Prior to the Davos World Economic Forum of the super-rich and super powerful, the accelerating concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands has been again headlined by researchers. This article in today’s Guardian describes the startling trend:
Oxfam’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5% … on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016 … just 80 people own the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people (down from 388 people in 2010).
[This BBC website article explores the statistical basis of this and other types of assertions and Jeremy Williams’ blog has a link to the Oxfam Report]
It is worth considering how this distribution of wealth might relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals starting January 2016.
The Guardian today has yet another warning of the self-destructive impact of humans on their planet. It revisits the planetary boundaries research of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and emphasises the unprecedented rate of ‘eating away’ that scientists are now recording as economic growth remains the driving force in modern science.
Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.
Will Steffen of the SRC is quoted:
“We are clearing land, we are degrading land, we introduce feral animals and take the top predators out, we change the marine ecosystem by overfishing – it’s a death by a thousand cuts. That direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.”
On the same day this headline article in the New York Times reported another scientific meta-analysis of research that reveals the extreme effects of human activity under the title “Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction”.
A more extreme press item on the same report is here. It places the blame on 60 years of neo-liberal capitalism and uses rhetorical language such as ‘breaking our planet’.
According to The Land Institute, soil is every bit as non-renewable as oil, and it is essential for human survival. Healthy soil is the foundation for food, fuel, fiber, and medical products, and is a vital part of ecosystems. It stores and filters water, provides resilience to drought, plays an important role in the carbon cycle, and is the foundation of agriculture and food production.
According to plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute Wes Jackson, and farmer and author Wendell Berry, “our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.”
The United Nations is recognizing and trying to educate the passengers of Spaceship Earth about our vital dependence on this thin layer of mineral and organic matter on the surface of the lithosphere. Therefore the UN has declared this year the IYS. Just how much impact this move will have remains to be seen. if the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development that has just ended is anything to go by, the IYS will not feature greatly in public discourse!
For an article elaborating this Food Tank post see here.
Jeremy Williams blogged this piece today with yet more confirmation of what so many now accept as scientific consensus. The BBC website on the same day carried this article about how much and where fossil fuel will need to be left in the ground by 2050 as ‘unusable resources’ to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. However, there are still those who see the issue of climate change as unresolved, particularly because of the dependence on computer modelling. One site worth looking at is that made by Judith Curry of Georgia State University. This article ‘Will a return of rising temperatures validate the climate models?’ by Donald C. Morton offers a scholarly and reasoned note of scepticism.
Jeremy Williams is one of my favourite bloggers who, like this case4all.info blog and resource platform, is providing material that aims to raise awareness and promote action on behalf of a sustainable future on Spaceship Earth for all its organic passengers and support systems, though he prefers the ‘make wealth history’ title for his blog rather than the spaceship metaphor. Here is an annotated list of five books that he recommends as 2014 draws to a close. They can be added to ‘Catalogue of Resources: Books’ on this website.
The Lima Conference of the Parties (COP 20) continue their long-running failure to achieve any consensus about international collaboration to cut carbon emissions. Two very different commentaries are to be found from the BBC (12.12.14) on the one hand and from the Murgatroyd Blog (08.12.14) on the other hand. Another surprising contribution to the COP 20 debate came from an international declaration by Catholic bishops on climate change. They are the leaders of upwards of one billion adherents world-wide – around one seventh of all the people on Spaceship Earth. Jeremy Williams comments on and provides a link to this declaration.
Jeremy William’s blog is my favourite source of material and links on the issues that relate to the well-being or otherwise of our civilisation’s future on Spaceship Earth. In this week’s blog he introduces the World Bank’s Report “4 degrees: Turn down the heat” which firmly links climate change to human development. Here is an extract:
If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.
The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise. The task of promoting human development, of ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all.
Another Williams blog on the implications of different rates and levels of carbon emissions is here. It is based on the Carbon Brief a website that reports daily on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK.
Lima will be the site for yet another international attempt to frame an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s semi-optimistic article in the New York Times reports:
“After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact to halt climate change, United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week are expressing a new optimism that they may finally achieve the elusive deal.
Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.
The aim of negotiators in Lima is, for the first time, to produce an agreement in which every nation commits to a domestic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, along the model of the November 2014 United States-China agreement. Negotiators expect that by next March, governments will make announcements similar to those made by the United States and China in November
In order to avoid the 3.6 degree increase, global emissions must peak within the next 10 years, going down to half of current levels by midcentury. But the deal being drafted in Lima will not even be enacted until 2020. And the structure of the emerging deal — allowing each country to commit to what it can realistically achieve, given each nation’s domestic politics — means that the initial cuts by countries will not be as stringent as what scientists say is required”.
A powerful documentary film “Disruption” made before the previous Climate Summit held in New York at the UN on 21 September 2014 to mobilise the largest street protest ever seen against the failure to address climate disruption seriously. The film offers a summary of the scientific evidence about human-induced climate disruption, why we are both simultaneously bystanders and perpetrators and how street demonstrations can contribute powerfully to create ‘social tipping points’ that bring about shifts in values and political change.
For a visual account of the biggest climate march ever see this coverage an the Avaaz.org website.
George Monbiot’s new article continues his David vs. Goliath campaign against government’s collusion with corporate and business interests to demonize government regulation in general and any form of regulation to protect planetary wildlife in particular, when it threatens business profits. He outlines a green paper produced by those seeking to protect the living world from the predatory ‘Machine World’. This technological impact on the planet is the upstart Goliath that has grown exponentially on Spaceship Earth, especially in the last 60 years of cheap oil energy, at the expense of an living world evolved over 3.5 billion years.
On the same day as Monbiot’s article Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote this piece on the politicization of environmental protection relating to ozone emissions. Similar value conflicts on both sides of the Atlantic hold back the preservation of our planet’s well-being and that of its passengers. Profits first; planet second?
We are locked in to inevitable global warming according to a new report from the World Bank based on projections prepared for The World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. The data show that dramatic climate changes, heat and weather extremes are already impacting people, damaging crops and coastlines and putting food, water, and energy security at risk.
There is growing evidence, that even with very ambitious mitigation action, warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century is already locked-in to the Earth’s atmospheric system and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable. If the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability.