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Fwd: [Peirce Columns] The 'State of the World' Our Media Missed

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  • J.H. Crawford
    Hi All, I thought the list might want to see this. There s also this:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2008
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      Hi All,

      I thought the list might want to see this.

      There's also this:

      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16956300/the_prophet_of_climate_change_james_lovelock/print

      about James Lovelock, who is very pessimistic. Maybe we should approach him.

      Best,

      Joel

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      >From: Neal Peirce <npeirce@...>
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      > NEAL PEIRCE COLUMN
      > For Release Sunday, January 20, 2008
      >
      > © 2008 Washington Post Writers Group
      >
      > THE ‘STATE OF THE WORLD’
      > OUR MEDIA MISSED
      >
      > By Neal Peirce
      >
      > WASHINGTON -- Forget the old saw that environmental safeguards are bad for the economy. Now it’s the global economy which may suffer irreparable loss unless global warming and companion environmental threats, from falling water tables to collapsing fisheries, can be addressed.
      > There’s some heartening news. Growing numbers of corporations and governments around the world are increasing investments in conserving, imaginative new technologies. The new wave is a fast-growing phenomenon, even if, to date, the pathbreaking new approaches are definitely more the exception than the rule.
      > But there’s a huge hurdle in the way: the unfettered consumer economy we Americans have lived (and profited) by. Now our incessant hunger for constantly increased goods, more energy use, more autos, more living space, is being mirrored worldwide. It’s cresting with special and alarming drama in the huge rising economies of such nations as India and China.
      > The grim bottom line: Without radical protective measures, in this country and worldwide, the 21st century is likely to deliver collapsing economies and widespread environmental disasters.
      > You’d think that message, delivered last week by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute in its carefully constructed “2008 State of the World” report, would grab the attention of the American media. The issues aren’t trivial: they’re core survival questions for this country and globe.
      > The Worldwatch report got covered in Canada, Australia, India, Great Britain, France and China. Even in turmoil-wracked Kenya, Business Day Africa picked it up. But here? A few specialized environmental news groups took notice. The Voice of America broadcast overseas about it. But there was hardly a whisper out of the Washington Post, or New York Times, or Los Angeles Times, or any other major U.S. news outlet.
      > One is tempted to say that we Americans, collectively, are holding our heads in the sand, aroused by mortgage market woes and a brewing recession, preoccupied by a presidential election, yet largely oblivious to the mega-global issues on which our entire survival may depend.
      > The core problem: we still believe in the prevailing economic calculus of the last two centuries -- that natural resources, from water and air to energy, are limitless. So we assume it’s OK to measure our welfare by money terms alone. The big measure is Gross Domestic Product that ignores environmental welfare, human welfare, anything without a pricetag.
      > But this economic model, Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin notes, “will not survive the 21st century.” With global warming and exponential world demand for more natural resources, “the limits are reached more abruptly and catastrophically than even the best scientists” can accurately predict.
      > The World Economic Forum has identified 23 major risks, many of them environmental, to the global economy. Nicholas Stern’s 2007 report to the British government suggested climate change alone could reduce world economic output by 5 to 20 percent a year, comparable to the impact of a Great Depression or a World War.
      > So where’s hope? It’s in a new sustainable economics that relies on market principles but saves scarce resources and accounts for the value of nature’s services, says Worldwatch.
      > Government’s role is crucial. The Worldwatch analysts note mounting signs of expanded city, state and (hopefully soon) federal action to recycle, promote compact communities and less driving, and move from fossil fuels to renewable resources. Cities and states are now the cutting edge of U.S. efforts to cut greenhouse emissions.
      > But equal if not greater, unprecedented change is appearing in business. Over $100 billion of private capital now flows yearly to environmental projects. CitiGroup (at least until its recent liquidity crisis) was promising to spend $50 billion to address climate change over the next decade. Goldman Sachs invested $1.5 billion in renewable energy in 2006. Global investment in new energy technologies grew 43 percent last year, to $71 billion.
      > And companies are learning radical ways to cut waste -- for example Atlanta-based Interface, the world’s largest industrial carpet maker, which uses solar and wind power in place of fossil fuels and practices “biomimicry” -- copying patterns from nature -- to reduce product costs. CEO Ray Andersen’s goal: recycling all materials Interface uses, for total sustainability by 2020.
      > Even in China, whose rapid growth threatens massive damage to the world environment, clean technology investments jumped 147 percent between 2005 and 2006. China’s waking up and taking strong steps, says Flavin. He predicts it will lead the world renewable energy market within three years. And he welcomes China’s just-announced ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags, which take some 300 years to photodegrade, clog landfills, mar landscapes and often kill animals and sealife.
      > So while there’s overwhelming scientific evidence of grim environmental degradation that threatens world economies, there’s also, Flavin says, “an unprecedented wave of innovation rising to meet the threats.”
      > Is the innovation enough? “The jury is out,” he concludes, “as to whether we will make it.”
      > Memo to U.S. media: If that’s not a story worth printing, what is?
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