Every year since 2011, the TSAP has been giving our annual State of the Planet Address in mid-January. This year, because of all the madness going on in Washington recently, we have delayed it to February. Yes, we know it is a bit of a downer to say the least. So sit down, take off your rose-colored glasses, and read on:
Our planet is in grave danger, and has been for quite some time now. We
face several serious long term problems: climate change,
deforestation, desertification, loss of biodiversity, overharvesting,
energy crises, and of course pollution of many kinds. Polar ice caps
are melting. Rainforests have been shrinking by 50 acres per minute.
Numerous species are going extinct every year. Soil is eroding
rapidly. Food shortages have occurred in several countries in recent
years. Weather has been getting crazier each year thanks to climate
change. We have had numerous wildfires, floods followed by long
periods of drought, and a "storm of the century" at least once a year
for the past few years. And it is only getting worse every year. In fact, 2016 has been the hottest year on record, and the third straight record year.
None of this is an accident of course. These problems are man-made,
and their solutions must also begin and end with humans. We cannot
afford to sit idly by any longer, lest we face hell and high water in the not-too-distant future. Our unsustainable scorched-earth policy towards the planet has to end. Yesterday.
While we do not invoke the precautionary principle for all issues, we
unequivocally do for the issue of climate change and any other
environmental issues of comparable magnitude. In fact, for something as dire as climate change, as of 2015 we now support a strong "no regrets"
approach. With no apologies to hardcore libertarians or
paleoconservatives, in fact. We are not fazed one bit by the naysayers'
pseudoscience as it does not really
"debunk" the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The
only serious debate is about how fast it will happen, and when the
tipping point (or points) will occur. It is not a matter of if, but
when. And the less precarious position is to assume it is a real and
urgent problem. We need to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where the CO2 concentration is at or below 350 ppm, ASAP. And it is currently at an unsustainably high level of 400+ ppm, and growing.
Solving the problem of climate change will also help to solve the other
ecological crises we are facing, for they all ultimately have the same
root causes, not least of which is our insatiable addiction to dirty
energy. However, there is a right way to solve it, and several wrong
ways. Technology is important, but it won't be decisive on its own
(economics geeks may recall Jevons Paradox). The real problem is the paradigm that our society has been following, and that system is based on wetiko,
the parasite of the mind and cancer of the soul. It often seems that
the only difference between capitalism and cannibalism is the spelling.
The TSAP endorses the ideas embodied in Steve Stoft's new book Carbonomics,
most notably a tax-and-dividend system that would tax carbon (i.e.
fossil fuels) at the source, and give all Americans an equal share of
the revenue generated from this tax. (Note that our proposal to tax
natural resources and pay out an Alaska-like citizen's dividend already
includes this.) Yes, prices for various things would undoubtedly rise
due to this tax, all else being equal, but the dividend will allow
Americans to pay for this increase. The average American would in fact
break even, but those who (directly or indirectly) use less energy than
average will effectively pay less tax, while the energy hogs will
effectively be taxed more, as they should be. Thus it is certainly not a
regressive tax, and may even be mildly progressive. This is both the
simplest and most equitable way to reduce carbon emissions as well as
other forms of pollution, not to mention waste of dwindling
non-renewable resources. The real challenge is getting the feds to
accept something that won't directly benefit them (in the short term).
Carbonomics also includes other good ideas, such as improving how fuel
economy standards are done, and crafting a better verison of the Kyoto
In addition to the ideas in Carbonomics, we also support several other
measures to help us end our addiction to fossil fuels once and for all.
Our Great American Phase-Out
plan would phase out all fossil fuels by 2030 at the latest, via
alternative energy, efficiency, and conservation. One good idea to
further the development of alternative energy would be the use of feed-in tariffs for renewable power sources.
We support ending net deforestation completely, and putting carbon back
in the ground through carbon sequestration. One method is known as biochar,
a type of charcoal made from plants that remove carbon dioxide from the
air, that is subsequently buried. This is also an ancient method of
soil fertilization and conservation, originally called terra preta. It also helps preserve biodiversity. Another crucial method would be regenerative organic farming, which also turns the soil into an effective carbon sink as well.
We've said this before, and we'll say it again. Our ultimate goal is 100% renewable energy
by 2030, but we need to hedge our bets. We can phase out fossil fuels,
or we can phase out nuclear power, but we can't do both at the same
time--and fossil fuels need to be phased out first, and quickly. Nuclear is doing a pretty good job of phasing itself out as it is. So let's not get rid of it prematurely.
But the biggest elephant in the room (make that the elephant in the
Volkswagen) is overpopulation. It does not make for pleasant dinner
conversation, but it must be addressed or else all other causes become
lost causes in the long run. We absolutely
need to have fewer kids, or nature will reduce our population for us,
and the latter will NOT be pleasant to say the least. The TSAP believes
in voluntarily reducing the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.5-1.9
children per woman to do so, along with reducing immigration
dramatically, but let us be clear that we do NOT support draconian
and/or coercive measures of population control (like China has used). We believe that more
liberty is the answer, not less. In fact, the two most effective
means of reducing the birthrate are poverty reduction and female
empowerment. Fortunately, America's TFR has recently dropped to below
1.9, with no indication of rising back above replacement rate in the near term. But clearly
we cannot keep growing and growing, that's for sure (in fact, we need to
shrink). And our insatiable addiction to economic growth
(despite being decoupled from well-being) is also every bit as harmful
as overpopulation as well, if not more so. Growth for the sake of
growth, the ideology of the cancer cell, is clearly one of the most
asinine obsessions our nation (and world) has ever had. We clearly
need to transition to a steady-state economy, most likely following a period of what Naomi Klein calls "selective degrowth" as well. And to do that, we need a radical paradigm shift
to happen yesterday. Put another way, we need to leave room for
Nature, lest Nature not leave room for us. We have been warned, decades ago
in fact. Unfortunately, such warnings have largely fallen of deaf ears
until very recently.
Last but not least, the TSAP now believes that as long as men remain in
charge, we are all merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Let's
face it, it ain't gonna be us fellas who will save the world, as the
past 7000 years or so have shown. We paved paradise and put up a
parking lot, we created a desert and called it peace. We devoured and
suffocated our own empire, and our proverbial 15 minutes of fame is
almost up. Only when women finally take over and
reclaim their rightful position as the new leaders of the free
world--and they will--will there be any real permanent solution.
Bottom line: we need to take the environment much more seriously than we do now. We ignore it at our own peril. And while the current administration in DC clearly doesn't care, We the People must act nonetheless.
Oh, by the way, wanna hear a joke? Peak Oil.
Not saying it won't happen, of course--it will eventually peak and
decline at some point--but climate change kinda supersedes it. While conventional oil most likely has already peaked, there is more than enough total oil (including unconventional) to deep-fry the Earth--and
most of which needs to stay in the ground if we wish to avoid
catastrophic climate change. Fossil fuels are, after all, what
Buckminster Fuller referred to as our planet's "energy savings account",
which we need to wean ourselves off of and save just in case of a
planetary emergency--and he first said this in 1941!