Monthly Archives: March 2008

Stark choices and positive futures: what climate change means for rich-nations’ way of life.

Neva Goodwin, for the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, has released a working paper titled:“An Overview of Climate Change: What does it mean for our way of life? What is the best future we can hope for?”.

The intention is that this paper will later develop into a book, and based on what we have so far, the book should be one excellent “answer” to the challenges we identified in “Enough Already – Part One”. At 28 pages of text, less footnotes, I recommend the paper as a compact, useful, positive read.

Some points I picked out:
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Can New Zealand cope with the staggering environmental consequences of the dairy boom?

Dairy farming is big business in Aotearoa New Zealand these days. Given the payout of NZ$6.90 per kg made by Fonterra this year, and the average dairy cow producing 330kg of “milk solids”, each dairy cow earns NZ$2277. The commonest herd size, around 225 cows, earned NZ$512,000 this year. One of the larger herds of more than 1000 cows, of which there are around 270 in New Zealand at present, earned more than NZ$2.2 million (Livestock Improvement Corporation data, here).

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Ecofeminism and the subsistence perspective: fostering cooperation, not competition

Ecofeminism sees parallels between the exploitation of nature and the exploitation of women, parallels that are understood in the context of patriarchy. One particularly vigorous ecofeminist analysis stems from the work of Claudia von Werlhof and Maria Mies.

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The end of the golden weather: political choices in economic hard-times

There’s not a lot of economic good news out there at the moment, and even after the current credit-crisis passes us by, the storm-fronts of peak-oil and climate change look set to keep the economic weather looking bleak. In economic bad-times the essential nature of capitalism, the political choices that buttress it, the social costs it imposes on the most vulnerable, are much harder to gloss over and ignore – even in the societies of the rich-world.

Ironically, that is the good news, because it means a time of new choices – for compassion, fairness, for a sustainable future, for an end to poverty and oppression – is perhaps nearer than it has been for a long time. When we understand that we have a choice, we can make a choice.

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Whole Living on a Budget

If you are looking for practical tips and gentle inspiration on living a ‘green’ lifestyle then you might like to head on over and have a look at Heather’s blog ‘Whole Living on a Budget‘.

Reducing Waste in Our Home is a good place to start on our challenge to say Enough Already! (1) & (2) and to make a 90% cut in our carbon emissions 🙂

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25 lessons from the history of nonviolence

March 20, 2008, is the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The human cost of war is always beyond comprehension. The enormity of the financial cost of the war in Iraq, noted by Barry in a recent post, leaves me stunned.

What I can grasp, however, is the importance of keeping the spirit of nonviolence alive and strong – even here in Aotearoa New Zealand, so far from the devastation in the Middle East. And, perhaps, especially here in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the visionary Te Whiti o Rongomai and his people opposed colonisation by ploughing and planting expropriated land, and met invading forces with song and gifts of food.

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Some of the most expensive blood ever shed?

William D Hartung, writing for AsiaTimes Online breaks down the U.S. $3.5 billion per week cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve seen these kind of numbers before. It shouldn’t shock me. But it still does. It is such a colossal waste – outrageous in the original meaning of the word. Almost anything else would be a better use of those resources. Set up a thousand schools of interpretive modern dance, sponsor triathletes, or hey, end global poverty and invest in eco-technologies – do anything, but stop the war!

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Enough Already! Part Two

I set myself the task, at the end of Enough Already! Part One, to give a ‘picture’ of what a sustainable lifestyle might look and feel like. I’m sure a good answer must be out there somewhere amidst the thousands and thousands of ‘green’ web-pages, but my searches failed to find it, or to find data that I felt I could use in a reasonably straightforward way.

I will keep an eye out, but in the meantime, here’s my rough and ready answer.

A sustainable lifestyle (compared to those of current rich nation lifestyles):

1. Probably wouldn’t have an income above U.S. $10-12,000 at today’s prices (I’m allowing for the depreciation of the U.S. $ in last couple of years).
2. Will not include flying, for most people.
3. Will not include private motor vehicle travel, for most people, most of the time.
4. Will have a diet that includes much less meat, probably less total calories, and that is based much more on locally grown organic food.
5. Will feature more emphasis on relationships and community, and less on consumption.
6. Will be big on the three Rs, especially the first (Reduce, reuse, recycle).

For all its flaws, particularly in the sphere of political freedoms, Cuba’s post-Soviet collapse experience is an encouraging example of some of the ways a society can adapt to needing to use much less oil. That story, and much more good stuff about adapting to Peak-Oil (just one of the sustainability challenges) can be found at The Community Solution. George Monbiot’s Heat, reviewed by David recently, is also a positive, constructive examination of ways to move to a more sutainable lifestyle (Monbiot is looking at what it means for the U.K.).

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Corporate social responsibility as “progressive window dressing”

The business of business is business, or so the old cliché goes. However, the growing popularity of ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) suggests that the hard-nosed approach is slowly being supplanted by a kinder, more caring business model. But just what is CSR and why is there such widespread interest in it? In an article published in 2007, Simon Enoch seeks some answers, and considers whether CSR actually adds up to anything meaningful.

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The inconvenient side effects of increased eco-efficiency

George Monbiot’s book Heat (reviewed here) includes a brief discussion on the difference between efficiency and reduction. Given that eco-efficiency is one of the buzzwords of sustainability, I want to highlight his discussion, as it seems to me to be very important for greens to be aware of the problem he outlines.

Monbiot notes that if a new consumer gadget or a new industrial production process or a refitted home uses 30% less energy than previously, then we might assume that 30% of the previous energy consumption has been saved. Unfortunately, due to some very inconvenient side-effects of eco-efficiency, this is not necessarily the case.

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Filed under climate change, David, sustainability