As Society Unravels, the Future Is Up for Grabs

As civilization faces an existential crisis, our leaders demonstrate their inability to respond. Theory of change shows that now is the time for radically new ideas to transform society before it’s too late.

Image result for resilience: As Society Unravels, the Future Is Up for Grabs

Of all the terrifying news bombarding us from the burning of the Amazon, perhaps the most disturbing was the offer of $22 million made by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and other G7 leaders to help Brazil put the fires out. Why is that? The answer can help to hone in on the true structural changes needed to avert civilizational collapse.

Scientists have publicly warned that, at the current rate of deforestation, the Amazon is getting dangerously close to a die-back scenario, after which it will be gone forever, turned into sparse savanna. Quite apart from the fact that this would be the greatest human-made ecological catastrophe in history, it would also further accelerate a climate cataclysm, as one of the world’s great carbon sinks would convert overnight to a major carbon emitter, with reinforcing feedback effects causing even more extreme global heating, ultimately threatening the continued existence of our current civilization.

Macron and the other leaders meeting in late August in Biarritz were well aware of these facts. And yet, in the face of this impending disaster, these supposed leaders of the free world, representing over half the economic wealth of all humanity, offered a paltry $22 million—less than Americans spend on popcorn in a single day. By way of context, global fossil fuel subsidies (much of it from G7 members) total roughly $5.2 trillion annually—over two hundred thousand times the amount offered to help Brazil fight the Amazon fires.

Brazil’s brutal president Bolsonaro is emerging as one of the worst perpetrators of ecocide in the modern world, but it’s difficult to criticize his immediate rejection of an amount that is, at best a pittance, at worst an insult. True to form, Donald Trump didn’t bother to turn up for the discussion on the Amazon fires, but it hardly made a difference. The ultimate message from the rest of the G7 nations was they were utterly unable, or unwilling, to lift a finger to help prevent the looming existential crisis facing our civilization.

Why Aren’t They Doing Anything?

This should not be news to anyone following the unfolding twin disasters of climate breakdown and ecological collapse. It’s easy enough to be horrified at Bolsonaro’s brazenness, encouraging lawless ranchers to burn down the Amazon rainforest to clear land for soybean plantations and cattle grazing, but the subtler, and far more powerful, forces driving us to the precipice come from the Global North. It’s the global appetite for beef consumption that lures Brazil’s farmers to devastate one of the world’s most precious treasure troves of biodiversity. It’s the global demand for fossil fuels that rewards oil companies for the wanton destruction of pristine forest.

There is no clearer evidence of the Global North’s hypocrisy in this regard than the sad story of Ecuador’s Yasuní initiative. In 2007, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa proposed an indefinite ban on oil exploration in the pristine Yasuní National Park—representing 20% of the nation’s oil deposits—as long as the developed world would contribute half the cost that Ecuador faced by foregoing oil revenues. Initially, wealthier countries announced their support for this visionary plan, and a UN-administered fund was established. However, after six years of strenuous effort, Ecuador had received just 0.37% of the fund’s target. With sorrow, the government announced it would allow oil drilling to begin.

The Yasuni National Park is now open to oil exploration, following the Global North’s inaction. (Audubon/Neil Ever Osborne)

The simple lesson is that our global leaders currently have no intention to make even the feeblest steps toward changing the underlying drivers of our society’s self-destruction. They are merely marching in lockstep to the true forces propelling our global civilization: the transnational corporations that control virtually every aspect of economic activity. These, in turn, are driven by the requirement to relentlessly increase shareholder value at all cost, which they do by turning the living Earth into a resource for reckless exploitation, and conditioning people everywhere to become zombie consumers.

This global system of unregulated neoliberal capitalism was unleashed in full fury by the free market credo of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and has since become the underlying substrate of our politics, culture, and economics. The system’s true cruelty, destructiveness, and suicidal negligence are now showing themselves in the unraveling of our world order, as manifested in the most extreme inequality in history, the polarized intolerance of political discourse, the rise in desperate climate refugees, and a natural world that is burning upmelting down, and has already lost most of its nonhuman inhabitants.

How Change Happens

Studies of past civilizations show that all the major criteria that predictably lead to civilizational collapse are currently confronting us: climate change, environmental degradation, rising inequality, and escalation in societal complexity. As societies begin to unravel, they have to keep running faster and faster to remain in the same place, until finally an unexpected shock arrives and the whole edifice disintegrates.

It’s a terrifying scenario, but understanding its dynamics enables us to have greater impact on what actually happens than we may realize.  MORE

Sustainability101 and Why Our Economic System Utterly Fails to Address It

One hundred foxes and one hundred rabbits live on an island. What’s the price of a rabbit as the species decline?


Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash

What is sustainability? And why do we need it?

These questions are the most basic, yet rarely discussed in traditional textbooks. So let’s explore them with a simple thought experiment.

One hundred foxes and one hundred rabbits live on an island. The foxes eat the rabbits. Can the lives of both species be sustainable?

You don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that if the foxes eat the rabbits too quickly, more quickly than they can reproduce themselves, then we have a problem. The rabbits will become extinct, and then the foxes will have nothing to eat and will also become extinct. This is an example of a ecosystem that is not sustainable.

To be sure, other ecological outcomes are possible, depending on how many foxes vs. how many rabbits there are, and how fast each species can reproduce. Typically there are only a few foxes and many rabbits, but with 100 foxes the supply of rabbits surely won’t last more than a few meals.

Now to add an important twist to this story, let’s ask another basic question. What is the price of a rabbit as their population declines?

Economics, at least the kind traditionally taught in school, talks about price as a function of demand and supply. In this case, we would have an ever-increasing demand for rabbits and a declining supply.

In theory, the price of a rabbit should go up as the rabbit population declines, right?

Unfortunately, the law of the jungle is that it is a free-for-all game. The foxes simply outrun the rabbits. And both of them go extinct as a result. OUCH!?!


With this basic knowledge, we may ask how sustainable is the ecosystem that currently supports our way of life? The bad news is that almost everywhere we look today, there are danger signs.

Imagine the ocean without fish. Only less than 1% of the global ocean is protected right now, and business as usual means that in 50 years there will be no commercial fishing, because the fish will simply be gone. Just like the rabbits in our story.

Even worse, the things that our very life depends on such as clean air or safe water are in danger. 9 out of 10 people worldwide are already breathing polluted air.

Southern California, a place famous for its temperate weather, suffered the longest streak of bad air in 2018: a 87-day-in-a-row summer without a single day of clean air. We’re talking about lung-damaging gas in smog that triggers asthma and other respiratory illnesses so bad that children can’t play outside.

It is clear that our ecosystem are being stressed to unsustainable limits.

…While free market ideologies are certainly not shy of claiming the credit for the growth in our society, paradoxically it is precisely the same economic machinery that is leading us astray and accelerating our own ecological destruction. MORE

It is time we had a law prohibiting profit, investment and policy that causes or supports ecocide.

Powerful letters to local media like the one below are a good way for you to commit to a better world. In Canada we do not have a legislated right to a healthy environment — to clean water, air and soil.

Letter: Committing Ecocide

Image result for nelson bcNELSON IS A MOST ENCHANTING AND EXTRAORDINARY CITY.” — City of Nelson

 

When I arrived in Nelson 49 years ago, I was deeply saddened by how the local environment was being treated. The City of Nelson was burying garbage on its waterfront and occasionally burning cardboard and wood waste there. The Kootenay Forest Products mill pumped smoke into the air and spewed fly ash throughout Fairview. When I hiked in the local mountains, I encountered damaged ecosystems left by logging and mining activities.

While the air quality within Nelson is now at the mercy of colossal vehicle traffic and wildfire smoke, our local mountains are still being treated as a thing of property, an asset to be exploited. I spent Mother’s Day at Gerrard watching spawning trout, then drove past the destruction of prime old growth habitat for caribou on the eastern side of Trout Lake. I’ve been told a beautiful fir forest at already heavily logged Glacier Creek is in the crosshairs of BC Timber Sales. BCTS has also allocated 40 per cent of our area’s annual allowable cut to be located in people’s watersheds.

A fundraising campaign had to be started to preserve the area around Cottonwood Lake Park from clearcut logging. Despite celebrating Earth Day since 1970 and World Environment Day since 1974, 40 per cent of insect species are facing extinction and thousands of tufted puffins in the Bering Sea are dead partly because of starvation and stress brought on by changing climate conditions. In addition, glaciers are melting in Peru and the Himalayas, the islands of Tuvalu are disappearing due to sea level rise, and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere measured 414.48 parts per million at Mauna Loa Observatory on May 31.

It is clear to me that we humans have failed to take responsibility for the health and well being of planet Earth. Human-made ecocide is corporate-driven activity such as deforestation, pollution dumping, and unconventional oil and gas extraction. It is time we had a law prohibiting profit, investment and policy that causes or supports ecocide. If we are to uphold the right to life for future generations, we need a Law of Ecocide.

Michael Jessen
Longbeach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extinction Rebellion activists stage die-in protests across globe

Extinction Rebellion vows to hold protests until local and central governments commit to zero greenhouse gas emissions within 11 years and the established climate citizens assemblies to oversee the changes.

Environmental protesters lie on ground at transport hubs, venues and shopping centres


About 300 people join a protest beneath Dippy the dinosaur at Kelvingrove art gallery and museum in Glasgow. Photograph: Extinction Rebellion/PA

Extinction Rebellion supporters around the world have held a series of mass die-ins to highlight the risk of the human race becoming extinct as a result of climate change.

Protesters in France, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, The Netherlands, the UK and other countries lay across the ground on Saturday at transport hubs, cultural centres and shopping centres to demand drastic action to avert environmental collapse.

At the Kelvingrove art gallery and museum in Glasgow, about 300 activists lay down beneath Dippy, the famous copy of a diplodocus skeleton which is currently touring the UK, for 20 minutes on the sound of a violin.

Many held handwritten signs with the question “Are we next?”, while children held pictures they had drawn of their favourite at-risk animals as part of the event organised by Wee Rebellion, a climate-change protest group for young people in Glasgow associated with Extinction Rebellion.

Twelve-year-old Lida said: “We want to raise awareness about climate change. If we keep carrying on the way we are humans may become extinct, like Dippy.” Aoibhìn, 7, said: “Lots of animals are dying out because of climate change.”

Organisers of the die-in said Wee Rebellion would continue to hold protests until local and central governments committed to zero greenhouse gas emissions within 11 years and established climate citizens assemblies to oversee the changes. MORE

B.C. stalls on promise to enact endangered species law

The province is home to more species at risk than any other and is one of only three provinces that lacks stand-alone legislation to protect endangered species

Caribou

The B.C. government is backpedalling on a commitment to enact an endangered species law in 2020, sparking concern from scientists who say time is running out to save the province’s 1,800 species at risk.

“There’s no significant species at risk legislation on the docket for the foreseeable future here in B.C. … ,” Premier John Horgan told reporters this week, nearly two years after his mandate letter to Environment Minister George Heyman included instructions to “enact an endangered species law.”

The environment ministry confirmed that a plan to introduce legislation in 2020 — already pushed back from 2019 — is off the table but provided no details about why.

UBC biologist Sally Otto, who sits on the federal species at risk advisory committee, called Horgan’s comments “a troubling sign from government.”

“As a scientist, it’s very hard for me to watch as populations blip out, to see these declines year after year and think that we as a society are not taking responsibility to prevent that from happening. she said. We’re the ones on watch. And we are watching as species decline.”

Scientists say our planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals and is experiencing the most rapid loss of species since the elimination of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientists estimate as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species may be headed toward extinction by 2050. MORE

RELATED:

‘It just takes too damn long’: How Canada’s law for protecting at-risk species is failing

Groups claim B.C. government agency targeting old growth trees on Vancouver Island


Aerial photographs of land next to Cowichan Lake, taken by Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting in July 2018. Photo courtesy Sierra Club of BC

VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – A pair of environmental groups are claiming that old growth trees on Vancouver Island could be on the chopping block.

According to a release, environmental organizations Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and Sierra Club BC say they have discovered that the provincial government agency is proposing cutblocks across the last intact old-growth rainforest areas on the island.

The groups claim that a 1,300-hectare area, equivalent to the size of more than three Stanley Parks, is intended to be auctioned for industrial clearcutting in 2019.

The information is based off a review of BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) sales schedule.

“Vancouver Island’s ancient rainforests have helped sustain Indigenous cultures, a vast array of plants and animals and a stable climate since the last ice age. The province shouldn’t risk eliminating rare species and plant communities across these blocks,” said Sunshine Coast resident Ross Muirhead, a forest campaigner with ELF who monitors BCTS’ logging developments.

“Destroying the last great old-growth stands is a huge mistake that will be looked back upon by future generations as a huge travesty. Remaining intact forests are needed to create linkages within highly fragmented landscapes and to avoid tipping points when it comes to climate change and species extinction.” MORE

 

Fear and Frustration Over Climate Trigger New Climate Movements

“I was wilfully deluded until I began covering global warming,” says author and journalist David Wallace-Wells. He’s the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story Of The Future which begins with these gripping opening lines “It’s worse, much worse, than you think” that are like a voice from your worst nightmare. “People should be scared – I’m scared,” says Wallace-Wells.

Fear for our future and frustration with the inability of the political establishment to deal adequately with the climate crisis are driving the world’s youth to rise. And they will not take no for an answer. They are not, in any way, deluded about their future.

Wilfully Deluded

I began following global warming and climate change over a decade ago. At first I naively thought that climate science—the facts—would galvanize the world into taking rapid and immediate steps to bend the curve on greenhouse gases and the warming of the planet. But that did not work out that well. MORE