Sunday, November 27, 2022

Twitter's Opposing Narratives

"Magnify the power of vox populi by 8 billion and what do you get?"

Twitter is shifting from a subscription-based model to Web 6.0. Friends of mine who are jumping off the platform onto competitors like Mastadon assume that because Twitter is laying off thousands of workers and bringing back Donald Trump and Kanye West, it is only a matter of time before the company dies. The popular trope is that Elon Musk is a petulant billionaire playing with a Christmas toy, #RIPtwitter.

When they had 250 million users Twitter had 1000 employees. Why employees grew tenfold thereafter while user growth actually declined is a bigger mystery. Instagram and TikTok both ran larger user bases on a fraction of Twitter’s workforce. Once you’ve built the platform, the algorithms run themselves. To Musk’s view, it was just lard, and an opportunity to buy and trim, but there is more at work here. Musk is not Warren Buffet.

Elon Musk was 24 when he founded Zip2, a web search engine, which he sold for $300 million the year after Google debuted. He invested his money to launch X.com, an online system that eased the process of transferring funds digitally, with no need for the traditional banking infrastructure. A year later X.com merged with Peter Thiel’s software company Confinity to become PayPal, which then sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. Elon used his windfall to acquire or start SpaceX (2002), Tesla (2004), Solar City (2006), OpenAI (2015); Neuralink (2016); The Boring Company (2016) and now Twitter.

Prediction: Within two or three years Twitter will be the premium transnational payments company. Musk is going full circle back to his roots, but this time he’ll have three decades of experience in paradigm-shifting new industries. Were he not already the richest man on Earth, I might predict he would become that. He is planning to replace money, using his own back pocket.

The Asian Model

Before Covid struck Wuhan in 2019, I had been making frequent visits to China where I was training permaculture teachers, biochar makers, and ecovillage creators as emergency planetary technicians. As I traveled from Chengdu in the West to Jinzhou in the Northeast to Hangzhou in the Southeast I could not help but notice one ubiquitous app that was unlike anything in the West. Yes, you can pay for your soy mocha latte with your Apple Watch at Starbucks, but can your watch loan $5 to your friend in line so they can take an Uber later that day? WeChat did that, although in China the Ubers were called DiDi then. WeChat was the Swiss Army knife of apps. Order, pickup and pay for your pharmacy prescription. Send a selfie with a panda to your BFF. Read a sutra from Hui Neng. It spread all over Asia, minting WeChat spinoff unicorns.

Musk plans to fill in a frictionless payment system where PayPal, Facebook, Google, Apple, EBay and Shopify have all left a gaping opportunity. Twitter will monetize audio, still, and video short- and long-form content for creatives at a better ROI than YouTube, Instagram or TikTok, but more importantly, it will make secure payments that used to require hard currencies, checkbooks and credit cards. Those will now be done by voice commands or ring-finger taps.

As Twitter takes you through your day from first cup of coffee to late-night screen viewing, its largest revenue stream will be munching and crunching your data, running it through Musk’s AI farms, and selling market mapping services to businesses. Musk may take a fraction of a cent from each transaction, but your data will be his dragon’s gold. All of it will happen sooner than self-driving cars or colonies on Mars, and in fact, all of it may pay for those other Musk fantasies.

Cop Outs

During the two weeks of COP-27 in Egypt, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a popular narrative circling the globe that was completely opposite to the shared experience of many of us attending in person or virtually. The dominant meme was that this conference, like all UN climate meetings before it, was doomed to fail and did not disappoint. One sub-theme of this narrative holds that the UN process itself is flawed because it operates by consensus and only makes advisory decisions rather than anything actually enforceable. That sub-theme is both silly and incorrect. I would compare it to trying to use a hammer to unscrew a bolt. You’ve got the wrong tool and you are complaining about how poor it is working for you.

If you have 200 sovereign countries, none of whom would ever surrender control of their purse strings, armies, or executive prerogatives, you cannot expect some one world government in blue helmets and arm bands to come along and command 100% obedience. Sovereigns don’t surrender their prerogatives to the majority vote of foreign governments or the dictates of global overlords. Short of losing a war, that simply never happens.

Consensus and advice are all that multilateral fora will ever accomplish. They are the right tool for that. If you want something that can be enforced, you need a different tool, like a central bank or a court of international trade. Some of the best decisions coming from COP-27 involved these other organizations, not their UN host that arranged the chairs and laid out the complimentary buffets.

Of course, the critics were right about most of the outcomes of COP-27. They were watered down or weak from inception. They lacked ambition. There is still no common system for monitoring greenwash. Countries and companies are all using different criteria and shifting baselines for their targets. Calls to phase out all fossil fuels (not just coal) and to peak global emissions by 2025 were shot down by oil-exporting nations (the same ones that will host COP-28 next year in Dubai). COP27 did produce an agreement to create a fund that would address loss and damage — it was the only way they could vote and go home — but like the two funds that have preceded this one, it does not provide any funding mechanism. It is yet a third empty bank account.

Vox Pox

There are other examples of popular memes that are flat-out wrong. Elon Musk is sinking Twitter into oblivion. Nuclear power is staging a comeback. Ukrainian Defense Forces are on the verge of taking back Crimea. Just because these tropes are popular to the point of conventional wisdom does not mean they reflect reality.

There is a 700-year-old proverb, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God). This is often misread to connote some kind of infallibility of popular opinion. It was not true in Roman times, when 99% of the population was uneducated, and it is even less true today, when mass media, new media, and nefarious algorithms meld popular opinion to purchased ends.

The Latin phrase came into English not from a Roman philosopher but from the Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds who charged King Edward II with treason in 1327, quoting vox populi in his sermon. He conveniently overlooked the historic context, which came from an advisor to Charlemagne, urging the Emperor to resist dangerous democratic ideas: “Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.” (“And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”)

One need only look at the crazy candidates recently voted into high positions in the US, Sweden, and elsewhere; Brexit; MAGA; the insane tribalist cults. Audiendi qui solent dicere. This way leads to the guillotine: Salem 1692; Rwanda 1959; the Beer Hall Putsch 1923.

When you magnify the power of vox populi by 8 billion, you can get some really nasty butchery. A better way to go is to improve education, as Finland does. Stop burning books that make didacts uncomfortable. Spend less time obsessing about what celebrity influencers are feeding your mind; they are probably being paid to do that and it’s not for your benefit.

Be more selective about what you feed your mind. That you have stopped by here to read this is a good sign you are on the right track. Don’t cancel your Twitter account.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

"Check Please?" at COP27

"The camel's nose is in the tent."

“This COP is lost and damaged.”

— Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey

“You can’t have the very people burning the planet sitting here and pretending to be drafting the solutions to it, and that’s exactly what’s happening in these climate negotiations.”

— Asad Rehman, lead spokesperson for the Climate Justice Coalition

At every COP, there are naysayers who decry the waste of time while our planet burns, the private jets ferrying VIPs to and fro, the human rights record of the host, and the sheer folly of it all. To which I invariably ask, what alternative do they propose to the United Nations’ tireless attempts to harmonize the divergent views and political histories of more than 200 sovereigns without whose consensus there can be no globally cohesive and effective solution to our common dilemma? And because both government budgets and philanthropy are inadequate to the trillion-dollar challenge we face, what alternative do they propose to inviting the largest businesses on the planet into the tent and engaging them in the financial discussions?

I am still waiting for the answer.

In Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Vlad and Xi were no shows, and Biden’s tottering, commitment-backtracking speech got a standing O. After the usual round of vaporous promises and self-congratulatory toasts, the 27th Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement concluded. It could have been meaningless had not they buried the lead, which came on Day Two and merited only a single paragraph summary somewhere deep in the coverage by The Guardian, The New York Times, Bloomberg, and the rest. They missed the big story.

You, dear readers, are more fortunate.

This week I had one of those special moments like in an action movie where time slows down and the hero can chart a course through a maze of bad guys, oncoming traffic, or a roaring conflagration. I suddenly — or not so suddenly, as it took a few days to gel in my brain — saw a new route through the climate emergency that functions at the scale of nations and bank-financed industrial civilization more generally.

On a routine basis, I hold the contradiction that humanity is in its final generations and there is no way we can escape our fate, and secondly, that somehow, steps if taken now could pull us back from that brink. Nonetheless, given a bailing bucket in a sinking lifeboat, I would choose to diligently bail even if the water was coming in faster than I could throw it out, because (a) it buys a little more time; and (b) a faint glimmer of hope is better than no hope at all. If you decide not to act, only then does the outcome become certain.

The glimmer of hope that pierced my brain was the idea that the António Guterres Greenwash Report might open a portal to a different paradigm; to a regulated regime of ESG audits that would transform everything.

I know. It’s geeky. Let me break that down.

On the second day of the COP, appropriately called “Finance Day,” former Canadian climate minister Catherine McKenna took to the podium in the press center to unveil the report of a “high-level expert group” created in March by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to impose integrity and transparency on the many net zero pledges being made by countries and companies. Such promises must be “about cutting emissions, not corners,” she began. She then listed certain restrictions that the UN would forthwith impose in calculating performances on such pledges:

  • Zero tolerance for further fossil investment
  • Zero tolerance for deforestation
  • Zero tolerance for lobbying against climate action
  • Zero tolerance for junk offsets
  • Annual reporting on progress of actual, not purchased, reductions.

These new rules meant that if a nation, such as the United States, were to pledge to halve its emissions by 2040 compared to a 2010 baseline, it could not simultaneously spend money to open new gas fracking domains or pay other countries to do that for them. It could not put gas terminal and pipeline funding into an infrastructure bill. It would have to sign the UN treaty on land degradation neutrality and then ratify that in its Senate, and so forth.

The impact is even greater on the real-world powers — the central banks, intergovernmental development agencies, and transnational bond issuers. IMF will no longer loan money to Pakistan to open new coal mines. If you make a net zero pledge — and every country, agency, bank and company is under pressure to do so — you can no longer use that as greenwash to boost your credit or stock value without actual decarbonization. The UN Secretary-General followed McKenna to the podium to say he would provide transparency by putting all pledge reporting data on the UN’s Global Climate Action Portal. He then offered his own bullet list:

  • Net-zero pledges must be in line with IPCC scenarios limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
  • That means global emissions must decline by at least 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
  • Pledges should have interim targets every five years starting in 2025.
  • Targets must cover all greenhouse gas emissions and all scopes of emissions.
  • For financial institutions, this means all financed activities; all scopes.
  • For businesses, it means all emissions — direct, indirect and those originating from supply or distribution chains; all scopes.
  • For cities and regions, it means all territorial emissions.
  • The message is clear to all those managing existing voluntary initiatives as well as CEOs, mayors, and governors committing to net-zero:
  • Abide by this standard and update your guidelines right away — certainly no later than COP28-Dubai.

If you are a publicly traded company in the US, the SEC is also now going to watch for greenwashing in your annual reports, tweets and press utterances. If you are an agency or non-profit relying on grants or loans, you had better do your own internal audits.

While this was all quite remarkable (although unremarked upon by reporters such as Amy Goodman at DemocracyNow! and brushed aside by others such as The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey), the full impact only sunk in for me a few days later.

If this succeeds, it is a thin driving wedge that could transform everything. It is corporate capture — but not in the way climate activists think.

Even a pretty green country like Denmark cannot claim net zero carbon pollution if it still spends tax dollars building gas pipelines to Finland or coal power stations in Africa. Now it has also to include its Scope 2 and 3 emissions in the calculation of its national footprint.

A Quick Tutorial

Greenhouse gas emissions are categorized into three groups or ‘Scopes’ by the most widely-used international accounting tool, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources [including direct combustion, company vehicles, and fugitive emissions]. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain [such as the climate cost of mining ores, transporting commodities across oceans, employee commuting, waste disposal, leased assets, and distribution centers].

Carbon Trust

The UN’s new greenwash standard places restraints on companies and countries who may not have known quite what they were getting into when they made climate pledges. They will now need to:

  • Assess where the emission hotspots are in their supply chain;
  • Identify resource and energy risks in their supply chain;
  • Identify which suppliers are leaders and which are laggards in terms of their sustainability performance;
  • Identify energy efficiency and cost reduction opportunities in their supply and distribution chains;
  • Engage suppliers and service providers to assist them in implementing sustainability initiatives;
  • Improve the energy efficiency of their products; and
  • Positively engage with employees to reduce emissions from business travel and employee commuting.

The Hidden Potential

Fast on the heels of this seemingly innocent exercise in transparency — who does not enjoy ridiculing greenwashing? — is the prospect of a massive new agency for change. Rather than brokering between nations with millennia-old axes to grind and voter emotions roiled by state cyber actors using clever phone apps and billion-dollar disinformation algorithms, the UN went straight to the real source of power, with trillions, not mere billions, of casino chips on the table. Beyond its own UN agencies — UNDP, GEF, IMF and World Bank Group — the real whales are JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Securities, Citigroup, UBS, Credit Suisse, HSBC, BNP Paribas, and Deutsche Bank, to name a few. There are also sovereign banks like Bank of China (BOC, BOCOM, CITIC, and CCB), multilateral development banks such as European Investment Bank (EIB), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), and regional development banks like Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Bank for International Settlements is the bank of all central banks and Swiss Re is the world’s largest reinsurer. All of them attended COP27 and several were in the room for the greenwash press conference or watching on closed circuit TV.

Then there are all the companies that have made climate neutrality pledges, from Delta Airlines to Microsoft. In 2021 IKEA decided to make an additional €1 billion available over the next five years to accelerate the reduction of its emissions. Imagine, if you will, IKEA having to audit its entire supply and distribution chain — every tree cut, every display lighting bill in every big box store, and every employee who drives a gas-guzzling land yacht to work.

Suppose this grand idea succeeds? Suppose all these banks and countries start to quantify their Scope 2 and 3 emissions in order to achieve net climate neutrality. The next step is to apply this same model to all the other UN goals — eradicate poverty, restore the ocean, and preserve biodiversity, for instance. ESG (Ecological, Social, Governmental) auditing could be introduced by pledge and audit systems as easily as CO2 emissions — redressing human rights, gender inequality, family planning, and the whole enchilada of Sustainable Development Goals.

Lost and Damaged

Another remarkable development at this COP was the discovery of a possible way out of the impasse surrounding historic guilt (a.k.a. “Loss and Damage”) for fossil fuel use and its resulting weather chaos.

At COP26 Glasgow, Indian Energy Minister Raj Kumar Singh called out the Global North and demanded it not only reduce its emissions, but also pay damages for the deadly storms, flooding, and increasing temperatures, predominantly affecting Global South countries. This year, Pakistan’s president raised a similar stink. Small Island States threatened a walk-out if the issue of damage payments remained unresolved. I have been blogging for this past month trying to point my finger at how counterproductive finger-pointing is. Should Egypt pay for the Pharaoh casting out Moses? Should Arab nations pay for the damage caused by the African slave trade? Where does it end?

Making historically guilty countries pay for Colonel Drake’s folly could be reframed, however, as it was in a research report from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh. They proposed a progressive carbon takeback obligation (CTBO) on fossil carbon producers and importers, arguing:

… the perceived policy risk cost associated with a CTBO is lower than that associated with a politically determined carbon price. Compared with a global carbon price, an upstream CTBO has advantages of simple governance, speed, and controllability: equivalent carbon prices under a CTBO are reliably capped by the cost of direct air capture and storage, by ensuring deployment keeps pace with continued fossil fuel use, reducing the risk of punitive carbon prices or more draconian measures being needed to drive out the final tranche of emissions.

Does it not make sense, rather than complaining and finger-pointing, to first remove the offending greenhouse gases that are vexing those least able to cope with their effects? And, as the Oxford/Edinburgh dons suggest, placing that burden on the polluters is the most equitable way to proceed. All told, according to the International Energy Agency, the net income for the world’s fossil producers is set to double in 2022 from 2021, to a new high of $4 trillion. This is the best possible time for the check to arrive at the table.

It is a new day.

 


 

Meanwhile, let’s end this war. Towns, villages and cities in Ukraine are being bombed every day. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. There are still 70 sites in Ukraine and 300 around the region. They are calling their project “The Green Road.”

The Green Road is helping these places grow their own food, and raising money to acquire farm machinery and seed, and to erect greenhouses. The opportunity, however, is larger than that. The majority of the migrants are children. This will be the first experience in ecovillage living for most. They will directly experience its wonders, skills, and safety. They may never want to go back. Those that do will carry the seeds within them of the better world they glimpsed through the eyes of a child.

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad


The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed climate change, a juggernaut threat to all life, humans included. We had a trial run at emergency problem-solving on a global scale with COVID — and we failed. 6.6 million people, and counting, have died. We ignored well-laid plans to isolate and contact trace early cases; overloaded our ICUs; parked morgue trucks on the streets; incinerated bodies until the smoke obscured our cities as much as the raging wildfires. We set back our children’s education and mental health. We virtualized the work week until few wanted to return to their open-plan cubicle offices. We invented and produced tests and vaccines faster than anyone thought possible but then we hoarded them for the wealthy and denied them to two-thirds of the world, who became the Petri-plates for new variants. SARS jumped from people to dogs and cats to field mice. The modern world took a masterclass in how abysmally, unbelievably, shockingly bad we could fail, despite our amazing science, vast wealth, and singular talent as a species.

Having failed so dramatically, so convincingly, with such breathtaking ineptitude, do we imagine we will now do better with climate? Having demonstrated such extreme disorientation in the face of a few simple strands of RNA, do we imagine we can call upon some magic power that will change all that for planetary-ecosystem-destroying climate change?

As the world emerges into pandemic recovery (maybe), there is growing recognition that we must learn to do better. We must chart a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backward — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience. We must lead by good examples; carrots, not sticks; ecovillages, not carbon indulgences. We must attract a broad swath of people to this work by ennobling it, rewarding it, and making it fun. That is our challenge now.

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“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

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Sunday, November 13, 2022

Revisiting the Aunt in the Attic

"As the nations of the world meet in Sharm el-Sheikh to tackle the climate conundrum, the root causes are, for the most part, off the table."


In June 2016 I wrote an essay called “The Aunt in the Attic.” It told about US policies to marginalize and ruin Venezuela a la Cuba 1957 and about the rapid slide of Mexican oil production as it attempted to fill in for the Caracas Crash. Recounting the history of the 50-year “Mexican Miracle,” I said:

This miracle came thanks to the heroic stand of Lázaro Cárdenas Del Rio against Franklin Del Roosevelt in the 1930s, defying the effort of the Seven Sisters to glom México’s oil by blocking the transfer of refinery technology. After Mexican scientists successfully developed their own process, Cárdenas sent FDR a vial of clear, home-brewed gasoline. Goaded by Winston Churchill, Walter Teague and other oil obsessives almost to the point of invasion, FDR was dissuaded by his Joint Chiefs, who were riveted by Germany’s remilitarization and what it foretold. He turned his gaze away and left Cárdenas alone.

In December of 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, México was one of the first countries to pledge support and aid and severed all diplomatic ties with the Axis powers. Grateful, FDR placed large contracts for Mexican oil and sent technicians to quickly build up Mexican mining operations for much-needed metals like mercury, zinc, copper, and more. After FDR visited the Mexican President in Monterrey, transfers of US weapons and training began and the Mexican Air Force, Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (FAM), fledged the Aztec Eagles, who aided in the conquest of the Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa and Kyushu, flying P-47s (‘Peh-Cuas’) with bright Mexican tricolor markings on the tail and U.S. star-and-bar insignia on the fuselage and wings.

México was warned of impending petrocollapse more than 10 years ago by the top brass at PEMEX. It might have made efforts to dampen Catholic fecundity and curb consumer growth, ration fossil reserves and build out its renewable portfolio. Instead, a succession of administrations — Salinas, Fox, Calderon, Peña-Nieto, [and now Lopez-Obrador]— poured billions into new drilling technology and offshore exploration. What came out of the ground was too little, too late, but until 2014, when it finally began liquidating PEMEX and cutting its losses, México never stopped hoping to hit another jackpot. 

In one of his least popular books, written in 2014 but later made into a TV series through Amazon Studios, science fiction writer William Gibson imagined a 2035 event called The Jackpot, in which someone hacks the North American electric grid, which causes a two-year global power outage with cascading economic consequences, after which some really nasty viruses cause a massive pandemic, followed by a series of droughts, famines, political chaos, and anarchy. Eighty percent of the global human population dies off. 

“Why do they call it The Jackpot?" the time-traveling protagonist asks.

“Gallows humor,” her guide replies.

Climate change and the Ukraine invasion are bringing us something very similar right now. Perhaps we imagine, as Gibson did, that intelligent nanobots will save us from the collapse of biodiversity. Unfortunately, we don’t live in fiction. Reality is an absolute despot.

There is a somewhat heated debate going on about global population changes. In recent decades, for a variety of reasons, a number of countries have reached the numeric threshold beyond which their population starts to slowly decline. The threshold's arrival is marked by the decline in fertility of childbearing-age women to an arithmetic outcome below replacement. It is a subtle shift that may not show social effects for a number of years—a generation perhaps—but the economic impact becomes increasingly profound. Abandoning the extended-family-in-village model, modern societies structure taxes to replace the social support net—to pay the costs of care for the elderly, displaced and infirm. Nations depend on a steady influx of young workers to earn enough and be taxed. The problem, then, is about the economic systems that require a youthful workforce of adequate size to power and support technically advanced cultures. It is not about socially adjusting to smaller families.

I would propose that the better solution is re-establishing the family and village scale as the foundation of our economic systems. Moreover, instead of politicizing immigration and stigmatizing asylum seekers, these courageous, heroic voyagers—and there will be plenty in coming years—should be welcomed for ably and energetically filling the gap in the workforce left by reduced fertility.

I was born in 1947 when there were 310 parts per million by volume (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. At this writing, we are closer to 420 ppm. That's an increase of more than 100 ppm, or 30%, in my lifetime, so far. These concentrations are gaining momentum. As a comparison, CO2 only increased 22 ppm during the 75 years before I was born.

Most of that CO2 came from today’s wealthy nations as they broke into the billion-year vault of photosynthesized carbon and made off with industrial civilization. As scientists chart planetary boundaries and warn us how many have been exceeded, they are also telling us that Ehrlich’s formula, I = PAT, is correct. The impact of humans on planetary systems (I) is equal to population (P) times affluence (A) times technology (T).

To get back from the precipice, if that is even possible now, we need to pull back all three of those levers. Rather than boost incentives to fertility—encouraging larger families—as China is doing, all nations should accept and encourage natural population decline. Apart from the fraction of one percent of the population that seems immune to the emerging food and energy crisis, affluence, after a century of dramatic growth, is under threat in Europe and North America. Living better lives on fewer resources is a learnable skill that should be encouraged.

Like most statements the IPCC releases, the most important sentence ever written is just terrible—clunky and jargon-filled. What it says, in plainer English, is this: By 2030 the world needs to cut its carbon-dioxide pollution by 45%, and by midcentury reach “net-zero” emissions, meaning that any CO2 still emitted would have to be drawn down in some way.

It may lack in poetry, but peak-denier Daniel Yergin, author of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations and vice chairman at corporate intelligence firm IHS Markit, acknowledged its influence. He pitted it against the formidable rival “all men are created equal.” 

“I think you could say that is one of the most important sentences of the last few centuries,” Yergin said. “It has provided an incredibly powerful traffic signal to tell you where things are going.”

Bloomberg Green, February 8, 2021

It seems unlikely that technology will diminish, and because of that, its multiplier effect may only exacerbate our dilemma. There is a way to tame technology, which is to filter only “appropriate” technologies—like reversed carbonization—into the growth pathways and to exclude the inappropriate and destructive varieties, like those that are radioactive or otherwise toxic to humans and other living things. The trendy meme for this is Ecological/Social/Governmental (ESG) monitoring and regulating. That regime was launched, built out, assailed by critics, and debunked as greenwash, but still persists and is reforming and re-inventing itself.


As the nations of the world meet in Sharm el-Sheikh to tackle the climate conundrum, the root causes are, for the most part, off the table. The UNFCCC would say that population is an entirely different framework within the UN system, with its own conferences and treaties. Affluence is viewed as non-negotiable and linking the Sustainable Development Goals (by UN parlance taken to mean affluence for all) to the Paris Agreement has been advocated by all the big climate think tanks, such as Stockholm Resilience Centre and Potsdam Institute, as well as the broad reach of civil society advocacy groups. Can people be persuaded to downsize personal affluence? Unlikely.

That leaves technology, which is the center of attention in Egypt but not in any sense of putting it on a diet. Rather it is discussed in the sense of inducing faster growth. Faster and more universal technology. Technology über alles.

It’s our crazy aunt in the attic, craving for The Jackpot.




Meanwhile, let’s end this war.
Towns, villages and cities in Ukraine are being bombed every day. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. There are still 70 sites in Ukraine and 300 around the region. They are calling their project “The Green Road.”

The Green Road is helping these places grow their own food, and raising money to acquire farm machinery and seed, and to erect greenhouses. The opportunity, however, is larger than that. The majority of the migrants are children. This will be the first experience in ecovillage living for most. They will directly experience its wonders, skills, and safety. They may never want to go back. Those that do will carry the seeds within them of the better world they glimpsed through the eyes of a child.

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad


The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed climate change, a juggernaut threat to all life, humans included. We had a trial run at emergency problem-solving on a global scale with COVID—and we failed. 6.6 million people, and counting, have died. We ignored well-laid plans to isolate and contact trace early cases; overloaded our ICUs; parked morgue trucks on the streets; incinerated bodies until the smoke obscured our cities as much as the raging wildfires. We set back our children’s education and mental health. We virtualized the work week until few wanted to return to their open-plan cubicle offices. We invented and produced tests and vaccines faster than anyone thought possible but then we hoarded them for the wealthy and denied them to two-thirds of the world, who became the Petri-plates for new variants. SARS jumped from people to dogs and cats to field mice. The modern world took a masterclass in how abysmally, unbelievably, shockingly bad we could fail, despite our amazing science, vast wealth, and singular talent as a species.

Having failed so dramatically, so convincingly, with such breathtaking ineptitude, do we imagine we will now do better with climate? Having demonstrated such extreme disorientation in the face of a few simple strands of RNA, do we imagine we call upon some magic power that will change all that for planetary-ecosystem-destroying climate change?

As the world emerges into pandemic recovery (maybe), there is growing recognition that we must learn to do better. We must chart a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backward — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience. We must lead by good examples; carrots, not sticks; ecovillages, not carbon taxes. We must attract a broad swath of people to this work by ennobling it, rewarding it, and making it fun. That is our challenge now.

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“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

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Sunday, November 6, 2022

A Confabulation of Reports

"Confabulation is a symptom of various memory disorders in which made-up stories fill in gaps"


As COP27 in Egypt nears, it is release time for a cascade of reports, film documentaries, books and pledges of action. Some of the more actively covered or uncovered reports in recent weeks include a stunning Met Office (UK weather center) archived forecast and a reversal of doomsaying from author David Wallace-Wells.

In May 1992, when the Earth Summit saw the formation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), atmospheric CO2 concentration was 359.99 ppm. I remember some of the earliest COP conferences when the target to limit atmospheric concentration for CO2 was 450 ppm. It would be many years later that Bill McKibben and 350.org said no, 450 was far too high. We need to get back below 350. Jawboning numbers did not seem to help. In 2016 we passed 400. We are now around 415. Though that seems a big, scary number, CO2 concentrations could easily pass 500 ppm in a few years, and even reach 2,000 by 2250, unless something changes.

thirsty giraffes
Giraffes dead from thirst
In 2020, the Met Office produced a hypothetical weather forecast for 23 July 2050 based on UK climate projections. This past 23 July was shockingly almost identical, only 28 years too early. The Met Office says that massive increases in computer power since the 1970s have allowed it to predict climate over the next 100 to 1,000 years with ever greater precision, even for local areas. That it would still be off in its 2020 predictions by heat arriving 28 years too early is troubling. 

Its most recent findings are that even if emissions were cut sharply, the world will see a 50% increase in wildfires and significant sea level rise this century. Assuming the mid-range scenario for emissions cuts, which is deemed most likely, temperatures will be in the region of 3 to 3.5°C by 2100. A business-as-usual scenario would place temperature rise closer to 5 degrees worldwide.

German psychiatrist Karl Bonhoeffer coined the term “confabulation” in 1900. He used it to describe when a person gives false answers or answers that sound fantastical or made up. Confabulation is a symptom of various memory disorders in which made-up stories fill in gaps.

As Yogi Berra said, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” The Met Office and Wallace-Wells are not to be faulted for trying to get it right. Readjusting your forecasts year-by-year based on the latest data is laudable. What I find puzzling is the persistent failure to account for the exponential function.

To recap, anything with a consistent growth rate has a predictable doubling time. Every time a doubling occurs, the amount produced in that doubling is equal to all of that thing produced in history before the doubling. Two of a thing becomes four of a thing. Eight thousand of a thing becomes 16,000.

Ten Doublings
Climate change—the warming of Earth from an out-of-balance annual heat gain—is following an exponential function. The exponent is also accelerating—shrinking its doubling time with each doubling.

The Met Office prediction, and the majority of recent studies cited by Wallace-Wells, follow a linear, rather than exponential, progression of temperature increases out to the end of the century. So, for instance, if we observed a gain of 2/10 of one percent in parts per million of atmospheric CO2 and consequent temperature increase of 0.2 °C during the first two decades of the 21st century, we are inclined to say that means 0.1 °C per decade or one degree in ten decades. If the doubling rate in the 20th century went from 0.05 to 0.1 then a linear model would apply that to the 21st century and predict it will grow to 0.2 per decade this century. Following this straightforward arithmetic, one reaches another 1.6-degree increase this century which, when added to 1.4 degrees already tallied in the Industrial Era, takes us up 3 degrees by 2100.

Looking forward another century or more, worst-case scenarios project temperatures by the 22nd century that last prevailed in the Early Eocene, reversing 50 million years of cooler climates in the space of two centuries.

An August 2022 PNAS study, Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios said:

This is particularly alarming, as human societies are locally adapted to a specific climatic niche. The rise of large-scale, urbanized agrarian societies began with the shift to the stable climate of the Holocene ∼12,000 y ago. Since then, human population density peaked within a narrow climatic envelope with a mean annual average temperature of ∼13 °C. Even today, the most economically productive centers of human activity are concentrated in those areas. The cumulative impacts of warming may overwhelm societal adaptive capacity.

Second, climate change could directly trigger other catastrophic risks, such as international conflict, or exacerbate infectious disease spread, and spillover risk. These could be potent extreme threat multipliers.

Third, climate change could exacerbate vulnerabilities and cause multiple, indirect stresses (such as economic damage, loss of land, and water and food insecurity) that coalesce into system-wide synchronous failures. This is the path of systemic risk. Global crises tend to occur through such reinforcing “synchronous failures” that spread across countries and systems, as with the 2007–2008 global financial crisis. It is plausible that a sudden shift in climate could trigger systems failures that unravel societies across the globe.

 


Kurt Burkhart, Managing Director at One Earth, adds that to get to some of the nuances of these studies, you have to sift out some b.s.. An important study by BloombergNEF estimated that we need a 1:4 ratio of fossil fuel to renewable investments in order to reach the Paris Agreement goal of cutting emissions in half within a decade. Their headline: We need to quadruple funding for clean energy! Not true: We have to double renewable investments while halving fossil investments. It should not be that difficult. It is currently less expensive to close a coal-burning facility and replace it with newly-installed renewable energy than to keep operating in the old way. Because of that, renewable investment surged to $755 billion last year while fossil funding leveled off at $838 billion. Trying to explain why $838 billion is being spent on fossil investment in 2022 is like trying to explain how Donald Trump became President of the US.

Climate scientist Kevin Anderson, whom I admire, sometimes gets it wrong, as when he opined, “Plant trees for tree reasons, not for climate.” A recent study in Nature examining net emissions from the Amazon disproved that. In 1984, the Amazon net sequestered some 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide annually (2 GtCO2e/y). By the early 2000s, forest cover had halved and biological resilience was being lost. It disappeared fastest in parts of the rainforest that were closest to human activity and for decades the Amazon fragmented into smaller and smaller patches. Eventually, this augured a cycle of lower rainfall that multiplied the loss. Politics and heat combined to spread fires that destroyed even those areas far from human settlement.

By 2010 the Amazon still represented a quarter of all forest CO2 drawdown on the planet but that global total was also shrinking. By 2020 global net forest drawdown had shrunk to 2.4 trillion tons and the Amazon accounted for less than half — just 1 GtCO2e/y. The dieback has had profound implications for biodiversity, zoonotic diseases and climate change at a global scale. The Nature article predicts the Amazon may shift from sink to source of carbon dioxide within just a few years, about the same time that global temperature increases exceed 1.5°C. If we followed the IPCC’s medium-emissions trajectory (SSP2) we have a likelihood of reaching 1.5°C of warming by 2030.

Anyone who says tree planting will have no effect on climate change hasn’t been looking at what has been happening. Only a few decades ago the Amazon sequestered as much CO2 annually as the entire planet’s remaining forests sequester today. In 2000 it sequestered double what it does today. Go back a few thousand years and there were six trillion trees on Earth. Today there are fewer than one trillion. Those that remain are on an exponential curve of disappearance.

One Earth’s Burkhart says, “We have the solutions now to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, and we’re about to reach a major inflection point. It is going to feel very, very hard over the next couple of years.”

I don’t know that I can agree with him about avoiding 1.5°C, but maybe. I can’t exclude that possibility, even if it seems highly unlikely. Goals are good. They give us something to aim for. Like 350 ppm, even if it’s in the rear-view mirror now.

What would 5 degrees look like? Could it come as soon as 2040 or 2050? When you play with exponents, you are juggling high explosives. The recent Climate Endgame report from PNAS warned we have not been studying the worst-case scenarios.

There is ample evidence that climate change could become catastrophic. We could enter such “endgames” at even modest levels of warming.… Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst.

 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Dooming COP 27, Part III: Lines in the Sand

"Asking England and the US to pay for the environmental damage of the Industrial Revolution is like Latin America asking Spain for reparations for 1492."


At the climate week
coinciding with the reopening of the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt used his 3 minutes at the podium to urge wealthy countries to make good on old commitments. He had a valid point when it came to the bribe Hillary Clinton had offered underdeveloping countries in Cancun in 2010 and later penciled into closing negotiations for the Paris Agreement in 2015. She told Egypt, among others, that if they could go along with Obama’s slow walk on any binding climate treaty the overdeveloped countries would pledge $100 billion annually (from private, not governmental, sources, she said) towards a “Green Climate Fund” under the unbiased auspices of the Global Environmental Facility, founded in 1991 by Egyptian-American Mohamed El-Ashry.

Shoukry said, with justification, that $100 billion would have been a good start in 2010 but that it should be clear to everyone by now that trillions annually are needed. It was when he let the caboose loose and called for wealthy countries to pay “loss and damage” reparations to developing nations that his train went off the rails. Granted the underdeveloping are suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis and contributed proportionately little to its causes. “So world, show me the beef!” he said.

First, let’s recall that Wendy’s Where’s the Beef” could have been the best ad campaign of 1984 had not Apple’s 1984 video commercial been the best ad of all time. 


Clara Peller died in 1987 but will be forever celebrated by meme-archivists as the diminutive octogenarian who uttered the famous hamburger challenge, assuming Sameh Shoukry doesn’t try to steal her trademark. He is slated to lead the COP when it convenes in Sharm El Sheikh next week.


The UNFCCC COP27 decodes as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 27th Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement. Having gotten back into the Agreement just in time, the United States will send a full delegation of diplomats and celebrities to proclaim what a good job Joe Biden is doing towards meeting the UN’s somewhat bland and uninspiring Paris goals. In trademark aviator shades, he and Jill will pose with camels and pyramids. The US delegation will attempt to play down the backroom deals it cuts to squash insurgent drives towards greater ambition and stronger Paris targets led by small island nations. Shoukry has now telegraphed he will single out the Clinton bribe and demand a payment schedule. That is a clever start.

However, his second shoe that fell at climate week was a reference to the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. He might have had a chance getting the West to ante up some cash for development projects targeting climate Mitigation and Adaptation, but Loss and Damage has been and will remain, a non-starter. Asking England and the US to pay for the environmental damage of the Industrial Revolution is like Latin America asking Spain for reparations for the genocide and slavery of the Colombian Encounter, or First Nations asking for the U.S. to now kindly get out of North America, thank you very much for the iPhones. Those retreats and reparations might even be beneficial for the planet, but they aren’t likely to happen. South Africa asking the Dutch to pay for the slaves they sold and Palestine asking Lord Balfour’s heirs to unpartition the Transjordan are like Russia demanding the return of Ukraine. It's history now. Get over it.

I actually agree with emeritus diplomats like Todd Stern who have resisted retroactive Loss and Damage provisions for 30 years. They’re not going to happen. Shoukry should not hinge the success of his Egypt COP on getting that done any more than Putin should expect his Checzen conscripts to return unscathed and unhumiliated from the Donbass meat grinder.

Watching these childish melodramas played out at an hour so late in the day for reversing climate change is profoundly disturbing. Were it not for the natural climate solutions that beckon and will transform everything in just a few years, I might even get depressed.

 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Achilles Heel of COP 27, Part II: Loss and Damage

"The top five historical emitters—the US, China, Russia, Brazil, and India—together have caused $6 trillion in damage since 1990. So who pays?"

In 2022,
six insurance companies that had written policies on Florida beachfront property declared bankruptcy. Those that got out early were lucky. Losses from Hurricane Ian could exceed $60 billion. “And the biggest driver of that loss is not climate change;” wrote New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin, “it’s human change. It’s where we build.”

If you can’t imagine any insurance company moving to Florida and writing policies now, try to imagine anyone agreeing to indemnify residential and business property along the Indus River in Pakistan.

And yet, that is exactly what the parties to the Paris Agreement demand. To get the Agreement, the US and other overdeveloped countries had to make an offer the underdeveloping world could not refuse. Hillary Clinton penciled a number onto the back of an envelope Barack Obama carried into the tiny back room where China was meeting with South Africa, Brazil and India. That number? $100 billion per year. There’s a sucker born every minute, as P.T. Barnum is said to have said. The BRICs bought it. Financiers (Clinton thought the bribe money would come from the private sector) demurred. Some token millions changed hands, mostly from Nordic soft-hearts. Years passed. COPs came and went. The can got kicked. Damage piled up. Tensions rose.

In every COP (Conference of Parties), the “Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage” (WIM) gets revisited. Protestors from civil society raise banners, march en masse, and block traffic. The aggrieved nations walk out of Blue Zone meetings. In 2013, the “Fiji Clearinghouse for Risk Transfer” was established. Two years later, the US eluded the clutches of the angry mob at COP25 by offering the “Santiago Network” of insurance pools directed solely towards payments for loss and damage. COP26-Glasgow pumped more helium into that idea and pledged COP27-Egypt would finalize the “institutional arrangements.” The WIM is supposed to be retooled at COP30 in 2024 to reflect this new framework about to be negotiated.

 
There’s always been enough blame to go around, and researchers are getting better at pinpointing who deserves it. The top five historical emitters — the US, China, Russia, Brazil, and India — together have caused $6 trillion in damage since 1990, or about 11% of average annual global gross domestic product. US emissions, according to the research, are responsible for at least a 1% decline in Pakistan’s potential GDP — equivalent to about $33 billion.

— Bloomberg Green

“Loss and Damage” has everything the South loves and the North hates. It is a finger-pointing game with deep historic roots. “Why is there such disparity of wealth between hemispheres?” a precocious child might reasonably ask. One tries to trace the transfers of advantages. Technology prowess? Military prowess? But where does those come from? Maybe they come from energy inputs — slaves from Africa, peat from Ireland; coal from Wales; oil and gas from the Transjordan and Azerbaijan, then Nigeria. The genocide of indigenous populations in Africa and the Americas transferred resource wealth from the peripheries of empire to the capital cities and family aristocracies in both the “Old” world and “New.”

Ninety percent of historic emissions now wrecking the climate were spewed by the lavishly spendthrift countries that gained their resources by mass murder and theft. They stole from the countries they conquered and beggared and built their monumental city-states. That is how the US and EU became so overdeveloped, the South says. It wasn’t intelligence or hard work. It was organized crime. Thus, the underdeveloping world says, “Hey, we are not giving up fossil energy until we get our share of the wealth!” and moreover, “You owe us.”

Neither of those propositions has a ghost of a chance of accomplishing anything other than near-term human extinction. In game theory, they end in a null sum. Everyone loses.

Negotiators like the US’s John Kerry are determined not to cave in to any of those narratives. There is enough historic guilt to go around. Should the Hebrews be compensated for being tossed out of Egypt by the Pharaohs? Should Africa be reimbursed by the descendants of Arab slavers? Should Israel get out of Palestine? Should Canada, Mexico, and the US give back North America? What does United Fruit owe the royal family of Hawaii?

As silly as these ideas may seem, they are deadly serious roadblocks at UN climate conferences. Deadly is exactly the word I intend. Pakistan is going to Sharm El Sheikh loaded for bear. They will passionately demand reparations for their historic heatwaves and floods. Same for the island nations sinking into the Pacific and Indian oceans. Ditto the displaced indigenous people of the Amazon.

The issue rose to the top of the political agenda at the Cop26 climate talks. Developing countries put forward a proposal for a funding facility dedicated to loss and damage, which was blocked by the US and the EU.

— Climate Home News 2/24/22

Last December in Glasgow the aggrieved let their oppressors kick L&D down the road to Egypt where “relevant organizations and stakeholders [will] discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change…” the UNFCCC website says. During 2022 Climate Week, the G-7 countries signaled they have no intention to pay. They have plenty of losses themselves, and more in the pipeline. Reference: Ian, Florida.

I watched a 60 Minutes story about a family returning to their home on Sanibel Island after Ian. Sanibel is a barrier island, a spit of sand thrown up by wave action just a few hundred yards from the coastline. Building McMansions there was insane, but rolling the dice for a century or more, the odds of that sand spit being submerged by a storm might be only once in a hundred years. And yet, this family was utterly shocked and weeping. They had been there ten years and it had been paradisaical. Now their house, and their life’s savings, were in ruins. The sea had washed away all the McMansions. How could such a thing ever happen? they asked.

The biggest driver of that loss is not climate change; it’s human change. It’s where we build.

— Andrew Revkin

Last year the average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at its fifth-fastest rate since record-keeping began in 1958. The global annual average reached 414.7 parts of CO2 for every million parts of atmosphere, the highest level in at least 2 million years. Glaciers shrank for the 34th year in a row, ocean temperature set a record, sea levels rose faster than the long-term trend, and a record 32% of land around the world experienced drought. The hotter atmosphere has already locked in almost a foot of global sea-level rise from Greenland alone. And two scientists suggested that the most important metric of all — the imbalance between the Earth’s incoming and outgoing energy — wasn’t even being measured directly.
***
Researchers now predict that five of the 16 tipping points they’ve identified may be crossed even at today’s temperatures. They include the death of coral reefs, the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, the thawing of permafrost, and shifts in North Atlantic ocean patterns. Two authors of that paper also contributed weeks earlier to an analysis of unlikely but not impossible “catastrophic climate change scenarios” that could trigger societal collapse. They called these worst-case scenarios “a dangerously underexplored topic.”

— Bloomberg Green

 

In early 2022, the UN’s climate science authority, the IPCC, dodged politics as best it could in its 18-chapter report on climate prospects at 1.5-degrees but minced no words in saying that projected “losses and damages” will escalate with every increment of warming and “become increasingly difficult to avoid.” The US delegation had wanted “losses and damages” replaced with “impacts” in the draft but IPCC hung tough.

It is a silly children’s game being played. The fate of humanity has been reduced to finger-pointing, preventing support from reaching the most vulnerable, closing borders to climate migrants, and everyone playing victim. Whether we have enough time left to grow up is the larger, existential question.

 ________________________________

Towns, villages and cities in Ukraine are being bombed every day. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project “The Green Road.”

The Green Road is helping these places grow their own food, and raising money to acquire farm machinery and seed, and to erect greenhouses. The opportunity, however, is larger than that. The majority of the migrants are children. This will be the first experience in ecovillage living for most. They will directly experience its wonders, skills, and safety. They may never want to go back. Those that do will carry the seeds within them of the better world they glimpsed through the eyes of a child.

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad


The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backward — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

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The Great Change is published whenever the spirit moves me. Writings on this site are purely the opinion of Albert Bates and are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 "unported" copyright. People are free to share (i.e, to copy, distribute and transmit this work) and to build upon and adapt this work – under the following conditions of attribution, n on-commercial use, and share alike: Attribution (BY): You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Non-Commercial (NC): You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Share Alike (SA): If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws. Therefore, the content of
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