Ingela Netz is the head teacher of a new school in Södetälje, Sweden who has recruited a team of teachers committed to a future-oriented view of schooling. She attended the ENIRDELM conference in Finland in September 2014 and made a short presentation at the workshop of the CASE initiative (Community Action for Spaceship Earth). The vision of the staff offers a rare example of a school making a global perspective, combined with verbal and digital communication, a top priority. Their emphasis on action as an outcome of school learning is totally I line with the CASE approach. She outlines (here) their innovative ambitions and becomes the first head of a primary school to contribute an original document to the case4all resource platform.
The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world’s electricity can – and must – be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050. If not, the world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage. The UN said inaction would cost “much more” than taking the necessary action.
The IPCC’s Synthesis Report was published in Copenhagen in October 2014, after a week of intense debate between scientists and government officials. It is intended to inform politicians engaged in attempts to deliver a new global treaty on climate by the end of 2015. The report says that reducing emissions is crucial if global warming is to be limited to 2C – a target acknowledged in 2009 as the threshold of dangerous climate change.
The report suggests renewables will have to grow from their current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050. In the longer term, the report states that fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be “phased out almost entirely by 2100”. The Synthesis Report summarises three previous reports from the IPCC, which outlined the causes, the impacts and the potential solutions to climate change.
It re-states many familiar positions:
- Warming is “unequivocal” and the human influence on climate is clear
- The period from 1983 to 2012, it says, was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1,400 years
- Warming impacts are already being seen around the globe, in the acidification of the oceans, the melting of arctic ice and poorer crop yields in many parts
- Without concerted action on carbon, temperatures will increase over the coming decades and could be almost 5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century
“Science has spoken,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”
[From the BBC website]
2014 is set to be the warmest calendar year in recorded human history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Centre revealed in its latest monthly report.
The “combined average temperature” of land and ocean surfaces for September was the highest in recorded history, the report states. Furthermore, October 2013 to September 2014 was the warmest 12-month period ever recorded.
“If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest calendar year on record,” concludes the report.
The NOAA’s findings echo those of NASA, which revealed earlier this month that the last six months were the warmest such period of time ever recorded.
The degree to which these increases in global average temperatures of land and sea recording sites is the result of anthropogenic effects of adding green house gases to the atmosphere (as opposed to natural causes) is still a contested issue, though there is clear evidence that levels of atmospheric CO2 have been rising at around 3 parts per million (ppm) each year from around 310 ppm in 1960 to around 400 ppm this year. This hockey ‘J’ curve graph of CO2 increase is named the Keeling Curve after Dave Keeling, the originator of atmospheric CO2 measurement who started his research in 1953. (see Scripps Institute website)
In the year between mid 2013 and mid-2014 world wealth increased by 8.3% (a rate of doubling every 8.5 years)
The growth added $20.1 trillion to global assets
Total global wealth (assets and income combined) is now $263 trillion comared to $117 trillion in 2000
The richest 1% own 48.2% of these global assets
The richest 10% own 87%
The poorest 50% own less than 1%
And the inequality among passengers of Spaceship Earth continues to accelerate.
Another Guardian article adds weight to the WWF report on the 50% loss of vertebrate wildlife over the last 40 years. Here is and extract:
Humans, said TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough last year, are a “plague on earth”, but WWF claims there is still time to stop the rot. Its UK chief executive David Nussbaum said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should act as a wake-up call for us all. We all – politicians, business and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for people and nature.
“Humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can regrow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can restock, pumping water from our rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb,” he said.
“A healthy future for people and nature” at least implies that the world does not simply exist for the benefit of humans. Nature in the form of the entire web of life has it right to exist. Attenborough’s frightening metaphor of humans as “a plague on earth”, echoes the view of James Lovelock that our species (the dominant passengers of Spaceship Earth?) is an infestation, an invasive species, that is threatening Gaia, the material and organic planet. Responding to this planetary threat is the greatest challenge of our Age of Accelerating Extinctions brought about by the impact of human population, affluence and technology.
This link to a Guardian article from two co-directors of the Post-Growth Institute tackles this question that is asked by radical thinkers about the unsustainable nature of exponentially growing economies on our finite planet. To quote:
… we live in a for-profit world.
This way of conducting business has led to socioeconomic inequality, with capital gains and company dividends the largest contributor to income divides. What else could we expect when private profit is seen as the driver of economic activity and profit maximisation is the priority of most big businesses?
After outlining many examples of NFP enterprises in the UK and around the world, the article reaches this conclusion:
… For the first time in modern history we have the structures, capabilities and impetus to evolve to an NFP world, in which the best energies and drivers of good business are harnessed for our collective flourishing.
Research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London has found that the number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats. The report is summarised in this article from the Guardian newspaper.
August 19th was Earth Overshoot Day 2014, the approximate date humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what the Earth can renew this year. In less than 8 months, we demanded an amount of ecological resources and services equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2014. On Earth Overshoot Day, humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we are drawing down our ecological assets.
Ecological deficit spending is made possible by depleting stocks of fish, trees and other resources, and accumulating waste such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. Currently, the carbon Footprint is the largest portion of humanity’s Footprint — a result of emitting greenhouse gases faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans — and contributes significantly to humanity’s ecological overspending.
According to Global Footprint Network’s calculations, it would take more than 1.5 Earths to provide the bio-capacity needed to support humanity’s current Ecological Footprint. Moderate population, energy and food projections suggest that humanity would require the bio-capacity of three planets well before mid-century. This may be physically unfeasible. Today, 86 percent of the world population lives in countries that demand more from nature than their own ecosystems can renew. These “ecological debtor” countries either deplete their own ecological resources or get them from elsewhere. Were Japan’s residents to consume ecological resources and services solely from within their country’s borders, they would demand 7 Japans. In other words, Japan’s Footprint is 7 times larger than its bio-capacity. Similarly, it would take 4.3 Switzerlands to support Switzerland and 2.7 Egypts to support Egypt.
Not all countries demand more than their ecosystems can provide, but even the reserves of such “ecological creditor” nations like Brazil, Indonesia, and Sweden are shrinking over time. For these countries, the main challenge is to treat their natural assets as ever-more significant sources of wealth to be preserved and nurtured over the long term, as opposed to riches to be squandered for short-term profits.
This week saw two encouraging and contrasting events. The first was huge street protests around the world in more than 2,000 locations demanding urgent action from those in power to ease the effect of humans on the climate of our planet. The People’s Climate March was campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York on 23 September. The UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon who took part in New York told reporters “This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live. There is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have ‘Planet B’.”
The second piece of encouraging news was the decision of the Rockefeller Foundation to stop investing in coal, oil, and gas production enterprises. Heirs to the Rockefeller family, which made its vast fortune from oil, are to sell investments in fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is joining a coalition of philanthropists pledging to rid themselves of more than $50 bn (£31 bn) in fossil fuel assets. The philanthropic organisation was founded in 1940 by the sons of John D Rockefeller. As of 31 July 2014, the fund’s investment assets were worth $860 million. “There is a moral imperative to preserve a healthy planet,” Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, a great-great-granddaughter of Mr Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund. This divestment (withdrawing investment in economic activities) is focused on four energy sources that have led to a new acronym – CONG – coal, oil. nuclear power and gas.
It will be interesting to see which of these events results has the greatest impact on easing one aspect of the accelerating and damaging human impact on our planetary home, Spaceship Earth.
The first Jesuit and first non-European Pope in the modern era produced a 50000 word Apostolic Exhortation in Nov 2013.
[An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine. It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, Apostolic Letters and Other Papal Writings – Wikipedia]
In Chapter 2, paragraphs 52-58, Pope Francis’ theme is that “money must serve, not rule!” He develops a critique of the way money depersonalises peoples’ relationships with reality and each other and becomes an end in itself, referring to:
“the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings. …”
“The thirst for power and possessions know no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
“When a society—whether local, national, or global—is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquillity.”
A longer extract from the Apostolic Exhortation is here.
Money and debt oil the wheels of ever-accelerating economic growth that concentrates wealth and power and underlies so many threats to a sustainable future for Spaceship Earth. One imaginative simile is that money is like the ‘holy spirit’ of the deified market!