Climate Awareness Shift?

Occasionally I have to fly for my day job. I’m not a huge fan of it – I can handle the actual act of flying, but I hate the whole experience, from the pre-boarding body search to the crammed-in-a-seat-built-for-someone-two-feet-shorter-than-me. Not to mention that it is the worst way to travel if you care about the climate. Alas, I still have to do it from time to time (though I am trying to phase it out all together).

I recently had to fly down to Davis, CA for a site visit on a project of mine in construction. While waiting to board my flight I talked with a gentleman from outside Tulsa, Oklahoma on his way home. He lamented on the horrible destruction of the tornados that recently hit the area. We talked briefly of the sporadic and crazy weather there and elsewhere. Then I said the two ominous words in any discussion with a stranger: “climate change.”

In all honesty, and to my own personal shame, I expected this man from the south to call me a lunatic or spout off some climate denier propaganda. But to his credit he nodded in agreement, as did another lady next to us who was listening in.

I went on to say that our atmospheric CO2 concentration is now at 394ppm and in order to maintain a planet in which life evolved and is accustomed too, the maximum safe level is 350ppm. Neither of my fellow travels appeared to be aware of this fact, there was shock on their face when I explained the numbers.

The women to my right speculated that we will evolve, but I felt compelled to correct her. All evidence is the the contrary. We’ve stamped out life on Earth quicker and with more vigor not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are absolutely no guarantees of our survival going forward.

Flooding in Pakistan, drought in Texas (and Pakistan), record tornados in Oklahoma and elsewhere the likes of which has never before been seen in record history. All pointing to the fact that climate change has arrived, it’s no longer “on it’s way.” Because of all of this (not to mention that it’s undeniable science, really) I feel more and more that the “debate,” for which I no longer bother engaging in with climate deniers, might finally be coming to an end soon. We all see the craziness now. We’ve entered into a new geologic era. Perhaps now our lifestyles can finally shift.

The gentlemen from Tulsa asked me if I worked in this area or if I was just interested in the subject. “Concerned, deeply,” I replied. “I have a young son, how could I not be concerned?” We all nodded in agreement. As Mark Hertsgaard says in his book Hot:Living Through The Next Fifty Years On Earth, taking action against climate change is now “part of a parent’s job description, no less vital than tending to your child’s diet, health or eduction.” The tides of awareness are changing. Are you coming along?

Happy Birthday Yes! Magazine

Yes Magazine Cover
Yes! Magazine Celebrate's 15 Years

I just returned from a great evening with the folks at Yes! Magazine celebrating their 15th anniversary at Town Hall Seattle. In case you haven’t read Yes! Magazine, they are a leading sustainability-community-new-economy-social-justice – okay, progressive – media outlet. Their website is a constant stream of free (and ad free) content ranging from articles on social justice and sustainability to the new economy and happiness. I’ve been a big fan of them for some time, and privileged enough to be connected with Yes! through previous events, blogging and twitter friends (check out their issue #56 on “What Happy Families Know” my family is on page 52).

I’ll be adding the video of the speakers once it’s up, but wanted to give a quick run-down of tonight’s events, which included Van Jones, Bill McKibben and David Korten. For being a “humble writer,” Bill doesn’t give himself enough credit for his ability to inspire with his speaking as well as his writing. Van’s words were able to move the audience greatly with what appeared to be almost effortless charm – he had us hanging on every well-executed pause and perfectly timed joke. David gave credence to the progressive movements he’s helped to form and be part of with his piece, as well as highlight some of the great work being done to create a better world.

Yes! Magazine started in a basement on Bainbridge Island and is now a world-wide media outlet for progressive, positive stories and action-oriented motivation. They still function on the island, but their offices are a bit bigger. Of course, being a non-profit, community-supported magazine gives their voice even more validity (always good to walk the talk), but it also means they need support to run such an amazing publication. I highly recommend you becoming a subscriber, or read them online and donate. I’m a very satisified dedicated friend (read: monthly donor) and you might be too!

Happy Birthday Yes! Magazine, here’s to another 15 (or 500) years!

UPDATE: Here’s the video link where you can watch each speech separately or the whole thing.

 

Quick Update

Just a little note on the goings-on recently. Friday I had a great time at the Town Hall Seattle event with Paul Gilding. Paul has a lot of fresh, inspiring ideas about climate change and the end of the world as we know it. I was lucky enough to introduce him and chat with him a bit as CASSE’s Washington Chapter Director. I also met with some other sustainable gurus in the Seattle area from Sustainable West Seattle and SCALLOPS.

I’m putting together a more thorough overview of the night that will be up soon, once the video is available online. In the meantime, please take a moment to check out Paul Gilding’s book! I highly recommend it (that’s why it’s this month’s feature book on SSR)

Paul Gilding At Town Hall Seattle

In a two short weeks Town Hall Seattle will be hosting Paul Gilding, author of The Great Disruption. Paul will be discussing the now unavoidable consequences of climate change and the challenges humanity will face. But in the face of such great challenges Paul envisions it will bring out the best of us: compassion, innovation, resilience and adaptability.

Paul will be in Seattle giving a talk about his new book and I will be introducing him as the Washington State Chapter Director of CASSE. The event will be at 7:30pm on Friday, May 6th at Town Hall Seattle. I hope you can make it!

Here’s a short description of his work:

“It’s time to stop just worrying about climate change, says Paul Gilding. We need instead to brace for impact because global crisis is no longer avoidable. This Great Disruption started in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices and dramatic ecological changes, such as the melting ice caps. It is not simply about fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to the end of Economic Growth, Version 1.0, a world economy based on consumption and waste, where we lived beyond the means of our planet’s ecosystems and resources.

The Great Disruption offers a stark and unflinching look at the challenge humanity faces-yet also a deeply optimistic message. The coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid; however, they will also bring out the best humanity can offer: compassion, innovation, resilience, and adaptability. Gilding tells us how to fight-and win-what he calls The One Degree War to prevent catastrophic warming of the earth, and how to start today.

“The crisis represents a rare chance to replace our addiction to growth with an ethic of sustainability, and it’s already happening. It’s also an unmatched business opportunity: Old industries will collapse while new companies will literally reshape our economy. In the aftermath of the Great Disruption, we will measure “growth” in a new way. It will mean not quantity of stuff but quality and happiness of life. Yes, there is life after shopping.”

Get your tickets here and check out Paul’s site for more locations on his tour.

Tax The Wealthy, They’re Asking For It

Take The Wealthy Banner
Tax Wealth Like Work

It’s apparent that the income and wealth gap in the US (and the world) is large and only getting worse. Out of the last ten years of economic growth all of the increase in wealth has gone to the top 1%. These extremely wealth people have seen an 18 percent increase in their yearly income and currently the top 1% control 40% of the total wealth in America!! During those same ten years the rest of us have seen a decrease in our yearly incomes. (The concept of “a rising tide lifts all boats” is utterly false by the facts)

All those facts are explained in Joesph Stiglitz’s article pretty clearly. While I suspected that our tax system was skewed towards the wealthy (and we know all about the infamous “Bush tax cuts”), I was unaware of the actual numbers on earned income taxes versus capital gains and dividend income. Those of us that work for a living, most contributing to the betterment of society in some fashion or another, are taxed 35% of our income. Those that live off dividends and investments, many of which are inherited, are only taxes 15%.

A recent group of wealthy individuals have come out to recognize this disparity and campaign for a change. Responsible Wealth and United for a Fair Economy have launched the “Tax Wealth Like Work” campaign. The goal of the campaign is to:

“Focus attention on the discrepancies in the U.S. tax system that reward income from wealth over income from work. Income from capital gains and dividend income – a type of investment income from stocks, real estate, and other holdings – is taxed at a top marginal rate of only 15 percent. Income earned from work, on the other hand, has a top rate of 35 percent.”

Check out the campaign here. (Thanks to Gift Hub for showing me this)

Here’s some graphics for your consideration, too:

Effective Federal Tax Rates = Wealth Inequality

Best Green Think Tank: CASSE

CASSE Wins Best Think Tank!

TreeHugger, by far one of the largest green blogs in the world, recently announced it’s Best of Green 2011 awards. And in the category for Best Green Think Tank? No other than the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy! CASSE folks are delighted, of course!

Here’s what TreeHugger had to say about the award:

“You well may be exclaiming ‘who?!’ right now and that’s OK.”And in all honesty awarding the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy a Best of Green Award this year is as much about promise as past action.

“When it comes down to advocating for what we humbly submit to TreeHugger readers as the single most important economic concept of the 21st century, CASSE comes out on top. We highly urge you to look into their work.”

Check it out here.

Are Nuclear Fears Unfounded?

Nuclear Power PlantsI have a great respect for George Monbiot. He is an amazing writer (I loved his book Heat), a fearless journalist and a strong-willed political activist. He an deeply committed environmentalist, and also (so it appears, see below) a supporter of nuclear power.

Recently he engaged in a debate over the nuclear debacle in Japan with staunch anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott. After hunting for scientific evidence to support the claims of the anti-nuclear movement in general. Seeing as how I’ve been musing on the Japan nuclear quagmire, I thought I would share his piece with you.

From his recent article, “Evidence Meltdown,”

“Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

“We have a duty to base our judgements on the best available information. This is not just because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right.”

Clearly a energy policy that does not rely on greenhouse gas emitting, non-renewable technologies is necessary. There is potential for nuclear power to provide a stop-gap to get us between our current technology level to when we will have more efficient, cheaper solar, wind, geothermal and wave/tidal power or potentially other more advance energy sources (fusion, hydrogen, etc). I also know that we could utilize all of these without nuclear power now, but I’m not so sure about the political feasibly of it all. And I am not keen on relying on unknown future technologies to save us in the present.

On the flip side, here’s Brian Czech’s most recent post on The Daly News.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Image Credit: Inhabitat

Miracle Technology Found, Solves All World’s Problems

Scientists Discover Wonder Element

It was announced late last night by a Swedish research team that a new wonder element has been discovered. The team says that this element, Unbelievium, can be used to generate large amounts of pollution-free energy, with it’s resulting by products being easily used to create carbon fiber, desalinated clean water, and hydrogen (which can be used again in fuel cells for more energy). It can be easily created by a combination of nearly anything and sea water, including most waste products – from carbon dioxide pulled from the atmosphere to random trash or nuclear waste.

Government’s around the world rejoiced, especially after the Nuclear disaster in Japan bringing to light the face that nuclear energy is not a safe or feasible source of energy. President Obama held a short press conference shortly there after saying that new power plants could be built easily and inexpensively. He went on further, saying,

“This breakthrough in technology presents a great opportunity for the world’s economy to continue to grow and bring prosperity to all. Swedish researchers have graciously agreed to release all their research data to the free peoples of the world. This new technology should be easily implemented and readily available to produce 100% of our energy within 10 years.”

Swedish researches say that this technology goes against all we thought we knew about thermodynamics. The first and second laws, which are generally present in everything we do and limit our ability to grow continually on a finite planet, seem to no longer apply to the process that creates Unbelievium. Some medical researchers in the US have even said that this element might even be used to treat some diseases, potentially extending life spans. Food technologists (yes, it’s a real job) working alongside the Swedish researchers say that this new element can condense nutritional aspects of food and even aid in the growing of our food too!

Further, it’s thought that Unbelievium can be used to turn just about anything into raw elements. The example given by researchers was “turning piles of dirty diapers into iron, through a fairly low-energy process using Unbelievium as a catalyst.”

Turns out, a finite planet can support an ever increasing material throughput –  we just needed to wait for technology to save us after all! Well, guess that’s it for this blog, I’ll have to go get a job as a stock broker or something. 😉

(Happy April Fools Day!)

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons.