Why Peru is reviving a pre-Incan technology for water


By Erica Gies

Today, modern Peruvians are redeploying that ancient knowledge and protecting natural ecosystems such as high-altitude wetlands to help the country adapt to climate change.

It’s one of the world’s first efforts to integrate nature into water management on a national scale. It’s akin to the long-held attitude toward solar and wind power that is swiftly becoming outdated: they’re nice but were thought not to be capable of playing a major role in meeting our energy needs. Peru’s national programme, however, has the potential to demonstrate how effective slow water solutions can be when implemented on the scale of watersheds.

Read full article Why Peru is reviving a pre-Incan technology for water, published by the BBC.

How America Fractured Into Four Parts

By George Packer

Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be.

National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires.

Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.

Read the full article… How America Fractured Into Four Parts published in The Atlantic July/August 2021

Democracy: On the Precipice?

by John Feffer

Because the absence of war doesn’t make headlines, as Stephen Pinker has argued, the news media amplifies the impression that violence is omnipresent and constantly escalating when it splashes mass murder, genocide, and war crimes on the front page.

Peace may well be prevalent, but it isn’t newsworthy. The same can be said about democracy, which has been suffering for some time from bad press. Democracies have been dragged down by corruption, hijacked by authoritarian politicians, associated with unpopular economic reforms, and proven incapable (so far) of addressing major global problems like the climate crisis. After a brief surge in popularity in the immediate post-Cold War period, democracy according to the general consensus has been in retreat.

Read the full article…Democracy: On the Precipice? published in Foreign Policy in Focus.

How the World Ran Out of Everything

By Peter S. Goodman and Niraj Chokshi

The Japanese automaker pioneered so-called Just In Time manufacturing, in which parts are delivered to factories right as they are required, minimizing the need to stockpile them.

Over the last half-century, this approach has captivated global business in industries far beyond autos. From fashion to food processing to pharmaceuticals, companies have embraced Just In Time to stay nimble, allowing them to adapt to changing market demands, while cutting costs. But the tumultuous events of the past year have challenged the merits of paring inventories, while reinvigorating concerns that some industries have gone too far, leaving them vulnerable to disruption.

As the pandemic has hampered factory operations and sown chaos in global shipping, many economies around the world have been bedeviled by shortages of a vast range of goods — from electronics to lumber to clothing. In a time of extraordinary upheaval in the global economy, Just In Time is running late.

Read the full article…How the World Ran Out of Everything, published in the New York Times.

Will There Be Resource Wars in a Renewable Future?

The Biden administration has announced a breakthrough target of 2035 for fully eliminating U.S. reliance on those non-renewable fuels for the generation of electricity.

That would be accomplished by “deploying carbon-pollution-free electricity-generating resources,” primarily the everlasting power of the wind and sun. With other nations moving in a similar direction, it’s tempting to conclude that the days when competition over finite supplies of energy was a recurring source of conflict will soon draw to a close.

Unfortunately, think again: while the sun and wind are indeed infinitely renewable, the materials needed to convert those resources into electricity — minerals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel, and the rare-earth elements, or REEs — are anything but. Some of them, in fact, are far scarcer than petroleum, suggesting that global strife over vital resources may not, in fact, disappear in the Age of Renewables.

Will There Be Resource Wars in a Renewable Future?, by Michael Klare, Tom Dispatch.

What to save? Climate Change Forces Brutal Choices at National Parks

By Zoe Schlanger

For more than a century, the core mission of the National Park Service has been preserving the natural heritage of the United States.

But now, as the planet warms, transforming ecosystems, the agency is conceding that its traditional goal of absolute conservation is no longer viable in many cases. Late last month the service published an 80-page document that lays out new guidance for park managers in the era of climate change.  The document, along with two peer-reviewed papers, is essentially a tool kit for the new world. It aims to help park ecologists and managers confront the fact that, increasingly, they must now actively choose what to save, what to shepherd through radical environmental transformation and what will vanish forever.

Read the full article.. What to Save? Climate Change Forces Brutal Choices at National Parks, published in the New York Times, May 18th 2021

A new Deadly Risk for Cities in Summer: Power Failures During Heat Waves

By Christopher Flavelle

The growing risk of overlapping heat waves and power failures poses a severe threat that major American cities are not prepared for, new research suggests.

Power failures have increased by more than 60 percent since 2015, even as climate change has made heat waves worse, according to the new research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Using computer models to study three large U.S. cities, the authors estimated that a combined blackout and heat wave would expose at least two-thirds of residents in those cities to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Read the full article A New, Deadly Risk for Cities in Summer: Power Failures During Heat Waves, published in the New York Times.
 

Philanthropy’s Problem with Single-Issue Solutions

By Trent Stamp & Cathy Choi

The problems philanthropy seeks to remedy are big, messy, and complicated. Yet far too often, we try to combat them with simple responses.

Faced with child hunger, we focus on giving children food; but we don’t connect that work to creating a national minimum wage, even though the vast majority of food-insecure children in the United States have working parents. We try to fix homelessness without embracing foster-care reform, despite knowing that half of Americans experiencing homelessness spent time in the foster-care system. We create initiatives to alleviate the climate crisis by promoting recycling and beach clean-ups, without building in advocacy for substantive policy changes that stop pollution at its source.

Read the full article…Philanthropy’s Problem with Single-Issue Solutions, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Two Questions Philanthropy Must Ask in This Urgent Moment

by David Bonbright

The times are calling us to find and address root causes: A global pandemic, deepening inequities, worsening natural disasters, a tsunami of species extinctions, rising authoritarianism around the world, and polarization fuelled by AI-driven tech.

Why are these trends persisting? What can we do beyond plastering over the cracks? How can we reimagine the institutions that drove progress for some, but not all of us? While it is always important and necessary to redress symptoms, to salve real suffering and hardship, right now we need to focus our philanthropy on the root causes of the issues we are facing.

This is a moment to dig deeper, and look at what it takes to address the problems that sneak up on you so slowly that you don’t see them until it is too late.

Read the full article Two Questions Philanthropy Must Ask in This Urgent Moment, published by Giving Compass.

Reflections on the Inner Challenges of a Ghastly Future

The recent group discussion around the ‘Underestimating the Challenges of a Ghastly Future’ (UCGF) paper felt quite lively and meaningful to me, grateful for the opportunity to attend!  As I took in the discussion, I had a few reflections come up, which I offer below in the spirit of furthering the dialogue.

The first time I came across the idea of ecological overshoot was about a decade ago, in 2012.  I was working in the field of impact investing and came across a person who, in almost hushed tones, mentioned to me that the climate scientists we were hearing from (who were already concerning), were just the ones being platformed.  There were others, whose research and ideas weren’t being trumpeted, whose findings were more dire.  He also shared with me leaders of other ways of connecting to ecological wisdom – for instance, he asked me if I had heard of the Archdruid, John Michael Greer.  This sent me down a rabbit hole.

Since then, I’ve been diving deeper into an inquiry of breakdown.  It has included elements of my own, as I saw the fragility of my own psyche in the face of such large questions.  In recent years, I have found community around this inquiry, and have seen much larger numbers of people become ‘collapse aware’ at some level.  I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of the pioneers of an inquiry that’s born of allowing in some of these uncomfortable findings.

As part of this, I’ve been actively involved with the work of Jem Bendell, Scholar’s Warning, and Deep Adaptation Forum.  These are oases that seem to be grappling with similar questions – how to invite the scientific community to more directly speak their truth.  With Covid-19, the mainstream view was to present the science with a cautious tone meant to maximizing the saving of lives, not necessarily to keep up lifestyles.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with ecocide, for a variety of reasons.

The early research on the topic of climate grief seems to be that talking about these issues, in broad and narrow forums, supports individual and community wellness, despite the intensity of the topic.  There are even those who say that it is the difficulty to name these possibilities, and experience the grief that accompanies them, that forms the basis for their manifestation.  Of course, human development exists on a spectrum, and not all may benefit from engagement, but I have seen how this same topic framed in multiple skillful ways can reach across values divides.

In recent times, I have been exploring how cosmology plays a role in how we metabolize breakdown.  In the eastern traditions, cyclicality is fundamental – just as there is a spring, or a Satya Yuga, or a True Dharma Age, there is a fall, or a Kali Yuga, or a Dharma Ending Age.  But of course the soil does not go anywhere.  Regardless of the times, there is something that transcends.  In Mahayana traditions, they speak of the importance of a Bodhisattva approach to life – a path of unconditional service with no aim to optimize outcome.  Perhaps that concept is prescient for these times.

What the UGCF paper brings up in me is an inquiry of ‘how to be,’ as much or more than ‘what to do.’  In our community, we know of many who are engaging with deep collective leverage points, from systems of economics to systems of governance – whether in those domains or the more mundane, the inquiry remains relevant to me.  As for me, I’m currently taking these questions into the embodiment domain – feeling tones, shadow work, grief work, and creating the space for others to head in a direction where the logical mind alone may not explore.  I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on what came up for me in this broader discussion, hope to listen and learn from others as well.