Social Good Summit: Highlights From Day Two

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George Garland is a 2014 UNA-USA Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow. View this post on his blog here

Bill McGibbon, founder of 350.org, and Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, expressed low expectations for the United Nations meeting on climate for September 23. The climate march with 300,000 participants is a successful first step in a continuing struggle. Recognition from organized labor that jobs depended on sensible climate action is encouraging. Ban Ki Moon’s participation in the climate march showed good intentions. The nation States who comprise the UN may be dominated by fossil fuel interests who forestall serious action. Bill McGibbon noted that Chevron is the largest campaign donor and the Koch brothers are not far behind.

Kumi Naidoo pointed out that the earth does not need to be saved. The earth will do fine without humans. The oceans will restore themselves and forests will flourish. The challenge is to make the earth safe for humanity. This is consistent with Tapio Kaninnen’s observation that a six degree increase in temperature will return the earth to pre-ice age conditions when sea levels were 210 feet higher. Kumi cited Mahatma Ghandi’s observation that “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.” Kumi felt that the fight stage had been reached and that may be good news. Bill McGibbon argued that fear of fossil fuel companies needs to be matched or exceeded by fear of the citizenry and only then will action be taken. Bill pointed out that we have known what to do for 25 years. A carbon tax which gives a market signal to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is known to be efficient and effective. My trip to Sicily where gas is $9 per gallon combined with the prevalence of small cars on the road backs that up. Germany was cited as perhaps the only country taking serious action. German industry does very well and pays twice the price for electricity.

While Walt Kelly and Pogo were not at the summit, it’s still possible that we have met the enemy and they is us. The world loves energy. The U.S. Information Agency predicts a 25% increase in energy use in the US by 2040. The International Energy Agency predicts increase in global demand for energy by 56% by 2040. The message that renewable energy is now price competitive and creates lots of jobs has got to rise above the fossil fuel din.

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