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

Richard Heinberg: How Fast Can We Transition to Renewable Energy?

Our Renewable Future

Richard Heinberg (2016)

In this 2016 presentation, Richard Heinberg talks about his new book (with David Fridley) Our Renewable Future. Both the book and talk focus mainly on the ease with which renewable energy can replace fossil fuels in our current industrial economy. He argues the transition is essential, not only to reduce the impact of catastrophic climate change and ocean acidification, but to address growing global economic and political instability (ie resource wars in the Middle East over dwindling oil and natural gas reserves).

  • Electric power generation – coal and gas-fired power plants are fairly easy to replace with wind and/or solar generation. However Heinberg also argues that homes need to be made more efficient (in terms of heating and cooling) to reduce peak load demand. Renewable technologies are not good at ramping up at short notice. We have had the technical know-how for decades to produce buildings requiring 1/20th of the energy we presently use to heat them. Up until now, we have lacked the political will to change local building codes accordingly.
  • Personal transportation – Heinberg argues that electric cars aren’t a panacea. Because they are so energy intensive to produce, only fairly wealthy people will be able to afford them. He feels there needs to be more focus on increasing public transport and adapting our communities to facilitate active transport, such as walking and cycling.
  • Mass transit – he strongly advocates increased use of rail, by far the most efficient form of transit for both people and freight. For transcontinental travel, high speed trains are much more energy efficient than air travel and are easily electrified.
  • Shipping – ocean freighters are already quite energy efficient compared to air transport. Using kite sails to propel them can reduce their energy consumption by 60%
  • Food production – at present we expend 12 fossil fuel calories for every calorie of food produce. In additions to our chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides (all derived from fossil fuels), we also use fossil fuels in food processing and packaging, to run farm machinery and to transport food halfway around the world. The transition in food production has already begun, with strong organic and buy local movements worldwide. Heinberg also supports the growing movement to use sustainable agriculture to sequester carbon ((carbon farming, aka the 4 per 1,000 initiative – see The Soil Solution to Climate Change).
  • Construction – most of our commercial buildings are made of concrete and steel, which both require intensive fossil fuel input in production. Here he recommends a transition to recycled and more natural building materials and a conscious effort to design buildings to human scale. The splurge in high rise construction of the 20th century was only possible due to a glut of cheap fossil fuel.
  • Manufacturing – most manufacturing has already been electrified.
  • Consumer electronics – Heinberg argues we need to make Smartphones more easily upgradable – enabling each of us to purchase one per lifetime. The pressure to replace Smartphones every year is deliberate “planned obsolescence” to increase profits.
  • Plastics, paint, synthetics – natural ingredients (hemp can be used for all three) tends to be cheaper, more durable and less harmful to the environment.

The Soil Solution to Climate Change

The Soil Solution to Climate Change

SustainableWorld (2014)

Film Review

This informational film, based on the French 4 per 1,000 initiative, proposes an ancient form of carbon sequestration* as an alternative to risky technological methods of carbon sequestration. There is strong scientific consensus that to prevent catastrophic global warming, atmospheric CO2 levels must be reduced from 400 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm.

The 4 per 1,000 initiative encourages all UN member countries to increase the carbon in their soils by 0.4% per year by transitioning from industrial agriculture – which tends to strip soil of carbon – to more traditional practices that tend to replenish soil carbon (and simultaneously increase yields: see Organic and Sustainable Farming Increases Yields by 79% or More).

According to the filmmakers, adopting the French initiatiative would also reverse the planet’s rapid depletion of top soil. At present, 50-80% of the world’s top soil has been lost due to loss of carbon. We continue to lose roughly 24 billion tons of topsoil a year due to heavy plowing and use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. All three practices kill important soil organisms responsible for replenishing soil carbon.

This systematic lost of carbon, the fibrous matter we find in soil, also destroys water quality – largely by facilitating run-off of these chemicals into our waterways. Healthy carbon-rich soils absorb and retain water like a sponge, helping to prevent both flooding and drought.

The film finishes by exploring organic farming techniques – increased use of cover cops, plant diversity and planned grazing – that assist plants in sequestering carbon.

For more information about the 4 per 1,000 initiative see Join the 4 per 1000 Initiative


*Carbon sequestration – a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form.