Thoughts on a Ludins House Climate Change Theme
We are now living through the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history, and seem determined to add our species to the list. Up until a few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty hopeless. I won’t live to see the worst of it, but my kids and grandkids will. I don’t want the world to end for them with a whimper, and a big belch of relief from Gaia as she corrects such things as only she knows how: with a massive die-off. Yes, there will probably be survivors, but even if my descendants end up among the lucky few living in a cave and eating raw fish, that doesn’t really provide me with much solace. But, fellow froggies in the slowly heating pot, it turns out there are workable ways out of this mess, but it’s time to jump, because at some point, soon, it’s going to be too late. It’s a two part puzzle: cutting CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to a very low level, and getting enough CO2 back out of the atmosphere that the planet remains habitable. There already exist blueprints, or at least road maps, for shifting our energy systems to carbon neutrality, using renewable solar-based energy technologies like photovoltaics and wind, converting to hydrogen as our motor fuel, and conserving energy like it was everybody’s business. UC Berkeley is a major player in this, not only because it’s necessary, but because it could also be very profitable. And, much to my surprise, it turns out there’s already a proven existing technology for taking all that excess carbon out of the air, and putting it back in the earth where it belongs. Soil is the planet’s great carbon storehouse, holding many times over what is fouling our atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture could do the trick, according to recent studies by the Rodale Institute and others. After all, there are about a billion small and peasant farmers out there, and with modest technical assistance and a financial subsidy structure based on taxing greenhouse gas emissions, there are strong scientific arguments that they could eventually bring atmospheric greenhouse gases down to pre-industrial levels.
Time is running out, soon, though nobody is sure quite when. There’s a tipping point, where the positive feedback mechanisms lock in. Pass that point and it’s all downhill—and up temp– from there, no matter what we do.
So what’s stopping us?
- Nobody wants to think about this, it’s too depressing, especially since most people don’t have a clue what they could actually do about it
- We can’t imagine life without our cars, appliances, air travel, gas furnaces, and the Iphone 6s. Pretty soon everybody’s going to feel the need for air conditioning too, and with good reason. And, oh yes, all those Indians and Chinese want cars too. Now.
- Profit: Fossil fuels move the world, not to mention Wall Street. Industrial agriculture produces some 30% of the word’s greenhouse gases, through fossil fuel use, soil destruction, and cow farts. They’d kill to hold onto their profits, and, boy, have they!
So where does Ludins House come in?
- Empower people by example. We’re neighbors, we’re like them (maybe more than we like to admit sometimes); if we’re doing something about climate change, so can they. So let’s do something!
- Make it local, make it easy: Provide a neighborhood interface to those who offer services, products, and avenues of action to address climate change. Start with an information center in some unused corner of the garage-hub. Have a local seed exchange, neighborhood workshops, coffee hour, book club, solar Tupperware party, you name it.
- Make it fun: The Culture of Climate Survival: Music, theater, art, food. Climate change themes for the next Russell St Halloween party, anyone?
Model, model, model
- Regenerative Carbon Garden: sure, it’s only a grain of sand in all the world’s beaches, but it’s doing something. And locally grown food isn’t just healthier, it’s a way to say no (or at least less) to industrial agriculture. WWII’s victory gardens produced more commitment and solidarity than food, and it’s a great model for our times
- Renewable energy: Fix the solar water heater, find low (or no) cost options for a big, showy photovoltaic installation
- Show the neighbors how to do energy conservation for big old drafty houses
- Transportation: Car share and see if we can get an electric vehicle for shared use. Investigate biodiesel options (yes, it works fine with older Mercedes Benz and VW diesels). Use the bicycles.
Climate change is going to be THE central political issue of the coming decades. It’s also inextricably linked to wealth, power, and the obscene and growing division between rich and poor. As the world heats up, this issue is going to go into the streets, as well as into local and national politics. And (just as in the 60’s) Berkeley is going to be one of the places where it happens first.
Where’s Jon ? He’s living with a bunch of those peasants who could be sequestering carbon, and he’s working hard to make that start happening in the DR. Maybe you can even go down to Limon and get some carbon-rich dirt under your fingernails. Well, that’s not happening quite yet, maybe you can contribute towards getting it started, and come down next year to participate.