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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid