Tag Archives: global warming

Bleak, but not unexpected, news: capitalism is destroying the planet

greenland glacierBleak, but not unexpected, news today. According to a new report published in Nature, sea level rise over the last two decades has taken place at a significantly faster rate than previously reported. To be specific, the acceleration is 25% higher than so far assumed. Coasts from Florida to Bangladesh are threatened.

In a not-unrelated report, scientists also announced that 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded. The graphic to the right makes this point in quite stark terms.hottestyear2014

Finally, two studies by international teams of researchers have concluded that humans “are eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate not seen in the last 10,000 years. According to a summary article in The Guardian,

Of nine worldwide processes that underpin life on Earth, four have exceeded “safe” levels – human-driven climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and the high level of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to fertiliser use.

Near the conclusion of the article, the articles’ lead author, Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is quoted as saying,

“It’s clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to survive. History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s where we are today.

A surprisingly direct indictment of capitalism, although the word is never directly mentioned by Steffen or by The Guardian.

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Urban Planning

Yesterday I went to the Regional Plan Association’s conference on “Innovation and the American Metropolis.” The RPA’s interventions in the urban fabric of the New York metropolitan area have been hugely influential, laying out the material and intellectual framework for the development of this, one of the U.S.’s greatest urban regions.  Of course, these interventions have not been without controversy, as Marshall Berman’s withering attack on Robert Moses in All That is Solid Melts into Air underlines.

In a first for me, I live blogged the event for Social Text.  My account of and reactions to the RPA presentations are available here.

There were many fascinating presentations, but perhaps the most interesting was one by an architect involved in a project sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art called Rising Currents.  The goal of this project, which brought together urban planners, architects, ecologists, and civic groups, was to explore a series of creative responses to sea-level rise resulting from climate change, re-envisioning the coast lines of New York and New Jersey around the New York harbor.  This is one of the most interesting climate change mitigation projects that I’ve seen, one that suggests it may be possible to make progressive interventions in response to the gathering climate crisis, at least in the short- to medium-term.

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