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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid