Climate Change Forum Archive


April 8 2018, Climate refugees as topic, presenter Alberto Torres

Environmental Migrant

Environmental migrants are people who are forced to leave their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment. These are changes which compromise their well-being or secure livelihood. Such changes are held to include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and disruption of seasonal weather patterns (i.e. monsoons[1]). Environmental migrants may choose flee to or migrate to another country, or they may migrate internally within their own country.[2]

The term “environmental migrant” is used somewhat interchangeably with a range of similar terms, such as ecological refugee, environmental refugee, climate refugee, forced environmental migrant, environmentally motivated migrant, climate change refugee, environmentally displaced person (EDP), disaster refugee, environmental displacee, eco-refugee, ecologically displaced person, or environmental-refugee-to-be (ERTB).[1] The term climate exiles has been used to refer to those climate migrants who may be in danger of becoming stateless.[2][3][4] The distinctions between these terms are contested.

Despite problems in formulating a uniform and clear-cut definition of ‘environmental migration’, such a concept has increased as an issue of concern in the 2000s as policy-makers, environmental and social scientists attempt to conceptualize the potential societal effects of climate change and general environmental degradation. “Unless it is assumed” in order to consider a person an environmental refugee, nature or the environment could be considered the persecutor.[5]

Definition and concept

Environmental refugees do not really fit into any of the legal definitions of a refugee. Not all environmental refugees migrate from their home country, on occasion they are just displaced within their country of origin. Moreover, the refugees aren’t leaving their homes because of fear they will be persecuted, or because of “generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order.”[6] Even though the definition of who is a refugee was expanded since its first international and legally binding definition in 1951 people who are forced to flee due to environmental change are still not offered the same legal protection as refugees.[7]

The term “environmental refugee” was first proposed by Lester Brown in 1976.[8] The International Organization for Migration (IOM) proposes the following definition for environmental migrants:[9]

“Environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad.”

Climate refugees or climate migrants are a subset of environmental migrants who were forced to flee “due to sudden or gradual alterations in the natural environment related to at least one of three impacts of climate change: sea-level rise, extreme weather events, and drought and water scarcity.”[10]

March 4 2018, “Energy Solutions”, presenter Terry Tremwell, held in Terry’s home on Mount Sequoyah

Bio for Terry Tremwel, PhD, MBA

Terry Tremwel Chairs the Boards for Picasolar, Inc, and Trem|Wel Energy, LLC. In 2016, Picasolar earned a third SunShot Award, this time at the Tier 3 level, meaning that successful completion in 2018 will result in a commercial product that enhances solar cell performance. Trem|Wel Energy is an energy development and sustainability consulting firm located in Fayetteville, AR. Tremwel holds a PhD in agricultural engineering from the University of Florida, an M.S. in ag engineering from Iowa State University, a B.S. in ag engineering from UC Davis, and an MBA from the University of Arkansas.

Dr. Tremwel and his wife, Margaret, built a 2900 sq. foot home on Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville, AR, that is energy Net-Zero Plus, as an all-electric home with no gas line. Using solar PV, it generates more electricity on site than it consumes for household functions and transportation for their two electric cars. They recognize that a better choice for resource preservation would be a smaller house, but they wanted a home that could be used for various community events and training sessions. The 3-story home has a relatively small area footprint at 900 sq. feet, plus decking, mud room, and garage on stilts.

Dr. Tremwel developed and teaches the Sustainability class in the Sam M Walton College of Business. The Sustainability class has grown from 31 students in its first year, 2007, to 63 students in spring 2011, based on word of mouth and the popularity of the topic. The class emphasizes the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profits) and other ways to analyze and apply sustainability to business. As former Research Director of the Supply Chain Management Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Tremwel published three logistics case studies that were used in the International Graduate Logistics Case Competition, involving 12 of the best graduate logistics programs in the world by invitation. Each of the cases includes process efficiencies, material conservation, and energy savings. Tremwel published white papers on logistics in the wind industry, reverse logistics, and business scorecard development. Each of these papers has gotten international attention from companies that produce and distribute household name brands. The papers have been downloaded from universities on all continents.

Dr. Tremwel co-founded Trem|Wel Energy to serve businesses and individuals in reducing their consumption of energy, water, and materials, thereby reducing their cost structure and increasing profits. Tremwel analyzes energy consumption patterns and recommends methods to reduce peaks in facilities that are partially billed on their peak consumption. Lighting, efficient HVAC systems, climate control technology, and insulation are favorite tools for reducing facility energy consumption while maintaining comfort. After consumption is optimized, Trem|Wel Energy helps facilities owners weigh options in distributed generation using wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. The firm uses the latest business approaches in helping owners finance and provide environmental comfort and lighting services rather than the mere sale of products.

Tremwel has a background in hydrologic contaminant and transportation network analysis and flow optimization. He has developed numerous physical systems to control and distribute flows. With skills relating to land, air, water, energy, chemistry, transportation, and finance, Tremwel has the ability to integrate solutions to meet a wide variety of needs.

Dr. Terry Tremwel is available at (479) 414-0956 and Terry@Picasolar.com .

February 4 2018, “Community Resilience Reader”, presenter Lolly Tindol

Community Resilience Reader

The sustainability challenges of yesterday have become today’s resilience crises. National and global efforts have failed to stop climate change, transition from fossil fuels, and reduce inequality. We must now confront these and other increasingly complex problems by building resilience at the community level. But what does that mean in practice, and how can it be done in a way that’s effective and equitable?

The Community Resilience Reader offers a new vision for creating resilience, through essays by leaders in such varied fields as science, policy, community building, and urban design. The Community Resilience Reader combines a fresh look at the challenges humanity faces in the 21st century, the essential tools of resilience science, and the wisdom of activists, scholars, and analysts working with community issues on the ground. It shows that resilience is a process, not a goal; how resilience requires learning to adapt but also preparing to transform; and that resilience starts and ends with the people living in a community. Despite the formidable challenges we face, The Community Resilience Reader shows that building strength and resilience at the community level is not only crucial, but possible.

From Post Carbon Institute, the producers of the award-winning The Post Carbon Reader, The Community Resilience Reader is a valuable resource for students, community leaders, and concerned citizens.

January 7 2018, ‘The Elephant in the Cornfield”, presenter Shelley Buoniauto

Elephant in the Cornfield

Journalist Chris Clayton examines the conflict in rural America over climate change, farming and the increasing pressures on food production. Clayton’s reporting highlights the critical nature of agriculture in the country’s struggle over finding direction in mitigating greenhouses gases and adapting to a more volatile climate. The Elephant in the Cornfield explains rural perceptions of climate change, resistance to the science and the outright push to fight attempts to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions.

Clayton looks at the pitched lobbying battle over failed climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 and how cap-and-trade became an almost toxic concept for farmers  — the same people who are increasingly threatened by more extreme weather, yet represent one of the few industries able to pull carbon dioxide from the air and sink it into the soil.

The Elephant in the Cornfield also takes the complex science of climate change and breaks it down by detailing research going back 50 years on greenhouse gases.

While tackling a hefty subject, Clayton puts his journalism background to work with pragmatic and comprehensive writing. This book essentially serves as Clayton’s journal as an agricultural reporter covering political battles inside the Beltway. At the same time, he puts a face on the farmers, scientists, activists and corporate America in trying to develop a more sustainable food system.
Climate change gives rural Americans a chance to save the world, but many refuse to see potential. The Elephant in the Cornfield makes the case that America’s cornfields hold some solutions to dealing with a hotter planet. Yet, political infighting and the embrace of climate denial keep farmers divided. In the process, the festering debates over science and political solutions risk the country’s ability to help feed a growing world and protect the environment.
Clayton has been writing and editing for DTN/The Progressive Farmer since 2005 after working more than seven years as a reporter for the Omaha World-Herald. He has recognized as Writer of the Year from the American Agricultural Editors Association and won Story of the Year multiple times from the organization. Clayton also has won the Glenn Cunningham Agricultural Journalist of the Year Award from the North American Agricultural Journalists and served as the group’s president in 2012-13. The National Farmers Union and American Coalition for Ethanol also each have named him Communicator of the Year.

Clayton graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1993 with a degree in journalism. He has worked for news organizations in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Nebraska. Clayton lives in Glenwood, Iowa, with his wife and children.

December 2017

The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy by Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen. Zed Books and Spinifex Press. 1999.

Presentation and discussion led by Jeanne Neath

A recent study published in Nature concluded that there is only a 5% chance that global warming can be held down to a 2 degree centigrade rise through the year 2100 (see Washington Post article at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/07/31/we-only-have-a-5-percent-chance-of-avoiding-dangerous-global-warming-a-study-finds/?utm_term=.13b6c88a9572 ). Two degrees centigrade is the amount of warming that scientists and world leaders consider to be “dangerous” climate change (though if you look at Puerto Rico it’s clear that we are already experiencing dangerous climate change). In June of 2017 Christina Figueres (the leader in charge of the Paris climate agreement negotiations) and a number of prominent scientists and other heavyweights issued a statement saying we have til 2020 to set the world on a clear path of diminishing greenhouse gas emissions ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/29/these-experts-say-we-have-until-2020-to-get-climate-change-under-control-and-theyre-the-optimists/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.9a375b69738a ).

World leaders have had since 1988 to find ways to turn the impending climate disaster around and they have failed. Activists and scientists have had since 1988 to find ways to pressure world leaders into making the changes necessary to stop dangerous climate change. Clearly it is time for new understandings of the climate crisis, understandings that are able to provide new strategies for addressing this emergency. This month’s Climate Forum will discuss a book that provides exactly what climate activists need in this time of impending climate disaster.

Although economic growth is clearly a key driver of global warming and capitalism is clearly a key driver of growth, the climate movement has not focused on the need to end capitalism. In The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy, ecofeminist authors Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen provide a clear and fearless analysis of the problem of capitalism. But, they go much further than a simple ecosocialist analysis and help the reader understand that the problem is not simply capitalism, but the combination of patriarchy and capitalism.

Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen are social scientists who have each worked extensively with women in the global South and these authors consistently take the perspective of village women (“the view from below”) to understand and provide solutions to the problems created by a globalized capitalist economy. The village women of the global South have an insight that escapes many of us: people can live very good lives without all the massive amounts of consumer goods that seem so essential to people living in the industrialized world. These village women know not to believe the capitalist propaganda that one day they too will have a rich lifestyle.

As is clear in the title of this book, one primary solution to the problems created by the expanding capitalist economy is a re-invigoration of the subsistence economy in the industrialized world. (The subsistence economy is the core, essential human economy that underlies every economy, including capitalism.) The beauty of the subsistence economy is that it is in the power of every individual and local community to build the subsistence economy (and reduce the capitalist economy) starting right now. If you are turning your nose up at the notion of subsistence, Mies and Bennholdt-Thomsen will turn your head around by showing how capitalism has carried out a war against subsistence and brainwashed “modern” peoples. The Subsistence Perspective includes chapters on globalization and subsistence, markets and subsistence, subsistence in the city, reinventing the commons, and much more. One of the intriguing ideas this book has brought up for me has to do with the power of the consumer to create social change, an idea that we can explore further at Climate Forum.

Do not be fooled by the 1999 publication date of this book! The Subsistence Perspective could not be more current or relevant to the climate emergency we face.

November 5

Presenter Malcolm
Mooney, Chris. 2006. The Republican War on Science, Revised and Updated pb edition. New York, Basic Books. 357 p., notes with references, index.

Why talk about a book first published in 2005 and updated for the paperback edition in 2006? A couple of quotes from the preface may give a clue, “… it reaffirms central suspicions about Bush nourished even by many who once supported him: that he’s in a bubble walled off from reality; that he takes matters on faith; that he allows ideology to trample expert opinion; that he staffs the government with cronies who run it incompetently.” And, “If mistreatment of science reverberates as an issue, it is because it is emblematic of why so many Americans oppose George W. Bush to begin with. They think he is unfit to lead and that those he appoints cannot competently administer a government with such a wide range of duties, virtually all of which require some form of expertise (often scientific) if they are to be carried out properly.”

If you substituted Trump for Bush in the above, it would be a perfect description and it demonstrates that Republicans have disregarded reality, scientific and otherwise, for a long time to favor ideology. That ideology has destabilized the Middle East, resulting in millions of civilian deaths and involved us in two unnecessary wars with a price tag of well over $3 trillion (Stiglitz and and Bilmes, 2008, The Three Trillion Dollar War, New York, Norton) while welcoming a resurgence of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Republican refusal to acknowledge climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects is the perfect example of wilful blindness to reality. As Jared Diamond pointed out in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005, New York, Viking Press), failure to acknowledge and cope with reality is the sign of a society bound to fail. The fact that Trump was elected and is still supported by many, despite the fact that anyone who was paying attention knew exactly how immoral, corrupt, and irrational he is, which he demonstrates on a daily basis, just proves the corruption of Republicans in general and Republican politicians in particular.

Let’s hope when our society collapses it does not take the rest of humanity down with it, as it threatens to do.

October 1

Presenter Dick
Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation by Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams. Monthly Review, 2017.

Publisher’s Description: Sickened by the contamination of their water, their air, of the Earth itself, more and more people are coming to realize that it is capitalism that is, quite literally, killing them. It is now clearer than ever that capitalism is also degrading the Earth’s ability to support other forms of life. Capitalism’s imperative—to make profits at all costs and expand without end—is destabilizing the Earth’s climate, while increasing human misery and inequality on a planetary scale. Already, hundreds of millions of people are facing poverty in the midst of untold wealth, perpetual war, growing racism, and gender oppression. The need to organize for social and environmental reforms has never been greater. But crucial as reforms are, they cannot solve our intertwined ecological and social crises. Creating an Ecological Society reveals an overwhelmingly simple truth: Fighting for reforms is vital, but revolution is essential.
Because it aims squarely at replacing capitalism with an ecologically sound and socially just society, Creating an Ecological Society is filled with revolutionary hope. Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams, who have devoted their lives to activism, Marxist analysis, and ecological science, provide informed, fascinating accounts of how a new world can be created from the ashes of the old. Their book shows that it is possible to envision and create a society that is genuinely democratic, equitable, and ecologically sustainable. And possible—not one moment too soon—for society to change fundamentally and be brought into harmony with nature.

September 3

Three articles to be discussed in the upcoming Climate Change Forum on Sunday, September 3, at the Fayetteville Library are “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, appearing in the New York Magazine, July 9, 2017, “Are We Doomed?” by Richard Heinberg, published in Resilience July 27, 2017, and “The Planet Is Warming, and It’s Okay to be Afraid,” by Margaret Klein Salamon, appearing in Common Dreams, July 17, 2017. These are some of the most current ideas on climate change and what can be done about it. Wallace-Wells presents the well-known and scientifically accepted catastrophic viewpoint of sea level rise, ocean acidification, economic crash, rising global temperatures, drought, forest fires, insufficient potable water, inability to grow food for ever-increasing world population, climate plagues, refugees, unbreathable air, perpetual war. He states, “But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough.”

Margaret Klein Salamon responds to what to many may be Wallace-Wells alarmist point of view by saying this is the way to come to terms with the climate crisis. Salamon is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Climate Mobilization, a group calling for a WWII response. This organization has proposed “The Leap Manifesto” which will be discussed.

Heinberg, a well-known energy expert, leader of Post-Carbon Institute and frequent writer for Resilience ezine, responds to doomsday, saying yes, there will be a different future, but we can prepare for it through renewables, reducing energy usage, growing resilient communities, reducing population and resource consumption. But “our current ‘normal’ way of life is toast.” We can have a controlled crash. “Are we doing enough? If ‘Enough’ means ‘enough to avert a system crash,’ then the answer is no…The question should be, What can we do…”

Come to the Library Sunday afternoon to discuss what we can do.

New York magazine, The Uninhabitable Earth: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html (And if you want to see a version with footnotes look for the link below the article’s title.

Heinberg, Are We Doomed? Let’s Have a Conversation: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-07-27/are-we-doomed-lets-have-a-conversation/

The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid