Understanding the limitations of the not so mighty state and the role of citizens in times of crisis:
The global movement that took place during September of 2014 made it clear that climate change has become a securitized topic that needs our undivided immediate attention. People demand government action to see the implementation of new policies that provide a solid path to curbing carbon emissions over the next few years. I would be inclined to assume that every president around the world is just as concerned about this topic as we are. However, unlike the Ozone crisis of the 90’s, which was easily tackled by global governance, the issue of reducing green house gas emissions has only yielded frustration and finger pointing since the first attempts to set reduction targets took place during the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. The reason for this outcome has nothing to do with evil influences from the wealthy or poor governance planning. The causes are far too complex for any organization to solve. The fact is that governments around the world are facing a dire choice between high unemployment accompanied by astronomical inflation if they tax carbon emissions or a slow but sure degradation of the environment if they don‘t. Due to technological and economic framework limitations at this time, states have very few choices to reduce carbon emissions, and none of the available options are desirable. Therefore, it would be wise for citizens to abandon the notion that we will be saved by the regulation fairy. Understanding government limitations push us forward to begin exploring alternative approaches on how citizens can assume a proactive role in the issue of climate change and its implications on human security.
As previously stated, the Ozone crisis set a precedent and the expectation that carefully crafted policy could potentially solve global problems. The caveat to this expectation is the difference between controlling a single set of industrial gases for which there were available substitutes and controlling several industries for which there are no substitute methods of production. Reducing green house gases would require global regulation of the transportation, energy and agricultural industries (the basic engine of developed countries) to reduce production or replace production methods for a technology that does not yet exist on a massive scale. Knowing this, the other alternative for governments would be to tax the use of many pollutants, or force citizens to consume less, none of which is a viable solution in a consumer driven economy. Obvious consequences of these two policies would be either high inflation due to increase in prices due to taxation and/or high unemployment due to reduced consumption. So, which one do you think will be the first country eager to implement these policies to solve global warming?
If governments were to fund sustainable technology in order to accelerate the change, the time it would take to produce these technologies at a massive scale would be at least 10 years, if the push were not coming from the private sector. Ten years is a very long time to wait when we are told that 20 years from now, the damage to the environment will be irreversible. Furthermore, the options outlined fail to address the root cause of the problem; none of them eliminates the existing carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere. Which brings up an important point, not everything can be solved by policy and financial incentives. This problem requires real people rolling up their sleeves and taking collective action to clean up the mess.
Unlike previous crises that were comfortably somebody else problem, solving this issue requires coordinated action, not from governments, but from citizens around the world. In a consumer driven economy, individual choice produces immediate change. Twenty years is within our lifetime, therefore, you and I will experience the economic consequences that our current daily habits are creating. This includes famine, massive migrations and unstable weather patterns that will affect food supply for a long time.
In light of this reality, I would like to share my views on possible alternatives that could help us buy more time until innovators come up with alternative methods of production. I am thinking of a fourth dimensional approach that involves the following coordinated actions without the intervention of any government policies:
- A push from the consumer sector:
- Begin by supporting only companies that manufacture products from sustainable sources. Nothing can change corporate practice, technological focus or governance faster than consumer choice. it may be a rocky ride, but we are running out of alternatives.
- The deliberate proliferation of fast developing flora capable of converting high levels of CO2 and other green house gases (forming carbon sinks). Planting small bushes or certain ivy in high population density regions.
- Replacing soy and corn by edible algae to feed cattle in efforts to reduce farming green house gases. Duckweed for example grows naturally in stagnant waters and it yields 10-30 tonnes of weed/ha a year. This super food contains 43% of protein and highly digestible dry matter.
- Composting bins in every home (with worms) to reduce organic waste. It is not that hard! We can do this and it makes a big difference in the amount of garbage we produce that otherwise would be burned creating CO2.
- A push from the private sector: 1- to develop chemical free recycling techniques. 2-For agriculture, we can take a lesson from nature by utilizing biomimicry and biomimetics. 3-The energy sector needs a huge push to market truly sustainable energy solutions such as the existing algae based fuel.
In the mean time, governments can work on funding sustainable technology, or not? When it comes to government policy, my personal opinion is that requiring coal burning plants to set up algae based bio-reactors to absorb the pollution could be a lot more practical than taxing carbon emissions because it is costing them money, it is clearing the pollution they create while at the same time accelerating the time to market new clean technologies.
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Bailey, Sarah; Rebbeck, Joanne; Loats, Ken V.; “Interactive Effects of Elevated Ozone plus
Carbon Dioxide on Duckweeds Exposed in Open-Top Chambers” Ohio Journal of Science: Volume 99, Issue 2 (April, 1999). Web November 10, 2014
R A Leng, J H Stambolie and R Bell; “Duckweed – a potential high-protein feed resource for domestic animals and fish” Centre for Duckweed Research & Development University of New England: Volume 7, Number 1, October 1995- Web November 10, 2014
Phys. Org; Keith Hautala, Whitney Hale & Alicia Gregory; “Using algae to lock away greenhouse gas”. Web. October 3, 2013. Web November 9, 2014
The White House, John Podesta “An Important Step in Our Fight Against Climate Change.” www.whitehouse.org. Web, September 23, 2014. Web November 11, 2014
Jerry Colona ww.gapinvoid.com
Mark Bekoff http://www.thepropleproject.com