Category Archives: Policy

“An Inconvenient Sequel” Screenings and Much More

See below information about “An Inconvenient Sequel” screenings, and various related resources for educators, business professionals, and concerned citizens.

Inconvenient-Sequel-850x400

From a New York Times review:

In a summer movie landscape with Spider-Man, a simian army waging further battle for the planet and Charlize Theron as a sexy Cold War-era superspy, it says something that one of the most compelling characters is Al Gore.

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a follow-up to “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary from 2006, is a reboot that justifies its existence — and not just because Mr. Gore has fresh news to report on climate change since his previous multimedia presentation played in multiplexes.

Read more here.

See trailer here.

Get tickets and find various resources here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image source: Occasional Planet, http://occasionalplanet.org/2017/04/03/just-time-inconvenient-sequel/

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change, Film, Policy, politics

Marine Corps University Journal: Special Issue on Climate Change & Policy

dhma
The Marine Corps University (MCU) Journal just released an interesting new addition to the climate and security discussion with its “2016 Special Issue: Climate Change & Policy,” wh…
Source: Marine Corps University Journal: Special Issue on Climate Change & Policy

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change, Policy

Fossil Fuel Divestment in a Nutshell

The following informal analytical summary is based on secondary research conducted for Chicago 350. I  reviewed a variety of academic and media articles, and have cited select accessible sources.

A great deal of information about fossil fuel divestment is available on environmental activist sites.  Divestment campaigns are not ultimately targeted to the converted, however.  Almost everything published betrays a bias.  And the financial stakes for governments and institutions seem high, in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.  While conducting fresh research to orient myself to this still  controversial issue, I found articles that supported the financial case for divestment and articles that argued against it. For this reason I concluded that short-term investment arguments are not the most persuasive. More compelling are the long-term economic arguments and projections. On one hand, investing is all “speculation,” but on the other hand, public opinion and policy will likely stigmatize fossil fuel industries and affect their market value. Technological and economic trends also suggest that alternative energy will soon replace fossil fuels as a primary source of the world’s energy.

Alternative energy costs are declining steadily, as technology progresses and market share increases, and these costs are already competitive with fossil fuel costs in some contexts. The long-range outlook for fossil fuels, conversely, is grim and most experts are confident that the fossil fuel market is peaking.[1] A large portion of existing reserves will become “unburnable” “stranded assets,” due to government policies and market factors influenced by climate change.[2] Indeed, government policies that count on exploiting all existing reserves clearly contradict existing climate-change goals and commitments.[3] Some experts argue that investment banks are blind to the risk, and less concerned than fossil fuel companies, because they are primarily interested in generating fees.[4]

33.+Fossil+fuel+subsidies+5x+greater+lo+res

Number Image – Fossil Fuel Subsidies 5x more than Renewables  by Alisa Singer

From a broader perspective, legislators and citizens should be informed about and concerned with the various economic implications of continuing to invest in fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry is much more heavily subsidized than the renewable energy industry, which makes it less economically efficient.[5] Continuing to invest in fossil fuels thus drains national and regional resources in general. Also governments should invest in clean energy jobs and training before the “carbon bubble” bursts, to ensure a smooth transition in terms of education, employment, and infrastructure adaptation, all of which have short- and long-term economic implications.[6] As in most environmental debates, citizens and legislators tend to be shortsighted. If our current economic woes are a result of previous shortsighted policies, then reacting in the same manner now only passes the buck to the next generation and increases the problem.

Image and image data sources:
http://www.environmentalgraphiti.org/art-in-numbers-and-words/
http://www.environmentalgraphiti.org/data-sources/

[1] “The World Nears Peak Fossil Fuels for Electricity”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-13/we-ve-almost-reached-peak-fossil-fuels-for-electricity

[2]“Carbon Bubble & Divestment Trouble: An Analysis | The JEI” http://www.thejei.com/carbon-bubble-divestment-trouble-investor-reactions-an-analysis/ ; “Most Fossil Fuels ‘Unburnable’ Under 2C Climate Target” http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30709211

[3] “Most Fossil Fuels ‘Unburnable’ Under 2C Climate Target” http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30709211

[4] “How Should Investors Manage Climate-Change Risk?”http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2497514&download=yes ; “Investment Bank Blindness to Risk in Fossil-Fuel Sector” http://ieefa.org/banker-blindness-fossil-fuel-sector-risk/

[5] “Energy Subsidies” http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energysubsidies/

[6] “Divesting from Fossil Fuels: How Cities can Help Solve the Climate Crisis”
http://localprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Divesting-From-Fossil-Fuels.pdf

 

1 Comment

Filed under Climate Change, commons, Policy

To Paris and Beyond: Climate and Freedom

by Erik Lindberg, originally published by Transition Milwaukee

For the modern radical is as confident in the moral expression of his stances and consequently in the assertive uses of the rhetoric of morality as any conservative has ever been.  Whatever else he denounces in our culture he is certain that it still possesses the moral resources which he requires in order to denounce it.  Everything else may be, in his eyes, in disorder; but the language of morality is in order, just as it is.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

In my previous installments in this series[i]–a series in which I question how and to what extent “freedom” can be the main organizing principle of a sustainable civilization–I argued that most of what passes for freedom is dependent upon an open system.  To put this in historical terms I developed earlier, freedom is attendant to a cosmological transition from a closed world to an infinite universe.[ii]  I have been working these metaphysical metaphors in order to illustrate a suspicion I have been meditating over: not only that the “closed world” of our global ecology has been suffering because we treat it as an “infinite universe”; but also that this treatment is by and large the natural outcome of the unrestrained freedom which serves as the main operating principle of our politics, economy, and Liberal moral code. While I realize there are number of risks in questioning the modern unquestionable, I am working towards an articulation of human good and morality that does not hinge mainly on the notion of individual liberty, especially the freedom to consume, or the freedom to have whatever we can afford.

At the end of my last installment, however, I entertained a possible reversal in the main course of my argument, adopting for my purposes a title from one of the late Richard Rorty’s excellent papers on the relationship between philosophy and politics.[iii]  As “an end of philosophy” philosopher, Rorty suggests that most of the questions that philosophy has attempted to answer cannot be answered in the absolute terms the same philosophers tend to demand.  According to Rorty, we should expect the sort of suggestive answers that we get from novelists or poets.  The lack of absolute answers, Rorty argues, is hardly something to mourn—in large part because Liberal, democratic politics do not depend on a strong philosophical glue, any more than they depend on shared religious beliefs.  Rather, democratic deliberation requires only a process of negotiation and compromise, a process that is actually aided by the humility one gains by seeing his or her interests as having no solid philosophical backing.  We don’t need better philosophy, in short, we need better politics; a new philosophical theory or metanarrative won’t help us learn to treat our environment and each other better.

Continue reading here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Capitalism, Climate Change, Policy, politics, Social Justice

Buen Vivir, Degrowth and Ecological Swaraj: Alternatives to ble development and the Green Economy

by Ashish Kothari, Federico Demaria and Alberto Acosta

Introduction

Concern over the ecological unsustainability of human presence on Earth, and the growing inequality coupled with continuing deprivation of a huge part of humanity, has grown rapidly in the last couple of decades (Rockstrom et al., 2009; Piketty, 2014; Steffen et al., 2015). Inequality, injustice and unsustainability, already part of many state-dominated systems, have clearly been worsened by the recent phase of capitalism’s accelerated expansion (Harvey, 2014).

Along with this, however, the global exploration of pathways towards sustainability, equity and justice has also grown. These are of two broad kinds. First, and currently on the ascendance, are ‘Green Economy’ (GE) and ‘sustainable development’ (SD) approaches. These entail a series of technological, managerial, and behavioural changes, in particular to build in principles and parameters of sustainability and inclusion into production, consumption and trade while maintaining high rates of economic growth as the key driver of development. These attempts have failed (and we argue, will continue to fail) to deliver what they promised: halt the worsening of the planetary health, eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. Somewhat on the fringes, as the second broad trend, are paradigms that call for more fundamental changes, challenging the predominance of growth-oriented development and of the neo-liberal economy and related forms of ‘representative democracy’. This essay attempts to provide a critique of the ‘Green Economy’ model, and describe the alternative notions or worldviews of well-being emerging (or re-emerging) in various regions. By comparing the two, it suggests how the latter can contribute to re-politicize the public debate by identifying and naming different socio-environmental futures: Buen Vivir, Ecological Swaraj or Radical Ecological Democracy (RED), and Degrowth. Finally, it discusses the risk of mainstream co-option of radical alternatives, and concludes on the need to strive for genuine political and socio-ecological transformation.

Continue Reading here.

Published in Development (2014) 57(3–4), 362–375. doi:10.1057/dev.2015.24

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Capitalism, ecologies, economicss, Equity, Policy, politics, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Exploring the Nature of Diversity in Chicago

by Eoin O’Neill

Author details: Dr. Eoin O’Neill is a tenured Lecturer in Environmental Policy at University College Dublin and is visiting at DePaul University for the Autumn Quarter, hosted by the Department of Environmental Science and Studies.

Whilst visiting at DePaul and as an urban dweller in Chicago, I’m somewhat unusual; I don’t have a car and can be seen with my wife walking the streets at all hours pushing a large red buggy, which we have been told is a rather ‘awesome stroller’ and ‘like a red Cadillac’. While it takes us longer to get everywhere, walking allows for an intimate acquaintance with hidden nooks of Chicago that I may otherwise never have seen. It also allows for time to reflect and appreciate the diversity to be found within and between its neighbourhoods.

As I walk (or sometimes travel elevated on the ‘L’), I often wonder whether the difference in the types of ‘nature’, crudely assessed in terms of observable trees/vegetation, experienced by people in various neighbourhoods is in anyway attributable to some form of interplay between environment and cultural factors. On one of our walks, for example, one moves across an invisible boundary and the intensely green and manicured grass verges, the street trees, shrubs and flowers in a highly maintained urban setting give way to a relatively un-manicured urban environment, and a different cultural influence clearly apparent along the streetscape.  Whilst the type of ‘nature’ on the street is visibly different, seemingly limited to occasional window boxes and less well maintained street planting (with different biodiversity potential), I wonder whether the influence of culture is a significant factor influencing how communities express environmental preferences or appreciate nature; or whether the manner in which nature is revealed locally is predominantly resource driven? Or maybe they are inextricably linked with both having an influence in combination.

To my untrained eye, culture does not seem to be a hugely significant factor; however, the impact of the distribution of financial resources is visibly a significant influencing factor on the type of nature evident in parts of Chicago.  Some neighbourhoods look like they are entering into a period of significant transition (or transformation).  Extreme examples include extensive areas of abandoned or derelict homes and lots etc. with a less structured nature re-emerging apparent in some neighborhoods (see http://57thandnormal.com/ – although this is a drastic case).  I imagine that neighhorhoods losing their sense of urbanity might generate negative feelings and a sense of uncertainty for residents in an otherwise regulated urban setting.  Such feelings may come from recollections of experiences attached to the place as it was; and perhaps from efforts to exclude, and avoid, risky aspects of ‘authentic’ nature from the regulated environment.  Moreover, the emergence of multi-generations of urban dwellers (a global phenomenon) has probably increased the level of disconnect between people and nature.

These ‘abandoned’ parts of the Chicago urban landscapes (see also, for example, http://abandonedchicago.tumblr.com/) are in a state of flux – sufficiently managed to avoid emergence of much of a sense of wilderness; but at the opposite end of a spectrum that might be signified by Grove at al. ‘ecology of prestige’.  However, it seems that some new ideas are emerging within the policy community about using this change to bring about prospects for a more purposeful yet beneficial experience of such nature for affected residents.  Whilst thinking about Green Infrastructure solutions (such as rain gardens, urban agriculture, parks etc.) is not unusual, with some examples apparent as I walk around, perhaps the systemic thinking being applied by participants in the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, to (amongst other efforts) strategically coordinate repurposing of parcels of vacant land to better manage stormwater is innovative.  (I recently attended a meeting of this group, in an observer capacity.  The collaborative model in this case comprising c. 30 stakeholder agencies and non-profits looks like it may be worthy of replication beyond Chicago.)

 Pilsen

An improved ‘vacant’ lot in Pilsen generating ecosystem services.

From a policy perspective such circumstances present opportunities for such innovations; however, the period during which an individual’s neighborhood becomes re-defined is at least socially disruptive and a ‘messy’ experience for residents who have to live through the transition.  But perhaps other places can learn from these experiences.

Sticking to the water-related theme, the newly developed (and developing) riverside walk along the Chicago River provides a pleasant break from the immediate hazard walking alongside city traffic and the stop-start of pedestrian crossings, generating feelings of relaxation as noise levels are abated at the lower level of the water.  Similarly the walk alongside the lakeshore gives an even greater access to an unbroken, authentic, and sometimes wild vista.  Alternatively, the recently opened Bloomingdale Trail, developed on a former rail line, provides an enjoyable elevated perspective within the urban environment.  However its appearance differs from my expectations with the trail being a concrete pavement rather than a beaten path.

Trail

A section of the Bloomingdale Trail passing Bucktown

More generally, and apparent to me no matter where I walk, is the extensive amount of street-trees, bringing with them various environmental benefits in addition to well-established wellbeing and stress-reduction benefits, which must surely be welcomed by most city residents.  On the other hand, and as a consequence, the lack of any green planting on most back-alleys and laneways off main streets provides a harsh setting, especially against the backdrop of tall buildings with limited direct sunlight.

I must admit that my reflections are influenced by my background, where there is a much more homogenous society (predominantly white and of Irish and European origin), and limited evidence of any significant contemporary non-European cultural influences imprinting itself on the Irish landscape so far, of which I am aware.  The pie chart below portrays the ethnic or cultural background of all people (Irish and non-Irish) resident in Ireland at the time of the most recent census (2011).

Chart

Source: Central Statistics Office 2011. Available from www.cso.ie  Accessed 10/29/2015.

Maybe the scale of the City of Chicago, being just under three times larger (by population) than Dublin, and with a far more extensive and vastly more culturally diverse and populous metropolitan region, means the landscape in all its guises is reflective of the environmental preferences of its various constituent communities.  Somewhat contrary to my elementary musings here, some recent findings from New York (Grove et al. 2014), suggest that socio-economic factors alone are not sufficient to explain which neighborhoods have the most exposure to nature (assessed by vegetative cover measured by tree canopy and lawns).  Perhaps this type of analysis may be an important consideration when advocating for green infrastructure and ecological restoration initiatives more widely across Chicago in the future.  Indeed the Great Rivers Chicago initiative (GreatRiversChicago.com) seems to be a good example of engaging with communities to establish their preferences for a better relationship with, and improved access to, an aspect of nature.

meeting

Attendees and facilitators at the Great Rivers Chicago public open-house meeting at the Ping Tom Memorial Park Fieldhouse in Chinatown (10/28/2015).

 

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to enjoy my walks around the city and its neighborhoods.

Leave a comment

Filed under Climate Change, commons, ecologies, economicss, environmental justice, Equity, Policy, politics, Uncategorized