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The Next Economy – Doug Tompkins

Doug Tompkins is a longtime wilderness advocate, mountaineer, organic farmer, activist, and philanthropist. But his first career was in business. He founded The North Face outdoor gear retailer in the 1960s, and then cofounded Esprit clothing, retiring from that in 1990 to concentrate on conservation work.

In 1992, Tompkins founded the Foundation for Deep Ecology, a philanthropic effort devoted to root causes of environmental crises; soon after, he started the Conservation Land Trust and, with his wife Kris, Conservacion Patagonica, focused on creating large-scale protected natural areas in Chile and Argentina. Tompkins has also helped produce numerous campaign-related exhibit format books on topics ranging from industrial forestry, factory farming, coal mining, and global energy crises, among others.

A consistent principle that informs Tompkins activities is that the “present eco-social crisis demands a response—that individuals who recognize the great unraveling of natural and human communities across the globe have a responsibility to act to stop it.” Working to reverse the extinction crisis and build a more sane and sustainable culture requires both defensive and proactive strategies.

Tompkins’s earliest conservation activism sprang from his love for wilderness and experience as a mountaineer. Climbing trips around the globe provided a disturbing view of how wild nature everywhere was under assault by human activity. His ecological worldview deepened during the 1970s and 1980s through a self-guided immersion in ecological literature including the writings of Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess, father of the deep ecology movement. Tompkins has written, “that the influences of Arne Naess, John Muir, David Ehrenfeld, Paul Shepard, Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and many others put me so firmly on a ‘deep’ ecological path.”

By the late 1980s Tompkins saw that the consumer culture that he’d helped promote was a destructive manifestation of an industrial growth economy toxic to nature. He decided to devote his wealth to endow an environmental foundation with an activist orientation. The foundation has embodied the idea that strategic philanthropy can support innovative, biocentric activists tackling root causes—not merely symptoms—of ecological destruction; vigorous and uncompromising advocacy on behalf of wild nature.

March 19, 2014   No Comments

Dr. Stephan Harding – Gaia Theory & Deep Ecology

Stephan is Head of the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College, and has been the College’s resident ecologist and tutor since its inception in 1991.  He has worked and taught alongside many of the world’s leading ecological activists, thinkers and writers, including Arne Naess, Fritjof Capra, Brian Goodwin, David Abram and James Lovelock, with whom Stephan has collaborated scientifically for a number of years.  Stephan holds a doctorate in behavioural ecology from the University of Oxford, and has carried out ecological research in wild areas all over the world.

Stephan’s work at the College in part focuses on reawakening a deep experiential knowing of the Earth as a vast sentient being that nourishes thoughts and actions thanks to the astonishing relationships between our planet’s living beings and her water, rocks and atmosphere. He uses critical ideas from science (Gaia theory and community ecology) and ecophilosophy (deep ecology) to bring our rational minds to the threshold of this deeper understanding, combining this approach with experiential work outdoors that hopefully allows the very Earth herself to speak to us of her depths through our intuition, sensing and feeling. The aim of this work is to empower participants to become engaged in actions that foster sustainable relationships with the Earth.

His current research focuses on the use quantitative methodologies for exploring qualitative perceptions of the state of health of biological systems, especially ecological communities and landscapes.

His first book, Animate Earth, was published by Green Books in March 2006, with a second edition in 2009.  He has edited a second book: Grow Small, Think Beautiful: Ideas for a Sustainable World from Schumacher College. Floris Books, 2011.


February 28, 2014   No Comments

2C rise will be a disaster say leading scientists

Tim Radford


A 2C temperature rise would seriously threaten cities like Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Image: Taichi via Wikimedia Commons

Countries round the world have pledged to try and limit the average global temperature rise to 2C above pre industrial figures. That’s way too high and would threaten major dislocations for civilization say a group of prominent scientists.

Governments have set the wrong target to limit climate change. The goal at present – to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C higher than the average for most of human history  – “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous”, say 18 scientists in a review paper in the journal PLOS One.

With a 2°C increase, “sea level rise of several meters could be expected,” they say.  “Increased climate extremes, already apparent at 0.8°C warming, would be more severe. Coral reefs and associated species, already stressed with current conditions, would be decimated by increased acidification, temperature and sea level rise.

Hansen at helm
The paper’s lead author is James Hansen, now at Columbia University, New York, and the former NASA scientist who in 1988 put global warming on the world’s front pages by telling a US government committee that “It’s time to stop waffling so much and say the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”

Hansen’s fellow authors include the economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the biologist Camille Parmesan, of the University of Plymouth in the UK and the University of Texas at Austin, USA.

Their argument is that humanity and nature – “the modern world as we know it” – is adapted to what scientists call the Holocene climate that has existed for more than 10,000 years – since the end of the Ice Age, the beginnings of agriculture and the first settlement of the cities. [Read more →]

December 2, 2013   No Comments

Are We Approaching a Massive State Shift in the Earth’s Biosphere?

ku-xlargeAccording to an article in Nature last year:

Humans now dominate Earth, changing it in ways that threaten its ability to sustain us and other species. This realization has led to a growing interest in forecasting biological responses on all scales from local to global.

However, most biological forecasting now depends on projecting recent trends into the future assuming various environmental pressures, or on using species distribution models to predict how climatic changes may alter presently observed geographic ranges. Present work recognizes that relying solely on such approaches will be insufficient to characterize fully the range of likely biological changes in the future, especially because complex interactions, feedbacks and their hard-to predict effects are not taken into account.

Particularly important are recent demonstrations that ‘critical transitions’ caused by threshold effects are likely1. Critical transitions lead to state shifts, which abruptly override trends and produce unanticipated biotic effects. Although most previous work on threshold-induced state shifts has been theoretical or concerned with critical transitions in localized ecological systems over short time spans, planetary-scale critical transitions that operate over centuries or millennia have also been postulated. Here we summarize evidence that such planetary scale critical transitions have occurred previously in the biosphere, albeit rarely, and that humans are now forcing another such transition, with the potential to transform Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state unknown in human experience.

In all the noise and concern about climate change and tipping points, there is still little confront on how precarious our sitation is and how little we know about where the tipping points lie.

Read the whole article. http://academic.udayton.edu/ryanmcewan/Courses/Ecology/RR3_StateShift.pdf

July 24, 2013   No Comments

Perfect Storm Report

Tim Morgan

tpsi009_stormy_castle_ruinAs many readers will know, I’ve spent a long time researching a major report on the fundamentals of the economic outlook. This report is now available for download here.

The central theme is that we are at the confluence of no less than four critical economic trends. Whilst each is disturbing enough in itself, the combination of all four of these trends can indeed be described as a “perfect storm”.

First, still mired in the fall-out from the ‘credit super-cycle’, a bubble so vast that it makes Dutch tulips, British south sea stock, the 1840s railway boom and “the roaring twenties” look like “little local difficulties”.

Second, globalisation is now being exposed as a disaster which has driven a critical wedge between Western nations’ consumption and their production. Third, policymakers and the public do not even have access to data reliable enough for an accurate appraisal of the predicament.

Most important – given that the economy is an energy dynamic, not a monetary construct – the critical surplus energy component is now in rapid and seemingly-irreversible decline. Policymakers – blinded both by short-termism and by a focus on the monetary token rather than the energy reality – have yet to recognise the real problem.

The critical harbingers of the coming challenge are becoming ever clearer, in rising energy costs and in related pressures on energy-enabled resources as diverse as minerals, food and water. As the dysfunctional relationship between monetary claims and energy capabilities deteriorates, we can expect inflation to be stirred into a mix that is looking increasingly volatile.

July 17, 2013   No Comments

Introducing BRCK, “A backup generator for the Internet”


It’s about time the modem got a makeover.

Enter the BRCK: a small, lightweight box about the size of a real brick, designed for portability and providing more reliable means of staying connected where connectivity is a constant issue.

For Ushahidi, the Kenyan-based company behind BRCK, inspiration was no further than their own office in Nairobi. “As a company full of engineers working in places with poor infrastructure, we simply can’t get online as much as our peers in the developed world,” said Erik Hersman, Director of Operations for Ushahidi. “We asked ourselves: why is the networking equipment used in Kenya, India, and the rest of the developing world the same as that used in the USA and Europe, when the conditions aren’t similar at all?”

BRCK is a modem for the global, mobile market. Ushahidi is a team of programmers who are constantly on the move, from cafes in San Francisco, to the iHub in Nairobi, to working in crisis situations like the Haiti earthquake. Ushahidi says that “being constantly handicapped with spotty internet access has led them to realize that the way the entire world is connecting to the web is changing. We no longer only get online via desktops in our office, we have multiple devices, and we are all constantly on the move. So Ushahidi set out to redesign the modem for the changing way we all connect to the web.” [Read more →]

July 5, 2013   No Comments

Obama’s Speech on Climate Change


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you, Georgetown! Thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets. (Laughter.) I’m going to do the same. (Applause.) It’s not that sexy, now. (Laughter.)

It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back to George Washington.

I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today. (Applause.) I want to thank him for hosting us. I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration. I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress who are here. We are very grateful for their support.

And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back. (Applause.) It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit. So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon -– described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here. And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.

It was an image of Earth -– beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”

And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable. And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically. [Read more →]

June 26, 2013   No Comments

New York Launches $19.5 Billion Climate Resiliency Plan

New York Launches $19.5 Billion Climate Resiliency Plan (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a far-reaching $19.5 billion plan on Tuesday to boost the city’s capacity to withstand future extreme weather events, including events comparable to Hurricane Sandy, or worse. The proposal calls for everything from…

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June 16, 2013   No Comments