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Page added on October 13, 2019

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Soft Paths to Zero


While reducing emissions should be a priority, it is morally questionable to focus on relatively cheaper emissions reduction without drawdown. This merely shifts the responsibility, and cost, onto the backs of future generations.

Being still somewhat in the Greenwich Meridian, I got up this morning while it was still dark, grabbed some kombucha from the fridge, turned on the laptop (aaghh, light!), opened a Google doc and commenced to write this post. Then the power went off.
My UPS/surge protector (a heavy core of grounded 12-penny nails and a lightweight capacitor circuit) held my consigned thoughts only long enough for orderly shutdown. Then I was back in the dark. I would have better started my day with quill pen and beeswax candle. As it is, I did the next best thing and went to ballpoint, yellow pad, and solar-charged torch.
I can hear my UPS ping from time to time as the Meriwether Lewis rural electric co-op tries to re-establish connectivity. This could go on for hours. Here in Tennessee brown-outs and blackouts are normal, nearly daily, so we are perhaps better adapted than most. Our ecovillage was here a decade before we even had indoor toilets and running water, never mind electricity and phones. Typically these blackouts last only 30 minutes to three hours. Some Californians may have to go a month. We are prepared, they weren’t. The alternatives, climate Armageddon in places like Paradise California, Abaco Island Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and as I write this parts of Los Angeles, are far more dire.
I am in solidarity with the 800,000 customers across 34 California counties, several million people, who were severed their electrical umbilical by PG&E just after midnight and early Wednesday morning, a cautionary measure when the winds of October turned hot and dry enough to spark utility-bankrupting-scale wildfire. Over the stench of rotting fish and produce, PG&E said it would communicate with affected customers directly via automated calls, texts and emails, telling them how many days or weeks the shutdown would last. Except, that won’t do anything. With no power over that vast area, automated calls, texts and emails are not going to mean anything. Mobile phones won’t work. They might try smoke signals or messenger pigeons. Maybe a Pony Express? Welcome to the new normal in the Anthropocene. We were only part way into becoming cyberamphibians and now we have to retreat to more familiar waters.
I can hear my UPS ping from time to time as the Meriwether Lewis rural electric co-op tries to re-establish connectivity. This could go on for hours. Here in Tennessee brown-outs and blackouts are normal, nearly daily, so we are perhaps better adapted than most. Our ecovillage was here a decade before we even had indoor toilets and running water, never mind electricity and phones. Typically these blackouts last only 30 minutes to three hours. Some Californians may have to go a month. We are prepared, they weren’t. The alternatives, climate Armageddon in places like Paradise California, Abaco Island Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and as I write this, the outer burbs of Los Angeles, are far more dire.
I just bounced in from London where the Commonwealth, under the guidance of its sage Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, has placed its 53 member countries on battle footing for the climate crisis. While others may focus on Brexit or Trumpzit or other exotic baits thrown into the bubbling info-swamp, gathered here in Marlborough House were the top tier of Emergency Planetary Technicians. We exchanged stories, strategies, and new tools. We saw examples of cutting edge projects from Belize, Kiribati, the Maori of Aotearoa and the Kalinago of Dominica.
We equipped ourselves with their inspiration and powerpoints and returned to the front lines of our own individual projects. For me, that meant getting up early the next several mornings, grabbing a kombucha and driving to Nashville to attend the Living Product Expo. I confess, I did not know a lot about the Living Product Institution other than some association with green building and sustainability design, but I soon found myself in the company of another group of Emergency Planetary Technicians, with an almost completely different approach to carbon reversal than the group in London.

This photo of Carib Cultural Village by the Sea (Kalinago Barana Aute) is courtesy of TripAdvisor. The buttresses are distinctive vernacular to the region. Some very large buildings withstood the recent Category 5 hurricanes because they were anchored in this way.

In London we were talking about hurricane-resistant structures built to ancient design with materials that pull down CO2; Cool Lab microenterprise hubs that combine drawdown with the 17 sustainable development goals; recovering lost wisdom for harmonious occupation of our space island whose atmosphere above us is, for most, less than the distance to the nearest shopping mall. In Nashville we were talking about getting the largest construction companies and product manufacturers in the world to sign on to the 2050 roadmap — half emissions by 2030; half again by 2040; zero by 2050. One, Skanska AB, a multinational construction and development company based in Sweden, with $145 billion in annual revenues, has pledged to hit its zero goal for all construction by 2045. As author and natural builder Bruce King (The New Carbon Architecture) reminded us, the world builds the equivalent of another New York City every 35 days, and greenhouse gas emissions come with every shovel of sand and yard of rebar. 
We saw glue-lam structural beams from crop waste, highrises built of LEGO blocks of bamboo and rice paste, and tables and desk chairs of mycelium. Most in these conferences have little awareness of charcrete and charpolymers (Burn: Using FIre to Cool the Earth is still too new and they tend to think of biochar as mere fertilizer) but I did my best to inoculate the architects, engineers, and manufacturers with Cool Lab concepts and the suite of tools discussed in London. For their part, they inspired me with the Living Product Challenge’s proposed improvements to the Declare label and expansions of Life Cycle Assessment into the Handprint system.
Meetings like these are cascading. The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival (Sept. 27-29) “Carbon, Culture, and Change: From the Ground Up”; Al Gore’s Climate Underground event (Oct 14-15) at his Caney Fork Farm in Carthage with catering by Alice Waters; the VERGE-19 gathering in Oakland (Oct 22-24) with its conferenceswithinaconference: VergeCarbon with separate tracks for Biological: Farms & Forests; Carbontech: Fuels & Materials Innovation; and Sequestration: Industry & Utilities and then VergeCircular, Verge Energy, and Verge Transport. 
Through research and support for pilot- and demonstration-scale projects, Secretary General Patricia Scotland has fashioned her mandate for the Commonwealth — learn more about CO2 removal and deploy natural climate solutions that are rapid, lasting and cost-effective. As you go, cull the wasteful and ineffective. Investing in these early-stage technologies today will lead to parallel advances as previously seen with computers, communications systems, solar cells, aircraft, and cars. Some climate solutions could have trans-boundary environmental, social, and economic impacts, which can be benign or adverse. There may be thresholds of scale where positive benefits turn negative. But, as Paul Hawken said in his recent Bioneers talk,
“Even if we turned off every fossil fuel combustion source today, we will still move to climate chaos. We need to stop putting our greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to be sure. We also need to bring CO2 back home where it came from. That can’t be done with a Tesla.”
Bruce King recalled FDR’s deadline of 2 years for the Manhattan Project, JFK’s deadline of 10 years for the Apollo moon landing, and reminded us that Greta Thunberg has set another deadline for us all now. The Carbon Clock produced by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin predicts that we have 9 years before the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will warm the planet by 1.5°C. That’s Greta’s deadline: her 25th birthday.
“While reducing emissions should be a priority, it is morally questionable to focus on relatively cheaper emissions reduction without drawdown. This merely shifts the responsibility, and cost, onto the backs of future generations.”
— Renforth and Wilcox, Specialty Grand Challenge: Negative Emission Technologies (2019)
Of course, we need to acknowledge the fine print. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts the likelihood of a given outcome in terms of a lower (33 percent), medium (50 percent) or high (66 percent) probability. It gives the odds we will blow through 1.5°C in the high range. Many of us would argue we have already passed that mark. We are already likely committed to crossing 2 degrees as well.
You can hit people over the head with top-down regulation but then you get resistance. Or you can lead people to their higher callings and the rewards to be found in frugal husbandry, ethical manufacturing and construction, and product revolutions. This is not to say there will be no resistance. The 21st century automobile revolution will throw thousands of outmoded GM assembly line workers out of their jobs, as it has already done with coal miners. Truthfully, those disgruntled GM workers now need to get more into to reversing climate change like the rest of us. 
Either way, sacrifice will be required. If you are reading this by candlelight in rural Tennessee or the PG&E non-service area, you already know. And you have likely already considered, you’d rather this than your whole town burned down.

22 Comments on "Soft Paths to Zero"

  1. makati1 on Sun, 13th Oct 2019 8:51 pm 

    Nothing will be done until it is too late and then it will be minimal.

  2. forbin on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 2:54 am 


    “Even if we turned off every fossil fuel combustion source today, we will still move to climate chaos.”

    meaning anything I do will do nothing , so I won’t .


    PS: are sending Greta to China and India yet ? how about her meeting a poor girl from the Brazilian slums or a poor township in Kenya and explaining that “for the good of the planet” they cannot have the upbringing and lifestyle that she, Greta, had?

    no ?

    another serving of double standards all round I think .

  3. REAL Green on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:30 am 

    Well, this is not exactly true. What is true is as an individual your contribution to any reduction in the climate is negligible considering what is going on because of growth. Even if all the West made a huge effort at reductions Asia and Africa will wipe those efforts away and add some. This is not about fairness. Developing nations deserve to develop but don’t lie about the consequences as FAK Greens do today about sustainable development. Besides the fact that reductions in growth producing emissions and activities would destroy the global economy meaning a very dirty world of cascading decline. This is a carbon trap with path dependencies. That is a description of “meaning anything I do will do nothing” in a sense that a powerful self-organizing force of human activity locked into growth activity dominated by fossil fuels will roll on and no amount of efforts at alternatives of all kind will stop that. We are locked into a destabilized climate and a planetary ecosystem in decline and localized collapse. Get used to it and quit the whining and the Greta worship.

    This “meaning anything I do will do nothing, so I won’t” can be looked at a different way. First this attitude is the behavior of acceptance. It has not yet gone a step further of going forth in an effort at adaptation and mitigation. This is the next step to Kubler-Ross in the age of existential crisis. Kubler-Ross in this situation is a crashing narrative that is a realization of macro failure in a world of delusional meaning. It is this place where a new effort could be sprung into action. If all the FAKE Greens could go through this process then all this talk about a clean green future could be directed at far better efforts of society wide changes in response to decline on all fronts from climate to the economy. This is true of the socialistic talk and the make America great type talk. These narratives are denial of the trap we are in and the path dependency of the road we are on. Most all narratives are based on delusional beliefs in solutions with a status quo of affluence and comfort. Doomers are marginalized as nut cases. That is the best way to express the situation of a trap with path dependency.

  4. REAL Green on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:31 am 

    If we take this attitude of failure and hopelessness and turn it into efforts at change focused on mitigation and adaptation then there will be a different way forward that will have more sustainability and resilience. This is not an effort that means a successful solution to decline and failure of a modern way of life. This is an effort to tackle the problems we have ahead in the overall context of a predicament of failure. A recognition of decline at its deepest level at all levels would allow multiple efforts to begin to adjust the remaining resources of the global economy be directed in the best possible way to allow the descent to be less steep. There are many aspects of modern life that should be protected and saved. There are many places people live now that should be depopulated. There are destructive lifestyles and habits that need to eliminated. This will not be done without a society wide Kubler-Roth.

    This next step to a society wide Kubler-Roth realization will bring about the end as will not doing nothing but it will be an organized retreat in force. It will have many more proactive efforts that will pay off in good results. In other worlds there will be productive results to a retreat instead of widespread stranded assets of a forced disorderly retreat of a way of life with no future. If we get honest soon and embrace real efforts that address a decline that is baked into the cake then we will see far better results down the road. This means efforts the FAKE Greens are pushing but also fossil fuel growth efforts. We will need everything the economy can muster to begin this very intensive effort. What needs to change is the fundamental attitudes with all sides. Then lifestyles and whole industries will need to be eliminated. Places people inhabit will need to be depopulated. All this will need to happen in a timeline of increasing effort with increasing hardship. This is little different than a routed army in a flexible and organized retreat.

    Now, I am not delusional because the above is fantasy so “meaning anything I do will do nothing , so I won’t ” has relevance. Society is not going to get REAL Green and the alternative of make America Great is not going to change. Socialist will ply their wares and capitalist will make the same promises that got us here. The best of science and academia will claim they can fix things. This is where REAL Green goes individual and local. This is where you can adapt your footprint in response to a cascading decline beating the rush and being more prepared than the neighbor that lives this attitude “meaning anything I do will do nothing, so I won’t.” REAL Green uses the current way of life lost in delusion but still very productive. REAL Green takes this to mold a local that has increase sustainability and resilience. REAL Green is limited because there is a huge top down force orientate towards growth that will make any REAL Green effort limited. REAL Green is path dependent also but aware of this and proactive. This delusional society wide narrative might change eventually but currently the delusions are actually increasing. REAL Green intends to make a flexible organized retreat as best it can in a delusional world of failed narratives of growth both green and traditional. Embrace failure now and do what you can do now. Leave places that have no future now if you can. If you can’t start hunkering down or at least get with Kubler-Ross.

  5. Davy on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:43 am 

    $35 Billion: UK Faces Huge Loss From Electric Vehicle Adoption” oil price

    “If Great Britain keeps its commitment to switch over its vehicles to electric by 2050, the government will see a whopping loss of 28 billion pounds ($35 billion) paid by motorists driving traditional gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. That comes from a study released Friday by London-based Institute for Fiscal Studies examining the impact of the UK’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions law adopted in June and signed by previous Prime Minister Theresa May. England became the first G7 country to set the goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2050. Fuel duties on petrol-powered vehicles make up almost 4 percent of total government receipts — and all of that will disappear unless urgent action is taken, according to think tank IFS’ study. The government may need to take a new approach to taxing motorists as all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles become the norm, the study advises. The UK’s mission to switch over to EVs and renewable energy by 2050 represents “a huge long-run fiscal challenge” for the government, according to the study. The government faces other hits on tax revenue. The UK will be seeing a drop of about 20 billion pounds a year ($24.5 billion) from the government’s new policy of freezing tax duties to help people struggling with the cost of living, the IFS said. There’s also concern that another 1 billion pounds ($1.229 billion) could be lost if Prime Minister Boris Johnson follows through on his commitment to cut duties by 2 pence per liter of fuel. “The government should set out its long-term plan for taxing driving, before it finds itself with virtually no revenues from driving and no way to correct for the costs -– most importantly congestion –- that driving imposes on others,” said Rebekah Stroud, an IFS economist who co-authored the report.”

  6. Davy on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 10:58 am 

    To summarize all my word salads that nobody ever reads.

    Humanity is fucked, and there isn’t a damn thing any of us can do about it.

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world As it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will;
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life And supremely happy with Him Forever and ever in the next.


  7. Madness on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 11:24 am 

    JuanP ID theft and other garbage

    Davy said To summarize all my word salads that nobody ever r…
    Sys1 said Fusion power, if possible, is so complex that it s…
    Davy Insanity said Davy on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 6:18 am supremacist mu…

  8. More Davy Insanity on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 11:27 am 

    REAL Green on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:30 am

    REAL Green on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:31 am

    Davy on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 7:43 am

    Madness on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 11:24 am

  9. The Truth Shall Set Widdle Davy Free on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 11:30 am 

    God grant widdle Davy the serenity to accept the things he cannot change;
    Courage to change the things he can;
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

  10. Antius on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 12:37 pm 

    “$35 Billion: UK Faces Huge Loss From Electric Vehicle Adoption”

    In the UK, two-thirds of the price of motor fuel is tax. Electric vehicles therefore benefit from a huge subsidy, in that electric power for transport use is not taxed to the same extent.

    Presumably, at some point, this subsidy will need to be removed and the full burden of taxation will need to be levied on electric vehicles. The problem is that these vehicles have a much higher baseline cost that conventional IC vehicles. Capital costs are higher and battery replacement costs after five years, are almost as high as buying a new car.

  11. makati1 on Mon, 14th Oct 2019 5:56 pm 

    Antius, you point out why EVs are a fad and will fade out along with FF powered cars. If the average consumer cannot afford to buy, maintain and fuel it, it will not exist.

  12. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 2:22 pm 

    Excessive obsession with peak oil or climate change can have a very negative impact on your life:

    “Father and six adult children who lived in Dutch farmhouse cellar for NINE YEARS waiting for the ‘end of times’ are discovered after one escapes and asks for help in nearby bar”

  13. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 2:29 pm 

    Apparently BoJo made major concessions to the EU:

    “Boris Johnson ‘on brink of Brexit deal’ after border concessions”

  14. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 3:22 pm 

    Regular broadcasted on Dutch television to prepare the Dutch deplorables for what has to come.

    Vattenfall, “fossil free within one generation”:

  15. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 4:17 pm 

    BBC News now, showing video made by Russian soldier, filming in deserted US camp.

  16. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 4:53 pm 

    BBC Newsnight now, suggesting Russia is replacing the US as the world’s policeman, at least in the ME.

  17. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 5:49 pm 

    “Trump’s abandonment of Kurds will change balance of power in Middle East – to America’s ultimate loss
    Syrian government, Russia and Iran appear to be main winners, writes Patrick Cockburn”

  18. Cloggie on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 6:01 pm 

    So you don’t want to be our friend anymore?

    “Angela Merkel is right. The UK is now the EU’s ‘competitor.’ It is not a fight the UK can hope to win
    That the EU will punish the UK for leaving was always the strongest argument against Brexit. We are about to find out the truth”

    When a referendum on EU membership began to feel imminent, in the autumn of 2015, around pub tables and lunch tables and in the corridors and ante rooms of Westminster, MPs, analysts, civil servants, think tankers, journalists and indeed everyone all made, almost in unsion, the single most important argument in favour of remaining.

    They will punish us. They will make an example of us. They will not allow a British exit to incentivise others to do the same.

    The following spring and summer it was, perhaps, unfortunate, that this argument was not made by the Remain campaign with the force that it should have been. You can understand why.

    “They will screw us if we leave,” is a difficult way to make the case for remaining in a union with, well, the would-be screwers.

    The EU will indeed have a competitor, right on its doorstep. The EU is ruthless at protecting its interests. It is a powerful union. It is through the power of the EU that little old Ireland now gets to tell the UK what to do. A novel experience.

    Brexit is regularly sold by Brexiteers as the opportunity to “rekindle old friendships”, to return to the Commonwealth and, that imagined thing, the “anglosphere.” It is all unhinged, but even on the most generous reading, the facts of the matter are that, in the last 40 years, the world has moved on. Old friends, like New Zealand and Australia are far, far more interested in opening trading relationships with the EU’s colossal single market, than they are with the UK’s comparatively small one.

    The cards are stacked heavily in the EU’s favour. Life as the EU’s newest competitor, rather than its economic partner will be a far tougher fight than anything that has come to pass in the last three torturous years.

  19. makati1 on Tue, 15th Oct 2019 6:36 pm 

    Looks like Amerika is not so food secure….

    “Historic Midwest Blizzard Has Farmers Seeing “Massive Crop Losses…As Devastating As We’ve Ever Seen””

    “40 Million Americans Already Don’t Have Enough Food To Eat – And Here Is Why It Will Soon Get A Lot Worse”

    Looks like food prices are going to go UP…UP…UP! NAh!Inflation doesn’t exist in Amerika! LOL

  20. Cloggie on Wed, 16th Oct 2019 12:14 am 

    Liz “The indian” Warren is the new Dems frontrunner:

    Women in politics, sigh…

  21. joe on Wed, 16th Oct 2019 12:34 am 

    personally, i think theres every chance that Macron could end this farce next week. i think thats what all the new love between uk and eussr is hiding. clearly the current plan based on the consent of an institution which has been closed since before brexit is a joke. but we will see. since whenever it sits again its not gonna be able to decide anything since it was abandoned during the ‘cash for ash’ scandal which had current DUP leader arlene foster settiing up a warehouse and buring wood pellets in wodd burning stoves to claim EUSSR carbon tax credits. what a joke…..

  22. joe on Wed, 16th Oct 2019 12:41 am 

    as to the eu punishing anyone. the eu needs to be very careful. i wouldnt rely on a remoaner rag the so called ‘independent’ as guide except on the honest telling of the opinion of spineless whitehall mandarins. the eussr is a brussells based shake down of europe but the real power is in germany thats what brexit really exposed. right now the commission is in shambles and wont be formed until after oct 31st. germanys hands are tied because theres no van der leyen to hide behind to do Merkels dirty work.

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