Archive - September 2009

A recent article in the international journal Nature describes the "Safe planetary boundaries" that humanity should stay within to avoid conditions that are not acceptable for the continued well being of humanity.

The human impact has become global, long-lasting, and potentially irreversible, and has become the major driving force on earth system processes such as water and nutrient cyles, stability of ecosystems, or global climate. The current era is therefore also referred to as "Anthropocene".

The Anthropocene could be beneficial for humanity, if we were to stay within safe boundaries that will ensure that humans can develop for many centuries to come. Unfortunately, we have already transgressed several boundaries, endangering the future of humanity if we do not return into the safe zone as quickly as possible.

This is the general message from a paper that was recently published in the highly renowned  international journal Nature.

In this paper, Rockström and coauthors identified nine planetary boundaries that humanity should not transgress. These include: climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution.

According to their estimates, humanity has already transgressed three of these boundaries: climate change, loss of biodiversity, and nitrogen input into the biosphere. But of course it is extremely difficult to determine the concrete boundary conditions for these planetary systems, and the paper does not suggest that the concrete boundary conditins outlined are set in stone. Instead, the authors offer a starting point for further research and discussion. What hat becomes very clear is that humanity is in very severe trouble if we do not act immediately, because interactions among various systems might make single systems more vulnerable than expected.

One boundary that we have transgressed already is quite certain, climate change. With the current 387 ppm we have already passed the CO2 concentration that is considered safe: 350 ppm. For the first time scientists stated clearly that we cannot stay below a global temperature increase of two degrees Celsius if the global CO2 concentration stays above 350 ppm for a prolonged period of time. Clearly, it is time to be done with half measures and act according to the urgent call that scientists give us. Otherwise the Anthropocene will be referred to as  The Age of Stupid.

We have long known that there are limits to growth. But the paper by Rockström and coauthors describe these limits not as oppressing borders to limit our potentials. Instead, the authors give us a new, very important perspective: that of possibilities to grow, as long as we stay within safe boundaries. By defining a safe space for human societies to live in, they give us a new perspective on our potentials. Whereas many people still view the necessity of change towards a new, carbon-neutral and truly sustainable economy as a limit to their freedom, this paper will help develope a new thought process: that of great possibilities of staying free and safe within our limits. If we accept this basic fact, then changes might be much easier to accomplish.

For a detailed outline on the safe boundaries, please visit the Stockholm Resilience Center and Nature.

Maiken Winter

Safe boundaries for humanity

A recent article in the international journal Nature describes the „Safe planetary boundaries“ that humanity should stay within to avoid conditions that are...

Eine kurze Reflexion zur Bundestagswahl

Der große Tag ist vorbei. Und viele von uns, die dringende Veränderungen erhoffen, werden enttäuscht sein. Denn mit CDU, CSU, und FDP hat Deutschland diejenigen Parteien an die Regierung gebracht, deren Klimaschutzziele nicht die Ehrgeizigsten sind.

Aber auch andere Parteien hätten Schwierigkeiten, effektive Klimaschutzziele durchzusetzen, solange weiterhin ein großer Teil der Bevölkerung die Notwendigkeit und Dringlichkeit effektiver Klimaschutzmassnahmen nicht wirklich versteht. Die Tatsache, dass fast 30 Prozent der Bevölkerung nicht zur Wahl erschien, ist dabei besonders beunruhigend. Ist es unseren Mitmenschen denn egal, wie ihre Zukunft aussieht?

Trotz der Enttäuschung kann diese Wahl motivieren. Eindeutig haben noch viel zu wenige begriffen, was auf dem Spiel steht. Es liegt an uns, das zu ändern.

Maiken Winter

Und weiter geht’s!

Eine kurze Reflexion zur Bundestagswahl Der große Tag ist vorbei. Und viele von uns, die dringende Veränderungen erhoffen, werden enttäuscht sein. Denn mit CDU, CSU, und...

G20, financial crisis, climate change and the need for clearer communication.

I am not an economist. In fact, I really don't know much about economy at all. What makes me happy is when I have enough cash in my wallet to buy a cup of coffee and a cookie when I want to. When the cash is gone, I go to the bank and - if I remember my pin number - get some more (money, not cookies, unfortunately my bank doesn't have cookie machines yet). That's in short all the essentials about money I need to know to survive.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do believe that there are a few other things that I understand. But I wonder if I should be looking for a guide  called "Economics for Dummies" to better understand the ways economist's brains work. To me, there are just too many essential questions I am left to wonder with after last week's G20 meeting.

First, does it strike anybody as somewhat weird that one day before the G20 meeting - during the World Summit on Climate Change - world leaders discussed mechanisms on stabilizing the world climate, but quite little of that urgency transpired into the debate the day later?

Second, does the term "sustainable growth" strike anybody as somewhat contradictory?

How in the world can growth be sustainable when we already need several earths to sustain the current lifestyle of industrialized nations? In fact, just a few days ago (September 25) we passed the Earth Overshoort Day, the day"when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means. Beyond that day, we move into the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, utilizing resources at a rate faster than what the planet can regenerate in a calendar year." What if we were to foster a steady state economy instead of believing on limitless growth? The Center for the Advancement for a Steady State (CASSE) argues that:

"There is a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection, including conservation of biodiversity, clean air and water, and atmospheric stability.  This conflict is due to natural laws (thermodynamics and ecological structures) - it is simply a result of the way the world works.  Mounting evidence of this conflict demonstrates the limits to growth."

Maybe economists and politicians assume that they are above the natural law? How else can they believe that the best thing to do is to keep economies of industrialized nations growing? I know we need functional economies to live with, but are the only functional economies those that keep growing?

Third, does it at all strike anybody as somewhat unhelpful for stabilizing the global climate when a number of countries - including Germany and China - should spend more money to "balance global growth"? So, let me get that straight: during a time where it is of extreme urgency to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, we are asked to consume more? It is not that Germans live in dumps and old rags that they need more stuff, do we? Or maybe I misunderstood this part, and economists meant that Germany and China should invest more in renewable energies? If that is what they meant, it would be good to communicate that point more clearly.

But I am unfair. There are several important steps forward, also for the fight against global climate change. In the leader's statement of the G20 meeting, climate change is mentioned ..., well, at point 21. So there. Of course we are concerned about climate change! It's the first and foremost thing we are worried about, is it?

Ok, I am still unfair. One true success is that the G20 agreed

" To phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support for the poorest. Inefficient fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, reduce our energy security, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change." (Point 24)

Now, if that isn't a success! Never mind that we don't know what "over the medium term" means or what "inefficient" fossil fuel subsedies mean (in contrast to "efficient" ones?). The amount of loopholes in those statements are scary. But, yes, absolutely, we are concerned, and we do act accordingly.

Sorry about being just a tad sarcastic. But the discrepancy between the scientific facts which tell us that we have only a few years left to avoid a global climatic and ecological catastrophe, and the incredible slowness and inappropriateness of action just seems unacceptably large.

But maybe I just misunderstand. I hope.

Maiken Winter

Economics for Dummies

G20, financial crisis, climate change and the need for clearer communication. I am not an economist. In fact, I really don’t know much about economy at all. What...

Morgen ist Bundestagswahl. Geben Sie Ihre Stimme ab - für eine sichere und gerechte Zukunft! Denn: jede Stimme zählt, auch Ihre!

In den 70er Jahren gaben mehr als 90 Prozent aller Wahlberechtigten ihre Stimme ab. Heute sind es wesentlich weniger, da immer weniger Menschen glauben, dass ihre Stimme zählt; oder sie haben den Glauben an die Politiker verloren (Video von Deutsche Welle). Damit erodiert das Fundament der Demokratie immer mehr. Denn wenn nicht die meisten Bürgerinnen und Bürger wählen, wie kann irgendeine Konstellation von Parteien als vom Volk gewählt genannt werden? Und wie können wir den Politikern die Dringlichkeit unserer Anliegen demonstrieren, wenn wir nicht diejenigen wählen, die unser Anliegen am besten vertreten?

Demokratie lebt von der Beteiligung aller Bürgerinnen und Bürger. Nur wenn wir aktiv mitmachen, können wir auch aktiv Veränderungen durchsetzten. Wir können protestieren, boykottieren, demonstrieren; wir können Briefe und emails schreiben, Spenden überweisen, und ein Solardach installieren. Aber am Ende zählt, was von den führenden Politikerinnen und Politikern gesetzlich entschieden wird.  Am Ende zählt, wer uns bei der UN Klimakonferenz in  Kopenhagen vertreten wird.

Sie wissen noch nicht, welche Partei dafür am besten geeignet ist? Dann schauen Sie doch noch kurz hier auf unserem Portal vorbei, sehen Sie sich die Zusammenstellung von Avaaz an, oder finden Sie die für Sie geeignete Partei über den Wal-O-Mart. Detaillierte Informationen finden Sie auch direkt beim Bundestag hier.

Nur alle vier Jahre haben wir die Chance unseren Politikern und Politikerinnen zu zeigen, was wir von ihrem Programm halten. Es ist dringend Zeit, dass sie merken, was wir alle wissen: wir brauchen umgehend effektive Massnahmen um den Klimawandel soweit wie möglich einzuschränken.

Diese Wahl geht um sehr viel mehr als um die nächsten vier Jahre. Sie geht um unsere Zukunft. Geben Sie Ihre Stimme ab! Und nehmen sie Ihre Nachbarn gleich mit, um danach zu feiern!

Maiken Winter

Sind Sie dabei?

Morgen ist Bundestagswahl. Geben Sie Ihre Stimme ab – für eine sichere und gerechte Zukunft! Denn: jede Stimme zählt, auch Ihre! In den 70er Jahren gaben mehr als...

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