Can we mobilize fast enough?

Dr. Huidae Cho
Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis...University of North Georgia

1   Are we experiencing our own apocalypse?

the death of our civilization is no longer a theory or an academic possibility; it is the road we’re on

Peter Goldmark, Director, Climate Defense Fund

Can we mobilize fast enough to save our civilization?

Are we willing to change?

2   Indicators

Economic recession

  • Declining industrial output
  • Rising unemployment
  • Falling consumer confidence

Civilization collapse

  • Food prices
  • Hunger trends
  • Number of failing states increasing

3   Geopolitics of food scarcity

Affluent grain-importing countries are buying land in poorer countries to control land and water resources.

Emerging cross-border competition for food supply

Bans on imported/exported foods to manipulate costs in order to put some farmers or national economies out of “business”

Wars—both civil or international—over food, water, and other sustenance natural resources instead of over petroleum/oil or material goods

4   Restructuring the global economy with Plan B objectives

Stabilizing climate

Stabilizing population

Eradicating poverty

Restoring economy’s natural support systems

5   New economy

Powered by renewable sources of energy

Diversified transport system

Reuse/recycle everything

Creation of an honest market

  • Tells the ecological truth
  • Restructures the tax system by reducing income taxes and raising taxes on destructive systems
  • Calculating indirect costs transparently

6   Tax shifts

1999–2003—Germany shifted taxes from labor to energy

  • Reduced CO2 emissions by 20 million tons
  • Created 250,000 jobs
  • Now, they are offering free education to all on a global scale

2001–2006—Sweden shifted taxes from income to environmentally destructive activities

  • Such as hikes in vehicle and fuel taxes
  • Now, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, and UK also have this policy

cutting income taxes while increasing gasoline taxes would lead to more economic growth, less traffic congestion, safer roads, and reduced risk of global warming—all without jeopardizing long-term fiscal solvency

Gregory Mankiw, Fortune Magazine

In Denmark, the registration tax on a new car exceeds the price of the car – $20,000 retail ⇒ $36,000 registration tax

In Singapore, a Ford Focus costs $45,500 because of all of the taxes.

7   Cap and trade systems

Governments set limits on catch or emissions or other environmentally destructive activities.

They also permit businesses to operate under these guidelines in order to reach a sustainable situation.

Permits are more complicated than tax systems.

Tradable permits “require establishing complex regulatory frameworks, defining the permits, establishing the rules for the trade, and preventing people from acting without a permit” -– Edwin Clark, economist

And these are only done within a single country.

Needed on global scale for major positive impact.

8   Eliminating subsidies

Carbon emissions could be cut in scores of countries simply by eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

  • Belgium, France, and Japan have phased out all subsidies for coal

Reflection: What is the difference/similarities between oil subsidies in Iraq and coal subsidies in European countries?


  • Extreme subsidies for oil encourage car ownership and gas consumption
  • If its $37-billion annual subsidy were phased out, carbon emissions would drop by 49%


  • Reduced its coal subsidy from 6.7 billion euros in 1996 to 2.5 billion euros in 2007
  • Coal use dropped by 34% between 1991 and 2006
  • Plans to phase out this subsidy by 2018

9   Energy shift

After energy demand is stabilized by dramatically improving efficiency and replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.

Generating electricity and heat will reduce carbon emissions in 2020 by more than 3.2 billion tons.

United States is NOT really working on this energy shift.

Have you heard about any of this in any presidential election/campaigns?

Consider recent events like oil pipeline expansion?

10   Three models of social change

10.1   Catastrophic event model or Pearl Harbor model

Ecologically, this would be an apocalyptic event such as Antarctica breaking up.

10.2   Tipping point model

Society reaches a tipping point on a particular issue often after an extended period of gradual change in thinking and attitudes.

Berlin Wall or tobacco smoking use shift in US

10.3   Sandwich model

Strong grassroots movement pushing for change on a particular issue that is fully supported by political leadership at the top.

Are US leaders really listening to the people?

Or are they manipulating people to believe that

  • more capitalism,
  • more throwaway society,
  • more fossil fuels,
  • and not worrying about global social issues

are NOT leading our civilization in decline?

11   What can I/you do?

Saving civilization is not a spectator sport!

Take political actions and make behavior changes—Lightbulbs, transport, diet, etc.

Climate footprint differences

  • Between a diet rich in red meat and a plant-based diet
  • Between driving a gas-guzzling SUV and an efficient electric car

During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Americans to adjust their lifestyles.

What contributions can we make today in time, money, or reduced consumption to help save civilization?

12   Can we just solve one problem? Where to start?