Futures - May 11
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A green industrial revolution?
Gary Gardner and Gregory Clark, Los Angeles Times
Does it matter if some staples run out, or will the same ingenuity that produced oil refining in the late 19th century and the "green revolution" in the late 20th century save us again in the future?
Gardner and Clark finish their Dust-Up today with a debate on the potential of resource scarcity to spark government programs and technological innovation. Previously, they discussed the increasing resource demands of developing nations, government policies aimed at altering consumption habits, increasing food prices and the question of whether global trends in overall supply and demand portend a coming era of scarcity.
(9 May 2008)
Videos: Cuba's green revolution (several videos)
A clip from the BBC's Around the World in 80 Gardens (2008) shows the urban organic food gardening revolution in Havana, Cuba.
[Also] A three-part talk by Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez and an interview with the makers of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.
[Some of the links at the original don't work. The following links are functional. -EB]
Urban Food Growing in Havana, Cuba (from "Around the World in 80 Gardens")
The making of Cuba: The Power of Community (interview with Megan Quinn)
Links is an "international journal of socialist renewal".
Monty Don of Around the World in 80 Gardens is very enthuasiastic about Cuba's green revolution in this 8:40 minute clip.
Biofuels and the Rise of Nationalistic Environmentalism
Alexis Zeigler, Reality Sandwich
... As an environmental activist, I was wary when my friends started enthusiastically grabbing used cooking oil from behind restaurants. I did not think they were aware of the political Frankenstein they were creating. American consumers are both enormously powerful and very disconnected from the natural world or any consideration of the limits of the Earth on which we all reside. Now that a movement has been created to expand biofuel production rapidly, with support from everyone from President Bush to large fraction of the environmental movement, it will be difficult to stop.
... It is no surprise that conservatives are in favor of biofuel given their traditional nationalistic focus. The number of liberally minded, educated environmentalists who favor biofuels expansion is more surprising. I have had many arguments trying to decipher how so many smart people could fail to see the obvious connections.
... American environmentalism has become increasingly nationalistic. If one takes a step back from biofuels and looks at the broader environmental movement, the dominant trends are towards "green capitalism," or "Natural Capitalism" to use the title of a book by Paul Hawkens and Amory Lovins. According to this theory, the new green technologies are going to create "green" jobs, the economy will continue to prosper as workers construct windmills and insulate sophisticated energy-sipping homes and offices. Consumers will buy compact fluorescent bulbs and efficient cars, and we will steadily reduce our energy use.
... It sounds great. But there is a side to this movement, of which biofuel is emblematic, which is far darker than any of its current advocates dare recognize. Everyone, save a few winguts, acknowledges that oil is a finite resource. A few years ago, some oil geologists started suggesting that the peak of global oil production might be very soon, now or in the next few years, rather than decades away as has been assumed.
... Some of the advocates of green capitalism - of which there are many at this point - are aware of the likely pending limits of oil and other resources. They paint a scenario of the continued growth and prosperity even as we downscale our energy use and pollution using more efficient technologies and design.
... nationalistic environmentalism focuses almost entirely on the well-being of the global upper class. It is probably true that it is possible for a limited number of people to transition to a highly efficient, consumer society, but only if a couple billion of our fellow humans suffer deprivation, or perhaps even outright destruction, to make way.
... Instead of lying about the outcomes of the green capitalist economy, instead of putting the food of the world into the gas tanks of American SUVs, instead of telling American consumers they can rest easy on organic cotton linens for decades to come, should we not speak the truth? We are going to have to downscale our consumption and our economy drastically, or face a global war over resources, with all the political fallout that portends.
We as citizens can localize our economies, develop more cooperative means of living and using resources, and live more rewarding lives in greater connection to the people around us. ...
Alexis Zeigler is a communitarian, builder, orchardist and environmental activist living in central Virginia. He is the author of a recently published book, Culture Change; Civil Liberty, Peak Oil, and the End of Empire.
(9 May 2008)
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