Thursday, April 22, 2010

earth day paradigm shift

--climate happenings are at the data bank--

Different about this year’s Earth Day is that a new paradigm has emerged. It concerns meaning and purpose of environmental protection. It used to be about “saving the planet” (not that the planet cared; it was there before us and will be there after us), or, perhaps better, about saving the integrity of the biosphere. Problem was that in such rescue efforts environmentalists suffered from overstretch. The list of things that needed fixing was endless, and when you put out the fires in front of you, the ones behind your back were blazing all the merrier. Should we save the rainforests or curb overpopulation? Should we deal with recycling or save the whales? Should we do something about plastics, peak oil, and consumerism, or should we rather be concerned with acid rain, global warming, and coral bleaching? Should we worry about frankenfoods, supercrops, biofuels, or about animal rights, meat-eating, & factory farming? Everything cried out for care, and ‘everything’ was all over the place.

Now things are simpler. The list is a system. The cloud of cares is falling into the gravity well of twin suns: climate and sustainability. The chaotic motions are organizing into orbits revolving around a center. The old issues haven’t gone away, but they’re now integrated in an orderly framework. Strictly speaking, the new paradigm hasn't so much replaced the old one as integrated it.

Before the paradigm shift, anthropogenic climate change, known since the 1950s, was just another item on the list, similar to sustainable development, which first appeared on the policy radar screen in the 1970s. Now climate and sustainability are at the core, subordinating everything else. Climate change is what’s happening to the planet. Sustainability is what will better happen to us fast if we still wish to slow down, reign in, and reverse the runaway changes towards a blue-yellow orb, towards dry lands and sour seas.

This makes things a whole lot easier. Before the shift, protection was about, well, the environment. It was about ‘them’—the lions, tigers, and bears (or the pandas, and orchids, and spotted owls). Now it’s about us, our future, our well-being and that of our kids. Before the shift we cared for a variety of reasons, all of which seemed somewhat ethereal, spiritual, or geeky to outsiders. We valued ecological integrity, natural beauty, and endangered species. We valued the genetic, medical, and yes, the aesthetic information stored in the biological diversity of climax communities. We liked, for ethical, ecological, or purely formal reasons, the complexity of some unkempt wild spot more than the consumerist monotony of the well-groomed suburban subdivisions that ate it up and took its place.

After the paradigm shift--now--environmental protection is about us. They (whoever ‘they’ are) and we are sitting in the same boat. And the boat is sinking. We need to adapt. So we better start bailing out the water and patching up the leaks. We need to smoothen the waves left in its wake, mitigate the consequences of our conduct. And more: we need to change the design of the boat now. The way we’ve used to do things, with the planet as all-you-can-eat buffet for global capitalists and US Republicans, won’t work anymore. We need to evolve. And we shall do so because the alternative is collapse. Thus the old range of reasons for caring squeezes now into a terse formula: adaptation plus mitigation plus evolution equals survival.

Remove any one part from this sum, say, civil evolution, and the outcome of the remainder will likely fall short. 'Survival' refers to the continuity of civilization, without incurring a dieback of our species next to all the others that are crashing now. And this, come to think of it, is the best news for environmentalists after Earth Day 2010. The annual celebration doesn't signal anymore a luxurious indulgence of romantics with their heads stuck in the clouds, if it ever did. Instead and henceforth it signals a level-headed, tough-minded realism of pragmatic optimists who are enlightened and want to go on. We are mainstream now, and while our foes remain formidable, they are marginalized and, in the worst sense of the word, history.

Eighty months left.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

earth day & global awareness

--climate happenings are at the data bank--

Guest post by Dan Grifen:

With spring, Earth Day also draws nearer (April 22nd); as individuals, we must remember and realize the importance of global warming and all of its implications. Topics discussed as of late include burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and green building. As nations like Haiti and Chile prepare for rebuilding and new construction, there are many things to consider when advancing. Moving towards cleaner, greener infrastructure is vital in ensuring a successful restoration campaign.

The U.S. Green Building Council is a 501(3)(c) non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everybody. It’s one of the many organizations playing its role in green progression. Heavy discussion lies on green topics, such as deforestation, green crops, energy, and much more. It’s important that we as individuals/citizens stay up-to-date on important global topics like climate change. As organizations like the CGI (Clinton Global Initiative), AFH (Architecture for Humanity), and the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) conducts sustainability campaigns and enforce strict green constraints, our world will continue to become a better, cleaner place. Machines behind the CGI, Doug Band and Former President Clinton have been pursuing an emission reduction plan in the San Francisco Bay area. Meanwhile, GEC (Globetrotters Engineering Corporation) is underway with green building projects in Chicago, IL. Despite these few national examples, green infrastructure, particularly in places like Haiti, has become an integral part of restoration and construction.

This aligns with the implications of "economic viability" and long term sustainability, posing the questions, "Can Haiti really make it through all the costs of repair and reconstruction?" Infrastructure can take a toll on any economy, especially if the funds aren't there. This goes hand in hand with meeting modern day LEED standards and approaching this in a "greener" sense. Organizations like Architecture for Humanity will make this possible. Architecture for Humanity (1999) is a nonprofit design services firm building "a more sustainable future through the power of professional design." It was formulated through a group of building professionals whose overwhelming passion for construction drove them to provide a way for underdeveloped, suffering countries to rebuild. Through their dedication and hard work, these people will be able to not only create new buildings and infrastructure, but make them bigger, better, and greener.

To touch on just some of the things that AFH covers:

• Alleviating poverty and providing access to water, sanitation, power and essential services
• Bringing safe shelter to communities prone to disaster and displaced populations
• Rebuilding community and creating neutral spaces for dialogue in post-conflict areas
• Mitigating the effects of rapid urbanization in unplanned settlements
• Creating spaces to meet the needs of those with disabilities and other at-risk populations
• Reducing the footprint of the built environment and addressing climate change

As polluters continue to buy their way out of Carbon Cuts globally, and large organizations continue to dump their waste into lakes, ponds and rivers, communities and must play their role in ensuring sustainability; organizations like the CGI, AFH, and USGBC provide repercussion and policy change for acts such as the above. Most of the results from warming and climate change are miniscule and unnoticeable now, but our youth and earlier generations will experience firsthand the effects of pollutants and unsustainable efforts. Feel free to visit to learn more about what you can do to support your world.

--guest post by Dan Grifen--

scathing, but with citations

--climate happenings are at the data bank--

Health Sherpa counts the blistered orb to the Top 50 Public Health Blogs. Listed in the Environment and Health category of the ranking, the blistered orb is described as "a scathing view of the current view on effects of global warming, along with citations."

The Mad Hun is honored.

Eighty months left.