Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Real

Spent the weekend at a conference sponsored by the Claremont School of Theology and the Center for Process Studies, among others, called "Brave New Planet, Imagining Ecological Communities". The headliner and main plenary speaker was Bill McKibben, author of "Eaarth" and the climate change activist who recently led hundreds of people to get arrested in front of the White House during the massive D.C. protests against the Keystone oil pipeline project. Now that catastrophic climate change is actually occurring at an accelerating rate, the question is whether real people will act responsibly and decisively to pursue ethical outcomes in the face of what is sure to be widespread and unprecedented suffering.This conference is particularly timely in response to Richard Muller's "Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST)" that just recently has verified that climate change is accelerating even faster than initially projected, much to the dismay of the climate deniers who hired him, the Koch brothers.

If one looks at the global oil consumption charts we have now (above) which is, along with coal, a main driver of climate change due to the release of carbon, it's quite obvious that the United States is by far the major producer of climate change. And if one further checks out the projections for oil and other fuels in the Energy Outlook published by the US Energy Information Administration, you can see that out to 2035 this only increases as energy demands rise.

If we're already into an uncontrolled ecological collapse (McKibben), how can this continue? Some answers are emerging in the form of eco-communities and campuses such as the Oberlin Project. Self-sustaining communities that don't consume lots of energy are one response in moderating the built form. Regeneration of natural processes and landscapes go hand-in-hand with highly efficient structures.

Other responses come from the global engineering profession, ahead of December’s COP17 climate change talks in Durban:

“While the world’s politicians have been locked in talks with no output, engineers across the globe have been busy developing technologies that can bring down emissions and help create a more stable future for the planet.

“We are now overdue for government commitment, with ambitious, concrete emissions targets that give the right signals to industry, so they can be rolled out on a global scale.”

In other words, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The Rocky Mountain Institute has come out with an entire 6-point program for immediately reducing the carbon output of human civilization as we try to stabilize our energy use. They emphasize that it's a synergistic approach that involves many strategies in concert with each other.

Since the world governments are not taking the lead on the collaboration and regulation that's desperately needed in order to bring these emissions and habitations into alignment with the earth's ability to support human activities, it's become apparent that people will have to take things into their own hands and just begin to take the initiative to tackle these problems. Some of the ideas for this kind of action have been presented in very humorous and inventive ways, such as Greg Craven's sequence of videos on the subject. They're snarky, smart and creative. He's clear about addressing the need for policy changes and immediate action in his latest video, particularly because of the accelerating climate destabilization we're now seeing.

So, it's real. And so is the need to move very quickly into a new vision of sustainable life for this planet.