Archive for June, 2013


June 2, 2013

Earth Rebelled


There must be a new approach to public policy development that makes “Earth First” top priority.  “Property” “economy” and “jobs” must serve “Earth First.”

The planning frame should be at least 100 years, possibly 1,000, NOT 25.  Environmental change is occurring so fast that small decisions made locally avalanche regionally (e.g. downstream pollution), or even globally (e.g. ozone layer destruction).

The Economic Growth discussion is always the same: “highest and best value” (a misnomer if ever there was one – profits trump survival).

Fat City is over, although many are still trying to milk it for the last bit of cream.  We must do more with less, and the rich must share or move out.  We don’t need more deadhead users and freeloaders.  We must develop a mutually supportive community again.  The business of government is the people’s business; developers step to the rear.  Legislators must renounce corporate campaign contributions as contrary to the public good.

We need to CONTROL land value to discourage speculation, and eliminate or lessen the wide market swings due to nerves or manipulation.  We must impose firm, honest value on land and discourage speculative over-inflation – speculation is not bad per se, but it is one of the easiest activities to exaggerate and corrupt.  We need a National Land Use Comprehensive Plan.

Unlimited growth is the ethos of a cancer cell, says David Suzuki, noted biologist.  Because one cannot personally conceive of an alternative to growth does not mean that one does not exist.  Sustainability is NOT a myth – it is an under-represented, and too-often wrongfully rejected younger child; the one bearing truth to co-dependent addictive parents in deep denial over their multi-generational destruction of the natural environment.

Three well-known fables, or metaphors illustrate our present situation:

  • Chinese fable of death by 1,000 pin pricks.  Stick a mouse one to 500 times and it can still heal unassisted.  Between 500-750 sticks, the mouse needs help in order to survive.  Between 750 and the 1,000th stick, death is certain, regardless of outside intervention.
  • A lily pad grows exponentially, doubling in size every day.  It takes a while for it to cover half the pond, but on the very next day, the entire pond is covered, and everything below it suffocates.
  • Parable of the frog and boiling water.  Put a frog in boiling water and it hops right out.  Put the frog in cold water and slowly heat it to boiling and the frog will adjust until it boils to death.

One more stick with the pin?  Deal with it later?  Turn up the heat?

As a former Chair of an urban Planning Commission and Executive Committee Member of a Regional Planning Council two developers stand out:

One claimed that a miles long unregulated commercial Strip was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen: America’s energy and excitement was laid out plain: the true entrepreneurial spirit – wires, signs, traffic snarls, and pollution, revealed in indifferent sprawl and waste.

A second bermed his auto lot outside the entrance to a National Historical Site at our demand.  He then ran a ramp up so that his trucks would show above the berm, and trimmed his trees to poodle tail puffs so that the branches wouldn’t obscure anything.  He performed the letter, but not the spirit of the law, with no respect for our shared national heritage.  He was a Coney Island developer at Gettysburg National Cemetery.

We are in crisis and we must make fundamental and absolute changes without further delay.  We cannot give “just a little bit more.”  Spoiled children require discipline if they are to live wholesome, productive lives.  Developers, energy barons, other planet-killers and we, must settle for less and work to plan a healthy sustainable community.  We require teamwork to endure what is coming.  We don’t have the luxury to indulge selfish, ignorant behaviors.


Earth’s Life Support Systems Failing by Stephen Leahy.

UXBRIDGE, Canada – The world has failed to slow the accelerating extinction crisis despite 17 years of national and international efforts since the great hopes raised at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The last big promise to act was in 2003, when government ministers from 123 countries committed to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

Experts convening an international meeting in South Africa this week agree that target will not be met next year, which is also the International Year of Biodiversity.

“It is hard to imagine a more important priority than protecting the ecosystem services underpinned by biodiversity,” said Georgina Mace of Imperial College in London, and vice chair of the international DIVERSITAS programme, a broad science-based collaborative.

“We will certainly miss the target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010,” said Mace in a statement.

Biodiversity is not just weird-looking animals and pretty birds. It is the diversity of life on Earth that comprises the ecosystems that provide vital services, including climate regulation, food, fibre, clean water and air.

By some estimates, 12,000 species go extinct every year, and the rate is accelerating. Akin to a cataclysmic asteroid, pollution, logging, over-exploitation, consumption, land use changes and engineering projects have produced the planet’s sixth great extinction of species.

Freshwater ecosystems may be the first collapse of one of Earth’s life support systems in 13,000 years. Species that live in lakes and rivers are vanishing four to six times faster than anywhere else on the planet, said Klement Tockner of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany.

“There is clear and growing scientific evidence that we are on the verge of a major freshwater biodiversity crisis,” Tockner told IPS.

Without Drastic CO2 Cuts Immediately, the World Faces a Massive ‘Oh Shit’ Moment By Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation.

A frightening new climate change study says the United States must eliminate its enormous rate of carbon emission within ten years.

Editor’s Note: This is the kickoff to a series of pieces as a Copenhagen Primer about climate change that we will be running in the lead up to the international climate talks in Copenhagen beginning on December 7. Stay tuned.

They say that everyone who finally gets it about climate change has an “Oh, shit” moment — an instant when the full scientific implications become clear and they suddenly realize what a horrifically dangerous situation humanity has created for itself. Listening to the speeches, ground-breaking in their way, that President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered September 22 at the UN Summit on Climate Change, I was reminded of my most recent “Oh, shit” moment. It came in July, courtesy of the chief climate adviser to the German government. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chair of an advisory council known by its German acronym, WBGU, is a physicist whose specialty, fittingly enough, is chaos theory. Speaking to an invitation-only conference at New Mexico’s Santa Fe Institute, Schellnhuber divulged the findings of a study so new he had not yet briefed Chancellor Angela Merkel about it. The study, Solving the Climate Dilemma: The Budget Approach, has now been published here. If its conclusions are correct — and Schellnhuber ranks among the world’s half-dozen most eminent climate scientists — it has monumental implications for the pivotal meeting in December in Copenhagen, where world leaders will try to agree on reversing global warming.

Decline of a Tribe: and Then There Were Five The Independent/UK by Guy Adams.

The last surviving members of an ancient Amazonian tribe are a tragic testament to greed and genocide.

They are the last survivors: all that’s left of a once-vibrant civilisation which created its own religion and language, and gave special names to everything from the creatures of the rainforest to the stars of the night sky.

Just five people represent the entire remaining population of the Akuntsu, an ancient Amazonian tribe which a generation ago boasted several hundred members, but has been destroyed by a tragic mixture of hostility and neglect.

The indigenous community, which spent thousands of years in uncontacted seclusion, recently took an unwelcome step closer to extinction, with the death of its sixth last member, an elderly woman called Ururú.

Light at the End of the Tunnel.