Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Planet under Pressure: Options and Opportunities (Day 2)

Planet under Pressure: Options and Opportunities. 
Serious stuff today, mostly about what needs to be done.  Perspectives on economics, food&water and other sustenance issues.  The positive role that women play was well articulated by Bina Agarwal (both impacts on their lives and governance roles) and Dutch economist de Boer emphasized the need for a new dialogue with decision makers.  The panel, again with many UKers (although sometimes masked by affiliations with Euro-mainland institutions), picked up on this focus on human behavior and human values.  We need to go beyond describing the processes and issues, and try to touch the heart of the global citizenry.  Moreover, positive arguments about our collective future are a lot more useful than scare scenarios.
A Research and Action Agenda break-out session did not deliver much of an action agenda.  A pattern that is emerging across the conference thus far.  Steps in the right direction were explored, however, focusing on the "what" instead of the "how" of issues that are before us.  I am ready to hear more.
I then attended a nerdy break-out session on Geo-engineering that was science-heavy (mineral reactions, atmospheric particles, yield calculations, etc) and quite illuminating.  It seems that such CO2 removal processes may not be terribly effective, so geo-engineering offers little hope in the short run (but would create lots, lots of jobs).  Whereas there are processes that can reduce CO2, scaling it to the 30Gt of CO2 that humanity adds each year seems impossible.  Perhaps returning areas to natural vegetation is the best, short-term CO2 capture scenario, meaning that we reduce domesticated grasslands/pastures and return them to more C-intensive vegetation without need for nutrient fertilization.  This should appeal to the vegetarians among us, as croplands could be unaffected.  Frankly, they have point.  Like so many, I too enjoy my meat, but agree that average intake can easily be reduced.
An early evening informational session on a new global initiative, "Future Earth", illustrates the genuine desire of the community to see change, but also the lack of a convincing socio-political strategy towards change.  More on that likely to come in the days ahead.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

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