Carbon rebellion leads to community rebuilding

Artwork by Robin Wood

As an individual with a conscience, today’s planetary and political reality leaves you with few choices. Some sign out completely. Others join the new community-lead carbon rebellion. Here’s why I advocate for the latter.

A clean conscience. A lifestyle that doesn’t pollute and destroy. Producing zero carbon and zero waste. That may sound like a simple, personal goal. But as it turns out, it is not.

Rather, it’s something like standing on a giant tanker realising that just because you turn around 180 degrees is not going to make much difference until you manage to get the entire tanker to turn around 180 degrees as well.

So how to do that? How will I get there? And not just get there, but get there quickly?

Speed matters, because as climate researcher David Spratt expressed it explicitly to us in six words: ‘This is now or never time’ – winning slowly is the same as losing. The planet is warming as a result of our air pollution, ice-shelfs have started to collapse, and we are witnessing an eco-massacre lead by our own governments, drowning in plastic, degrading soils, cutting down forests.

Politics are stuck in a morass of lies and confusion, democracy derailed by short-sighted, vested self-interests, directly responsible for the escalating eco-massacre and ice-shelf collapse.

The eventual instability and likely massacre of human life that will follow, if not the collapse of our entire civilisation, is in the cards.

The Australian government is a recipe for disaster. Instead of regulating air pollution to decarbonise society and end the eco-massacre, it’s response to the climate havoc is to do the completely opposite of what would have been sensible and responsible. But don’t call it a climate crisis. It is a greed and corruption crisis. Worse than that, it is a crisis in a race against time. We are waking up to the reality decades too late. We don’t have anymore time.

In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology have raised the alarm over the record-breaking heatwave in April. The hot bushfire-season in the country would normally be over by now, but not so any longer. Last week, even the south-west of Sydney was threatened by bushfires.

The signals in our near-by surroundings are becoming more and more obvious. It is a slow c
ollapse of the world as we knew it. That’s what climate change has in the pipeline for us.

And how is our Federal government responding? By subsidising more pollution – more coal, more oil and more gas production and combustion…










https://twitter.com/WeDontHaveTime0/status/990892023090700288

Australia’s rising carbon emissions are not only a disaster recipe for the future, we are already seeing disasters play out – and much sooner that the climate scientists expected them to occur. The scary part is that the speed and scale of these phenomenas tend to grow exponentially.

Warming and acidification of the ocean is killing an increasing part of the formerly ‘Great’ Barrier Reef, soon to become the Dead Barrier Reef, and while this was a shock for many Australians to learn about just a couple of years ago, when the first reports about the increased number of bleeching-events came out, it is already one of those things the news media doesn’t even bother to mention any longer.

Playing out at the distant poles of our globe, which most of us have never visited, is an irreversible tipping-point drama, which most of us have not understood. It is even more scary because of the impact it has on life and temperatures on the entire Earth. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Like most of the mainstream media and cultural life, the Australian government is still able to pretend nothing’s wrong. “Let’s not be alarmists” and “the climate has always been changing.” That allows the politicians and banks to continue to throw taxpayers money after supporting new fossil fuel projects and the expansion of existing ones without too many objections from the general population.

In a normal world, the sad news about extreme weather events, death and destruction that tick in on a daily basis – some recent examples further down – would have everyone talking about the urgent need for reducing society’s carbon emissions. Instead, they are ignored. Talking about sports results, traffic accidents and remembering people and events of the past is generally considered far more important to delve into.

“The December 2017 Review of Climate Change Policy was one of the most dishonest reports ever published by government in the climate arena. What purported to be a comprehensive review of the climate change challenge, and responses to it, is nothing more than a re-iteration of Australia’s wholly inadequate and inconsistent policies. No discussion of the latest climate science and its implications, no preparedness to face up to the real action required. In short little more than political whitewash for public consumption, pretending to do something whilst doing little.”
~ Ian Dunlop, ‘The fiduciary responsibility of politicians & bureaucrats’

In a normal world, a government’s response to climate change world would be based on its responsibility to protect the Earth’s disintegrating eco-systems and protect ourselves against the direct impacts from wild weather events. Like Stewart Udall indirectly said, the current massacre on our planets eco-systems is in fact a massacre on mankind:

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect mankind.”
~ Stewart Udall, United States Secretary of the Interior in 1961-1969



But no. Because the world is not normal. It is run by a dirty energy industry. Along with many other governments around the world, the Australian government therefore allows carbon emissions to continue, unregulated and free of charge, to this point now where the consequences are not only physical and economical, but also psychological. Some people are able to ignore the problem, but to others, climate change is truly disturbing and it is affecting their lives and their mental health profoundly.

On 14 April we saw how critical the situation is, when a lawyer killed himself in a park in New York to send a message to the global community that we are not doing enough to reduce our carbon emissions. What the incident exemplifies is that the scary threat of what the potential societal climate collapse is going to look like in the future, already today is having an impact on members of our community.

And this will only get worse as the climate warms and the ice melts, and we begin to see conflicts over fresh water, acidification killing fish and plant life in the oceans, algae wrecking our lakes, insects and bacteria killing our farm animals, while millions of refugees flee rising sea levels and death from starvation after failed harvests caused by extremes of droughts and floods.


More and more interviews come out with people who say that all this unnecessary destruction and death is now unavoidable. We’ve gone past the point of no return, they say – people like the American climate change author William Vollmann, and like British social scientist Dr Mayer Hillman:

“There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”
~ Dr Mayer Hillman, British social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute

“Try to be happy and helpful…”
~ William Tanner Vollmann, author of ‘Carbon Ideologies’

Mayer Hillman accuses all kinds of leaders – from religious leaders to scientists to politicians – of failing to honestly discuss what we must do to move to zero-carbon emissions.

“I don’t think they can because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels.”

» The Guardian – 26 April 2018:
‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
“The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it.”


“This study is part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that the world’s oceans are changing — and that the pace of change is beginning to accelerate.”
~ Matthew Long, oceanographer, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA

» The Washington Post – 23 April 2018:
One of the most worrisome predictions about climate change may be coming true



Melting ice and permafrost-thaw – and why it actually matters

On Earth Day, 22 April, I attended the #WeDontHaveTime Climate Conference, and was listening to a presentation by Pam Pearson, a former US diplomat who founded the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI). Her presentation was entitled ‘Arctic and Antarctic Thresholds – Why we don’t have time’, and she explained what’s really happening at the poles:

Our world’s climate is dominated by ice and our climate system is determined by the amount of ice we have on the globe. One could say that the battle against climate change really is the struggle to keep the globe’s ice in some sort of a sustainable state.

Most of the ice that is in the world right now was formed during the last ice age. The ice which is melting at the moment will not come back unless we for some reason would induce a new ice age.

Based on today’s temperatures, said Pam Pearson, we are going to get two metres of sea level rise, no matter what. It will take a few centuries to reach, but two metres is now inevitable.

The question before us is how much more than two metres are we willing to live with? That will be determined by how high the temperature goes in the coming decades.

Our current climate commitments will already cause many thresholds to be crossed. Especially if an overshoot persists for decades or centuries. There is a growing scientific consensus that even sustained 1.5°C degrees is very high risk.

And when we talk about a rise of 2°C degrees global mean temperatures, as we do in the Paris Climate Agreement… If we reach that, it means a rise of about 5°C degrees in the Arctic.


Introduction of Pam Pearson starts at 16:25. Pam Pearson’s presentation starts 17:28

Permafrost thaw is happening today. We are looking at 30 to 70 per cent. And what is important about this is that once we reach 4.5°C degrees of warming, which we are heading towards, perhaps even by the end of this century, that will add 120 gigatonnes to the atmosphere. That is like adding another China or United States.

Western Antarctica may already have tipped. Research has shown that the ice is not as stable as scientists had thought, and it is extremely irreversible. It seems to paleo-historically to have been involved in sea level rise at about the temperatures where we are today.

We are already at 1.1°C degree global mean temperature rise. Things are happening extremely quickly and there is quite a lot of research that points to that we are going to reach 1.5°C degrees already at 2030 – in about 12 years.

We will lose the glaciers. Most of the North American west, the tropical glaciers and the Andes are already lost. New Zealand, all around the world in the mid-altitude will disappear. They will be very difficult to save.

We can maybe delay it to 600 or 900 years, but once the Western Ice collapses, sea level rise can occur relatively quickly, and the glaciers behind the ice sheet will then move into the ocean with nothing to stop them.

The colder waters which are also some of the richest fisheries in the world, in the northern and souther oceans, will be extremely saturated, and acidified, explainded Pam Pearson:

“The scary thing about acidification is that it is the least reversible of all for these dynamics, because of the buffering. In other words: to get us down to the pH where we are today can take 60.000 to 70.000 years. And if that time scale does not blow your mind, we have had a relatively steady pH in the oceans for 35 million years. So we are now playing with a chemistry that has not changed for 35 million years. All of the species, virtually, that we have today evolved at today’s pH. We really don’t know they will respond to the higher pHs – which again means we need to address the carbon dioxide crisis very quickly.”

Greenland will become unstable at 1.6°C. The higher we go, the more risk we are taking on. The safest pathway is to stay below 1.5°C degrees, and it is going to be difficult to do that right now without extremely urgent action.

Irreversible collapse of the Western Antartica ice sheet is likely between where we are today and the 1.5°C degrees, which we might reach within the next 12 years.

So this is why we need deep sustained carbon emissions cuts right now. As the title of the conference stated it: We don’t have time.

The longer we delay our action, the greater the overshoot, the greater the social, societal and environmental costs, and also the lower possibility we have for staying below 1.5°C degrees, or getting down there there again.





Peaceful parental carbon rebellion

As a parent I am rather fanatically committed to protecting my three wonderful children against risk. In my understanding of what that means, this includes doing everything I possibly can to help avoiding the risk of complete climate calamity – the global warming massacre which a small group of cynical fossil fuel barons and their allies in politics knowingly intend to throw us all into.

I believe many parents feel this way, even if they don’t express it openly: We worry about what our kids’ future is going to look like. And how they will respond to it as they grow up.

We know our actions today have severe consequences for their future. So as soon as someone shows us a sensible pathway to decarbonisation – as Dan Cowdell does in this week’s Sustainable Hour – we are ready to join this peaceful rebelling against Big Energy and the greed and irresponsibility it represents.

Politicians seem to think that we, the voters, have lost all ethics, just because they have themselves. I want to show them what a big mistake they are making. As well as with my vote at elections, I’ll start voting even more radically with my feet now – and with my wallet.

No one is going to solve this crisis if not us, the people, the ordinary citizens. If what is required of us is a carbon rebellion from below, then bring it on. It has started already and could be growing fast.

My hope is that more and more of my neighbours, friends and fellow residents – in particular parents – will join me on this journey of carbon rebellion. In an Earth Day speech, Jonathan Foley expressed exactly what could be a kind of manifest for this type of personal quest:

“Even though cynical politicians and media voices are trying to divide us — for their own benefit, for more viewers and clicks, more votes, and more money — we can rise above them. We can do this because, despite our current differences, [we] all share a common dream — a dream of a better world for our children, a better world for future generations, a world where we all get to thrive, without destroying the natural wonders of our planet, or compromising the future for people who come after us.”
~ Dr Jonathan Foley, global environmental scientist and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences


Sow beauty and free energy, not pollution and destruction

» You can read much more about how residents in Geelong have started replacing Big Energy with community solar: Podcast about the community rebellion.





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Photo by Julian Meehan



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“What is the meaning of our lives, really, if we work only for destroying the planet while sacrifising the future of our children? What is the meaning of our lives if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children or grandchildren?

By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”
~ Emmanuel Macron, French president, addressing the American Congress on 25 April 2018



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Years: The Show


“Time is running out in the fight against climate change. We need big solutions and we need them now. Nikki Reed sets out to learn about one of the biggest, putting a price on carbon.”

“Climate change like you’ve never seen it before.”
11 SERIES · 69 EPISODES



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See Earth’s transformation over time

EarthTime enables users to interact with visualizations of the Earth’s transformation over time. Combining huge data sets with images captured by NASA satellites between 1984 and 2016, EarthTime brings to life patterns of natural change and human impact.

» World Economic Forum – 23 April 2018:
This online tool shows how we, and our planet, are changing
“Anecdotal evidence of urban sprawl, renewable energy uptake, deforestation and bleached corals are all over our newsfeeds and social-media channels. Yet to date, demonstrating the drivers and consequences of planetary change on a global and local level simultaneously has been difficult to do. That’s set to change with the launch of EarthTime.”

» www.earthtime.org


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“We stand at the crossroads of our civilization. We have a choice between a thriving, sustainable world or a world that is dangerous, degraded, and depleted for future generations. Which one will we choose?

So, what I ask of you today is this: Make your choice!

Will you stand on the sidelines? Or will you stand up, pitch in, and work for hope, for solutions — for a better world, for future generations? History, and our children, will judge our choice. So let’s stand up, get to work, and make a future we will be proud of.”
~ Dr Jonathan Foley, global environmental scientist and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences



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The American organisation The Climate Mobilization writes:

“Mobilization: a response based in truth, not wishful thinking or greed”
The climate is unraveling. Most policies on the table give us terrible odds of survival, because they’re designed to defend a corrupt system, not people. We need an answer grounded in the reality of our situation. We need a whole society emergency effort: decade transition to zero emissions, plus carbon draw-down.

“Restoring a Safe Climate for All at Emergency Speed”
Our advocacy is firmly rooted in morality and reality. We shouldn’t be gambling when it comes to the future of life on earth, so our plan goes all-out to give humanity the best possible chance of the best possible future.

You know it’s true. Join us. www.TheClimateMobilization.org



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Clippings from the newsstream

Just a quick glance over some of the news headlines paints a picture of why the age of procrastination needs to end now. It’s time to get to work:

» Business Insider Australia – 25 April 2018:
One of the scariest effects of climate change might already be happening — and it’d mean our projections are way off

» Washington Post – 25 April 2018:
The military paid for a study on sea level rise. The results were scary
“Climate change could make thousands of tropical islands ‘uninhabitable’ in coming decades, new study says.” (Subscription required)

» Daily Climate – 25 April 2018:
Analysis: Pessimism on the food front
“Legendary scientists weigh in on converging crises threatening future food security.”

» National Geographic – 25 April 2018:
Within Decades, Floods May Render Many Islands Uninhabitable
“Wave-induced floods—abetted by rising seas—could ruin the water supplies of thousands of islands, a new study claims.”

» Science Magazine – 25 April 2018:
New study: What happens when sea levels rise and coastal land gets flooded?
“Due to climate change, sea levels are expected to rise and flood large low-lying areas in many regions of the world. The big question is how we should cope? Should we built dykes or let the sea in?”

» The Independent – 12 April 2018:
Gulf Stream current at ‘record low’ with potentially devastating consequences for weather, warn scientists
“Disruption of ocean circulation is thought to be driven by global warming, and could lead to sea level rise and extreme events like storms.”






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Get involved



A hard look in the climate mirror

By Kimberly Nicholas, Associate Professor of Sustainability Science at Lund University in Sweden

Step 1: Consider a plant-based diet
Step 2: Travel overland
Step 3: Live car-free
Step 4: Consider the next generation

» Scientific American – 12 July 2017:
A Hard Look in the Climate Mirror
“One scientist looks at her own carbon emissions—and makes some major lifestyle changes.”