Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perspectives on Limits to Growth: World on the Edge

We are facing issues of near-overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency. Can we think systematically and fashion policies accordingly? Can we move fast enough to avoid environmental decline and economic collapse? Can we change direction before we go over the edge? Lester Brown looks at the economic future through and environmental lens to fashion a plan that

will sustain civilization. The plan has four components: a massive cut in global carbon emissions of 80 percent by 2020; the stabilization of world population at no more than 8 billion by 2040; the eradication of poverty; and the restoration of forests, soils, aquifers, and fisheries.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Roads Leading To Disaster

This Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without the risk of being mistaken. Our species faces new problems. When 20 years ago I stated at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today for warning about a danger that I was seeing perhaps 100 years away. At that time, a handful of leaders of the most powerful countries were in charge of the world. They applauded my words as a matter of mere courtesy and placidly continued to dig for the burial of our species.

It seemed that on our planet, common sense and order reigned. For a while economic development, backed by technology and science appeared to be the Alpha and Omega of human society.

Today, everything is much clearer. Profound truths have been surfacing. Almost 200 States, supposedly independent, constitute the political organization which in theory has the job of governing the destiny of the world.

Approximately 25,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of allied or enemy forces ready to defend the changing order, by interest or necessity, virtually reduce to zero the rights of billions of people.

I shall not commit the naïveté of assigning the blame to Russia or China for the development of that kind of weaponry, after the monstrous massacre at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by Truman after Roosvelt’s death.

Nor shall I fall prey to the error of denying the Holocaust that signified the deaths of millions of children and adults, men or women, mainly Jews, gypsies, Russians or other nationalities, who were victims of Nazism. For that reason the odious policy of those who deny the Palestinian people their right to exist is repugnant.

Does anyone by chance think that the United States will be capable of acting with the independence that will keep it from the inevitable disaster awaiting it?

In a few weeks, the 40 million dollars President Obama promised to collect for his electoral campaign will only serve to show that the currency of his country is greatly devaluated, and that the US, with its unusual growing public debt drawing close to 20 quadrillion, is living on the money it prints up and not on the money it produces. The rest of the world pays for what they waste.

Nor does anyone believe that the Democratic candidate would be any better or worse than his Republican foes: whether they are called Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Light years separate the three characters as important as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. It is really unheard-of to observe such a technologically powerful nation and a government so bereft of both ideas and moral values.

Iran has no nuclear weapons. It is being accused of producing enriched uranium that serves as fuel energy or components for medical uses. Whatever one can say, its possession or production is not equivalent to the production of nuclear weapons. Dozens of countries use enriched uranium as an energy source, but this cannot be used in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon without a prior complicated purification process. More


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Earth Hour 2012 - Dare The World To Save The Planet


We only have one planet. You can help protect it. Participate in the world’s largest single campaign for the planet: Earth Hour. It starts by turning off your lights for an hour at 8:30 pm on March 31, 2012 in a collective display of commitment to a better future for the planet. Think what can be achieved when we all come together for a common cause.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Effective World Government Will Be Needed to Stave Off Climate Catastrophe

Almost six years ago, I was the editor of a single-topic issue on energy forScientific American that included an article by Princeton University’s Robert Socolow that set out a well-reasoned plan for how to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below a planet-livable threshold of 560 ppm. The issue came replete with technical solutions that ranged from a hydrogen economy to space-based solar.

If I had it to do over, I’d approach the issue planning differently, my fellow editors permitting. I would scale back on the nuclear fusion and clean coal, instead devoting at least half of the available space for feature articles on psychology, sociology, economics and political science. Since doing that issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that the technical details are the easy part. It’s the social engineering that’s the killer. Moon shots and Manhattan Projects are child’s play compared to needed changes in the way we behave.

A policy article authored by several dozen scientists appeared online March 15 inScience to acknowledge this point: “Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change. This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.”

The report summarized 10 years of research evaluating the capability of international institutions to deal with climate and other environmental issues, an assessment that found existing capabilities to effect change sorely lacking. The authors called for a “constitutional moment” at the upcoming 2012 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June to reform world politics and government. Among the proposals: a call to replace the largely ineffective U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development with a council that reports to the U.N. General Assembly, at attempt to better handle emerging issues related to water, climate, energy and food security. The report advocates a similar revamping of other international environmental institutions. More


Friday, March 16, 2012

Eradicating Ecocide


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The courage of our voices


Dear friend,

One of my all-time heroines is Rachel Carson - a woman who spoke up for the Earth without fear. She was a whistleblower. In the couse of her work she had investigated hundreds of individual incidents of pesticide exposure and the human and non-human damage that resulted. Her findings exposed the magnitude of this hidden ecocide.

If the courage of a single human voice can be measured by the ferocity of the attempts to silence it, she stands as a truth-teller of exceptional courage and insight. Her book, Silent Spring, exposed the underbelly of the chemical industry. That was 50 years ago and I have the honour to be the annual speaker at the Rachel Carson Memorial lecture.

Carson's legacy is her work, which changed the world. More than that, she has inspired many others to stand up and speak out on behalf of the Earth. For me - and I am sure for so many people - Rachel Carson is a remarkable woman who I look to as a source of wisdom. She spoke from the heart.

Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture

Ending the Era of Ecocide

Friday 30th March 6.30pm. Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA. Tickets are £20 waged or £12 unwaged. PAN-UK host the Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture every year in honour of the great work achieved by Rachel Carson.

"The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been uppermost in my mind"
Rachel Carson

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Fierce green fires of California and beyond

I have just returned to London after a wonderful and very important trip to California (following Canada and Colorado), where so many amazing people threw themselves into the message of Ecocide and the great change we need. An enormous thank you to all the very special people I met and who made the trip possible.

Meanwhile my team have also been in Stroud where another incredible group of people have come together to be the change, a great thank you to Trish who took it upon herself to organise an exceptional event.

SF team

Here are some of the San Francisco team; you were all phenomenal - thank you! It was great to spend time with you all and to meet some of the most innovative thinkers and do-ers in the US. Thanks to you all at 333 for hosting a truly memorable event with Bill Twist.

Creating transformative experiences is what thePachamama Alliance does best - and our event was indeed that.

Dan Ellsberg & Polly

In conversation with the whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers, Dan Ellsberg - the prolific writer and activist on the dangers of the nuclear era, wrongful U.S. interventions and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing.

Paul Hawken & Polly

Before speaking in San Francisco's Cowell Theatre with Paul Hawken, dinner with friends was truly special. It paved the way for a very inspiring night, with filmamkers and Paul - all voices for the Earth.

Paul Hawken is founder ofWiser Earth, author of Blessed Unrest and The Ecology of Commerce - and a voice that has and continues to inspire many.

Our legacy

One of the films I saw in the States was A Fierce Green Fire. Mark Kitchell has created one of those films that when you see it you ask 'why has this not been done before?' It is a film that tells the history of the environmental movement and it sets out 5 chapters. There is a missing chapter and that is what happens next - which means we get to choose the ending.

What is it to be? An era of ecocide or the beginning of something new, where people and planet are put first. To do that we shall have to change the rules, and create laws that place the sacredness of life at the heart of all we do.

What happens next is up to us. The possibility for a better world is there - we can all stand up and give voice for the Earth and say what we believe is best, for people and planet. Never before has civilisation had the potential to come together as we do now, to spread ideas so fast and to rally for the Earth.

Mark Kitchell kindly invited me to speak after his screenings of A Fierce Green Fire, to speak as one of the voices of the next chapter. It's the next chapter that is so exciting; we now have the potential to leave a legacy and create the world we want.

Gorbachev says there must be an international court for ecological crimes

More interesting news: in an interview withLe Monde this week, Gorbachev was asked: "You talk a lot about education, but for years that you hold this discourse, the state of the world has not improved. Should it come to a policy of coercion?"

Gorbachev replied: "Yes. I would personally be very favorable to the creation of an international tribunal to judge those who are guilty of environmental crimes, as well as business leaders of Heads of State or Government. This court should obviously accurately define the status, rules, skills."

Can you write to Mikhail Gorbachev, thank him for his leadershop on this issue, and ask him to call for a crime of Ecocide too? It fits so well with his proposal for an international court. You can write to him at the address of his foundation.

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These are exciting times, with more and more happening around the world. Thank you for everything you are doing. With all our courageous voices speaking together we can do this, we can make Ecocide a crime - and create the beautiful new world we are all seeking.

With hope and gratitude,


Polly Higgins
Lawyer for the Earth

P.S. Please do forward this email to anyone you know who might be interested.

The People's Declaration

Did you know that the first ever international Charter begins with the words 'We the People'? Here is a document by we the people which has a new set of laws (some already in existence, some proposed, some yet to be written) for a world that places people and planet first.

Read full document here

Finalist, Most Inspirational Leader award

The Climate Week Awards were announced on Monday - and one of the finalists for the Most Inspirational Leader was Polly. Although she couldn't make the event, having just returned from the States, Joe and the rest of our team headed over to meet other inspirational leaders.

Rio+20 Earth Summit - time to change the narrative

What we need at the June meeting is action – not voluntary pledges and empty goals. Phil England of Occupy London looks ahead and proposes ecocide, earth rights and planetary boundaries. Read full articlehere



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Egypt: A New ‘Roof-Top Revolution’ Emerges

On Cairo’s rooftops and vacant land, people are coming together with visions of cultivating a different sort of development in the city. Community groups, social entrepreneurs and individuals are responsible for this new growth which intertwines local development and environmental consciousness in an effort to achieve food secure neighbourhoods.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) stated in The State of Food Insecurity in the WorldReport (2011) that the urban poor are particularly vulnerable to current global increases in food prices. In Egypt, urban agriculture offers the opportunity to address these problems holistically. Aspirations for urban gardening in Cairo were first voiced through international institutions in the early 1990s.

A decade later, FAO in coordination with the Egyptian government launched the "Green Food from Green Roofs" project. This project offered a policy-based approach to developing food production. In contrast, the current growth of urban agriculture echoes the citizen-led change witnessed in Egypt last year. These new initiatives operate at a local level, with objectives that prioritise local change.

Having spoken to a collection of the leaders of these projects, it is clear that each group aims to enchain a wider reaction within Cairo’s communities. They are working with other NGOs and individuals to begin small-scale gardening projects on balconies or rooftops - and setting up trainings in agricultural techniques.

The groups are also well-informed of previous projects, and they have developed innovative techniques to overcome problems. Schaduf, a social enterprise managed by two brothers, aims to lift people above the poverty line through an income generated by the sale of garden produce. Sherif Hosny, joint-CEO, says previous projects required residents to sell produce themselves, yet they were ill-equipped with the business and marketing savvy to make a profit. More


Monday, March 12, 2012

Collapse -Jared Diamond Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how -- if we see it in time -- we can prevent it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Georgia Guide Stones: A Guide To The Age Of Reason or...

The Georgia Guidestones is a large granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, USA. A message comprising ten guides is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages, and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient languages' scripts:Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Given the events that humanity will have to deal with going forward into this century the Guides inscribed in these stones are certainly worthwhile precepts to follow.

We have Climate Change, Energy Security, Water Security, Food Security and a Burgeoning Population. All of these topics are potential Conflict Triggers. Do you see any corelation to the ten precepts above?

The question, will we be smart and altruistic enough to heed warnings like these on the Georgia Guide Stones or will these stones become the Stonehenge of 2112?

The choices we make today, as spoken of by James Hansen (climate change link above) of making drastic cuts to CO2 and methane output, instead of Business as Usual (BAU) and subsidies to the oil companies will will have either positive or negative effects on our children and grand children's quality of life. making the right decisions now may well be creating the conditions to avoid conflict in the future.

There are many of us who work for non-governmental and research organizations who question how we are going to feed 9.5 billion of this planets population in fourty years time. When we think about agriculture irrigation immediately comes to mind. As the worlds climate heats up rainfall patterns will change with some areas having drought and others having devestating flooding as Australia and Pakistan have experienced in recent years.

These threats were first raised by The Club of Rome fourty years ago. The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 as an informal association of independent leading personalities from politics, business and science, men and women who are long-term thinkers interested in contributing in a systemic interdisciplinary and holistic manner to a better world. The Club of Rome members share a common concern for the future of humanity and the planet. The aims of the Club of Rome are: to identify the most crucial problems which will determine the future of humanity through integrated and forward-looking analysis; to evaluate alternative scenarios for the future and to assess risks, choices and opportunities; to develop and propose practical solutions to the challenges identified; to communicate the new insights and knowledge derived from this analysis to decision-makers in the public and private sectors and also to the general public and to stimulate public debate and effective action to improve the prospects for the future. Humanity however, have not heeded this warning. Time is runing out and a tipping point will be reached at which point we will have a runaway, out of control catastrophe.


Watch David Wasdell, Director of the Meridian Programme as he talks about climate change. At 24 minutes into the presentation he talks about NASA being afraid to release findings of methane releases off the coast of San Diego for fear of retribution by the Bush administration. David Wasdell, Director of the Meridian Programme, is a world-renowned expert in the dynamics of climate change. He is also a reviewer of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports and the author of numerous papers and presentations on climate change and related topics. For more on David Wasdell visit:

In politics we must remember what Mikhail Gorbachev said, "Today one often hears that politics is a dirty business, incompatible with morality. No, politics becomes dirty and a zero-sum, lose-lose game only when it has no moral core". Mikhail Gorbachev - The Soviet Union’s last General Secretary and first President.

Are we smart enough to heed the advice given to us by some of our best thinkers or are we headnig for centuries of conflict, theocratic states and a new dark age? The choice is ours. Act now while there is still a little time.

Nicholas B. Robson

Cayman Islands

11th. March 2012


Saturday, March 10, 2012

$200 Oil and the Moscow - Beijing Alliance

It's a mixed bag these days. Europe appears to have arrested its fall into the abyss and the U.S. economy is finally looking up. But with a looming consensus that war with Iran is in the offing and Putin's recent return to power in Russia, geopolitical chaos lurks around the corner. Foreign Policy once again turned to Nouriel Roubini -- who's always good for a little doom and gloom -- and Ian Bremmer to make sense of the ticking time bombs. And they didn't hold back.

When asked about the consequences of war in Iran, Roubini sees prolonged high oil prices "$170, $180, $200 a barrel" and warned of the knock-on consequences: "the last three major global recessions ... were all caused by a geopolitical shock in the Middle East that led to spike in oil prices." But Bremmer's not buying all the war hype: "the Obama administration does not want to engage in military strikes against Iran -- and they sure as hell are going to resist it, no matter what -- before the elections."


When it comes to metaphors, the pair of prognosticators didn't disappoint: Roubini still sees a dark outcome in Europe -- "a slow-motion train wreck" -- while Bremmer sees the Chinese economy as a "very, very fast car" hurtling down a highway ... "the problem is that there's a bend in the road coming up and there's no steering."

But the real surprise comes at the end of the conversation, where Roubini and Bremmer both worry about instability in Moscow and Beijing bringing the two nations together -- but it might be less a case of keeping your friends close than keeping your enemies closer.

Foreign Policy: February's job numbers are out, the third straight month of 200,000-plus gains, but unemployment stays steady. Are we seeing the green sprouts of an economic recovery here?

Nouriel Roubini: My feeling is that the economic data are mixed. Certainly creating 200,000 jobs per month as opposed to only 100,000 is a positive signal. But while the data for the last 2 to 3 months were consistently surprising on the upside, some recent data suggests an element of caution. For example, real consumption spending has been flat for three months in a row. Durable goods orders -- a proxy for capital spending by the corporate sector -- are sharply down in January after the tax advantages expired at the end of last year. Construction spending is still down. Home prices are still falling. Today, the number on the trade balance in January came in worse than expected. So if you look at the macro supply data it looks better. But the demand data, whether it's consumption or residential or net exports, suggests there's still softness. More


Friday, March 9, 2012

Barbara Ward Lecture: Implications of the Durban outcome for enhancing action on climate change on the ground towards a more sustainable future.

And so today I stand before you with a clear request to all of you: Whether you represent government, business or civil society, take the unambiguous low-carbon policy signals from COP 17 Durban, and help us increase action through new partnerships.” - Read the entire speech given by Christiana Figueres at the IIED in London today…

While it gives me great pleasure to deliver this yearís Barbara Ward lecture atthe IIED, I will frankly admit that it is daunting to participate in a lecture series namedafter what Time Magazine called one of the most influential visionaries of the 20thcentury.

This visionary woman once said: We live in an epoch in which the solidground of our preconceived ideas shakes daily under our certain feet. Already in the1970s, Barbara knew that business-as-usualî no longer represented solid ground.

Always ahead of her time, she knew that we have to combine our immediatecommitment to meeting human needs with our longer term need to protect the Earthas a place suitable for human life now and in the future. She consistently stressed theneed to simultaneously address the ìinner limitsî of human requirements and theìouter limitsî of what the Earth can sustain. With this, she laid the basis for theBrundtland Commissionís eventual definition of sustainable development.

Barbara gave us a firm foundation 50 years ago. The question for us is, whathave we built on this foundation? We are all aware of the increasing understandingthat has evolved since then. We all know of the advances surrounding sustainabledevelopment that have been achieved since 1972, not least the 1992 Rio Summit, thebirth of the Rio Conventions of which the United Nations Framework Convention onClimate Change is one, and the work that has been done under each of these.

We are now fast approaching the opening of the Rio+20 conference which willallow the world to take stock of past efforts, as well as look to the future. And withìbusiness-as-usualî making the ground under our feet shake now more than everbefore, with billions of people still in abject poverty and with environmental depletionand greenhouse emissions at an all time high, one cannot help but conclude that thiswas not what Barbara Ward had in mind. More


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Svalbard seed vault to take Peruvian potato samples

Farmers in Peru are sending 1,500 varieties of potatoes to a “doomsday vault” in the Arctic Circle in order to safeguard the tubers’ future.

Potatoes are regarded as the world’s most important non-cereal crop, and have been eaten for about 8,000 years.

But native species from the highlands of South America appear to be at risk.

The samples will be stored in a vault inside a mountain, which aims to protect the world’s food crop species against natural and human disasters.

“Peruvian potato culture is under threat,” said Alejandro Argumedo, a plant scientist involved in the project. “The work we begin today will guarantee the availability of our incredible potato diversity for future generations.”

The samples being sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are being provided by the Cusco Potato Park, which covers more than 10,000 hectares and was set up by six indigenous communities in order to protect biodiversity and protect food security in the region.

The Andes are homes to more than 4,000 varieties of native potato, and the park’s collection has attracted plant breeders from all over the world, searching for traits such as disease resistance, flavour or nutritional attributes. More


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Friday, March 2, 2012

Let Us Prey

We will not return to 'business as usual'. The Four Horsemen is an independent feature documentary which lifts the lid on how the world really works. Website:


Thursday, March 1, 2012



Many Strong Voices Launches New And Updated Web Site

Many Strong Voices (MSV) has just launched its new web site, which has been revised and updated. There are sections with downloadable materials -- publications, posters, postcards, etc. -- which you should feel free to use. We will shortly about linking to other projects and material as well. Click Here