News / USA

Earth Day Dawns on a Climate-Changed World

The three things you'll need to survive on this 'tough new planet'

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

On the the 40th anniversary of Earth Day [April 22], this warming planet we live on is posing serious new challenges to human civilization: increasingly severe droughts, floods, and storms across the globe, and slowly rising ocean levels.

Author, educator and environmental activist Bill McKibben offers some advice in his new book on how to live on what he calls our "tough new planet."

Changing world

When Bill McKibben wrote "The End of Nature" 20 years ago, he thought that if he simply pointed out ecological problems, people would do something about them."I was a 27-year old and more than a little naïve. I completely failed to understand the depth of the kind of cultural transformation that we were going to have to make it we were ever going to deal with climate change."

Bill McKibben says climate change has created a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different, that we may as well call 'Eaarth.'
Bill McKibben says climate change has created a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different, that we may as well call 'Eaarth.'

Since that time McKibben has written a dozen books that address climate change from many different angles. His latest is "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet." He spells Eaarth with an extra letter "a," to make a point.

"The planet on which our civilization evolved no longer exists." It's a place, he says, "where the atmosphere holds more water moisture, where the poles are melting, where we seeing the oceans acidify, not for our grandchildren, but for us. It will get a lot worse if we don't get our act together, but it's already started."

Deadly consequences

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people die each year from the effects of global warming.

Climate change is driving higher rates of migration and civil conflict while also fueling increases in poverty, disease, and hunger. McKibben wants the United States, the world's greatest polluter behind China, to do more.

He notes that the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The bill would require the nation's industries to reduce their carbon emissions by 83 percent over the next four decades. But the measure has stalled in the Senate. 

Bill McKibben attended the Copenhagen climate talks with 350.org, a grassroots advocacy group whose goal is to spread the message that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is too much.
Bill McKibben attended the Copenhagen climate talks with 350.org, a grassroots advocacy group whose goal is to spread the message that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is too much.

Paying the price

McKibben believes that, ultimately, a price must be put on carbon. "If coal and gas and oil had to pay the price for the damage that they did, we would use a whole lot less of them. That would mean that we would have to find other ways to do things."

McKibben says the move to a new and greener economy won't happen overnight. While demand for renewable energy is growing, those supplies currently meet just seven percent of world energy needs.

"We're going to have to change some habits because those energy sources are fundamentally different. They are diffuse, dispersed, spread out instead of concentrated the way that fossil energy was. We'll want to have centralized power stations. We'll want to have an endless spread out Internet for power systems, with all kinds of people pushing power from their rooftops down the grid."

Survival essentials

McKibben says we must stop focusing economies on growth and start thinking about survival. He lists three essentials for life on this tough new planet: food, energy and the Internet. He advocates small scale agriculture, neighbors generating power for neighbors and communities empowered by the Internet. 

"I think it's the one wildcard we've got going forward. We are going to need more local lives. We are going to need to learn to live in our own economies. But in the past that has always meant a kind of parochialism. Not necessarily anymore. The Internet offers a constant window on the rest of the world. We can keep discussion of all kinds alive, new ideas flowing."

McKibben notes that the debate on climate change in the United States has been highly charged and focused not solely on science, but on ideology.  "One good piece of news from my travels around the world is that that polarization is mostly confined to this country. Other places have adopted a more sober and mature attitude when thinking about climate than we have."

Looking ahead

Despite what he sees as a failure of the global community to come to an agreement at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December, McKibben says international cooperation on climate change is critical.

"The thing that stands in the way of a global agreement is the incredible inequity and the gulf between rich and poor which makes the future look very different, depending on where you live. We need to figure out some way to transfer resources, mostly in the form of technology, north to south, so that countries like India or China or continents like Africa have some decent shot at development without having to go through the fossil fuel era."

McKibben says he's encouraged by the growth of grassroots activism around the globe, especially among young people. He believes they will create the political will to help us save the planet — and ourselves — from disaster.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid