Alex Diaz

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About Alex Diaz

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  1. This is my Sandy statement. It is told in the Up with Chris Hayes video shared below, and I encourage you to see it, share it, and make it yours as well. It speaks of the perplexing and, as Sandy has made clear, life-threatening inability to launch any sensible discussion about climate change in this country, the country we like to call the greatest on Earth. May I suggest we refrain from claiming such a lofty title as long as we remain stuck in this collective schizophrenia that is putting the entire planet at risk. When a crisis this real and deep isn't even mentioned in three presidential debates, and one vice presidential, we know we're suffering from a debilitating social and political disease. Perhaps even a terminal one, if we don't awaken from this coma on time. Chris focused on the duty of our government to do something about climate if only to fulfill its responsibility for our safety. Seeing the wrenching images of the human suffering caused by Sandy, you may also want to view this in far more compassionate terms. And beyond those two levels, look at it as a society of intelligent people who simply listen to the overwhelming consensus among scientists, who are telling us at the top of their voices that things will get unthinkably worse than Sandy unless we halt carbon emissions and start bringing them down sharply after 2020, barely eight years from now. No matter how you choose to approach climate change, that's the endgame we must produce. It begins by openly acknowledging the science and by rushing vigorously and urgently to the solutions at hand, which by the way, are clearly known and ready to go. No studies needed. Just action. And not just on climate. On resource and biodiversity depletion as well, a crisis just as daunting and which coincides precisely with the 2020 deadline. There is no time to waste. Let's seize the Sandy moment to spark the action needed, careful that we not get lost in needless and time consuming debate at this late stage of the game. So tell it like it is to your friends and neighbors. Persuade, persuade and persuade some more. Do not relent. Become far more a part of the solution, knowing that post-Sandy, passivity and silence are part of the problem. And as you persuade your inner circle, inspire them as well. Inspire them with the vision of the society we can have courtesy of the solutions to the climate and resource crisis, a society that values truth, that stands up for what is right, that promotes simplicity and sharing over excessive consumerism, renewable energy over fossil fuels, walking and mass transit over needless driving in gas guzzling cars -- in sum, a society that will be sustainable far into the future, not one that is threatened in the not-so-distant future. The stakes are high. The choice is stark. As Chris says, the time has come to take sides. So which one are you on?
  2. Africa: The last frontier?

    These past days about 40 African countries have been huddling with the UN to embark on a post-Rio+20 plan for the sustainable development of the continent and its billion people, a plan they hope will be received as a model for the rest of the world to follow. Now, think about that for a minute, or more than a minute. The sustainable development model the world needs to avoid climate and resource catastrophe is not yet in place at a large enough scale anywhere. Western markets grew long ago and did so unsustainably. The emerging markets growing today -- Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America -- are doing so at destructive Western-style levels of energy use, consumerism, and with the latter, massive and rapid resource depletion. The one large-scale market left to develop is Africa. It has gotten on the path to growth, to be sure, but not yet at planet-altering levels. And so here they are launching a magnificent dialogue to agree on a common path from here. Which brings us back to the model the world needs for the future we want, to borrow the Rio+20 slogan. The outline of such a model is in powerpoints the world over. We saw many of them at Rio. They are principles being lived successfully by multiple resilient and transition communities as I write these words, many of them in Africa itself, so this is no longer just empty theory or rhetoric. It is a model being studied by the likes of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, the New Economics Institute and Foundation, the Post Carbon Institute, the Center for the New American Dream, the Tellus Institute, Worldwatch Institute, and many others. One of the ultimate questions on their plate is whether and to what extent the model can be applied at a massive scale of billions of people -- to the entire planet, in fact. That, I believe, is the question now facing Africa. Will the continent's politicians and business people buckle to Western- and China-style development, or will they lead the world down a uniquely different path? A path where low-consumption simplicity takes center stage as the "in" and celebrated way to live. A path where such high-efficiency innovations as product sharing and closed loops become ingrained in supply chains and distribution channels. A path where green buildings, green homes, mass transit, EVs, zero waste and zero carbon become part of the landscape. Where our food is organic and our agriculture sustainable. Where ecosystem services and natural capital become an integral part of our accounting systems and investments. Where the community meets in broad public spaces of conversation and learns to coexist despite our diversity and differences. Where the diversity we discover and embrace is not just the human variety but the natural one as well. And where the countless companies behind and in front of all this new development provide the jobs and livelihoods people need to live their simple and enriched lives. Again, this is the path that must be in the thinking and at negotiating table in Africa today. It is our great and ultimate hope. Perhaps the last great, large-scale frontier. Done right, it will certainly ease the task of converting the misdirected development now raging in the rest of the world. Africa once led the world. The time has come for it to lead again.
  3. I've been asked by several folks to comment on the recent Bill McKibben feature column in Rolling Stone magazine that has caused quite a stir. Bill, as we know, single-handedly willed 350.org into becoming one of the most influential climate-change movement and organization in the world today, essentially taking the awareness Al Gore created and turning it into significant and creative action. So anything he writes should be assimilated into our collective thinking. Just as Gore expressed deep disappointment at the slow pace of planet-saving change following his Inconvenient Truth crusade, so does Bill today. Gore followed by launching Climate Reality. Bill is following by launching a movement against the fossil-fuel industry, starting with an Apartheid-like divestment movement featured in his Rolling Stone column. The backdrop is the daunting three-number equation he opens with. In order to avoid a two-degree Celsius temperature rise -- the first number, which he and most climate scientists now say is too high, but are sticking to in the interest of global consensus -- the world can't spew more than 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere from now on. That's the so-called carbon budget that must somehow be distributed among the world's countries, with developing states saying they should get a bigger slice to allow them to catch up with developed-country-level standard of living -- the big equity debate. Regardless of how it's distributed, we will consume that budget in a few short years at today's record pace of emissions. Hence the crushing urgency we should all feel in doing everything we can to reverse course. The third number is 2,795. That's the gigaton level fossil-fuel companies are ready to emit in the coming years, or roughly five times the 565 planet-busting budget. The imperative, then, is to keep them from drilling, so those gigatons stay deep underground where they can do no harm. For the answer on how to pull that off, Bill found inspiration in the successful 1980s campaign to persuade institutional investors to divest their holdings in any company that had anything to do with Apartheid in South Africa. Today, the focus will turn to institutional investors who own shares in Shell, BP, Exxon and their likes in the U.S. and around the world, a strategy aligned with what Ceres has been doing for years. While the Rolling Stone story doesn't get into other initiatives, I suspect this divestment strategy is the first of many to come. This is an absolutely brilliant idea, to take the Ceres-led shareholder revolution to a new level of intensity, pressure and results. If corporations respond to anything, it is to pressure from large and influential shareholders. It is using the core of the capitalist system to save it from itself. But let's not be lulled into any illusions here. First, climate is only half the problem, the one both Gore and McKibben have chosen to focus on. The other is resource depletion. Both are related, but even if we were to stay within the 565 and 2C targets on climate, resources would do us in. So let's keep a watchful eye on both fronts. Second, Bill's focus -- and this goes for the entire environmental movement -- is still on the West. But we have to realize that the geo center of ecogravity has shifted to the East, mainly China and India, given their unfathomable size and relentless, unsustainable growth. Divesting from the Shells, Exxons and BPs would keep part of those 2,795 gigatons on the ground, but I suspect there are plenty of fossil producers who don't respond to market pressures -- who don't issue stock, that is -- and will gladly step in with far more than the 565-gigaton budget we have left. Which means we need other solutions, and that's the third observation we can make in reply to the Rolling Stone article. Bill rightfully laments the slow progress we've seen on the efficiency and demand side, as lifestyle changes have put hardly a dent on the march towards climate madness. But his conclusion is to basically turn our backs on those efforts and aim all our canons instead at the one battle that can presumably win this fight. Not so fast!! The fossil-fuel battle is right on and must be waged, but we can't afford to do without ANY front. ALL are musts. Those of us who have chosen to boost the demand side will press on, partly because it addresses climate AND resources, and partly because it holds the promise of penetrating China and India like no other strategy out there. As Ceres, 350.org and others persuade investors to stop buying fossil-fuel stock, we will persuade consumers (individuals, companies and governments) to stop buying fossil-fuel energy -- to switch not just to greater efficiency and renewable sources, but also to more biodegradable, recyclable, sustainable products that preserve the world's "budget" of forests, water and ocean life. And so onwards we go on ALL fronts. As Annie Leonard said in her latest and brilliant Story of Change video, change can and must happen everywhere, across many fronts. At work. At school. At home. At play. No matter what you do or where you are, you can be part of this Great Transition, the biggest transformation in human and planetary history. Find your role, share your story and inspire others to do the same. Let's go. We can do this.
  4. What are we in this for, anyway? This thing we call life and living. Is it really to earn enough money to buy lots of stuff, thinking that will bring happiness? The car. The house. You know, the stuff. Well, happiness science tells us without doubt that once we get past a certain minimal material threshold (security, food, clothing, shelter, mobility, education, health, etc.), happiness does not come from simply adding more. Rather, it comes from the nonmaterial. Closeness to family and friends. A job and hobbies you love. A community that nurtures... well, community. Feeling vibrant. Enjoying nature. Living simply. And above all else, the one thing consistently found across time and cultures to deliver pure joy: serving others. So doesn't it make sense not just to organize one's own life around those practices and principles, but to organize our government around them as well? Of course it makes sense. So why don't we? Why do we blindly insist instead on the hot pursuit of more stuff and wealth? Because we have been blind. Blind to the beauty and benefits of focusing on any alternative. To be sure, countless people already live lives of solidarity, simplicity and sharing, lives dedicated to the service of people and planet. That's why the studies have reached the same conclusion: because they interviewed these folks. We know them too. They're all around us. The fine, humble, great samaritans we spend time with and run across all the time. In case you haven't heard by now, there's one country that decided long ago to focus on true happiness as the organizing principle behind its corporate and government policies. Bhutan may be small and remote, but its story is starting to resonate far and wide. It is now the subject of conferences and videos, like this one shared yesterday by +Faith Attaguile and +Alexander Deliyannis. Changing from Gross National Product to Gross National Happiness is a long-term process. The experiment in Bhutan has not been without obstacles. But there are tremendous lessons there for all of us in every other country. The first is that it is possible. We can make the switch. For the sake of the planet, many of us argue that we have no choice. We either move swiftly to a GNH model -- there are several being debated in multiple forums -- or we perish. And if you think about it, there's no persuasive reason not to do it. It's awesome! To focus on happiness? Why wouldn't we want to do that? There's an obsessive fear in most places about leaving behind the aspiration to wealth, as if we're going to be worse off, when in fact we're as bad off as we are, and at risk of losing the planet that sustains us, precisely because we're focused on GNP and personal wealth accumulation. It's completely insane. Do the research and you'll find, as I have, that the pursuit of real happiness produces more than sufficient comfort and convenience. There's no need to sacrifice the technology and medicines that come from great capital investments, which is another common fear. The profit motive will still be there to pursue those ventures. Nor will or can this happen forcibly by repressive government imposition. This is based on free choice and mutual persuasion. We simply have to become convinced that this is THE way to go. As a people. As a global society. Check it out. Look into it. Don't stop at this video, as great as it is. Google initiatives like The Story of Stuff Project, the Center for the New American Dream, the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, the Post Carbon Institute, Worldwatch Institute, Post Growth Institute, Tellus Institute, New Economy Institute and Foundation, Earth Economics, and the UN initiative on the GNH and other such indices. The volume of work being done on this is amazing, clearly the most important pursuit of all (part, indeed, of the bigger spiritual pursuit, since this is at the heart of the service paradigm we're called on to adopt by all the great spiritual and religious traditions). Dive in and discover what we're really in this for.
  5. Great piece by the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Switchboard blog on efforts afoot in Latin America to step up on green in anticipation of Rio+20, which will be held here in the region this June. The goals and standards being contemplated, however, fall far too short. They're too green-as-usual. First, the focus is disproportionately on energy, in a region that houses the Amazon and other priceless biodiversity resources, which should therefore place the reversal of deforestation and resource overshoot dead center on the agenda. And second, the region's goals are far too timid for the challenge we face. With scientists insisting we have only until 2020 to reverse warming emissions and resource depletion, it's time we stop talking about a goal of 20% or 30% renewable energy by 2025 or 2035, or protecting 25% of our oceans by 2040. The time has come to get radical on our goals. There was a lot of lament at Durban over the ambition gap, remember? That's a great phrase we must never forget, at least not until we close the gap. The counter at Durban was that it's hard enough to get countries to agree on timid goals, so imagine the radical type. Yeah, that's the state of the world right now. Agreed. But what are we to do? Simply accept the failure of ambition and allow the planet and everyone on it to warm into oblivion? Trade survival for "realism" and keep our arms crossed in one big "Oh well" shrug? No!!!! We just can't do that. Which brings us back to Latin America, my parents' birthplace and the region I studied, have covered as a journalist and have lived at for the last 24 years. Someone has to lead and aim higher. Someone has to insist on meeting the 2020 deadline. Someone has to stop the lunacy of today's "realism" and usher in the new and inevitable radical normal. Some country. Some region. Why not Latin America? The modern environmental movement began right here at the 1992 Rio Summit and returns now for Rio+20. We are once again hosting the environmental world, as we did two years ago at Cancun. But this time, there can be no Cancun in terms of results. No Copenhagen. No Nagoya. No Durban. Time is fast running out. We only have until 2020. The ambition gap must close. The place is here. The moment is Rio+20.
  6. So Keystone has become a high-stakes political chess game following the president's decision to kill the project. This Talking Points Memo article says Republicans have no expectations of getting Obama to sign infrastructure legislation including a Keystone rider, but they'll attach the rider anyway as a pure political play: to blame Obama during the campaign for opposing job creation and economic growth. Frankly, I'm not betting the farm on Obama vetoing the bill, particularly if Republicans in exchange go along with his cherished hike in infrastructure spending, designed precisely to create jobs. As the article says, even his Democratic base is split on the pipeline, at a time when jobs truly are THE issue in this election. The case for a veto no matter what is, I believe, stronger. Politically, he shows backbone and principle, can blast Republicans for the same anti-job position they want to pin on him, and secures the grassroots support he so desperately needs from his environmental base, the same base he has mutilated into apathy with other antagonistic ecodecisions. But then again, on the subject of backbone and principle, the president has been quite convincing of late that he doesn't have any when it comes to climate change. The signs are anything but reassuring. The U.S. was one of the countries that most blocked progress (even simple steps) at Durban. Obama's new all-or-nothing energy policy proudly includes record hikes in American oil and gas exploration. And when he "killed" Keystone, I've warned earlier that we would be ill advised to celebrate much, so absent from his statement was any mention of climate change. Now, if he was willing to turn on the climate at these crucial moments, what makes us think he'll stick to the Keystone decision in the face of potential political risk? The writing is all over the wall, folks. This man has simply abandoned the climate in favor of his reelection. He fails to see the political, historical and economic value (to him!) of standing up to the Republicans on this all-important issue. So don't let his support of cleantech fool you. On Keystone, we simply do not know which way he'll go.
  7. If President Obama's thoroughly embarrassing stumbling-block posture at Durban left any doubt about the softness of his conviction on climate change, the Keystone decision has just nailed the notion. Yes, it's great that the pipeline is dead, and everyone from Bill McKibben and 350.org to every single demonstrator who got this done by leading the charge against the project against all odds, deserves our sincerest and most heartfelt congratulations and gratitude. It really would have been game over for the climate had the pipeline gone through. But as we get past the celebration and refocus on the hard work ahead to ensure that the game is won in the end, it's crucial to note what the president's Keystone statement says about our chances for victory. And it's not one bit encouraging. Two things stand out. First, there's not a single mention of the climate threat as one of the motivations behind the decision, when in fact it should have been the MAIN motivation. He blames it on the administration's inability to meet the arbitrary Republican deadline. What??!! Are you kidding me? You mean to say he would have gone along if Republicans had been more lenient and agreed to more time? This alone raises a huge red flag, the same he raised with his stance at Durban, where the U.S. shocked everyone with its inexplicable foot dragging and outright opposition to any significant progress. Second, Obama once again boasts about his perplexing all-of-the-above energy policy, which includes the support of domestic oil, gas and coal in addition to renewables. Congratulate me, he seems to say, because oil and gas are up in America, alongside increases in solar and wind. This is simply mind blowing. The planet risks an end-of-the-world scenario in a few decades with today's runaway climate change and record increases in carbon and methane emissions. The latest science is the scariest yet, saying we're this close to passing the dreaded 2 degree C temperature rise, and dreaded indeed it is. Avoiding that threshold already requires a herculean task, which leaves zero room for NEW fossil-fuel generation that locks in tipping-point emissions for decades more. So why is the president of the United States, the same one who once promised with inspiring passion to halt the rise of the oceans, feeling great about today's increase in oil and gas production? That's the alarming part of his statement, the fact that this is something he is PROUD of, not something he apologetically laments being cornered into by politics. No, he's not sorry at all. Not one iota. He is concerned solely, it seems, with enhancing our security by ending the country's reliance on foreign oil and replacing it with an all-of-the-above American menu. His often stated concern over climate change, we are then led to think, must be blurred by the 1990s assumption that we have a long time to solve this mother-of-all problems. Mr. President, we do not have that luxury. You have to stand for the end of fossil fuels TODAY. Stopping Keystone helps, but you can't stop there. When you signed up for the job, you told us you knew damn well that you would be the final president with any chance at preventing irreversible climate change. If you lose this year, we all know your Republican successor will lose the game in regulation, so we're still cheering for you, because you may still be able to pull it off, even if it takes double-overtime. But not like this, Mr. President. Not like this.