Years ago, my brother-in-law, a retired geophysicist, invited us to join him on a trek across the lava on the island of Hawai’i so we could see red-hot flows making their trek toward the ocean – nature’s way of making the Big Island even bigger.
The hike was several miles without the aid of a trail. Having spent many hours on the flows, my brother-in-law had many words of advice as we prepared, but it was his final admonition, as we came within a few feet of the blazing river of lava, which lodged itself in some deep crevice in my brain. Since even the “cooled” lava had been molten not long before our visit, he warned, “If your feet get warm, move to a different rock.” There’s wise but useless counsel, I thought. Who would stand motionless in life as the soles of their shoes begin to burn?
I wonder if the same is true for humans as a species. To believe we can continue on our current path is folly. Our collective feet are getting warm – as is the global environment. How long can we keep from being scorched by an economic system based on digging up resources we turn into temporary trinkets to use briefly, discard and bury? How will we continue to feed 7 billion people, even as we become 12 billion, as farmland is increasingly turned into strip malls and housing developments? But then, to save corporate mega-farms is to preserve a different kind of ecological disaster. How long will Mother Nature – Pachamama – put up with a species that shows so little regard for the delicate balance required to support all life? At what point might she call a halt to our self-centeredness?
In my keynote for Staging Sustainability 2014, I was asked to define “sustainability.” “The implicit meaning of the term refers to its opposite,” I told the group. “We fear having damaged ecosystems so much that life on Earth will soon be unsustainable, so sustainability names our search for whatever can heal that damage and allow us to carry on.” But I have some problems with the word’s way of setting the bar too low, of putting a supreme value on continuation.
David Buckland of the Cape Farewell Foundation (which I wrote about in my previous blog) said that he preferred “resilience” and so do I, because it encompasses the thing we must now all do, learning from loss. But Adrienne Goehler, a impressive fellow speaker at the conference, wants to rescue “sustainability” from the various forms of abuse and dilution to which the term has been subjected. She understands it as “continuous renewal.” And I’m down with that, understanding that the process of renewal entails leaving behind whatever no longer serves our capacity to thrive as we carry whatever supports our well-being into the future.
In Conceptual Thoughts on Establishing a Fund for Aesthetics and Sustainability, published by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung and downloadable from their site, Adrienne preferences her mission this way:
by: Christine Boyle and Seth Klein on February 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons/The Value Web
Rarely are we invited to consider ethical questions of right and wrong in matters of economic development, particularly in times of economic fragility, when jobs and investment are in high demand.
But as any society debates core economic and policy ideas, the battle for moral leadership matters. And so, at this critical time, it is vital that progressives reclaim some of that language.
For too long, we’ve been told that our values must take a backseat to the imperatives of economic growth and the associated promises of job creation; that what best serves the interests of large corporations will ultimately benefit the rest of us.
I spent a chunk of last week in a very cold and snowy Toronto at Staging Sustainability 2014, a conference with the subtitle “People. Planet. Profit. Performance.” It was masterminded by Ian Garrett of the Center for Sustainable Practice in The Arts, who teaches at York University. The University was one of an impressive array of sponsors, reflecting the reality that many scientists took part side-by-side with artists and scholars.
In fact, I began to feel that we are beginning to bridge the gap that C.P. Snow—whose own life braided art and science—wrote about in his important 1959 lecture, The Two Cultures, beginning to achieve a common understanding and discourse. As Snow described the problem more than half a century ago (some of his observations are dated, happily, but sadly not the thrust, I think):
There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with scientists and then gone off at night with some literary colleagues [...] I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures.’ For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups—comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all [...] By and large this is a problem of the entire West.
I’m extremely interested in the way that artists seem to be building—or perhaps the correct word is “living”—the bridge between these realms.
When Keystone XL’s top job recruiter comes to town, he reveals just what types of jobs the controversial oil pipeline would really create.
Oil executives like to claim that the Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs. But in a project fueling so many environmental and health risks, only one man is honest enough to say exactly what those jobs would be. Hint: they’re not in construction.
It’s true, Keystone XL has a job for you! But the question is: do you really want it?
[Note to readers: This is a satirical video. Please do not call Keystone XL about these job openings. Do not send in any applications or letters of recommendation. Instead, we recommend asking the good folks at Keystone XL one question. How's the wig business going?]
The Atharva Veda, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism, says: “Let there be peace in the heavens, the Earth, the atmosphere, the water, the herbs, the vegetation, among the divine beings and in Brahman, the absolute reality. Let everything be at peace and in peace. Only then will we find peace.”
What would it mean to put sacred calls like these into action?
That is the question that our group – Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus – is seeking to answer. We are an all-volunteer group of New York-based Hindus who first came together in 2011. Our purpose is to bring a progressive Hindu voice into the public discourse, and to live out the social justice principles at the heart of Hinduism.
Last week a bill was introduced in Congress that would give Fast Track Authority to the Obama Administration in order to grease the wheels to passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP), a monstrous trade agreement that twelve Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, have been negotiating secretly for four years. This week is crucial in defeating Fast Track, in order to give more time for the public and for members of Congress to learn about the far-reaching and deadly provisions contained in this pact.
The TPP, if passed, will impact every aspect of our lives, and will be the final undoing of democracy itself. Fast track, if passed, will be a fast track to hell.
by: James Menasheh Soorani on January 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The Mississippi, the Nile, the Tigris, the Rhine, the Danube, the Yangtze, the Indus, the Ganges, the Amazon are waterways for man but they are blood vessels for the Earth. Pollution of the waterways is no less than poisoning of the blood of Mother Earth.
The river deltas where the sweet river opens into the ocean is where fish and birds are born and there start the cycles of the life of the Earth; so the river deltas are like the opening of the birth canal or womb of Mother Earth. Notice the intercourse between the rhythmical ocean waves and the sweet water in the estuaries of the river deltas where fish grow and birds are born.
Human industrial advances have led to great abuses of nature that only now are beginning to be contained. Now there are departments in universities dedicated to the study of environmental, atmospheric, chemical, biological pollution and imbalances caused by human societies. The greatest of pollutants, the splitting of the atom, is due to be contained by the awakening of men to the unalienable rights of all babies to live in harmony and peace with the Earth – the rights of all, from the baby dolphin in the ocean to the baby chimpanzee in the Congo, to the baby squirrel that has just opened his eyes at the UCLA botanical garden.
(Permafrost in Siberia. Methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost increased by 31% from 2003-07/ Photograph: Francis Latreille/Corbis)
Experts say methane emissions from the Arctic have risen by almost one-third in just five years, and that sharply rising temperatures are to blame.What very few people understand are both the short and long range consequences for the planet in regards to a sudden increase in Methane emissions.
This recent discovery follows a string of reports from the region in recent years that previously frozen boggy soils are melting and releasing methane in greater quantities. Such Arctic soils currently lock away billions of tons of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,leading some scientists to describe melting permafrost as a ticking time bomb that could overwhelm efforts to tackle climate change.
By now most of us have seen photos and heard reports of the heartrending loss of life and destruction from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The monster storm has affected 11 million people and destroyed 670,000 homes. Blown-out towns have been reduced to grim junkyards of rubble. It seems beyond words. But words and images are all we have from afar, so I will ask a few questions and try to connect a few dots.
The shock of this sheer devastation has aroused the compassion of the American people, perhaps evoking memories of September 11. But at the same time, not enough of us are talking about the connection between extreme weather incidents and climate change. There is a grim irony in the fact that the UN Conference on Climate Change was meeting in Warsaw at the same time as Haiyan. It’s an outrageous reality that this body has reached no agreement about curtailing greenhouse gases and global warming.
This is basically because the United States Congress steadfastly refuses to pass any clean energy legislation commensurate to the clear and present danger of catastrophic global warming, despite Super Storm Sandy, droughts, floods, and wildfires on our own shores. Why is this, especially since the majority of Americans support its government taking action to fight global warming? One can only conclude that our government values profits of the dirty energy sector over the well-being and lives of their own citizens.