HOT TIP! Tomorrow evening, October 27, Bill McKibben will be at Bridges Auditorium to speak on Earth: Making A life On A Tough New Planet. Tickets are free and you can pick up a couple for the 7:00 p.m. event at the box office, open from 10am to 4pm. Like 9-17-11, “HOT” has a double meaning. McKibben lays it out, no holds barred, in his latest book, Eaarth. Our planet is warming rapidly – beyond anything that has happened for at least the past 650,000 years. Our use of fossil fuels is a major cause. Carbon dioxide from burning coal and petroleum-based products is changing the atmosphere by trapping the sun’s heat here on earth. We’re moving away from the ideal conditions for human life, so remarkable on our planet, where ice sheets act like a giant air conditioner to maintain the narrow temperature range that allowed nature as we know it to evolve. The ice is already melting so fast that it may all be gone by the end of the century. There are floods and drought, famines and fires, and failing economies. Its in the news every day, The average global temperature has risen about 2 degrees F so far, the sea level has risen about 8 inches, and creditable modeling shows much higher temperatures and about 20 feet of sea level rise are in store if present trends continue.
The touted remedy to fix our economy is produce more, consume more, use more energy. Rather than investing heavily in alternate energy sources, the current debate is over approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. That project would bring oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US for refining and distribution to the east and gulf coasts. The tar sands hold an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels of oil! Extraction is expensive and would severely damage the environment, and if we burned this much more oil, in McKibben’s words, it could well be “game over”.
Have we reached our limit? McKibben makes the case for scaling back in our energy use, community-based agriculture, regional economic production to supply our needs, local businesses working together, more locally generated power, using the sun for much of our energy needs rather than fossil fuels, more neighborly communities, less hauling goods and travel and more use of the Internet. His is a call for local vitality, conservation and resilience on a planet different enough to call “Eaarth”.
What to do about this? Developing nations don’t want to give up their chance to develop, and developed nations are reluctant to cut back. Part of the answer is education – surveys show 98% of climate scientists say the global warming problem is real, but 45% of the public doesn’t. McKibben formed 350.org to build public support for change to a low-carbon economy. In October 2009 they organized a day of global action that CNN reported was “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Presently the most effective programs are at state and local levels. California is way ahead of most states with its AB 32 program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the 1990 level by 2020. Communities are implementing plans to become more energy efficient and sustainable. Here in Claremont theologian John Cobb arranged Dr. McKibben;s visit for the lecture and conference (see BRAVE NEW PLANET: Imagining Ecological Communities — there is still time to register at http://www.pcu-la.org/PCU/BraveNewPlanet.html). Katie Gerecke, Chair of the United Nations Association for Pomona Valley, set up an exhibit in the Claremont Public Library about United Nations views on global warming, and on the Conference. Devon Hartman, co-founder of Hartman-Baldwin Design/Build (and now President of Every Watt Matters) is active in a nation-wide campaign to make our buildings more energy efficient.— a vital conservation target. He and Claremont Senior Planner Chris Veirs have arranged a program on the benefits of home energy conservation and the successes we have had in Claremont. The program, The Power of Energy Efficiency: A Claremont Celebration, will be held in the Padua Room at the Hughes Community Center at 7:00 p.m. Monday, November 7. Homeowners who have had home energy retrofits will receive cash awards for their completed projects; contractors who did the work will be recognized, and there will be vendor booths and educational displays on how to conserve energy through participation in the Claremont Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP) and the Energy Champions Program.
In Claremont many of us could generate much of our electric power needs with cost-effective solar-electric systems. On November 9 Mark Von Wodtke will provide a presentation Producing Your own Power, 7:00 p.m. at Forum in the Packing House, 586 W First street. The presentation will be followed by a workshop to help evaluate the potential for solar power generation for individual homes.
Education and local action are important!
Demystifying Sustainability is an initiative of Sustainable Claremont (sustainableclaremont.org).