Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Few Thoughts on "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math"

Rolling Stone has published Bill McKibben's article which I believe to be the most action-based diagnosis on climate change that I  have read. 

Forget everything you have heard or read about climate change and stick to this one piece! A few additional concerns:

1. We have diagnosed the conflict incorrectly. It is not about carbon emissions. It is about a severe addiction to comfort that maintains us unconscious of the holistic, long-term consequences of our behavior;

2. Ninety percent of the problem is caused by the 2 billion richest people, which are those who live in a household where per capita income is greater than US$300/month. The remaining 5 billion, who earn less than that, are barely contributing to the growing spiral of ecological degradation, and they certainly are too busy surviving under highly impoverished conditions to worry about global issues;

3. We either change our behavior and culture decidedly, or it will change us dramatically and -apparently to many- unexpectedly. But we've been sufficiently warned in advance;

4. I don't think oil companies are solely responsible as to target them and blame them for the crisis. We are the ones burning and causing to burn fossil fuels to support our comfort levels, to the point where we rather remain indifferent and even deny the issue than to face it;

5. The big picture is far more complex: we are reducing the Earth's biocapacity (its ability to naturally replenish resources like oxygen, potable water, fisheries, fertile soil) and we are consuming 50% more every year than can be naturally renewed. If we proceeded like this with our finances (it is not so differently, in fact), we would have gone bankrupt and bust a couple of decades ago. The difference is that we cannot print more planet;

6. By cutting down forests at a rate of the entire area of Nepal every year, we are not allowing the biosphere of the planet to clean its own atmosphere. We are approaching the tipping point-of-no-return from more than one direction simultaneously;

7. We are contaminating aquifers, river basins and oceans with the residue or leftovers from our shampoo and toothpaste and hair gel and plastic bags. We are causing contamination of our own sources of food, and at the same time we are exhausting available resources. 

I already know I won't see a healthier planet than the one I saw when I arrived. But I got tired of being pessimistic, so I chose to make the change for myself including not commuting by car the last five years, going vegetarian the last four years, and planting some 40 trees per year in average the last five years. I decided to embrace a sublime faith that a more prosperous life on the planet can be achieved. My sense of ethical responsibility towards six generations after mine does not allow me to proceed otherwise. 

I don't foresee the great transformations that the planet requires coming from politics -including diplomacy, for the matter- nor from markets. The only harmonious course of action I can imagine is an emergence of ethics as a binding force across cultures, generations, genders and socioeconomic conditions. We are just not properly connected, but this shift could happen far quicker than we think.

At the end of Rio+20 a journalist said that the only way out of the global climate conflict was a catastrophic climate-related disaster that would shock us all and bind us together. I think the climate-related disaster is here and now. I strongly believe it is the turn for our generation -not our parents, and not the other country at the other end of the ocean- to take the lead and facilitate the change that is required. If not us, then who?

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