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Blog item: Alarmist? Realistic?

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6 comments, last: Feb-18-2009   Add a comment   Author:  PT (Feb-15-2009)    Play a Video
Categories: Philosophical & Quality of Life, Political, Renewable Energy Sources, Sustainable Living

The news about our planet can be shockingThe question occurs to me frequently, as editor, regarding how severe the news published at should be.  That seems particularly relevant as additional scientists are now joining Dr. James Hansen in raising the level of alarm and, as with Chris Field of the IPCC, calling for near-immediate action to change our global path in terms of energy and resource use.

Although I keep asking myself whether reporting on some of this information is too alarmist, and though it comes up in discussions with my environmental scientist contacts and with other friends, I always come up with the same answer.  Here it is:

If the general reader, the reader who is not an environmental or climate scientist but who follows news reports, if that reader is still not adequately informed about the serious problem in the global environment, it is my responsibility to repeat that information until it starts to be absorbed.

Coming to grips with the size of the problems we seem to face is not easy and is never instantaneous.  Changing one's focus from daily routines of doing ones job, caring about a family, sharing with friends, and even helping society, and suddenly confronting a world-changing and possibly permanent (thousands of years or more) change in the nature of our planet's liveability, that kind of shift requires a lot of rearranging of mental furniture.

If the news here is often severe, so be it.  We try not to focus exclusively on the negatives - in part because there is a chance that we are not doomed to the worst scenarios, but I do think that we are in for very major changes in the way the world can function, accompanied by some ugly and sad upheavals in humanity.

The how-tos provided on other green sites, and occasionally here, are indeed good information, and following them can have a greater or lesser impact on greenhouse gases or energy and resource consumption, but by allowing a sense that we are coming up with the proverbial "techno-fix", the writing about new solutions and small steps we can take may also allow a false sense of security.

I see's role as being one of providing balance, that is, focusing on the serious, no-holds-barred information that is important for understanding climate, energy, and resource issues. is intended as a shot in the arm, with a long needle, of the right vaccination needed against a potentially deadly plague that is approaching.

No one is sure exactly how a complex system of world societies will respond to decreases in resources and to coastal flooding, long-term droughts, and to energy, food, and water shortages.  We know that even relatively small "bumps" in our environment can cause pandemonium, and we have seen that at local levels such as with Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and most recently with the raging fires in Australia which may increase by as much as 300% in coming years, according to one projection.  Predicting how the world will respond when these problems are experienced directly by a majority of the planet, is beyond any person or computer model at this time.  It is quite possible that the best in human nature will come out along with the worst.

With the difficulty each of us has absorbing the implications of each of our daily decisions, and the need for coming up with new patterns that are more positive in their impact on the planet (and this includes work choices, travel choices, volunteerism, financial donations, and more), I know it is my obligation to share the best information that I can that opens our eyes to the risks, and also provides solutions.  I do believe, and this is central, that without an alarm bell ringing most of us would not get to work on time.

The latest Chris Field statements, he being a leading IPCC scientist, indicate that based on their best modeling and the most current data we have about one year to start taking major steps.  Just the growth of India and China alone since 2000, fueled primarily with coal energy, has thrown a major monkey wrench into the earlier IPCC projections and caused this prominent re-statement of projections by Chris Field.

Without united world action, we seem to face a daunting future.  I am not personally pessimistic, but I do feel we should try to reduce suffering that is on the horizon.  That is my guiding thought when publishing here.  Your further suggestions are welcome.

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Comment by: vanvogt (Vanvogt) (Feb-18-2009)   Web site
The hour for mankind is late. I support reporting fully upon the realities of our situation regarding Earth's ecosystem. And to report this information as it becomes know by the scientific community - no matter how dire this information happens to be. Only through a well informed population can effective policies be set into motion. There is no way back to the past. We are at a point where we as humans will have to use every bit of human intelligence, including hurry up technologies in order to assure the survival of the human species.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Feb-17-2009)   Web site

I should mention also that Sandy represents Green Eco-Communities, which provides listings for new types of communities. Also worth looking into them for listings of eco-communities.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Feb-17-2009)   Web site

Thank you all for your comments. I will add another link to GG (Rona's) suggestion about transition: They are part of a broader "movement" or method. They have also been covered here, before (first article, second article/video)
Comment by:  Greengecko (Rona) (Feb-17-2009)   Web site

It's well time we listened carefully to what experts such as Chris Field are saying. However we don't have to wail and beat ourselves up about it or lapse into permanent gloom. (Not that I think you are advocating that!)

I believe that the Transition Towns movement is posing a reasonably upbeat and realistic set of possibilities for positive future developments - re-localising many of our goods and services, preparing for organised energy descent etc.

You can read more about them here:
Comment by:  sandy (Feb-16-2009)   Web site

Repetition is the Mother of retention,....and sounding the alarm is a noble thing done well at Planet Thoughts.

Thank you,
Comment by:  Wavehunter (William Coffin) (Feb-16-2009)   Web site

Thank you for this, David. My opinion is that you have the balance about right. Some may see Chris Field's 'one year to start taking major steps' as alarmist, but others say it is already too late. You strike a middle path.

We can all be lulled into a false sense of security: "I've changed my lightbulbs and downsized my car, so everything will be okay". Yet as individuals there is always more we can do, and even then we are unlikely to get our carbon footprints down to zero.

The next stages include spreading the word (as you are doing), taking positive steps (planting trees is the simplest example) and preparing for the inevitable changes. The way we live, globally, cannot be sustained much longer; being prepared means having an idea about the form of the new society we may soon be called upon to build.

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About author/contributor Member: PT (David Alexander) PT (David Alexander)
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Member: PT (David Alexander) My lifelong pursuit, since age 18, has been to live more fully and find wisdom. This has involved studies with Zen masters, Tai Chi masters, and great psychotherapists while achieving my license as a gestalt therapist and psychoanalyst.

Along the way, I became aware of how the planet is under great stress due to the driven nature of human activity on this planet.

I believe that the advancement of human well-being will reduce societies addictive behaviors, and will thus also help preserve the environment and perhaps slow down the effects of global warming and other major threats to the health of human societies.

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