Sunday, October 17, 2010


Imagine what would happen if greenhouse gases (GHG) and carbon emissions would have remained at ground level instead of rising up into the atmosphere. Billions of toxic gases blurring our vision and contaminating our lungs outside our house. Who would have tolerated. Worse than that, our youngest ones playing out in the street and coming home suffocating with asthma symptoms.

If that was the reality, climate change would have been dealt with a century ago, as no one in the early industrialized countries would have tolerated. Today we tolerate because gases go up and we don't see them, and because the amount of pollution has been accumulating very slowly, over the course of years and decades of running engines and burning fossil fuels to heat our homes, cook our meals and keep our electronic toys running. In sum, to keep our addiction to comfort up to par.

The rate at which we are generating carbon emissions is clearly unsustainable. Everybody knows that. The problem is that action to cap that contamination comes at a very high cost for everybody as well. Now, we are talking about two different types of costs. The monetary cost of transforming industrial processes to be less carbon intensive will cost producers and consumers alike in their efforts to incorporate negative externalities into the supply and demand equation. The environmental cost is less tangible and not so much spoken about.

You see, among the policymakers that rule the world, many are economists of have studied classic economics, a marvelous field of study that lies somewhere between social science, mathematics and psychology. If Economics would also teach about ecology then we would be saved: we would understand, once and for all, that our economies are constrained within our human societies, and that our human societies are constrained within our natural ecosystem. We cannot grow beyond our environment. We cannot live outside the limits of the planet. At least not yet. At least not all of us anyway.

So, as long as this is not a possibility, it is up to us to deal with the problem. If you are not in the oil industry, if you are not a politician that makes promises as a way of living even if they are never fulfilled, if you care about the world you are going to die in, if you would like to inherit onto your descendants a healthy, secure place to thrive as individuals and families within communities, then I suggest you get informed about what needs to be done to change our culture of unsustainable development.

As Jared Diamond wonders in his masterpiece "Collapse," what did the Easter Islanders say the day they cut down their last tree? If we don't want to answer that question, we better start planting more trees than the ones we are cutting down today. So far this year, almost 9 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide. That is more than twice the total land area of Costa Rica, my beautiful piece of paradise.

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