The Culture of a World Without Oil —by Barry Lord. on Medium

Margaret Atwood’s brilliant contribution to this discussion analyzes the salient features of the climate change that we can now recognize as the inevitable outcome of the culture of consumption that oil and gas made possible. An Encyclical from Pope Francis was the most recent mainstream identification of this linkage, specifically focused on its cultural implications. As Atwood observes, my 2014 book Art& Energy: How Culture Changes (The AAM Press) demonstrates how all of our external energy sources have been accompanied by cultural transitions, from the mastery of fire and the culture of community around the hearth that it made possible to the culture of stewardship of the earth and the body that we are adopting as we switch to renewable energy.

Now we have daily news of the struggle between that incoming culture and the still dominant oil-based culture of consumption on which we are so dependent. By the culture of consumption I mean a culture that values buying things, experiences and brands in and for itself; we were shopping long before oil and gas, but their plenitude stimulated an entire way of life, especially associated with the automobile, that initially became visible after the First World War in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ (cf. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby), but really took over after World War II as oil replaced coal as the dominant global energy source beginning in the early 1960s. Supplanting the coal-based culture that depended on a disciplined work force, oil and gas made possible a widespread culture that has certainly benefited many, but which rested on ultimately unsustainable assumptions. Whereas people in the coal culture were defined in relation to the production process (as workers or capitalists, for instance), in a world powered by oil and gas we were all encouraged to see ourselves simply as consumers.

The challenge today is to define and describe the emerging culture of stewardship of the earth and the body that is so closely associated with renewable energy. A world without oil will have to be a world with fully developed renewable energy sources and the culture of stewardship that goes with them. Solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal wells provide energy by means of technology only. No fuel is needed. Once the apparatus is installed, there is nothing more to buy. The culture of consumption will no longer be rooted in our energy supply.

Even more important, by fully utilizing a global two-way power grid every building can become a producer as well as a consumer of energy. This depends on a means of storage so that we or others can access power when we need it, not just when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Storage of energy and of data (which can be seen as a kind of congealed energy) becomes a significant value in itself, resulting in stern penalties for hackers and a global grass-roots struggle to retain access to data banks in people’s hands and minds, rather than in the exclusive domain of governments.

Access for use and capacity to store and share the goods of this world is what matters for stewardship. Acquisition, consumption and ownership are secondary. Mutual stocks collectively owned by all concerned may accordingly become the preferred model, rather than the private investment fortunes of today. A circular economy can be conceived, whereby the real cost of all products is redeemed through multiple uses of everything: there would be no such thing as a ‘waste product’. Already we see a fledgling ‘sharing economy’ — Airbnb, Uber and much more — growing stronger daily.

In a world without oil, shopping will no longer focus our culture as it does today. Fashion will be transformed into trading, swapping and adapting our clothes to function effectively in every season. Currently millions of garments are discarded annually in every industrial country, and sending them to third world countries destroys the indigenous clothing industries there. Binge shopping and the annual Xmas celebration of consumerism will increasingly be questioned or rejected by a growing number of people committed to a culture that abhors waste.

via The Culture of a World Without Oil — Medium.

We need to grow 50% more food yet agriculture causes climate change. How do we get out of this bind? | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

We are trapped in a vicious cycle: we will need to grow 50% more food by 2050 to feed 9 billion people but agriculture, which is paradoxically vulnerable to climate change, generates 25% of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. The more we grow using conventional methods, the more we exacerbate the problem. It’s time for a climate-smart agriculture but first we must address a few man-made problems.

First, there is a frustrating lack of attention paid to agriculture in the current global climate talks leading up to the Paris conference later this year. By definition, food production affects all countries, rich and poor, and it is hard to imagine any effective post-Kyoto climate change agreement that ignores 25% of the problem. So, we need a climate change agreement where agriculture is a big part of the solution, and delivers a triple win: higher agricultural productivity to feed more people and raise the incomes of poor farmers – especially women, greater climate resilience, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

via We need to grow 50% more food yet agriculture causes climate change. How do we get out of this bind? | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian.

Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humankind in jeopardy, says UGA research | UGA Today

Athens, Ga. – Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

via Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humankind in jeopardy, says UGA research | UGA Today.

Global threat interactive: What’s the world scared of? | News | The Guardian

Climate change is what the world’s population perceives as the top global threat, followed by global economic instability and Isis, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center

Read more on the datablog

via Global threat interactive: What’s the world scared of? | News | The Guardian.

“Humanity at risk “: climate scientist Schellnhuber speaks at the Vatican — from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Pope Francis’ much anticipated encyclical “Laudato Si” on inequality and the environment mirrors not only religious insights but also the findings of climate science. “Not the poor but the wealthy are putting our planet, and ultimately humanity, at risk,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), at the presentation of the encyclical in the Vatican today. “Those who profited least from the exploitation of fossil fuels and contributed least to greenhouse-gas emissions are hit hardest by global warming impacts, unless we strongly reduce emissions.” Schellnhuber is the only scientist who has been invited to speak, alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson. 

“Humanity at risk “: climate scientist Schellnhuber speaks at the Vatican — PIK Research Portal.

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Fourteen years of carbon monoxide from MOPITT

Carbon monoxide is perhaps best known for the lethal effects it can have in homes with faulty appliances and poor ventilation. In the United States, the colorless, odorless gas kills about 430 people each year.

However, the importance of carbon monoxide (CO) extends well beyond the indoor environment. Indoors or outdoors, the gas can disrupt the transport of oxygen by the blood, leading to heart and health problems. CO also contributes to the formation of tropospheric ozone, another air pollutant with unhealthy effects. And though carbon monoxide does not cause climate change directly, its presence affects the abundance of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.

via Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Fourteen years of carbon monoxide from MOPITT.