Why I don’t give a S#!” about Aleppo, and neither should you

The following post gives a quick breakdown of how the horrors in Aleppo are a symptom of a much bigger problem: Climate change. The post argues that even though every fiber of your body may want to fix the situation by attending marches or giving humanitarian aid, there is a better way. A more rational action is to fight climate change and prevent a crisis like this from becoming everyday news.

 

If you’ve read the news within the past 48hours, you know that nothing less of a manslaughter is happening in Aleppo.

Men, women, and children are being gunned down in the streets or burned alive. The latest death toll I’m aware of is 82 souls. But by now who knows how many.

If you can stomach it, here is the news about Aleppo.

Why I don’t give a damn*

I see many of my friends crying out for action on social media. I see them signing up for marched, signing petitions. I see them putting heart, time, and energy into this.

I won’t.

Because I believe other nations should clean up their own mess? —No.

Because I don’t give a damn about people in Syria? —No.

Because I’m a heartless bitch? —In part. I am a rational bitch

I am a rational bitch — I believe in treating the cause, not the symptom.

There have been a few scientific articles published, naming a very specific factor in the Syrian crisis. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a hot topic (pun intended).

Yep, it’s climate change! (Important — Climate change is not the only factor, but a “threat multiplier;” meaning its effects are  greatest in areas that are already environmentally and socially unstable).

You can read the whole thing here, but the super short version is this:

 

  • Climate change –>
  • Drought –>
  • Farmers abandoning farms looking for jobs in the overcrowded cities + Rising food prices –>
  • High food prices + high unemployment rates = Political destabilization –>
  • Riots –>
  • Chaos.

Is it really that simple? No, the above is the short version. There are of course also a number of political factors to take into account. But had it not been for these first effects of climate change, the situation would not have escalated.

Whichever way you turn it, climate change is a is a big looming beast, either creating or worsening a situation.

According to the UN; The World’s Food Supply is Made Insecure by Climate Change.

Things might stay peachy and safe where you live, but guess what, people tend to move away from areas where there is no food.

But wait… There’s more.

As permafrost in Siberia is melting, methane gas, (which makes CO2 look like nothing) is oozing into the atmosphere, at an alarming rate. This article in Science Advances suggests the methane will cause a positive feedback loop.

That’s like getting a positive HIV test. Not a good thing.

So a positive feedback loop will heat up the earth, releasing even more greenhouse gases, heating the earth further, releasing even more gas… You get the picture.

And the results?

We might see a global temperature rise of between 4.47C and 7.36C, in 2100! This will cause runaway greenhouse gas effect and will turn earth into Venus.

 

A runaway greenhouse effect is a process in which a net positive feedback between surface temperature and atmospheric opacity increases the strength of the greenhouse effect on a planet until its oceans boil away. An example of this is believed to have happened in the early history of Venus. – Wikipedia

 

Let’s do the math: Unless you are already retired, this will affect you. Not your children, or your grandchildren, but you.

What to do:

  • Vote! Vote, vote, vote. On a candidate/party with a proven record of working to stop climate change. (Oh, ps. If you are inclined to vote for a party which gives you tax breaks, promises you retirement standard or a low premium on health care just remember: None of these things matter if you are dead, and a zero atmosphere earth will do that to you)
  • Get organized! Find a group of people who are already working on this, and use whatever skills you have to help
  • Talk to people about this. I’ll try to post as much as I can about how to talk with people about climate change, and I’ll gladly answer any question you ask me in the comments, or via e-mail.

 

*Of course I care about the massacre in Syria, and so should you. It hurts to the level where I can hardly breathe. But all of life on earth is a risk — we need to think and act long term.

I’m very conflicted about posting this, as I realize it has shit storm potential. Please understand that my reason for writing this is not to belittle the atrocious things happening in Syria. My reason is to raise awareness about an even bigger issue. One that will in the future only result in more horrific events like the one happening in Aleppo. We have the work at the root of the illness, not just the symptoms.

If we want to avoid more situations like Aleppo, we need to act on not just Syria, but global climate change.

You’re not paranoid if it’s actually happening – How a hand full of players are putting the world, and you, at risk

In the past few months, there have been 3 big stories, that will make your head spin.

They are not all directly related to climate change, but they change the world in similar ways and are symptoms of a disease-ridden system that we need to change if we want a chance at stopping a global climate crisis.

We really need a change in the way we monitor global industries and sectors, as a few big players are cashing in while putting the rest of the world in mortal danger –yes, mortal.

 

Don’t worry, I have easy steps for you at the end of the post.

 

So let just jump right in and look at the 3 culprits.

1) A fertilizer cartel sparked the 2008 food crisis, pushing 44million people into poverty.

2) Exxon mobile kept its data on the fossil fuel-climate change link secret for 30 years, lobbying against the academic research which supported the fact, that global climate change is a) real, and b) linked to fossil fuels.

3) The sugar industry lobbied against the research linking a high carbohydrate intake (a Mc-Diet, if you will) to diabetes, heart decided, cardiovascular decease and more.

 

This is why we can’t have nice things. We have a world full of people trying to do good and change the world for the better. And then we have a few corporations, and industries bring positive development to a halt.

They have investors and their sole purpose in the world is to make money. But you know what, you can make money without lying, without pushing millions into poverty, without covering up vital health information, and most importantly, without almost killing off all life on earth.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit angry with these industries. While writing this, I thought to myself;

Damn, this can’t be true. Am I exaggerating?

Unfortunately no, this is not something I made up. This is actually happening. Like I said, you’re not paranoid if it’s actually happening. But it really does sound more like the plot of a movie, than real life.

 

So the world sucks, why does it matter?

Well, of course, we should prevent our industries from killing us, that goes without saying, but there’s more to it.

In a world where 44 million people can be pushed into poverty, and the world can suffer a global food crisis, because of a fertilizer cartel, many of the political, and financial incentives of making the world better doesn’t mean diddly-squat. Things like securing emission reduction and imposing anti-pollution legislation become wishful thinking.

We need to create a system of finance, and of governance, where the above is not possible. Where money does not trump human lives, and the future of our planet. This should not be wishful thinking.

 

It is not too much to ask, that the industries who power our homes, farm our soils, and produce our food, don’t kill us.

 

What can you do? Small, Medium, or Big step?

Taking action doesn’t need to be excruciating, and about saving the world all at once. Every action matters, and we all give what we can. Even if you can just take a small step, it’s still a step. It’s still something you did to change the situation. Well done, you!

Small step: Get educated – read the above articles

Medium step: Vote for a party, or candidate, that takes action on these issues (I Fucking Love Science agrees with me on this one)

Big step: Find an organization that actively works against the above mentioned, and get involved

 

How do you measure the importance of a political issue? If it airs on Netflix.

Ladies and gents, I present to you the global acceptance of climate change and the policies needed to avoid local and global energy crises. Now brought to you in “prime time”.

There is a telling moment at the end of the first episode of Occupied, the highly entertaining new Norwegian TV political thriller, now available in the United States on Netflix (with subtitles!).

One of the main characters, sitting in a cafe with his family, looks bleakly through the glass at the shoppers in the mall outside, knowing they are oblivious to how fragile their world has just become.

This is how Slate starts the chilling and exciting review of the new political thriller Occupie. The show tackles the issue of climate change and global energy policy, set in a not so distant future. (Read full review here)

Why does it matter?

By January 19th 2016, Netflix had 75 million subscribers worldwide. 40 million of them located in the US. Like it or not, the United States of America still has a lot of influence on global climate policy.

In 2015, a warbling 40% of the American public didn’t see climate change as a threat.

Currently, non of their republican presidential candidates believe climate change to be a serious issue. And let’s not get started on the senate.

To air a Norwegian show about climate policy, in a country where half of the population think it’s overrated, is not just a small an insignificant action. It is a reflection of the world and the issues we deal with in this world. The time is right for this. And the American public needs to wake up to this new world and new reality, and demand more from their politicians.

 

Watching the world change through our TV

children-tv-Monajensen

The entertainment sector is helping, in the way that it is both a strong indicator of hot topics, and a driver of discussions. Follow the hot topics, find the power and money. Airing a show like this just 2 years ago would have been unthinkable, but in the wake of the COP21 agreement, it makes perfect sense.

Steps like this will bring the discussion of climate change and energy policy from the universities and political areas, into the living rooms and kitchens. And this is where the real change happens.

Airing Occupied on Netflix, will pave the way for a national debate in the US. These debates will influence the political arena, as voters go where they feel heard. A change in the political arena will then, eventually, lead to a change in policy. Just think about LGBT rights and minimum wages as a few recent examples of policy changes in the US – for giggles, google the top shows on Netflix in the years leading up to it.

The big difference here is, the rest of the world would benefit from not continuously banging our head against the US wall of climate ignorance.

Yes, I said it. 40% people, the numbers speak for themselves.

Global climate policy needs the US on board if it is to run smoothly, and the US need to get on board, before China and Russia completely steal the climate spotlight. I would love to elaborate on this, but for now, I am fresh out of time.

So there you go, a very short post, about climate change and “prime time TV”.

I for one will be looking forward to Occupied.

 

Oh, and Netflix, though I am highly frustrated with your pricing scheme, and the fact that I can’t watch same shows in the Denmark, as in the US, I will say this to you: Well played, well played.

 

 

Sustainability, stupidity and socks.

The following is about some of the basic problems in changing lanes to a more sustainable future, and about sustainability cognition:

This post sprung out of something as simple as a journey from my bedroom to the bathroom. I went to go use the bathroom, but had to turn back to put on a hoodie and knitted socks because it was so freaking cold I couldn’t stand it.

Now, I far from live in a mansion. In fact, there’s only about 1,5 meters from my door to the bathroom. So why the desperate need for warmer clothing? Well, we’re on the top floor. Right above us, is the attic. This is what it looks like:

Attic_monajensen

Do you see it? The bare bricks, the total lack of insulation? (2016 Edit: Well, there is a layer of insulation beneath the attic floor, which is my ceiling. I have no idea how thick is is)

And this is the view from my window. The white stuff is snow (Sorry for the newb like window reflection, but there was no way in hell I was opening that window).

Sne og vindue

In other words, I live in a country that has a chance of snow from November to April, but has very low standard requirements for insulation, regarding buildings build before 1980. And that combination makes me a little bit angry. Cold and angry. And this is not a raggedy old building, this is a standard building in Copenhagen.
The following picture is from one of the cities in Denmark the closest to Copenhagen, in terms of size, culture and age of buildings. It’s taken with a 45 degree angle, so that it is possible to see the facades, as well as the roof tops. Lots of heat just getting lost. Lots of energy just wasting away.

37747_650_550_0_0_0_0

20% wasted energy

Studies show that more than 20% of Denmark’s total energy consumption can be eliminated, just by isolation our current, badly insulated buildings (in Danish). Some even argue it’s closer to 35%. I would love to say that Denmark is one of the worst sinners in the world when it comes to bad insulation, but we’re not. We’re like most other countries in the world. Actually we’re in the good end of the scale. A terrifying thought.

There have been different initiatives from the government to promote investment in housing insulation, where citizens could apply for financial help, in order to put in new and better (or any, in my building’s case) insulation. But this was only to stimulate the economy in the financial crisis, and now that the economy is finding a balance again, isolating your house just isn’t as attractive as buying that new car.

So why is it that, even though the insulation would still be a better investment than the car, we don’t see people rush to the insulation companies? I’ll tell you. The insulation has no bling. No status. How are you gonna show of your wealth and style? With a 2,5 inc fiber filling, or with a new Ford?

Now, I don’t wanna go as far as saying that human beings are stupid as a whole, just a little bit tied to our biological and social need of being accepted by the pack, in order to ensure our survival. We are a pack animal and we need to fit in to remain in the pack, and to show of power to excel within the pack. Hence the new Ford.

So now we seem to have an issue. We have nice cars, but will soon have no gas to put in them, and we have a big energy bill, that will only get bigger as prices of fossil fuel will rise. That seems to me kind of, ummh.. Stupid. But on the other hand, you can’t just rise against the pack, keep the old out-of-fashion-car, and use the money on insulation, can you?

What if it was all of a sudden in fashion to plan for the future and save money? What if all of the sudden you knew, that fossil fuel prices would only go up, and that you would have to cash out.

The economic crisis had a wonderful effect on the world’s sustainability cognition. All of the sudden it became popular to invest in renewable resources. Just like it did in the past oil crisis’. We saw the point, we saw the necessity. And most importantly, we saw ourselves. We saw, and we knew that keeping passive, will hit us hard. I have a motto:

The biggest lie in sustainable management is that we are doing this for our children and our children’s children.

child-817373_1920

We’re not. We shouldn’t be. We should be doing it for ourselves. Non-renewable resource reserves such as crude oil and helium will have run out before I even retire. Old age is gonna suck if we don’t act now. Unfortunately, the only thing that reminds us of this, is a crisis. When the world has settled again, we go for the car. So what do we do? Launch the world into a global crisis every now and then, just to stay on our toes. Insert a sense of panic every so often? NO! (I’ll get back to that in a later post) Fear is not the answer.

Part of the wolf pack – It’s biology, baby

We have to change the way we interact and the themes for which we are accepted into the pack. What if your neighbours frowned at you for not insulation your house, for not buying energy efficient appliances, for not eating organic food, what would you do then? What would you do to fit in and be accepted? What if the community, if states, pushed its government to make decisions that were long lasting, economically beneficial, and would secure enough resources for its citizens? Where would it start?

I think it starts in the individual. In the stubbornness of one person, to do what he or she finds to be right. In standing up to the pack and not buying that car. Then it spreads. Friends, family, neighbours, facebook relations. At some point these norms reach the key people who have governance enough to make a substantial difference. It’s all about the first movers. Marketing science knows this. Communication science knows this.  It’s time for environmental science to know this. It’s time for environmental science to understand that if it wants to succeed, if we want to succeed, we need to draw upon knowledge from other scientific branches, such as communication, economics, social network science, behavioural science, learning theories and much more.

I believe it’s doable. I also think I will be posting a lot more about the dilemmas and promises of this approach. In the mean time, maybe I should learn how to knit, so I’ll have socks for my freezing home.

Social acceptance.

*end note from 2016: Looking back, I’m glad to see that I was on the right track, and that the environmental sciences are welcoming other fields of science. I am a bit sad that I took a 4 year break from blogging, though. I Wish I had been gutsier back then, and shared these posts more. Hopefully this is one of those moments where you learn from your mistakes.