12 December 2009

The Third Martin Luther?

Martin Luther #1

Challenged Catholic Church indulgences salesman Johann Tetzel and nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church, sparking The Reformation in 1517:

Martin Luther [King] #2

Catalysed the Civil Rights movement in the US in the 1960s, helping end racial segregation, winning a Nobel Prize and becoming a symbol of human rights:

Is this an historical trend? Is there a third Martin Luther lurking anywhere to help bring us forward out of the current hash of peak everything?

Maybe we all need to be Martin Luthers!

11 December 2009

Newspapers Around the World Call for Action on Climate Change

This editorial [from The Guardian, 7 December 2009], calling for action from world leaders on climate change is published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages:

'Today 56 newspapers in 45countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm
timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

This editorial will be published tomorrow by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.'

10 December 2009

Environmentalists Have Lost Their Way

Reposted in full from The Ecologist, 9 December 2009

'Former deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth, tells Matilda Lee why an obsession with CO2 has distracted environmentalists, and why we may already be beyond the point of no return...

Matilda Lee: You’ve said the environmental movement has lost its way – too focused on reducing emissions, and not enough on nature. Isn’t this dismissive of the gains that have been made in the past 5 to 10 years?

Paul Kingsnorth: What I’m suggesting is that environmentalism, which has become mainstream, is so obsessed with carbon emissions reductions that it has kind of lost sight of all of the other things it was supposed to be doing. The main narrative is that we have to reduce emissions by a certain percentage within a certain period of time and there is a small window we’ve got to act, and if we don’t use it, there’s global doom approaching. If we are honest, there is no window. It closed a long time ago.

ML: You are saying you think we are past the point of no return?

PK: Yes, in terms of emissions reductions. If you accept the argument that we’ve got, say 95 months left to save the world then yes, we have certainly passed the point of no return. Even if the politicians managed to cobble something together at Copenhagen - which they probably won’t - it won’t be kept to anyway because at the same time they’ve got to promote constant economic growth. As environmentalists, in our private conversations, we know this stuff, but in public we are saying we’ve got to hit targets, the problem is that when it doesn’t happen, which it won’t, we’re going to be in big trouble because people aren’t going to listen to us anymore.

ML: But isn't there a need to galvanise people to act now, and help shift our worldview towards a focus on what we are leaving for the generations ahead of us?

PK: That’s the line, but it’s not working. Climate change is something that all the politicians are talking about and it’s in all the front pages, you would think we would be changing things. But we’re not in any significant way. The number of people who are in denial about climate change is going up, so this idea that if we just keep shouting about it, everyone will act... They are not; they are almost resisting acting, because the consequences of acting look so disturbing to people’s lifestyles. I’m not making an argument for doing nothing, or saying that environmentalists are wrong, but I am saying that the mainstream narrative on climate change is obviously failing.

ML: Aren’t you really just lamenting the world’s obsession with economic growth?

PK: It’s not so much a lament. There is a cognitive dissonance amongst mainstream political and business establishments. At the same time as they talk about wanting to prevent climate change and create sustainable societies, they are also promoting constant growth. The more growth you get, the more climate change and resource depletion and destruction of the natural world you get. Until you start talking about that, you are wasting your time talking about emissions reductions. There is going to have to be an economic contraction and a kind of social contraction if we are going to survive within the resource limits that we’ve got. I’m not suggesting that environmentalists have forgotten that, but the mainstream environmental debate around climate change is pretending that that is not the case.

ML: If you aren’t talking about deindustrialising society and a ‘back to nature’ kind of society - what are you envisaging?

PK: If you don’t have cheap fossil fuels it’s very hard to have a transport system that is based on cheap cars, hard to see how you can run a retail system based on superstores and lots of lots of transportation, and industrial agriculture. I would expect to see far more economic localisation, less easy transportation around the country and the world, far fewer cheap consumer goods. Serious climate change will result in climate refugees, which will result in a whole set of new political tensions as well. There will be political action, but it will be too little too late. I think it means becoming more self-sufficient, learning to live with less and learning to reconnect with communities and places. Some people have said, 'you’re being despairing and we need hope'. I don’t think the mainstream green narrative is actually giving people hope, I think it is quite despairing. I think that if you start saying 'OK, we are going to have to face a depleted future, but let’s start thinking about it together, interestingly', that seems to give people more of a sense of hope, and ability to act, rather than wishing for the impossible.

ML: So the future of the green movement means...

PK: We need to move towards an ecocentric view – this is not a new concept but it needs to become more central to the movement. A lot of environmentalism now still acts as if humans are the point of the planet and that we are saving the planet to save people.

ML: There is the argument that market forces are so powerful that in order to save nature, we’re going to have to bring it into the economic fold and put a price tag on it.

PK: I can see the appeal, but I think it is a short term appeal. The market is far more likely to destroy nature than to save it. We seem almost incapable of judging anything anymore unless we bring it into the market system –whether it’s our schools, hospitals, or the woods we walk in, or the sky – I think that is far more threatening than it is liberating.

ML: Tell me about your latest project, dark-mountain.net

PK: [It's] a cultural response to the way we see the future going – to say that part of the reason that we’ve reached this point as a culture is that we’ve been telling ourselves particular stories about who we are – the founding myths of our culture are all about endless progress, human centrality, the idea that we can control the natural environment and that we are separate from nature, that our technology will save us. We need to start writing as if the world is going to become a very different place and expressing through various cultural forms. We are trying to gather a movement of people who see the world in that way. The plan is to start publishing a journal next year.

Paul Kingsnorth is a former deputy editor of the Ecologist.'

New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable

Reposted in full from The Onion, 3 December 2009

Hundreds anxiously awaited the chance to be first in their peer group to own the new device.

'SEATTLE—With the holiday shopping season officially under way, millions of consumers proceeded to their nearest commercial centers this week in hopes of acquiring the latest, and therefore most desirable, personal device.

"The new device is an improvement over the old device, making it more attractive for purchase by all Americans," said Thomas Wakefield, a spokesperson for the large conglomerate that manufactures the new device. "The old device is no longer sufficient. Consumers should no longer have any use or longing for the old device."

Added Wakefield, "The new device will retail for $395."

Able to remain operational for longer periods of time and occupy a demonstrably smaller three-dimensional space, the new device is so advanced when compared to the old device that it makes the old device appear much older than it actually is. However, the new device is reportedly not so radically different as to cause confusion or unwanted anxiety among those familiar with the feel of the old device.

"Its higher price indicates to me that it is superior, and that not everyone will be able to afford it, which only makes me want to possess it more," said Tim Sturges, owner of the old device, which he obtained 18 months ago when it was still the new device. "I feel a strong urge to purchase the new device. Owning the new device will please me and improve my daily life."

"It's difficult to remember how I ever found enjoyment in my old device," Sturges continued. "It is no longer appealing to the eye."

In addition to aesthetic and technological enhancements, manufacturers claim the new device comes equipped with a wide range of desirable features, including fewer buttons for pressing down and holding; a new wire for connecting to larger, less-portable devices; and fewer device-related errors and frustrations.

The new device will also be available in blue.

"Not only will I be able to perform tasks faster than before, but my new device will also inform those around me that I am a successful individual who is up on the latest trends," said Rebecca Hodge, whose executive job allowed her to line up for several hours in the middle of the day in order to obtain the previously unavailable item. "Its attractiveness and considerable value are, by extension, my attractiveness and considerable value."

Consumer Robert Larson agreed.

"I'm going to take my new device wherever I go," said Larson, holding the expensive item directly in the eyeline of several reporters. "That way no one on the street, inside the elevator, or at my place of business will ever mistake me for the sort of individual who does not own the new device."

Added Larson, "The new device brings me satisfaction."

Despite the visible excitement among most consumers, some claimed to be exercising caution, choosing instead to sit back and wait for a newer version of the new device to be released before making a purchase.

"True, it appeals to my most basic insecurities, but this new device will ultimately be replaced by a newer device, rendering it completely undesirable and utterly repellent to my personal tastes," device-enthusiast Ryan Janosch said. "Also, I should start saving my money for the next latest device, which will replace the newer new device a couple months after that."'

09 December 2009

Why Introverts Make The Best Leaders

Relevant also to social change agents...

Excerpt from Forbes, 30 November 2009

'It has been reported that a full 40% of executives describe themselves as introverts, including Microsoft's Bill Gates, the über-investors Warren Buffett and Charles Schwab, Avon's chief executive, Andrea Jung, and the late publishing giant Katharine Graham. Odds are President Barack Obama is an innie as well. What does that mean? That introverts, not just extroverts, have the right stuff to lead organizations in a go-go, extroverted business culture.

Here are five key characteristics that help introverted leaders build on their quiet strength and succeed.

1. They think first, talk later. Introverted leaders think before they speak. Even in casual conversations, they consider others' comments carefully, and they stop and reflect before responding. One executive tells me that he sits back and listens to his leadership team's ideas and proposals, often using silence to allow even more thoughts to bubble up. Learning by listening, not talking, is a trait that introverts consistently demonstrate. They also use their calm, quiet demeanors to be heard amid all the organizational noise and chatter. (One thoughtful, reasoned comment in a meeting can move a group forward by leaps and bounds.) In fact, the most powerful person in the room is often the most quiet. Additionally, an introvert's tendency to be more measured with words is a major asset in the current economy, when no leader can afford to make costly gaffes.

2. They focus on depth. Introverted leaders seek depth over breadth. They like to dig deep, delving into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. They are drawn to meaningful conversations, not superficial chitchat, and they know how to ask great questions and really listen to the answers. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Deborah Dunsire, M.D., president and chief executive of Millennium, a Cambridge, Mass., biopharmaceutical company, said, "In addition to conducting organizational surveys and holding town hall meetings, I schedule walk around time, just stopping by offices...I would just say, 'Hey, what is keeping you up nights? What are you working on? What's most exciting to you right now? Where do you see we can improve?'" Dr. Dunsire maintains that by pursuing this kind of in-depth questioning - something that introverted leaders do exceptionally well - executives can learn what's actually happening in the far reaches of their organizations and engage and retain their top talent.

3. They exude calm. Introverted leaders are low-key. In times of crisis, they project a reassuring, calm confidence - think President Obama - and they speak softly and slowly regardless of the heat of the conversation or circumstances. Whenever they get ready for a meeting, a speech or a special event, their secret to success can be summed up in one word: preparation. They often plan and write out their meeting questions well in advance, and for important talks and speeches, they rehearse out loud. They also act "as if": One executive tells me that he pretends to be James Bond before major industry conferences. It makes him feel more cool and confident. They psych themselves up internally, too, by quieting negative thoughts and framing the upcoming experience more positively...'

4. They let their fingers do the talking. Introverted leaders usually prefer writing to talking. This comfort with the written word often helps them better articulate their positions and document their actions. It also helps them leverage online social networking tools such as Twitter, creating new opportunities to be out there with employees, customers and other stakeholders...

5. They embrace solitude. Introverted leaders are energized by spending time alone. They suffer from people exhaustion and need to retreat to recharge their batteries frequently. These regular timeouts actually fuel their thinking, creativity and decision-making and, when the pressure is on, help them be responsive, not reactive. When introverts honor that inner pull, they can do their best work. In managing interruptions, they also manage people's expectations...'

Make Green History

NAILED IT! My emphases in bold...this article makes a great comparision with the 1960s Civil Rights movement!

Excerpt from The Washington Post, 6 December 2009

'As President Obama heads to Copenhagen next week for global warming talks, there's one simple step Americans back home can take to help out: Stop "going green." Just stop it. No more compact fluorescent light bulbs. No more green wedding planning. No more organic toothpicks for holiday hors d'oeuvres.

December should be national Green-Free Month. Instead of continuing our faddish and counterproductive emphasis on small, voluntary actions, we should follow the example of Americans during past moral crises and work toward large-scale change. The country's last real moral and social revolution was set in motion by the civil rights movement. And in the 1960s, civil rights activists didn't ask bigoted Southern governors and sheriffs to consider "10 Ways to Go Integrated" at their convenience.

Green gestures we have in abundance in America. Green political action, not so much. And the gestures ("Look honey, another Vanity Fair Green Issue!") lure us into believing that broad change is happening when the data shows that it isn't. Despite all our talk about washing clothes in cold water, we aren't making much of a difference.

For eight years, George W. Bush promoted voluntary action as the nation's primary response to global warming - and for eight years, aggregate greenhouse gas emissions remained unchanged. Even today, only 10 percent of our household light bulbs are compact fluorescents. Hybrids account for only 2.5 percent of U.S. auto sales. One can almost imagine the big energy companies secretly applauding each time we distract ourselves from the big picture with a hectoring list of "5 Easy Ways to Green Your Office."

As America joins the rest of the world in finally fighting global warming, we need to bring our battle plan up to scale. If you believe that astronauts have been to the moon and that the world is not flat, then you probably believe the satellite photos showing the Greenland ice sheet in full-on meltdown. Much of Manhattan and the Eastern Shore of Maryland may join the Atlantic Ocean in our lifetimes. Entire Pacific island nations will disappear. Hurricanes will bring untold destruction. Rising sea levels and crippling droughts will decimate crops and cause widespread famine. People will go hungry, and people will die.

Morally, this is sort of a big deal. It would be wrong to let all this happen when we have the power to prevent the worst of it by adopting clean-energy policies.

But how do we do that? Again, look to the history of the civil rights struggle. After many decades of public denial and inaction, the civil rights movement helped Americans to see Southern apartheid in moral terms. From there, the movement succeeded by working toward legal change. Segregation was phased out rapidly only because it was phased out through the law. These statutes didn't erase racial prejudice from every American heart overnight. But through them, our country made staggering progress. Just consider who occupies the White House today.
All who appreciate the enormity of the climate crisis still have a responsibility to make every change possible in their personal lives. I have, from the solar panels on my roof to the Prius in my driveway to my low-carbon-footprint vegetarian diet. But surveys show that very few people are willing to make significant voluntary changes, and those of us who do create the false impression of mass progress as the media hypes our actions.

Instead, most people want carbon reductions to be mandated by laws that will allow us to share both the responsibilities and the benefits of change. Ours is a nation of laws; if we want to alter our practices in a deep and lasting way, this is where we must start. After years of delay and denial and green half-measures, we must legislate a stop to the burning of coal, oil and natural gas...

So what's the problem? There's lots of blame to go around, but the distraction of the "go green" movement has played a significant role. Taking their cues from the popular media and cautious politicians, many Americans have come to believe that they are personally to blame for global warming and that they must fix it, one by one, at home. And so they either do as they're told - a little of this, a little of that - or they feel overwhelmed and do nothing.

We all got into this mess together. And now, with treaty talks underway internationally and Congress stalled at home, we need to act accordingly. Don't spend an hour changing your light bulbs. Don't take a day to caulk your windows. Instead, pick up a phone, open a laptop, or travel to a U.S. Senate office near you and turn the tables: "What are the 10 green statutes you're working on to save the planet, Senator?"...

Obama, too, needs to step up his efforts; it's not just Congress and the voters who have been misguided. Those close to the president say he understands the seriousness of global warming. But despite the issue's moral gravity, he's been paralyzed by political caution. He leads from the rear on climate change, not from the front.

Forty-five years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson faced tremendous opposition on civil rights from a Congress dominated by Southern leaders, yet he spent the political capital necessary to answer a great moral calling. Whenever key bills on housing, voting and employment stalled, he gave individual members of congress the famous "Johnson treatment." He charmed. He pleaded. He threatened. He led, in other words. In person, and from the front.

Does anyone doubt that our charismatic current president has the capacity to turn up the heat? Imagine the back-room power of a full-on "Obama treatment" to defend America's flooding coastlines and burning Western forests. Imagine a two-pronged attack on the fickle, slow-moving Senate: Obama on one side and a tide of tweets and letters from voters like you.

So join me: Put off the attic insulation job till January. Stop searching online for recycled gift wrapping paper and sustainably farmed Christmas trees. Go beyond green fads for a month, and instead help make green history.'

07 December 2009

Beach Chairs Calm Traffic in Times Square

Excerpt from Slate, 16 June 2009

'...[New York City's] Department of Transportation, with the full encouragement of Mayor Bloomberg, has temporarily reconfigured one of the worst manifestations of these two problems - Times Square, the putative "Crossroads of the World." The surface facts are disarmingly simple: The DOT has blocked off Broadway with orange barrels and set out some plastic chairs. If it works, it could be a dramatic reinvention of a long-troublesome place.

For more than a century, Times Square has been bedeviling whatever authority happens to be in charge of moving people through the city's streets with the least amount of congestion and carnage...

Times Square has been congested (and contested) for as long as it has existed, and no amount of tinkering with
the traffic lights seems sufficient to solve the problem. And, given the dynamic nature of traffic, any plan that did succeed would be faced with what Frederic Jameson once called, in a different context, a quasi-Sartrean "'winner-loses' logic": It would just bring more traffic. The Brookings Institution's Anthony Downs has called this phenomenon "triple convergence": When a crowded street is expanded, for example, peak-hour traffic conditions may temporarily improve, but the improvements may also simply entice drivers from other hours, other roads, and other modes of travel.

All of which explains why the latest Times Square traffic plan—to close Broadway to vehicular traffic for five blocks—while seemingly the most perverse scheme to date, may actually prove to be the most successful.

Whether it succeeds may, in part, depend on reconfiguring the notion of success. For the real Times Square "traffic problem" nowadays is one of pedestrians. More than 356,000 pedestrians travel through Times Square on an average day, according to the New York City Department of Transportation, while the number of cars is closer to 50,000. Despite this mismatch in "mode share"—the fact that people are not drawn to the place for its automobile-oriented delights—only 11 percent of Times Square is devoted to pedestrian use (and these small scraps are fought over between fast-jaywalking locals and meandering, signal-obeying four-abreast groups of tourists). For many New Yorkers, Times Square has become an anti-place, a media abstraction best not actually visited, but for those who must, those who work there, surveys have shown a vast majority dislike it, with "pedestrian overcrowding" being the primary reason...'

Responses to Questions & Objections on Climate Change

'Responses to Questions & Objections on Climate Change' by Dr Brett Parris, Chief Economist, World Vision AustraliaResearch Fellow, Monash University is the best dismantling of the flawed logic underpinning many climate myths currently being peddled - here is an excerpt of the summary from the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 December 2009, with the full list of contents below:

'AS WORLD leaders gather in Copenhagen, efforts to undermine public confidence in the science of climate change have intensified.

Sceptics have recently gained traction by exaggerating uncertainties in the research, said Brett Parris, a research fellow at Monash University and World Vision Australia's chief economist.

''They have been working very hard to create an impression there is a raging debate among research scientists about whether humans are contributing to climate change,'' he said. ''But that is not the case.''

With the advice of scientists, Dr Parris, who trained as a geologist, has developed a 48-page document outlining scientific responses to questions and objections proposed by sceptics.

''Those continuing to deny the links between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are using specious arguments that have been repeatedly shown to be false, weak or irrelevant in the peer-reviewed scientific literature,'' he said.

The Herald has summarised some of his document's key points:

Climate change has happened in the past and what's happening now isn't outside the bounds of natural climate variability.

Sea levels were around 70 metres higher 45 million years ago, and 130 metres lower 21,000 years ago, for example, but this is no reason for inaction now. Most of the strong climate changes in the past were either local or regional. If global, they took many thousands of years to occur. There is no evidence of a global temperature rise of 5 degrees in a century, as could happen now.

It was warmer during medieval times when CO2 levels were lower.

It is possible temperatures in northern Europe between 800 and 1300 were slightly warmer than at present, but this appears to have been due to a local climatic effect in the north Atlantic Ocean, and cannot explain current warming.

Climate models are unreliable.

Climate models are not perfect but they are based on sound science and have been able to replicate past observations to a good degree of accuracy and have anticipated effects such as global cooling from big volcanic eruptions.

There was a consensus among climate scientists in the 1970s that we would soon head into another Ice Age.

This myth is repeated endlessly. A few research papers predicted cooling, but many more didn't and greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then.

Global warming ended about 1998 and it's been cooling ever since.

This is a case of cherrypicking. The years 1997 to 1998 saw a major temperature increase due to a strong El Nino, so if this is the starting point the years immediately after are, of course, relatively cooler. If 1997 or 1999 was chosen, it would show strong warming in the following years. What matters is the underlying warming trend over decades.

Warming is the sun's fault.

Fluctuations in solar activity influence the world's climate but their effects have been taken into account and are not enough to explain observed changes...

Lack of warming in the lower atmosphere proves anthropogenic global warming is a myth.

There is no longer a serious discrepancy, as claimed in a 2007 paper, between predictions of climate models and observations of the troposphere.

Coming out of the Ice Ages, the changes in CO2 came after the warming began, so CO2 doesn't affect atmospheric temperatures.

At the end of the Ice Ages, variations in the Earth's orbit and the angle of the axis warmed the planet again, followed 200 to 2000 years later by rising CO2. The CO2 amplified the initial warming, making the periods longer and warmer than they would otherwise have been.

Antarctica is cooling, so that proves the global climate isn't warming.

While parts of Antarctica seem to be cooling, the continent is warming, and even the localised cooling and sea-ice expansion is consistent with climate change theory.

We should wait until there is more evidence before reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The physics of the warming potential of greenhouse gases was worked out more than a century ago. The world is rapidly approaching points at which high risks of dangerous climate change are no longer avoidable.'


1. The IPCC is a political body and its reports are scientifically unreliable

2. Science is not about consensus – Galileo was ridiculed by the authorities and the scientific establishment

3. There’s no consensus - 31,000 scientists signed a petition denying the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

4. We should wait until there is more evidence before reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. Climate change has been happening throughout geological and human history. What is happening now is not outside the bounds of natural climatic variability.

6. Because what is happening now is within the realms of natural variability, we can’t say that humans are contributing to climate change.

7. Because what is happening now is within the realms of natural variability, it is not something to worry about. Species have always adapted.

8. It was warmer during medieval times

9. Climate models are unreliable

10. There was a consensus among climate scientists in the 1970s that we would soon be heading into another ice age

11. Global warming ended around 1998 anyway – it’s been cooling since then.

12. Our best strategy is simply to adapt to climate change.

13. CO2 exists only in very low concentrations in the atmosphere, therefore it cannot have significant effects.

14. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Doubling of CO2 from its pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm would only bring warming of about 1ºC.

15. CO2 is not a pollutant – it is completely natural and essential for life.

16. Any warming is the Sun’s fault.

17. Climate change is due to the effects of cosmic rays.

18. Lack of warming in the tropical troposphere (lower atmosphere) proves anthropogenic global warming is a myth.

19. Coming out of the ice ages, the changes in CO2 happened after the warming began, so CO2 doesn’t affect atmospheric temperatures.

20. Antarctica is cooling, so that proves the global climate isn’t warming

21. Action on climate change would ruin our economies

General remarks


Author Note



Useful Resources

Americans Waste 40% of Food

Reposted in full from Warmer Bulletin e-news, 4 December 2009

'A new study claims that Americans throw out about 40 per cent of all their food, and food waste per person in the US has increased 50 per cent since 1974, according to LiveScience.

The study, conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and published in the journal PLoS ONE , calculated the difference between the US food supply and what's actually eaten by using a model of human metabolism and known body weights.

The new numbers are up significantly from a report last year by an international group that estimated that up to 30 per cent of food - worth about US$48.3 billion - is wasted each year in the United States. Those calculations and others like it were typically based on interviews with people and inspections of garbage, which the NIDDK believes underestimates the waste.

Food waste also contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and carbon dioxide emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change.Despite all the waste, many Americans are still going hungry.

A recent report by the Department of Agriculture found the number of U.S. homes lacking "food security," meaning their eating habits were disrupted for lack of money, rose from 4.7 million in 2007 to 6.7 million last year.About 1 billion people worldwide don't have enough to eat, according to the World Food Programme.'

Meanwhile, Out In the Real World...

*sigh*, just beautiful...

Excerpt and image from Planet Ark, 7 December 2009

'When it snows on the steppes of eastern Kazakhstan, hunters saddle up and gallop off with eagles on their arms in search of prey.

The men follow the animal tracks in the snow then release their giant eagles into the air to snatch up foxes and rabbits.

"Hunting is my life," said Baurzhan Yeshmetov, a 62-year-old man in an embroidered velvet tunic, his eagle perched on his arm staring menacingly into the foggy hills...

Many in Kazakhstan see eagle hunting as a symbol of their nation's nomadic past and a throwback to an oft-romanticized era before these steppes turned into a geopolitical battleground between competing regional powers Russia and China.

Two decades of economic growth that followed Kazakhstan's independence from Moscow's rule in 1991 have also created a generation of young Kazakhs whose search for a new identity has led them to look deeper into history.

"In Soviet days all of this was forgotten because everyone had to believe in communism," said Dinara Serikbayeva who runs an eagle-hunting museum in the village of Nura.

Speaking in the Soviet-built House of Culture building where functionaries once lectured villagers about a fast-approaching communist paradise, she said eagle hunting has turned into a symbol of this new quest for identity.

"Kids once again think it's cool. It's an essential part of our nomadic ancestry and we are extremely proud of it."

Called berkutchi in Kazakh, professional eagle hunters number only about 50 in Kazakhstan - a vast nation that has used its oil wealth to transform itself from a sleepy Soviet backwater into a modern consumer society.

They often gather in the icy hills on the Kazakh border with China - far from cities like Almaty, bustling with luxury cars and wifi cafes - to determine whose eagle is the best.

The Kazakh eagle is one of the world's fiercest, with a wingspan of 6.6 ft, razor-sharp talons and the ability to dive at the speed of an express train - up to 190 mph.

During a Dec 5 tournament, a panel of juries watched with unsmiling faces from a hilltop as hunters, clad in fox-fur hats, unleashed straps and sent eagles into the air.

Villagers prepared kebabs in open-air barbeque stands, loudspeakers blared folk songs, and tourists with binoculars and fluorescent outdoor gear stared in wonder.

Eagle hunting was largely banned during Soviet rule and the tradition would have disappeared altogether had it not been preserved by ethnic Kazakhs in China and Mongolia.

More than a million Kazakhs took their skills to their graves during a Soviet-inflicted famine in the 1930s when Josef Stalin's forced collectivization campaign erased entire villages in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia.

"Hunger, repression, collectivization. People had no time to worry about their eagles," said Yepemes Alimkhanov, a government official in charge of reviving national sporting activities.
"It was a tragedy. But the tradition is coming back. Our sons and daughters have inherited it," he said...'

What Happens When You Don't Ban Plastic Bags

Image from Planet Ark, 7 December 2009

'A worker spreads out plastic bags for recycling at Dombivili on the outskirts of Mumbai December 5, 2009.'

Cash for Carpools

Reposted in full from Worldwatch blog Transforming Cultures, 27 November 2009

'What if everyone traveling along major highways this holiday season found another person with a similar trip to ride with, rather than simply hopping into their car alone—adding to traffic and greater air pollution? Those travelers could spend their weekends shopping away and eating extravagant feasts, but if they all successfully carpooled I would still call it a cultural transformation.

Businesses and government programs are cropping up all around this topic. Groups like Zimride and Trip Convergence are fueling the growth in carpooling with the power of online social networks. Washington D.C. ‘s own Commuter Connections program has recently launched on a program called “Cash for Carpools” that pays folks who usually commute alone on the highway to either join another car or recruit passengers of their own. The payment is two dollars a day over a 90-day period, giving carpoolers the chance to earn up to $130 over three months.

That doesn’t sound like much to me, but apparently this model has already been hugely successful elsewhere. An NPR feature on carpooling this week detailed the cash for carpools program in Atlanta, in place since 2002. Since its launch, 19,000 Atlantans have signed up to carpool to work and those that have stuck with the program no longer need payment for their gas, money, and climate-saving deed.

A carpooling pair interviewed about the program cited the huge benefit of having company in the car during long and frustrating commutes—it makes the time pass faster. “Some days we get into a conversation and go ‘oh, we’re here already—great!’” they mentioned.

The Washington D.C. program has a meager goal of getting 750 carpools signed up for their program and the resulting impact may be just as skimpy. However, the concept could be a significant cultural nudge in the right direction. Carpooling is an activity that can make life more enjoyable, foster community, and reduce pollution. If more people were to taste these benefits they might not only change their own ways but also become advocates of change to friends and family, eventually taking the burden off the city to advertise and pay for citizens to carpool.

Peter Newman, professor at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute in Perth, Australia studied Perth’s TravelSmart program to reduce car traffic in the city. Summing up the program’s success in his State of the World article entitled “Building the Cities of the Future” he says.

When people start to change their lifestyles and can see the benefits, they become advocates of sustainable transport policies in general. Governments find it easier to manage the politics of transformation to reduced car use and lower oil use when the communities they are serving have begun to change themselves.

The same goes for Cash for Carpooling in DC, yet the city remains far from achieving a culture of sustainability. As Newman says about TravelSmart, “This is not a revolution, but it has many synergistic positive outcomes.”'

Do They Loan This Christmas? - Bank Aid

Thieve The World (dreadful singing adds to the yuletide joy)...

Cognitive Hazmat Suit!

Brilliant satire, from laetus in praesens 'Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard', 21 November 2009

'Any discussion of the challenge of overpopulation has come to be considered such a political "hot potato" that the question of how to discuss it merits consideration in the light of well-developed ability to handle radioactive hazards and biohazards. The argument here focuses on how issues deemed politically hazardous can be discussed without endangering the discussants. The approach taken is to use the handling of hazardous materials, if only as a metaphor, through which to identify viable procedures appropriate to the perceived level of threat to psychosocial health from any such topic...

Discussion of overpopulation might be explored metaphorically as a form of "biohazard" - namely hazardous to the health of those who debate it because of its virulent impact on the body politic or any of its members, especially their livelihood, or even their spiritual well-being. In the latter case this derives from the unqualified biblical injunction to "go forth and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). '

What It Looks Like When a Local Authority REALLY Gets Transition

Excerpt from Transition Culture, 4 December 2009

'So what might it look like when a local authority really gets Transition? Earlier this week I received a very excitable email from Cristiano Bottone, one of the movers behind Transition Italia, and the Transition of his own town, Monteveglio, near Bologna.

“Monteveglio’s local authority signs a strategic partnership with “Monteveglio Città di Transizione”….This is a revolution for this country, believe me. Thank you for all your help. I love you ;-)”. So what did the Monteveglio authorities actually sign up to, why is Cristiano so excited about it, and what does it mean?

You can read the Italian version of the “Deliberazione della Giunta Comunale’ here. For those of you who do not read Italian, Deborah Rim Moiso of Transition Italia Translation Group has kindly translated some of its more exciting parts (it is a Council document after all) below. Check this out….


the following objectives for the implementation of environmental policy as defined by the policy strategy approved by board decision. 54/2009.

  • Oil and fossil fuel depletion is this administration’s priority, to be implemented through an Energy Descent Plan to turn Monteveglio into a “Post Carbon” City.

  • Strategic partnership with the Association Monteveglio Città di Transizione [Transition Town Monteveglio] with whom this administration shares a view of the future (the depletion of energy resources and the significance of a limit to economic development), methods (bottom-up community participation), objectives (to make our community more resilient, i.e. better prepared to face a low energy future) and the optimistic approach (although the times are hard, changes to come will include great opportunities to improve the whole community’s quality of life).

  • Begin a participative and institutional process to promote Monteveglio as a Transition Town, with the direct participation of the whole community and a final statement by the City Council.

  • Define CO2 emission measurement tools and containment policies well beyond EU targets and in line with the global objective of 350 ppm.

  • Promote energy efficiency of public buildings, by upgrading existing structures through external insulation and other projects, installing photovoltaic and solar panels, and setting high energy efficiency targets for all new buildings.

  • To promote, together with other Municipalities involved, a review of the supra-municipal Building Code and Land Use plan in order for it to incorporate

  • Legislative Decree 115/08 and the Regional Guidelines for Energy Efficiency and Building Energy Certification (decision 156/08), particularly in reference to articles 13, 14, 15. Also, to commit to the promotion of further improvement of said regulation to progressively raise energy efficiency standards.

  • To advance with the Union of Municipalities a proposal for the designation of an Energy Manager whose role will be to collect and analyze data on energy use, promote renewable energy development projects and efficient energy use in public buildings, as well as to promote such policies throughout the area.

  • To encourage the use of renewable energy by private citizens, through:
  1. the creation of a Supra-municipal Energy Office with the task of informing and assisting citizens in choosing amongst the various technologies on offer and with all procedures related to public incentives to renewable energy use, as well as holding public meetings to inform the community on these topics

  2. supporting the Solar and Photovoltaic GPO formed within Transition Town Monteveglio by lending the use of the Environmental Office desk as GPO infopoint and holding a public meeting on the subject

  3. mapping the energy efficiency of private buildings by employing Area Informational Systems to spread knowledge and consciousness on the subject of alternative energies, in partnership with the University of Venice

  4. organizing other public meetings.
  • To inform the community on the limits of a concept of development based on unlimited resources, on the need to reconvert an economy based on the massive use of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources and on the benefits of a more frugal and sustainable lifestyle.

  • To endorse reforesting actions in the area, as a means of compensating CO2 emissions.
...A local authority promoting frugality and the end of economic growth? Amazing....'

06 December 2009

Is That Really You, Or Just Your Sock Puppet?

...relevant to sustainability re: values people have at home vs work

Excerpt from Our Time To Act, 1 December 2009

'...There is a very paradoxical nature to our social identities. On one level we are each a unique, one of a kind, never before and never again being. On another level, there are groups of people that we have various things in common with, groups that we share a culture with. We all belong to a number of social groups which can be based on political or religious affiliation, age or gender, race or geography, profession, place of employment and any number of other things. And on yet another level, we are all alike. We are all human beings spinning on a rock through space and at the end of the day we want the same basic things from life…a little love, a little health, a little happiness, etc. Our identities also are very fluid and contextual…none of us is a static unchanging thing, we are different in different situations and with different people...

A certain amount of fluctuation is normal, but we need to take care to make sure that we are not compromising ourself to better fit in.

How much of yourself do you take to work?

Do your employees bring their whole selves to work? What parts do you think they leave at home and why? Questions rarely asked, but I believe they are of great significance, especially considering the way that we create value today. Conformity can be a beast. Social pressure can be relentless. An organizations culture can be big and powerful and like the waves of the ocean can pound away at your odd and your original until you are dressing, acting, talking and thinking (or not thinking) just like everyone else. Gradually, day by day, organizational culture can very easily erode what is uniquely you. One size fits all, one practice works for all, and we tell a great violent lie by not telling our individual truths.

We end up being inauthentic at work involved in inauthentic relationships and we do one dimensional work that could be done by anyone. Rather than show up at work as who we truly are and take up that space, we send our sock puppet to represent us.

Rather than showing up with our hearts, minds and souls we send a fictional character that is based on what we think the organization wants and values to work in our place. A sock puppet among sock puppets.

There are times when we are amazed at the lack of common sense applied by employees in responding to a particular situation, but we have overlooked that the typical organization makes little room for common sense. Truth being determined by title is not common sense. Hierarchy is not common sense. Policies over people and numbers over values are not common sense. Organizational politics are not common sense. And all of this stands in the way of people bringing their whole selves to work.

We all need to do more flying of the freak flag. Do you take your freak flag to work with you? Do you share what is uniquely you at work? Do you encourage others to share what is unique to them at work?

Do you make room for difference and self-expression at work? Or does your sock puppet go to work for you?...'

An Insurrection of the Mental Environment

Excerpt from Adbusters, 2 December 2009

'Mental pollution is not just an annoyance; it is a tool in our oppression...

At a time when activists are sorely needed, activism is at a crossroads. Each of us knows that a tremendous crisis is looming, but it is so large that we are paralyzed. Knowing that our future constitutes a world without ice caps and fish, a world that is dominated by constant starvation and hordes of refugees, we can only continue our day-to-day lives if we suppress the fear of collapse. The dimensions of the catastrophe exceed the capacity of our imaginations, and we are consequently incapacitated. We sense that a terrible future awaits and that unless we act, urgently and passionately in the present, the bountiful Earth will die in our lifetimes...

Mental pollution is not just an annoyance; it is a tool in our oppression. The interjection of advertising and other info-toxins into our mindscape neutralizes our attempts to construct an alternate future because from a poisoned mind spring only poisoned deeds. Only a new form of activism that works on both the mental and physical registers – an activism of the mental environment that defeats the enemies of our mindscape by confronting them in our landscape – will succeed in turning us away from catastrophe.

The future of activism is as an insurrection of the mental environment – a movement that appropriates tactics reserved for physical battles and applies them to the battle to protect our mental environment...'

Climate Debt: Why Rich Countries Should Pay Reparations To Poor Countries For The Climate Crisis

Excerpt from from Democracy Now interview with Naomi Klein, 23 November 2009

'...[there is a growing demand for the repayment of climate debt. This is really a relatively new framing for the climate crisis and is becoming predominantly from the developing world, led by the government of Bolivia and other Latin American governments, and it has been joined by the coalition of least developed countries which are primarily in Africa. And essentially what they’re saying is that the climate crisis as we know was created in the industrialized world.

There is a direct correlation between industrialization (what we call development) and carbon emissions. In fact, 75% of the historical carbon emissions have been produced by only 20% of the world’s population. Then we have this cruel geographical irony, which is that the effects of climate change our felt overwhelmingly in the developing world, and the parts of the world that are least responsible for creating the crisis. According to the World Bank, 75-80 of the effects of climate change are being felt in the developing world. So, you have this inverse relationship between cause and effect.

It is in this context that we see a growing movement from the developing countries that really are on the front lines of climate change, saying that the rich world that created the climate crisis owes them a debt, owes them a tangible reparations for the creation of this crisis...

Essentially the climate debt arguments is the “polluter pays” argument, which is a familiar argument to people in the United States, its a basic principle of jurisprudence. Another way of putting this is “you broke it, you bought it”.

...the African Union, the coalition of African states, have been very clear that their primary demand out of Copenhagen are these deep emissions cuts and serious funding for adaptation to climate change. In eastern Africa right now, you have massive, you have serious droughts affecting millions of people. That is just one example of the kind of costs that are being incurred because of climate change already. So, we’re not talking about projecting into the future, some hypothetical future, we are talking about right now.

The main push, as I said, is actually coming from Bolivia. And Bolivia has an extraordinary climate negotiator, who I quote in the Rolling Stone piece, named Angelica Navarro, who I first met in Geneva. She was actually Bolivia’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization. She’s very clear, very tough, multilingual. It takes a lot of strength to stand up to the sort of pressure that a small country like Bolivia faces, whether at the World Trade Organization or now in the climate negotiations. And Angelica Navarro is really up to the task and she has been giving these really inspiring speeches, at summits in the lead up to Copenhagen. And has really been an galvanizing force for other developing countries.

But also, you know she is taking a demand that is coming from groups like the third World Network, Focus on the Global South, Jubilee South, coalitions of NGOs and climate justice groups, that have been making these demands on the outside of summits. But, what is interesting now is that these demands have entered inside the summit, they are at the negotiating table. And of course there is extraordinary resistance from the United States, and the European Union, Canada, Australia, to the idea that they shouldn’t just be giving money to the developing world to adapt to climate change, to deal with climate change, out of the goodness of our hearts, out of a sense of charity, but actually out of a legal obligation. This is a frightening concept as you can imagine.

...It is this idea of climate debt that is bringing together groups, like I was saying, Jubilee South, like Action Aid, groups that have been mostly focused on anti-poverty and development and are now are seeing climate change as the single greatest barrier to human development around the world, but also seen the call for climate reparation as an opportunity for, to quote Angelica Navarro, Bolivia’s ambassador to the climate negotiations, who I was talking about earlier, when she talks about the need for the developing world- developed world to pay our climate debt, she says if this happened and we would have a Marshall Plan for planet earth, which is a very exciting prospect because it means you have the opportunity to tackle simultaneously two of humanities most intransigent challenges, most intransigent problems, climate debt on the one hand, and inequality on the other. So, the bringing together of these two forces. That is what’s going to be really, really exciting in Copenhagen. And a lot of the people, a lot of networks that grew out of Seattle are going to be activated in Copenhagen and have only grown stronger in recent years...'

Climate Change to Cost Africa Billions

Excerpt from Sunday Nation, 6 December 2009

'Unavoidable climate change will in future cost Africa at least 26 billion US dollars a year leaving millions of people suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages, a new study has warned.

According to the report titled The economic cost of climate change in Africa the costs are likely to be ‘significantly worse’ if action to combat the negative effects of the crisis are not taken.

The report released in Nairobi Wednesday by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), comes only just four days before the much anticipated climate change conference kicks off in Copenhagen, Denmark...

The Economic Cost of Climate Change in Africa, says that a rise of four degrees would be likely to cost Africa at least $155bn which is 10 per cent of its GDP.

It would increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 55 million and leave up to 600 million more people than at present affected by water shortages.'

Climate Tipping Points

Interactive map from WWF and Allianz - drought, melting ice, changing oceans, dying forests, changing ecosystems:


Are You Happy Yet?

click on image to enlarge

Reposted in full from Adbusters, 11 December 2009

'We were high on the thrill of early capitalism. We loved the cars, the airplanes, the endless aisles of mega marts teeming with mass-produced goodies. We loved the validation that each new purchase brought. And then came the technology: the flat screens, MacBooks, iPhones and Xboxes. Every technological breakthrough made us feel more connected, more human and more whole. But then the economy collapsed and we began to tumble...suddenly we weren’t so sure anymore. The line between necessity and luxury – once blurred beyond distinction – came into sudden, violent focus.

What pleasure is there in a 50-inch plasma if you don’t have a wall to hang it on? What joy does a brand new automobile bring if climate change looms large on the horizon? The wisdom of credit, and the attendant practice of living well beyond our means, suddenly hit home. And now, as belts tighten and paradigms crumble, we are beginning to hear the first whispers of a post-consumer era…the dawning of a post-materialist age.'

How Europe's Discarded Computers Are Poisoning Africa's Kids

Excerpt from
Spiegel Online, 4 December 2009

'People in the West throw away millions of old computers every year. Hundreds of thousands of them end up in Africa, where children try to eke out a living by selling the scrap. But the toxic elements in the waste are slowly poisoning them.

According to the Bible, God rained down fire and brimstone to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Sodom and Gomorrah" is also what officials in Accra, Ghana, have come to call a part of their city plagued by toxins of a sort the residents of the Biblical cities couldn't even have imagined. No one sets foot in this place unless they absolutely have to.

Acrid, black smoke drifts over the huts of the slum. The river, too, is black and thick like used oil, as it carries empty computer cases toward the ocean. Fires are blazing on the bank across the way, fueled by foam and slivers of plastic. Their flames consume the plastic material from cables, plugs and motherboards, leaving behind only metal.

There's a wind today, blowing the smoke from these infernal fires low across the ground. Breathing in too deeply is painful to the lungs, and the people tending the fires are sometimes nothing more than vague, foggy silhouettes...

This area next to Sodom and Gomorrah is the final destination for old computers and other discarded electronics from around the world. There are many places like this, not just in Ghana, but also in countries like Nigeria, Vietnam, India, China and the Philippines...

These children live amid the refuse of the Internet age, and many of them may die of it. They pull apart the computers, breaking the screens with rocks, then throw the internal electronics onto the fires. Computers contain large amounts of heavy metals, and as the plastic burns, the children also breathe in highly carcinogenic fumes. The computers of the rich are poisoning the children of the poor.

The United Nations estimates that up to 50 million tons of electronic waste are thrown away globally each year. It costs about €3.50 ($5.30) to properly dispose of an old CRT monitor in Germany. But it costs only €1.50 to stick it on a container ship to Ghana.

An international treaty, the Basel Convention, came into effect in 1989. The treaty is sound in its concept, forbidding developed countries from carrying out unauthorized dumping of computer waste in less developed countries. A total of 172 countries have signed the convention, but three of them never ratified it: Haiti, Afghanistan, and the United States. According to estimates by the US Environmental Protection Agency, around 40 million computers are discarded each year in the US alone.

European Union directives with acronyms like WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) followed the Basel Convention, and individual countries have signed them into law. Germany's waste disposal laws are among the world's strictest, and shipping computer waste to Ghana can lead to a prison sentence. In theory...

The task of stopping this waste export is supposed to fall to a few customs officers and harbor police. But when agents do occasionally open a container, they're more than likely asking for trouble in court. The laws don't define what a scrap computer is, and it's legal to export used computers, just not scrapped ones. A computer that's broken but possibly still fixable - does that count as scrap? What about one that's 20 years old and can hardly run a single program? When in doubt, judges rule in favor of the exporters...'

How to Break the Culture of Making Money from Money

Note Korten's references to cultural stories and conversations...

Interview with the brilliant David Korten
reposted in full from Society for International Development Forum, 1 December 2009

'During the launch of Development 52.3 ‘Beyond Economics’, which was held in New York on 29-31 October 2009, Assistant Editor Laura Fano Morrissey interviewed David Korten, president and founder of the People-Centered Development Forum and author of numerous books including Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World.

LF The opening of your article, which is an excerpt from your book Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, is a fascinating vision of a utopian world to come. Do you think we can really achieve such a world and how?

The reason I wrote this scenario is because I am trying to confront the issue of why we are locked into an economic system which leads us on a path to collective suicide. And the book lays out what we need to do to create a whole new framework. Very often people say ‘well what would that look like?’, ‘how would we actually live?’ and so I wrote this scenario of what it might look like. We are told that change would be so expensive, there would be so much hardship, we would have to give up so much, well I don’t think that’s really true. If you look at it the right way, if we make intelligent use of our resources, if we build our relationships of caring, which is part of demonetizing the economy, we can actually have a better life for everyone and this is what it might look like.

LF Do you think these changes can be brought about by what you term ‘the second global superpower’ (meaning global civil society)? What is the role of policymakers in switching to this new model?

My view is that the only way we can get there is through civil society, people’s action of creating anew from the bottom up. At the same time we face a reality that the system of rules that shape our economy give the advantage to the economic predators, to the transnational corporations, to the financial markets. They operate totally in a predatory mode simply to maximize the financial wealth of people at the top. And they are not going to initiate the change, they are going to resist it at every step. This is why it can only happen through citizen action and it has to involve the solidarity of people across all national borders. The system itself tries to keep us divided by nationality, by religion, by race, by gender and they keep us fighting for a share over a shrinking pie. The real issue is the system which needs to change so that we can all have a better life.

Can you explain us in more detail what the difference is between phantom wealth and real wealth?

Yes, it’s quite simple. Actually it’s been so clear with the Wall Street collapse of the financial system that that whole Wall Street infrastructure of institutions is basically about making money from money. Now money is nothing but a number, it’s a part of our cultural conditioning, we are conditioned to think of money as wealth but it’s not, it’s just a number. It represents nothing else, but gives enormous power to the people who create it. The whole system is dedicated to creating these numbers from nothing through financial bubbles by all means of accounting manipulation in order to give the Wall Street money managers control over all walks of society.

So phantom wealth is any kind of financial wealth which is created from nothing unrelated to the creation of anything with real value and I would argue that Wall Street produces nothing of value. They do as long as we depend on money - we depend on the money that they create - but there’s much better ways to create and allocate the money that would better serve our society. Real wealth starts with anything of real value, land, labour, health, education, technology, food, endless numbers of things that are real, that are central to our survival, but the most important form of real wealth has no monetary value, like love for a healthy and happy child, or a strong family, a caring community, a vibrant natural environment, these are all forms of living wealth which is the ultimate real wealth.

In your book you also mention conversation as being revolutionary in changing cultural stories. How do you envisage conversation getting us out of the current crisis?

Our biggest trap, the thing that holds us captive to the system are the stories that circulate in our culture, by which we define what it means to be human and what human possibilities are, and all the various aspects of what is wealth and what proper life should be. All of those stories are currently framed within a culture in ways that support the system of domination and exploitation which I refer to as Empire. The thing that is really interesting to me is the deep level of conversations among people. You begin to see that there’s this contrast between the false stories of Empire and the real stories that define a real reality. The things that they really believe in their moments of reflection are the real story but they are so in conflict with the cultural stories that they think ‘so there must be something wrong with me, I am not really understanding, or maybe I am crazy’. But it’s through conversation that our shared truths, real truths come out and ultimately transform the culture.

An example I often use is from the women’s movement, how that emerged through conversations among women at a time when the prevailing story was that the key to happiness was to find the right man, marry him and devote your life to his service, and if you were a woman and that story was not working for you, you were supposed to believe that the fault was in you, that you were not a proper woman. So women got together and started having heartfelt conversations about their role and those cultural beliefs, and it turned out that that story was not working for many women. Women became very much aware that the fault was not in themselves, the fault was in the cultural stories so they changed the cultural stories and that unleashed the feminine power in society.'

Rich Nations to Offset Emissions with Birth Control

Population is a legitimate - if often taboo - issue the world needs to tackle in all countries, in conjunction with consumption...but addressing it through more offset follies linked to developing nations is just carbon colonialism:

Excerpt from The Guardian, 3 December 2009

'Consumers in the developed world are to be offered a radical method of offsetting their carbon emissions in an ambitious attempt to tackle climate change - by paying for contraception measures in poorer countries to curb the rapidly growing global population.

The scheme - set up by an organisation backed by Sir David Attenborough, the former diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell and green figureheads such as Jonathon Porritt and James Lovelock - argues that family planning is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic global warming.

Optimum Population Trust (Opt) stresses that birth control will be provided only to those who have no access to it, and only unwanted births would be avoided. Opt estimates that 80 million pregnancies each year are unwanted.

The cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the trust claims that family planning is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions. Every £4 spent on contraception, it says, saves one tonne of CO2 being added to global warming, but a similar reduction in emissions would require an £8 investment in tree planting, £15 in wind power, £31 in solar energy and £56 in hybrid vehicle technology.

Calculations based on the trust's figures show the 10 tonnes emitted by a return flight from London to Sydney would be offset by enabling the avoidance of one unwanted birth in a country such as Kenya. Such action not only cuts emissions but reduces the number of people who will fall victim to climate change, it says.

"The scheme, called PopOffsets, understands the connection [between population increase and climate change]," says the trust director Roger Martin. "It offers a practical and sensible response. For the first time ever individuals, companies and organisations will have the opportunity to offset their carbon voluntarily by supporting projects to provide family planning services where there is currently unmet demand."

In papers released with the launch of the offset scheme, the trust claims that reducing CO 2 by 34 gigatonnes would cost about $220bn with family planning, but more than $1tn with low carbon technologies. The 34 gigatonnes is roughly what the world emits in a year, and would be achieved by cutting the projected global population in 2050 by 500 million.

The world's population, presently 6.8 billion, is increasing by nearly 84 million a year. The growth is equivalent to a new country the size of Germany each year, or a city the size of Birmingham every week. It is expected by the UN to peak at about 9 billion people in 2050. By this time, UN scientists say global carbon emissions must have reduced by at least 80% to avoid dangerous rises in temperature, meaning the carbon footprint of each citizen in 2050 will have to be very low.

"The current level of human population growth is unsustainable and places acute pressure on global resources. Human activity is exacerbating global warming, and higher population levels inevitably mean higher emissions and more climate change victims," said Martin.

The giant carbon footprints of developed countries mean prevented births will save far more carbon than those in developing nations....'

Moving Beyond Carbon Calculator Culture

'...the problem with carbon calculators. They breed defeatism. Even if you do everything right it is not enough...'

Excerpt from The Mushy Pea, 16 November 2009

'...The world is awash with carbon calculators, each designed to tell you just how much carbon dioxide you are personally responsible for....

Now, even with no flights, no cars, and the second lowest gas and electricity usage on offer I am still on 12.14 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to 15 as the average. Why are my emissions so high? Well in part it is my share of public service emissions, but it is also the public transport I use. I regularly take the train to Edinburgh, Bristol and other lovely places like that. Travelling an average of 450 miles a month uses 2.27 tonnes of CO2 a year... (if you think that that is just 15 miles a day, a long distance commuter would be in real trouble!). Chuck in a couple of flights a year and I am screwed.

In fact even if I don't travel at all and cut my food intake in half, I am still using more than 8 tonnes a year - two and a half times the 2050 target for the UK. When I told some friends about this they threw their hands up in despair.

And this is the problem with carbon calculators. They breed defeatism. Even if you do everything right it is not enough. In my view that leads to one logical conclusion. We need to fundamentally change the means of production and consumption. Calculators are good in that they make you think about what you are doing, but that is not enough. Don't get me wrong, individual actions do count, but what we really need is an industrial and energy revolution, and that takes political as well as personal will. Carbon calculators and the like have their place, but we are out of time for that kind of solution. People need to feel empowered, but they also need to see the things they don't have the power to change too, and instead of getting sad, we need to get angry...'