Friday, April 01, 2011
Guest Blog: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
PBS ran a two-hour special structured around Lester Brown as he did a tour of lectures and visits to heads of state around the world. Entitled "Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization," the video is available without charge on PBS online.
Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, a global think tank that looks at trends from food security to carbon emissions. It is nearly fifty years since he started a tomato farm that was very successful, graduated from college and visited farms in India.
At seventy six, you'd think he could retire in comfort. But the program opens as he flies from Washington, D.C. to Beijing, where he met with the country's leaders and gave a public talk. On the way there, from 35,000 feet, he observed cracks in the polar ice indicating the status of melting. He connects that with the glacial melting in the Himalayan plateau, which distributes water though much of Asia. Billions will be affected as rivers like the Bramaputra, the Indus, the Ganges and the Mekong begin to have a reduced water supply.
This is a wake up call for the citizens of New Mexico, as well as anywhere else on the planet.
The essence of his message is that the world community is in a pressing need of achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. The current global agreement is for a 20% reduction by 2060. The documentary reviewed the very dramatic urgency with which FDR changed American industrial manufacturing in a matter of months into wartime production, in 1942. This is the kind of effort that is need on greenhouse gases.
On the dire end of the spectrum, Brown talks about the rise of reactionary and destabilizing forces throughout the world, and ponders the problem of food shortages that might very well lead to intensifying internal political strife and to many more failed states. He asks the question, "How many failed states would it take for civilization itself to fail?"
He proposes that we must take the initiative and get ahead of the problem before we find out.
On the positive end, it looks like we could mobilize in such a way that we bring about a future that actually is more liveable and better in a lot of ways through pressing ahead with a green economy approach. Reducing carbon emissions as the central, overarching goal, investing in renewal energy in various forms and getting away from coal and nuclear and oil energy is the solution.
Food production is implicated. For the first time, he feels that there could be a question as to whether there really is enough food to feed a growing human population beyond a certain point. Thus, another big goal would be to eliminate world poverty and address the economics that really produce conditions that keep people trapped in it. Family planning is working in Bangladesh, apparently, which is giving rise to greater prosperity there.
In New Mexico, there are wind farms and there is an investment in green energy. That is a start and a certain former governor can be thanked for having the vision to see the importance of promoting this.
The oil and gas industries have long been convinced that investing in a long-term campaign to keep the waters muddied about the big picture and the science involved in the various areas linked to global warming is a good strategy. It is for that reason that the US is behind China and other countries in developing alternative technologies.
No longer can the public afford to entertain or tolerate this PR attack on long-term sanity. We all need to adopt the ability to think on a big scale, consider how all the issues are interrelated globally and connect to regional and local ones.
This has to come from informed and responsible citizenship, and we need to ensure that our elected representatives at all levels have their heads on straight. Determination to succeed cannot any longer depend on convincing those for whom there will never be enough evidence.
This is a guest blog by Stuart Heady. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.