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Articles on this Page
- 05/15/14--15:57: _Postcard from Medel...
- 05/19/14--16:21: _Chevron taking its ...
- 05/21/14--13:00: _Letterman passes fr...
- 05/26/14--11:08: _Remembering the vic...
- 07/28/14--15:35: _How Genius Gets Aro...
- 08/23/14--13:15: _The Urban Metabolis...
- 09/15/14--22:35: _Hurricane Odile, Mo...
- 09/17/14--08:00: _Changing Tide Ahead...
- 09/22/14--16:59: _The People's Climat...
- 10/14/14--10:41: _How hard is it to s...
- 12/08/14--05:49: _WARNING: Graphic Hu...
- 12/11/14--08:43: _Pachamama Rumblings...
- 12/18/14--11:59: _Does your iPhone ha...
- 12/22/14--12:31: _How Gondolas and Hi...
- 05/15/14--15:57: Postcard from Medellin, Part 2: Are we better off being better off?
- Monday, May 19
- Tuesday, May 20
- Wednesday, May 21
- 07/28/14--15:35: How Genius Gets Around...
- 12/08/14--05:49: WARNING: Graphic Humor May Cause Severe Climate Change Awareness
A Day in a Less Developed Life. Parque Biblioteca España, Medellín.
The desire to create comfort and security for ourselves probably counts as one of the most rudimentary motivations in the human reservoir of instincts. Building a safe nest is one of the impulses that not only transcends cultural boundaries but connects us to most other species on the planet. As a basic principle, wanting the very best for ourselves and even better for our offspring is as relatable as it is admirable, to the point of being socially awkward to desire otherwise.
And yet, within the context of modern society, the lines of what constitutes a fulfilled life can easily get blurred. The simple need for a roof over our heads and food in our bellies alone is already dependent on a complex industrial process, and few of us are aware of the amount of energy, resources, and logistics that goes into the beds we sleep in or the meals we consume. Things get even trickier once our basic needs such as access to clean water, food, and shelter are met and we are presented with a seemingly endless array of choices to "improve" our lives.
Avenida El Poblado, a street full of development.
Part I of this series about my adventures with the Ecocitizen World Map Project at the Seventh World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia explored the meaning of "equity" and how a level playing field must be the foundation for any kind of global-scale environmental improvement. In this second installment I'd like to flip the mirror and look at the other end of the spectrum, at concepts like "development" or "progress" that invariably come up when considering the turf upon which this level playing field should be built.
Peopled streets: atavistic or visionary? La Carrera Carabobo, Medellín.
Last year, a bunch of Bay Area cyclists heeded Bill McKibben's call to tell oil companies that the climate math doesn't add up when it comes to their business plans of burning massive reserves of fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
Joining a diverse coalition of groups representing all the different people getting screwed by the oil giant's reckless greed (from the indigenous communities suffering the effects of the Chevron/Texaco's toxic ventures in the Ecuadorian Amazon to the company's Richmond, CA refinery neighbors demanding to stop being poisoned), several hundred concerned citizens gathered in- and outside the annual shareholder meeting at the company's San Ramon, CA Headquarters to demand that Chevron take responsibility for their pollution and become part of the solution.
The Bike the Math part of the action was not only a lot of fun (riding the Iron Horse Trail with a bunch of cool people with home-made flags waving from their bikes), but ended up being great visual support for the people giving Chevron's CEO Watson an earful inside the meeting. As I wrote afterwards, this may have been the only time I would ever be on the same page with Chevron CEO John Watson.
And I was right. Tired of being held to account by the powerful, almighty citizens lobby, the $26.2 billion a year underdog decided to escape the scrutiny this year by moving their annual shareholder meeting to George Bush's oasis in Midland, Texas, four hours from the nearest metropolitan airport.
Thing is, there wasn't even going to be that big of an action this year. After last year's big shebang it was going to be hard to keep that kind of intensity going. I, for one, wasn't planning on putting together another bike ride, and I hadn't heard of any big plans from the organizations that had mobilized the action last year.
Then Chevron tried to sneak out the back door and woke up a sleeping people giant. The canceled shareholder meeting turned into a Global Day of Action, endorsed by nearly 100 groups with protests in 12 countries around the world. Because really, it's not like Chevron has gotten any better over the last 12 months. The opposite, whether it's illegally fracking in Romania, refusing to take responsibility for a gas-rig explosion in Nigeria, or bribing witnesses during retaliatory RICO lawsuits, these guys are just not making many friends aside from the Donny Rico's of the world.
So as a result, this coming Wednesday, May 21, there are going to be actions throughout the worst-hit frontline communities from Nigeria to Ecuador, from Argentina to Romania. Right outside the Richmond refinery, Amazon Watch is joining with groups like APEN, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the Sunflower Alliance, Greenaction, and over a dozen other groups to hold Chevron accountable for its crimes in Richmond and around the world.
All the info to join us below the toppled orange oil rig.
David Letterman on Fracking:
Ladies and Gentlemen, We're Screwed!Stephen Colbert, aka The Fracker:
Come on, we're trying to throw a fracking party here, and these people are ruining it with their suffering.As David Letterman is getting ready to pass the Late Show torch to Stephen Colbert, it's worth noting that when it comes to fracking, it's a hilariously explosive one.
He starts in his usual self-deprecating way
Let's talk about fracking. I'm not smart enough to understand it.Before showing that he knows quite a bit about it.
Here's what I know about fracking:Then he lists the states where this is happening. If all goes well and we all do our part California will no longer be one of them, and as goes California, so goes the nation.
The greedy oil and gas companies of this country have decided that they can squeeze every last little ounce of oil and gas out of previously pumped wells by injecting the substrata of our planet with highly toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, which then seep into the aquifer and hence into the water supply of Americans.
The Delaware water gap has been ruined, the Hudson Valley has been ruined. Most of Pennsylvania has been ruined. Virginia, West Virginia has been ruined. Colorado has been ruined. New Mexico has been ruined.I'm no expert on fracking history and regulations, but this sounds like a typical "compromise" working in the extractor's favor.
They're poisoning our drinking water and the EPA said, "You know what? You no longer have to comply with EPA standards for stuff you put into the water." So the greedy oil and gas companies said, "Great, let's go crazy," (Paul Shaffer: "Of course!") and then some states are saying, "No, we have transparency laws, so the oil and gas companies say, "Okay, we'll tell you everything but 2 percent of what we're putting into your tap water."Then of course, the verdict.
And that's supposed to make us feel better.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're screwed!Dave's got a personal anecdote to drive home how bad this practice really is.
I've seen people set fire to their tap water. "Can I get you an ice water? Ka-Boom! (Paul Shaffer: "Oh Boy!")And then some gallows humor to bring it all home.
I've seen people set fire to their toilets! (Paul Shaffer: "Haha, that's a different story.")
That was in college, I don't think they still do that.
So, from now on: Vodka.Thanks Dave, I'm so glad you're venturing more and more into controversial political territory. Having a child must have had something to do with it.
But wait! It gets better.
A couple months later, Dave's successor at the Late Show grabs the fracking torch and runs it back to the fossil companies.
All the Colbert hilarity you'll need to cheer you up a little bit on a less than funny subject below the toppled orange fracking drill.
But first a message from your most excellent California Fracking Moratorium Blogathon Team. If you haven't yet called one of the lawmakers below to urge them to pass California Senate Bill 1132, pick up the phone now and dial the number. I swear, watching Colbert is even better after having made that call.
California Fracking Moratorium Blogathon
California Fracking Moratorium Blogathon: May 20-May 23, 2014
Diaries Through Today, Wednesday, May 21st.
5:00 pm: Blogathon announcement diary - CA Fracking Moratorium Blogathon: SB 1132 in Suspense! by boatsie.
1:00 pm:If Texans can't live with fracking, Californians can't either by Txsharon and Jhon Arbelaez.
Please tweet all diaries posted during the day, adding the hashtag #SB1132. Feel free to link to your Facebook pages, and remember to republish each diary to your DK Groups. You can also follow all postings by clicking this link for the Climate Change SOS Blogathon Group. Then, click 'Follow' and that will make all postings show up in 'My Stream' of your Daily Kos page. Graphic Credit: 350.org.
Last Wednesday night I joined about 80 fellow cyclists in a memorial ride to honor seven cyclists recently killed in the streets of San Francisco. The Ride of Silence, first held in Dallas in 2003 after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and was killed, is an annual silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways that has spread to cities and towns across North America and the world.
Co-organized by my friend Anthony Ryan, himself a victim of having made the painful acquaintance with 3000 pounds of automobile mass a couple of years ago, the Ride of Silence SF had its 5th anniversary. The fact that it was the largest and most organized ride so far made it a particularly moving experience, but unfortunately also indicates that the tragedies in our streets are still common occurrences, despite efforts to make our streets safer for everyone. Last year alone, 25 pedestrians and bicyclists were hit and killed by drivers in San Francisco, the highest number since 2007.
Anthony showing off his brandnew set of front teeth, while his original chompers are mixing it up with the San Francisco pavement.
This year's route took us through parts of the Mission, SoMa and up Market Street, a particularly hairy patch of urban jungle, to memorialize six cyclists and a wheelchair-bound pedestrian that recently lost their lives during unsolicited encounters with cars and trucks. For the first time ever, the ride was accompanied by an entourage of motorcycle cops, who were going to make the streets just a bit safer for us than we're used to on a daily basis.
Seeing them sitting there waiting for us as we were gathering on the street behind Sports Basement added not only a sense of safety but symbolism, as it might signal a shift away from the common practice by the SFPD (and police across the Bay Area and the country) of treating non-motorized traffic participants as expendable inferiors. The "blame the victim" default that unfortunately still applies to most collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians not only makes it very difficult to get a real investigation into what actually happened, but it perpetuates the deep-seated privilege afforded to motorized vehicle operators on streets that in actuality belong to all of us.
A little after 6pm our procession on two wheels set off towards the San Francisco evening commute.
Memorials, moments, and impressions from the ride below the mangled orange bicycle rim...
Note:Climate change is the overarching environmental issue of our time and I'm a huge proponent of urging national and world leaders to take action. However, I often wonder what it is they're going to do once a treaty is signed to reduce CO2 emissions. It's not like there's a magic switch that will turn off all the centralized power plants and get most cars off the roads. Our current infrastructure is so inefficient and wasteful at its core that it depends on energy stored in fossils a million years ago just to be maintained. Tinkering around the edges with a few solar panels and bike lanes is not going to be enough. If we're serious about reducing carbon emissions we have to re-envision the biggest things we build — cities. In order to do that, we have to understand how cities work, from the inside out. This is what I've been devoting most of my energy to.
As part of my work with the Ecocitizen World Map project (EWM) I'm currently learning about Urban Metabolism Information Systems (UMIS), a whole systems analysis that measures everything flowing into and out of a city over time and space. The UMIS methodology was developed by Dr. Sebastian Moffatt and proposes a standardized "source to sink" framework to better understand and analyze urban systems as they process through the built environment. For example, here's a close-up of just one segment of the City of Vancouver, BC's water flow, showing how water is used and where it goes after that.
In fact, with the help of intrepid citizen activists and students in our pilot cities of Cairo and Casablanca we are taking it even further: turning the tool from the inside out and from the bottom up, we are testing out Participatory Urban Metabolism Information Systems, a method designed to empower people on the ground to map out their own neighborhoods and become participants in transforming their communities into more resilient, equitable, and ecologically healthy settlements.
Why is this important? Well, like a human body a city is a living, ever-evolving organism, and in order to have it operate at a healthy level and in sync with its environment you have to know exactly what flows into it, how those things are used, and where they go after the body no longer needs them. Another familiar analogy to think of is a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), the well established method to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life, from cradle to grave. But LCAs only work for products, and cities and neighborhoods aren't products — they are situated in one place, they are complex, ever-changing physical and cultural ecosystems, and they have no lifetime. Cities are eternal.
Cities are also the largest things that humans build, and with the number of cities of 750,000+ inhabitants quadrupling over the last 50 years and 70 percent of the world's population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, the quest to figure out how our urban environments could operate within the earth's carrying capacity ranks as one of the most viable pursuits anyone concerned about climate change, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and the human struggles associated with it could undertake. To put it simply, if we don't understand our cities' organisms, we will never be able to have them function in balance with the larger natural organisms within which they reside.
I'm usually not the breaking news type diarist here, but it's perhaps a telling sign that in the age of extreme weather we've become so accustomed to outlandish storms that a hurricane as unusual in size and location as Odile wouldn't be all over national headlines.
Odile really did a number on Cabo, but I'm wondering if it's simply because our minds don't (yet) allow for a hurricane of that caliber to occur just down the coast from LA that we don't see more images like these all over the American mainstream media's frontpages.
Here's a screen shot of today's New York Times home page...
Hurricane Odile crashed ashore Sunday night tied for the most intense hurricane on record to strike Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The large and powerful Category 3 hurricane packed sustained winds of 125 mph as its eye passed very near the popular vacation destination Cabo San Lucas. Reports and photos are just beginning to trickle in and, based on early accounts, the damage appears to be devastating.I only heard about Odile because my friend posted on Facebook that she lost her home near San Jose. She's currently not there, so I'm not sure how bad the damage is, but I was there a few years ago and it's no shack she's living in. Odile is for real!
Don't believe me? Look at what happened to the Cabo airport...
“It’s very rare to get a major hurricane [ category 3 or higher] to reach the Baja Peninsula,” said Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert. “I found just two previous storms in the records to make landfall as major hurricanes: Kiko (1989) and Olivia (1967).”Okay, so I know single events don't prove or disprove the existence of climate change, but you know something is seriously whacked when Alta California is suffering from the worst drought in over 100 years and Baja California gets slammed with something that's just not supposed to happen.
Time to rewatch Neil deGrasse Tyson breaking down the differences between weather and climate change.
Then sign up to attend or support in any way, shape or form possible the People's Climate March in New York City this Saturday...
This actually happened.
Two climate activists were set to go on trial in Massachusetts on Monday for blocking the shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point power plant, a 51-year-old facility that is one of the region’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases. But in a surprise move, a local prosecutor dropped the criminal charges and reduced three other charges to civil offenses, calling climate change one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced.Days after they were to square off in court, the activists, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, joined the prosecutor, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter, for an interview with Democracy Now!'s Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman.
They stated the reasons for their actions rather matter-of-factly.
O’Hara talked about what
possessed inspired them to block a freighter carrying 40,000 tons of coal with a lobster boat.
Well, I think the inspiration for this is many of us have this huge weight on our hearts, knowing that this crisis is bearing down on us. And almost two years ago in October, Ken and I both ended up at a vigil in downtown Boston, kind of on the eve of Hurricane Sandy, and Ken proposed the idea that it was time to take direct action to stop coal from being burned in Massachusetts. And it seemed—my heart kind of leapt with joy at that first mention of it, and it was clear that that was the work that, for us, we needed to do. (bold emphasis mine)Ward elaborated on why they thought they had no other choice.
Well, nothing else is working. I mean, a lot of us have been doing this through—I mean, one of the things we had to argue—or, would have argued, had we gone to trial—is that we’ve pursued all legal available means to try to address the problem. I mean, we’ve been doing lobbying and public education and a whole set of things for a long time. None of those things have worked. It’s just as—I mean, the trajectory hasn’t changed. So, in terms of how do we change politics, the thing that seemed needed is this, is direct action (bold emphasis mine).
The clip of DA Sutter speaking outside the courthouse is almost Bulworthian in its shocking, refreshing, emperor-wears-no-clothes directness.
The decision that Robert Kidd and I—that’s the assistant district attorney who handled this case—reached today was a decision that certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers in Somerset, but was made with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond, in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking. (bold emphasis mine)To be sure, the DA didn't renege on his duty to enforce the law, but rather than — excuse the pun — going overboard with conspiracy charges that would have sent O'Hara and Ward to prison for months, he struck a deal with the defense and reduced the remaining charges to civil infraction fines of $2,000 each, to be used to pay for the police response to their action.
What's remarkable here (but shouldn't be) is that the DA used his moral compass as an educated citizen and caring human being to determine that O'Hara and Ward's action of blocking a planet-destroying load of coal from getting burned (and raising awareness about climate change) was of far greater benefit to his district (and humanity) in the grand scheme of things than the inconvenience that was caused the coal company and Brayton Point Power Station.
Really, the only thing crazy about this is that it's breaking news headline-inducing! (Though most of the MSM missed it, but for the wrong reasons)
The great thing is that O'Hara, Ward, and District Attorney Sutter plan to march together in the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York City. As Sutter replied to a reporter during his courthouse press conference when asked whether he'd be a model across the country:
Well, I certainly will be in New York in two weeks, how’s that? And I’m walking around with Bill McKibben’s article from Rolling Stone a couple of months ago. How do you like that? So, you know where my heart is.Speaking of Bill McKibben, here's an excerpt from his latest essay co-written with Eddie Bautista of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and La Tonya Crisp-Saurayon of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 on why they will march:
We’re tired of winning the argument and losing the fight. And so we march. We march for the beaches and the barrios. We march for summers when the cool breeze still comes down in the evening. We march because Exxon spends $100 million every day looking for more hydrocarbons, even though scientists tell us we already have far more in our reserves than we can safely burn. We march for those too weak from dengue fever and malaria to make the journey. We march because California has lost 63 trillion gallons of groundwater to the fierce drought that won’t end, and because the glaciers at the roof of Asia are disappearing. We march because researchers told the world in April that the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to melt “irrevocably”; Greenland’s ice shield may soon follow suit; and the waters from those, as rising seas, will sooner or later drown the world’s coastlines and many of its great cities.And... saving the best for last!
These three climate heroes will be joining our upcoming People's Climate March Blogathon this Friday right here on Daily Kos. First, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara will co-post at 1pm PDT about their experience of lobster boating themselves in the way of a fossil fuel behemoth. Then DA Sutter will post at 3pm to tell his side of the story, hopefully inspiring DAs and judges across the country to use our legal system for the maximum protection of the only planet we've got.
So log in and help us kick off our blogathon that will run September 19-23.
Impressions from Northern California People's Climate Rally
Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Oakland, CA, September 21, 2014
Well, really not that hard at all.
Preparing dessert from rejected but delicious fruits at the Feeding the 5000 event in Nantes on September 25, 2014.
Since the first Feeding the 5000 event was held in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2009, these inspiring campaigns to shine a light on the incredible global food waste have "mushroomed" from Paris to Dublin, Manchester, Sydney, Amsterdam, Brussels, and other cities across the globe. Inspired by the hard-to-swallow reality that roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption — about 1.3 billion tons per year — gets lost or wasted globally, these large public events rescue food that normally would be wasted at farms, groceries and restaurants and turn it into stews and curries for up to 5,000 people.
Feeding the 5000 is coming to the United States for the first time!
Next Wednesday, October 22, from 11 to 2pm at The Pit and Top of Lenoir Dining Hall, Carolina Dining Services team members at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill will serve veggie curry, Brunswick Stew, Jamaican Fish Chowder, and Fruit Cobblers, all gleaned from salvaged fruit and vegetables left to rot at farms around North Carolina due to retailer’s strict cosmetic standards or to overproduction.
Feeding the 5K founder Tristram Stuart will be at the event in Oakland to call attention to the global food waste scandal.
Last year, I was personally initiated into the miracle of volunteers gleaning perfectly edible but deemed unsellable food, prepping it, cooking it, and serving it to an arena-sized crowd of appreciative locals. Attending the Ecocity World Summit in Nantes, France, I got to witness first-hand the amazing energy of a Feeding the 5000 event.
Follow me below the orange peeler for some thoughts and impressions.
So here I am, fresh off the proverbial boat to witness Week 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, aka COP20, or the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties, which, frankly, feels like the 200th.
To be sure, under normal circumstances I would have no business getting airlifted here at the expense of a monster carbon footprint, just to post some morbid humor and be another dog barking up the same tree.
And besides, boatsie, Joshua Wiese, and the entire crew at our very own DK Climate Action Hub are already doing a bang-up job of bringing us all the climate and COP20 news one could possibly be thirsting for.
However, I was asked to make the trip down here to be part of the Ecocity Builders team, presenting our participatory ecocitizen mapping project to various stakeholders, and to network with local organizations to get the help we'll need to set up neighborhood survey teams here in Lima, our newly announced 4th pilot city.
Turning the traditional top-down approach to urban planning on its head, this new approach uses a framework known as Participatory Action Research (PAR) that challenges structural barriers to information and provides opportunities for communities to directly lead the research process, in an attempt to create community-generated solutions in urban planning and public policy.
Not exactly goose bump-inducing language, so let me paraphrase: Power to the People! If we want to keep our mothership afloat, we've got to educate, engage, and inspire people wherever they are.
A look at the work we did in our first three pilot cities of Medellín, Cairo, and Casablanca explains why it is so important to engage and empower citizens if we are to transform cities into the kind of ecologically healthy, high functioning urban ecosystems that will be needed to meet any serious carbon reduction agreements coming out of the COP negotiations.
Okay, so I admit, I baited you with promises of mind-altering art and humor just to subject you to the nitty gritty of one of the many great efforts happening behind the scenes in a struggle that is much too deep and wide and complex to be solved by headline-inducing high-level statements and agreements.
However, I contend that this intellectual detour is relevant, not only because it tells the story of how I ended up meandering along 120 amazing art pieces created by cartoonists from around the world calling attention to the many ironies of our inaction on the most consequential threat humanity has ever faced, but because just like art and humor, giving voice to people's stories from communities across the globe connects the many dots of climate change more viscerally than numbers and graphs ever could.
That was a chunky sentence. I think we've all earned ourselves a hearty
or two, because who doesn't like their irony ice-cold...?
Before I show you more of these nuggets, let me just say that so far our mission has been a great success. On Monday, our Executive Director Kirstin Miller got to present the project and announce the launch of the Lima pilot in partnership with the Organization of American States, the US State Department, and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, at the COP20 US Center.
On Tuesday, our Projects Facilitator Ashoka Finley presented maps and diagnostics for resilient cities at the Sustainable Cities Pavillion, or Pabellón Ciudades Sostenibles.
Personally, I hit the ground running yesterday, staffing our booth and pulling out every last of my Spanish vocabulary to answer questions for a very enthusiastic, mostly local crowd. Whenever my brain froze, Holly Pearson, who is our Lima coordinator and fluent in Spanish, bailed me out.
To make a long story short, in just one afternoon we met several folks both from local universities and organizations who were super psyched about getting involved with the project and connecting us with community leaders.
I did get hungry though, so I left the pavilion to hunt for a bite. Instead of ceviche, I ended up getting nourished by a row of banners along the path that I had hurried past on the way in.
It's an exhibit entitled VII Salón Internacional de Humor Gráfico, the 7th International Exhibition of Graphic Humor, featuring some of the most talented illustrators from around the globe. This year the theme is Climate Change, which worked out perfectly for COP, who realized the powerful messaging inherent in humor and integrated the show across the conference premises.
Follow me below the orange tidal wave for a look at some of my favorite pieces. The beauty of these is that they need no editorializing, they're best enjoyed raw and unfiltered.
Bottom line: time is running out and we've got to get creative really fast and soon to keep our little round ball from getting buried in the sand.
Yesterday the whole left brain greenhouse gas haggling exercise at the COP20 Climate Summit got a huge kick in the pants when 20,000 marching souls took to the streets of Lima for Latin America’s biggest ever climate march.
Indigenous people from all over South America were calling attention to the disproportionately devastating effects climate change is already having on native lands, especially the Amazonian rainforests down here.
On this International Day of Human Rights, they were joined by a diverse coalition of international allies, who not only understand that it is morally untenable to stand by while the people who did the least to cause the climate calamity have to bear the brunt of its burden, but who are keenly aware that as the Amazon goes, so go all of us.
The “March in defense of Mother Nature” (Marcha en defensa de la Madre Tierra) was part of the People's Climate Summit, the alternative gathering outside of UN talks that brings together civil societies and social movements from across the globe. The people's message is deeper than just another piece of tinkering around the edges of the corporate-industrial-fossil complex. They point to the fatal folly of the current development model, with its priority of massive accumulation and consumerism that "is based on irrational and accelerated extraction of natural resources with no account taken of the globe’s limits."
While the prophets of environmental fixes at the official talks are often bureaucrats and bankers (and even oil company executives), the messengers of planetary healing at the people's march are the rivers and the forests.
It seems that we have come to a crossroads where we have two choices: Trust the forces that got us into this mess to get us out of it, or sync our steps to follow the rhythms of Pachamama. Which will it be?
The reason I'm here is to network on behalf of the Ecocitizen World Map Project, which seeks to empower and educate urban communities living under the hardest conditions in cities around the world. So aside from the great energy and inspiration the people's march provides it is quite relevant to my work because they both seek to address fundamental questions of inequity that are at the core of the social, environmental, and economic imbalances that have brought our planetary ecosystems on the brink of collapse.
Follow me across the jump for more impressions from yesterday's march.
One of my beloved British pals proudly sent me a link to this encouraging news about UK energy use.
UK using less energy despite growing economy, report findsI don't want to be the energy Grinch, but this sentence...
People in the UK are using less energy even though the economy is growing, new figures confirm.
Increased wealth typically leads to increased energy use - but this link appears to have been broken by technology and government policy.
New analysis of government statistics for BBC News shows that the average person in the UK is using 10% less electricity than five years ago.
That is despite the boom in large TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets.
EU standards on household appliances have allowed people to do the same tasks with less energy.
"despite the boom in large TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets"
begs another question. Namely, how much energy is used to manufacture all those new and frequently replaced devices Brits (and the rest of us in wealthy consumer nations) are enjoying?
This is one of the key issues in (global) energy and greenhouse gas accounting, and one that once again almost tripped up the recent UN climate change negotiation process. Developed countries like the US, UK, EU, or Australia point to exactly the kind of energy savings mentioned in the article as a reason why they are doing their part, while developing nations insist they should be graded on a larger scale that also includes manufacturing & shipping footprints, as well as rich nations' historic burning of fossil fuels that made them wealthy enough in the first place to now invest in renewable energy grids.
In other words: when we buy an iPhone, how much of its overall footprint are we liable for? Only the energy it takes to recharge it, or the energy it took to extract the raw materials all over the world (yes, even California), ship them to the factories, manufacture them (often with energy from coal), package them (including energy cost of packaging, often full of petroleum products), ship them to the consumer nation, then distribute them on trucks to retailers? And that's just before we ever send our first text message, not accounting for the huge footprint of disposing of the device, which incidentally often ends up polluting a developing nation again.
I am using the iPhone as just one example, but the same question applies to any other consumer product, from TVs and computers to household appliances and cars (The environmental impact of our cars begins long before the first drops of gasoline are combusted, or the battery is first recharged). Shouldn't every improvement of their energy efficiency also include an assessment of the energy and materials it took to source, manufacture, ship, and dispose of such products?
If the answer is that the consumer country has at least a partial responsibility for the total energy used in a life cycle of a product, then we have to find more honest ways to account for and communicate our energy use. I recommend the Global Footprint Network as a great source for more holistic accounting tools that reflect the true impact of our consumption. We can all start by calculating our personal ecological footprint, which I think is really helpful in understanding our impact on the planet beyond the obvious things in our immediate environment.
That said, it's a step in the right direction to see energy efficiency in the UK and EU improved! But if we really want to reduce energy use on a global scale, we need to get much more serious about addressing things like planned obsolescence and consumerism.
Medellín went from being ground zero of Colombia's drug war to UN poster child for urban equality—and the people made it happen, by designing the city they wanted.
Note:This article appears in Cities Are Now, the Winter 2015 issue of YES! Magazine, a nonprofit, independent publication dedicated to solutions-oriented journalism. I wrote it to show what's possible in transforming not only cities but society at large when good governance and a commitment to social justice meet citizen participation and creative resilience. My previous two posts offering more context for my trip to Medellín earlier this year are here and here.