Swiss referendum for a ‘one planet’ future

Switzerland currently has a global (ecological) footprint that would require three planet Earths to sustain if the rest of the world enjoyed its material standard of living. In a remarkable world first referendum on 25 September 2016 its voters were asked to approve a target for reducing the country’s levels of consumption to ensure a ‘one planet’ future by 2050, Here are the results in summary and here is the commentary on the results by Mathis Wackernagel, the founder of the Global Footprint Network.

As expected, economy trumps ecology, material self-interest trumps commitment to a sustainable future for our descendents, possibly our own children and grandchildren. But nevertheless, this 34% vote for the goal of long-term socio-ecological sustainablity is a major indicator of the increasing awareness of the need for an ethic of sufficiency if Spaceship Earth is to remain a Safe Operating Space (SOS) for humanity and other sentient species.

The Ideology of Power & Greed

 jurmala-ppt – these are the slides from the powerpoint presentation and these propositions-symposium-on-equity-and-quality are the handouts the from the symposium run by David Oldroyd in which equity between the ‘Machine World’ (the result of human activity) and the Natural World (The Planet Earth as a Spaceship on which all species depend) is proposed as the most important and ignored inequity of our current Anthropocene Age. Without restoring the balance between the Machine and Natural Worlds the quality of all our lives will be severely threatened, If societies’ leaders and educational leaders fail to place this global challenge at the centre of their concerns, then the collapse of global systems will come sooner than we think. A strong predication is that 2030-2040 will be the time of collapse and maybe it is already underway!!

The presentation entitled “Basic Beliefs that underlie equity and equality for future Well-being” was built around a map of core ideologies developed by Slav Heller that contrasts core worldviews of ‘exapansionism’ with those of ‘sustainablility’. The latter are dominated by the former in both our societies and our education systems, but expansion of human impact on the natural world cannot be sustained much longer. The presentation in Jurmala argued that by 2030 to 2040 the collapse of global systems would commence in earnest and would become unstoppable. This arises from blindness to the consequences of current exponentially accelerating human impacts  driven by what Heller terms the Ideology of Power & Greed.

Richard Heinberg’ latest relevant article is worth reading:   Exploring the Gap Between Business-as-Usual and Utter Doom

Global voting

It is now possible to vote in the elections of other countries and for your preferred candidate for UN Secretary General. Global Vote’s mission is: “whenever one group of people decides on an issue that will directly affect the lives of many other people around the world, the Global Vote gives the world a voice.”

Global Vote is an outcome of the Good Country Index developed by Simon Anholt in a remarkable effort to promote global citizenship. His 2014 TED Talk “Which country does the most good for the world?”  can be seen here.  “It’s an unexpected side effect of globalization: problems that once would have stayed local—say, a bank lending out too much money—now have consequences worldwide. But still, countries operate independently, as if alone on the planet. Policy advisor Simon Anholt has dreamed up an unusual scale to get governments thinking outwardly: The Good Country Index. In a riveting and funny talk, he answers the question, “Which country does the most good?” The answer may surprise you (especially if you live in the US or China).”

The initiative is an attempt to expose the negative effects of national ‘selfishnes’ and competitiveness on the prospects of a sustainable future for Spaceship Earth.

Disappearing wilderness

BBC News reports that a tenth of the world’s wilderness has vanished in the past two decades, research shows. New maps show “alarming losses” of pristine landscapes, particularly in South America and Africa, according to World Conservation Society scientists. They argue in Current Biology that wild areas are ignored in international conservation agreements, despite their ecological and cultural value. About 20% of the world’s land area is classed as wilderness. By this, scientists mean landscapes free of large-scale human disturbances such as housing, development and industry.

This is yet another of so many recent reports about the advance of the Machine World into the Natural World that is hastening the capacity of planetary ecosytems to maintain themselves as the burgeoning ‘no limits’ demands of population and wealth accumulation sided by fosiil-fuel driven technology push human impact beyond ‘planetary boundaries’.

Trade Deals vs. Climate Agreements

There has been much controversy, at least in the ‘progressive’ media about the secretly negotiated trade agreements that currently are proposing the empowerment of global corporations to prosecute nations whose policies appear to limit the profits of these global giant companies. These highly complex international agreements also tilt the balance away from protecting the rights of workers in favour of corporate interests. In the US presidential campaign these  agreements (TPP, TTIP, CETA, etc.) have become an issue.

This article looks at another impact that the emerging trade deals might have –  they could undermine and conflict with the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement to curb CO2 emissions. That agreement now seems likely to come into force following the G20 Hangchou meeting which confirmed China and the USA’s commitment. So there appears to be potential conflict between the two sets of international agreements: one protecting the profits of global trading corporations, the other protecting the global environment. Another example of profit over people and planet?

The article is based on a report from an interest group representing the interests of non-corporate agricultural producers – The Institute of Agricultural and Trade Policy. You can read the full report upon which the article was based: The Climate Cost of Free Trade: How the TPP and trade deals undermine the Paris climate agreement.

G20 + 1.5C + 350ppm

These three cryptic numbers are worth reflecting on as the world’s most powerful leaders gather for their G20 summit meeting in Hangzhou, China on Sunday 4 September 2016. The day before this G20 meeting, China joined the US and ratified the Paris climate agreement. This joint commitment from the world’s super-polluters is a big step towards turning the Paris climate agreement into reality. It may also encourage other major emitters of CO2 to ratify the negotiated attempt to prevent the global average temperature from rising beyond 1.5C above the pre-industrial norm. The U.S. and China together comprise 40 percent of world emissions, their ratification makes it very likely for the agreement to come into force this year.

Analysts warn that the target of keeping temperature rises below 2C is already in danger of being breached. For 14 consecutive months meteorologists have recorded the hottest month on record, and the UK’s Met Office has forecast that 2016 is likely to hit temperatures 1.1C above pre-industrial levels.

The 350.org movement regards the Paris agreement as unlikely to achieve even the lowest projected CO2 concentrations projected by the IPCC that would limit warming to 1.5C. This global grass roots initiative sees 350 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 as the upper limit required and already CO2 concentration are above 400 ppm.

This report in Sept 2016 sets out the facts about the impossibility of limiting global warming to 1.5C given the present trajectory of fossil fuel extraction and use.

Climate War?

Bill McKibben has emerged as a leading figure in the movement to limit anthropogenic climate disruption. In a new article the founder of the 350.org campaign argues that the current escalation of global warming requires a response similar to that of fighting a world war, such is the gravity of the threat to the environment and humankind. This additional article from the independent news outlet Common Dreams provides a summary of McGibben’s longer argument.

The conflict that has been conducted between the scientific community and climate change deniers/sceptics for many years still continues, a recent example from an Australian TV panel discussion set Prof. Brian Cox agianst an Australian politician who claims that the empirical data from the IPCC and many other sourses including NASA are falsified as part of a liberal conspiracy to allow the UN to crate a world government!

Marine Protection Areas & Microbeads

Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) have been set up to cover about 4% of the planet’s ocean, mostly in remote locations. The aim is to limit the impact of human activity on the natural diversity of life in the Earth’s hydrosphere from where organic life first emerged on Spaceship Earth. This article outlines several issues relating to this attempt to limit negative human impact (the Machine World intruding upon the Natural World) and provides a world map, updated to March 2016, to show the location of the MPAs. Like so many other attempts at conservation, this worthy trend may be too little, too late and also a matter of great indifference to the majority of the current 7.4 billion human passengers on the finite planet. The very existence of such huge numbers of humans (increasing to 9 billion by 2040) depends upon the natural ecosystems that provide the resources for the human-made support systems (the technosphere) that have allowed the exponential growth of population and wealth. The memosphere (the global realm of beliefs and knowledge) is dominated by anthropocentric assumptions that the planet simply exists for humans to use to produce limitless wealth (the expansionist Ideology of Power and Greed). This ideology has to be changed to a belief that humans must live sustainably within the limits of the Natural World. This means adopting an ethic of sufficiency to replace the fantasy of no limits.

Even Spacehip Earth’s vast oceans have their limits as recent publicity about the addition of trillions of plastic microbeads to the hydrosphere illustrates. The US and Canada have already legislated to ban the use of microbeads and the UK government is calling for a worldwide ban on the production and use of these incredients of cosmetics that find their way into the Earth’s oceans. No MPA, however well-policed, is immune to the intrusion of these indestructible human microbeads that harm marine life and enter the food chain. Of course, it would be much harder to legislate for bans on the pollutants (particulate and gaseous) that human activity is adding to the atmosphere. However, it is impossible to deny that microbeads are anthropogenic in origin. Denial of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) of the atmosphere due to pollutants is still in evidence despite many decades of research to the contrary!