Blog Archives

On Climate, Are we the 99% or more like the 1%?

Street protest in DC on Oct. 8

There’s such an upwelling of environmentalism flowing into the Occupy movement right now. My new piece on the Alternet.org site assesses what the Wall Street protests could mean to climate activism and other fights. Occupy Wall Street has not only inspired people around the world to protest against corporate corruption and income equality; It’s prompted reexamination of what “just” and “equitable” would look like when it comes to emissions cuts or the Keystone pipeline fight. Plenty of people are debating these subjects right now. I’ll just say that a sustainable economy predicated on a healthy planet seems like the kind of justice we need about now.

Climate Change: Are we also the 99%

The GreenAccord conference took place last week.

I got back late last night from the GreenAccord environmental conference in Italy, an annual gathering that brings together journalists from around the globe with some of the foremost experts on climate change and the many interconnected environmental problems threatening human – and planetary – health.
The conference has always emphasized environmental justice, a focus made even richer by the large contingent of reporters from developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where some of the worst impacts of climate change are expected and have, indeed, begun. This year, however, the political dimensions of the climate debate were in even starker relief.  Several speakers suggested that the world’s elites are insulating themselves from the worst aspects of global warming. There were shades of the Occupy movement with its assertions that the world’s wealthiest 1 percent are ruining the world for the rest of us.

Resource economist William Rees argued that we’re already seeing the beginnings of “eco apartheid” as wealthy individuals, corporations and entire governments scramble to secure the best remaining cropland, water rights, mineral and fossil fuel deposits and other dwindling resources, while blocking climate responses that threaten their wealth. Robert Engelman, the new executive director at of the environmental think tank, Worldwatch Institute, expressed similar views. Meanwhile Brazilian philosopher Euclides Mance, of the World Social Forum, advocated dumping our corporate-dominated economy for one based on solidarity. He discussed experiments underway in Brazil and elsewhere to replace currency with a system of credits that would essentially allow people to barter for goods and services.

As soon as I shake off the jet lag, I must start writing an article that will discuss some of these ideas in more detail. Stay tuned!

While I was away, my story on the economy of food trucks posted to The Atlantic magazine’s “Cities” website. While off subject for those focused solely on environmental issues, it’s an interesting tale of how, even in a sputtering economy, agile entrepreneurs can find a path forward. Perhaps there is a more universal take-away there? You can find the story here.

Hot Air at Copenhagen

In honor of the meager accord reached last week at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen – which even the New York Times called less meaningful than even the least ambitions expectations bandied about before the conference – I am reposting a link to this video with William Rees,  a professor at the University of British Columbia, who came up with the concept of the Ecological Footprint. Rees offers a compelling argument about why we humans are failing to act more aggressively in our own self-interest to beat back global warming.  He made the remarks at the GreenAccord conference in Italy a few weeks ago.

“We have the science to deal with the global warming problem and we’ve had it for some time. So the question is: what is it about the nature of our species that we are intelligent enough to know we have a problem but we are not capable of organizing socially in order to solve this problem?” –William Rees.

To hear more, check out the video by Alex Savulescu

Wondering Why the World is Dithering on Global Warming? Check Out This Video with Bill Rees


“We have the science to deal with the global warming problem and we’ve had it for some time. So the question is: what is it about the nature of our species that we are intelligent enough to know we have a problem but we are not capable of organizing socially in order to solve this problem?” – William Rees, the father of the Ecological Footprint.

Rees,  an ecologist and professor at the University of British Columbia,  has been anointed with “rock star status” by Adbusters for coming up with the concept of the Ecological Footprint. His presentation to journalists from around the world at the GreenAccord conference created a buzz. Rees explains the Ecological Footprint and why the idea that there are no limits to growth is a fallacy. It’s thought-provoking stuff and certainly timely, given news of political gridlock at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen this week.

My friend Alex Savulescu videotaped, edited and uploaded the video to the web. Thanks Alex!