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An Interview with Tony Juniper interview (part 2):
Climate Change, Technofixes and TEQs.

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
The second part of an interview with Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth UK, and a seasoned environmental campaigner (First part here). -EB

Rob Hopkins: Do you think that a low-carbon business-as-usual is possible, or is a low carbon world so radically different from the present that we can hardly begin to imagine it?

Tony Juniper: I think there will be a transition, and I think it is pretty impossible for us to have an orderly withdrawl from the Carbon Age that happens very quickly, we can’t do it. Our infrastructure, our transportation systems, our fuel mix, our agriculture crucially, everything, is geared up to being heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It will take a while to get out of it, but the quicker we start it the sooner we’ll do it, but also the more orderly the transition will be. This mixing up of decarbonisation with a shock built around the rapidly rising price of oil will be harder to cope with. If we start now and begin to decarbonise, with all the technological things we already have, from the bicycle to concentrating solar power, all that stuff already exists, we need to get it moving and get it into the market fast, so we can start the process while we still have the economic stability and the money and the social comfort to do this without even noticing it.

The place we could finish up could be so much nicer than the one we’ve got now! That’s the other thing that’s crucial to get across to people, we’re not heading back to a new Stone Age or a Dark Age, we’re heading towards a much brighter, more secure future, where communities are rebuilt, pollution is a thing of the past, we’ve got food security, biodiversity, people have long comfortable lives, energy is secure for ever, getting that picture across is very difficult to do, because the only thing you can ever paint an accurate picture of is the past of course. When people look back to the pre-oil age, the pre-carbon age, it was miserable. People died at young ages, there were diseases, there were not very high levels of social comfort, and the tendency is to equate that with the future, whereas in fact the future could be very different indeed. We do have to paint that positive vision, but its not easy because we haven’t been there, so you can’t show people a film of it, but that’s the kind of pictures we have to create.
(26 Feb 2007)

Review of documentary: “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire”

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
“What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire”, by Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson

If anything is not easy to watch but absolutely the truth down to one’s toenails, it is Tim Bennett’s and Sally Erickson’s doggedly transparent documentary, “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire.” Nothing less than a 123-minute cat scan of the planet and its twenty-first century human and non-human condition, this documentary is indeed, “in your face” but with reverence, poignancy and solemnity yet sending world-class denial artists running to re-watch “Little Miss Sunshine” another one hundred times. While viewing it, I could see in my mind Carl Jung puffing on his pipe and pensively whispering under his breath, “Human beings can only handle so much truth.”

Divided into four parts, Waking On The Train, The Train And The Tracks, Locomotive Power, and Walkabout, the film begins with Tim Bennett’s personal saga of awakening in the eighties from lifelong slumber. Recounting the realities he has subsequently discovered is a tedious litany of human and planetary horrors that only those ready to awaken with him are likely to endure. To their credit, Bennett and Erickson offer no “happy ending chapter” at the end—no list of quick and painless fixes.

…The issue of denial is addressed head-on as the documentary’s numerous interviewees name it and its consequences. Those individuals include: Thomas Berry, Richard Manning, Stuart Pimm, Ran Prieur, Paul Roberts, William Schlesinger, Richard Heinberg, Chellis Glendinning, Derrick Jensen, Jerry Mander, and Sally Erickson.
(28 Feb 2007)

World’s Youth Demand a Nuclear and Fossil Fuel-Free Energy Future

Jonas Hagen, UN Chronicle
“Children and youth, as the future generations, do not wish to inherit a toxic, radioactive, dirty and carbon-driven world”, said Juan Hoffmaister of the Global Youth Coalition speaking in a conference room packed with delegates, including representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. With the 15th Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) slated to begin at the end of April 2007, stakeholders held a preparatory meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on 26 February.

CSD has served as the UN high-level forum for sustainable development issues since 1992, when it was established by the UN General Assembly to ensure effective follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro. CSD meets annually at UN Headquarters; its focus themes for 2006/2007 are energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change.

“It is self-evident to youth that nuclear energy and ‘clean’ fossil fuels are not viable options for truly sustainable development”, said Mr. Hoffmaister, who represented the coalition of over 1,000 youth organizations. He called on efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy as the most effective way to ensure sustainable growth. Several speakers at the meeting, including Gilbert Glaser, Senior Advisor of the International Council for Science, included both nuclear and “clean” fossil fuel-based energy as viable sources of energy for a world where demand for it will soar at the same time as society attempts to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Mr. Hoffmaister told the UN Chronicle that although nuclear energy and “clean” fossil fuel sources, such as coal and natural gas-fired plants designed to emit less carbon dioxide, “may appear to be clean right now, in the long run we will have to deal with the waste they create. Although they might be better than what was done before, they are not sustainable and cannot be thought of as goals”.

Small projects that involved renewable sources, such as solar and biomass, would be more effective in reaching rural communities than a large nuclear plant in a capital, he said…
(26(?) Feb, 2007 )
Contributor William Tamblyn writes:
Earth to World’s Youth: It is my sad duty to inform you that “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron.

Energy as the Catalyst in the Punctuated Equilibrium of Human Population Growth

Richard Embleton, “Oil, Be Seeing You” (blog)
The history of human cultural evolution is generally regarded as being closely linked to the development and evolution of agriculture. As man (initially in isolated local pockets) learned to plant seeds and grow his food rather than having to find it or chase it, human cultural evolution gradually moved toward the production of surpluses capable of supporting community building and urbanization.

It is generally argued that the “unnatural” growth in human population began with that simple act of planting a seed and the associated act of fixing a harness to an animal and having it pull a plow.

This whole argument, however, is one of observing results in isolation and to miss the underlying cause. The underlying catalyst to the growth of the human population is the exploitation of energy in its broadest context.
(1 March 2007)
This looks like the familiar Die Off argument, but in a more understandable form than the mass of articles and papers at the Die Off site. -BA

Myths of the Global Market

John McMurtry, ZNet
At the end of 2006, the journal of world economic affairs, The Economist, produced a banner issue on “Happiness and Economics”. The lead article unwittingly revealed an Achilles heel of Economics. It has no way of telling the universal needs of human beings from junk commodities for the masses, or gold toilet-seats for the rich.

In fact, not even consumers in the developed world are happier by ever more market commodities. When scientific studies like Robert Lane’s The Loss of Happiness in Market Societies (Yale, 2000) show that population satisfaction declines across the first world as income and commodity consumption rise above a certain level, the message does not compute to economists or policy makers. The reason for this is that neoclassical economics is based on the first premise that market growth produces more happiness the more commodities are bought – so-called “marginal utilities” that correspond to prices paid.

If this baseline assumption is false, the paradigm collapses.
(26 Feb 2007)
I’ve noticed more articles being published on the disconnect between happiness and consumerism (energy use). -BA