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Notable Writings

Andrew Gaines - The Great Transition

The Great Transition Initiative is about how to address the major drivers that are making environmental issues worse, as well as transitioning to a life-affirming global culture.

Andrew Gaines is a founder of this Initiative, and has a message to share:

Julian Cribb’s Surviving the 21st Century strongly makes the case that humanity is in an existential emergency, with a high probability that, based on a number of disastrous current trends, not only will we destroy ourselves as a viable civilization by the end of the century, we may make the planet essentially uninhabitable for humans.
Other thinkers have seen this as well, but relatively few of us really ‘get’ this. If collectively we ‘got it’, we would either drop into despair and deep mourning (which some people have done), or become fired up to turn things around. We certainly would not be complacent!
I have long felt the need for a tool to present our existential emergency so ‘in-your-face’ that people cannot avoid it.
Looming Disasters is such a tool. It is designed to be used in one-to-one conversations. Julian Cribb likes it. I used it with a local café owner; he agreed for me to put up Great Transition Initiative materials in his café. I talked one of my neighbors through it, and he knocked on my door at 5 o’clock the next morning wanting to talk about it. But this is not a representative sample; these people were open before our talk.
The purpose of the Great Transition Initiative to galvanize massive commitment to transitioning to a life-affirming global culture. We are catalyzing a ‘movement of movements’. The purpose of Looming Disasters is not to ‘inform’ people. It is to shock them into an acute sense that we are in an existential emergency − and we need to work to turn things around.
Many people assert that scaring people is a bad communication tactic. Done crudely through lectures or online, perhaps so. It is easy for people’s eyes to glaze over and for them to tune out. But the flipside is that fear is a motivator, and humans have a survival instinct.
By presenting Looming Disasters in face-to-face conversations we can support people in coming to terms with the shocking reality of what is actually happening. Then we can segue from that into the larger notion of taking responsibility for catalyzing a cultural shift.
Will Looming Disasters actually do this job? Probably sometimes yes, and sometimes no. People have strong defenses, and sometimes they just choose not to take responsibility. But we have to try to reach people, and if your experience is like mine you will get better with practice.
I have printed out Looming Disasters, and I carry them with me as a set of loose pages. I present the pages one at a time; there is no fixed order. Nor is it necessary to go through all the pages; the point is to move people without absolutely overwhelming them. How we do this is a judgment call.
I would be pleased if you would try this with a few people, with a view to them becoming active in the Great Transition Initiative. Everything they need is in the Resources section of www.InspiringTransition.net.

Yours for a world that works for all!

Bill Laurance

14 June 2018

From Bill Laurance, Will Asia's Imperiled 'Eden' Survive. This article highlights Infrastructure development and contested forest governance threaten the Leuser Ecosystem, Indonesia. And research team has been intensively assessing threats to the Leuser Ecosystem-the last place on Earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos still survive together.

12 June 2018

From Bill Laurance, By the end of this century, we'll have around 11 billion people on Earth, of which 9 billion will be living in cities. This link briefly describe simple ways that can make our cities friendlier for wildlife while at the same time healthier for all of us: What a Giant Snake Can Teach Us

Ascencao et al. 2018-BRI

15 May 2018

From Bill Laurance, China's plan to exploit half and the Earth

The paper Environmental challenges for the Belt and Road Initiative, published in Nature Sustainability, urges China to undertake a spate of urgent safeguards to limit the risks of its stunningly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is arguably the environmentally riskiest venture in human history -slated to cost $8 trillion and involve some 7,000 infrastructure and extractive-industry projects that will span half the planet.

China-funded projects imperil world's rarest ape
4 May 2018

This article, in Current Biology, highlights growing threats—especially a Chinese-backed hydropower project—to the world’s rarest ape, the Tapanuli Orangutan, which occurs only in a tiny speck of forest in Sumatra, Indonesia.  Less than 800 individuals of the ape remain alive.
Sloan et al. 2018-orangutan

Also, this brief piece describes how this imperilled ape is emblematic of a much larger, aggressive effort by China to drive massive infrastructure projects across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific—arguably the most urgent environmental crisis of our time: https://theconversation.com/china-backed-sumatran-dam-threatens-the-rarest-ape-in-the-world-95874

Wildlife-snaring crisis
19 April 2018

The attached paper describes the appalling scope of the wildlife-snaring crisis in Southeast Asia—a global biodiversity hotspot.
In just five of the region’s protected areas, more than 200,000 snares were found and removed over a five-year period.  And if things are that bad in protected areas, how bad are they outside them?
It’s also clear that snaring is not just killing wildlife, but is also painfully maiming many animals (see photos here).
A paper like this also raises an intriguing question about the big regional difference between Asia and Africa versus Latin America.
To read more: Gray et al. 2018-Asian snaring crisis

Aggressive vines alter fragmented rainforests
April 2, 2018
For a number of years, Laurance's research group has been studying how aggressive woody vines (lianas) affect the ecology of fragmented rainforests  — in the Amazon, Asia, and tropical Australia.
This new paper, led by Mason Campbell, reveals an intense ‘war’ between lianas and native trees in fragmented rainforests of tropical Australia.  Lianas become hyper-abundant in fragments and in turn, have important impacts on the ecology and dynamics of fragmented rainforests.
Campbell et al. 2018-lianas & fragment dynamics

'Bad' Roads v.s 'Good' Roads
March 19, 2018
This paper addresses how new roads can be both ‘good’ and ‘bad’. On the ‘good’ side, they can promote economic and social development.  On the ‘bad’ side, they can promote deforestation and the rapid disappearance of wilderness. The attached paper suggests we can increase the ratio of good to bad by focusing new roads or road improvements roads in urban and nearby peri-urban areas — places that already have lots of people and development.  In these places, new or improved roads cause less habitat destruction and maximize social and economic benefits.
The paper is available online https://tinyurl.com/yd45gnvr or the link to the PDF is here: Economics_2018-11

Why We Need Intact Forests
February 27, 2018
The paper, led by James Watson and Tom Evans, is a seminal synthesis of why intact forests are so very crucial for wildlife, ecosystem functioning, human welfare, and planetary health.
Watson et al. 2018-wilderness values

Amazon -  key papers
February 22, 2018
Two brief essays: The first describes a cyclone of recent events—both good and bad—for Amazon forest conservation (https://ensia.com/voices/amazon/).
The second, by eminent authorities Tom Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre, argues compellingly that the rainforests of Amazonia could be approaching a catastrophic 'tipping point’ if deforestation continues on its present trajectory.
Lovejoy & Nobre 2018-Amazon tipping point

Changing Our View on Tropical Forests
February 7, 2018
Now and then a paper comes out that tips our world-view on its ear.  For those who study the world’s tropical forests, this is one of those papers. These findings will prompt rethinking about how we see the world.  In particular, the idea that African tropical forests contain both a distinctive African element (in Central and West Africa) and a completely different, highly distinctive Indo-Pacific element (in East Africa) is enough to boggle the mind, all by itself.
Slik et al. 2018-phylogenetic classification of tropical forests (2)


Jeremy Leggett 

Jeremy Leggett is a British social entrepreneur, scientist, historian futurist and author with a vision for a  renaissance in civilisation triggered by renewable energy and its intrinsic social benefits. He founded the  Solarcentury, an international solar solutions company (1997–present), and is founder and Chair of SolarAid, a charity funded with 5% of Solarcentury’s annual profits that builds solar lighting markets in Africa (2006 – present).  He was a winner of the first Hillary Laureate for International Leadership in Climate Change (2009),  has authored four books on the climate-and-energy nexus.

The week of the white elephants: US, UK, and Canada all bailout uneconomic and/ or standard energy-incumbency projects with multiple billions
June 8, 2018

short true-story-of-the-day, in 25 pictures and charts, relaying almost incomprehensible political gymnastics by three governments in one week: two of which profess to be champions of climate-change action!

An eclectic chronology in pictures and charts of developments in climate, energy, tech and the future of civilisation
April 4, 2018

Things are moving so fast. Most of us are so busy. This slideshow offers one person’s precis-for-the-busy of the first three months of 2018 in the related dramas of climate change, energy transition, big tech and the future of civilisation.

The history and future of the global energy transition available on video
March 1, 2018

The video of Jeremy's presentations to the recent conferences on 'Making Solar Bankable' can be seen here. Powerpoint versions of this presentation and 'How can investors help oil majors to commit to Paris' are available on his website, including source URLs to maximise the usefulness to people who might wish to use them in some way to get the message/s out.

A good news story at a bad time for charities
February 28, 2018

Jeremy shares an example of a good news story involving Brave Mhonie, who has worked for SolarAid in Malawi for 10 years, through good times and bad, working his way up to be national director of our non-profit retail brand, SunnyMoney. Jeremy also provides a status update on his book, The Test.
You can read more here.

The history and future of the global energy transition in pictures and charts.
February 15, 2018

This is a presentation to accompany the publication of the updated edition of The Winning of The Carbon War today. You can download it as either pdf or powerpoint files. The author encourages everyone to access and use the presentation, including any slides.

The Winning of The Carbon War 2013 - 2017
February 1, 2018

This is a link to an updated version of  Jeremy Leggett's book, with a summary of the evolving drama in the two years since the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015. Audio and print copies will be available on Amazon and other websites.  All author's royalties are going to SolarAid to help disseminate solar lights in Africa.  For reviews of the January 2016 edition please see here

The Test-A personal chronicle of a defining mission for humankind
July 4, 2017

This article is about the presentation which held in Royal Albert Hall, London to represent the expensive high-carbon oil-for-lighting. The presenter is Jeremy Leggett. Click here to see the details about the presentation of The Test.