[IB Editor's Note: The maps and GoogleEarth model in this article has been updated on 29 January 2010. For latest maps for all Hawaiian islands see (http://www.islandbreath.org/mokupuni/mokupuni.html).
Image above: Kauai Moku-Ahupuaa Map Revision K-1 1/27/10. Click on it to enlarge. © 2010 by IslandBreath.org. All rights reserved.
By Juan Wilson on 21 December 2009 (updated on 1/29/10) -
It has been my position for the last twenty years that bio-regionalism is the foundation of sustainability. The Hawaiians were many centuries ahead of the Transition Town, Permaculture and Community Garden movements we see today. Their land management techniques spanned a millennium and could still be used today to balance our load on the island.
In early 2007 we (Jonathan Jay and I) began work on determining what might be areas of Kauai that could become manageable township areas to better govern the island. We looked at the traditional Hawaiian moku (regional divisions) as a guide. This work was combined with a presentation at the November 2007 LEGS Sustainability conference in Lihue. That presentation included a sustainability Land Use Plan that split exisitn Agricultural land use designation in two.
The makai half to become Rural land and the mauka half to become a new catagory Forest. Forest would be similar to Conservation, but allow replacement level harvesting of grew in the zone. It would be similar in some ways to Rural land but not allow for housing or permanent settlement.
See: Island Breath: Kauai Sustainability Land Use Plan 11/11/07
Early in 2008 we became aware of the formation of the Aha Kiole Council. This group of Hawaiian people was tasked with bringing the host culture's knowledge of Hawaiian land management to the State of Hawaii. Our efforts in behalf of the Aha Kiole Council was to work with them to develop a map of traditional moku and ahupuaa (roughly watersheds).
See: Island Breath: Kauai Moku District Meeting 3/11/08
A preliminary map was produced and distributed in December of 2008 that was based on information gathered through the year. This map was adopted by the Aha Kiole Council as the ahupuaa and moku divisions of Kauai and was published as part of the council's submission of regional management areas.
See: Island Breath: Moku-Ahupuaa Divisions of Kauai 12/2/08
The map produced at that time had the boundaries of four ahupuaa still unresolved. Over the last year these boundaries have been identified and all areas have been refined. The tool for upgrading the area boundaries was the use GoogleEarth with 3D topography and aerial orthophotography. We have recently published a link to our GoogleEarth efforts on this website and have updated it as work progressed.
See: Ea O ka Aina: Kauai on GoogleEarth 12/6/09
This article provides a "paper" map version of our latest Hawaiian traditional boundaries of Kauai. The format is set for a convenient letter size printout (8.5" x 11"). A PNG and PDF version are available.
See: Island Breath: Kauai Aina K-1 Revision 3.0.1 (4.7 mb .PNG)
Island Breath: Kauai Aina K-1 Revision 3.0.1 (17.0 mb .PDF) Click on the link below to gret the the ZIP file for loading Kauai ahupuaa into GoogleEarth: (100127KauaiAinaLink.zip). This map and the GoogleEarth map will continued to be adjusted as the work goes on.
Please contribute what you can to this project with you knowledge of the island. For access to the GoogleEarth map through a network server go to address below and download ZIP file with the link:
Ea O Ka Aina: Network Link to Kauai Aina 12/5/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai on GoogleEarth 12/5/09
Mana = 62.2 sq mi Kona = 190.5 sq mi Puna = 138.9 sq mi Koolau = 33.2 sq mi Halelea = 90.8 sq mi Napali = 31.9 sq mi Total = 555.5 sq mi
Non-commercial use of this information is permitted if you credit those who organized and developed it. Credits for Moku and Ahupuaa of the island of Kauai on GoogleEarth.
These Kauai land identifications were determined and converted into GoogleEarth KMZ format by: Juan Wilson - Architect/Planner
with the assistance of:
Jonathan Jay - Designer
in association with:
The Aha Kiole Council of Hawaii
and contributions from:
The Kauaian Institute
as well as assistance from:
The Kauai Historical Socieity
The Moku divisions are derived from Kalama Map (1837), applied over Hawai`i DBEDT GIS watershed data. The Ahupua`a divisions are based on traditional descriptions of location, with boundaries modified to follow watershed ridges and streams/rivers from DBEDT data. Where conflicts arose between traditional descriptions, DBEDT data and USGS 7.5º topological maps, we used Kauai Historical Society documents and coordination with GoogleEarth imaging and 3D countouring data.
Area names are written in standard ASCII text without traditional Hawaiian accent marks. Area measurements and perimeter lengths are only approximations and will be updated. Users are responsible themselves for verifying the information in this file. Streams and rivers shown are from HI DBEDT GIS database online.
All rights reserved: © 2007-2010 by www.IslandBreath.org Revision 3.0.1 on 27 January 2010
By Juan Wilson on 19 December 2009 for Island Breath -
This is what I guess is called a photo essay. I was looking through my photo library for a new image of Kauai to use as a background for my computer screen.
I realized after a while that my eye was caught by a genre of composition that I hadn't noticed before. They were images with large areas of blackness contrasting with intense areas of color.
These were not the greatest of photographs, but I found them interesting enough to share. Here are six.
Image above: A colorful beach fire on a dark night on Kauai. All photos by Juan Wilson.
Image above: God-Rays at sunset near Puolo Point south of Burns Field airport in Hanapepe.
Image above: View from the Meditation temple at the Hindu Monastery in Wailua.
Image above: Sunset view towards Niihau from Queen's Pond on the Mana Plain.
Image above: Looking up to Hanapepe Heights from the valley below.
Image above: Ironwood tree at Moloaa Stream as it meets the ocean.
Obama guts progressive values SUBHEAD: The worst instincts of our species articulated by the most powerful men who ever lived. By Bill McKibben on 19 December 2009 in Grist - (http://www.grist.org/article/2009-12-18-with-climate-agreement-obama-guts-progressive-values)
The President of the United States did several things with his agreement today with China, India, and South Africa:
- He blew up the United Nations. The idea that there’s a world community that means something has disappeared tonight. The clear point is, you poor nations can spout off all you want on questions like human rights or the role of women or fighting polio or handling refugees. But when you get too close to the center of things that count—the fossil fuel that’s at the center of our economy—you can forget about it. We’re not interested. You’re a bother, and when you sink beneath the waves, we don’t want to hear much about it. The dearest hope of the American right for 50 years was essentially realized because in the end coal is at the center of America’s economy. We already did this with war and peace, and now we’ve done it with global warming. What exactly is the point of the U.N. now?
- He formed a league of super-polluters, and would-be super-polluters. China, the U.S., and India don’t want anyone controlling their use of coal in any meaningful way. It is a coalition of foxes who will together govern the henhouse. It is no accident that the targets are weak to nonexistent. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with targets, he said. Indeed. And now imagine what this agreement will look like with the next Republican president.
- He demonstrated the kind of firmness and resolve that Americans like to see. It will play well politically at home and that will be the worst part of the deal. Having spurned Europe and the poor countries of the world, he will reap domestic political benefit. George Bush couldn’t have done this—the reaction would have been too great. Obama has taken the mandate that progressives worked their hearts out to give him, and used it to gut the ideas that progressives have held most dear. The ice caps won’t be the only things we lose with this deal.
By Juan Wilson on 19 December 2009 for Island Breath -
[Authors update 9/26/12: For a while we have been freezing taro corms after trimming and cleaning them (seee second photo below). The frozen corms change their texture after thawing. I believe the freeze/thaw cycle helps break down the calcium oxalate. When shredding and frying the thawed taro I've found it cooks faste, is stickier and seems to have less irritation for those sensitive to calcium oxalate.]
Image above: Mostly loco-vore breakfast. Eggs, papaya/lime, orange juice, and taro hashbrown from yard. Coffee from nearby Kauai Coffee. Catsup and turkey bacon from God-knows-where via Eleele Big Save Supermarket. All photos by Juan Wilson.
We've been growing dryland taro for five years in our backyard. See Island Breath: Backyard Taro Farmer. My favorite use of them is as a hashbrown for breakfast. Before you try any taro recipe you should realize that in its raw form taro is toxic, due to the presence of calcium oxalate, although the toxin is destroyed by cooking.
The calcium oxalate can be removed a long boil or, according to Wikipedia, by steeping taro roots in cold water overnight. It is also good to determine how sensitive you are to the calcium oxalate. I have a pretty high tolerance to it, whereas my wife is quite sensitive. She generally has no problem eating the taro prepared as hashbrowns. For my hashbrowns I neither boil or steep the roots (corms). Note, as far as I know this is only possible with the varieties of dryland taro that are low in calcium oxalate, to begin with. These varieties are white inside, rather than lined with a purple pinkish color.
Image above: Trimmed and cleaned dryland taro corms. Note how free of pink spots they are.
One medium size corn will provide 2-3 hashbrown servings. Peel the dark brown skin off the taro corm. The peeled skin should include the purple and pink layer below. From what I understand this is where there is the greatest concentration of calcium oxalate. Note the peeled corm has a soapy, slippery texture, so be careful of your knuckles on the grater... or leave a little skin on the corm to form a good grip.
Image above: A halfway shredded taro corm almost ready for seasoning.
Once shredded I add a pinch of Hanapepe sea salt, some black pepper and a generous amount of powdered garlic. Adding some minced fresh garlic as a nicety too. The shredded taro sticks quite well to itself. Just put the shreds in the preheated high temperature safflower oil. Spread and flatten the taro out to fill the bottom of a 10" cast iron skillet. The trick to taking care of the calcium oxalate is to press the taro very thin (1/8"). This process will make a the taro into something like a pan fried chipate. It will cling together, so that you can flip it like a pan-sized pancake. Cook the big hashbrown thoroughly on both sides.
Image above: Shredded taro flattened and fried in oil on both sides until browned.
This can takes about ten to fifteen minutes. The hashbrown is ready when it is slightly browned on both sides and crispy. I fold it in half and continue heating it for a few minutes. When the eggs and turkey bacon are done I cut the big semicircular hashbrown into some pie shaped wedges for serving. A little catsup on the side works well with a dash of hot sauce. Happy Breakfast! If you grow your own taro...
Image above: a fresh picked dryland taro plant from backyard ready to be washed and trimmed.
You want to harvest only the few plants you will need for no longer than a week or so. Care must be taken to cut the corm (root) off the plant without damaging the seam between the out-of-ground portion and the rooting portion. This is so the upper part of the plant can be replanted to regrow another corm. All but the most inner (newest) leaf stem should be clipped off the plant for replanting (so as not to waste plant energy).
Image above: Trimmed upper part of taro plants ready for re-planting in ground.
Taro plants do not have to be replanted immediately. Even a week after harvest plants can be viable. I recommend wrapping them in a moist towel and keeping them in a shaded place if you are going to wait to replant them.
Island Breath: Ulu - The Breadfruit Tree 12/31/06 E
a O Ka Aina: Get out your `Ulu! 7/19/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Peak Macadamia Nut 9/22/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Green Turtle Mango 10/13/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Green Papaya Sauerkraut 10/14/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Breadfruit Experiments 11/15/09
Climate change is having an effect on the planet regardless of where governments or public opinion stand. Here, a visualization of what would happen if the Southern hemisphere experiences 6-foot sea level rise: Large parts of Manhattan would disappear.flickr.com
Global warming has recently been subjected to a media blitz, thanks both to the international climate conference in Copenhagen, and the controversy surrounding the online publication of filched e-mails between a number of leading climate scientists.
Lost in the clamor were two new reports, which, in their separate ways, serve to illustrate a gap that has grown up between the physics and politics of climate change. Even as polls indicate slackening concern among Americans about global warming, evidence shows that the greenhouse effect is rapidly intensifying.
The studies in question suggest the enormity of the change the planet is beginning to undergo, but they also demonstrate, by their anonymity, how difficult it seems to be for climate change to capture the public imagination.
In the last decade of climate research, the rate of global warming has consistently matched or outpaced the "worst-case" projections produced by leading climate models. And yet no matter how many studies are published revealing alarming new data, public opinion on the matter seems still to be determined by politics instead of physics.
It is worth remembering, in this light, that while we can negotiate with each other about climate change and what to do - or not do — about it, we cannot negotiate with the climate itself. The first study was published in the journal Science in late November. Conducted by Japanese and Canadian researchers, and it concerns a seemingly obscure problem: the well-being of shellfish in the Arctic Sea. As early as 1999, scientists warned that one consequence of climate change could be the acidification of ocean water. The ocean absorbs gases from the atmosphere, and close to half of all the carbon dioxide humans have emitted since the beginning of the 19th century has been soaked up by the sea.
In 1999, Ken Caldeira, a well-known climate scientist at Stanford University, found that clogging the atmosphere with carbon dioxide will eventually alter the pH of seawater — a process he termed ocean acidification. He also warned that as the climate change accelerates, the ocean will become undersaturated with aragonite — the form of calcium carbonate that shellfish use to form their shells.
When Caldeira conducted his study in 1999, he projected that it would take three centuries for ocean acidification to threaten shellfish with extinction.
Caldeira published the first part of the study, in Nature, with the subheading "The coming centuries may see more ocean acidification than the past 300 million years."
Caldeira's projection, it now seems, was optimistic — a recurring phenomenon in climate modeling. The new Science study drastically shortens his time frame. The researchers project that the Southern Ocean will become undersaturated with aragonite by 2030, and the North Pacific by 2100. Arctic surface waters will become undersaturated within a decade. Moreover, they found that aragonite saturation has already decreased in the top 50 meters of the Canada Basin, due not only to increased atmospheric CO2 levels, but also sea-ice melt.
The fate of shellfish in the Canada Basin may seem obscure. But shellfish — beginning with pteropods but including everything from mussels to clams — help form the basis of the ocean food chain. If they can't form shells due to consequences of global warming, fish can't eat them, seals and polar bears can't eat the fish, and an enormous ecological catastrophe ensues. "It puts the entire [Arctic] food chain at risk," Fiona McLaughlin, one of the researchers, told Reuters.
The Science study is interesting in part because it shows that sea-ice melt is a major cause of aragonite undersaturation.
"Sea ice is so pure it has very few of these (carbonate) ions. It means that when we are melting this ice, which by its nature is more acidic, we are making surface waters more acidic," McLaughlin said. According to the study, ocean acidification — a phenomenon whose strange and alarming nature is evoked by its very name — won't begin in the Southern Ocean until 2030.
But that projection may have to be sped up. Less than two weeks after the Science study was published, an ominous new report concerning the stability of Antarctic ice upended a widely held assumption in the scientific community.
Antarctica is divided into two ice sheets — one on the western side of the continent, the other on the east. Scientists have known for some time that the western sheet is melting. When Al Gore showed film of glaciers crashing into the sea in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, the footage came from the west Antarctic coast. At the time, the frozen continent was losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice per year, a trend unambiguously linked to global warming.
As Gore pointed out, if the West Antarctic ice sheet were to disappear completely, it would cause the ocean to rise and cover much of the world's low-lying land, including large parts of the Eastern seaboard.
But while scientists were certain that the West Antarctic sheet was melting, it was generally assumed that its eastern counterpart was stable or even gaining mass. The region is so cold that it seemed insulated against all but the most drastic warming.
So it came as a shock when, on Dec. 1, the journal Nature Geoscience published evidence showing that the East Antarctic sheet is also melting. Studying data collected by a NASA satellite, researchers at the University of Austin, in Texas, discovered that the sheet has been losing mass for at least the last three years. The data, they found, "indicates that as a whole, Antarctica may soon be contributing significantly more to global sea-level rise."
The most recent report from the U.N. body tasked with tracking climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, projected that by the end of this century ice melt will cause the seas to rise by a maximum of just under 2 feet. That report was released in 2007. A week after the Nature Geoscience data was released, a study by European researchers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, projected that sea levels may increase by more than 6 feet by 2100.
A 6-foot sea level rise would, models show, submerge more than 22,000 square miles of U.S. land on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Most of Florida and Louisiana would become uninhabitable, and large parts of Manhattan would disappear. Worldwide, more than 100 million people — nearly a third of the total population of the United States — would be displaced.
It is also worth noting that the complete disappearance of the West Antarctic ice sheet is frequently used as an example of a "worst-case" scenario, to illustrate how bad global warming could become on a multiple-century time scale. Its melting would cause the seas to rise by 20 feet. The full melting of the East Antarctic ice sheet, by contrast, would cause them to rise by 200 feet — a nearly unimaginable prospect.
As the studies above show, climate change is already reconfiguring the natural world. How extensive that reconfiguration ends up being — and how much suffering results in consequence — depends on whether politicians across the world can agree to take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their success, in turn, will to a large extent depend on the answer to a simple question: When will the gap between the politics and the physics of climate change close?
By Albert Bates on 18 December 2009 in The Great Change -
Image above: "Leaders Useless" illustration from article on climate talks failure from October 2009. From http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/691300
[IB Publisher's Note: If you have hopes for the COP15 steering us in the right direction, remember the experts on ocean chemistry say that a 2ºC rise in sea temperature will kill off the tropical reefs, including those in Hawaii in decades.]
This has been such an exhausting day, after such an exhausting two weeks, and it is now midnight so we thought of just going straight to bed and post something in the morning, but so many new readers have picked up this blog that we felt we could not disappoint. We will make a short post now and then elaborate more tomorrow.
There is a climate deal in Copenhagen. It came after a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, crushed expectations and renewed hope, posturing politicians and pleas for sanity. The newspaper headline this morning was “Kan Han?” [Can he do it?] over a picture of Obama. When President O made his opening address, expectations were very high that he would break the logjam and move the treaty to conclusion. Instead, he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Repeating the lame pledges that Hillary Clinton had outlined the day before, he was greeted by boos and jeers in the Klimaforum, the temporary home of many of the exiled NGOs, or at least those who had not been arrested or packed up and left in disgust. Why was he booed? Because the US offer was 3 to 4% reductions in GHG from 1990 levels by 2020, which everyone here knows is only 10% of what is needed to stabilize the climate at a 2 degree increase by mid-century. The EU has pledged a multilateral cut of 35 percent. China 40 percent.
The US and China combine to produce 40% of all greenhouse gases. Tallying all the pledges, we were still 4 gigatons per year short of the 2 degree (350 ppm) target, which meant we could see 3 degrees by mid-century, meaning 5 to 6 degrees in Africa. Evo Morales had called for changing the target to 1 degree. He pledged Bolivia would become carbon neutral like the Maldives is. When Obama arrived and still spoke about the lame US target as though it were something of value, people booed.
If the US were to rise to the EU pledge level, the target could be met and the treaty would have been signed.
The US economy would have had a shot in the arm and a whole new industry would be born. Without that pledge, however, nothing works, the talks are doomed, and the planet we call home may die. People here love Obama. They were deeply disappointed today. On Danish TV, the anchor asked their reporter standing in front of a backdrop of the White House why it was so hard for the US to understand the urgency. The reporter replied (and my Danish is weak so this is a paraphrase):
One in eight children (in the US) goes to bed hungry at night. People die in the thousands without health care. There are two million in prison, more than in China. People are losing their jobs, and their homes. To say that climate change takes on less importance when one is confronted with such challenges is realistic. Even though Denmark now has a right wing government (as we have seen from the police tactics, expulsion of NGOs from the climate talks, and suspension of civil rights this past week) all of those conditions which the reporter described for the United States are almost inconceivable here. How could a country as industrious as the US be so poor in social capital?
A pledge of carbon neutrality, coming from the US, would have changed everything in the climate summit. President Obama would have been the knight in shining armor. US honor would have been restored. Instead, the US delegation framed this as a blame game and China was the bad guy. In actuality, China pledged transparency from the moment Hillary Clinton finished the press conference on Thursday where the Bad China talking point emerged. The press reported, “Clinton said Washington would press the world to come up with a climate aid fund amounting to $100 billion a year by 2020, a move that was quickly followed by an offer from China to open its reporting on actions to reduce carbon emissions to international review.”
When Obama said China was not being transparent and that was a deal-breaker, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with Obama and offered new transparency commitments. Obama said he was satisfied, only to inexplicably reverse that position later in the day. This kabuki played out two or three more times. Eventually it was obvious to most in the Bella Center that it was US and China bickering that was holding up the deal. By the end of the morning, the EU was circulating a draft text dubbed the "Copenhagen Accord." The 120 world leaders still present were given two hours to offer amendments. Here is how that draft text read:
"Recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperatures ought not to exceed 2 degrees, and on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, parties commit to a vigorous response through immediate and enhanced national action based on strengthened international cooperation." BROAD GOALS "Ambitious action to mitigate climate change is needed with developed countries taking the lead. Parties recognize the critical impact of climate change on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effect and stress the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support. “Deep cuts in global emissions are required."
ANNEX ONE (RICH NATIONS) TARGETS
"Annex One parties to the Convention commit to implement, individually or jointly, the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 as listed, yielding in aggregate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of "X" percent in 2020 compared to 1990 and "Y" percent in 2020 compared to 2005." [The use of “and” here instead of “or” is important. The US is the only country calculating its proposed reductions from 2005 (17%) instead of 1990 (3%). This requires them to calculate both],
NON ANNEX ONE (DEVELOPING NATIONS) GOALS
"Non Annex One parties to the Convention resolve to implement mitigation actions based on their specific national circumstances. Frequency of submissions of non Annex One parties will be every 2 years ... subject to their domestic auditing and assessment ... Clarification may, upon request, be provided by the party concerned at its discretion to respond to any question contained in a national communication ... Supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions shall be subject to international verification".
"Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding shall be provided by developed country parties. “Parties shall provide new and additional resources of $30 billion for 2010-12. “In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, the parties support the goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year to address the climate change needs of developing countries. “This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. “A Copenhagen Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity."
"The parties call for a review of this decision and implementation in 2016. “(Negotiations on a legal text would continue) with a view to adopting one or more legal instruments under the convention as soon as possible and no later than COP 16 (a meeting due in Mexico in November 2009)".
The EU had said earlier the world should aim to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, with rich nations cutting their emissions by 80 percent. Premier Wen told delegates that China's voluntary targets of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent would require "tremendous efforts." "We will honor our word with real action," Wen said. In stark contrast, the US was still committing to only a 3% cut, and then pointing fingers. To the NGO community, which is now barred from the COP-15 conference, 50 by '50 looked like a pretty good accord, even if more would be needed later.
Apparently some countries had problems with it, however, because over the late afternoon and evening hours, the text weakened significantly, Some objected to language about 2010 commitments and binding legal framework in COP-16. A clause was dropped that had called on developing countries to reduce emissions by 15-30 percent below "business as usual," that is, judged against the level had no action been taken.
A group of about 25 countries sought and won unanimous agreement on a two-page statement committing to the mobilization of $30 billion in the next three years to help poor countries cope with climate change and a scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020. Since this satisfied the victim nations, reparations were no longer on the table.
Obama and Wen met twice, said they had taken a step forward in their talks and directed negotiators to keep working, but then fell into sniping at each other. Obama may eventually become known as "the man who killed Copenhagen," said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Phil Radford. Brazil's Lula da Silva said a miracle would be needed. "I am not sure if such an angel or wise man will come down to this plenary and put in our minds the intelligence that we lacked," Silva said. "I believe in God.
I believe in miracles." It is half past midnight in Denmark under a blanket of fresh snow and, while everyone was saying “It ain’t over until the black man sings,” President O and Air Force One are out over the Atlantic now. The draft text was abandoned in favor a 5-party deal between the US, China, South Africa, India and Brazil. That, and the adaptation and mitigation funding agreed to by all, was to have been the final outcome of Copenhagen, but hang on, it ain’t over. The EU has called delegates back into session and is determined to come out with something more substantive now that the US and China circus has left town. And tomorrow, we shall see just what that might be.
Out of Time!
SUBHEAD: No New Treaty Likely at COP15 - We've Run Out of Time, Top UN Climate Negotiator Says.
[IB Publisher's Note: It's not as if COP15 failure was not anticipated. Check this article out written in October.]
By Mathew McDermott on 21 October 2009 in Treehugger.org -
Image above: "Out of Time" by Sean Patrick Coon in Treehugger.org From http://www.flickr.com/photos/spcoon/3194377944
While it's true, as Brian just pointed out, that the media have been taking us on a bit of a rollercoaster ride regarding the will there-will there not be a new treaty at the end of COP15 speculation, The Financial Times splashes some cold water on the idea that 'anything can still happen'. Here it is straight from the mouth of UN climate negotiator Yvo de Boer:
"A fully fledged new international treaty...I don't think that is going to happen. If you look at the limited amount of time remaining, it is clear."Nations Must Set Out Clear Individual Targets
Mr. de Boer went on to say that what must be done at this point is to, "concentrate on the political imperatives that make it clear how countries are committed [to tackling climate change] and engaging in cutting emissions, and what cooperative mechanisms they need to put in place." Meaning, that industrialized countries need to set out clear individual national targets for 2020, which is what the big developing nations are waiting on to take part in any future international agreement, and all in the context of a long-term 2050 emission reduction target. Also, a deadline that would transfer those individual targets into a legally binding international treaty should also be established.
Grassroots Political Pressure Needed Now, More Than Ever
Before anyone gets worked up, thinking this is a failure, or dashing the chances of success while there's still time to negotiate, I wouldn't go that far. In fact it's gives even more weight to grassroots action: More than ever pressure needs to be put on governments (wherever you happen to live) to enact strong national emissions targets, based in science not political expediency. And if some surprise twist, some unexpected breakthrough happens in the next few weeks, all the better.
As world leaders arrive in Copenhagen for the crunch phase of the climate conference, the focus turns to what kind of deal is likely to emerge. Pre-eminent climate scientist Prof James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute has already given the entire process the kiss of death. Any political deal cobbled together is, he believes, likely to be so profoundly flawed as to lock humanity on to “a disaster track”.
Hansen voiced publicly what environmental scientists and campaigners have murmured all year. A political fudge that ducks science is the likeliest outcome at Copenhagen. Earlier this week, for instance, EU fisheries ministers agreed a deal that pleased our Government and our fishermen. However, it does little to arrest the progressive annihilation of a common resource that, like our atmosphere, is owned by no one – and so exploited by all.
The world faces a dangerous convergence of environmental and resource crises, not all directly climate related. All, however, are increasingly difficult to resolve in a rapidly warming world. Taken together, they are not amenable to a business-as-usual political response. Here, in no particular order, are six:
1. Biodiversity: “The world is currently undergoing a very rapid loss of biodiversity comparable with the great mass extinction events that have previously occurred only five or six times in the Earth’s history,” says the World Wildlife Fund. It has tracked an astonishing 30 per cent decline in the Earth’s biodiversity between 1970-2003. Hunting, habitat destruction, deforestation, pollution and the spread of agriculture are leading to as many as 1,000 entire species going extinct every week – that’s a species every 10 minutes. The economic cost of destroying biodiversity is also immense. A 2008 EU study estimated the cost of forest loss alone is running at $2-$5 trillion annually.
2. Ocean Acidification: The evidence of the effects of increased CO2 levels on the world’s oceans is unequivocal. Surface ocean acidity has increased by 30 per cent since 1800, with half this increase occurring in just the last three decades. The rate of change in oceanic pH levels is around 100 times faster than any observed natural rate. Increasing acidity is impeding the ability of plankton called foraminifera to produce shells. These creatures form the base of the entire marine food system. The world’s vital reef systems are also in peril from acidification.
3. Population Pressure: Broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has witnessed how the natural world is being crushed by humanity. “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder – and ultimately impossible – with more,” he says. The Earth must provide for around 80 million more people than this time last year. It took us almost 10,000 years to reach a billion people. We now add that many every 12 years.
4. Peak Oil: This month, the International Energy Agency formally predicted global peak oil by 2020. Today, the world burns the equivalent of 82 million barrels of oil every day. Projected growth in energy demand will see this rise to almost 100 million barrels within a decade, but by then, output from the oilfields currently in production will have plummeted to barely a third of that. A massive energy gap is looming, and with discoveries having peaked in the mid-1960s, we are approaching the bottom of the cheap oil barrel. Non-conventional oil, renewables and nuclear will be nowhere near capable of bridging this energy gap in time. The oil shocks of the coming decade will be intense.
5. Peak Food: The global food system is predicated on lashings of cheap oil, fresh water, soil and natural gas. All four are in decline. The food riots of 2008 were an early warning of a global system in crisis. In the US, it is estimated every calorie of food energy requires 10 calories of fossil fuel energy. More food production is now being channelled into fattening animals. Meat is a tasty but entirely inefficient way to use finite food resources. Meanwhile, the UN predicts the collapse of all global commercial marine fisheries by 2048, depriving up to two billion people of food.
6. Peak Water: During the 20th century, human water usage increased nine-fold, with irrigation (for agriculture) alone using two-thirds of this total. With almost all major glaciers retreating, many river systems are at risk. Groundwater in aquifers is another key fresh water source. Over-extraction, mostly for agriculture, has caused their levels worldwide to plummet. Pollution, especially from fertiliser overuse, adds to the loss of fresh water. The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported only 17 per cent of Ireland’s rivers are of “high ecological status”.
The 19th century naturalist John Muir famously wrote that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”. As the Copenhagen conference draws to a close, the words of a contemporary of Muir, politician and orator Robert Ingersoll, have never seemed more apt:
“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are only consequences.”
[Note from the author: As a peak-oil/climate-aware high school Chemistry teacher, every day is a balance between (1) imparting the daily Chemistry lesson in an effective and entertaining manner, (2) telling the kids the hard, scary truth about our civilization’s predicament without crushing their hopes and dreams for a livable future, and (3) offering some ideas about what we could do to help the situation]
Overall, my part-gloomy/part-hopeful message has mixed success with the kids. Some of them couldn’t care less. Some of them don’t want to hear it at all. But some of them respond with a sincere concern. And this sincere concern sometimes even blossoms into constructive thought and concrete action to address our predicament. So I think I’m having at least some net positive effect. Maybe.
Some people have expressed concerns that I “limit them” by telling them such “bad news.” But I don’t think so. I don’t see the point in lying to them about our possible futures. We’ve lied to them, to ourselves, for too long now. And with the apex of our civilization now receding behind us, I think it’s maybe time for everybody to just start telling the truth – the hard, unpleasant, revolting, exhilarating, depressing, liberating truth.
…And then we need to get down to work. …But first the truth.
So I sat down and wrote this. It’s my attempt at telling them the truth. I know it’s a little pretentious to write a letter to “all teenagers,” but how long are we gonna keep lying to them? Enough already.
Hi There, Kids!
Hello, teenagers of America! How are you?! …Hello? Anybody home? …Hey -- Are you ignoring me? …Is that a ‘yes?’ OK. I get it. …You want to be alone? …Right?
Then I’ll leave this letter right here outside your door. You can get it later. You will, right? You’ll read it? OK…I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’
Look, I know it’s just what you wanted – a letter from a middle-aged man telling you all about how your entire world is about to be turned completely upside down. A letter about how your hyper-individualism is a thing of the past; how you’ll never ever again be called a consumer; how you’re about to live a lot closer to the Earth; how you’re about to live closer to your neighbors; how you’re about to live a lot closer to the edge.
Right up your alley, huh? …OK, right. …I’ll…I’ll leave the letter right here. …See ya later. …Bye.
Some Things You’ve Probably Noticed
Now, you guys get a bad rap about being clueless, but I know you’ve noticed a lot of what’s going on.
For one thing, the economy is in the crapper. (Is that a word you guys use?) Maybe you’re having trouble getting a good summer job. Maybe you’re parents are worried about paying for college. Maybe you’re wondering when things are gonna turn around. Yea, a lot of people are worried.
And this war thing – you probably noticed that, huh? A little bit confused by it? Yea, me too. I bet it just sort of seems normal to you, huh? Well it’s not. At least it shouldn’t be. But it’s not your fault. …But you’ll pay for it. We all will.
And you feel a little alienated? Like you’re surrounded by people but you still sort of feel alone? Yea, that’s normal…unfortunately. It shouldn’t be normal, but it is. And it’s getting worse. It didn’t used to be normal. …At least not like it is now.
And this whole climate thing. …Confusing, huh? It’s like everything else – all the adults just sit around and insult each other, and never get anything decided. It’s hard to know who to believe. It sort of makes you want to just tune it out. But you shouldn’t, you know. And pretty soon you won’t even be able to. I’ll talk more about it in a minute.
Some Things You May Not Know Yet
OK, so let’s get down to business here. I’m gonna level with you about some things.
There’s a bunch of stuff -- really important stuff -- that the adults aren’t telling you. But don’t feel insulted, because they’re not even honest with each other about it. A lot of them don’t even know. I’m gonna tell you briefly about it here, but don’t take my word for it – look it up. I mean really look it up. Read books about it. It’s important.
So let’s talk about the oil situation. First of all, we use oil for so many things. Your life would be so completely different without oil. It’s magical stuff. Horrible, magical stuff. And I know you’ve heard about some problems with gasoline and oil – like all the complaints when prices get too high. But the situation’s way worse than that. You’ll hear lots of people say “we’ll never run out of oil” – but that’s only partly right. We haven’t yet pulled all the oil out of the Earth, but pretty soon we’re going to run out of all the oil we can afford to pull out. The oil that’s left is too hard to get at, and it’s in countries that are going to want to keep it for themselves. Pretty soon, we’ll hardly have any oil for us. That’s huge.
But what about the other sources of “fossil” energy – coal, natural gas, nuclear? Yea, more bad news – bad in the energy sense, at least. All these other fossil energy sources that can run out are going to run out. – Not as quickly as oil, maybe, but almost. They’ll run out quickly enough where it’s not worth changing over to them. They’re dead ends. And I’m not even talking here about climate yet – they’re dead ends from an energy perspective. From a climate perspective, they’re pure death.
So you’re saying, ‘What about alternative energy?’ – solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biofuels, etc. ‘Won’t they save us?’ …No. They won’t. Now don’t get me wrong – this stuff is great, and I think we should push forward with it as much as possible. But you shouldn’t expect them to replace much of the depleting fossil energy sources, because they won’t. The alternatives won’t give us anywhere near the energy required to live our lives like we live now. Not even close. Now again, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them – it just means that, even if we do use them, we’re guaranteed to have less energy in the future. And because of that, our lives will be totally different. So completely totally different. Guaranteed.
I’m not sure what to say about the climate. I don’t want to scare you. But I don’t want to lie to you either. So I won’t. I won’t lie to you, I mean. How about this: it’s very bad. I mean, what’s already coming is gonna be very bad. Almost guaranteed. And unavoidable now. Storms and droughts and cities underwater and farms underwater and hungry people. Lots and lots of hungry people. And it won’t be that far in the future. You’ll live it. And there’s a very real chance it could be just utterly horrific. Like totally-different-Earth horrific. Like extinction-of-our-species horrific. I’m not exaggerating. It scares the heck out of me. But I think you should know the truth.
But this climate stuff is a lot like the energy stuff in this way: (1) Both of them are already gonna be real bad. We already screwed up on both. A painful, civilization-killing energy crash is already coming. Climate disasters are already coming. (2) But we might -- might -- have a chance to stop it at ‘real bad’ in both cases and avoid ‘horrific’. But only -- only -- if we start doing the ‘right thing’ now. Right now. We need to start preparing for a low-energy future. Right now. And we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Right now. And that means turning your entire life upside down. Right now. And that’s scary.
But the choice now couldn’t be more clear. And it’s a damn crime nobody’s telling you this -- because you’re probably the only ones who could pull off the change that’s required. That’s partly why I’m telling you this. We old people are too set in our ways. We’ve got too much sunk into the system. We have too much crap we think we need to protect. It’s pathetic.
But you guys have nothing to lose. -- And you guys have everything to lose.
So do you have it in you? Or are you too far gone too? I honestly don’t know.
An Apology (but not for what you think)
OK, that wasn’t too fun, was it? But maybe take some comfort in this: nobody’s lying to you this time. Nobody’s trying to trick you. Nobody’s trying to sell you something. I’m just trying to tell you the truth. It probably feels a little weird.
I know there’s a lot for you to be mad at. And I understand if you are. My generation and the handful of generations before me really screwed things up. …And I know that’s the biggest understatement ever.
Maybe you’re mad that we burned through the fossil fuels without ever figuring out what we’d do when they were gone; that we never set up energy systems that would outlive us when we had the chance; that we destroyed all the easy irreplaceable resources of everything else – metals, fertilizer, old-growth forest, fertile top soil, etc.; that we’ve been so horribly wasteful.
Maybe you’re mad that we destroyed the rivers and estuaries; that we cut down the rainforests; that we exterminated so many species of everything; that we piled garbage all over the place and spilled poisons into the soil and the water and the air; that there’s hardly any fish left in the oceans.
Maybe you’re mad that we messed up the climate; that it’ll be hard to know what weather to expect when you’re older; that storms and droughts are gonna be so deadly awful; that’s it’s gonna be so hard to grow enough food; that we probably won’t be able to grow enough food.
Well you should be mad. I don’t think we could have treated the Earth and ourselves and future generations much worse. We’ve done horrible things.
So I’d like to apologize -- but not for what you think. I’m not gonna apologize for wrecking the Earth.
Frankly, I don’t think you would’ve behaved much different than us. In fact I know it. I see every day how you buy into the same destructive system that’s caused all these problems. It’s tricky; it’s seductive – it sucks you in. You buy into it more and more until one day you wake up and realize there’s no way out – you’re a flat out ‘consumer’ and you need the system. No matter how much it’s killing the Earth, you need it. It becomes part of you.
So I feel horrible about what’s happened, but I’m not gonna apologize for getting sucked into the system – we all did. But the system is dying now, so we’ll be free from it anyway.
I’d like to apologize for a myth that we’ve been passing on to you; a myth that we’ve been passing on for generations. It’s a myth that’s destroying the biosphere; a myth that’s destroying us.
Here’s the myth: that we belong on this Earth more than salmon, spiders, tuna, oaks, or sparrows; more than whales, beetles, redwoods, or bees; that we can destroy other species and not destroy ourselves; that we don’t need them; that we don’t have to love them; that we don’t have to love the Earth.
This horrible myth is the thing to be mad at; to be furious at. You should hate this myth. You should scream at it and curse at it. You should write it down on a piece of paper and then burn it. And then you should let it go. Forever.
This myth is an abomination, and it needs to stop with you guys. Right now. I apologize for our stupidity in holding onto such nonsense; for passing it on. You can do better that that. You need to.
You Are ‘Generation Limits’ (Is that a good name?)
Now forgive me if I digress for a moment. This next part is gonna sound a little silly.
But I’ve always wanted to coin a catch-phrase – some clever turn-of-words that sticks in the collective mind of our pop-culture. Look, I know it’s petty and shallow, but hey…I’m human. And we’re petty and shallow sometimes.
…So do you mind if I give your generation a name? A catchy name that maybe they’ll put on the cover of Newsweek or something? …OK, I know you mind. But I’m gonna do it anyway.
OK, how about this: ’Generation Limits’? Is that catchy? ...Not really?
Now…I’m sorry. That’s a dirty trick, huh? – Us wrecking the world and then naming your generation after what it can’t do. I understand if you don’t like the name. You don’t have to use it.
But there is a lot of truth to it, huh? My generation and the handful of generations before me all acted like we had no limits on anything. It was like a religion with us. We could do whatever we wanted; use as much as we pleased; waste as much as we felt like; destroy whatever was in our way. We felt super-human. Like gods.
We were delusional. Dangerous.
...We were monsters, really. …Think about it. We really were.
But you guys have limits. I mean, we had limits too – we just ignored them. But you can’t. I mean you physically can’t. The Earth won’t let you. We just about ran it dry.
So even though it’s silly to name generations, I think you should hold onto this ‘limits’ idea. Make it the cornerstone of whatever civilization comes next. Celebrate it. Be proud of it. You should probably even put it into your religions. It’s that important.
How to See the Future
Now, I’ve already done a lot of ‘predicting the future’ here so far. And I admit that’s a dicey thing to try. …But I’d say it’s a heck of a lot better than ignoring the future.
That’s what we’ve been doing, by the way -- ignoring the future. We pretend to be interested in it, but we’re really not. Pretending that “the future will be a continuation of the past – only better” is a way of ignoring the future. It’s the mantra of the reckless, homicidal civilization we’ve become. And I bet we’ll be chantin’ that mantra as we slam into the wall at full speed.
You should probably try something else.
But how does someone look into the future?
Well -- first, you need to have some idea about what’s happened in the past. You can get that from good books.
And then you need to open your eyes and be honest about what you see right now. You can get that from good books too – from people who learned to do it; or who never forgot. Or you might even know some of these people. Talk to them.
And finally, you need to know that the future probably won’t be a straight-line continuation from the recent past. It almost never is. Again -- good books.
That’s a lot of book reading, huh? …But people used to be able to see the future. Even before books. They got it from listening to stories their grandparents told. Again and again. Stories about what worked and what didn’t work. Stories about the mystery of it all. The same stories. Over and over. Until they could see the future.
-- Now, it didn’t always work out. They messed up sometimes. …But it was a lot better than what we’re doing now – ignoring the future.
So you should probably start thinking about the stories you’ll need to tell. Stories about what worked and what didn’t work. Stories about the mystery of it all. Start practicing them now. Remember them. And then tell them to your grandchildren. Again and again. Until they can see the future.
All Our Possible Futures
So now I’m gonna try to do some more predicting-the-future for you guys. I know you’re thrilled. But I mean well. Really -- I’m trying to help. I’m not just trying to be annoying or preachy. I’m trying to help.
Now, nobody can really see into the future – not in any detailed way. There’s too many variables. But you can make a good guess. You can usually sort of see how things might play out. And sometimes you can be right. Again – it’s better than ignoring it. You’ll always be wrong if you ignore it.
So one good way to think of the future is what they call a ‘probability distribution’ – like rolling a loaded pair of dice. It’s a bunch of possible futures ranging from really good to really bad. Based on our past and present choices, some of these futures are more probable than others. And every new decision we make resets the probabilities of these possible futures. By making good decisions, we can make the good futures more probable and the bad ones less probable. But only up to a point. At some point things get a lot harder to change.
That’s probably the best way to think about the future.
But it turns out that we’re in a bit of a tough spot here. Our past decisions haven’t exactly been the best. (Yea, we’ve burned a lot of bridges.) And the decisions we’re making right now aren’t much better. (Yup – still burnin’ those bridges.) So at this point, the most probable futures are definitely not the brightest ones – not even close. But they’re the ones we’ve been choosing. (It’s like we can’t help it – huh?) And they’re probably the ones we’re gonna get. And you get what you get.
So I’m gonna try to guess what we’ll get – what sorts of lives might be waiting for you as our civilization starts its descent. It’ll be different than what we have now – that’s for sure. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It might even be exhilarating. Maybe not. But parts of it maybe.
It’ll definitely be a lot of work. Definitely a lot of work. But we can do that.
The Part Where I Look Into My Crystal Ball
…So here it is.
In the future…
Some of you will grow food. -- Probably a lot of you, actually. Even those of you who do other things as your main job. So you should probably start to learn how it’s done. Right now. Because it’s not something you can learn in a year – how to add fertility and prepare the soil, when to plant and harvest, how to store the harvest and save seeds, etc. There’s more to it than you think. And it’s gonna get even trickier when the climate starts its carbonic seizures – droughts, floods, heat, cold, and storms. In no particular pattern. So you better be good.
Some of you will re-design and re-build our lives. -- You’ll design renewable-energy systems, rainwater-collection systems, natural building methods, food-production systems, food-storage systems, manufacturing systems, etc. etc. And you’ll need to do it largely without fossil fuels. And mostly with materials you get from Nature. So you’ll probably need a lot of cleverness. But I’ve noticed that a lot of you are pretty clever. So I think you can do it.
Some of you will become skilled craftspeople. -- You’ll make all the things we used to have the robots make for us. But they used mostly oil. And now they won’t have any. They’ll be useless. So you’ll need to use wood and reeds and stone and anything else you can find. Maybe even pieces of the robots. You’ll need to be creative. And you’ll need to be good. But I bet you can do it. I know you can.
All of you will live closer to the Earth. -- You won’t have a choice. You’ll find that you need the Earth again -- that you really always needed it. You’ll drink the rain. And smell the leaves. And follow the stars. And talk to the moon. And sing along with the birds. You’ll sit quietly in the glorious pregnant stillness of dawn. And you’ll know the Earth. Again. As your ancestors did. –Aren’t you thrilled? …No? …But just wait. You’ll see. It’s in your bones. Still. …Really. It’s ancient. And it’s still there. Inside you.
All of you will live closer to your neighbors. -- Again, you won’t have a choice. You’ll need them. Too much can go wrong for you to make it by yourself. They’ll be your safety net. – And sure, you won’t like all of them. But you’ll have to learn to deal with that. To get past that. To live with differences and make it work. You won’t have a choice.
All of you will live closer to the edge. -- You’ll have less room for error. There’ll be no ancient sunlight – no fossil energy -- to bail you out if you mess up. Like if you run out of food or water; if you run out of firewood; if your house gets messed up. So you better be careful. And you better plan ahead. And you better be good. And you better have people you can depend on. Because the edge is gonna get real close sometimes. Guaranteed.
All of you will live with limits. -- Lots of limits. Limits all over the place. Limits from both your communities and the Earth itself. Limits to how much you can take from the Earth. Limits to how much you can keep for yourself. Limits to how far and fast you can travel. Limits to where you can live. Limits to how much you can eat. Limits to what you’ll be able to eat. Limits to everything. – You’ll be swimming in limits. And they won’t be optional. And there’ll be a price for breaking them – a big price. Maybe your lives. And the lives of your children. So you better pay attention to the limits. You better find out what they are. And you better obey them. Because they mean business this time. For real.
All of you will need to be strong. – Because this ain’t gonna be a walk in the park, kids. There’s gonna be pain and suffering. There’s gonna be some bad things that happen. So you need to be strong. And you can’t give up. Even when it’s really hard. Even when you want to give up. You can lean on other people sometimes. But you need to be strong for them too.
And all of you will be important. – Every single one of you. You won’t be consumers. You won’t be statistics. And you won’t be replaceable. You’ll be members of your communities. You’ll be people that other people depend on. You’ll have important skills. And important knowledge. And you’ll do important work. And you’ll have family around you. And people who care about you. And people who need you. And people who won’t let you fall. And you’ll all be important.
Every single one of you will be so damn important.
So, sorry I went on for so long here. I had a lot on my mind.
But thanks for reading. And again, sorry for sounding preachy. I really do mean well.
Good luck with everything. We have a lot of work to do.
And remember to start practicing your stories. You’ll need them. Your children’s children will need them.