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Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

The ‘Victory Garden’ idea is getting a lot of play these days.  We’ve already noticed appeals for us to ‘eat-like-there’s-a-war-on.’

Now the UK Independent is excited by the same idea — hooking its version of the story on a new exhibit, ‘Dig for Victory: War on Waste,‘ at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms.

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. . . and we’re clearly to blame.

So says a new report by the WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network. The finds, the Independent reports today, that land species have declined by 25 per cent, marine life by 28 per cent, and freshwater species by 29 per cent.

“You’d have to go back to the extinction of the dinosaurs to see a decline as rapid as this,” says Jonathan Loh, the report’s editor.

It’s shocking and saddening reading. Let’s hope it will also help galvanize action on a global level — what’s needed for there to be any hope for the thousands more species threatened by pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change, all but the last of which are unarguably the result of human actions.

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As environmental issues finally seem urgent to broad swathes of the US commentariat, that reality is spawning all sorts of creative arguments for what people wanted all along.

Take the example of drilling for oil in environmentally sensitive habitats in the USA. In a Tribune Media column today, the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson argues — quite creatively — that the proper response to our various environmental crises is for the US to drill for more oil in Alaska and off the Florida and California coasts.

His reasoning, essentially, is that right now we don’t have any decent alternatives to oil and that other oil exporters are nasty mean guys who don’t care about polluting. So if the US can become more oil-independent, it will make the polluters poorer and more likely to be deposed (at whatever human cost) and therefore make for less pollution! He says:

the choices facing us, at least for the next few decades, are not between bad and good, but between bad and far worse – and involve wider questions of global security, fairness and growing scarcity.

It’s a little like George Bush’s firm belief that the solution to everything is to cut taxes on the rich. We can expect to see a lot more of this: people finding in climate change a rationale for doing what they wanted to do, even before climate change was something they felt was an issue.

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Gloom — appropriately perhaps — seems to be the theme this Earth Day.

Joseph Romm in Salon thinks it’s already too late to save much of the flora and fauna on our planet. It’s time to worry out ourselves, he says.

Over at Alternet, Michael Klare worries at length about a ‘new world order in energy.’ The comments are as interesting as the article: some alarmed, some thoughtful, others desperate, crazy, excited even.

In the New York Times, Paul Greenberg reviews two novels that conjure ‘ecological end-times.’ Ecotopia, first published in the 1970’s, imagines a better life (for a part of America, at least) emerging from eco-crisis. The more recent novel, The World Made by Hand, is based in an East Coast town of the future in which most people return to laboring and can now only dream of driving. Says Greenberg:

I would prefer to live in Ecotopia, but the verisimilitude of Kunstler’s world leads me to think the future is Union Grove. Thirty years from now, it will be interesting to see if that little town seems excessively sad, richly luxurious or spot on. But for now, I’m hedging my bets. Where I live, one block east of ground zero, I’ve started keeping a compost bin and am thinking about adding a micro wind generator.

Meanwhile columnist Paul Krugman fears that we’re running out of commodities. That won’t mean the immediate collapse of civilization, he reassures us. But

rich countries will face steady pressure on their economies from rising resource prices, making it harder to raise their standard of living. And some poor countries will find themselves living dangerously close to the edge — or over it.

No critique from Krugman, though, about whether the way we’ve come to define a good life is part of the problem. And no ideas for how we might resolve the crises that will come when countries do tumble over the various precipices upon which they teeter.

Over in the UK, the Independent is doing its usual best to add to the bad news. Yesterday they mourned the decline of birds that usually migrate to the UK.

So what are we to do? For an exhortation not to give up — but to act both personally and politically we can turn, thankfully, to Michael Pollan — writing in the Time’s magazine this Sunday.

Whatever we can do as individuals to change the way we live at this suddenly very late date does seem utterly inadequate to the challenge. It’s hard to argue with Michael Specter, in a recent New Yorker piece on carbon footprints, when he says: “Personal choices, no matter how virtuous, cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.” So it will. Yet it is no less accurate or hardheaded to say that laws and money cannot do enough, either; that it will also take profound changes in the way we live.

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We almost decided not to mention this story, since it really amounts to nothing. But in case you missed it, yesterday US President George Bush called for a halt in the growth of US greenhouse gases by 2025. And he said US power plant emissions should peak in the next 10 to 15 years.

And he pretty much left it at that. To quote the SF Chronicle’s Zachary Coile:

But the president proposed no new regulations or legislation to ensure that his new targets are met, and his proposal falls far short of the cuts in greenhouse gases that scientists say are needed to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures and sea levels.

Call it cynical; call it trying to add to a little burnish to the President’s many reputational tarnishes, or call it, as many Democrats have done, an attempt to undermine an upcoming Senate bill with real regulatory teeth (which calls for emissions to be reduced by 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 66 percent by 2050) — but it’s certainly not going to be any kind of a force for change. Which is almost certainly the President’s intention.

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Scientists at this week’s general meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna have been worrying about water.

Some see ‘melting mountains’ (to use Reuters’ headline) as a “time bomb” set to explode established patterns of global water use.

That snow melt will raise world sea levels much more than previously predicted, say others.

If we’re looking at a world with less land and less water to support our living on it, perhaps we need to think about taking up less space. As we do that, the New York Times tells us, the wealthiest of us can rely upon a new breed of advisers — downsizing specialists.

“People who are about to shed personal belongings, by necessity or choice, may find the task overwhelming and emotionally painful,” notes writer Elizabeth Olson.  She sees plenty of future opportunity for those with skills in “organizing, psychology and plain old hand-holding.

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San Francisco journalist David Curran has an odd article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.  Under the title “Eco Worriers,” Curran describes an environmentally-aware neighbor whom he fears — without having ever spoken to this person.

The simple fact that this neighbor sports a cute license plate (‘ECO BRAT’) on his or her Prius, it appears, sends Curran and the neighbors with whom he does speak into paroxysms of guilt.   “We fear his opinions,” Curran writes, although those opinions seem entirely imagined on his part.

It’s obviously an attempt at humor.  The neighbor stands in as a scold to his conscience whenever Curran does something that is less than environmentally friendly.

Since the neighbor doesn’t appear ever to have actually been a scold, though, the humor falls rather pathetically flat.  But the rhetoric is interesting.

“I’m trying and I want some credit for it,”  seems to what Curran is saying.  Fair enough.  Changing your lifestyle is no easy thing.  But inventing what could be called an eco-scold as a form of self-justification is something else.  As tensions over climate change start to impact political decisions, can we expect this figure to become a rhetorical favorite of anyone who’s seeking to push back against what they perceive as (to coin another term) ‘eco-correctness’ ?

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