Bill McKibben – Making a Life on Planet Eaarth

by Mark Lovett on August 20, 2011

The last ice age ended around 13,000 years ago, allowing humankind to extend our reach across the globe and create the incredibly complex and diverse planet we now inhabit.  During the first few millenniums after the last glacial maximum, temperatures increased, ice sheets melted, ocean levels rose and vegetation proliferated, but for the past 10,000 years the earth has enjoyed a relatively stable existence.

Bill McKibben Eaarth Making a Life on a Tough New PlanetAs Bill McKibben explains in the first chapter of his book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, “For the ten thousand years that constitute human civilization we’ve existed in the sweetest of sweet spots.  The temperature has barely budged; globally averaged, it’s swung in the narrowest of ranges, between fifty-eight and sixty degrees Fahrenheit.”

That balance of not-too-hot, not-too-cold, opened up vast areas of land to agriculture, yet maintained the mountain glaciers which provided both drinking and irrigation water to the plains and valleys below.

But that fragile balance was torn apart as humans entered the industrial revolution, a paradigm shift for all civilization, and one powered by fossil fuels.

The effects of this transformation to a mechanical and electrical way of life include the polar icecap retreating and thinning at a record rate, and a rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations from 280 to over 390 parts per million (ppm) in just 150 years.

Yes, it’s a must read book that covers a lot of environmental territory, and it will give you a sense of both the scope and magnitude of the issues we need to deal with, but it was the very premise that Bill establishes from the book’s title forward that I found to be most profound – that we’ve already changed this planet in such fundamental ways that we can never go back to the way it was, and must instead learn how to live a very different planet – one that’s suffered irreparable damage.

That’s a very sad thought indeed, and one that’s hard to comprehend, but what’s sadder still, is the fact that governments are still unable to take decisive action to address the tragic situation.  All is not lost, however, as many organizations such as 350.org (founded by Bill McKibben) are fighting the good fight by raising awareness at both the top end and at the grass roots level.

What is your opinion – is it too late to restore our planet to its former glory?

Why is 350 Parts Per Million Important

Atmospheric CO2 Emissions vs Concentration

Global Fossil Fuel Carbon Emissions

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous September 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Germany already has LP.gas/methane/propane/Natural gas friendly, “engines”, that provide heat and electricity from the same dollar’s worth of fuel! Heat from running engine, and exhaust gases collected, directed into home, electricity generated goes to the grid, save for the portions used in the home – all, on the same dollar!

Americans have 96% efficient gas heaters, but they hardly compare to this German system! Next, CO2 generated is passed into greehouses to stimulate plant growth – a further advantage from a fuel dollar!

Quote from net:
“It’s already happening. I have seen city buses and trucks (including those collecting household waste) in Skelleftea, northern Sweden, powered by gas produced from household waste. Which implies that the term of “waste” is not correct. I can quote a colleague of mine who has stated that “waste is actually a resource in transition”.”

Right now in Ontario, that’s Canada, you can “invest” $100,000 for a 10kW feed-in system and receive $0.80 per kWh produced. That pays you back in about 100 months or 8 years and the 20 yr contract will work out to about 8% return.

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