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Drawdown- (2 Reduce food wastes)

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If the number one concern of Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever devised to reverse global warming was surprising, the number three issue is amazing. One third of the food that’s produced goes to waste. ‘Ranked with countries, food waste would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, just behind China and the United States’. The reasons are many: food is left rotting in the field because it is not worth harvesting, poor refrigeration causes food to rot in transit, misshapen fruit and vegetables are left unsold having been rejected by the supermarkets, best before dates mean that perfectly eatable food is taken from the shelves, bought food is left uncooked and finally cooked food is left uneaten.

How do you tackle such a vast problem? Part of the issue must be to do with failures in the capitalist system. Why isn’t there a market for misshapen vegetables or perfectly eatable food that is beyond its best before date? Surely this is a marketing opportunity for someone?

According to Drawdown ‘up to 35% [of] food in high-income countries is thrown out’. The one thing we all can do is eat the food we buy. ‘Eat up your food dear, someone in Africa is starving’, was the mantra I grew up by. Very little food was thrown out, then. Somehow, we have to get back to that principle.

Drawdown- (1 refrigeration)

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Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever devised to reverse global warming 

is a review not just of green energy sources but all the other human activities that effect our carbon footprint. This includes building design, transport efficiency, recycling, population control and food use. A total of 80 actions are analysed for their potential to reduce carbon emissions.

 

I found the number one concern surprising – refrigeration. The coolants that refrigerators use are hydrofluorocarbons(HFCs). Their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one to nine thousand times greater than carbon dioxide.  An international agreement (the Kigali accord) is in hand to phase out HFCs by 2028. However, in the meantime disposal of old refrigerator units represents a great threat to global warming and the process of safe disposal is expensive.

Surely this is one area where the polluter ought to pay. Refrigerator manufacturers should have to receive and recycle old fridges. Refrigerator costs will rise but we will all be better off.

 

Relaunch of eco-humanity website

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The Eco-humanity website is being relaunched following the publication of Compete or Cooperate – the evolutionary choice that will determine our future. Its new mission is to mobilise people of all nationalities and religious views who have eco-friendly ideals, and believe in the liberal humanist principles of freedom, equality and rationality.

The future of our children is being threatened by a combination of new technologies, an aging demographic,  climate change, the destruction of the environment, and the growing divide between rich and poor. Since 1990  globalisation has altered the way society operates. The liberal humanist values of an egalitarian and  caring society have come under increasing attack from the disaffected. Libertarian and neo-liberal attitudes have celebrated the success of the rich and marginalised those living in penury.  There has been an increase in national and racial intolerance, known as populism.

When society changes there are always two options; either retrench, rally round the flag, try to prevent change and look after one’s own, or reach out and co-operate and try to make the new society work for the good of everybody. Right now, everything seems to be pointing towards the first alternative.  Populist politicians are rejecting the rational approach of liberal humanism. Global warming is not happening, according to the populists, even though records prove that average temperatures are rising inexorably every year.

Right now evolutionary forces are creating an increasingly divided world that is destroying the planet. It doesn’t have to be that way. By inspiring all those  who espouse eco-friendly liberal humanist views to co-operate and work together  across national and religious divides, we humans can create a society that works for  the good of all.

 

The fourth principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The fourth principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is to conserve the Earth’s resources for the benefit of our offspring.

It has come as a shock that humans can’t just continue to dump their waste products  without threatening their standard of living. The most serious problem is greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but our rivers and seas are also becoming more polluted and the level of use of our soils is unsustainable.

To quote from The Planet Remade by Oliver Morton:

There is no serious doubt that the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect is a key determinant of the Earth’s temperature. Nor is there any serious doubt that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, or that humans have been adding to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the past few centuries by burning fossil fuels. In 1750, before the industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide level was 280 parts per million. In1950, when the great global boom of the second part of the twentieth century was taking off, it was about 310 parts per million. Today it is 400 parts per million.

It is now incontestable that humans are warming the planet. The unanswered question is, do humans have the capability of doing anything about it? It requires vast expenditure to change to green energy sources. To quote Oliver Morton again:

The world has made huge investments in the facilities that extract fossil fuels from the ground and burn them… Leaving aside the political lobbying power that such investment can command, there would be a limit to how quickly that much kit could be replaced even if there were perfect substitute technologies at hand that simply needed scaling up. If the world had the capacity to deliver one of the largest nuclear power plants ever built once a week, week in and week out, it would take 20 years to replace the current stock of coal-fired plants… That is all before starting on replacing the gas and the oil…

To make this investment with no immediate economic benefit is impossible for any political organisation without committed public support. This is why humans need a new philosophy of life , one that can encourage sustainable behaviour and  can save the planet for our children.

The third principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The third principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is to recognise the integrated world of nature, respect how it supports our lives and preserve its full diversity.

Humans are genetically adapted to be hunter-gatherers.  Our instincts are honed to be killers of animals and harvesters of plants.  When humans first left Africa and colonised the Five Continents we initiated a major change in biodiversity. Many large mammal species were wiped out in America, and Australia; mastodons, giant sloths, giant kangaroos, sabre tooth cats and many others are only known by their skeletal remains.  As we colonised the islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans many species of bird were defenceless and disappeared, including the famous Dodo.  As little as 5000 years ago Mammoths existed in Russia, before humans killed the last of them.

When we learned to domesticate animals and cultivate plants our destruction of nature stepped up a gear. Trees were chopped down and whole environments disappeared. The landscape of Britain that we love today is completely unnatural. If left to its own devices, nature would cover most of Britain with woodland.  Wolves and lynxes would hunt wild deer in the forest. Beavers would dam rivers. Now, in the ‘countryside’ farmers plough the land and sheep graze the hills ensuring there is no natural growth in vegetation.

As a species we have become too successful. The same process of elimination of the natural world is happening right across the globe. Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Many species are losing their natural habitat; lemurs in Madagascar, orang-utans in Borneo and jaguars in South America are some of the many species threatened. Wild life is becoming restricted to small nature reserves. Even these are threatened; rhinos, lions and elephants are being shot by poachers. The reserves are being encroached on by farmers and pastoralists.  We are eliminating plant and animal diversity at an alarming rate.

Does it matter? After all we have learnt to love the British countryside as it is without wolves, forests and aurochs. There are many arguments for maintaining the diversity of nature.  Nature provides an almost infinite source of compounds that could be tested for medicinal, chemical or food usage. The workings of nature provide inspiration for physicists and chemists to develop new machines and drugs.  The workings of nature provide natural defences against floods, storms and insect infestations. However the principal reason we should preserve nature is that it is so wonderful.  Since the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century we have learned to study how the natural world works.  The more we learn the more amazing it becomes.  Recently the films made by naturalists, such as David Attenborough, have inspired us all.  We absolutely need to preserve this wonder for our children to enjoy.

Global Warming in 2015

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In 2015 global warming happened just as predicted. There have been more extreme weather events; in December, for instance we’ve had floods in Britain, Missouri and Argentina, forest fires in California, Australia and the Basque country and we‘ve even had snow in Mexico. Carbon dioxide continued to accumulate in the atmosphere and global temperatures reached one degree higher than pre-industrial levels.

What is strange is that there is no sign of any global public reaction. Green campaigners continue to try to spread the word, but there is no urgent public demand for those in command of the economy to change tack and adopt green energy policies.  A two degree rise by 2050 is now almost inevitable. We will see ,for example, the continued decline in Arctic pack ice and the demise of the polar bear, water shortages in Peru as the last glaciers in the Andes disappear and  the acidification of the oceans and its disastrous effects on the Great Barrier Reef.  There will be greater and more frequent floods, fires and droughts with consequent food shortages.

This we will have to cope with. The challenge now  is to avoid temperature rises of 3, 4, 5 and 6 degrees. If you read Mark Lynas’ book Six degrees you will get an idea of what further horrors await. This is why it is urgent to create a popular movement to change the way we live. We need to establish a new moral imperative  to save the environment. We spend billions sending scientists into space. We subsidise the exploitation of fossil fuels. Why can’t we invest instead in our children’s future and save the planet?

The second principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity

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The second principle of behaviour of Eco-humanity is:

 Respect other humans; co-operate, and support them in advancing the lot of mankind as a whole.

It differs subtly from the normal ideal of humanist interaction which is often expressed as the ‘Golden Rule’ http://www.thinkhumanism.com/the-golden-rule.html as :

People should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

The web-site goes on to say:

Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us. Empathy is at the root of kindness, compassion, understanding and respect – qualities that we all appreciate being shown, whoever we are, whatever we think and wherever we come from. And although it isn’t possible to know what it really feels like to be a different person or live in different circumstances and have different life experiences, it isn’t difficult for most of us to imagine what would cause us suffering and to try to avoid causing suffering to others. For this reason many people find the Golden Rule’s corollary – “do not treat people in a way you would not wish to be treated yourself” – more pragmatic.

All this is important for Eco-humanists. However there is an additional injunction to co-operate with others for the good of the universe as a whole. Whilst all people are respected, the community of those battling for the good of the planet need to be encouraged and supported. Here the important concept is community. This is something that has been lost in our modern materialistic world with its individually centred aspirations. If Eco–humanity is to work, appropriate ecological behaviour has to be developed and encouraged through peer pressure in a community. We will need to learn from and help each other if we are to save the planet for our children.

The Paris Climate Change Conference

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The Paris Climate Change Conference appears to have been an exercise in face-saving by politicians. After the disaster of the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, diplomats seem to have thrown in the towel.  They have realised that the issue of reducing global carbon emissions is impossible for politicians to resolve; there are simply too many vested interests at stake.

The resulting agreement recognised that climate change is an issue that needs addressing but left it to the conscience of each nation to devise their own programme. There were no targets, no recommended technologies and no binding timescales. The ‘aspirational’ aim of limiting the global rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees, shorn of any concrete programme of achievement, is simply dishonest. We are already at 1 degree above the pre-industrial level.

The worst act of the Conference however was to congratulate itself on its final resolution. They have criminally given the impression that the world has an effective programme to combat climate change. The implied message was that people can relax, the worst aspects of climate change will be avoided. The reality is that nations of the world are continuing to do exactly what they had planned before. India is continuing to build coal-fired power stations. Just a week after the conference the UK government approved  mining by fracking in National Parks.

To quote George Monbiot in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/15/killing-planet-george-monbiot):

As the website climateparis.org explains, even if every pledge nations brought to the talks were honoured (and already governments such as the UK’s are breaking theirs), by 2030 the world will be producing more greenhouse gases than it does today. At that point we will have 14 years to reduce global emissions to zero, to stand a fair chance of preventing more than two degrees of global warming.

If the Paris agreement’s “aspirational” aim of no more than 1.5 degrees is to be achieved, other estimates suggest, carbon emissions must fall off a cliff soon after 2020. The festival of self-satisfaction with which the talks ended was a “mission accomplished” moment, a grave case of premature congratulation.

The reality is that combating climate change will only happen when the people of the world want it to happen. It would be better if humans could act out of a love of nature and a desire to protect the environment. It looks at present, however, they will only be motivated to act when disaster strikes. By then it will be too late. This is why eco-humanity is so important. We need to unite around a philosophy of life for the good of us all, to save the planet for our children.

 

 

The atmosphere of hope

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Tim Flannery, the chief commissioner on the Australian Climate Change Commission, has just written a book misleadingly called The Atmosphere Of Hope.

Despite its title, it offers a bleak view of future life on this planet. I quote from his Guardian article: Seaweed, coffee and cement could save the planet (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/20/climate-crisis-future-brighter-tim-flannery):

Enough atmospheric greenhouse gas now exists to push global average temperatures to 1.5C (2.7F) above the preindustrial average, even if all emissions stopped today. At 1.5C of warming, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will be dead, many coastal areas will be covered by the rising sea, and the impacts on extreme weather will go from serious to devastating.

He goes on to say that whatever is agreed in the forthcoming climate change conference in Paris, it is all but impossible for humanity to avoid breaching the 2 oC barrier, which is the level which threatens ‘global civilisation’. His hope seems to be limited to keeping the rise in global temperatures to 3 oC by 2100.

His optimism is based on developing natural carbon capture technologies in the period after 2050. He mentions seaweed cultivation and using coffee grounds or cement to absorb CO2 amongst many other technologies. None of the technologies has yet proven  practical.

Scientists have done all they can to warn us of the effects of climate change. Tim Flannery is muddying the picture by using the word hope in this context. The technologies to avoid climate change are practical but expensive and often have environmental downsides. Hard choices have to be made which will affect living standards. People have to be enthused to act in an ecological way that may be against their immediate interests, but, will eventually save the planet for their children. Evolutionary competition is the force that is preventing people and states from cooperating to save the planet. We need to frustrate the natural forces of evolution. The only way of halting climate change is if people in general commit to a green philosophy of life and implement it with a religious fervour.

Integrated schooling

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On Thursday 5th November the Guardian published a story about integrated schooling in Oldham, where there were serious race  riots in 2001 (http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/nov/05/integrated-school-waterford-academy-oldham). Breeze Hill School (almost totally Asian) and Counthill School (dominantly white) were both closed and combined in the new Whitehead academy in 2010. Integration was handled with caution. Care was taken to account for community sensibilities and  the full start was delayed  until 2012.

The results of this real-time social experiment have been monitored by Miles Hewstone, Professor of Social Psychology at Oxford. It is widely accepted that it is very easy to generate social antagonism between 2 groups which have a separate identity. In Oldham residential, school and religious separation between white British and Asian groups was some of the most extreme in England. But would integrating schooling help?

Miles Hewstone has a theory that positive contact will improve respect and cooperation between  groups. The results after 3 years are modest. It has not been helped by the fact the school itself has to cope with severely disadvantaged children and has routinely failed Ofsted inspections.  The two ethnic groups still socialise in separate spheres. However, measures of inter-community trust have improved and there have been no instances of racial violence between the pupils. Hewstone believes there has been a permanent boost to tolerance and understanding between the two groups.

In July, the prime minister made a speech on extremism that ended with a call for action to tackle ethnic segregation: “It cannot be right … that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths.” He mentioned two cities where segregation was particularly marked. The first was Bradford, the second was Oldham. Cameron was careful not to lay the blame on any one community. Housing was an issue, he said, as was education.

This from a government that has sponsored the development of faith based schools. It is clear that religion is a major issue in creating a divided society and by supporting faith based schools the government is fuelling community antagonism based on religion and culture.  If Hewstone is right positive efforts have to be made to integrate communities, not divide them. We need only look at Northern Ireland to see the damage that can be done by continuing to educate communities in separate religious establishments.