Lakey was involved in some of the greatest protests of the 20th century. Now, he says, there is a chance to reverse the rights decades-long power grab
Its heavy out there. Neo-nazism is on the rise. The gap between rich and poor grows ever larger. Protections for women, people of colour, LGBTQ people and immigrants are under attack. Meanwhile, the planet is simultaneously freezing and burning. Yet George Lakey couldnt be more optimistic.
The civil rights legend bounces around his kitchen in suburban Philadelphia as the icy winds whistle outside. Its a huge opportunity. Huge, he grins, waving his long arms inside his cosy cardigan. I am grateful that, at age 81, I am around and vigorous enough to be able to participate in the political process because this is, in my judgment, the biggest opportunity for major change, in my country, in my lifetime. A bigger opportunity than the 60s and 70s.
Lakey should know. An activist from the age of 12, the sociologist and writer has been manning the barricades for close to 70 years. For an unfailingly polite Quaker, he has quite a rap sheet. He was first arrested in 1963 while protesting in the USs segregated south, and was most recently arrested in 2018 at a rally demanding more green energy. There have been a lot of arrests in between. He helped sail a ship to Vietnam filled with supplies for peace activists during the Vietnam war, led peacekeeping workshops in South Africa with the African National Congress during apartheid, acted as an unarmed bodyguard for human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and has campaigned for same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.Read More
Plans to expand program are on hold as gag-inducing pong and vermin are holding back residents, foodies and hipsters from saving food scraps
It was meant to be an ambitious environmental program but efforts at composting in New York are breaking down amid rats, roaches and rank smells.
New Yorkers are relatively good at recycling but an ick factor is holding them back from saving food scraps for reprocessing, the authorities admitted.
In a sweaty city that regularly has back to back humid days in the eighties and nineties Fahrenheit all summer, some householders are recoiling from the scheme in a cloud of fruit flies.
Now plans to expand New Yorks organics collection program are on hold as even eco-minded residents, foodies and hipsters wrestle with the idea of bags of putrid mush sitting on their kitchen counter tops awaiting disposal.
City-issued large brown plastic collection bins that are put out on the sidewalk have special fastening lids to keep out vermin but, full of deteriorating leftovers, still often exude a gag-inducing pong when opened.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a pilot program five years ago, hoping hundreds of thousands of tons of this food-loving citys leftovers and grass mowings would be churning their way through the system, to be turned into alternative energy or fertilizing compost.
But expansion has been put on hold because there is insufficient participation to be cost-effective. The city collected only about 13,000 tons last year and found that the 3.5 million people currently in the voluntary program are only separating 10.6% percent of their potential scraps.
Honestly, I think its a complete waste of time, says Anselmo Ariza, who maintains the trash and recycling bins for several blocks of apartment buildings in Brooklyn. Some people use them, but most of them just put trash and plastic bags in there.
Marzena Golonka complained that the citys weekly pickup at her apartment building in Brooklyn is not frequent enough to keep the stink and rats away.
Its vile, she says. Until sanitation starts doing their job effectively, Im not going to have a brown bin.
De Blasios goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030 depends on residents and businesses separating their organic waste, which currently makes up a third of the trash that ends up in landfills and is a major producer of greenhouse gases.
The city is still committed to expanding the program to all 8.5 million New York City residents, but right now is focused on making the system more efficient, sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.
We are having to overcome the ick factor, Garcia said.Read More
The long read: Scientists have identified 2 million species of living things. No one knows how many more are out there, and tens of thousands may be vanishing before we have even had a chance to encounter them
The Earth is ridiculously, burstingly fullof life. Four billion years after theappearance of the first microbes, 400myears after the emergence of thefirst life on land, 200,000 years after humans arrived on this planet, 5,000 years (give or take) after God bid Noah to gather to himself two of every creeping thing, and 200 years after we started to systematically categorise allthe worlds living things, still, new species are being discovered by the hundreds and thousands.
In the world of the systematic taxonomists those scientists charged with documenting this ever-growing onrush of biological profligacy the first week of November 2017 looked like any other. Which is to say, it was extraordinary. It began with 95 new types of beetle from Madagascar. But this was only the beginning. As the week progressed, it brought forth seven new varieties of micromoth from across South America, 10 minuscule spiders from Ecuador, and seven South African recluse spiders, all of them poisonous. A cave-loving crustacean from Brazil. Seven types of subterranean earwig. Four Chinese cockroaches. A nocturnal jellyfish from Japan. A blue-eyed damselfly from Cambodia. Thirteen bristle worms from the bottom of the ocean some bulbous, some hairy, all hideous. Eight North American mites pulled from the feathers of Georgia roadkill. Three black corals from Bermuda. One Andean frog, whose bright orange eyes reminded its discoverers of the Incan sun god Inti.
About 2m species of plants, animals and fungi are known to science thus far. No one knows how many are left to discover. Some put it at around 2m, others at more than 100m. The truescope of the worlds biodiversity is one of the biggest and most intractable problems in the sciences. Theres no quick fixor calculation that can solve it, just a steady drip of new observations of new beetles and new flies, accumulating towards a fathomless goal.Read More
Growth must go on and its destroying the Earth. But theres no way of greening it. So we need a new system, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot
Everyone wants everything how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.
But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced in this case by the media.
With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.
Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunas, portable watermelon coolers and smartphones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes tothe PancakeBot: a 3D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa, theTaj Mahal, or your dogs bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you dont have room for it. For junk like this, were trashing the living planet, and our own prospects ofsurvival. Everything must go.
The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who dont. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.
Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had relatively small benefits.
I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings ahundredfold. Ive come to believe thatthe recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people theyvegone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.
None of this means that we should not try to reduce our footprint, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes ofthe system. It is the system itself thatneedsto change.
Research by Oxfam suggests that the worlds richest 1% (if your household has an income of 70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?
By decoupling, the economists tell us: detaching economic growth from our use of materials. So how well is this going? A paper in the journal PlosOne finds that while, in some countries, relative decoupling has occurred, no country has achieved absolute decoupling during the past 50 years. What this means is that the amount of materials and energy associated with each increment of GDP might decline but, as growth outpaces efficiency, the total use of resources keeps rising. More important, the paper reveals that, in the long term, both absolute and relative decoupling from the use of essential resources is impossible, because of the physical limits of efficiency.
A global growth rate of 3% means thatthe size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.
Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the worlds people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 (84) of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.
When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the worlds treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever lessrelation to general welfare.
Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all areillusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, basedon private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation areone beast with two heads.
We need a different system, rootednot in economic abstractions butin physical realities, that establishthe parameters by which we judgeits health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, aworld of private sufficiency and publicluxury. And we must do it beforecatastrophe forces our hand.
George Monbiot is a Guardian columnistRead More
The 33 islands of Kiribati, a remote and low-lying nation in the Pacific Ocean, are under threat from climate change. But the islanders have not given up hope
Kiribati is one of the most isolated countries in the world. As you fly in to the main island of South Tarawa, located less than 100 kms from the equator, a precariously thin strip of sand and green materialises out of the ocean.
On one side, a narrow reef offers some protection to the inhabitants and their land at low tide, at least. On the other side, a shallow lagoon reaches kilometres out to sea. The 33 islands of Kiribati pronounced Kiribass are extremely shallow; the highest point is just two metres above sea level. Looking out of the aeroplane window, there is no depth to the scene sea dissolves seamlessly into sky, a paint palette of every blue