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An Open Letter to The Nature Conservancy

August 10, 2011

Nature Conservancy

Image courtesy of Unsuitablog

Dear TNC people:

This is a letter I sent to my lists some months ago. I would ask you to consider distributing it among yourselves and to the conference planners.

I just read of your October conference where business leaders will once again pretend to address the global ecological crisis. I do understand your dilemma: how to defend and perpetuate the industrial consumer society that relies on endless economic growth, i.e capitalism. Susan George of the Transnational Institute wrote a quite wonderful book, The Lugano Report, on this very subject.

We in the environmental community fully understand your plight. But we understand more: we understand the problem. The business community does not yet understand it. It is simply this: economic growth in a finite planet cannot continue and in fact it has ended for all intents and purposes. Economic growth as traditionally understood is OVER.

The power that be will of course continue to throw money at it and hold high level conferences like yours and come up with imaginary “solutions” that only conceal the problem and thus allow it to grow larger. Some of you may actually believe that growth is compatible with preserving wildlife and ecosystems. Let me disabuse you of this view. As long as humans overbreed, overproduce and overconsume, they will necessarily infringe on and eventually destroy the other species on this planet and their ecosystem. Dave Foreman’s book Man Swarm makes this quite clear.

We have a choice: stop overpopulation, consumption and growth, or destroy the planet on which we depend. There is NO middle way to grow AND save the planet. You MUST accept this fact as the premise of your conference and all your plans. Do I make myself clear?

No amount of media hype, government subsidy, financial sleight of hand or regulatory manipulation will change this. Anyone who believes the contrary is whistling in the darkening dark. We are witnessing the convergence of several crises, none of which will disappear. Some flimsy temporary tinkering with monetary or fiscal policy and other icing on the cake may provide some temporary relief in one of the crises, but the others will proceed apace, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. And so it will continue.

If you want the full honest truth, then let me suggest some names: Richard Heinberg as first choice, James Kunstler, Yuri Orlov, the Post-Carbon Institute, maybe Dave Foreman himself, and for some side “entertainment”, you can screen Dave Gardner’s documentary “Growthbusters”, which will premiere in October. This of course assumes you are open to hearing things that are at odds with your faith in growth and consumerism.

Sincerely,

Lorna Salzman

Dear friends in business, arts and culture:

Some of you will be annoyed at this message. I apologize for the intrusion. However, for those of you with an open mind, I ask that you read this short statement from two highly informed and credible activists, one Canadian and one American.

For those of you in the business community, let me beseech you to read and absorb this message. It is not unique nor is it new. It comes on the heels of reports from Canada indicating that despite the broad public concern over climate change, the Canadian government and environmental NGOs continue to refuse to inform the public as to the real extent and gravity of the climate change threat. This withholding of information is echoed here in the United States, replaced by reports and studies on the topic of renewable energy, as if this were a solution to the problem, or even an option at this point in time.

If you are not already worried about what kind of world your children or grandchildren face, then let me appeal to you on strictly economic and financial terms. Very shortly, probably before another decade passes, the developed world that is hooked on fossil fuels and economic growth will experience major energy and environmental constraints and obstacles which will in turn disrupt society and economies across the world and cause social chaos on an unprecedented scale. While the overpopulated less developed world will bear a large part of the brunt of this eco-collapse due to its impact on food crops and drinking water, industrial societies may actually be more adversely affected because they have more to lose in the way of infrastructure, transportation, energy supplies, and food supplies for large cities.

The crisis will first appear in the form of higher prices for energy and goods, followed by scarcities and maldistribution, followed by a forced contraction of commerce and business, especially in construction, maintenance and repair. In my opinion, the economic recession we are in today will not ease up before the new crisis of contraction begins. In other words, we face a global recession of indefinite duration, not a recovery.

It is long overdue for businessmen, entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, financiers and especially government to develop and implement a Greenprint for Survival. I say Greenprint, picking up on the 1972 “Blueprint for Survival” published by The Ecologist in Great Britain and its late founder/editor Teddy Goldsmith, a man of great foresight and insight. The original Blueprint, endorsed by dozens of leading scientists and others from all over the world, analyzed all the trends and sectors of the world economy and environment, and stated clearly and forcefully the impossibility of continued economic growth, the necessity for moving quickly to a steady-state society rather than one based on a continued through-put of energy and resources, and a redesign of human settlements to allow maximum political and economic decentralization.

The necessity for a relocalization of our economy, in terms of food, energy, transportation, commerce and industry, has now become a major subject of discussion but not one that is widespread because business, government and financiers still grasp onto the hope that economic growth and consumption can and will resume to their original extent and form. It is clear that as long as even some environmental groups withhold the truth about climate change and related issues (loss of biodiversity, destruction of ocean fisheries, diminution of fresh water supplies as glaciers disappear, etc.), neither government nor the business community will take any steps commensurate with the threat. For them, the laws of nature and inexorable drive towards eco-collapse have no importance. The sound of denial is deafening.

Some of you have written me in anger and disbelief, quoting pseudo-scientists and studies that have never been peer reviewed or published in any credible scientific publication. Most if not all of these are produced routinely by those with ties to special interests, especially those in energy, such as Exxon, the coal companies, and the nuclear industry (at least what remains of it). As such they have no more credibility than the front page of the National Inquirer. Perhaps it is comforting to the doubters and deniers that some scientists purvey good news. Their comfort, however, is shortly to disappear. The question they need to ask themselves, if they are honest and have any shred of compassion for their descendants, is this: What if the deniers are wrong?

Greed, self-interest and economic hegemony are powerful motivators but not for the good. If the deniers manage to suppress the bad news and twist the facts, they must be regarded as subversives, even terrorists, determined to impose their view of Business As Usual on the rest of us, with all the suffering, deprivation and societal catastrophe that this will bring. Those of you in the corporate or business world who still have an open mind and are willing to hear the truth may represent the last and best hope that our country has of shaking our government awake and instilling common sense into it. If any of you are up to this urgent responsibility, you should not delay but should reach out to others in the business community and demand that they open their ears and eyes to what is really happening. Please give this serious thought.

Lorna Salzman

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The following is an excerpt from the article From the Non-Profit Industrial Complex with Love | Explosive Climate Report Kept from Public:

2010 marks a significant new direction in the climate negotiations. The People’s Agreement, agreed upon during theWorld People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth on April 22nd, 2010 (Cochabamba, Bolivia) is by far the best position to date. It is also the first position to state the necessary targets as well as the realities based on climate science. Climate justice advocates now have a legitimate position paper, critical text of which is now being recognized for the first time by the UNFCCC. Climate justice groups across the world, including Canada’s Council of Canadians; Canada’s largest citizens organization, have endorsed and campaign on this powerful agreement. Surely now is the time to pull together and work harder than ever. Solutions do exist. Therefore, the question that must be asked is this: Why is the climate crisis being abandoned by many and why has an incredibly powerful report been kept from the public – when the public wants action?

It is important to note that all big greens including 350.org, RAN, Greenpeace, CAN Canada and CAN International have thus far declined to endorse the People’s Agreement. CAN-International has roughly 500 members in over 80 countries.

Friends of the Earth groups in Africa; Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda endorse the People’s Agreement. You can read their press release here:http://bit.ly/962OZE

They Know – And Have Known for a Long Time

On 18 April 2007, Ken Ward of Grist writes:

The deliberate decision a decade ago to downplay climate change risk in the interests of presenting a sober, optimistic image to potential donors, maintaining access to decision-makers, and operating within the constraints of private foundations has blown back on us. By emphasizing specific solutions and avoiding definitions that might appear alarmist, we inadvertently fed a dumbed-down, Readers Digest version of climate change to our staff and environmentalist core. Now, as we scramble to keep up with climate scientists, we discover that we have paid a hefty price. Humanity has <10 years to avert cataclysm and most U.S. environmentalists simply don’t believe it.

If we did believe it, we would be acting very differently. Why do we continue, in our materials and on our web sites, to present climate as one of any number of apparently equally important issues? Why, if we really believe that the fate of the world will be decided within a few years, haven’t our organizations liquidated assets, shut down non-essential program[s] and invested everything in one final effort? Why, given the crushing circumstances, is there essentially no internal debate or challenge to our inadequate course of action? Why, for that matter, aren’t environmentalists all working weekends?

These are not gratuitous questions. Environmentalists are not immune from the social and cognitive barriers that make it difficult for almost every individual, institution, society, and nation to come to terms with the threat of cataclysm. However, the whole point of environmentalism is to anticipate precisely the conditions in which we now find ourselves. The purpose of the precautionary principle is to encourage the long view, “out even to the 7th generation,” and the ethos of environmentalism is a fundamental challenge to the dominant paradigm. Our values and principles are supposed to buck us up when, as individuals, we lose our way.

A must watch 2009 video of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan is riveting. Seldom does anyone have the conviction or courage to speak so boldly, so bluntly. Gelbspan reveals that what began as an initial response of many institutions – denial and delay – has now grown into a crime against humanity. Based on his investigative reporting, Gelbspan speaks of how politicians, big oil and coal, journalists, and the irresponsibility of the big greens have fueled a climate crisis. Gelspan has an interesting theory about why the environmental movement, downplaying the risks and avoiding talk of climate catastrophe, has communicated the climate crisis to the public with unrealistic “optimism.” He suggests that perhaps they are emotionally traumatized deep down by what they really know about the terrible extent of the risks of catastrophic climate change.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” – Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophelsas

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