Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Living in the anthropocene

Basically, that's a scientific term coined for the particular part of the earth's history when humanity is having a noticeable impact on the planet's biosphere; it is, in fact, exactly where we are today.

[The biosphere, by the way, is that teeny-weeny microscopically thin band around our planet that all life survives in. Look really, really carefully. Why? Because it's so thin, you can't even see it on this beautiful image of our little lump of planetary rock.]

As the legions of pols, 'experts', negotiators and media hangers-on enjoy their get together in Bali, there are many commentators pondering on the possible outputs, both socio-economic and political, as well as the potential end effect of humanity failing to take significant efforts to rectify the situation. This report on BBC Comment by Malini Mehra, is one such. I found it interesting, if perhaps, at least to my mind, a little on the naive side, though I fully endorse her final comment that "As the delegates in Bali reflect on our future, they would do well to think as human beings."

Unfortunately, a human being is a pretty selfish animal, and most will, if push comes to shove, do whatever they can to protect their own family and kind. I.e. Man thinks, and largely acts, locally, not for humanity as a whole. My biggest fear is that should inaction turn out to be the primary output from Bali, significant portions of humanity will finish up over the next few decades between a rock and a hard place, with a distinct lack of survival resources (mainly food and water, but undoubtedly oil and all its derivatives, primarily fuels, will also be a major factor too), and that this will be the gunpowder that starts off a chain of (at first small and local, but later probably developing into WWIII) resource wars. Let's face it, there are already many warnings in place of food and water shortages, both current and predicted, as this from Reuters highlights this very day; and we have talked about the implications of Peak Oil many times on this very blog already. On top of that food prices have started to rise inexorably - see Fox News. "The world's agricultural production is projected to decrease by 16 percent by 2020 due to global warming". Just for a minute consider the implications of that statement; and on a planet where the human population is rising rapidly! And we've not even mentioned the potential issues that rising sea levels could heap upon the problem.

I really, really hope that I'm totally wrong, but if mankind's history can be taken as an indicative pointer to the future, then I don't see too much hope unless genuine and significant action is taken now. (Well, yesterday really.)

In reality, it would appear that the future depends upon the
legions of pols, 'experts', advisers, negotiators and media hangers-on, currently sunning themselves in Bali. And you wonder why I feel pessimistic about it?

If humanity doesn't get its finger out soon, the Anthropocene could turn out to be one of the shortest eras of geological history.

Space, the final (af)front...

In light of my oft-cocked eyebrow at some who claim green whilst promoting space tourism, I think Dilbert has provided the necessary cover illustration.

It ain't easy making green

Last night I watched the tail end of Dragon's Den.

I had to say that, as always (and why I gave up a long time ago), it and all involved (bar the pitchers) made my skin crawl.

What made me hang on was the fact I was awaiting the subsequent show, and the piece in question was heralded as 'environmental', and that they were getting a lot on this these days.

The question should not be so much that the only real interest these rich, successful, glided titans had was how how to make money out of this, with the barest of tilts to just trying to do a good thing and make money too, but that I was still surprised that these icons of all that the viewers want to be were so.... devoid of any consideration for anything beyond the mighty £.

But such pragmatism is a necessary complement to succeed, and you need to succeed to make a difference. Ergo, deals with devils need to be made. £40k for 40% of a business ain't one I'd make, however, no matter how desperate.

It really isn't easy being green. Even less so to make real money out of it (unless you are an offshore wind farm maker with a tame MEP and nifty lobbyist, or trying to score funds to run a ban-wagon in your town - the latest anti-plastic bag affair I noted got £1000 to pursue their aims).

But I plug on. What doesn't help is to see that some much bigger, better organisations and more established outfits are struggling too.

Support Grist

I wish them well. Won't be sending any dosh as, well, I need all I can scrape for Junkk.com, but at least maybe I can send 'em a few more clicks via this blog to help the cause.

I'm nice like that.

You, Me, Dupree... and the BBC

I ended up here for another reason. I ended up staying a tad longer.

With the IPCC report and Valencia now it seems but distant memories, with the full brunt of Bali doubtless soon to wash over us as the 15-20,000 concerned country delegates and their entourages chew on the thorny issue of climate change, I'd like to make a small plea for more in-depth reporting on the factual issues.

I am brought here having noticed a side bar on 4x4s, where plain inaccuracy is excused as 'shorthand', and will be 'looked at more carefully'. Along with 'learned from' this has to be one of the most dire and ineffective attempts to not really provide a good reason, let alone explanation, or offer an reassurance on the quality of reporting we can expect to get.

It is also simply not good enough to rely on any old press release as gospel just because it has a green tint.

From electric cars not having any emissions (the exhaust is just in another place) to wind farms with rather optimistic ratings to plastic bag bans (are we really going to get a town by town piece all around the country? Modbury was 'first'. OK) that may not actually be as 'friendly' as shared (this may show why it is a lot more complex and worthy of deeper consideration: http://junkk.blogspot.com/2007/11/junkk-category-plastic-bags.html ), I simply think that we, the consuming public, need a better explanation of all the issues, warts and all, to help decide our actions.

By green-gilding everything uncritically and without thought, you run the risks of a) misinforming, b) encouraging poor practices, c) simply disappointing or d) giving unnecessary ammunition to those who would advocate a less concerned, more hedonistic approach to our planet's precious resources.

Green is usually one heck of a good thing. But you still need to look at each and every aspect of it on what can be some quite complex interactions and/or merits before shoving any old stuff out in its name.

There are simply too many who see it only as the colour of money or the rally of a 'ban-wagon', and will use it for less noble ends than the saving of this planet.

And if as the efforts of the organisations above would suggest, and as echoed by our government and media such as the BBC, this is the greatest challenge we face as a race, then it surely deserves to be taken a lot more seriously, to the highest standards of journalistic challenge, at every level.

At the moment too much is being pumped out as an '... and finally', by the most junior of staff, and the consequent tone, lack of investigation and/or frequent errors are eroding the good and necessary works on the much bigger picture.