Politicians must set aside blinkered ideologies in the climate endgame

The disaster is upon us.  The writers of a commentary in The Guardian lay out precisely where we stand:

“For climate change is now an existential risk to humanity. That is, a risk posing large negative consequences which will be irreversible, resulting inter alia in major reductions in global and national populations, mass species extinction, economic disruption and social chaos, unless carbon emissions are reduced far more rapidly than proposed under the Paris agreement. The risk is immediate, in that it is being locked in today by the insistence of Australian conservatives and their global kin to expand the use of fossil fuels when the carbon budget to stay below sensible temperature limits is already exhausted.

It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate. We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.”

‘Major transformation’ ahead for Earth’s ecosystems

From a new study:  “If we allow climate change to go unchecked, the vegetation of this planet is going to look completely different than it does today, and that means a huge risk to the diversity of the planet,” said co-author Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.

100 percent wishful thinking: the green-energy cornucopia

We cannot have a high energy, industrial economy run by renewables.  That is impossible.  As this article from Stan Cox at Green Social Thought points out, we should be trying to achieve energy sufficiency to allow healthy, meaningful lives.

read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:  “The 100-percenters believe such a scenario is achievable while their critics conclude that it is not, but they agree on the ultimate goal: a permanent high-energy economy.

That part of the dogma, not the “100-percent” part, is the problem. America does need to convert to fully renewable energy as quickly as possible. But juxtaposing the 100-percent scenarios that promise a permanent high-energy economy with critiques showing such projects to be futile should lead us to a different vision altogether: that, at least in affluent countries, it would be better simply to transform society so that it operates on far less end-use energy while assuring sufficiency for all. That would bring a 100%-renewable energy system within closer reach and avoid the outrageous technological feats and gambles required by high-energy dogma. It would also have the advantage of being possible.”

Capitalism cannot defeat climate change

Well, in this piece of commentary, the author says, “don’t hold your CO2.”  Capitalism is both the cause *pursuit of profits through economic growth powered by fossil fuels) and the beneficiary of climate change (through externalized costs.)

Capitalism exists to increase profits – to grow financially.  In a capitalist regime, there is no incentive to undertake anything that will risk slowing wealth accumulation, which is of course what will need to happen to effectively mitigate climate change.  If we are to stop and reverse climate change, the “first law of holes” applies.

Are we serious about climate change?

Below is a manifesto of sorts written by a young person who understands the enormous scale and difficulty of doing away with fossil fuels but still is worth trying.  Do you agree?

By Samuel Miller McDonald: “If we’re not working to completely fill every seat in the nation’s state and federal governments with radical climate hawks, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not planning to expropriate all fossil fuel companies to shut them down by any means necessary, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not agreeing on and then religiously evangelizing a comprehensive, desirable vision for a completely decarbonized world, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not working to bend (or change) the law to build local, collectively owned and managed microgrids—currently illegal in much of the US—in every single neighborhood in the country, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not personally running for office, training as thinkers, inventors, engineers, etc., and talking relentlessly about this at risk to our reputations, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not organizing people into tightly coordinated units to mobilize to disrupt supply chains or Congressional committee meetings, then we’re not serious.

If we’re not talking about 99.9999% capital tax rates on billionaires, millionaires, and large companies to fund the transition, if we’re not pushing for extensive social services—free healthcare, free energy, guaranteed income, free higher education—that can make everyone more resilient to climate impacts, and we’re not advocating for permanently banning monopolies and capping personal wealth and totally trashing our current economic paradigm in favor of another, then we’re not serious.”

Do landscape architects understand climate peril?

By Steve Austin

I am a proud member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Unfortunately, it appears the fine folks at the organization just don’t understand how much peril we face because of climate change.

They’ve recently released a sustainable transportation initiative that makes many vital points in an understandable way, but which absolutely misses the mark on what must happen with carbon emissions if we are to have any chance of our civilization surviving climate change.

Here’s the relevant section:

Low-emission: Sustainable transportation systems don’t contribute to climate change; instead, they encourage low-emission modes of transportation such as mass transit, biking, or walking. Sustainable land use practices such as transit-oriented development facilitate multi-modal systems where residents can easily walk or bike to meet basic daily needs. Landscape architects plan regions, cities, and neighborhoods and design streets that support widespread adoption of low-emission transportation options.

The issue is simple: there can no long be any such thing as LOW EMISSIONS. There can only be ZERO EMISSIONS combined with excess carbon dioxide DRAWDOWN by environmental or engineered means.   We must STOP emissions completely, and then REVERSE the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“Low emissions” are simply a SLOW but CONTINUE pattern that will keep us on the highway to hell.  CO2 emissions are currently nearing 410 ppm in the atmosphere, well Continue reading “Do landscape architects understand climate peril?”

Planning great cities and including cars is impossible

This article is nearly 50 years old, but it captures the futility of urban planning that includes automobiles.  Yes we knew even then that any city planning that included cars was worthless.  Yet, cars are an absolute necessity for life in the USA.  What to do? Well, we’ve destroyed most cities by spreading them out to accommodate for the low rise architecture and segregated land uses made possible by cars and the parking lots necessary for all those cars.  Suburban sprawl, in other words, is the only planning mode possible, and even now, it fails us.  The places we live are ugly and disconnected and not worth caring about, and choked with traffic just the same.  This explains why so many people, if they can afford to, choose to live ever further and further away from the messes that are our cities, causing ever more environmental destruction.

The author of the article was André Gorz , a philosopher, journalist, and writer. He was known as one of the first ecosocialists and political ecologists.

We must tell the truth: part 1

By Steve Austin

We must absolutely tell the truth as to what trying to stem and then reverse climate change will mean: the end of industrial-consuming society. That society is founded upon the use of fossil fuels. We do not get that society without them. There is no choice of “getting greener” and still basically living like we do. To deal with climate change we will live completely different lives, with less energy, less material things, more inconveniences, and more hard work.

Buying a Chevy Volt is not going to work.

A recent commentary from the LA Times that addresses the destruction that climate Continue reading “We must tell the truth: part 1”

Where youth are in the USA

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 10.01.54 AM

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 10.09.45 AM

This map shows, in blue areas, where the counties are that contain the youngest Americans.  My theory is that most of those blue areas are college towns, Indian reservations, areas with high percentage of farm workers, and certainly Mormon areas in Utah.  The original map is here.

Below is a close up of the Pacific and Inland Northwest.  Whitman County – home to Washington State University, is the youngest county in the entire region.  Latah County, Idaho, home to the University of Idaho, is adjacent to the east.  The prime farming areas of central Washington also contains many young people.  I though that the counties that contain Seattle and Portland would skew bluer, but do not. The mountains of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana have a comparatively older population.

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 10.04.48 AM