Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Losses Unrecognized.

Toughie was found dead on 26 September 2016. His precise age is unknown. He was captured as an adult in 2005 while living in Panama. He spent his final years in a secure and protected location at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I have read that Toughie was handsome and really cool. His credits include the film, Racing Extinction ( http://racingextinction.com/), and his portrait is included in the Photo Ark project

( http://nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark/).

Toughie was a Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum). He was also the last known individual of his species. His death is an extinction event.

On 26 September 2016 the death of Toughie and the extinction of the Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog was just one of the estimated 150 – 200 species that goes extinct everyday.

To me, there are two questions immediately triggered by the numbers. First, do we – humans – believe that other species have the right to exist? And secondly, do we – as a species – act as if other living beings have the right to exist? We cannot say yes to the first question and no to the second and maintain the life support system on this planet that we need to survive and thrive. Nor can we place the burden and sole responsibility for species vitality on a small population of conservation biologist/ecologist and dedicated volunteers. We are all in this together.

In “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold wrote “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” The loss of 150 – 200 species per day would indicate (if not indict) that humanity is tinkering without intelligence. The “World Charter for Nature” adopted by the United Nations in 1982 (http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/37/a37r007.htm )

provides 5 general principles by which ALL human conduct affecting Nature is to be guided and judged. The first principle is “Nature shall be respected and its essential processes shall not be impaired.”

The rate of climate change, sea level rise, the increasing number of extreme weather events, increasing exposure to hormone-mimics, habitat loss, land degradation, and pollution demonstrate our functional cumulative, collective and continuous disregard of Nature’s essential processes. Originally, we were creating these conditions without intent. Now it seems many happen as an ignorantia affectata,

or a willful ignorance. We choose not to know, or not think about it, or spend our time and effort trying to discredit the science, the facts or the obvious. Sometimes the rational is that the harm or side effects were unforeseen or unintended consequences; that there were no ‘bad guys.’

No matter what adjectives we would like to use, the reality is that there are effects and consequences with everything we do, so we should consider using a bit more precaution and intelligence in our tinkering. And while I can try to find solace in the conjecture that there were no ‘bad guys’ that begs the issue of the location and number of the good ones.

Tim

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/toughie-loneliest-frog-dead_us_57f33c4ee4b01b16aafebb0c?section=us_green

Passing the 400 ppm Milestone

We’ve done it. In 2016, the last place on earth to obtaining a reading of 440ppm (parts per million) of CO2 did so. That was Antarctica in May. And now, the month of September has topped 400ppm. That is significance as September is the month that has the lowest atmospheric CO2 levels.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere is not Wall Street. There is no way to put a positive spin on reaching and surpassing this milestone. It does serve to show that we are living in a changing, dynamic, planetary situation that has never existed in modern humanity’s time on Earth. This milestone should not only remind us that we live and work at a planetary scale, but that we need to change our consciousness so we can adapt our behavior to the reality that we live and operate at a planetary scale.

There is only one water, one hydrosphere. There is only one atmosphere. We are dependent upon an intrinsic set of biological, chemical and geophysical interactions that operate within a relatively narrow set of parameters. There is only one planet in the entire universe that we know can support our species without augmentation – and we are on it.

Planet Earth is our home – period.

Will we visit and potentially colonize other planets, undoubtedly. But we are not moving over 7.4 billion people to Mars no matter how well Matt Damon can grows potatoes. And 400ppm is not the place “to boldly go” because it is not a milestone, or a goal line or a breakthrough. It is a tipping point. Probably the inflection point, or the point at which fundamental changes have to be made so that the systems that are most conducive to our preferred quality of life can continue to operate.

Tim

(http://www.climatecentral.org/news/world-passes-400-ppm-threshold-permanently-20738)

My Apologies

Sorry that I have been absent from this site for so long.

David Houle and I finished and published “This Spaceship Earth” in December 2015 and then starting giving talks and publicizing the book. The response to both the book and the presentations was incredibly positive and invariably lead to the question – “So what can I do?” To help answer that question we formed a not-for-profit Foundation, had a website created (http://thisspaceshipearth.org/ ), established relationships with individuals and groups in colleges, communities and different countries, did some fundraising and created public installations to turn the words into actions. It has been my involvement in the start-up phase of these operations that have caused my neglect of this site. Fortunately there appears to be a growing rhythm and a flow to those endeavors so that I can now properly attend to this venue.

Tim

tse-front-cover

Planetary Ethics and COP21

Why Ethics – because ethics is about what we do. Not what we think or how we feel, but what we do. And the environment responds to what we do. Earth is very Newtonian in that regard for there is a response to every action we take and to every form of energy or force to which the planet is subjected.

Why a Planetary frame of reference – because global is too small and selective a scale. Global is a human construct that allows us to focus on areas of interest while disregarding those topics and issues that are difficult to resolve or inconvenient in their timing relative to the preferred priorities of the moment. But mainly we need to recognize that we do not live on a globe, but on a planet – and operating at a planetary level means all topics have equity.

 

For example, there is a great deal of interest in discussing the global economy and global trade, but natural capital and the status of workers are local or national concerns – not global. But how does one have goods to trade without workers or have the assets to support the economy without the natural resources that make assets possible?

Our actions are the manifestations of our beliefs, which brings us to COP 21, the Climate conference taking place in Paris. Climate Change is a planetary issue as it impacts everyone and everything everywhere. Thinking of it as a global issue limits our scope of understanding its full ramifications over multiple generations, millions of species and billions of lives. Believing that the solution can be generated by countries signing an international agreement to act independently and voluntarily underscores our lack of comprehension about the seriousness, scale and timeline of the ramifications of climate change, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. Limiting our discussions to greenhouse gas emissions by ignoring the dramatic increase in volume of resident greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – the location of the gases that are actually triggering climate change indicates that we are still looking for, hoping for, solutions that are not overly taxing on our way of life.

Climate change and global warming will not simply fade away. On a daily bases humanity acts and behaves in a manner to insure their ongoing presence and increasing significance in our lives and to all life on the planet.

Through the cumulative, collective and continuous actions that we have taken is the current planetary situation the one we had sought to achieve? The existence of COP 21 says the answer to that question is no. On the positive side, COP 21 indicates that many are interested in being less bad when it comes to humanity’s impact on the environment we need to sustain us. But being less bad does not provide a solution – it is at best a stopgap measure and delaying tactic to an unfavorable and unpleasant outcome. If, however, we developed an ethical perspective relative to the Earth so that we behaved as if our lives depended on the planet, we would most certainly avoid the worst impacts of global warming and reverse the trend of negative climate change.

EarthOvershoot Day

Today, August 13th, 2015 is Earth Overshoot Day.

It is not a day of or for celebration but a day of grievous concern, for it clarifies the disconnect between the needs, wants and desires of humanity and the capacity and capability of the planet.   There are 140 days left in the calendar year and yet we have already used up all of nature’s annual allotment.

The only way that human activity can operate relative to the planet for the next 140 days is to increase pollution or to degrade resources (thus limiting their capacity in the future). A third alternative is for people to do without basic needs either because they are not available or because they are not affordable.

We, humans, do not have a planetary perspective nor do we operate within the context of a planetary partnership. Our actions demonstrate a mindset that says we are above and apart from the planet on which we live and that provides us with the sustenance for our existence. That perspective is reinforced by the common tendency to use the “economy” is the primary determinant in our community value system.

“The idea of infinite or unlimited growth,which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology . . .is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods,and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit.”    – Pope Francis

Earth Overshoot Day is the date that demarcates the lie of unlimited growth.

I have three major concerns regarding Earth Overshoot Day. The primary one is that the day actually exists – that we are so out of balance with the planet that there is an Earth Overshoot Day.

The second concern is that Earth Overshoot Day is coming earlier and earlier in the year. In 1987, Earth Overshoot Day was December 19th. In 1995 it was November 21st. In 2000 it was November 1st. In 2005 it was October 20th. Last year it was August 19th and now it is August 13th. This is a trend that must be reversed until we have eliminated the reality of Earth Overshoot Day.

The third concern is that Earth Overshoot Day is one of the most critical news stories of the day – it not the most significant – that will receive virtually no news coverage on major commercial outlets.

We are a part of Planet Earth. We are a partner with Planet Earth. We are interdependent with Planet Earth, and therefore need to act in concert with the constraints of Planet Earth. Our relationship with Planet Earth is the determinant for humanity’s quality of life both now and for those who will reside in the legacy we leave behind.  earth overshoot day 2015

Forgive and Learn

I am from the “forgive and learn” school of thought. I appreciate and admire those of the “forgive and forget” tradition, especially if they truly can forgive and forget. But at heart, I am a teacher. As such I want the lessons learned not forgotten or repeated. Peter Cooke clearly stated the condition I wish to avoid in the comedy routine the Frog and Peach with Dudley Moore.   When Dudley asks Peter if he has learned from his mistakes, Peter’s character answers: “I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly.  I know my mistakes inside out.”

I do not want the mistakes remembered for the purpose of assigning blame or casting dispersions upon one’s character. I want them remembered for the role they can serve in avoiding parallel problems in the future.

We need to remember the things that did not work as we thought they might with the same fervor we use for celebrating those things that went right. For that is the way to acknowledge and embrace the need to ask better, more thoughtful, more thorough questions, to consider more fully the implications of the decisions we make and the actions we take in order to monitor and accept the responsibility of the results.

At a planetary scale there are no unintended consequences or side effects. There are only inputs and impacts that cause other things to happen – down wind, down stream, down time. No actions are in isolation. That is the bane and benefit of being part of an integrated system of mutual dependencies. As such we need to be cognizant of the things we cause to happen relative to the productivity, viability and verdancy of the whole network of interactions.

Why this Site?

To understand, and hopefully resolve, many of the key issues with which we are faced it is necessary to think, act and design with a Planetary Consciousness.

I find that too many of the discussions, be it the economy, the environment and/or social issues tend to be viewed from the perspective of the priority of the individual topic.

What is increasing critical, as we move forward, is to focus on the nuance of the interplay of the different areas, especially in the context of the cumulative, collective and continuous needs, wants and desires of over 7.3 billion people. The discussions need to value and evaluate the interconnections, interdependencies and interactions of the different components and the ramifications of our actions on other and through time.

Earth is the only planet on which we can live – so thinking, acting designing in the context of its systems design is only to our benefit.

Tim