Administrator’s note: It’s my pleasure to feature a guest essay by Glen Barry. Dr. Barry is founder and President of Ecological Internet; provider of the largest, most used environmental portals on the Internet including the Climate Ark and EcoEarth.info. A conservation biologist and political ecologist, he writes impassioned, thought provoking essays from an uncompromising ecological point of view. They appear regularly on his blog, Earth Meanders, where this one originated.
In this essay, Dr. Barry takes a strong stance against geo-engineered solutions to climate change. This is a contentious topic on which respected scientists and environmentalists hold a wide range of opinions. Glen’s essay prompts us to think hard about fundamental questions such a topic raises, questions concerning the role of humans in the global ecology. My thanks to Glen for making it available. — JF
By Glen Barry:
Is humanity so resistant to change that we will tamper with the biosphere’s workings to construct a “Frankensphere” rather than reducing population, consumption and emissions?
It is being widely suggested that humanity can “geo-engineer” a global solution to climate change; that is, modify the Earth’s biosphere at a planetary scale. Many methods are proposed. Most include either reflecting additional solar radiation away from the Earth, or using the ocean to store more carbon.
Reactionary geo-engineering proposals emerge largely from a sense of desperation as the world fails to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, and an unwillingness to make necessary societal and personal changes in response to deadly climate change. To some the extreme action of taking the Earth’s ecological systems into techno-human hands seems sensible given indications that global heating is proceeding more rapidly than thought, as shown by unexpectedly quick melting of Arctic sea ice.
Risky climate geo-engineering schemes include giant vertical pipes in the ocean to increase ocean circulation and thus marine carbon sequestration, similarly growing vast blooms of ocean plankton by fertilizing with iron, erecting giant mirrors above the earth to reflect the sun’s energy, and dropping sulfur particles from balloons at high altitude to do the same.
Two rogue US companies are moving forward with plans to fertilize the ocean with iron to create plankton blooms to suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They are motivated by profits from the growing carbon credit market, rising public demands for action, and politicians eager to avoid painful reductions in emissions. There is little that can be done to stop them, as no applicable laws or treaties exist. (more…)
Posted in Climate change, Consumption, Ecology, Ecosystem, Environment, Glen Barry, Global warming, Overpopulation, Population, Sustainability
Tagged Climate policy, Geo-engineering, James Lovelock, Technofix
Administrator’s note: It’s increasingly obvious that despite the gravity of the global ecological crisis, few governments are undertaking anything approaching the actions that might prevent catastrophe. In this article, Adam Parsons makes clear the gap between the form and level of economic change needed to address climate change and the reality of the inaction we see today. Yet he sounds a hopeful note in observing the potential for global warming to become the issue which finally prompts a new examination and restructuring of the global, market based economic system.
Adam is the editor of London based Share the World’s Resources (STWR), an NGO campaigning for global economic and social justice based upon the principle of sharing. He can be reached at: editor [at] stwr [dot] net. — JF
By Adam W. Parsons:
As the latest summit to discuss a post-Kyoto treaty continues in New York this week, the single most revealing statement has already been spoken: “We need to climate-proof economic growth”. These few words, told to reporters by the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, during the recent Vienna round of talks, define the blinded establishment approach to tackling climate change. Only if continued trade liberalisation and corporate profits are kept sacrosanct, remains the assumption, is it possible to consider even a broad agreement on future cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.
With dire weather events and studies being reported on an almost daily basis, fewer sceptics are able to dismiss the reality of dangerous climate change. In the same week as around 1,000 diplomats, scientists, business leaders and environmental activists from 158 countries attended the U.N.’s Vienna Climate Change Talks, a top security think-tank stated that climate change could have global security implications “on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken”, whilst leading scientists warned of a looming “global food crisis” that will require more food to be produced over the next 50 years than has been produced during the past 10,000 years combined.
The rapidity of these dystopian predictions has grown to Faustian proportions; the year 2007 already has the dubious accolade of witnessing the most extreme weather events on record, as characterised by the millions of Africans just hit by some of the worst floods in a generation in which villagers were “wiped off the map”. This summer, the collapse of the Arctic ice cap (losing a third of its ice since measurements began 30 years ago and “stunning” experts) was topped off by the latest UN study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who now believe that the tipping point for widespread catastrophe – involving a two degrees rise in global temperatures – is “very unlikely” to be avoided. (more…)
Posted in Adam Parsons, Climate change, Consumption, Ecological economics, Ecology, Economics, Environment, Global warming, Globalization, Per capita consumption, Sustainability
By John Feeney:
This screenshot is from a talk I’ll be giving at A Renaissance of Local in Lyons, Colorado. It concerns the media’s consistent failure to recognize the most important news story in human history.
The stories making headlines are mostly important. They do need good coverage. There’s no question about that. But their importance pales in comparison with that of our ecological plight. No question about that either.
Ecological issues should be the headlines everyday. Ironically, the stories which do make the front page often have ecological bases which go unrecognized.
Many will disagree with my assessment. Understandably, they feel passionately about issues like the Iraq war. They can’t imagine any other story is as relevant as long as people in Iraq are dying. Yet I believe this reflects a simple lack of ecological awareness. Once one grasps the numbers of lives at risk as a result of looming ecological crises, one’s perspective shifts. Consideration of the potential impacts on global food supplies of climate change as well as the depletion of oil, natural gas, and aquifers is enough to make this clear. Factor in additional problems such as the mass extinction of species now playing out, and it’s impossible to retain any doubt about the media’s ecological blindness. (more…)
Posted in Ecology, Environment, Extinction, Overpopulation, Peak oil, Population, Population growth, Sustainability
Tagged Aquifer depletion, David Sklansky, Distracted, Naomi Klein, Natural gas depletion, Oil depletion, Poker, Trinifar
Administrator’s note: I’m honored to feature on GIM an essay by Herman Daly. Dr. Daly teaches at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Previously, he was a Senior Economist in the Environment Department at the World Bank where he helped develop policy guidelines pertaining to sustainable development. He is a co-founder of the journal, Ecological Economics, and author of many books including Steady-State Economics, Valuing the Earth, and Beyond Growth. He’s received numerous awards including an Honorary Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.”
Dr. Daly has often been called the “founding father of ecological economics.” And rightly so.
The following essay is a preview from his forthcoming book, Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development: Selected Essays of Herman Daly. It appears in the section of the book titled, “Issues with the World Bank.” My thanks to Dr. Daly for his permission to post it here on GIM. — JF
By Herman Daly:
I have a short answer and a long answer.
Short answer: My short answer is “No.”
But suppose some of you think the short answer should be “Yes.” My question to you then would be—After you grow your way to an environmentally sustainable world, then what? Would you then be willing to stop growing? Or would you want to keep on growing? Is it a state of the world, or the process of economic growth, that you want to sustain? I think the World Bank wants to sustain growth—that is, a process, not a state of the world. I would like to sustain that subsystem of the world called the “economy” in a state compatible with human well-being. I contend that the attempt to sustain growth will be inimical to that end.
When the economy grows it does not grow into the void, displacing nothing and incurring no opportunity costs. Rather it grows into the finite, non-growing ecosystem and incurs the opportunity cost of displaced natural capital and ecological services. Beyond some point growth in production and population will begin to increase social and environmental costs faster than it increases production benefits, thereby ushering in an era of uneconomic growth—growth that on balance makes us poorer rather than richer, that increases “illth” faster than wealth, and that is likely to be ecologically unsustainable. There is evidence that the US has already reached such a point.
That is my short answer. But it would be more productive to debate the longer, more nuanced, answer. (more…)
We spend a lot of time here on topics far from laughable. Time for a brief break from that – at least from the “far from laughable” part. A while back, George Meyer, a writer for The Simpsons TV show, produced the following piece for the BBC’s Green Room. It’s the only article I can remember reading which zeros in accurately on aspects of our global environmental plight and makes me laugh. It also calls for everyone, even crazy Michael Chricton, to become an environmentalist. Enjoy:
Welcoming Homer the tree-hugger
Are you a hypocrite? Because I certainly am.
I’m an animal lover who wears leather shoes; a vegetarian who can’t resist smoked salmon. I badger my friends to see the Al Gore movie, but I also fly on fuel-gulping jets.
Great clouds of hypocrisy swirl around me.
Read the rest …