SEF News-Views Digest No. 111 (11-25-15)
Like most Americans, Bettye and I greatly enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving, our favorite holiday. We welcome an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate our good fortune, especially when sharing a festive meal and stimulating conversation with close family members.
I imagine that readers of this newsletter are very thankful for enjoying a level of freedom, opportunity, and physical prosperity that, sadly, is not available to a majority of world citizens. Of course, our high level of physical comfort has come at a high cost, which we rather innocently transfer to future citizens.
Over the last 150 years, the plentiful natural resources our ancestors inherited—notably, ample fossil-energy supplies—largely have been depleted. Much of the blame can be directed at pervasive commercialism, which has encouraged the accumulation (and eventual disposal) of non-essential stuff. Obviously, there’s no sign of commercialism abating this year, as the holidays’ shopping mania has begun again—with an unofficial kick-off on Thanksgiving Day!
What if all humans could learn to be grateful for having “enough”, with only those physical possessions needed for sustaining a well-balanced lifestyle? Some sustainability experts suggest the average European lifestyle provides a model of sustainability, which contrasts starkly with the consumer-orientation of most Americans. Experts, such as James Howard Kuntsler (The Long Emergency), suggest that America’s predominant car-and-suburban culture helps account for the U.S. consuming 25% of the world’s fossil-energy supplies.
Although we appreciate the positive attributes of modern civilization, especially the sophisticated technologies we enjoy (cars, computers, cell phones, TV), we often feel overwhelmed in an increasingly complex world that is exacerbated by social unrest, including terrorism. If those of us living in the “developed world” feel overwhelmed, it must be especially challenging for folks living in the “developing world” to cope with increasing modernity. In particular, the magnitude of everything—as numbered in millions, billions, and trillions—is a major contributing factor to the confusion and misunderstandings experienced by so many people. Mind-boggling statistics inundate us with increasingly unfathomable numbers, including the growing numbers of world citizens, along with enormous amounts of human waste products, pollution, traffic, and decaying infrastructures.
In countering the commercialism and complexity of modern life, we share with most readers a deep respect and gratitude for the natural world, which includes all inanimate and animate entities—including people! Some of our most gratifying experiences are associated with hikes taken on spectacular trails in scenic wilderness areas, occasionally where few people venture. Everyone benefits from spending some time outdoors, if not in wilderness areas, at least in city parks. Younger generations, in particular, need more exposure to outdoor activities. I think we all agree that nature has the power to inspire, heal, and restore people to wholeness and health.
Please join us in expressing gratitude to all persons affiliated with organizations that promote sustainability of natural resources, from land, water, and air to plants, animals, and people. With the positive contributions of dedicated individuals and organizations in creating healthy ecosystems, this incredibly beautiful planet will continue to provide the sustenance needed for maintaining a high quality of life for all creatures, including us! –––––––– Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
> New Internationalist: The Elephant In Paris – The Military And Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Nix Buxton). Ironically despite their role in the climate crisis, one of the loudest voices calling for action on climate change is coming from the military. British Rear Admiral Morisetti is typical of a growing chorus of military generals identifying climate change as the major security challenge of this century, because it will be a ‘threat multiplier’ with the potential to exacerbate the ‘development-terrorism’ nexus. Politicians who increasingly talk about the security implications of climate change have readily picked up the argument. There is no critical examination of the military’s own role in enforcing a corporate-dominated fossil-fuel economy that has caused the climate crisis.
> Yes! Magazine: Paris Attacks And Climate Change Push Us To Fix A World Of Broken Systems (Nafeez Ahmed). The rise of ISIS, the “war on terror,” the attack on Paris—are symptoms of a civilization in its twilight. Climate change—and energy depletion—had what the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences called a “catalytic effect” on civil unrest in Syria. Climate change is severely impacting access to water, food, and energy resources, especially in poorer countries of the Middle East and Central Asia. This contributes to the destabilization of the region, catalyzing powder kegs of pent-up frustration and anger at decades of repression. Terrorism is an integral and inevitable feature of the prevailing geopolitical and economic order: the hidden barbarism within the global system. But the displays of global solidarity show that the seeds of a new paradigm are being planted.
> ABC News: Globally, Terrorism Is On The Rise – But Little Of It Occurs In Western Countries (Melissa Clarke). Last year marked the biggest annual rise in deaths caused by terrorism, with more than 32,000 people killed in attacks around the world, an 80% increase over the previous year. The Institute for Economics and Peace has compiled its annual Global Terrorism Index and looked at the figures from 2000 to the end of 2014. It found terrorism is rising dramatically and private citizens are increasingly the targets. But only a tiny fraction of terrorist attacks occur in Western nations, and of those only one in five attacks is perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Thirteen times more people die from homicide than from terrorism.
> Scientific American: Meeting A Global Carbon Limit Is Cheaper Than Avoiding One (Michael E. Mann). Can we do it? Climate scientist James E. Hansen has made a compelling case that we could pull 100 billion tons of carbon from the air by massive reforestation—limiting land use enough to allow forests to grow back to their extent before human deforestation. Reforestation—along with reducing carbon emissions by several percent a year (which is challenging but doable)—could meet the 2° C stabilization target. The key factor is that there are technological innovations and economies of scale that emerge only in the course of actually doing something.
> ENSIA: These Maps Show Changes In Global Meat Consumption By 2024. Here’s Why That Matters (Todd Reubold). If we look just at the livestock “Big Four” — cows, chickens, poultry and sheep — the average American adult consumed 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of meat in 2014, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As overall meat consumption continues to rise, the type of meat we consume makes a difference for the environment. As previously reported at ENSIA, switching from beef to chicken or pork can significantly reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions. Choices we make while eating out or at the supermarket matter when it comes to the question of meat’s impact on the environment.
> Upstream: Competing Visions Of Sustainability: Scarcity Or Abundance? (Bill Sheehan). Sustainability visions for the future are informed by our worldviews of Scarcity or Abundance. The Abundance worldview seems to be associated more with interventions at the Production stage of the industrial system, while the Scarcity worldview tends to focus more on the Consumption stage. Moreover, the Abundance worldview seems to correlate strongly with business values based on trading, which in turn relies on competition, innovation and voluntary actions. The Scarcity worldview seems to correlate more strongly with values characteristic of government, which are based on the need to defend and protect communities and territory, with reliance on responsibility, tradition and enforcement. Both value systems are needed for a healthy society.
> Carbon Brief: Explainer: The Legal Form Of The Paris Climate Agreement (Simon Evans). It is hard to see a credible deal from Paris emerging without US support. The US Senate would not ratify a treaty, but the US can still sign up to Paris under an “executive agreement” with the sole authority of the president. In terms of international law, this is equivalent to US ratification. It’s easy to get lost in the details of the legal form of the Paris agreement. However, it’s important to keep the ultimate aim of the negotiations in sight, which is to avoid dangerous climate change. Even the EU — one of the most vocal supporters of a strong, legally binding agreement — acknowledges that the legal character of the deal is not everything.
> New Republic: What The Paris Attacks Will Mean For The Upcoming Climate Conference (Rebecca Leber). Prior to Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks, Paris had been set to host a global party—the UN climate change conference known as COP21—at the end of the month. Now, of course, everything has changed. Paris is no longer an opportunity for victory laps or feel-good concerts, and many of the conference’s side events have been canceled. As for the conference itself, which will be held about 10 miles from the city center where the attacks took place, world leaders have pledged their resolve to attend. There’s no foreseeable effect on the outcome of the talks, either, although terrorist attacks undoubtedly alter the context for the climate talks.
> MinnPost: How The World’s 20 Largest Economies Help, And Hinder, Climate Protection (Ron Meador). From Climate Transparency comes a finding that “climate action by the G20 has reached a turning point, with per capita emissions falling in 11 members, and renewable energy growing strongly” in 15. Moreover, its analysis concludes that “there are strong indications that total global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have stopped rising in 2014, the first such reversal in annual emissions growth in the industrial era, aside from periods of serious economic crisis.”
> MPR News: NOAA Scientist On Climate Change And Wild Weather Events (podcast). The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration reported last week that climate change intensified extreme weather events in 2014. NOAA climatologist Tom Peterson joins MPR News with Kerri Miller and explains the science of how and why that happens, and what it would take to curb the effects of climate change.
> MinnPost: Another Surprise On Sea-Level Rise: A Big Greenland Glacier Is Shrinking Fast (Ron Meador). The Greenland glacier’s name is Zachariae Isstrom, and together with an adjacent glacier called Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden, it drains about 12 percent of the overall Greenland ice sheet. It holds enough water to raise sea levels worldwide by about a foot and a half, all by itself. Since 2002, 95 percent of its ice shelf has broken off into the sea. Its ice velocity, or the rate at which the glacier flows toward the sea, has accelerated threefold. The pace of thinning in its portion underlain by land has doubled.
> Artic News: Arctic News-Ocean Heat. The oceans are warming up rapidly, especially the waters below the sea surface. Of all the excess heat resulting from people’s emissions, 93.4% goes into oceans. Accordingly, the temperature of oceans has risen substantially over the years and – without action – the situation only looks set to get worse. Ocean heat threatens to increasingly reach the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean and unleash huge methane eruptions from destabilizing clathrates. Such large methane eruptions will then warm the atmosphere at first in hotspots over the Arctic and eventually around the globe, while also causing huge temperature swings and extreme weather events, contributing to increasing depletion of fresh water and food supply, as further illustrated by the image below, from an earlier post.
> International Forecaster: Terrible TPP Clauses Explained In Plain English (James Corbett). There are three rules that are worse than originally feared: 1) the investor-state settlement mechanism; 2) intellectual property provisions; and 3) rules for lowering food safety standards. The Good News: The deal has not been ratified yet, so there is still time to stop it, exactly as ACTA was stopped after massive protests made it politically unviable. The Bad News: If you’ve read this you are now among the rarefied sliver of a percentage point of the public who has read even one paragraph of the deal, let alone understands anything about it. Without mass education on this subject, it is unlikely that such massive protests can derail this TPP deal.
> The Week: Is America Still No. 1? (Staff). Most Americans think their country is the best in the world — but global studies paint a murkier picture. Here’s everything you need to know: It is No. 1 economically, but in terms of overall wellbeing, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found discovered that the U.S. is not No. 1. In fact, it ranks 15th. The Scandinavian countries consistently rank high in happiness, or overall wellbeing.
> Health Tips Blog: Gabor Maté: How To Build A Culture Of Good Health. Physical wellbeing depends on more than keeping our bodies fit. Emotions and the people who come into our lives matter just as much. A materialistic culture teaches its members that their value depends on what they produce, achieve, or consume rather than on their human beingness. Many of us believe that we must continually prove and justify our worthiness, that we must keep having and doing to justify our existence. Health promotion must begin at conception, and it is impossible to overstate the impact of childhood trauma on adult mental and physical health. Addictions in particular are responses to early trauma. On the societal level, we must understand that health is not an individual outcome, but arises from social cohesion, community ties, and mutual support. Ultimately, healing flows from within.
> Project for Public Spaces: The Movement To Make Every American Community Walkable (Jay Walljasper). “We are a nation of walkers,” declared US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the 2nd National Walking Summit on October 29. “Walking is a simple thing we can do” to make America more healthy.That’s the message of his recent Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities, which highlighted the powerful fact that, “an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes” as well as other debilitating chronic diseases.
> MN Daily: New Wheat Developed By U Could Help Ecosystems (Olivia Johnson). In conjunction with scientists from the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., students and faculty members from the University helped develop Kernza, a new crop of wheat, which researchers hope will benefit ecosystems and the famers growing the plant. Kernza is planted in the fall, grows throughout the winter and early spring, is harvested in early August and comes back again in the fall. Parts of the plant that aren’t harvested can be recycled for feeding livestock, said Don Wyse, a professor of agronomy and plant genetics who works on the project.
> Modern Farmer: What Is This Weird Weed, And Why Are Farmers And Health Nuts So Into It? (Dan Nosowitz). The EU this month awarded corn gromwell the status of “Novel Food,” a designation to let consumers know that this might be a new thing, but it’s safe and approved for consumption. In Scotland, reports the site Scotsman, more than 30 farmers have begun farming corn gromwell, seeing it as a possible new wonderfood especially for vegetarians or those who don’t eat seafood for whatever reason. The plant will probably be marketed under the also-not-very-good name of Ahiflower, so we predict you’ll start seeing Ahiflower seeds and Ahiflower oil in supermarkets soon.
> Clean Energy Resource Teams: Clean Energy Accelerator. Metro CERT – offering rapid energy assistance to cities, counties, & schools. Learn more at: http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/accelerator/lugs
> Citizens for Sustainability: Discussion Forum & Electronic Recycling Presentation (by SAV Area FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Team #17760), Sat., Dec. 12, 11am–1pm, St. Anthony Village Community Center, Silver Lake Rd.