Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bill McKibben

Tonight I went to listen to Bill McKibben talk about climate change and his campaign. He is a good speaker and really got me thinking about several things. His approach seemed to be very inclusive (although perhaps lacking in specific focus on how to reach 350ppm). The website says:

How do we actually reduce carbon emissions to get to 350?

Make no mistake--getting back to 350 means transforming our world. It means building solar arrays instead of coal plants, it means planting trees instead of clear-cutting rainforests, it means increasing efficiency and decreasing our waste. Getting to 350 means developing a thousand different solutions--all of which will become much easier if we have a global treaty grounded in the latest science and built around the principles of equity and justice. To get this kind of treaty, we need a movement of people who care enough about our shared global future to get involved and make their voices heard.

There doesn't seem to be any mention of consumption, radical change or any specific technology or world-view offered as a solution. "A thousand different solutions" is really avoiding the detail (is it nuclear, reduced consumption, more science, economic solutions, technology, which technology, technology is the problem, bottom-up government, more experts, better laws, support local business, lifeboat ethics or in this together, the internet, NGOs or carbon taxes, etc, etc). He promotes the idea of community and vocal grass-roots action to generate real change.

Still it is great that he is trying to generate some political grass-roots action. I just wonder if it will work and this is the key question. Hopefully this action will add to the many other attempts that are been made.

He tends to use a story approach rather than technocratic science or powerpoint). The first story was set in Tibet (when he went to see a melting glacier for a story he was doing for National Geographic - when he asked why it was melting - he was told by a 17 year old villager "like he was from the planet dimwit" that it was "from global warming and too many factories") . The second is set in Bangladesh (you can have a listen if you want - he tells it better than I could here anyway). He uses lots of dramatic words and a common sense type of approach and keeps it very simple.

He finished by saying that he wasn't sure that we could solve the problem because of 4 reasons:
  1. Carbon Dioxide isn't a trace gas (its an integral part of our economy).
  2. Heavily defended industry (oil, gas, coal, etc).
  3. Time is short (this is important).
  4. Not enough people mobilized on climate change (this is where he thinks can help).
He suggested that instead of thinking about jobs versus environment, we should think of the laws of chemistry and physics versus our political and humans systems. The laws of nature bend for no committee or political process.

I will post the lecture when the link when it is put up.

[Update: Download video here)

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So please, tell us what you think.

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