We're caught in the squeeze right now.
Climate change is advancing at an incredible speed. We know we should do something, but we lack the political will to do what it takes to hold it to 2°C. UN committees are now being counseled to prepare for 4°C of warming. To keep it survivable, there's got to be a powerdown -- starting today.
Meanwhile green-tech enthusiasts cheer the rapid rate at which certain countries are installing renewable energy infrastructure. But reports are now surfacing of shortages in the rare earth ingredients needed to make that renewable infrastructure. We don't have enough rare earth materials to replace the whole fossil infrastructure and continue on our current level of consumption. No one dares speak the little secret: Even with renewables, there's got be a powerdown.
Shale oil is environmental desecration. But people are willing to consider it because there is potentially vast amounts of money in it because the easier-to-get-to oil is running out. Along with stopping fracking, there's going to be a powerdown. But no one is talking about that part.
We should "keep the coal in the ground" scientists are telling us, and activists have (rightfully) picked up the cry. But no one never mentions the other side of the Stop Coal equation: the powerdown. We have to start talking about what we are willing to give up.
It's a sign of a really good essay when bits of it linger with you for days after you've read it and it keeps popping up in your mind. Naomi Klein's "Why Science is Telling All of Us to Revolt and Change Our Lives Before We Destroy the Planet" is one of those. Her theme? "Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that 'earth-human systems' are becoming dangerously unstable in response."
"Serious scientific gatherings don't usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage," Klein writes. She describes UC San Diego geophysicist Brad Werner at a major scientific conference as "observing that mass uprisings of people -- along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street -- represent the likeliest source of 'friction' to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control."
The part that keeps itching at me, days after I read Klein's article, is the presumption that "mass uprisings" are the only way out of this mess.
If you've ever looked for an iron-clad case that the fossil energy supply is out-of-control, over-the-top destructive --of planet, wildlife, people's health and culture-- then check out Energy, the latest publication of the Post Carbon Institute.
The word "breathtaking" has become cliche when put with "photographs" but here it really applies. You will gasp aloud as you turn each page. (even my teens did) And then you'll want to show the pictures to more people, because you can't keep this kind of stuff to yourself. Coal strip mines. Spawling oil fields. Landscape wracked by palm oil plantations. The debris of Fukushima. And of course the BP oil platform going down in flames.
Regardless of who wins the election today, that man will proceed forward with the knowledge that half of the voting public did not support him. Regardless of which candidate "wins," he will struggle to act with a similarly divided Congress. If there ever was a time for a book like Susan Clark's and Woden Teachout's Slow Democracy, that time is today.
Early in its pages, Clark and Teachout poke fun at their own title: who wants their democracy to be "slow"? Yet rather than snail's pace, Clark and Teachout had a very different definition in mind. Building from the energy of the Slow Food movement, they envision recapturing some of the more intangible and precious aspects of democracy -- aspects which America has abandoned in our relentless pursuit of "efficiency."
Maybe you just launched your town’s first rickshaw taxi. Maybe you sell vegetable seedlings at farmers market or you’re pioneering urban goat cheese production. At any rate, you’re still going to need a few of the tools that conventional businesses use, like business plans and accounting systems. May I introduce you to The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee
So you’ve read plenty about The Great Turning our society is going through. And you fully understand that the old ways are fading away, and that your “job,” your career, your livelihood is going to look kind of different.
But how do you find it?