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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
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 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 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.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid