Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet? | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

A holistic approach to the economy is necessary to avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, according to a new report by the Capital Institute Dead fish clog the Rodrigo de Freitas lake in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Scientists claim that the fish were starved of oxygen because of pollution. A holistic approach would look closely at the environmental impacts – such as a fish die-off – of economic activities.

To avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, the world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Wednesday by US think tank Capital Institute.

The non-partisan think tank argues that both systems are unsustainable, even if flawlessly executed, and that economists need to look to the “hard science of holism” to debunk outdated views held by both the left and the right.

Jan Smuts, who coined the term “holism” in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, defined it as the “tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts”. For example, in the case of a plant, the whole organism is more than a collection of leaves, stems and roots. Focusing too closely on each of these parts, the theory argues, could get in the way of understanding the organism as a whole.  Viewed through this perspective, the capitalist tendency to isolate an economic process from its antecedents and effects is fundamentally flawed.

The Capital Institute, created by former JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton, says that society’s economic worldview has relied on breaking complex systems down into simpler parts in order to understand and manage them. For example, this traditional economic view might view automobile manufacturing separately from the mineral mining, petroleum production and workers on which it relies. Moreover, this view might also not acknowledge the impact that automobile manufacturing has on the environment, politics and economics of an area. Holism, on the other hand, would view the entire chain of cause and effect that leads to – and away from – automobile manufacturing.

The Capital Institute report, titled Regenerative Capitalism, emphasizes that the world economic system is closely related to, and dependent upon, the environment. “The failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this reality has had profound consequences, not the least of which is global climate change,” it says.

A long chain of cause and effects

According to the Capital Institute, the consequences of this economic worldview are vast and far reaching, encompassing a host of challenges that range from climate change to political instability.

For example, the current capitalist system has created extreme levels of inequality, the report says. This, in turn, has led to a host of ills, including worker abusesexismeconomic stagnation and more. It could even be considered partly responsible for the rise of terrorism around the world, the report claims. In other words, this inequality has become a threat to the very system that is creating it. Without radical change, the report warns, “the current mainstream capitalist system is under existential threat”.

What is needed now, the Capital Institute argues, is a new systems-based mindset built around the idea of a regenerative economy, “which recognizes that the proper functioning of complex wholes, like an economy, cannot be understood without the ongoing, dynamic relationships among parts that give rise to greater wholes”.

Read more….

Source: Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet? | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

Everything is *$@&ing dying!

Worldly

We need to talk about the Global Extinction Crisis 

The global extinction crisis (GEC) is hard to talk about – and I don’t mean metaphorically. There’s a broad, diverse and growing group of scholars, activists, artists and thinkers engaging seriously and eloquently with this phenomenon. But it can be surprisingly hard to communicate about it with colleagues in other fields, policy-makers, students and others outside of the academy. More often than one might think, talking about the GEC sparks a range of negative reactions, from skepticism to outright dismissal. Why is this the case?

I don’t think it’s down to ignorance or outright denial – although there are certainly a lot of misconceptions, which I’ll discuss shortly.  There is widespread awareness of the term ‘extinction’, and of the fact that some species – ‘endangered’ ones in particular – are facing it. But unlike discourses on catastrophic climate change (which emerged…

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Coastal flooding: a sign of the damage our economy is wreaking on our fragile environment | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

n January this year, I visited friends in Miami. One of the most urgent topics of conversation was about what they saw as the greatest problem faced by the city – rising water levels, and a long-standing reluctance on the part of government and business to take the necessary steps to control the extensive damage. From inundated homes, shops and roads, to fresh water pollution and sewage being forced upwards, the impacts are widespread. In a Christian Aid report (pdf) published last week, Miami ranked ninth in a list of cities most at risk from future coastal flooding as a result of sea level rises. Supported by data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, projections for the year 2017 suggest that Kolkata and Mumbai, both in India, are most exposed to coastal flooding. Bar Miami, the top ten cities are all in Asia. Facebook Twitter Pinterest A woman walks through a flooded street in Miami Beach, Florida. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images As global water levels rise, as parts of Florida experience the heaviest rain since records began, as the flooding and salination of farmland in Bangladesh increases, the risk to coastal cities can be seen for what it is – a sign of the apparently inexorable effects of a high-carbon economy on a fragile environment. It is not a demand for economic stagnation, nor a matter of having some sort of anti-business agenda But what is also clear from the Christian Aid research is how ecological disaster intensifies inequality. In prosperous nations it is the poorest who are most at risk from environmental changes such as those Miami faces because they have the least means to cope with or move away from the problem. In developing countries, coastal cities and their surrounding regions have even less in the way of defence. Business as usual – that familiar and illusory process – will simply deepen the gulf separating the economically secure from the insecure, at least in the short term. In the long run, to paraphrase Keynes, we are all insecure. There are measures that can be, and are being, taken with the help of NGOs and other civil society groups to limit the damage. During last year’s flooding in Myanmar and Bangladesh, for example, Oxfam distributed water, hygiene kits and cash grants, and worked with other international NGOs to coordinate the humanitarian response. But the underlying question is becoming more and more pressing: what is it about our prevailing global model of economic growth that apparently blinds us to the cost of the high-carbon system? A process of so-called growth that inexorably increases the distance between rich and poor in one way or another ought to look nonsensical to us. Philippines investigates Shell and Exxon over climate change Read more Economic activity is still so often defined in terms of an unending upward spiral of consumption in a materially limited environment. Are we looking hard enough at the contradictions here? Are we asking what kind of economies are sustainable? The launch this week of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, headed by Professor Tim Jackson who wrote the groundbreaking 2011 report Prosperity Without Growth, looks to galvanise a more urgent discussion of these issues.

Source: Coastal flooding: a sign of the damage our economy is wreaking on our fragile environment | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian

Grief and Carbon Reductionism | Charles Eisenstein

The environmentalist Michael Mielke just wrote to me the following, “We came back over-and-over to the realization that the climate movement must proceed through the several stages of grief to get to Acceptance.” I am happy to see the growing recognition of what he is talking about. The grief is essential in order to integrate on a deep level the reality of the situation we face. Otherwise it remains, to most people, theoretical. After all, our social infrastructure insulates us pretty well from the tangible effects of climate change (so far). For most people, compared to say their mortgage payment or their teenager’s addiction problem, climate change seems quite remote and theoretical — something that is only happening in the future or on the news. As long as that is the case, they will not take meaningful action either, and it won’t change through persuasion. Persuasion does not penetrate deeply enough. No one is ever “persuaded” to make major changes in their life’s commitments, unless that persuasion is accompanied by an experience that impacts them on a physical and emotional level. As long as grief is not fully experienced, then normal still seems normal. Even if one is intellectually persuaded of the reality and gravity of climate change, the felt reality is still, “It isn’t real,” or “It’s gonna be fine.” Of course, by the time that the impact of climate change penetrates the structures of normalcy and causes food shortages, catastrophic weather events, etc. that impact modern Western society, it will probably be too late. So far the elite nations are able to insulate themselves from the harm that ecological destruction causes. Therefore it seems unreal. The air conditioner still works. The car still runs. The credit card still works. The garbage truck takes away the trash. School is open at 8am and there is medicine in the pharmacy. The narratives that define normal life are still intact. If we wait for those narratives to be demolished by external events — by geopolitical and ecological catastrophe — it will be too late. That defines the challenge before us. How do we bring people to care as much about climate change as the residents of Flint, Michigan care about the lead in their water? Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear:

Source: Grief and Carbon Reductionism | Charles Eisenstein

More climate refugees from Middle East and North Africa | Max Planck Society

Are we prepared for this? Are we prepared to address the fact that global warming is happening faster and more intensely than was predicted five, three, two years ago? Are we prepared to address the fact that a gradual transition from fossil fuel dependence s no longer an option, than carbon credits and other such mechanisms are impotent to address accelerating carbon emissions, and that building more pipelines to ‘finance the transition to a green economy” is morally and environmentally unacceptable?

Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa Part of the Middle East and North Africa may become uninhabitable due to climate change May 02, 2016 The number of climate refugees could increase dramatically in future. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot that human habitability is compromised. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario. The temperature during summer in the already very hot Middle East and North Africa will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. This means that during hot days temperatures south of the Mediterranean will reach around 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate. Zoom Image Plagued by heat and dust: Desert dust storms such as here in Kuwait could occur more often in the Middle East and North … [more] © Molly John, Flickr, Creative Commons. More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa – a region which is very hot in summer and where climate change is already evident. The number of extremely hot days has doubled since 1970. “In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute. Lelieveld and his colleagues have investigated how temperatures will develop in the Middle East and North Africa over the course of the 21st century. The result is deeply alarming: Even if Earth’s temperature were to increase on average only by two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times, the temperature in summer in these regions will increase more than twofold. By mid-century, during the warmest periods, temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit). By the end of the century, midday temperatures on hot days could even climb to 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit). Another finding: Heat waves could occur ten times more often than they do now. By mid-century, 80 instead of 16 extremely hot days Zoom Image Unbearably hot: In the Middle East and North Africa, the average temperature in winter will rise by around 2.5 degrees … [more] © MPI for Chemistry In addition, the duration of heat waves in North Africa and the Middle East will prolong dramatically. Read more…

Source: More climate refugees from Middle East and North Africa | Max Planck Society

Professor Who Exposed Flint Crisis Says Greed Has Killed Public Science | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

“Academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust,” declared Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech civil engineering professor who helped expose the Flint water crisis. In an interview published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Tuesday, Edwards explained how the pressures put on academics to secure funding are forcing scientists to abandon work done in the public interest and that similar financial motives are causing government science agencies to ignore inconvenient truths—like high levels of lead in public drinking water. He said he’s “very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty.” Edwards describes the culture as a “hedonistic treadmill,” with “extraordinary” pressures to pursue funding, publication, and academic clout. Meanwhile, he said, “the idea of science as a public good is being lost.” Edwards, whose research also uncovered high levels of lead in the Washington, D.C. water supply in 2003, was tapped by Flint residents to help test their water after officials with both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) ignored their concerns. The cases of Flint and Washington, Edwards explained, illustrate how the failure of government scientists to acknowledge a problem, coupled with academia’s refusal to question their judgement, can drive serious public health crises. He said: In Flint the agencies paid to protect these people weren’t solving the problem. They were the problem. What faculty person out there is going to take on their state, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?  I don’t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one word. I’ve done it. When was the last time you heard anyone in academia publicly criticize a funding agency, no matter how outrageous their behavior? We just don’t do these things.

If an environmental injustice is occurring, someone in a government agency is not doing their job. Everyone we wanted to partner said, Well, this sounds really cool, but we want to work with the government. We want to work with the city. And I’m like, You’re living in a fantasy land, because these people are the problem.

Edwards said that practicing “heroism” within the scientific community can be a lonely pursuit and that he has “lost friends” simply by asking questions.

“I grew up worshiping at the altar of science, and in my wildest dreams I never thought scientists would behave this way,” he said of the Centers for Disease Control’s widespread misreporting of lead levels in Washington D.C.

Source: Professor Who Exposed Flint Crisis Says Greed Has Killed Public Science | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

United Nations News Centre – At climate summit in Washington, UN officials call to take action ‘to the next level’

5 May 2016 – Recalling that just two weeks ago, 175 countries came to the United Nations to sign the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said it is time to take climate action to the next level. “We need to accelerate the speed, scope and scale of our response, locally and globally,” Mr. Ban told participants of the Climate Action Summit 2016 in Washington D.C, a two-day meeting that started today and aims to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation. In particular, it is expected to deepen and expand the action coalitions of government, business, finance, philanthropy, civil society and academic leaders launched at the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York. “I have been looking forward to this event because it is about solutions – innovation and imagination; collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sectors. Today as never before, the stars are aligning in favour of climate action. Everywhere I look, I see signs of hope,” he said. Noting that the current Summit would focus on six, high-value areas of multi-stakeholder partnership: sustainable energy; sustainable land-use; cities; transport; and tools for decision-making, the UN chief underscored that strong partnership would be needed at all levels to tackle those challenges. “No sector of society and no nation can succeed alone. I encourage you to collaborate. Innovate. Invest. Together we can build the world we want,” he said. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Jim is greeted by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. Former Vice President Al Gore of the United States looks on. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe ‹› The signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April received overwhelming support from all regions of the world; never before had so many countries signed an international accord in one day. Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification. “Two of the world’s largest emitters – China and the United States – have pledged their continued commitment and collaboration,” Mr. Ban stressed, noting that leaders must turn the “promise of Paris” into action and implementation as soon as possible. The UN chief also announced that in September, on the margins of the G20 meeting, he intends to co-convene a meeting in China similar to this one to further solidify coalitions. Also speaking at the event, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim said there is no time waste.

Read more….Source: United Nations News Centre – At climate summit in Washington, UN officials call to take action ‘to the next level’

Fort McMurray wildfire burning so hot, only weather can stop it – Technology & Science – CBC News

The raging wildfire that has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alta., and engulfed parts of the community is the kind of blaze that firefighters dread, but could become more common, according to experts.  Alternatively described by officials as “catastrophic,” a “multi-headed monster” and a “dirty, nasty” fire, the blaze is at least 10,000 hectares in area and has destroyed more than 1,600 structures. It could threaten the entire community, they said.  LIVE BLOG | Up-to-the-minute updates from Fort McMurray Wildfire rages in Fort McMurray as evacuees settle in Edmonton 2 babies born in Fort McMurray wildfire evacuation camp The wildfire became so intense Tuesday that the heat limited air operations over the affected areas. More than 150 firefighters are battling it on multiple fronts, with hundreds more from other provinces expected to arrive in the coming days.  Temperatures are expected to remain high, with a glimmer of hope on the horizon as a cold front approaches. It could, however, bring lightning with it, possibly starting more fires. It is a nearly impossible situation. The wildfire is an extreme example of the power of Mother Nature, but offers some interesting lessons about the science of wildfires.  ‘A perfect storm’ of fire The conditions that preceded the start of this fire were quintessential wildfire conditions: a seemingly endless supply of dry fuel on the forest floor and in the canopy, and intense heat. All that was needed was a spark, and whether it was caused by human error or lightning (an investigation is underway), once the spark was there, the fire became a beast.  “You hate to use the cliché, but it really was kind of a perfect storm,” says Mike Wotton, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service and professor at the University of Toronto.   An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alta., on Wednesday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press) 1 of 15Hide captionToggle FullscreenAt beginning of image galleryShow Next Image (2 of 15) “There was a mild winter and not a lot of meltwater from the mountain snow pack. Now, a stale air mass has been sitting over Alberta, and it led to very low humidity. Then there was an early, hot spring, and everything got very dry. Then on top of that, it got windy.” The fire, burning between 800 C and 1,000 C, was first spotted when it was about 500 hectares in area (with each hectare about the size of a rugby pitch). It became what’s called a crown fire, which occurs when the tops of conifers, which tend to burn more easily than deciduous trees, become engulfed and the flames spread through the canopy.  “That’s when you start to see the 100-metre-high flames,” said Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The fire was likely moving at a speed of up to five kilometres per hour and quickly became difficult to manage.  ‘Like spitting on a campfire’ Many fires in the Boreal forest are extremely unpredictable. The fire front, the area where it’s burning most intensely, is so hot, that crews can’t attack it from the front. Sometimes the fire front can be hundreds of metres long, according to Flannigan, so crews have to work at its flanks. Aerial attacks become less effective because they aren’t hitting the core of the fire.

watch videos, read more..

Source: Fort McMurray wildfire burning so hot, only weather can stop it – Technology & Science – CBC News

The Trans-Pacific ‘Partnership’ and Our Environment

Good thought-provoing work from Chris Perley

Chris Perley's Blog

The very idea that the Trans-Pacific neoliberalism‘Partnership’ (TPP) is good for the environment (Craig Foss MP Hawke’s Bay Today 26th October) is arrant nonsense.  More than that, it is wilful distortion. While Mr Foss might have the privilege of knowing what clauses say what in this secret deal ‘of the oligarchy for the oligarchy’, he obviously
doesn’t understand the environment, let alone the economics and ethics relating to natural systems.

It’s more of the same “the market will provide” idiocy.  It is a wonder “trickle down” wasn’t TINA-there-is-no-alternative-phrase-attributed-to-Margaret-Thatcher-white-chalk-handwrting-and-color-Stock-Photo mentioned, or “there is no alternative”, or “in our [mythical] meritocracy, the large obviously have more merit” (in other words, “might is right”).

Mr Foss thinks that certification schemes will ensure
environmental protection. They won’t. That is because there are two types of commerce – the small-c local, ethical enterprises connected to place and community, and the big-C unethical and disconnected commerce (with owners and…

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