Spaceship Earth -- Our Only Regenerative Life Support Machine
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STATE of SUSTAINABILITY (SOS) JOURNAL
Public Affairs Commentary & Ideas from a Whole Systems and Strategic Sustainability Perspective
Inspiration: ”If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”.
— Albert Einstein
A new OECD Outlook report: OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050--The Consequences of Inaction, provides a credible and sobering understanding of the inhospitable world of 2050 that we, humanity, will face if we do not choose to reverse our present business as usual (BAU) trajectory. The report presents policy recommendations to reverse course, but leaves implementation to enlightened national leaders and citizens, thereby concluding on the traditional simultaneously hopeful and unlikely note.
You can find an accessible formulation and starting point for two fundamental practices underlying key sustainability strategies -- radical resource productivity and whole systems thinking -- at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Mark Kessler, architect and UC Davis Professor, will soon publish a book on the historical aspects of San Francisco's 1920s-era garages. On March 3-4, 2012, he exhibited a set of photographs of these garages at the Old Mint Building (5th & Mission). He gave a captivating lecture entitled "Elegant Pitstops--The Historicist Garages of San Francisco" in which he discussed the historical value of these buildings that are often invisible to the passerby. When combined with innovative land use-transportation policy, these historic resources could play an key, neighborhood-based, intermediate role in creating a fully funtional multi-modal and sustainable transportation system for 21st century San Francisco.
Read the article in the Economist.
Shining a light on the linkage between the short term and long term profitability, particularly when short term actions reduce or obliterate the long term, is the critical point.
One curious aspect is that discussions about carbon pricing are often conducted as if humans have the choice! As any economist knows, there is no free lunch. We either fully reflect real prices in the human
Envisioning the EcoCity--With the adoption of the EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions, the City of Vancouver has begun a new chapter in planning for a sustainable, affordable, and livable future. Find out here about the many initiatives underway to use density, design, and land use to help reduce our carbon footprint, expand housing choices, and ensure Vancouver remains one of the most livable cities in the world...
Mother Jones Magazine provides a short answer to this one. Read the short article and check out their interactive graphic.
With globalization, variations on the enclosure movements, and deep poverty from fundamental Malthusian trends (population outstrips resources, at some point), the
Microplastic Bioaccumulation from Synthetic Clothing Discovered in Food Chain -- Another On-Going Sustainability Violation
New research from UCSB (see BBC) reveals consistent pollution patterns of microplastics around the world, with higher concentrations at beaches located near sewage disposal points. This violates one principle for a sustainable society in the biosphere--the systematic accumulation of compounds that natural cycles cannot break down. The violation creates business risks for firms and reveals economic distortion and inefficiency. Smart firms will self-regulate through innovation to sustitute materials and processes that eliminate pollution. For all others, regulations should be passed to protect human health and spur the innovation industry-wide to correct a source of distorting, uneconomic activity related to imperfect price signals. Doing so will strengthen the economy and move towards sustainability.
A new analysis concludes that easily extracted oil peaked in 2005, suggesting that dirtier fossil fuels will be burned and energy prices will rise. Read the Scientific American Article.
See the visualized data map here. The public policy mantra on global warming has shifted in the last few years from mitigation, which is viewed as impractical, to adaptation, which is viewed as smart and practical.
If only! The problem with such a "positive, constructive, boosterism" framing of the challenge of catastrophic climate change is that full mitigation (full societal mobilization/innovation to stay below 1, 2 at most, degrees C average surface temperature warming), is our best and only shot at success. Even that success is uncertain.
A recent 3-minute brief from the Earth Policy Institute states that global public sector subsidy of the oil industry amounts to $500 billion per year. This spending increases public debt and accelerates catastrophic climate change. Should this be de-factor government policy in an age of catastrophic climate change when accurate understanding and a meaningful and sufficient response is nowhere to be seen?
This article in the Guardian, argues that the world is turning its back with increasing frequency on its core enlightenment values.
Given that an effective response to the sustainability challenge hinges on extending core enlightenment values, the article illuminates one "sticky" source of resistance and reaction to sustainability proposals, or does it?
Vancouver Sun, AFP, Nov 9, 2011
PARIS - The world has just five years to avoid being trapped in a scenario of perilous climate change and extreme weather events, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Wednesday .
On current trends, "rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change," the IEA concluded in its annual World Energy Outlook report.
It's not only an environmental issue. It is the wrong way to invest in and develop the economy.
It would produce unsustainable jobs that kill the planet and the people.
It reinforces our addiction to oil. It does not substantially address the petro-dollar/petro dictator/terrorist foreign policy/international security issue.
An SF Gate article begins with, "A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming [Richard Muller] spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly."
Although the scientific method triumphs, public discourse on the topic still reflects a misunderstanding of the relationship between science and public policy decisions.
Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institute, argues that a new cadre of leaders—mayors, governors, academics and business people from around the country—form America’s Pragmatic Caucus. In sharp contrast to Beltway polarization, these bipartisan pioneers—like Michael Nutter in Philadelphia or Ashley Swearingen in Fresno, and the governors of Colorado and Michigan in between—are acting decisively to grow jobs in the near term and retool their metropolitan economies for the long-haul. read more . . .
Dear Governor Brown,
Thank you for your action to protect the environment this year and continuing your record of environmental stewardship.
In addition to thanking your for signing the following bills listed below, I would like to ask you to think hard about developing a bold new environmental-economic innovation program capable of blasting us out of our economic malaise and onto a path of authentic wealth creation and prosperity.
This enviro-economic innovation program would have the capacity to
How do we integrate expert knowledge into democratic decisions and policy? Think through the issue with Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, who provides a nice example of critical thinking applied to the current public dialogue over human-induced climate change.
"Experts have always posed a problem for democracies. Plato scorned democracy, rating it the worst form of government short of tyranny, largely because it gave power to the ignorant
Public discourse seems to increasingly suffer from a confusion between fact and opinion, argument and belief, the rational and irrational. Accordingly, society now possesses a declining capacity to make these critical distinctions and comprehend their import for public policy, decision making, and governance. As a result, society is losing or is about to lose its guiding rudder at a time when it is most needed. This capacity is needed to respond