The gloves come off We are two scientists who are sufficient furious at the state of our global environment and society to forget about political correctness. We are willing, even eager, to attempt to recruit you into the growing mass of people who are determined to divert society from its “business as usual” path toward disaster manifested already by morbid coral reefs, climate disruption, extinctions, tree die-offs, industrial toxification, loss of pollinators, and declining fish stocks. We are disgusted with the way politicians and the press ignore the realities that civilisation is sliding toward irreversible environmental damage, and that universities are not providing any leadership to change our course because of chronic underfunding, a reticence to embrace true inter-disciplinarity to solve society’s complex problems, and a lack of environmental training across all disciplines. We are tired of the erosion of public education in both nations, especially in science, technology and sustainable agriculture, overlooked or encouraged by politicians who would never be elected by a public that had a basic understanding of environmental science.
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.
When I’m not writing books or essays on environmental issues, or sleeping or eating, you’re likely to find me playing the violin. This has been an obsessive activity for me since I was a boy, and seems to deliver ever more satisfaction as time passes. Making and operating the little wooden box that is a violin is essentially a pre-industrial activity: nearly all its parts are from renewable sources (wood, horsetail, sheepgut), and playing it requires no electricity or gasoline. Violin playing therefore constitutes an ecologically benign hobby, right?
It probably was, a couple of centuries ago; now, not so much. You see, most violin bows are made from pernambuco, a Brazilian hardwood that’s endangered because too many bows have already been made from it. Ebony, too, is over-harvested; it’s used for making fingerboards, tuning pegs, and bow parts. Some fancy older violin bows are even decorated with tortoiseshell, ivory, and whalebone. And while maple and spruce (the main woods from which violins are constructed) are not endangered, whole forests are being cut in China to meet the burgeoning global demand for student instruments. Modern strings (most of which are made using petroleum derivatives) are often wound with nonrenewable silver or aluminum, and almost nobody tries to recycle them.
All things are possible when we have the will and determination to achieve them.
Presented to world leaders at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit in New York, this short inspirational film shows that climate change is solvable. We have the technology to harness nature sustainably for a clean, prosperous energy future, but only if we act now. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, What’s Possible calls on the people of the world to insist leaders get on the path of a livable climate and future for humankind.
Learn more about climate change and take action at takepart.com/climate.
What’s Possible was created by director Louie Schwartzberg, writer Scott Z. Burns, Moving Art Studio, and Lyn Davis Lear and the Lear Family Foundation. It features the creative gifts of Freeman and composer Hans Zimmer.
On the eve of the publication of her new book, Naomi Klein talks about the things that give her hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak.Naomi Klein rose to international acclaim in 1999 by explaining how big corporations were exploiting our insecurities to convince us to spend money we didn’t have, on stuff we didn’t need No Logo. In 2007 she masterfully dissected the ways those steering the global economy use moments of social and environmental crisis to justify transferring public wealth into the hands of the ultra-rich The Shock Doctrine. Less-known though are the alternatives Klein spends much of her time witnessing, documenting, and digging into, from the spread of fossil fuel divestment, to community-owned energy projects and resistance to tar sands pipelines.On the eve of the publication of her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Klein sat down with Liam Barrington-Bush at the Peoples Social Forum in Ottawa, to talk about where she finds hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak. She reminds us that in a culture that treats people as consumers and relationships as transactions, ‘we’re not who we were told we were.’::::::::::::::::::::::LBB: In a recent piece in the Nation, you wrote: “Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real — let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.” What has helped you to believe that a different way of living is possible?NK: I think part of it is just having been lucky enough to have seen other ways of living and to have lived differently myself. To know that not only is living differently not the end of the world, but in many cases, it has enabled some of the happiest times of my life.I think the truth is that we spend a lot of time being afraid of what we would lose if we ever took this crisis seriously. I had this experience when I had been living in Argentina for a couple of years; I came back to the US because I had agreed to do this speech at an American university. It was in Colorado and I went directly from Buenos Aires, which was just on fire at that moment; the culture was so rich, the sense of community was so strong. It was the most transformative experience of my life to be able to be part of that.So I end up staying at a Holiday Inn, looking out at a parking lot, and it’s just so incredibly grim. I go to this class and I do my spiel. I was talking about Argentina and the economic crisis. At this point the US economy’s booming and nobody thinks anything like this could ever happen to them. And this young woman says, “I hear what you’re saying, but why should I care?”
This is the story of how a three-minute film watched by over 120 world leaders at the United Nations this morning was produced by a newly empty nested mother of three who had never produced a minute of film before.It began 26 years ago when my friend, Cindy Horn, and I were pregnant with our first born and concerned about what the scientific community was telling us about the man-made threat to the planet that was soon to welcome our innocent babies.Our concern soon translated into the start of the Environmental Media Association, whose mission was to get writers, producers and directors to include environmental issues into the content of their stories. We are proud of founding and nurturing EMA, with our husbands, over so many years and of the leadership, now led by President Debbie Levin that made it so successful.Three years ago, my husband and I had Bill McKibben to our home. I had known Bill, the founder of 350.org, for years. Bill was just starting to tour colleges and universities to inform students about the serious nature of the climate crisis and its impact on their future.I will never forget our home being filled to the brim that day with electric conversation. This was a turning point in my life. Of course, I knew our climate problems were serious, but like most, I chose to keep from acknowledging the degree of the crisis. We gave a lot of money every year to different environmental causes — we had even founded an NGO. However, once that “ah ha” moment comes and you get how critical this crisis is, you cant turn back.This was the most exciting time to be alive, but also the most frightening. Every week there seemed to be new evidence of global warming from methane ice melting in Siberia, to new irreversible glacier melting in Antarctica. The situation seemed so dire. The media wouldnt pay attention to the issue, and no one seemed to care about climate change. Even the movement seemed depressed.But then, a little over a year ago, there seemed to be a sea change in the air. It was as though everything lightened up. Everyone in our movement, including Al Gore, felt a tipping point had begun. Solar, wind and organic products were becoming less expensive. We had reasons to feel optimistic. Even as extreme weather events began to worsen, we felt there was a way forward.
Scientific uncertainty has been described as a ‘monster’ that defies our best efforts to understand the Earth’s climate system. Commentators and politicians routinely cite uncertainty about the severity of climate change impacts to justify their opposition to mitigation measures such as a price on carbon.
What is the appropriate response to uncertainty about the future of the Earth’s climate? Is there too much uncertainty to warrant action? Should we wait for more certainty?
On the face of it, complacency in the light of uncertainty might appear tolerable or even advisable.
However, a mathematical analysis of the implications of uncertainty about future temperature increases shows otherwise.
“The only thing I can see is they are buying time. They’re putting the project on life support,” said Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tletinqox-t’in and the tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, over the phone from his office in northern B.C.
On life support is Taseko Mines’ latest effort to open a gold-copper mine in B.C.’s northern interior, in the heart of Tsilhqot’in & Secwepemc Nations’ traditional territory. The Vancouver-based company has been attempting to get the mine up and running for over five years now, and has faced strong opposition along the way.
The project has been rejected by the federal government twice, both times after negative findings from a federal environmental assessment panel. The latest rejection, this past October, found that the mine’s adverse effects greatly outweighed any economic benefits.
These negatives include impacts on the water quality in the area, including Fish Lake (known by the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny), on fish populations and ecosystems, and on the traditional and cultural use of the land by First Nations people. There would also be significant impacts on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population.
But the company isn’t done yet and has filed two judicial reviews, both asking the Federal Court of Canada to throw out the latest decision. While the first request hinges on a dispute about the science behind the panel’s finding, a review filed in late March is challenging the fairness of the review process itself, and could impact how the federal government consults with First Nations and what projects would be subject to future federal environmental assessments.