Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Inflection point and the metamorphosis of thought

The latest update of the Quartermaster’s Report (QMR) will be published in the next few weeks.  It will be a more expansive document as the very nature of how global warming, climate, and biodiversity impacts people, the planet, and economics have hit a new inflection point. At least that is what the data says to me.

In the past there have been discussions of “tipping points,” those lines we do not want to cross.  What is the difference between a tipping point and an inflection point?

tipping point1: the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.

inflection point2a moment when significant change occurs or may occur: a turning point.

 More simply put, a tipping point is when you are standing at the precipice, and you need to seriously consider if you are taking the next step forward or seeking an alternative path.  An inflection point, in this case, is when the path forward suddenly becomes more precarious, but the reason for the change is not yet clear.

Historically we have thought of floods, wildfires, blizzards, hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme weather as separate, single, and isolated events.  Now we are seeing the resonance between them.

Similarly, our belief that a linear extractive economy could be infinite on a finite planet kept us from recognizing and comprehending the potential harm that could be generated by not confirming the rightfulness and righteousness of our assumptions.  We may talk about CO2  and Greenhouse Gas Emissions as being an externality of doing business.  But that does not alter the reality that those emissions are really pollutants and can cause extensive harm.

When we establish policies, practices, and procedures we do so because we recognize the potential benefits of the new way.  And much of the new way does seem to be more beneficial, at least for a while and in the short-term view of the activity.

How much do we care about the functioning of the ecosystem                   and the long-term health of the ecosystem,                                                           and how much do we care about industry?

Bryan Watts                                                                                                               Director of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology

The specific concern of that statement deals with menhaden in Chesapeake Bay and the two extractive economies that depend upon the fish.  The commercial fishery harvests menhaden directly for the production of fish meal and fish oil.  The recreational sport fishery is primarily focused on striped bass, red drum and rockfish who forage on menhaden (as do Osprey and Bald Eagles).  But with climate change, overfishing and habitat loss/degradation the population of menhaden in the Bay has gone down.  Both fishing industries want to continue, and each believes that the best way for their group to stay in business is for the other group to be out of business3.

That is the central issue with all extractive economies.  When your profits and continuance is based on removing a part of the environment, and there is no responsibility or incentive or profitable mechanism to restore the resource, coupled with no penalty for not restoring the resource, then your economy is destined to collapse.

Take industrial agriculture.  There was both a perceived and a real need to increase agricultural output after WWII. We also had new synthetic chemicals that killed pest species and other synthetic chemicals that prevented (human) non-food plants from competing with crops in the field. We could create synthetic fertilizers to help crops grow bigger/better/faster.

The downside we now have breakfast cereals that contain herbicides4 which we know have adverse impacts on human health.

Our willingness to see each of the components of our extractive economy as isolated and separate entities has led to other ‘unforeseen’ and ‘unintended’ consequences.  In some regions we have over pumped so much ground water that cities and communities are sinking/subsiding into the ground5,6.

The inflection point that we have reached is as much mental as it is physical.  It is the synergy that our thermal, chemical, and physical pollution combined with our direct and indirect extraction of biological resources, habitats, and physical assets has on the environment. . . which in turn impacts our health, our economy, and our longevity.

The major problems in the world                                                                                   are the result of the difference between                                                                  how nature works and the way people think

Gregory Bateson

We have always been in a continuous dialogue and interplay with the environment.  But most people neither saw that nor truly understood that reality.  The environment responds to what we do, we respond to it.  This is not about intent – it is simply a symphony of actions and reactions.

As the rising heat index becomes more problematic, as extreme weather makes agriculture more vulnerable, and storms intensify and cause more damage, as water availability becomes more variable and expensive, and as biodiversity and bio-abundance decline at an alarming rate, we seem increasing willing to acknowledge the need to rethink or relationship with nature and the life support system it provides us.

The wicked problems we currently face are no longer local or even regional.  They are transboundary. They are planetary.  Nor can they be solved separately or sequentially.  They need to be addressed simultaneously and synergistically so that the solutions inherent in the mix of issues become visible, viable, and actionable.  And that requires a new level of consciousness and collaboration to both understand and resolve them.

Complex systems grow to a certain scale at which time they need to restructure, redesign, and redevelop themselves to maintain and maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.

This is the inflection point upon which we stand.

Tim Rumage                                                                                                                           26 February 2024

The first Quartermaster’s Report, compiled by myself, was published in the book (This Spaceship Earth) that I co-authored with futurist David Houle. The second Quartermaster’s Report (QMR) was published in 2023 in the book (Now That You Know) researched and written by the team at This Spaceship Earth (the non-profit).

The purpose of the QMR is to put forth the data that describes the status of the ship, in this case “This Spaceship Earth.”  The reason for taking a planetary perspective is to realign our individual viewpoints and assumptions about resource quantity, quality, and demand with that of TSE’s current operational capability, capacity, and actual status.

References

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tipping%20point

 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inflection%20point

 https://www.npr.org/2024/02/14/1231309407/a-small-fish-is-at-the-center-of-a-big-fight-in-the-chesapeake-bay

 https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/2022/07/cdc-finds-toxic-weedkiller-87-percent-children-tested#:~:text=In%20July%202020%2C%20EWG%20released,and%20children%20love%20to%20eat.

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2023/06/05/land-sinking-cities-recharge/

 https://www.thecooldown.com/green-business/arizona-sinking-groundwater-drilling-industrial-agriculture/

Time to Treat the Climate and Nature Crisis as One Indivisible Global Health Emergency

This posting is a reposting of an editorial published in JAMA      (Journal of the American Medical Association).

The editorial  was published in over 200 health journals this past week – that is how seriously the global health community sees this issue.
Just as importantly, the global health community sees the issues as being intertwined which requires a systems based solution.
They recognize that seeing the two topics as separate challenges is “a dangerous mistake.”
Tim
The Editorial follows:
Time to Treat the Climate and Nature Crisis as One Indivisible Global Health Emergency

Kamran Abbasi; Parveen Ali; Virginia Barbour; Thomas Benfield; Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo; Stephen Hancocks; Richard Horton; Laurie Laybourn-Langton; Robert Mash; Peush Sahni;Wadeia Mohammad Sharief; Paul Yonga; Chris Zielinski

Over 200 health journals call on the United Nations, political leaders, and health professionals to recognize that climate change and biodiversity loss are one indivisible crisis and must be tackled together to preserve health and avoid catastrophe. This overall environmental crisis is now so severe as to be a global health emergency.

The world is currently responding to the climate crisis and the nature crisis as if they were separate challenges. This is a dangerous mistake. The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate change is about to be held in Dubai while the 16th COP on biodiversity is due to be held in Turkey in 2024. The research communities that provide the evidence for the 2 COPs are unfortunately, largely separate, but they were brought together for a workshop in 2020 when they concluded that “Only by considering climate and biodiversity as parts of the same complex problem…can solutions be developed that avoid maladaptation and maximize the beneficial outcomes.”1

As the health world has recognized with the development of the concept of planetary health, the natural world is made up of one overall interdependent system. Damage to one subsystem can create feedback that damages another—for example, drought, wildfires, floods, and the other effects of rising global temperatures destroy plant life and lead to soil erosion and so inhibit carbon storage, which means more global warming.2 Climate change is set to overtake deforestation and other land-use change as the primary driver of nature loss.3

Nature has a remarkable power to restore. For example, deforested land can revert to forest through natural regeneration, and marine phytoplankton, which act as natural carbon stores, turn over 1 billion tons of photosynthesizing biomass every 8 days.4 Indigenous land and sea management has a particularly important role to play in regeneration and continuing care.5

Restoring one subsystem can help another—for example, replenishing soil could help remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a vast scale.6 But actions that may benefit one subsystem can harm another—for example, planting forests with one type of tree can remove carbon dioxide from the air but can damage the biodiversity that is fundamental to healthy ecosystems.7

The Impacts on Health

Human health is damaged directly by both the climate crisis, as the journals have described in previous editorials,8,9 and by the nature crisis.10 This indivisible planetary crisis will have major effects on health as a result of the disruption of social and economic systems—shortages of land, shelter, food, and water, exacerbating poverty, which in turn will lead to mass migration and conflict.

Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, air pollution, and the spread of infectious diseases are some of the major health threats exacerbated by climate change.11 “Without nature, we have nothing,” was UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ blunt summary at the biodiversity COP in Montreal last year.12 Even if we could keep global warming below an increase of 1.5 °C over preindustrial levels, we could still cause catastrophic harm to health by destroying nature.

Access to clean water is fundamental to human health, and yet pollution has damaged water quality, causing a rise in water-borne diseases.13 Contamination of water on land can also have far-reaching effects on distant ecosystems when that water runs off into the ocean.14 Good nutrition is underpinned by diversity in the variety of foods, but there has been a striking loss of genetic diversity in the food system. Globally, about a fifth of people rely on wild species for food and their livelihoods.15 Declines in wildlife are a major challenge for these populations, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Fish provide more than half of dietary protein in many African, South Asian, and small island nations, but ocean acidification has reduced the quality and quantity of seafood.16

Changes in land use have forced tens of thousands of species into closer contact, increasing the exchange of pathogens and the emergence of new diseases and pandemics.17 People losing contact with the natural environment and the declining loss in biodiversity have both been linked to increases in noncommunicable, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases and metabolic, allergic, and neuropsychiatric disorders.10,18 For Indigenous people, caring for and connecting with nature is especially important for their health.19 Nature has also been an important source of medicines, and thus reduced diversity also constrains the discovery of new medicines.

Communities are healthier if they have access to high-quality green spaces that help filter air pollution, reduce air and ground temperatures, and provide opportunities for physical activity.20

Connection with nature reduces stress, loneliness, and depression while promoting socialinteraction.21 These benefits are threatened by the continuing rise in urbanization.22 Finally, the health impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss will be experienced unequally between and within countries, with the most vulnerable communities often bearing the highest burden.10Linked to this, inequality is also arguably fueling these environmental crises. Environmental challenges and social/health inequities are challenges that share drivers and there are potential co-benefits of addressing them.10

A Global Health Emergency

In December 2022 the biodiversity COP agreed on the effective conservation and management of at least 30% of the world’s land, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030.23 Industrialized countries agreed to mobilize $30 billion per year to support developing nations to do so.23 These agreements echo promises made at climate COPs.

Yet many commitments made at COPs have not been met. This has allowed ecosystems to be pushed further to the brink, greatly increasing the risk of arriving at “tipping points,” abrupt breakdowns in the functioning of nature.2,24 If these events were to occur, the impacts on health would be globally catastrophic.

This risk, combined with the severe impacts on health already occurring, means that the World Health Organization should declare the indivisible climate and nature crisis as a global health emergency. The 3 preconditions for WHO to declare a situation to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern25 are that it (1) is serious, sudden, unusual, or unexpected; (2) carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and (3) may require immediate international action. Climate change would appear to fulfill all of those conditions. While the accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity are not sudden or unexpected, they are certainly, serious and unusual. Hence we call for WHO to make this declaration before or at the 77thWorld Health Assembly in May 2024.

Tackling this emergency requires the COP processes to be harmonized. As a first step, the respective conventions must push for better integration of national climate plans with biodiversity equivalents.3As the 2020 workshop that brought climate and nature scientists together concluded, “Critical leverage points include exploring alternative visions of good quality of life, rethinking consumption and waste, shifting values related to the human-nature relationship, reducing inequalities, and promoting education and learning.”1 All of these would benefit health.

Health professionals must be powerful advocates for both restoring biodiversity and tackling climate change for the good of health. Political leaders must recognize both the severe threats to health from the planetary crisis as well as the benefits that can flow to health from tackling the crisis.26 But first, we must recognize the crisis for what it is: a global health emergency.

ARTICLE INFORMATION

Published: October 25, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.44081

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.©2023 Abbasi Ket al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Chris Zielinski, University of Winchester (czielinski@ippnw.org).

Author Affiliations: Editor-in-Chief, BMJ (Abbasi); Editor-in-Chief, International Nursing Review (Ali); Editor-in-Chief, Medical Journal of Australia (Barbour); Editor-in-Chief, Danish Medical Journal (Benfield); Editor-in-Chief,JAMA (Bibbins-Domingo); Editor-in-Chief, British Dental Journal (Hancocks); Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet (Horton); University of Exeter, UK (Laybourn-Langton); Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine (Mash); Editor-in-Chief, National Medical Journal of India (Sahni); Editor-in-Chief, Dubai Medical Journal (Sharief); Editor-in-Chief, East African Medical Journal (Yonga); University of Winchester, UK (Zielinski).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Benfield reported that his institution received funds from Novo Nordisk, Simonsen Foundation, Lundbeck Foundation, Kai Foundation, Eric and Susanna Olesen’s Charitable Fund, GSK, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, and MSD; he received funding to conduct trials for Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Gilead Sciences, MSD, Roche, Novartis, and Kancera; served on an advisory board for GSK, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, MSD,Pentabase, Janssen, and AstraZeneca; received consulting fees from GSK and Pfizer; received payment for lectures from GSK, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, Boehringer Ingelheim, AbbVie, and AstraZeneca; and received trial medication from Eli Lilly. Dr Hancocks reported receiving compensation for hosting webinars from Procter & Gamble. Dr Mash reported receiving a grant from VLIR (Belgium) to study primary health care and climate change in Africa. Dr Yonga reported serving as a principal investigator for a COVID-19 antiviral for Atea Pharmaceuticals; receiving honoraria for lectures, presentations, and educational events from bioMerieux and Pfizer; serving on an advisory board for Pfizer and NHLBI; and serving on committees or panels for the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. No other disclosures were reported.

Note: This Editorial is being published simultaneously in multiple journals. For the full list of journals see https://www.bmj.com/content/full-list-authors-and-signatories-climate-nature-emergency-editorial-october-2023.

REFERENCES

  1. Otto-Portner H, Scholes B, Agard J, et al. Scientific outcome of the IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop on biodiversity and climate change. June 2021. doi:10.5281/zenodo.4659159
  1. RippleWJ,Wolf C, Lenton TM, et al. Many risky feedback loops amplify the need for climate action. One Earth.2023;6:86-91. doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2023.01.004
  1. European Academies Science Advisory Council. KeyMessages from European Science Academies for UNFCCC COP26 and CBD COP15. August 2021. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://easac.eu/publications/details/keymessages-from-european-science-academies-for-unfccc-cop26-and-cbd-cop15
  1. Falkowski P. Ocean science: the power of plankton. Nature. 2012;483:S17-S20. doi:10.1038/483S17a
  2. Dawson N, Coolsaet B, Sterling E, et al. The role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and equitable conservation. Ecol Soc. 2021;26. doi:10.5751/ES-12625-260319
  1. Bossio DA, Cook-Patton SC, Ellis PW, et al. The role of soil carbon in natural climate solutions. Nat Sustain. 2020;3:391-398. doi:10.1038/s41893-020-0491-z
  1. Levia DF, Creed IF, Hannah DM, et al. Homogenization of the terrestrial water cycle. Nat Geosci. 2020;13: 656-658. doi:10.1038/s41561-020-0641-y
  1. Atwoli L, Baqui AH, Benfield T, et al. Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health. BMJ. 2021;374:n1734. doi:10.1136/bmj.n1734
  1. Atwoli L, Erhabor GE, Gbakima AA, et al. COP27 climate change conference: urgent action needed for Africa and the world. BMJ. 2022;379:o2459. doi:10.1136/bmj.o2459

10 WHO, UNEP, Convention on Biological Diversity. Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health: A State of Knowledge Review. 2015. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://www.cbd.int/health/SOKbiodiversity-en.pdf

  1. Magnano San Lio R, Favara G, Maugeri A, Barchitta M, Agodi A. How antimicrobial resistance is linked to climate change: an overview of two intertwined global challenges. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023;20(3):1681. doi:
  2. Jelskov U. “Without nature, we have nothing”: UN chief sounds alarm at key UN biodiversity event. UN News.December 6, 2022. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/12/1131422
  1. World Health Organization. State of the world’s drinking water: an urgent call to action to accelerate progress on ensuring safe drinking water for all. October 2022. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240060807
  1. Comeros-Raynal MT, Brodie J, Bainbridge Z, et al. Catchment to sea connection: impacts of terrestrial run-off on benthic ecosystems in American Samoa. Mar Pollut Bull. 2021;169:112530. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2021.112530
  1. IPBES. Assessment report on the sustainable use of wild species. August 2022. https://www.ipbes.net/sustainable-use-assessment
  1. Falkenberg LJ, Bellerby RGJ, Connell SD, et al. Ocean acidification and human health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(12):4563. doi:10.3390/ijerph17124563
  1. Dunne D. Climate change “already” raising risk of virus spread between mammals. April 28, 2022. AccessedOctober 1, 2023. https://www.carbonbrief.org/climate-change-already-raising-risk-of-virus-spread-betweenmammals/
  1. Altveş S, Yildiz HK, Vural HC. Interaction of the microbiota with the human body in health and diseases. Biosci Microbiota Food Health. 2020;39(2):23-32. doi:10.12938/bmfh.19-023
  1. Schultz R, Cairney S. Caring for country and the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Med J Aust. 2017;207(1):8-10. doi:10.5694/mja16.00687
  1. Macguire F, Mulcahy E, Rossington B. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: policy brief forthe UK. 2022. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://s41874.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Lancet-Countdown-2022-UK-Policy-Brief_EN.pdf
  1. Wong FY, Yang L, Yuen JWM, Chang KKP,Wong FKY. Assessing quality of life using WHOQOL-BREF: a crosssectional

study on the association between quality of life and neighborhood environmental satisfaction, and the mediating effect of health-related behaviors. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1113. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5942-3

  1. Simkin RD, Seto KC, McDonald RI, JetzW. Biodiversity impacts and conservation implications of urban land expansion projected to 2050. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022;119(12):e2117297119. doi:10.1073/pnas.2117297119
  1. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. COP15: Nations Adopt Four Goals, 23 Targets for 2030 In Landmark UN Biodiversity Agreement. December 12, 2022. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://www.cbd.int/article/ cop15-cbd-press-release-final-19dec2022
  1. Armstrong McKay DI, Staal A, Abrams JF, et al. Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points. Science. 2022;377(6611):eabn7950. doi:10.1126/science.abn7950
  1. WHO guidance for the use of Annex 2 of the International Health Regulations. 2005.World Health Organization. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/who-guidance-for-the-use-ofannex-2-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)
  1. Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Consultation on Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy. July 26, 2023. Accessed October 1, 2023. https://www.health.gov.au/news/consultation-onaustralias-first-national-health-and-climate-strategy

JAMANetwork Open | Editorial Treating Climate and Nature Crisis as a Global Health Emergency

JAMA Network Open. 2023;6(10):e2344081. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.44081 (Reprinted) October 25, 2023 4/4

Downloaded From: https://jamanetwork.com/ on 10/29/2023

Open Access. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2811131

 

The Necessity, Responsibility, and Right to Repair

I have three functional and operational VCRs. I understand that this opening statement is not something one could, or should, normally brag about in the world of digital streaming, but the VCRs work. And I have dozens and dozens of VHS recordings that I still enjoy. I will also confess that three of the five TVs in the house have yet to need or require a transformation to digital flat screen device. It’s not that I can’t do those things, I just don’t feel the need to make the change. I mean really, how large, how sharp, how clear, how color improved do I need a commercial about toenail fungus to be?

And upgrading the terminology so that I can be told that I have CVD*, Amblyopia, and Diplopia does not alter the reality of a lifetime of dealing with red/green color blindness, a lazy eye and double vision (without my glasses). I understand the model of continuous improvement in nature. I know that change can happen slowly. I know that change can be massive and quick – like the day the asteroid hit the earth and began the phase out of the dinosaurs, or the moment that we went from a world without Covid to a world which marked time with phrases like, before Covid, during Covid, and after the pandemic.

What annoys me, angers me, and has caused me to stop purchasing certain brands… are forced changes that seem to have no functional value to me. There is a software I have used for over a decade to do my federal taxes. A couple of years ago, the software started to require an update of my computer to the newest version of its operating system. Taxes are annoying on their own. Upgrading the software is a bother. Then finding out that the new operating system means that I can no longer use certain apps and other software is hyper-problematic. I have lost data and files because of issues of non-compatibility. Previously all the programs I used were collaborative. To do my job, I did not need the required upgrade of my operating system. With the upgrade, I lost hours of productivity translating old files into functional files.

It also turned out that between the new tax software and the updated operating system, I could no longer ‘look back’ at previous filings if I had questions. The upgrade had so “improved” everything that I was dependent upon paper printouts to complete the tax filing. To use the current edition of that tax software, I would need to buy a new computer. Not going to happen. I feel that forced obsolescence of technology is a form of consumer abuse.

All the above brings me back to the four VCRs in the garage that are not currently operational.

I suspect that the VCRs could be fixed. I would not be surprised to find that a minor repair would restore those devices to full functionality. But that is not an option. I had a VCR that stopped working while under warranty and was informed by the salesperson that it was simply easier and cheaper to give me a new VCR, than to fix the one I brought into the store.

Common logic suggests that the smart move for me would be to throw the old VCR away. And as I start to think of the VCRs as trash or waste, I get hit with a transcendental mind shift.

By definition waste is1:

  • Verb: use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.
  • Adjective: (of a material, substance, or byproduct) eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process.
  • Noun: an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly or to no purpose.
  • Noun: material that is not wanted; the unusable remains or byproducts of something.

And the material that comprises the VCR are none of those things. The VCR is made up of the primary raw materials of Planet Earth. It is a collection of atoms and molecules currently configured as metals, ceramics, wires, chemicals, circuits, and plastics into the shape of a VCR.

Why would we want to waste such finite and important entities? Why would we not want to reuse those ingredients?

By definition repair means2:

  • Transitive verb; to restore to a sound and healthy state: renew.

Do we realize how silly it sounds to say we can fix a house, but cannot repair a VCR? Or that we can fix a car but cannot repair a printer? Is this really the logical model for a prosperous future?

Humans are currently deeply entrenched in a linear economy in which resources are converted to waste through commerce. Nature, the environment, and the planet run on a circular/cyclical, no waste, resource economy. One of these models has worked brilliantly for 3.7 billion years, if not longer. The other model supports waste, pollution, global income disparity, the depletion and degradation of the resource base, and the collapse of communities and civilizations. One of these models will survive us. The other model is us until we decide that thriving and existing is more beneficial than the restricted and limited distribution of short-term financial gains.

The right to repair is a recognition that modeling our societies and economies on the fundamental process of how Nature operates is the strongest foundation we can create to have a verdant and viable future.

“Don’t waste.                                                                                                                   Don’t waste Anything.                                                                                                Don’t waste Electricity. Don’t waste Food. Don’t waste Water.       Treat the natural world as though it’s precious, which it is.                Don’t squander those bits that we have control of.”                                      Sir David Attenborough

Our future will be determined by our willingness, ability and commitment to support, protect, repair, renew and regenerate the natural environment upon which our lives depend.

Tim

*Color Vision Deficiency

1 https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=waste+defined&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

2 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repair

A Clear and Present Danger

To many, my desk is a cluttered mess or a jigsaw puzzle of disconnected pieces that can never be assembled into a coherent picture.  To me, my desk is a highly organized panorama of easily accessible tools of my craft interspersed with remembrances and waypoints of travels, adventures, people, places, joys, sorrows, hopes, philosophies, beliefs, and responsibilities.

I was looking at one of these waypoints, a piece of scrimshaw when the phrase “full and best use” came to mind.  It is a phrase I seldom hear used these days, and even then, not in its original context.

My history with the term stems from one’s obligation to honor what had been taken from Nature.  If you took a deer or a rabbit, or collected seashells, or dug fossils from the riverbank, how did you honor the find or the gift?  The notion may seem quaint or irrelevant in today’s world of rapid commodification, manufactured obsolescence, and mindless disposal of the no-longer-popular.  But “full and best use” is a question we need to ask and a lesson we need to relearn and practice for the sake of our future welfare and happiness.

In the example of the deer, it was not enough to kill the deer and take the meat.  You were also responsible for the “full and best use” of the fur, the bones, the sinew, and all the other parts that made up the living animal.  You were not supposed to waste any part of that which you had taken, and you were to repair any harm you had done in the process of acquiring the gift you sought.   You were also supposed to say thank you to, and for, the deer.

 Last week my thank-you was for the miss.  Hurricane Idalia blew by the community in which I live.  She was nearly 200 miles to the west, but still triggered storms, winds, and waves that flooded and closed roads, eroded beaches, knocked out power, and closed schools and businesses.  She got her name when she became a tropical storm.  Having lived through both tropical storms and major hurricanes, one can become overly complacent.  When I first saw her on a weather map, she was far enough away that she became a thought to remember, not an action to be taken.  A couple of days later, she was a Category 1 hurricane with a vague cone of uncertainty about her future movements. But then Hurricane Idalia did something to remind me that today’s hurricanes are NOT the hurricanes of my youth.  As Idalia became better organized and as I looked at the data for surface water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, it was clear that she was not going to stay a Category 1 storm.  There was too much heat upon which she could feast. And feast she did while rapidly intensifying. She was Category 3 when she came by us, grew to a Category 4, then came ashore as a Category 3. Hurricane Idalia completely decimated some old and treasured coastal towns.

Today, Hurricane Lee is toying with us as he decides when, or it, he will take a right-hand turn and hit the east coast of the US or swing farther out to sea – the hurricane equivalent of shouting BOO or GOTCHA after worrying/scaring 10s of millions of people.

Of course, while we focused on our own local emergency, we paid little attention to the historic wildfires in Greece, or the floods in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and China.  Nor did we give much time to the simultaneous droughts and famine in Africa.  There were also heat waves in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and South America.  And almost nobody mentioned the marine heat wave in the Pacific, or the rapid glacier melt in Antarctica or the spike in ice melt in Greenland.

There was a time, when for years, decades, even generations, one could reasonably consider weather ‘anomalies’ as separate and independent from each other.  But these are NOT those times.

When we personally, socially, and economically forgot the obligation of “full and best use” and accepted pollution as an externality of doing business, we put ourselves on track to generate global warming which is the trigger of the climate change and extreme weather events that we are now suffering from.

WE have warmed the planet.  WE have heated the atmosphere and the oceans.  WE have given birth to the common cause of the weather, floods, fires, droughts, heat, glacier melt, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons we do not like or want.  WE have caused the loss of habitats and biodiversity and the ever-growing expense of invasive species.

It does not matter that this is not what WE intended to do.  WE did it.  WE (people, businesses, governments) can no longer think as we did in 1950 or 1970 or 1990 that these events are isolated, separate, short-term, and surprise emergencies that WE occasionally need to do something about.

WE have created a set of laws, policies, and processes which ensures that these events will reoccur on a regular basis and on a growing scale of harm and cost to citizens, businesses, governments, and the environment.

WE need to plan and prepare to provide significantly more aid and more timely support to the victims.  The financial impact of these events can no longer be regarded as an externality to national, provincial, and local budgets.  But most importantly, WE must understand that the manifestations of the disasters are only symptoms, not causes.  WE need to end the harm WE are causing.

“The environment can be humanity’s greatest friend or,                             if poorly managed, our most implacable foe.”                                             Achim Steiner                                                                                              Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Vice-Chair of United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century.      It must be the top, top priority for everyone everywhere.”          Antonio Guterres                                                                                                      United Nations Secretary-General

After all, Nature always wins.  So perhaps WE should play with the winning side, not against it.

Tim

We are all Earthlings

There is a scene early in the movie Top Gun: Maverik to which I am particularly sympathetic. It immediately follows the moment when Maverick (Tom Cruise) has tested an experimental aircraft passed its breaking point.  You then see Maverick walking into a small rural town, entering a diner and after drinking a glass of water asks, “Where am I?” To which a young boy answers “Earth.” He doesn’t say the name of the town.  He doesn’t give the name of the diner. Instead, he names the planet on which this visitor has landed.

How many of us would have given Earth as the answer?  How many times a day, or a week, or a month, or a year or a lifetime do we consciously acknowledge that we live on earth? I suspect it is not very often.  We usually declare or define our location by some subtitle of geographical or politically defined nomenclature – country, state/province, city/town, street/landmark depending upon our assumption of the questioner’s knowledge of the area.

And therein lies the rub.  All the answers we would normally give tend to focus on our separateness.  But to solve many of the issues we are confronted with today, we have to find common ground.

“We are all Earthlings”                                                                                                 Nicole Stott

“Earth is what we all have in common”                                                            Wendell Berry

Despite the reality that we all live on the same planet, we have not developed a planetary mindset for utilizing a fixed and shared resource base for multiple millennia.  If we had, we would not have generated the current environmental conditions that are disrupting and fracturing social, financial, and political structures upon which we have blindly relied.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.                                                       Yogi Berra

And that is where we are – at the fork in the road.  Self-structuring systems grow to a stage at which they must reorganize to maintain their effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability.  The issues that confront us are no longer local or even regional.  They are transboundary.  They are planetary.  Nor can the issues be resolved separately or sequentially.  They need to be resolved simultaneously and synergistically as they have a common origin. This type of wicked problem solving requires a new level of consciousness and collaboration both to understand the interplay of the issues, as well as be able to discover the solutions inherent in the mix.

Unfortunately, much of the educational system has been structured to promote siloed thinking when we now need systems thinking.  In my educational background, you learned subjects – math, history, literature, science, etc.  But you learned them in isolation, in their own “room,” and you were not encouraged to mix the topic together.  In essence, your education shaped both your knowledge and your ignorance.  Your knowledge by what was discussed, and your ignorance via all the topics never mentioned.

What we know now is that the past is not a road map to a successful future for humanity since we have built and designed with disregard for the future.  And we want a future.

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.                  Wayne Gretzky

We cannot chase the future.  We need to intercept it.  We need to implement at scale the solutions we have for agriculture, energy, multimodal transportation, urban redesign, building retrofits, biophilic design, adaptive biomimicry, generating a circular economy, and ending subsidies for products that increase health risks to people and the environment.

“We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars.                                     We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency.                                            We have 95% of the technologies right now                                                         that we need to solve the problem,”                                                                        Mark Jacobson, Stanford University

In the future, there is no pollution and there is no trash, there are only byproducts that can be readily used in other parts of the system.  We need to shift from treating symptoms to eliminating causes.  I understand the need for cooling centers during the heat waves, but the goal needs to be lowering the average global temperature so entire cities are cooler.

We are not only responsible for what we do,                                                           but also for what we refrain from doing.                                                                   Lao Tzu

These activities are bound to be distressing, disturbing and disruptive to many.  But think of costs, the damages, the loss of life, the suffering and displacement of millions of people and the currently incalculable loss of nature and beauty if we do not rapidly engage and gear up the process.

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

And isn’t peace and a better life the promise each generation makes to the next?  So, shouldn’t we do our best to keep it?

Tim

Ending the Super-Heated Summers

June 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded in human history1.

The first week in July was the hottest week ever recorded in human history2.

July 2023 is on track to exceed June 2023 as the hottest month ever recorded in human history3

Many Cities and Communities are experiencing the amplification of climate change throughheat waves, heat domes, record high temperatures, flash floods, wildfires, smoke from wildfires, elevated heat index readings, droughts, record high ocean temperatures and near record high nighttime temperatures as well as tornados, hailstorms, crop failures, and a plague of mole crickets.  And death.  Heat kills more people than any other weather event in the US4.

Why is this happening?  Because we wanted it to happen.  Or to be more precise and a little bit kinder, because we chose to let it happen.

The science has been clear for decades.  Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases (Carbon Dioxide – CO2, Methane – CH4, Nitrous Oxide – N2O, and Fluorinated Gases – HFCs, PFCs, SF6, and NF3) into the atmosphere will result in higher global temperatures5.

Today, July 19, 2023, is the 200th day of the year.  And today, like all the other days we have had this year, we, humanity, will release over 160 million tons of global warming/greenhouse generating gases into the atmosphere6.

What did we think was going to happen?

If we stay the course we are on, the projected GHG emissions in 2050 will be 189 million tons per day6.  Meaning that our current version of “the new normal” is that the world will be hotter every year for the foreseeable future.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.    Lao Tzu

If we do not want the risks and dangers of this summer to increase in frequency, duration, and magnitude, we need to change. Change how we farm, change our economic model, change education, change how we use and value natural resources, and most importantly change our consciousness and awareness of our interdependency and interactions with the life supporting systems of the planet.

Primum non Nocere                                                                                                     First, do no harm

Why haven’t we been more proactive on changing public policy and business practices?  I suspect that insight of Upton Sinclair is well aimed when he wrote “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Perhaps we have collectively ignored the science about the cause of global warming and climate change because it was inconvenient for the status quo. Or because the science did not meet with our approval of how the planet should work, or because acknowledging the science would require us to accept responsibility for our actions.  But that does not mean that others did not know or learn how to heal the problems we have caused.

The solution is as simple as it is intricate.  Stop releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and remove the excess greenhouse gases that have become resident in the atmosphere.  The solution is neither high tech nor rocket science.  But it is soil science.

No matter how complex or affluent,                                                                 human societies are nothing but a subsystem of the biosphere,                    the Earth’s thin veneer of life,                                                                                which is ultimately run by bacteria, fungi and green plants.                                 -Vaclav Smil

In many ways ‘modern’ civilization has been based on a model of take.  We mine and harvest natural resources to meet our wants and needs.  But healthy natural systems work on a shared resource base of give and take.  It is now time for us to return the favor to an environment that has given us fresh air, clean water, a temperature regime that we could readily adapt to, a diverse food supply, and the resources that provide the basis of our cultures, civilizations, and quality of life.

Whether you want to refer to the healing process as regeneration/regenerative or rewilding, seems to be dependent on its application rather than its fundamental concept.  In both we are restoring the missing components of the ecosystem with a critical emphasis on restoring a healthy and natural soil ecology.  No GMOs or BEs (biological engineered) organism need apply.  The microbes, the life, in healthy soil has the capability to uptake the excess GHGs we have released and do it in a relatively short time.  Just like trees, CO2 is taken in, the carbon is used to grow the organism (becoming fixed or bound carbon) and the oxygen is released.

Ask yourself, is your yard soil based or dirt based?  If you turned off the irrigation system and stopped adding synthetic chemicals to your yard, would the lawn flourish or die?  You probably have a good idea of the answer without the doing the test because many yards, especially in the US are dirt based.  Does your landscape support native diversity or are you monocropping a non-native grass?  Do you want to support ever hotter summers, or would you prefer a cooler experience?

Now that you know, what are you going to do?

How long will the healing take?  It depends on the scale of commitment to change.  Individual projects have taken 10 years or less to heal the environment.  Paul Hawken thinks that once we have drawdown, we could resolve global warming and the climate change it triggers in 20 years7.  And these are real solutions, not tricks of accounting.

Can we really do this?  We have risen to challenges before and made major, as well as fundamental changes when we thought they were in our best and common interest.  Will we rise to this one? We must if we want a pleasant and viable future.

There is a photograph of traffic on 5th Avenue in New York City on Easter Sunday, 19008.  There is one car – all the other vehicles are horse drawn carriages.  Another photograph of traffic on 5th Avenue in New York City on Easter Sunday in 1913 shows only cars9.

NASA was founded on July 29, 1958.  At that time no human had been to outer space.  On July 20, 1969, two humans walked on the moon10.

On January 6, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave “the Annual Message to Congress”.  In that message he set forth very ambitious goals for the amount of war materials that the US would need to produce for victory in World War II11.  At that time the US did not have the capability to meet those goals.  And yet a commitment had been made and in 4 years American production doubled12.

To me, the words that are most resonant in that speech are “Let no man say it cannot be done.  It must be done, and we have undertaken to do it.”

Will we undertake the challenge to create a vibrant and viable future for humanity?

Shame on us if we do not.

Tim

References

References

1 NASA. July 13, 2023.  NASA Finds June 2023 Hottest on Record

https://climate.nasa.gov/news/3276/nasa-finds-june-2023-hottest-on-record/


2 World Meteorological Organization. July 10, 2023. Preliminary data shows hottest week on record. Unprecedented sea surface temperatures and Antarctic Sea ice loss

https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/preliminary-data-shows-hottest-week-record-unprecedented-sea-surface-temperatures-and


3 Scott Dance and Veronica Penney. July 20, 2023.We are living through Earth’s hottest month on record, scientists say. The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2023/07/20/earth-hottest-month-july-climate/


4 National Weather Service. Weather Related Fatality and Injury Statistics.

https://www.weather.gov/hazstat/


5 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Climate Change Science.  Basics of Climate Change

https://www.epa.gov/climatechange-science/basics-climate-change


6 World Clock Emissions.

 https://worldemissions.io


7 Kiss the Ground. 2020. Paul Hawken – Drawdown.

https://kissthegroundmovie.com


8 Matt Coneybeare. March 16, 2017, Vintage Photograph From 1900 Shows Fifth Avenue Bustling on Easter Morning. Viewing NYC.

 https://viewing.nyc/vintage-photograph-from-1900-shows-fifth-avenue-bustling-on-easter-morning/



9 Joseph A. Gornail and Steven D. Garcia. 1913: Easter Day on Fifth Avenue Image credit: George Grantham Bain

https://www.history101.nyc/easter-day-on-fifth-avenue-1913#:~:text=Photograph%20showing%20Fifth%20Avenue%20filled,Image%20Credit%3A%20George%20Grantham%20Bain.


10 NASA.  NASA: 60 Years and Counting: Timeline

https://www.nasa.gov/specials/timeline/index.html


11 Franklin D. Roosevelt, President. 1942. The Annual Message to Congress

https://web.viu.ca/davies/H324War/FDR.message.Congress.Jan6.1942.htm


12 The War.  War Productions.  The War is a Production of Florentine Films and WETA.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-war/war-production

Awaken Your Curiosity

I was at the grocery store the other day and thought it would be nice to get a couple of tomatoes. My options were tomatoes from France, Mexico and Canada. But not from Florida, even though they are in season. I contemplated the “vine-ripe” grocery store tomatoes, but they were too hard to end up in a salad that night. So, I made a detour to a family farm stand and got what I needed and wanted.

Tomorrow is trash day. Like the rest of my neighbors, I will put the household garbage out by the curb first thing in the morning. Sometime between late morning and early afternoon a truck will rumble by and whoosh – all my trash will go away. But in my heart of hearts, I know it will not go away. There is no “away”. That trash is going to travel about 10 miles east and get buried. I have had enough family die to know the meaning of ashes to ashes and dust to dust. I also know enough science and pathology to understand that those words do not truly apply to my trash.

Every product we use, be it a ball point pen, a Teddy Bear, or a sandwich, has 3 life stories. First is the story we do not think about. The second is the story we relegate and delegate, and the third life story is the one we do not care about. Three life stories that are so much out of sight and out of mind that we are neither conscious of nor curious about their existence much less our role in shaping the lifeways of the commodities we need or want or desire. And therein lies the rub.

The first life is the creation story – how does the product come to exist and become available to us? What is the timeline of its genesis? How far has it traveled and how many stops were there along the way? And depending upon the product’s simplicity or its complexity, how were its components sourced, what additional ingredients went into the mix, and what by-products were discarded along the way?

The second life is the one of our use and interaction with the product. Are we truly cognizant of what has been created for us? Are we willing to be responsible for the results of the product’s use and existence? Is the collective, cumulative, and continuous generation of the product providing us the results we were hoping for? And are the results in agreement with our values?

The third life is, of course, the future denied. We are humans living in a technologically enhanced and augmented world yet completely and totally reliant on natural resources. Our currently preferred financial model promotes a linear economy which means we make trash. A lot of trash. According to the World Bank, we generate over 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste per year and are forecast to up that amount to 3.4 billion tons by 2050 (1).

Too often our curiosity about a product is about three questions deep – Is it in stock? How much does it cost? Do you have it in my size, or preferred design? We will ask about storage capacity and megapixels when we buy a smart phone, but not about its recyclability or the use of child labor in any stage of the phone’s production. And with the tomato, we won’t ask why it takes 2.5 gallons of water to grow each one, or who grew it, or how they were treated, or what chemicals were used to grow it (that might be a risk to them or us). And we will totally ignore how a tomato grown in another part of the world can be refrigerated and shipped thousands of miles and still be sold for a profit at competitive local prices. What are all the issues that must be ignored, or overlooked, or discounted to make that economic system work? And who does that system actually work for?

Why do we accept the concept of trash? Why do we accept the idea that the best way to fix something is to replace it? Do we truly believe that those particular atoms and molecules only existed to create a product for our temporary use before they could be taken out of service for the rest of eternity?

When did we collectively decide that asking questions or being skeptical were bad things? When did we collectively decide that we had no intergenerational responsibility to the future?

When did we collectively decide that creating a world of scarcity was the best and brightest thing we could do?

When did we collectively decide that the habits of the past were the guideposts to the future?

And why would we decide those things when this is such an amazing planet to live on? No other planet that we know of has butterflies and wildflowers. No other planet has a beach where you can listen to waves roll in. No other planet has trees you can climb or animals that sing. No other planet has the ability to heal and adapt like this one does.

Yes, humanity has been giving the planet a rough time of late – and the planet has returned the favor. Most of our issues have come from being too acquiescent to the belief that “that’s just the way things are.” We have been so busy looking for answers that we overlooked the need to get the question right.

What are we really trying to accomplish? I like fairness. Is it fair to all concerned? Questions expand conversations. The past is history. We cannot change it. We should not ignore it. We should not hide it, but there are many parts of it we should learn from and not repeat.

But the real issue is how are we going to enable the future? For that, we need to let our curiosity and our skepticism be our guides.

Tim Rumage

  • “Kaza, Silpa;Yao, Lisa C.; Bhada-Tata, Perinaz; Van Woerden, Frank.  What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050. Urban Development. © Washington, DC: World Bank. http://hdl.handle.net/10986/30317 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”

Regarding the Fate of Humanity on Planet Earth

I am very optimistic regarding the fate of humanity on Planet Earth.      I have little hope regarding the fate of humanity on Planet Earth.

I am optimistic because I have been involved in enough projects to know that humanity knows how to regenerate healthy ecosystems, restore biodiversity, have electricity without greenhouse gases, feed ourselves without cruelty to animals while also avoiding harmful nutrient runoff, how to thrive without air pollution, educate without creating massive debt, have economies without externalities, all while generating a future that promotes life – not extinction.

I have little hope because I do not see humanity rising to the challenge of both the speed and scale of the changes we must make.  We can do it. We have the basic skills and foundational knowledge.  My lack of hope is that we won’t do it.  That we will choose not to be smarter or more efficient. That we will not become better stewards for the future.  That we will continue to wait for the ‘other guy’ to do their part first.

To some of you, the words above may be reminiscent of the opening in “A Tale of Two Cities”. But there is a critical and crucial difference.  Charles Dickens gave the reader an option we do not have.  He gave us two cities.  We only have one planet.  The sum of our combined actions will determine our universal outcome for better or worse.

The only way all the bad stuff of global warming and climate change happens is because we want it to.  Every day, the cumulative, collective, and continuous impact of every choice we all make moves us towards the path of a future where our children thrive and prosper or keeps us on our current path towards catastrophic climate change – which will also lead to the end of civilization as we know it as our social infrastructures and life support systems collapse.

There is an ever-shrinking window of time to avoid the worse.  The key step is more philosophical than physical.  It is a change in focus and consciousness.  It is understanding that life is more important than economics – after all, without people and without natural resources, there is no economy or even a need for one.

The dinosaurs did not go extinct the day the asteroid impacted the earth.  It took generations for dinosaurs to die off and be replaced by new/different species.  But the fate of the dinosaurs was sealed the day the asteroid struck.  The dinosaurs’ survival problem was that they did not initiate the climate change that would cause their demise and they had no way to alter the chain of events that would lead to their disappearance.

We are experiencing a very different scenario.  We, humanity, are the cause.  We released the gases that have triggered global warming. We are aiding and abetting climate change by continuing to take habitats away, by reducing biodiversity by over-harvesting, hunting, and poaching,  by accelerating our need, want and desire of natural resources as well as our continuous stoking of global warming and our misguided belief that rates the value of life, all life, lower than growth of GDP.

We may deserve our fate.

But our children don’t.  And their children even less so.

 

Tim

Earth Overshoot Day – Again

I say again because Earth Overshoot Day for 2021 is the same date as it was in 2019 – July 29.(1)

I also say again because this is the is the 52nd year in a row(2) that humanity has decided to demand that the planet provide more resources and absorb more pollution in a year than the earth possibly could.

There is a comedy sketch performed by Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke that comes to mind – Frog and Peach(3). To me the take home story is when Dudley Moore asks – Have you learned from your mistakes?  And the response is: “Oh certainly, certainly.  I have learned from my mistakes, and I am sure that I could repeat them exactly.”

And that is what humanity collectively does. We repeat our mistakes.  We continue to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we over-pump water supplies, we diminish biodiversity, we usurp habitats, and we foster a food system(4) that wastes or loses 1/3 of the food while the number of people who are hungry continues to rise.

And then there is the news: droughts and fires and floods, oh my. Even there we do not get the story right.  We have abnormal conditions (at least in the limited perspective of human – not planetary – memory).  Perhaps it has some connection to global warming and/or climate change. The focus of the news is how the environmental events are impacting people.  The critical piece of the story that is left out is how humans have impacted the environment which is the trigger for global warming and its related consequences.

Covid-19 should have been a teachable moment. It showed us the fragility of our current economic ‘truths’, assumptions, and realities. It demonstrated the willingness, speed and capacities for governments to respond to multiple, simultaneous, and widespread emergencies –  as well as government’s relative value system of protecting the economy verses citizens.

Certainly Covid-19 triggered a great many conversations about a new economy, climate justice, social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.  Conversations long overdue and progress/correction too long denied.

Earth Overshoot Day is a reminder, a marker, and a measure of our commitment to ourselves to provide a better world for our children than we had.  So far, we are failing them.  Whether the failure is because we do not understand, acknowledge, want, or care to accept our responsibility for the common good is functionally irrelevant.  Our children are the ones who will bear the brunt of the results our actions.

To create a trajectory for a continuously improving future we need to understand that:

 “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century.

It must be the top, top priority for everyone everywhere,”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

 

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it”.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery,   Citadelle

As Earth Overshoot Day points out that we are not on a path that allows us to make peace and partner with nature or enable a verdant future.

If you do not change direction,

You may end up where you are heading.

Lao Tzu

 

Because

We are not only responsible for what we do,

but also for what we refrain from doing.

Lao Tsu

 

 

 

 

 

-Tim

 

References

 

 

Welcome to the world of Punctuated Equilibrium

On August 19, 2019, The Business Roundtable redefined the Purpose of a Corporation from shareholder primacy to that of stakeholder inclusivity. “This is tremendous news because it is more critical than ever that businesses in the 21st century are focused on generating long-term value for all stakeholders and addressing the challenges we face, which will result in
shared prosperity and sustainability for both business and society,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation (1).

On June 23, 1988, Dr James Hansen testified a before Senate hearing that with 99% certainty global warming was the result of human activity (2). As revelatory as that testimony was, it seemed to have little impact on humanity’s use of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. In 1988 the global CO2 emissions was 21.9 billion tons (3).
In 2020, global CO2 emissions was 34 billion tons from fossil fuels and industry (4). And atmospheric CO2 levels had risen from 352.57ppm (1988) to 414.01ppm (2020) (5).

In evolutionary biology there are two primary pathways for organisms to adapt and evolve: one is gradualism, and the other is punctuated equilibrium. Gradualism is just that – slow incremental changes/variations over long periods of time. With punctuated equilibrium change is pulsed. There are multiple generations in which there is no change and then there is quick and dramatic change in the species followed by generations of little change (6).

Complex systems grow to a certain scale at which time they need to restructure, redesign and redevelop themselves to maintain and maximize efficiency and effectiveness. With regards to global warming and climate change, We are at that Stage and Now is that time. Gradualism has shown that its method of adaptation and change is the wrong timeline for the scale and speed of the changes humanity needs to make if we want to have a chance at a bountiful future.

The last two weeks of May, 2021 should be a wake-up call to companies that have not adapted their thinking to the revised definition of the Purpose of a Corporation.

On May 27, 2021, Justice Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court of Australia ruled that the (environmental) minister could foresee the possibility of future harm caused to the children in the case by the increase in carbon dioxide emissions from Whitehaven’s expansion and therefore must recognize a so-called duty of care, or moral obligation, to the children, when approving it (7).

On Tuesday May 18, 2021, the International Energy Agency said all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050(8).

On May 26, 2021 a Dutch Court “orders Royal Dutch Shell, by means of its corporate policy, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 with respect to the level of 2019 for the Shell group and the suppliers and customers of the group. The lawsuit claimed that Shell was threatening human rights as it continues to invest in fossil fuel production (9).

On May 29, 2021, Exxon shareholders voted to replace 2 board members with individuals who would address climate change and help guided the company in its clean energy transition (10).

On May 26, 2021, shareholders at Chevron voted in favor of a proposal for Chevron to cut the greenhouse emissions of its operations and suppliers as well as those of its customers (11).

On May 28, 2021, at its annual shareholders meeting, Total, largest energy company in France became TotalEnergies to reflect its change in focus to renewable energy and hydrogen (12).

There is a saying by Hopi Elders – “We are the ones we have been waiting for”

It is beginning to feel like the ones we have been waiting for are here and growing in numbers. Now we can shift from talking about the changes we need to make to actually making the changes.

Welcome to the world of punctuated equilibrium.

Tim






References

(1) https://www.businessroundtable.org/business-roundtable-redefines-the-purpose-of-a-corporation-to-promote-an-economy-that-serves-all-americans

(2) https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html

(3) https://www.worldometers.info/co2-emissions/co2-emissions-by-year/

(4) https://earth.stanford.edu/news/covid-lockdown-causes-record-drop-carbon-emissions-2020#gs.29uhbz

(5) https://www.statista.com/statistics/1091926/atmospheric-concentration-of-co2-historic/

(6) https://necsi.edu/gradualism-and-punctuated-equilibrium

(7) https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/australian-court-says-mine-approvals-must-consider-climate-harm-2021-05-27/

(8) https://www.france24.com/en/france/20210521-french-oil-giant-total-rebrands-as-total-energies-in-climate-push

(9) https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/dutch-court-orders-shell-set-tougher-climate-targets-2021-05-26/

(10) https://www.tampabay.com/news/business/2021/05/29/at-least-2-exxon-board-members-lose-seats-in-climate-fight/

(11) https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/26/exxonmobil-rebel-shareholders-win-board-seats/

(12) https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/26/exxonmobil-rebel-shareholders-win-board-seats/