Review: The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

Review: The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady State Economy

by Jon Walker

 

What I love most about this book is the feeling you get that there is hope: solutions to environmental, social and financial crises do exist, they have been tried and tested all over the planet and all we have to do is get on with it.

 

The book is remarkable from several points of view. The extent and the depth of knowledge on which the arguments are based is truly impressive: it provides a history of money and corporations and co-operatives and land trusts from all over planet – emphasising the initiatives which have worked and survived and those which have been crushed by authoritative regimes.

 

Much of this needs to be common knowledge, for example, many successful banks which charged low-cost fees rather than interest were simply rendered illegal by their governments; booming cooperative movements were destroyed in Italy in 1921 (8,000 coops), in Germany in 1933 (4.5 million members) and Russia in 1918 (26,000 coops).

 

As the history unfolds it becomes clear that many of the kinds of institutions I had assumed were just out-performed by the corporations and banks were never given a chance. In reality, those in power just got rid of them. But there are many survivors – like the JAK bank in Sweden (which doesn’t charge interest) and the Cooperative Group in the UK – both of which continue to flourish.

 

The conclusions derived from this and several other innovations in the book are unavoidable: interest free banking does work and slashes the costs of borrowing, community land trusts are growing and enable far cheaper housing than freehold land schemes, cooperatives continue to grow and employ more people than all the multi-nationals put together. There are better co-operative economy ways to do almost everything: we don’t have to destroy our eco-systems and economics can be re-designed to benefit everyone.

 

The book is packed with inspiration – on local food, energy, housing, farming and, weaving all of this together, a better way of dealing with money. Perhaps the most impressive achievement is the way that the authors manage to hold all these elements together and demonstrate that resilience requires changes in all aspects of our lives. They show we need to change basic attitudes to almost everything, and to create a new set of values where well-being and eco-system health are more important than a set of numbers in your digital bank account. And, as the title suggests, a policy change away from economic growth as the primary objective to a resilient, sustainable way of living is fundamental.

 

The answers are everywhere. We can build houses which require almost no heating, we can feed ourselves with predominantly local foods, we can use the sun and wind and tides to generate energy, we can create communities which live in balance with their environment. The big questions still remain unanswered, however. Can we turn away from the current paradigm and begin to put all these ideas into practice for everyone, rather than see them working just in isolated pockets of resilience?

 

The authors argue their case at several levels but, for me, a constant thread is the need to reform the money-system; this stands out as a pre-requisite for broad-based change. As long as the majority of humanity is trapped into massive debt repayment, the possibilities for change will remain muted.

 

The solutions emerge clearly. We need access to debt-free money, we need access to commonly-held land, we need cooperative businesses which are designed for the benefit of the people who work or use them, we need regional solutions. And we need everyone to play their part in the transformation: a resilient society will only emerge from the efforts of resilient individuals and families. Functioning participatory democracy is needed at all levels from the work-place to the community to local government right up to the global. The authors are clear that international organisations like the farmers federation, La Via Campesina, are of crucial importance in building global alternatives to the current economic systems controlled by corporations and unelected bodies like the WTO.

 

So what if we all decided to live like this? The authors lead us gently through the consequences for the (very average) Hartwick family. For several of the proven innovations they provide us detailed calculations that they bring down to the household level to show the achievable dollar and cent savings. For example, the combined savings for an average household like the Hartwick’s in Canada over 25 years would be $363,000 if fee based financing, community land trust and basic energy conservation measures were applied. For the Hartwicks, a middle class family on average income, this translates into 12,095 hours of work at their wage level; imagine, this saving of almost 500 working hours per year. If one then adds back in the increased cost of paying a fair price for organic food over that time period, one would be better off to the tune of $286,969 plus have time left over to raise some food. Less debt means less pressure to grow, thus one could help save the planet and also save significant cash.

 

In many ways the books feels like a (nonviolent) call-to-arms: everything is collapsing around us, solutions exist and have been shown to work, and as governments seem completely incapable of doing anything, it really is down to the rest of us to stand up and be counted. So get this book and read it slowly – there is a huge amount to inwardly digest – and then decide what you’re going to do.

 

To misquote a previous work proposing radical change: all we have to lose are our economic chains and the threat of catastrophic climate collapse.

 

Jon Walker has worked in the UK co-operative sector since the 1970s, setting up and co-managing shops, warehouses, small-scale manufacturing coops, and most recently a community owned green grocer. He is also a member of the local Transition Town which is working to establish a local food economy, and finding ways to make with the local housing stock more energy efficient. He also lectures and publishes on the application of systems theory to co-operative organisational issues: his current book written with Angela Espinosa “A complexity approach to sustainability” examines the application of the Viable Systems model to the creation of a sustainable world from the individual to the global.

 

Published by Resilience.org on November 26, 2012

Published on Energy Bulletin (http://www.energybulletin.net)

 

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

 

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

 

Source URL: http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-11-26/review-the-resilience-imperative-cooperative-transitions-to-a-steady-state-economy

 

Links:

[1] http://www.resilience.org/stories/2012-11-26/review-the-resilience-imperative-cooperative-transitions-to-a-steady-state-economy

 

Water Resources Research Center – Brown Bag Seminars – Nov 29, Dec 6 & 11

at Sol Resnick Conference Room, Water Resources Research Center, 350 N Campbell Ave, Tucson AZ

See below for details on December 6

 

Water Resources Research Center – Brown Bag Seminars


Thursday, November 29

Time: 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Speakers: Sharon Megdal, Director, Water Resources Research Center, Specialist and Professor, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, The University of Arizona

Title: Searching for Water Solutions: Experiences from My Sabbatical and Other Travels


Thursday December 6

Time: 5:00 pm –NOTE: Special afternoon start times for this seminar and RSVP Required

Speaker: Emily Brott, Sonoran Institute; Lisa Shipek, Watershed Management Group; Candice Rupprecht, WRRC

Title: Tucson Conserve to Enhance Workshop for Funding Local Enhancement Projects

Tucson Conserve to Enhance (C2E) program leaders will provide an update on C2E successes and share opportunities for new participants to join and grant funding for neighborhood projects. Tucson C2E is seeking community leaders with ideas on how to improve local rivers and washes. In 2013, the Tucson C2E program will invest funds raised from C2E participants and the Tucson Water bill check box to fund Community Enhancement Projects. Community Enhancement Projects will directly benefit a neighborhood’s natural areas and waterways through conservation and restoration practices. More information about the grant process will be covered at the workshop; please come with your project ideas to discuss with the C2E team.

An RSVP is required for this special Brown Bag Workshop. You will need to let us know which session you plan on attending. RSVP to Candice Rupprecht candicer(at)cals.arizona.edu or 520-621-6318.


Tuesday, December 11

Time: 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Speakers: Dave D. White, Co-Director, Decision Center for a Desert City; Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

Title: Linking Knowledge and Action for Water Sustainability and Urban Climate Adaptation: Research Update from the ASU Decision Center for a Desert City

This presentation will provide an update on recent research conducted at the Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC) at Arizona State University, which is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Decision Making under Uncertainty (DMUU) program. DCDC is a transdisciplinary research center advancing knowledge, education, and community and institutional outreach for water sustainability and urban climate adaptation. To enhance the linkages between knowledge and action, interdisciplinary research teams collaborate with practitioners to produce credible science and analytical tools relevant to decision making.


Unless otherwise noted, all seminars are held at the Sol Resnick Conference Room, Water Resources Research Center, 350 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson

Contact information: Jane Cripps at jcripps(at)cals.arizona.edu or 520-621-2526

Please distribute and post this information.


Invitation to enroll in Tucson’s Conserve to Enhance (C2E) program

We know you are passionate about watershed health and how water is used in our community! Do you want to take your passion to the next level and make personal water conservation choices that will benefit the watershed?

The WRRC, along with the Sonoran Institute and Watershed Management Group, invite you to enroll in the C2E program see how your water savings can work for the environment. For more information and to join, go to:

Food Policy links & resources on the internet

Food Policy links & resources on the internet (ST Food working group, November 2012)

National Websites:

http://www.foodsecurity.org/FPC/council.html * (List of Food Policy Councils in North America)

http://www.foodfirst.org/sites/www.foodfirst.org/files/pdf/PB_19_Cutting_Through_the_Red_Tape.pdf (Food First/Institute for Food and Development policy brief)

http://www.socialenterprise.net/assets/files/REDI_Summary_May_2011.pdf (4 food initiatives case studies)

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

Austin, TX: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/index.cfm?function=article_view&articleID=38548/Austin,_TX_Sustainable_Food_Policy_Board.doc (Ordinance creating the Sustainable Food Policy Board)

Baltimore, MD: http://baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Planning/BaltimoreFoodPolicyInitiative.aspx (Food policy website) http://cleanergreenerbaltimore.org/uploads/files/Baltimore City Food Policy Task Force Report.pdf (FP report)

Delaware Valley/Philadelphia, PA: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/documents/38512/Food_System_Planning_4.2010.pdf (Food system planning tool)

Eugene, OR: http://www.eugene-or.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1087 (Food security plan)

Los Angeles:  http://goodfoodla.org/good_food_for_all_agenda.php (LA food policy council website)

New Mexico: http://www.dreamingnewmexico.org/food (Comprehensive food system research website.)

Northern New Mexico: http://www.socialenterprise.net/assets/files/REDI_Summary_May_2011.pdf. (Excellent report created by student interns.)

Portland, OR: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/416389  (Food policy study)

http://web.multco.us/sustainability/portland-multnomah-food-policy-council  (Food policy council website)

http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?a=8728&c=27429 (A resolution creating the council)

Salt Lake City, NV: http://www.slcclassic.com/slcgreen/food/ (Food policy website)

San Diego:  http://aginnovations.org/alliances/sandiego/ (Food system alliance website)

San Franciscohttp://www.sfgov3.org/index.aspx?page=754 (SF food policy website)

http://sfenvironment.org/sites/default/files/editor-uploads/zero_waste/pdf/sfe_zw_mandatory_fact_sheet.pdf (SF recycling & composting ordinance); http://sfenvironment.org/zero-waste/recycling-and-composting (Food composting program)

Santa Fe, NM: http://www.santafecounty.org/userfiles/FoodPolicyResolution2008-26.pdf  (The resolution creating the food council); http://www.santafefoodpolicy.org (Food policy council website)

Seattle, WA: http://www.seattle.gov/council/conlin/food_initiative/ (Food initiative website) http://clerk.seattle.gov/~archives/Resolutions/Resn_31019.pdf  (Local Food Action Initiative Resolution)

http://www.seattle.gov/util/MyServices/FoodYard/index.htm (Food composting program; includes excellent video on how to handle food/yard waste for collection.)

Shelburne Falls, MA: http://issuu.com/conwaydesign/docs/foodsecurity (Food security plan)

Collaborative Redesign of the Sonoran Desert Foodshed – Localizing Our Food Supply – Gary Nabhan and Michael Brownlee – December 10

Free and open to the public at Pima Community College downtown, Amethyst Room, 1255 N Stone Ave, Tucson AZ (also see campus map for lots of free parking)

Collaborative Redesign of
the Sonoran Desert Foodshed
and Localizing Our Food Supply

with Gary Nabhan and Michael Brownlee

Please note special time and location
for this month’s Sustainable Tucson meeting,

Monday, December 10, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Amethyst Room, Downtown Pima College Campus

(near the Bookstore in the Student Union, 1255 N Stone Ave)
Doors open at 6:00 pm, meeting starts at 6:15 pm

Tucson currently imports about 98% of our food from outside the region. Tucson also wastes about 40,000 acre-feet per year of runoff from our streets and rights-of-way. And Tucsonan families spend nearly $2 billion per year on food, almost all of it from thousands of miles away and producing huge amounts of greenhouse gases in transport.

What can we do to insure Tucson has a food supply that is secure, nutritious, tasty, and local?   A lot!   Find out from two leading experts in local food and local economy,

  Gary NabhanCollaborative Redesign of the Sonoran Desert Foodshed: Imagining Next Steps for Tucson

  Michael BrownleeThinking Like a Foodshed: Localizing Our Food Supply

This presentation is co-sponsored by Pima County Food Alliance, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Community Gardens of Tucson, UA Southwest Center, Iskashitaa Refugee Network, Local First AZ, Sabores Sin Fronteras Foodways Alliance, ReZoNation Farm, Plant Based Nation, Local Roots Aquaponics, Local Food Concepts, and Abundant Communities Trust.

Gary Paul Nabhan is the Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona, and co-editor of State of the Southwest Foodsheds and Hungry for Change: Borderlands Food and Water in the Balance (both available on line).  An orchardkeeper of 70 varieties of heritage fruit and nut varieties in Patagonia, Nabhan was a co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, Renewing America’s Food Traditions, and the Sabores Sin Fronteras Foodways Alliance.

A catalyst for relocalization, Michael Brownlee is co-founder of Transition Colorado, the first officially-recognized Transition Initiative in North America, working towards community resilience and self-reliance. Michael is the architect behind the Local Food Shift campaign to localize food and farming systems. He also co-founded Localization Partners LLC, a Slow Money affiliate, which is now investing in local food and farming enterprises as well as offering tools and processes for catalyzing food localization as economic development in communities across North America.

UK Tyndall Centre Interview: Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy, but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse

 by Rob Hopkins

Published by Transition Culture on Fri, 11/02/2012  and republished by EnergyBulletin.Net  on Sat, 11/3/2012

Kevin Anderson is the Deputy Director of the UK Tyndall Centre and is an expert on greenhouse-gas emissions trajectories. He will be giving the annual Cabot Institute lecture, ‘Real Clothes for the Emperor’ on 6th November in Bristol, which has already sold out. I was hoping to be able to go and report on it for you here, but no longer can, so instead, I spoke to Kevin last week, by Skype. I am very grateful for his time, and for a powerful, honest and thought-provoking interview.

 

Could you share with us your analysis of where you think we find ourselves in terms of climate change and what’s our current trajectory if we carry on as we are?

 

In terms of the language around climate change, I get the impression that there’s still a widely held view that we can probably hold to avoiding dangerous climate change characterised by this almost magical 2°C rise in global mean surface temperature. This is the target that we have established in Copenhagen and then re-iterated in Cancun and to which most nations of the world have now signed up to; I think the rhetoric that we should not exceed this 2°C rise is still there.

 

It’s not just about our emissions now. If you look at the emissions we’ve already put out into the atmosphere since the start of this century, and you look at what’s likely to be emitted over the next few years, then I think it tells a very different story. It’s hard to imagine that, unless we have a radical sea-change in attitudes towards emissions, we will avoid heading towards a 6°C rise by the end of this century.

 

Can we for definite, in your opinion, say that this year’s extreme weather can be linked to climate change?

 

Certainly not. I think it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely we will ever be able to robustly link any particular single event to climate change. Now that’s not to say we can’t get a greater level of attribution, where we can start to say the things that we are seeing are what we would expect to see with a warming climate. We are struggling to find any other reasons for them and therefore it does seem a high probability that these events are caused, if not exacerbated by, the rise in CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases and hence the increase in temperature. But I think it’s unlikely that we’d ever be able to say that any single event is a ‘climate change event’.

 

But would you say that if we were still at 280 parts per million it would be much less likely that we would have had a summer like this?

 

Yes, I think that would be a fair comment. It would be much less likely. Before this summer, the probability of having this summer’s weather would have been less if we had not seen significant rises in greenhouse gases and their cumulative impact in the atmosphere. We are starting now to see events that it’s difficult to explain in terms of normal probabilities. We get extreme weather events, we always have had such events; extremes do occur. But if extremes start to occur regularly they’re no longer extremes, and what you’re then seeing is not a weather extreme, you’re seeing change in the climate. But it’s hard to say that any particular event in a range of events is a consequence of climate change, and not just an extreme weather event.

 

Sometimes people talk about this idea of ‘a new normal’, that the basic conditions around us have changed. In terms of what’s happening in terms of the climate, how would you characterise the ‘new normal’ that we’re in given the rise we’ve had in emissions so far?

 

I think it would probably be a very short normal, I don’t think this is the normal at all. It’s the normal for today, but I think the rate of increase of emissions, and there is no sign at all of that rate significantly coming down, would suggest that we’ll be reaching a new normal, and then another new normal, and then another new normal. I’m one of the people that concludes that we’re likely to experience significant climate change impacts over the next 1,2,3 decades and obviously beyond that point. At the moment, unless we change our emissions pathways and trajectory, the normal will be changing regularly.

 

You have already argued and you’ll be arguing in Bristol on November 6th that responding adequately to climate change and economic growth are no longer compatible. Could you flesh that case out a little bit for us?

 

Now I’m going to talk specifically about the Annex 1, the wealthy parts of the world, the OECD countries, broadly, the countries that are fairly well industrialised. In those parts of the world, the rate of reduction in emissions that would be necessary for us to even stay within an outside chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, characterised by the 2°C rise that we’re all internationally committed to, would be in the order of around 10% per annum.

 

Though a very approximate guide, it’s far removed from the 1, 2 or 3% that most energy scenarios or emissions scenarios consider. It is well beyond anything we’ve been able to countenance, well beyond virtually anything so far that we’ve analysed. What we know is that in the short term, because we need to start this now, we cannot deliver reduction by switching to a low carbon energy supply, we simply cannot get the supply in place quickly enough.

 

Therefore, in the short to medium term the only major change that we can make is in consuming less. Now that would be fine, we could become more efficient in what we consume by probably 2 – 3% per annum reduction. But bear in mind, if our economy was say growing at 2% per annum, and we were trying to get a 3% per annum reduction in our emissions, that’s a 5% improvement in the efficiency of what we’re doing each year, year on year.

 

Our analysis for 2°C suggests we need a 10% absolute reduction per annum, and there is no analysis out there that suggests that is in any way compatible with economic growth. If you consider the Stern Report, Stern was quite clear that there was no evidence that any more than a 1% per annum reduction in emissions had ever been associated with anything other than “economic recession or upheaval”, I think was the exact quote.

 

So we have no historical precedents for anything greater than 1% per annum reduction in emissions. We’re saying we need nearer 10% per annum, and this is something we need to be doing today. And therefore, we can draw a very clear conclusion from this, that in the short to medium term, the way for the Annex 1, the wealthy parts of the world to meet their obligations to 2°C, is to cut back very significantly on consumption. And that would therefore mean in the short to medium term a reduction in our economic activity i.e. we could not have economic growth.

 

Now we might have a steady-state economy, but my overall sense is that the maths probably point to us having to consume less each year for the next few years, maybe a decade or so.

 

Has that ever happened before? As I understand it, when the Soviet Union collapsed it was 9% cut and that was just for 1 year. What would 10% a year look like?

 

My understanding with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc countries was that the drop was about 5% per year for up to about 10 years. So what we saw there was a relatively prolonged, completely unplanned, and as it turned out very chaotic and uneven reduction in emissions, and even then only delivered about a half to a quarter of, the rate of reduction, what we would need for 2°C.

 

So as their economy collapsed, their emissions dropped by about 5% per annum for about 10 years. We would be needing at least 10% per annum if not considerably higher and for longer than a 10 year period. For the Soviet Union, the economic collapse, though a pretty terrible time for many people, still did not achieve the rate of reductions that we would need to be seeing here.

 

Of course our view is that to deliver on 2°C , we should plan the economic contraction. It need not necessarily have the devastating impact that it very clearly had, and very inequitable impact, in Russia in particular.

 

Given that the current administration or indeed any administration that would be elected in this country would never be able to run on a platform of shrinking the economy by 10% every year, what are the implications? How do the need to do that and democracy sit alongside each other?

 

Firstly I don’t say we have to reduce our level of consumption by 10% per annum in terms of material goods. I’m not saying our economy has to reduce by 10% per annum. The emissions have to come down at 10% per annum, but we should be able to get some efficiency improvements as well. So the economy would not have to come down as fast as the rate of emissions coming down. It’s very important to make that distinction, and of course the more low-hanging fruit that we can find, and I think there’s a lot more out there than we’ve discovered previously- the less the material contraction of the economy would need to be. From some of our provisional work we have identified some very significant improvements in the efficiency of how we do what we do; some technical, some behavioural.

 

I don’t think it’s necessarily as dire as you’re painting from an economic perspective. Nevertheless we are talking here at best a steady-state economy. The analysis that I and colleagues in the Tyndall Centre have undertaken would suggest there probably has to be a reduction in our consumption and an economic contraction.

 

How would we sell that? Well, we’ve sold it at the moment. It’s very clear in the UK and many parts of Europe that what we’re seeing is at best stagnation, if not an economic reduction in our level of consumption. So we have actually got that at the moment. We’re not all finding this utterly dire .. not that it’s been evenly spread, I think it’s been unfairly spread. I think equity should be one of our main considerations here. We have to bear in mind that even if we have an economic contraction that wouldn’t necessarily mean that for many people they would have to consume less.

 

I take the very clear view on this that the distributional effects would very likely mean that many people in the UK for instance would not see a reduction in their levels of consumption or their levels of wellbeing, but others of us in the UK, like myself, would certainly have to see reduction in levels of consumption. Probably not a reduction in levels of wellbeing but certainly in levels of consumption. So I think distributional impacts might mean that it could be much more attractive, or less unattractive, to policy makers than at first sight it would seem.

 

Particularly given that we face a lot of issues now with unemployment, welfare reductions etc., issues that disproportionately affect people in the middle-lower income band; it is these people that could actually benefit from a transition to a much more efficient and lower carbon economy.

 

The implications will obviously have to be thought through, but any government that embraced a more sophisticated analysis of climate change would likely recognise the economic situation that we have got ourselves into anyway with our current model. Put those two together and there are real opportunities now for a significant transition in how we do what we do; a transition away from the dogmatic economic growth model and towards a steady-state low carbon alternative.

 

What do you see as the role, certainly in terms of the Transition approach, as very much about what a bottom-up, community-led response to that looks like, what’s your sense of the role that communities can play in making that happen?

 

I take the view that the community approach, the bottom-up approach, is absolutely pivotal to resolving some of the challenges and issues that we find ourselves facing now. So I think communities are really important here. They’re important in a number of ways.

 

You might make an argument that the actions of any individual, of any household, of any local community, in and of themselves are relatively insignificant, I all too often hear this. The point is less about the emissions of an individual, though still important, but more about the example it sets. It gives other people the opportunity to see that you can do something differently.

 

If communities, and even if it’s only one or two communities are starting to do things significantly differently, that means we have an example of what we can do. If those examples are successful they can spread. Once they spread, policy makers can start to see those examples at work and can start to set a top-down agenda that can coincide with the bottom-up agenda. We can actually point policy makers to where it’s working and make arguments for implementing policies that would facilitate those sorts of changes.

 

If we are going to get out of the hole we’ve got ourselves into there’s real scope for some partnership between bottom-up-individuals, through to communities etc. – and top-down, trying to facilitate initiatives as they emerge. It’s the kind of partnership we need if we are going to see real substantive change. And if we see that in the UK, that helps within the EU and can signal a wider, global transition. I think we all have a responsibility to try and bring these changes about in our own lives and our immediate environments, and actually this could be significant. What we do ourselves is absolutely central to bringing about substantive change.

 

What do you see as being the role of scientists in all this? Should they only focus on definitely proven science or move more towards how James Hansen is taking more of an activist stance. How do you see that balance between science and activism?

 

This is quite a difficult question. My view here is that as scientists we have to behave as scientists. Now we are human beings, and so science will never be the perfect, objective, neutral profession that the textbooks might try to describe it as. Nevertheless I think it is really important in our science to remain neutral and objective, as much as we ever can. Science is not about black and white, there is a huge amount of uncertainty in a lot of science, there’s a huge amount of probabilities and clearly climate change has a lot of this wrapped up in it. But I think it is absolutely pivotal that as scientists we behave as scientists.

 

Now as individuals, as citizens – we may be scientists but we are also citizens – I see nothing wrong with standing up and saying I think my and other people’s science raises concerns for society and so I have to chosen to act on that analysis. There is a duality here. An individual can, as a scientist, produce their work neutrally, and then they can use that work to inform how they act as a citizen.

 

If Hansen and others want to chain themselves to bulldozers building new runways, that is their choice as a citizen, I don’t disagree with that. What I would disagree with is that if anyone starts to misuse science to support other sets of views. Because people like Hansen’s analysis looks to be more extreme, people then assume that he is pushing the boundaries of the science. I think the scientists that are pushing the boundaries are those that are deliberately, and I know many of these people, holding to a line that is politically palatable, because that is what politicians, what their pay masters, what society wants to hear.

 

Actually I think Hansen and some of those scientists who are prepared to stand up and make quite strong statements from their science are the ones that are being more neutral and objective; far too many of the scientists who are working on climate change, are towing, in my view, a political line. It looks like it’s neutral because it doesn’t sound extreme, it fits within the orthodoxy. But that is not the way we should be doing science. Whether it fits within the orthodoxy or not we should be objective, robust, direct and honest about science.

 

You spend a lot of your time surrounded by all the papers and research and stuff that’s coming out, all the models that get worse and worse. How do you personally cope with that, and what do you do in your own life that’s motivated by what you encounter in your professional life?

 

I have to say it gets increasingly difficult, it has affected my personal life quite considerably over the last few years and is getting worse. I find it very hard to engage with the science and then not link that to what we as individuals, what society, what policy makers are doing, or evidently not doing. It has been really challenging for me with some work colleagues, less so in the immediate group that I’m involved with here in Manchester, but certainly wider colleagues who I work with on climate change who, it seems to me, have no regard for what their research tells them.

 

For many, but with significant exceptions, their work seems to be little more than something that pays the mortgage. I find that quite difficult. I take the view that it is incumbent on us as scientists and citizens that we should be changing what we’re doing in our own lives, and I think that people would take much more note of the analysis that we do if we decided to live broadly in accordance with our science. In my view, far too few scientists who work on climate change actually do that.

 

But also I find it increasingly difficult not to challenge friends and family, who often appear to have complete disregard for the impacts of their action. I’ve got to the point now where I think that when we’re profligately emitting, we’re knowingly damaging the lives and the prospects of some of the poorest people in our communities, both in the UK, but more significantly globally. Yet we obscenely carry on doing this. We’re happy to put a few pence into a collection pot in the middle of town to help people living in poorer parts of the world but we don’t seem to be prepared to make substantive changes to how we’re living our lives- even when we recognise the impact our emissions are having.

 

And yet science is pretty clear on this, that vulnerable people in the poorer parts of the world will suffer dire repercussions of what we are doing now and what we’ve already done. I find that almost reprehensible that scientists are able to completely ignore such a very clear message; we know that the people on the coastal strips of Bangladesh will suffer very significantly from our behaviour as will many other people, poor people around the world. And we really do not collectively as a society and even often as individuals demonstrate any meaningful care or compassion.

 

I’ve cut back on many of the activities I previously pursued. Many of my friendships linked to activities; as a keen rock climber, I used to travel away for breaks by plane. This has all had to change quite considerably. I have close friends from when I used to work in the oil industry, friends who think climate change is a serious issue but are not prepared to make any changes to their lifestyles. It has raised some serious challenges for me in maintaining personal relationships.

 

I don’t want to pretend that it’s easy. I do not think that the future, for those of us that are in the very fortunate position of living in the West, is full of win-win opportunities. People who have done well, very well out of our western system, and live very carbon profligate lifestyles are going to face difficult challenges, and we should not pretend otherwise.

 

Until we actually embrace alternative means of finding value in our lives, I think that transition from where we are today, high-carbon, high-energy lifestyles, to ultimately lower-carbon lifestyles is going to be both difficult and unpopular. But ultimately, I do not see an alternative. Rapid and deep emissions reductions may not be easy- but 4°C to 6°C will be much worse.

 

Do you see any possibility that that might come from and be led by government?

 

No, I don’t think it will be led by government. I don’t think it will be led by anyone. I think it will be an emergent outcome of a society that cares, of which government is part and citizens and individuals are part as well. I have never particularly liked the idea of great people, of wonderful leadership, I much more believe in an emergent system, the properties and values that are embedded within a system.

 

Now we might see that, manifested sometimes in a leader, but it actually is an outcome of that society moving in a particular direction. So that’s why, to me, I’m not looking for some great person to come on their white charger and take this forward. I’m looking for all of us to engage, and out of that will emerge a new way of thinking of the world.

 

Given the economic challenges, crisis, whatever we want to call it, that we are seeing at the moment, this is a real opportunity for change. An opportunity we need to grasp. We need to think differently, think positively, but recognise in my view that it will not be easy. We can institute these changes ourselves both bottom-up and top-down. It is this kind of leadership we need, leadership from all of us.

 

Do you think from a climate change perspective actually a deepening and a worsening recession is the best thing that could happen to us?

 

At the moment I just see it as blaming everyone else. Inequity is going up, not down. Recessions are not good times– we clearly are not all in it together. Many of us have not made any changes to the restaurants that we go to, the hotels that we go to, the holidays that we take, and yet the other side is we are completely stripping back welfare, and we’re not investing in green infrastructure. We’re constantly putting money, a third of a trillion into the banks, not into a new grid network or a new set of renewable technologies or retro-fitting houses. So we have the prospect of doing things differently, offered us by the recession but we’re letting those opportunities go, on a day to day basis we’re throwing these opportunities away. It could be a much more positive drive toward a low carbon and resilient society than it’s turning out to be.

 

Bill McKibben argues that we need to get back to 350 parts per million. Is that possible?

 

Well it is in the very long term. But within the sort of time frame that we’re talking about at the moment, unless the geo-engineering routes work and I think we have to be very cautious about sucking the CO2 out of the air when we can’t even turn the lights off when we leave a room at the moment! I find this quite bizarre, but it is not to say we shouldn’t spend some money now on research into negative emission technologies.

 

I think it highly unlikely that we’ll get back to 350 within quite a lot of generations. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have it as a goal, but what I think we should be looking to do is to stabilise the concentration as quickly as possible at the levels they are today. They’ll be higher tomorrow and higher the day after that. What we need to do immediately is to stop that rate of growth and then get the CO2 out of the atmosphere as quickly as we can.

 

I don’t know whether we’ll be able to suck the stuff out. At the moment it’s a long way away. It’s a Dr Strangelove future. That’s not to say it may not have some purchase in the long-term but at the moment we’re digging out shale gas and tar sands and lots of coal. We’re going to be digging under the Arctic. We don’t need to concern ourselves too much with geo-engineering for the future, we just need to stop getting fossil fuels out of the ground today.

 

You talked about the need to cut emissions by 10% a year and how difficult that’s going to be and how it’s not going to be an easy thing and it’ll affect every aspect of what people do, particularly the people who are used to having it better. Can you describe a bit what you think it’ll look like when we get there? What’s your vision of what things would be like if we actually do this successfully, if we’re able to muster the will and the collective spirit and we actually manage to pull it off? Can you describe what it might be like when we get there?

 

This is quite hard… what will the future look like? It’s difficult for us as scientists and engineers not to impose our other personal ways of seeing the world. There are particular changes that I would like to see the world achieve that are not related to carbon or climate change, not to embody those in my view of the future is not easy.

 

I’m 50 years old now. I had a very good life in the 1970s and a pretty good life in the 1980s. I don’t think my quality of life has significantly improved since the 1970s and 80s, and yet my emissions and the emissions per capita have really gone up very significantly.

 

So we have lived good quality, relatively lower-carbon lives than we are today, not very long ago. Now a lot of that was because we consumed less. We still lived fairly high-consumption lifestyles, and I think if we allied the technical expertise that we have now that could really improve the technologies that we actually use to deliver lifestyles that are very good – we’re not talking about going a long way back to times when people were very impoverished.

 

We had good medical treatment, we had good schools, good transport networks. So I think we can ally both our current technical skills and abilities, with a recognition that we consumed considerably less than we consume today but had a not noticeably different lifestyles – going back to the 50s, 40s or the 30s would be very different, but I don’t think that’s true for the 70s and 80s.

 

Such a transition would certainly be challenging, with some significant equity and distributional impacts, and with a shift in emphasis from a strongly individual and consumption based society to one that embraces more collaboration. I acknowledge this would be more attractive to me, but I recognise that some people would not see such change in a positive light. Nevertheless, I think it’s hard to imagine ourselves getting out of the hole we’re in without a greater degree of collective effort.

 

I don’t think we should be looking to go back to the point where we can’t travel, and where we’re living austere lives. With a greater degree of equity, scarce energy resources can be balanced with high-welfare lives.

 

It’s a future about sufficiency more than it is about greed and wants, whether it’ll be radically different from where we are today will depend on how fast we respond now, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be. We will have lots of opportunities to behave differently, adopt lower consumption habits, and ally that with significant changes in the types and the efficiency of the technologies that are already available. All this could steer us in a resilient low-carbon direction.

 

Do you think the tradeable energy quotas that David Fleming came up with would be a useful tool for that?

 

Myself and my colleague Richard Starkey at the time did quite a lot of work on that, in fact we knew David quite well. Yes, I think it’s certainly one very serious route to consider and indeed David Miliband was quite keen on it at the time, DEFRA eventually dismissed it as “an economic instrument beyond its time”, so it was for the future. Well maybe the future’s here now and we should re-consider using it. It adds a very good equity dimension that demands greater changes from those of us that emit more than others. Coincidently, it is this fairness aspect that could drive innovation and the early adopters more than taxes and other economic instruments whereby high-emitters may be able to buy themselves out of change.

 

I think there’s some significant merit in it as an approach. Setting it up will not be easy. But we have to remember – people say it’s like rationing, well we’re all rationed by what’s called our salary, our income. So we’re all familiar with rations. We are all the time juggling our rations of resources because of what we can and cannot afford. This is just one more of them.

 

I’m not sure it’s quite as difficult as some people suggest to imagine to have to ration, particularly if it only relates to our household energy consumption, electricity, gas and so forth and our vehicle consumption. I think as you start to extend it beyond that it becomes more problematic but I think applied to households and transport it could be a useful tool in catalysing widespread and more equitable engagement and more effectively driving innovation and deployment than would standard economic instruments.

 

Content on this site is subject to our fair use notice.

Original article: http://transitionculture.org/2012/11/02/an-interview-with-kevin-anderson-rapid-and-deep-emissions-reductions-may-not-be-easy-but-4c-to-6c-will-be-much-worse/

EnergyBulletin.Net  is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.

Climate Change and Energy Decline: Building resilient communities in the SW United States – Guy McPherson – November 5

at Pima Community College downtown, Amethyst Room, 1255 N Stone Ave

 

Climate Change and Energy Decline:
Building resilient communities
in the southwestern United States

with Guy McPherson

Co-sponsored by Tucson Audubon Society
and Sustainable Tucson

Please note special time and location for this month’s Sustainable Tucson meeting,

When:  Monday, November 5, 2012, 7:00 pm
Where:  Pima Community College’s downtown campus, Amethyst Room on 1255 N. Stone Ave. Easy parking! Central location! See map

Consider how many of the things that you do in your life have been made simpler by the use of cheap fossil fuels and how our planet has changed as a result. How will increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuels affect how you live your life? Guy McPherson changed his life completely when he considered this question, reducing his use of non-renewable resources and living a more sustainable existence. He has now moved on to considering the social and economic effects of our changing climate. Guy will sign copies of his memoir, Walking Away from Empire, after his talk.

Guy was one of the “local voices” in 2006 and 2007 during the time when  a diverse group of community activists formed Sustainable Tucson. His 2006 article, “Rising gas prices, sporadic shortages are signs of the impending Tucson apocalypse” in the Tucson Weekly and his 2007 article, “Peak oil scenario paints frightening future for all”  published by the Arizona Daily Star helped educate Tucsonans to begin to respond to the emerging sustainability crisis.

To understand the latest climate change scenarios, read this recent interview with Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK Tyndall Centre, a major global climate science research center, click here.

Eco-Health Relationship Browser – EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities

Eco-Health Relationship Browser
EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research News Flash
September 25, 2012

The EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program is pleased to announce the launch of the Eco-Health Relationship Browser, an easy-to-use new online tool from the SHC program.

The Eco-Health Relationship Browser illustrates the linkages between human health and ecosystem services—benefits supplied by nature. This interactive tool provides information about our nation’s ecosystems, the services they provide, and how those services, or their degradation and loss, may affect people and communities.

Ecosystems, such as wetlands and forests, provide a wide variety of goods and services, many of which we use every day. However, some of these services, such as air filtration, are not obvious and it therefore may be hard to understand the impact they have on our daily lives.

Scientific studies have documented the many tangible and intangible services and health benefits that are provided by our surrounding ecosystems. This tool is designed so that users can easily explore the services ecosystems provide and how those services affect human health and well-being. It is important to note that the studies summarized in this tool are by no means an exhaustive list. However, the inclusion of over 300 peer-reviewed papers makes this browser an exceptional compendium of current science on this topic.

If you have questions or comments please contact Laura Jackson at jackson.laura(at)epa.gov

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Welcome to the EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) research program News Flash. SHC is developing data, tools and approaches to help communities make decisions that better protect human health and community well being. This News Flash will provide subscribers periodic updates about SHC science, products or information. You were added to this mailing list because you are involved or have expressed an interest in sustainable communities work, ecosystem services research, or related topics.

For questions about the SHC News Flash contact Melissa McCullough mccullough.melissa(at)epa.gov, or Carolyn Hubbard Hubbard.carolyn(at)epa.gov

270 minutes of silence – Presidential debates avoiding Climate change – 350.org

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2012 22:32:25 +0000
From: Jamie Henn – 350.org <organizers(at)350.org>
Subject: 270 minutes of silence.

Dear Friends,

Not one word.

After 270 minutes of Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, no one has mentioned climate change or global warming. If the candidates don’t speak up tonight, this will be the first time since 1988 that climate change hasn’t been discussed in a Presidential debate.

Our social media team has whipped up a hard-hitting graphic that you can use to help drive the discussion in the lead up to the debate tonight. The more noise we make online, the more likely it is that the candidates or moderator will make a last minute decision to mention climate and, just as important, that the pundits covering the event will talk about climate change.

Can you raise the volume by sharing this on your social networks?


 

The silence is unacceptable, after the country broke 17,000 heat records this summer, drought smothered half of the nation’s corn crop, and millions of acres of the American west went up in smoke. Right now, just miles away from the site of tonight’s debate, parts of Miami are underwater due to an unusually high tide — a problem that will only worsen if sea levels continue to rise.

The warning signs can’t be ignored, but our politicians have gone silent. The reason couldn’t be more obvious the fossil fuel industry has spent over $150 million dollars on this election already, with more on the way. This September alone, ExxonMobil PAC and Koch Industries PAC spent a whopping $200,000 and $354,500 apiece to influence the election.

This afternoon, we’re working with our allies to make a last minute push to put climate back on the agenda.

Your action online will be joined with action on the ground, as well: our friends from Forecast the Facts, Friends of the Earth and the Energy Action Coalition have been working to break the climate silence in the debates, and there will be a rally at the debate in Florida to call for an end to the silence today.

Thanks for making your voice heard,

Jamie

350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story, and donating here.

Storm Water Harvesting – WMG Green Living Co-op Workshops – Oct 11,13,14,21,27

Click these links for more details:

Thursday October 11, 7am – 12pm
Saturday October 13, 8am – 1pm
Sunday, October 14, 7am – 12pm

Sunday, October 21, 8am – 1pm

Saturday, October 27, 8am – 1pm

 

Watershed Management Group – Residential Green Infrastructure Workshops

Join Watershed Management Group’s Tucson Green-living Co-op for a series of workshops this October that are designed to turn a stormwater problem into a plant irrigating, street shading, solution. We will use Green infrastructure techniques to slow down and keep storm water on site and to divert street floods into streetside infiltration basins via curb cuts.

These small scale Green infrastructure workshops will be associated with a single residence and the home owner will be required to maintain the basins both on their property and in the right of way.

Watershed Management Group’s Green Living Co-op has been helping Tucson residents install home-conservation features since 2008. Based on a barn-raising model (which we call “doing labor with your neighbor”), free Co-op membership allows residents to earn a discount on installations at their own homes by volunteering hours at other members’ homes.

All workshops are led by WMG’s expert workshop instructors, who can also help design professional water harvesting systems that qualify for both Tucson Water’s rainwater-harvesting and greywater rebates.

Visit www.watershedmg.org/co-op for more information,
and see WMG’s Tucson calendar www.watershedmg.org/calendar-tucson

Forum for Candidates for AZ Corporation Commission – League of Women Voters – Oct 4

at Temple Emanu-El, 225 N Country Club Road, Tucson AZ

Sustainable Tucson October Meeting

Please note special time and location for this month’s
Sustainable Tucson meeting,

Temple Emanu-El, 225 N Country Club Road, Tucson AZ
Thursday, October 4, 2012, 6:30 PM

Doors open at 6:15 pm

Forum for Candidates
for AZ Corporation Commission

All Candidates Have Been Invited

Utility Regulation • Power Lines
Business Regulation • Investment Fraud
Railway Safety • Energy Generation

Your questions for the candidates may also be submitted online here!
Please comment on this post before October 4.

Sponsored by
the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson,
AAUW (American Association of University Women),
Temple Emanu-El, and Sustainable Tucson

About the Arizona Corporation Commission and its roles and responsibilities

The Arizona Corporation Commission is a key independent arm of state government presided over by five elected commissioners. Only 7 states have constitutionally formed Commissions. Arizona is one of only 13 states with elected Commissioners. In the 37 other states, Commissioners are appointed by either the governor or the legislature.

In most states, the Commission is known as the Public Service Commission or the Public Utility Commission. The Arizona Commission, however, has responsibilities that go beyond traditional public utilities regulation. These additional roles include facilitating the incorporation of businesses and organizations, securities regulation and railroad/pipeline safety.

Regulation of public service utilities including electricity, gas, sewer, water, and telephone remains the most important role, especially in the case of electricity and Arizona’s efforts to transition away from fossil-fuel burning power plants to clean, renewable energy sources. Republicans are attempting to reverse course on these efforts while Democrats are in favor of expanding the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard which applies to regulated power companies.

Challenges in Vertical Farming – all-day workshop & live webcast – Sep 26

live webcast from University of Maryland Conference Center

 

Workshop on the “Challenges in Vertical Farming

September 26, 2012
The Marriott Inn & Conference Center, University of Maryland University College
3501 University Blvd, East Hyattsville, Maryland 20783 USA

http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

We are pleased to announce an NSF funded workshop on the “Challenges in Vertical Farming”, which will be held on September 26, 2012 at the University of Maryland Conference Center.

We have assembled a group of experts from around the world to address various aspects – horticulture, lighting, irrigation, automation, architecture, economics, business development and outreach related to Vertical Farming as a form of Urban Agriculture, who will provide their expertise within a full day of presentations and discussions. Attendance may be in person or through live Webcast. More information including the list of speakers and registration for attendance (select ‘in person’, or via ‘live webcast’) are available at http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

The goal of the workshop is to capture the state of the art in agriculture in controlled environments, to define a research agenda for the future and to establish a working group at the nexus of Agriculture, Engineering, Economics and Architecture with focus on Urban Agriculture. The output of the workshop will be a report that could serve as the basis of research agenda by agencies such as the NSF, USDA and USAID.

Please feel free to forward this notice to those interested in participating in the workshop.

The Workshop organizers are led by Sanjiv Singh of Carnegie Mellon University, and include:

DICKSON DESPOMMIER (COLUMBIA) GENE GIACOMELLI (UNIV OF ARIZONA) MARC VAN IERSEL (UNIV OF GEORGIA) JOEY NORIKANE (FRAUNHOFER) GEORGE KANTOR (CARNEGIE MELLON) NIKOLAUS CORRELL (UNIV OF COLORADO) and MICHAEL HOADLEY (FEWZION)

Here is some motivation for these efforts:

By the year 2050, we expect human population to increase to 9 billion and to be further concentrated in urban centers. An estimated billion hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food to feed the earth. At present, however, over 80% of the land suitable for raising crops is already in use. Further, if trends in climate change persist, the amount of land available for farming will decrease. Since crops consume 87% of all water used globally, an increase in water usage is not possible. Finally, while the need is for 50% higher yield by the year 2050 to maintain the status quo, we expect agricultural productivity to decline significantly across the world, especially in densely populated areas. There is an urgent need for high-yield agriculture that decreases the use of water and carbon based inputs per unit of product, while simultaneously reducing vulnerability of crops to natural environmental conditions. Vertical Farming (using controlled environments for urban agriculture) will reduce transportation energy required from the distant outdoor farms. Recent implementations have shown high yields in the production of vegetables in controlled environments. Water usage has been significantly reduced compared to traditional outdoor farming, and crops are shielded from adverse climate, and, from pests and diseases. In addition, Vertical Farming has the potential to provide fresher and healthier produce to the local consumer.

Since no one community or technology holds the magic key, the opportunity for is to collectively enumerate and prioritize the challenges that must be addressed to bring high yield, resource efficient agriculture to fruition. The greatest contribution from this workshop could be a roadmap for governmental agencies and researchers to follow as they weigh their priorities in the coming years. Obviously the needs will vary depending on the locale addressed– we expect that the needs for developing countries will be different than those that are less resource constrained. The goal of our workshop is to capture the state of the art in agriculture in controlled environments, to define a research agenda for the future and to establish a working group at the nexus of Agriculture, Engineering, Economics and Architecture. The output of the workshop will be a report that could serve as the basis of research agenda by agencies such as the NSF, USDA and USAID.

http://challengesinverticalfarming.org

Crucial ACC Election for Climate Activists – TUCAN Workshop Sep 8

at Miller Golf Links Public Library, 9640 E Golf Links Rd, Tucson (see below about carpooling)

Crucial ACC Election for Climate Activists

Workshop on September 8 Saturday 1 p.m., free t-shirt

Dear Climate Activist,

In the 2012, three of five seats at the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) are up for election. This election will decide the future of energy efficiency and solar power in Arizona. The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed three candidates for the ACC. They are incumbents Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy, and newcomer Marcia Busching.

Please join us on Saturday, September 8th to learn what you can do to elect the Solar Team – Newman, Kennedy, Busching – and help make Arizona the Solar State and a leader for energy independence. A well respected individual from the solar industry will join us to debunk some myths about solar energy, as well as other wonderful speakers. This election will decide our energy future. Please be there to learn how you can help.

Event will take place: Saturday, September 8th at 1pm
Miller Golf Links Public Library at 9640 E. Golf Links Rd., Tucson, Arizona 85730

Carpool: Rides and riders are encouraged to contact Andrea Sirois to set up carpooling. For information (and carpooling) call Andrea Siriois at 707-319-1089 or email arsirois(at)gmail.com

Best,
Laila Amerman
Field Director, Paul Newman 2012 for Arizona Corporation Commission
Work: (623) 850-1338
Email: Laila(at)PaulNewmanAZ.com

Fall 2012 One Day Workshops – Sonoran Permaculture Guild

Fall 2012 One Day Workshops – Sonoran Permaculture Guild

For full class descriptions, registration information, and FAQs for these workshops, please go to http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

 

Designing a Home Greywater System – September 22nd, 2012

This one-day class provides a basic understanding of residential greywater system design, function, application, and applicable building codes. Participants will work with an aerial photo of their own residence (provided by the instructor) to identify and evaluate the potential of their own greywater sources and design a workable plan for a greywater system for their own home. Class will end with a short walking tour (less than 1 mile) of greywater systems at several permculture sites in the neighborhood.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Wild Foods of the Sonoran Desert – September 29th, 2012

Learn to eat from what you find in the forest! Join local herbalist, John Slattery, on a wild foraging journey in our local Santa Rita Mountains. We will be exploring the great diversity of native wild foods which exist in our local habitat. Numerous wild foods will be identified, and we will gather and prepare some select edibles. Basic topics covered will include: Proper Identification of Edible Species, Time of Year for Proper Harvest, Methods of Preparation, Location, Environment, and Habitat for each Plant. We will carpool to the Santa Rita Mountains.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Introduction to Growing Food at Home – October 6, 2012

The future of sustainable agriculture will be in small to medium scale organic food gardens grown right in and around our cities. In this workshop that includes hands-on work, you will learn how to set up a complete desert vegetable garden. We will show you how to increase your garden’s health, production, and nutrient value, using an integrated system of compost, mulch, companion plant selection, and irrigation to improve fertility, structure, and life in your soil, and produce food with minimum water use. We will conclude the class with an exploration of “food forests”- a diverse layering of annual and perennial food plants that can help increase garden health through permaculture strategies.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Introduction to Permaculture Design – October 13th, 2012

In this design workshop, you will learn how to map out the natural story of the place where you live. Then you will put together an exciting, long term plan for your sustainable home and landscape – one that takes care of people and takes care of the environment at the same time. We will practice the skills and strategies needed to do Permaculture design, like mapping out the natural and person-made forces that effect our site and using simple elevation finding tools. Bring a sketch of your site or yard that you want to design. This class is held at the Sonoran Permaculture Guild’s Ramada classroom site one and a half miles north of downtown Tucson, where you will see Permaculture design and implementation demonstrated on site.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Build A Straw Bale House or Wall, Tuesday evening – October 16th, 2012

In this non-hands on seminar you will learn about straw bale construction and the advantages of super insulation, thick walls, and ease of construction. Handouts and a complete discussion of the current straw bale code, detail drawings of windows and doors, and additional tips to make your building experience easier are included. This class also includes a complete slide show from start to finish on how to build a straw bale house or wall, as well as a demonstration of special tools and props that work well with straw bale construction. Co-Sponsored by Pima Community College.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Natural Building and Passive Solar Design – October 20th, 2012

This workshop includes hands on work with straw bales, adobe blocks,cob, and plasters. We’ll do hands on building of small structures like benches and walls – projects that you can easily do at your own place to create beautiful outdoor spaces. After this hands on work in the morning we’ll cover the building codes related to these materials used in larger projects. We will talk about and demonstrate the main principles of good passive solar design. This class emphasizes integrated design and getting back in touch with the patterns of nature, so we can make design decisions that are in tune with the environment. Using these natural building materials can help make our living environments more healthy and comfortable, and save us money on utility bills.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Introduction to Natural Beekeeping – October 20th and 21st, 2012

Want to be a bee keeper but don’t know where to start? How about a full weekend of hands on instruction with one of the Southwest’s most experienced bee keepers? This two day introductory beekeeping workshop in Avra Valley just west of Tucson, Arizona will get you started. Each day may be taken separately as a one day introduction also. The role of bees in a regenerative permaculture design will be discussed and compared to conventional “industrial” methods of hive maintenance and honey production. We will look at the reproduction patterns of the honey bee, the expansion and contraction patterns of the hive throughout the seasons, the roles of queen, worker and drone, and the honey bee’s complex set of duties such as pollination, storing nectar and pollen, and making wax. Suggested reading: The Buzz about Bees, Biology of a Superorganism, by Jurgen Tautz, The Biology of the Honeybee, by Mark L. Winston, and Introduction to Permaculture, by Bill Mollison.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Hands On Water Harvesting for your Landscape – November 3rd, 2012

Learning how to use rainfall and storm water run-off is one of the keys to developing a sustainable and lush landscape. Rainwater harvesting helps us to reduce erosion and have a lush multi use landscape without having to import water from outside our bioregion or overpump the groundwater table. In this hands on workshop we will install a metal culvert water cistern, learn how to read the water situation on a site, and do basic calculations on the water flow available. We will install basic earthworks to hold water on site, and talk about contours, plant selection, and mulching. This workshop is more than learning about techniques for harvesting rainwater; it will show you how water harvesting can be integrated into your own lifestyle and into a simple landscape design for your home.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Herbal Winter Apothecary: Create Your Own Medicines – November 10th, 2012

Be prepared to ward off illness and promote your vitality! Join local herbalist, John Slattery, for a day of medicine making in preparation for the winter cold and flu season. You will learn to make a variety of preparations (syrups, teas, oxymels, etc.) ideally suited for common viral infections. In our discussions we will explore the nature of host resistance and how to enhance it, and take a closer look at our local herbal pharmacopeia. Each participant will take home some herbal preparations we create in class and the knowledge to make it for themselves. All materials are included in the class fee.

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

Raising Chickens for Eggs and/or Meat – November 18th, 2012

This is a one-day introductory class is for anyone interested in raising chickens for the production of eggs and/or meat. Participants will gain a basic understanding of chicken coop design and construction. This will include a material cost-breakdown for a very basic coop with an easy to follow building plan. Strategies for incorporating a backyard flock into an overall Permaculture based system will be demonstrated and discussed. We will cover how to “tame” your birds and how to teach children to be around them. This class will cover heat tolerant breeds, raising day old chicks, feed requirements, composting, free ranging, predator protection, the pecking order, & culling. A special emphasis on homemade chicken accessories such as feeders, nesting boxes, watering facilities, and kill cones will be included. For participants interested in staying we will demonstrate how to cull a chicken at the end of the class. Recommended Reading Materials: CITY CHICKS: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers by Patricia Foreman; Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow; Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2 by Brad Lancaster; and Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison

For class details and registration info, please see http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/

 

Fall 2012 One Day Workshops – Sonoran Permaculture Guild

For full class descriptions, registration information, and FAQs for these workshops, please go to http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/ or contact Dan at dorsey(at)dakotacom.net or 520-624-8030

www.sonoranpermaculture.org

ST September Meeting – Sept 10 – Sustainability of Urban Mobility and Urban Form continued – Broadway Boulevard Project

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Broadway Boulevard Project:
Sustainable Urban Mobility and Form?

As a follow up to Sustainable Tucson’s July meeting, The Sustainability of Urban Mobility and Urban Form, the September 10th meeting will be convening a public conversation furthering the discussion, using the Broadway Boulevard Project as a focus.

Presenters will include
Jen Burdick – Broadway Corridor project manager for the TDOT
Colby Henley – Citizen’s Task Force and local Neighborhood Association member
Tres English – Sustainable Tucson
• and others to be announced

Efforts to incorporate local Neighborhood goals with those of the transportation planning agencies are moving forward through the efforts of the Broadway Citizen’s Task Force (CTF). By the time Sustainable Tucson convenes its meeting on September 10th, the CTF will have conducted 2 public meetings. The findings of the 1st meeting are posted online at http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/broadway

Neighborhood and City goals should be updated and integrated given the interrelated issues of mobility and urban form. In this age of fiscal and environmental constraints, we have the opportunity (and calling) to redirect limited funds to support live-ability and vibrancy at the neighborhood level while implementing a transportation system that unites and serves the larger city. Additionally, now is the time to address larger embedded issues such as the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) and Climate Change.

A recent Arizona State University study by leading author, Matei Georgescu (http://geoplan.asu.edu/georgescu-megapolitan) notes that urban development could by itself, increase average June-August temperatures by as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. Add in another 5 degrees due to the effects of greenhouse gas emissions over the same period (United States Global Change Research Project), and it becomes apparent “business as usual” will significantly affect the health, live-ability, and pocketbooks of Tucsonans.

To mitigate temperatures neither current nor future inhabitants of Tucson want to endure and to ensure live-able and vibrant communities we must seek alternatives to current built-environment and mobility practices that solve rather than add to an unsustainable city. The Broadway Boulevard Project discussion is a great place to start.

Join us in conversation September 10th at the Joel Valdez Library, lower level meeting room.

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Sustainable Tucson August Film Festival – August 12th and 13th

at Joel D. Valdez Main Downtown Library, Large Lower Level Meeting Room, 101 N. Stone, (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

 

Sunday, August 12th 1:00 to 5:00pm, Sustainable Tucson will show three top-rated sustainability films covering critical sustainability topics:

• The U.S. financial crisis erupted in 2008 and still looms on the horizon.

• Resource depletion including non-renewable fossil fuels and clean water threatens further economic growth.

• Global warming and climate change threaten most life-forms including people and future food.

• Social disruption following economic dislocation and government contraction can threaten our capacity to solve-problems and build a more sustainable culture.

• Many solutions are being identified but most require abandoning “business as usual.”

The first film will be shown from 1:00 to 2:30pm and includes a comprehensive presentation of the sustainability crisis and a path way out of our predicament. Many sustainability leaders are interviewed including  Wes Jackson, Paul Hawken, David Suzuki, Kenny Ausubel, David Orr, Janine Benyus,, Stuart Pimm, Richard Heinberg, Paolo Soleri, Thom Hartmann, Lester Brown, James Hillman, Joseph Tainter, James Woolsey, Stephen Schneider, Stephen Hawking, Sandra Postel,  Bill McKibbon, James Hansen, Dr. Andy Weil, Ray Anderson, Andy Lipkis, Tom Linzey, Herman Daly, Peter Warshall, Jerry Mander, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bruce Mau, William McDonough, John Todd, and Gloria Flora among others.

The second film is an award-winning documentary describing the financial crisis which erupted in 2008 and continues to play out today as the global economy is beginning to contract. Financial experts help tell the story of how the largest financial bubble in history grew and finally burst. These include Simon Johnson, George Soros, Satyajit Das, Paul Volker, Nouriel Roubini, U. S. Rep. Barney Frank, Eliot Spitzer, Kenneth Rogoff, Raghuram Rajan, Martin Wolf, Christine Lagarde, and Martin Feldstein among others. This film will be shown from 2:30 to 4:15.

The final film to be shown from 4:15 to 5:00 is a special film which describes how the island nation of Cuba became more self- sufficient and resilient after the food and energy subsidies ended from the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991.

 

Monday, August 13th, 5:00 to 8:00 pm, Sustainable Tucson will present two excellent films.

The first is a documentary about how the many electric street car systems in U.S towns and cities were intentionally scrapped by a group of automobile-related corporations. The result is that the U.S. is the only industrial country in the world without electric rail systems within and between most cities.  This film will be shown from 5:00 to 6:00pm.

The second film will be shown from 6:15 to 7:45pm and includes a comprehensive presentation of the sustainability crisis and the need to find a path way out of our predicament. Many sustainability leaders are interviewed including Richard Heinberg, Lester Brown, U. S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Albert Bartlett, Joseph Tainter, David Pimental, Terry Taminen, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, David Korten, Derrick Jensen, and William R. Catton, Jr. among others.

Due to unanswered questions about public licensing, the titles of the films were omitted in this public announcement. The Pima-Tucson Library System does have a general license for showings of films free to the public for educational purposes. This license is granted by a film company consortium but we don’t know for sure about each film. ST falls back on its “fair use” rights under copyright laws to show the films for educational purposes.

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, businesses, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our members, interested people, and community leaders, bringing them together to focus the wider public on these critical sustainability discussions. Our ultimate intent is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

Join us for viewing five great sustainability films in August!

PLEASE NOTE:

Doors open at 1:00 pm on Sunday, August 12th.
Doors open at 4:45 pm on Monday, August 13th

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is

by Bill McKibben (350.org)

This story is from the August 2nd, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10^99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

The First Number: 2° Celsius

If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world’s nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the “most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake.” As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: “This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever.”

In the event, of course, we missed it. Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving “Copenhagen Accord” that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. “Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight,” an angry Greenpeace official declared, “with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.” Headline writers were equally brutal: COPENHAGEN: THE MUNICH OF OUR TIMES? asked one.

The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” And in the very next paragraph, it declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required… so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius.” By insisting on two degrees – about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the accord ratified positions taken earlier in 2009 by the G8, and the so-called Major Economies Forum. It was as conventional as conventional wisdom gets. The number first gained prominence, in fact, at a 1995 climate conference chaired by Angela Merkel, then the German minister of the environment and now the center-right chancellor of the nation.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet’s most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.” At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: “Some countries will flat-out disappear.” When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a “suicide pact” for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, “One degree, one Africa.”

Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target – indeed, it’s fair to say that it’s the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.

The Second Number: 565 Gigatons

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (“Reasonable,” in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)

This idea of a global “carbon budget” emerged about a decade ago, as scientists began to calculate how much oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned. Since we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we’re currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.

How good are these numbers? No one is insisting that they’re exact, but few dispute that they’re generally right. The 565-gigaton figure was derived from one of the most sophisticated computer-simulation models that have been built by climate scientists around the world over the past few decades. And the number is being further confirmed by the latest climate-simulation models currently being finalized in advance of the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Looking at them as they come in, they hardly differ at all,” says Tom Wigley, an Australian climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “There’s maybe 40 models in the data set now, compared with 20 before. But so far the numbers are pretty much the same. We’re just fine-tuning things. I don’t think much has changed over the last decade.” William Collins, a senior climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agrees. “I think the results of this round of simulations will be quite similar,” he says. “We’re not getting any free lunch from additional understanding of the climate system.”

We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before. America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly; China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent; the Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent. “There have been efforts to use more renewable energy and improve energy efficiency,” said Corinne Le Quéré, who runs England’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “But what this shows is that so far the effects have been marginal.” In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today’s preschoolers will be graduating from high school. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In fact, he continued, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

So, new data in hand, everyone at the Rio conference renewed their ritual calls for serious international action to move us back to a two-degree trajectory. The charade will continue in November, when the next Conference of the Parties (COP) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Qatar. This will be COP 18 – COP 1 was held in Berlin in 1995, and since then the process has accomplished essentially nothing. Even scientists, who are notoriously reluctant to speak out, are slowly overcoming their natural preference to simply provide data. “The message has been consistent for close to 30 years now,” Collins says with a wry laugh, “and we have the instrumentation and the computer power required to present the evidence in detail. If we choose to continue on our present course of action, it should be done with a full evaluation of the evidence the scientific community has presented.” He pauses, suddenly conscious of being on the record. “I should say, a fuller evaluation of the evidence.”

So far, though, such calls have had little effect. We’re in the same position we’ve been in for a quarter-century: scientific warning followed by political inaction. Among scientists speaking off the record, disgusted candor is the rule. One senior scientist told me, “You know those new cigarette packs, where governments make them put a picture of someone with a hole in their throats? Gas pumps should have something like that.”

The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons

This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative – led by James Leaton, an environmentalist who served as an adviser at the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers – combed through proprietary databases to figure out how much oil, gas and coal the world’s major energy companies hold in reserve. The numbers aren’t perfect – they don’t fully reflect the recent surge in unconventional energy sources like shale gas, and they don’t accurately reflect coal reserves, which are subject to less stringent reporting requirements than oil and gas. But for the biggest companies, the figures are quite exact: If you burned everything in the inventories of Russia’s Lukoil and America’s ExxonMobil, for instance, which lead the list of oil and gas companies, each would release more than 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends.

So far, as I said at the start, environmental efforts to tackle global warming have failed. The planet’s emissions of carbon dioxide continue to soar, especially as developing countries emulate (and supplant) the industries of the West. Even in rich countries, small reductions in emissions offer no sign of the real break with the status quo we’d need to upend the iron logic of these three numbers. Germany is one of the only big countries that has actually tried hard to change its energy mix; on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That’s a small miracle – and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will. So far, Germany’s the exception; the rule is ever more carbon.

This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don’t work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.

A more efficient method, of course, would be to work through the political system, and environmentalists have tried that, too, with the same limited success. They’ve patiently lobbied leaders, trying to convince them of our peril and assuming that politicians would heed the warnings. Sometimes it has seemed to work. Barack Obama, for instance, campaigned more aggressively about climate change than any president before him – the night he won the nomination, he told supporters that his election would mark the moment “the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” And he has achieved one significant change: a steady increase in the fuel efficiency mandated for automobiles. It’s the kind of measure, adopted a quarter-century ago, that would have helped enormously. But in light of the numbers I’ve just described, it’s obviously a very small start indeed.

At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it’s burned. And there the president, apparently haunted by the still-echoing cry of “Drill, baby, drill,” has gone out of his way to frack and mine. His secretary of interior, for instance, opened up a huge swath of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming for coal extraction: The total basin contains some 67.5 gigatons worth of carbon (or more than 10 percent of the available atmospheric space). He’s doing the same thing with Arctic and offshore drilling; in fact, as he explained on the stump in March, “You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can… That’s a commitment that I make.” The next day, in a yard full of oil pipe in Cushing, Oklahoma, the president promised to work on wind and solar energy but, at the same time, to speed up fossil-fuel development: “Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.” That is, he’s committed to finding even more stock to add to the 2,795-gigaton inventory of unburned carbon.

Sometimes the irony is almost Borat-scale obvious: In early June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled on a Norwegian research trawler to see firsthand the growing damage from climate change. “Many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data,” she said, describing the sight as “sobering.” But the discussions she traveled to Scandinavia to have with other foreign ministers were mostly about how to make sure Western nations get their share of the estimated $9 trillion in oil (that’s more than 90 billion barrels, or 37 gigatons of carbon) that will become accessible as the Arctic ice melts. Last month, the Obama administration indicated that it would give Shell permission to start drilling in sections of the Arctic.

Almost every government with deposits of hydrocarbons straddles the same divide. Canada, for instance, is a liberal democracy renowned for its internationalism – no wonder, then, that it signed on to the Kyoto treaty, promising to cut its carbon emissions substantially by 2012. But the rising price of oil suddenly made the tar sands of Alberta economically attractive – and since, as NASA climatologist James Hansen pointed out in May, they contain as much as 240 gigatons of carbon (or almost half of the available space if we take the 565 limit seriously), that meant Canada’s commitment to Kyoto was nonsense. In December, the Canadian government withdrew from the treaty before it faced fines for failing to meet its commitments.

The same kind of hypocrisy applies across the ideological board: In his speech to the Copenhagen conference, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez quoted Rosa Luxemburg, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and “Christ the Redeemer,” insisting that “climate change is undoubtedly the most devastating environmental problem of this century.” But the next spring, in the Simon Bolivar Hall of the state-run oil company, he signed an agreement with a consortium of international players to develop the vast Orinoco tar sands as “the most significant engine for a comprehensive development of the entire territory and Venezuelan population.” The Orinoco deposits are larger than Alberta’s – taken together, they’d fill up the whole available atmospheric space.

So: the paths we have tried to tackle global warming have so far produced only gradual, halting shifts. A rapid, transformative change would require building a movement, and movements require enemies. As John F. Kennedy put it, “The civil rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He’s helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln.” And enemies are what climate change has lacked.

But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

According to the Carbon Tracker report, if Exxon burns its current reserves, it would use up more than seven percent of the available atmospheric space between us and the risk of two degrees. BP is just behind, followed by the Russian firm Gazprom, then Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, each of which would fill between three and four percent. Taken together, just these six firms, of the 200 listed in the Carbon Tracker report, would use up more than a quarter of the remaining two-degree budget. Severstal, the Russian mining giant, leads the list of coal companies, followed by firms like BHP Billiton and Peabody. The numbers are simply staggering – this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.

They’re clearly cognizant of global warming – they employ some of the world’s best scientists, after all, and they’re bidding on all those oil leases made possible by the staggering melt of Arctic ice. And yet they relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons – in early March, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.

There’s not a more reckless man on the planet than Tillerson. Late last month, on the same day the Colorado fires reached their height, he told a New York audience that global warming is real, but dismissed it as an “engineering problem” that has “engineering solutions.” Such as? “Changes to weather patterns that move crop-production areas around – we’ll adapt to that.” This in a week when Kentucky farmers were reporting that corn kernels were “aborting” in record heat, threatening a spike in global food prices. “The fear factor that people want to throw out there to say, ‘We just have to stop this,’ I do not accept,” Tillerson said. Of course not – if he did accept it, he’d have to keep his reserves in the ground. Which would cost him money. It’s not an engineering problem, in other words – it’s a greed problem.

You could argue that this is simply in the nature of these companies – that having found a profitable vein, they’re compelled to keep mining it, more like efficient automatons than people with free will. But as the Supreme Court has made clear, they are people of a sort. In fact, thanks to the size of its bankroll, the fossil-fuel industry has far more free will than the rest of us. These companies don’t simply exist in a world whose hungers they fulfill – they help create the boundaries of that world.

Left to our own devices, citizens might decide to regulate carbon and stop short of the brink; according to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans would back an international agreement that cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050. But we aren’t left to our own devices. The Koch brothers, for instance, have a combined wealth of $50 billion, meaning they trail only Bill Gates on the list of richest Americans. They’ve made most of their money in hydrocarbons, they know any system to regulate carbon would cut those profits, and they reportedly plan to lavish as much as $200 million on this year’s elections. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surpassed both the Republican and Democratic National Committees on political spending; the following year, more than 90 percent of the Chamber’s cash went to GOP candidates, many of whom deny the existence of global warming. Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon – should the world’s scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations.” As radical goes, demanding that we change our physiology seems right up there.

Environmentalists, understandably, have been loath to make the fossil-fuel industry their enemy, respecting its political power and hoping instead to convince these giants that they should turn away from coal, oil and gas and transform themselves more broadly into “energy companies.” Sometimes that strategy appeared to be working – emphasis on appeared. Around the turn of the century, for instance, BP made a brief attempt to restyle itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” adapting a logo that looked like the sun and sticking solar panels on some of its gas stations. But its investments in alternative energy were never more than a tiny fraction of its budget for hydrocarbon exploration, and after a few years, many of those were wound down as new CEOs insisted on returning to the company’s “core business.” In December, BP finally closed its solar division. Shell shut down its solar and wind efforts in 2009. The five biggest oil companies have made more than $1 trillion in profits since the millennium – there’s simply too much money to be made on oil and gas and coal to go chasing after zephyrs and sunbeams.

Much of that profit stems from a single historical accident: Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break – if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. But the fossil-fuel industry is different, and for sound historical reasons: Until a quarter-century ago, almost no one knew that CO2 was dangerous. But now that we understand that carbon is heating the planet and acidifying the oceans, its price becomes the central issue.

If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. Once Exxon has to pay for the damage its carbon is doing to the atmosphere, the price of its products would rise. Consumers would get a strong signal to use less fossil fuel – every time they stopped at the pump, they’d be reminded that you don’t need a semimilitary vehicle to go to the grocery store. The economic playing field would now be a level one for nonpolluting energy sources. And you could do it all without bankrupting citizens – a so-called “fee-and-dividend” scheme would put a hefty tax on coal and gas and oil, then simply divide up the proceeds, sending everyone in the country a check each month for their share of the added costs of carbon. By switching to cleaner energy sources, most people would actually come out ahead.

There’s only one problem: Putting a price on carbon would reduce the profitability of the fossil-fuel industry. After all, the answer to the question “How high should the price of carbon be?” is “High enough to keep those carbon reserves that would take us past two degrees safely in the ground.” The higher the price on carbon, the more of those reserves would be worthless. The fight, in the end, is about whether the industry will succeed in its fight to keep its special pollution break alive past the point of climate catastrophe, or whether, in the economists’ parlance, we’ll make them internalize those externalities.

It’s not clear, of course, that the power of the fossil-fuel industry can be broken. The U.K. analysts who wrote the Carbon Tracker report and drew attention to these numbers had a relatively modest goal – they simply wanted to remind investors that climate change poses a very real risk to the stock prices of energy companies. Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon. Suddenly those Chevron reserves would be a lot less valuable, and the stock would tank. Given that risk, the Carbon Tracker report warned investors to lessen their exposure, hedge it with some big plays in alternative energy.

“The regular process of economic evolution is that businesses are left with stranded assets all the time,” says Nick Robins, who runs HSBC’s Climate Change Centre. “Think of film cameras, or typewriters. The question is not whether this will happen. It will. Pension systems have been hit by the dot-com and credit crunch. They’ll be hit by this.” Still, it hasn’t been easy to convince investors, who have shared in the oil industry’s record profits. “The reason you get bubbles,” sighs Leaton, “is that everyone thinks they’re the best analyst – that they’ll go to the edge of the cliff and then jump back when everyone else goes over.”

So pure self-interest probably won’t spark a transformative challenge to fossil fuel. But moral outrage just might – and that’s the real meaning of this new math. It could, plausibly, give rise to a real movement.

Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa. It rose first on college campuses and then spread to municipal and state governments; 155 campuses eventually divested, and by the end of the decade, more than 80 cities, 25 states and 19 counties had taken some form of binding economic action against companies connected to the apartheid regime. “The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century,” as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, “but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure,” especially from “the divestment movement of the 1980s.”

The fossil-fuel industry is obviously a tougher opponent, and even if you could force the hand of particular companies, you’d still have to figure out a strategy for dealing with all the sovereign nations that, in effect, act as fossil-fuel companies. But the link for college students is even more obvious in this case. If their college’s endowment portfolio has fossil-fuel stock, then their educations are being subsidized by investments that guarantee they won’t have much of a planet on which to make use of their degree. (The same logic applies to the world’s largest investors, pension funds, which are also theoretically interested in the future – that’s when their members will “enjoy their retirement.”) “Given the severity of the climate crisis, a comparable demand that our institutions dump stock from companies that are destroying the planet would not only be appropriate but effective,” says Bob Massie, a former anti-apartheid activist who helped found the Investor Network on Climate Risk. “The message is simple: We have had enough. We must sever the ties with those who profit from climate change – now.”

Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry’s political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama’s signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-and-dividend solution; they might even decide to become true energy companies, this time for real.

Even if such a campaign is possible, however, we may have waited too long to start it. To make a real difference – to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees – you’d need to change carbon pricing in Washington, and then use that victory to leverage similar shifts around the world. At this point, what happens in the U.S. is most important for how it will influence China and India, where emissions are growing fastest. (In early June, researchers concluded that China has probably under-reported its emissions by up to 20 percent.) The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season’s fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado’s annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year’s harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can’t do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we’re now leaving… in the dust.

This story is from the August 2nd, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

Also see http://350.org

What do we do about climate change?

What do we do about climate change?

by Brian Davey

After Copenhagen it was by no means obvious that simply calling upon governments to act would achieve very much. Yet the situation is urgent – so what do we do? The aim of this chapter is to look at options for getting from where we are now to adequate climate mitigation. It starts by looking at all the obstacles to getting things done – but this is not so that we get discouraged and give up. It is so that we are realistic and can find our way around the obstacles.

 

A recent book by the Financial Times columnist and academic, John Kay, points out that the most successful ways of achieving policy, business or other goals in human affairs is not to approach our goals directly but indirectly. It is the oblique approach that often achieves most[1].

 

There is a very good case for approaching climate mitigation obliquely particularly as the task is huge and complex, because much of what needs to happen is unclear – and because the resistances to getting action put in place by vested interests are very powerful. At the same time there are powerful pressures to get something done about a growing crisis in the energy system and millions of people are having to adjust their lives to this energy and economic crisis. So how can an indirect response to the climate crisis be put in place as part of a general programme for the wider crisis? How can we enlist the active involvement of millions of people and win them over for adequate climate policies – for example those who have become involved in the Occupy movement that has sprung up the world over?

 

If it is not as easy as it is supposed to be to make the democratic process work for us perhaps this is because we have pinned our thinking too much to the head-on direct route. People are struggling to cope with lots of problems – how about ideas about how to help them and deal with the climate crisis too?

 

Most of us know the head-on direct route very well. It is the route of political common sense. We are supposed to put credible policy ideas into letters and articles for newspapers and in the letters that we write to our MPs. Having convinced our MPs what is supposed to happen is that our ideas are passed on to ministers and examined by officials. If enough members of the public want something the policy will eventually be enacted. What we are supposed to do is to lobby the politicians and officials with credible ideas. That is the theory and most of us know in our hearts that it doesn’t work – even if we do not acknowledge it yet in our heads and in what we do and say.

As if!

As is very clear the chances of getting adequate climate change mitigation in the current growth economy are very slim. The UK government’s former advisers, the Sustainable Development Commission, have published studies that say so. For example, “Prosperity without Growth” written by Professor Tim Jackson, showed how a growing economy could not possibly achieve the carbon emissions reductions required even to reach an inadequate 450ppm CO2 target by 2050. To achieve an average year on year reduction of emissions of 4.9% with 0.7% population growth and 1.4% income growth would require technological change to reduce emissions per unit of economic output at 7% per annum. That is ten times the current rate.[2]

 

Nevertheless the policy makers and business are locked into a commitment to growth. Growth is a central idea in what John Jopling and Roy Madron term “the elite consensus” in their book Gaian Democracy. [3] Those people who argue for non growth economics are ignored by policy makers, business and most journalists. The Sustainable Development Commission and Tim Jackson told the government that growth and sustainability were not compatible – and this probably helped to seal the fate of the SDC – it was abolished by the coalition government as one of the victims of the cuts.

 

If you follow the route of political common sense and lobby for ideas outside the elite consensus – ie the growth consensus – you get ignored. Although everyone says that they like thinking that is “outside the box”, they do not mean thinking outside the growing economy box.

 

Now there are systemic reasons for this addiction to growth. There are reasons as to why it is considered more important than dealing with climate change. For one thing growth has come to be seen as “the” answer for all political problems. Writer Clive Hamilton describes this as fetishistic:

 

“Growth alone will save the poor. If inequality causes concern, a rising tide lifts all boats. Growth will solve unemployment. If we want better schools and hospitals then economic growth will provide. And if the environment is in decline then higher growth will generate the means to fix it. Whatever the social problem, the answer is always more growth” [4]

 

Over and above the fetishist mind set of the policy establishment there are deeper, structural reasons for their collective fixation. These reasons arise out of the nature of the money and financial system. The argument here is not new – green economists have called attention to this problem for decades and it is explored in the other chapters of this book at length.

 

Debt based money and growth

Since we all depend on the smooth functioning of the money and financial system, and since we all use it in our everyday life, the money system should be regarded as a commons resource. It should be managed in the interests of everyone. However, the financial system has been effectively privatised because almost all money comes into existence as bank deposits when banks lend money to their customers. The banks create the money that they lend and money is backed, not by gold as it used to be a long time ago, but by debt – by promises to repay loans to bankers with interest.

 

The important point here is that, while the banks create the money that they lend, they do not simultaneously create the money that their customers also need in order to pay the interest on their bank borrowings. The economy has to keep on growing in order for there to be a basis to motivate new lending. Without new lending, and hence new debt being created, there is no source for the next round of additional money needed to pay the interest on the previous debt.

 

This kind of economy does not have a reverse gear. Because of its debt based money arrangements the economy must keep growing or the banks get into trouble. If the economy does not grow then it needs something else to grow instead – like asset value bubbles, mainly in the real estate markets, so that banks have a basis to keep on inflating their lending.

 

If the banks stop lending and people repay their debts the money supply and liquidity starts to dry up, people get into trouble repaying debts and the banks get into problems too. Remember – since almost all money is backed by debt, then in those times when the main dynamic in the economy is that debts are being repaid the money in circulation starts to fall and demand starts to shrink. Horror of horrors the process becomes a vicious deflationary cycle. The economy goes into a downward spiral. Confidence in the banks begins to wobble and people want to take the money out of the machines in the wall.

 

This explains at a deeper structural level why growth is the taken for granted and self evident goal that few politicians, economists or journalists dare question. It enables us to understand the toxic group-think of the political economic elite – I write ‘toxic’ because, as argued earlier, it is impossible to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently if the economy does keep on growing…. which means, conversely that, at least when growth does stall, so too do carbon emissions….

 

…it also gives us an important topic for dialogue with the movement for deep change that has suddenly emerged in tents in cities all over the world, a movement focused on seeking to challenge a crisis of injustice whose roots are the banking system.

 

Policy making as an in club… of addicts

So problem number one is that, if you argue the case for policies that would cut emissions adequately, you will be arguing for the ultimate heresy, no-growth economics, and you will get ignored by the growth junkies – at the same time however we have something important to say to the movement in the street.

 

That’s not all either. Most kinds of addicts share their lifestyle with others – it is so hard to give up their addiction not only because of a brain-chemical dependency but because it means giving up on a social network. That’s partly why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous work so well – AA gives another social network based on staying off the drink.

 

Money and energy junkies are not that different. Inside the addiction circle of very important people it is difficult to get a look-in for other ideas anyway. Policy is largely formulated by officials in a dialogue with vested interests or ‘stakeholders’. Some lobbyists are much more influential than others. These are the ones well connected to people who own newspapers or other mass media and the journalists working for them. To a large extent public relation companies set the agenda. People of influence have been to the same public schools as the politicians, meet regularly in the same clubs, set up their own think tanks, set up foundations to fund pet causes and operate both behind-the-scenes – or in front of the cameras – all in a way that people without money and time are unable to do. It is in this way that the 1% consolidate their position in the corridors of power.

 

Regulatory Capture

This helps explain what is called “regulatory capture”. The officials working for ministries and public departments which are supposed to regulate private interests instead develop a cosy relationship with those same interests. It seems quite natural for people in a particular economic sector, who have some knowledge of it, to apply for jobs in the regulatory agencies. Likewise people in government, and in the regulatory agencies, regularly take jobs in the very same sectors which they previously had a role in regulating. It is true in the banking sector, which, as an increasing number of people are aware, has taken over and neutralised state regulation. It is also, to a very large degree, true in the energy sector.

 

Nobody likes to maintain stressful confrontational relationships with others over long periods. It is more congenial when relationships between regulators and regulated are cosy. Then poachers and gamekeepers can switch roles from time to time too. People outside the comfortable clubs, who are losing out, may try to rock the boat to get a problem dealt with – but will often need considerable resources and endurance to maintain pressure to get anything done, particularly if it involves bad vibes.

 

If they have that endurance, the resources and a good case, outsiders like critical NGOs may, in some cases, be an embarrassment – so they may then be co-opted. Concessions may be made and the critics are allowed to join the club and become instead a force for inertia. Their radical rhetoric gives the appearance that the democratic and consultative system is working.

 

In the relationship between governments and commercial interests there are few businesses more powerful than the fossil energy companies and the industries closely connected to them – e.g pharmaceuticals. Wherever one looks in the world fossil energy companies and states exist in a symbiotic relationship. Political economic power goes with the deployment of technologies, infrastructures and armaments that use huge quantities of fossil energy. The companies that deliver that energy are therefore of strategic importance and are tightly bound into governments. It is not exaggerating too much to say that either energy companies own the state or, in some cases, are owned by the state. A revolving door relationship exists at the highest level between the personnel of the energy companies and those of governments. What’s more, support for democracy takes second place when it comes to securing fossil energy – one has only to point to the cosy relationship between western governments and the autocrats in oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia. Perhaps only the banks have more influence than the energy corporations.

 

It is against this huge inertia that climate policy in general, and cap and share in particular, have to be developed. The capacity of the political system and vested interests to fundamentally reform themselves is very limited.

 

On first impressions, given this context, the situation appears to be pretty hopeless. It is certainly an illusion to imagine that a clearly articulated argument about the survival of life on Earth, and social justice, is enough to make a difference in the policy arena as thus described. Even brilliantly expressed arguments can be ignored and they are ignored. One can even define power as ‘the ability to ignore’. The higher up the political hierarchy one goes the better at ignoring other ideas and agendas the post holders become. Indeed they have to ignore others because the number of issues that they have to deal with becomes too great. Power holders choose their agendas for focus and ignore the rest. In this regard the whole purpose of seeking power is to pursue one’s own agenda choices.

 

The source of change lies outside the mainstream

However, this is to misunderstand the sources of change, which lie outside the mainstream. The physicist Max Planck described how change occurs in science – and his words also give us a clue as to how it might possibly change in society and in the economy too:

 

“An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way rapidly winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarised with the idea from the beginning” [5]

 

The alternatives to the present log jam have to be constructed outside the political and economic mainstream. Preparations are needed for a rapid transfer over to a new system that is running in embryo when things begin to breakdown, when an older generation flounder and prove quite unable to understand what is going on and quite incapable of coping.

 

How that might happen has been explored in various writings by different authors and activists who have looked for concept systems that put their local and limited activities in a broader context. The slogan “Think global and act local” is now well known and much recent thought has gone into working out, more exactly, what the phrase, “think global” actually means and how it touches on local practice. In cities all over the world an active movement for change is seeking for how this be done – refusing to prematurely focus on demands, because there is a realisation that this is a complex task and if you are going a long way you need to travel slowly.

 

Big Ideas and Grand Narratives – for inspirational intrinsic motivations

We are entering a period of great economic and social turmoil and millions of people are showing clearly that they are yearning for a clear way forward out of the chaos. This will be a time when people will be looking for big picture explanations as to what is happening and big picture credible ideas as to the way out. Policies and ideas for climate change mitigation must become an integral part of these big picture narratives. It is important that our ideas are there otherwise the mass movements will be in danger of over-simplifying, thinking that if only we get rid of the bankers then all our problems will be solved.

 

New arrangements and new thinking about the management of commons is part of the big picture for a future transformation. People are much more prepared to do “their bit” when they feel that what they are doing is part of a larger whole. This gives greater meaning to lives which would otherwise be small because lived in the pursuit of trivial purposes.

 

In times of turmoil people struggle to understand the bigger picture and embrace new purposes which provide a focus for new intrinsic motivations. As they struggle to understand, to orientate themselves, and to find a way forward that makes sense, they discover causes for themselves in the sense explained by Arnold Bennett. (“A cause may be inconvenient, but it’s magnificent. It’s like champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it”).

 

This should be compared to the approach of mainstream economics to climate change which proposes that we be nudged towards climate mitigation by changes in prices. It suggests that we need to be “incentivised” – and that we will make money or save money by doing climate mitigation – an approach that relies on extrinsic motivations.

 

In complete contrast to solving the climate crisis through cash based incentives we need a “Big Idea” which will provide a focus for intrinsic motivations – creating a movement of people working to protect and share common resources. That “Big Idea” is a programme for commons management arising out of a convergence of thinking from different places and requiring new structures and processes based on collaborative networks.

 

It is beginning to happen. In the years and months before the camps of tents people and movements who have seen their role as protecting common natural resources (the oceans, the atmosphere, fresh water resources) are coming together in a dialogue with those who have realised that they are creating and seeking to defend an “information commons”. In the internet, resources like linux, wikipedia and other design processes are effectively creating resources for free in peer to peer work relationships – which corporations try to recapture and enclose to privatise the value created by others for themselves.

 

“The commons” is therefore a key “big idea” for a policy and ideological platform. Cap and share, as well as our other climate policy approaches, needs to be clearly contextualised as an approach that fits best with the management of the earth’s atmosphere and climate as a common resource, co-managed and shared by all for the benefit of all, including future generations.

 

It should be acknowledged here that there is a point of view that big idea explanations which a signpost the future, ‘grand narratives’ as they are called, are unwanted and dangerous. The fear is that signposting “inevitable and necessary futures” for billions of people to march towards would bring new tyrannies into being. This implies that if we develop global policies like cap and share to deal with global problems then inevitably we need global bureaucratic hierarchies with immense power. The worry is that these bureaucracies will, in turn, morph into new top down regimes. Such tyrannies will have great power because, in the face of the big picture which underpins them ideologically, the grandeur and importance of the end – preventing runaway climate change and ecological collapse – would justify any means.

 

But the point here is that cap and share does not require a big bureaucracy. It is appealing because of its very simplicity.

 

It is certainly true that a great deal would need to be done to adjust to, and cope with, a rapidly tightening cap. A lot of things will have to be done at the level of households, communities, and in each locality. In each case there will be a need for a unique and location-specific transformation of energy technologies, buildings, production systems, as well as cultivational landscapes and transport configurations.

 

The Great Transition

Another way of thinking about the tasks at hand is to use the ideas of the “Great Transition”. [6] The authors and activists who are developing this overarching framework describe the economy and society as existing in three zones or spheres: a cultural landscape, the dominant economic and political regime and a realm of niche alternatives.

The “cultural landscape” consists of the common motivations of the people in a society and the narratives that the people use to understand the way the world works and their place in it – this is dominant culture of that society.

 

The culture is embedded and embodied in a second sphere – the economic and political “regimes”. These are the powerful institutions that take decisions and allocate resources that have already been described as tightly integrated together. Most of the effort of NGOs and civil society organisations is currently focused on trying to influence these regimes. But as we have seen, these efforts are often too weak and are frequently ignored – or where they do have an impact they tend to be co-opted and then neutralised.

 

Nevertheless a third zone does exist as a potential source of change. It is not currently very large but it can be found as a place of niche experiments, of small scale developmental projects. In the theory of the “Great Transition” these niche experiments are described as “seed projects”. They are run on motivations and narratives which do not fit into the cultural mainstream. If you talk to people in Transition Initiatives, in community gardens, or urban farms, or community energy projects you will typically find that they share a similar story about how the future is likely to look, or how they would like it to look. You will find too that they are much more committed to helping vulnerable people and not in it primarily to make money for themselves. [7]

 

“Seed projects” like this are embodied and embedded in different motivations and narratives and represent an alternative culture. It is by these projects developing further, networking together, becoming stronger that they might start to look more credible as the embryonic basis of new regime, a new economy that is more appropriate to the troubled times.

 

Since climate change is a system problem, rooted in the use of fossil energy to power a “consume more – bigger – faster” economy, an economy that is getting more unequal all the time, it follows that a lot more than a single policy will be required to get to deal with it. A system change is needed – but how does one achieve system change? It is one thing to explain how the current system works, it is quite another to explain how a transition is to be made from this system to another one that is non destructive. Agreeing what the transition will look like, and then making it happen, in a collective social process is the task at hand. And it is a very challenging task. Nor are we likely to find many mainstream businesses lending a hand as they have an inbuilt growth imperative. This is a task for people – not people playing roles in institutions.

 

Variants of the Great Transition

The commons and the Great Transition are just two of a growing number of ‘bigger picture’ approaches to what we have to do. There are many different people around the world attempting to envisage what a new system would be like and how it might emerge as the further development of current projects and practices. Despite superficial differences of approach the different eco-social “visions of the future” have a lot in common. These different approaches are mostly compatible and can converge with one another.

 

For example, from Germany there are ideas being developed about how to develop a “solidarity economy” – which is forseen as emerging from the development and networking of co-operatives, social and community enterprises focused on ecological and energy goals, community energy companies, community gardens, community supported agriculture and the like.[8]

 

Then there are the ideas of the Transition Movement, originated in the UK and Ireland and now globally spread – a town and city based mixture of practical projects and reskilling activities which bring communities together around a positive vision of energy descent.[9]

 

There are ideas too developed by the Decroissance (Degrowth) Movement in France and the Post Wachstum (Post Growth) Movement in Germany, as well as the “Steady State Economy” thinkers in the UK and USA. [10] [11] [12] Under these ‘umbrellas’ thinkers and practitioners of alternative economics have come together. They seek to counterpose different lifestyles, economic arrangements and the projects associated with them to the growth fetishism in the economic and cultural mainstream. Major conferences on the theme of post growth economics have occurred in Barcelona, Paris and Berlin over the last few years. The conference in Berlin in May 2011 was attended by 2,500 people, many of them young. This is an up and coming generation who will make the future. When we write about the reduction of carbon emissions up to 2050 we are talking about the bulk of their working lives. What they think and the ideas they share will be the future “Zeitgeist”.

 

As is obvious these movements are best visualised as overlapping networks of smaller groups, either of campaigners and/or of project activities – whose ideas are mostly either very similar, or at least mutually compatible and non competitive.

 

Thus what seems to be emerging is not an “alternative system” like “socialism” and/or “communism” was envisaged to be – a centralised, pre-conceived system created and driven through top down hierarchical relationships and established through a violent seizure of state power. Rather this is a gradual ‘bottom upwards’ process of local level projects and groups that are networking and cross fertilising in a variety of local, national and international forums. Nor is this an internationalisation that is merely between the rich countries. There has been participation by groups and communities from countries of the south in these discussions which have been more than formal and tokenistic. For example, the ideas of ‘Buen Vivir’ from indigenous communities in Bolivia and Ecuador, pre-colonial ideas of a good life with harmony between peoples and with nature, have been important in shaping the understanding how to motivate and guide a good life beyond growth.[13]

 

In his book Sacred Unrest Paul Hawken suggests that there are perhaps a half million organisations around the world focused on local economic development, environmental and social justice, and the rights of indigenous people.[14] The characteristics of all these organisations are their huge diversity. Yet they can evolve together in a coherent way. As Elinor Ostrom has argued, it will require a poly centric and multi level approach if the variety of each group, appropriate to the place it operates, is to be recognised and continued and yet, at the same time, the very different groups are to operate together coherently. [15] What is required here is not a top-down bureaucracy which would be incapable of coping with the variety. We need, instead, a network of active groups in which each node has a high level of autonomy and in which overall coherence is created by mutually adaptive arrangements, activated horizontally only as and when needed. Such mutual adaptation between autonomous nodes of activity would be organised to minimise conflicts, maximise synergy, to create and share information about evolving operating environments and to share and create joint value systems to facilitate the common sense of purpose. The ideas here parallel those of the late Stafford Beer and his Viable Systems Model, with its approach to networked management and nested organisations. [16]

 

This kind of networked coming together is the best hope for the world. It is out of this coming together that we can see how climate action and policy can be shaped in the future. In the meta systems that then emerge to link local level responses we will find ourselves creating a new operating environment in which firstly local government and then national governments will find themselves operating – having a powerful influence on their policy making process. The only sustainable and resilient world economy, an economy which is not climate destructive, is based on a re-localisation of economies. So it is through the networking of local initiatives to grow a greater power that a coherent response to climate change can be developed.[17]

 

It is processes like these which make it credible to believe that in the future a Climate Trust of the type envisaged by John Jopling in his chapter will emerge (see chapter 5).

This, in turn, might then provide a different kind of future as the carbon intensive regime of the old men looks less and less credible and has more and more trouble sustaining itself.

 

Generation change and Zeitgeist

There are good reasons to believe that we are entering a period in which the economy developed and managed by baby boomers on the brink of retirement will find sustaining itself very difficult. Much has been written about the impending peak of world oil production and a peak in world gas production to soon follow. Many argue that we are already at the oil peak and, in fact, on a plateau, so that the decline is soon to come. What is less well known is that this is occurring at a time of generation change in the oil and gas industry itself.

 

Almost exactly at the time predicted by the IEA for an energy crunch, there is a retirement peak in the oil and gas industry – and this is an international phenomenon. At the time of writing roughly half of the overall professional workforce in production and exploration are aged between 40 and 50 while barely 15% are in their early 20s to mid 30s. According to Booz Allen Research about 33% of those employed in the industry will retire by 2012. It is against this background that we should assess the oil and gas industries’ ability to rise to the technological challenges like that of successfully and safely tapping ultra deep water oil. [18] [19]

 

A similar phenomena can be found in the nuclear industry. There have been serious problems, delays and major cost overruns in the attempts to build a nuclear reactor in Finland. An article in Der Spiegel drew attention to no less than 3,000 construction faults at Olkiluoto. In large part this is because the expertise is not there and this problem is due to get worse. 40% of the personnel in US nuclear plants are due to retire soon and the industry will have to recruit 26,000 over the next decade even if it does not build a single new reactor. In 2008 however US universities turned out 841 graduates. The situation in Germany is even more alarming where between 1998 and 2002 only two students graduated in nuclear engineering prompting Areva to fund a training facility in Karlsruhe.[20]

 

At the same time any young person with an ability to read who is interested in technology and engineering and who is starting their careers are bound to have noticed that “green jobs” are being touted as much more recession proof and also that employment in “green jobs” – or in “cleantech” – are growing fast – albeit starting from a very low point. The idea that these jobs are more in tune with the future is a plausible one because, while the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors are running down with their engineers and their personnel are retiring, over the very same period “clean energy” employment is growing rapidly. This is especially the case in countries like Germany and China but it is even the case in the USA where employment in this sector grew by 9.1% per annum between 1998 and 2007. [21]

 

The point is that employment changes in terms of training and new job entry at one pole and retirement at the other pole are lagging indicators of a trend that is occurring now anyway. The twin process can be seen as a powerful reinforcing feedback in a transition that is and will occur consisting of an acceleration of the decline of traditional carbon based energy sectors and creating an upward dynamic in those replacing them.

 

A contested and confusing transition

Notwithstanding, caution is needed. The employment and generational transition is not occurring, and will not occur, without conflicts and considerable contestation. There is obviously a battle opening up around what the future energy system will be like – gas, nuclear or renewables. These are alternatives and it is not easy for governments to have a mixture.

 

The crisis at the nuclear reactor at Fukushima after the earthquake and the Tsunami, a crisis which will clearly not go away and which will run for months and months, perhaps year after year, has been a serious blow to the nuclear sector. It has had its greatest effect in Germany where the country appears to have decided to stake its future much more on renewable energy. At the time of writing Germany is looking at how it will upgrade and change its grid to make this possible – perhaps by adapting and upgrading the electric power lines of the railways, thus minimising the nimby backlash. [22]

 

Simultaneously the oil and gas industry are contesting moves towards a future based on renewable energy. They want political backing for the further development of fossil fuels and, in particular, supporting for so called “unconventional gas” – by technologies which drill into and shatter shale rock formations to release the gas trapped in them.

 

In the USA shale gas development has become hugely controversial. There are environmental and health effects from the toxic materials that have been used and released into surrounding rocks, water, the atmosphere and soils. In the UK shale gas has been associated with an earthquake near Blackpool. Shale gas is controversial too because the fracking production process, as well as pumping gas from production source to its place of combustion, has been found to entail significant leakage. The natural gas thus leaked, mainly methane, is itself a powerful source of global warming. These facts are undermining the claim that natural gas a source of relatively climate friendly energy. Fracking has been banned in France – but it looks as if it will go ahead in the UK.[23] [24] [25]

 

The change in energy system is thus contested and its outcome unclear. Nevertheless the fall in oil production after peak is likely to be fast and we are witnessing processes that will progressively change the conditions in which all governments operate. If governments fail to recognise what is going on at this point in time it is because they are still operating under the influence of old men and old financial institutions. The new networks of groups that were described earlier are not strong enough to impose their ideas and will on the state. Will this change soon?

 

The political system – waking up a bit late to impending chaos

What we have been witnessing are the thrashing agonies of a dying energy system that is using its traditional links and grip on the political system to try to maintain its influence. This influence is, however, beginning to wane. The death agony is well covered up by PR and spin but it is a death agony without doubt.

 

The political establishment and vested interests have been very resistant to change. As a result we are entering a period of crisis with a woefully unprepared political system. Crises like this are periods of danger but they are also periods of opportunity – because it becomes clear to thinking people that things cannot go on in the same way. It is the preparation for such a generalised crisis that we must now apply ourselves to.

 

As is generally recognised, the full force of the climate crisis lies some way in the future. However, if not enough is done in the next few years then, by the time the terrifyingly destructive impacts are felt it will be too late to do anything meaningful. The effects will keep on rolling relentlessly for centuries. Nevertheless, here and now, the energy and economic system is about to enter a period of convulsion anyway. Cap and share and our climate policies thus need to be made fit for purpose as part of a package that millions of people identify with as being necessary to deal with the structural problems, not in the future but now.

 

An immediate future of great uncertainty

There are arguments that what we can still do will not be enough when measured against the huge necessities for change required for substantive climate mitigation. This is the argument of Clive Hamilton in his widely praised the book Requiem for a Species. However Hamilton assumes that the recession unleashed by the credit crisis which has stabilised global emissions is merely a temporary problem.

 

This is very unlikely to be the case. As argued it is very probable that we are now in a period of economic instability because of peak oil and peak debt which will continue. Although emissions bounced backed strikingly in 2010 after the recession, one must wonder how long the “recovery” will continue.

 

In important respects, the instability will not help. Worse case scenarios suggest that the interaction between declining oil supplies and the fragile financial system could cause huge dislocations and these, in turn, could undermine the basis for large scale engineering solutions to energy shortages and the carbon crisis. Under these worse case scenarios the deflationary collapse of the economic system, which at the time of writing seems very likely, would lead to a disintegration of the very fabric of complex economic organisation needed to deliver the components for a renewable based rebuild of the energy infrastructure.

 

Nevertheless one can turn the pessimistic argument on its head. In the face of floundering economic, industrial and ecological policy in the next few years the best thing to help would be to unify and mobilise all of society behind a major investment programme for energy and agricultural transformation – before it is too late. When societies are in chaos, malevolent elites pick a fight with neighbouring countries and an external enemy creates internal cohesion. An elite that finally realises it must fight to prevent a breakdown of the energy system instead of an external enemy might be able to pull things round.

 

Alternatively this idea of a global fight to renew the energy and the cultivation systems, particularly in a way that stresses commons can provide a large part of the unifying vision for the movements of the streets, offering work and justice at the same time. Once underway, the accumulation of renewable energy equipment and its infrastructure would create its own self feeding dynamic, delivering more energy than it costs to build up. In that kind of future context there is some kind of vision of hope against mass destitution which a collapsing finance sector is bringing down on our heads.

 

There do seem to be huge opportunities for renewable energy systems – in particular offshore wind energy around the UK and concentrated solar power in southern countries and deserts. There are also opportunities for considerable reductions in energy consumption. There are arguments that, for example, the energy return on energy invested in offshore wind are considerable and the scale of the engineering challenge is no greater than the previous construction of an offshore oil infrastructure.[26]

 

The open question – Chaos or Grand Transition?

It will be challenging. In some parts of the political system a few officials and politicians are just beginning to get a belated understanding of this. Although there is a great reluctance to transform the energy economy in face of climate change there is the first dawning of a recognition that the energy economy will have to be transformed because of peak oil. The code words for ‘peak oil’ in business and government are ‘energy security’. Some parts of the business establishment too have finally acknowledged the message of peak oil and are looking at what will be done about it. Although the peak oil and climate imperatives are not identical they do overlap.

 

With this growing awareness the danger is that politicians and business will take the wrong decisions. The peaking of conventional oil could worsen climate change by driving an increased use of more carbon intensive substitutes and biomass. In order to keep global temperatures within 2°C or preindustrial levels, cumulative CO2 emissions must be kept well below the amount per would be produced from burning the remaining proven economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves.

 

Nevertheless, there is an increasing recognition that if the energy system must be transformed it makes more sense to deal with climate change and peak oil at the same time. Some can see already that it is a dead-end to try to use the remaining fossil fuels and that it makes more sense to go directly over to renewables.

 

An example is the Centre for Alternative Technology’s second edition of Zero Carbon Britain – Zero Carbon Britain 2030 – in which cap and share is described as one of a number of possible policies in the framework that will be needed to drive decarbonisation. [27] Another example of cap and share in a general package of policies from our own ranks is the Holyrood 350 Programme for Scotland. [28]

 

Another example of a policy which connects action on energy security (peak oil) with action on climate change is a Lloyds/Chatham house report on sustainable energy security. This argues that:

 

“Energy security is now inseparable from the transition to a low carbon economy and business plans should prepare for this new reality. Security of supply and emissions reductions objectives should be addressed equally as prioritising one over the other will increase the risk of stranded investments or requirements for expensive retrofitting.” [29]

 

In summary we can expect to see energy transformation being pushed up the political agenda. In the best scenarios we would expect to see a search for new and more effective, policy mechanisms for carbon reduction occuring too. This is because, while it is becoming blindingly obvious that these are absolutely core issues, the global political establishment has clearly shunted itself into a dead end in trying to do something about these issues.

 

The Copenhagen Debacle

In this regard there is a most extraordinary situation opening up. For all the reasons explained at the beginning of this chapter the global political and economic elite have totally failed to provide anything at all credible in the way of a response to the climate crisis and energy crisis. The collapse of the UNFCCC process at Copenhagen and the collapse of Obama’s efforts to introduce climate legislation in the USA can be seen as a stalemate between an old energy order and political system and a new one that is not yet powerful enough to emerge and make its dynamic the dominating one. The energy system of the old men and old money is still too powerful. But, as we have seen most of these old men will have gone in a very few years – and the carbon energy that they supply, and which is their power basis will be in precipitate decline.

 

We are, in short, moving towards a situation where policies like cap and share and a carbon maintenance fund to prevent loss of soil carbon need to be argued for as part of packages of transformation in order to avert a generalised collapse caused by the wooden headedness of fixated old men. The support for the new developments will largely have to be found outside the political mainstream in the emerging new movements that were mentioned earlier in this chapter.

 

Through the projects and networks of these movements only so much can be done in energy efficiency and carbon reduction at the household community and local level if there is not some wider framework to “lock in” what is achieved. Without an adequate framework the improvements that are made would be immediately lost because of “rebound effects” of the type explored by Nick Bardsley in his chapter. Also, the energy and carbon saved in one place would be squandered by irresponsible people and companies in another place. These community-based activities will inevitably be driven by a stronger prioritisation for social justice issues and the share in cap and share will be more attractive and influential here.

 

The key idea here, to return to the idea of indirectness, is that climate policies need to be not just head on attempts to tackle climate change but ideas for society – for reconstructing energy systems, for maintaining macro economic activity and employment (if not growth), for expressing new ideas of social justice and also for making clear how we are going to look after each other. Let us now turn to these points.

 

The macro economics of climate policy and the politics of rent at the limits to growth

Given the wider picture we should not forget that cap and share can be promoted not only for driving decarbonisation but because of its effect on purchasing power as energy prices rise. Cap and share has more to offer than as a driver of climate mitigation alone. After peak oil each new impetus to economic recovery is likely to lead to a spike in oil prices that will, in turn, crash the world economy. This volatility will not help long run structural changes and nor give the security needed to encourage productive investment in new energy systems.

 

As fossil energy prices soar upwards many non-marginal energy producers will, for example, still be supplying from fields with low production costs. During the price spikes they will be raking in money way above their production costs and there will be a transfer of what economists call “scarcity rents” to these producers. (Rent is here the large amount of money made when there are high prices because of high demand and scarcity even though some producers are still able to pump oil and gas relatively cheaply). These “rents” will be taken from the pockets of everyone else. Rent transfers like this unbalance the economy, lead to unrest and bring on the next crash.

 

Beyond the “limits to growth” there is still room for money junkies to get rich if we let our unjust system continue – not because of their inventiveness, or their enterprise, or what they produce, but because they succeed in cornering the ownership of the scarce resources that everyone needs – energy, the atmosphere, fresh water, land, food commodities… and then are able to charge a high price, enriching themselves while the poor are driven into destitution. This threatens to be a 21st-century “politics of rent” and we have to find answers to it.

 

From this point of view, arrangements like cap and share have a wider relevance. It is necessary to manage the Earth’s atmosphere as a global commons for which we are all equally responsible, in a way that ensures that, when there are benefits to be had, we all get them – also ensuring that particular groups are not unfairly burdened. The energy transformation should be arranged in such a way as to ensure that the mass of the global population get a share from the sale of permits. This will balance purchasing power, moderate the contractionary process and part-provide some of the capital resources needed to help people transform their homes and gardens. At the same time it can help provide the incentives and stability for large investments, like offshore wind, where there are the resources, the capacity and will for these to be developed.

 

Similar principles need to be applied, adapted to context, across other natural and human commons – including in the monetary system regarded as a Commons. Earlier we explained that the debt based money system is a major part of the problem. It has no reverse gear and is implicated in the growth fixation of mainstream politics. That’s because the money commons has been privatised in the interests of the moneylenders and a major part of the overhaul that is needed is to transform the money system too – to manage it in the interests of everyone.

 

Commons resources should be managed in the interests of all – including future generations who should inherit them intact and healthy – the oceans, fresh water supplies, land rent and the like. That means not only policies but appropriate institutional architectures. These are major agenda items but it seems unlikely that top down policies from governments will emerge until a lot of bottom upwards improvisation from grass roots movements of the type described earlier has been tried and been found to be practical and workable. [30]

 

Conclusion

 

To sum up, the existing economic and political system has proved incapable up to now of embracing anything like an adequate level of climate mitigation. It can be argued plausibly that it is already too late to prevent runaway climate change. It is certainly touch and go. There is nothing inevitable about the future. Nevertheless it is clear that we are entering a period of economic, social and political turmoil brought about by peak oil, peak debt and the decomposition of a political system that millions of people now regard as corrupt and not to be trusted. There is increasing recognition even in parts of the business elite that major changes in the transformation of the energy system are going to be needed and that it does not make sense to deal separately with peak oil and climate change. In this context the relevance of policy ideas like cap and share to these other problems must be made clear and such policies firmly located in packages for transformation.

 

What is still not a clear is how far governments are capable of contributing to the new future. There is an argument that states are being increasingly hollowed out and incapable of real social and ecological leadership. It has been argued, for example by Naomi Klein, that states are led by parties functioning as brands, backed by PR machines, intent on organising society to whatever the financiers want. It is certainly this view that makes most sense of the utter failure of the state to control the financial markets and the financial sector. [31]

 

Of course, we want government support for what we are doing if they will give it – but meanwhile if there is indifference and hostility from governments then we must get on and set up the organisations that we need. We can do that by setting up organisations where we are and then networking them together. When we do this we do it in the hope that there will be a supportive government buy-in later, when pressured by our movements with their different commons based ideologies and their practical community relevance on the ground. If we cannot get governments to do the job we must move to set up the organisations that we need and then struggle to win them the power to do the job directly. At the current time governments will not go against the elite consensus – but in the profound turmoil ahead we should not underestimate the extent to which power relationships will change if we are well organised, with clear ideas that attract a mass following.

 

In this context it makes sense to evolve a package of economic energy and climate policies to address the different crises together – financial, energy, climate, cultivational. Such packages of policies which seek to reconfigure the world we live in have already begun to appear – like “Zero Carbon Britain 2030” and the programme of “Holyrood 350” in Scotland. These programmes will be immeasurably strengthened by being based in new forms of networked commons organisations operating with charters of rights and responsibilities that they win from the existing political system.

 

To fully complete the reconfiguration of our economy and society we need to connect with the emerging movements with new ideas that captures rights to defend the commons and new ways of managing them which do not rely on yet another top-heavy bureaucracy.

 

Original article: http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/what-do-we-do-about-climate-change-brian-davey/

 

 

 

Endnotes

 

1. John Kay, Obliquity, Profile Books, 2010.

2. Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth?, Sustainable Development Commission, 2009

3. Roy Madron and John Jopling, Gaian Democracies, Schumacher Briefings/Green Books, 2003

4. Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species, Earthscan, 2010, p33.

5. Max Planck, The Philosophy Of Physics, W. W. Norton & Co. 1963

6. http://www.smart-csos.org/

7. See for example, Nadia Johanisova, Living in the Cracks, Feasta/Green Books, 2005

8. http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.de

9. www.transitionnetwork.org

10. www.decroissance.org

11. www.jenseits-des-wachstums.de

12. http://steadystate.org

13. Thomas Fatheuer, Buen Vivir, Hsg. Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Band 17, 2011

14. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest, Penguin Books, 2007

15. Elinor Ostrom, A Multiscale Approach to Coping with Climate Change and other collective action problems, http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/565

16. Stafford Beer, Think before you Think, Wavestone Press, 2009, pp134-157. See also Jon Walker’s article at http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=preface

17. Richard Douthwaite, Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies in an Unstable World, online edition, June 2003 downloadable at http://www.feasta.org/2003/06/16/short-circuit/

18. Jodie Humphries, Oil and gas workforce – a shortage in skilled labour, Jodie Humphries August 2010 at http://www.ngoilgasmena.com/article/oil-and-gas-workforce-a-shortage-in-skilled-labour/

19. www.cres.ch/Documents/SKILLS%20SHORTAGE%20PART%20I%20pdf.pdf

20. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,655409-2,00.html

21. http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/40051

22. “Germany explores using Train Lines as a Power Grid” http://www.spiegel.de/international/ germany/0,1518,758698,00.html

23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm

24. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html?_r=2&hp

25. Robert W Howard, Renee Santoro, Antony Ingraffea, “Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations. A letter.” Climatic Change, Accepted March 2011

26. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/greeninc/Howarth2011.pdf

27. The Offshore Valuation Group, A Valuation of the UK’s offshore renewable energy resource,

published by the Public Interest Resource Centre, 2010

28. www.zerocarbonbritain.com

29. http://holyrood350.org

30. Lloyds/Chatham House Report “White Paper. Sustainable energy security. Strategic risks and opportunities for business” www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16720_0610_froggatt_lahn.pdf

31. www.boell.de/economysocial/economy/economy-commons-10451.html

32. http://www.alternet.org/media/145218/naomi_klein:_how_corporate_branding_took_over_the_white_ house?page=entire

 

 

Links:

[1] http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/what-do-we-do-about-climate-change-brian-davey/

[2] http://www.sharingforsurvival.org/index.php/contents/

[3] http://www.smart-csos.org/

[4] http://www.solidarische-oekonomie.de

[5] http://www.transitionnetwork.org/

[6] http://www.decroissance.org/

[7] http://www.jenseits-des-wachstums.de/

[8] http://steadystate.org/

[9] http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/565

[10] http://www.esrad.org.uk/resources/vsmg_3/screen.php?page=preface

[11] http://www.feasta.org/2003/06/16/short-circuit/

[12] http://www.ngoilgasmena.com/article/oil-and-gas-workforce-a-shortage-in-skilled-labour/

[13] http://www.cres.ch/Documents/SKILLS%20SHORTAGE%20PART%20I%20pdf.pdf

[14] http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,655409-2,00.html

[15] http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/40051

[16] http://www.spiegel.de/international/ germany/0,1518,758698,00.html

[17] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9255520.stm

[18] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html?_r=2&amp;hp

[19] http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/greeninc/Howarth2011.pdf

[20] http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/

[21] http://holyrood350.org/

[22] http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16720_0610_froggatt_lahn.pdf

[23] http://www.boell.de/economysocial/economy/economy-commons-10451.html

[24] http://www.alternet.org/media/145218/naomi_klein:_how_corporate_branding_took_over_the_white_%20house?page=entire

Menu for the Future – Discussion Course – Thursdays July 12 thru Aug 16

six Thursdays from July 12 thru August 16
in Central Tucson

Menu for the Future Discussion Course

Thursdays, July 12 to August 16, 2012 – 6:30 to 8:00pm

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture offers the Northwest Earth Institute’s Menu for the Future Class, a 6-session discussion course that analyzes the connection between food and sustainability.  The goals of the course are to explore food systems and their impact on culture, society, and ecology; to gain insight into agricultural and individual practices that promote personal and ecological well-being; and to consider your role in creating or supporting sustainable food systems.

Topics covered include:

  • What’s Eating America (explores the effects of modern industrial eating habits on culture, society and ecological systems).
  • Anonymous Food (considers the ecological and economic impacts that have accompanied the changes in how we grow and prepare food).
  • Farming for the Future (examines emerging food system alternatives, highlighting sustainable growing practices, the benefits of small farms and urban food production, and how individuals can make choices that lead to a more sustainable food supply).
  • You Are What You Eat (considers the influences that shape our choices and food policies from the fields to Capitol Hill, and the implications for our health and well-being).
  • Toward a Just Food System (explores the role that governments, communities and individuals can play in addressing hunger, equity, and Fair Trade to create a more just food system).
  • Choices for Change (offers inspiration and practical advice in taking steps to create more sustainable food systems).

How it Works:  Prior to each meeting, participants read short selections from the course book relating to one of the topics listed above (book is provided as part of class fee).  Each gathering consists of open conversation regarding the readings.  Dialogue from a wide range of perspectives and learning through self-discovery are encouraged.  While each session is facilitated by one of the course participants, there is no formal teacher.

The Details:

  • Dates/Time: Weekly meetings occur each Thursday, July 12 to August 16, from 6:30 to 8pm.  Participants must attend all sessions.
  • Location: central Tucson.
  • Cost (for course book): $25 BASA members, $30 non-members (or $45 for course and a one-year BASA membership).

Contact Meghan at meghan.mix(at)bajaaz.org or 520-331-9821 for further information.
Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture

NYT Publishes Private Industry Documents: “Shale Gas Called a Ponzi Scheme”

Documents: Industry Privately Skeptical of Shale Gas

Over the past six months, The New York Times reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to shale gas, including hundreds of industry e-mails, internal agency documents and reports by analysts. A selection of these documents is included here; names and identifying information have been redacted to protect the confidentiality of sources, many of whom were not authorized by their employers to communicate with The Times.

Go to the New York Times website to view documents here.

Sustainable Tucson July Meeting – Urban Mobility and Urban Form – July 9

at Joel D. Valdez Main Downtown Library, 101 N. Stone, (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

The Sustainability of
Urban Mobility and Urban Form

The July ST General Meeting will feature panel presentations and conversation by special Tucson speakers who are addressing in their work “Sustainable mobility and urban form.” This is a very timely topic on many fronts now:

  City of Tucson’s current ten-year update of the General Plan.

  Anticipation of Tucson’s modern streetcar line.

  Tucson’s love affair with walking, jogging, biking, hiking and using transit.

  Community visioning and planning related to the Imagine Greater Tucson Project.

  The emergence of “urban villages” as places where we could live.

  City of Tucson’s current climate change mitigation and adaptation planning.

  Local adaptation to the global credit and energy contraction now taking place.

Gene Caywood, local transportation planner and leading light for Old Pueblo Trolley presents Tucson mobility: past, present, and future.

Ian Johnson, co-leader of the Living Streets Alliance discusses ways we can all help to create, maintain, and enjoy the culture of “living streets” combining sidewalks, bike paths, and transit where people meet and move.

Steve Farley, Arizona State legislator and public artist talks about the benefits of sustainable transportation and advocacy.

Ann Chaneka,  Pima Association of Governments bicycle planner and recently returning from the international Velo conference in Vancouver presents sustainable urban transportation and bicycle planning.

Tres English, ST Core Team member, talks about “21st Century Tucson – a Network of Urban Villages – More convenient, More accessible, More affordable – NOT More mobile.”

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, businesses, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our members, interested people, and community leaders, bringing them together to focus the wider public on these critical sustainability discussions. Our ultimate intent is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

Join us for another lively Sustainable Tucson General meeting!

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Also read James Howard Kunstler’s Making Other Arrangements

Occupy Arcology – ecological city design lecture & discussion – June 26

Free, at Historic Y conference room, 738 North 5th Ave (at University)

 

OCCUPY ARCOLOGY LECTURE – June 26

Come be a part of a lecture and lively discussion on Occupy Arcology. In this part of the lecture series, hosted by Occupy Tucson’s Doctress Neutopia, we will focus on the question of ecology and economy within the context of an arcology (ecological city design). Any knowledge you have about alternative economics—alternative currencies, time banks, labor relationships, the rights of nature, etc, are welcome in our discussion. So, please come and share your wisdom and knowledge.

Some of the questions to be raised in the discussion are:

What kind of economy fosters health and sustainability with our natural resources?
How do we move into a no-growth, zero-carbon city?
How would William McDonough’s “cradle-to-cradle industrials” move us beyond 20th Century industrials that are polluting our world?
What kind of labor-force is needed to construct an evolutionary city design?
Do we need a new definition of work?
What would a feminist economy, outlined in Riane Eisler’s book The Real Wealth of Nations, look like?
How do we convert military monies into building solar-powered arcologies so that a peace time economy can lead us into a beautiful future?

When: Tuesday June 26th, 2012
Time: 5:00 – 6:30 P.M.
Place: Historic Y’s conference room, 738 North 5th Ave (at University)

For More Info: Contact doctress(at)lovolution.net

Also see http://www.lovolution.net/MainPages/arcology/arcology.htm

Support Energy Efficiency Workshop – June 27

at Historic Y conference room, 738 N 5th Ave in Tucson

 

TEP Customers — Help TEP Move Beyond Coal to Clean Energy!
Join us at a free workshop!

You can help move Tucson Electric Power from coal to clean energy! Come to this informative workshop and find out more.

Support Energy Efficiency Workshop
Wednesday, June 27, 6-8 p.m.

Historic Y conference room
738 N. 5th Ave., Tucson (map)

We will discuss what Tucson Electric Power (TEP) can do to get off dirty fossil fuels, including through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and what you can do to help!

The Arizona Corporation Commission will be holding a special open meeting in Tucson on July 11 and taking comments on TEP’s Energy Efficiency Implementation Plan. Our workshop will help you prepare for this meeting and will provide an opportunity to write comments on this important issue.

For more information, please contact Dan Millis at (520) 620-6401 or dan.millis(at)sierraclub.org

Tucson Climate Activists Network – 2nd Wednesdays

 

Every second Wednesday 7-9pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N. 5th Ave, Tucson AZ

 

TUCAN (Tucson Climate Activists Network)

TUCAN meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7-9 pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse on 5th Ave, to connect the work of local Climate Change activists.

Contact: Jim Driscoll, Jimdriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org

ST June Meeting – Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community – Part II – June 11

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community
Part II

In March Sustainable Tucson hosted our first “Conversation with our Elected Officials.” One hundred Tucson community members met with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Council Member Regina Romero, and Council Member Steve Kozachik to discuss a wide range of sustainability issues such as water policy, urban form, food security and transportation.

On Monday, June 11, from 6 to 8 pm, Council Member Karin Uhlich, and Leslie Ethan, Director of the City of Tucson Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development, will join us for our second Conversation. A networking session will precede the meeting from 5:30 to 6:00.

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to our public officials and bringing them together with Sustainable Tucson and the wider public in this discussion and process. Our ultimate intent is to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

We invite you to join us in our second conversation with local public officials.

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Community Water Coalition – Open House – May 23

at Ward 6 Council Office Community Room, 3202 East 1st Street (near Speedway and Country Club)

Community Water Coalition – Open House

Please join the us for a fun and informative meeting of professionals and passionate advocates for a sustainable water future in Southern Arizona! Come find out how you or your organization can get involved. We are having a great year so far, and want to share our vision and successes with you. Snacks and beverages will be provided.

For more information contact Karilyn at 396-3266 or email kroach(at)watershedmg.org

Please use this link to RSVP for this event! – http://watershedmg.org/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=2030&qid=119753

 
The Community Water Coalition’s mission is to provide leadership and guidance toward water policy that sustains healthy ecosystems and quality of life in the lower Santa Cruz River watershed.

Accomplishments in 2012:
  * Became a prominent voice in the review of the Tucson Water Service Area policy
  * Published a Guest Opinion in the Arizona Daily Star on Rosemont Mine.

Current Actions:
  * Engaging Imagine Greater Tucson leadership to encourage a focus on sustainability in their process.
  * Supporting efforts to resolve lawsuits and legislation seeking to force water delivery to proposed development at Painted Hills.

 
Member Organizations

Center for Biological Diversity
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor
Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
­Desert Watch
Native Seeds/SEARCH
Primavera Foundation
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
Sustainable Tucson
Tucson Audubon
Tucson Mountains Association
Watershed Management Group

Tucson Climate Activists Network – planning meeting & free 350.org activist leadership training – May 9 & 25-27

May 9 (and 2nd Wednesdays) at the Quaker Meetinghouse, 931 N. 5th Ave, Tucson
May 25-27 free workshop at Dunbar Cultural Center Pavilion and boardroom, 325 W. 2nd Street, Tucson AZ

TUCAN (Tucson Climate Activists Network) will meet Wednesday, May 9, 7 pm, 931 N. 5th Ave. (Quaker Meetinghouse) to debrief our highly publicized protest on May 3 asking TEP to stop using coal, and we will plan next steps for all our Action Groups.

In particular, 350.org is offering a free Climate Leaders Workshop Friday thru Sunday, May 25-27 at Dunbar Community Center, no charge, free meals.

DYNAMITE FREE LEADERSHIP TRAINING FOR CLIMATE ACTIVISTS
May 25 – 27

To take the climate change movement to a new level here in Tucson and Southern Arizona, 350.org is paying for a FREE (including meals) weekend leadership training and flying in two of their national trainers to build the skills of about 30 people who would like to do more to save our planet and our species. The content is state-of-the-art, developed by Marshall Ganz from Harvard’s Kennedy School, who designed Barack Obama’s 2008 grassroots campaign and worked with Cesar Chavez for sixteen years. Learn one-on-one, relational organizing (the gold standard for serious campaigns), strategy-making, working with the media and other specific skills. We will tailor the training to the needs of the participants and use our skills to design a local strategy and tactics.

You are invited, as a local climate and clean energy organizer and activist, to join us and other selected environmental leaders for a free three-day Climate Leadership Workshop, sponsored by 350.org. These workshops are being offered across the U.S. and around the world with the purpose of building the strongest possible climate and clean energy movement to address the climate crisis by building the organizing skills of local leaders. Please feel free to pass this invitation on to other climate activists.

The Tucson Climate Leadership Workshop will focus on campaign planning and story-telling, including practical information on traditional and social media, campaign planning, engaging allies, and other critical organizing tools. We will share lessons learned from our experience organizing both local events and international campaigns, and will equip you with skills that can bolster the work you do locally and empower you to more effectively contribute to the broader climate movement.

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 (with a welcome event the evening of Friday, May 25)
Times: 5pm-8pm Friday, 9am-5pm Saturday and 9am-4pm Sunday
Location: Dunbar Cultural Center Pavilion and boardroom; 325 W. 2nd St., Tucson, AZ, with low-carbon catering by the Green Gourmet (please indicate dietary preferences)

Please RSVP by May 21 if at all possible. After that, we cannot guarantee dietary requests or give you input to the design of the training. Please go to our Facebook page — 350Tucson (scroll down on the left to the blue box) and fill out the linked questionnaire if you wish to attend, and we will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm.

For more information, contact Vince @ 520-400-7517, or arizona1sky (at) dakotacom.net. There is additional information about the 350 workshops in general at www.350.org.

This training will be capped at approximately 30 participants, and RSVPs will be accepted at least until Monday, May 21. The training is free; we provide all the food and materials. Please consult with us about travel expenses and lodging if you will be travellling in from out of town.

We hope you can join us!
Vince, Patsy, Jim, Dave and the rest of 350’s Team Tucson
Deirdre, Ryan – facilitators
The staff of 350.org and partners

 
Jim Driscoll
Jimdriscoll(at)NIPSPeerSupport.org

TUCAN meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month, 7-9 pm at the Quaker Meetinghouse on 5th Ave. to connect the work of local Climate Change activists.

Soil is Life – Restoring the Soil Food Web – lecture and local foods potluck – May 31

at Saint Marks Church, Third and Alvernon, Tucson

 

Soil is Life – Restoring the Soil Food Web
A Lecture and Local Foods Potluck

Join Watershed Management Group’s Tucson Co-op to celebrate the end of our busiest season to date and to revel in anticipation of the coming monsoons, with our semi annual local foods potluck and lecture.

This event will be held in conjunction with our newest Soil Stewards program and we are excited that Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman (of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2) will lead an interactive session on the soil food web after the potluck.

Dr Paveo-Zuckerman will discuss its importance for food production, plant growth, and soil water storage. We will examine techniques to enhance soil ecology in the arid urban environment, and help participants develop plans to boost the soil web in their own home landscape.

To find out more and sign up to this free event go to our Tucson Co-op website http://watershedmg.org/co-op/tucson

Date Thursday, May 31
Time: 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m.
Location: Saint Marks Church, Third and Alvernon

Reconsider RTA Broadway Project – Public press conference – April 30

at Assembly of God Church parking lot, NW corner of Broadway & Campbell

 

Neighborhood Support Network / Broadway Corridor

Hi Neighbors,

You and your neighbors are invited to a press conference on Monday, April 30 at Broadway and Campbell that will begin at 6pm – please send around. Speakers will include Council Members Kozachik and Fimbres, Pima County Supervisors Elias and Valadez, as well as reps from Rincon Heights, Sam Hughes and Broadway business owners.

We look forward to seeing a big crowd!

Colby Henley, Rincon Heights

This is a critical point in our efforts to get the RTA to abandon it’s outdated plans for widening Broadway Blvd to 8-lanes and instead allow a Citizen’s Task Force to provide meaningful input to re-scope the project in a way that is within budget and compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods and our desired future for this corridor. We are asking for everyone’s support in two specific ways.

1. We need a big turnout for the press conference on Monday April 30th at 6 PM in the Assembly of God church parking lot on the NW corner of Broadway & Campbell. Steve Kozachik is calling this press conference and is inviting the Mayor and other City Council Members/County Supervisors to attend as well. We need to have HUNDREDS of people show up – so rally your neighbors to attend!

2. We are asking for people to write letters to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star supporting a re-scoping of the Broadway Project and to contact your City Council Member/County Supervisor asking them to add their support to this effort. In your letters, you can emphasize the need for the RTA/TDOT to engage the Citizen’s Task Force in a serious discussion about down-scoping the project to get it back to within the RTA funding level, and to reallocate RTA money saved to other RTA ballot approved projects, and the County Bond money that was earmarked for this project to road repair within the City limits.

Please circulate this call to action among your neighbors and we look forward to seeing a big crowd at the press conference!

Here is a letter recently submitted to the AZ Daily Star by Laura Tabili from Rincon Heights (not yet published):

Councilmember Steve Kozachik and County Executive Chuck Huckelberry have recently called for reconsidering and downscoping the costly and unnecessary Broadway Project. The 1987 plan to widen Broadway is outdated in view of conditions in the street itself as well as up-to-date thinking about sustainable transportation and livable cities. Wasting $71 million taxpayer dollars we simply do not have, widening the street to 150 feet would destroy over 100 local businesses and historic properties, lifeblood of our local economy and tax base.

Up-to-date infrastructure improvements such as bus pullouts, turn bays, and properly timed lights would better move traffic while encouraging bus ridership, biking and walking along a safe and pleasant street. The Broadway Coalition calls on our elected officials on the Board of Supervisors and the Tucson City Council to reconsider this costly and unnecessary project and find a sustainable solution that will better meet Tucson’s needs now and in the future.

Don Ijams, Coordinator
Neighborhood Support Network
email: dsijams(at)gmail.com

Plan Tucson – Urban Agriculture Policy Working Group – May 3

at Sentinel Building Conference Rooms, 320 N. Commerce Park Loop

 

PLAN TUCSON
ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY FOCUS AREA
Urban Agriculture Policy Working Group

Meeting Invitation
Thursday May 3, 2012

Hello,

The Plan Tucson Team appreciates the active participation by agency, organization, and other stakeholders in the Working Groups to develop policies for elements to be addressed in Plan Tucson, the City’s new General Plan now in preparation.

During the Working Group discussions regarding a variety of elements from public health to green infrastructure to land use to economic development, the topic of urban agriculture has come up often enough that staff decided it would be helpful to have a separate meeting devoted to the topic. Therefore, we have arranged a meeting that will include brief presentations on efforts already underway in the City and County to address urban agriculture issues and to provide an opportunity for interested stakeholders to share their thoughts about the topic.

The URBAN AGRICULTURE meeting is scheduled for:

Thursday, May 3, 2012
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Sentinel Building Conference Rooms
320 N. Commerce Park Loop

If you would like to attend this meeting, please RSVP by sending an email to plantucson(at)tucsonaz.gov by Tuesday, May 1, and type “Urban Agriculture” in the subject line. If you have any questions, please contact Gina Chorover at gina.chorover(at)tucsonaz.gov or 520‐837‐6946.

If you are unable to join us on this date, but have ideas about Urban Agriculture that you would like considered, please email them to Gina Chorover at the above email address.

Thank you,

Gina Chorover
Plan Tucson Team

Sustainable Tucson May Meeting – Prosperity Without Growth – May 14

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda Street)

Prosperity Without Growth – What does it look like?

Please join us at Sustainable Tucson’s May meeting to hear local experts talk about Sustainable Economics, and share your thoughts about what this looks like and what it entails. Help us engage the planners with solutions appropriate to our time.

Planning efforts in Tucson (including Imagine Greater Tucson) assume growth to be inevitable and good.

Until recently, there was no reason to question that belief. With a seemingly endless supply of resources and space to dump waste products, there was no feedback raising our awareness, nor reason to ask questions.

Now, however, the pinch has begun. The high carbon energy fuels upon which we have built our modern civilization are not only becoming more problematic to supply, but the effects of their combustion are destabilizing the climate, decimating biodiversity, disrupting food security and beginning to affect social cohesion. The problem is the result of the collective impact of our human species. Our numbers have increased to the point where our resource consumption and related waste is beyond the planetary ecosystem’s ability to continue to supply and absorb them.

If the planet were our house, the debt we have accumulated is coming due, foreclosure is on the horizon, and we may soon lose our home.

Ecological economist Herman Daly notes that growth can become “uneconomic” when the “bads” accumulate faster than the “goods”, the “illth” faster than the wealth (see video, link below).

What are the alternatives to Growth?
What positive vision can lead us away from the “inevitable”?

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Also see these videos,

Herman DalyUneconomic Growth
Charles EisensteinSacred Economics
Tim JacksonProsperity without Growth
Rushey Green Time Bank

How do you move through the city? – Worker Transit Authority

Free – April 27 & 28, May 4 & 5, May 11 & 12 – 5 pm to 8 pm
 
210 East Broadway, Downtown Tucson Arizona

The Worker Transit Authority asks the community

“How do you move through the city?”

A Convergence of Art and Planning

For three weekends in a series of free public events, Tucson residents can participate in this important discussion about land use, infrastructure, transportation, environment and distribution.

Like actual transit authority public process, this project is a form of civic engagement, but unlike actual transit authority pubic process the WTA events are fun!

The project wraps art, parody, and beauty to format new and radical notions of how we can function as individuals and as a society, including an overview of the Worker Transit Authority (WTA), the Consumer Transit System (CTS) & the Bicycle-centric Approach to Planning (BcAP).

The exhibits include interactive maps, brochures, surveys, drawings, sculptures, videos and text.

 

Bill Mackey of Worker, Inc. will present events that incorporate performance, graphics, and data in a participatory manner designed to facilitate discussion among the community.

Collaborators include Jeffrey Buesing, Ben Olmstead, Peter Wilke, Tyler Jorgenson, Dwight Metzger, Cook Signs, Ron and Patricia Schwabe, and the Apparatchiks.

For further information, visit www.workertransitauthority.com from your PC or mobile device and get involved. Feel free to ‘take the survey’ on our homepage.

Funded through the Tucson Pima Arts Council / Kresge Arts in Tucson ll: P.L.A.C.E. Initiative Grants. In kind support from Reproductions Inc., Peach Properties, Organic Kitchen & Zocalo Magazine. Letters of support from City of Tucson Department of Transit, City of Tucson Ward I and VI, Living Streets Alliance, Downtown Partnership, Drachman Institute, Department of Geography University of Arizona, College of Architecture University of Arizona, City of Tucson Office of Conservation & Sustainable Development.

 

Worker Inc. is a company that specializes in exploring the human connections to the built environment, bridging the theory and practice of architecture, the social sciences, planning and art. Since 2009, Worker Inc. has been instrumental in the production of community exhibits – Downtown Tucson Master Plans, Food Paper Alcohol, and You Are Here. The exhibits combine ART + PLANNING, creating a unique platform that is an act of discovery for the community. Visit www.workerincorporated.com for more information about Bill Mackey and Worker, Inc.

Bill Mackey 520.664.4847 workerarchitect(at)yahoo.com

Menu for the Future discussion course – Thursdays starting May 3

Six Thursdays, May 3 to June 7, in Tucson AZ

 

Menu for the Future

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture offers Menu for the Future, a 6-session discussion course prepared by the Northwest Earth Institute that analyzes the connection between food and sustainability.

The goals of the course are to explore food systems and their impact on culture, society, and ecology; to gain insight into agricultural and individual practices that promote personal and ecological well-being; and to consider your role in creating or supporting sustainable food systems.

Topics covered include:

  • What’s Eating America (explores the effects of modern industrial eating habits on culture, society and ecological systems).
  • Anonymous Food (considers the ecological and economic impacts that have accompanied the changes in how we grow and prepare food).
  • Farming for the Future (examines emerging food system alternatives, highlighting sustainable growing practices, the benefits of small farms and urban food production, and how individuals can make choices that lead to a more sustainable food supply).
  • You Are What You Eat (considers the influences that shape our choices and food policies from the fields to Capitol Hill, and the implications for our health and well-being).
  • Toward a Just Food System (explores the role that governments, communities and individuals can play in addressing hunger, equity, and Fair Trade to create a more just food system).
  • Choices for Change (offers inspiration and practical advice in taking steps to create more sustainable food systems).

How it Works:

Prior to each meeting, participants read short selections from the course book relating to one of the topics listed above (book is provided as part of class fee). Each gathering consists of open conversation regarding the readings. Dialogue from a wide range of perspectives and learning through self-discovery are encouraged. While each session is facilitated by one of the course participants, there is no formal teacher.

The Details:

  • Dates/Time: Weekly meetings occur each Thursday, May 3 to June 7, from 6:30 to 8pm. Participants must attend all sessions.
  • Location: central Tucson.
  • Cost (for course book): $25 BASA members, $30 non-members (or $45 for course and a one-year BASA membership).
  • Advance registration is required.

Contact Meghan at meghan.mix(at)bajaaz.org or 520-331-9821 for additional information or to register.

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture – www.bajaaz.org

Brown Bag Lunch Seminars – Water Resources Research Center – March & April

Unless otherwise noted, all seminars are held at the Sol Resnick Conference Room, Water Resources Research Center, 350 N Campbell Ave, Tucson AZ 85721

Contact: Jane Cripps jcripps(at)cals.arizona.edu or 520-621-2526
http://cals.arizona.edu/azwater

 

WRRC Brown Bag Lunch Seminars

 

Wednesday, March 21, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Gardenroots: The Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona Garden Project

Speaker: Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, PhD Candidate, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona

Project web link is: http://garden-roots.org/

 

Tuesday, April 10, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Biofuel Production and Water in the Southwest

Speaker: Kim Ogden, Professor, UA Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering

The Southwest is under consideration for production of fuel from plants and algae due to the long days and ample sunlight. However, water is an issue for sustainable production. This presentation will focus on the potential for using algae and sweet sorghum as feedstocks for biofuels in the Southwest. Strategies for reducing water usage, recycling water and using wastewater for cultivation will be highlighted.

 

Thursday, April 19, 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Valuing the multi-benefits of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan using an ecosystem service framework

Speaker: Rosalind Bark, PhD, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Australia

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan aims to maximise the benefits of river reform to the Australian public. Valuing the benefits from changed flow and inundation regimes under the Basin Plan requires linking ecological outcomes and economic valuation. An ecosystem service framework is used as the bridge between ecological sciences and economic valuation.

 

The views, opinions, advice or other content expressed by the author(s) or speaker(s) are their own and do not represent those of the Water Resources Research Center.

A Sweet Grass Braid of Connection – March 29

at City of Tucson Northwest Community Center, 2160 N 6th Avenue, Tucson AZ 85705

A Sweet Grass Braid of Connection” Gathering
March 29, 2012 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Gathering, Facilitator for Class, Martha Dominguez

It has been my observation in meeting people that community is something needed to have a sense of belonging and connection that is important to the human heart and soul.

As I come from community since my ancestral time being of Maya-Lenca culture I would like to invite you to attend a community seeding of ideas and to have a discussion about how to join efforts as our Mother Earth grows her family and to learn how community can develop. Let’s build a human network to stop individual conceptual ideas and become part of the whole. In communities of my life experience there is always a space for self because we each need space to just be and to center our spirit. For this gathering we will practice different aspects of community it will be interactive. The start will open sharing ideas then we will act to practice being in a community in our neighborhood in the city or else where.

Join us for this gathering of connection and exchange on Thursday March 29, 2012 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Alternative economic price for attending is $10 per person, contact Martha at: marthacd(at)earthlink.net or call 520-822-9302 to confirm your participation, payment can be mailed to Martha Dominguez, 13555 West Sacred Earth Place, Tucson, AZ 85735. Gathering is in limited space to no more than 25 participants so we love to have you with us.

Sustainable Tucson March Meeting – Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

Working Together Toward a Sustainable Community

In Conversation with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild,
Council Member Regina Romero, and
Council Member Steve Kozachik

We believe that building a sustainable future will take the cooperation and partnering of residents, government, institutions and organizations. It is in this spirit that we are reaching out to the City of Tucson Mayor and Council, and bringing together the City of Tucson, Sustainable Tucson, and the wider public in this discussion and process…

In recent meetings we’ve identified the following broad categories for projects and action steps that will assist our community to move toward a sustainable future: Water, Energy, Waste, Land Use, Climate Change, Food, Economy, Social Justice, and Democracy…

This month’s Sustainable Tucson General Meeting will be an opportunity for the Mayor and Council Members to showcase those areas of interest that we share, and talk about their projects – either in progress or in the planning/visioning stage – which fall under the sustainability banner, and with the intent to build partnerships and work together toward our common goals.

For this meeting, we’ll be using a “Fishbowl” process designed to initiate respectful and informative community dialogues. Too often our public processes end up getting stuck in the win/lose format of debates. The goal of the Fishbowl process is to move beyond rhetoric and get to substance. Instead of winning an argument, issues and evidence are clarified to help everyone gain a deeper understanding.

New perspectives and options that may not have occurred previously can develop, and strident positions tend to soften or break down. Fishbowl dialogs are a wonderful alternative to typical panel presentations that are followed by limited Q&A sessions.

The general outline for the process is to have one more chair than the number of presenters, in a semi-circle at the front of the room, or a circle in the middle of the room with audience members in concentric rings surrounding the Fishbowl. The panelists begin the process by presenting information to the audience – in this case the topic is sustainability.

Following this, members of the audience will be given the opportunity to join in the discussion by sitting in the empty chair. Each “guest” from the audience can take 5 minutes before vacating the chair to allow for another individual to participate.

We invite you to join us in our first Fishbowl conversation with local elected officials.

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

What Are We Planning For? – A New Advocacy Initiative

What Are We Planning For?
A Sustainable Tucson Issues Paper                                                  March 2012

Since Imagine Greater Tucson’s initiating phase began more than three years ago, Sustainable Tucson has been engaged with the IGT Project at many levels, participating in the steering, community values, outreach, and technical committees. Imagine Greater Tucson has consistently requested input and Sustainable Tucson has tried to contribute ideas in order to make IGT a more relevant and successful visioning process for the Tucson region.

The following text summarizes seven key issues which Sustainable Tucson has previously presented and which the IGT process has yet to address. This document concludes with four specific requests to modify the Imagine Greater Tucson Project.

 

1. There has been no step or focus in the IGT process to sensitize and ground the community in the context of the emerging future. The impacts of climate change, resource depletion, food security, water use, conservation of our natural environment and economic and financial crises were all avoided.

Problem:  Without a grounded understanding of the emerging context, how can we realistically connect our values to a preferred future for the region? IGT views the problem of addressing growth as disconnected from the unprecedented challenges facing us. What does it mean to envision the future with our eyes closed and our heads in the sand?

 

2. Every IGT scenario is built on doubling population and the purpose of the visioning process is to determine the preferred way this growth should happen.

Problem: If this doubling of growth does not happen, IGT will have left us less prepared to adapt to any other possible future. Planning on the basis of doubling population growth constrains the investigation of what is best for the Tucson region. Population may or may not grow as current trends are showing (See Appendix A) and far different scenarios follow from those different assumptions. In planning a sustainable future it would be prudent, considering issues of climate change and resource limitations, to be considering population “build out” or planned decrease. A doubling population may make it impossible to decrease carbon emissions enough to limit uncontrollable climate change effects – important since Tucson is frequently described as “ground zero” for the worst effects of global warming.

 

3. IGT is intended to inform the 10-year comprehensive plans of the regional jurisdictions.

Problem: If IGT is only concerned about how we shape and support growth and if growth does not happen in the next decade (See Appendix A), then what value does IGT actually offer to inform the 10-year comprehensive jurisdictional plans? Worse still is the diversion of time and energy away from addressing the coming unprecedented challenges in what may be the most critical decade of our region’s history.

IGT has surveyed the region’s “values” but again not within the present context of changing eras. These survey results can be used by the jurisdictions but they will not reflect the community’s response to what is important in a coming period of unprecedented social, environmental, and economic change. The elephant in the room that IGT does not address is how to restructure our economy without population growth being the primary economic driver.

 

4. The scope of IGT is limited to how we shape the land-uses and infrastructures for the addition of one million future residents. It is true that the existing community was asked what we value and how we should shape this future addition. But existing residents had no option to define what land-use and infrastructure options we want for ourselves.

Problem: How can we define a preferred future without including the desired changes the existing community would like to see in its mix of infrastructures, especially given that becoming more sustainable and resilient requires significant changes in existing systems? Are the existing residents’ needs and preferences for urban form not an important part of the region’s future?

 

5. The impact of debt restructuring and credit availability were not included as key indicators.

Problem: Preparing for growth and preparing for sustainability both require significant public and private investments. How can we plan for change without estimating availability of funding, especially given the unprecedented local and global credit contraction ongoing these past three years. Population increase, development, economic growth, and protecting our natural environment will all be constrained by credit availability.

 

6. Scalability of scenario features was not included as an indicator or evaluative criterion.

Problem: Regional investment capacity is inherently constrained regardless of population growth level. So it is important that for each level of actual growth, a balanced approach is taken to ensure that all infrastructure categories are adequately addressed. If the investment approach is not balanced, some systems become over-built with excess capacity and others suffer with insufficient investment and capacity. Worse yet is the lack of financial planning for maintenance and repair of both existing and newly planned infrastructures. An obvious example of the latter is our crumbling regional and neighborhood roadways described by Pima County officials as  “rapidly deteriorating”.

IGT staff response to the problematic construct of doubling population has been that if this doubling growth doesn’t happen we will simply scale the implementation of the final “preferred” scenario to what actually happens. However, if an infrastructure cannot be “smoothly” or “linearly” scaled, investment in such infrastructure may preclude other critically-needed system choices should growth not happen as projected.

Thus, the scalability value of features in the alternative scenarios should be presented so that community participants can choose their preferred scenario, in part, by the characteristic of scenario features to be scalable or adaptable to lower growth levels.

 

7.  The 3 IGT scenarios  compare indicators with the reference projection or “trend” scenario, not with current conditions.

Problem:  Because the reference scenario is constructed in such a way as to demonstrate the unsustainability of continuing “business as usual”, the alternative future scenarios automatically show “improvement” over the reference scenario.

Not comparing the 3 alternative scenarios to current conditions – conditions that people can experience and verify now – obscures the very real possibility that for important indicators like greenhouse gas emissions, the values will actually get worse not better under what becomes the final “preferred” scenario.

In the case of greenhouse gases, the goal of regional climate change mitigation planning is to reduce emissions by at least 80% below current levels. It would appear these reductions cannot be met by adding population, even at greatly improved infrastructure efficiencies.

 

Bottomline Conclusion:  The intent of the IGT project to educate the community about “smart growth” concepts and how they can be applied to jurisdictional planning is by itself a worthy effort. Unfortunately, this should have happened 10 to 15 years ago when the region was experiencing the pressures of rapid growth.  Further, these concepts have not been re-calibrated to embody new constraints such as current greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The biggest challenge now is: how do we maintain prosperity and quality of life and environment without continuous population growth and how will we adapt to the unprecedented sustainability challenges in the coming decade.

 

We invite other individuals and organizations to join us in requesting that IGT:

 

1) Directly address and facilitate greater regional understanding of the unprecedented challenges which we face including climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, food security, water use, economic crises, and conservation of our natural environment.

2) Augment its future scenarios to include at least one scenario that considers population stabilization or “build-out” at no or low growth levels.

3) Broaden the scope of participant choices to register “optimal population levels“ along with their scenario preferences.

4) Compare indicators of the alternative future scenarios to actual current conditions, not hypothetical projections.

To support and add your endorsement of this proposal, please post a comment below.

 

Appendix A: Evidence that a new era without growth has begun

The IGT Project’s assertions that regional population “is projected to double in the coming decades” or more recently,  “is expected to grow by as many as 1 million people during this century” are misleading and not substantiated by any facts. At recent rates of change, our population would not even double in a hundred years – a timeframe that climate change and resource depletion research indicate would likely be unfavorable for growth.

For many decades up until five years ago, Arizona and the Tucson region did double their populations at rapid rates: every 20 and 35 years respectively. A major task for every jurisdiction was to manage the pressures and impacts of this growth dynamic. But the rapid growth era has ended as we find increasing evidence that the factors governing growth have indeed changed.

For four years, Americans have been moving less, driving less, and in great numbers, walking away from homes worth less than the mortgage obligation.  The 2010 US Census shows that the Tucson region had less population in 2010 than the 1 million 2006 population estimate. CNBC News recently named Tucson, “The Emptiest City in America” because of high apartment and home vacancies. UA economist Marshall Vest recently revealed that the Tucson region lost net population in 2011.

Declining regional home prices have erased ten years of gains and experts conclude that the local housing market will never return to past levels of activity. All of this points to the likelihood of a  “growthless” decade ahead, perhaps even longer.

www.SustainableTucson.org

What Are We Planning For? – A New Advocacy Initiative

A Sustainable Tucson Issues Paper
March 2012

Since Imagine Greater Tucson’s initiating phase began more than three years ago, Sustainable Tucson has been engaged with Imagine Greater Tucson at many levels, participating in the steering, community values, outreach, and technical committees. Imagine Greater Tucson has consistently requested input and Sustainable Tucson has tried to contribute ideas in order to make IGT a more relevant and successful visioning process for the Tucson region. The following text summarizes seven key issues which Sustainable Tucson has previously presented and which the IGT process has yet to address. This document concludes with four specific requests to modify the Imagine Greater Tucson Project…

Go here to read and comment on “What Are We Planning For?

Also see Reconsider RTA Broadway Project – Public press conference – April 30

and the Sustainable Tucson general meeting, ST May Meeting – Prosperity Without Growth – May 14

Pima County Food Systems Alliance – Meeting & Potluck – January 31

On January 31st, there will be a meeting of the Pima County Food Systems Alliance, at Tucson Village Farm, 4210 N Campbell Ave

The Pima County Food Systems Alliance (PCFSA) is an open membership network comprised of a variety of groups and individuals—including but not limited to farmers, chefs, restaurants, schools, educators, youth, gardeners, researchers, food banks, health professionals, attorneys, nonprofits, activists, and consumers.  The Alliance works in a collaborative manner to serve as a space to invite discussion and foster learning and education for those who are directly affected by food insecurity, as well as legislative decision makers about food policy.

Also see the new PCFSA website at http://pimafoodalliance.org/ and PCFSA on Facebook

ST January Meeting – Topics and Working Groups for 2012

at Joel D. Valdez Main Library
101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

ST December 2011 Meeting

How do we “green” our homes and neighborhoods?
How do we work together and contribute to each other?
How do we prepare for climate change?

Join us on January 9th to learn of some exciting efforts now underway in your home town to prepare for the challenges ahead.  A half-dozen of the most innovative and effective people in Tucson will distill their ideas for a sustainable Tucson into concise presentations to ignite your own ideas and enthusiasm…

» Karin Uhlich (Tucson City Council) – Re-establishing PRO Neighborhoods
» Bob Cook (NEST, Inc) – Green re-development initiative
» Dan Dorsey (Pima Community College) – Co-op Permaculture projects program
» Winona Smith (Tucson Time Traders) – Time Banking and local communities
» Tres English (Empowering Local Communities) – Secure food supply
» Ron Proctor (Sustainable Tucson) – Mobilizing for climate change

… and we’ll have a review of working group topics and project ideas from discussion tables in the ST December meeting, including

Recycling / Waste management
Composting toilets
Water use
Water harvesting
Solar Hot Water / Energy / Gas
Paradigm change
Land use planning (density, etc.)
Climate Change – Reducing greenhouse gases
Defining sustainability & adopting it legally
Food security

(This is not a complete list and can be added to… please use the comment form for this page!)

Sustainable Tucson is committed to engaging our audience in a participatory process. Following the presentations, we will ask everyone to engage in table discussions focusing on what actions we can take to make Tucson a more vibrant and sustainable community. Actions might be in the form of policy development, support of on-going projects, or the initiation of new projects.

The ideas generated will be used to develop topics and working groups for future Sustainable Tucson meetings, where in-depth presentations and audience discussions will continue. The goal is to create projects and initiatives that we believe will build our resilience as a Desert People.

also see recent 2011 Sustainable Tucson meetings,

ST December Meeting – The Politics of Sustainability
ST November Meeting – Food Security
ST October Meeting – Water Priorities
ST September Meeting – Non-GMO Food
ST August Meeting – Natural Building in the Desert
and an index of past ST Monthly / General Meetings

Doors open at 5:30 pm.
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Dreaming New Mexico – Peter Warshall – TEDxABQ video

Dreaming New Mexico has built a map of pragmatic and visionary solutions to create a more localized and green economy with greater local self-reliance and enhanced prosperity.

Peter Warshall is Co-Director of the Bioneers’ Dreaming New Mexico Project, and a world-renowned water steward, biodiversity and wildlife specialist, research scientist, conservationist, and environmental activist.

from 2011 September TEDx in Albuquerque New Mexico, posted to YouTube Nov 22 by TEDx
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbyIlbt5_3g

Inside Tucson’s Civano Project

Inside the Civano Project: A Case Study of Large-Scale Sustainable Neighborhood Development (Mcgraw-Hill’s Greensource Series) 2009

By C. Alan Nichols and Jason A. Laros

Forward by Sustainable Tucson — Co-Founder Bob Cook

Forward

The following story is about a group of people who recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and took it upon themselves to reinvent the future and work for its realization.  The great vision of this project was understood long before those still preoccupied with the status quo could accept its premise. Yet, the story unfolds despite all the resistance and pitfalls in its path.  While the final outcome was never assured, the dream and ultimate value of this opportunity would never be shaken.

 

And so this is the story of the Tucson Solar Village Project later to be renamed Civano.

 

The 1970s was a decade much like the present period – a protracted energy crisis, a long global recession, major changes in our monetary system, high unemployment, conflict and wars, heightened global competition for resources and markets, price inflation, and growing interest in solar energy and new, more efficient technologies. In short, the world was burdened with uncertainty but also drawn to the possibilities of great and needed change.

 

The key scientific finding during the seventies was that Planet Earth is a finite system and that unconstrained growth would lead to dangerous resource shortages and degradation  of natural systems. When the bad news would arrive in the future – when the limits to growth would be reached  — was debated endlessly among “experts.”  However, in everyday terms, these limits seemed so far off in time that more immediate, pressing issues absorbed most peoples’ attention. Except for a relatively small community of scientists and environmental thinkers, the value of alternatives to growth was very low. Why pursue sustainability when the presumed nature of the economy and the world’s capacities is to always grow.

 

In the United States, the seeds of the sustainable development movement germinated in the seventies in response to these scientific findings and the social and cultural fallout from economic instability. For those of us who came to see this coming paradigmatic change, many would have to carry this knowledge patiently into the eighties and nineties before the time was right to actually work on planning, engineering, and building a different world.

 

The story of Civano is a story of many diverse people and events coming together at different points in time to move forward the proposition that now is the time for a prototype sustainable community development. The designs changed and evolved, but the vision was always a comprehensive treatment of all functions of the human built environment in harmony with the natural cycles of energy, water, materials, and eco-systems.

 

When this opportunity appeared to the first wave of Tucson innovators in the 1980s, it was clear that the next evolutionary phase was beginning. We would lead the first major  experiment in the desert Southwest for learning how to create a community land development based on regenerative cycles and significantly reduced resource consumption.  The promise of wide-scale utilization of solar energy in the future would be furthered by this single venture in a new approach to development.

 

The chronology of  Civano spans three decades with important milestones achieved in each.  At many points, the realization of the dream stood in doubt as challenges overwhelmed the participants and the institutions backing its progress. But key actors always kept the effort moving forward up to its current state as a living, breathing place where people and families live their lives.

 

An experiment should never be labeled either a success or failure because the underlying purpose of an experiment is to test hypotheses and learn about something which often has never been attempted before. Civano provides us with a unique set of valuable lessons for designing ongoing responses to the intensifying sustainability crises unfolding all around us.

 

The story of Civano is ultimately a story of local heroes carrying forward a noble and important mission. In particular, I want to acknowledge Al Nichols, engineer extraordinaire, for his many roles throughout the past two decades in bringing Civano into being and making its beneficial lessons available to all those now and in the future who will take on the next critical sustainability challenges.

 

Robert Cook,

Former Chair, Tucson-Pima Metropolitan Energy Commission

Co-Founder, Sustainable Tucson

March 2009

Pima County Food Systems Alliance – Meeting & Potluck – Nov 30

On November 30th (this Wednesday) from 6-8 pm, there will be a large group meeting of the Pima County Food Systems Alliance (PCFSA) with a potluck at the Sam Lena Library (1607 S. 6th Ave, Tucson; call 520.594.5265 for directions)

The Agenda is as follows:

  1. Welcome & Introduction (Nick) (5 min; 6:00-6:05)
  2. Presentation by PCFSA Consultants (Bryn/Lewis) (25 min; 6:05-6:30)
  3. Break & Get Food; Potluck (5 min; 6:30-6:35)
  4. Workgroup Activity (Bryn/Lewis) (1 hour; 6:35-7:35)
  5. Activity: Getting involved in the Policy Process (Jaime) (5 min; 7:35-7:45)
  6. Next Steps (Lewis) (15 min; 7:45-8:00)

Bring your friends & colleagues, plus a taste of your favorite or signature Thanksgiving dish.  And check out our Facebook page!

The Pima County Food Systems Alliance is an open membership network comprised of a variety of groups and individuals—including but not limited to farmers, chefs, restaurants, schools, educators, youth, gardeners, researchers, food banks, health professionals, attorneys, nonprofits, activists, and consumers.  The Alliance works in a collaborative manner to serve as a space to invite discussion and foster learning and education for those who are directly affected by food insecurity, as well as legislative decision makers about food policy.

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City
By Andrew Ross

PHOENIX

The struggle to slow global warming will be won or lost in cities, which emit 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So “greening” the city is all the rage now. But if policy makers end up focusing only on those who can afford the low-carbon technologies associated with the new environmental conscientiousness, the movement for sustainability may end up exacerbating climate change rather than ameliorating it.

While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing. In 2009, Mayor Phil Gordon announced plans to make Phoenix the “greenest city” in the United States. Eyebrows were raised, and rightly so. According to the state’s leading climatologist, central Arizona is in the “bull’s eye” of climate change, warming up and drying out faster than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southwest has been on a drought watch 12 years and counting, despite outsized runoff last winter to the upper Colorado River, a major water supply for the subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun.

Across that valley lies 1,000 square miles of low-density tract housing, where few signs of greening are evident. That’s no surprise, given the economic free fall of a region that had been wholly dependent on the homebuilding industry. Property values in parts of metro Phoenix have dropped by 80 percent, and some neighborhoods are close to being declared “beyond recovery.”

In the Arizona Legislature, talk of global warming is verboten and Republican lawmakers can be heard arguing for the positive qualities of greenhouse gases. Most politicians are still praying for another housing boom on the urban fringe; they have no Plan B, least of all a low-carbon one. Mr. Gordon, a Democrat who took office in 2004, has risen to the challenge. But the vast inequalities of the metro area could blunt the impact of his sustainability plans.

Those looking for ecotopia can find pockets of it in the prosperous upland enclaves of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and North Phoenix. Hybrid vehicles, LEED-certified custom homes with solar roofs and xeriscaped yards, which do not require irrigation, are popular here, and voter support for the preservation of open space runs high. By contrast, South Phoenix is home to 40 percent of the city’s hazardous industrial emissions and America’s dirtiest ZIP code, while the inner-ring Phoenix suburbs, as a legacy of cold-war era industries, suffer from some of the worst groundwater contamination in the nation.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent. Phoenix’s fledgling light-rail system should be expanded to serve more diverse neighborhoods, and green jobs should be created in the central city, not the sprawling suburbs. Arizona has some of the best solar exposure in the world, but it allows monopolistic utilities to impose a regressive surcharge on all customers to subsidize roof-panel installation by the well-heeled ones. Instead of green modifications to master-planned communities at the urban fringe, there should be concerted “infill” investment in central city areas now dotted with vacant lots.

In a desert metropolis, the choice between hoarding and sharing has consequences for all residents. Their predecessors — the Hohokam people, irrigation farmers who subsisted for over a thousand years around a vast canal network in the Phoenix Basin — faced a similar test, and ultimately failed. The remnants of Hohokam canals and pit houses are a potent reminder of ecological collapse; no other American city sits atop such an eloquent allegory.

Published 11-6-2011, The New York Times

Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and author of Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Sustainability Lessons for the United States


How Germany became Europe’s green leader: A look at four decades of sustainable policymaking

by Ralph Buehler, Arne Jungjohann, Melissa Keeley, Michael Mehling

In Brief

Over the last 40 years, all levels of government in Germany have retooled policies to promote growth that is more environmentally sustainable. Germany’s experiences can provide useful lessons for the United States (and other nations) as policymakers consider options for “green” economic transformation. Our analysis focuses on four case studies from Germany in the areas of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation. We show how political challenges to the implementation of green policies were overcome and how sustainability programs were made politically acceptable at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Within the three highlighted sectors, we identify potential opportunities and barriers to policy transfer from Germany to the United States, concluding with specific lessons for policy development and implementation.

Key Concepts

  • Germany’s experience with policies aimed at “greening” the economy provides several lessons for the United States about how to make sustainability politically acceptable in a federal system of government:
  • Start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope. Successful pilot projects were expanded in stages over time.
  • There is no silver bullet. Policies have to be coordinated and integrated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness.
  • Foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes.
  • Find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. Successful green policies in Germany were designed to meet the needs of multiple constituents.

How does one “green” an economy? For governments seeking a cleaner, more efficient, and ultimately more sustainable pathway to economic prosperity, this question entails both promise and great challenges. For one, the scale of transformation it requires is exceptionally daunting: in his 2011 State of the Union speech, for instance, President Barack Obama called on the United States to generate 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources and to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, both within 25 years.1 Compared to where the country stands now, these objectives presuppose unprecedented levels of investment in new infrastructure, new technologies, and relevant skills and education; yet at the same time, they also hold the prospect of new opportunities for job growth, innovation, industrial efficiency, and energy independence. With that in mind, one will invariably wonder, is such a transformation feasible at a time of constrained public budgets and slowly recovering economies? And perhaps more importantly, are the expected benefits of such a green transformation compelling enough to persuade a public that is exposed to conflicting messages about the underlying rationale, is critical of new regulation and expenditure, and generally is disillusioned with political authority?

Fortunately, the green transformation of economies is no longer a theoretical concept. Several nations have put the green economy to the test. While far from being the only country to venture down this path, Germany has earned wide recognition for its successful alignment of prosperous and sustainable growth. Unlike many of its European neighbors, Germany has emerged from the recent recession with a robust economy, thanks in large part to flourishing exports. Germany has a dominant market share in various green technologies as well as a substantial part of its workforce employed in the environmental sector.2 Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen in absolute terms, effectively decoupling economic growth from Germany’s environmental footprint.

Admittedly, not all factors contributing to this success story can be replicated in other countries and regions: challenged with scarce natural resources and a high population density, Germans have traditionally been forced to embrace sustainability in virtually all facets of economic activity, from land use to transportation. Historical transition processes, such as postwar reconstruction and, more recently, the reunification of East and West Germany, also resulted in the renewal of infrastructure and replacement of outdated industrial facilities.

Still, the greening of the German economy is also unmistakably the product of several decades of targeted policy design and implementation, particularly in the past decade. Policies related to environmental protection and resource conservation have been mainstreamed in all areas of economic activity and have been described by a former government minister as central to Germany’s recent success: “green policy is merely good industrial policy.”3 Drawing on a series of relevant case studies, this article shows that the transformation witnessed in Germany would not have been conceivable without the policy decisions that preceded it. Each case study—energy taxation, renewable-energy promotion, green infrastructure, and sustainable transportation—offers valuable insights into how to design and implement green policies.

Photo: Green roofs like this one in Berlin, Germany, support specialized, hearty vegetation and provide environmental services such as stormwater retention, urban heat island effect amelioration, habitat for urban wildlife, and energy savings resulting from better thermal insulation.

Pricing Energy for Jobs and Resource Conservation: Germany’s Energy Tax Reform

After months of heated political debate, especially regarding the role of nuclear power in Germany’s energy mix, the federal government adopted its new Energy Concept document in September 2010, setting out a broad framework for German energy policy until 2050. Developed by the ruling center-right coalition, this document aims at turning Germany into one of the “most energy efficient and greenest economies in the world, while enjoying competitive energy prices and a high level of prosperity.”4 In line with a campaign pledge set out in the government’s coalition agreement, the new energy policy defines ambitious targets for the medium and longer term: primary energy consumption is to fall by 20 percent from 2008 levels by 2020, and at least 50 percent by 2050; renewable energy is to account for 18 percent of final energy consumption in 2020, and at least 80 percent of electricity consumption in 2050; and greenhouse gas emissions are to see cuts of 40 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050, both relative to 1990 levels.

Energy pricing through taxes and other fiscal instruments has traditionally held a prominent position in the German energy policy mix. As any visitor to Germany will be quick to notice, gasoline prices are significantly higher than in most other regions: in early 2011, a gallon of regular gasoline cost over U.S.$7, more than double the average price in the United States. The price difference is almost entirely due to higher tax rates on oil and other fuels, a system of excise taxes that dates back to prewar Germany and has since been harmonized at the European level. It was not until the late 1990s, however, that energy taxation also became a vehicle for Germany’s green agenda. In 1998, a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Green Party members pledged to introduce new fiscal instruments to reduce the tax burden on labor and shift part of it to energy consumption. This campaign promise sought to harness the multiple dividends invoked by advocates of environmental taxes, including greater flexibility and cost efficiency than traditional regulation, incentives to develop innovative clean technologies, and the ability to raise revenues for public investments or tax cuts in other areas, such as labor costs.5

In 1999, the German legislature passed the Ecological Tax Reform Act, which mandated gradual increases in the tax rates on oil and gas and introduced a new levy on electricity.6 This initiative was by no means uncontroversial. From the outset, it encountered public opposition triggered by rising prices for crude oil and concerns over industrial competitiveness. Resistance to this measure was, in fact, so great that many observers expected the energy tax project to be a casualty of partisan politics. And yet, in 2006, new legislation by the European Union and a change of government in Germany, coupled with a yawning gap in the federal budget, heralded a new chapter in German energy taxation. That year, the legislature adopted a comprehensive Energy Tax Act, setting up a common fiscal framework for energy products through harmonized definitions, taxation rules, and exemptions.7 This important step led to a complete revision of the framework for energy taxation in Germany, effectively ending years of deadlock in Parliament; but critics were also quick to say it would do little to help transform the German economy. Nearly half a decade later, what has the German energy tax reform achieved?

A Positive Macroeconomic Balance

Between 1999 and 2003, Germany’s energy tax reform resulted in a gradual increase in energy costs. A number of exceptions motivated by social and economic considerations were initially included to safeguard the competitiveness of the manufacturing, agricultural, and forestry sectors and to avoid undue hardship for lower-income households. Overall, however, the fiscal burden resulting from the energy tax reform has been moderate compared to already existing taxes: for instance, only €0.15 of the €0.66 currently charged as taxes on every liter of gasoline is a result of the tax reform, with the far greater share originating in the excise taxes already imposed prior to 1999. Altogether, the share of environmentally motivated taxes in the overall tax revenue only rose from 5.2 percent in 1998 to 6.5 percent in 2003 and has since declined again to 5.3 percent in 2008, nearly the level where it started in 1999.8 Not only does this reflect the fact that other tax categories—notably value-added taxation—have seen greater increases in recent years, but it also is a direct consequence of changing energy consumption patterns.

Fossil fuel consumption has continually declined in Germany since the introduction of the energy tax reform. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, gasoline consumption in 2000 decreased by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year, and it continued to decrease in 2001 and 2002 by 3 and 3.3 percent, respectively, exceeding the previous average reduction of 2 percent due to general improvements in vehicle technology and transportation planning. The targeted increase in energy costs has also created an identifiable incentive for behavioral change in other sectors, encouraging deployment of energy-efficient technologies and processes, including alternative energy sources. Reductions of CO2 emissions are estimated to have reached 3 percent annually, equivalent to 24 million metric tons of CO2.9 At the same time, revenues of the energy tax reform have been almost fully returned to taxpayers, with the largest share used for a gradual reduction of social security contributions. In 2003, for instance, roughly €16.1 billion raised through the tax reform was used to reduce and stabilize nonwage labor costs, allowing pension contributions to be lowered by 1.7 percent.10 With hiring rendered less expensive, the energy tax reform has helped promote employment and has contributed to the creation of an estimated 250,000 new jobs. A smaller fraction of proceeds has been used to subsidize the deployment of renewable-energy projects and the modernization of buildings.

Lessons from Energy Pricing in Germany

Like everywhere else, taxes are a politically sensitive issue in Germany. Unsurprisingly, opponents of the energy tax reform—including the current ruling coalition—were quick to launch a determined media campaign against the proposed legislation. Given the complexities of its design, it was easy for critics to portray the tax reform as a mere increase in the fiscal burden, while downplaying or disputing the accompanying reduction in labor costs and expected employment benefits. Germany’s parliamentary system and its strict party discipline allowed the governing coalition at the time to pass the tax reform against partisan resistance. In countries with different legislative processes, that option may not be available. Ironically, the need to close a growing budget deficit has made the current conservative government, previously an ardent adversary of environmentally motivated taxes, now dependent on the revenue created by the energy tax. As the rationale and benefits of the tax reform have become more widely known, there has been greater public acceptance of the incremental increase in energy cost.

Fea_Germany_Figure2.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. The light rail system in the car-free city center of Freiburg, Germany. In the mid-1970s Freiburg was the first German city to ban cars from a network of streets in its city center.

It stands to reason that better communication in the initial stages of the tax reform could have alleviated some of the early concerns. Also, its portrayal as an environmentally motivated tax may have incurred avoidable partisan strife; focusing on the innovation and employment benefits of the proposed tax may have been strategically preferable. And clearly, a gradual and transparent trajectory of rate hikes was of central importance in making the tax reform acceptable in the first place. Ultimately, however, the positive outcome of the tax reform is the most compelling lesson from the German experience: contrary to the early fears, behavioral change and innovation prompted by the rising energy prices have actually strengthened the German economy. Energy-efficient technologies are now among the fastest-growing export products, and the incentive to reduce energy use has helped the German economy become more resilient to fluctuations in global oil and gas prices. Overall, greater efficiency throughout the economy has translated into lower energy costs for households and industry. Despite significantly higher energy tax rates, average German utility bills and fuel expenditures tend to match or lie below those seen in the United States. As the Federal Environmental Agency has concluded, the Ecological Tax Reform Act delivered on its promise of improved labor conditions and greater sustainability, resulting in what the agency describes—in a typically German understatement—as a “positive macroeconomic balance.”11

Promoting Renewable Energy

As a member state of the European Union (EU), Germany’s energy policies are driven by a mix of national and European legislation. Formally, the 27 EU member states regulate energy policies within their own national borders. However, EU treaty provisions concerning the European internal market, free competition, and environmental protection have created a European energy policy.12

In 2009, a major piece of renewable-energy legislation was passed as part of an overall climate and energy package. The European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive13 requires each member state to increase its share of renewable energy—such as solar, wind power, biomass, or hydroelectric—to raise the overall share from 8.5 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2020 across all sectors (e.g., power generation, heating and cooling, and transportation fuels).

Achievements in Renewable Energy

Germany has seen a remarkable expansion of renewable energy in the last decade. The share of renewable energy in electricity generation rose from 6 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2009.14 Over this time, the German government revised its own targets twice, given that previous targets had been exceeded ahead of schedule. The German government is expecting a share of 38 percent renewable power by 2020 and continues to drive the transformation “towards an energy system based completely on renewable energies.”15,16

The economic benefits of this development are impressive. By 2010, the field of renewable-energy-related jobs employed around 340,000 people, most of them in biomass, wind power, and solar.17 In comparison, the German lignite industry employs only 50,000 people—from mining to the power plant.18 The key policy responsible for this success is the Renewable Energy Sources Act, first enacted in April 2000.19 This feed-in tariff policy is embedded in a climate and energy policy framework that promotes renewable energy and efficiency technologies, including laws to encourage combined-heat-and-power plants, a cap and trade system, the energy tax reform described earlier in the article, and several additional measures. The next planned revision to the law will aim to incentivize grid access and grid improvement, offshore wind power, and technologies for peak management and power storage.20

Comparison with Renewable-Energy Practice in the United States

The United States currently employs a mix of short-term tax credits, loan guarantees, state-level renewable portfolio standards, and limited feed-in tariffs. In contrast to Germany, the U.S. policy framework has evolved less quickly at the federal level, where time horizons have been shorter-term. The uncertainty engendered by this short-term policy framework has led to repeated falloffs in renewable-energy capacity additions in the United States as support measures have neared expiration.21 For example, in contrast to Germany, new wind turbine construction in America has fluctuated greatly from year to year, because incentives have repeatedly expired.22 Even with this policy uncertainty, however, the United States in 2008 still led the world in total installed wind-power capacity, with 20.8 percent.23 In 2008, renewable energy provided 9 percent of electricity production in the United States, with large-scale hydropower being the largest source.24

Fea_Germany_Figure3.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Cyclists on Freiburg’s car-free Wiwili bridge. The bridge was closed to cars in the early 2000s and is now open only to cyclists and pedestrians.

In many ways, the United States relies more on a state-level approach through renewable portfolio standards to increase renewable-energy capacity. These standards require power companies to provide a certain proportion of electricity from renewable-energy sources. Currently, renewable portfolio standards regulations apply in 29 states and in the District of Columbia; five additional states have established targets for renewable expansion.25 In many cases, long-term supply contracts for green power have been signed. Typical target percentages for green power are 15 percent for 2015, 20 percent for 2020, and 25 percent for 2025. These figures are significantly lower than the target set in Europe (21 percent for 2010).26

Feed-in tariff policies, the most common renewable-energy policy in the world,27 are slowly spreading in the United States. In most cases, these policies guarantee grid access and a 20-year premium contract for renewable energy technologies. As of January 2011, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Hawaii, and Vermont have adopted feed-in tariff policies based on the cost of generation. Maine and California have also adopted a light version of a feed-in tariff, though in California legal struggles are being fought. In addition, representatives in ten different state legislatures have proposed different feed-in tariff models.28

Transferable Lessons for Renewable Energy in the United States

The German success in rapid renewable-energy deployment relies on a robust feed-in tariff law and an overall comprehensive climate and energy framework with a long-term perspective. This policy environment comes with streamlined administrative procedures that help shorten lead times and bureaucratic overhead and that minimize project costs. All of the above create a high investment certainty that the United States overall and most of its states independently currently lack.

Given the abundance of natural resources (e.g., wind, biomass, solar) in the United States, the deployment of renewable energy should be cheaper than in Germany, which has an average solar input close to that of Alaska (and Iowa’s cornfields alone, which could be used for biogas production, are double the size of Germany’s agricultural land).29

Across the political spectrum, all major German parties support an industrial transformation toward a low-carbon economy, and there is a strong consensus concerning the need to address climate change. Constituent groups from both the progressive (e.g., renewable-energy industry) and conservative side (e.g., farm community) benefit from this approach. The understanding is that strong environmental policies drive ecological modernization and create new market opportunities. Germany as an export-oriented country aims to sell the solutions to a carbon-constrained and high-energy-price world.30 By contrast, the United States lags behind, where political debates over climate-change-related policy actions are hindering opportunities and leadership in this arena. As long as the public perceives a trade-off between environmental regulation and industrial competitiveness, it will be extremely difficult for the United States to fundamentally turn toward a low-carbon economy. U.S. policymakers should adjust elements of a feed-in tariff policy to regional contexts to drive rapid growth in renewable-electricity markets, to promote strong manufacturing industries, and to create new jobs in a cost-effective manner.

Encouraging Green Infrastructure

Over the past 40 years, northern Europe, and Germany in particular, has been a hotbed for the innovation and application of green technologies to enhance the urban environment.31 These technologies, sometimes referred to as green infrastructure or low-impact development, include such innovations as green roofs, green facades, and permeable pavements. They mimic the natural processes of soils and vegetation to provide “environmental services” such as stormwater management, urban heat island amelioration, and habitat, even in dense urban areas.32–38 What is clear is that the proliferation of green roofs and other green infrastructure in Germany has been supported by a complex assortment of incentives and requirements at multiple levels of government.31 Significantly, federal nature-protection laws and building codes require “compensation,” or restoration, for human impairment of natural landscapes and of environmental services in greenfield developments (development on previously undeveloped land).39 In many cases, green infrastructure techniques can be used to fulfill these requirements. Federal laws also require that German states create landscape plans.40 As a result, German states have innovated a variety of approaches to environmental protection, many of which have involved elements that first incentivized and later required the creation and maintenance of green infrastructure.

Fea_Germany_Figure4.jpg
Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Potsdamer Plaz is an office, entertainment, and retail center at the heart of Berlin, raised during World War II and then redeveloped after the reunification of east and west Berlin in 1990. This mixed-use site features an elaborate, naturalistic stormwater retention system designed to minimize the burden on the city’s existing water infrastructure. The system incorporates green roofs (seen here) on most buildings in the complex to reduce stormwater runoff.

In addition to this, a series of German federal and state court rulings beginning in the 1970s have required increased transparency and equitable rate structures for stormwater services.41 As a result, the majority of German households are charged for stormwater services based on an estimate of the stormwater burden generated from their properties. This approach of individual parcel assessments (IPAs) differs from the approach used in the United States, where the same charges are levied on all parcels or all parcels of the same class (such as residential). Since IPAs in Germany are used to assess fees that relate directly to conditions present on specific parcels, and because land-use decisions (like paving a driveway or installing a green roof) have major impacts on the amount of stormwater leaving a property, this approach creates incentives for individuals to incorporate green infrastructure on their properties.41

Comparison with Green Infrastructure Practice in the United States

While there is interest in the multiple benefits of green infrastructure in the United States, green infrastructure techniques have gained recent attention in relation to stormwater management. Federal Clean Water Act programs require that local governments overhaul stormwater-management strategies to protect and improve surface-water quality.42 The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, for instance, has already invested U.S.$3.1 billion in a multiphase tunnel and reservoir plan to improve stormwater management.43 To raise needed funds, the creation of stormwater utilities and the assessment of stormwater fees are becoming increasingly widespread. To date, however, the vast majority of U.S. cities have chosen to assess stormwater fees on a class basis; they assess the same fee to all parcels within a given class based on the average stormwater burden their property type contributes.44 This methodology is used almost exclusively for residential parcels and greatly simplifies billing.

Transferable Lessons for Green Infrastructure in the United States

While the United States has focused attention on green infrastructure in relation to stormwater, most U.S. municipalities currently lack the kind of overlapping, reinforcing incentives and requirements that have led to the prominence of these techniques in Germany. This is particularly important given the multiple benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and enhancement of urban quality of life.

Focusing on stormwater management specifically, however, there are further lessons that the United States could draw from German experience with parcel-level assessments, or IPAs. Specifically, this approach might improve watershed planning and stormwater management and address the public relations needs of cash-strapped water-management authorities in three ways: (1) data from IPAs could increase public awareness of human impacts on watersheds; (2) this detailed information could inform watershed planning; and (3) this data could be the basis of fee systems designed to create incentives for on-site stormwater management where cost effective.41

In Berlin, public participation in assessing IPAs is credited with helping the public understand the connections between land-use decisions on their own property and environmental problems in local lakes and rivers. IPAs also provide detailed spatial information about impervious surfaces and their connectedness to the storm sewer system. The latter can only be assessed through on-site surveys, and thus it is otherwise rarely available to engineers and planners. Since connected impervious surface coverage is such a key variable in estimating stormwater burden, this information could enhance watershed planning and the development of stormwater models designed to optimize the efficiency of existing systems.41,45

Fea_Germany_Figure5.jpg
Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Stormwater runoff in Potsdamer Plaz is collected in this pond. Vegetation on the banks of the pond and other treatments are used to purify and remove nutrients from the water, which is then reused in a grey water system for toilet flushing, irrigation, and fire systems within the complex.

Ascertaining each property’s share of the stormwater burden effectively turns what is a diffuse, nonpoint pollution source into a point-source problem. Such a fee-assessment system makes it possible to reduce fees for parcels that manage stormwater with green infrastructure or other best practices. IPAs could, therefore, create a foundation for economic incentives, such as a fee-and-subsidy system or emissions trading, to encourage green infrastructure where it can cost-effectively manage stormwater.46 A significant obstacle to this in the United States is the low rate currently charged for stormwater removal.47 It could prove politically and legally difficult for U.S. stormwater utilities to charge fees high enough to serve as incentives for on-site stormwater management.48

Implementing Sustainable Transportation

Governments at federal, state, and local levels in Germany determine the sustainability of the transportation system. Federal gasoline taxes, sales taxes, and regulations make automobile use and ownership expensive and encourage demand for less polluting and smaller cars. In 2008, sales taxes on automobiles in Germany were three times higher than in the United States, and gasoline taxes were nine times higher.49–53 However, higher gasoline taxes do not translate to higher household expenditures for transportation in Germany compared to the United States. Germans own fewer and more energy efficient cars and drive fewer miles than Americans. Thus, in 2008 transportation accounted for roughly 14 percent of household expenditures in Germany, compared to about 19 percent in the United States. The German federal government provides dedicated matching funds for investments in local public transportation. Flexible federal matching funds for local transportation improvements can also be used for local public transportation, walking, and cycling projects.54 German states distribute federal funds for regional rail systems and coordinate public transportation services statewide.55 Many German states set minimum parking requirements for local developments. Federal and state governments provide the framework for more-sustainable transportation, but cities have played a crucial role in developing and implementing innovative policies (see Box).

The Freiburg Model of Transport Sustainability

Since the late 1960s, the city of Freiburg (population 220,000) has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable transport.1,2 Since then, the number of trips by bicycle has tripled, transit ridership has doubled, and the share of trips by car has fallen from 38 to 32 percent. Since the early 1990s, the level of motorization has stagnated and per capita CO2 emissions from transportation have fallen, in spite of strong economic and population growth. Up to the late 1960s, Freiburg promoted greenfield development, widened streets, abandoned trolley lines, and built car parking lots. Motorization increased rapidly, transit ridership plummeted, and the city was sprawling. Air pollution, traffic fatalities, and traffic congestion caused by cars and other environmental concerns shifted public opinion away from automobile-centered growth.2 Freiburg achieved a more sustainable transportation system by (1) successfully integrating land-use and transportation planning, (2) coordinating and integrating public transportation regionally, (3) promoting bicycling, (4) restricting automobile use, and (5) encouraging citizen participation throughout the process.2,3

Integrating Transportation and Land-Use Planning

Even though Freiburg started implementing sustainable transportation policies in the early 1970s—such as creating pedestrian zones in the downtown area—there was no formal link between land use and transportation planning. The two have become more formally coordinated since then. The comprehensive transportation plan of 1979 called for explicit integration of both planning sectors. The land-use plan of 1981 prescribed that new development was to be concentrated along public transportation corridors. In 2006, two-thirds of Freiburg’s residents’ jobs were located within a quarter mile of a light-rail stop.2

Freiburg’s most recent land-use and transportation plans in 2008 were developed simultaneously and are fully integrated. Both reiterate the goals of reducing car use and favor central mixed-use development over settlements on the suburban fringe. Vauban and Rieselfeld, two new inner suburbs built around light-rail line extensions, are good examples for today’s complete integration of transportation and land-use planning. Both communities are compactly laid out and mix residential, commercial, educational, and recreational land uses. Car access and parking are limited, and streets are traffic-calmed with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour, or even 7 kilometers per hour, to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists, and playing children.2

Expanding and Coordinating Public Transportation Services

In the early 1970s, the city decided to expand its public transportation network, but it took until 1983 before the first new light-rail line was added to the existing 14 kilometers of track. Since then, Freiburg has opened four new lines for a total of 36.4 kilometers in 2008, and the amount of light-rail service has tripled. In 1984, Freiburg’s public transportation system offered Germany’s first monthly ticket—transferable to other users.4 In 1991, the geographic coverage of the ticket was expanded to include the city and two adjacent counties. Services, fares, subsidies, and timetables for bus and rail operators are coordinated regionally. The monthly ticket offers unlimited public transportation travel within the entire region for about U.S.$60. Over 90 percent of passengers have monthly or annual tickets.2,3 Due to the high demand, Freiburg’s transit system has become one of the most financially efficient in Germany—requiring operating subsidies of only 10 percent (compared to 65 percent for public transit systems in the United States).4

Making Cycling a Viable Transportation Alternative for All Trips

Separate bike infrastructure and cyclist-friendly streets make the bicycle a feasible option for all trips and all destinations in Freiburg. Since the early 1970s, Freiburg has expanded its network of separate bike paths and lanes fivefold to 160 kilometers in 2007. This network is complemented by bike routes through forests, traffic-calmed roads, and bicycle streets. Additionally, the city has traffic-calmed almost all residential streets. In 2008, nine out of ten Freiburgers lived on streets with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour or less. Slow automobile speeds encourage more cycling and make it safer. The total number of bike trips in Freiburg has nearly tripled since 1976—amounting to almost one bike trip per inhabitant per day in 2007.2

The city requires bike parking in all new buildings with two or more apartments, as well as in schools, universities, and businesses. Between 1987 and 2009, the number of bike parking spaces in downtown and at transit stops increased significantly—including a major bike parking garage at the main train station, with space for 1,000 bikes.2

Restricting Automobile Use

Many of the policies that promote public transportation, bicycling, and walking involve restrictions on car use—such as car-free zones and traffic-calmed neighborhoods.2,5 Freiburg’s official goal is to reduce car use wherever practical and to accommodate automobile trips that cannot be made by any other mode. Thus, the city combines disincentives to use cars in the town center and residential neighborhoods with improvement of arterials in various ways (such as widening) to increase their carrying capacity. Freiburg’s parking policy is designed to make car use less convenient and more expensive. Parking garages are relegated to the periphery of the city center, which was converted to pedestrian use in the early 1970s. In many residential neighborhoods, parking is reserved for residents only and requires a special permit. On-street parking in commercial areas of the city becomes more expensive with proximity to the center.2,5

Citizen Involvement

Since the 1970s, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.2 Moreover, Freiburg’s latest land-use plan has been developed with sustained input from 900 citizens, 19 neighboring municipalities, and 12 special-purpose governments in the region. Citizen involvement and public discourse has kept the environmental benefits and sustainability of the transportation system in the news for decades in Freiburg. Over time, public opinion has become more and more supportive of sustainable environmental policies. Even politicians from the conservative party have accepted restrictions on car use and have promoted public transportation, bicycling, and walking as alternatives.

Lessons Learned from Freiburg

It is inappropriate to assume that Freiburg’s experience can be copied wholesale in the U.S. However, there are many lessons from Freiburg for U.S. cities that intend to become more sustainable.2,5

First, Freiburg implemented most of its policies in stages, often choosing projects everybody agreed upon first. Residential traffic calming was initially implemented in neighborhoods whose residents complained most about the negative impacts of car travel. Successful implementation in one neighborhood encouraged other areas of the city to request traffic calming as well.

Second, Freiburg phased in and adjusted its policies and goals gradually. The initial decision to stop tearing out the trolley tracks was made in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the city council approved the extension of the light-rail system, which finally opened in 1983. Once the expansion proved successful, more light-rail lines followed.

Third, Freiburg has simultaneously made public transportation, cycling, and walking viable alternatives to the automobile, while increasing the cost of car travel. Improving quality and level of service for alternative modes of transportation made car-restrictive measures politically acceptable.

Fourth, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.

Lastly, changing transportation, land-use systems, and travel behavior in Freiburg took almost 40 years. Planners in the United States should curb their expectations for quick success. Clearly, some policies can be implemented quickly, but changes in travel behavior and the development of a more sustainable transportation system take much longer.

References

  1. Please see the sources cited in the four publications listed below for more detailed references and additional information for this case study.
  2. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Sustainable transport in Freiburg: lessons from Germany’s environmental capital. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation 5, 43–70 (2011).
  3. Buehler, R. Transport policies, automobile use, and sustainable transportation: a comparison of Germany and the USA. Journal of Planning Education and Research 30, 76–93 (2010).
  4. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Making public transport financially sustainable. Transport Policy 18(1), 128-136 (2011).
  5. Buehler, R, Pucher, J & Kunert, U. Making transportation sustainable: insights from Germany (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 2009). www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_german….

Sustainability Lessons for the United States

Implementing German-style policies in the United States requires careful consideration of the political, cultural, and institutional context. For example, legal and political barriers could hamper a transfer of German policies to the United States. Nevertheless, our case studies of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation provide some overall lessons that could help encourage development of sustainability policies in the United States.

First, start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope and were expanded in stages over time. Small-scale pilot projects allow policymakers to experiment and the public to experience a real-life example of the proposed program. Unsuccessful projects can be discontinued and successful programs can be expanded. For example, many German cities initially implemented traffic-calming technologies in those neighborhoods where residents complained most about traffic safety, noise, and air pollution from car travel. Successful implementation of a pilot project in one neighborhood led other neighborhoods to demand traffic calming as well. This approach can also work at other scales and in other sectors. For example, the German Renewable Energy Sources Act initially covered only very basic technologies, but it was extended over time and rewarded innovations and new approaches. To some extent the United States is using this approach already, as witnessed by the creation of pedestrian zones in New York City’s Times Square or the new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. On the federal level, however, the U.S. Congress does not have a consistent history of passing incremental improvements to energy policy or climate legislation.

Another aspect of staged implementation is political acceptability. For example, the German Ecological Tax Reform Act, which increased taxation on energy to reduce social security taxes, was implemented in stages, with taxes increasing annually over a period of five years. Consolidating the staged tax increases into one large tax hike would not have been politically feasible. Staged implementation, the five-year time horizon, and lower social security taxes enabled citizens to adjust to the new taxes. Similarly, many policies encouraging green infrastructure on private properties began as financial incentives and only later were replaced by requirements, once there was greater acceptance and experience with these techniques.

Fea_Germany_Figure6.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Pedestrians and light rail in Freiburg’s car-free zone in the city center.

Second, there are no silver bullets. Policies should be coordinated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness. Despite the high public visibility of flagship projects like the Ecological Tax Reform Act, no silver bullet has proven to be the single factor for successful results. The case studies show that individual policies were integrated into a larger policy framework. At its best, this framework is comprehensive and long-term oriented. For example, in transportation, the German federal government increased taxation on gasoline, while local governments improved conditions for walking, cycling, and public transportation—thus offering a viable alternative to the car. This approach increased political acceptability with the public, since drivers had a choice to continue driving at higher cost or to shift modes of transportation.

In Germany, green infrastructure has been incentivized and in some cases required by a suite of overlapping programs. Significantly, these initiatives come from various governmental levels and sectors and were created because of different benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and urban quality of life. It is this suite of policies as a whole that has moved green infrastructure into the German mainstream. Energy policy is another good example of coordinated decision making and planning: Germany’s policy portfolio comprises more than 30 legislative measures that address all aspects of energy sustainability, with binding long-term targets guiding implementation efforts and the necessary review of policies at regular intervals. In the United States, by contrast, short-term incentives, fragmented regulations, and a lack of planning certainty—in the absence of a binding policy framework—have dampened private-sector investment and technology deployment.

Third, foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Policies that affect people’s everyday lives have to be developed with active citizen participation. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes. Public participation in assessing parcel-level charges and new stormwater fees in Berlin helped the public to understand how their properties contribute to environmental problems. Further, individuals can take steps to reduce fees by integrating green infrastructure techniques on their properties. The initial draft of the city of Freiburg’s land-use plan was rejected by the citizens as not being progressive enough (see Box). The second draft was developed with the ongoing participation of 900 residents. The public sector has to effectively communicate the intentions of policy. This often involves political trade-offs. For example, Germany’s Ecological Tax Reform Act increased the cost of energy but at the same time reduced social security taxes. While many citizens agreed to increase taxation on energy, the reduction in social security taxes was also very important.

Fourth, find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. The implementation of several of the highlighted policies came with strong political controversy in Germany. However, the policies survived because, over time, parties across the political spectrum benefited from them or could not afford reversing them. For example, the Renewable Energy Sources Act was supported by both the political left and right because both the progressive renewable-energy industry and the conservative German farm community benefited from its implementation. Before and during the introduction of the Ecological Tax Reform Act, Germany’s center-right parties opposed the reform and promised to roll it back once they were in power again. However, after winning elections in 2005, the conservatives found it impossible to forfeit the robust tax revenue generated by the reform.

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  52. Buehler, R. Transport policies, automobile use, and sustainable transportation: a comparison of Germany and the USA. Journal of Planning Education and Research 30, 76–93 (2010).
  53. Federation of Tax Administrators. State Sales Taxes on Vehicle Purchases [online] (2006). www.taxadmin.org.
  54. BMVBS. Bericht fuer das Jahr 2005 ueber die Finanzhilfen des Bundes zur Verbesserung der Verkehrsverhaeltnisse der Gemeinden nach dem Gemeindeverkehrsfinanzierungsgesetz [Federal Subsidies for Local Transportation Projects] (German Federal Ministry of Transportation and Urban Development, Berlin, 2005).
  55. Buehler, R, Pucher, J & Kunert, U. Making Transportation Sustainable: Insights from Germany (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 2009). www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_german….

Ralph Buehler: Assistant Professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech
Arne Jungjohann: Director for the Environment and Global Dialogue Program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, DC
Melissa Keeley: Assistant Professor in geography and public policy and public administration at George Washington University
Michael Mehling: President of the Ecologic Institute; Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University

 

Published on Energy Bulletin (http://www.energybulletin.net)

Published by Solutions on Mon, 10/10/2011 – 08:00

Original article: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


Links:
[1] http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981
[2] http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_germany_transportation_buehler/0416_germany_transportation_report.pdf
[3] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/25/remarks-president-state-union-address
[4] http://www.newsweek.com/id/143679
[5] http://www.bmu.de/files/english/pdf/application/pdf/energiekonzept_bundesregierung_en.pdf
[6] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:140:0016:0062:EN:PDF
[7] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/ee_in_deutschland_graf_tab_2009_en.pdf
[8] http://www.bmu.de/english/current_press_releases/pm/46293.php
[9] http://www.bmu.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/nationaler_aktionsplan_ee.pdf
[10] http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/downloads/doc/46291.php
[11] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.362416.de
[12] http://www.braunkohle-wissen.de/#arbeitspl%20
[13] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/inhalt/42934/20026
[14] http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/_media/DBCCA_Creating_Jobs_and_Growth_The_German_Green_Exp.pdf
[15] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.346123.de
[16] http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=13&amp;L=0
[17] http://www.dsireusa.org
[18] http://www.ren21.net/Portals/97/documents/GSR/REN21_GSR_2010_full_revised%20Sept2010.pdf
[19] http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/pdfs/47408.pdf
[20] http://boell.org/web/139-658.html
[21] http://www.greenroofs.ca/grhcc
[22] http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/nrc_stormwaterreport.pdf
[23] http://vtchl.uiuc.edu/applied-research/environmental-hydraulics/tarp
[24] http://www.forester.net/sw_0011_utility.html
[25] http://www.taxadmin.org

ST Sustainability Book Sale

Sustainable Tucson is offering a very special Book Sale fundraising event at our October  General Meeting. We have more than 150 titles, including some hard-to-find classics. The winter reading season is coming, so come and browse this rich collection of sustainability literature. You can shop with gifts in mind for particular friends, relatives, or colleagues and remember that most of these books are used and are being recycled. The Sale will begin before the meeting at 5:15 and will end after the meeting at 8:30.

 

Sustainability books and materials –  all proceeds will benefit Sustainable Tucson

 

Architecture and Energy, Richard G. Stein, 1997, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, 2005, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine M. Benyus, 1997, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biosphere 2: Human Experiment, John Allen, 1991, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biosphere Catalogue, Tango Parrish Snyder, 1985, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biosphere, A Scientific American Book, 1970, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biospheres: Reproducing Planet Earth, Dorion Sagan, 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Blueprint for Survival, The Ecologist, 1972, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Breaking Gridlock: Moving Toward Transportation That Works, Jim Motavalli, 2001, paperback/hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Build it with Bales, Matts Myhrman and S.O. MacDonald, 1997, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, Neil Postman, 1999, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Building the Earth, Teilhard De Chardin, 1969, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Building with Straw, VHS video Set: Vol 1 Strawbale Workshop, Vol 2 Strawbale Home Tour, Vol 3 Strawbale Code Testing, Black Range Films, 1995,   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough & Michael Braungart, 2002, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, Bill Devall & George Sessions, 1985, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Desert Gardening, Sunset Magazine & Sunset Books, 1967, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Design For a Livable Planet: How You Can Help Up the Environment, Jon Naar, 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Direct Use of the Sun’s Energy, Farrington Daniels, 1964, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Divorce Your Car: Ending the Love Affair With the Automobile, Katie Alvord, 2000, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Dr. Art’s Guide to Planet Earth: For Earthlings Ages 12 to 120, Art Sussman, 2000, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry, 1988, paperback/hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, Rosemary Morrow, 1993, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Ecological Identity: Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist, Mitchell Thomashow, 1995, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Ecology and the Biosphere: Principals and Problems, Sharon La Bonde Hanks, 1996, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Ecology of Commerce: Declaration of Sustainability, Paul Hawken, 1993, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomez, & Allen D. Kanner, 1995, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee, 1971, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

End of Money and the Future of Civilization, Thomas H. Greco Jr., 2009, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

End of Nature, Bill McKibben, 1989, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

End of Nature, Bill McKibben, 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Environment, Power, and Society, Howard T. Odum, 1971, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out, Lester W. Milbrath, 1989, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Evaporative Cooling Made Easy: Complete Operating Manual, 1985 paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Every Drop For Sale, Jeffrey Rothfeder, 2001, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence, Joseph Chilton Pearce, 1992, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Exploring New Ethics for Survival: Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle, Garrett Hardin, 1966, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Elizabeth Kolbert, 2006, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb Jr., 1989, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Forgotten Pollinators, Stephen L. Bachmnann and Gary Paul Nabhan, 1996, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Full House: Reassessing the Earth’s Population Carrying Capacity, Lester R. Brown & Hal Kane, 1994, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Fundamentals of Ecology, Eugene P. Odum, 1959, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Fundamentals of Ecology, Eugene P. Odum, 1971, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Future of Life, Edward O. Wilson, 2002, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Gaia: The Atlas of Planet Management, Dr. Norman Myers, 1984, paperback/hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, Alan Weisman, 1998, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Global Brain: Speculations on the Evolutionary Leap to Planetary Consciousness, Peter Russel, 1983, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Global Mind Change: Promise of the Last Years of the Twentieth Century, Willis Harman, 1988, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?, Stephen H. Schneider, 1989, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Green Plans: Greenprint for Sustainability, Huey D. Johnson, 1995, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Green Reader: Essays Toward a Sustainable Society, Andrew Dobson, 1991, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Healthy House, John Bower, 1997, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Heat Is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth’s Threatened Climate, Ross Gelbspan, 1997, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Hothouse Earth: Greenhouse Effect and Gaia, John Gribbin, 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

House of Straw: Strawbale Construction Comes of Age; U.S. Department of Energy, 1995, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

How Much is Enough: Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, Alan Durning, 1992, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, 2001, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Human Impact on Ancient Environments, Charles L. Redman, 1999, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Humanure Handbook: Guide to Composting Human Manure, Joseph Jenkins, 1999, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

I Seem To Be a Verb, R. Buckminster Fuller, 1970, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan, 2008, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, Sandra Postel, 1992, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Last Whole Earth Catalog, Portola Institute, 1971, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, Margaret J. Wheatley, 1999, paperback/hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Limits to Growth, A Potomac Associates Book, 1972, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, James Howard Kunstler, 2005, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Machinery of Nature: Living World Around Us-And How it Works, Paul R. Ehrlich, 1986, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Making Peace With the Planet, Barry Commoner, 1975, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Mankind at the Turning Point, Mihajlo Mesarovic and Eduard Pestel, 1974, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Millennium Whole Earth Catalog, Howard Rheingold, 1994, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Money and Debt: A Solution to the Global Crisis. Thomas H. Greco Jr., 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, Thomas H. Greco Jr., 2001, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologically-Sound Home Environment, David Pearson, 1989, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Natural House Book: Creating a Healthy, Harmonious, and Ecologically-Sound Home Environment, David Pearson, 1989, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Nature and Properties of Soils, Harry O. Buckman & Nyle C. Brady, 1960, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable, Gretchen C. Daily and Katherine Ellison, 2002, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

New Money for Healthy Communities, Thomas H. Greco Jr., 1994, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Next Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand, 1980, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

No More Secondhand God, R. Buckminster Fuller, 1963, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka, 1978, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, R, Buckminster Fuller, 1963, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, R. Buckminster Fuller, 1969, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Our Common Future: The Bruntland World Commission on Environment and Development, The Commission, 1987, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth, Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees, 1996, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Owner Built Home: A How-to-do-it Book, Ken Kern, 1972, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Passages About Earth: An Exploration of the New Planetary Culture, William Irwin Thompson, 1973, paperback/hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, Lester R. Brown, 2006, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Plant and Planet, Anthony Huxley, 1974, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Population Resources Environment: Issues in Human Ecology, Paul & Anne Ehrlich, 1970, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, Richard Heinberg, 2004, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Quiet Crisis, Stewart L. Udall, 1963, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Real Goods: Designing & Building a House Your Own Way, Sam Clark, 1996, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Rebirth of Nature: Greening of Science and God, Rupert Sheldrake, 1991, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Rebirth of Nature: Greening of Science and God, Rupert Sheldrake, 1991, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis & the Fate of Humanity, James Lovelock, 2006, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Safeguarding the Health of Oceans, Ann Platt McGinn, 1999, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Sand Country Almanac, Aldo Leopold, 1966, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Save the Earth, Jonathon Porritt, 1991, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Sea Around Us, Rachel L. Carson, 1950, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change, John Briggs & F. David Peat, 1999, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, 1962, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, E.F. Schumacher, 1973, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Soft Energy Paths: Toward a Durable Peace, Amory B. Lovins, 1977, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Revolutionary Approach to Man’s Understanding of Himself, Gregory Bateson, 1972, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Strawbale Homebuilding, Alan T. Gray & Anne Hall, 2000, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

The Way: An Ecological World-View, Edward Goldsmith, 1992, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Thinking Ecologically: The Next Generation of Environmental Policy, Marian R. Chertow and Daniel C. Esty, 1997, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Timeless Way of Building, Christopher Alexander, 1979, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism, Warwick Fox, 1990, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt, 2008, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture, Fritjof Capra, 1982, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Twenty-Ninth Day: Accommodating Human Needs and Numbers to the Earth’s Resources, Lester R. Brown, 1978, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Voluntary Simplicity: An Ecological Lifestyle the Promotes Personal and Social Renewal, Duane Elgin, 1981, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems, Fritjof Capra, 1996, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Wisdom for a Livable Planet, Carl N. McDaniel, 2005, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

World Changes: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, Alex Steffen, 2006, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler, 2008, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

World Without Us, Alan Weisman, 2007, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Worlds in Collision, Immanuel Velikovsky, 1965, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, 1974, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

 

Other Books – may or may not relate to sustainability, you decide…

Adventures of Ideas: A Brilliant History of Mankind’s Great Thoughts, Alfred North Whitehead, 1933, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Age of Missing Information, Bill McKibben, 1992, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Age of Paradox, Charles Handy, 1994, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Age of Unreason, Charles Handy, 1989, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004, Steven Pinker, 2004, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World, Jeremy Rifkin, 1998, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principals of Economic Life, Jane Jacobs, 1984, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

City In History, Lewis Mumford, 1961, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students, Allan Bloom, 1987, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Complete Pregnancy Exercise Program, Diana Simkin, 1980, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Complexity: Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, M. Mitchell Waldrop, 1992, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Crackpot or Genius: A Complete Guide to the Uncommon Art of Inventing, Francis D. Reynolds, 1993, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Essays in Pragmatism, William James, 1948, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Facts on File Biology Handbook, Diagram Group, 2000, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, Milton & Rose Friedman, 1980, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstruction of Social Order, Francis Fukuyama, 1999, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Grunch of Giants, Pre-publication Draft, R. Buckminster Fuller, 1982, Xerox copy   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Hegel Selections, Jacob Loewenberg, 1929, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built, Stewart Brand, 1994, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

How Things Are: A Science Tool-Kit for the Mind, John Brockman & Katinka Matson, 1995, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, Norbert Wiener, 1950, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Introduction to Organic Laboratory Techniques: Microscale Approach, Saunders Golden Sunburst Series, 1990, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Ironwood 28: Listening to the Invisible, Emily Dickinson & Jack Spicer, 1986, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis, 1989, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Man and Wildlife in Arizona: American Exploration Period 1824-1865, Goode P. Davis Jr., 1982, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Man, the Unknown, Alexis Carrel, 1935, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Mankind Evolving, Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1962, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Maps of the Mind: Charts and Concepts of the Mind and its Labyrinths, Charles Hampden-Turner, 1981, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Masonry, Time-Life Books, Home Repair and Improvement, 1976, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Our Final Hour, Martin Rees, 2003, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Our Knowledge of the External World, Bertrand Russell, 1929, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Periodic Kingdom: Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements, P.W. Atkins, 1995, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, Michael Polanyi, 1958, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Politics of Experience, R.D. Laing, 1967, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Pragmatism, William James, 1907, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Reconstruction in Philosophy, John Dewey, 1920, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Rocks and Minerals, Herbert Zim and Paul Shaffer, 1957, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman, 1996, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

This Man from Lebanon: Study of Kahlil Gibran, Barbara Young, 1945, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

True Believer, Eric Hoffer, 1951, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Uncommon Wisdom: Conversations with Remarkable People, Fritjof Capra, 1988, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Up From Eden: Transpersonal View of Human Evolution, Ken Wilber, 1981, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Virtual Reality, Howard Rheingold, 1991, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, Michio Kaku, 1997, hardcover   [search amazon google wikipedia]

What is Cybernetics?, G.T. Guilbaud, 1959, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

What to Eat When You’re Expecting, Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Murkoff, and Sandee Hathaway, 1986, paperback   [search amazon google wikipedia]

What is building Resilience and Sustainability?

Sustainability is the capacity to continue a desired condition or process either social, ecological or both. Resiliency is the ability of a system to adjust its configuration and function under disturbance. Both concepts are important as we seek to ensure a sustainable built-environment and economy which can function under changing conditions in the emerging future…  read more »

The Story of Stuff, and more!

Q: Why should I care about the Citizens united v. FEC ruling?
A: In this landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it is unconstitutional to limit how much money corporations can spend to influence elections. Why? They said limits would violate the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Since the 2010 ruling, corporations have spent $300 million to influence election results. This money has been used to run ads and engage in other activities to sway us – the voters– to support candidates who serve the interests of those corporations. Since the interests of corporations rarely match up with the interests of individuals like you and me, that’s a real concern!

View this informative and entertaining little film here.

 

Watch “The Story of Cap & Trade”

200x57_capandtrade copy

The Story of Cap & Trade is a fast-paced, fact-filled look at the leading climate solution being discussed at Copenhagen and on Capitol Hill. Host Annie Leonard introduces the energy traders and Wall Street financiers at the heart of this scheme and reveals the “devils in the details” in current cap and trade proposals: free permits to big polluters, fake offsets and distraction from what’s really required to tackle the climate crisis. If you’ve heard about cap and trade, but aren’t sure how it works (or who benefits), this is the film for you. Find about it here: http://www.storyofcapandtrade.org.

 

And what about bottled water?

And, after you’ve seen this one, you might want to see what they have to say about the story of bottled water at http://www.storyof stuff.org/bottledwater/

217x188_bottledwater_border

 

Watch “The Story of Stuff”

The Story of Stuff is a wonderful online video about sustainable production and consumption, a culture of practices we don’t see very much of yet. In addition to the suggested “10 Little and Big Things You Can Do”, there is a pressing need for organized, coordinated action at the grassroots level. This is why Sustainable Tucson is so important. Watch “The Story of Stuff” here.

Quantifying and Analyzing Sustainability: Modeling Sustainable Solutions (tech/science)

JANUARY Meeting –Organizing questions:

How large a population can Tucson/Pima County support in a sustainable manner, providing our needs from local capacity? (e.i., without importing energy, water, food, and other resources from outside the region)
Do we have a good database model of resources in and out of Tucson?
What is sustainability for a community? Is it self-sufficiency?
Where is the “sweet spot” on a graph where desired quality crosses with minimum resource usage?
What does the ongoing process of an evolving sustainability plan entail?
Do we understand the mathematics of sustainability under uncertainty?
How are we addressing the possibility of this meltdown being “evolutionary in scope” such that what is happening is outside our normal learned perspective of life?
At what point will we stop talking and begin taking action?

Group Discussion

Can we come up with a set of data that shows how, in terms of numbers, we use resources in Tucson so we can create an input/output matrix for life resources, not just money?
To be sustainable is not optional – being unsustainable leads to death!
We need to define the root problems. Sometimes people view implementing solutions as if the solution is the main problem.
People are not fully aware of what it takes to be able to live in Tucson.
What needs to be done: Take a bioregional perspective, calculate carrying capacity, and determine environmental, social, and economic assets to build from and to see what’s missing.
The problem is undefined. What is the problem we are trying to solve?
What are we trying to sustain? Environment, quality of life, economic growth.
Collect data, formulate analysis.
We need to define sustainable population (range or number) for this region.
Does sustainability evolve? Have we always been sustainable?
Is sustainable a “zero-sum problem”, i.e., Is there a fixed resource pie so that more resources on one side makes fewer resources on another? For example, does increased population mean less water for each person.
What is consensus of problem definition we need to solve?
Scientific problem-solving requires analysis of data.
Sustainability is avoiding disastrous consequence of growth.
Are we sustainable if we use money to buy our life-support from outside Pima County?
Part of problem is people do not have a good idea of how much of a resource is needed to sustain their lives in Tucson. Also where do these resources come from? For example, where does our food come from?
Can we create a model so people can “see” the use of resources and make decisions based on data about possible trade-offs? For example, Does rainwater harvesting to water gardens plants reduce stream flows to downstream riparian areas, wildlife, and communities? We currently have no data?
How can we address this need for data and understanding?
What data do we need to collect to define “sustainable” for each life quality or resource? We need an input/output model for local and imported life-support resources – what comes in, what is used here, what goes out?
What is optimal size region for sustainability? USA, Pima County, Tucson?
Water is one measure of sustainability limits.

Main points:

1) What are we trying to sustain? Environment, quality of life, economic growth.
2) Sustainability is avoiding disastrous consequence of growth.
3) Part of problem is people do not have a good idea of how much of a resource is needed to sustain their lives in Tucson. Also where do these resources come from?
4) How can we address this need for data and understanding?
5) What data do we need to collect to define “sustainable” for each life quality or resource?
6) What is optimal size region for sustainability?

FEBRUARY General meeting — Discussion and Who else needs to be involved/invited?

What resources does it take to sustain our current Pima County population for water , food, shelter & livelihood and where do thses resources come from?
What is the carrying capacity of Pima County
How much electric-generation from roof tops in Tucson?
How much roof-water could come from Tucson?
How much water needs to go into the ground?
How much water comes in, gets used, and goes out of Pima County?
How much ag/food development needed to support population/ eco base
What is the measure of an economic base that indicates “enough” jobs or development for the population? Solar panel production, green retrofitting

Who needs to be invited?
Biosphere II, UA departments, Pima County Gov, Huckleberry, Board of Supes, PC P&Z, TREO

Energy, Ecology, & Economics – Howard T. Odum – intro Bob Cook

Howard Odum’s following paper, published in 1974, was considered one of the most concise—yet most sweeping—examinations made of the real problems of the world up to that time. His groundbreaking book Environment, Power and Society (John Wiley, 1972) also introduced us to his paradigm-changing energetic analysis of economics and ecology. This paper should be included in any top ten list of classic sustainability articles because he shows us that the transition from growth to low-throughput steady state is observed in the succession of eco-systems. He provides good examples such as the transitions involved in the transformation from grass fields to climax forest. For our own current transition to sustainability, he teaches us that “net energy” is the critical concept for making better decisions.
— Bob Cook

Energy, Ecology, & Economics
by Howard T. Odum
May 1974

The true value of energy to society is the net energy, which is what’s left after the energy costs of getting and concentrating that energy are subtracted.

As long-predicted energy shortages appear, as questions about the interaction of energy and environment are raised in legislatures and parliaments, and as energy-related inflation dominates public concern, many are beginning to see that there is a unity of the single system of energy, ecology, and economics. The world’s leadership, however, is mainly advised by specialists who study only a part of the system at a time.

Instead of a single system’s understanding, we have adversary arguments dangerous to the welfare of nations and the role of man as the earth’s information bearer and programmatic custodian. Many economic models ignore the changing force of energy, regarding effects of energy sources as an external constant; ecoactivists cause governments to waste energy in unnecessary technology; and the false gods of growth and medical ethics make famine, disease, and catalytic collapse more and more likely for much of the world. Some energy specialists consider the environment as an antagonist instead of a major energy ally in supporting the biosphere.

Figure 1

Figure 1 A. Generalized world model of man and nature based on one-shot fossil fuel usages and steady solar work. Pathways are flows of energy from outside source (circle) through interactions (pointed blocks marked ‘X’ to show multiplier action) to final dispersion of dispersed heat. The tank symbol refers to storage. Here world fuel reserve storage helps build a storage of structure of man’s buildings, information, population, and culture.

Figure 2

Figure 1 B. Graphs resulting from simulation of the model in Figure 1 A. Available world fuel reserve was taken as 5 X 1019 kilocalories and energy converted from the solar input and converged into man’s productive system of growth and maintenance was 5 X 1016 kilocalories when structure was 1018 kilocalories. Peak of structural growth was variable over a 50-year period depending on amounts diverted into waste pathways.

Figure 3

Figure 1 C. The steady state observed in some simulations of Figure 1 A was an oscillating one as in the graph shown here.

Instead of the confusion that comes from the western civilization’s characteristic educational approach of isolating variables in tunnel-vision thinking, let us here seek common sense overview which comes from overall energetics. Very simple overall energy diagrams clarify issues quantitatively, indicating what is possible. The diagrams and symbols are explained further in a recent book (see Ref. 1).

For example, Figure 1 shows the basis of production in interaction of fuel reserves, steady energies of solar origin and feedback of work from the system’s structure. Figure 1 is the computer simulation of this model for our existence, showing a steady state after our current growing period. As the fuel tank is drained, we return to a lower solar base of simpler agriculture. Simple macroscopic minimodels based on overview of world energy provides the same kind of trend curves as the detailed models of Forrester and Meadows (see Ref. 2). With major changes confronting us, let us consider here some of the main points that we must comprehend so we may be prepared for the future.

1. The true value of energy to society is the net energy, which is what’s left after the energy costs of getting and concentrating that energy are subtracted.

Many forms of energy are low grade because they have to be concentrated, transported, dug from deep in the earth or pumped from far at sea. Much energy has to be used directly and indirectly to support the machinery, people, supply systems, etc., to deliver the energy. If it takes ten units of energy to bring ten units of energy to the point of use, then there is no net energy. Right now we dig further and further, deeper and deeper, and go for energies that are more and more dilute in the rocks. Sunlight is also a dilute energy that requires work to harness.

We are still expanding our rate of consumption of gross energy, but since we are feeding a higher and higher percentage back into the energy seeking process, we are decreasing our percentage of net energy production. Many of our proposed alternative energy sources take more energy feedback than present processes. Figure 2 shows net energy emerging beyond the work and structural maintenance costs of energy processing.

2. Worldwide inflation is driven in part by the increasing fraction of our fossil fuels that have to be used in getting more fossil and other fuels.

Figure 4

Figure 2. Energy flow diagram illustrating energy laws, and the difference between net and gross energy flows.

If the money circulating is the same or increasing, and if the quality energy reaching society for its general work is less because so much energy has to go immediately into the energy-getting process, then the real work to society per unit money circulated is less. Money buys less real work of other types and thus money is worth less. Because the economy and total energy utilization are still expanding, we are misled to think the total value is expanding and we allow more money to circulate which makes the money-to-work ratio even larger. Figure 3 shows the circulation of money that constitutes the GNP in a counter-current to the energy flow.

3. Many calculations of energy reserves which are supposed to offer years of supply are as gross energy rather than net energy and thus may be of much shorter duration than often stated.

Suppose for every ten units of some quality of oil shale proposed as an energy source there were required nine units of energy to mine, process, concentrate, transport, and meet environmental requirements. Such a reserve would deliver 1/10 as much net energy and last 1/10 as long as was calculated. Leaders should demand of our estimators of energy reserves that they make their energy calculations in units of net energy. The net reserves of fossil fuels are mainly unknown but they are much smaller than the gross reserves which have been the basis of public discussions and decisions that imply that growth can continue.

4. Societies compete for economic survival by Lotka’s principle (see Ref. 3), which says that systems win and dominate that maximize their useful total power from all sources and flexibly distribute this power toward needs affecting survival.

The programs of forests, seas, cities, and-countries survive that maximize their system’s power for useful purposes. The first requirement is that opportunities to gain inflowing power be maximized, and the second requirement is that energy utilization be effective and not wasteful as compared to competitors or alternatives. For further discussion see Lotka (Ref. 3) and Odum (Ref. 1).

5. During times when there are opportunities to expand one’s power inflows, the survival premium by Lotka’s principle is on rapid growth even though there may be waste.

We observe dog-eat-dog growth competition every time a new vegetation colonizes a bare field where the immediate survival premium is first placed on rapid expansion to cover the available energy receiving surfaces. The early growth ecosystems put out weeds of poor structure and quality, which are wasteful in their energy-capturing efficiencies, but effective in getting growth even though the structures are not long lasting. Most recently, modern communities of man have experienced two hundred years of colonizing growth, expanding to new energy sources such as fossil fuels, new agricultural lands, and other special energy sources. Western culture, and more recently, Eastern and Third World cultures, are locked into a mode of belief in growth as necessary to survival. “Grow or perish” is what Lotka’s principle requires, but only during periods when there are energy sources that are not yet tapped. Figure 3 shows the structure that must be built in order to be competitive in processing energy.

Figure 5

Figure 3. Relationships of money cycles to the energy circuit loops.

6. During times when energy flows have been tapped and there are no new sources, Lotka’s principle requires that those systems win that do not attempt fruitless growth but instead use all available energies in long-staying, high-diversity, steady-state works.

Whenever an ecosystem reaches its steady state after periods of succession, the rapid-net-growth specialists are replaced by a new team of higher-diversity, higher-quality, longer-living, better-controlled, and stable components. Collectively, through division of labor and specialization, the climax team gets more energy out of the steady flow of available source energy than those specialized in fast growth could.

Our system of man and nature will soon be shifting from rapid growth as the criterion of economic survival to steady-state non-growth as the criterion of maximizing one’s work for economic survival (Figure 1). The timing depends only on the reality of one or two possibly high-yielding nuclear energy processes (fusion and breeder reactions) which may or may not be very yielding.

Ecologists are familiar with both growth states and steady state, and observe both in natural systems in their work routinely, but economists were all trained in their subject during rapid growth and most don’t even know there is such a thing as steady state. Most economic advisors have never seen a steady state even though most of man’s million year history was close to steady state. Only the last two centuries have seen a burst of temporary growth because of temporary use of special energy supplies that accumulated over long periods of geologic time.

7. High quality of life for humans and equitable economic distribution are more closely approximated in steady-state than in growth periods.

During growth, emphasis is on competition, and large differences in economic and energetic welfare develop; competitive exclusion, instability, poverty, and unequal wealth are characteristic. During steady state, competition is controlled and eliminated, being replaced with regulatory systems, high division and diversity of labor, uniform energy distributions, little change, and growth only for replacement purposes. Love of stable-system quality replaces love of net gain. Religious ethics adopt something closer to that of those primitive peoples that were formerly dominant in zones of the world with cultures based on the steady energy flows from the sun. Socialistic ideals about distribution are more consistent with steady state than growth.

8. The successfully competing economy must use its net output of richer-quality energy flows to subsidize the poorer-quality energy flow so that the total power is maximized.

In ecosystems, diversity of species develop that allow more of the energies to be tapped. Many of the species that are specialists in getting lesser and residual energies receive subsidies from the richer components. For example, the sun leaves on top of trees transport fuels that help the shaded leaves so they can get some additional energy from the last rays of dim light reaching the forest floor. The system that uses its excess energies in getting a little more energy, even from so urces that would not be net yielding alone, develops more total work and more resources for total survival. In similar ways, we now use our rich fossil fuels to keep all kinds of goods and services of our economy cheap so that the marginal kinds of energies may receive the subsidy benefit that makes them yielders, whereas they would not be able to generate much without the subsidy. Figure 4 shows the role of diversity in tapping auxiliary energies and maintaining flexibility to changing sources.

Figure 6

Figure 4. Relationship of general structural maintenance to diversity and secondary energy sources.

9. Energy sources which are now marginal, being supported by hidden subsidies based on fossil fuel, become less economic when the hidden subsidy is removed.

A corollary of the previous principle of using rich energies to subsidize marginal ones is that the marginal energy sources will not be as net yielding later, since there will be no subsidy. This truth is often stated backwards in economists’ concepts because there is inadequate recognition of external changes in energy quality. Often they propose that marginal energy sources will be economic later when the rich sources are gone. An energy source is not a source unless it is contributing yields, and ability of marginal sources to yield goes down as the other sources of subsidy become poorer. Figure 4 shows these relationships.

10. Increasing energy efficiency with new technology is not an energy solution, since most technological innovations are really diversions of cheap energy into hidden subsidies in the form of fancy, energy-expensive structures.

Most of our century of progress with increasing efficiencies of engines has really been spent developing mechanisms to subsidize a process with a second energy source. Many calculations of efficiency omit these energy inputs. We build better engines by putting more energy into the complex factories for manufacturing the equipment. The percentage of energy yield in terms of all the energies incoming may be less, not greater. Making energy net yielding is the only process not amenable to high energy-based technology.

11. Even in urban areas more than half of the useful work on which our society is based comes from the natural flows of sun, wind, waters, waves, etc., that act through the broad areas of seas and landscapes without money payment. An economy, to compete and survive, must maximize its use of these energies, not destroying their enormous free subsidies. The necessity of environmental inputs is often not realized until they are displaced.

When an area first grows, it may add some new energy sources in fuels and electric power, but when it gets to about 50 percent of the area developed it begins to destroy and diminish as much necessary life-support work that was free and unnoticed as it adds. At this point, further growth may produce a poor ability in economic competition because the area now has higher energy drains. For example, areas that grow too dense with urban developments may pave over the areas that formerly accepted and reprocessed waste waters. As a consequence, special tertiary waste treatments become necessary and monetary and energy drains are diverted from useful works to works that were formerly supplied free.

12. Environmental technology which duplicates the work available from the ecological sector is an economic handicap.

As growth of urban areas has become concentrated, much of our energies and research and development work has been going into developing energy-costing technology to protect the environment from wastes, whereas most wastes are themselves rich energy sources for which there are, in most cases, ecosystems capable of using and recycling wastes as a partner of the city without drain on the scarce fossil fuels. Soils take up carbon monoxide, forests absorb nutrients, swamps accept and regulate floodwaters. If growth is so dense that environmental technology is required, then it is too dense to be economically vital for the combined system of man and nature there. The growth needs to be arrested or it will arrest itself with depressed, poorly competing economy of man and of his environs. For example, there is rarely excuse for tertiary treatment because there is no excuse for such dense packing of growth that the natural buffer lands cannot be a good cheap recycling partner. Man as a partner of nature must use nature well and this does not mean crowd it, out and pave it over; nor does it mean developing industries that compete with nature for the waters and wastes that would be an energy contributor to the survival of both.

13. Solar energy is very dilute and the inherent energy cost of concentrating solar energy into form for human use has already been maximized by forests and food-producing plants. Without energy subsidy there is no yield from the sun possible beyond the familiar yields from forestry and agriculture.

Figure 5. Diagrams of three systems of solar energy use.

Figure 7

Figure 5 A. Man a minor part of the complex forest ecosystem.

Figure 8

Figure 5 B. Man a major partner in agricultural system on light alone.

Figure 9

Figure 5 C. Fossil-fuel-subsidized agriculture as a colonial member of a technological society of man with maximum possible solar conversion.

Advocates of major new energies available from the sun don’t understand that the concentrations quality of solar energy is very low, being only 10—16 kilocalories per cubic centimeter. Much of this has to be used up in upgrading to food quality. Plants build tiny microscopic semiconductor photon receptors that are the same in principle as the solar cells advocated at vastly greater expense by some solar advocates. The plants have already maximized use of sunlight, by which they support an ecosystem whose diverse work helps maximize this conversion as shown in Figure 5 A. If man and his work are substituted for much of the ecosystem so that he and his farm animals do the recycling and management, higher yield results as in sacred cow agriculture (Figure 5 B). Higher yields require large fossil fuel subsidies in doing some of the work. For example, making the solar receiving structures (Figure 5 C), whereas the plants and ecosystem make their equipment out of the energy budget they process. Since man has already learned how to subsidize agriculture and forestry with fossil fuels when he has them, solar technology becomes a duplication. The reason major solar technology has not and will not be a major contributor or substitute for fossil fuels is that it will not compete without energy subsidy from the fossil fuel economy. Some energy savings are possible in house heating on a minor scale.

14. Energy is measured by calories, Btu’s, kilowatt hours, and other intraconvertible units, but energy has a scale of quality which is not indicated by these measures. The ability to do work for man depends on the energy quality and quantity, and this is measurable by the amount of energy of a lower-quality grade required to develop the higher grade. The scale of energy goes from dilute sunlight up to plant matter to coal, from coal to oil to electricity and up to the high-quality efforts of computer and human information processing.

15. Nuclear energy is now mainly subsidized with fossil fuels and barely yields net energy.

High costs of mining, processing fuels, developing costly plants, storing wastes, operating complex safety systems, and operating government agencies make present nuclear energy one of the marginal sources which add some energy now, while they are subsidized by a rich economy. A self-contained, isolated nuclear energy does not now exist. Since the present nuclear energy is marginal while it uses the cream of rich fuels accumulated during times of rich fossil fuel excess, and because the present rich reserves of nuclear fuel will last no longer than fossil fuels, there may not be a major long-range effect of present nuclear technology on economic survival. High energy cost of nuclear construction may be a factor accelerating the exhaustion of the richer fuels. Figure 4 illustrates the principle.

Breeder Process: The Breeder Process is now being given its first tests of economic effectiveness and we don’t yet know how net yielding it will be. The present nuclear plants are using up the rich fuels that could support the breeder reactors if these turn out to be net yielders over and beyond the expected high energy costs in safety costs, occasional accidents, reprocessing plants, etc. Should we use the last of our rich fossil fuel wealth for the high research and development costs and high capital investments of processes too late to develop a net yield?

Fusion: The big question is will fusion be a major net yield? The feasibility of pilot plants with the fusion process is unknown. There is no knowledge yet as to the net energy in fusion or the amounts of energy subsidy fusion may require. Because of this uncertainty, we cannot be sure about the otherwise sure-leveling and decline in total energy flows that may soon be the pattern for our world.

16. Substantial energy storages are required for stability of an economy against fluctuations of economies, or of natural causes, and of military threats.

The frantic rush to use the last of the rich oils and gas that are easy to harvest for a little more growth and tourism is not the way to maintain power stability or political and military security for the world community of nations as a whole. World stability requires a de-energizing of capabilities of vast war, and an evenly distributed power base for regular defense establishments, which need to be evenly balanced without great power gradients that encourage change of military boundaries. A two-year storage is required for stability of a component.

17. The total tendency for net favorable balance of payments of a country relative to others depends on the relative net energy of that country including its natural and fuel-based energies minus its wastes and nonproductive energy uses.

Countries with their own rich energies can export goods and services with less requirement for money than those that have to use their money to buy their fuels. Those countries with, inferior energy flows into useful work become subordinate energy dependents to other countries. A country that sells oil but does not use it within its boundaries to develop useful work is equally subordinate since a major flow of necessary high-quality energy in the form of technical goods and services is external in this case. The country with the strongest position is the one with a combination of internal sources of rich energies and internal sources of developed structure and information based on the energy. The relations of energy sources to payment balances are given in Figure 6.

Figure 10

Figure 6 A. Diagram showing how energy sources and energy loss pathways affect the balance of payments and general economic competition position of single country. Better balance results when one’s own energy sources are better, and one’s waste less.

18. During periods of expanding energy availabilities, many kinds of growth-priming activities may favor economic vitality and the economy’s ability to compete.

Many pump-priming properties of fast-growing economies have been naturally selected and remain in procedures of government and culture. Urban concentrations, high use of cars, economic subsidy to growth, oil depletion allowances, subsidies to population growth, advertising, high-rise building, etc., are costly in energy for their operation and maintenance, but favor economic vitality as long as their role as pump primers is successful in increasing the flow of energy over and beyond their special cost. Intensely concentrated densities of power use have been economic in the past because their activities have accelerated the system’s growth during a period when there were new energy sources to encompass.

19. During periods when expansion of energy sources is not possible, then the many high-density and growth-promoting policies and structures become an energy liability because their high energy cost is no longer accelerating energy yield.

The pattern of urban concentration and the policies of economic growth stimulation that were necessary and successful in energy growth competition periods are soon to shift. There will be a premium against the use of pump-priming characteristics since there will be no more unpumped energy to prime. What did work before will no longer work and the opposite becomes the pattern that is economically successful. All this makes sense and is commonplace to those who study various kinds of ecosystems, but the economic advisors will be sorely pressed and lose some confidence until they learn about the steady state and its criteria for economic success. Countries with great, costly investments in concentrated economic activity, excessive transportation customs, and subsidies to industrial expansion will have severe stresses. Even now the countries who have not gone so far in rapid successional growth are setting out to do so at the very time when their former more steady state culture is about to begin to become a more favored economic state comparatively.

20. Systems in nature are known that shift from fast growth to steady state gradually with programmatic substitution, but other instances are known in which, the shift is marked by total crash and destruction of the growth system before the emergence of the succeeding steady-state regime.

Because energies and monies for research, development, and thinking are abundant only during growth and not during energy leveling or decline, there is a great danger that means for developing the steady state will not be ready when they are needed, which may be no more than 5 years away but probably more like 20 years. (If fusion energy is a large net energy yielder, there may be a later growth period when the intensity of human power development begins to affect and reduce the main life support systems of the oceans, atmospheres, and general biosphere.)

The humanitarian customs of the earth’s countries now in regard to medical aid, famine, and epidemic are such that no country is allowed to develop major food and other critical energy shortage because the others rush in their reserves. This practice has insured that no country will starve in a major way until we all starve together when the reserves are no longer there.

Chronic disease was evolved with man as his regulator, being normally as a device for infant mortality and merciful old-age death. It provided, on the average, an impersonal and accurate energy testing of body vitalities, adjusting the survival rate to the energy resources. Even in the modem period of high-energy medical miracles, the energy for total medical care systems is a function of the total country’s energies, and as energies per capita fall again so will the energy for medicine per capita, and the role of disease will again develop its larger ,role in the population regulation system. Chronic disease at its best was and is a very energy-inexpensive regulator.

Epidemic disease is something else. Nature’s systems normally use the principle of diversity to eliminate epidemics. Vice versa, epidemic disease is nature’s device to eliminate monoculture, which may be inherently unstable. Man is presently allowed the special high yields of various monocultures including his own high density population, his paper source in pine trees, and his miracle rice only so long as he has special energies to protect these artificial ways and substitute them for disease which would restore the high diversity system, ultimately the more stable flow of energy.

The terrible possibility that is before us is that there will be the continued insistence on growth with our last energies by the economic advisors that don’t understand, so that there are no reserves with which to make a change, to hold order, and to cushion a period when populations must drop. Disease reduction of man and of his plant production systems could be planetary and sudden if the ratio of population to food and medical systems is pushed to the maximum at a time of falling net energy. At some point the great gaunt towers of nuclear energy installations, oil drilling, and urban cluster will stand empty in the wind for lack of enough fuel technology to keep them running. A new cycle of dinosaurs will have passed its way. Man will survive as he reprograms readily to that which the ecosystem needs of him so long as he does not forget who is serving who. What is done well for the ecosystem is good for man. However, the cultures that say only what is good for man is good for nature may pass and be forgotten like the rest.

There was a famous theory in paleoecology called orthogenesis which suggested that some of the great animals of the past were part of systems that were locked into evolutionary mechanisms by which the larger ones took over from smaller ones. The mechanisms then became so fixed that they carried the size trend beyond the point of survival, whereupon the species went extinct. Perhaps this -is the main question of ecology, economics, and energy. Has the human system frozen its direction into an orthogenetic path toward cultural crash, or is the great creative activity of the current energy-rich world already sensing the need for change? Are alternatives already being tested by our youth so they will be ready for the gradual transition to a fine steady state that carries the best of our recent cultural evolution into new, more miniaturized, more dilute, and more delicate ways of man-nature?

In looking ahead, the United States and some other countries may be lucky to be forced by changing energy availabilities to examine themselves, level their, growth, and change their culture towards the steady state early enough so as to be ready with some tested designs before the world as a whole is forced to this. A most fearful sight is the behavior of Germany and Japan who have little native energies and rush crazily into boom-and-bust economy on temporary and borrowed pipelines and tankers, throwing out what was stable and safe to become rich for a short period; monkey see, monkey do. Consider also Sweden that once before boomed and busted in its age of Baltic Ships while cutting its virgin timber. Later it was completely stable on water power and agriculture, but then after a few years of growth became like the rest, another bunch of engines on another set of oil flows, a culture that may not be long for this world.

What is the general answer? Eject economic expansionism, stop growth, use available energies for cultural conversion to steady state, seek out the condition now that will come anyway, but by our service be our biosphere’s handmaiden anew.

References and Notes

1. H.T. Odum, Environment Power and Society (John Wiley) 336 pp. Institutions, customs, and economic policies aid by accelerating energy consumption in an autocatalytic way.

2. D. H. Meadows, D. L. Meadows, J. Randry and W.W. Behrens III, The Limits to Growth (Universe Books, New York, 1972).

3. A.J. Lotka, Contribution to the Energetics of Evolution in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 8, 147—188 (1922).

4. I am grateful for stimulation and collaboration of many in our common effort including especially C. Kylstra, Pong Lem, and our keen graduate student group in the United States, and Jan Zeilon and Bengt-Owe Jansson in Sweden. Simulation work was supported by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission on Contract At-(40-10-4398).

5. Energy systems symbols used for showing mathematical and energetic relationships between the parts of our system of energy, economics and ecology.

All outside energy sources flow in from sources indicated with the circular symbol and these sources deliver causal forcing actions. All storages of energy, structure, money, information, value, etc., are represented by the tank-shaped symbol and these tanks are called state variables. All energies leave systems as dispersed heat that has no more potential for doing useful work. In the diagrams the dispersal of unusable heat energy is called a heat sink.

Figure 11

When two different kinds of flows of energy (or materials, information, or services that carry energy) interact in processes where both are necessary, we draw a work gate symbol. The system has an X if the action of one flow so facilitates the flow of the other and vice versa so that the process is a multiplier action. As in all processes, useful energy that drives the processes emerges as degraded, no longer reusable dispersed energy leaving the earth through the heat sink. (Heat on earth ultimately is reradiated out to space from the top of the atmosphere.)

Self-maintaining entities such as populations, cities, industries, and other organizations that feed energy from storage back into multiplicative pumping actions are shown with the hexagonal symbol. The energy dispersed in maintaining the system, its growth, and its work services is shown passing out the bottom in a heat sink.

Figure 12

When new storages are developed, energy laws require that much of the energy be dispersed into unusable heat in order to make the process of storing go fast enough to be most competitive. The symbol for Potential generating work shows the necessary heat dispersal that is required for any storing Process.

Figure 13

When two energy flows may be substituted for each other, we show their junction as the convergence of lines. This means that the flows add (in contrast to the work gate where other kinds of interactions are the result).

Because money flows as a countercurrent to the flow of energy, goods, and services (the latter two also carrying energy), we represent pathways that involve economic transactions with the diamond shaped symbol and two counter diagrams pathways. The energy cost of doing economic business is shown as the energy lost into the heat sink.

The diagrams may be examined as if they were a series of water tanks and pipes with water flowing between the tanks, being driven by the pressures of the storages or outside pressures and the energy of the water pressure, ultimately leaving the system in the various frictional heat dispersions. The diagrams can thus be visualized to help see the complexity of systems and recognize just from the configurations what kinds of responses might follow proposed manipulations. As further given in Ref. 1 the diagrams are also ways of writing mathematical differential equations for making precise mathematical descriptions of relationships.

Reprinted from the special energy edition of Ambio (No. 6, 1973) with the permission of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden—publishers of Ambio—and Dr. Howard T. Odum. Copyright 1973 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The late Howard T. Odum, Ph. D. was Director of the Center for Wetlands and a Graduate Research Professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville; Professor of Ecology at the University of North Carolina; Chief Scientist for the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center; and Director of the Institute of Marine Science of the University of Texas at Port Aransas. Howard’s brother Eugene was a key, influencial American ecologist and author of the primary college text, Fundamentals of Ecology.

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Places to Intervene in a System – Donella (Dana) H. Meadows

Dana Meadows was one of four post graduate students in Jay Forrester’s Systems Dynamics Program at MIT in the early 1970s who researched and wrote the widely read, paradigm shifting study sponsored by the Club of Rome titled, The Limits to Growth. The following essay is a helpful guide in how to plan for and effect change in systems. Dana develops a hierarchy of leverage points to show different types and degrees of change.

Places to Intervene in a System

By Donella (Dana) H. Meadows
First published in Whole Earth Winter 1997

Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in “leverage points.” These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.

The systems community has a lot of lore about leverage points. Those of us who were trained by the great Jay Forrester at MIT have absorbed one of his favorite stories. “People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I’ve done an analysis of a company, and I’ve figured out a leverage point. Then I’ve gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction !”

The classic example of that backward intuition was Forrester’s first world model. Asked by the Club of Rome to show how major global problems—poverty and hunger, environmental destruction, resource depletion, urban deterioration, unemployment—are related and how they might be solved, Forrester came out with a clear leverage point: Growth. Both population and economic growth. Growth has costs—among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction—the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth!

The world’s leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth as the answer to virtually all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction.

Counterintuitive. That’s Forrester’s word to describe complex systems. The systems analysts I know have come up with no quick or easy formulas for finding leverage points. Our counterintuitions aren’t that well developed. Give us a few months or years and we’ll model the system and figure it out. We know from bitter experience that when we do discover the system’s leverage points, hardly anybody will believe us.

Very frustrating. So one day I was sitting in a meeting about the new global trade regime, NAFTA and GATT and the World Trade Organization. The more I listened, the more I began to simmer inside. “This is a HUGE NEW SYSTEM people are inventing!” I said to myself. “They haven’t the slightest idea how it will behave,” myself said back to me. “It’s cranking the system in the wrong direction—growth, growth at any price!! And the control measures these nice folks are talking about—small parameter adjustments, weak negative feedback loops—are PUNY!”

Suddenly, without quite knowing what was happening, I got up, marched to the flip chart, tossed over a clean page, and wrote: ” Places to Intervene in a System ,” followed by nine items:

9. Numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards).

8. Material stocks and flows.

7. Regulating negative feedback loops.

6. Driving positive feedback loops.

5. Information flows.

4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishment, constraints).

3. The power of self-organization.

2. The goals of the system.

1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the goals, rules, feedback structure arise.

Everyone in the meeting blinked in surprise, including me. “That’s brilliant!” someone breathed. “Huh?” said someone else.

I realized that I had a lot of explaining to do.

In a minute I’ll go through the list, translate the jargon, give examples and exceptions. First I want to place the list in a context of humility. What bubbled up in me that day was distilled from decades of rigorous analysis of many different kinds of systems done by many smart people. But complex systems are, well, complex. It’s dangerous to generalize about them. What you are about to read is not a recipe for finding leverage points. Rather it’s an invitation to think more broadly about system change.

That’s why leverage points are not intuitive.

9. Numbers.

Numbers (“parameters” in systems jargon) determine how much of a discrepancy turns which faucet how fast. Maybe the faucet turns hard, so it takes a while to get the water flowing. Maybe the drain is blocked and can allow only a small flow, no matter how open it is. Maybe the faucet can deliver with the force of a fire hose. These considerations are a matter of numbers, some of which are physically locked in, but most of which are popular intervention points.

Consider the national debt. It’s a negative bathtub, a money hole. The rate at which it sinks is the annual deficit. Tax income makes it rise, government expenditures make it fall. Congress and the president argue endlessly about the many parameters that open and close tax faucets and spending drains. Since those faucets and drains are connected to the voters, these are politically charged parameters. But, despite all the fireworks, and no matter which party is in charge, the money hole goes on sinking, just at different rates.

The amount of land we set aside for conservation. The minimum wage. How much we spend on AIDS research or Stealth bombers. The service charge the bank extracts from your account. All these are numbers, adjustments to faucets. So, by the way, is firing people and getting new ones. Putting different hands on the faucets may change the rate at which they turn, but if they’re the same old faucets, plumbed into the same system, turned according to the same information and rules and goals, the system isn’t going to change much. Bill Clinton is different from George Bush, but not all that different.

Numbers are last on my list of leverage points. Diddling with details, arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Probably ninety-five percent of our attention goes to numbers, but there’s not a lot of power in them.

Not that parameters aren’t important—they can be, especially in the short term and to the individual who’s standing directly in the flow. But they RARELY CHANGE BEHAVIOR. If the system is chronically stagnant, parameter changes rarely kick-start it. If it’s wildly variable, they don’t usually stabilize it. If it’s growing out of control, they don’t brake it.

Whatever cap we put on campaign contributions, it doesn’t clean up politics. The Feds fiddling with the interest rate haven’t made business cycles go away. (We always forget that during upturns, and are shocked, shocked by the downturns.) Spending more on police doesn’t make crime go away.

However, there are critical exceptions. Numbers become leverage points when they go into ranges that kick off one of the items higher on this list. Interest rates or birth rates control the gains around positive feedback loops. System goals are parameters that can make big differences. Sometimes a system gets onto a chaotic edge, where the tiniest change in a number can drive it from order to what appears to be wild disorder.

Probably the most common kind of critical number is the length of delay in a feedback loop. Remember that bathtub on the fourth floor I mentioned, with the water heater in the basement? I actually experienced one of those once, in an old hotel in London. It wasn’t even a bathtub with buffering capacity; it was a shower. The water temperature took at least a minute to respond to my faucet twists. Guess what my shower was like. Right, oscillations from hot to cold and back to hot, punctuated with expletives. Delays in negative feedback loops cause oscillations. If you’re trying to adjust a system state to your goal, but you only receive delayed information about what the system state is, you will overshoot and undershoot.

Same if your information is timely, but your response isn’t. For example, it takes several years to build an electric power plant, and then that plant lasts, say, thirty years. Those delays make it impossible to build exactly the right number of plants to supply a rapidly changing demand. Even with immense effort at forecasting, almost every electricity industry in the world experiences long oscillations between overcapacity and undercapacity. A system just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long-term delays. That’s why a massive central-planning system, such as the Soviet Union or General Motors, necessarily functions poorly.

A delay in a feedback process is critical RELATIVE TO RATES OF CHANGE (growth, fluctuation, decay) IN THE SYSTEM STATE THAT THE FEEDBACK LOOP IS TRYING TO CONTROL. Delays that are too short cause overreaction, oscillations amplified by the jumpiness of the response. Delays that are too long cause damped, sustained, or exploding oscillations, depending on how much too long. At the extreme they cause chaos. Delays in a system with a threshold, a danger point, a range past which irreversible damage can occur, cause overshoot and collapse.

Delay length would be a high leverage point, except for the fact that delays are not often easily changeable. Things take as long as they take. You can’t do a lot about the construction time of a major piece of capital, or the maturation time of a child, or the growth rate of a forest. It’s usually easier to slow down the change rate (positive feedback loops, higher on this list), so feedback delays won’t cause so much trouble. Critical numbers are not nearly as common as people seem to think they are. Most systems have evolved or are designed to stay out of sensitive parameter ranges. Mostly, the numbers are not worth the sweat put into them.

8. Material stocks and flows.

The plumbing structure, the stocks and flows and their physical arrangement, can have an enormous effect on how a system operates.

When the Hungarian road system was laid out so all traffic from one side of the nation to the other had to pass through central Budapest, that determined a lot about air pollution and commuting delays that are not easily fixed by pollution control devices, traffic lights, or speed limits. The only way to fix a system that is laid out wrong is to rebuild it, if you can.

Often you can’t, because physical building is a slow and expensive kind of change. Some stock-and-flow structures are just plain unchangeable.

The baby-boom swell in the US population first caused pressure on the elementary school system, then high schools and colleges, then jobs and housing, and now we’re looking forward to supporting its retirement. Not much to do about it, because five-year-olds become six-year-olds, and sixty-four-year-olds become sixty-five-year-olds predictably and unstoppably. The same can be said for the lifetime of destructive CFC molecules in the ozone layer, for the rate at which contaminants get washed out of aquifers, for the fact that an inefficient car fleet takes ten to twenty years to turn over.

The possible exceptional leverage point here is in the size of stocks, or buffers. Consider a huge bathtub with slow in and outflows. Now think about a small one with fast flows. That’s the difference between a lake and a river. You hear about catastrophic river floods much more often than catastrophic lake floods, because stocks that are big, relative to their flows, are more stable than small ones. A big, stabilizing stock is a buffer.

The stabilizing power of buffers is why you keep money in the bank rather than living from the flow of change through your pocket. It’s why stores hold inventory instead of calling for new stock just as customers carry the old stock out the door. It’s why we need to maintain more than the minimum breeding population of an endangered species. Soils in the eastern US are more sensitive to acid rain than soils in the west, because they haven’t got big buffers of calcium to neutralize acid. You can often stabilize a system by increasing the capacity of a buffer. But if a buffer is too big, the system gets inflexible. It reacts too slowly. Businesses invented just-in-time inventories, because occasional vulnerability to fluctuations or screw-ups is cheaper than certain, constant inventory costs—and because small-to-vanishing inventories allow more flexible response to shifting demand.

There’s leverage, sometimes magical, in changing the size of buffers. But buffers are usually physical entities, not easy to change.

The acid absorption capacity of eastern soils is not a leverage point for alleviating acid rain damage. The storage capacity of a dam is literally cast in concrete. Physical structure is crucial in a system, but the leverage point is in proper design in the first place. After the structure is built, the leverage is in understanding its limitations and bottlenecks and refraining from fluctutions or expansions that strain its capacity.

7. Regulating negative feedback loops.

Now we’re beginning to move from the physical part of the system to the information and control parts, where more leverage can be found. Nature evolves negative feedback loops and humans invent them to keep system states within safe bounds.

A thermostat loop is the classic example. Its purpose is to keep the system state called “room temperature” fairly constant at a desired level. Any negative feedback loop needs a goal (the thermostat setting), a monitoring and signaling device to detect excursions from the goal (the thermostat), and a response mechanism (the furnace and/or air conditioner, fans, heat pipes, fuel, etc.).

A complex system usually has numerous negative feedback loops it can bring into play, so it can self-correct under different conditions and impacts. Some of those loops may be inactive much of the time—like the emergency cooling system in a nuclear power plant, or your ability to sweat or shiver to maintain your body temperature. One of the big mistakes we make is to strip away these emergency response mechanisms because they aren’t often used and they appear to be costly. In the short term we see no effect from doing this. In the long term, we narrow the range of conditions over which the system can survive.

One of the most heartbreaking ways we do this is in encroaching on the habitats of endangered species. Another is in encroaching on our own time for rest, recreation, socialization, and meditation.

The “strength” of a negative loop—its ability to keep its appointed stock at or near its goal—depends on the combination of all its parameters and links—the accuracy and rapidity of monitoring, the quickness and power of response, the directness and size of corrective flows.

There can be leverage points here. Take markets, for example, the negative feedback systems that are all but worshiped by economists—and they can indeed be marvels of self-correction, as prices vary to keep supply and demand in balance. The more the price—the central signal to both producers and consumers—is kept clear, unambiguous, timely, and truthful, the more smoothly markets will operate. Prices that reflect full costs will tell consumers how much they can actually afford and will reward efficient producers. Companies and governments are fatally attracted to the price leverage point, of course, all of them pushing in the wrong direction with subsidies, fixes, externalities, taxes, and other forms of confusion. The REAL leverage here is to keep them from doing it. Hence anti-trust laws, truth-in-advertising laws, attempts to internalize costs (such as pollution taxes), the removal of perverse subsidies, and other ways of leveling market playing fields.

The strength of a negative feedback loop is important RELATIVE TO THE IMPACT IT IS DESIGNED TO CORRECT. If the impact increases in strength, the feedbacks have to be strengthened too.

A thermostat system may work fine on a cold winter day—but open all the windows and its corrective power will fail. Democracy worked better before the advent of the brainwashing power of centralized mass communications. Traditional controls on fishing were sufficient until radar spotting and drift nets and other technologies made it possible for a few actors to wipe out the fish. The power of big industry calls for the power of big government to hold it in check; a global economy makes necessary a global government.

Here are some other examples of strengthening negative feedback controls to improve a system’s self-correcting abilities: preventive medicine, exercise, and good nutrition to bolster the body’s ability to fight disease, integrated pest management to encourage natural predators of crop pests, the Freedom of Information Act to reduce government secrecy, protection for whistle blowers, impact fees, pollution taxes, and performance bonds to recapture the externalized public costs of private benefits.

6. Driving positive feedback loops.

A positive feedback loop is self-reinforcing. The more it works, the more it gains power to work some more.

The more people catch the flu, the more they infect other people. The more babies are born, the more people grow up to have babies. The more money you have in the bank, the more interest you earn, the more money you have in the bank. The more the soil erodes, the less vegetation it can support, the fewer roots and leaves to soften rain and runoff, the more soil erodes. The more high-energy neutrons in the critical mass, the more they knock into nuclei and generate more.

Positive feedback loops drive growth, explosion, erosion, and collapse in systems. A system with an unchecked positive loop ultimately will destroy itself. That’s why there are so few of them.

Usually a negative loop kicks in sooner or later. The epidemic runs out of infectable people—or people take increasingly strong steps to avoid being infected. The death rate rises to equal the birth rate—or people see the consequences of unchecked population growth and have fewer babies. The soil erodes away to bedrock, and after a million years the bedrock crumbles into new soil—or people put up check dams and plant trees.

In those examples, the first outcome is what happens if the positive loop runs its course, the second is what happens if there’s an intervention to reduce its power.

Reducing the gain around a positive loop—slowing the growth—is usually a more powerful leverage point in systems than strengthening negative loops, and much preferable to letting the positive loop run.

Population and economic growth rates in the world model are leverage points, because slowing them gives the many negative loops, through technology and markets and other forms of adaptation, time to function. It’s the same as slowing the car when you’re driving too fast, rather than calling for more responsive brakes or technical advances in steering.

The most interesting behavior that rapidly turning positive loops can trigger is chaos. This wild, unpredictable, unreplicable, and yet bounded behavior happens when a system starts changing much, much faster than its negative loops can react to it.

For example, if you keep raising the capital growth rate in the world model, eventually you get to a point where one tiny increase more will shift the economy from exponential growth to oscillation. Another nudge upward gives the oscillation a double beat. And just the tiniest further nudge sends it into chaos.

I don’t expect the world economy to turn chaotic any time soon (not for that reason, anyway). That behavior occurs only in unrealistic parameter ranges, equivalent to doubling the size of the economy within a year. Real-world systems do turn chaotic, however, if something in them can grow or decline very fast. Fast-replicating bacteria or insect populations, very infectious epidemics, wild speculative bubbles in money systems, neutron fluxes in the guts of nuclear power plants. These systems are hard to control, and control must involve slowing down the positive feedbacks.

In more ordinary systems, look for leverage points around birth rates, interest rates, erosion rates, “success to the successful” loops, any place where the more you have of something, the more you have the possibility of having more.

5. Information flows.

There was this subdivision of identical houses, the story goes, except that the electric meter in some of the houses was installed in the basement and in others it was installed in the front hall, where the residents could see it constantly, going round faster or slower as they used more or less electricity. Electricity consumption was 30 percent lower in the houses where the meter was in the front hall.

Systems-heads love that story because it’s an example of a high leverage point in the information structure of the system. It’s not a parameter adjustment, not a strengthening or weakening of an existing loop. It’s a NEW LOOP, delivering feedback to a place where it wasn’t going before.

In 1986 the US government required that every factory releasing hazardous air pollutants report those emissions publicly. Suddenly everyone could find out precisely what was coming out of the smokestacks in town. There was no law against those emissions, no fines, no determination of “safe” levels, just information. But by 1990 emissions dropped 40 percent. One chemical company that found itself on the Top Ten Polluters list reduced its emissions by 90 percent, just to “get off that list.”

Missing feedback is a common cause of system malfunction. Adding or rerouting information can be a powerful intervention, usually easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical structure.

The tragedy of the commons that is exhausting the world’s commercial fisheries occurs because there is no feedback from the state of the fish population to the decision to invest in fishing vessels. (Contrary to economic opinion, the price of fish doesn’t provide that feedback. As the fish get more scarce and hence more expensive, it becomes all the more profitable to go out and catch them. That’s a perverse feedback, a positive loop that leads to collapse.)

It’s important that the missing feedback be restored to the right place and in compelling form. It’s not enough to inform all the users of an aquifer that the groundwater level is dropping. That could trigger a race to the bottom. It would be more effective to set a water price that rises steeply as the pumping rate exceeds the recharge rate.

Suppose taxpayers got to specify on their return forms what government services their tax payments must be spent on. (Radical democracy!) Suppose any town or company that puts a water intake pipe in a river had to put it immediately DOWNSTREAM from its own outflow pipe. Suppose any public or private official who made the decision to invest in a nuclear power plant got the waste from that plant stored on his/her lawn.

There is a systematic tendency on the part of human beings to avoid accountability for their own decisions. That’s why there are so many missing feedback loops—and why this kind of leverage point is so often popular with the masses, unpopular with the powers that be, and effective, if you can get the powers that be to permit it to happen or go around them and make it happen anyway.

4. The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints).

The rules of the system define its scope, boundaries, degrees of freedom. Thou shalt not kill. Everyone has the right of free speech. Contracts are to be honored. The president serves four-year terms and cannot serve more than two of them. Nine people on a team, you have to touch every base, three strikes and you’re out. If you get caught robbing a bank, you go to jail.

Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the USSR and opened information flows (glasnost) and changed the economic rules (perestroika), and look what happened.

Constitutions are strong social rules. Physical laws such as the second law of thermodynamics are absolute rules, if we understand them correctly. Laws, punishments, incentives, and informal social agreements are progressively weaker rules.

To demonstrate the power of rules, I ask my students to imagine different ones for a college. Suppose the students graded the teachers. Suppose you come to college when you want to learn something, and you leave when you’ve learned it. Suppose professors were hired according to their ability to solve real-world problems, rather than to publish academic papers. Suppose a class got graded as a group, instead of as individuals.

Rules change behavior. Power over rules is real power.

That’s why lobbyists congregate when Congress writes laws, and why the Supreme Court, which interprets and delineates the Constitution—the rules for writing the rules—has even more power than Congress.

If you want to understand the deepest malfunctions of systems, pay attention to the rules, and to who has power over them.

That’s why my systems intuition was sending off alarm bells as the new world trade system was explained to me. It is a system with rules designed by corporations, run by corporations, for the benefit of corporations. Its rules exclude almost any feedback from other sectors of society. Most of its meetings are closed to the press (no information, no feedback). It forces nations into positive loops, competing with each other to weaken environmental and social safeguards in order to attract corporate investment. It’s a recipe for unleashing “success to the succesful” loops.

3. The power of self-organization.

The most stunning thing living systems can do is to change themselves utterly by creating whole new structures and behaviors. In biological systems that power is called evolution. In human economies it’s called technical advance or social revolution. In systems lingo it’s called self-organization.

Self-organization means changing any aspect of a system lower on this list—adding or deleting new physical structure, adding or deleting negative or positive loops or information flows or rules. The ability to self-organize is the strongest form of system resilience, the ability to survive change by changing.

The human immune system can develop responses to (some kinds of) insults it has never before encountered. The human brain can take in new information and pop out completely new thoughts.

Self-organization seems so wondrous that we tend to regard it as mysterious, miraculous. Economists often model technology as literal manna from heaven—coming from nowhere, costing nothing, increasing the productivity of an economy by some steady percent each year. For centuries people have regarded the spectacular variety of nature with the same awe. Only a divine creator could bring forth such a creation.

In fact the divine creator does not have to produce miracles. He, she, or it just has to write clever RULES FOR SELF-ORGANIZATION. These rules govern how, where, and what the system can add onto or subtract from itself under what conditions.

Self-organizing computer models demonstrate that delightful, mind-boggling patterns can evolve from simple evolutionary algorithms. (That need not mean that real-world algorithms are simple, only that they can be.) The genetic code that is the basis of all biological evolution contains just four letters, combined into words of three letters each. That code, and the rules for replicating and rearranging it, has spewed out an unimaginable variety of creatures.

Self-organization is basically a matter of evolutionary raw material—a stock of information from which to select possible patterns—and a means for testing them. For biological evolution the raw material is DNA, one source of variety is spontaneous mutation, and the testing mechanism is something like punctuated Darwinian selection. For technology the raw material is the body of understanding science has accumulated. The source of variety is human creativity (whatever THAT is) and the selection mechanism is whatever the market will reward or whatever governments and foundations will fund or whatever tickles the fancy of crazy inventors.

When you understand the power of self-organization, you begin to understand why biologists worship biodiversity even more than economists worship technology. The wildly varied stock of DNA, evolved and accumulated over billions of years, is the source of evolutionary potential, just as science libraries and labs and scientists are the source of technological potential. Allowing species to go extinct is a systems crime, just as randomly eliminating all copies of particular science journals, or particular kinds of scientists, would be.

The same could be said of human cultures, which are the store of behavioral repertoires accumulated over not billions, but hundreds of thousands of years. They are a stock out of which social evolution can arise. Unfortunately, people appreciate the evolutionary potential of cultures even less than they understand the potential of every genetic variation in ground squirrels. I guess that’s because one aspect of almost every culture is a belief in the utter superiority of that culture.

Any system, biological, economic, or social, that scorns experimentation and wipes out the raw material of innovation is doomed over the long term on this highly variable planet.

The intervention point here is obvious but unpopular. Encouraging diversity means losing control. Let a thousand flowers bloom and ANYTHING could happen!

Who wants that?

2. The goals of the system.

Right there, the push for control, is an example of why the goal of a system is even more of a leverage point than the self-organizing ability of a system.

If the goal is to bring more and more of the world under the control of one central planning system (the empire of Genghis Khan, the world of Islam, the People’s Republic of China, Wal-Mart, Disney), then everything further down the list, even self-organizing behavior, will be pressured or weakened to conform to that goal.

That’s why I can’t get into arguments about whether genetic engineering is a good or a bad thing. Like all technologies, it depends upon who is wielding it, with what goal. The only thing one can say is that if corporations wield it for the purpose of generating marketable products, that is a very different goal, a different direction for evolution than anything the planet has seen so far.

There is a hierarchy of goals in systems. Most negative feedback loops have their own goals—to keep the bath water at the right level, to keep the room temperature comfortable, to keep inventories stocked at sufficient levels. They are small leverage points. The big leverage points are the goals of entire systems.

People within systems don’t often recognize what whole-system goal they are serving. To make profits, most corporations would say, but that’s just a rule, a necessary condition to stay in the game. What is the point of the game? To grow, to increase market share, to bring the world (customers, suppliers, regulators) more under the control of the corporation, so that its operations become ever more shielded from uncertainty. That’s the goal of a cancer cell too and of every living population. It’s only a bad one when it isn’t countered by higher-level negative feedback loops with goals of keeping the system in balance. The goal of keeping the market competitive has to trump the goal of each corporation to eliminate its competitors. The goal of keeping populations in balance and evolving has to trump the goal of each population to commandeer all resources into its own metabolism.

I said a while back that changing the players in a system is a low-level intervention, as long as the players fit into the same old system. The exception to that rule is at the top, if a single player can change the system’s goal.

I have watched in wonder as—only very occasionally—a new leader in an organization, from Dartmouth College to Nazi Germany, comes in, enunciates a new goal, and single-handedly changes the behavior of hundreds or thousands or millions of perfectly rational people.

That’s what Ronald Reagan did. Not long before he came to office, a president could say, “Ask not what government can do for you, ask what you can do for the government,” and no one even laughed. Reagan said the goal is not to get the people to help the government and not to get government to help the people, but to get the government off our backs. One can argue, and I would, that larger system changes let him get away with that. But the thoroughness with which behavior in the US and even the world has been changed since Reagan is testimony to the high leverage of articulating, repeating, standing for, insisting upon new system goals.

1. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises.

Another of Jay Forrester’s systems sayings goes: It doesn’t matter how the tax law of a country is written. There is a shared idea in the minds of the society about what a “fair” distribution of the tax load is. Whatever the rules say, by fair means or foul, by complications, cheating, exemptions or deductions, by constant sniping at the rules, the actual distribution of taxes will push right up against the accepted idea of “fairness.”

The shared idea in the minds of society, the great unstated assumptions—unstated because unnecessary to state; everyone knows them—constitute that society’s deepest set of beliefs about how the world works. There is a difference between nouns and verbs. People who are paid less are worth less. Growth is good. Nature is a stock of resources to be converted to human purposes. Evolution stopped with the emergence of Homo sapiens . One can “own” land. Those are just a few of the paradigmatic assumptions of our culture, all of which utterly dumbfound people of other cultures.

Paradigms are the sources of systems. From them come goals, information flows, feedbacks, stocks, flows.

The ancient Egyptians built pyramids because they believed in an afterlife. We build skyscrapers, because we believe that space in downtown cities is enormously valuable. (Except for blighted spaces, often near the skyscrapers, which we believe are worthless.) Whether it was Copernicus and Kepler showing that the earth is not the center of the universe, or Einstein hypothesizing that matter and energy are interchangeable, or Adam Smith postulating that the selfish actions of individual players in markets wonderfully accumulate to the common good.

People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems.

You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system, and therefore this item should be lowest on the list, not the highest. But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow about paradigm change. In a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a new way of seeing. Of course individuals and societies do resist challenges to their paradigm harder than they resist any other kind of change.

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that. In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you come yourself, loudly, with assurance, from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.

Systems folks would say one way to change a paradigm is to model a system, which takes you outside the system and forces you to see it whole. We say that because our own paradigms have been changed that way.

0. The power to transcend paradigms.

Sorry, but to be truthful and complete, I have to add this kicker.

The highest leverage of all is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to realize that NO paradigm is “true,” that even the one that sweetly shapes one’s comfortable worldview is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe.

It is to “get” at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into Not Knowing.

People who cling to paradigms (just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything we think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, not even a reason for being, much less acting, in the experience that there is no certainty in any worldview. But everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it a basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose one that will help achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe (or put in the name of your favorite deity here) and do his, her, its will, which is a lot better informed than your will.

It is in the space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.

Back from the sublime to the ridiculous, from enlightenment to caveats. There is so much that has to be said to qualify this list. It is tentative and its order is slithery. There are exceptions to every item on it. Having the list percolating in my subconscious for years has not transformed me into a Superwoman. I seem to spend my time running up and down the list, trying out leverage points wherever I can find them. The higher the leverage point, the more the system resists changing it-that’s why societies rub out truly enlightened beings.

I don’t think there are cheap tickets to system change. You have to work at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off paradigms. In the end, it seems that leverage has less to do with pushing levers than it does with disciplined thinking combined with strategically, profoundly, madly letting go.

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