Friday, December 31, 2010

Slaying the Green Dragon...

Religion is an irrational passtime, so it should not surprise anyone that the religious wackos oppose science-based "environmentalism". But it is sad...

Actually, rather than "irrational" I should probably say "anti-rational"... Funny video though.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What chance for democracy to deal with global biodiversity meltdown or climate change?

From Harper's Index December 2010:
** Chances that an American believes that Jesus Christ will return to earth by 2050: 2 in 5
** Chance that a U.S. Protestant knows who Martin Luther was: 1 in 2
** Chance that an American believes Ramadan is the Jewish day of atonement: 1 in 10

From earlier Harper's Index:
** Percentage of Americans that cannot name a country that borders on the Pacific: 32

Never mind that 32 percent of Americans live in a state that borders on the Pacific... (Thor exaggerates sometimes)

Harper's Index December 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let's build the New Economy

Joe Brewer at truthout:

Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) has just issued a fresh report on developing a better economic blueprint, entitled Enough is Enough: Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources. Click here to download a free copy of the report (130 pages), as well as a summary (10 pages). You will also find links to videos of keynote presentations from the conference.

In addition to reading the report, please share it with colleagues, friends and kindred spirits to start the much-needed and urgent discussion/debate about the transition to a steady state economy, and get a jump on the work ahead.

Thor has recently been appointed Country Director (Norway) for CASSE, so any of you Vikings out there, get in tough if you are interested in working for a steady state economy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Subsidies suck

Daily Dose of Statistics: The 600 American rice farmers/firms, who received rice subsidies from the US government, received collectively 20 times the amount of money as that allocated for agricultural rehabilitation in Haiti after the earth quake. Subsidised American rice accounts for 95% of rice purchases in Haiti as the local farmers cannot compete with the subsidised imports. (BBC follow-up report on the situation in Haiti after the earth quake)

Your tax dollar at work. "Socialism" for the rich, capitalism for the poor. US loggers, ranchers, farmers and miners biggest welfare queens around.

Friday, October 1, 2010

One Day for Earth

Thor has taken the liberty of clipping from an e-mail from mere mortal Bill McKibben, since the events are so important to creation. Please attend or plan your own events for this "Earth Day":

Dear friends,

Wow. That was fast.

Apologies for sending multiple emails in one day, but I didn't want to keep the good news to myself.

About 15 minutes minutes ago, Biljana from Serbia registered an event for her local community in Belgrade. On 10/10/10, at 10:10 AM, they will take 2nd and 4th graders on an "eco field trip" to volunteer at an sustainable farm, participate in green workshops, and do a trash clean-up. Of course, they'll be finishing up their event by forming a big "350" for a group photo that they will send into after their event.

Biljana's event in Serbia was the 5249th event registered for 10/10/10, and it officially broke last year's record! To give you a sense of just how diverse this day promises to be, I've pasted a list of a few event highlights assembled by our grassroots media team just below this email.

The next 10 days will be a whirlwind of activity as friends from all over the world focus on making 10/10/10 as widespread, beautiful, and powerful as possible. If you don't yet know how you're plugging into 10/10/10, there's still lots of time to join or start an event in your community.

Me, I'll be giving everything I've got in this final push. I'm a bit tired, but am feeling completely recharged by today's milestone. It sure is nice to know that this movement is growing bigger all the time.

So many thanks,

Bill McKibben (@billmckibben on Twitter) for the Team

10/10/10 Event Highlights

Funniest: Sumo wrestlers cycling to practice in downtown Tokyo.

Most remote: An education center in the Namib Desert in Namibia installing six solar panels.

Smallest country taking part: Divers on the smallest island nation of the world, Nauru (8.1 square miles) will plunge into their coral reefs for an underwater clean-up. (Thor's comment: Nauro may be the smallest island nation, but Monaco and the Vatican State are smaller).

Most presidential: President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives is installing solar panels on his roof.

Most tipsy: Partiers in Edinburgh will be throwing a "Joycott" (a reverse boycott) at a local bar that agreed to put 20% of its extra revenues on 10/10/10 to making the bar more energy efficient. Attendees will try and drink as much as possible to raise money. Cheers!

Most poignant: In San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico, students will hand out solar-powered lights to families who are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Alex this June, 2010.

Most cross-cultural: Over 100 cyclists from Jordan, Israel and Palestine taking part in a 3-day bicycle relay to carry water from the Yarmouk River and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea to symbolize the need for cooperation to stop climate change and save precious water resources.

Most educational: 850 universities in China, India, and the United States are joining 10/10/10 as part of the Great Power Race campaign, a clean energy competition.

Most carbon cut: On 10/10/10 the Mayor of Mexico City will sign a commitment to reduce the city's emissions 10% in a single year. The city government will be directly responsible for 5% of the reductions and lead a public campaign to get citizens to cut the remaining 5%.

Most futuristic: Young people in Barbados will be demonstrating the viability of fuel cell technology in a hovercraft they have built themselves.

Most ?????: We want to know what's the most fascinating thing about your event. My more web-savvy colleagues tell me you can feature it as a comment on this popular Facebook post.


PS: Thanks to your help, there are only 14 countries currently missing from the wonderfully crowded map of 10/10/10 events!

Do you have any friends in: Cape Verde, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Micronesia, Monaco, Myanmar/Burma, Sao Tome and Principe, San Marino, or Suriname?

If you do know anyone in these countries, please try your best to recruit them to sign up an event at! There's a quick letter you can send at

You should join on Facebook by becoming a fan of our page at and follow us on twitter by visiting

To join our list (maybe a friend forwarded you this e-mail) visit needs your help! To support our work, donate securely online at is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in "parts per million" (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a "people powered movement" that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

VICTORY in federal court restores full protection under the Endangered Species Act to wolves in Montana and Idaho. A federal judge ruled Friday that that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted illegally when it removed wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana but left them on the list in Wyoming, splitting the population along political, rather than biological, lines.

Conservation groups argued that the government’s determination that 300 wolves constitute a recovered wolf population in the northern Rockies ignored current science. Independent scientists have concluded that 2,000 to 5,000 wolves are necessary to secure the health of the species in the region.

Press Release from Center for Biological Diversity.

Meanwhile the barbarian Scandihooligans are slaughtering their miniscule wolf population at an unconscionable and unscientific rate. Sweden with approximately 200 wolves killed 27 in this years massacre, and the Norwegians have in recent years murdered a third of their part of the population (in 2001, out of 28), 25% in January 2005 (out of about 20 wolves), and have been picking them off one by one throughout this year... Despite the population suffering from severe inbreeding depression and founder effect... Ignorance springs eternal.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Steady-State Economics

Too lazy to read Herman Daly's "Steady-State Economics" (

Try this instead: "Nothing grows forever" (

Clearly, work is the root of all evil. This follows from the Second Law of Thermodynamics: increases entropy. Just look at the world: work leads to bad shit... Of course, in the logical extreme, when entropy has increased to the point where the world is all non-differentiated high-entropy heat, no work is possible and neither is evil.

Two things you can do to save the world: don't buy from the large corporations, and don't go to work for them.

"I shall argue that it is the capital stock from which we derive satisfaction, not from the additions to it (production) or the subtractions from it (consumption): that consumption, far from being a desideratum, is a deplorable property of the capital stock which necessitates the equally deplorable activity of production: and that the objective of economic policy should not be to maximize consumption or production, but rather to minimize it, i.e. to enable us to maintain our capital stock with as little consumption or production as possible."

--Kenneth Boulding, 1949

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Overpopulation Index:

See how overpopulated you country is. If your country is not on the list, that means its biocapacity and degree of self-sufficiency gives a smaller footprint than your country's actual area (according to these estimates from the Optimum Population Trust). Also see how much your country's population needs to be reduced to not be overpopulated... Singapore, Israel and Kuwait are the most overpopulated (as a proportion). Greatest overpopulation in number of people: China (717 million), India (594 million), USA (154 million), Japan (109 million). Overpopulation in High Income Countries: 458 million. (Thor has great difficulty believing that Bangladesh isn't on the Overpopulation Index; looks like human frailty has struck again...)

From Optimum Population Trust:

The Overpopulation Index

If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a happier or a better population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.
—John Stuart Mill (1857)

A population may be too crowded, though all be amply supplied with food and raiment. It is not good for a man to be kept perforce at all times in the presence of his species...
—John Stuart Mill (1857)

It is only in the backward countries of the world that increased production is still an important object.
—John Stuart Mill (1857)

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place…
—Isaiah 23, 005:008

Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.
—Mark Twain

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
—Edward Abbey

To bear children into this world is like carrying wood to a burning house.
—Petter Wessel Zappfe

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why are we not acting to Save the World?

A simple question, and I’ll make it simpler yet.

The international climate negotiations have broken down and an artificial controversy is raging in the public opinion. I am not a climate expert. I’m an ecologist. I know something about conservation and environmental protection, the effects of humanity’s trespasses on the ecology, etc. But in the Biodiversity Year 2010, no one is really interested in doing something that would really make a difference to the biodiversity crisis. Just as our politicians and bureaucrats didn’t take their promise to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 seriously. Even though, of course, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are intricately linked.

Many years ago, B. F. Skinner had a book chapter entitled “Why we are not acting to save the world”. Skinner raises some good points abouth how psychological mechanisms and our evolutionary history has ill prepared us for these kinds of long-term threats. We have been selected for urgent “fight or flight responses,” and don’t know how to translate knowledge into action.

Nothing in our evolutionary history could prepare us for what is about to come. Skinner distinguishes between “knowledge by description” and “knowledge by acquaintance.” We cannot know the future by acquaintance, only as an uncertain prediction. “In general, the more remote the predicted consequence, the less likely we are to follow advice”. Think of warning labels on cigarette packages. Warning of an uncertain death at some future date is not effective in getting addicted smokers to abstain from that one cigarette today. Just like evolution has ill-prepared us for the high sugar and salt diet that we live now. Evolution acts on the here and now, it does not prepare us for the future. Instead we have been selected for high reproduction in a high-mortality world, very unlike the one we have lived in since the advent of modern medicine and the sessile and predictable agricultural life-style. Knowledge by description is not a good motivator for action, and neither is any description of a devastated future. Saving the world is to do something about the future, but the future doesn’t exist yet. Evolution acts on the here and now, not for the future.

But Skinner leaves something to be desired.

We need institutions with real power at the global level to deal with crises that require collaboration between nations. The kinds of problems of cooperation that made nation states necessary are now global, and nation states are not up to the task. Game-theory comes into play. It is hard to get people to sacrifice something for future benefits many of our generation wont be around to experience. We get free-rider problems and cheaters. The connection between the state of the world and any single action by an individual is remote. Individuals are hamstrung and pacified, because meaningful change requires that everyone cooperates. Except for a few token actions that you yourself can derive direct benefit from: taking the bus to work beats sitting in endless traffic jams; there are direct personal benefits to riding a bike, provided there aren’t too many cars on the road.

Worldwatch, in their last “State of the World” report argue that we need a cultural change. As part of such a cultural change, it makes sense that the concept of perpetual economic growth and the desire for ever increasing consumption has got to go. Personally, I think that ultimately we need a new ethic that values other species as highly as humans, if not higher. Why sacrifice for someone just like yourself? Past generations of humans didn’t leave any ivory-billed woodpeckers or Caspian tigers for me, or any old-growth forest or short-grass prairie to speak of. But to sacrifice for superior beings like tigers or snow leopards, that makes a lot of sense.

In today’s globalized economy it is hard for nation states to act unilaterally. And the way “demo-crazy” works these days (or doesn’t work, as the case may be), it is hard to introduce change that makes it harder to service debts and finance pensions. People have kids, so they have mortgages and need to keep working and saving for the unpredictable. In any case, it seems that the combined need for a growing safety margin and the urge to consume more, more, more... Either way, one little act of idealism makes little difference in the sea of everybody else’s small decisions. We are all embroiled in the tyranny of small decisions... We have (almost) all of us internalized the perpetual growth culture to such an extent that even environmental NGOs dare not challenge it. And no one dares to take on the issue of population growth.

It is logically inconsistent to be willing to fight to defeat Hitler, but not for a livable planet. Or a planet worth living on...

What would Gandhi do to solve today’s environmental problems? We need creativity and political savvy, and Gandhi had both in excess. He would probably set a good example. But the power of the good example is limited, and today’s challenges requires that everyone make an effort and that we collaborate at national and international levels. We need systems that make everyone behave responsibly, not just a few idealists. Even Gandhi would probably fail because it is hard to rouse people to action around anything but their immediate personal interests, and it is hard to get people to risk life and freedom before they are absolutely desperate. The ecology is such that by the time we are desperate it is probably too late. Besides, every campaign needs an easily identified enemy; it is much harder to act when we are all part of the problem. Too many of us are invested in the status quo. Few of us feel so strongly for the fish in the sea that we take action at the scale required to deal with officially sanctioned over-fishing and the destruction of marine life in general. And those of us who do feel strongly enough are in too much pain to be very effective. In any case, we are hamstrung and don’t know what we can do in a system dominated by a passive majority.

A though experiment: imagine that science showed unequivocally that to avoid an all-encumbering catastrophe in the next 20 years we all had to become vegetarians. And imagine philosophers showed that this was the only moral and ethical path to take. How would we go about it?

For those who claim it is unreasonable to demand that everyone become vegetarians: well, then you should have made sure that we didn’t grow to seven billion people on this earth and made sure we wont be 9-11 billion by 2050. If it’s easier to solve the population crisis, then be my guest. If your answer is that it wouldn’t work, then we wont be able to solve the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis either. An impoverished world would result. Myself, I am not willing to accept such a result--for other species’ sake.

Alternatively, what if science showed that we had to outlaw trawlers and some of the other most destructive fishing practices, and protect at least 40 percent of the ocean from all fishing; how would we do that? Would we manage to pull it off in Norway? In Spain? In international waters? Can we stop the acidification of the ocean (caused by our carbon dioxide emissions) which threatens all calcareous life in the sea and the food chains that depend on it?

Obstructionists would just as easily divide public opinion with their incessant harping on “scientific uncertainty”; just like they’ve done with the climate crisis and evolution, and with the public health aspects of smoking before that.

I am not a social scientist, so I don’t know how to get the things done that we know need to be done. But the social scientists are not much help either. Fact is that we’ve constructed such a diffuse system, with checks and counter-balances canceling each other out, that no one knows how to bring change when we need it. No one knows how to translate knowledge into action in the face of large scale crises such as this. Our models of democracy were developed 200-100 years ago, in a time when people couldn’t conceive of humans threatening global ecosystems. We are all hamstrung in this system we have create. Heroism is dead.

We know what needs to be done, we just don’t know how--how to get humanity to act. We need more than business as usual to save the world. We have to get our economy, fisheries, agriculture, our transportation needs and our life-style choices subordinate to ecological tolerance and consideration of the other species with which we share the planet, now and in the future. Politicians are not good at going beyond business as usual. Extreme pressure is needed from the rest of us. If we’re to have a chance, we need to take a no holds barred look at the factors that keep us from taking action.

For me, the most important reason to care about environmental destruction and anthropogenic climate change is the terrible effects these will have on other species. Humans have only themselves to blame, and I care more for the victims than the perpetrators. Besides, I don’t think our much-vaunted concern for other people is all that it is made out to be. If it were, wouldn’t we have solved the poverty issue long ago?

I think there are many of us who care more for other species than we care for mankind, and we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it. Perhaps our sympathy for other species can act as an inducement to change where concern for other people have failed?

"Men have never loved one another much, for reasons we can readily understand: Man is not a lovable animal.”
  —Edward Abbey

Can we design a way of life that will have a better chance of a future? Not just for us, who don’t deserve it, but for all the beautiful, wondrous, innocent species, that still live in a way compatible with life?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do they know?

Ever wonder if leading politicians and bureaucrats have actually been briefed, that they actually understand how completely humans have fucked the world, but are just playing along to avoid a general panic and rebellion?

All of those still out there "informing the public" and trying to get politicians on-board: what if they already know, and are just pretending they don't get it, keeping up a front, so that great changes wont happen in their life-time, and they can go on comfortably as before. After all, they are very comfortable in "power", with big pay-checks, position, homes and families--why rock the boat? Maybe they just want to live out their days in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed...

You would think they would get a decent briefing when they take office...

Monday, June 21, 2010

60 minutes: string of mishaps and bad calls caused Gulf disaster

Eye witness report from before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and expert analysis: watch vidio from CBS 60 Minutes. Reported problems in the weeks and days before the explosion set the stage for the tragedy, given the bad management responses.

Now an internal BP-document shows that the company has estimated that as much as 100,000 barrels of oil (about 16 million liters) may be gushing from the well every day--much higher than the numbers the Government has been quoting.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Can't make it right

How are you going to compensate the birds and the fish, the invertebrates, and the animals that live in the marshes and eat the fish and the crustaceans? Sadly, the delta, the Gulf, and the marshes were pretty screwed even before this oil spill. The last thing they needed was this. The Resistance is long overdue.

Read "The Most Important Fish in the Sea", by H. Bruce Franklin. For a primer on the Resistance, read Derrick Jensens "As the World Burns: 50 Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial". (See Environmental Books.)
But most of all, don't stay in and read: GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING!
"Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.
One brave deed is worth a thousand books."
-Edward Abbey

Naomi Klein on the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf:

Oil stained wave

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Physics envy

Norbert Wiener on economists:

The success of mathematical physics led the social scientists to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power. The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences and become the mode in the social sciences. Just as primitive peoples adopt the Western modes of denationalized clothing and of parliamentarism out of a vague feeling that these magic rites and vestments will at once put them abreast of modern culture and technique, so the economists have developed the habit of dressing up their rather imprecise ideas in the language of the infitesimal calculus... To assign what purports to be precise values to such essentially vague quantities is neither useful nor honest, and any pretense of applying precise formulae to these loosely defined quantities is a sham and a waste of time.

(Norbert Wiener, 1964. God and Golem, Inc. MIT Press)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New heat record for Asia

Wednesday May 26 the town of MohenjuDaro, Pakistan, set a new heat record for Asia: 53.5°C (128.3°F) (Pakistan Meteorological Department).

The human death toll has been high recently in the heat wave affecting South Asia.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Ah for the sound of frogs...

One week birding in the Hungarian puszta, in Hortobágy National Park, among red-footed and Saker falcons, spoonbills, stone curlews, white-winged and whiskered terns. Every heron but the cattle egret...

Hortobágy, grasslands and marshes, like stepping back into a quieter time. A time still sane.

Where people don't have such obscene amounts of money, and better things to do with their time than watch flat-screen TVs and go shopping. Where a good peasant meal can still be had any day of the week, and with beer or a glass of good wine, and coffee, costs (much) less than the glass of wine would at home.

Where trains run to nearby towns, and cross-country, frequently enough to be an option--or where one can afford to wait for the next one. Always on time, because each stop is a long one.

Where old men ride bicycles, even to and from the fields with their scythes or pruners over one shoulder. With hardly any cars, and small unobtrusive ones at that. Where the postman still rides a bicycle. Slowly. And knocks at every gate. Small, neat houses with neat yards, sheds with tools, vegetable gardens, geese and ducks.

Where a diversity of frogs serenade in the reeds, and bitterns boom. Where storks nest on platforms atop light posts on every street, or on chimney tops. Where ancient sheep and cattle breeds graze the steppes, and every other house rents out a spare room to travelers should one happen by.

Where nobody wears expensive clothes; no cheesy designer labels. No cell phones ringing, and absolutely no iPhones (except mine, and it is in airplane mode). Time for a beer at the local café.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yo, Obama! Get out of oil!

The disaster that is the Gulf oil spill is indescribable. I could care less about human consequences--humans deserve whatever they get for allowing this hellacious development. But the fate of the innocent birds, mammals, turtles and other marine and riparian species in the Gulf should weigh on us all, particularly those with the power to do something about it. Get off fossil fuels immediately, and get us out of offshore drilling! I supported you throughout the campaign and was giddy with the hope for meaningful change, but I have seen none, and Interior has done nothing to be proud of. Perhaps it is time to get a powerful Department for the Environment. Interior has too many interests in hand, and too many of them are in conflict with environmental causes and with trying to ensure that there is a future to speak of. Salazar sure isn't doing much for sustainability or for other species. Get serious about meaningful change for other species, particularly the endangered ones! They will all be endangered soon, or extinct, if meaningful change does not come under this administration!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Robin Hood Tax

The Robin Hood Tax, turning a global crisis into a global opportunity. When you are done with that lets confiscate the banksters' ill-gotten gains ("loot").

Monday, January 25, 2010

Al Gore (Earth in the Balance, 1992)

"We now face the prospect of a kind of global civil war between those who refuse to consider the consequences of civilization’s relentless advance and those who refuse to be silent partners in the destruction. More and more people of conscience are joining the effort to resist, but the time has come to make this struggle the central organizing principle of world civilizations."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who runs the world, and why the banks had to be bailed out. Without them, there is no money...

In our fractional reserve system, less than 5% of the money is printed by the government (the stuff we usually think of as "money"). This also helps explain why the powers that be are completely committed to the unsustainable notion of perpetual growth.

'As Frederick Soddy pointed out, compound interest is the law of increase of debt, not wealth:
"Debts are subject to the laws of mathematics rather than physics. Unlike wealth which is subject to the laws of thermodynamics, debts do not rot with old age and are not consumed in the process of living. On the contrary they grow at so much percent per annum, by the well-known mathematical laws of simple and compound interest...

"As a result of this confusion between wealth and debt we are invited to contemplate a millennium where people live on the interest of their mutual indebtedness" [Soddy 1926; pp 68-9]'

(Herman Daly, Steady State Economics)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

John Stuart Mill (1857)

"If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a happier or a better population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it."

It's up to us

Politicians wont do what has to be done to stop catastrophic climate change, or the catastrophic loss of other species, unless we make them.

“Climate-friendly” politicians don’t need our support. They need our vehement opposition. Opposition that is at least as strong as what they get from industry and their lobbyists, from mindless consumers, motorists and their advocacy groups, and other climate laggards. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said to activists within his own party: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” It’s up to us.

One might think that it would be easier for politicians to agree on a course of action, because there are fewer of them. Generally, if you get three humans in a room it is hard to get them to agree on anything at all. But politicians feel bound by the people who helped elect them; not just the big donors and the special interests, but the voters who voted for them, and by the fear of not getting re-elected. They underestimate the rewards that can come from daring to show leadership, daring to do something revolutionary and exciting, and instead end up harvesting defeat for not doing enough.

Emergent policy is inevitably a tattered quilt, so our goals must be so far out in green direction that the world can live with the compromise. But the time for compromise is long since passed.

Throw rocks (or something) at politicians and bureaucrats that wont go as far as required towards a sustainable biosphere. Puncture SUVs as often as you can. Show that we are not a bunch of pacified couch-potatoes that are too preoccupied with shopping, shuttling kids between kindergarten, soccer practice, and the mall, planning our next vacation abroad, to take a stance.

To avoid catastrophic self-reinforcing climate change, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 must be reduced to less than 350 ppm as quickly as possible, from the current anthropogenic level of 390 ppm (see and 350—not 450 which has been the basis of international climate negotiations to date. When I was born, we were at about 310 ppm. At the start of the industrial revolution 275-280. When I was born there were 3.3 billion people on Earth, as opposed to 7 any minute now. There are people alive today that were born when there were only 1.5 billion humans. It took all human history up to 1850 before we rounded the first billion humans on Earth. In the next few decades we will reach something between 9 and 14 billion people, unless our life-support systems collapse before then or we take effective measures to avoid such an over-crowded future. Such is the power of exponential growth.

Have we become so accustomed to letting the State take care of everything, that we can’t even bother to organize to put some pressure on the State to do the things that really matter? Is bread and circus all people care about?

It makes me cry to think of all the precious political energy that was misdirected in the 70s and 80s opposing nuclear weapons and nuclear power. The consequences of nuclear war were of course bad, but there was only a tiny likelihood that it would happen. The consequences of the biodiversity meltdown were at least as bad, and that was a crisis we were already in the middle of. We annihilated 70 species a day, and still do. The biodiversity crisis was a reality not just a remote possibility. It was 30 and 40 years ago that we should have taken on the struggle for live on earth and against global heating. Svante Arrhenius described the greenhouse effect as early as 1896 (granted, he tended to focus on how the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere could help stave off a new ice age). “The little ice age” was exactly what we got in the mid-14th century when the black plague and other epidemics worldwide halved population densities, forests grew back over large areas, and CO2 concentrations dropped by 10 ppm.

Politicians can always resort to the excuse that they cannot act until the voters want them to act. Voters want their cheap airfares, their over-sized cars in which to drive to their over-sized vacation homes, flatscreens, and food that is cheap because it has been flown back and forth to China for processing.

But it not quite so simple. We need systems whereby not only a few idealists do the right thing. Personally, I would be happy to see cars outlawed, but as long as others drive their Chrysler le Behemoths to country houses with heated driveways every weekend, I drive my 3-cylinder Opel Corsa 1.0 liter when driving is practical. That is why we need political measures that ensure that one is not alone in giving up the car, recycling, abstaining from reproduction, going vegetarian, etc.

It’s not just about the climate. The biodiversity crisis was here long before global warming was on the agenda. Loss of natural habitats, over-fishing, agriculture and roads everywhere, farmed salmon that escapes and ruins wild salmon runs, forest clearing etc. etc. We need to ban trawlers, fish farms that are not in tanks on land, over-fishing and shark-finning, curtail meat consumption and air travel, ban coal burning, and reduce the human population size. Don’t take my word for it: people need to read up on this stuff themselves—take responsibility for their own enlightenment—even if it’s a pity that some have to spend time reading when what we need is action.

The old 68ers, even if they were barking up the wrong tree, knew a few things about organizing. They learned by doing, as one often does, but perhaps we can get them to teach us a few tricks while they still remember who they once were. People’s actions are an important if under-appreciated part of a healthy democracy. In times of crises minor adjustments every four years are inadequate. If politicians wont lead, the people must take the lead. Politics is too important to be left to a professional political caste. When it gets right down to it, they aren’t that professional in any case.

Throw rocks (or something) at Parliament (or Congress) until politicians make some decent laws. If rock throwing isn’t your thing, perhaps a hunger strike. Or use your creativity to come up with a suitable action.

Politicians need an effective counterweight against the climate deniers, laggards and naysayers. True democrats must demonstrate that the People are worthy of the confidence democracy places on them. Are we gonna let corporations and their over-paid lobbyists dominate the political process? We need riots and demonstrations bigger than anything the world has seen. We need action directed at those who don’t wont us to take action. It is up to us.

It is up to us to force governments to force us to change the way we live. To make this a life that is compatible with life, a life worth living, is up to us. To get there, we must find out how to get ourselves to get organized...

If that doesn’t work we have to change the system so that important matters are no longer up to the general public.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Burning accreditation card

Burning accreditation badge outside the Bella Center (morning of December 19th, when failure of COP15 in Copenhagen was complete). Photo: