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What Should We Want to Hold Onto?

What Should We Want to Hold Onto?

The ongoing debates in many different groups (and on social media in general) are really beginning to show that some people have a good comprehension and grasp of the predicaments we face. On the other hand, I still see so many folks who want to try to hold onto things which simply cannot continue (with anything positive happening as a result). So many things which are sold as “solutions” don’t take reality into account and those who buy into these ideas are going to find out the hard way what constitutes sustainability and what doesn’t. Sadly, even things which are sustainable today may not be tomorrow. As the ecological systems we depend upon break down, options keep on narrowing.

As I wrote in It’s a Trap, Don’t Do Itfocusing so intently on certain goals can sometimes be seen as foolish once one zooms out and looks at the bigger picture. Many of these goals often come as a result of fears, so looking into those fears more deeply should be undertaken BEFORE embarking on these certain goals. A perfect example is demonstrated in this site. This is yet another trap, although it might take one a while to come to this realization. From the owner regarding the water supply for the silo, quote:

Water is a 2 inch main from the county water system. There isn’t consistent ground water in this area due to bedrock formations and we are high on a hill. This fact also keeps the facility from having a water problem leaking in like most other remaining silos have.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors

Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors


In the fight to address climate change, renewable energy companies are often assumed to be Jedi Knights. Valiantly struggling to save the planet, wind and solar interests are thought to be locked in mortal combat with large fossil fuel corporations that continue to mine, drill, and blast through the earth’s fragile ecosystems, dragging us all into a grim and sweaty dystopia.

In the United States and elsewhere, solar panels glitter on rooftops and in fields; turbines tower majestically over rural landscapes. The fact that, globally, the renewables sector continues to break records in terms of annual deployment levels is, for many, a source of considerable comfort. Acting like informational Xanax to ease widespread climate anxiety, news headlines reassure us that the costs of wind and solar power continue to fall, and therefore wind and solar is (or soon will be) “competitive” with energy from coal and gas. The transition to clean energy is, therefore, unstoppable.

By Any Means Necessary

Of course, wind and solar companies are not charities. They are, in a phrase, profit driven. They want to attract investment capital; they seek to build market share, and they all want to pay out dividends to shareholders. In this respect, renewable energy (and “clean tech”) companies are not fundamentally different from fossil fuel companies.

. . . [W]ind and solar companies are not charities. . . . In this respect, [they] are not fundamentally different from fossil fuel companies.

But so what? North-based environmental groups frequently point out that we have just a handful of years to start to make major reductions in emissions. Therefore, this is not a time, they insist, to split hairs or to make the perfect the enemy of the good…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Grappling with growth

Synergies and tensions between degrowth and people’s movements

We live in an age of converging crises. Only days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a damning report on the state of the environmental crisis. At the same time, while a few countries are recuperating from the pandemic, an on-going third wave of Covid wreaks havoc across the Global South. In both crises, the economic imperative overrides other concerns and appears to render necessary changes illusory. Even among staunch proponents of our current economic system, calls for reform grow louder.1 The health and environmental crises are illustrative of broader tendencies: environmental disasters, rising global inequality, political polarization, a strengthening of right-wing extremism, anti-immigrant policies, and accompanying human misery.

In light of this, movements are mobilizing. Beyond reform, they argue that systemic changes are needed. Their struggles take a holistic view, emphasizing how the individual crises are entangled and driven by underlying structural factors. A question moving increasingly to the center of attention is growth itself as a driver of social inequality and unsustainability. Critics of growth argue that reckoning with environmental devastation and social inequality is directly tied to leaving behind the growth-paradigm. Among the frameworks and movements criticizing growth, degrowth is especially prevalent.

Degrowth argues that environmental sustainability and social justice necessitate transitioning beyond growth-reliance. In order to address social and environmental issues, we have to transition towards societies that are not just smaller in size but also operate according to a different logic – a logic that is not determined by the market sphere.2

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What is the Root Issue of Our Unsustainability?

What is the Root Issue of Our Unsustainability?

Two pictures from Falls Mill, Tennessee, depicting life in the late 1800s. The mill now houses a museum and is open for tours and a bed and breakfast is also on site.

Last week, I updated the files here with over 250 new articles and studies (see this list). There were 59 new entries in the Climate Change and Collapse file alone. So many of these files now contain new studies which are increasingly worrying; some of these new entries are located in the Species and Biodiversity LossExtinctionDiseasePollution LoadingTree Decline and Deforestation, and Ocean Acidification and Marine Life files. As can be seen in these studies, this is a rapidly developing situation which is now beginning to gather speed and overwhelming existing infrastructure to deal with the ongoing disasters.

There is a new article regarding methane emissions through permafrost thaw which is rather chilling. Another version in the Smithsonian Magazine describes the “methane time bomb” and lists a paper from Andrew Glikson from July of 2018. Over the past several years, there has been a growing debate over just how much of a threat methane emissions pose to the growing climate situation. Methane emissions coming from hydrates (clathrates), permafrost thaw, thermokarst lakes, and even from behind dams in the thousands of reservoirs we have built are growing, and combined with other methane sources, provide about a quarter of effects contributing to climate change. Some scientists have argued that these pose no threat and that “all we have to do is cut emissions” and nature will solve the issue. This is, of course, pure lunacy, and designed to prevent panic…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Beyond the Growth Imperative

For 30 years, environmental economist Tim Jackson has been at the fore of international debates on sustainability. Over a decade since his hugely influential Prosperity Without Growth, the world is both much changed – reeling from a pandemic and with unprecedented prominence for environmental issues – and maddeningly the same, still locked in a growth-driven destructive spiral. What does Jackson’s latest contribution, Post Growth, have to say about the way out of the dilemma?

Tim Jackson’s new book, Post Growth: Life after Capitalism (Polity Press, 2021), follows his ground-breaking Prosperity without Growth (2009, updated in 2017). Whilst the previous work reflected, partly, the austerity-driven answers to the Great Recession, Post Growth falls into a different world. It is a world where the recognition of climate change as the greatest challenge facing humankind is moving towards consensus. In the United States, even the Republican Party’s younger members are looking for ways out of the corner into which the party has manoeuvred itself. It is also a world where the Covid-19 pandemic has not only taken many lives and destroyed many livelihoods, but – via the need for state intervention – has also dealt a blow to the gung-ho neoliberalism that is one of the main culprits of financial chaos and the looming breakdown of planetary life-support systems.

US President Joe Biden’s rescue plan as well as the EU’s Next Generation pandemic recovery fund are questioning the free-market paradigm that has held sway the since the Reagan-Thatcher area, and that had trickled down into centre-left politics as well. In parallel, from the Paris Agreement to the European Commission’s European Green Deal, environmental concerns that were condescendingly smiled upon until recently have now moved centre stage. The newly discovered role for the state and the emerging environmental consciousness might not be discussed at length in Jackson’s new book, but they are the backdrop against which it is to be read.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

For all the talk of renewable energy, electric vehicles and plant-based diets, there’s a gaping hole in the way we’re trying to solve accelerating climate change.

We will not stay below 2°C of warming while pursuing economic growth – yet barely anyone talks about it.

Since the end of World War II Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been the metric of human prosperity in Western nations – the idea being that if the productivity of the economy increases so will the wellbeing of the people within that economy. And for a while that was the case – but since the 1970’s increases in GDP have, on average, failed to translate into increases in wellbeing and happiness.

It is not surprising. Research has shown that once a certain GDP threshold, or level of wellbeing, has been met people gain little from consuming more ‘stuff’ – a necessary requirement for continuous GDP growth.

Robert F Kennedy eloquently summed up the inadequacy of GDP as a metric of wellbeing at a speech he gave in 1968:

[t]he gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

What’s more, GDP has never been, and can’t be, decoupled from material footprint, including energy[i]. This means we cannot roll out renewable energy fast enough to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming below 2°C – if we continue growing our economy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

TSHTF

TSHTF

You just know everything’s going pear shaped when the venerable acronym TSHTF, well known in our circles, hits mainstream media….. The below article written by Fiona Blackwood from the Hobart ABC Bureau appeared on the ABC News website and it’s so full of ironies I just had to pull it apart. So please bear with what will turn out to be an editing nightmare on my phone while I am still without a working laptop…

“Tasmania has been listed alongside New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Ireland as potential havens of the future.” Right….. So whoever wrote this has no idea about food security, because literally nowhere in the northern hemisphere is safe AFAIC.

“The study, published in the journal Sustainability, found Tasmania could become recognised “as Australia’s ‘local refuge (lifeboat)’ as conditions on the continental mainland may become less amenable to supporting large human populations in the future”.

While many people have already moved to Tasmania to escape the heat in other states, some doomsday preppers are weighing up the island state as a post-apocalyptic option.”

Scottsdale's future is changing
Tasmania is already being chosen by mainlanders for its scenic landscape and relaxed lifestyle. (Supplied: Dorset Council)

“Tasmania scored highly in the report in terms of its climate, electricity supply, agricultural resources and population density.”

Mr Polin's land was put on the market in January 2012.
Mr Polin’s land included a bunker during the cold war in case of a nuclear holocaust.(ABC)

“The study states that rising populations and energy use have led to climate change, increased risk of pandemics and ecological destruction.

As a result, it found that human civilisation is in a “perilous position with regards to its future”.

“Professor of Human Geography and Planning at the University of Tasmania Jason Byrne agreed the state would be a good option to seek refuge “if things went pear-shaped globally”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Zealand rated best place to survive global societal collapse

Study citing ‘perilous state’ of industrial civilisation ranks temperate islands top for resilience

Bunker repurposed for a US ‘doomsday’ community
Bunker repurposed for a US ‘doomsday’ community. A study proposes that countries able to grow food for their populations, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration and maintain an electrical grid, are best placed to withstand severe shocks. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

New Zealand, Iceland, the UK, Tasmania and Ireland are the places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a study.

The researchers said human civilisation was “in a perilous state” due to the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that had developed and the environmental damage this had caused.

A collapse could arise from shocks, such as a severe financial crisis, the impacts of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists said.

To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities came out on top.

The researchers said their study highlighted the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They said that a globalised society that prized economic efficiency damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needed to exist in food and other vital sectors.

Billionaires have been reported to be buying land for bunkers in New Zealand in preparation for an apocalypse. “We weren’t surprised New Zealand was on our list,” said Prof Aled Jones, at the Global Sustainability Institute, at Anglia Ruskin University, in the UK.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

To Be Sustainable, Green Energy Must Generate Adequate Taxable Revenue

To Be Sustainable, Green Energy Must Generate Adequate Taxable Revenue

What allows any type of energy to be sustainable? I would argue that one of the requirements for sustainability is adequate production of taxable revenue. Company managements depend upon taxable revenue for many purposes, including funding new investments and paying dividends to shareholders. Governments depend upon taxable income to collect enough taxes to provide infrastructure and programs for their growing populations.

Taxable income is a major way that “net energy” is transferred to future investment and to the rest of the economy. If this form of net energy is too low, governments will collapse from lack of funding. Energy production will fall from lack of reinvestment. This profitability needs to come from the characteristics of the energy products, allowing more goods and services to be produced efficiently. This profitability cannot be created simply by the creation of more government debt; the rise in the price of energy is tied to the affordability of goods, particularly the goods required by low-income people, such as food. This affordability issue tends to put a cap on prices that can be charged for energy products.

It seems to me that Green Energy sources are held to far too low a standard. Their financial results are published after subsidies are reflected, making them look profitable when, in reality, they are not. This is one of the things that makes many people from the financial community believe that Green Energy is the solution for the future.

In this post, I will discuss these ideas further. A related issue is, “Which type of oil production fell most in the 2018-2021 period?” Many people had expected that perhaps high-cost energy production would fall. Strangely enough, the production that fell most was that of OPEC oil exporters. These oil exporters often have a very low cost of energy production. The production of US oil from shale also fell.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

If It’s Profitable, Is It Really Sustainable?

If It’s Profitable, Is It Really Sustainable?

That an economic activity has to be profitable is considered a truism, something taken for granted and not reflected upon. But what if the opposite is the case?

When I first took up small-scale organic farming in the 1970s, I spent a lot of energy in developing new methods and machinery to increase efficiency in production. The early organic advocates went a long way to assure other growers, farmers, businesses and politicians that organic farming could be profitable, even within the prevailing economic system. Even more so, if externalities would be factored into the price (which they still are not). I see a similar discourse surrounding regenerative agriculture, permaculture, market gardening or artisanal bakery. But perhaps this assurance of profitability was misguided all along. What if profit is not desirable? What if the pursuit of profit is at the core of the ills of society?

There is an ethical perspective on profit that questions if it is fair that capital owners get richer while workers don’t. That question is justified, and could be the subject of another essay, but fairness is outside of the scope of this article. My focus instead is on what implications profit has for the economy and the ever-growing use of resources.

Profit in the sustainability narrative

In the world of business, an enterprise is considered to be viable only if it is profitable. In the prevailing sustainability discourse, we are told that there is no contradiction between profitability and environmental or social progress. On the contrary, profitability is seen a prerequisite for sustainable development. Environmental politics is full of concepts such as “triple-bottom-line” and “people, planet, profit”. But, by and large, this is simply not correct. Profitability is incompatible with sustainability. Let me explain why.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Teaching (or Cultivating) Sustainability (or Inhabitance), Ten Years On

Teaching (or Cultivating) Sustainability (or Inhabitance), Ten Years On

For ten years now, I’ve been teaching one version or another of a class on personal simplicity and economic and environmental sustainability here at Friends University, a formerly Quaker, non-denominational Christian, small liberal arts college in Wichita, KS. Though I teach at a religious university, I don’t teach religion myself–and for that reason, I at first doubted that Jennifer Ayres’s Inhabitance: Ecological Religious Education would much that would be pedagogically relevant to me, despite my strong sympathy with her subject matter. In this, I was partly wrong. While Ayres’s book includes many intriguing (and a few borderline outrageous) educational suggestions, its greatest value to me as a teacher is the way it inspires me to take stock of what I’ve tried to do with with my sustainability class, and to perhaps rethink what my primary goals in that course should be.

My original aim in the design of this class–about which I’ve probably shared my thoughts about too many times already–was always primarily getting students out of the classroom and into the growing, producing, fecund Kansas ecosystems all around us, showing them that there are patterns of life that can keep people fed and housed and happy without committing oneself to the rat race. It shouldn’t have been a shock to me, after I’d lived in Kansas for a few years, to realize how many of my students really had no connection with farming or food systems–but it was, nonetheless. Sometimes broad popular stereotypes about “living in the heartland” would be confirmed as I talked with the students taking the class, and some of them would end up taking the lead in teaching me about cattle ranching or winter wheat or regenerative agriculture…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Not just another drought: The American West moves from dry to bone dry

Not just another drought: The American West moves from dry to bone dry

The American West is having a drought. So, what else is new? And, that’s just the point. The American West has been in an extended drought since 2000, so far the second worst in the last 1200 years. Here is the key quote from the National Geographic article cited above:

In the face of continued climate change, some scientists and others have suggested that using the word “drought” for what’s happening now might no longer be appropriate, because it implies that the water shortages may end. Instead, we might be seeing a fundamental, long-term shift in water availability all over the West.

That is what climate scientists have been warning about all along. The problems we are now experiencing are not just cycles or fluctuations—although those continue to be important—but rather, permanent changes in the climate (that is, on any timeline that matters to humans).

I wrote about this drought when it was only 10 years old. (For a sense of how bad it is now, see the U.S. Drought Monitor.) Back then it did not seem that residents and businesses were taking it seriously, even if some water officials were. There have been ups and downs in the intervening years, but mostly downs.

There is a reason that most major cities are located near water and not in arid regions. Water is heavy, fluid and not easily transported—though vast and expensive water projects do just that. Water cannot be easily created from its constituents elements, oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen is abundant everywhere on Earth. But hydrogen in its elemental state is not readily available and must be extracted from other sources such as natural gas. The cost of manufacturing water is prohibative or we’d likely be doing it already.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fixing overfishing

As with many other aspects of government policy, overfishing and other fishing-related environmental issues are a real problem, but it’s not clear that government intervention is the solution.

Over three billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein. About 12% of the world relies on fisheries in some form or another, with 90% of these being small-scale fishermen — think a small crew in a boat, not a ship, using small nets or even rods, reels and lures. There are 18.9 million fishermen in the world, most of them falling under this same small-scale fisherman rubric.

Countries primarily concerned with serious efforts to curb overfishing are generally not the ones who are most guilty of overfishing. What this means is that the costs of overfishing are disproportionately borne by the countries least engaged in practices that are counter to efforts to make commercial fishing more sustainable while also promoting conservation of fish biodiversity.

These are important issues not just for commercial fishermen, but also those interested in questions of conservation and sustainability in general, as well as recreational fishermen and really anyone who uses fish as a food source. As the ocean goes, so goes the planet, so it is of paramount importance for everyone to educate themselves on what is driving overfishing, what its consequences are and what meaningful steps can be taken.

What is overfishing?

Overfishing is, in some sense, a rational reaction to increasing market needs for fish. Most people consume approximately twice as much food as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on earth as there were at the close of the 1960s. This is one driver of the 30% of commercially fished waters being classified as being ‘overfished’. This means that the stock of available fishing waters are being depleted faster than they can be replaced.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XII

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XII

Teotihuacan, Mexico (1986) Photo by author

My comment on an article regarding the cessation of a provincial programme for municipalities in British Columbia meant to support and fund climate change initiatives.

Not sure what the situation is like in BC surrounding provincial mandates and municipalities, but I would judge a programme that is supposedly to support climate change initiatives ​in Ontario municipalities to be primarily about political theatre, certainly not about addressing any type of environmental dilemma. I live in a municipality on the edge of the Greater Toronto Area that has been chasing perpetual growth for many, many years. In fact, it uses this growth to try and attract more growth, marketing itself as one of the fastest growing areas in Ontario and thus the place to live and work.

This growth comes at a steep cost, if you ask me. That being the expansion of suburban residences over prime agricultural land and sensitive ecological habitat being on the glacial till known as the Oak Ridges Moraine. They have shifted their plot somewhat in arguing that they are concentrating on densification of the town proper (they just approved a large apartment/condo complex in the middle of town that far exceeds previous ‘bylaws’ regarding height restrictions — you know, a one-off exception), yet the construction of residential communities continues unabated in areas outside this supposed new approach as farmland continues to be paved over; adding to the looming crisis Ontario will face as it adds more and more people yet already imports more than 80% of its food.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canadian Banks Have an Outsized Impact on Global Fossil Fuel Financing

Canadian Banks Have an Outsized Impact on Global Fossil Fuel Financing

We pledged to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, but will financial institutions undermine this goal?

When 18-year-old climate activist Naisha Khan wants to start a conversation about how banking fuels climate change, she asks someone how they think their bank makes money to pay them interest each month.

If that person banks with any of Canada’s five largest banks, that money likely comes partly from fossil fuels. But Canadian banks don’t just make money from fossil fuels — they’re also financing the industry, big time.

Canada has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but since the 2015 Paris Agreement the country’s five largest banks have poured $726 billion into fossil fuels, according to environmental advocacy organization Stand.earth.

That’s based on numbers from the Rainforest Action Network’s latest annual analysis of the world’s largest 60 banks.

Ranked by the amount of financing they’ve provided to fossil fuel companies since 2016, the Royal Bank of Canada comes in fifth in the world with US$160 billion. TD Bank is ninth at US$129 billion, Scotiabank is 11th at US$114 billion, the Bank of Montreal is 16th at US$97 billion and CIBC is 22nd at US$67 billion.

Stand.earth adds up this financing and converts it to Canadian dollars using the average exchange rate for the five-year period of C$1.28 to US$1.

When asked by the CBC why it continues to fund fossil fuel projects, RBC “reaffirmed its commitment to net zero emissions, including a promise of $500 billion in sustainable finance by 2025,” the broadcaster reported. “It said it was also the first bank to commit not to lend to resource projects in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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