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converging crises

Shiv Visvanathan: An emerging wave of environmental politics

From Asian Age: Just as one wonders if one has reached a dead end, a new wave of environmental politics is emerging. The struggle against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi stands is a major symbol of these movements. The politics of environment and the battles for livelihood become a microcosm for the democratic struggles today.

There is nowhere left to run

Ratheesh Pisharody writes: There’s really nowhere to run whether we are mammals, trees, insects or even indigenous tribes. What chances do we see for the planet’s revival? When humans take away both “space” and “time” from our co-passengers on this planet, we’re leaving no “leverage” for the others to “somehow” adjust and make it through.

Special Feature: Three views from the global economy’s energy cliff

Here are three leading observers on the world’s increasingly shaky energy situation. Minqui Li presents a through-going analysis of the global energy scenario from 2018-2050 based on the latest data, Kurt Cobb suggests that ‘peak oil’ maybe a process, rather than a event, while Chris Martenson issues a stark warning on the coming oil crash.

Cross-border environmentalism and the future of South Asia

Kanak Mani Dixit, founding editor of ‘Himal Southasian’, writes: When ‘organic environmentalism’ rises from the grassroots and makes state authority accountable, South Asia and its peoples will be protected. At that point, no force will be able to stop activism across the frontiers and South Asia will begin to tackle pollution and dislocation as one.

Half-Earth: A biologist’s manifesto for preserving life on Earth

Here is the ambitious (and controversial) proposal by E.O. Wilson —arguably the world’s most lauded living evolutionary biologist— to save life on Earth by setting aside around half the planet in various types of nature reserves. Also included is a research paper exploring the viability of Wilson’s proposal, along with a sharp critique of it.

The Age of Peaking Resources: A Personal Take

During my first encounter with resource depletion issues I thought re-localisation would be a strategy to defy the odds. One relocates to a resource abundant small geography and maintains it through a community driven process. But then, I never pursued it. However, the recent news of India’s looming water crisis has got me thinking again.

‘Tail Risk’: What the scientists are not telling you about climate change

Kerry Emanuel writes: There are strong cultural biases against discussion of ‘tail risk’ in climate science; particularly the accusation of “alarmism”. Does the dictum to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” not apply to climate scientists? If we omit discussion of tail risk, are we really telling the whole truth?

Franklin Foer on the existential threat of big tech

“These machines shape the way we view reality. We’re not just merging with machines, but with the companies that run these machines—who run these machines for profit. And here’s the existential threat… these technologies will change what it means to be human. Once we take this leap, it will be very hard to reverse course.”

Gail Tverberg: Our energy problem is about quantity, not just quality

Reading about energy today, it’s easy to get the impression that our energy problem is a quality problem—some energy is polluting; other energy is hoped to be less polluting. There’s a different issue that we are not being told about. It’s the fact that having enough energy – quantity – is extremely important, as well.

Book review: The Water Will Come

‘As the waters rise,’ Jeff Goodell writes, ‘millions of people will be displaced, many of them in poor countries, creating generations of climate refugees that will make today’s Syrian war refugee crisis look like a high school drama production.’ There’s no longer any doubt that the rise in global sea levels will reshape human civilisation.

Hope from chaos: could political upheaval lead to a new green epoch?

Kevin Anderson writes in The Conversation: Most political and economic pontificators, buttressed by naysayers and established elites, remain incapable of seeing beyond their familiar 20th century horizon. But the 21st century is already proving how the future is a different country –one that could yet be shaped by alternative interpretations of prosperity, sustainability and equity.

Inside Antarctica: the continent whose fate will affect millions

From Financial Times: Antarctica is changing fast, including sections of the massive ice sheet that covers it. This holds so much water that if it ever melted completely, global sea levels would rise by nearly 60m. The race to understand Antarctica has become more urgent. Also watch, the documentary ‘The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning.’

Red alert: Runaway climate change begins as glacier melt passes point of no return

This latest news immediately brings some questions to mind: Does this mean that we should stop working toward mitigating climate change? Should we stop worrying and enjoy mindlessly by indulging ourselves in senseless consumerism? I really don’t know. But what I definitely know is that the window of opportunity to act is closing really fast.

J.M. Korhonen: I’m no longer advocating for clean energy; here’s why

We’re not going to get a decarbonized energy system by 2050. We’re going to fail the climate targets, probably by a large margin, and I suspect that a warming of about 3 degrees centigrade is going to be almost inevitable. It’s perfectly possible that self-amplifying feedback mechanisms under way will amplify this change even more.

Slaughterbots: How autonomous weapons endanger our future

From CNet/Future of Life Institute: Autonomous weapons use Artificial Intelligence to select and engage targets without human intervention. Now, a think tank backed by scientist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others, offers a graphic warning against machines that decide whom to kill. This fictional video underscores how seriously these experts view the issue.

Bookshelf: Alternative Futures: India Unshackled

A remarkable, first-ever collection of essays on India’s future, by a diverse set of authors – activists, researchers, media practitioners – those who have influenced policies and those working at the grassroots. It presents scenarios of an India that is politically and socially egalitarian, radically democratic, ecologically sustainable and economically equitable, and socio-culturally diverse and harmonious.

Is it possible for everyone to live a good life within our planet’s limits?

Daniel O’Neill writes: If everyone on Earth were to lead a good life within our planet’s sustainability limits, the level of resources used to meet basic needs would have to be reduced by a factor of two to six times. These are the sobering findings of our research, recently published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

George Monbiot: Is this the end of civilisation? We could take a different path

“Is western civilisation on the brink of collapse?” the lead article in this week’s New Scientist asks.  It’s a good question, but it seems too narrow. These pathologies are not confined to “the west”. The rise of demagoguery (and the pursuit of simplistic solutions to complex problems) is everywhere apparent. Environmental breakdown is accelerating worldwide.

Why we can no longer shrink from the most urgent conversation on the planet

Richard Heinberg writes: Many problems are converging at once because society is a complex system, and the challenges we have been discussing are aspects of a systemic crisis. A useful way to frame an integrated understanding of the 21st century survival challenge is this: we humans have overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for our species.

R.I.P. Ursula Le Guin, visionary science-fiction writer

Ursula K. Le Guin, legendary American sci-fi author and creator of the classic ‘Earthsea’ series, died on January 22. She was 88. In this tribute, we present a video of her talk on “Transformation Without Apocalypse: How to Live Well on an Altered Planet”, as well as her article on ‘the future of the Left’.

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