Switch to Renewable Energy

Storm Coming (NASA)

GR–Ode to concerned scientists: They see the danger, they blow the horns and clang the bells, and they wait. But the ramparts remain empty. They turn to their family and friends, but dreamlike their voices are too soft and none respond.

“Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.

“For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

“This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”

“This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.” –Jeremy Lent (What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?).

How Many of You Switched to Renewable Energy?

In recent posts, I described the warnings of impending disaster. I didn’t expect to have an impact, and I wasn’t wrong. As Jeremy Lint points out in the article above, the media avoidance of unappetizing topics is too complete. And of course, our leaders in power avoid the subject in their subservience to wealth. My first hint that good advice for avoiding collapse would be futile was the minimal response to my discovery of the simple and inexpensive means for everyone to switch their homes from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. Like Pangloss, I’ve remained hopeful. But I read that book, and now I’ve turned to a more practical concern; the post-anthropocene survivors, the weeds, have absorbed my attention. Today’s weed is Shepherdspurse, a foreign but familiar little mustard that feeds butterflies and yields medicines for us humans.

The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH

GR: The grow-or-die business philosophy dominating global commerce leads to overuse of resources, accumulating wastes, plant and animal extinctions, and ecosystem losses. MacPherson writes about the nuclear industry which she finds be as dedicated to growth as all the others.

“To the nuclear industry the concept of ENOUGH is anathema. If you saw their slick advertising film “Pandora’s Promise” you would note that their major theme is endless GROWTH that will perpetually require ENDLESS ENERGY.

“The nuclear industry’s shills, and there are many of them, love to portray the anti-nuclear movement as wanting to send people back to living in a “dark ages” style.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Genuine environmentalists want all people to have a life of more light, of reasonable comfort and leisure time, of enough of the good things of this world, rather than of too much.

“It’s time that governments, bankers, industry leaders woke up to the reality that the world economy is threatened by growth, threatened by the accelerating destruction of this planet’s  air, water, land, and biodiversity. The destroyer is the growing human population and its growing consumption of ever more unnecessary products and unnecessary energy use.

“It’s time that people stepped away from endless individualistic  consumption, and towards a reasonable life of more cooperation, of working less hours. It’s time to move from our suicidal consumer culture, to a conserve culture.” –Christina MacPherson (Continue reading: The nuclear industry and the concept of ENOUGH – theme for June 2017 « Antinuclear.)

Responding to the War on Nature

GR:  How should we respond to the war on nature?

Monkey Wrench Gang (by R. Crumb)

Violent acts, no matter the goal, are never an effective long-term solution. They produce anger and violent reaction. No matter how slow and difficult they seem, charity, logic, and peaceful demonstration are the sure paths to lasting solutions. If peaceful acts appear ineffective, it is simply because THEY ARE TOO FEW AND TOO SMALL. In the battle to save nature, we are facing civilization-wide beliefs. For peaceful solutions to work, more people must participate. So make a sign about the issue that concerns you most and take part in all your local rallies, marches, sit-ins, and die-ins.

Here is a sample of the wrong tactics to use to fight for nature: “Eco-sabotage in the U S–The calendar of recent events.”

Deep Green Resistance:  “The Underground Action Calendar exists to publicize and normalize the use of militant and underground tactics in the fight for justice and sustainability. We include below a wide variety of actions from struggles around the world, especially those in which militants target infrastructure, because we believe this sort of action is necessary to dismantle civilization. Listing an action does not necessarily mean we support or stand behind the goals, strategies, or tactics of those actionists.

“This page highlights specific actions. See also our Resistance Profiles for broader information on the strategies, tactics, goals, and effectiveness of various historic and contemporary resistance groups.

“If you know of a published action appropriate to add to the Calendar, contact us at undergroundpromotion@deepgreenresistance.org

“NOTE: We ONLY accept communications about actions that are already publicly known in one form or another. DO NOT send original communiques directly to this email address. THIS IS NOT A SECURE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION.” –Deep Green Resistance (Continue: Underground Action Calendar – Deep Green Resistance News Service.)

Moving Away From the Pro-Growth Economy | MAHB

GR:  Here’s an annotated bibliography that explores alternatives to perpetual growth. Perpetual growth is the idea that economies will fail without continuous growth. It assumes that there are unlimited resources for growth. The idea guides our business enterprises and spills over into our social beliefs including our definition of well-being. The bibliography is part of the effort at MAHB to avoid global catastrophe.

Economy by spDuchamp | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

“The current economic system being utilized and internalized relies on perpetual growth. It has long operated counter to the reality that we are confined to a finite planet with finite resources. Yet, this system continues to be practiced and promoted globally. As the environmental and social repercussions of disbelief in limits become increasingly clear, so does our need for a new economic system —one that is not wedded to growth. Neither growth in the number of consumers nor growth in the amount consumed.

“But what would an alternative to the pro-growth economy look like? There are multiple thinkers and organizations taking on exactly this question. However, these efforts can be disparate and focused on their differences rather than their common agreement that an alternative to pro-growth economics is not only possible but required.” –Erika Gavenus (Continue reading: Moving Away From the Pro-Growth Economy | MAHB

Here’s a sample of annotations from the bibliography section on “Limits to Growth.”

Meadows, D. H., D. L. Meadows, J. Randers and W. W. Behrens (1972) The limits to growth. New York: Universe. (http://www.donellameadows.org/wp-content/userfiles/Limits-to-Growth-digital-scan-version.pdf).

This seminal work on the analysis of limits to economic growth was published in 1972. The team used the innovative model World 3 to consider. World 3 “is based in system dynamic—a method for studying the world that deals with understanding how complex systems change over time. Internal feedback loops within the structure of the system influence the entire system behavior.” Among the analysis’s conclusions:

Meadows, D., Randers, J., and Meadows, D. (2004) Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. http://donellameadows.org/archives/a-synopsis-limits-to-growth-the-30-year-update/

Three of the authors of The Limits to Growth (1972) revisit the original report’s findings and consider if and how the situation has changed over the 30 years since the original publication. They find:

“While the past 30 years has shown some progress, including new technologies, new institutions, and a new awareness of environmental problems, the authors are far more pessimistic than they were in 1972. Humanity has squandered the opportunity to correct our current course over the last 30 years, they conclude, and much must change if the world is to avoid the serious consequences of overshoot in the 21st century.”

Ackerman, F., Stanton, E.A., DeCanio, S.J., Goodstein, E., Howarth, R.B., Norgaard, R.B., Norman, C.S., Sheeran, K.A., 2009. The economics of 350: the benefits and costs of climate stabilization. Economics for Equity and Environment. http://e360.yale.edu/images/features/Economics_of_350.pdf

Stopping global warming and protecting the earth’s climate is a daunting challenge. To prevent a climate crisis we have to move quickly to transform the ways in which we create and use energy, develop petroleum-free transportation, and much more. These changes will not be free; there is already resistance to paying for the first steps along this road. Some think that reaching for more ambitious mitigation targets, and quicker reductions in emissions, would mean economic disaster. Some economists have become known for advocating only slow and modest responses to climate change, lest the costs of mitigation become too large. This report demonstrates that the ‘go slow’ recommendations are unjustified. A number of economic analyses, informed by recent scientific findings and using reasonable assumptions, suggest that more ambitious targets and quicker action make good economic sense. The warnings about climate change are growing steadily more ominous — but it has not, as a consequence, become impossibly expensive to save the planet. We can still afford a sustainable future. The bad news about climate change relates mostly to the costs of inaction. As greenhouse gas emissions grow, it is the cost of doing nothing that is becoming unbearable, not the cost of taking action. If there is reason for optimism amidst the dire warnings it is this: the costs of insuring the planet against climate disaster are not prohibitive. The best estimates of the costs of a vigorous, immediate effort to rebuild the world economy around carbon-free technologies are still in the range of one to three percent of world output (GDP) per year, even with the more stringent emissions reduction goals we are supporting. Scientific research continues to yield evidence that climate change is occurring faster, and its consequences could be more severe, than previously expected: the costs of climate inaction, or even of delay in mounting a large-scale response to the climate crisis, are getting worse and worse. We cannot afford a little climate policy, half-measures that would leave us all vulnerable to the immense risks of an increasingly destructive climate. We need a big initiative, a comprehensive global deal on protecting the earth’s climate by rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Because the status quo is not sustainable, the most economical choice is to change, as quickly, cost-effectively, and comprehensively as possible. This study looks at both sides of the equation, beginning with the worsening news about climate risks (i.e., the costs of inaction), then turning to the costs of an adequate response.

Hall, C. and J. Day (2009) ‘Revisiting the limits to growth after peak oil’. American Scientist 97(3): 230-237. http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/revisiting-the-limits-to-growth-after-peak-oil

Hall and Day take a critical look at some of the leading publications from the 1970s, particularly The Limits to Growth (1972),  that brought attention to the diminishing resource base for humans. Comparing values predicted by the limits-to-growth model and actual values the authors suggest that, “there is growing evidence that the original ‘Cassandras’ were right on the mark in their general assessments, if not always in the details or exact timing, about the dangers of continued growth of human population and their increasing levels of consumption in a world approaching very real material constraints.” (p230). Hall and Day argue that The Limits to Growth along with other seminal publications of this era, need to be revisited and included in contemporary conversations.

Bardi, U. (2011) The Limits to Growth Revisited. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

“The Limits to Growth” (Meadows, 1972) generated unprecedented controversy with its predictions of the eventual collapse of the world’s economies. First hailed as a great advance in science, “The Limits to Growth” was subsequently rejected and demonized. However, with many national economies now at risk and global peak oil apparently a reality, the methods, scenarios, and predictions of “The Limits to Growth” are in great need of reappraisal. In The Limits to Growth Revisited, Ugo Bardi examines both the science and the polemics surrounding this work, and in particular the reactions of economists that marginalized its methods and conclusions for more than 30 years. “The Limits to Growth” was a milestone in attempts to model the future of our society, and it is vital today for both scientists and policy makers to understand its scientific basis, current relevance, and the social and political mechanisms that led to its rejection. Bardi also addresses the all-important question of whether the methods and approaches of “The Limits to Growth” can contribute  to an understanding of what happened to the global economy in the Great Recession and where we are headed from there.

  • Shows how “The Limits to Growth” is a subject more relevant today than when the book was first published
  • Demonstrates how scenario-building using system dynamics models or other methods is an essential tool in understanding possible futures
  • Examines the factors that may lead to the rejection of good science when the conclusions are unpleasant
  • Separates the reality that the future can never be predicted with certainty from the need to prepare for it.   http://www.springer.com/us/book/9781441994158

Turner, G. (2014) Is Global Collapse Imminent?, MSSI Research Paper No. 4, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne. http://sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/MSSI-ResearchPaper-4_Turner_2014.pdf

Turner provides another review of the Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972), this time specifically comparing that report’s modeled “standard run” or business-as-usual to forty years of economic and population data. Limits to Growth called for considerable change in social behavior and technological progress early in the advance of environmental or resource issues. Turner finds that these were not achieved, and that data collected since the publication of the Limits to Growth most closely aligns with the projected “standard run” of the Limits to Growth World3 model. This “standard run” resulted in “collapse of the economy and human population (i.e. a relatively rapid fall)… in the 21st century, reducing living conditions to levels akin to the early 20th century according to average global conditions” (p4). Turner concludes that this paper “aims to forewarn of potential global collapse–perhaps more imminent than generally recognized–in the hope that this may spur on change, or at least to prepare readers for a worst case outcome” (p5).

Ehrlich, P.R. and A. Ehrlich (2016) ‘Population, resources, and the faith-based economy: the situation in 2016’. Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality 1(3). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41247-016-0003-y

Paul and Anne Ehrlich summarize today’s population-resources-environment situation in comparison to the situation in 1986 when their seminal book The Population Bomb was published. In concluding that the human predicament is now much more serious than in 2016, the authors specifically discuss “faith-based macroeconomics” and the assumptions current neoclassical economics hinge on. Specifically, the authors criticize “faith in continuous economic expansion through technology, markets, and the so-called knowledge economy” and provide the example of Paul Krugman’s position that further growth is a cure for problems. (p3). The authors also question the assumption that people make rational, informed choices –an underpinning of how markets are thought to be efficient. The authors do praise the work of multiple ecological economics to push the discipline towards recognizing real-world constraints. Ultimately, the authors conclude that a profound change of society is required to “provide a slim hope of avoiding a collapse of civilization,” a change that would include moving away from myths of continued economic growth.