Thursday, 16 May 2013
'Clean coal' is just coal; 'green growth' is just growth. Read on, to find out more:
Posted: 13 May 2013 09:14 PM PDT
by Rob Dietz
At 400 parts per million, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a menacing milestone. We've failed to get a handle on our addiction to fossil fuel, and now we're in desperate need of solutions for preventing runaway climate change. There is no magic pill for curing the climate threat — real solutions involve the difficult work of changing the way we run the economy. It's time to make a transition to a renewable-energy economy that respects the waste-absorption capabilities of the atmosphere.
As logical and desirable as this transition sounds to some, faux solutions seem to be more popular. Many people find it easier to accept ideas in line with the our growth-obsessed, technophilic economy rather than face the fact that the conventional economic approach has become obsolete. Two of the faux solutions would be laughable as oxymorons if they weren't able to attract such serious support.
The phrase "clean coal" implies that miners have struck it rich — that they've found a seam of coal that, when burned, produces only a lemony fresh, green vapor. Wouldn't "clean coal" make an excellent air freshener? "Clean coal" could be useful for all sorts of things in a pinch:
Mom: "Oh no! The baby just spit up on herself, and we're all out of soap."
Dad: "Don't worry, honey, we've got some clean coal right here."
"Clean coal" is just plain coal. It's true that some varieties of coal produce less noxious emissions (e.g., less sulfur or mercury) than others, but none of them are clean. "Clean coal" is an abbreviation of the less poetic "clean coal technology," a phrase that's been around since the 1980s. A U.S. Department of Energy report from that decade explains that clean coal technologies are "systems that can offer significant benefits when used to generate power, control pollution, or to convert coal into other alternative energy products." The report also offers this honest assessment:
But that honesty is lost in the advertising and lobbying that mining and power generation corporations have funded to promote "clean coal." As the prominent linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakeoff has noted, the imagery of "clean coal" can seep into the subconscious mind and affect attitudes toward coal.
Even more seductive than "clean coal" is the wishful thinking of "sustainable growth." Economic growth has become the highest priority for almost every nation on Earth. Politicians compete with one another to see who can promise the fastest growth. Newscasters report rising economic indicators with glee. Economists in both government and academia promote an agenda of endless growth. But the continuous ramping up of production and consumption comes with severe costs — 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (and the associated climate destabilization) is but one among many. Take, for instance, the spate of species extinctions. Or the billions of people living in poverty. Or any number of other global-scale environmental and social problems. Even the most dedicated worshippers at the altar of growth recognize some of these problems. That's why adjectives seem to be sprouting like mushrooms in front of "growth." People regularly utter the phrase "sustainable growth," along with its slightly less oxymoronic cousins, "green growth" and "smart growth." But just as "clean coal" is really just coal, "sustainable growth" is really just growth.
No doubt that green technologies can help. A household with compact fluorescent light bulbs, or even LED bulbs, consumes less electricity and generates a smaller footprint. But if the number of houses continuously increases, even though they have smaller footprints, they combine into a larger overall footprint. David Owen explores this "rebound effect" in his recent book, The Conundrum. Technology and greater efficiency are not enough on their own. We can't consume our way to sustainability — we have to shift our aim from an ever bigger economy to a right-sized economy. As Albert Bartlett, the physicist and activist, has said:
It's tempting to accept the clever slogans and magical "solutions" that bombard us all the time. After all, it sounds like "clean coal" is just the resource to power "sustainable growth." You can have your cake and eat it too! But at 400 parts per million, the time for self deception and denial has passed. So has the time for buying moronic oxymorons.
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
The talk will discuss the need for considering the actions we take now in view of the potential for excluding human rights from the unborn future generations.
The debate, led by Dr. Rupert Read; Reader in the UEA School of Philosophy, will take place during Amnesty Norwich's regular open monthly meeting from 7.30pm at the Charing Cross Centre, St John Maddermarket in the centre of Norwich.
Amnesty Norwich chair, David Huband, said "We like to include a talk every few months to introduce a range of topics to our members as well as encouraging a wide range of visitors to our open meeting."
He continued "Rupert has been on our list of speakers to approach and we are very happy he is able to talk to us on such a thought invoking topic."
Dr. Rupert Read, who is also the Chair of the Green House think tank, explained his reasoning behind the need for such thought and debate;
"Amnesty is the world's premier human rights organisation. Human rights discourse is powerful and indeed virtually unanswerable, nowadays - but what if it tacitly excludes our children's children? I will be arguing that human rights need to be extended to unborn future generations, and have a mechanism to propose that will make this possible. I look forward to discussing this idea with Norwich Amnesty."
The Amnesty Norwich monthly meeting, which takes place on the third Wednesday of every month, is open to all, membership is not required for attendance.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Monday, 29 April 2013
Green Councillors are concerned that the Labour-run City Council has disposed of significant social housing in Norwich and allowed it to be demolished without firm plans for replacement.
In 2006, the Green Party opposed the City Council's decision to uproot council tenants and leaseholders at 50 flats in Barrack Street on the basis of developer plans for a mixed use development. In 2007, 19 sheltered flats at Greyhound Opening were 'decommissioned' and elderly residents were relocated. Both sites still lie empty.
Green Councillor Paul Neale, County council candidate for Town Close said: "I am shocked, when there is a national housing crisis, and a local crisis made worse by the Bedroom tax, that tenants at Barrack Street and Greyhound Opening were moved against their wishes and the sites remain empty. The Green Party is pressing the Labour Cabinet at the City Council to urgently set out a solution to this issue."
Green Party City Council candidate for Mancroft, Simeon Jackson says: "Norwich's housing stock is in need of refurbishment to bring it to modern energy efficiency standards. This would create local jobs and be a long-term investment - the Green Party's real alternative to destroying homes. We have been pressing the council to improve housing whenever we have the opportunity, such as within our proposal for the City Deals bid."
NOTES AND PHOTOS
The original flats on the South side of Barrack Street can still be seen on this old satellite picture at Google Maps - http://goo.gl/maps/rhlOA.
Since the demolition of the flats, the site remains undeveloped, now 7 years on, behind a metal wall.
Monday, 22 April 2013
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Ian Gibson calls for there to be more Green Councillors - and more Independents - elected in these Council elections:
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
elections. I was dead impressed with them when I met them recently. This
photo was taken down at the also-increasingly-impressive riverside area of
Friday, 5 April 2013
Thursday, 4 April 2013
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
In the Beginning was Nature
Green politician and philosopher Rupert Read, ecological activist Alistair McIntosh, and director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation Benny Peiser explore our relationship to Nature.'
How Do You Solve a Problem like Uncertainty?
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Monday, 11 March 2013
Arts 2.01, 1730, University of East Anglia
Professor Gilbert Achcar (SOAS)
Causes and Prospects of the Syrian Civil War
Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS in London. He has degrees in Philosophy (ESL, Beirut), Social Sciences (UL, Beirut) and Social History/International Relations (University of Paris-VIII). His research interests and publication topics include: the political economy and sociology of globalisation, the global power structure and grand strategy, empire theory and the unfolding of US hegemony globally and in the 'Broader Middle East', politics and development economics of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the sociology of religion in general, of Islam and Islamic fundamentalism in particular, social change and social theory. Some of his most recent publications include; The People Want: A Radical Explanation of the Arab Uprising (2013), The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2011), (with Noam Chomsky) Perilous Power: The Middle-East and US Foreign Policy (2010) and The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2006).