Here’s the good news: The percentage rate of change in global carbon emissions in 2014 was zero. It didn’t go up. That’s the first time in the record books that the world economy grew but carbon emissions didn’t. Here’s the bad news: The average global temperature has been hotter every month since February of 1985 than the 20th century average for any given month. We’re talking 360 consecutive months of warmer-than-average temperatures.
Here’s the really bad news: If we continue to extract fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – at the current pace, we will not be able to live on the planet by mid-century.
Here’s the science: Despite the climate deniers, the consensus of people who study this field professionally say that if we raise the temperatures of the planet more than two degrees Celsius (that’s about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) human life as we know it will not be possible.
We hear so much about “big government” burdening “job creators” with excessive “red tape” and “bureaucracy,” but that rhetoric isn’t new. Even in the decades after the New Deal, when workers had more power than they do today, and the government was seen as society’s protector, private profit too often conflicted with the public interest.
Take the sleeping drug thalidomide, which caused thousands of infant deaths and birth deformities across Europe in the early 1960s. Before being linked to those defects, the drug reached the desk of Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a medical officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Kelsey saw something odd in the drug trials performed by the pharmaceutical company that manufactured thalidomide, and requested more tests. The company, with profits at stake, bullied her to approve the drug, even threatening a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, evidence from Europe began to pour in that thalidomide was toxic if taken during pregnancy.
I’ve always believed that democracy was the best form of government because people can change it. And like a lot of us, I was taught that the American form of democracy was the model that should be imitated by nations across the planet. Especially ingenious was the system of “checks and balances.” This arrangement means that no one branch of government can singularly decide a political course without the consent of the others.
This much-praised system was adopted to prevent the re-emergence of an autocracy. But checks and balances also worked to keep the practice of slavery alive up until the Civil War. And in the wake of abolition, when corporations became the dominant form of business organization, the same systems were used to exploit the labor force. Even as the country’s wealth grew, the gap between rich and poor widened. It took more than half a century of effort and the devastation of the Great Depression before important reforms like a minimum wage,
If you take your kids to the beach this summer, expect a gritty ride home. California has turned off most of the showers that people use at state beaches to clean the sand off their kids before the long ride home. Then, of course, you get to clean the sand out of your car. All this aggravation saves about 18 million gallons of water a year, according to the state.
In a drought like this one, it makes sense to conserve as much water as possible, wherever we can. So you would think we would be trying to stop some big water users too. Like Chevron. This mega-corporation sells 21 million gallons of treated polluted water a day to the Cawelo Water District, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, provides water to 90 Kern County farmers.
Where Chevron gets the water,
Every year, every quarter, every month, the conventional economists either praise the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or anxiously wring their hands because the economy has not expanded enough. Expansion requires two key elements: a constant search for the lowest possible wages and an unending supply of raw materials – particularly fossil fuels, but also fertile soil and fresh water, and sometimes, creatures who live on the earth and in the seas.
While there are still places on the planet where people will take any job they can get, the ability to extract more energy resources gets riskier, and the environment’s capacity to absorb more waste is fast approaching zero. Reaching the outer limits of expansion threatens all of life on the planet. That reality is why many people are now calling for an “ecological civilization” as an alternative to more exploitation and extraction, one that offers another pathway for human civilization to take.