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Imperative to Abandon Fossil Fuels Called Opportunity 'Too Good to Be Missed'


Imperative to Abandon Fossil Fuels Called Opportunity 'Too Good to Be Missed'

Jon Queally, staff writer

Calling 2015 a "critical year for humanity" and setting out what must be achieved at UN climate talks scheduled for Paris in December, a group of scientists and economists from some of the world's top research institutions is marking Earth Day by saying a commitment to "leaving at least three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground" must be met in order to save the world from the most devastating impacts of climate change.


This is, beyond doubt, the most vitally important issue of our time. A primary obstacle is that our currency has become based on petroleum. The necessity of leaving in the ground would destroy the false value of our currency and of the monetary value of our largest and most influential ruling corporations.

The struggle against global destruction can be won but it requires moving beyond capitalism and especially beyond the petro-economics on which it is now based. At this point, much of our efforts, even if we can stop the further destruction and pouring of carbon into the environment, is about adapting to the changes we cannot stop. That will take great adaptability, economics that put people and the biosphere first, and real community.


In global terms the sphere of financ(ing) the constant unilateral expansionist model of energy also includes hydroelectrics and numerous other profoundly destructive extractive modalities of transnational interests. Here is one example: http://amazonwatch.org/news/2015/0409-in-general-assembly-the-munduruku-people-reaffirm-their-right-to-be-consulted-about-dams

These bloated toxic practices inform GDP measurements and at the same time raze the rule of law in virtually every nation on the planet where they operate. GDP measurements exclude the costs that are excluded by these operations.

If those costs were included the picture of profitability and rationality they would reveal the lies propagated by the massive advertising budgets required to make people think that destruction at this scale is ‘the only option’. I would submit that until this is done the institutional response will continue to be to encourage police, militaries, private security contractors and other ‘enforcers’ to perpetuate the colonizing dehumanization, destruction of biomes with scorn, smear campaigns and murder of those who see the true aggregate impact of the failed economic theories and practices.

Nation state powers throughout the world that adopt the expansionist trope have been practicing the ‘assimilation’ (ethnocide, genocide and ecocide) of peoples of traditional cultures through the insidious social and economic premises that assert this exclusionary privilege, projecting false oppositional condemnation as excuse for elimination of anyone who is not a complete reflection of its manichean destruction.

So, excluded from the model are all of the elements of sustainability, abundance, resilience and balance. There is a bitter irony and pathos in the question of population. The nation state under this model refuses aid that includes education, family planning, health and access to land while monocultures that destroy the abundance of biodiversity. In the mean time usurping the lands, destroying ways of life, creating urban slums where the final cost externalization blames the victims in criminalization, forcing mass migrations, military interventionism bombing entire communities, countries and with them the potential (assiduously excluded) creating societal stresses, which should raise a sunset gavel on the failed aspects of the model.
The cost of remediation, virtually always manipulated to appear less than reality demands continues to mount in stunning proportion to the impoverishment it creates. This, so that the extractive premise of ‘planned obsolescence’ can continue to drive the failed economic model of virtual addiction.


If it were true that this opportunity was too good to be missed then Congress would fund R&D into solar thermal, into daylighting, into transit,… Congress has our best interests at heart with respect to energy. Isn’t that always true?

Well, if it isn’t true and if in fact it’s pretty laughable, then what are you personally going to do to help push the fossil fuel industry into a museum? More to the point, what are we as small communities going to do? That’s right, we’re going to find dozens of ways to drive down the cost of solar for people. Taking away all demand for oil/gas/coal keeps it in the ground. Nuclear is like a zombie – it’s financially brainless but you actually have to go out and kill it a second time.


“… would require a reforestation of such scale that food production would likely be very difficult.”

Factors that can alter your equation, are that food production can be done in ways that stop stripping carbon, and start restoring carbon to the soil, and to biomass.

Agroecological and permaculture practices produce plenty of food, and do so without denuding the land and stripping out soil carbon. Food forests mimic the complexity and diversity and biomass of natural forests.

Check out recent publications from GRAIN, La Via Campesina, Rodale, and various permaculture projects.


The manifesto says nothing about confronting entrenched corporate, industrial and financial interests. Any realistic program must take on the question of organizing popular power to confront the “interested parties” in the fossil fuel, transport, and financial sectors (and the general empowerment of corporations).


i regularly point out that “the time to act” was 45 years ago. Or broadening the field a bit, 55 years ago, following the publication of Silent Spring.


Question for you…

What if unchecked disaster capitalism and its defenders who post on forums are never reigned in and whose arguments are never fully renounced?


You don’t have to quote Guy McPherson to present a case that humanity faces in the near term challenges unprecedented for human beings, let alone the rest of the living creatures on this planet. Ocean acidification alone threatens the entire food chain of the oceans, and that acidification is proceeding rapidly. Extreme weather events caused by ACD e.g., extreme droughts, floods, etc are already threatening agriculture and fresh water resources.

30 or 40 years or 100 years the writing is on the wall for anyone willing to see the magnitude of problems to be addressed.


I’d say by this point everybody in a position to make big changes knows that this is the major crisis of our time, but until the day we have leaders with enough backbone to stand down the oil corporations and say enough is enough, there can’t be large scale change. It may be time to just prepare for the inevitable.


Oh I don’t know. Take BP for an example. I don’t need Naomi Klein to back an obvious truth.


Personally? Going vegan or at least vegetarian, of course. The animal slaughter/poor health industry contributes 17-18% of all greenhouse gases so getting to a zero carbon level is impossible as long as animal eaters refuse to change their diets. Those who insist on maintaining their horrible diet are also the same people who drive up healthcare costs.


Summary execution.


And a third time, and a fourth time, and a fifth time… It was dead after Three Mile Island. Then it got better, through the healing power of corruption and captured agencies in an economic system that can’t tell a disasster from a radioactive hole in the ground. Then it was dead after Chernobyl. And it was revived. It was killed again by Fukushima Daiichi but it’s being pushed into life again by billions of dollars held by people who can make billions of dollars, even though the nuclear industry as a whole has taken more energy to build and run it than it’s produced.


Certainly we have to eat dramatically less meat, and also transform fossil fuel-dependent chemical industrial meat-centered commodities-based agriculture to low-meat networked local organic perennial-plant-based renewable permaculture. But producing and eating some meat and especially animal products makes ecological sense, especially in those (admittedly sparsely populated) places where not enough human-edible plant foods can be grown–places too dry, too rocky, too high or too cold for anything but sparse grazing.

Most places, especially most places where by far the most people live, are better with a low-meat diet, that can certainly include vegans, vegetarians and low-meat eaters. The more people not eating meat the more the meat eaters can eat but it will probably be more on the order of one meat meal a month or one per season than what we have now in the US and other rich countries.

We also have to recognize that personal actions like these, whether diet or reducing fossil fuel use directly (through walking and biking, becoming efficient, installing solar panels, etc.) are crucial…But by far the most important personal action we need is political involvement. Even if everyone who knows, cares and has the resources to change, does everything they can to change their lives, and their communities with them, civilization will still be destroyed by those who don’t know, don’t care, and don’t care to know, and by the system that carries an enormous amount of inertia with it. We have to change the political system if we expect civilization to survive.


“… prominent members of the Earth League say that the planet’s carbon budget is already overloaded and that world governments must take action if they intend to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C by the end of this century.”

It’s important that we not only understand but say–often and loudly–that a rise of 2°C will lead to horrific cataclysm and has a significant chance to lead to a rise of 4° or 6° or even more, completely out of our control. We have to know and say that, and although we have very little if any chance of keeping below 2°C we as a global civilization have to make staying below it our goal. We have to try to meet that goal every intelligent, ecological and compassionate way possible. We need to not only reduce fossil fuel and other GHG emissions as fast as possible through a massive build out of efficiency and clean renewable energy infrastructure, (rich countries subsidizing poor countries in whatever way is needed) we also have to immediately transform chemical industrial agriculture to low-meat organic permaculture and quickly and massively reforest the planet to sequester carbon already-emitted.


It is essential that current structures of society are examined or rebuilt in order to deal with this crisis at hand. A Green-Economy, based on renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, could drastically boost employment while decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. Something like this would have too many benefits not to consider.


I’m glad you laid that out so consciously and systematically; it allows me to correct some of your misinterpretations/my unclearness without simply arguing about I’m right/you’re wrong. Thanks.

All 3 paragraphs are not about what I want; they’re about what has to happen for us to survive as a civilization, and not take out most or all of life of Earth in the process of struggling to survive or not as groups. They’re about differentiating between necessary actions, good but not necessary actions, and maladaptive actions.

We have to reduce GHGs by at least 90% in the next 15 years or we run a huge and ever-growing chance of triggering runaway climate change that 1. will cause our extinction and 2. is completely beyond our control.

We act in such massive ways, mostly very badly, and we’ve waited far too long to change, so our situation is now so dire that any little necessary or even helpful thing we could do but don’t, could be the thing that makes us fail to survive. Although the exact amounts and proportion of GHGs meat causes are a subject of vehement disagreement, as you pointed out meat production is clearly a big deal for in the climate crisis. If we as a species continue eating meat as we are, civilization will almost certainly collapse and it’s very likely humans will become extinct along with millions of other species.

We need to keep in mind the difference between humanity’s ecological footprint and the fact that a very few people cause almost all of it. (That few includes most if not all people posting here). I’m referring here to humanity’s total meat production and consumption but the truth is most of it is produced for and eaten by a very small minority. While most of that is produced in destructive ways (as well as amounts) most of what isn’t produced for that minority is produced in a way that contributes little or nothing to the problem and may actually be part of the solution. Small farms, where almost all of that non-global economy production happens, are more productive and more carbon-absorbing than large farms; each farm and the whole bunch and system of them are more diverse, more labor intensive and less fossil intensive, and part of that is how they integrate animals into their production systems.

I’m aware that most vegans are traditionally primarily ethically motivated. That’s been important in my 30+ year vegetarianism but is not my main motivation. I’m still not settled on either side of that ethical question; I understand and have empathy for points on all sides. I think despite their obvious and not-so-obvious intertwinements, we can and need to distinguish between diet and production here. I think we need to eat what will save us and that means focusing on the ecological effects of production systems, not on diet. (We also should consider the psychological effects of both, but that’s not a change that can happen globally in the time we have to change for sustainability so for now must be secondary.)

However, I do care about that ethical-psychological question and the main reason I’m so concerned about social collapse and human extinction is that we will not go quiet into that good night. It will be violent and destructive and in that process lies the greatest potential harm to the biosphere in this crisis. Through the combination of climate change, human legacy of toxicity, and war—especially massive nuclear war triggered by desperate struggles for national, racial, ethnic, cultural and religious survival—it’s possible we could threaten the stability of Gaia, and so wipe out all life here. (Gaia is the cybernetic system of all life on Earth that regulates the conditions it needs for survival; it’s understood well enough to know it might be threatened but not well enough to say it either is or isn’t. I’ve never seen any study or even questioning about this issue by anyone who really knows (and isn’t currently out of touch with reality, as it seems the originator of the term Gaia may be.) If we consider empathy, ethics and morality to be important, which I assume we both do, we have to consider that larger effect of our decisions, and if giving up animal production entirely would increase the chances even a little of that final struggle and the extinction of millions of species, I think we have to decide to keep meat in the mix, at least for the duration of this razor-edge crisis.

What it boils down to is that we need to keep producing meat in whatever turns out to be the optimal amount and ways for our species’ survival. We don’t really know exactly what that amount is or what factors it depends on, (though we have a good idea) so further investigation is called for, and since there’s virtually no chance of everybody going vegan anytime in the foreseeable future, we need to focus on reducing the amount of meat produced and hugely improve the ecology of the way it’s produced. While he lets slip annoying and undeserved dislike for vegans and vegetarians now and then, Simon Fairlie’s misleadingly titled book Meat: a Benign Extravagance reaches somewhat the same conclusions I do about the best strategy. That strategy is:

It seems clear that ecologically and especially climate-crisis-wise, humans need to produce dramatically less meat, and in fact, should produce only that meat that helps improve the productivity of necessarily mostly plant-centered production systems. We should confine grazing to those areas that produce more food and less GHGs through meat production than plant-centered production. Those—the too dry, too high, too cold, too rocky areas–are mostly very low in productivity no matter what’s grown. So they matter less than the highly productive areas with the right amounts of water, heat, etc. and those need to be used for locally-appropriate permaculture systems. They need to be organic because lower inputs and higher sequestration demands it and organic systems are more resilient in the face of drought and other conditions that will soon be much more common because of climate change. They need to be plant-centered because that produces more Calories per acre on productive land at least, and we’ll need to equalize and feed and care for more of us in the years to come even while production declines because of climate catastrophe. They need to be largely perennial plants to reduce tillage, to preserve soil and reduce out gassing, reduce pesticide and fertilizer and energy use and improve ecology of production in general. (That will increase labor needs up front and decrease them later, which is what will best fit population and demographic reality.) Permaculture systems, however, are usually helped by some inputs from animals—manure, pest control, managed rooting, etc.

We need to make sure this is a net reduction of GHGs, but we do know that the numbers needed are far, far less than most people in the rich world are used to, so meat consumption, based on the optimal numbers needed for that system and produced from waste, will be, it seems to me, something on the order of a meat meal a month or per season, or more often but lesser amounts, as in traditional Asian cuisines. Egg and milk production and other animal products must also follow these rules. We need to dramatically ramp up research into life-cycle costs for all these products and systems; 5 years from now we need to have a much better idea of what systems are needed in every region of Earth for our best chance at survival.

The best way by far to accomplish all this is through political-economic equalization (those 2 can’t be separated), and education. Also crucial and integral to those are increased security in sickness, hard times and old age, and changes in treatment of both children and adults that make for healthier humans—more resilient, more nurtured and nurturing, more able to connect to themselves and other beings, less reactive and more responsive and creative, more able to see and accept what’s needed and to do it. The right hates the idea of government mandate, though this is for no good reason, but is mainly caused by denial of the true source of problems in the world and massive projection on their part. But the right has gotten us into this mess and will have to make do with what’s necessary. Making these changes and the others needed to avert ecological catastrophe will lead to far less tyranny, oppression, chaos and destruction than not making them. The longer we wait the worse everything will be including those. We should start now.


I agree. A call to action doesn’t promise any change but it does propose an issue in which a solution should be presented. The ideas that the article proposes seem valid, however the government needs to posses the power to make rational decisions based on the needs of our Earth rather than being controlled by our global economy. We need to start by educating the people and making them face the facts of the reality, getting rid of “infotainment”, meaning the news must have educational information regarding our ecosystem, such as facts about global destabilization and the water drought, etc.


McPherson is unrealistically certain of things no one is remotely certain of. He’s unrealistically dire about the very short term and refuses to accept other views or change his certain stance even in the face of good evidence and logical, reasoned argument. While not nearly–not NEARLY–as despicable as climate denying delayalists, he uses many of the same methods. His certainty of despair is appealing to some. as it absolves them of responsibility to do anything useful/unpleasant, like confront their part in creating this mess.

For a more realistic level of terror, see:

Kevin Anderson: the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has established itself as one of the UK’s premier climate research institutions.


Dave Roberts spreading Andersonian gloom by video:

"2°C is beyond dangerous and also beyond hope. We will “blow past it”. “Every year we wait adds $500 billion to the cost” [and I believe, first, that that dramatically underestimates the cost and second, that the cost increases even more dramatically every year.]

Bill McKibben “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

The last is included especially to illustrate the difference between a prediction and a projection. A prediction is “X is going to happen” That’s what McPherson and many others ultimately proven wrong do. A projection is “Given x and y and z, in these amounts, a and b are very likely to happen, c is somewhat unlikely to happen. But given x in this other amount and z in this other amount then…” and so on. That’s what scientists do. Denialists of all stripes don’t know or won’t admit the difference but it’s a crucial one to keep in mind.