselves as to how things are produced, choose products with no or recycle-able packaging, choose local holidays instead of flying abroad, choose organic foods, choose ethical labels.

We use capitalism every day to promote our beliefs and choices. Everything we buy is recorded and analysed, and retailers make their purchasing decisions based on what we buy today. They market to us based on our prior purchases (and even “views”, online). That’s why, for example, when I was pregnant, my purchasing patterns signaled to stores that I would soon need baby goods, and began to receive promotional material months before the baby arrived.

Unfortunately, people who ‘value goals such as achievement, money, power, status and image’ tend to behave in unsustainable ways and hold more negative attitudes toward the environment (Klein quoting Kasser & Crompton 2009). Those are the very same people who tend to run those powerful multinationals.

Individuals know that their decisions always impact others – whether at high levels or in the local shop. That’s where the paradigm shift must happen: we must care, individually and collectively, enough to change our own behaviour. Fast.

So don’t blame capitalism – just make it your weapon of mass improvement.

It might already be too little too late. But do you really want to wait any longer to start trying?

Read our book about a personal story of change – from venture capitalist to organic farmer http://www.abigpicturestory.com/

It’s just melting.

The planet that is.

But it’s doesn’t even warrant an exclamation mark because it’s been going on for years now.   Sad.

Maybe that’s where everyone’s been getting the water for the ice bucket challenge – haha.

Arctic sea ice continued its long-term decline in 2014. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic sea ice covered just 5.02 million square kilometers (1.94 million square miles) this summer, well below the 1981–2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers (2.40 million square miles). The 2014 sea ice extent was the sixth lowest recorded in the modern satellite era.

npseaice_am2_2014260

NASA Earth Observatory: A Tale of Two Poles

Demand for action on climate change is getting loud.

Today’s UN climate change summit has provoked peaceful demonstrations around the world and drew significant media attention.

The number of people changing their own behaviour and demanding change from leaders is growing.  This is what is required to change the culture of permissiveness that pervades the worlds of money and politics.

Some leaders appear committed because they consistently call for change and show up for meetings.  Others do not care so much.  In both cases hands are tied by their populations.  Until we all change our shopping habits and investment prortfolios (well done Rockerfeller Fund), the culture will remain primitive.

It looks like enlightenment is dawning, but it’s far from evident that it’s quick enough.  So don’t be complacent and make a change in your energy consumption habits now.

BBC:  World leaders gather for ‘crucial’ UN climate meeting

BBC: World leaders flock to UN General Assembly

BBC: UN chief on streets for climate deal

BBC: Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action

BBC: Climate impacts ‘overwhelming’ – UN

BBC: Video DiCaprio handed UN climate role

 

The end of fossil fuels.

The Rockerfeller Foundation plans to divest fossil fuel assets in its portfolio.

The Fund will first focus on limiting its exposure to coal and tar sands, with a goal to reduce these investments to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. It is planning for further divestment as quickly as is prudent over the next few years.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller’s wishes,

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” Mr Heintz said in a statement.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.

This is part of a growing movement to divest from the fossil fuels causing climate change and invest instead in clean, sustainable energy.  DivestInvest Philanthropy  reached an historic milestone today of $ 50 billion in pledges.  Over 800 global investors have now committed to divest their holdings in fossil fuels.

Need I say more?  This has been a long time coming, but it is the start of a sea change in opinion and investment behaviour.  This is not just talk, actual money will be divested from fossil fuel businesses and reinvested in alternative energy businesses.  And yes, the timing was influenced by the UN climate change meeting tomorrow, but the plan was set in motion earlier and will continue to be rolled out and built upon over the coming months.  The energy sector is going to be volatile for a while.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Divestment Statement

Press release on Divest-Invest Philanthropy’s website

BBC: Rockefellers to divest fossil fuels

To save nature, just say NO, thank you.

The Economist offers analysis and a guide to curbing greenhouse gases, as the UN conference on climate change approaches.  Here’s their summary table.

curbinggreenhousegases

Notice that the Montreal Protocol achieved the most by a wide margin.   The next most effective policy has been China’s one-child policy.  The effectiveness of both is supported by the simple discipline of saying “no”.  “No” to more consumption of CFCs.  “No” to more people.

If we are to align human behaviour with the laws of nature we must learn to say “no” more often.  No to more consumption.  No to more people.  We can all make a difference by reducing our personal consumption and changing the permissive culture of procreation.

To keep the rise in global temperatures within safe bounds will require cutting carbon emissions by around 26 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030.  That is almost halving the current rate of emissions, not growing them, as we now are doing.   As well as personal efforts, global efforts are needed including a carbon treaty, stopping deforestation, slashing subsidies to fossil fuels and much more (see article).

curbinggreenhousegases2

The Economist: Curbing climate change The deepest cuts
The Economist: Greenhouse gases Paris via Montreal

We’re 20 years away from catastrophe, says PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, has numerous stark warnings.  Sadly they are unlikely to be heeded by those that matter – big companies, governments and people like you and me – because those are the culprits identified in the report.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here’s a breakdown of the paper’s major findings.

pwctemperaturechart201409

The report notes that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees:

pwcco2budgetchart201409

PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture.  The timeline is  unforgiving. The IPCC and others have estimated that global emissions must peak by 2020 to meet a 2°C budget. So emissions from  developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries have to start declining from 2020 onwards.  G20 nations will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050.

None of that is happening, so we all better change habits ourselves.  We must consume less and  share more, especially technology.

City Lab by The Atlantic: A Major Accounting Firm Just Ran the Numbers on Climate Change

The planet is melting faster and faster. What are you doing to stop it?

So, the ozone hole has stopped shrinking.  That’s good to know.  But I’m cynical about how good the news is because the Montreal accord banning CFCs occurred in 1987 more than a quarter of a century ago and we’re spewing out more greenhouse gases than ever.  And the weather is still wacky.

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.  Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

This warning data is compounded by the finding that CO2 locked in soil (which is 4x the amount in plants)  is being released as the planet experiences warmer,  more volatile temperatures. This means that release of greenhouse gases is creating a feedback on itself, thereby compounding the problem.

Atmospheric CO2 is now at 142% of the levels in 1750, before the start of the industrial revolution.   We are running out of time.

Reducing CO2 will only occur if we reduce energy consumption and use more renewable sources.  We must live within the laws of nature or nature will just get rid of us.

And don’t expect government to act.  It is up to each of us to take a step in the right direction, every day.  That means me and you too.

BBC: Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984  Warning – this article contains depressing news.

BBC: Warning over vulnerability of soil carbon to warming

Nature:  Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response

BBC: Ozone layer showing ‘signs of recovery’, UN says

World Meteorological Organization  and UN Environment Programme Report Press Release and Report

Toxins in your drinking water?

lake erie waterIt happens regularly now.  Tonnes of agricultural fertiliser and sprays running off the land in to the water system causing eutrophication.  Algae bloom and everything else dies.  And even massive municipal treatment plants can’t clean the water.    Farming practices and climate change cause the problem, which will not go away until we all choose to live more sustainably on the planet.

Bottoms up!

The Guardian: Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution

NASA Earth Observatory: Algae Bloom on Lake Erie

For related articles and information, please visit OCA’s Farm Issues page, He alth Issues page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

Climate change is happening “even” in the USA.

“Climate change is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways.” So begins an extensive report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program on May 6, 2014.

Among the changes is an increase in temperature, as illustrated in this image.

Climate Changes in the United States

Color bar for Climate Changes in the United States

Acquired 1991 – 2012

And scientists also observed changes in precipitation.

Climate Changes in the United States

Color bar for Climate Changes in the United States
acquired 1991 – 2012

Weird weather is a symptom of worse to come.

The IPCC released the second report on climate change.  It is more very bad news, but even so might still be insufficient to stimulate action from leaders or followers.

Last September  a summary on the physical science of climate change showed that climate change is real, and humans are the “dominant cause”.  Now the IPCC reports that if behaviour doesn’t change –  i.e. less fossil fuel consumption and less net carbon release – the possibility of redressing climate volatility will diminish.

The scientists point out that some effects will become irreversible which must be bad.  One extrapolation is that crop yields, which are already stretched to feed the world, will decline.  If we don’t reduce consumption now, there will be nothing to consume in a few decades.

It is sad to be able to see the pain in the future, but realise that most people do not.  The US Secretary of State said:

“Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.  There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

But cynics respond cynically and everyone turns a blind eye.  It is depressing when leaders, especially rich, educated ones, obscure the truth and pretend that everything is ok.  Weird weather is in the headlines almost daily now, yet everyone goes about their business as if everything is OK.  Burying your head in the sand is not a solution.  Changing behaviour is.

BBC: World ‘needs Plan B’ on climate – IPCC report

BBC: Climate inaction catastrophic

BBC: Climate impacts report: Key findings

BBC: Climate change impacts and adaptation

BBC: IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming