Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Yesterday, in response to the picture I posted of my grandfather on the farm, Jeff asked,

When you have time, could you tell us more of the story of your grandfather and his family? Where in France was the picture taken? What did he farm? What would he have thought about all this climate change problem that we’ve created?

I lost my grandfather when I was 5. To this day, ‘Pepe Marcel‘ still looms tall in my memory. I realize I owe it to him to care so much for nature, and what’s happening currently. Times on the farm with my him are some of the most precious items in my green memory bank. Like my French blogging sister, Nadine, much of what I write is informed by these early moments.

I started writing a sappy response to Jeff’s question. A romantic interpretation of what I thought ‘Pepe Marcel‘ would be telling me now. Imbued with nostalgia about the old days, without cars, and planes, and supermarkets. Times when his old village was still very much a real community, and seasons dictated the rhythm of people’s daily lives. When organic was a word that did not exist, and yet everything we ate was organic. When tractors had not yet replaced the horse led ploughs in the fields, and the plots were still small and not cultivated to excess. When the bread we ate tasted like the real thing, and was not whitened artificially to make it ‘more enticing’.

Soon, my grandfather’s real voice came through, and it whispered a very different message. If I was living now, you can be sure I would be living just like you and your friends. I would drive a car and shop to Neuville at the supermarket. I would ride a tractor, so I could be home sooner. Actually, I am not even sure I would be a farmer still. Life on the farm is hard. May work instead as a cook in a restaurant  in Poitiers, and drive the 50 kilometers commute every day. I would have upgraded the farm, so that we have all the modern conveniences and your grandmother did not have to do laundry in the big old boiler, and hang it on the lines. I am sure we would have a TV. We may still have a vegetable garden and fruit orchard in the back, but I am not even sure. It’s so convenient getting that stuff at the store. For vacations, we would go on cruises, or fly to America, like all the neighbors. 

That’s when I realized there is no stopping ‘progress’, whether here, or in China, or India, or anywhere else. Moving forward means imagining new ways to live sustainably again, that may appear almost similar to the old. But the motivations, and the awareness are on a different level. Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto‘ s image of ‘The Spiral Way‘ comes to mind:

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

This time applied to healing not just one woman, but the whole world. 

PS- Jeff, to finish answering your question. My grandfather came from a long line of farmers in the Poitou region of France. The farm is in Champigny, a small village where I spent every summer when I was a child. Pepe Marcel cultivated about 40 acres, most of it in wheat and vineyards. After he died, we farmed it out to other farmers. Now there are only three farmers left in the whole village, and their farms are more akin to industrial enterprises. 

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Why do the efforts of biodiversity groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though they are equally crucial? This question from Tom Friedman has been on my mind. After all, I am just as guilty as the rest of my fellow bloggers. I can only remember once writing a post recently about the bees

That biodiversity suffers from a PR image, was confirmed by a November 2007 Gallup Survey, on “Attitudes of Europeans towards the issue of biodiversity”. Published by the European Commission, the survey reveals that, only 35% of Europeans know what biodiversity mean, and most see no immediate personal impact of biodiversity. It also shows a lack of understanding of the causes and consequences of biodiversity. 

How would you fix this problem?

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In my mailbox, this morning, news from my friend Luc Hardy, on his latest expedition in the Artic:

An international coalition of children exploring the high Arctic witnessed firsthand the latest dramatic development of climate change on Tuesday, July 22 as a huge chunk of ice was observed drifting off the Ward Hunt Island main ice shelf, forming two ice islands totaling 20 square kilometers. The children, assembled as The Young Ambassadors of the Arctic, are part of the Global Green USA and Green Cross Pax Arctica ’08 expedition.

I have followed from a distance, all the media reports on the Arctic front. My friend’s mail brings that reality closer to me, somehow. Climate change is no longer some abstract, future notion. It is happening NOW, and I feel moved. Turning global warming into  a personally relevant issue continues to be a challenge.

This morning’s experience with Luc’s email, confirms the power of word of mouth in persuading people:

Something to consider for the “we” and “Together” campaigns . . .

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Thomas Friedman‘s upcoming book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America, ends with a 20 question discussion guide. You need not wait for the book to come out, to start thinking. Here is a summary of Tom’s questions – slightly modified to accommodate for your lack of familiarity with the book:

  1. How has America’s bunker mentality affected its role as an agent for positive change in the global arena?
  2. How do you understand the history of energy crisis and high fuel prices, from Carter-era progressivism through the Reagan era and beyond? 
  3. Friedman oulines three trends that capture diverse American attitudes toward energy consumption, climate change, and biodiversity: the dumb as we wanna be approach, found even among the political elite; the subprime nation mentality of borrowing our way to prosperity; and the optimism of innovators who want to do what’s right. Which attitudes prevails in your community?
  4. Discuss the factors that have shaped the Energy-Climate Era: overcrowding due to population growth and longevity, the flattening of the world due to the rise of personal computers and the Internet, the fall of the Soviet Union, and other developments. How have these factors affected America economically, politically, and otherwise?
  5. The book makes the distinction between “fuels from hell” and “fuels from heaven”. How is your life fueled by both categories? What would it take to transition completely to “fuels from heaven”?
  6. In your community, who has the most obvious case of affluenza? How would these groups fare under Chinese capitalism? Do you agree with Friedman‘s prediction that Chinese capitalism will signal the death of the European welfare state? What other repercussions will rising affluence within the Chinese middle class be likely to have?
  7. Friedman describes his visit to an ultra-green Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, and the highly unecological urban sprawl he had to ride through to get there. In what way is this a microcosm of America’s current approach to Code Green?
  8. Friedman‘s first law of petropolitics states that as the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down. Why is this so often true? Did this principle apply to prosperity for American oil companies in the early twentieth century? What are the ramifications of Friedman‘s second law of petropolitics, You cannot be either an effective foreign policy realist or an effective democracy-promoting idealist without also being an effective energy-saving environmentalist”?
  9. Friedman describes the controversy that ensued when meteorologist Heidi Cullen tried to educate her audience about global warming. What is the best way to inform those who tune out such messages, which they believe are tantamount to “politicizing the wheather”?
  10. Friedman discusses the importance of biodiversity. Why do the efforts of groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though Friedman asserts that they are equally crucial?
  11. What do you think of the proposal, that “ending poverty” is a key to healing third-world populations, particularly in Africa. What is the best way to balance the need for energy in these regions with the destructive effects of power-supply emissions? What is the  best way to overcome the political instability that has stymied the growth of power grids in these locales?
  12. At the heart of Friedman‘s argument is the notion that market demands drive innovation. What would it take to transform America’s perception so that the Code Green message is seen as a key to prosperity? How has the image of environmentalism changed during your lifetime?
  13. Friedman decries halfhearted attempts at environmental challenge, comparing them to a party rather than a revolution. At your workplace, in your neighborhood, and within your circle of friends, is it fashionable to go green? Is it taken seriously enough to become a bona fide movement, and then a revolution, where you live?
  14. What should the role of government be in the face of a looming ecological crisis? How much government control is too much? Could a politician get elected in America by proposing higher fuel taxes and other disincentives for energy consumption?
  15. Do you agree with Friedman‘s economic principle that, REEFIGDCPEERPC (Renewable Energy Ecosystem for Innovating, Generating, and Deploying Clean Power, Energy Efficiency, Resource Productivity, and Conservation), is less than TTCOBCOG (True Cost of Burning Coal, Oil, and Gas)? How does this apply to your world? Why has America been slow to believe that REEFIGD-CPEERPC is affordable?
  16. Are any of the ideas described in Friedman‘s “futuristic” scenario (such as the Smart Black Box, smart grids, RESUs instead of cars, and energy costs that vary according to time of day) already in the works in your state?
  17. Friedman believes that the alternative-energy movement needs an economic bubble, similar to the one that poured staggering amounts of venture capital into the dot-com industry. In your opinion, why hasn’t this happened yet?
  18. Friedman describes a number of innovators and persuaders who have made significant inroads in improving conservation efforts, including an Indonesian imam, who was persuaded to acknowledge river pollution, New York taxi drivers who now praise hybrid vehicles, and the U.S. military’s determination to “outgreen” the enemy. What do these agents of change have in common? What should green revolutionaries learn from these experiences?
  19. One of Friedman‘s conclusions is that “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” How will this play out in upcoming elections at all levels, local, state, and federal? What will the legacy of those elected officials be? How can you help to lead the Code Green revolution?
  20. How is the world changing? What human impulses (such as materialism, benevolence, ec)  are shaping these changes?

That’s a lot to chew on. 

Most useful to me, is  Friedman‘s imagery. “Fuels from Hell”, “Fuels from Heaven”, is a concept worth propagating. So are “Code Green”, and “Green Revolution”. These are words that can stick in the collective imagination. Let us start weaving them into our conversations. 

I also appreciate his view that, “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” His segmentation of leaders into three groups is particularly helpful and can be used to guide persuasion efforts with the powers in charge. 

Last, I need to thank Friedman for reminding us to not forget biodiversity in our conversations. I am taking note.

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T. Boone Pickens has generated a lot of press lately, with his plan:

After watching Grist, TreeHugger, World Changing, Huffington Post, Climate Progress, and New York Times, all weigh in, it seems that the old man’s got some things right, and others not:

RIGHT ON: going crazy with wind power.

WRONG: natural gas vehicles

As with Al Gore, my main issue with Pickens‘ plan is the flagrant omission of conservation as a necessary part of the answer. It is one thing to propose some solutions. It is another to suggest an all encompassing plan, when in fact it fails to include a measure as critical as conservation efforts. 

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Yesterday I gave up on my original idea to take the train and then BART,  to my meeting with the folks from Lucid Design Group. One thing led to the next, and before you know it, I had only one hour left before my appointment. Driving was the only way I could make it on time. To be honest, I was not too keen on this elaborate public transit scheme.  I am ok with just taking the train, but ask me to transfer to another mode, and my interest drops!

Today, no such excuse. I had planned to bike to my hairdresser’s appointment. Several hours working, then swimming, and lounging around reading the paper, once again, I cut it too close. Driving the three miles became the only option, if I wanted to make my 4.15 date at La Belle salon. 

What has happened to my green resolutions? Before I left on vacations, I wrote enthusiastically about my biking escapades. Since I came back two weeks ago, I have fallen off track. Rhythm, interrupted. Old habits, not dead, got the best of me, again. 

More telling than all the green consumers’ surveys, is the reality of my tenuous commitment. Symptomatic of a much broader ill, I believe. While away in France and in Italy, I witnessed the same spectacle: never ending flows of cars covering up the freeways, just like in the US. We the people on planet Earth, have not yet reached the tipping point when our collective consciousness will dictate another way of living. 

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I was so pleased yesterday. Not only was Obama visiting France, my home country, but he also made more exciting declarations regarding his vision of American climate policy:

“The United States is a very powerful country. But, as I said before, an issue like climate change is not one we can solve by ourselves. It’s going to require an international effort.

Not only are we going to have to look at what countries like France and Germany are already doing and making some very difficult choices to deal with their carbon emissions and to make energy more efficient, but we’re also going to have to talk to countries like China and India, and it’s going to be very hard for us to ask them to take seriously these issues if they see that wealthy nations are not taking them seriously.

And that’s an example of where we have to present a common front and a common agenda in order to get all the countries in the nation — all the countries in the world involved in what is going to be an enormous undertaking.

My goal is just to make sure that, whether it’s our European allies, whether it’s Muslim countries, whether it’s our friends in Asia, that people feel as if the United States is taking their interests, their concerns into account, and that we are interested in the prosperity and peace of ordinary people, and not just seeing our foreign policy only through the lens of our own security.” 

Absolutely. It is up to the US to take the lead. No more, ‘we are not making any move, unless you – China, India – go first’. 

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