Need for more discussion on Local - Global Challenges before moving on
Dear Climate Resiliency coordinating team and new and old ecovillage friends,
I have been reviewing the notes from our recent meetings in preparation for our upcoming process. And at least for me I feel like we really ought to spend some more time discussing and processing the input and comments from our last meeting on Learning Edges before going too much further with all of this and before sharing too much of it with our own communities.
I was happily surprised to read of the extent to which most of us seem to understand just how dire and challenging the situation we are facing is; and yet I feel like so far we have just begun to explore what this truly means and how it already is, and moreso is likely to, impact both all of humanity and our communities. Once we have developed a fuller understanding as to the geophysical challenges we are collectively facing then I think that any work that we do on our community and system assessments will be a lot more useful and will make a lot more sense and that then we should also be much better able and prepared to discuss and plan for how we might best deal with what is to come in this process.
I also think it would be very good if we could develop much more of a shared or common understanding about all of this.
I have also often found the use of small group breakout sessions to be rather frustrating - at least for me personally. I have always wanted the larger group to hear what I have to say and am wanting to hear what everyone else has to say as well. Which usually doesn’t work very well when most of the discussion occurs in smaller groups. Of course doing full group sharing requires everyone to be as succinct as possible while still clearly getting across the main points of what they are trying to say. However that is a great skill for everyone to learn how to use anyway.
So in our case, now that I have read all of the comments in the notes of the two sessions I have much more of an idea of what people already know and are concerned about. Which then could enable us to take our understandings to a much deeper level if we were to start in again from there now that we have had time to think more about it and help to make sure that we are not missing important impacts and conditions that are already occurring and can be expected to even more so. In addition, it would enable us to perhaps look deeper into why these things are occurring (climate change causes and impacts and mutually reinforcing patterns) and what could or can be done about it.
For example we could look at why the numbers, frequency, and severity of hurricanes and tidal waves are getting much worse. What the situation is with melting permafrost, how the destruction and loss of wetlands, along with other habitats and ecosystems, is increasing the impacts due in part to climate change, why rainforests are burning around the world and what could be done about that, why the disruption of large and small scale natural water cycles coupled with increasing levels of land degradation and desertification are having an increasingly debilitating impact on ecosystems, soil health, climate change and local to global warming, etc.
Understanding such things as this makes it much more likely that we will then understand why it is incredibly important and even essential that humanity, along with our ecovillage communities, transition to fully regenerative diets and agricultural processes as quickly as possible and the need to invest heavily in water retention land management, completely restore as many natural ecosystems as we can while rapidly reversing as much land degradation as quickly as we can at the same time.
Indeed it is hard for me to imagine how we can determine what we may want to learn or how we could evolve and grow when we have not even developed a shared basic understanding as to what could be likely to occur in the future, just what is causing these things to be occuring already, what is now and could be done to change this, and how this might impact our communities.
Unfortunately, in recent years an increasing understanding has grown about the extent to which we are losing ecosystem integrity and moving rapidly towards a 6th mass species extinction coupled with increasing levels of natural resource shortages and scarcity being experienced now almost completely across the board - from fuel wood and timber to water, fisheries, healthy soils and soil humus, and so on even as human population levels continue to increase. So it will be essential as we go forward for humanity and our communities to develop a holistic integrated systemic understanding of how we can best deal with and respond to these challenges.
For example, up to half of the coral reefs are already dead or dying based in part on the heating up and acidification of the oceans. Loss of the coral reefs leads to loss of many species of fish as they provide an essential spawning grounds. In addition, we are losing large quantities of fish due to ocean deadzones that are occurring all around the world due to agricultural run off. Other species of fish are declining due to the siltification of stream beds due to both deforestation and agricultural practices and are becoming much worse due to drought, desertification, loss of ground cover and gullies/erosion problems. At the same time drift nets used by large conglomerates are leading to over-fishing and are seriously impacting the incomes of small scale fisher people.
As we shift to a more plant based diet, many more people can be expected to want to augment this by eating more fish. And yet we seem to be destroying fish populations all around the world.
Meanwhile we have and are disrupting both small and large scale natural water cycles all over the place as well. This leads to further warming, loss of precipitation, flooding, melting of glaciers, etc leading to increasing severity and numbers of monsoons, hurricanes, glacier melt, and floods at historic levels, such as has occurred this year in Pakistan, Nigeria, Florida and many other places around the world. And thus leading to further soil degradation, loss of pollinator species, shifting of climatic weather patterns and seasonal planting and harvesting dates, species migration, and increasing challenges to those engaging in transitioning to more regenerative farming practices, ecosystem restoration and reforestation processes etc.
All of these challenges are then increasing because we have such large waste streams and do not yet have a circular economy. Increasing competition for scarce resources means that we are further degrading and harming the natural environment and more quickly destroying the natural resource base and in the process further increasing the causes of climate change and global warming.
I could go on and on in this way. Each of these examples impact millions of people and means that humanity is becoming significantly less able to care for itself. Meanwhile different regions around the world face very different conditions and impacts that they are going to have to deal with and different regions have different economic challenges and conditions as well.
So, I personally believe that it would likely be difficult to get a good grasp on and to understand what we might need to learn and how we might need to evolve and grow both collectively and in our communities until we have a much better and fuller understanding and grasp of such things as this.
Similarly there are going to be many challenges as we shift to more sustainable processes and practices that will be better able to help us cope with the changing climate. I live in the US for example and in order to reduce our carbon footprint quite substantially, which will be essential because we probably have the largest per capita ecological impact as any major country on earth, we are most likely going to have to transition to primarily electric vehicles; figure out how we can collectively sequester many gigatons of carbon; and transition rapidly towards a circular economy.
In a way we have an advantage over where we were ten years ago or even two years ago. Because now the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) has adopted a resolution on transitioning to a circular economy and is just starting a negotiation process to develop and adopt a a global treaty to prevent plastic pollution using a lifecycle, or circular, approach. Meanwhile the price of wind and solar have dropped dramatically, the UNEA is supporting the inclusion of nature based solutions, France initiated a regenerative agriculture 4/1000 initiative at COP 21 that some 35 countries have already signed onto; and we are now well into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration - which was adopted by the UN General Assembly with 92 countries co-sponsoring 3 years ago.
Collectively, if we (civil society) can continue to push our governments towards taking much more ambitious action and the decisions made are really and fully implemented, we could start to see major shifts in how things are done and have a much better chance of dealing with the climate changes we will otherwise continue to face and that will just keep getting dramatically worse over time. Such changes as this, if they truly happen, will make it much more likely that our ecovillage communities will be able to transition to much more regenerative practices as well. Here is just one little example of why this is needed, two years ago I was wanting to buy an electric bicycle so that I could more easily use it to go shopping and bike around town than on my 10 speed bike.
But what I found out is that the batteries run out of juice and have to be replaced maybe every five years or so. At the time very few companies were recycling bike batteries. Just in the past year this is starting to change but it is mostly the more expensive bikes that have recyclable batteries. Meanwhile 5 billion cell phones are just thrown away and end up in landfills each year, with all of the loss of the precious metals and other materials that they contain. So if we keep this up it is going to become very difficult to transition to electric vehicles and a renewable economy (which is dependent on continued access to such rare and scarce metals and materials) and it would then be equally challenging to quit using fossil fuels.
On the Farm where I live many of the people drive electric golf carts; but I doubt if most of them have recyclable batteries and they use a fair amount of fiberglas and other materials in the carts. Right now older vehicles that break down just seem to be left around the place. If we are going to continue to use vehicles like this then we probably ought to be making sure that all of the parts and materials can be recycled or reused.
Similarly we are just starting to explore how wind and solar equipment can be made in such a way that it can be recycled. So not only do we, in our communities, need to switch to more electric vehicles but we also need to ensure that they use batteries that are easy to recycle and that the materials they use are recycled and the same with the renewable energy production equipment and facilities as well. And that then has to be done in a profitable manner. So many challenges there that we will have to deal with.
Meanwhile the whole world is going to have to shift to regenerative farming practices, again for multiple reasons most of which also have a direct relationship to our climate needs and challenges, including the loss of pollinator species, impacts on ecosystem integrity, loss of top soil and soil health, ecosystem warming, disruption of watersheds and water cycles, the need to quit producing and using toxic chemicals, etc.
Similarly the US and some of the European regions use far more than our fair share of resources and materials. As the environmental challenges become worse and as scarcity levels continue to grow, we will need to cut back dramatically on our consumption practices if humanity is going to have any chance of ensuring that all peoples’ basic human needs can be met along with climate disaster impacts overcome. Even then climate change is already causing tens of millions of people to have to migrate. If this continues then immigration challenges will increase as well. And if things are going to go well in ecovillage communities then many people are probably going to want to move to them and we are going to have to be ready to deal with that as well. Along with many people around the world finally saying why should you have it better than so many of the rest of us. And then what are we going to do about that?
Finally a couple of things were said during our last session that didn’t fully make sense to me. For example it was said that, “Adaptation is the key word and what we need to go towards”. While there is no question that we will have to focus much moreso on adaptation, that will not be nearly enough. If we do not do a much better job at mitigation and at transitioning to a regenerative world and fully sustainable practices as soon as we all can, then we will never be able to keep up with the adaptation challenges which are just going to keep getting progressively worse and probably dramatically so. So, it is imperative that whatever we do to make life more tenable in our own communities it is also essential that we help society to understand that these changes will have to be made across the whole economy at the same time.
Similarly, it was said that “2.5 is too much; catastrophe; 2.5 is too difficult to imagine; I don’t relate to 2.5 degree increase.” It might be said that it is too difficult to imagine or to accept; but we all better be prepared to relate to a 2.5 OR CONSIDERABLY HIGHER increase in temperature because unless we make truly transformative changes fast, we are all going to have to relate and deal with the 2.5 degrees increase whether we like it or not. And that is likely going to cause such major disruptions that most of us really are going to have a hard time believing and dealing with it. But really given what has already been occurring over the past 5 to 10 to 20 years or so, it should not be so surprising.
These are just a few of the many complex inter-relationships that we are going to have to deal with if we are going to model the development of regenerative ecovillage communities that are taking responsible and equitable climate actions. So, I hope we will continue to take the time needed to develop a much fuller understanding of many other things like this as well.
thanks for your considerations,
Main UN Representative, GEN
The Farm and Ecovillage Training Center,