Thursday, June 11, 2015

What's in a name

Oh Lord, won't you buy me
a Mercedes Benz?
      - Janis Joplin

I, I, me,me mine
    - George Harrison


       I just ran across an interesting article on the use of the term "Anthropocene".   It is argued that this seemingly neutral, scientific sounding notation, actually contains a hidden meaning - one which allows us to shrug off responsibility for the mess we are in.  For by defining this era as "human" caused  climate change, we tend to lump all humans together.  If there is blame to be , then blame all humans.

      However, the facts don't really support that view.  Its really a  very small minority of humans whose actions have created this mess.   Its not Homo Sapiens, but  Homo Colossus.    The authors note that the OECD countries account for 75% of all economic activity in the world, and 80% of the cumulative carbon.    But, the OECD countries comprises about 15% of the total world population.  So who is messing with the climate?    To put it simple terms, it is rich white people. It's us.  I am taking suggestions for a new name.  The albo-cene?   (BTW I'm not arguing that white people are wired differently, or anything like that.  Their dominance seems to me to be more a matter of luck. see e.g. Guns Germs and Steel.    I suppose  I'm arguing  "We broke it, so we need to fix it" )  

      Along similar  the Here's a thoughtful analysis of our conundrum.  Are we prepared to change to prevent climate change?   After noting that the problem will not be solved with "green growth" or lower "carbon intensity", the author notes: 

"At the same time it is not enough to point fingers at others and blame “the system” or “the industry” or “the politicians” when our own interests are deeply intertwined with that of the economy we are living in. Aren’t most of us quite happy in our comfort zones enjoying all the superficial pleasures the globalized consumer culture can provide? It’s definitely not those who are less fortunate and have to struggle to make ends meet who are to blame. It’s the average and above average consumers in the Global North and the rich in the Global South who are gobbling up resources that the earth cannot sustain.

         As  noted before, the planet could support 7 billion, at a moderate lifestyle, in a manner that would no exceed the carrying capacity of the planet.  Thus the footprint folks, have noted that if everyone lived like Cuban's or Costa Rican's we would  be very close to that ideal.    

            One approach to this goal is found in a paper A Net Energy-based Analysis for a Climate-constrained Sustainable Energy Transition.   (open access).  In it the authors find a solution to the needed energy transition - one which  is consistent with a reasonable carbon budget, takes into account EROI, and produces a result in which the provides a reasonable life style for all (2000 W).    Obviously, Homo Collusus would need to seriously curb his appetite.   But  the alternative is a lot worse.  And when the grandkids ask "Who trashed the planet?  We'll have to answer with the words of Mick Jagger,  " After all, it was you and me"

PS  This just in :

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