Tag Archives: environmentalism

The Crisis of Civilization: a fun, uplifting preview of the end of the world?!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/32074939 w=500&h=283]

The Crisis of Civilization, due to premiere [in London] tomorrow, is a documentary film that is remarkably pleasant to watch considering its subject mattert: the looming destruction of civilisation as we know it.

The film looks into how “global crises like ecological disaster, financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages are converging symptoms of a single, failed global system.”

Over less than 80 minutes of running time, Dr Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, the principal narrator of the film – and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It – draws a compelling portrait of the emerging economical, political and environmental trends that are likely to shape our common future over the next few decades.

His thesis is devastating in its simplicity: unless structural changes are introduced to the way we run our world, we won’t make it past this century, possibly not even the halfway mark.

That sure sounds like a fun evening at the cineplex, doesn’t it? Nothing quite like a cheery tour of the end of civilization, eh? Here’s what Grist has to say:

The new documentary The Crisis of Civilization is the most user-friendly exploration of imminent doom you’ll ever see. Through interviews, found footage, and animation, the film actually manages to make the unwinding of our conventional, fossil-fueled, more-is-more industrial civilization accessible. And importantly, it pays just as much attention to solutions as to problems.

Nafeez Ahmed, the documentary’s narrator, whom I’ve interviewed in the past, is a professor of international relations and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It. He’s also smart as hell, knowledgeable on a broad scale, and a master of synthesizing the implications of climate change and peak energy for terrorism, national security, and our increasingly fragile world food supply. In other words, he’s the sort of academic we ignore at our peril.

So how can you ignore that? More importantly, how can you actually go see the film – if you’re not in London this week to catch the free premiere screenings? Try to arrange a local screening yourself – as I’m going to try to do on campus, and locally through Fresno Filmworks, perhaps as part of their next festival.

In the meantime, here’s another clip about the movie:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=?wmode=transparent]


Let this not be a eulogy for our pale blue dot…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeXdv-uPaw?wmode=transparent]

… even though it is a eulogy for several environmentalists who laid their lives down in defending our home, Earth.

This is a non-commercial attempt to highlight the fact that world leaders, irresponsible corporates and mindless ‘consumers’ are combining to destroy life on earth. It is dedicated to all who died fighting for the planet and those whose lives are on the line today. The cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network (www.sanctuaryasia.com).

Content credit: The principal source for the footage was Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s incredible film HOME http://www.homethemovie.org/. The music was by Armand´╗┐ Amar. Thank you too Greenpeace and http://timescapes.org/

(Hat-tip: David Inouye and Bittu Sahgal)

Earth+Plastic, the Great Electron, and George Carlin

Having subjected you to my rant for this Earth Day, allow me to share my all-time favorite rant, by that maestro of all ranting, George Carlin, reminding us holier-than-thou environmentalists of our proper place in the grand scheme of things:


Sorry Desert Tortoise. No room for you in Google’s Earth Day paradise.

Today is Earth Day, a once grassroots movement seeking to remind people to pay attention to the earth which has now grown to become a global event apparently “celebrated” by over a billion people – much of it courtesy of your neighborhood multinational corporations who have co-opted the day to urge you to buy more products at special discounts to “celebrate Earth Day”. They must mean “celebrate our collective destruction of this earth for profit and a few fun consumer products and gadgets”. Why, instead of actually going out and planting a tree today, you can enjoy playing Lorax Garden on your iPhone! Download for free today!! After all, why bother getting your hands dirty in an actual garden when you can get virtual karma playing it on your smartphone. Surely that’s what the Lorax wanted us to do, no?

As part of these corporate celebrations of the once-grassroots movement, Google sports this image of an impossibly idyllic edenic paradise as their doodle for the day:


Lovely, isn’t it? Pandas and penguins and tigers living in harmony with the corporate logo tastefully hidden amid the verdant scenery!

Unfortunately, Google’s vision of paradise has no room for the Desert Tortoise, the Joshua Tree, or the ancient mesquites and all the other poor denizens of the Mojave Desert, just a few hundred miles outside Google’s corporate office windows. You see, just last week, Google upped their investment in the “green” solar energy company Brightsource, pouring in another $168 million to support that company’s massive solar projects in the Mojave Desert. Never mind that the project is already killing endangered tortoises, destroying their habitat along with that of all the other denizens of the Mojave’s unique biodiversity. And never mind that this kind of concentrated power generation with associated transmission costs and losses is an outdated model for this century. After all, combating global warming by switching to non-fossil-fuel energy sources is the be-all and end-all of environmental movements these days, we are told. By none other than the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, who thinks conserving land is just “boring” compared to using exciting new “green” technologies to destroy habitats! This massive solar power generation technology is so exciting, it seems, that even Science Friday invited Madrigal to celebrate it on their Earth Day broadcast – where Ira Flatow forgot to ask any questions about the ecological impact of putting massive solar plants in the Mojave:


What’s doubly sad this Earth Day is that Madrigal is not alone. Too many environmentalist nonprofits and activists have bought into this model of green technology. One that merely substitutes one kind of power generation for another “greener” one without questioning the whole model! Why must we generate power at such massive scales, entailing land degradation, transmission losses, and a host of other problems, rather than developing smaller-scale technologies for distributed power generation from rooftops and parking lots? Whatever happened to “small is beautiful“? And why not put larger plants, if they’re needed, in brownfields and other land that we’ve already severely degraded through our other uses instead of bulldozing tortoise habitat? After all, there is plenty of such land within California’s urban/agriculture matrix which already covers more of the state than the remaining desert patches. If Germany, not known for its bright sun, can generate a significant amount of its power from rooftops in a distributed model, why must the US have to destroy remnant habitats still containing biodiversity? And why is Google, a company once at the cutting edge of innovation, with a motto “don’t be evil“, a supposed champion of the open-source internet as a force for democracy, i.e., distributed power, now investing in concentrated large-scale power projects mired in the old models of centralized production and distribution?!

Why aren’t more environmental groups raising these questions? Why is it left to a handful of “useful idiots” like Chris Clarke and Solar Done Right?

More importantly, why are we not asking the more fundamental question: WHY ON EARTH DO WE NEED TO KEEP USING SO MUCH DAMN ENERGY??!! Why can’t we cut down on the energy we currently waste, become more efficient, and work on reducing our massive ecological footprint by using less power-hungry products?

Oh, I forgot… how can we ask these questions, when the corporations are dangling all that shiny new magical technology in front of us all the time? Bright shiny smart phones where we can go play the Lorax game… what were you going on about the environment for, mate?

Sorry Lorax. Sorry Desert Tortoise. Sorry Mesquite. And Sorry Earth. We’ve sold you all out for a few shiny baubles. Happy Earth Day.


Coyote says: America’s Deserts Are Not A Renewable Resource…

poster courtesy of the Coyote at faultline.org

… and the environmentalists on the renewable energy bandwagon that has begun to raze these deserts for concentrated industrial solar power plants had better pause and think about that for a moment!

Do we really want to destroy these diverse unique ancient ecosystems for a few megawatts of energy from power plants that will run down in a couple of decades? For what? So we don’t have to turn off the lights when leaving a room or power down our electronic gadgets when not using them? Really?

How do we resist the dominant culture that is killing the planet?

That is the big question raised by Derrick Jensen, described here by Amy Goodman as the “poet philosopher of the ecological movement” – although I have to admit I hadn’t heard about him until I heard him talking to Goodman on the radio last week. Perhaps its because I’ve been too busy getting tenure as an ecologist to be in the ecological movement. I don’t know. In any case, he offers much to think about in this interview. Not everything I agree with, but enough to make me want to look for his books too now, the latest of which is Deep Green Resistance.

Here’s the interview from Democracy Now – worth your while if you (in the US) aren’t spending the wee hours of this day freezing your backside off (in the central valley) lining up outside department stores waiting for Black Friday specials, and aren’t joining the mobs in the shopping malls today. Or perhaps especially if you are:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0dT_x1XQuQ?wmode=transparent]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtqHSLDuXR8?wmode=transparent]