Moment The ultimate limit turns out to be time Why people change -- better system unthinkable, unimaginable
Humanity from a single motherMitochondrial Eve is estimated to have lived about 140,000 years ago. Y-chromosomal Adam is estimated to have lived around 60,000 years ago. The MRCA of humans alive today would therefore need to have lived more recently than eitherpopulation bottleneckspolite way of saying we almost went extinct
we're the descendants of the crafty ones who survivedtools = means to make more and more complete use of natureTools, fire, agriculture
Rock homenothing outside the planet, essentiallythen, as now, our living is entirely dependent on the planetmined or growneven nuclear power depends on mining uraniumeven genetic engineering depends on growing cellsvalue of ecosystem services
even nuclear power depends on mining uranium even genetic engineering depends on growing cells value of ecosystem services
force, but also seductionyoung people poured off the farms with great enthusiasm&quot;more stuff, less dying!&quot;antibiotics, immunizations, public health, sewersthe technological sublimemissed future =- solarpunk
Seriously. [puppy break - you gotta stay sane, gotta take care of each other]three deep breathsthe burden of planetary responsibilityPTSDtake care of yourself and otherssleep, eat, watch how much you drink and smokeget help if you find yourself needing itthe world doesn't need any more martyrsit needs enthusiasm, commitment, engagementit needs our happy inspirationand our willingness to carry duties as cheerfully as we can
o a new study from the World Bank , not very much.The bank estimates that Mexico could flatline its emissions growth, using a variety of measures, for about $64 billion over the next 20 years � or $3 billion annually.That amounts to just 0.4 percent of the country 痴 gross domestic product each year, according to the study, to keep emissions levels from rising significantly over the 659 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent released in 2008.Without the measures, emissions in the country are expected to grow by 73 percent, to 1,137 million tons in 2030.
this talk is creative commons licensed:as long as you give credit,you're free to share this, use it in classes, make copiesyou can't sell it or present it for paymentand b/c this is a contextual talk and the context is criticalyou can't use the pieces to make your own talkthough fair use of the facts + quoting me is already your rightand almost all these images are CC or fair use(a few are ones from people we know)
Alex Steffen of Worldchanging Night One part 1
The Story So Far….
We’re all related. We’re all the
sons and daughters of a common
ancestor: Mitochondrial Eve.
140,000 years ago (or so).
we're the descendants of the crafty ones who survived
tools, fire, agriculture = means to make more and more
complete use of nature.
It’s tough surviving. Nature’s not always friendly.
And we’re not always friendly to it. This
is a giant sloth. You’ve never met one.
That’s because we ate them all, about
10,000 years ago.
History is largely the story of turning
more and more of nature, in more and
more ways, into things to eat, wear and
In fact, other than thoughts, there’s
nothing in our lives that isn’t nature,
converted. Worth emphasizing: if it
wasn’t grown, it was mined.
Industrial Revolution. Science applied to conversion of nature.
Cities offered seduction: young people poured off the farms with great
Staggering increase in the variety of experiences and goods people had
access to. Antibiotics, immunizations, public health, sewers. The
"more stuff, less dying!”
Our own wealth came directly from taking raw
materials and fossil fuels from all over the world (by
force), and then turning them into stuff.
Our wealth is why we have a climate problem.
Most people on the planet are poor, young and ambitious, and they live
in conditions like these, but aspire to conditions more like our own.
Billions more people want to turn nature into wealth.
We’re on a collision course with ecological reality. We think that somehow we’ve
transcended the limits of living on a single planet: we haven’t.
Planetary boundaries are very real. Transgressing them has consequences.
We are utterly reliant on “ecosystem services” to support our civilization:
pollination, pest control, flood control, clean water and air.
Deutsche Bank and the European Commission: we are losing natural capital
between $2 - $5 trillion every year.
1/3 of all mammals face extinction in our lifetimes, according to the IUCN.
We are seeing the first signs of collapse in ecosystems all over the world, on
every continent and in every ocean. Species extinctions, aquatic deadzones,
topsoil erosion, deforestation, alien invasives, water scarcity, etc.
Copenhagen Climate Science Congress Key Message #1: "Recent observations confirm
that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario
trajectories (or even worse) are being realized. ...There is a significant risk that many
of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible
"This is not a small probability of a rather unattractive outcome. This is a big probability
of a very bad outcome.”
- Lord Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank
"We're already finding climate change becoming more abrupt than we expected even
a few years ago" John Holdren
MIT's Center for Global Change Science: median probability of surface warming of 5.2
degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can
be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees.
We’ll be seeing huge changes by 2050: women 40 and under, men under 35?
Potential tipping points, like methane in permafrost or on the Arctic ocean
floor. An some even scarier possibilities:
“When CO2 levels in the atmosphere reach about 500 parts per million, you
[begin to] put calcification out of business in the oceans.” Australia’s ARC
Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.
Ocean acidification worst case = game over.
2 degrees. Pretty much certain at this point.
2 degrees = crazy, but livable here.
6 degrees = the real Road Warrior stuff.
Could mean an ice-free planet; 1/3 of the land turned to
deserts, alligators in the Arctic. In a world that’s six
degrees warmer, there’s no good place to be
Image: William A. Franklin CC
All of these problems worsen and are made worse by failing states
and humanitarian crises. Desperate people and nature don’t mix well.
Can we bunker down and wait it out?
No. With the kinds of forces we’re dealing with, cascading collapses
make it impossible to rationally plan a safe place to hide.
Can we make a magic bullet? Geoengineering?
No. Royal Society: "The safest and most predictable method of moderating climate
change is to take early and effective action to reduce emissions of greenhouse
gases. No geoengineering method can provide an easy or readily acceptable
alternative solution.” Anyone who's credible at very least agrees we need to go
carbon neutral too. Geoengineering’s vague possibilities being spun by fossil fuel
Can we build a rocket ship and get away?
No. Space is vast and hostile; colonizing it is far beyond our current capabilities.
Bruce Sterling: “I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see
people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as
hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach.”
Game over? Cascading collapse? A population bottleneck?
That’s what’s at stake here. The future of humanity and
civilization. The actions we take in the next forty years will have
impacts that last long into the future; some last forever. The
eyes of the next 1,000 generations are watching us.
Collapse is not the only possibility. Transcendence is an option, too.
If we can forge a civilization whose demands nature can easily meet, we have a
wonderful future for a long time on this planet: 1,000,000,000 years or so, until the
Sun starts expanding. We can’t imagine what that future could bring: 100,000 times
the history of civilization so far. Who knows? We may find a solution to life-span of
our Sun. We may spread out across the Universe. Our story may be endless.
But first, we have to learn how to live on a single planet in ways that can be
replicated for an eternity. Copenhagen is humanity getting together for the first time
to talk about how to do it. That is a hopeful thing.
Here’s why we think we can build
that civilization: decoupling.
This is the 21st Century: It is
possible to separate the quantity
of stuff from the quality of wealth.
Using more does not mean
having more; and using less does
not mean having less.
We don’t price painting by the
number of tubes of oil it took to
paint them, or computers by how
much metal’s in them, or patents
by the stock of paper they’re
It’s the end value, not the volume
of stuff. Many kinds of wealth can
grow indefinitely, even while
ecological impact trends towards
It is ultimately possible that we can in fact design our societies to have less than
zero impact: to be restorative, to nurture life and build up ecological integrity. We
may be able to not only eliminate our ecological footprint, but turn it into an
ecological handprint: to leave behind a better, more complex, more resilient
biosphere with each passing generation.
A whole host of impacts we
need to eliminate, from ozone-
depleting chemicals to
endocrine disruptors; habitat
and biodiversity loss to the
nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.
None is more important than
1 metric ton, 2050.
CO2: 95% reduction will happen -- shift or snap. Shift will mean little economic
impact, but lots of economic transformational pressures. Snap, well…
What are the choices available now? Rich + wasteful / poor + frugal.
We need a third option: sustainable prosperity.
We need to invent a model of prosperity that’s climate-neutral, non-toxic, closed-
loop and ecologically restorative.
That model needs to be up and running in the developed world by 2030; and be the
norm here, and widely adopted globally, by 2050. The idea that this is impossible is
itself spin, itself a political argument.
It’s all about the kids. We live on a young planet: median age is about 28
worldwide, and it's only 19 in the least developed countries.
Educate girls, ensure women’s access
to property rights and legal protection,
connect them with job opportunities
and health care, give them reasons to
believe their kids will have healthy,
happy lives -- and women,
everywhere, choose to have fewer
Worldwatch: an estimated 200 million
women who want to avoid pregnancy
are risking it anyway because they
have inadequate access to
contraception and related reproductive
Peak population: 2.1 children per
Women’s rights are the most powerful
sustainability technologies we have.
Peak population means population is not the
problem we once thought it was.
It also means that it’s possible to start tying
sustainability to the idea of a wonderful
childhood everywhere, for all kids, in a very
URBAN PLANET: 3,062,000,000 new urbanites between now +
2050. 200,000 people a day for the next 40 years.
Humanity will be 60% urban in 2030; 70% in 2050 (but actually,
because of metropolitan effects, essentially everyone will live in
urban regions, except in the places where the wheels fell off
Urbanization is a very, very good thing for the planet. Higher incomes, lower impacts,
more freedoms, more innovation and transformation: “The 40 largest megacities in
the world, home to 18% of the world’s population, produce two-thirds of global
economic output and nearly 9 in 10 new patented innovations.”
9 billion peasants= a catastrophe. 9 billion citizens= a future.
It’s difficult sometimes to remember that poverty is, first and above all else, a
state of being in restricted access to information. Being kept ignorant.
Lots of opportunities for us to design helpful tools.
Why shouldn’t the solutions be joyful as well?
Innovation and diffusion are what it’s all about. Our hope now lies in speed.
Astonishing ingenuity waiting to be unleashed in the developing world.
Leapfrogging: the latest tools, put to new uses, in ways that work where you are.
Leapfrogging towards sustainability = cheaper than our path. Mexico could
flatline its emissions growth for just $3 billion/ year, says the World Bank.
Given access to seed technologies + solutions, the Global South can
transform itself. Our job is to invent the model that generates those solutions.
Lots of great work being done on
finding better ways to share ideas
and diffuse innovation: access to
knowledge campaigns, Open
Architecture Network, South-South
science programs, free textbooks,
Part of poverty is lack of access to
useful information and new ideas:
that is an entirely solvable
(Local public and socially-
conscious institutions should make
their work public domain/ copyleft
as a matter of course.)
This talk itself is not copyrighted: you’re free to copy, share and distribute…