4/23/2013 2:53:56 PM
The end of Keystone XL's public comment period won't stop climate activists from fighting the pipeline.
This article originally appeared at Common Dreams and is licensed under Creative Commons.
The 45-day period for public comment on the State Department's draft supplementary environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline comes to end on Monday.
As groups opposed to the project wrapped up campaigns urging their members to write, call and otherwise voice their objections to the State Department's draft, the broader climate movement is also gearing up for the possible next stage in their protracted fight against the project. And with so much believed to be at stake, the movement hopes to leverage its human energy, financial muscle, and political acuity to fight back against the full court press of the fossil fuel industry and their army of lobbyists in Washington.
Despite last month's dramatic tar sands spill in Mayflower, Arkansas—which many activists point to as visual proof of the damage tar sands is capable of—there have been no distinct signals from the White House that President Obama is leaning towards rejection of the pipeline.
As BusinessWeek reports, the anti-Keystone movement has a few deep pockets in addition to the boisterous and committed activism coming from youth-fueled groups like Tar Sands Blockade, the growing and nimble 350.org, and more traditional environmental groups like Sierra Club and NRDC.
Led by Tom Steyer, the founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management LLC, a group of wealthy Democratic donors are using their money and status to "draw a line" against the pipeline.
Betsy Taylor, a climate activist who worked for Obama’s election and then was arrested outside the White House protesting the pipeline, said the group of about 100 Democratic contributors and activists, including [Susie Tompkins Buell, who founded clothing maker Esprit], aims to show Obama “if he does the right thing, he is going to get so much love.”
“People are giving it everything they can,” said Taylor, who is helping to organize the donors. “This is a line-in-the-sand kind of decision.” [...]
“We’ve got to step up our game and make our case -- it’s not going to make itself,” said David desJardins, a philanthropist and former Google Inc. (GOOG) software engineer who attended the fundraiser at Steyer’s house.
One former Obama donor has shifted from insider to activist.
Guy Saperstein, a California venture capitalist and onetime president of the Sierra Club Foundation, said while he gave to Obama’s campaign in 2008, he became disillusioned. Rather than attend the fundraiser at Steyer’s house, Saperstein chose to join Keystone protesters camped out nearby.
“The indications I got back from the people who were inside suggested that he was not very persuadable, but you know politics is a funny thing,” Saperstein said. “If people are in the streets, being loud and making the case, things can change.”
Of course, money has never been the true strength of the climate justice movement. That's why a collection of groups, regardless of Obama's decision, hope to leverage the financial support they do have with continued grassroots mobilizations and a renewed commitment to resistance, civil disobedience and public actions.
Groups including CREDO Action, Bold Nebraska, The Other 98%, Hip Hop Caucus, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org and Oil Change International have launched the 'Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance,' which hopes to galvanize the movement ahead of a final White House decision.
The coalition hopes that, "If tens of thousands of people stand up as President Obama mulls his final decision, and commit to participate in civil disobedience if necessary, we can convince the White House that it will be politically unfeasible to go forward. That is, our goal is not to get arrested. Our goal is to stop the Keystone XL pipeline -- by showing enough opposition to Keystone XL that President Obama will reject it. But if he shows clear signs he that he is preparing to approve it, we will be ready."
The pledge itself reads:
It is time for us to pledge to resist. That is, we are asking you to commit - should it be necessary to stop Keystone XL -- to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.
Will you join us in pledging resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline, including - if necessary - pledging to participate in peaceful, dignified civil disobedience?
Acknowledging that since the State Department's release of the draft SEIS there have been two tar sands spills in the United States, including one that poured 84,000 gallons of tar sands into Arkansas backyards, the Sierra Club argues that the stakes are too high and said there "is no excuse for the White House to approve" the project Keystone XL.
"It's impossible to fight climate change while simultaneously investing in one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet," the group said in a message.
As Climate Progress illustrates, making a comment to the State Department is the easy part:
Anyone can submit as many comments as they wish. Some created a compelling video about why Keystone is “all risk, no reward,” but not everyone has to do that. Some protest President Obama to let them know that this decision matters for the climate, but that tactic, while important, is not for everyone.
Once the public has spoken, however, the bigger questions are these: Will the Obama administration cross the clearly marked Keystone XL line? And if he does approve the project, what comes next for those pledged to resist it?
Photo: Flickr / tarsandsaction
3/26/2013 3:36:17 PM
When it comes to bottled
water, cash-strapped parks have been putting Coca-Cola’s interests ahead of the
common good. Now, a growing coalition is demanding change.
The National Park Service (NPS), like
most Americans these days, is broke. Unlike the
rest of us, it has corporations like Coca-Cola whispering promises of money in
its ear—money that parks desperately need to staff, maintain, and protect the
grounds. But there’s one thing the public has learned about corporations: they
don’t give without asking for something in return.
For Coke, “donating” a
fraction of a percent of its revenue (roughly .0013%) keeps its Dasani bottled
water for sale in parks and buys the exclusive right to use park logos in advertisements.
As marketing schemes go, it’s brilliant. Coke greens its image, turns a profit
in the park, and writes it all off at tax time. Since August of 2011, the
National Park Service has been working on a
billion dollar corporate-financed endowment, and Coke has been in on the
plans since the initial fundraising summit.
But the deal might not stay this
sweet for long. Watchdog group Corporate
Accountability International is leading a coalition pushing national parks
like Yosemite, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Mt.
Rainier, and the Liberty Bell’s Independence Hall National
to nix bottled water. Instead, park-goers will use their own bottles to refill
and the bottled water industry are using one national treasure to profit from
another at the public’s expense,” says Kristin Urquiza, director of Corporate
Accountability International’s Think
Outside the Bottle campaign. She continues, “Water, like our parks, is not
Whether or not that sounds
like a battle cry, it might be. Back in 2011, Coke attempted to block a
ban on bottled water in Grand
Canyon National Park.
The park hesitated but followed through with the ban, reducing its waste stream
by 20 percent—500 tons a year. It also cut the cost of recycling removal by
30 percent, estimates the NPS Branch Chief of Sustainable Operations and Climate
This week, groups representing
more than 150 organizations and 40,000 park-goers are delivering petitions to
park superintendents across the country, asking that they stop selling water in
plastic bottles. In San Francisco,
the president of the city’s Board of Supervisors, David Chin—along with the
executive director of the Sierra Club’s Bay chapter and celebrity rock climbers
Alex Honnold and Hans Florine—will deliver that request in the form of a three-by-five-foot
public, not Coke executives, should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to
park policy,” said Florine, who holds the world record for speed climbing El
Capitan in Yosemite along with Alex Honnold.
“We know park employees across the country are eager to do the right thing
here. Today, we’re giving them the support they need to act in the public’s
Honnold, “Bottling and transporting water is a colossal waste of resources that
the parks should in no way help promote. If anything, the sales of bottled
water fosters a kind of disposable view of the world around us that is anathema
to the park's mission to ‘preserve unimpaired’ our wild places.”
least 14 of the nation’s 398 parks have already gotten rid of water sold in
plastic bottles. Find out more about Think Outside the Bottle: "10 Reasons Why National Parks Should Buck the Bottle."
3/5/2013 11:41:38 AM
A sustainable future means teaching kids about climate change and living in balance with the earth. Green School's "Greenest Student on Earth" contest will reward three environmentally conscious students with a year-long scholarship.
When it comes to saving the
planet, there’s plenty of urgent action to take
right now. But as we struggle to slow the environmental destruction that’s led to
a changing climate, we must also plant the seeds of permanent and profound sustainability.
It makes sense to start with children, for whom a small shift in direction now can
lead to an entirely different path later. An international school in Bali, Indonesia,
aims to do just that.
Aptly titled Green School,
the organization teaches sustainable thinking and practical skills to students
from pre-kindergarten through high school, including kids in their own
sustainable future. “We have to teach the kids that the world is not indestructible,”
says Green School co-founder John Hardy in a 2010 TED
Talk. No one knows exactly what the future holds, and kids need to be
prepared to live on a planet that could be very different than the one we
inhabit. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are still important, Hardy muses, but
the adults of the future are going to need a broader skill set—from building with
bamboo to planting medicinal gardens.
In 2012, Green School
was recognized by the U.S. Building Council as the “Greenest School
on Earth.” The campus itself is solar-powered and self-sustaining, a product of
Hardy’s three-tiered philosophy, “be local, let the environment lead, and think
about how your grandchildren might build.”
This year, Green
School is looking for environmentally
conscious, action-oriented students to attend classes at the Bali
campus. The school’s “Greenest Student on Earth” competition starts March 5 and
ends on April 22, Earth Day. At the close of the competition, three students—one
each from elementary, middle, and high school—will win a one-year scholarship
to Green School.
To enter, the school asks that students submit a 2-3 minute video answering the
question, “Why are you the greenest student on earth?” The video should
highlight environmental achievements, hopes and goals, as well as how the
student would benefit from a year at Green
Winners will be announced June 5, World Environment Day. For more information watch the video below and visit the Green School
3/1/2013 10:57:50 AM
This post originally appeared at Shareable.
percent of the food in the U.S. goes to waste. Let’s sit with that for a
minute. Almost half of what we produce is going to the landfill. Meanwhile, over 50 million Americans live in food-insecure households.
There are changes we can
make in our own lives to adjust those numbers. By looking with a critical eye
at what gets thrown away and reducing our own food waste we can raise awareness
about the issue. We can also contribute to, volunteer with, support, and start
organizations that save food from landfills and get it into the hands, and
stomachs, of those going without.
Boulder Food Rescue
is one such project. Powered 90% by bicycle--that figure only drops to 80%
freezing winters--BFR picks up food that would otherwise end up in dumpsters
and distributes it to over 40 organizations including soup kitchens, low-income
schools, elderly homes, low-income family units and homeless shelters. In the
last year and a half, the organization has rescued over 250,000 pounds of food.
Boasting a team of over
120 volunteers, BFR has its system down to a science and those involved with
the project would like to see their food rescue model adopted by other cities.
They’ve created what they call The Package Deal; a step by step guide to starting a food
rescue program complete with tips, resources and materials. Issues addressed
include coordinating with stores, building a team of volunteers, finding
recipients, utilizing the media, finding bikes and equipment, and creating a
plan for long-term success.
An inspiring example of
what’s possible with some planning and a lot of human-power, BFR is
transforming its community and demonstrating the potential of resource sharing,
starting with the food we eat.
Image by Boulder
Food Rescue. Used with permission.
Follow Cat Johnson on Twitter.
2/25/2013 10:33:51 AM
By giving old clothes a new life, Katie Haegele keeps up with fashion's whims while avoiding its excesses. Here, she reflects on the why and how behind her sew-it-yourself ethos.
really don’t have to be a political radical or a homesteader with trendy chickens to make and mend your own clothing, but depending on your demographics it can
certainly feel that way. People under 40 (that’s still me, woo hoo!), those who
grew up in an urban environment or another area with no 4H club (also me), and
those who went to a school with no resources for a home ec. program (me again)
may never have received a lesson in the basic human skill of threading a needle
and making or repairing useful things out of fabric. Even if you like to sew,
you have to concede that we live a lot differently than the way people always
have. It is now entirely possible to buy, rather than make, all the clothes you
will ever wear, then chuck them out when they get worn or ripped, even if you
aren’t rolling in dough. In one or two generations, sewing skills have become
an extra rather than a necessity.
Examples of sewing keep springing up in
the popular culture, though. It’s magic to watch the artists on Project Runway
dream up clothing designs, then pin and sew their ideas into reality, one bead
at a time. On RuPaul’s Drag Race, a kind of lower-rent but more imaginative
Project Runway, the contestants make their own costumes. This is interesting to
watch because some of them have a strong dressmaking background while others
don’t. To make the things they want to wear the less experienced performers
have to rely on their sense of invention (and also a hot glue gun). It’s
inspiring to watch them work, a reminder that when you make something for
yourself it does not have to be perfect. It can look like whatever you want.
Speaking of self-invention, I recently
read a memoir called The Beauty Experiment, in
which author Phoebe Baker Hyde gives up make-up and hair stuff for a year. She
also scales way back on her clothes shopping and fashion choices, which creates
a space for her to think about what her desire for beautiful clothing might
mean, down-deep. At one point she tells a story about her grandmother, who grew
up in rural Washington
and, keen to escape her “farm-girl past,” married “southern breeding” and moved
to a fancy suburb on the east coast. This woman, Sugar, could study an
expensive piece of clothing on its rack in the department store and then go
home and recreate it precisely, sometimes even adding a fake label to complete
the illusion. Whatever you think about ideas like boot-strapping and
label-loving, you’ve got to credit a person like that with ingenuity and
creativity. She wanted to be something so she dressed like that thing, then
became it. Those are my favorite kinds of stories.
After all this bloviating I don’t have a
serious sewing tutorial to share with you, just this big honkin’ thrift store
skirt that I bought a few weeks ago and have been wanting to take up. It’s a
voluminous Talbot’s “petite collection” skirt made of heavy cotton, and I stood
on a stool so you can see the whole unstylishly long thing. (I’m about 5’6” so
I can only imagine how overwhelming this style would be on a bona fide petite,
but I guess that was the ’90s for you. Or the ’80s. Who can tell, it’s
I bought it at a thrift store near Allentown, PA,
for $6.99, which is a little more than I usually like to pay for secondhand
clothes, but the skirt is well made and I thought I could find a way to wear
it. I have some basic sewing skills that I learned from my mother as a kid and
in a sewing class I took at a local fabric store as a young adult. I also own a
sewing machine, which my mom gave me as a birthday gift several years ago. I’ve
used it to make and alter many pieces of clothing and other useful things, such
as a patch quilt for a cat, but almost every time I get it out again I need to
watch this video by a lovely guy named Chris,
in which he demonstrates how to thread a Brother sewing machine like the one I
have. Chris has a gentle manner and he takes his time explaining what he’s
doing, and the camera close-ups clearly show what his hands are doing with the
fussy little parts of the machine. I love watching sewing tutorials on Youtube.
For one thing, I find it much easier to learn how to do things with my hands
when I can see them being done, as opposed to following written instructions in
a book. Beyond that, the videos are a nice reminder that sewing is a skill that
has been been passed on by example for all of human history. I find it really
touching that on Youtube you can find what appears to be every single area of
human endeavor depicted in an instructional fashion. It’s beautiful the way we
want to teach each other how to do things, not for money, just because.
So. At a thrift store several years ago I
found a plastic bag filled with wooden spools of thread for use on an
industrial machine. I bought them because they’re old and pretty, and I keep
them in a ceramic bowl on my bookcase.
But over the years they have sometimes
come in useful, like today, when I found that one of them matches the color of
my skirt almost exactly. I chopped close to seven inches off the skirt’s
bottom, folded another half-inch under for a hem, pinned it in place with
straight pins, and sewed it up. I didn’t bother ironing the hem before I sewed
it because I’m lazy. (Actually it’s because I don’t own an iron, which is
because I’m lazy.)
You do not need a machine to sew, and you
certainly don’t need one to make simple alterations like this. If I’d felt like
spending a few extra minutes on this project or if I hadn’t wanted the seam to
show, I could have sewn it by hand and done a “blind” hem by only stitching
through to the front every few inches. But my machine hem works just fine for
this skirt. Its heavy fabric is almost like denim so it doesn’t need to look
delicate. And anyway, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to look the
way I want it to look. I’m pleased with how it turned out. What do you think?
For a really solid foundation on sewing,
you might think about getting a copy of Raleigh Briggs’ pretty little
zine-book, Fix Your Clothes, for $5. I ordered one and
I have found it very useful even though I already know a lot of the basics. For
instance, Briggs talks about when to use shank buttons as opposed to flat ones,
which was a revelation to me, and how to remove and repair a zipper. I wanted
to try that last one on a busted but nice-quality leather handbag I bought for
a buck fifty, but I got intimidated by the thought of working with leather.
Maybe next time.
12/28/2012 4:48:59 PM
I am in a group of 70 people
gathered at Three Creeks, a ranch in Big Pine, California,
located in the Owens Valley between the White Mountains overlooking Death Valley to the east and the towering Sierra Nevadas
to the west. The valley, once verdant with orchards fed with glacial runoff, is
now parched and mostly barren, its water diverted through culverts to Los Angeles. Three Creeks
is the rare oasis in this dry place. We have traveled here from across the
country and around the world, all of us involved in teaching or supporting
wilderness rites of passage and the Council Process. We range in age from 21 to
84, with most of the group in their early 30s to mid-60s. Three Creeks is the
home of Gigi Coyle and Win Phelps, friends I’ve known for 30 years who’ve
called us here to consider the questions: “What’s going on in your life?” “What
are the challenges you see?” And, “What’s calling you?”
is one of the most tuned-in and intuitively gifted people I know. She is a past
co-director of the Ojai Foundation and long-time trainer with the School of Lost Borders. When Gigi calls, I come.
We’ve been working with the four directions during our retreat. Yesterday, when
we were in the West, the direction of darkness, dreams, and decay, we heard
four impeccably researched and movingly delivered presentations on the state of
our world, focusing on water, waste, women and war. Afterwards I felt
devastated. When each person had a chance to speak, I heard myself say, “I feel
our group of 70 is completing our retreat, working with the East, the direction
of vision, spirit and renewal. We are standing in two concentric circles inside
the Heron Hut, a spiral-shaped meditation and council chamber. Those in the
inner circle are standing on the smooth earthen floor, and those of us in the
outer circle are standing atop the built-in adobe bench that rings the interior
space. In a few words, each of us offers a prayer, or declares his or her
intentions for the future. The last person to speak, at 21, is the youngest in
the group by nearly ten years. She appears reluctant to step into the circle.
When she does she moves silently to the center, sits down before the open fire
and plays with it, burning twigs and dry grass in the flames, then flicking
drops of water from a nearby bowl onto the coals, creating the occasional hiss
about five minutes she gets up and begins circling the fire, surrounded by the
tired but transfixed assemblage. I find myself worrying about the
80-somethings— the group has been standing for well over an hour. Finally the
young woman speaks, “I need your help. I don’t know what to do with what’s
coming toward us. I need you who are older to be elders. I need your wisdom and
guidance. Please help.”
On the plane homefrom
the Three Creeks gathering, the young woman’s
words come back to me. “I need you who
are older to be elders. I need your wisdom
and guidance. Please help.”
is what is being asked of Baby Boomers today. Instead of trying to prolong our
youth we should be helping young people face the burdens and responsibilities
of adulthood. And we need to work together to heal our broken world. I think of
the mentors in my life, and the gifts they gave me. Perhaps most meaningful was
the gift from my stepgrandmother, Brenda Ueland. Brenda knew how to bless. She
was the most encouraging person I ever met, seemingly interested in everything
I had to say, no matter how mundane.She made me feel bold, noble, and
full of promise and even potential greatness. She did the same for almost
everyone around her.
these seemingly hopeless times, this is what elders can do for youngers—help them
to see and remember who they are, and to find the courage and confidence to
face the future. Help them to know that their lives make a difference. And, as Brenda
put it, help them realize that “they have a star on their forehead, and their existence
cheers up the world.”
course, mentoring is a two-way street. If we start listening to our young, there’s
a bonus for elders as well. We just might get our hope back.
Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader.
Image: Chris Lyons / LindgrenSmith.com, courtesy of the School of Lost Borders.
10/17/2012 11:57:10 AM
Editor's note: The following is a companion piece to "Power of Nature" from the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Utne Reader (pages 48-50). In that article, futurists Gitte Larsen, Søren Steen Olsen and Steen Svendsen of House of Futures in Denmark paint a vision of the future where we realize that everything is nature and so are we; that we are one with the earth and share a common biology and collective consciousness. The following is an equally optimistic alternate vision of the future where humanity realizes that when it puts its collective mind toward something, it's capable of developing technologies, organizations, political institutions and business models that allow for prosperity without jeopardizing the planet.
In 2112, we live in a “man-made world.” If you look at that world from a 2012 perspective, you will be surprised by the responsibility that we, as humans, exhibit towards nature—the clean cities, the fertile landscape, the light-touch clean economy and the high prosperity. You will be fascinated by the new technology and new innovations, and you may be shocked by the changes in human physiology. But you will recognize general social patterns.
Let us give you the story of how this future unfolds, where it has its historic roots and what drives the transformation. Then let us describe to you the future perception of nature. Finally let us portray what politics, business, living, art, science and technology will look like in this world.
Drivers and Background
The mindset that drives “man-made world” is responsible determination. It is informed by the realization that human activity has created a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, where we have become the most important driving force for changing Earth’s geology, climate, and ecosystems. We are responsible and we have to assume this responsibility. “man-made world” is created by vigorous political initiative and rational science-based planning. And it arguably has its roots stretching back all the way to the Club of Rome with its message of “limits to growth” due to the finiteness of fossil energy and raw materials reserves. This gave rise to an increasing awareness of nature’s boundaries to human activities. Also, it led to a process of institutionalized global political consultation, negotiation and formulation of targets. The Brundtland commission and Kyoto protocols were some early milestones in a process with plenty of twists and bumps along the way to the Anthropocene breakthrough.
In the 1970s, the oil crisis that ended the three decades of historically unprecedented economic growth worked as a powerful demonstration of the exact vulnerabilities that “limits to growth” had pointed out. This run of events was a precursor for the early decades of the 21st century when increasing temperatures, hurricanes, floods and droughts put pressure on our resources and economies thereby demonstrating the message from the scientific community about planetary boundaries. The ideas driving "man-made world" were under ways for many decades, and often quite high on the agenda of public discourse and policy. They were picked up by media, by NGOs and grassroot movements, and by segments of consumers and producers. But the wholesale radical change that marks “man-made world” required a new generation of political leaders taking over as the old generation failed to inspire and weren’t up to tackling the challenges.
It became clear that global action on a massive scale was needed in order to reverse, mitigate and/or adapt to the challenges. Consequently we saw a refocusing and a revitalization of political processes on local, national, regional, and global levels. New generations of policy entrepreneurs were taking the lead in taking responsibility.
Perception of Nature
A strong and conscious perception of nature is absolutely central in the "man-made world." We see nature as a living system and a wonderful resource. We can rely on it to provide us with much of the material basis for our existence. But nature is a finite resource. Since the industrial revolution, humans have become the single most powerful force affecting nature’s development, changing physical landscapes, climate, material metabolisms and biodiversity, both globally and locally. We are living in a geological epoch of our own making. This was a call on us to be responsible and rational in how we use the world’s resources. We learned to be knowledgeable and conscious about how our activities effect the fragile balanced of nature.
Nature requires us to keep researching and studying nature, as well as ourselves and the interplay between human societies and nature. Nature inspires us to recognize the beauty and endless opportunities and scope for innovation that it presents us with, but also to be acutely aware and mindful of the boundaries that nature sets for our utilization.
We must assume responsibility. We must acquire the means to control and manage our own power and collective behavior in order to harness nature without damaging it. We need to take on the role of responsible and conscientious custodians, stewards or managers of nature—like any landowner would his property—all in order to be able to continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of nature.
Previously it was sometimes said that we knew what needed to be done, we just didn’t know how to do it politically. It was somewhat natural to take a cynical view given the previously disappointingly inadequate political action even in the face of a long-standing public awareness of the challenges. We were irresponsibly gambling with the future of the planet. Everybody was waiting for someone else to take the lead and do something.
The emergence of a new generation of political leaders changed the dynamics. It was a generation whose outlook was shaped by the ongoing debate on sustainability and by growing impatience and frustration with the inadequacy of political response. They entered the scene with an ambitious outlook, a firm belief that change is possible, and a deep sense of responsibility towards nature and future generations.
There was a new optimism and enthusiasm for what we can accomplish. A feeling that we actually can make a better world if we put our minds to it. “So let us be masters of our own fate and take responsibility for the destiny of our planet. We can do it!”as one political leader famously put it.
Growing public realization that old methods and politics simply couldn’t deliver urged a tectonic shift in the balance between old vested interests and forward-looking interests. The new political agenda was global in its worldview and resonated with people everywhere, especially younger generations. Beginning in northwestern Europe and the EU, governments all over the world devised and implemented strategic policies using a variety of instruments. The frontrunners were countries where there was a strong awareness of the importance of a new course; a culture which was influenced by a generally high level of economic development and public welfare, and above all by education; a culture based on co-creation.
The global process that unfolded was partly negotiated, cooperative, and coordinated, and partly an uneven process of pioneers and emulators, leaders and followers. International and global institutions gained renewed relevance and were quick to pick up on this agenda assuming their designated role as facilitators of global political dialogue and will.
Democracy and revitalized primarily due to the system’s ability to respond to the challenge, but also because of a new political culture based on a dynamic development in digital and local platforms creating a new responsiveness between people and politicians.
As for strategies, one key was to get prices right. Tax systems were used in various and often innovative ways to ensure that prices reflected true ecological costs. Another key was investing massively in sustainable infrastructure: energy, smart grids, transportation systems, welfare technology, recycling and waste disposal. A third key was support for open source technological development and sustainable innovation. The overall effect was to move the economy on to a new path of development.
Once the political direction was clear, business and consumers were remarkably quick to respond. Breakthroughs in solar, wind, smart grids, waste disposal and material technologies came in rapid succession and were speedily implemented. New patterns of consumption and production emerged that were radically more friendly to the environment. A light-touch, clean and prosperous economy emerged.
What was most surprising to many in the beginning of the transition was that the structural changes to the economic system went hand in hand with economic boom. The new ecologically sustainable economic system was highly competitive.
Frontrunners were those who not only responded to new pricing signals and market demands but who truly comprehended the new policy direction and based their vision and strategy on it. They were the ones who delivered the myriad of new products, services and business models that built the light-touch economy.
The transformation that was set in motion succeeded in completely replacing the fossil fuel based economy with one that was based on energy from clean, renewable sources. It saw a materials revolution driven by the development of new eco-friendly synthetic materials, and by the super-efficient recycling markets and waste disposal systems. And not only did it succeed, but success came much faster than anyone had predicted, or even thought possible. Once set in motion the process quickly gained momentum and became self-reinforcing as political initiative, political response and technological innovation combined in a powerful drive for sustainability and renewed prosperity.
In fact, a dynamic arose in which countries, economies and businesses that embraced sustainable strategies became economic powerhouses and front-runners. To be stuck in the age of gasoline and coal was the biggest structural danger to an economy. Some large companies, notably those rich in fossil fuels, and those poor in political effectiveness, struggled to make the transition but eventually followed suit. We have learned that responsible management of our relationship with nature is not only right. It is also highly rewarding in many regards.
Living and Art
Life in the light-touch society is high-prosperity, low-impact. Intelligent systems handled the metabolic exchange with nature, and secured the safe and efficient recycling of materials and disposal of waster. Our relationship with nature was respectful and sustainable. As people lived in clean and attractive built environments, nature was not top-of-mind all the time. Many people spend a lot of their time in digitized virtual reality rather than in nature. At the same time people very much appreciated nature, and it still had a powerful appeal. It offered great experiences whether you were an adventurer seeking extreme authenticity, or whether you would rather opt for themed nature resorts where people could experience sights and landscapes, some with carefully managed stocks of wild animals. Prehistoric theme parks complete with dinosaurs and swans were particularly popular.
Remarkably, art became big business and the single most dynamic sector in the economy. This was a result of prosperity and individualism that saw art as the ultimate form of self-actualization. The ability to create and appreciate artistic expressions was the ultimate human characteristic, one that was eagerly sought after and high in demand. New technologies and knowledge of the functioning of the human brain and body have opened up a variety of new artistic fields and art forms.
But the one parameter that came to dominate the field was authenticity. That is, the experience of a significant event which takes place at a particular place and time and therefore is unique and cannot be replicated. The development and careful staging of such events constituted a large and fast growing part of the economy and employment. New artistic megahalls and art stadiums sprang up in cities around the world in fierce competition for the most prestigious and creative public spaces for art activities.
The goal was to merge intellect and intuition in new ways, constantly experimenting with new forms of human consciousness, expression of language, story-telling, sound, music, imagery, and sensory stimulation. To many this kind of endeavor was the closest thing to having a meaning of life.
Science and Technology
Science was very visible and important driver in the transition to a sustainable "man-made world," and the string of technological breakthroughs that it spurned gave it a new-found prestige in society. Big science made a decisive comeback, not least when cheap and clean nuclear fusion energy came on stream by the latter half of the 21st century. Their cool and quiet gigantic domes were an aesthetically pleasing addition to the landscape.
Science pursued further advancement in a range of fields stretching from genetics to space. Sophisticated modeling was applied to complex systems such as ecosystems, climate and weather in order to optimize our management of them and in order to facilitate advances in the dynamic field of geo-engineering. There was a new focus on anticipation and prevention instead of problem fixing and symptom treatment.
The scientific study of nature kept offering exciting opportunities to learn from something that was not human-made. The extraction and storage of genetic information from all life forms was one project that promised to enable regeneration of any extinct species that might be deemed valuable or interesting. Given advanced knowledge of managing ecosystems, this would also make it possible to create new types of ecosystems.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, merging of man and machine, were some of the developments we saw. The re-engineering of humans and the possible prospect of immaturity began to raise a host of new practical and ethical questions.
Image courtesy of dullhunk, licensed under Creative Commons
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