By Bill Henderson
05 January, 2007
The technology we need
most badly is the technology of community -- the knowledge about how
to cooperate to get things done. Our sense of community is in disrepair
at least in part because the prosperity that flowed from cheap fossil
fuel has allowed us all to become extremely individualized, even hyperindividualized,
in ways that, as we only now begin to understand, represent a truly
Faustian bargain. We Americans haven't needed our neighbors for anything
important, and hence neighborliness -- local solidarity -- has disappeared.
Our problem now is that there is no way forward, at least if we're serious
about preventing the worst ecological nightmares, that doesn't involve
working together politically to make changes deep enough and rapid enough
close to catastrophe
personally I think the hopeful news story of 06 was the science article
about the amazing biotic
recovery after the Permian extinction event. Yes it took over 5
million years but then nature in her bounty totally recolonized creation.
No matter what damage we do to flora and fauna, forests, fish or flea,
given enough time life will spring back. Even from runaway global heating,
though humanity may not survive to spring back.
"The science is getting
worse faster than the politics is getting better." (British Environment
Secretary David Miliband quoted by Gwynne
Dyer ) We could be sailing over the threshold of runaway climate
change right now or have already contributed enough greenhouse gas emissions
to seal our fate but business goes on.
Will next years IPCC report
quantify present and predicted climate change and especially the probability
of runaway climate change Will the report be an opportunity to make
change at a scale necessary and quickly.
Given climate change time
lags, path dependence/inertia, and necessary lead time, is the window
of opportunity closing for any effective remedial action to save us
from severe climate change or even humanity threatening runaway climate
This Galbraithian liberal
is convinced that we have been seriously underestimating the dangers
from climate change and seriously over-estimating our ability to make
necessary change to limit emissions effectively.
As an enviro activist I have
learned that needed change away from ecologically unsustainable resource
production management in forestry and fisheries failed (at least in
Canada where I live) and was greenwashed in what was then expected to
be the turn around decade of the 90s. It was simply impossible for government
as regulator to reduce fibre flows and fish harvests that were essential
for a great many single resource dependent communities. So proper regulation
was fudged and harvest levels remain far too high while politicians
of all stripes declare that our resources are being managed sustainably.
This failure of needed regulation
is THE lesson that needs to be learned in order to begin to fight climate
change. We will go another failed decade with ever increasing green
house gas emissions without proactive governance innovation that will
return to government the ability to regulate effectively
George Monbiot's conclusion
in his book HEAT is that 'Manmade global warming cannot be restrained
unless we persuade the government to force us to change the way we live.'
The problem, of course, is
that regulations require governments with the courage to enact and enforce
them. It took a horrific and unprecedented depression to push even the
enlightened administration of FDR to switch from a laissez-faire to
a highly regulated modus operandi. By the time the impacts of global
warming hit home (and they will punish the disenfranchised and powerless
poor of the world first) it will be too late. Monbiot concludes his
book by trying to convince us to get off our collective butts, stop
reading and chatting about the unfolding crisis, and do something. But
his prescription is mostly actions for government, and we know too well
how little our collective citizen/consumer voice counts in the minds
of governments wined and dined and bribed to do the exact opposite by
the most wealthy, powerful and organized corporatist lobby in history.
review of Monbiot's
Worse, industry and government
will propose 'balanced' and 'workable' emissions regulatory frameworks
- like they have done in forestry and fisheries (at least in my neck
of the woods) - to greenwash business as usual. Not that there won't
be jurisdictions that will achieve some impressive reductions, not that
there won't be market based improvements in fuel efficiencies and development
of renewable energy, but this will just add to the illusion of emission
regulation while emissions continue to rise.
For several decades those
who benefit from globalization and exert control over our economies
have effectively promoted laissez-faire at the expense of governmental
regulation. This increasing reliance on markets and the growth imperative
won't allow for change deep enough and rapid enough to matter: won't
allow for the reconfiguring of our socio-economies so that we can keep
CO2 levels below 450 ppm and temperature rise to less than 2 degrees.
And lack of meaningful change
in developed world economies over the Kyoto decade has already doomed
any meaningful future multilateral global emission control.
So we're toast.
We'll maybe not. Futurist
Stan Doffish (downer quotes of 05
) warned that the Bush Admin choice of the resource war path in Iraq
would lead inevitably to one solution that would provide abundant resources
for our non-negotiable way of life: Depopulating
This would be a way out of
our cumulative emissions problem too, but if we are serious there is
a better way - depop America and the developed world. After all we have
contributed almost all of the threatening emissions and if depopulation
was managed effectively the meek would inherit a world rich in infrastructure
How about millions of sterile
George Bush clones (with his charisma genetically enhanced) pushing
fertile suitors aside Would take too long; OK, how about a genetically
modified disease that just kills off the fat and affluent Whatever.
If it is impossible to effectively regulate greenhouse gas emissions
deeply and quickly enough to prevent probable human extinction, then
the only option must be eliminating the happy emitters.
bill (at) pacificfringe.net
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