Clifton Ware, Editor — Do We Green Activists ‘Walk The Talk’?
Here we go again, taking another trip, this time by auto to beautiful Colorado. We’re anticipating two weeks of inspirational activities, including teaching at three universities, sightseeing, and taking some day hikes.
Every time we travel, we grow increasingly aware of the energy it takes for transportation, in addition to many other natural resources consumed along the way. Ironically, according to the prevailing economic paradigm, we’re actually helping the economy to grow, by supporting lots of people and businesses throughout our journey. What a dilemma for eco-conscious folk—to travel, or not to travel? Well, at least we’ll be carpooling, traveling in an eight-year old sedan (our only car) that gets somewhat better mileage than a Hummer. For sure, we’d like to be driving a more energy efficient vehicle, preferably a hybrid model, since our condo garage has no electrical outlets for charging EVs.
Prompting this travel commentary is a recent timely blog by Eric Garza—“Activism and Integrity”. His thesis: “I believe activists have a lot to learn from effective mentors.” By this, he means people who walk their talk. As an example, Eric references environmental activist Bill McKibben’s recent article, We Want People to Change Their Minds, which is aimed at global warming skeptics’ attempts to undermine the work of climate activists, principally by labeling them hypocrites for consuming fossil carbon fuels to support their middle-class lifestyles.
Although this criticism may be partially valid, I suspect that green activists use energy resources at lower levels than the majority of middle-class Americans. That being said, we all agree that recognition for the most sustainable worldwide population belongs to the poor, those who use fewer resources per person.
Another living-by-example dilemma is revealed in how we green activists invest our hard-earned savings. Unfortunately, anyone who is invested in stocks, bonds, or commodities is most likely supporting some less-than-desirable companies. We find that walking our talk, with integrity, requires persistent, incremental self-evaluation and behavior modification—and it’s not easy!
Eric summarizes the gist of his blog with these challenging comments:
“My goal is to invite people to look at the role integrity plays in activist pursuits, particularly those that ask people to change their behavior or to submit to legislative acts that seek to constrain it. How can activists expect to be taken seriously when they willfully behave in ways that run counter to the ideals they advocate?”
Excellent advice. I encourage you to read Eric’s blog (Activism and Integrity)
Note: The next issue of CFS News-Views Digest will be Sept. 19th. We all need a break!
ECONOMIC AND ENERGY NEWS-VIEWS
> Common Dreams: ‘Unbalanced Recovery’: Wages Falling, Low-Paid Jobs Rising Across Us. While wages have declined across all sectors in the years following the financial crash of 2008, low-paid workers have been hit the hardest, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) reported this week.
TC Daily Planet: Tar Sands, Trade Rules And The Gutting Of Human Rights For Corporate Profit (Think Forward). An increasing number of people are beginning to realize that the term “free trade” denotes an extension of corporate rights and profits at the expense of sovereignty, labor and the environment.
> Contraposition: The Energetic Basis Of Wealth. An old proposition of sustainability is that the material wealth we enjoy today in industrialized nations is based largely on our energy consumption. Take that away, and our vaunted industrial, intellectual, and entrepreneurial prowess will do little to sustain our material wealth. Can we base society’s wealth on what the sun provides us through plants?
> The Market Oracle: U.S. Housing Bull Market Over? House Prices Trend Forecast Current State. Despite U.S. house prices surging higher in July by 1.1% (May data)–after near flat lining for several months–the mainstream pundits continue to issue warnings of its unsustainability. As is always the case there are ample snippets of data out there to take either a positive or negative point of view, and since fear tends to sell more copy, that’s where most of the mainstream media’s focus lies.
> The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The Population Implosion. The vast surge in human numbers that dominates the demographic history of modern times is wholly a phenomenon of the industrial age. Other historical periods have seen modest population increases, but nothing on the same scale, and those have reversed themselves promptly when ecological limits came into play.
> Our Finite World: Update On US Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, And Renewables. Politicians need to have a “solution” they can call an energy savior, but it is hard to see that renewables will play more than a small role. Biofuels seem to have “topped out” for now. Wind and solar PV are still growing, but it is hard to justify subsidies for them, as part of the electric grid system.
> Minnesota 2020: Invest Now Or Pay The Price Later. Though the full extent of the risks we face with crumbling energy infrastructure is still up for debate, the overall picture is becoming clearer: we need to ramp up public and private investment at the national and state levels to modernize our energy infrastructure and bolster our energy system’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.
CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS-VIEWS
> Common Dreams: ‘Severe… Pervasive… Irreversible”: IPCC’s Devastating Climate Change Conclusions. Climate change is here. Climate change is now. Climate change will be significantly more dangerous, deadly, and expensive if nothing is done to correct humanity’s course, but aspects of future shifts are probably already irreversible.
> Climate Progress: Climate Scientists Spell Out Stark Danger And Immorality Of Inaction In New Leaked Report. The message from climate scientists about our ongoing failure to cut carbon pollution: The catastrophic changes in climate that we are voluntarily imposing on future generations cannot plausibly be undone for hundreds of years or more.
> Common Dreams: People’s Climate Mobilization: A Global Invitation. This September, world leaders are coming to New York City to talk about how to address the climate crisis. This is a crucial moment; we’re at a crossroads. We can and must change course by building a new economy through efforts to reconceive corporations and redefine economic progress.
> NY Times: U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks. Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades. Continued warming is likely to “slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones.
> Washington Post: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change. George C. Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach tank, has a new book release: “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.”
> Resilience-Resource Insights: Why Does Anyone Even Care About The Future? (Kurt Cobb) The events we imagine are placed in a time zone we call the future. The future is full of potential, but little else. It does not actually exist except as a construct in our minds. And, yet every politician, every businessperson, every human almost without exception is terribly concerned about the future, or at least, says so.
> EcoWatch: What The Anti-Fracking Movement Brings To The Climate Movement. It turns out that the same unfixable engineering problem that sets the table for contaminating our water also contaminates the atmosphere with climate-killing methane.
> E&E Publishing: Health Benefits Offset Costs Of Climate Policies. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that health benefits offset between 26 and 1,050 percent of the cost of greenhouse gas reduction policies. Three different types of climate policies were studied: a clean-energy standard, a transportation policy targeting on-road vehicles and a cap-and-trade program.
> Alliance for Natural Health: GMOs: Respected Analyst Says They Could Destroy Life On The Planet. Top-down modifications to the system (through GMOs) are categorically and statistically different from bottom-up ones (regular farming, progressive tinkering with crops, etc.). There is no comparison between the tinkering of selective breeding and the top-down engineering of arbitrarily taking a gene from an organism and putting it into another.
> ENSIA: Unacceptable Levels. Today, chemicals comprise the backbone of our modern lifestyle and are the largest sector of our economy. We generate 300 billion pounds of synthetic chemicals each year in the U.S. alone, and an average American uses more than 1,500 pounds of chemical products.
LOCAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL NEWS-VIEWS
> Duluth News Tribune: Minnesota Engages Citizens On Climate Change. A 28-page catalog outlines what scientists believe is behind global climate change — namely human-caused greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — and goes on to explain what everyday Minnesotans can do to make a difference. Download catalog: EQB Climate Change Communications.pdf
> TC Daily Planet: The Biggest Transit Show In Minnesota: The State Fair. Visitors to the MN State Fair leave their cars at home or in distant parking lots in order to take public transit to the fair grounds, where walking is the main mode of getting around.
> NY Times: Grain Piles Up, Waiting For A Ride, As Trains Move North ... The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills.
MPR: Minnesota State Fair Aims To Be Zero-Waste Event. With all the food waste generated at the fair, there is great potential for more composting. Commercial composters can take everything from meat to dirty napkins and turn it into a rich mixture used for farming and landscaping.
SUSTAINABLE CHALLENGES, IDEAS AND PRACTICES
> ENSIA: Zero Waste World. Forward-thinking companies are finding ways to take back, reuse, refurbish or recycle all kinds of things that would otherwise be thrown away. In contrast to the traditional “take-make-dispose” linear economy, which depletes resources, a circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design.
> MPR: Can We Solve America’s Food Waste Problem? Roughly 40 percent of food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month.
> Dallas News: Here’s How To Reap Mental, Physical Rewards Of Gardening. Anyone who gardens regularly can tell you the psychological, physical and social benefits they gain from the experience. But research is beginning to confirm this, and gardening as a method for therapy is growing in popularity throughout the country.
> Resilience-A Carbon Pilgrim: Young Agrarians. The new agrarianism is first and foremost about living a life of positive energy and joy. Nature is the foundation of this joy, but so are the skills necessary to live a life. At its best the agrarian life is an integrated whole, with work and leisure mixed together, undertaken under healthful conditions and surrounded by family.
> Yes! Americans Spend $1.8 Billion On Eating Out Every Day (And 23 Other Facts You Should Probably Know). Meanwhile, more Americans got insured, the oceans continued to become more acidic, and the world’s largest collection of rubber ducks grew at a rapid pace.
> MinnPost: Commuting By Transit, Walking And Cycling Linked To Lower Weight And Less Body Fat. The public needs to be persuaded to leave their cars at home — for both health and environmental reasons — and that means politicians and other policymakers must implement laws and policies that give pedestrians, bicyclists and users of public transportation highest priority.
> Oilprice: U.S. Warms To Clean Energy. A review of monthly figures for new installations of electric power capacity in July shows that renewable energy is quickly becoming the energy source of choice in the United States.
CFS SEPTEMBER EVENTS
> GROWING GROCERIES III WORKSHOP. Sat., Sept. 20, 1-2:45 p.m., SAV Community Center. UM Master Gardeners—Dawn Pape, Lynette Thompson, and Patrick Fischer. Register ($10; 612-706-1166)
> FORUM—Promoting Local Food Sources. Panel, UM Master Gardeners. Sat., Sept. 20, 3-5 p.m., SAV City Hall-Council Chambers. Business meeting follows, 4-5 p.m.
NOTABLE UPCOMING LOCAL EVENTS
> Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Eco Experience: Minnesota Goes Green. “Best Attraction 2013”. Also, Renewing the Countryside: Healthy Local Foods Exhibit At MN State Fair. Aug. 21-Sept. 1, MN State Fair, St. Paul; Info: http://www.ecoexperience.org; also webpage.
> MN350: March For Climate Progress At The MN State Fair, Sun., Aug. 31, 1-3 p.m. Sign up here.
> SAV Chamber of Commerce: Touch-A-Truck. A fun, educational, “hands on” experience for kids of all ages! Saturday, September 13, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., 39th Ave NE, Silver Lake Village. Info: Tony Fragnito (firstname.lastname@example.org; 651-748-7860), or Jan Fillmore (email@example.com; 612-788-1675).
> Sustainable Cities Institute: Midwest Convening On Climate Resilience, Sep. 21-23, Saint Paul Hotel – 350 Market St, St. Paul, MN. Register by August 31st >>