Charles Eisenstein: Inspiring Occupy, Integral, and Transition Communities

Where do the worlds of Occupy, the Transition Towns movement, and the Integral community meet?  Perhaps in the work of Charles Eisenstein.

“I consider Charles Eisenstein one of the up-and-coming great minds of our time. Rarely have I met a person who combines such philosophical and spiritual depth with such practical insights into the cultural and institutional origins of the potentially terminal dysfunctions of modern society – and the potential solutions.”
David Korten, author of The Great Turning

Today’s post is inspired by Rob Hopkins’ latest at Transition Culture, which is An interview with Charles Eisenstein: “Something in your heart knows that this is what life is supposed to be about”, available both as a audio download, and as a transcript.  It’s a great interview, perhaps one of the better ones covering the basic outlines of Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics, as well as touching on ways his thinking intersects with the Transition movement.

I first heard of Charles Eisenstein in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.  I was finding numerous good articles from various sources, but one that stood out was an essay called Money and the Crisis of Civilization.  It had a tone of such authority and wisdom, that I pictured the author as a wise elder.  I was later surprised to learn that Eisenstein was a fairly young man.

The next time Eisenstein’s name came up for me was when my wife’s uncle gave me some mp3 recordings of The Ascent of Humanity – put together by amateur enthusiasts who were so enthralled with the book that they created a network of folks who took turns recording different parts of the book and then compiled and distributed it for free on the internet. When I finally got around to listening to these, I must admit I was disappointed.  The tone of the primary reader was so bitter, it came across as an anti-civ rant.  I was later surprised to learn that Eisenstein is an incredibly positive and inspiring personality, who does not speak this way at all himself.  I also learned that he does have some “anti-civ” influences (Derick Jensen, Daniel Quinn, John Zerzan), but he has moved well beyond these influences.

Charles Eisenstein’s name came up again in 2011 when I was perusing the premier peak oil blog, The Oil Drum, where Eisenstein had provided a guest post on Peak Oil, Peak Debt, and the Concentration of Power, where he made a compelling argument: “Many alternative energy technologies have made little headway, not because they are technologically unfeasible, but because they don’t fit into our present physical, financial, and psychological infrastructure. There is a causal as well as a metaphorical parallel between the concentration of power in oil and in money.”

A lot of people came to know of Charles Eisenstein and his work when the Occupy movement was first gathering steam, and Velcrow Ripper’s short “Occupy Wall St – The Revolution is Love” video, featuring Eisenstein, went viral.

The system isn’t working for the 1% either. You know if you were a CEO, you would be making the same choices they do. The institutions have their own logic. Life is pretty bleak at the top too – and all the baubles of the rich are this phoney compensation for the loss of what’s really important. The loss of community, the loss of connection, the loss of intimacy. The loss of meaning.

Eisenstein’s  book, Sacred Economics , has also been getting a lot of attention, and is serialized online here.  Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had a chance to read it.

Then I saw Ian MacKenzie’s short 12 minute video , capturing the essence of Sacred Economics:

Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth.

Today, these trends have reached their extreme – but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.

I was excited when I found a whole series of audio interviews under the theme “Beyond Awakening,” conducted by Terry Patten, co-author of Integral Life Practice with Ken Wilber.  Even more excited when I noticed one of those interviews was with Charles Eisenstein, recorded January, 2012.

I’d like to close with an excerpt from the interview posted by Rob Hopkins  today. This interchange illustrates where the principles of Transition and the principles of Sacred Economics collide.

(Hopkins): One of the things that’s been interesting here in Totnes is Transition Streets, which is the idea that you get out on your street and you get together 6 to 10 households in each street, then you meet 7 times at each other’s houses. The first time you look at energy, the second week you look at water, transport, food, and at the end of each week you undertake to do certain things before you meet up again. On average there are about 680 households in Totnes that have done that, and on average they cut their carbon by about 1.3 tonnes a year and saved themselves £5-600 a year.

There was a qualitative study that was done about what was their experience, what they got out of it.  By far the main thing they got out of it was meeting the neighbours, community, feeling more connected to where they are, new relationships, feeling part that they hadn’t done before. There was one of those big word cloud things created of all their answers and peak oil and climate change and economics didn’t register –  it was all just ‘neighbours’, ‘connected’, ‘friendships’, which I thought was really interesting. So with the gift economy, might it be that we actually address all the things we’ve been talking about in terms of peak oil and climate change, but just not actually explicitly focussing on those things?

(Eisenstein): I think it’s interesting in the scenario you just described with the streets and looking at energy, so the thing that they got out of it was the connection to the community. But if they’d just got together in their houses and talked about those things and done nothing more than have conversations they probably wouldn’t have that sense of community. They have to have a sense that we’re here to do something, not just to talk about it.

A purpose…

Yeah. In the States a lot of it is really – let’s get together and talk about how right we are. So I do think there has to be something like that.

When they’re actually doing something that pushes them a bit.

Yeah, creating something together. Because when you create something then you have to step aside, because something other than yourself becomes paramount, it’s this thing you want to create. When you let go of that ego self then real connection is possible. Like if you’ve been in a band or in a sports team, you feel a more authentic bond…at least that’s what I experienced when I was on the track team in college, even if I didn’t like some of the guys, there’s still a real bond, because we were dedicated to something greater than ourselves together.

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An Action Request: Emails to Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Fatih Birol

Bill McKibben by Nancie Battaglia, High Res

In my two previous posts, Global. Warming. and Responses to Bill McKibbben, I referenced an excellent recent article by Nicholas Arguimbau.

Mr. Arguimbau now has a request. Since governments and industry are doing nothing about global warming, and are likely to continue doing nothing, we the public are left with only one option – direct individual and collective reductions in CO2 emissions. And, according to Mr. Arguimbau, it is Bill McKibben that needs to lead the charge. The request from Mr. Arguimbau is below, under the blue line.

And below that (under the Red Line) is the text from an email exchange I had with Mr. Arguimbau. Your comments are welcome.

#####################

Arguimbau writes,

You may have read Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone about global warming. Bill may be our “last best hope,” and his article is carefully thought out, but he leaves out something essential: the importance of individual and collective energy conservation NOW. You may also wish to read “Bill McKibben is Wrong. We must not forget that ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.’ ” (featured in Countercurrents Editor’s Picks). Are you and everyone whose attention you can get by forwarding this email going to join me pestering Mr. McKibben, Mr. Hansen and Mr. Birol about telling people to radically cut their CO2 emissions because it can’t wait and just because it’s the right thing to do? We’ve tried for some centuries to be mean and selfish on principle, and look where it’s gotten us. Time for a “paradigm shift,” as is said way too much. The critters that bury nuts and later can’t find them, so the nuts grow into nut trees, aren’t being stupid – whether they know it or not they are being generous to future generations. It’s something they got through Darwinian evolution, so we can do it too.

There follow sample emails to Bill McKibben, and to James Hansen and Fatih Birol. You can modify them however you please. If you help out, please send a bcc of whatever you write to narguimbau@earthlink.net

##########################

TO: Bill McKibben, mckibben.bill@gmail.com

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to change the direction you seem, based upon your wonderful Rolling Stone article, to be taking to deal with the issue of global warming. Specifically, I believe a focus on energy conservation is essential. That should be self-evident but is not at all the direction you seem to be taking. In your Rolling Stone article you stated that you have no intention to try to persuade the public to conserve. Although in a follow-up letter to supporters you have referred to a broader range of issues, you also appear in Rolling Stone to be planning on a focus exclusively on private oil companies, excluding attention to the publicly-owned companies or to the producers of coal and natural gas. The difficulty with the focus only on private oil companies is in my opinion self-evident. The difficulty with letting consumers off the hook is, as I see it,

1. You can’t reduce emissions without reducing emissions.

2. No meaningful government program for emissions reduction (such as Mr, Hansen’s carbon tax) can be adopted as long as the people are collectively opposed to meaningful emissions reductions on their own part.

3. Programs to which the fossil fuel industry is opposed are not going to occur as long as the public is collectively and freely giving the industry trillions of dollars per year to continue producing fossil fuels.

So I am afraid that the direction you seem to be headed is not going to work, and certainly not as fast as the crisis demands.

You may be our “last best hope.” But you need to change direction and difficult as it may appear, persuade the public as a central part of your campaign that substantial reductions in emissions are needed NOW, from them. With Greenland melting and with a severe climate-induced food shortage looming, there has been no better time than now to convince the public that they must change their ways, and there is not enough time to wait for intransigent governments to reverse the constantly-increasing CO2 emissions.. The time is NOW, and only the public can move that quickly.

You have a very strong base of support, and therefore should not limit your approaches to those found acceptable by traditional funding sources.

The direction of your campaign needs to be “Emissions reductions NOW.” The recent scientific report predicting that the United States is facing a century-long extreme drought, unavailable when you wrote the Rolling Stone article, makes that clear, and we have no better opportunity than now to convince the public.

Sincerely,

###########################

TO: james.e.hansen@nasa.gov <james.e.hansen@nasa.gov>; fatih.birol@iea.org <fatih.birol@iea.org>

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to bring your influence to bear on the direction being taken by opponents of global warming to deal with the issue, and specifically assist in showing the leadership that a focus on energy conservation is essential. That should be self-evident but is not at all the direction being taken. You may already have read Nicholas Arguimbau’s take on what is happening in the latest Energy Bulletin: “Bill McKibben is Wrong. We must not forget that ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.’ ”

Countercurrents, http://www.countercurrents.org/arguimbau300712.htm,

Countercurrents Editor’s Picks, http://www.countercurrents.org/editorspicks.htm,

Energy Bulletin, http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-07-31/bill-mckibben-wrong-we-must-not-forget-we-have-met-enemy-and-he-us

In his Rolling Stone article he stated unambiguously that he has no intention to try to persuade the public to conserve. He also appears to be planning on a focus exclusively on private oil companies, excluding attention to the publicly-owned companies or to the producers of coal and natural gas. The difficulty with the focus only on private oil companies is in my opinion self-evident. The difficulty with letting consumers off the hook is, as I see it,

1. You can’t reduce emissions without reducing emissions.

2. No meaningful government program for emissions reduction (such as Mr, Hansen’s carbon tax) can be adopted as long as the people are collectively opposed to meaningful emissions reductions on their own part.

3. Programs to which the oil industry is opposed are not going to occur as long as the public is collectively and freely giving the oil industry trillions of dollars per year to continue producing fossil fuels.

So I think that the direction Mr, McKibben is headed is not going to work, and certainly not as fast as the crisis demands.

Mr. McKibben appears to be sincere in his efforts, and is in any event our “last best hope.”. But he needs to change direction and persuade the public as a central part of his campaign that substantial reductions in emissions are needed NOW, from them. With Greenland melting and with a severe climate-induced food shortage looming, there has been no better time than now to convince the public that they must change their ways.

It would not surprise me if McKibben has difficulty finding support for conservation efforts among traditional funding sources. However, at this time he has such a strong following among the general public that he should be able to cut loose from prior constraints.

There are, at least to my limited knowledge, few people if any as capable of persuading Mr. McKibben to change as you two. Accordingly, I ask you to communicate with him and try to persuade him that a focus on private oil companies is too narrow and that individual and collective fossil energy conservation and prompt direct emissions reductions should be the central goal of his campaign.

Sincerely,

######################

Below is the email exchange between myself and Nicholas Arguimbau. Arbuimbau’s responses are italicized and green in color:

Hello Nicholas, Definitely an uphill battle. It seems McKibben is gambling that by having a common enemy that is not us, his organization can get more traction…

He may be able to get more traction but I don’t see how he can get more emissions reductions, or in fact any. I had an epiphany a few months ago – that for decades the major “conservationists” have in fact not advocated conservation. It goes all too symmetrically with the better-understood conspiracy of silence on population among the enviros. “I=PAT” is a 50-year-old model of where major impacts on the environment come from (See Wikipedia, “I = PAT”), but it just happens that PA is the GDP, so they are interfering with economic growth if they advocate either conservation or population control. So they advocate technofixes ( T ) like the Prius, pollution control technology, geothermal energy, etc. This happens subtly – one way is failure of foundations to fund conservation campaigns. My gamble is that McKibben has a strong enough following that he can fund his campaign without “establishment” contributions and could be willing to do so.

…I think that can only be effective if it includes getting people to boycott buying all of their products in the myriad forms they come to us. Which would essentially mean curtailment (see Pat Murphy’s 2006 article), and dramatic emissions reduction.

Yes. Very difficult but impossible to dodge any longer. See the quote from J.K. Galbraith in my article. It’s a fundamental change people need to make ASAP. I think the US drought (really world drought) and the world depression may begin to scare people enough (with a little nudge from Bill’s charisma) to see that if they don’t change their ways their children are going to attempt survival in an uninhabitable world. As a practical matter, the cuts in consumption are inevitable because growth is over, so major conservation will happen within decades; it will come, but the more we fight it the more we and future generations will suffer. This has got to be the urgent message that all of us who understand it put out incessantly.

I am generally not fond of the ‘us vs. them’ activist mode. It has its place, and it may have won some specific battles of the environmental movement in the past, but it has not helped win the bigger picture war (metaphor appropriate for us vs. them constructs).

Yes, although the oil industry is both a convenient target and a realistic one. I’ve been fighting with them in the agencies and courts for nearly forty years, and they and their pawns are in fact psychologically different – compulsive liars, for starters. The case has been made that psychopathy has taken over the major corporations, literally. But even psychopaths should be viewed as ill rather than evil. They will not react kindly by being target as “the enemy,” and we also have to deal with the reality that much of the world has targeted Americans as the “enemy,” as a result of which we need to tread carefully. They have the power, and presently the inclination, to isolate the US economically as South Africa was isolated.

On the other hand, McKibben has a point about how hard it is to get people to change personal behavior,…

but as I keep saying, “The way to reduce emissions is to reduce emissions” – no changes in individual behavior, equals no emissions reductions. The enviros’ strategy has been to change T, but changes in T would now be too little too late; moreover, wholesale changes in T will only have sufficient economic impetus AFTER the supply or demand for fossil fuels has been cut drastically. There is no feasible passage from here to there without major cuts first, which lessen the competitive edge of the fossil fuels industry.

…but this is where strategic thinking and creativity is needed. I think Rob Hopkins is on the right track here with the Transition movement.

–         David

Yes, but I don’t think they are taking a realistic approach to how hard things are going to be, or to the fact that it takes generations to build a community, which can’t happen if everyone’s source of income is outside the community. I live in a very small town where the population is largely the same families as generations ago, and some town leaders who have ties to the town from the pre-revolutionary inception. They can see “the Seventh Generation” because they’ve been there seven generations and know that the quick buck will destroy their heritage. They also are not taking a realistic approach to how hard things are going to be, but I think they have the tools for survival.

–       Nicholas

Responses to Bill McKibben

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post, “Global. Warming.” We left off discussing Bill McKibben’s phenomenally popular article for Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” A week ago it had already been viewed 450,000 times, and shared 100,000 times.  As of this writing, the article has over 4000 comments.

It’s a very good article, and I highly recommend it. McKibben discusses the sobering facts from the latest research and data.  He quotes the chief economist for the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol:

“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.”

McKibben comments: “That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.”

After lamenting that “we’re in the same position we’ve been in for a quarter-century: scientific warning followed by political inaction,” McKibben then outlines the need for a new strategy.  Trying to change individual lifestyles with twisty lightbulbs doesn’t work, and will not make a decisive difference in time.  Neither does lobbying political leaders to get them to initiate needed changes.

McKibben states,

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…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.

Is McKibben right? Is he outlining a new, more effective way to combat climate change? Is this where we should be directing all of our collective energy, toward the fossil-fuel industry?

One response to McKibben that I greatly appreciate is by Nicholas Arguimbau, and posted at Energy Bulletin: Bill McKibben is Wrong, We Must Not Forget that “We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.”

Energy Bulletin is no ‘Rolling Stone,’ and this article has only had 3226 reads so far, but for me this piece really hits the mark. Arguimbau write of McKibben, “He is a great man with a great mind, but I’m not sure, and I don’t think he or any of us should be sure, that he has chosen the only or most important ‘enemy.'”

The concerns are that McKibben “dismisses John Q. Public,” and tells us “that he won’t ask us to change our lifestyles for the sake of global warming,” because individual actions will not make a decisive difference, and we don’t have time for that kind of slow culture change.

Arguimbau argues that mainstream environmental leaders “have never, ever  asked their followers in a serious way to conserve.”  He says that we really have no other choice:

if we could reduce our emissions by adopting alternative fuels, the presently nonexistent ultracheap batteries, solar-electric cars, solar-electric home-heating furnaces, whatever, we wouldn’t have to change our lifestyles too much. But is that going to happen in four years? Of course not. It is absolutely impossible. We’re not talking mere political or practical or economic infeasibility here. The technology isn’t there. The infrastructures aren’t there. The capital to make it happen isn’t there. It absolutely cannot happen. So we have no choice. As [McKibben] says himself, “Time is precisely what we lack.”

Arguimbau points out, “Mr. McKibben makes a radical change to the Earth Day 1970 poster and call to arms that was “the rallying cry for a generation of environmentalists”, Walt Kelly’s immortal quotation from Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Instead, says Mr, McKibben, ‘We have met the enemy, and he is Shell.”

Interestingly, like McKibben, Arguimbau turns to the IEA for support, quoting the industry respected World Energy Outlook report of 2011, which states the obvious:

“The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes from the energy that we do not consume.”

Finally, this passage from Arguimbau really got me:

A … campaign now against the private oil industry would create some embarrassment in limited locations, but would it cut emissions? No, because the emissions reductions must come from us the consumers, won’t come until we change our lifestyles, and won’t come out of a campaign that promises to leave lifestyles alone.

And to return to the moral question, we are by far the ones with the ties that matter the most. We give the industry, both public and private, trillions of dollars per year. We ARE their profits. We are their raison d’etre.

Can we say that WE, who are the means by which the industry profits, the means by which it creates the poison, the means by which the poison is distributed to do its damage, do NOT “have ties with those who profit from climate change”? That is a lie. And it is a moral issue. This writer discussed at considerable length why it is a moral issue in “A Greeting For 2012: Looking Back At Durban And Other Progressive Failures, And “Occupying” Ourselves”, and will not repeat.

Another response to McKibben comes from one of my favorite bloggers, Sharon Astyk: Do You Have to Believe in Climate Change?

Astyk supports Arguimbau’s post, so does not repeat that material. She points out how easy it is to become politically and ideologically polarized. She points out that “pure scientific reasoning has never ever been the grounds for the general public’s take on anything, almost certainly never will be…”

Even among those who believe in human caused climate change, “the vast majority believe not that they should personally transform their lives, but that SOMEONE ELSE, probably the government, should do something about climate change.”

What they are happy to do is be politically angry at those who disagree with them – to categorize others as enemies of the future and themselves. The difficulty with this is that this incredible polarization has done no one any good – we are further now from making progress on climate change than we were five years ago – and with significantly less time to do it in. Feeling angry at the other side, organizing activities that only the left participates in and political opposition take more time than changing individual action, and are less productive in our deeply polarized US. At this point, climate change opposition has taken hold ideologically on the right, moderate right and most of the US center. Historically speaking, when the right, moderate right and US center agree on something, the left spends a lot of time tilting at windmills and it loses. As long as climate change is a politically polarized left-right issue, it is doomed to inaction.
– Sharon Astyk

So, what can be done? First, and here is where she refers to Arguimbau’s post for further discussion, is that rather than trying to get people to change a little at a time here and there (changing light bulbs), one of the most critical projects we can engage in is to convey “a way of life that people can aspire to and adopt collectively.”  In fact, Sharon has written one of the best books ever exploring this approach, called Depletion and Abundance. As reviewer Frank Kaminski put it, “she shows how rewarding life on her New Home Front could be, immeasurably improving our health, nutrition, sense of community and overall well-being.”

Second, she addresses the question that is the title of her post: “Do you, in fact, have to believe in global warming to do what is needed?”

She argues that if you keep the end in mind of where you want to get to, and shift the discussion away from one’s position on climate change, and towards those outcomes you want to see, there can be effective traction.

What I have found over the years is that on this ground, there are plenty of allies that cannot exist over one politicized single issue. Does that mean you can accomplish everything one would like to? No, almost certainly not – but in comparison to what we are accomplishing right now in terms of climate change (ie, nothing), it is possible to imagine making changes worth making in lifestyle, community, and at a host of political levels (smaller is often easier) if the ground shifts to other territory.
– Sharon Astyk

This reminds me of something said by David Holmgren, co-founder of Permaculture.

It’s about society reading signs around it that it needs to change, and that change is coming. We have all sorts of interpretations about why that might be. I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to believe in climate change or peak oil to start to behave sensibly, to look after their own interests and the interests of their children and grandchildren.  An understanding of peak oil and climate change certainly helps to understand the complexities that are unraveling in the world, but I’ve argued quite strongly that it doesn’t really matter whether these crises are caused by geological climatic realities, or whether they’re caused by evil actors, or whether they’re caused by a God who is punishing us for our sins. It all means we’ve actually got to change what we’re doing.
So I’m sort of ambivalent about that issue of the first thing is to hammer into people that they’ve got to accept a particular explanation of what’s going on in the world. I don’t think that is necessary.
– David Holmgren, Gro-Action Interview, 2011

Although I probably won’t stop trying to get people to “understand the complexities that are unraveling in the world,” I think Astyk and Holmgren offer a much needed perspective.

Although the Transition Towns movement still places some importance on awareness raising around the issues of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability, it seems the real juice has been found in the aspects of the work that are about hands on practicalities and making meaningful connections with other people – building community. Rob Hopkins wrote recently, “I am thinking about calling the next book I do “The Thrill of Just Doing Stuff” because I think that is ultimately what it’s about.”

I’ve come across a number of articles over the past couple of years by environmentalists who say something to the effect of “what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, therefore we should change our tactics.”  And then they proceed to offer the same old tactics of protest and opposition.  As I said in the previous post, I support removing fossil fuel subsidies, and protest and opposition has it’s place.  But what if we were to actually put some major effort into creating the world we do want, rather than just opposing what we don’t want?

In a recent interview, Richard Heinberg summed up the essential steps that are needed:

Relocalize
Reskill
Conserve
Share
Build Resilience

He pointed out that Transition Initiatives are re-envisioning how communities work, and how life can be better without fossil fuels. He noted that friends and neighbors are our most important assets, and that working with friends and neighbors to create community resilience can be more fun and more effective than working alone.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Global. Warming.

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas ...

A Dust Bowl storm approaches Stratford, Texas in 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It sure must be hard lately to remain a global warming skeptic. Or so one would think.  Last month, Weather.com had a story on Torrid Heat: 4,500 Record Highs and Counting:  “Saturday, St. Louis had its 10th straight day of 100-plus degree days on record, now the second-longest streak in its history. While the record of 13 straight days (August 1936) will not be eclipsed, the mere fact we’re in the territory of the “Dust Bowl” speaks magnitudes!”

What we’re seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like.  It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster … This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.
Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University

With the Colorado wildfires, significant drought in the U.S. heartlands, one would think that the opinions of Americans might be changing. Perhaps they are, but the polling data is confusing.

According to a recent Washington Post-Stanford University poll, 72% of Americans believe the earth is warming, and will continue to warm if nothing is done, and will be a serious problem.  Yet in the same poll, just 18% name the issue as their top environmental concern.  The article speculates that this sentiment “may help explain why elected officials feel little pressure to impose curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.”

One third to one half of those polled think that scientists  base their climate science conclusions on money and politics.

And on that note, results from a new study were announced last week.  This study is not significant for finding anything that hasn’t been conventionally accepted climate science for the last decade, but because the study was led by a climate skeptic using methodology designed to appeal to climate skeptics.

According to The Guardian,

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.

In Muller’s Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic, he says “I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

It is important to note that this study had the backing of The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the support of folks like climate change denier Anthony Watts (Watts Up With That? blog).  Watts wrote on his blog, “I think, based on what I’ve seen, that BEST has a superior method…I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise.”

However, when the BEST team came back with results supporting human caused climate change, Watts and the other skeptics have found all kinds of reasons to reject it.

Moving beyond events in the United States, there have also been alarming reports from the polar regions.  First, there was a story in The Guardian on July 19th,  Greenland Glacier Calves Iceberg Twice the Size of Manhattan:  “An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan broke free from Greenland’s massive Petermann glacier, which could speed up the march of ice into northern waters, scientists said on Wednesday. This is the second time in less than two years that the Petermann glacier has calved a monstrous ice island. In 2010, it unleashed another massive ice chunk into the sea.”

On July 25th, the BBC reported on Antarctica, Grand Canyon Sized Rift Speeding Ice Melt: “A rift in the Antarctic rock as deep as the Grand Canyon is increasing ice melt from the continent, researchers say. A UK team found the Ferrigno rift using ice-penetrating radar, and showed it to be about 1.5km (1 mile) deep…The team writes in Nature journal that the canyon is bringing more warm sea water to the ice sheet, hastening melt.”

Back to Greenland, also on July 25th, the New Scientist carried a very disturbing report: 97% of Greenland Surface Ice Turns To Slush.
“The surface of Greenland has turned to slush. Satellite data shows that a warm spell earlier this month melted nearly the entire surface of the nation’s ice cap. The melt is unusual: normally about half of the ice sheet melts at the surface during summer, mostly at low elevations. This year the thaw was stunningly swift and widespread, and extended high up the nation’s peaks.”

To top it all off, Bill McKibben has written a major article for Rolling Stone, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, about which McKibben himself said “may be the most important writing I’ve done since The End of Nature, way back in 1989.”

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is 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.
– Bill McKibben, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

McKibben wrote in an email to 350.org supporters that “The analysis — the math — that’s in [the article]  is going to form the basis of a lot of our work going forward.”  To begin with, this apparently means  “we’re … engaged, right through election day, in the fight against fossil fuel subsidies. It’s gaining momentum — almost 60 Senators and Representatives have signed on in support of the Sanders/Ellison bill to end the giveaways to the richest industry on earth. Teams of people are fanning out across the country this week and next to ask their public officials: Where do you stand on removing fossil fuel subsidies?'”

Although I support removing fossil fuel subsidies, and think it’s important to get behind this effort, you’ll have to come back tomorrow (or the next day) to catch my next installment regarding some of the concerns I and others have about McKibben’s article and his new emphasis.  (Hint: It aligns very closely with this excellent article: Bill McKibben is wrong, we must not forget that “We have met the enemy and he is us” by Nicholas Arguimbau).

Until then, check out dirtyenergymoney.com to “follow the money” – Find out which companies are pumping their dirty money into politics and which politicians are receiving it.