Archive for June 20th, 2007

We Simply May Not Have Time to Wait for the Technology Fairy

Sharon June 20th, 2007

The simple facts are these - the IPCC report, which is scary enough, is vastly more conservative than it should be. It turns out that by every measure, the earth is warming faster than expected, and feedback loops are starting to build. In a paper released yesterday, major climate scientists evaluated 400,000 years of climate data and suggested that climate change could be far more deadly and far more rapid than we think.

Here’s the article, sent to me by several people:

It turns out that we have much less time to fix this than the IPCC or anyone else believes - a decade at most. And that our future is that much bleaker. And this article speaks only of one of the

The most disturbing bit of the article is the last line, particularly when read in parallel with the last comment of Ban Ki-Moon in the article I posted about yesterday.

Here’s what climate scientists say it will take to save the world, *along with* “draconian” emissions limits: “We conclude that a feasible strategy for planetary rescue almost surely requires a means of extracting [greenhouse gases] from the air.”

Now here’s what Mr. Ban says about saving Africa from climate change induced drought: “Any real solution to Darfur’s troubles involves sustained economic development,” perhaps using new technologies, genetically modified grains or irrigation, while bettering health, education and sanitation” (if you missed this article, the link is here:

That is, at the end of each article where a little hope is supposed to be offered, we are told that the only hope is a technological breakthrough - that is, that the authors can’t imagine anything that would fix this except a magic visit from the technology fairy. I don’t think I’m pushing the evidence to admit that in both cases, the speakers don’t fully know what to do, and they are, if not scared, at a loss to offer a real and immediate solution.

I’ve talked about the problems of waiting for technologies to emerge before. The whole process of developing them is quite carbon intensive, and with a decade to keep the planet from roasting, and vastly less to keep more violence from breaking out in Africa, we need a faster plan than “hope for new technologies.”

Moreover, just as our plans for renewable energies at this stage are working on the (wrong) assumption that we can still keep our private cars and still keep our houses at 70 degrees, and still be affluent, so too is at least Mr. Ban working on the assumption that we’re inevitably stuck with the same economic and political models. The simple hopelessness of his call is based, in part, on the inability to imagine real change. And it is hopeless within those parameters. It is hopeless if we have to wait for technology fairies. It is hopeless if we have to keep growth capitalism up and running forever.

The only hope we have is the notion that the assumptions we make are merely assumptions - that we don’t actually have to live as we do right now. That we don’t have to extract food from the third world, while burning our own dinners in our cars. That we don’t have keep growing - in fact, we can’t. That we can’t reduce our usage by not 50%, but 90 or 95%.

As far as I can tell, there is no better plan than this. Build soil. Plant trees. Grow food. Make Do. Do Without. Give what you can to others. Fix your mistakes. Cut your emissions to the bone, and then cut them some more. And every time it hurts (and it will sometimes), close your eyes and imagine your nieces and nephews or your children or grandchildren or your friend’s beloved children grown to womanhood and manhood in a world where there is food and peace and water. And then imagine them without. And ask yourself “What else don’t I need so I can bring about a decent future.”

Otherwise, when we say we can’t do it, we’re choosing the next generation’s future. The places we love underwater. Wild creatures that live only in zoos. The deaths of more than a billion people from drought and famine - some of them people we love personally, and all of them people we should be capable of caring about.

On the plus side, the Riot for Austerity is growing *FAST.* We’re working on transitioning to the creation of local groups in people’s communities - because that’s how we need this to spread, house to house, neighbor to neighbor. I know, it is hard that way - some of your neighbors won’t care. But give it time - the great thing about human beings is that very quickly, under the right cultural pressure, they forget they ever objected. Think about it - how many people living in the US will admit to having been a racist? Three? And yet there were tens of thousands of people all over the country who once were unashamed to admit to it - maybe millions. If you ask in Germany whose parents were involved, you’d get the impression that the Nazi party was 8 guys in a beer hall. The reality is that we re-write our history pretty fast. The neighbor who paves his lawn and loves his Hummer today is tomorrow’s “I was an environmentalist back before it was cool.” Our job is to nod and grin.

So put up a flyer in your library or at your post office, put an ad up online. Start a local group today! Link it to something else - “Carbon conscious banjo players” or “Fantasy Baseball Rioters for Austerity.” Make it fun. Throw a party. Get in the pool. Eat some good, local food. And remember, live your life with joy, but as though other people’s lives depended on it - they do.

BTW, I’m going to be on KMO’s C-Realm Podcast going up today - I’m flattered, because KMO has a lot cooler people than me on. In fact, he invited me on to discussion population issues raised by his prior guest, Dr. Albert Bartlett, but I also got to talk a little about sustainable agriculture, democracy and why my turkeys won’t stop pooping on my porch and eating my geraniums. I have infinitely slow dial-up, so those of you with decent connections will probably hear it long before I do - let me know if I said “umm…” every six seconds or not ;-)