3250 Days

It is February 6th, 2021. One day until the Super Bowl. Five days ‘til the New Moon. Eight days until Valentine’s. Twenty-one days to the Full Moon. There are forty days until March Madness starts and fifty-eight days until the madness ends. Spring will officially/astronomically arrive in forty-two days, although Punxsutawney Phil suggested it would be 45 days.

Now pause for a moment and reflect upon all the things you will accomplish before Spring begins. What experiences might you have? What will you learn? What could you learn? Who might you meet? What ‘forgotten memory’ will be renewed?

At times I think about how fast our daughter grew – and grows – and the touchstone moments that mean so much. First look, first touch, first hug, first sounds, first smile, first tears, first word (No). But she said my name first. Then there was the crawling, standing up, first steps, drawing, reading, writing, first school day, new friends, and bike riding. Those were followed quickly by getting a dog, a phone, a computer, becoming the head of household IT and learning to drive. Her speed of learning, growing, maturing, being self-confident and independence were a blur. Birth to high school graduation was 6867 days – and they went by in a flash.

I grew up in a household where it was assumed and accepted that each generation had, and accepted, the responsibility that the next generation had it better than the former. And I believe it is my duty to do the same for my daughter. The issue we struggle with is what does “better” mean?

For my father and grandfather “better” was clearly about economics and financial security. They had each been in their generation’s world war and both had strong memories of the Great Depression. I’m a boomer. I grew up with DDT, Robins falling out of trees, being able to set creeks and streams on fire, and air pollution you could see, smell and taste. I also grew up near an Olmstead Park, watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, National Geographic Specials, roaming the countryside of Kentucky, sailing the coastal waters of New England, reading Rachel Carson and other naturalists, volunteering with wildlife specialists and being captivated by the space program. Let me simply say that there was a generational divide around the word “better.”

In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson1 wrote; “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.” According to Investopedia2, “A usufruct combines the two property rights of usus and fructus. Usus refers to the right to use something directly without damaging or altering it, and fructus refers to the right to enjoy the fruits of the property being used. A clearer expression, also attributed to Thomas Jefferson is: “The earth belongs to each generation, and no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

My generation, and those previous, have broken the intergenerational promise of leaving the next generation better off because we have not paid our environmental debt. We have been inventive, but not responsible. We have focused on the harvest of nature’s bounty, without consideration of reciprocity. We embrace the take, and ignore the give back. Whether we prefer to think of this as reducing the viability of the biosphere or as an act of intergenerational tyranny we place upon our heirs is a difference without distinction.

The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
Alan Toffler

Our debt is manifest in many forms. We can see it in the increase of air pollution and particulates. We can measure it by monitoring the increase of all greenhouse gases as they accumulate in the atmosphere. We see it on the news and on the business page with the increasing costs of storms, hurricanes and extreme weather events. Even Covid-19 is part of our environmental debt, as the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are changes in the environment usually the result of human activities.

I do not believe that we meant to create an environmental debt and leave it as a legacy for the future. We were doing what we thought was best for the welfare of our families, our communities and ourselves. We just had a worldview that did not match the reality of the planet.

Now we are at a crossroads. The environment is calling in our markers. If, as I believe, we did not mean to create the debt, then it is time to restructure our portfolio so we do not incur any further debt and start an aggressive repayment plan.

There will be some who say it is too expensive, which really means I would prefer my grandchildren to suffer mightily rather than be personally inconvenienced.

There will be some who will deny and disavow the debt, primarily because their vision is limited to their own reflection.

There will even be some who simply say it cannot be done. We do not have the time, the resources, the capability or the capacity to see a future that is not based on the limitations of our habits and thought models of the past.

These claims and their brethren have been made before regarding other challenges that could and should be overcome.

But to do nothing is to shirk all our responsibilities for our actions and to condemn the future. Who gave us that right? What happened to our faith and trust in our collective capabilities as well as our can do spirit?
We know how to grow highly nutritious and affordable food without the need of synthetic chemicals, large machines, and GMOs. We know how to light our homes without fossil fuels. We know how to transport people without the internal combustion engine. An ever-growing number of people are completing the 3-steps of learning, unlearning and relearning needed to make the transformation to a prosperous and vibrant future without generating environmental debt.

The scientists, economists, millennials and Gen Zs say that we need to do this and can do this. There is even a timeline. We have 3250 days to change our operational paradigm and not only end debt creation but to make a significant repayment.

All of WWII was 2193 days. Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII was 1366 days.

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy3 said: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon 2503 days later.

So who wants to look in the eyes of the youngest family member and say: I’m sorry, but I really cannot be bothered with paying off this environmental debt so you have a healthy planet to put your home on.

We have 3250 days to show the life of the future that we are going to hold up our end of the intergenerational bargain and so should they.

We have 3250 days and counting.

Tim

1. To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 6 September 1789
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-12-02-0248

2 Keeton, Will., Usufruct,
Investopedia.. Updated Dec. 12, 2020
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/usufruct.asp

3 Kennedy, John F. Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort, 12 September 1962
https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/historic-speeches/address-at-rice-university-on-the-nations-space-effort
or
https://www.rice.edu/kennedy

3250 Days

It is February 6th, 2021. One day until the Super Bowl. Five days ‘til the New Moon. Eight days until Valentine’s. Twenty-one days to the Full Moon. There are forty days until March Madness starts and fifty-eight days until the madness ends. Spring will officially/astronomically arrive in forty-two days, although Punxsutawney Phil suggested it would be 45 days.

Now pause for a moment and reflect upon all the things you will accomplish before Spring begins. What experiences might you have? What will you learn? What could you learn? Who might you meet? What ‘forgotten memory’ will be renewed?

At times I think about how fast our daughter grew – and grows – and the touchstone moments that mean so much. First look, first touch, first hug, first sounds, first smile, first tears, first word (No). But she said my name first. Then there was the crawling, standing up, first steps, drawing, reading, writing, first school day, new friends, and bike riding. Those were followed quickly by getting a dog, a phone, a computer, becoming the head of household IT and learning to drive. Her speed of learning, growing, maturing, being self-confident and independence were a blur. Birth to high school graduation was 6867 days – and they went by in a flash.

I grew up in a household where it was assumed and accepted that each generation had, and accepted, the responsibility that the next generation had it better than the former. And I believe it is my duty to do the same for my daughter. The issue we struggle with is what does “better” mean?

For my father and grandfather “better” was clearly about economics and financial security. They had each been in their generation’s world war and both had strong memories of the Great Depression. I’m a boomer. I grew up with DDT, Robins falling out of trees, being able to set creeks and streams on fire, and air pollution you could see, smell and taste. I also grew up near an Olmstead Park, watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, National Geographic Specials, roaming the countryside of Kentucky, sailing the coastal waters of New England, reading Rachel Carson and other naturalists, volunteering with wildlife specialists and being captivated by the space program. Let me simply say that there was a generational divide around the word “better.”

In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson1 wrote; “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.” According to Investopedia2, “A usufruct combines the two property rights of usus and fructus. Usus refers to the right to use something directly without damaging or altering it, and fructus refers to the right to enjoy the fruits of the property being used. A clearer expression, also attributed to Thomas Jefferson is: “The earth belongs to each generation, and no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

My generation, and those previous, have broken the intergenerational promise of leaving the next generation better off because we have not paid our environmental debt. We have been inventive, but not responsible. We have focused on the harvest of nature’s bounty, without consideration of reciprocity. We embrace the take, and ignore the give back. Whether we prefer to think of this as reducing the viability of the biosphere or as an act of intergenerational tyranny we place upon our heirs is a difference without distinction.

The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
Alan Toffler

Our debt is manifest in many forms. We can see it in the increase of air pollution and particulates. We can measure it by monitoring the increase of all greenhouse gases as they accumulate in the atmosphere. We see it on the news and on the business page with the increasing costs of storms, hurricanes and extreme weather events. Even Covid-19 is part of our environmental debt, as the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are changes in the environment usually the result of human activities.

I do not believe that we meant to create an environmental debt and leave it as a legacy for the future. We were doing what we thought was best for the welfare of our families, our communities and ourselves. We just had a worldview that did not match the reality of the planet.

Now we are at a crossroads. The environment is calling in our markers. If, as I believe, we did not mean to create the debt, then it is time to restructure our portfolio so we do not incur any further debt and start an aggressive repayment plan.

There will be some who say it is too expensive, which really means I would prefer my grandchildren to suffer mightily rather than be personally inconvenienced.

There will be some who will deny and disavow the debt, primarily because their vision is limited to their own reflection.

There will even be some who simply say it cannot be done. We do not have the time, the resources, the capability or the capacity to see a future that is not based on the limitations of our habits and thought models of the past.

These claims and their brethren have been made before regarding other challenges that could and should be overcome.

But to do nothing is to shirk all our responsibilities for our actions and to condemn the future. Who gave us that right? What happened to our faith and trust in our collective capabilities as well as our can do spirit?
We know how to grow highly nutritious and affordable food without the need of synthetic chemicals, large machines, and GMOs. We know how to light our homes without fossil fuels. We know how to transport people without the internal combustion engine. An ever-growing number of people are completing the 3-steps of learning, unlearning and relearning needed to make the transformation to a prosperous and vibrant future without generating environmental debt.

The scientists, economists, millennials and Gen Zs say that we need to do this and can do this. There is even a timeline. We have 3250 days to change our operational paradigm and not only end debt creation but to make a significant repayment.

All of WWII was 2193 days. Pearl Harbor to the end of WWII was 1366 days.

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy3 said: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon 2503 days later.

So who wants to look in the eyes of the youngest family member and say: I’m sorry, but I really cannot be bothered with paying off this environmental debt so you have a healthy planet to put your home on.

We have 3250 days to show the life of the future that we are going to hold up our end of the intergenerational bargain and so should they.

We have 3250 days and counting.

Tim

1. To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 6 September 1789
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-12-02-0248

2 Keeton, Will., Usufruct,
Investopedia.. Updated Dec. 12, 2020
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/usufruct.asp

3 Kennedy, John F. Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort, 12 September 1962
https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/historic-speeches/address-at-rice-university-on-the-nations-space-effort
or
https://www.rice.edu/kennedy

As a species, we punch above our weight

David Attenborough said that “human beings are good at many things, but thinking of our species as a whole is not one of our strong points.” Unfortunately his statement appears to be quite true. I live on the west coast of Florida, but I seldom consider the daily life of people in Iowa, Kenya, Paraguay, or even Miami.

The estimated growth rate for Florida is 831 people per day1. Most of the time, that is just a number. It is not until I see the data estimates for the local area (my county is expected to grow by 50%, to a population of 550,800 by 20452) that I really take time to think about the implications of population growth. Where is everybody going to live, shop, work and go to school. How many more houses, roads and cars will there be? How many trees will be cut down to make space available?

Then I start to wonder/worry about the collective and cumulative impacts of global population growth in relationship to the availability of natural resources that make up the life support system we depend upon and that forms the foundation of all of our economies. Do we consider natural resources solely as a commodity that we can use and deplete as we wish or do we consider the environment as an ally in our mutual survival? Or worse, do we not think about it at all?

Three recent studies have really clarified the scale of our species impact on the planet and should trigger serious reflection about the implications of our actions relative to our future viability. These articles show that we no longer live in the world of nature. Instead, we have created and moved into the Anthropocene; an act for which we must accept the responsibility that we currently refuse and ignore.

The most recent publication is “Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass”3,4 by Emily Elhacham, Liad Ben-Uri, Jonathan Grozovski, Yinon M. Bar-on and Ron Milo. According to their work, we are in the transition period when the weight of all the human-made mass (the weight of all buildings, roads, etc.) will cross the line and exceed the total weight of all living organisms on the planet. We are doubling the weight of human-made mass every 20 years. We have gone from human-made mass being 3% of the world’s biomass in 1900 to our stuff weighing 1.1 trillion metric ton (dry weight) or being 50% of the world’s biomass today.

The second article of note is “The biomass distribution on Earth”5,6 by Yinon M. Bar-Ona, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo. Biomass is calculated by multiplying the population of a species/category by the average weight of the individuals of that species/category or Biomass = Population X Average Weight. This is a widely used measurement to help determine energy needs of a species as well as the relative role of a species in a particular ecosystem.

If we look at humans relative to all life on the planet, we are only 0.01% of the biomass, i.e., if all the world’s biomass was represented by a dollar, humans would be but a penny’s worth of biomass. However, we have caused a great deal of change in the make-up of the rest of the dollar. Below are two examples of the change we have caused; one dealing with mammals and one dealing with birds. Today, humans and their domesticated mammals make up 96% of the mammal biomass on the planet. Similarly, 70% of the bird biomass is now “poultry” or birds raised for human use and consumption.

 

 

And our consumptive impact does not end there. The Circularity Gap 2020 Report7,8 stated that world consumption of natural resources was over 110 billion tons in 2019 or more than 14.3 tons (13 metric tons) per person. In 2017, average CO2 emissions was 18.7 tons (17 metric tons) per person in the USA9, and our average water footprint* was 2056 gallons (7,786 liters) per person per day10 – that is 17,126 pounds of water per day or 3125 tons per year!

Do we really need over 3000 tons of support per year to keep ourselves healthy and functional?

How long can we punch this much above our weight and have a bountiful future for our children and a functional life support system for us on this planet?

It is time to heed, not just remember, the Cree Indian Prophecy: “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.”11

Nature is a systems-based cooperative enterprise that fosters a process of continuous improvement in the use and regeneration of resources. It is the antithesis of the Anthropocene.

Just because we are an inventive species that does not mean we are a responsible one. Fortunately we do have the capability to be both – if we so choose and hold ourselves accountable. The future will exist. Are we willing to be a part of it?

Tim

Work Cited
1. Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Demographic Estimating Conference Executive Summary November 13, 2020,
http://edr.state.fl.us/content/conferences/population/demographicsummary.pdfPopulation Projections from 2020 to 2045 with 2017

2. Forecasting and Trends Office, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Population Projections from 2020 to 2045 with 2017 Population Estimates, April 2019
https://fdotwww.blob.core.windows.net/sitefinity/docs/default-source/planning/demographic/2020-2045projections.pdf?sfvrsn=6aafe7c3_8

3. Elhacham, E., Ben-Uri, L., Grozovski, J. et al. Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass. Nature 588, 442–444 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-3010-5
(This is the publication of record)

4. Pappas, Stephanie. Scientific American, Human-Made Stuff Now Outweighs All Life on Earth, December 9, 2020.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-made-stuff-now-outweighs-all-life-on-earth/
(This may be an easier to read summary of the aforementioned paper)

5. Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo, The biomass distribution on Earth, PNAS June 19, 2018 115 (25) 6506-6511
https://www.pnas.org/content/115/25/6506
(first published May 21, 2018; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1711842115)
(this is the publication of record)

6. Carrigan, Damian. Mon 21 May 2018 15.00 EDT
Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study
The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study
(This is a summary article of the aforementioned paper)

7. Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative, The Circular Gap Report, 2020
(https://www.circularity-gap.world/2020)

8.Hood, Marlowe, January 21, 2020, PHYS.org, Global resource consumption tops 100 bn tonnes for first time.
https://phys.org/news/2020-01-global-resource-consumption-tops-bn.html
(This is an article about the report)

9.Our World in Data, CO2 Emissions.
https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions

10. Water Footprint Network, National Water Footprint
https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/national-water-footprint/

11. Townsend, Janet. Aug. 17, 1995, Opinion – The Last Tree, – The New York Times,

* The water footprint is the amount of water used to produce all the energy, food, goods and products we buy and use as well as the water needed to assimilate pollutants to meet water quality and safety standards.

Earthrise – Happy 50th Anniversary, Christmas Eve, 2018

photo: William Anders,  Apollo 8, December 24, 1968  Apollo 8 crew: Frank Borman, James Lovell, William Anders

There are three NASA photographs that seem central in shaping and reshaping our consciousness, philosophy and reality regarding our interactions with each other, with other species, and with the planet as well as our role in the universe.

They are Earthrise, the Blue Marble, and the Pale Blue Dot.  The Blue Marble is probably the most familiar of the three.  

photo: Apollo 17, December 7, 1972 Apollo 17 crew: Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Jack Schmitt

I frequently use the Blue Marble in my courses and speaking engagements to put the topics in a planetary context, and to remind the listeners of what “home” looks like.  I had the opportunity to hear Artist-Astronaut / Astronaut-Artist Nicole Stott speak of her time in space.  She spoke of the 3 take-aways she had from those experiences: 

That we live on a Planet,

That we are Earthlings,

and the Thin Blue Line.

It is easy to forget that we live on a Planet.  In our daily lives there is nothing in our regular perspectives that remind us of that fact.  Our mental construct is that we live in a place that can be identified by its address. We work in place or go to school in a place that can be identified by its address. If asked where we live our answers generally fall into one of two categories.  If traveling, we generally answer the question with a place name – the city or town where we live, or say we live near a larger metropolitan area that may have more global recognition.  If we are in our home region when asked, we generally say ‘over on ____” or “near ____”.

What we don’t say is “Planet Earth”.  Planet Earth unites us.  The other answers separate us.

We are all Earthlings. When I heard that “ah-ha” moment, it gave me a new and broader perspective on how to talk about a range of issues.  Because yes, we are all Earthlings.  If we live on Earth, we are an Earthling.  So whether you are a person, a Golden Retriever, a Barred Owl, a goldfish or any other living thing on Earth, you are an Earthling.  That understanding could be, should be, the central precept to guide our interactions with each other and other species.

For, in the final analysis,                                                                                                our most basic common link                                                                                              is that we all inhabit this planet.                                                                                We all breathe the same air.                                                                                         We all cherish our children’s future.                                                                  And we are all mortal.  

President John F. Kennedy,  American University, June 10, 1963

Nicole’s reference to the Thin Blue Line is a critical reminder that our atmosphere is what protects and shields us from the ravages of outer space.  We should protect it and guard it with our lives, for without it, we, the current Earthlings, cannot exist. Whether in space or at sea or as Earthlings, thoughtlessly or accidentally poking holes in the hull of the vessel is never a good idea.

Pale Blue Dot

photo: Voyager 1, February 14, 1990     Earth from approximately 4 billion miles. White mark to aid in locating the Pale Blue Dot

The Pale Blue Dot has a different message.  To me it speaks of both the isolation and the independence of Planet Earth.  It is the image of a lifeboat.  What we have on board is all that we have to work with and the management of those precious resources determines our quality of life and degree to which we survive or thrive or fail.  

The Pale Blue Dot also reminds us of Earth’s uniqueness in the known universe.   

Earthrise though is the most important of the three, at least to me. 

 In one image it tells the whole story.  It is the contrast of the barren lunar landscape in the foreground with the brightness of the Earth in the distance coupled with the vast dark emptiness of the background that gives us the critical perspective we need to keep in mind.  Even our closest celestial neighbor is hostile to us and cannot provide us sanctuary. There is no place we can go in our solar system, and no place currently known to us in the galaxy or universe where we could arrive, open the hatch and survive. 

We have one home.  And we are there.  And it is majestic and beautiful and generous and will continue to be so provided Humans learn they are Earthlings and act as such.  Because in our hearts we know, as Dorothy learned,

There’s no place like home.

 

Tim                                                                                                                                              26 Dec. 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, August 1st– is Earth Overshoot Day for 2018

Once again, as we have for the previous 47 consecutive years, the cumulative, collective and continuous wants of Humanity have exceeded the capacity and capability of the our planet to meet thosedemands. (1)And this year we did it in record time.

Humanity is acting as if we have access to the biological capacity of 1.7 Earths. (2)  Clearly we do not.  When we assume that we can use 20.4 months of resources in a 12-month year, we are acting to our detriment. The only way we can overcome the shortfall that we have created is by increasing pollution and/or reducing the capability of the planet’s biocapacity to meet future demands. After all, the overshoot is created by our overharvesting of the sea, the land, and the forests as well as compromising the quality of the air and water upon which life depends.

         We get so much from the planet and there needs to be reciprocity.  We need to give a little back to the earth.                                                           Tracie Troxler (3)

Overshoot has become our de facto modis operandi.  It cannot continue to be our legacy if we wish to have a legacy.  Cultures, civilizations collapse and species disappear when they do not, or cannot, change their lifeways to stay in ecological balance with biocapacity of their homeland.

Overshoot is a bad habit that we must break.  And I know that nothing is harder than breaking a bad habit that we enjoy. Consuming resources while assuming that we have no responsibility relative to the negative impacts of those actions is the great illusion (delusion) of our day.

Do we really, truly believe that we are that disconnected from the planet on which we live?

Do we really, truly believe that we are not creative enough to find more effective and efficient ways to live so that we reduce pollution and waste?

Do we really, truly believe that our purpose as a species is to ignore “the better angels of our nature.”(4)

We have spent 48 years putting ourselves at increasing risk.

No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road,                                      turn back.                                                                                                                       Turkish Proverb (5)

 There is a #move the date (6)campaign because that is what we have to do.  We are on the wrong road, and we have to move the date back.  Like most habits one tries to break, this one will be slow at the start, there will be slips and slides, but as the concept and desire for change takes hold, the process will pick up speed and be successful.

Don’t be encumbered by history,                                                                              Just go out and do something wonderful.                                                        Robert Noyce (7)

 

Tim                                                                                                                                                 1 August 2018

 

 

References

 

  1. https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/past-earth-overshoot-days/
  2. https://www.footprintnetwork.org/
  3. Edible Sarasota, Spring 2018. Page 12 “Feeding the soil: sunshine community compost.” Words Nicole Carbon. Photos Kathryn Brass-Piper             Sunshinecommunitycompost.org

4.http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/1inaug.htm

  1. https://www.google.com/search?q=No+matter+how+far+you+have+gone+on+the+wrong+road,+turn+back.&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=hjk7-sWAj-z2rM%3A%2C4x9zL0PYAljQsM%2C_&usg=AFrqEzfclXc4VMRLej9Gi8z8X3iw0GRMJQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj_p4uZzszcAhWkxVkKHVEcB6IQ9QEwBHoECAYQDA – imgrc=UiZC7TnO1oL-hM:
  2. https://www.overshootday.org/
  3. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/723182

 

 

The Environment is Crucial to Economic Health

The days of the ‘economy verses environment’ fight are over, and really have been for several years. How do I know this, – the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland tells me so. Since 2011 environmental factors have been in the top 5 global risks both in likelihood and in impact. This year, environmental factors dominate both categories.

 

 

 

“Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rate, agricultural systems are under strain and pollution of air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health.” (1)

“. . . at a global level humanity faces a growing number of systemic challenges, including fractures and failures affecting environmental, economic, technological and institutional systems on which our future rests.” (1)

“Humanity cannot successfully deal with the multiplicity of challenges we face either sequentially or in isolation.” (1)

“Humanity has become remarkably adept at understanding how to mitigate conventional risk that can be relatively easily isolated and managed with standard risk management. But we are much less competent when it comes to dealing with complex risks in the interconnected systems that underpin our world, such as organizations, economies, societies and the environment.” (1)

“When risk cascades through a complex system, the danger is not of incremental damage but of “runaway collapse” or an abrupt transition to a new suboptimal status quo.” (1)

“We have to work together – that is the key to preventing crisis and making the world more resilient for current and future generations.” (1)

This is the change of consciousness that those of us at This Space Earth have been striving for – there is only one Earth and we are all on it together. For humanity to have a future that it wants, we need to think and act in terms of systems, not silos, while operating in the context, capacity and constraints of the planet.

While those statements may seem obvious, our planetary footprint of 1.7 earths(2), the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, air pollution, water pollution, and the extinction of 150 species per day(3) clearly indicates that collectively we are not behaving in a way that understands and acknowledges the realities of the only know planet in the universe on which we can exist.

The environment can be humanity’s greatest friend or                                            if poorly managed, our most implacable foe.                                                   Achim Steiner (4)

 

The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.      Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.                        President Theodore Roosevelt (5)

There is hope and optimism for the future, provided we start thinking and acting in a planetary context. Given the lag time between cause and effect at a global scale, in the next 20-30 years we are going to experience pain from the events we unknowingly and unwittingly initiated decades past. As to the actions we collectively take going forth, it will be our children and grandchildren who will really reap the benefits. But that’s OK. Really, isn’t that what we are supposed to do – set up the next generation so it can have a better quality of life than previous generations?

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day,                                                            that my child may have peace.                                                                             Thomas Paine (6)

There is no question in my mind that we can solve the problems that confront us – be they environmental, social, or economic. It does take an integrated approach as the three systems are intertwined and if we examined them simultaneously we can find the solutions for they are inherent in the mix. Plus, I doubt that any of us truly wants to promote either a “runaway collapse” or an abrupt transition to a new suboptimal status quo. (1)

Unfortunately the great unknown is, will we?

Can do and will do are very different things. Will those who are ‘comfortably unaware’ be willing to acknowledge their differentiated responsibility to the health and viability of our planet’s future?

I do not know. Of what I am sure is that humanity’s future will be a shared one.

“We have to work together – that is the key to preventing crisis and making the world more resilient for current and future generations.” (1)

The future is our fate – the future is ours to make.

Please Choose Appropriately.

 

Tim Rumage, Planetary Ethicist

 

 

References

(1) World Economic Forum, The Global Risks Report 2018, 13th Edition                                                   https://reliefweb.int/report/world/global-risks-report-2018-13th-edition

(2) https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2017/08/01/earth-overshoot-day-2017-new-calculator/

(3) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/un-environment-programme-_n_684562.html

4)  Chape, Stuart, M.D. Spalding, M.D. Jenkins, (Editors),‎  (2008) The World’s Protected Areas: Status,   Values and Prospects in the 21st Century, University of California Press

(5) The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problemThe American Presidency

(6) Paine, Thomas. The Crisis, December 23, 1776                               Thomas Paine: American Crisis

(7) Oppenlander, Richard. (2012) Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat Is Killing Us and Our Planet, Beaufort Books)

 

 

 

 

 

Babcock Ranch – The First Solar City in the United States

 

Babcock Ranch – The First Solar City in the United States                       by Tim Rumage

 

I have long believed that our electricity supply system had a vitamin D deficiency. We were not getting enough sunlight into the equation.

I’m well versed in both the potential and viability of solar energy, and the promise of sustainability. I’m also an advocate of Buckminster Fuller’s design philosophy and a disciple of Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature.”

Just a few days ago I saw all those concepts and solutions become manifest at Babcock Ranch, Florida. Babcock Ranch is the best example of experiential design for real-life daily-living anywhere that I know of.

Imagine a community integrated into a nature preserve with 50 miles of hiking and biking trails. From home you can easily walk to town, to a trailhead or to a series of lakes. The town is complete with schools and health care facilities as well as community gardens, a five acre farm and a seasonally/locally sourced farm to table restaurant. And it is all solar powered… and all homes include one Gbps Wi-Fi.

The most amazing part is… you don’t have to imagine it. You can go see it, visit it, or even buy a home and move in.

Working with Florida Power and Light, Babcock Ranch runs off a 400 acre, 74.5-megawatt solar array that provides enough energy for the town at build out (50,000 people) plus neighboring customers. A 10-megawatt energy storage system will soon be installed, and a second 74.5-megawatt solar array is under construction to expand solar power availability to the region.

I think they should put up a sign at the entrance to Babcock Ranch that says “Your dependence on fossil fuels ends when you enter here.” Mass transit in Babcock Ranch, in case you don’t want to walk or bike, is provided via solar powered electric autonomous vehicles.

Stewardship of Babcock Ranch extends well beyond its use of solar energy. Existing wetlands have all been preserved in place and in function. A rain garden has been added to the system to mitigate and treat storm water coming off the roads. The forests are professionally managed with prescribed burns and selective cuttings. Cattle are still grazed, watermelons still grown, streams and stream habitats are well maintained. Endangered species habitat has been enhanced, and commercial bee hives assist with pollination and to produce honey.

The building code ensures that homes are weather/climate appropriate, well insulated and energy efficient. The plant palette for home/community landscapes relies heavily on native plants, and includes restrictions on both the amount of area devoted to lawns and the types of grass that can be used. There are also set-asides for existing native trees. When native trees are in the way of construction, they are not bulldozed, but are transplanted in new locations on the property.

Babcock Ranch is a game-changer for new developments, urban expansion or redevelopments. It clearly demonstrates that cutting-edge sustainability can cost effectively be accomplished using progressive design and clean energy. As such, designing traditional fossil fuel dependent communities in the future will be seen as inefficient and short-sighted.

Babcock Ranch eliminates the excuse that solar power can’t work at city scale. In fact, their solar installation is designed to operate at city scale.

Solar power, autonomous vehicles, local food, and hiking trails; it’s like George Jetson living in a Nature Preserve. Who doesn’t want to live where the benefits of technological advancements helps ensure the natural and historic integrity of place?

 

 

Additional Information:

The first residents of Babcock Ranch are scheduled to move in early January 2018.

To get to Babcock Ranch, Florida take exit 143 off of I-75.                      Go east on State Road 78.                                                                                              At the junction of SR 78 with State Road 31, go North SR 31  to Crescent Loop.                                                                                                                      At Crescent Loop go East to the Town Center of Babcock Ranch.             From I-75 to Crescent Loop is approximately 8.8 miles.

Marley’s Ghost

To me, the significance of the winter solstice is not that it is the longest night and the shortest day; it is the promise of the sun before the depth of winter. It is the sign that hope and joy overcome dark and cold- be it of the seasons or of our souls. The winter solstice is about renewal, beginnings and the coming warmth of spring. It is a time of celebration; for each day is longer, brighter, stronger. Perhaps that is why the winter solstice tends to bring to mind “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

Like many people I enjoy witnessing Scrooge’s transformation from ‘business’ Scrooge to ‘humanitarian’ Scrooge with the aid of the three spirits. At the start of the story, Scrooge, like many of us, is a victim of siloed thinking. This is what I am, and this is what I do. And my worldview and assessment of others is based on the measures I use to quantify and qualify success in the context of my silo.

`But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’
faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

But it’s Marley’s Ghost who is the hero and guiding light of the story. His words are the ones to which we should pay attention- for he is the bringing the change of consciousness. He may even be the first businessman to promote the Triple Bottom Line, who also understood the hierarchical value of the Planet>People >Profit, and explained the scope and balance of concerns needed to achieve sustainability.

`Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.                        `Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.     The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water                                                in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’                                             Marley’s ghost

The story of Scrooge shows that we can change our behaviors and our priorities when we have a change of consciousness. He may have needed the assistance and reminders of three consultants (Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future), but ultimately it is Scrooge who, in heart, mind and body, comprehends the need for change.

Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends,                                                              to which, if persevered in, they must lead.                                                             But if the courses be departed from,                                                                             the ends will change.

And so it is with Scrooge. He departs from his previous course and thrives by living his altered life.

He did it all, and infinitely more;

And so it is with humanity today. The extreme environmental events we are living with and through; the growing disparity of incomes; the social angst, malaise, anger, hunger, and frustration are the foreshadowing of the growing grimness of our coming future if we stay our current course.

Will we embrace the words of Marley as Scrooge did, and change? Or will we stay in our silos and pretend that our trade is more important than everything else now and forever?

It is are not only for what we do that we are held responsible,                        but also for what we do not do.                                                                              Moliere

 

 

-Tim

 

 

 

except for Moliere,

all quotes are from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

 

 

 

We are all on this together

 “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality                                                    tied in a single garment of destiny,                                                                      whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.                                                                                                      Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Atmospheric CO2 increases as Seas, Soil and Trees are Overwhelmed

On December 12, 2015 the Paris Climate Accord (PCA)*1 was adopted by consensus of the 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). News reports showed the celebrative mood of the participants. Not only had the PCA been agreed upon, but the plan was going to try to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5oC (2.7oF) surpassing the original goal of limiting global warming to 2oC (3.6oF).

In 2016, the amount of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) rose by 3.3 ppm*2 (25.77 billion metric tonnes of CO2)*3 to 403.3ppm, the largest single year increase in 30 years. In a healthy, functionally stable ecosystem, the carbon exchange balances out on an annual cycle between the atmosphere, the ocean and organisms. It is during transition periods from one type of climate to another that we see major releases or sequestrations of atmospheric gases.

In 2017, the world is witnessing the first increase in CO2 emissions in 3 years*4. The estimated rise is 2%, most of that coming from an increase in the use of Coal.

The Paris Climate Agreement is a well-intended document. While the PAC was a step forward in getting people and countries to agree that climate change was real, was taking place, was a liability, was human caused, and that the worst outcomes could be avoided by human action, the agreement had several weaknesses.

One was that each country set its own voluntary, non-legally binding target projections to reduce emissions. The second was the 5-year time lag between agreeing to the PAC and the official start of the agreement. The third, and most problematic weakness, was that the cumulative promise made by all parties was too meager to achieve the stated goal; thus creating the Paris Gap*5between preference and reality.

There is another critical factor to remember when trying to mitigate climate change, and that is simple reality – contrary to human nature – that humans are not in control of the myriad synergistic interactions that make up the life sustaining characteristics of Planet Earth. With climate change,

 we’re not only dealing with forces of a far greater variety                            than even the atomic physicist encounters, but with life itself.”                     Dr. Frack C. Baxter*6

The increase in atmospheric CO2 in 2016 was not about an increase in emissions, but the decrease in the capacity of the ocean and plant life to uptake (absorb or use) the CO2 due to droughts, wildfires, and high temperatures*7. Humanity’s previous emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) contributes to the cause, severity, and changing frequency of these events making more and more of these events Human’s Nature.

The increase in CO2 emissions in 2017 was a result of the increased burning of coal*8. In some cases, the coal was burnt to generate additional electricity to support a growing economy. In other cases, coal was burnt to replace the hydroelectric power that was unavailable due to reduced water volume in rivers. The degree to which we humans choose to think locally rather than planetarily is the measure of the amount of “unintended consequences” that we can generate globally.

Actions speak louder than words. Knowledge is neither a viable nor functional substitution for doing.

Nations do behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives Abba Eban, Foreign Minister, Israel. 1966-1974*9

it’s not enough that we do our best;                                                              sometimes we have to do what’s required.                                                     Winston Churchill*10

Let’s hope we get all of our insufficient efforts and rationales for procrastination out of our way and out of our minds quickly enough to fulfill the promises we made to ourselves and our descendants in the Paris Climate Agreement. Failure should not be our default option of convenience or intentions for

we are entering a period of consequences.                                                     Winston Churchill*11

 

 

 

– Tim

*1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference

*2 http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41778089

*3https://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=45

*4http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41941265

*5http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41802982

*6http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/frank-capra-warns-of-global-warming-1958

*7http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41778089

*8http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41941265

*9 https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/11/11/exhaust-alternatives/

*10 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/15990-it-is-not-enough-that-we-do-our-best-sometimes

*11http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/Locusts.html