A Practical Guide to Saving the Planet

The Race is On: Secrets and Solutions of Climate Change

Global Documentary Films (2019)

Film Review

Unlike most climate change films, which emphasize doom and gloom, The Race is On assumes a surprisingly optimistic tone. Its point of departure is that we already have all the technology we need to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040*: all that is needed is to widely implement this technology in a smart and efficient way.

This is also one of the first films to address the economics of climate change. British economist Kate Raworth advises climate activists to challenge the dogma of perpetual economic growth. Heavily promoted by mainstream economists and policy makers, the growth dogma is over 150 years old. Raworth maintains it’s totally obsolete. Decades of evidence establish that economic growth benefits vested interests at the expense of working people.

Raworh also urges climate activists to lobby government for policy changes that make it easier for working people to adopt the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve net zero emissions. They need to campaign for carbon taxes (on carbon polluters, not working people) and feed-in tariffs** and subsidies to help capitalize renewable energy infrastructure and public transportation projects.

Carbon Zero UK points to the rapid shift to renewable energy that’s already occurring in the UK – due to its low cost compared to fossil fuel energy. They also point out that only 20% of UK’s energy usage consists of electricity. This will need to shift to 80% to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Likewise the organization advocates for what they call “polycentric governance” to help drive the transformation that needs to occur. Polycentric governance is a partnership between top down and bottom up leadership. They point to many innovative programs (eg Transition Towns) helping communities reduce their fossil fuel energy usage all over the US and UK. We now need to lobby government at all levels for to recognize and expand these initiatives.


*IPCC scientists advise that we need to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 to limit global warming to 2° C – by 2030 to limit it to 1.5° C. The latter target is preferable because millions of vulnerable Third World residents will die with 2° of warming.

**A feed-in tariff is a payment above the market rate to a small scale producer of renewable energy by a large scale fossil fuel energy provider.

 

Losing Louisiana: Life in the Disappearing Mississippi Delta

Losing Louisiana: Life in the Disappearing Mississippi Delta

Al Jazeera (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the steady disappearance of the Mississippi delta region in Louisiana. The erosion stems partly from climate change and rising sea levels, partly from channels petroleum corporations have dug through the wetlands and partly from decades of diverting new Mississippi sediment out to sea.

The gradual disappearance of the delta has means many coastal residents have lost their livelihood. Due to salt water contamination of their ground water, farmers are no longer able to grow sugarcane and rice or graze stock. Meanwhile shrimping industry has collapsed. Because shrimp require require freshwater marshes to reproduce, their populations have been have been decimated.

In this remake of their 2009 documentary, Al Jazeera filmmakers revisit an area of the Mississippi delta they first filmed ten years ago. They learn the rate of delta shrinkage has declined from 70 to 15 square miles per year. Subsidence is worst in poor communicates which have no real protection against hurricanes. This contrasts with well-to-do communities, which have built massive hurricane levees.

For some reason the 2019 segment makes no mention of the 2010 Deep Water Horizons disaster and the toxic effect on wildlife of the massive oil spill and the poisonous oil dispersant Corexit BP dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.

Here are 2013 and 2016 accounts summarizing the long term effects on Gulf marine life that will take decades to repair:

Corexit BP Oil Dispersant

New Oceana Report Highlights Long Term Impacts Deep Water Horizon Oil

 

Climate Change: A Really Inconvenient Truth

 

A Really Inconvenient Truth

Directed by Cambiz Khosravi (2007)

Film Review

This film, a moving tribute to the late radical psychiatrist Dr Joel Kovel,* is a critique of Al Gore and his signature documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Owing to his failure to make important links between capitalism and global warming, Kovel believes Gore deserves much of the blame for the failure of the current climate movement to stop global warming.

Kovel’s main criticism of Gore, who first learned of the link between carbon emissions and global warming in the late seventies, was his failure to use his immense power as Clinton’s environmental point man to pursue government action to reduce carbon emissions. Instead Gore “played the game” and continued to advance the interests of the Wall Street corporations responsible for skyrocketing emissions (eg fossil fuel companies, car makers, etc). And the banks and PR and advertising companies responsible for unrelenting psychological pressure on Americans to over-consume.

Kovel believed Gore was deliberately dishonest about labeling climate change a “moral” issue. Instead of blaming capitalism and the corporate oligarchy for climate change, Gore blamed human nature. In the process, he played along with a system that seeks to “commodify” every human need and desire for its profit making potential. Ironically his documentary resulted in the creation of two brand new commodities: carbon credits and green technology.

According to Kovel, ending climate change is impossible without ending the continual economic expansion that is fundamental to capitalism.** Individuals are helpless to stop climate change through behavior change .

Kovel, who died in April 2018, was a presidential candidate in the 2000 Green Party primary but lost out to Ralph Nader.


*Commodification is confiscation of human needs and wants (land, goods, services and ideas) into products that can be sold for a profit.

**Kovel is a bit fuzzy about why continual expansion is essential under capitalism. I suspect it relates to Marx’s failure to address the role of private banks (in creating 98% of our money as debt) in infinitely increasing debt and the necessity of continuous economic expansion to pay it.

Melting Arctic Opens Northwest Passage

For people who still have lingering doubts about the reality of global warming, this brief documentary reminds us that the Arctic Ocean (for the first time in recorded history) is now open to navigation during the summer. Prior to 2007, it was frozen solid year round.

During summer months, China, the US, Canada and European countries routinely save travel time and money by shipping freight over the top of the world.

According to filmmakers, Canadian treaties allegedly guarantee indigenous Inuit “input” into the new Arctic waterways – to protect the pristine environment their livelihood (hunting seals) depends on.

Expect Resistance

This was us yesterday protesting seismic blasting in a proposed sanctuary for the endangered blue whale and Maui dolphin. The Amazon Warrior, which is exploring for deep sea oil, lets out loud seismic explosions every eight seconds that disrupt their feeding, breeding and ability to communicate.

Climate Justice Taranaki is campaigning to fight climate change by leaving the fossil fuels that remain in the ground. Fossil fuel mining (mainly in the form of fracking) has been enormously destructive to our local environment and people’s health and lives.

The protest was reported in Taranaki Daily News and on  Maori TV

How to Build an Alternative to Capitalism

How Do We Build Movements That Can Win

Naomi Klein (2017)

In this presentation, Naomi Klein  outlines the strategy she feels grassroots activists need to pursue to resist the growing attacks on working people while building build a genuine alternative to post industrial capitalism. It’s very similar to the one Kali Akuna proposes (see Don’t Just Fight, Build).

While she begins by focusing on climate change, she heavily emphasizes that environmentalists alone can’t solve the crisis of catastrophic climate change – that it will require a large diverse coalition of activists organizing around a broad array of environmental and social justice issues. While she doesn’t state directly that it’s impossible to prevent climate change under capitalism, this is strongly implied.

Another concept Klein stresses is the importance of radical ideas in creating the conditions for major reform. She gives the example of the calls for socialist revolution following the 1929 Depression and during the Vietnam War – how serious discussion of revolution scared the corporate elite so much that they granted major economic reform (the New Deal) under Roosevelt and major environmental reform under Nixon (creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, etc.).

Klein also gives the example of the Leap Coalition in Canada, which is working for bold social and environmental justice reforms, as well as the development of community controlled energy systems (similar to Germany’s) – where the profits from energy production fund community services, such as teaching, daycare and senior care – rather than distant corporations.

Shutting Down the Petroleum Conference

blockade

 

Two hundred of us blocked all the entrances to the New Zealand Petroleum Conference for five hours yesterday.

Some great video footage at the Greenpeace website below.

Source: The People’s Climate Rally – 21st – 23rd March 2017