Rockefeller Green

Ponder the modern world as an “age” in history’s timeline. Let’s call it the “Fossil Fuel ” age – hundreds, thousands of years from now – marked with linear bookends in high school textbooks. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Ice Age, Fossil Fuel Age – simply another unit of study. Industrialization, steam engines, coal, striking oil, combustion engines, plastics – environmental waste, greenhouse gasses, carbon emissions, fouled water….. Another “age” with a beginning and end.

Historically speaking, each great “age” heralds monumental change – radical departures from “business as usual”. Changing “age” rarely happened without considerable turmoil. Bronze Age copper mines in present day Jordan for instance, obviously not pleased when smelted iron obliterated centuries old bastions of wealth and power. Control was reassigned, fortunes dried up or shifted, fresh opportunities presented themselves – ultimately civilization advanced. Ages of man don’t politely roll over, respectfully making way for new eras to benefit all. The Stone Age and smattering of Ice Ages aside – dawning of a new age, meant radical adjustments in wealth and power.

Like it or not, the Fossil Fuel Age is waning. On the precipice of disaster, mankind is waking to the certainty of change. Despite campaigns of denial and misinformation by corporations terrified to loose their bottom line, seeds of sobering reality are taking root.

Before today I’d never heard of the Divest-Invest Movement. From grass-root campaigns on college campuses to this week’s UN Summit on Climate Change, the movement is not only alive and well, but gaining momentum. In a nutshell – pension plans, corporations, and individual investors are pledging to “divest” themselves of oil, coal, and energy stocks – investing in “green” energy alternatives.

On the eve of the UN summit, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced intentions to divest (sell off) fossil fuel stocks. Rockefeller – a name synonymous with “old money”, “big oil” and the “1%” – publicly ditching oil stock? The Rockefeller organization – with estimated assets of $860 million, pledged to eliminate oil and tar sand investment, placing a minimum 10% funds in alternate energy sources. Rockefeller joins 180 organizations, universities, pension funds and scores of individuals in what has become a $50 billion dollar pledge to “divest” fossil fuels in favor of sustainable energy.

Fifty billion might sound like the GNP of a small nation – don’t kid yourself, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions oil companies spend every day on exploration and development. Until now, the list of divestment pledge members read like a ho-hum roll call of  usual suspects – the Sierra Club, World Council of Churches, city of San Fransisco, Stanford University (notably Harvard and the University of California refuse to divest), local foundations few have heard of – Rockefeller on the other hand, raises awareness to the stratosphere.

The age of fossil fuel won’t end in my lifetime. If we’re lucky – my children’s. children’s children will open their history book and study this moment in history – the beginning of the end to another age of man. If we’re unlucky – civilization will huddle beneath artificial domes protecting us from solar radiation and toxic gasses.


Six Degrees

Ponder this – The average temperature of earth during the last ice age was only 6 degrees cooler than it is now. The industrial revolution of the 19th century heralded the age of burning fossil fuels. Since our industrial blast furnace began belching noxious fumes – average temperatures have increased by 1 degree. A single degree; responsible for glaciers calving at unprecedented rates, and massive 100 year storms becoming all too frequent.

A study by the International Social Survey Program was recently published by the Science World Report. Covering 33 countries over a 17 year period from 1993 – 2010; it concluded global warming is becoming less and less of a hot topic. Only 4.7% rated the environment as a pressing concern, with most people calling it a national rather than personal problem.

A story in the news today reported on rising food prices due to recent drought in North American farming regions. Within a few years dry land farming will surely become one for the history books. America’s corn belt was devastated last year, with the lowest rainfall in decades. Call me crazy but this should be seen as something far more than somebody else’s problem.

Big oil seems to have figured it out; at least a few big old Texas oilmen. T. Boone Pickens purchased 68,000 acres in Roberts County, Texas; along with the rights to drain 50% of the water. He sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer – the largest aquifer in America. In 2008 the Bush family purchased 100,000 acres in Paraguay – strategically placed over Guarani Aquifer; considered to be the largest in the world.

We need to start thinking about climate change from a different point of view. The debate over its cause will continue to rage, our hand in hastening natural cycles is no longer the point. The world is changing; our weather will become increasingly violent, and the ice will melt faster than it can be replaced. If we can move on to acceptance there’s a fighting chance to wrap our heads around the problem.

Six little degrees is all that stands between us and the last ice age. It doesn’t take much to turn our comfortable existence upside down.