Archive for the tag “George Monbiot”

News update

Warming of oceans due to climate change is unstoppable, say US scientists
The Guardian UK
The warming of the oceans due to climate change is now unstoppable after record temperatures last year, bringing additional sea-level rise, and raising the risks of severe storms, US government climate scientists has said. The annual State of the Climate in 2014 report, based on research from 413 scientists from 58 countries, found record warming on the surface and upper levels of the oceans, especially in the North Pacific, in line with earlier findings of 2014 as the hottest year on record.

Climate Change And India: The Way Ahead
Kashif Islam, Countercurrents.org
Since climate change is a global and not national problem, any successful climate action must include both today’s emitters as well as limit future emissions. If it’s India and China who ask for exemptions today, it will be Africa’s turn tomorrow. In the absence of alternatives, the poor and low consuming Indian or African of today becomes perforce the polluter and wasteful consumer of tomorrow. We simply don’t have that kind of leeway and time in dealing with climate change.

Wicked problems and wicked solutions: the case of the worlds food supply
Ugo Bardi
Im back from two days of full immersion in a meeting on something rather new for me: the worlds food supply. I am still reeling from the impact. Whenever you go in some depth into anything; you see how immensely more complex things are in comparison to the pale shadow of the world that you perceive in the glittering screen of your TV. Everything is complex, and everything complex becomes wicked once you start seeing it as a problem. And wicked problems usually generate wicked solutions.

What Greece, Cyprus, and Puerto Rico Have in Common
Gail Tverberg
We all know one thing that Greece, Cyprus, and Puerto Rico have in common–severe financial problems. There is something else that they have in common–a high proportion of their energy use is from oil. Figure 1 shows the ratio of oil use to energy use for selected European countries in 2006. Greece and Cyprus are at the top of this chart. The other “PIIGS” countries (Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal) are immediately below Greece.

Austerity and Degrowth
André Reichel
I want to argue about the strange siding of degrowth thinkers and activists with Syriza, its stimulus-oriented economic agenda, and their overall rebuttal of ‘austerity’. Because suddenly growth-oriented policies appear to be OK if they are somehow against ‘austerity’ or ‘neoliberalism’. Can it get, intellectually, any more shallow than that?

Muslim scholars say climate change poses dire threat
Climate News Network
Human beings could cause the ending of life on the planet, says a group of Islamic scholars − and countries round the world, particularly the rich ones, must face up to their responsibilities. Climate change, they say, is induced by human beings: “As we are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour – but we have abused these gifts to the extent that climate change is upon us.” The views of the scholars – some of the strongest yet expressed on climate from within the Muslim community – are contained in a draft declaration on climate change to be launched officially at a major Islamic symposium in Istanbul in mid-August.

The real ‘struggle of our generation’ is not terrorism
George Monbiot
In the longer term, climate change, antibiotic resistance, soil loss and nuclear proliferation by states (including our own) are orders of magnitude more dangerous. But a Churchillian struggle against an identifiable enemy is grander and more glamorous than the battle against faceless but much greater threats. It is also politically less costly, as it offends the interests of neither corporations nor billionaires.

Straight Talk On The Pope And Climate Change
Raymond Lotta, Revcom.us
Many within the environmental movement, including some of its most prominent leading figures, have jumped on the encyclical as a “game-changer.” People are making the argument that one of the world’s most powerful religious-moral voices is now sounding the climate alarm, that he is opening Church discourse to the science of global warming, and that the pope is uniquely capable of inspiring and moving public policy in the right direction. So we should welcome the pope’s encyclical on climate change. To which our reply is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Global threat interactive: Whats the world scared of?
The Guardian UK
Climate change is what the world’s population perceives as the top global threat, followed by global economic instability and Isis, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. The report focuses on those who say they are “very concerned” about each issue. India, and the African and Latin American countries top the list when it comes to climate change and economy. Tensions between Russia or China and their neighbours, “remain regional concerns”.

40% Of Russia’s Food Is Grown From Dacha Gardens
Trueactivist.com
While the majority of citizens in developed nations rely on transported produce and packaged goods to satiate their grumbling stomachs, the people of Russia feed themselves. They have little need for large-scale agriculture, as their agricultural economy is small scale, predominantly organic, and in the capable hands of their nation’s people. Natural Homes has reported that in 2011, 51% of Russia’s food was grown either by dacha communities (40%), or by peasant farmers (11%). The remaining 49% of production was left to large agricultural enterprises.

George Monbiot: Soil the crisis to beat them all?

Tractor ploughing

War, pestilence, even climate change, are trifles by comparison. Destroy the soil and we all starve.
George Monbiot

Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re finished if we don’t address an issue considered so marginal and irrelevant that you can go for months without seeing it in a newspaper.

It’s literally and – it seems – metaphorically, beneath us. To judge by its absence from the media, most journalists consider it unworthy of consideration. But all human life depends on it. We knew this long ago, but somehow it has been forgotten. As a Sanskrit text written in about 1500BC noted: “Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.”

The issue hasn’t changed, but we have. Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction so intense that, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops. Even in Britain, which is spared the tropical downpours that so quickly strip exposed soil from the land, Farmers Weekly reports, we have “only 100 harvests left”.

To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates, 6m hectares (14.8m acres) of new farmland will be needed every year. Instead, 12m hectares a year are lost through soil degradation. We wreck it, then move on, trashing rainforests and other precious habitats as we go. Soil is an almost magical substance, a living system that transforms the materials it encounters, making them available to plants. That handful the Vedic master showed his disciples contains more micro-organisms than all the people who have ever lived on Earth. Yet we treat it like, well, dirt.

The techniques that were supposed to feed the world threaten us with starvation. A paper just published in the journal Anthropocene analyses the undisturbed sediments in an 11th-century French lake. It reveals that the intensification of farming over the past century has increased the rate of soil erosion sixtyfold.

Another paper, by researchers in the UK, shows that soil in allotments – the small patches in towns and cities that people cultivate by hand – contains a third more organic carbon than agricultural soil and 25% more nitrogen. This is one of the reasons why allotment holders produce between four and 11 times more food per hectare than do farmers.

Continue reading

Soil degradation: SAO Soils portal

Scientific American article: Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues

News update

Can Solar be the Backbone of Indias Energy System by 2035?
Tobias Engelmeier, The Energy Collective
Around 70% of India’s power comes from coal, less than 1% from solar. Will that change in the next 20 years? Can solar become the new backbone of the Indian energy system? I think there is a good possibility that it will. Here is a thought experiment.

Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?
Michael Klare, TomDispatch
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels; and the increased value of the dollar. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change
George Monbiot
You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny.

Climate Justice and Degrowth: a tale of two movements
Tadzio Müller, Degrowth blog
While degrowth is a story that is largely articulated in the global North, a story that speaks from and to sensibilities that exist largely in the North, climate justice is a movement and a story that it articulated and led by folks in the global South.

Find a new way to tell the story how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign
The Guardian UK
Climate change is the biggest story journalism has never successfully told. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has decided to change that. This podcast series follows Rusbridger and his team as they set out to find a new narrative on the greatest threat to humanity

Peak meaninglessness
John Michael Greer
Secular stagnation? That’s the concept, unmentionable until recently, that the global economy could stumble into a rut of slow, no, or negative growth, and stay there for years. And the most important cause of secular stagnation is the increasing impact of externalities on the economy, hidden by dishonest macroeconomic bookkeeping that leads economists to think that externalized costs go away because they’re not entered into anyone’s ledger books.

Can the world get richer forever?
Theo Leggett, BBC News
We live on a finite planet, but growth is exponential. So an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3% might not sound like much but it means an economy will double in size every 23 years. So does this matter? According to Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, it definitely does, as economic growth goes hand in hand with increasing energy consumption.

We need regenerative farming, not geoengineering
Charles Eisenstein
Geoengineering has been back in the news recently after the US National Research Council endorsed a proposal to envelop the planet in a layer of sulphate aerosols to reduce solar radiation and cool the atmosphere. The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature.

News update

Can Solar be the Backbone of Indias Energy System by 2035?
Tobias Engelmeier, The Energy Collective
Around 70% of India’s power comes from coal, less than 1% from solar. Will that change in the next 20 years? Can solar become the new backbone of the Indian energy system? I think there is a good possibility that it will. Here is a thought experiment.

Is Big Oil Finally Entering a Climate Change World?
Michael Klare, TomDispatch
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil to about $60 per barrel (nearly half of what it was a year ago): slowing demand due to global economic stagnation; overproduction at shale fields in the United States; the decision of the Saudis and other Middle Eastern OPEC producers to maintain output at current levels; and the increased value of the dollar. There is, however, one reason that’s not being discussed, and yet it could be the most important of all: the complete collapse of Big Oil’s production-maximizing business model.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change
George Monbiot
You cannot solve a problem without naming it. The absence of official recognition of the role of fossil fuel production in causing climate change – blitheringly obvious as it is – permits governments to pursue directly contradictory policies. There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure. They protect these interests from democratic scrutiny.

Climate Justice and Degrowth: a tale of two movements
Tadzio Müller, Degrowth blog
While degrowth is a story that is largely articulated in the global North, a story that speaks from and to sensibilities that exist largely in the North, climate justice is a movement and a story that it articulated and led by folks in the global South.

Find a new way to tell the story how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign
The Guardian UK
Climate change is the biggest story journalism has never successfully told. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has decided to change that. This podcast series follows Rusbridger and his team as they set out to find a new narrative on the greatest threat to humanity

Peak meaninglessness
John Michael Greer
Secular stagnation? That’s the concept, unmentionable until recently, that the global economy could stumble into a rut of slow, no, or negative growth, and stay there for years. And the most important cause of secular stagnation is the increasing impact of externalities on the economy, hidden by dishonest macroeconomic bookkeeping that leads economists to think that externalized costs go away because they’re not entered into anyone’s ledger books.

Can the world get richer forever?
Theo Leggett, BBC News
We live on a finite planet, but growth is exponential. So an annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of 3% might not sound like much but it means an economy will double in size every 23 years. So does this matter? According to Tom Murphy, professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, it definitely does, as economic growth goes hand in hand with increasing energy consumption.

We need regenerative farming, not geoengineering
Charles Eisenstein
Geoengineering has been back in the news recently after the US National Research Council endorsed a proposal to envelop the planet in a layer of sulphate aerosols to reduce solar radiation and cool the atmosphere. The mindset behind geoengineering stands in sharp contrast to an emerging ecological, systems approach taking shape in the form of regenerative agriculture. More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature.

Report: Common Cause The Case for Working with our Cultural Values

(Editors Note: This 2010 article (full text below) by well-known columnist George Monbiot says provides a summary of Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values, a paper by Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF. The paper uses the latest research in psychology as a prism to understand why progressive causes, even the most urgent ones, often fail to make an impact with the public, and how this situation can be remedied. It remains as relevant now as when it was written.)

The Values of Everything
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 12th October 2010

So here we are, forming an orderly queue at the slaughterhouse gate. The punishment of the poor for the errors of the rich, the abandonment of universalism, the dismantling of the shelter the state provides: apart from a few small protests, none of this has yet brought us out fighting.

The acceptance of policies which counteract our interests is the pervasive mystery of the 21st Century. In the United States, blue-collar workers angrily demand that they be left without healthcare, and insist that millionaires should pay less tax. In the UK we appear ready to abandon the social progress for which our ancestors risked their lives with barely a mutter of protest. What has happened to us?

The answer, I think, is provided by the most interesting report I have read this year. Common Cause, written by Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF, examines a series of fascinating recent advances in the field of psychology(1). It offers, I believe, a remedy to the blight which now afflicts every good cause from welfare to climate change. Read more…

George Monbiot: The Impossibility of Growth

POI Editors Note: This piece by environmental writer and The Guardian columnist George Monbiot eloquently sums up our present predicament the converging catastrophes of climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil. Monbiot also looks at why we are unable to deal with, or even discuss its possibility. We thought it worth reproducing in full on the POI website, considering how in India too, now Economic Growth is considered not only desirable and inevitable, but has transcended ideology to almost take on the status of national religion. Do visit the original Guardian web page where its edited version was published, to view readers comments and a discussion provoked by the article.

Its simple. If we cant change our economic system, our numbers up
Its the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanitys undoing

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 28th May 2014

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse. Read more…

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