23 March 2014

"Can't You Read the Signs?"

It's been another week of convergences, but this time with a much different flavour. This time, I received several emails and links that added up to a sense of promise that I haven't felt in a long, long time. It's as though the world (our EuroAmerican world, our globalized EuroAmerican economy) is finally understanding that things have to change, and fast.

Let me share some of these with you.

First, I'm reading more and more commenters who "get" the urgency, who have grasped the danger in the ocean heat lag and carbon feedbacks, who are calling for zero carbon and negative carbon (sucking it out of the atmosphere and sequestering it). Just that alone, while not comforting, is a sign that people are waking up.


Next, I'm seeing more and more mention of a "carbon bubble" in the investing world. And anything with the word "bubble" in it scares the wits out of investors these days. They're saying that the world's financial markets could be creating a "carbon bubble" by over valuing the fossil fuel assets of large companies, when those assets are actually useless because they're going to have to stay in the ground. 

This is coming from the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK Parliament. Not a bunch of slouches, I'm guessing. Committee chair Joan Walley MP, has said, "Financial stability could be threatened if shares in fossil fuel companies turn out to be overvalued because the bulk of their oil, coal and gas reserves cannot be burnt without further destabilising the climate." (See what I mean about people waking up?) 

Update: Check out this week's Climate Denial Crock of the Week, Huge: Exxon Will Advise Investors on Carbon Bubble Exposure.


Sustainability advisor Paul Gilding recently posted Carbon Crash Solar Dawn. He wrote: 
"I think it’s time to call it. Renewables and associated storage, transport and digital technologies are so rapidly disrupting whole industries’ business models they are pushing the fossil fuel industry towards inevitable collapse…. 
One thing I’ve learnt from decades inside boardrooms, is that, by and large, oil, coal and gas companies live in an analytical bubble, deluded about their immortality and firm in their beliefs that 'renewables are decades away from competing' and 'we are so cheap and dominant the economy depends on us' and 'change will come, but not on my watch'. Dream on boys." 
Well worth a read, if only because it plants the seed of what is possible -- and inevitable. Can we get the timing right? That's the big, terrifying question.


And then some Donella Meadows quotes came my way, as if to somehow reassure me. It's said that she had "the enviable ability to maintain her inner serenity and her faith in the better angels of human nature, even in the face of the terrifying trends and scenarios she was all too familiar with." But still, that capacity to hold a middle space must have allowed her to keep working. When asked, "What is your greatest source of hope that society can shift to more responsible patterns of production and consumption and achieve a sustainable future?" she answered:
"The fact that we have to. If we don't choose to, the planet will make us. And the fact that our lives will be better if we do. It isn't sacrifice we're selling, it's a more meaningful, time-filled, love-filled, nature-filled existence. So, as Herman Daly says, we are about to be hit by the hammer of necessity, but we are cradled on the anvil of desirability. We have no choice but to conform." 
"I've grown impatient with the kind of debate we used to have about whether the optimists or the pessimists are right. Neither are right. There is too much bad news to justify complacency. There is too much good news to justify despair." 
"We are not helpless and there is nothing wrong with us except the strange belief that we are helpless and there's something wrong with us. All we need to do, for the bear and ourselves, is to stop letting that belief paralyze our minds, hearts, and souls."

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?