Saturday, October 15, 2016

Eye of the Needle

This is one of the original main entry doors for the San Gabriel Mission in southern California. Like most ancient fortresses, hilltowns, churches and synagogues that were places of refuge in early human history, it was crafted with a small-scale entry door just big enough for one person to slip through at night when the big doors were shut for safety. The smaller door, known as a page’s passage, was set into one of the wings of the main door, to provide easy access, as the main portals remained closed for security reasons.The simplest doors were decorated with rows of metal bosses, strips, and knockers. The bosses, placed in double rows on the upper and lower sections of the door, helped to prevent the wooden panels from cracking.

In the middle east, for example, it was designed for security reasons so that enemies could not simply ride into the city on their camels and attack. The gate was so small that a man would have to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. It was a slow and quite difficult task. It means releasing all of the baggage and squeezing through the opening, generally on the camel's knees. Thus it's the parable for letting go of everything except the essential self, which in the biblical parable the rich man was not able to do.

We are facing a similar paradigm with our changing climate: how do we make it through the impossibly small aperture of the necessary drastic reduction in carbon emissions in time to preserve our future on this planet? Do we discover, like King Midas, that all that's vital to our existence cannot be frozen in gold and that there's no going back with the help of a mysterious, powerful stranger? And ironically, tragically, "money" has no meaning in the real world of living dynamics and natural processes.

We are in a vise of our own making. Per Paul Gilding, the global economy is in deep and serious trouble. Growth in the current model is grinding to a halt. Inequality and the lack of progress of the Western middle class has laid the foundation for political extremism, xenophobia and isolationism. It has thus brought us phenomena like Trump, Brexit and other political movements that further threaten the global economy. Policies to address this sluggish growth have led to both increased financial system risks and an enormous debt load — one there is no realistic way to pay back, just because growth is so sluggish. The resulting instability forms the shaky foundation on which the impacts of uncontrolled climate change will land — creating an economic and social crisis that will likely tip the system over the edge.

According to Bill McKibben, even if every nation in the world complies with the Paris Agreement, the world will heat up by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 — not the 1.5 to 2 degrees promised in the pact’s preamble.  Clinton’s advisers originally promised there would be a “climate war room” in her White House, but then corrected the record: It would actually be a “climate map room,” which has the effect of a hollow promise. Which means "business as usual" and an utter failure to come to grips with the real and self-inflicted issues threatening our planet. He has written about why he feels that climate emergency mobilization is the only rational way forward at this point. His organization is working with a "Victory Plan" by Ezra Silk with the Climate Mobilization group that is assembling an approach to a global mobilization on many fronts. There's a discussion forum on this plan online, which calls for reworking the government and economy even more thoroughly than during World War II, in order to cut America’s net greenhouse emissions down to zero by 2025 while also reversing degradation of ecosystems and halting the mass extinction of species. In keeping with examining our options at this point, a new study released by Oil Change International, in partnership with 14 organizations from around the world, scientifically grounds the growing movement to keep carbon in the ground by revealing the need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion

But the way to survive this coming ordeal is not just the mechanics of rapid restructuring and regeneration of our desiccated ecological systems, but also a common purpose shared by human civilizations. This consensus and coordination is necessary to ensure that all efforts are willingly taken to make these immense changes in an effective way. The consensus is achieved with a global agreement at the UN level, one that establishes a framework that is essentially fair and achievable, and relies upon simple benchmarks such as emissions. Since these actions will upend the entire economy, it makes no sense to build a framework in dollars or money, but purely upon the necessary carbon reductions that our global cities and countries must undertake. This can be measured and monitored no matter what kind of economy emerges from the coming restructuring that we will have to do in spite of the chaos we will have to face.

Update 10/19/16: Economics is a form of brain damage: "Externalities" by David Suzuki (2013)

Update 12/21/16: Another view: for the past thirty-six years, humanity has been moving through the eye of the needle.