Tag Archives: UN

Shaping a Living World: Part 1

In addition, there is a deeper and more profound change that is needed. Fundamentally, we believe that a change in spirit is required, one that fosters a new relationship between humanity and other species and Earth as a whole. As Pagans, we believe we are well situated to help imagine and create a future in which humanity lives in greater harmony with the rest of our planet.“Pagan Statement on the Environment

We face a lot of challenges with the future ahead, climate change just being one among them. As an animist, I am asked to engage; with the planet and with my community. My animism is both nature-centric, as well as human-centric.

It is people-centric (human and not), and because it is relational ignoring the greater problems in our communities and world is not an option for me. Being an animist means I need to think about where we have come from, and where we are going.

It asks me to imagine a better future tomorrow, for everyone. So now I have to ask myself, what would my future look like?

This is a pretty complex question to ask, and it is at the heart of this series. The answer to this question is informed by both my spirituality as well as my values, and the two are deeply integrated and intertwined. Both will be discussed over the course of this series, so that I can explore these things more deeply.

That being said, I have thus far been impressed with the ideas of social democracy, especially the Nordic model. Much of the data and information we have suggests that it is one of the better social models in the world, and the Nordics are consistently ranked as some of the most prosperous and happiest people in the world. As such, the values of social democracy will be central to this series.

In addition, I think that global problems require a global response, and many of the issues we face such as climate change are certainly global issues. As such, I found the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals a good mesh with many of my values. 193 nations representing a majority of the population of the planet have worked on the SDG’s, and therefore it provides us a road map that is agreed upon by consensus, because there is “no planet B.” Those too will form a way in which to frame this series.

Also, I believe firmly that our future as a species must be a sustainable one. For that reason another big part of project will be Drawdown, which is one of the most comprehensive plans to date on how to combat climate change. It will form a big part of this project as well.

All that said; I am a dreamer as well as a realist. I am going to be tempering myself with a healthy dose of skepticism and pragmatism. I will try my best to focus on what we can do today, or at least in the near future. We need solutions now, and so we cannot place our hope in some far off ideal.

As such, it must be kept in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. The perfect is the enemy of the good. I am not dreaming up a Utopia here, as such a world is not possible at the current time. At very least, I simply want to emphasize the fact that we can, and must do better. The future is bleak indeed if we don’t try.

Without further ado, let’s talk about the first of the Sustainable Development Goal; No Poverty

One of the core philosophies of my animism is that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. We can and should make a concentrated effort on making sure no single persons goes without. It implies not only do we have to do better for our most vulnerable, it in some way implies we must.

Sustainable Development Goals

Some of the highlights from the SDG’s include;

By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”

This is a huge global effort, and it will take a lot of policy decisions that I have not the space to write about here. Some of these decisions will happen on the local level, some regional, some national, and some on the international level. I like the EU’s principle of subsidiarity, in which decisions should happen at the level they are most effective.

On this ground, I think the Nordic model of Social Democracy has some insights to offer, and ideas we should look at more closely.

Social Democracy

That being said, I think the model of social democracy is on to some very important aspects that help to eliminate extreme poverty in our society. The USA in particular is behind the ball on a lot of these points, and have a deplorable track record of treating our vulnerable poorly.

According to the OECD, the 2012 poverty rates for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland stood at 9 percent, 5.4 percent, 8.1 percent and 6.5 percent respectively….

The “Nordic Model” presents a starting point for other countries to develop methods to attack poverty as they work towards sustainable development.” – Borgen Project

Universal Healthcare – This is one of the most important things we can do for our most vulnerable. We need to frame health care as a right, not a privilege that only those with the means can afford. Every single person should not have to make the choice between health and bankruptcy. Considering one of the SDG’s involves healthcare, I will say no more on this for now.

Universal Education – This one is another big part of the puzzle that comes into play when trying to eliminate poverty. People end up in poverty for a lot of reasons, unemployment and displacement being among them. Universal Education (including Higher Ed and Trade/Vocational Skills) gives people the option of retraining, or any other type of personal advancement. Education is also among the SDG’s (which are all deeply intertwined), so let’s move on.

Universal Basic Income – The idea of UBI is still being explored, but the concept is simple; give everyone in a society a basic income just for existing. The idea being that a person has the right to have their basic needs met, primarily food and shelter. A person would receive a basic stipend to use however they wanted, no strings attached. It is being tested in Finland and several other areas, and some of the results are already starting to show;

“Not only could UBI replace the income lost as automated systems continue to replace human workers, experts also believe that having such a safety net would spur more innovation as the fear of failure would be reduced. People equipped with the knowledge that they will be able to provide for themselves should they fail will be more willing to take bigger risks, which could result in a spike in innovation that would help us all. “

UBI could help eliminate the “scarcity mentality”, and help people out of poverty and increased equality all around. I will be watching the idea as it unfolds with interest.

Drawdown

Getting rid of poverty in our societies with require social, cultural, and well as political changes. A change in spirit. It will also require technological solutions, and here we visit a few of the solutions from Drawdown that can really make a difference in the life of impoverish communities and people. They also help the planet at the same time. Please note that many of these solutions will appear under other Sustainable Development Goals, as I get to them.

Energy;

Rooftop Solar 

In rural parts of low-income countries, they can leapfrog the need for large-scale, centralized power grids, and accelerate access to affordable, clean electricity—becoming a powerful tool for eliminating poverty. “

Impoverished people all over the world, especially in the Global South, often don’t have reliable access to electricity. While this is a complex issue with a lot of nuance that I will not be able to cover here, one of the solutions proposed by Drawdown with a lot of promise for fighting poverty is Rooftop Solar. It is ranked in the top ten of most effective solutions, with a reduction of 20.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050. As many people in poverty globally are often found in Africa and South Asia, rooftop solar provides a reliable option that fights poverty and climate change at the same time.

Micro-wind 

In lower-income countries, micro wind turbines can help expand access to electricity, giving people a way to light their homes or cook their evening meals, which can avoid emissions from dirty diesel generators or kerosene lamps.”

In addition to rooftop solar, micro-wind can act as a supplement in order to bring electricity to rural and impoverished areas. While the impact is not nearly as large as rooftop solar, it is should not be discounted. It is ranked #76 out of a 100 total solutions by Drawdown, with 0.2 gigatons of CO2 reduction. It could be a vital supplemental energy source for places without grid access, and just like solar the costs are currently plummeting, thus reducing implementation costs and net benefits in the long term.

Micro-grids

Microgrids also aid human and economic development. Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to a grid or electricity, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In rural parts of low-income countries, populations are best supplied with electricity from microgrids. “

Many rural communities are far away from city centers and centralized grid systems. These communities are often rural, and have low incomes. In combination with rooftop solar and micro-wind (along with other sources), micro-grids have the capacity to bring electrical power to entire communities, and help share the load variability among renewable sources. Overall it is ranked #78 out of a 100.

Food;

Clean Cookstoves

Around the world, 3 billion people cook over open fires or on rudimentary stoves. The cooking fuels used by 40 percent of humanity are wood, charcoal, animal dung, crop residues, and coal. As these burn, often inside homes or in areas with limited ventilation, they release plumes of smoke and soot liable for 4.3 million premature deaths each year.

As much about food will be covered under SDG Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), I have included clean cookstoves here. As I have pointed out above, many rural and poor areas do not have reliable access to electricity or utilities, so often they have to use more traditional cookstoves. By helping to clean up that process, we can aid people in poverty as well as reduce the numbers of premature death annually, as well as improve the health of people.

This solution is ranked #21 by Drawdown, with an overall reduction of 15.81 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

Women & Girls

Women Smallholders

On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops in poorer parts of the world. Often unpaid or low-paid laborers, they cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens. Most of them are part of the 475 million smallholder families who operate on less than 5 acres of land.”

As Gender Equality is one of the SDG’s, I have decided to put this solution here. It is ranked number #62 overall, with a 2.06 gigaton reduction in CO2 by 2050. By giving women an equal share in both income and productive resources on their farms, farm yield would be expected to rise, and this would lead to increased efficiency of land resources, including a lower need for deforestation.

In the next part of this series, we will be looking at the second Sustainable Development Goal, which is Zero Hunger.

Thanks for reading!

Sources;/References;

http://ecopagan.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_democracy

http://www.drawdown.org/

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_Development_Goals

https://futurism.com/finlands-universal-basic-income-program-is-already-reducing-stress-for-recipients/

https://borgenproject.org/why-sweden-has-lower-poverty-rates/


Goals and Climate Talks

So the amount of things I want to write about are simply staggering at this point. It seems like I am falling behind again. I am finally getting around to writing about topics that have been sitting for months. I really wish I could write full time, but that is little more than a pipe dream at this point.

Be that as it may, today I want to talk about sustainable development, and the future of human civilization. There has been a lot of chatter about these topics lately, what with the climate talks in Paris, and other places as well. I have talked about these things at length in the past, but as things move forward there is always more to say on these topics. The question becomes, where to begin?

Back in September, the UN released a set of new goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals. These are replacing the old goals, which expired at the end of 2015. As NPR reports on the matter;

The goals are meant to guide development priorities around the globe over the next 15 years.

It also points out that these goals are highly ambitious. In my mind that is okay, because there is nothing wrong with aiming high. Remember that old adage about aiming for the moon, and even if you miss you still land among the stars. It needs to be pointed out that these are goals only, and are not binding in any legal sense. I will be talking more about that in a minute, but suffice to say that little the UN puts out is binding in most senses of the term. The is because it is a global council of nations, not any kind of world government. However, even that being said, I think the world having goals is better than nothing at all. Hell, it may be on a volunteer basis, but it at least gives us something to measure our efforts. For example, I signed on to the Pagan Statement on the Environment. Is it legally binding? No. Does it give me something to guide my actions? Absolutely.

In addition, I find that many of these goals align with my own views. I have always been of the view that we need to tackle the future holistically, top down as well as bottom up. We need to reshape how we do things on the local level, as well as at the national and international level. That is because things like climate change are global problems, that are effecting every nation across the globe. At the same time, to tackle these things on a global we will need solutions at all levels of organization, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

I want to touch on just a few of these goals, because I feel they deserve some further exploration;

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

This goal calls for a doubling of agricultural production by small-scale farmers.”

We will need agriculture going forward, there is no way around that that I can see. At the same time, we need to move away from things like CAFOs, and massive industrial-style farms that are huge polluters, geared entirely for profit, and generally just unsustainable. We would need to get away from such methods of production, while at the same time still growing enough food for everyone.

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

This goal calls for universal access to electricity and more renewable energy.”

In the future, we will need access to electricity. The very reason I am able to write this post, is because of electricity. However, long gone are the days were we can rely on fossil fuels, and as such things like coal and natural gas will have to be phased out. Also, we will have to find alternatives to replace them, which is where renewables come in. While all renewables have their associated costs and problems, I think with current technology it is possible to create a sustainable grid. The costs of things like solar and wind are dropping rapidly, and things like fusion are getting closer all the time. This is to say nothing about future technologies that have not yet been invented or explored. I am not saying any of this will be easy, or cheap, only that it can be done. It is possible, and within our ability as a species to transition away from fossil fuels. It will be a long process, and many things will need to change. But I think it can be done.

I honestly urge you to take at look at the list, because there is so much more to say on all these things. Of course, this is not to say I agree with everything wholesale. For example;

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

This item sets an ambitious annual economic growth target of 7 percent per year for the poorest nations.”

I have very mixed feelings on this one. I am not denying there is room for growth, especially in poorer countries. There is a lot to be done, and a lot of it ties into things like equality and fair income distribution. Economic development, especially truly sustainable development, can go a long way to shrinking the inequality gap between rich “have” countries, and poor “have not” countries. However, I think at least part of this goal reinforces the “infinite” growth model of economics. We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet, period. That is something that will have to be looked at in more depth, because it is just not feasible or sustainable in any way.

Which brings me to the COP21 conference more recently in Paris. A lot of people have expressed disappointment with how little was binding about the agreement that was reached. I have very mixed feelings about this one. According to NPR, there are some parts of the pact that are binding, and some that are voluntary. While I would have liked to see a binding pact, let’s be realistic about the UN…. It really doesn’t have the authority to create a globally binding treaty. I didn’t really expect anything binding to come out of the talks.

But that fact that nearly 200 countries came together and agreed on a course of action at all, that is huge. In addition, one that outlines very ambitious goals, on relatively short time scale. These countries have proposed to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees C, as well as to redistribute billions of dollars to help developing countries switch to alternative and more sustainable sources of energy. In addition, it gives signing countries 5 years to come up with a long term plan to meet these goals. In effect, creating a system of self-evaluation and international peer pressure. Maybe not perfectly binding, but like the goals above, its a step in the right direction.

Yet, I still have my reservations of course. As NPR points out, individual governments still have to adopt the deal…

The agreement still needs to be approved by the individual governments of the countries involved. But the U.N. won’t be waiting for all 196 nations to give the green light. Countries have from April 22, 2016, to April 21, 2017, to officially sign on to the agreement. Once at least 55 nations — representing, between them, at least 55 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions — have signed on, the pact can go into effect.

It will kick in 30 days after that requirement is met. ”

I honestly have to wonder if America will be one of those countries. With the Republican majority in the House and Senate, I have serious doubts. Especially going into an election year… I think this is an immensely important deal, even if it is not perfect. Hell, it may even be too late to do anything about climate change, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. While some are disappointed in the deal itself, I for one will be more disappointed in America refuses to do anything about the very real challenges ahead.

Closing Thoughts

Maybe it all makes me a dreamer, but I think that humanity as a whole is capable of weathering the storms ahead. Our civilization can endure, with certain necessary changes. These are global recognized problems at this point, but whether or not we can muster the political will and resources to meet these challenges has yet to be seen. In many ways, things like peak oil and climate change do not represent just technological problems, as much as legal, political, and cultural problems. It is not just our technologies that have to change, but also our legal, economic, and political systems, as well as our cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior. In so many ways, the choices in front of us will determine the future of the human civilizations, as well as that of the entire planet.

There are plenty of challenges ahead, and these challenges all present the opportunity to adapt, change and grow, as well as to leave the fossil fuel era far behind us as we move forward and reach for the stars.

References;

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-35084374

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/12/459502597/2-degrees-100-billion-the-world-climate-agreement-by-the-numbers

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/09/25/443149821/u-n-dreams-big-17-huge-new-goals-to-build-a-better-world