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Bapu’s Charkha by Margaret Bourke-White

But without him how could Hitler have condemned them at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone.
He’s the one who gives his body as a weapon of the war
And without him all this killing can’t go on.

He’s the universal soldier and he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away, no more.
They come from him, and you, and me
And brothers can’t you see?
This is not the way we put an end to war.

— Buffy St. Marie, Universal Soldier, 1964

We are sitting out a four hour plane transfer in Abu Dhabi, moving between the UN climate conference in Bonn and the international permaculture conference in Hyderabad, and having time, we’ve listened to the exchange between Guy McPherson and Paul Beckwith via the Nature Bats Last site.

While we may have cause to disagree with both speakers, that does not mean we would follow the fashionable hysteria now making the rounds, of stopping our ears to anything we might disagree with, especially on the basis of its attribution. Rather, we’d prefer to open up to foreign ideas on the assumption that not everything we think we know is right, and more probably there are gaps or errors in our thinking that stand in need of correction.

We disagree with Beckwith, for instance, on the issue of geoengineering. We disagree with McPherson on the shape of the climate change curve and consequently the timing of certain benchmarks. Either could be more right than we are, but we don’t think so.

We have previously posted here that geoengineering is not required to re-stabilize Earth’s climate to the conditions in which mammals such as ourselves evolved. That should really not be an issue at this point.

The point was recently made again by a team of 32 distinguished scientists from 6 countries looking at Natural Climate Solutions. While climate change is indeed an existential threat displaying a nasty exponent of acceleration, it is yet reversible if we humans will make a course correction at once. It is not a question of whether we can, but whether we will. The question turns not on changing physical realities but on changing minds. Physical realities are very slow to change. Minds can change instantly.

As Beckwith and McPherson laid out their battle lines, we found ourselves siding with McPherson in his choice of weapons. He could have challenged the technology Beckwith was favoring, but instead he challenged the philosophy.

Paul Beckwith: I think we need to apply solar radiation management techniques and carbon dioxide removal techniques in order to stabilize the climate system. That is not to say that we don’t need to slash fossil fuel emissions. And we will know that governments are serious about that when we see fossil fuels start to go away.

Martin Halwell: You are a believer in geoengineering?

Paul Beckwith: Well I think it is absolutely necessary. Whether it will work or not is a separate question but I think we have to try.

***

Guy McPherson: In some ways we’ve been geoengineering since we turned a shovel, since we turned the first blade of earth and released carbon dioxide to the air. And certainly we are geoengineering when we crank up our internal combustion engines and turn on the lights by firing up a coal fired-powered plant. But I think what we are talking about here is something new and different, geoengineering to do something to reverse what the past geoengineering has done, has brought us to.

And I think the problem has always been doing. You know we keep doing and doing and doing. It is that doing that has us at the edge of the abyss here. And somehow continued doing at the large scale isn’t the answer that we are wishing for. I don’t think we can predict the results, reliably, of solar radiation management, for instance.

***

And I think this is just desperate times calling for desperate measures — continued doing so we can keep doing what we’ve been doing for some 267 years, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. I just don’t see things positive coming out of that.

The conversation reminded us of something Geshe Michael Roach said in The Diamond Cutter:

The flame of a butter lamp, supported by a thin plant wick, flares and then quickly dies out. Caused things, each supported by their various causes and conditions, also go through a continuous process of rising and quickly dying out. An illusion is something that looks different than something that is actually there. Things brought about by causes also appear to exist in and of themselves to a mistaken state of mind. Dew vanishes quickly. Things with causes are the same. They die away speedily without lasting even into the second instant of their existence.

***

Lightning flashes and dies out quickly. Caused things too, rise and die out quickly, depending on the conditions that assembled to bring them about. Clouds are something that gather and fade in the sky depending on the wishes of the serpent beings and such. Things brought about by causes are the same. Depending on the influences of imprints which are either the same for the various members of a group or not, they rise and die out.

***

Your life will end because you were born and no further reason is needed.

We are passing through the Emirates on our way to India from the COP-23 Climate Conference in Bonn. As Christer Söderberg pointed out, the effort being made at these events is best summed up in three words:

“Bula”, “Vinaka”, and “Talanoa”, a heartfelt and warmly expressed gift of language from the Fiji Islands, hosts for this COP 23: “Bula”: Welcome (also the word for “Life”), “Vinaka”: Thank you, and “Talanoa”: Let’s talk, with deep listening and respect to arrive at a consensus. These three words might be making a bigger contribution to the process than we are ready to admit.

***

It was on Monday of the second week that a new report from Carbon Brief was announced saying that emissions during 2017 were set to rise two percent. Furthermore, the present “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC’s) towards emission reductions agreed during the COP 21 in Paris in 2015 were only enough to cover some 30% of what is necessary to keep the global mean temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius, now considerably farther from the ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees. Things were not good, and not getting better, the light at the end of the tunnel suddenly seemed very far away.

How do we combine continued economic growth in a fossil fuel driven economy while reducing the emissions caused by those same fossil fuels?

We don’t. That is the basic problem. These two goals cannot co-exist, and there is only one choice….

We began with a quote from Universal Soldier because in that Buffy St. Marie sang a very simple truth. For peace to prevail, no more is needed than the willingness of young men and women to turn their back on military conscription.

Like thousands of other 17-year-olds, we listened to that call in 1964 and registered as a C.O. Thank you for your service conscientious objectors. You are welcome to board through the priority lane.

For the Anthropocene to be aborted and the Holocene to return no more is needed than to recover the ways of habitation that we, the two-legged ones, practiced in harmony with the natural world for 200,000 years. We can possibly even keep some of our favorite inventions, if we do so gracefully.

It is best to recall as we approach the major holiday season of the Judeo-Christian calendar that in those traditions consumerism was not intended to be venerated, much less worshiped.

This is at the core of permaculture. To achieve sustainability requires little more than to practice sustainability. Universally. Now. It is really very simple. It is not about what we do but how we be. We merely withdraw support for the death machine and stand back.

Written by

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

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