This is the ClimateCultures monthly selection of Views from Elsewhere so far for 2019. Each month, I add new stories as I discover and read them.
In 2018, ClimateCultures featured more than 80 stories from over 50 sources throughout the year; you can find them here. For our selection for 2017 (around 100 stories from over 35 sources) see here.
NB: These posts appear in the order I discover and read them (most recent at the top for each month), rather than the original publication date.
- The case for 'conditional optimism' on climate change-
Writing for Vox (31/12/18), David Roberts questions the question he's often asked about climate change: "Is there hope?" It's the wrong question, he says. "When people ask about hope, I don’t think they are after an objective assessment of the odds. Hope is not a prediction that things will go well. It’s not a forecast or an expectation. But then, what is it exactly?" he suggests that what people are looking for in 'hope' is more like 'fellowship': not being alone in facing up to the daunting odds that climate change is going to go (even more) terribly wrong.
Roberts thinks that 'hope' is a malformed question. Climate change is already a reality and it will get worse whatever we do. The emissions we've already released are working their way through the atmosphere-ocean-ice-land-life systems. We're committed. "In a sense," he says, "we’re already screwed, at least to some extent ... But we have some choice in how screwed we are, and that choice will remain open to us no matter how hot it gets. Even if temperature rise exceeds two degrees, the basic structure of the challenge will remain the same ... Two degrees will be bad, but three would be worse, four worse than that, and five worse still."
Roberts sets out the case for pessimism and optimism on us not exceeding 2 degrees (this century) and settles for a mix of the two. And, in the end, he seems to row back on his dismissal of hope because rapid change is possible. In both technology and in politics, "there are 'tipping points' after which change accelerates, rendering the once implausible inevitable ... Relying on them can seem like hoping for miracles. But our history is replete with miraculously rapid changes. They have happened; they can happen again. And the more we envision them, and work toward them, the more likely they become. What other choice is there?"
- The environmental impact of music: digital, records, CDs analysed-
We begin the new year of our Views from Elsewhere feature with this piece at The Conversation (10/1/19). Sharon George and Deirdre McKay consider the carbon and materials pros and cons of the different ways we now listen to our music, given that physical media such as vinyl records are experiencing a revival. Downloading and streaming music electronically remain the most popular media. And you might think they give better environmental performance because of their nonmaterial nature and the lack of transport and disposal they require.
"Modern records typically contain around 135g of PVC material with a carbon footprint of 0.5kg of CO₂ ... Sales of 4.1m records would produce 1.9 thousand tonnes of CO₂ – not taking transport and packaging into account. That is the entire footprint of almost 400 people per year." And, like CDs, vinyl records can't be recycled. Against that, however, "if we listen to our streamed music using a hifi sound system it’s estimated to use 107 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, costing about £15.00 to run. A CD player uses 34.7 kilowatt hours a year and costs £5 to run." Downloading music and storing it locally to play, of course, has a lower energy requirement each time you play it. So the answer to the question of which option is the greener "depends on many things, including how many times you listen to your music."
[If you want to find out something interesting about the history of vinyl recording and playback, and the key role of one woman inventor played in how we came to enjoy high quality music in our homes, check out another site from ClimateCultures creator Mark Goldthorpe: Marie Louise Killick.]