27 November 2009

Are We Resilient?

...is resilience also about strategic planning and preparation for the longer term [ie. prevention], as well as responding to disasters?

'Excerpt from the Adelaide Review, December 2009

'A side-effect of a society obsessed with minimising risk and avoiding personal responsibility may be an unwitting lack of preparation for disaster, writes Alastair McAslan.

...for many of us the threat from global warming seems distant as we enjoy glorious weather while sipping our evening glass of wine on the terrace. We are able to enjoy life because our air conditioners work, we have access to a constant supply of water, gas and electricity, and the supermarkets are always full of food.

In reality, much of what we take for granted could be interrupted by human error, natural disaster, or even by some malicious act. Long periods of dry, hot weather and readily combustible vegetation make Australia vulnerable to bushfires, our geographical position exposes coastal cities and towns to tropical cyclones, and flooding is a regular seasonal phenomenon.

Indeed, the experience of natural disasters is seen as part of the Australian national character. We pride ourselves as being a resilient nation, with robust leaders, organisations and communities. But this national resilience cannot be taken for granted; indeed there are signs that we are more brittle than previous generations.

Our society is becoming ever more complex and our organisational systems both in the public and private sectors are becoming more interdependent, and thus more vulnerable to disruption. If not properly managed, a disruptive event could escalate into an emergency, crisis, or even a disaster. There is a relatively fine dividing line between a well functioning Adelaide where companies adopt “just in time” practices and “lean supply chains”, to one where the utilities fail, the tanks at petrol stations are empty, and our supermarkets run out of food...

How would we cope in Adelaide if we were hit by similar floods, a major industrial accident, a terrorist attack on the desalination plant at Port Stanvac, or even by industrial action interrupting the supply of food to our supermarkets? Would we be resilient? Indeed, are changes to our society making us less able or willing to cope in the face of adversity?

Robert Putman, in his best selling book Bowling Alone identified changes to the way in which people in America relate to one another in the workplace and through clubs and societies. He noted that we spend more time alone, and less time interacting through social groups, and he observed that Americans have disengaged from political involvement including much reduced voter turnout, public meeting attendance, serving on committees and working with political parties.

He concluded that this lack of civil engagement undermined community identity and cohesion, which in turn reduced the nation’s ability and willingness to recover after confronting abnormal, alarming and unexpected disruptive events. His conclusions pre-empted the massive loss of life and social dislocation in and around New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Bowling Alone was based on Putman’s observations of life in America in the 1990s - but are his conclusions equally relevant to life in Australia in 2009? Are we inclined to blame the State and Federal Governments when things go wrong rather than accepting responsibility ourselves, and are we becoming a risk adverse society whose freedoms of action are shaped by an overwhelming health and safety culture?

Certainly, society has changed much in recent years. 24-hour television news has refined the way our opinions are formed. The availability of mobile phones, e-mails and social network sites have revolutionised the way we communicate and share our views and concerns. These issues are being addressed by the Torrens Resilience Institute which was opened recently by Premier Mike Rann. The Institute has been established in the International University Precinct at Adelaide’s Victoria Square to improve the ability of organisations to respond to disruptive threats.

The Institute aims to play an important role in developing the leadership and management capabilities of the Federal and State Governments, the emergency services, organisations and communities in Australia. The concept of resilience is attractive as it suggests the ability of something or someone to cope in the face of adversity – to recover and return to normality after confronting an abnormal, alarming, and often unexpected threat. Resilience reflects our wish to get through difficult times and is founded in our basic instinct of survival...'

The Golden Key of Persuasion

From Marketing Bullets

'If you're willing to use a little imagination, I will now place in your hand a golden key. Ready to play along?

OK, vividly picture in your palm a large, gleaming, golden skeleton key. Feel how heavy it is? It's made of solid gold. See how brightly it shines? It seems to pull extra light out of the air itself!

Notice how cold it feels? It's as if it's been stored in the refrigerator. Can you see and feel this key in your palm now? OK, squeeze it. Feel its heft and coolness. See it gleam...

As you will soon discover, this rare key will enable you to open numerous treasure chests hiding in plain sight all around you. It will make you uncommonly effective as a persuader, someone known and respected for being able to unlock many hearts and minds with only your words.

Such is the power of the key I hand you now—the golden key of metaphor...

"Metaphor" is based on a Greek word meaning to "carry something across" or "transfer." Today we use "metaphor" to mean a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects.

You'll get the idea in a minute, but first let me promise you that this is no mere grammar lesson...

If you heed my advice today about how to use metaphors, you can easily become one of the most persuasive people on the planet. As Aristotle said about the art of persuasion, "The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor." And the Big A was right too, because nothing persuades as quickly, effectively, memorably, or permanently as a well-crafted metaphor.

As an added benefit, just as the God of Genesis breathed life into man's nostrils, metaphors will breathe life, color, and power into everything you write...

With a good metaphor, you fuse at the hip two different things and, by a mysterious alchemy, instantly transfer the qualities of one into the other. Good metaphors are wizardry that work real magic in your prospects' minds. That's because this process of transferring the qualities of one thing into another takes place instantly, bypassing critical analysis and resistance. All you do is compare A to B in an effective way and voila! your point is made instantly without disagreement. This can make you a magician of persuasion!

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan won the understanding and acclaim of the entire country - from Washington to Wall Street to Main Street - when he proudly reported that he presided over "a Goldilocks economy. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right." That simple metaphor—"a Goldilocks economy"—was more persuasive than a 10-foot stack of economic reports.

Let's say you are writing about the wisdom of starting early to invest for retirement. You could write a sleep-inducing treatise on the subject. But look at how effectively master investor Warren Buffett does it—with a simple metaphor...

"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

Or consider Ben Franklin on the wisdom of frugality...

"Small leaks sink great ships."

Do you see how tight, how irrefutable, how powerful such arguments are when phrased in an apt metaphor? They yield instant agreement, and that is their magic...

Best Sources of Persuasive Metaphors

Your richest sources of metaphor include the Bible, fairy tales, sports, the movies - any source of images that we all know by heart. And I do mean "by heart," because the mere mention of certain images will automatically trigger in your audience powerful emotions they already harbor, which often enables you to persuade instantly.

For example, when writing to investors, I would shamelessly massage their greed glands by describing "a Sleeping Beauty stock" or "Cinderella opportunity" or "ugly-duckling company about to become a swan."

If you manage a team trying to outperform a superior competitor, you can instantly give them more confidence by describing them as fearless Davids about to take down Goliath. If you're putting a work group together for a special project, it's motivational magic to tell each member that he or she has been selected for an all-star team...or that they are about to move from summer stock to Broadway...or get the chance to compete "in the Super Bowl of our industry," etc.

You can instantly illustrate a charismatic leader's strong hold on his followers by saying that, to them, "he walks on water" or she could "part the Red Sea." You could call a crooked politician a liar, but it's so much more amusing—and devastating—to quip, "With his every statement, his nose grows longer."

You can give a metaphor a humorous twist to enliven any speech or ad. In the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention of 1988, former Texas Governor Ann Richards lampooned the first President George Bush. Describing, in her view, his fumbling attempts to connect with the American people, she lamented...

"Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

You Can Do This!

First identify the point you want to make. Then imagine, just as you did with the golden key above, a metaphor (or comparison) that makes your point for you. It's fun, like a treasure hunt, like looking for money as you walk down the street in a city where everyone's pockets have holes. (Hey, I just penned a metaphor! When you get into the habit, it becomes second nature.)

Start looking and you'll notice useful metaphors everywhere. Collect them like coins and you'll find many opportunities to spend them on more colorful prose...'

Fix Climate Change Or Else, Say Military Top Brass

Reposted in full from New Scientist, 4 November 2009

'If the world fails to act soon on climate change, "preserving security and stability even at current levels will become increasingly difficult". That's the blunt message of a statement released in Washington DC (PDF) last week by 10 high-ranking military officials from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the US.

The group, which makes up the military advisory council of the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague, the Netherlands, is calling on governments to produce an "ambitious and equitable" international agreement at the Copenhagen climate talks in December.

"Environmental security and climate change in particular are now issues which threaten world security and peace," says Brigadier General Wendell King of the US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.'

Warming To Hit "Roads, Pipelines" In Canada North


Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 27 November 2009

'Roads, buildings and pipelines in Canada's north are at risk from global warming and the government must do more to protect infrastructure in the remote frozen region, an official panel said Thursday.

Temperatures in the north - which includes the Arctic - are rising much faster than elsewhere in the world, and this comes at a time of increasing interest in the area's vast mineral and energy reserves.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) said the permafrost layer had begun to melt, a development that can have disastrous consequences.

"Melting permafrost is undermining building foundations and threatens roads, pipelines and communications infrastructure,' it said in a report, also citing the potential danger to energy systems, waste disposal sites and ponds containing toxic tailings from mines.

"The risk to infrastructure systems will only intensify as the climate continues to warm."

The panel called for better building codes to help protect against the effects of climate change, better disaster planning and a change in insurance policies to encourage modifications to take into account the risks of warming.

The NRTEE - which Ottawa set up in 1988 to provide it with information and advice on environmental issues - also cited the risks posed by coastal erosion, storm surges, wildfires, blizzards and changing wind and snowstorm patterns.

The faster rate of warming is shortening the life of ice roads that supply massive mines like the diamond operation at Diavik in the Northwest Territories. Diavik is 60 percent owned by mining company Rio Tinto.

The NRTEE cited a 2009 report from Canada's federal environment ministry which said more than C$5 trillion ($4.8 trillion) of aging infrastructure could be threatened by the changing climate.

The risk of damage is particularly dangerous because in many remote communities, there are no back-up electricity generating systems or roads or secondary hospitals.

In particular, the report said, communications and energy transmission towers were becoming increasingly susceptible to the risk of failure.

The changes in permafrost, which include sudden shifts in the ground, will make pipeline construction more complicated.

This could have implications for the planned C$16.2 billion 1,220 km (760 mile) Mackenzie Valley pipeline to ship gas from the Arctic to the western province of Alberta.

The main partners in the project include Imperial Oil Ltd, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.

The report also said containment structures, which hold in toxic mine tailings and other materials, often rely on the integrity of permafrost. A release of toxins "could be environmentally and socially disastrous," it added.''

Indonesia's Loggers Scrutinized Ahead Of Climate Summit



Excerpt from Planet Ark, 27 November 2009

'Logging in Indonesia can be a murky business involving navigating government bureaucracy to get permits and land concessions in one of the world's most corrupt countries, to winning the hearts and minds of villagers living near the rainforests.

As the issue of deforestation gets set to take center-stage at a global climate change conference in Copenhagen next month, the rapid decline of Indonesia's rainforests has come into the spotlight following heated protests by Greenpeace at the site of a carbon-rich rainforest in Sumatra that is slated for logging.

Indonesia's government has pledged to slow down deforestation, but the process of granting concessions is far from transparent in a country where bribe-taking by officials is common and local governments actively seek investment by logging firms, as well as palm oil plantations on cleared forests...

Home to about 10 percent of the world's rainforests, deforestation in Indonesia occurred at an average rate of 1.08 million hectares a year between 2000 and 2005, according to the Ministry of Forestry. A 2007 World Bank report found Indonesia to be the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China, largely due to massive fires to clear peatland forests. The government rejected the report...

The Forestry Ministry last week temporarily suspended operations by Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) in Kampar Peninsula, a stretch of rainforest with a rich and rare flora and fauna, including the endangered Sumatran tiger...

Given that APRIL's logging camps were set up months ago, some conservationists wonder why this process was not done before APRIL was awarded the 56,000 hectare government peatland concession. Peatlands are 50 to 60 percent carbon and when they are exposed from logging or dredging, they release massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The permit review followed a high profile campaign by Greenpeace activists who camped outside APRIL's concession in dengue-infested rainforest. Protestors chained themselves to APRIL's bulldozers, leading to the arrest and deportation of several activists and foreign journalists.

The process in which logging permits are granted in Indonesia is far from transparent. To obtain a permit, a company must have its application documents, including recommendations from local government officials and environmental reports, processed by the Ministry of Forestry.

"Corruption can happen at any stage of the process. You can pay for any report or letter you need and there often is falsification of documents," said Bambang Setiono, director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Economic Institute and one Indonesia's foremost experts on money laundering in the forestry sector.

"It would be very easy for the Minister or the department to check that the documents match conditions on the ground but often they do not."

Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission has launched several probes relating to the Forestry Ministry which processes permit applications, but, so far, no major heads have rolled.
After the permits are obtained, the logging companies all too frequently turn their sights on winning the hearts and minds of villagers living near their concession, offering them gifts and assistance for their support.

"I don't think these activities are just for the sake of the local people. If they don't do this, the local people will not cooperate. They are buying the support of the local people," said Setiono.
Often the logging companies bring services and infrastructure to sorely neglected villages such as Teluk Meranti, an 800-family fishing hamlet on the fringe of APRIL's Kampar concession, which suffers daily power cuts and has just a mudslick of a main road.

There are over 500 logging companies operating in Indonesia. APRIL and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) are the biggest. Other firms include Kiani Lestari, Kiani Kertas, Tanjung Enim Lestari Pulp and Paper and Sumalindo Lestari Jaya.

In the wake of the Greenpeace protests at APRIL's Riau concession, Finland's UPM-Kymmene, the world's third largest paper manufacturer, ended its pulp purchase contract with APRIL in November. It cited better access to pulp thanks to its raised stake in a mill in Uruguay.

The Finnish firm stressed in a press release its commitment to "forest management and forest harvesting practices based on the principles of sustainable development," and said this also applied to its use of external pulp suppliers, but declined to comment on whether its decision to drop APRIL was also triggered by the firm's forest management practices...'

Protest Stops Cranes At Indonesia's APP Paper Port

...more bearing witness work by those prepared to put their bodies on the line - see also Indonesia's Loggers Scrutinized Ahead of Climate Summit

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 27 November 2009

'JAKARTA - Environmental activists shut down four cranes at port run by one of Asia's biggest pulp and paper groups on Indonesia's Sumatra island, but overall operations were not hit, the company said on Thursday.

Greenpeace activists have targeted logging and paper firms in Indonesia in recent months to draw attention to the role that deforestation plays in global warming in the lead up to global climate talks in Copenhagen in early December.

Twelve Greenpeace protesters on Wednesday climbed four cranes at a port in Riau province, Sumatra, that is used to export paper produced by PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper, a unit of industry giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).

The activists unfurled a banner that read "Forest Destruction: You can stop this." The last activist was taken down by police at around 9am on Thursday morning.

"Deforestation is one of the roots of the climate crisis. We are shutting down the exports of one of the world's largest pulp mills at the frontline of forest destruction to tell our elected leaders that they can - and must - pull us back from the brink of catastrophic climate change," Greenpeace campaigner Shailandra Yashwan said in a statement...

Greenbury said about 1 million tonnes of paper made from trees drawn from Riau and Jambi provinces are exported every year from the port. She said that APP was setting aside parts of its logging concessions in Sumatra for conservation and potential future carbon offset programs.

Greenpeace said purchasers of APP's paper products include Vogue, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Marc Jacobs. Greenbury declined to confirm this.

APP is part of the Sinar Mas group, a conglomerate owned by Indonesia's Widjaja family.

Greenpeace's protest follows a demonstration in Riau's Kampar Peninsula, where activists chained themselves to heavy machinery operated by another industry giant, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL).'

Firecrackers!

...who knew skipping [and indeed phys ed] could be so amazing?!

Another example of making change fun - don't tell kids to eat right and exercise, get them involved in something they will want to do because its so cool! [note: no obese or overweight kids in this lot]!

The Kings Firecrackers are a performance jump rope team made up of talented 4th-8th graders from the Kings Local School District in Ohio. Coached by Lynn Kelley, they perform at venues across the country.'

This performance was at a US Army vs US Navy game in February [watch it all!]:

25 November 2009

Humanity Now Demanding 1.4 Earths



Reposted in full from Global Footprint Network News, 25 November 2009

'One the eve of the Copenhagen climate conference, Global Footprint Network is releasing data today that reveals a widening gap between human demand on ecological services and what nature is able to produce. It would now take nearly one and a half Earths to generate all the resources humanity consumes and absorb all our CO2 emissions, according to the latest Ecological Footprint and biocapacity calculations. These figures are based upon source data from 2006, the most recent year for which such data are available.

The data show that humanity’s demand on the biosphere for providing natural resources and absorbing carbon dioxide emissions is nearly 50 percent greater than what nature can provide. This ecological overshoot means it now takes approximately 18 months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in one year. The urgent threats we are facing today - most notably climate change, but also biodiversity loss, shrinking forests, declining fisheries and freshwater stress - are symptoms of this trend.

“The future will be shaped by these resource limitations, so, it’s clearly in the self-interest of every country to transition quickly from carbon and resource-intensive economies to the economies of the future.” Global Footprint Network President Mathis Wackernagel said. “While international agreements are critical, many nations are not taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, rather they are investing now to take advantage of the world’s demand for renewable energy and clean technology.

Who Uses What

Every year, Global Footprint Network calculates the Ecological Footprint of the world’s nations and humanity as a whole, and compares that with biocapacity, the amount of resources nature is able to produce.

The data show that in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, humanity’s Ecological Footprint grew almost 2 percent from the year before, and 22 percent from a decade before, due to both rising population and per capita consumption. At the same time, biocapacity has not increased, and may even have fallen slightly.

The average Ecological Footprint per person worldwide is 2.6 global hectares (6.5 global acres), while the average biocapacity available per person is 1.8 global hectares (4.5 global acres.) But some countries’ level of ecological demand per person is much higher than world average, and some is much lower.

The United Arab Emirates has the highest Ecological Footprint per capita, 10.3 global hectares (26 global acres). The Emirates adopted a national Ecological Footprint Initiative in 2007 and has been working to reduce its Footprint. Along with investing billions in renewable energy and other sustainability initiatives, UAE researchers and government agencies are working with Global Footprint Network to identify policies that could significantly cut the country’s per capita Footprint.

The average American has an Ecological Footprint of 9.0 global hectares (23 acres) – the size of 17½ American football fields. The average European has a Footprint of 4.5 global hectares, half that of the average American, but still well above both the world average and what is available per person.

On the other end of the scale are Malawi, Haiti, Nepal, and Bangladesh, with Footprints of about half a global hectare (1.25 acres), in most cases too small to provide for basic food, shelter and sanitation.

Population is another critical factor driving overshoot. The productivity of our ecosystems has not kept pace with increases in population. The result is that as our numbers expand, the amount of biocapacity available per person shrinks.

The U.S. now requires 23 percent of world biocapacity, while China – which has a much lower per capita Footprint but over four times greater total population – requires 21 percent. Together, China and the U.S. require almost half of all human demand on nature’s services. China’s resource use is rising at a much faster rate due to population growth, suggesting it will soon surpass the U.S. in total consumption, although the U.S. remains much higher per person.

Methodology

The 2009 Account calculations are the most detailed ever performed, using about 6,000 data points from U.N. statistics per country per year. This year’s edition has limited the number of published countries to those that have robust data sets. To produce results for the remaining countries, Global Footprint Network welcomes additional research with those countries’ statistical offices to produce meaningful, consistent data sets. Such collaborations are already underway with a number of countries (www.footprintnetwork.org/reviews).

Changing the Curve

Despite these sobering findings, there are key opportunities to change our trajectory. “Even as world leaders have acknowledged that an agreement at Copenhagen is out of reach, governments we work with from Ecuador to the United Arab Emirates are seeing the importance of taking bold unilateral action.”

“Once city, country and business leaders realize that the best way to remain competitive and prepared for the future is to make the policy decisions and drive the technological innovations we need to live within nature’s means, we will begin to change these trends,” Wackernagel said.

“The good news is that, many governments we work with are moving forward to reduce their Ecological Footprint, no matter what happens next month in Copenhagen. These leaders realize the longer they wait, the greater the risks to their economies and their citizen’s well-being.

• Download the National Footprint Accounts 2009 data tables (hectares)
• Download the National Footprint Accounts 2009 data tables (acres)
• Download the 2009 Ecological Footprint Atlas for full Ecological Footprint and biocapacity results for more than 100 nations.
• Visit our Data and Results for graphs by country, supporting resources and further information.
• Learn about licensing National Footprint Accounts data.'

The Knights Carbonic

George Monbiot at his sardonic best!

Reposted in full from Monbiot.com, 23 November 2009

'Here’s the email you’d need to see to show that manmade global warming is a scam

“From: ernst.kattweizel@redcar.ac.uk
Sent: 29th October 2009
To: The Knights Carbonic

Gentlemen, the culmination of our great plan approaches fast. What the Master called “the ordering of men’s affairs by a transcendent world state, ordained by God and answerable to no man”, which we now know as Communist World Government, advances towards its climax at Copenhagen. For 185 years since the Master, known to the laity as Joseph Fourier, launched his scheme for world domination, the entire physical science community has been working towards this moment.

The early phases of the plan worked magnificently. First the Master’s initial thesis - that the release of infrared radiation is delayed by the atmosphere - had to be accepted by the scientific establishment. I will not bother you with details of the gold paid, the threats made and the blood spilt to achieve this end. But the result was the elimination of the naysayers and the disgrace or incarceration of the Master’s rivals. Within 35 years the 3rd Warden of the Grand Temple of the Knights Carbonic (our revered prophet John Tyndall) was able to “demonstrate” the Master’s thesis. Our control of physical science was by then so tight that no major objections were sustained.

More resistence was encountered (and swiftly despatched) when we sought to install the 6th Warden (Svante Arrhenius) first as professor of physics at Stockholm University, then as rector. From this position he was able to project the Master’s second grand law - that the infrared radiation trapped in a planet’s atmosphere increases in line with the quantity of carbon dioxide the atmosphere contains. He and his followers (led by the Junior Warden Max Planck) were then able to adapt the entire canon of physical and chemical science to sustain the second law.

Then began the most hazardous task of all: our attempt to control the instrumental record.

Securing the consent of the scientific establishment was a simple matter. But thermometers had by then become widely available, and amateur meteorologists were making their own readings. We needed to show a steady rise as industrialisation proceeded, but some of these unfortunates had other ideas. The global co-option of police and coroners required unprecedented resources, but so far we have been able to cover our tracks.

The over-enthusiasm of certain of the Knights Carbonic in 1998 was most regrettable. The high reading in that year has proved impossibly costly to sustain. Those of our enemies who have yet to be silenced maintain that the lower temperatures after that date provide evidence of global cooling, even though we have ensured that eight of the ten warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 2001(10). From now on we will engineer a smoother progression.

Our co-option of the physical world has been just as successful. The thinning of the Arctic ice cap was a masterstroke. The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic Circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.

Altering the migratory and reproductive patterns of the world’s wildlife has proved more challenging. Though we have now asserted control over the world’s biologists, there is no accounting for the unauthorised observations of farmers, gardeners, bird-watchers and other troublemakers. We have therefore been forced to drive migrating birds, fish and insects into higher latitudes, and to release several million tonnes of plant pheromones every year to accelerate flowering and fruiting. None of this is cheap, and ever more public money, secretly diverted from national accounts by compliant governments, is required to sustain it.

The co-operation of these governments requires unflagging effort. The capture of George W. Bush, a late convert to the cause of Communist World Government, was made possible only by the threatened release of footage filmed by a knight at Yale, showing the future president engaged in coitus with a Ford Mustang. Most ostensibly-capitalist governments remain apprised of where their real interests lie, though I note with disappointment that we have so far failed to eliminate Vaclav Klaus. Through the offices of compliant states, the Master’s third grand law has been accepted: world government will be established under the guise of controlling manmade emissions of greenhouse gases.

Keeping the scientific community in line remains a challenge. The national academies are becoming ever more querulous and greedy, and require higher pay-offs each year. The inexplicable events of the past month, in which the windows of all the leading scientific institutions were broken and a horse’s head turned up in James Hansen’s bed, appear to have staved off the immediate crisis, but for how much longer can we maintain the consensus?
Knights Carbonic, now that the hour of our triumph is at hand, I urge you all to redouble your efforts. In the name of the Master, go forth and terrify.

Professor Ernst Kattweizel, University of Redcar. 21st Grand Warden of the Temple of the Knights Carbonic.”

This is the kind of conspiracy the deniers need to reveal to show that manmade climate change is a con.'

Hoax COP15 'Guide' Fools Foreigners

From Environmental Manager 19 November 2009 via Greenpeace Asia-Pacific blog, 30 September 2009

'A hoax "cheat's guide to Copenhagen for the Aust UNFCCC negotiating team" created confusion among foreign delegations to the Bangkok UN climate talks last month, EM sources say.

Greenpeace Australia's "top secret" guide suggests using "shock and bore tactics" "to dampen public enthusiasm" for action on climate change.

"Bamboozle the public with acronyms and figures to make climate change sound as dull and confusing as possible," it suggests.

If that fails "blame China", it says. It discusses "how to cook the climate books" on Aust's emissions accounts by pushing for Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) carbon credits to be included in any new global climate agreement, allowing Aust to avoid having to cut its industrial emissions.

A delegation from a major emitter in the region thought the guide was real.'

24 November 2009

Bob Geldof's Diary Notes from Africa

25 November 2009 is the 25th year anniversary of the recording of 'Do They Know Its Christmas?' by Band Aid on 25 November, 1984:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_They_Know_It%27s_Christmas%3F

Bob Geldof's diary notes from Africa re: the Ethiopian famine (reproduced in Live Aid DVD liner notes):

'I must try and show you this.

There is a child I think may be it’s four months old. The doctor says 'No its two years old'. It squats on baked mud a tattered dusty piece of cotton hangs from one shoulder onto its distended stomach. It’s face is huge. A two year old face on a four month body.

The eyes are moons of dust and flies caked by tears so big they don’t dry until they reach the navel.

It’s mother is squatting also, behind and slightly to his left. She is faint. She falls over a lot. I notice hundreds falling over.

The child stares. Between its legs flows a constant stream of diarrhoea. The immediate earth around its legs is damp with it.

I am watching a child die. In total silence and surrounded by its family it eventually begins to shit out its own stomach.

I am tired with grief and despair and a consuming rage for humanity.

He dies soon. He just dies. Big deal. A jumble of bones and dry skin, wet eyes, flies and shit. His mother hasn’t noticed. She is too weak. Eventually they will come and tie his hands and legs in the approved manner, wrap his weightless body in anything and he will be burned hurriedly in a fruitless attempt to lessen the disease that flies ceaselessly through the scorching air.

At 2 a.m. it is freezing. At 2.30 the noise begins. Bodies too small and skinny to produce heat, too impoverished to have clothing, too weak to be able to digest, too thirsty to do anything but croak, too cold to do anything but die, too full of despair and hopelessness to live.

At 10 am it is a cauldron. There is no noise except shuffle of feet moving forward in the endless procession of the intensive feeding lines, the soft keening of the bereaved, the moaning of the dying and the endless drone of the carrion flies.

It is a discreet, soft background sound, like afternoon tea in the Bath Tea Rooms I think. The almost soothing sound of famine. Inside the corrugated iron huts, it is beyond Dante’s Inferno. At night freezing, by day an oven.

The living lie beside the dead on the earth or concrete platforms. Expediency rules. Famine is not polite. There is no beauty but in the faces, there is no dignity but in the eyes, no nobility but in the bearing, no privacy but of the mind. There is little emotion but sometimes the heart bursts and then the sound is silence and hopeless, screaming despair.

In that place where humans have abandoned, humanity thrives. A handful of grain each. There is no water to boil and make a sort of porridge…or there is water but there is no fuel with which to boil it…or there is no fuel or water, just the grain.

You eat it. It is like consuming razor blades. It tears the walls of the stomach away, then passes through you, taking your innards with it, unconsumed and useless.

Or…you leave your dying village. You take your hungry children and you walk. Somewhere you have heard there is food. By instinct and desperation you arrive at a camp 2 weeks, a month later, with one child , the other having died somewhere in the desert. You wait faint and weak to be fed. You are not too weak to ensure your child is fed first. You die soon. Your child joins the endless intensive feeding lines of orphans. You’ve given it a 30/70% chance of life.

Or…you survive. After two months you must leave the camp. There is nowhere to go, no food, no water. You wander about in the devastation for a month or two. Soon you return almost dead again…and it goes on.

Or…there is a wall. About waist high. On one side about 10,000 starving, on the other a fresh-faced young nurse.

She has 300 tins of butter oil she can distribute. Who will she pick.

You hold up your child praying it at least can survive the holocaust. Who do you pick. Not looking you point your finger 300 times.

You have been picked. Tired feeling nothing but shame you shuffle to the other side of the wall and sit down your back to the other 9700 who are chosen for death. You cannot face them. You take your ration of oil and try to digest it.

You haven’t been picked. You feel nothing but shame and a hopeless inadequacy. No recrimination except a profound depth of failure that you could not even give your children life. The children who in exhaustion lower their oversized heads on the crumbling wall.

There is no riot. There is no pleading. Only shame. Shame shared by those chosen, unchosen and the chooser.

The shame is ours. A shame so fierce it should burn us like the sun that burns the desert.

All these things I have seen.

Eight weeks ago E.E.C. spent 265 million pounds in destroying 2 million tons of vegetable and fruit.

The shame, the shame, the shame.'

Yokohama EcoPoints - Incentivising Citizens Toward Sustainability

Reposted in full from Japan for Sustainability, 11 November 2009

'Yokohama City in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, established two centers to exchange points earned through its Eco-Point System, from August 8 through September 27, 2009, at the site of the Grand Exposition for Yokohama's 150th Year. The system was adopted as a social experiment conducted in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Yokohama Port programs, with the aim of promoting energy saving by awarding eco-points for citizens' eco-conscious behaviors.

The points were awarded for their energy-saving efforts and environmental activities at home: one point was given to citizens who brought utility bills for the period from May through September 2009 or their eco-account book on monthly energy consumption, and three points were given to primary school children who participated in the city's energy-saving programs for children. An additional point was given to those who used public transportation to visit the center.

Accumulated points could be exchanged for items offered by various companies, or donated to the Green Power Fund Yokohama Project at an exchange rate of one yen (about 1.1 U.S. cent) per point. Donators were able to draw lots for 3 points or 10 points, with the winners receiving prizes such as light emitting diode electric bulbs or hotel vouchers.

In addition, anyone earning one point or more received Environmental Passport coupons for about 70 stores, while the city visualized the citizens' energy-saving efforts by releasing data on the energy consumption and power savings of participant households on its website when the point centers were open.

A couple of years earlier, Yokohama City had conducted a pilot programme for its Eco-Point System together with the Tokyu Corporation, a major railway company located in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, aiming to pursue their own counter-measures for global warming by promoting environmental action by citizens. The pilot programme marked the first time a local government has launched such a point system in collaboration with a railway company.

The system utilized two types of prepaid travel IC cards, "PASMO" and "Suica", which many citizens possess. Users of these cards were able to collect "Yokohama Eco-Points" when they took trains to or went shopping in the city, participated in city-designated environmental seminars or brought their own chopsticks to its ward festivals, by operating touch panel equipment installed at stations and commercial facilities. Accumulated points were redeemable for municipal subway tickets, free admission to the city's museum and zoo or deposits for tree planting.'

The Language of Sustainability: Why Words Matter

Excerpt from GreenBiz, 18 November 2009

'Whether we're working in internal management teams, or more broadly communicating to the public, to create a world that works for all, we need to change the language we use to frame our mindset. Language has real power. It communicates the concepts that shape thought, and, as such, we need to be vigilant about the terms we use. George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley has contributed some brilliant work on the framing of language...

In Lakoff's definition, "frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world . . . the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions . . . Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world. It is changing what counts as common sense. ". . . Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. The idea is primary - and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas."

In applying framing to the issues that many of us are typically dealing with, examples might include:

1. Change "natural resource management" to "regeneration of nature" or "natural resilience."

"Management" reinforces a false sense that we know exactly what to do and how nature is going to respond to our actions. We clearly have a wealth of knowledge on work with natural processes, and it is clear that our actions very often have unintended consequences, to due to the complexities of natural systems. "Resource" conveys that nature is something to be used, rather than our life-support system. As alternative terms, even restoration, a decent improvement, doesn't conceptually support the dynamic ongoing process that is ecology, but, rather, restoring to some static state. Terms like regeneration and resilience better illustrate the end goal of re-establishing the capacity to adapt, flexibility, and ongoing processes that can evolve over time.

2. Change "proper stewardship" to "proper interaction" or "healthy relationship," for the same reason as the above. Our relationship with nature is rightly a dynamic, two-way relationship, and so we shouldn't communicate that we are managing or stewarding nature.

3. Provide context for "sustainability," in that it means the ability to continue into the indefinite future by respecting the Earth's ecosystems, its limits, and providing space for the other beings on the planet to exist. Otherwise, we create perverse concepts like sustainable growth, as if we can continue unlimited growth in the face of limits.

4. Change any language that implies economic growth is always good. In an economy predicated on unsustainable uses of nature, is economic contraction and recession necessarily bad? Or is recession a necessary correction guided by the laws of feedback? During this relatively serious recession of 2008 and 2009, these questions never entered mainstream media or politics in a significant way, yet are the real questions that we as a society need to work through.

In general, we too often get bogged down in language and terms that have become polarized, have lost their meaning, and hinder honest conversation between intelligent people. Socialism, communism, big government, free-market, conservative, liberal - all these terms are merely labels. Rather than tag a given action under one or another of these terms, let's really look at the real social, environmental, and financial effects and impacts of a given action or policy. Use of these terms has very real implications for our communication and how it is perceived.

Indicators

Similar to language in its ability to convey concepts are indicators. By an indicator, I mean simply a measure or guide that indicates the state of something - we have economic, environmental, and social indicators to gauge progress, health, and other qualities, and we use indicators in nearly all fields of practice.

In general, we need to be very careful about the indicators we use to gauge progress and guide action and toward goals. Choice of indicator means that we believe the indicator is an accurate gauge for progress or health. And inappropriate indicators drive inappropriate action. Let's say your goal is to restore a river. One indicator you could use is the number of fish in the river. An action you could take to try to improve the indicator is merely stock the river with fish. That doesn't mean you have restored the river and brought about aquatic health. Choosing an indicator such as the pollution levels found in fish could drive drastically different action - restoring riparian zones, installing water pollution controls, etc. - and drastically different results...'

The Led Zeppelin Guide to Creative World Domination



GOLD! great tips for change agents and leaders; and useful for communicating this stuff using an existing cultural reference

Reposted in full from Lateral Action, 23 November 2009

'There has never been a bigger, badder or better rock band than Led Zeppelin. And there never will be.

Now we’ve got that straight, let’s take a look at how they did it – and what you can learn from their example.

1. Think Big, Act Big

It’s easy to think of Led Zeppelin as Titans bestriding the globe, but have a close look at some of the film footage from the 70s and you’ll see they weren’t the biggest guys in the world. Their heyday was long before gyms became popular in the UK, and if you stood Robert Plant side by side with some of today’s musclebound stars, you might say he could do with beefing up a little. But that didn’t stop him from being a God on stage.

In a radio interview, Plant made a revealing comment about his transformation from talented singer to rock legend. In 1969 Zeppelin supported the band Vanilla Fudge. Watching the Fudge perform, Plant says he realised that compared to them he had "a great big ‘excuse me’ written across my face". To become a top performer, he had to get rid of that ‘excuse me’ and strut his stuff with confidence.

Early in his career, Jimmy Page had to take a break from touring because he found it physically too draining. It took a lot of persistence to build himself up to handle the rigours of life on the road:

"As dedicated as I was to playing the guitar, I knew doing it that way was doing me in forever. Every two months I had glandular fever. So for the next 18 months I was living on ten dollars a week and getting my strength up. But I was still playing."

(Cameron Crowe, ‘The Durable Led Zeppelin’, Rolling Stone 13 March 1975)

Led Zeppelin didn’t arrive on the scene as fully-formed rock giants. It took guts as well as talent to achieve what they did. And their attitude was key. Listen to any of their albums and you’ll hear a larger-than-life sound that came from attempting something on a vast scale.

Takeaway: Wipe that great big ‘excuse me’ off your face. Now get out there and show them what you’ve got.

2. Be the Best – in Every Department

Many top bands have one or two superstars who are the main source of creative energy. Morrissey famously described Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, bassist and drummer with The Smiths, as "mere session musicians, replaceable as parts of a lawnmower". Not all stars are so ungracious about their colleagues, but rumour has it that even among The Beatles, talent was not distributed entirely evenly.

Led Zeppelin were different. The four members of the band were like the four corner pillars of an ancient temple, bearing the creative load equally. With his voice, flowing locks and ‘Viking overlord’ stance, Robert Plant was the ultimate front man. The phrase ‘guitar genius’ might have been coined to describe Jimmy Page. Drummers are often heard and not seen, but John Bonham was a larger-than-life character whose drumming was as distinctive part of the Led Zeppelin sound as Plant’s voice or Page’s guitar. John Paul Jones was less flamboyant than the other members, but his contribution was just as vital, on bass, keyboards and mandolin, as well as his imaginative approach to songwriting and arrangements.

Takeaway: Don’t have a weak link in your team. Have the best in the world filling every role. And yes, that includes you.

3. No Quarter

Led Zeppelin took an uncompromising attitude to every aspect of their work – including the business side of things. Their manager Peter Grant was almost as big a legend as the band members. In 1968 he secured the biggest signing fee that had ever been paid for a new band – $200,000 from Atlantic records. The terms of the contract also gave the band control over the contents, design and release schedule of all their albums, as well as their touring schedule. Grant is reputed to have ensured that the band received a staggering 90% of the takings from their concert tickets.

Grant also enforced the band’s strict ‘no singles’ policy, in the face of enormous pressure to cash in on the band’s popularity by releasing singles. In the event, a handful of singles were released against the band’s wishes, but Zeppelin’s reputation as an ‘albums band’ was firmly established, helping to boost their respect among serious rock fans, who looked down their noses at the pop charts.

Now, we’re not suggesting you set out to ’screw the other guy’ in your business deals. Clearly that’s not a good idea. But bear in mind that Zeppelin were operating in an environment where recording artists were routinely exploited by the powers that be in the music industry, so their ability to stand up and fight their corner was one of the things that made them remarkable. According to Dave Lewis and Simon Pallet, Peter Grant "single-handedly pioneered the shift of power from the agents and promoters to the artists and management themselves".

Takeaway: Don’t sell yourself short by under-charging, or by accepting a second-rate deal because you don’t want to appear ‘difficult’.

4. Be the Definitive Article

I find it laughable that some people dismiss/stereotype Led Zeppelin as ‘heavy metal’. Yes, tracks like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’ help to kickstart the genre, but the copycat metal bands who followed in their wake completely missed the subtlety and complexity of Zeppelin’s work. Even their heaviest albums routinely featured acoustic tracks, and drew on a wide range of musical genres and influences.

Led Zeppelin were in a category of their own. That’s why they still have no competition.

Takeaway: Don’t follow the crowd. Lead them. Trust your instincts – you may find you’re more original than you realise.

5. Build On the Past

I’ve got a bit more time for the music enthusiasts who tell me that Led Zeppelin piggybacked to fame on the shoulders of blues legends such as Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon, and that if I want to experience authentic blues, I should listen to the originals. But to me, this misses a fundamental point about creativity – all artists borrow from previous creators. We’ve previously featured T.S. Eliot and David Bowie on Lateral Action – two classic examples of ‘magpie creators’, who made their borrowings very obvious (and attracted similar allegations of plagiarism).

According to blues expert Robert Palmer, "It is the custom, in blues music, for a singer to borrow verses from contemporary sources, both oral and recorded, add his own tune and/or arrangement, and call the song his own". [interesting...see the film Cadillac Records - Chuck Berry sued the Beach Boys for nicking his riff to use in Surfin USA!] Whether or not Zeppelin took too many liberties with their source material was debated in court on more than one occasion, but it shouldn’t obscure the basic point that very few artists create something new out of thin air.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to borrow from your heroes. But make sure you put your own stamp on the material. And be generous in acknowledging your influences.

6. Be Perverse

No, I’m not talking about some of the kinkier anecdotes from the book Hammer of the Gods. Lateral Action isn’t that kind of publication. I’m talking about Led Zeppelin III. After the success of Led Zeppelin I and II, the band were expected to deliver a third album bursting with powerhouse rock. They weren’t expected to retire to a remote cottage in Wales and record an acoustic-flavoured album featuring a song about two little boys who weren’t allowed to play together any more, on Mum’s orders. But that’s exactly what they did – to decidedly mixed reviews.

As usual, the critics were missing the point. Both of the first albums had featured haunting acoustic(ish) numbers, and Led Zep III opened with ‘Immigrant Song’, a track heavy enough for even the most bloodthirsty of headbanging Vikings. The third album was more of a shift of emphasis than a complete change of direction. And it was one of their best, whatever anyone tells you.

Takeaway: Be yourself, not just the part of yourself certain people want you to be.

7. Fail Spectacularly

Zeppelin’s over-the-top approach made them an easy target for critics and comics, such as the makers of Spinal Tap. It’s fairly obvious I’m a fan, but that doesn’t mean I sit through all the drum solos. Or that I can keep a straight face at the fantasy sequence in the film The Song Remains the Same, climaxing with a dwarf on a mountain peak wielding a multicoloured lightsaber. Even Robert Plant has said that, given his time again, he’d probably reconsider writing lyrics about "Gollum the evil one".

But consider the alternative: a band who played it safe in order to avoid criticism, who reined in their enthusiasm and imagination for fear of looking silly. There are plenty of bands like that, but you and I have never heard of most of them.

Takeaway: Whatever you do, somebody, somewhere will have a go at you. Personally, I’d rather be criticised for being over-ambitious than over-cautious. How about you?

8. Know When to Draw the Line

In December 1980, following the death of John Bonham, the remaining members of Led Zeppelin released a press statement:

"We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."

There would be solo careers, collaborations and the occasional reunion. But by drawing a line under the original Led Zeppelin, they preserved the integrity of the band. We didn’t get bored of them. Some of us never will.

Takeaway: Don’t stick with something when your heart tells you it’s over. Ramble on, to pastures new.

To create your own personal brand of world domination, join us on the Lateral Action Entrepreneur Course.

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a poet, creative coach and co-founder of Lateral Action.'

Is Your Problem Tame or Wicked?

Excerpt from The Right Mind e-letter, November 2009

'This intriguing way of defining the problems we have gives us a novel and perhaps less threatening way of looking at the issues we have to deal with. Lets look at two problems:

Heart surgery is a tame problem. Perhaps surprisingly to some: heart surgery is complicated but it has clearly defined processes for solving.

Our carbon management is a wicked problem because the problem is complex rather than complicated, we don't know when a solution will emerge, and perhaps most importantly, there is no right answer apparent.

Tame problems are well in the domain of managers - they organise what has to be done and the process is very rational.

Wicked problems require leaders who can draw on both the rational and the emotional sides of their teams or, in the case of community issues, the larger stakeholder group.'

23 November 2009

From the Age of Expansion to a Postgrowth World

'Our trouble lies in a simple confusion, one to which economists have been prone since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Growth and ecology operate by different rules.'

Long [but worth reading] article and reviews of The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture, by Brink Lindsey; The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, by Benjamin M. Friedman; and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben.

Excerpt from Harper's Magazine, March 2008

'...Consumption is the essence of economic growth, the sustained expansion in goods and services as measured by the gross domestic product. Economists credit growth for declining rates of child mortality, widening opportunities for education, and the continuing flow of new technology that in turn powers our ever greater productivity. Many trace the beginnings of growth to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when war and revolution dismantled feudal states, opening up new social spheres in which individuals were free to pursue their private interests.

Since then, growth has become intrinsic to how we understand progress. By the nineteenth century, machines that captured heat from burning coal radically magnified the scale of human labor, shattering a ceiling to accumulation that had defined agrarian societies since the domestication of wheat. In that hot glow, it became clear that increasing knowledge about the world would translate into increasing control over it. All those who felt their teeth rattle in their head as hundreds of looms shook the beams and floors of a water-powered factory, watching bolts of cloth roll out like eggs from a giant hen, walked away thinking that the human economy no longer possessed definite limits.

The earliest advocates of economic growth celebrated it as a physics of society, in which amplified production resulted in more robust consumption, causing an outward shift in wealth, investment, employment, and production—a positive feedback loop promising that most fundamental of human desires: a more durable existence....

For the past 250 years, the industrialized world has expanded and thrived on an escalating volume of material transferred from environments into commerce, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. The raw stuff of the planet made growth possible, and growth, in turn, reshaped the way people thought about themselves, their communities, and the human condition itself.

Two important works of social history argue that the economic growth of the past century has created a distinctive political culture, particularly in the United States.

The more recent is The Age of Abundance, in which Brink Lindsey, a vice president of the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank, peers at the past fifty years of American history through the prism of economic growth, reading its influence into housing, popular literature, religious ritual, and reality TV. Most of all, Lindsey sees abundance as having created a new cultural consensus based on a post-scarcity vision of the world. For generations, observers of society in the United States have wondered what unites us. Lindsey’s answer is boldly materialistic: we are united, he writes, by our affluence.

“Across classes and religions and ethnic backgrounds, ‘enough’ proved an ever-receding horizon, and the common commitment to chase that horizon became the glue that held an increasingly pluralistic society together.” Lindsey argues that plenty has produced a new politics too, a shared libertarianism that remains unacknowledged by the major parties. To be American today, in Lindsey’s view, is to favor the widest possible margins for “economic and cultural competition.”

What about the environmentalists? Lindsey lumps them, along with most other anti-establishment critics, into what he labels the “Aquarian awakening,” a movement that has attacked mass affluence, failing to appreciate it as “a cultural achievement of the highest order.”

Lindsey sympathizes with the Aquarians’ frustration, and even lauds the tolerance they introduced, but he finally interprets their rebellion as a predictable response to abundance itself and thus part of the overall narrative of its triumph. By arguing that environmentalism “came along like clockwork,” he ignores Ohio’s burning rivers, California’s oil spill, and London’s lethal smog, events that brought 20 million people (10 percent of the United States in 1970) to participate in the first Earth Day. Lindsey yields nothing to Rachel Carson, the marine biologist whose 1962 Silent Spring made environmentalism into a popular movement, calling the book “overwrought,” its supporters “zealots,” and the movement it inspired “hysteria,” even as he acknowledges the necessity of the legislation it also inspired.

The weightier book on abundance is The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, by Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman, who shares little of Lindsey’s politics and none of his optimism.

Friedman holds, along with Lindsey, that a basic materialism underlies tolerance and political civility, but he sees these social bonds as frighteningly tenuous. “I believe,” he writes,
that the rising intolerance and incivility and the eroding generosity and openness that have marked important aspects of American society in the recent past have been, in significant part, a consequence of the stagnation of American middle-class living standards during much of the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Friedman makes a great deal of the correlation between the economy and crime, seeing an upsurge in hostility and anger among Americans—including anti-immigrant rhetoric, private militias, domestic terrorism, and waning sympathy for the poor—whenever incomes and GDP flatten out.

On environmentalism, Friedman’s view is more nuanced than Lindsey’s. He takes seriously the need for environmental policy, and he has absorbed some of the thinking prevalent among industrial ecologists—that greater efficiency in resource use can prolong the supply of non-renewable metals and oil, holding out the possibility that substitutes will be found. Industrial ecology also aims to reduce or eliminate pollution. Friedman rightly associates higher national living standards with lower levels of air and water pollution, but here his political economy runs into difficulty.

One reason that American cities are cleaner than they used to be is that heavy manufacturing is now concentrated in countries where corporations are bound by fewer environmental restrictions. We have externalized the externalities of our consumption, calling that an improvement in our quality of life. Friedman’s claim that pollution is a transitional phase in economic development sounds almost utopian. It does not consider the problem of how to export clean technology to countries that cannot afford it, or the narrowing time frame in which we might hold off the melting of polar ice and Arctic permafrost.

In the end, Friedman does acknowledge that “the environment will not simply take care of itself” and that preserving growth means investing in “the existing environment.” He seems to understand the bind he is in, observing that to raise the worldwide standard of living up to the level now prevailing in Portugal (the last country on the list of the richest thirty) would quadruple world economic output over the next fifty years. By calling this rise a “challenge,” Friedman puts a brave face on what must reasonably be described as an impossibility.

Our trouble lies in a simple confusion, one to which economists have been prone since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Growth and ecology operate by different rules.

Economists tend to assume that every problem of scarcity can be solved by substitution, by replacing tuna with tilapia, without factoring in the long-term environmental implications of either. But whereas economies might expand, ecosystems do not. They change—pine gives way to oak, coyotes arrive in New England—and they reproduce themselves, but they do not increase in extent or abundance year after year. Most economists think of scarcity as a labor problem, imagining that only energy and technology place limits on production. To harvest more wood, build a better chain saw; to pump more oil, drill more wells; to get more food, invent pest-resistant plants.

That logic thrived on new frontiers and more intensive production, and it held off the prophets of scarcity—from Thomas Robert Malthus to Paul Ehrlich—whose predictions of famine and shortage have not come to pass. The Agricultural Revolution that began in seventeenth-century England radically increased the amount of food that could be grown on an acre of land, and the same happened in the 1960s and 1970s, when fertilizer and hybridized seeds arrived in India and Mexico.

But the picture looks entirely different when we change the scale. Industrial society is roughly 250 years old: make the last ten thousand years equal to twenty-four hours, and we have been producing consumer goods and CO2 for only the last thirty-six minutes. Do the same for the past 1 million years of human evolution, and everything from the steam engine to the search engine fits into the past twenty-one seconds. If we are not careful, hunting and gathering will look like a far more successful strategy for survival than economic growth. The latter has changed so much about the earth and human societies in so little time that it makes more sense to be cautious than triumphant.

Although food scarcity, when it occurs, is a localized problem, other kinds of scarcity are already here. Groundwater is alarmingly low in regions all over the world, but the most immediate threat to growth is surely petroleum. The world consumption of oil is 84 million barrels a day. American cars alone consume 21 million. Yet even though worldwide production has peaked and prices now hover around $100 per barrel, there is no substitute for oil—nothing stands ready to replace even 10 percent of present consumption. Fossil fuels underwrite our material lives. Long before we deplete all known deposits, their escalating cost could make our highly dispersed, energy-intensive economic geography unworkable. Oil is not simply implicated in everything we call growth. There has never been growth without it.

Consider, too, the world’s fisheries. The planetary marine catch increased from 19 million tons a year in 1950 to 80 million tons by 1990. Seventy percent of the world’s top saltwater fish species are now considered overexploited or fully exploited. The harvest of Atlantic cod, in particular, peaked and began to decline in 1970. In 1991 the cod fishery collapsed; fleets went out to the Georges Bank off the coast of Newfoundland to find nothing. The government of Newfoundland has been intermittently closing its two largest fisheries since the early 1990s to build up the spawning biomass to its long-term average. The catch is kept at a level below the average rate of reproduction. It will never again exceed it. Fishermen now catch fewer fish than they did in 1950, when the expansion began. The limiting factor, in other words, is no longer tools but natural capital. The cod themselves now determine the size of the industry. In an economic sense, the cod fishery is now in stasis.

Newfoundland and its fishing communities represent a shift in the direction and purpose of investment, one that might soon spread to the entire economy. Since the 1770s capitalists have learned to invest in the limiting factor of production in order to maximize productivity. In the past that always meant improving the tools of the take, but it now means something different—enhancing natural capital, the new limiting factor. Herman Daly, an economist at the University of Maryland, finds a precedent in “fallowing,” or the practice of letting land regenerate after a period of cultivation.

Fallowing is investment in short-term non-production in order to maintain long-term yields. Daly applies the same idea to every renewable resource: “Leave it alone. Let it grow in order to slow or reduce the exploitation. This conforms perfectly to the economic definition of investment—a reduction in present consumption in order to increase a future capacity to consume.”

Of course, this is not the way that economists—let alone bankers or bond traders—think of investment. Fallowing is investment without growth, and in our current economic mindset, lack of growth is tantamount to the end of progress.

What would it mean to live in a no-growth economy? How might that change the culture of abundance? In Deep Economy, Bill McKibben—an essayist and frequent contributor to many publications, including this one—argues against the troubled union between more and better. For the poor everywhere, for economic refugees from the blighted Chinese countryside who now assemble DVD players in Guangdong, more is certainly required. But the requirement is surprisingly modest. Once people have the security of enough food, adequate shelter, access to education, and consumer goods sufficient to allow them to be comfortable and productive, more ceases to be better; it ceases to increase happiness, as Mc Kibben goes to lengths to argue.

Surveys over the past six decades have found that Americans’ happiness peaked in the 1950s. It fell five percentage points between 1970 and 1994, even amid the flush times of the Clinton boom. Americans report every imaginable familial and occupational misery regardless of their burgeoning possessions. In the United Kingdom and Japan, economies that expanded powerfully after World War II, satisfaction has remained flat in spite of all the consumer electronics, cable TV stations, first-rate food, and designer clothing now available. The point is not that growth has caused depression and anxiety, writes Mc Kibben, “only that it didn’t alleviate them.”

Growth should meet basic needs because these really do create happiness, but beyond that, it fails to deliver.

The liquidation of natural capital for export profits will not last. China is spending spectacular sums to clean up its air and water, yet McKibben quotes the deputy environment minister admitting that the great economic miracle “will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace.” Growth at such an expense is not economic, as Daly puts it, but uneconomic—greater in its negative externalities than in its positive returns. Our failure to grasp this distinction is embedded in our measure of GDP. An automobile accident, a sudden rise in cancer cases, a toxic-waste spill—all of these require services to be rendered, wages to be paid, and materials to be acquired, so they all contribute to GDP, whereas the steady erosion of a country’s resources, its species, and its open spaces—all crucial assets—do not detract from it. As McKibben writes, “Growth is no longer making people wealthier, but instead generating inequality and insecurity.”

Deep Economy is about solutions, and its most pointed solution is community autonomy. By separating production from consumption on such a scale, globalization since the eighteenth century has allowed people to live off the fruits of faraway places without having to absorb the societal costs, like buying groceries with someone else’s credit card.

Community thinking, by contrast, stresses the internalizing of resources and consequences. Rather than depend on the deforestation of some other place for food, to what extent can a town dedicate its own land for its own needs? What would we do if energy came from our own solar budget, our own forests, our own thermal sinks in our own back yards—not from Nigeria or West Virginia? In a world reeling from the effects of export capitalism, nothing could be more stable than people taking responsibility for their own demands on the biosphere. An economist might counter that no town or county can fulfill all its own needs. True, but each reduction in the number of imported goods—and the distance they travel—makes a community both more autonomous and more accountable.

McKibben believes that we can thrive, not just survive, without growth. The view may not be popular, but it is gaining. Robert Solow, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1987 for innovations in growth theory, now calls himself “agnostic” as to whether growth can continue, and is cheerfully willing to contemplate a zero-growth economy. As Solow said to me, “There is no reason at all why capitalism could not survive without slow or even no growth. I think it’s perfectly possible that economic growth cannot go on at its current rate forever.” This does not mean that productivity will cease to increase our quality of life; it means that people might find it increasingly costly to turn productivity into the kinds of things they are now accustomed to buying with their earnings.

“It is possible,” says Solow, “that the United States and Europe will find that, as the decades go by, either continued growth will be too destructive to the environment and they are too dependent on scarce natural resources, or that they would rather use increasing productivity in the form of leisure. . . . There is nothing intrinsic in the system that says it cannot exist happily in a stationary state.”

A stationary state. The term comes from John Stuart Mill, who argued, in 1848, that “the increase of wealth is not boundless.” Economists should know, said Mill, that “at the end of what they term the progressive state lies the stationary state, that all progress in wealth is but a postponement of this.”

A steady-state economy no longer increases its physical stock of wealth. We could take 1 or 2 percent of a forest or fishery a year without cutting into its reproductive capacity, a rate that would “bring finance into balance with the real underpinnings of finance,” according to Herman Daly. He comes up with the same rate for future productivity as a result of technological progress: it is also on the order of 1 or 2 percent a year, though it could go higher. The big lesson is that technological civilizations have arcs of expansion, and although for the past 250 years they have created an enormously more complex material world than that of hunter-gatherers, in the end both reach their stationary states—the point at which they cannot expand without grinding down natural capital.

We will likely look back at the period between 1600 and 2050 as the Era of Expansion. The first date marks the beginning of surplus agriculture in England, when its population began to climb out of famine, when agrarian people all over the world entered a phase of wildfire frontier settlement, and when capitalism appeared. The second date marks the year when pres ent trends in consumption will reach a level equal to double the earth’s capacity, requiring a second planet.

The U.N. projects that the number of humans will increase by 36 percent between now and 2050, to around 9 billion. Rising population will offset any savings from improved efficiency and any reduction in per-capita consumption. As the advocacy group World Watch has pointed out, even if Americans were to eat a fifth less meat per capita by 2050, total U.S. meat consumption would be 5 million tons greater in 2050 simply because there will be more people.

Economists have long insisted that wealth is not zero-sum, that it can be created. Yet if the biophysical capacity of the earth comes under strain, the wealth of one nation might grow only at the expense of others. China and India now demand an increasing share of the energy and resources that the United States and Europe once claimed for themselves, triggering unprecedented oil prices that reverberate throughout the global economy...'

Moving Pictures to Provoke, Enlighten, Inspire

Selections from a compilation of movies/videos by Sophia van Ruth:

Home
International/2009/Yann Arthus-Bertrand/93 minutes (online version) 120 minutes (cinema version) www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU

The film Home is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on Earth. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet. Available free on the internet.

The End of Suburbia
Canada/2004/Gregory Greene/78 minutes http://icarusfilms.com/new2005/bet.html

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream is a 2004 documentary film concerning peak oil and its implications for the suburban lifestyle.

The Corporation
Canada/2003/Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott/145 minutes www.thecorporation.com

Based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by Joel Bakan, The Corporation explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time. Taking its status as a legal "person" to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist's couch to ask "What kind of person is it?" The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics - including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva and Michael Moore - plus true confessions, case studies and strategies for change.

Chronos
USA/1985/Ron Fricke/45 minutes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos_(film)

Chronos has no actors or dialog. The soundtrack consists of a single continuous piece by composer Michael Stearns. Filmed in dozens of locations on five continents, the film relates to the concept of time passing on different scales - the bulk of the film covers the history of civilization, from pre-history to Egypt to Rome to Late Antiquity to the rise of Western Europe in the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to the modern era. It centers on European themes but not exclusively.

Koyaanisqatsi – Life out of Balance
USA/1982/Godfrey Reggio/87 minutes www.koyaanisqatsi.org

KOYAANISQATSI, Reggio's debut as a film director and producer, is the first film of the QATSI trilogy. The title is a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance." Created between 1975 and 1982, the film is an apocalyptic vision of the collision of two different worlds - urban life and technology versus the environment. The musical score was composed by Philip Glass.

The Age of Stupid
UK/2009/Franny Armstrong/92 minutes www.ageofstupid.net

Oil & climate change cinema documentary, starring Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking at "archive" footage from 2007 and asking: why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The Story of Stuff
USA/2007/Annie Leonard/Free Range Studios/20 minutes www.storyofstuff.com

The Story of Stuff is an online fast-paced, simple look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns.

Money as Debt
USA/2006/Paul Grignon/47 minutes www.moneyasdebt.net

This simple online cartoon-style video explains in very simple terms the fractional reserve banking system that underpins our current economy. It highlights the fundamental unsustainablity of this system (that requires perpetual growth) and provides suggestions for alternative models. Available free on the internet http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2550156453790090544#

Mad City Chickens
USA/2009/Tashai Lovington & Robert Lughai/79 minutes www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html

Mad City Chickens is a sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical look at the growing movement of Americans returning chooks to the cities. From chicken experts and authors to a rescued landfill hen or an inexperienced family that decides to take the poultry plunge it’s a humorous and heartfelt trip through the world of backyard chickendom.

Powers of Ten
USA/1977/Charles Eames & Ray Eames/9 minutes www.powersof10.com

A scientific film essay, narrated by Phil Morrison. A set of pictures of two picnickers in a park, with the area of each frame one-tenth the size of the one before. Starting from a view of the entire known universe, the camera gradually zooms in until we are viewing the subatomic particles on a man's hand.

We Feed the World
Austria/2005/Erwin Wagenhofer/96 minutes www.we-feed-the-world.at/en/film.htm

We feed the world is a film about food and globalisation, fishermen and farmers, long-distance lorry drivers and high-powered corporate executives, the flow of goods and cash flow–a film about scarcity amid plenty. With its unforgettable images, the film provides insight into the production of our food and answers the question what world hunger has to do with us.

Garbage Warrior
UK/2007/Oliver Hodge/86 minutes www.garbagewarrior.com

Garbage Warrior is a feature-length documentary film telling the epic story of maverick US architect Michael Reynolds and his fight to introduce radically sustainable housing. An extraordinary tale of triumph over bureaucracy, Garbage Warrior is above all an intimate portrait of an extraordinary individual and his dream of changing the world.

Water
Russia/2006/Julia Perkul/80 minutes www.intentionmediainc.com/water.asp

This film is composed of interviews with scientists, researchers and theologians on the subject of water. Among these is a Swiss chemist Dr. Kurt Wuthrich, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002. Several other scientists and researchers of water from Russia and USA appear in the film. Many of them maintain the theory that water has memory.

The Money Fix
USA/2009/Alan Rosenblith/79 minutes www.themoneyfix.org

THE MONEY FIX examines economic patterning in both the human and the natural worlds, and through this lens we learn how we can empower ourselves by redesigning the lifeblood of the economy at the community level. The film documents three types of alternative money systems, all of which help solve economic problems for the communities in which they operate. Available to watch on the internet and registered under a creative commons licence.'

25 Years On, We Still Need to Feed The World

Wednesday 25 November 2009 is the 25th year anniversary of the recording of 'Do They Know Its Christmas?' by Band Aid



23/24 Oct 1984 - Michael Buerk and Mohamed Amin's BBC reports
25 Nov 1984 - 'Feed the World' Band Aid single recorded
29 Nov 1984 - Single released, went to top of charts
7 Mar 1985 - 'We are the World' single released by USA for Africa
13 July 1985 - Live Aid concerts London, Philadelphia, Sydney, The Hague, Moscow

October 2009: Ethiopia appeals for international aid for famine relief






So did anything change as a result of the Band Aid/Live Aid initiative? What else needs to happen? The One Campaign Brief gives an overview:

'As the world begins to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia, ONE looks at the causes of the famine, the current food crisis in Ethiopia, how the country has changed in the past quarter century, and what needs to happen now.

What happened in Ethiopia in 1984-1985?

The 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia caused an estimated one million deaths and made millions more destitute. The crisis was focused in the northern highlands of the country where record low rainfalls were compounded by the effects of civil war. The Marxist Derg regime was diverting almost half of its national budget to military spending in its war with Tigrayan rebels from the north while enforcing disastrous agricultural policies. The scale of the disaster was evident by mid 1984, but it was the BBC television news reports of Michael Buerk and cameraman Mohamed Amin, broadcast on October 23 and 24 1984, that galvanised a huge international response. Buerk described the scenes of dying families huddled in feeding camps as "a biblical famine in the 20th century". Singer Bob Geldof organised musicians to form the group Band Aid and recorded the "Do they know it's Christmas?" single in November. This was followed by USA for Africa's single "We are the World" in March 1985. In July 1985 Geldof organised the Live Aid fundraising concerts which were watched by more than 400 million people worldwide.

How bad is the current crisis in Ethiopia and the wider region?

Ethiopia is currently suffering from a serious food crisis. More than six million people need emergency food aid. Another 7.5 million are receiving government aid in return for work on community projects as part of the National Productive Safety Net Program. Across the wider region, 23 million people are badly affected. Oxfam, which has launched an emergency appeal, says this is the worst food crisis in a decade. More frequent droughts as a result of climate change have compounded deep-seated structural issues in a region where extreme poverty is widespread. In Ethiopia, malnutrition is rising among children, and there are outbreaks of life threatening diarrhoea. The price of staple foodstuffs has risen beyond the reach of many poor families. The situation is not currently a famine - as defined technically by the numbers of people dying each day from hunger related causes - but it is serious. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says its appeal is underfunded. It is being forced to cut emergency rations and in some cases suspend them. Between now and the end of the year, heavy rains are forecast because of the El NiƱo effect. Humanitarian experts say this could actually worsen the situation, causing floods and disease among people and livestock.

Why is Ethiopia still hungry 25 years after Live Aid?

While there is currently a high level of suffering in Ethiopia and surrounding countries, today's crisis is not comparable to the famine of 25 years ago. Ethiopia has changed dramatically since then. It is no longer at war and no longer ruled by a Marxist regime. While the current government still has a long way to go in terms of political freedom, there has been progress in developing famine early warning systems, local government structures and aid delivery mechanisms. But the population has doubled in the past quarter century to 80 million, putting a greater strain on resources. The country's infrastructure is still poor and domestic agricultural markets could work much better. For example there have been instances of surplus maize in the south and south-west of the country while there are high prices and shortages in the North and East. Shipping food aid from overseas (the majority of it come from the US) is costly and inefficient.

What needs to happen to remedy this situation?

Vulnerable people in Ethiopia - and the wider region - need urgent help now to get through this crisis. Donor governments need to immediately fund the World Food Programme's appeal for food aid for Ethiopia which has an estimated shortfall of US$435 million between now and March 2010. But Ethiopia also needs concerted longer term investments in farming to increase productivity and make it better able to cope with its erratic weather. Agriculture in Africa has been underfunded for years. Recently there has been some progress on the part of African governments and donors to start to turn this situation around. The L'Aquila food security initiative announced at the G8 Summit in Italy in July committed the G8 nations to channel US$20bn over three years to famers in poor countries like Ethiopia. The funding would be directed in support of nationally designed plans to increase farm production. Donor governments must now quickly clarify how much new money they will contribute to the initiative and how it will be spent. In Ethiopia the money could help smallholder farmers get access to agricultural advice, credit, fertiliser and improved weather resistant seeds. It could improve farmers' access to markets to sell their surplus produce and increase their incomes.

How is climate change affecting Ethiopia?

Aid agencies such as Oxfam working with communities on the ground in Ethiopia report that the intervals between regular droughts are becoming shorter. A century ago the country suffered from drought every 10-15 years. By 1984 there were droughts roughly every 8 years but recently there have been droughts every couple of years with 2006, 2008 and 2009 all drought years. If the temperature rises within the predicted scale, this could result in crop damage, malnutrition, outbreaks of disease, land degradation and damage to infrastructure. The country will need substantially increased funding to cope with the impacts of this trend. Ethiopia emits 0.07 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita annually meaning only 6 countries (all African) emit less. The injustice of the suffering caused by climate change is clear. The Ethiopian government has launched a national survey on climate change to detail the specific challenges people are facing. Governments need to act at the critical UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, to halt the march of global warming that is going to hit the innocent first and hardest, and to fund their adaptation needs.

What did all the appeals of the 1980s achieve for Ethiopia?

The Band Aid/Live Aid initiatives marked the greatest outpouring of collective compassion for a faraway people the world had seen. These initiatives raised £150 million and saved thousands of lives. They galvanised a generation in the UK, not just to give money but to get involved in the fight against poverty. Band Aid Trust projects have had long term impact on the ground in many areas. ONE's Executive Director Jamie Drummond recently visited the Daereda Valley in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, a region where he worked in 1995. At that time, the valley had been denuded of trees and greenery by drought and a desperate population; fertile topsoil had been washed away in flash floods. Since then, "food for work" projects funded by the Band Aid Trust have transformed the valley. In return for food aid, community volunteer groups have planted trees, contoured hillsides, and dug ponds and damns. Now the river flows all year, the land's fertility is restored and its productivity greatly increased. This is just one example of a longer term project that has been replicated across the region. It is aimed at supporting communities to build up their resilience to climatic shocks, and helping prevent food crises rather than reacting after the fact.

How has development campaigning changed in the past 25 years?

The powerful images from the famine of the 1980s touched a generation in the West and inspired many people to get involved in international development. The Band Aid/Live Aid generation - both the public and musicians such as Bob Geldof and Bono - went on to form the Jubilee movement for debt cancellation, and spearhead the Make Poverty History and Live 8 campaigns of 2005. These campaigns reflect the shift in development campaigning since the 1980s from purely raising money to addressing the root causes of poverty, a shift from ideas of charity to ones of justice. Although the 25th anniversary of the Ethiopian crisis is a time to reflect on the reasons behind the famine and enduring hunger in the region, it also coincides with other, more hopeful events. The anniversary of the Live Aid concerts, in July 2010, will happen at the same time as Africa's first ever football World Cup in South Africa. The World Cup will be watched by billions around the world and is being viewed by many campaign groups as an opportunity to showcase all that is vibrant and dynamic in today's Africa, as well as achieving specific goals such as getting children into school and stamping out malaria.

What has changed in Ethiopia and Africa as a whole since 1984-85?

A huge amount has changed in Ethiopia and across Africa in the past 25 years, but particularly in the past decade there have been significant development gains. In Ethiopia, malaria deaths have been halved in two years and 90% of children are now enrolled in primary school, up from just 37% in 1996. Across sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, 34 million more children are now in school and more than three million people are on life saving anti-retroviral AIDS drugs. In the decade before the global economic crisis hit, 18 African countries were registering economic growth rates of five per cent or more. These gains are now under threat because of the impacts of the economic crisis and climate change. Poor governance is also still a problem across too much of Africa. In Ethiopia, political and press freedom is limited and humanitarian aid restricted in certain parts of the country.'