[Ok-sus] A sobering report from an eco-summit
curtis andrew beckwith
chikaskia at aol.com
Wed Oct 31 02:04:56 CDT 2012
gatherings of this ilk and design will be eternally fruitless and frustrating simply because they perpetuate the paradigm that is at the base, the source, the heart of the problem. top down, beyond a sensible human scale, 'experts' lecturing the assembled. only when the participants resolve to break through to a new way of doing things will any sort of progress be seen.
i have never been as good an articulator as i am a guide, a connector. this report covering the first north american bioregional congress by david haenke hailing from almost thirty years ago accomplishes deftly much of what i am trying to convey. i was seven years into this work when i helped organise and participate in nabc 1, and have kept connected and involved since then. by the way, the source site "in context" magazine is a cornucopia of answers:
From: Christine Rodgers <kenoshachris at hotmail.com>
To: sustainabillity oklahoma <ok-sus at lists.oksustainability.org>
Sent: Wed, Oct 31, 2012 1:29 am
Subject: Re: [Ok-sus] A sobering report from an eco-summit
It must have been exciting and frustrating to attend such a large gathering. One would think that in a group of such knowledgeable people, some of them might have been yelling and screaming that we need to get off our behinds and start taking action. We can't keep our current lifestyle and we need to get to work designing something together that we can live with instead of just watching things fall apart to see what humans can come up with on the fly.
It seems to me that we need a leader like the President or maybe God, to go on TV and say that there is an immediate and serious danger which we must tackle as a nation and as a planet because things are going to get really rough in the next few years and we need to prepare. We probably can't stop climate degradation at this point and resource depletion is already effecting the world economy which is based on growth. Just as in the past when we were fighting a World War or the Depression we must focus all our resources and energy to do what is necessary to survive the coming years as a civilized society.
But no political leader is going to do that and until they do, everyone can fool themselves into thinking everything is OK because after all, if there was any real danger, those with responsibility and knowledge would see to it that we did something. Right?
Maybe Hurricane Sandy will make an impression? How many extreme weather events will convince your average person? How many disasters before the insurance companies can no longer rebuild houses or roofs, replace cars, refit businesses? Or I should say, before the insurance is too expensive to buy. Then what will you do when a wind, flood or fire takes your house? Get your neighbors to help you build a new one? Using what materials?
Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2012 23:23:24 -0500
From: bwaldrop1952 at att.net
To: RunningOnEmpty2 at yahoogroups.com; ok-sus at lists.oksustainability.org
Subject: [Ok-sus] A sobering report from an eco-summit
This report about a recent eco-summit was written by Elliot Campbell, grandson of H.T. Odum.
One of the interesting notes is a comment which can be a footnote in discussion about the present EROEI of oil production. . . " For instance, in the early 1900’s it only took 1 barrel of oil to produce 100 barrels of US domestic oil. Today it takes 1 barrel of oil to produce 11-18 barrels of US domestic oil (Murphy and Hall, 2010). "
Bob Waldrop, OKC
A snip. . . .
I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Eco-Summit, held in Columbus Ohio and hosted by William Mitsch at Ohio State University. This was a large conference, over 1600 people, featuring preeminent ecologists from around the world including Simon Levin, E.O. Wilson, Robert Costanza, Bernie Patten, Sven Jorgensen and plenary sessions by popular authors Jared Diamond and Lester Brown. As a recent PhD graduate and nascent systems ecologist I found the Eco-Summit to be edifying, inspiring, as well as incredibly frustrating.
The presenters and attendees of this conference acknowledge the challenges that lie before humanity and collectively much of the knowledge and skill base necessary to meet these challenges was present within the audience. However, a cohesive vision of how to go forward using this knowledge to guide humanity towards a “sustainable” future was absent. The reasons behind the lack of a cohesive plan of action are varied and include discipline specificity, intellectual hubris, and lack of organizational infrastructure, but I believe at the heart of the matter is a frustration and resignation that the world is locked into an ecologically ignorant, consumptive, growth based economy. To place it in an ecological context, like a cloud of locusts or bacteria in a petri dish we will inevitably consume a resource until it is exhausted and then die off.
Two sessions of the Eco-Summit were dedicated to the “prosperous way down” or related ideas and were led by former H.T. Odum students Mark Brown, John Day, Dan Campbell, and Charlie Hall. The prosperous way down is the idea that instead of exponential population growth followed by resource exhaustion and subsequent exponential decline, humanity can expect the coming decline and decrease its consumption and population slowly, preventing catastrophe. These sessions were well attended and featured a healthy dose of debate. Speakers presented compelling evidence for the rapid approach of peak oil from now to within the next 10 years and peak phosphorous within 50-100 years. Calculations done through either emergy or energy return on investment (EROI) show that renewable alternative such as photovoltaics and wind will not be able to fully replace the current global demand, much less the requirements of rapidly expanding standard of living expected in China and India. EROI is a simple, incredibly important concept that is completely absent in economics and political decision-making. EROI looks at how much energy is necessary to produce energy for consumption. For instance, in the early 1900’s it only took 1 barrel of oil to produce 100 barrels of US domestic oil. Today it takes 1 barrel of oil to produce 11-18 barrels of US domestic oil (Murphy and Hall, 2010). Thus, much more energy is necessary to produce an equal amount of oil and less energy is available to drive economic growth. Studies have shown that the Canadian tar sands have an EROI of 2 (Hall, 2008); less than most renewable energy sources. This is an excellent example of economics failing to give tools to help us decide is what is most beneficial to society. Speakers suggested policies that would help in slowing consumptive growth and moving towards growth in intellectual capital and happiness, including measuring growth using the genuine progress indicator (GPI) and not GDP, slowing economic growth by pegging currency to a resource (think gold standard with natural resources) and slowing population through making family planning more available and educating women. Herein lies another source of frustration— the world we live in is light years away from adopting any of these measures with no plan for moving towards the prosperous way down even at this gathering of experts. This concern was raised several times and the general consensus was that a global disturbance will be necessary before humanity realizes that changes must be made. The question of what this disturbance will entail, how many billions of people will suffer, and how the people in power will respond, remains.
More at the link above.
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