By Angela, a freelance writer who manages the Once a Fortnight blog (read more sustainable development examples)
It is not in our interest, as we approach the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit, to continue to engage in pointless bantering, however beautifully orchestrated, about whether global warming should continue to be a subject of debate or a given fact.
In the broader sense it really doesn't matter whether we agree that global warming exists and if so, to what extent, or who is responsible.
One of the best, recent sources of information that has cemented my own personal belief is this animated chart from the BBC, which presents the evidence of 800,000 years of the planet's climate history, as contained in the ice core record of Antarctica. 800,000 years of cyclical and other weather trends, that can clearly be cross referenced about climactic events and phenomena of which we have other corroborating historical records, is quite compelling enough for me.
Indisputably, we can see at the end of the chart, that something vastly different has occurred in the latter half of the twentieth century. The sudden, sharp, upward trend in both warming and CO2 emissions, (co-inciding nicely with the rise in industrial activity and previously unmatched population growth), is continuing. Let's not be naive. Let's all put two and two together and make four shall we?
Whatever is causing that big spike on the chart, or however quickly it is accelerating, it's not in our interest to ignore it. Or to simply hope that it will go away without any effort on our part to do something about it.
It is not in our interest to live in a global society which is functionally reliant upon the use of fossil fuels, an exhaustive energy source. Wrangling over climate change will not alter the fact that when the oil and gas run out we had better have used some of it to develop renewable sources of energy with which to replace it. A recent report by the Post Carbon Institute's Richard Heinberg, did a very good job of reminding me of that fact.
"It is important to repeat once again, however,
that the equipment used to capture solar or wind
energy is not itself renewable, and that scarce,
depleting, non-renewable resources and significant
amounts of energy may be required to manufacture
much crucial equipment."1
It is not in our interest to continue expending the last vestiges of a finite resource to fuel unbridled economic growth, which insures prosperity for some at the expense of others whose poverty and degradation have become a condition of so-called "development".
The following is a quote from the latest in a series of reports by the Working Group on Climate Change and Development:
"Most definitions of development have common characteristics. Typically, they say something about: improving human well-being and realising our potential in safe and clean environments; creating fair and just forms of governance; providing economic and political freedoms for all; and allowing us to lead dignified and fulfilled lives
These ambitions are almost universally supported, at least in word. But, their achievement is set heavily in the context of conventional global economic growth. And, such growth is hard-wired at planetary level to the increased use of already-overused resources. Questioning growth tends to cause a reflex action amongst most policy-makers and economists. It is, for many, still heresy." 2
It is not in our interest to maintain a food system that is dependent on non-renewable resources at all levels of production, processing and distribution.
There must be more research and investment in natural and organic agricultural production that is weaned from its chemical dependency and returns to a system which complements natural biological processes. Nutrient management, soil conditioning and conservation, crop diversity and rotation and improved livestock grazing and manure handling practices are all methods that can help maintain a productive, ecologically diverse landscape and produce better quality, healthier food.
It is not in our interest to continue worshipping at the altar of consumerism. As a result of the "me" culture that capitalism and its henchman, consumerism, is based upon, we have become convinced that we need two cars in the driveway, a home with six bedrooms, a big screen TV for every member of the family, a plethora of electronic gadgets to make our lives easier and keep us entertained. De-cluttering means de-constructing some of the myths we tell ourselves about what we need to fulfill our lives.
It is not in our interest to be socially "unaware". We need to wake up, take a long look around us and realise that what we do and the way we live and the lessons we teach our kids are important. It has an impact. We do not live apart from our world; we are embedded into its very fabric.
So, whilst we can feel good about ourselves by taking our blue recycling bin to the curb every Wednesday morning and taking our reusable grocery bags to the store, it is going to take more than this to transform our societal structures into vibrant, responsible communities that sustain and care for themselves.
It is not in our interest to continue to construct highways to further distance ourselves from the places and the people that grow our food and produce our goods. Local food production and manufacturing systems, that are scaled to meet the needs of regional communities, will eventually have to be established in the face of huge costs to transport anything, including people. Jobs created locally support local infrastructure and culture and build communities where people want to live and interact with each other.
It is not in our interest to be selfish. For the most part, those of us in the developed world live in isolation of each other; we consider only our own needs and are impervious to the plight or needs of others around us. Our kids no longer play on the street together. Any games or sports they engage in have to be organised for them, demand money in order to participate, necessitate the purchase of brand-name equipment and require transportation to a central place where they come together only for the purpose of competing with each other, then become separate entities again. We have created the cages into which we have willingly put ourselves, complete with the little treadmills to keep us striving and reaching for the rewards that are promised, but that aren't attainable.
It is not in our interest to ignore the lessons from our past. So many good intentions have resulted in short-sighted solutions that proved, after all the consequences became clear, disastrous. We need to learn not to put our faith in short-term fixes like clean coal, carbon sequestration and carbon trading schemes. These will prove ultimately as fruitless and damaging as things like DDT, antibiotics in livestock and feeding ground up spinal cord tissue to bovines (which resulted in BSE).
It is not in our interest to continue with societal systems that are inequitable, wasteful and ultimately unsustainable because of their total disconnection with the human condition.
It is in our interest to lead those who have the money, the power and the influence down a better path than the one they seem to want to take. People around the world have begun to do just this as this BBC report shows. It is also encouraging that the Met Office plans to make public 160 years of climate data to the public, which should help clarify some global warming issues, hopefully to everyone's satisfaction.
Let's hope there is meaningful agreement that will lead to decisive action at Copenhagen this week.
Because that, most definitely, IS in ALL OUR INTERESTS.
1 Richard Heinberg – Searching for a Miracle: "Net energy" limits and the fate of industrial society. September 2009. A joint project of the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute. [False Solutions Series #4].
2 Other worlds are possible: Human progress in an age of climate change.Forewords by R K Pachauri, Ph.D, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Prof. Herman Daly, University of Maryland. The sixth report from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development