It is late in the rainy season, and two community water defenders and I stand at the edge of the Río Bolo in coastal Retalhuleu. Above us tower the remains of a concrete bridge where people from the community of El Rosario used to cross this once tremendous river. Today, the water flows barely two feet deep. Campesinos easily cross the river on foot as we talk, the water barely reaching their knees while the watermark of the former river sits a good ten feet above their heads.
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Less of What We Don't Need
Stories about Less of What We Don't Need.
The potential and limits to renewable energy are hotly debated, and far from settled. Many people take it for granted that it can meet all our energy needs, and numerous impressive agencies and technical reports say this. However until the last few years when simulations based on detailed weather data have become available nearly all pronouncements have been little more than speculation and most have simply selected bits of evidence to confirm preferred beliefs. I have examined about ten of these and have published various analyses showing how unsatisfactory they are.
"The ‘eco-’ prefix refers to their recognition that 'humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature.' Here, they seem to align with the direction of travel of the wider environmental movement. Yet the ‘-modernist’ half of their name firmly asserts their belief that if this is to happen, it will not come about through any slowing or reversal of the modernisation process but only through greater energy use, urbanisation, technological innovation and agricultural intensification. In this they seem to set their trajectory at an angle nearing 180 degrees to the usual orientation of the environmental movement, which would more usually call for degrowth, ecological agriculture, contraction of energy and resource use and more ‘natural’ lifestyles. The ecomodernists believe that there is no contradiction here: anti-technological sentiments and romantic ideas of pristine nature were always stowaways, illicit passengers that did not really belong in the environmentalist package."
News reports tell of the devastation left by a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans already coping with damage from Hurricane Irma, which grazed the island just days before, were slammed with an even stronger storm on September 20, bringing more than a foot of rain and maximum sustained winds of at least 140 miles per hour. There is still no electricity—and likely won’t be for weeks or months—in this U.S. territory of 3.4 million people, many of whom also lack running water. Phone and internet service is likewise gone. Nearly all of Puerto Rico’s greenery has been blown away, including trees and food crops. A major dam is leaking and threatening to give way, endangering the lives of tens of thousands. This is a huge unfolding tragedy. But it’s also an opportunity to learn lessons, and to rebuild very differently.
Renewable electricity is booming. Wind electricity is now the cheapest kind there is. Solar power, even when combined with storage batteries to function when the sun doesn’t shine, can be had on the wholesale markets at a price competitive with natural gas, the cheapest fossil fuel.
At the heart of America’s mainstream climate movement lies a contradiction.
To a certain extent, Aung San Suu Kyi is a false prophet. Glorified by the west for many years, she was made a ‘democracy icon’ because she opposed the same forces in her country, Burma, at the time as the US-led western coalition that was isolating Rangoon for its alliance with China.
Aung San Suu Kyi played her role as expected, winning the approval of the Right and the admiration of the Left. And for that, she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; she joined the elevated group of ‘The Elders’ and was promoted by many in the media and various governments as a heroic figure, to be emulated.
The more convenient and efficient autonomous electric cars turn out to be, the worse their impact on greenhouse emissions
On March 8, 2012, a few hundred marchers set out from Pangui, Ecuador, a town in the southeastern Amazon, near the construction site of the massive, open-pit Mirador Mine. Just days earlier, a consortium of Chinese state-owned companies had signed a contract to exploit the mine’s copper reserves, the first agreement of its kind in the country’s history.
The demonstrators zigzagged through the southern Andes, where more mines are planned throughout the highland wetlands, which supply water to rural farmers and urban consumers. Reinforcements from the northern Amazon joined the march along the way, intentionally traversing the route of crude oil that has for decades flowed through notoriously faulty pipelines. After a seven-hundred-kilometer trek, on foot and in unwieldy caravans, the two-week long March for Water, Life, and the Dignity of Peoples reached its end in Quito, where the state coffers, voters, and armed forces form the complex of economic incentives, democratic legitimacy, and military repression that activists contend keeps the country’s extractive model in motion.
Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. Overshoot is a systemic issue. Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity. The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival. Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species, and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.