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A Christian 07

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 to matter.

Bill McKibben How close to catastrophe

Now 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 change.

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. Dave Pollard review of Monbiot's HEAT

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 Asia

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 and complexity.

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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