[Blog written on iphone while waiting in line to pick up badge at the Bella Center this morning.]

The multitudes today at the Bella Center - andi
The multitudes today at the Bella Center - and it's only going to get busier...

All the talk of cap-and-trade, cap-and-share, carbon taxes etc – if you are looking for enlightenment on what all this means, look elsewhere. I have to confess that it does my head in. While I was a management consultant working on financial settlements systems for investment banks I was sent on various accounting courses. Despite having been good at maths when I was at school, double entry bookkeeping always sent me to sleep, and the intricacies of environmental accountancy have much the same effect.

No doubt this is evidence of some character flaw on my part – laziness, or lack of diligence. But we can’t all be experts at everything, and there are plenty of people who seem to relish the economics of environmentalism, so I shall gladly leave it to them.

I suspect I am not alone in my wilful ignorance. Like most busy people, I just want to know: what’s the least I need to know, and what am I supposed to do about it?

Here is what I know: If we carry on as we are, we as a species don’t have much time left. Business as usual will leave us up the creek without any oil. The plastics and other toxins we are pumping into the land, sea and air will poison us. Destruction of the rainforests will lead to desertification and soil erosion. Billions of people will go hungry and thirsty. These scenarios do not even assume the reality of climate change. They are based simply on the incontrovertible truths of environmental pollution and habitat destruction. Simply put, we are in deep s**t. That’s a technical term.

What are we supposed to do about it? Well, that is up to each of us to decide. Personally, I would rather avoid this version of the future, or at least minimise the damage as much as possible at this belated stage. So I look at it as I would look at planning an adventure. Same principles – this is just an adventure into the future rather than across an ocean. These are the steps:

The Bella Computer Center - about 30 ranks of desks like this one
The Bella Computer Center - about 30 ranks of desks like this one

a) What is the end goal? A clean, healthy sustainable earth, ideally with people still on it, although in reduced numbers, as our current population level is probably unsustainable (see Thom Hartmann’s excellent book,The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late).

b) When do we want to reach our goal? The sooner the better, but let’s be realistic. We have seen in times of war and crisis just how amazingly innovative and productive humans can be when the chips are down. So let’s shoot for 2050, by which time we will probably be out of oil anyway. It would be less stressful to kick our addiction to fossil fuel by proactive choice rather than having it thrust upon us.

c) Now start at the end and work backwards. What do we need to do so we can arrive at our goal by our desired end date? What technologies do we need? What will it cost? How will we find the money? What are the top priorities and what can be relegated to the nice-to-have list?

This is not rocket science. As with most expeditions, it is unlikely that we will be 100% ready by our end date. But if we aim high, 90% of a high target is hugely preferable to 90% of a low one. As the saying goes, the best way to achieve something is to aim to achieve twice as much.

A man with the world on his mind
A man with the world on his mind

I do realize that this framework is very simple, maybe even simplistic. I don’t claim to be an economist, or a scientist, or even more than averagely intelligent. The only credentials I can claim are that I spend more time thinking about these things than many people, and my isolation on the ocean does give me a certain sense of perspective.

And it is that perspective that I am urging. We need to see the big picture. We keep getting sidetracked into time-wasting debates such as Climategate, petty politicking, and international disputes, fiddling while Rome burns. Imagine how an alien would see us – squabbling amongst ourselves while imminent extinction looms.

So come on, people, let’s get our collective act together, before it’s too late!

6 Comments

  • Dear Lady Roz, You are absolutely right! And if saving this world from self-destructing requires an Idiot’s
    Guide, then we idiots will just have to get on with it! Frankly, in my opinion the process doesn’t require high IQ, it mainly requires courage and a determined sense of urgency. And the Women-In-Orange were the perfect models! I mean, traipsing over 200 miles on foot through “the muddiest mud in Europe” in order catch a train has GOT to be the perfect combination of idiocy, courage and determined urgency!! And you are modeling this solution for the tons of us urgent idiots following right behind you and cheering us on! Thank you, Lady Roz! – Doug S.

  • Hey Roz! I am glad you are having a good time at the conference. I love the pictures.

    There was a short story done on NPR yesterday you might be interested in reading. It talks about how Americans feel about CC, and it is pretty good. (This is not necessarily voicing my opinion, just an opinion) 

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121105095&ps=cprs

    Can’t wait to hear more about what is going on in your world.

    Jenn-

  • Roz! You with your technical jargon. You’re just trying to confuse me (and make me laugh).

    The issue of unsustainable population is one that I ruminate on frequently. The very idea of suggesting people have fewer children is practically a taboo topic. It seems that the countries that are most impoverished and have the least resources to feed their people are the most vehemently opposed to birth control and the strictest confines of religion, which often makes reasonable arguments pointless.

    I’ll have to check out Hartmann’s book. My theory is that even if we don’t find a way to reduce population on our own, mother nature has a way of introducing global-population-devastating catastrophes like disease, famine, and massive volcanic eruptions that block out the sun.

    On that depressing note, back to work for me. Sorry!

  • One factor that is very much overlooked, maligned, and whatever is substituting nuclear for oil. Nuclear is a natural source of energy, and is very safe. It does not pollute, does not give off anything but heat (no climate changing anything!!). The nuclear fuel for a power plant is not useful as a bomb (it is only 4% U vs 98% U needed for a bomb). France has been very successful over the past 50 years providing 90% of that countries electricity using nuclear – their electric bill is tiny compared to ours! What are we waiting for??

  • Dear John. Why is nuclear a ‘natural’ source of energy? It involves digging up a resource, which needs massive energy input.(France has cratered a lot of Niger obtaining uranium ore) It involves building power stations at massive cost and CO2 use with a limited life. It involves burying or otherwise disposing of toxic waste which will be a legacy to future generations. Try and tell the former residents of the area around Chernobyl that it is safe!

    The answer lies with the Sun and the Moon

    “Less people, More trees”

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