Sustainable Development Goals: Can we pull them off?
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The new set has 169 targets. Critics believe these are well-intentioned, but range from grandiose (end hunger) to peripheral (promote sustainable tourism) to flat-out impossible (full and productive employment and decent work for all). Nevertheless, India is committing to some tough goals. Here’s a quick reckoner of what they are and a reality check on where we stand.
The Sustainable Development Goals: A Siren and Lullaby for Our Times
Thomas Pogge & Alnoor Ladha, Occupy.com
The SDGs inequality goal (target 10.1) allows current trends of income concentration to continually increase until 2029 before they start to decline. This totally ignores the structure of our economic system which creates inequality in the very rules that enforce and articulate the current distribution of wealth.
What if everything the SDGs are premised on is just wrong?
Martin Kirk, African Arguments
At the upcoming UN General Assembly, we are all about to be told some stories as part of a big of the “world’s largest advertising campaign” by the UN, NGOs, governments and large corporations to sell us on the new global plan to tackle poverty. It’s up to each of us to determine whether these stories are full of hope we can believe in or just a big serving of marketing and spin.
The UN’s Sustainability Plan Is ‘Doomed,’ According to Linguistic Analysis
A report circulated to UN officials argues that the entire SDG process has been “fundamentally compromised” by powerful corporations with an interest in sustaining business as usual. Commissioned by Washington DC-based nonprofit TheRules.org, a global activist network campaigning to address the root causes of poverty, the report is based on “frame analysis”—a scientific method examining linguistic and conceptual patterns to reveal how people define, construct, and process information.
Sustained economic growth: United Nations mistake the poison for the cure
Samuel Alexander, The Conversation
The defining flaw in the United Nations’ agenda is the naïve assumption that “sustained economic growth” is the most direct path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This faith in the god of growth is fundamentally misplaced. It has been shown, for example, that for every $100 in global growth merely $0.60 is directed toward resolving global poverty. Not only is this an incredibly inefficient pathway to poverty alleviation, it is environmentally unsupportable.
Five reasons to think twice about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
Jason Hickel, London School of Economics
People aren’t getting excited about the SDGs because they know that business as usual isn’t going to deliver the new economy we so desperately need. In this sense, the goals are not only a missed opportunity, they are actively dangerous: they lock in the global development agenda for the next 15 years around a failing economic model that requires urgent and deep structural changes, and they kick the hard challenge of real transformation down the road for the next generation to deal with – by which time it may be too late.
What the SDGs Could Learn from Indigenous Peoples
Fionuala Cregan, Common Dreams
Across the world, Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of struggles to defend the Earth’s remaining habitats from the relentless advance of extractive industries, from open air mining, to oil driling to and single crop industrial agriculture. Unfortunately, the new SDGs offer them little by way of support.
TARAgram Yatra 2018 is an annual event that holds global multi-stakeholder consultation,organised by the Development Alternatives in partnership with Technology & Action Rural Advancement (TARA), Heinrich Böll Stiftung / Foundation’s (HBF), OXFAM, Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and the Department for International Development (DFID).
TARAgram Yatra brings together practitioners and policy makers from India and across the world to discuss germane issues of sustainability and identify what can we do more and different such that India transforms to a greener, more sustainable, resilient and inclusive nation. Read more…
The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parks
Stephen Corry, Truthout
Conservation’s achievements don’t alter the fact that it’s rooted in two serious and related mistakes. The first is that it conserves “wildernesses,” which are imagined to be shaped only by nature. The second is that it believes in a hierarchy, with superior, intelligent human beings at the top. Many conservationists still believe that they are uniquely endowed with the foresight and expertise to control and manage so-called wildernesses and that everyone else must leave, including those who actually own them and have lived there for generations.
These notions are archaic; they damage people and the environment. The second also flouts the law, with its perpetual land grabs. For nature’s sake as well as our own, it’s crucial to expose how these ideas grew and flourished, to understand just how mistaken they are. There’s an ongoing attempt to wipe from the map the quagmire around conservation’s wellspring, to pretend it’s all now transparent and sunlit. It isn’t.
The Global Race to the Bottom
Lucia Pradella, Jacobin Mag
The acute hardship European workers are facing is part of an international process of impoverishment.
Unemployment has reached unprecedented heights in Western Europe, wages are declining, and attacks on organized labor are intensifying. Nearly a quarter of Western Europe’s population, about 92 million people, was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2013. That’s nearly 8.5 million more people than before the crisis.
The poverty, material deprivation, and super-exploitation traditionally associated with the Global South are reemerging in the rich parts of Europe. The crisis is undermining the “European social model,” and its assumption that employment protects individuals from poverty. The number of working poor — employed workers in households with an annual income below the poverty threshold — is growing, and austerity is going to make things much worse in the future.
The weight of the world
Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
[Profile of Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief ]
I asked what would happen if the emissions line did not, in fact, start to head down soon. Tears welled up in her eyes and, for a moment, she couldn’t speak.
“Ask all the islands,” she said finally. “Ask Bangladesh. We just can’t let that happen. Do we have the right to deprive people of their homes just because I want to own three S.U.V.s? It just doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not how we think of ourselves. We don’t think of ourselves as being egotistical, immoral individuals. And we’re not. Fundamentally, we all have a morality bedrock. Every single human being has that.”
Living without money: what I learned
Mark Boyle, The Guardian UK
With little idea of what I was to expect, or how I was to go about it, seven years ago I began living without money. Originally intended as a one-year experiment in ecological living, I wanted to explore how it felt as a human being to live without the trappings and security that money had long-since afforded me. While terrifying and tough to begin with, by the end of the first year I somehow found myself more content, healthier and at peace than I had ever been. And although three years later I made a difficult decision to re-enter the monetary world – to establish projects that would enable others to loosen the grip that money has on their lives – I took from it many lessons that have changed my life forever.
For the first time I experienced how connected and interdependent I was on the people and natural world around me, something I had previously only intellectualised. It is not until you become physically aware of how your own health is entirely reliant on the health of the great web of life, that ideas such as deep ecology absorb themselves into your arteries, sinews and bones.
If the air that filled my lungs became polluted, if the nutrients in the soil that produced my food became depleted, or if the spring water which made up 60% of my body became poisoned, my own health would suffer accordingly. This seems like common sense, but you wouldn’t think so by observing the way we treat the natural world today. Over time, even the boundaries of what I considered to be “I” became less and less clear.
Something magical is happening… All across the world we’re coming together to hit the streets on November 29th — hours before the most important climate summit this decade!
This is a day of action not to be missed — click on the map to find an event near you:
Global Harming: India’s rich have a bigger ecological footprint than the world average
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
It is no secret that there’s a growth in luxury goods in India. A 10-minute walk in any big city would attest to this. Over the last few generations, lifestyles have changed significantly, and a culture of consumerism is setting in at a fast pace. It is mind-boggling then, that environment minister Prakash Javadekar declared last week that Indians believe only in “need-based consumption” and shun “extravagant consumption”, thanks to their “value systems”.
Incidence of dengue higher due to erratic rainfall this year
Down to Earth
The rapid progression of the disease has taken many by surprise as the high incidence is unseasonal compared to earlier trends. The dengue virus usually strikes the city only after the end of the monsoons in October. The reason for the temporal shift, say experts, is the erratic weather and rainfall that the country has witnessed this year. Many scientific studies in the recent past have drawn connections between weather variables and the incidence of dengue. Many scientists are in agreement that a combination of higher mean temperature in a region and high humidity fosters higher rates of dengue transmission and incidence. (Also read: Climate change and vector-borne diseases go hand in hand)
Delhi will record world’s largest number of premature deaths due to air pollution
The Times of India
In another 10 years, Delhi will record the world’s largest number of premature deaths due to air pollution among all mega cities in the world. By 2025, nearly 32,000 people in Delhi will die solely due to inhaling polluted air. Kolkata will see its number of premature deaths spike between 2025 and 2050 and will record 54,800 deaths due to air pollution – more than Delhi which will record 52,000 deaths and Mumbai with 33100 deaths during the same year. (Also read: More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids, new study shows)
World’s first smog filtering tower goes on tour
The Guardian UK
The Dutch city of Rotterdam has opened the world’s first smog-free tower. Co-designed by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, the seven-metre high tower sucks in dirty air like a giant vacuum cleaner. Ion technology then filters it, before returning bubbles of smog-free air through the tower’s vents. It is able to clean 30,000 cubic metres of air an hour, according to Roosegaarde.
Scientists predict huge sea level rise even if we limit climate change
The Guardian UK
Even if world manages to limit global warming to 2C — the target number for current climate negotiations — sea levels may still rise at least 6 meters (20 ft) above their current heights, radically reshaping the world’s coastline and affecting millions in the process. That finding comes from a new paper published in Science that shows how high sea levels rose the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high. That was about 3m years ago, when the globe was about 3-5F warmer on average, the Arctic 14.4F warmer, megasharks swam the oceans, and sea levels stood at least 20 ft above their current heights.
Will the Paris Climate Talks Be Too Little and Too Late?
Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
At the upcoming U.N. climate conference, most of the world’s major nations will pledge to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But serious doubts remain as to whether these promised cuts will be nearly enough to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.
Are Nomads a Climate-Change Weathervane?
Tom Hart, New Internationalist blog
Urban civilizations have done their best to curtail nomadism. It’s a life that doesn’t fit well with owning vast tracts of land and an ordered, well-administered state. What states have failed to achieve deliberately might be finished by climate change accidently. Ironically, the moment in history when states more or less tolerate nomadism could also be the very moment when the environmental basis for the phenomenon could be undermined.
Syria peak oil weakened government’s finances ahead of Arab Spring in 2011
Matt Mushalik, Crude Oil Peak
While the attention of the world is on the refugee crisis we need to look at the causes of this mass exodus. In this article we analyse to which extent peak oil contributed to a fiscal deterioration so that the Syrian government was forced to introduce unpopular policies (tax increases, removal of fuel subsidies, increasing cost of cement etc) which contributed to the unrest.
Peak Oil Has More To Do With Oil Prices Than You May Think
Robert Rapier, Oilprice.com
We should really talk about peak oil as a function of oil prices. In that case, we can say with a pretty high degree of certainty “The world has passed peak $20 oil.” If we could magically freeze the price of oil at $20, we would see the sort of peak that the imminent peakers projected. That doesn’t mean that oil prices will never again fall to $20, as supply/demand imbalances do wildly swing prices at times. It just means that $20 isn’t a sustainable price for meeting current global demand. That also means that the average price of oil in the future will be much greater than $20, which is why I downplay those predictions of very low oil prices.
Sustainable Development: Something New or More of the Same?
The new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) convey real concern and care for the environment. Yet at the same time they are wedded to the ideology of economic growth — more GDP, more industrial infrastructure, roads, ports, etc. — without considering whether other forms of development could better meet their goals of poverty elimination and ecological sustainability.
Farmers are in a terrible situation, with no water for crops, livestock or drinking. If we dismiss this year as a freak weather year, we will never make the necessary corrections
Sunita Narain, Editor – Down To Earth magazine
This is our season of despair. This year, it would seem, the gods have been most unkind to Indian farmers. Early in the year came the weird weather events, like hailstorms and freak and untimely rains that destroyed standing crops. Nobody knew what was happening. After all, each year we witness a natural weather phenomenon called the Western Disturbance, winds that emanate from the Mediterranean and travel eastward towards India. What was new this year was the sheer “freakiness” of these disturbances, which brought extreme rain with unusual frequency and intensity. More importantly, instead of “breaking” over the Himalayas, as these disturbances are prone to do, these winds with moisture travelled eastward towards Bengal and even southward towards Madhya Pradesh. Meteorologists were spooked. Read more…
John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report
(Click here to view original essay and comments)
There are certain advantages to writing out the ideas central to this blog in weekly bursts. Back in the days before the internet, when a galaxy of weekly magazines provided the same free mix of ideas and opinions that fills the blogosphere today, plenty of writers kept themselves occupied turning out articles and essays for the weeklies, and the benefits weren’t just financial: feedback from readers, on the one hand, and the contributions of other writers in related fields, on the other, really do make it easier to keep slogging ahead at the writer’s lonely trade.
This week’s essay has benefited from that latter effect, in a somewhat unexpected way. In recent weeks, here and there in the corners of the internet I frequent, there’s been another round of essays and forum comments insisting that it’s time for the middle-class intellectuals who frequent the environmental and climate change movements to take up violence against the industrial system. That may not seem to have much to do with the theme of the current sequence of posts—the vacuum that currently occupies the place in our collective imagination where meaningful visions of the future used to be found—but there’s a connection, and following it out will help explain one of the core themes I want to discuss.
The science fiction author Isaac Asimov used to say that violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. That’s a half-truth at best, for there are situations in which effective violence is the only tool that will do what needs to be done—we’ll get to that in a moment. It so happens, though, that a particular kind of incompetence does indeed tend to turn to violence when every other option has fallen flat, and goes down in a final outburst of pointless bloodshed. It’s unpleasantly likely at this point that the climate change movement, or some parts of it, may end up taking that route into history’s dumpster; here again, we’ll get to that a little further on in this post. Read more…
Burning all fossil fuels will melt entire Antarctic ice-sheet, study shows
The Guardian, UK
Burning all the world’s coal, oil and gas would melt the entire Antarctic ice-sheet and cause the oceans to rise by over 50m, a transformation unprecedented in human history. The conclusion of a new scientific study shows that, over the course of centuries, land currently inhabited by a billion people would be lost below water. “For the first time we have shown there is sufficient fossil fuel to melt all of Antarctica,” said Ricarda Winkelmann, at the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who led the research published in the journal Science Advances.
Sooty South Asian air and global warming
Nalaka Gunawardene, Scidev.net
Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas capable of causing global warming and is not the worst culprit. Black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons and ground level ozone need to be controlled. In South Asia black carbon from cooking stoves and fuels like diesel, coal and wood are problematic.
Indian govt to allow private sector to manage 40% of forests
The government is set to throw open the management of up to 40% of Indian forests to the private sector to revive degraded forests but experts warn it may destroy complex ecosystems and deprive local communities of a livelihood. The environment ministry issued guidelines to the states last month, where it argued it didn’t have the resources to manage forests well and laid down the procedure to lease out degraded forests to private companies, who would “carry out afforestation and extract timber”.
Cleaning coal instead of wishing it away
Rahul Tongia, The Hindu
So called “clean coal” is under development worldwide. But carbon capture and sequestration is some years away from commercialisation, let alone competitive commercialisation. Thus, “cleaner coal” — in the form of more efficient coal plants — requires innovation to work well with Indian (high-ash) coal. Such efforts need support, ranging from technology, to policy support and financing.
Coal mining sector running out of time, says Citigroup
The Guardian, UK
US banking giant Citigroup says the global coal industry is set for further pain, predicting an acceleration of mine closures, liquidations and bankruptcies. The value of listed coal companies monitored by Citi has shrunk from $50bn (£32bn) in 2012 to $18bn in 2018, a trend it believes will continue. “On the demand side we think thermal coal is cyclically and structurally challenged and that current market conditions are likely to persist,” it says in a report.
Coal prices hit 12-year low as demand from China, India down
Coal futures have fallen to 12-year lows, hit by soaring production and a slowdown in global buying, including from India and China which until recently have been pillars of strong demand. Benchmark API2 2016 coal futures last settled at $52.85 a tonne, a level not seen since November 2003. The contract is now over 75 percent below its 2008 all-time peak and more than 60 percent below its most recent high following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan
$250 billion opportunity to invest in renewables: Piyush Goyal
India has a $250 billion investment opportunity in the renewable energy space, said Piyush Goyal, minister of power, coal and renewable energy, at Mint’s fifth energy conclave in New Delhi on Friday. This includes the peripheral transmission and generation segments as well. India plans to have 100,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity by 2022. The government has also set a target of generating 60,000MW from wind power by then.
Is This The Breakthrough Fusion Researchers Have Been Waiting For?
Michael McDonald, Oilprice.com
Fusion power may have just had the long-awaited breakthrough its backers have been waiting years for. A small secretive company in California called Tri Alpha Energy has been working on fusion power for years. It has built a machine that forms a high temperature ball of superheated gas and holds it together for 5 milliseconds without decay. That tiny timeframe is enough to get backers of the technology excited as it represents a huge leap forward in comparison with other techniques tried in the past.
The choir that sings out of tune
Nimesh Ved, The Hindu
A friend asked me on Facebook if we consider the impact of travel, especially air travel, on our ecological footprint. Surprisingly, many justified it as a ‘positive’ action. How can anyone justify flying in and out repeatedly for conferences? Doesn’t going for a study tour, for example, leave its own ecological footprint? We cannot do without travel and its resulting ecological footprint, but can we at least be conscious of the issue, discuss it and look at our own actions critically?
Picturing the End of Fossil Fuels
In the energy world, though, I’m willing to bet that these images are poison to the fossil fuel industry. It’s not just because of their sheer inhuman oversized ugliness, but because they manage to look somehow so antique. Or rather, so modern in a postmodern world. Even without understanding the science of climate change—the horror that the carbon from that digger and that drill rig is driving—you have a visceral sense that they’re in the wrong moment, the wrong mood.