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Saturday, April 18, 2009

David Suzuki Rocks Spokane

The Problem: 

1. In nature, there is an exquisite interconnectivity. Example: In the temperate rain forest, the salmon feed the trees. That's how the trees can get so huge on so little nitrogen 14. Because, in fact, they are getting oodles of nitrogen 15 from salmon carcasses, directly as carcass, but also from eagle, wolf, and bears who spread the nitrogen around in their poop and pee. It's a very integrated system, and when we ignore this fact we pay dearly.

2. Case in point: CFCs. At first it seemed to make good sense to put florinated carbons into aerosol cans; I mean, you only had to use a little perfume, and then you could put a little CFC in there, and you had a big can of stuff to sell. Scientists loved that CFCs don't react chemically . . . but that was only a good thing while the CFC was inside the can. Once it gets out of the can, its non-reactive behavior turns out to be a bad thing. This stuff doesn't break down in the atmosphere, it turns out. It not only sticks around, but it breaks down ozone. OOOPS (why, this is exactly what happened in Suess's Bartholemew & the Oobleck)!

3. The effects of CO2 are having a serious impact on our oceans. Overproduction of carbonic acid is making them overly acidic, thus killing off the animals that once stabilized the ocean's carbonic acid levels. It is also turning much of our NW forests into dead/red trees just waiting to ignite. This is due to the lack of really cold winters (-40 F for at least 5 days). Without this killing frost, the mountain pine beetle can survive the winter, and that's what's causing all of our trees to die.  

4. In the massive rush to create a global economy, we forgot one thing: the globe!

5. Economists render forests as worthless until they are CUT DOWN and the logs are sold for profit. Things like oxygen production, habitat, and soil stabilization are labeled "externalities. (Now that's what I call semantic wizardry).

How to solve the problem: 

1. Economy and ecology have the same root: ECOS, meaning household. We need to put the ECO back in economics. 

2. We need a carbon tax. Sweden has one, and their economy is stronger than ever. Even better, they've exceeded their expectations for meeting their Kyoto emissions. They charge $120 a ton for carbon. In Canada, they can't even get a law passed for a $10 charge on a ton of carbon. In the US, we're not even talking about it. 

3.  Look to Cuba as an example of how to eat locally and cut down on food miles. They now produce 80% of their own food within their cities. It's cheap, fresh, organic, and local food, and everyone gets to eat it, not just the people who can afford it. Cuba can show us the way.

4. We need to stop consuming/buying so much. 20% of us are using 80% of the world's resources. When his own father was dying, did he talk about his nice wardrobe full of clothes? His fancy car? NO, he kept saying he was rich because he had family and friends around him.

5. When we decided we could go to the moon, no one could stop us. We dove into Sputnik and never looked back. We kicked butt to get to the moon! Now it's  time to kick butt on solving the problem of our warming planet and shrinking resources. Retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, coming up with 100% renewable energy, & increasing geothermal, to name a few, will add jobs, not take them away. 

6. We need to make a commitment to sustainability in our own communities. We don't have to have all the answers, or have everything mapped out, but we have to start thinking about what we want our community to look like in 30 years, for the next generation. Talk to people in your community. Don't preach. Don't tell people what they need to do. Start a book group and read books like Plenty, in which a man and woman live for a year without eating anything grown more than 100 miles from their home. Think long range, people. 


Meg said...

I can't believe my good luck in sitting next to you at the Suzuki lecture, where I was so spellbound I didn't take a single note but you were so with it you not only had your notebook in hand but were writing in it, which led me to blurt out a request for a copy of your notes, which in turn led me to your blog and this wonderful summary of the lecture and also Charles Baxter's and also your other posts. So thanks for being so with it. I would have been at your reading but I was at a different panel Friday morning instead. There was so much going on it was tough to choose but it was all awesome.

Martha Silano said...

It was great to meet you, Meg. I'm just obsessive that way :-)