Free the data: Compiling the June 2017, Quartermaster’s Report.

While preparing the Quartermaster’s Report for June on This Spaceship Earth, I was surprised, frustrated and eventually angry about the amount of current and historical data that was not longer readily and publicly available regarding climate change, global warming and their impacts on the environment and communities. Most of the information gaps are from US Government websites or sites that have been reliant on reports and publications from government supported research.

Why? I can understand that the topics are not popular nor are they filled with stories of good cheer. But really, are we that eager to be ignorant or irresponsible? The Quartermaster’s report is analytical not political. It is a status report on where we are and the recent trends that got us there. Yes, the report does imply a question – do you like where we are and the direction of the trend line – is this the trajectory that you want humanity to follow.

As an ethicist, a scientist, a researcher, a professor and a Dad, there are a few maxims that I find important to remember. They are: you cannot use information you do not have; you cannot evaluate the importance of the answer to the question you did not ask; your formal and informal education shapes both your knowledge and your ignorance; you cannot solve a problem by ignoring it; and as much as one might hope it is not true- denying reality does not change reality.

As Jennifer McCrickerd has said, “Becoming engaged in solvable, relevant, novel problems is conducive to survival.” But we need information to help us decide the when, what, and how of where to engage.

As Donald Trump tweeted at 1:31 PM on 3 August 2015, We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein.” So let’s honor the call to a different way of thinking and up our game. The focus needs to be solving problems, not hiding them.

Free the data.






Overview of the 15 June 2017 Quartermaster’s Update

We continue to operate This Spaceship Earth in the “red zone.”

While CO2 emissions appear to be stabilizing, we are accomplishing that feat by increasing our use of a natural gas, which has a greater global warming potential than CO2.

New studies and reports show how ubiquitous our pollutants are in the ocean and the growing risk posed by plastic pollution in the marine environment.

The rate of ice melt in both Greenland and Antarctica is increasing and putting coastal communities at great risk.

We are creating greater potential risks through the loss of soil and coral reefs.


Our on-going overuse of the planet’s resources and capability puts our future at risk.

Gaylord Nelson wrote

“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity . . . that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from.These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”

Functionally, even the World Bank agrees with him. Ecosystem Services represent 63% of the Planetary Economy, as those services provide us with the raw materials and primary needs to make humanity’s portion of the economy a possibility.

As you review the Quartermaster’s Update, there are two questions you might consider.

First – how well do your assumptions about each topic match the reality of the data?

Second – does the information reflect an outcome that you wish humanity to achieve?

Your reflection and your response to your answers of those two questions will determine your consciousness and participation in defining and creating our common future.

Seriously, what is the advantage, the upside, of continuing to jeopardize the future of humanity?




Quartermaster’s Update, 15 June 2017

 Tim Rumage, Chief Science Officer and Quartermaster of This Spaceship Earth

Comparing data from 15 June 2017 with 4 September 2016 and the 1st (2015) Quartermaster’s Report (QMR) published in the book “this Spaceship Earth” by David Houle and Tim Rumage.

Human Population

2017 –            7,511, 848, 787 people        (15 June 2017, 2130 EDT)

2016 –                        7,448,116, 815 people         (4 September 2016)

2015 QMR –   7,307,492,161 people

Net population increase

2017 –               159 people /minute

2016 –            159 people/min

2015 QMR – 148 people/min



NASA, NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally

Globally averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.


Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).”



Global Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions

17,384,818,472 tons as of 15 June 2017

from fossil-fuel combustion and industrial processes


2017 –            35,295,474,384 tonnes+

2014 – 35,900,000,000 tonnes*

2012 – 34,500,000,000 tonnes (data used for 1st QMR)

+ estimate based on current rate of emissions



Translation Equivalency – global anthropogenic CO2 emissions measured in units of 4 tonne Elephants launched into the air/second /year

2017 – 280 elephants/second based on current emission rates

2014 –            284 elephants/second

2012 –            273 elephants/second


Annual Average Atmospheric Concentrations of CO2

in parts per million (ppm)

2017 – 407.68 ppm^ (average year to date) (~129.68 ppm {46.65%}                above pre-industrial levels)

2016 – 404.21 ppm^           (~126.21 ppm {45.4%} above pre-industrial levels)

2015 – 400.83 ppm*

2014 – 398.61 ppm*

2013 – 396.48 ppm*

2012 – 393.82 ppm*




pre-industrial levels of atmospheric CO2 ~ 278 ppm



Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier

2017 –                        2 August

2016 –            8 August

1st QMR –       13 August

net change –     6 days earlier than 2016, 11 days earlier than 2015/QMR


Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Minimum safe date for balancing demand with resources and services is December 31st.

Earth Overshoot Day 2017

World’s Ecological Footprint rises to 1.7 Earths

2017-    1.7 planets

2016 –     1.6 planets

1st QMR   1.56 planets


Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.7 planets to provide the renewable resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth 20.4 months to regenerate what we use in 12 months




Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There is more to Global Warming than CO2 emissions. The 4 major greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N20) and Fluorinated Carbons. Carbon Dioxide has recieived the most focus because of the large quantities of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year.


But the other gases all have greater Global Warming Potential (GWP).

When measuring their 100-year Global Warming Potential CO2 is the baseline.

CO2 = 1

CH4 = 21 (or 1 pound of CH4 has the GWP equivalent to 21 pounds of CO2)

N20 = 310 (or 1 pound of N20 has the GWP equivalent to 310 pounds of CO2)

Fluorinated Gases have a GWP ranging from 140 for the refrigerant HFC-152a to 23,900 for Sulfur hexafluoride

(or 1 pound of HFC-152a has the GWP equivalent to 140 pounds of CO2 while

1 pound of Sulfur hexafluoride has the GWP of 11.95 Tons of CO2)

CO2 emissions stay same for third year in row – despite global economy growing

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

Global emissions from the energy sector were 32.1 billion metric tonnes in 2016,the same as the previous two years, while the economy grew 3.1%, the organization said.

The stabilizing of CO2 emissions reflects a decreased use of coal coupled with an increased use of shale gas/natural gas, nuclear energy and other alternative/renewable energy sources.

Natural Gas can increase Global Warming Potential

In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, companies and countries are reducing their use of coal and switching to and increasing their use of natural gas.

Given that natural gas is a fossil fuel composed almost entirely of methane.

(, this switch can actually increase Global Warming as methane has 21 times the global warming potential of CO2.

As we examine the viability of alternative fuels and energy sources, we need to make sure that we are reducing the overall global warming potential of the fuels we use, not just looking at the relative reduction of a single component and assuming that means a net-positive improvement in reducing or reversing global warming.


Rate of Global Ice Loss increasing.


Greenland is losing 350 gigatonnes of ice annually – 50% from ice melt, and 50% from glaciers moving into the ocean and breaking up into icebergs, which then melt.

The loss of Greenland ice is six times the volume of all the glaciers in the Alps.

Greenland has been melting more mass than it accumulates since 2000, putting Greenland in a negative balance.



Because the planet is warming, the glaciers in the Antarctic are losing an average of 83 gigatonnes of ice per year (91.5 billion US tons).

This is the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mount Everest every two years.

‘The mass loss of these glaciers is increasing at an amazing rate,’ said scientist Isabella Velicogna,


Status of Coral Reefs:

Coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea,” are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. They occupy only 0.2% of the ocean, yet are home to a quarter of all marine species: crustaceans, reptiles, seaweeds, bacteria, fungi, and over 4000 species of fish make their home in coral reefs. With an annual global economic value of $375 billion, coral reefs provide food and resources for over 500 million people in 94 countries and territories. But tragically, coral reefs are in crisis.

The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years.

Over the last 30-40 years 80% of coral in the Caribbean have been destroyed as well 50% of coral reefs in Indonesia and the Pacific.


Soil Loss

 24 billion tonnes of fertile or 12 million hectares of topsoil are lost every year.

The world population continues to increase while we destroy more and more topsoil. If this is allowed to continue there won’t be enough fertile soil left to feed a growing world population.

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years.

It takes approximately 500 years to replace 25 millimeters (1 inch) of topsoil lost to erosion. The minimal soil depth for agricultural production is 150 millimeters. From this perspective, productive fertile soil is a nonrenewable, endangered ecosystem.

“Average (US) soil loss rate is 5.8 tons per acre per year, and increasing.”

“Soil can only rebuild at a rate of 0.24 tons per acre per year.”

Stan Buman, head of Land O’ Lakes Sustain program


The United States is losing soil 10 times faster — and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster — than the natural replenishment rate

Plastics and Pollution in the Ocean

 Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans each year from the world’s 192 coastal countries based on 2010 data. That is the equivalent of five grocery bags full of plastic trash on every foot (30 cm) of every nation’s coastline around the globe.

Between 15 and 31% of the estimated 9.5 m tonnes (IUCN 2016) of plastic released into the oceans each year could be primary microplastics, almost two-thirds of which come from the washing of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres (tires) while driving.

Tiny plastic particles washed off products such as synthetic clothes and car tyres (tires) could contribute up to 30% of the ‘plastic soup’ polluting the world’s oceans and – in many developed countries – are a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than plastic waste.

Rate of Plastic Pollution

2010 – 551 lbs./sec

2016 – 664 lbs./sec

Pollution Has Worked Its Way Down To The World’s Deepest Waters

Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, England and his team have been able to sample amphipods from the Mariana Trench in the northern Pacific – the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

Examination of the Amphipods showed that they were contaminated with PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls*. “Every sample we had,” Jamieson says, “had contaminants in it at very high or extraordinarily high levels.” He compared the contamination level in his Mariana amphipods to crabs living in waters fed by one of China’s most polluted rivers, as well as amphipods from other parts of the world. “And what we were finding in the deepest place in the world were (levels) hugely higher, 50 times in some cases,” he says. He thinks the pollutants might get to the trenches by latching on to plastic that’s floating in the ocean. Fish and other marine animals absorb pollutants, as well. Eventually, the plastic and the dead animals fall to the bottom.



*(PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention of Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.

Porta, M; Zumeta, E (2002).”Implementing the Stockholm Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants”. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 59:651-2.)

PCBs in Marine Mammals

One of the highest concentrations of toxic pollutants ever recorded in a marine mammal has been revealed in a Scottish killer whale that died in 2016.

The adult whale, known as Lulu, was a member of the UK’s last resident pod.

The level of PCBs found in Lulu’s blubber were 950mg/kg, more than 100 times the 9mg/kg limit above which damage to the health of marine mammals is known to occur. A 2016 analysis showed the average concentration for killer whales in the North-East Atlantic was about 150mg/kg.

Submitted by

Tim Rumage

Co-author, This Spaceship Earth

Co-founder, This Spaceship Earth, Inc.

Chief Science Officer and Quartermaster – This Spaceship Earth


June 8th is World Ocean Day

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.                     Loren Eiseley – The Immense Journey

Some of my most profound memories come from my times at sea. Watching dolphins leaving ethereal trails as they swam through a bioluminescent layer in the North Atlantic. Standing on a headland in Newfoundland and seeing a Minke Whale

charge, roll, twist and swallow a school of Capelin in one mouthful. Witnessing a class at sea as flying fish leapt from the water, and the instructor talking about the fish’s adaptation to avoid predators only to have a flock of Magnificent Frigatebirds dive down and catch the fish while they were still in mid-air.

My life and work have given me the opportunity to see icebergs roll-over in the Labrador Sea, hand-lined for cod in the Bay of Fundy, experience the intense stillness of the Sargasso Sea, recorded the songs of Humpbacked Whales in their calving areas, be mesmerized by the grace of Blue Sharks as they swam between me and the surface, and study the life ways and life cycles of pelagic birds.

This is not to say that the ocean experiences have always been kind or a friend. There have been oil spills, fish kills, harmful algae blooms, vessel strikes on marine mammals, fisheries bycatch and mass stranding events. Not to mention white squalls, storms, winds, soaking rains, waterspouts, hurricanes, storm-surges, damaged ships, fog and high seas. I know and understand why ship captains built there homes on high ground and inland. The ocean is also the final resting place for several friends, family and acquaintances: some by choice and others because the sea decided it was their time.

The ocean reminds us that we are mere humans and should have more humility than hubris. The Ocean deserves the respect that we tend not to give it. Perhaps we will learn from our folly. But the least we can do is take one day a year and reflect upon its majesty and capability.





June 5, 2017 is World Environment Day.

This year’s theme for World Environment Day is about reconnecting with Nature: go outside and enjoy Nature, value Nature, and learn about the importance of Nature in our lives and livelihoods.

We tend to take Nature, natural resources and nature’s services for granted. It can become easy to forget and under-appreciate the opportunities that Nature provides us as our lives become increasing enclosed in building and and encased in vehicles.  Most of the time we do not think about processes that provide us with the fundamental components of life – clean air, food, and water.  We lose sight of our interactions and interdependencies with the planet.

We forget that all business are reliant, in varying degrees, upon natural resources. Your computer, your phone, and other electronic devices all need copper, gold, petroleum, and other earth-sourced materials in their production. In reality, there is no economy without an ecology.   So the only way to have a healthy long-term economy is to have it synchronized and balanced with the long-term ecological systems of the planet.

Another reason to reconnect with Nature is that

Earth Overshoot Day for 2017 is August 2nd.

That is the day on which our rate of harvesting the environment and the capacity of the environment to sequester our CO2 emissions surpass what the ecological systems and natural services of the planet can provide in 1(one) year without damaging the Earth’s capability to regenerate and maintain its life support systems.

Unfortunately there will still be 152 days left in the year. So we are going to have to borrow (really steal) 152 days worth of resources from our children’s and grandchildren’s future. In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day was August 8th.  As such, we are continuing our habit of taking from future generations at an ever-increasing rate.

We now need 1.7 Earths to meet our annual demands on the ecosystems of our planet.

So yes, as the theme of World Environment Day implies and implores, we need, we must, reconnect with Nature, for that is the path to a future we would want and would want our heirs to inherit.


March 22 is World Water Day

I grew up in a family that said grace at dinner. We were thankful for the bounty of food. We never said anything about water. We would go to the water, be it lake, river, bay or ocean, to celebrate birthdays as well as major family and community events – but we never celebrated the water. We would be blessed by baptism with water, but we never treated the water like it was blessed.

Water is probably the most used, viewed, touched, and precious resource that is mentally invisible. We do not connect the water we see with the water we use in the kitchen, the bathroom, in business and industry, to make electricity, and to grow food. Water is where we go for vacation, it is what we want to live by, it is the liquid that comes out of the faucet or the hose and then goes away. We do not think of how the different waters are connected, nor do we accept and acknowledge that we all live downstream from each other and ourselves. The proverb of “remembering the source” seldom plays in our mind as we use, discard, disregard and discharge the liquid upon which all life depends.

Water is life, health, dignity, prosperity, hope, sustenance, and resiliency. Water shapes landscapes, men’s minds, and people’s souls. Water is an entity, a resource, a commodity, a habitat, and a conveyor of people, commerce, life, and toxins. Water is a marker of seasons and time; water is a solid, a liquid, a gas, and a dynamic force.

Water is our lifeblood. It is precious and it is magic. Out of respect and/or dependency, we need to change our mindset about water from being assumed and invisible to being cherished and invaluable for our planet does not make water, it just recirculates it. All that there will ever be is already here.

So maybe it is not too much to ask that at least once a year we take a moment to think about it, acknowledge it, be thankful for it – and maybe even say “thank you” to it.


Keeping America – and Americans – safe

Based on public pronouncements, one of the key metrics in determining US Policy at present is whether the policy under review will keep America – and Americans – safe. One might hope that this was always a key consideration in American policy development.

Given the goal of safety, I am confused as to why there is any consideration for reducing the EPA’s budget 25-30%, especially in regards to clean air. (1,2)

“Epidemiological studies demonstrated that exposure to ambient levels of air pollutants are associated with low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, prematurity, neonatal death, and decreased fertility in males.” (3)

“Women who were exposed to high levels of traffic pollution (emissions from cars and trucks) while they were pregnant also had higher risks of their children going on to develop pediatric cancers, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia and retinoblastoma.” (4)

“In 2011, a study in the journal Lancet found that those who lived close to densely trafficked roads were at a far higher risk of stroke and dementia than those who lived farther away.” (5)

“Air pollution has already been implicated in lung disease and heart attacks and recent studies have suggested that it could also be a factor in cognitive decline with a US study in 2014 showing that people in highly polluted areas were 50 per cent more likely to suffer mental decline. “ (6)

Air pollution causes 200,000 premature deaths in the USA annually (7). That is more than 2.5 times the yearly average of Americans lost to automobile deaths, gun deaths and terrorism combined. (8,9,10)

If we want to keep Americans safe, then fund the EPA and support/strengthen their policies to defeat air pollution. Perhaps when we can breathe safer, we will breathe easier.













Choices, Consequences and Congress

Last week Congress set about the task of repealing one set of regulations aimed at keeping streams safe from coal mining impacts and another to reduce liabilities of escaped methane.

The primary reason for the repeals was that the regulations were burdensome on industry. And they were. They would have cost both industries money.

The coal industry would have to monitor water quality before, during and after mining activities and if water quality went down, the mining companies would have to restore the stream to its previous quality/viability/verdancy. The natural gas/fracking operations would have to reduce loss of “fugitive” natural gas from leaks, venting and flaring (the intentional burning off of natural gas). Those operations would have to incur the increased cost of monitoring for leaks, fixing leaks and for capturing – not flaring – natural gas.

What Congress failed to realize, or did not care about, was that repealing the laws did not change the reality of the declared burden. It did not go away. It was shifted to those who do not profit from mining and fracking. The harm will still exist and continue, but the financial burden will revert to communities, local businesses and the citizens. It will be manifested in increased health care costs, lost tourism and recreational activities, reduced property values, missed school days by impacted children, and shriveling communities as their youth seeks their fortune in more distant places. It was a great and absolute textbook example of siloed-thinking with the common boundaries: industry > citizens; business > environment;                                    a partial story > the full story; a defined few > many;                                the harvest of the immediate > the welfare of the future.

{Democratic Senator Edward Markey said the coal industry’s request that Republicans kill the rule amounted to saying: “Please protect us from having to protect the public.”}•

The regulations were supposed to of benefit to the public while being burdensome to the industries. The ones who profit while generating the harm should be the ones to pay for the harm. If the product you are selling is natural gas – why would you want it to become a fugitive from your company’s bottom-line? You cannot sell the product you did not capture. If you are a mining company why would you want to increase your potential liability by harming the health and compromising the resource base of your local community? Plus, if those triggering the harm have to pay, then they have a great incentive to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their operation. That generally leads to increased profits and a reduction of the burden.

The costs the industries incur while improving their operations need not be passed on to consumers. Set up a foundation and work with a local college to do the monitoring and to test improvements to the operation. While that may sound costly to some, if you set it up correctly – it is all tax deductible.

My native state started commercial coal mining in 1820. The world population was just over 1 billion people. Now I live in a state that has a growing fondness for fracking and on a planet with a human population of over 7.4 billion people. Alvin Toffler wrote, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” It is time for Congress, industry, and the rest of us to get down to the business of unlearning and relearning. It is the only way forward. Continuing the behaviors and practices of the past will not, cannot, get us to the future we should have.




Climate Change and the Stages of Grief

I have had enough colleagues, friends and family members die – of age, aids, alcohol, cancer, heart failure, disease, accident, suicide, violence, at sea, on land, quickly, slowly, unexpectedly, horribly, from heredity, doing what they loved, willfully, unwittingly, to soon and just because – that I am cognizant and intimately familiar with denial and its followers.

And so it with Climate Change.

I understand not wanting to believe that it is happening, or that the collective human population and our actions are the driving cause. I comprehend wanting to disavow that all the negatives of climate change resulted from the aggregated impacts of what we believed were the good, right, and proper things to do. Under such conditions it is not surprising that we seek out those in the same state of denial and bond together, isolating ourselves from those who cannot appreciate our state of mind or emotion. Perhaps it gives us support or protection from others who do not comprehend how jarring the new reality can be to our perspective of how the world should work and what is acceptable and unacceptable in our wished for world order.

As we focus on how such events can happen, there can be a feeling of anger – even righteous anger. After all, climate change challenges our basic belief structure. Do we have dominion over the earth and creation or is our role one of stewardship?

Climate change challenges our fundamental economic construct. What should we include in our accounting and annual reports? Do we just measure the cash transactions or do we include the loss of natural capital, the cost of unintended consequences, human capital, and/or future resource needs?

Trying to reconcile the disconnect between one’s belief structure and personal history with the increasing amount of material supporting the alternative perspective can lead to frustration and a need to regain control of the dialogue. How can the projections of what will happen with climate change be correct? The projections show a rate of change that I have never seen or experienced in my life before; it’s just not possible for that information to be correct. And thus begins the bargaining from the post-factual framework; a mindset in which one’s beliefs and references are seen as more valid and correct than are data, research ad the factual analysis of experts in the field. Perhaps Mark Twain put it best when he said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And then there is the “backfire effect” which indicates that when one’s closely held and fundamental beliefs are challenged the response is more likely to cause a reaffirmation of the beliefs than an acceptance of the new information.

The forth stage of grief is depression which can include dealing with the practical issues of loss and an overwhelming feeling of ‘what do I do now’. With climate change ‘rationalizing’ might be the more appropriate word to describe the grieving over the implications and scale of what will need to be done. How do you physically and psychologically prepare a community for sea level rise? Can you afford to elevate roads and other critical infrastructure to be above the coming waterline in time and in a way that does not bankrupt the community? How do you prepare a place for what is now an extreme weather event but in the next decade or so will just be the weather? How do you adapt for the change to the local economy? With sea level rise many low-lying beach communities will loose their tourist beaches and see more of their coastal areas flood.   In the mountains the increasing temperature will generate a shorter ski/winter sport season and the loss of snow pack and its faster melt can generate a water supply problem.

The implications of climate change can be quite shocking to individuals, companies and governments at all levels. Even those that accept the reality of climate change do not want it to happen. I doubt there is anybody or any culture or any sentient species that wants to see the downside/dark-side of climate change play out.

The fifth stage of grief is acceptance, but not everybody gets to stage five. For some the first four stages become a self-perpetuating loop, for other their grief may be so great that they stay at a particular level. I do not think my father ever made it past stage 2 when he grieved the deaths of my mother and older sister.

But for many, acceptance is achieved and provides a way forward. The passing on of those who once were is accepted, noted, honored and relinquished to the custom of their culture. And so it is with ideas and concepts whose times have passed. The old gives way to the new and the past yields to the future. The transition is not always smooth, nor is it painless but it is irrevocable.

Climate change challenges our primary paradigm of measuring advancement. Do we build from our history or towards our future? If history is our guide, then the mechanisms of our past experience – fossil fuels; displacement of nature; pollution as an acceptable cost of doing business; actions in isolation; and bigger, cheaper, faster remain as our indicators of better. If the future is our horizon, then capture and storage of energy; restoring and collaborating with nature’s services; seeing waste as a resource; holistic design; true-cost/full-cost economics; and elegant simplicity must become our guides.

Resolving climate change requires a change in consciousness – a consciousness that makes us aware of and actively responsible for the consequences of our actions. As Stewart Brand wrote, we need to “make long term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The earth belongs to each generation, and no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

Frederick Law Olmsted wrote, The rights of posterity are more important than the desires of the present.”

Climate change has resulted because we have broken those generational promises – we have spread and passed on our environmental (and social) debt and have invested in our desires rather than protecting the prosperity of all grandchildren.

I always thought we were supposed to leave a place better than we found it.



Reference Material

Stages of Grief

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) On Death and Dying, The Macmillian Company, New York

“Backfire Effect” – .WDG36XeZOYU


Brand, Stewart. 1999. The Clock of the Long Now. Basic Books, New York, page 2

Olmstead quote:




The Dark Side of the Golden Rule

The Dark Side of the Golden Rule

As I learned it, the Golden Rule was ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ with the goal that such consciousness would lead to doing good, being good and using kindness, graciousness and gratitude as one’s guide. It is a noble ideal and worthy pursuit.

Unfortunately it is not always in the forefront of our brains, our motives or our actions. Maybe if we substituted a descriptor – such as race, religion, socio-economic group, political affiliation, species, community, country, or employment identity into the golden rule our public discourse would be more empathetic and effective.

Perhaps if we were more specific about what we were doing to others, we would be more cognizant of, responsive to and responsible for the outcomes.

I ask because a recent World Heath Organization (WHO) stated that 92% of the world’s population is breathing polluted air. Apparently we have subverted the Golden Rule to mean: pollute unto others (countries, people, places, businesses, species) as you would have them pollute unto you.

Welcome to the Dark Side. And what is so insidious about the path to the Dark Side is that the way is generally invisible to the individuals but the results are manifest. When we drive, we do not see the heat, the carbon dioxide, the particulates or any of the other chemical contaminates that mark our passage.

Air pollution from traffic is linked to childhood cancer; the children of women exposed to high levels of traffic pollution during pregnancy had a higher risk of developing cancer. The Royal Geographic Society found that cars and other vehicles were the main sources of air pollution in 95% of the cities that had air classified as unfit to breathe. That air pollution shortens the life span of 50,000 people per year in the UK, which results in 2818% more people dying than were killed in traffic accidents in 2013. In China, air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010, and to 5.5 million premature deaths world wide in 2013. In India, airborne pollutants shorten life span by an average of 3.4 years – 6.3 years for those living Delhi. Other studies have shown that air pollution is associated with low birth weight, prematurity, neonatal death and decreased fertility in both males and females. One new study suggests a link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease. And while there is variation from year to year, the bottom line is that air pollution kills or contributes to death of as many, or more, people per year than all forms of cancer combined.

While I see all types of campaigns and treatments advertised to cure cancer, I have never seen one to end air pollution in our lifetime. We put traffic flow over air safety. We put moving cars ahead of moving people and thus design roads and parking areas for an assumed volume of traffic based on privately owned and operated cars rather than shared economy vehicles and public transportation.

Given the interplay of an aging population, increased urbanization, market forces, increasing preference for and reliability of technological capability as well as shifting priorities in personal economics, the ICE (internal combustion engine) will go away. Already the Germany’s Bundesrat has passed a resolution that bans the internal combustion engine as of 2030. And as more of us understand the connection between traffic pollution and health the ICE will melt even faster and urban design will focus on people first and cars second. After all, transportation and clean air should not be the antithesis of each other – the Golden Rule taught us that.

Tim – 2a174af131d9