We have constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes…

…….whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

http://climateprogress.org

These words above lay out the fundamental case for change… and reveal the key importance of the permaculture approach, of investing in Earth captial, biological complexity, and developing social complexity and local economies whilst we are at it. Knowing what we know now means we cannot go on in the direction we have taken. if you doubt this in any way listen to this impassioned seach by the President of thee Maldives, on the subject of climate change….. a country at 1.5m above sea level….

“Choose the future over the past.” -President Nasheed of the Maldives Calls out Fossil Fuel Industry in Powerful Climate Speech

by 350.org on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 at 00:58

In what may be the most powerful climate speech of 2010, President Nasheed of the Maldives calls out the fossil fuel industry at Oxford, Dec 3rd. The final transcript is below, peppered with photos of 350.org Maldives actions.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honoured to be joining you at the Oxford Union today. I am acutely aware of the great men and women who have preceded me and I am deeply humbled to be given this chance to speak here. It is one thing to follow heads of state like Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan… but quite another to be offered the same platform as Shakira and Clint Eastwood.

Of course the reason Oxford attracts so many influential people is because Oxford students will become the leaders of tomorrow.

Soon, quicker than you might imagine, those in power today will leave the stage, and be replaced by a new crop of actors. So I believe today is an opportunity for my generation to impart some of our limited wisdom and experience to the next. And our wisdom is limited, for the world we will bequeath to you is not, at the moment, looking like a pretty place.

Ladies and gentlemen,I believe we are at a pivotal moment in history. We are at a point in time where the actions that this generation takes, right now, will determine the future not in weeks, months or years… the decisions we make today will dictate the course of coming centuries, millennia, perhaps even the very existence of human civilization.

The climate crisis is the most potent threat we have ever faced.

It is invisible,

It is silent,

It sows its seeds of destruction slowly, patiently and often imperceptibly.

The climate is changing, this much we know.

But the seeds of our destruction emanate from within: from the way we choose to live, order our societies and plan for the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is happening faster and with greater severity than anyone previously thought possible.

This year, we have witnessed the terrible cost it is already imposing on our economies and societies.

Unprecedented high temperatures have devastated one quarter of Russia’s cropland, and put Moscow under a siege of smoke for weeks.

Not far from us in South Asia, a fifth of Pakistan was recently flooded, making 20 million people temporarily homeless.

Scientists say 2010 is likely to be the hottest year on record.

Each isolated incident can be dismissed as a freak occurrence; an unpredictable weather pattern; a climatic aberration.

But as each passing year breaks a new temperature record… when each new decade is hotter than its predecessor… and when freak weather events are no longer one-offs but the norm… we know we have a serious problem.

My country stands just 1.5 metres above the Indian Ocean.

Rising sea levels could wipe the Maldives off the map.

Warmer, more acidic seas threaten to dissolve our coral reefs, wrecking our tourism and fishing industries.

And the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever in our warmer world, causes new risks to public health.

For us, climate change is no vague or abstract menace, but a clear and present danger to our very survival.

I know that many sceptics have spoken in this hall, downplaying or questioning the existence of climate change.

I want to be clear about this: I understand the importance of critical inquiry…of scientific rigor… and of always challenging a suffocating consensus.

And so a debate about the pace at which climate change is likely to happen, is welcome.

Discussion over the best form of adaptation, is healthy.

Discourse over how to de-carbonise the world economy, is useful.

But to deny the existence of climate change in the face of overwhelming evidence is not scepticism.

It is stupidity.

Denial serves no-one, except the vested interests of the fossil fuel industries and the rigid ideologies of the past. Anti-science denial threatens to send us back to a new pre-Enlightenment dark age, where objectivity and reason count for nothing. Denial can cost lives. Millions will die unnecessarily if climate deniers get their way and we do nothing about the urgent threat of global warming. And entire countries will disappear too. And so to the cynical deniers, I invite you to visit one of these threatened countries: the Maldives.

It is easy to be a denier when you are just running a blog from behind a comfortable desk in the rich world. So I invite you to see for yourselves the damage climate change is causing to the lives of vulnerable people, in places you would maybe prefer to ignore.

And when you have met the farmer whose crops have been destroyed by seawater intrusion; When you have spoken to the fisherman, whose catch is falling because the weather is more erratic; When you have met the family whose house has been washed into the sea by stronger waves; When you have sat down with these people on equal terms and seen these things for yourselves; Then I challenge you to look us in the eye, and tell us climate change isn’t happening.

I know that fossil fuel interests are behind many of these climate denial campaigns. And I know the deniers are given undue oxygen by the media’s tendency to chase controversy, and forget truth. The IPCC did make a few errors in its huge, 1,000 page report. But the main thing it has got wrong is not to exaggerate the scale of climate change, but to under-estimate it.

Temperature rise, sea level rise and ice melt are all happening faster than climate scientists predicted. As we look around the world today…… and bear witness to the melting Arctic ice … the scorching heat waves, and the devastating floods

… it is clear that climate change is happening much faster than we dared to imagine.

We all know about ‘climate gate’ – the scandal that never was. We have heard the malicious slurs against honest men, like the IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri, who I count as a friend.

We have watched the demonization of Al Gore.I sense weakness behind these vicious attacks.

For me these campaigns of disinformation illustrate the death throes of the fossil fuel interests.

Big Oil and King Coal are dying industries. Their dominance of the world economy is coming to an end.

The fossil fuel companies know that, sooner or later, the world’s politicians will wake up. And when they do, they will stop fossil fuel firms dumping waste into the atmosphere as if, in Al Gore’s words, it were an open sewer. It is natural that these powerful vested interests are fighting hard – for they are fighting for their own survival.

They cannot change. Coal companies will always mine coal, and oil companies will always drill for oil. It is no surprise they are attacking the people who urge a shift towards renewable energy, because this threatens their dominance. Our challenge is to ensure that the fossil fuel lobby doesn’t bring our planetary ecosystem down with it. And so allow me to make this direct appeal to you today. All of you, sitting in this room, represent the future.

You will take over from our generation.

You will be the leaders of tomorrow.

And so, as you prepare to leave university and go into the outside world, I urge you to ignore the lure of the fossil fuel industry.

Renewable energy and clean tech companies are sparking the greatest technological explosion since the Industrial Revolution.

And so I say to you: choose the future over the past.

And join the new, exciting economy of tomorrow.

Allow the oil and coal firms to take their rightful place, as tomorrow’s industrial dinosaurs in the garbage dump of history.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Maldives is not prepared to lie down and submit to a watery grave.

We will not passively accept that our grandchildren must become environmental refugees, their culture and language lost forever in a faraway land.

We refuse to abandon hope of our own survival.

There is no doubt that climate change places our homeland in great peril.

But with every threat, comes opportunity.

I believe the Maldives can play an important role in leading the way forward, as we work towards building a world without greenhouse gas emissions.

On a global scale, our carbon dioxide emissions are negligible.

The Maldives has done little to cause the climate problem.

But we are determined to be part of the solution.

Last year, the Maldives announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2020.

My pledge is that we will become the first country in the world to kick the fossil fuel habit.

As part of this goal, we intend to shift from using oil to using renewable energy to provide all our electricity.

We aim to develop clean fuels to power our cars and boats. And we plan to offset aviation pollution, until a way can be found to de-carbonise air transport too.

For the Maldives, carbon neutral development is not just an environmental issue.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil also improves security and boosts our economy.

The Maldives is the most oil-dependent country in Asia. Our economy is currently totally reliant on imported oil. We don’t produce oil ourselves and have limited capacity to store it. Any spike in the oil price causes huge damage to our economy and government finances. Improving energy efficiency, and shifting to renewables, improves our energy security and can reduce the price of electricity. Renewable energy also provides significant opportunities for local business. The Maldives is too small to be a global wind or solar manufacturer. But by pioneering the use of renewable energy in our far flung islands.

… we can become world experts in developing off-grid renewable energy solutions for small communities.

If we can work out how to power a Maldivian island cheaply with renewables, we will know how to power every remote village in India and China too.

At the moment, the Maldivian economy is dominated by tourism and fishing.

These two industries account for two thirds of our GDP. By developing niche expertise in renewable energy solutions, I hope we can add a third dimension to our economic development

I would also like to point out the importance of the effectiveness of Western countries’ aid budgets.

As you know, a lot of aid has been pledged by the rich world, to help poorer countries adapt to the worst impacts of climate change.

The European Union, in particular, has made a big commitment to provide adaptation finance.

However, European countries are often hesitant to spend their money where it is really needed.

In the Maldives, for example, European countries are saying we cannot use adaptation money to build sea defences in our islands.

This is slightly mad, when you think about it. Here is a country in danger of being flooded, and yet the donor countries won’t let us build flood defences.

Instead, European donors want us to write lots of feasibility studies and conduct training seminars. I understand the importance of planning…and I know that reports are important…

… but we also need seawalls and water breakers to protect us from the rising seas. Ladies and gentlemen, I know that Copenhagen was a disappointment. And with time running out to fix the climate, it is easy to become despondent or even depressed.

It is all too easy to write off the most vulnerable countries as unsaveable, sacrificial victims to the world’s fossil fuel addiction.

With a shrug of the shoulders, you could just accept that many countries will no longer appear, on a map in the 22nd Century.

But this sort of self-defeating nihilism is not for me.

It may be fine for bloggers, but it will not do for the leaders of national governments.

We have real work to do and real people whose aspirations must be met and whose ambitions must be liberated.

To stave off the worst of climate change, we mustn’t let temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees.

And we need to cut the carbon in the atmosphere to a safer level of 350 parts per million.

To achieve these goals, the entire world economy needs to become carbon neutral by the middle of this century.

And we need to cut global emissions now.

This is an unprecedented international challenge.

The odds are stacked against us.

But, we have faced long odds before.

And we have won in spite of the odds.

Just a few years ago, chance was against us in our struggle for democracy in the Maldives.

Countless democracy activists were detained, jailed and tortured by the former regime.

We were a people without arms, standing up to a dictatorship that had all the guns, tanks and batons.

But we refused to give up hope.

With conviction and courage, we won our battle for democracy in the Maldives.

I believe, with this kind of sustained focus, we can overcome the climate crisis too.

We can win not because hope can triumph over grim reality, but because I know there is no shortage of humanity’s greatest resource.

That resource is not solar power, nearly unlimited though it is.

It is the ingenuity and innovative capacity of people like you…

… of skilled and educated people who will drive the technologies and the politics of the future.

I have never been a socialist.

I have never been in favour of big government.

I believe that free markets are the best way to harness entrepreneurial spirit.

And I believe that entrepreneurial spirit is what drives human progress.

True entrepreneurs are not those who cling to the old certainties of the past, like climate deniers do.

Rather, they are those who see a new world is coming, full of new opportunities.

I believe that victims can also be victors.

And I believe that poor and vulnerable countries have a role in leading the way forward – perhaps the most important role of all.

And it is not just the Maldives that is trying to lead by example.

Earlier this year, at a meeting in the Maldives, other developing countries joined the carbon neutral club…

Ethiopia…

Costa Rica…

Samoa… the Marshall Islands…

Antigua and Barbuda…

… these countries have committed themselves, either to carbon neutrality or low carbon development.

I think this does beg the question:

When those with the least, start doing the most… how can richer countries drag their heels over climate change?

Ladies and gentlemen,

We avoided a nuclear war, and we avoided a fall into Fascism.

I believe we can still avoid a climate catastrophe…

… but only if today’s generation faces its challenges honestly, courageously and truthfully.

I know it seems lonely to continue the battle when everything seems against us.

But the mark of true leadership is being prepared to stand alone for a cause in which you believe.

The future if we lose, does not bear thinking about. But the future if we win, will be better for all mankind.

And when we have conquered this enemy of our own making…

… a wall will not come tumbling down…

… there will be no victory parades…

… foreign troops will not quit through the Gateway of India.

But those countries that had the foresight to green their economies;

Those nations which had the wisdom to act; Those people who chose to stand and fight; They will be the ones whom history remembers.

And they will be the ones to whom my nation – small and vulnerable though it is – will give thanks, for our continued existence on this Earth.

Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply