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Guest Opinion: Let's take steps to save the planet

  • This artwork by Michael Osbun relates to global warming.

Wow! Talk about organic and close to home. I just finished reading "The Great Disruption" by Paul Gilding, who was CEO of Greenpeace for 20 years and is now a sustainability consultant to multinational companies.

In last Sunday's paper, there were four articles that related to this book: In "Contrarians' viewpoint," Chris Martenson warned that in the worst-case scenario there will be "jarring financial chaos" and a steady decline in global living standards caused by unsustainable debt and the end of cheap oil; a Close to Home piece by Jane Vosburg ("Change begins with divesting in oil, gas") said that to avoid global catastrophe we need to convert to sustainable energy sources; columnist Paul Krugman ("Failed policy wrought years of tragic waste") focused on how a lack of government stimulation caused an economic slowdown and unnecessary unemployment; and an article ("Vote near on energy zoning changes") on Sonoma County renewable energy development.

All of these articles touch on points covered in the book. Global warming caused by carbon dioxide is real, and it will eventually make our planet uninhabitable; "peak oil" will make fossil fuels so expensive it will collapse the world economy; the world's economy is fast using up the planet's resources; we need a new system that will provide for near full employment; we have to build communities that can function in an era of limits; and it will take geopolitical action to convert to sustainable energy sources.

Gilding argues that we have to change from a growth economy to a steady-state economy, which is not predicated on retail shopping. The reasoning goes that we will stop chasing our tails in the pursuit of more and more stuff and spend the extra time giving back to the community, thus creating a better quality of life. He says that studies show that this type of lifestyle will make us happier since we will have to work less and our creative free time will promote the positive evolution of mankind. The "contrarian" Adam Taggart feels the best place to be when this social upheaval happens is in Sebastopol.

A steady-state economy would move a majority of jobs from growth-oriented companies to cooperatives. Cooperatives now employ 100 million people worldwide — 20 percent more than multinational companies.

As Taggart and Vosburg point out, peak oil and continued carbon dioxide emissions will collapse the global economy and destroy our planet as we know it. If we let this happen, Gilding says, it will take an effort as massive as America's entrance into World War II to save the planet. Fossil-fuel companies will have to be wiped out and replaced with an enormous investment in sustainable sources.

The alternative is to start the conversion off fossil fuel and change our lifestyles now. We need to divest ourselves from non-sustainable energy companies and invest in companies that could produce innovative solutions.

For example, Freecycle Network's seven million members give unwanted useful goods to one another, which reduces landfill waste and the need to buy new stuff. In Australia, the 1 Million Women Campaign was founded with the idea that since women make 70 percent of the consumer decisions they should take the lead in reducing carbon emission.

In planning for local renewable energy development Sonoma County supervisors and city council members seem to be providing the stated leadership that will be necessary to survive and transcend the Great Disruption.

<i>Michael Haran is a freelance writer and researcher for the Institute of Progressive Education and Learning. He lives in Healdsburg.</i>


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