Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Collapse, The Monkey Business of Cap and Trade, Mondragon Basque

His Guns, Germs and Steel ended up as a PBS series --


Think about James Hansen's newest book when thinking about Jared Diamond, and the previous Blogpost here above on PacifiCAD on Costa's book --

In Storms of My Grandchildren, James Hansen gives us the opportunity to watch a scientist who is sick of silence and compromise…offer up the fruits of four-plus decades of inquiry and ingenuity just in case he might change the course of history.
L.A. Times

James Hansen is perhaps best known for bringing global warming to the world’s attention in the 1980s, when he first testified before Congress. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he is frequently called to testify before Congress on climate issues. Dr. Hansen’s background in both space and earth sciences allows a broad perspective on the status and prospects of our home planet. This is his first book.

In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen—the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues—speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return.

Although the threat of human-caused climate change is now widely recognized, politicians have failed to connect policy with the science, responding instead with ineffectual remedies dictated by special interests. Hansen shows why President Obama’s solution, cap-and-trade, which Al Gore has signed on to, won’t work; why we must phase out all coal; and why 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a goal we must achieve if our children and grandchildren are to avoid global meltdown and the horrific storms of the book’s title. This urgent manifesto bucks conventional wisdom (including the Kyoto Protocol) and is sure to stir controversy, but Hansen—whose climate predictions have come to pass again and again, beginning in the 1980s when he first warned Congress about global warming—is the single most credible voice on the subject worldwide.

Hansen paints a devastating, all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in the near future, mere years and decades from now, if we follow the course we’re on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is still time to do what we need to save the planet. Urgent, strong action is needed, and this book will be key in setting the agenda going forward to create a groundswell, a tipping point, to save humanity—and our grandchildren—from a dire fate more imminent than we had supposed.

So, how do we get these conversations going inside the boardrooms, in the heads of the Murdoch's of the world, the tar sand profiteers, the GE CEOs and VPs, the Obama Administration, the tea bag party honchos? We really have to celebrate some of cultures' successes, but we have to work harder on prepping for a world without ice, with peak resources, etc.

These conversations are difficult, and they end up reverting to some really shallow timelines, shallow responses, and much of the response is tied to making money and watching safety nets fray, burn. Can technology, computer whizzes, and industry and business really lead? These questions are not knee jerk.


From Grist --

Diamond's newest book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, restores human agency to the picture. Through a grab bag of case studies that range from the Mayan Empire to modern China, Diamond tries to distill a unified theory about why societies fail or succeed. He identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, trade partners (that is, alternative sources of essential goods), environmental problems, and, finally, a society's response to its environmental problems. The first four may or may not prove significant in each society's demise, Diamond claims, but the fifth always does. The salient point, of course, is that a society's response to environmental problems is completely within its control, which is not always true of the other factors. In other words, as his subtitle puts it, a society can "choose to fail."
Collapse by Jared Diamond, Viking Books, 592 pgs., 2005.

Diamond then identifies the 12 environmental problems that are portents of doom: destruction of natural habitats (mainly through deforestation); reduction of wild foods; loss of biodiversity; erosion of soil; depletion of natural resources; pollution of freshwater; maximizing of natural photosynthetic resources; introduction by humans of toxins and alien species; artificially induced climate change; and, finally, overpopulation and its impact.

These issues, which dovetail neatly with the flashpoints of the modern environmental movement, will be familiar enough to readers of Grist. But while the factors that Diamond believes lead societies to collapse may be clear, his definitions of both "society" and "collapse" are less so.

"Collapse" can refer to complete extinction (Pitcairn Island),

 population crash (Easter Island),

resettlement (Vikings),

 civil war (Rwanda),

 anarchy (Somalia, Haiti),

or even just the demise of a political ideology (the disintegration of the Soviet Union).

His definition of "society" is equally vague; he variously uses it to refer to

a settlement (e.g., various Viking communities),

a nation (ranging from Rwanda and Haiti, two of the smaller countries in the world,

to China, one of the largest),

a state (Montana), and an island (Easter).

Each individual example makes sense, but as analogues -- to each other or to the situation in today's globalized world -- they often falter.


There are small nations examples of how sustainability might be the leading edge for getting into climate disruption, resource extinction and rotten governments. Here is one model cooperative --

Led by The Cleveland Foundation (the nation’s oldest community foundation), the collaborative Cleveland Model has started to close the wealth gap. Its funding comes from the city of Cleveland, banks, and the Evergreen Development Fund—set up by the Cleveland Foundation and anchor institutions to underwrite the co-op businesses.

The Cleveland Model draws upon the experience of the Mondragón Corporation in the Basque Country of Spain, the world’s most successful large-scale cooperative effort. It employs over 100,000 people in an integrated network of more than 120 high-tech, industrial, service, construction, financial, and other cooperatively owned businesses.

Mondragón is now the 7th largest business in Spain, so it isn’t “a small scale hippie mainstay,” according to Judith Schwartz in Time, but rather “it is huge, hard-nosed, business-wise, and successful.” Last November, the United Steelworkers (USW) and Mondragón Internacional, S.A. announced a partnership framework for establishing manufacturing cooperatives in the US and Canada, integrating collective bargaining principles into the Mondragón worker ownership model of “one worker, one vote”.

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