Brian O’Leary (www.brianoleary.info; http://email@example.com), June 14, 2010
Imagine looking at the Earth from the Moon, or through a telescope from Mars or Venus. What would you see? The astronauts tell us we can take in a feast for the eyes and soul far greater than the separated green and blue planet of standard maps, or Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot as seen from deep space. Instead, we see a vibrant, ever-changing blend of turquoise and white on a living, swirling, rotating disk. The Earth from this vantage point still looks alive, symbolizing hope. It’s when we zoom in closer to survey from the land, water and air that the pollution becomes evident. The abuse of our planet cries out for a massive restoration to health and living vitality on every scale, from the largest continent, ocean and air space down to the tiniest microbe and electron.
Humankind has created a synthetic world that works against nature rather than with nature. As a result, our world is woefully unsustainable in spite of the best intentions of many of us. We must now act decisively to reverse the exploitation of the Earth’s resources if we as a civilization are to have any hope to survive and thrive. Because of the dirty extraction of coal, oil, metals, water, food and forests and the destruction of our ecosystems through the pollution of our land, air, and waterways, we are fast approaching the tipping point of depletion while co-creating for ourselves and our bewildered brothers and sisters in the animal and plant kingdoms a pathetically ravaged planet. Although there are viable solutions to this dilemma, these solutions have so far been banned from widespread discussion, even among those of us who should know better–the scientists, environmentalists and progressives.
I am a scientist, environmentalist and progressive, and have been these for a long time. I can empathize with those of you similarly inclined but who are immersed in a career where paradigm paralysis and political correctness carry the day. The result is widespread ignorance about the full range of possible solutions. I know this because I’ve been there. I confess it’s taken me a long time to emerge from the limitations of my own career, during which I was oblivious to solutions that I now know we must embrace, and soon, if we are to have any real hope for the future.
During most of my 70 years I’ve been an optimist, believing that radical innovation could bring us abetter world. But when exploring what it would truly take for us scientists, environmentalists and progressives to lead the way to sustainability in harmony with nature, I realize that we have been unable to reach a consensus, in part because of the extraordinary cultural resistance that we are struggling against. We the people have been divided and ruled by a global corporate system with very different goals from ours. We haven’t been able to take effective action due to a blend of social, political and economic pressures that have disempowered us in such a subtle way that we are often not even aware of it.
By not taking effective action, we by default cooperate with the powers-that-be in co-creating the world we see. Our solutions so far are too little too late. Initiatives such as www.350.org and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals provide an excellent critique of the way-things-are and set important goals to undo all that, but they are surprisingly ineffective at expressing the means of how we can go about it. Innovative solutions are available for those who are willing to take off their blinders and look for them. We ignore innovation at our peril.
The solutions so far suggested by mainstream scientists, environmentalists and progressives—such as solar, wind or biofuel energy technologies; the use of chemical materials and agricultural and pharmaceutical practices; bio-technologies and nano-technologies; and geoengineering remedies such as spewing particles into the atmosphere to compensate for greenhouse emissions and global warming—collectively have their own hazards and will not do the job we really need to do. At the very best, some of these solutions will buy us a little time. But when we consider full lifecycle environmental costs, these proposed solutions will not nearly give us a sustainable world. For example, a solar collector or windmill might produce renewable energy, but we usually ignore the impact of extracting, refining, transporting and disposing of the materials (e.g., see Annie Leonard’s animated “The Story of Stuff,” http://www.storyofstuff.org ). We have to be honest about this. As a species we must be more intelligent about the choices we make, and we must look to nature for as many of the answers as possible.
We scientists, environmentalists and progressives should debate these issues within a larger context so that we can eventually agree upon a course of action from a position unbeholden to current priorities and practices. The problem is social not technical, for the solutions exist within the frontiers of our imagination and experimentation. Responsibly applied outside-the-box innovations wait in the wings for their cultural opportunity. We can have a truly sustainable future if we move beyond limited beliefs inculcated by an aggressive Western tradition and reinforced by the pressures of education, career, funding, vested interests and fear of reprisal for doing anything different. Having spent the past four decades researching clean solutions to our environmental challenges, I am convinced that we can solve these problems, but we scientists, environmentalists and progressives first will need to come together and decide which concepts make the most sense in addressing our planetary emergency and how to implement them. So far there has been little agreement about how to proceed. We continue to complain about the horrendous status quo and agree only that something needs to be done about it.
By merely setting goals without any significant means of achieving them, we become unwittingly complicit in maintaining the status quo. The Apollo and Manhattan projects were successful because of both the stated intention (specific goals) and the substantial R&D efforts authorized to fulfill them. To survive our current planetary emergency, we need to have a similar commitment of substantial resources to achieve creative goals. I believe we can succeed again with the right combination of will, intelligence, wisdom, support, teamwork, courage and compassion.
In this essay I urge my fellow scientists, environmentalists and progressives to suspend disbelief, even for a short while, and discuss among ourselves which outside-the-box ideas to put on the table and what effort it will take to implement them. There are many, many such breakthrough concepts that could be developed but fall under the radar of mainstream discourse. Which ideas–whether or not they appear to be 100% feasible, and whether or not they appear to be a threat to existing powers–can we consider that will be ethical and good for the environment? There is no more pressing need now than the mandate to pursue the responsible introduction of clean energy for all. I am certain that we can reach this goal in the near future if we together co-create the mandate.
For many years I have researched the challenges of our reliance on hydrocarbons and uranium as our principal sources of energy. Fortunately, a large number of scientists, environmentalists and progressives now share an understanding of the fallacies of this reliance. A more intractable issue, however, is achieving consensus about which sources of energy and conversion systems to turn to as a replacement for hydrocarbons and uranium.
Thirty years ago I was impressed by the value of alternative energy such as solar, wind and biofuels, and the possibility of large-scale macro-engineering solutions such as solar power satellites that collect full-time solar energy in orbit and beam the energy down to the Earth by microwaves to large antenna arrays that provide electricity sent to users through grid systems. I was also optimistic about the potential of central-station nuclear fusion power with large Tokamak reactors.
But being a fan of E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and having a growing interest in deep ecology as a philosophy, I began to question my own beliefs. For example, I wondered whether the above-mentioned energy conversion systems are really renewable. It became clear to me that they are not renewable if we consider the cost of materials and land use and/or the grid system requirements of each option. Since very few people take those hidden costs into account, we continue incinerating carbon as our chosen option, not realizing that we are destroying the only planet we have in the process. In a word, humanity has become gross through our unconscious addiction to hydrocarbons. Our choices of energy and other systems have been poorly considered.If we are to have any chance of survival, we need to end the hydrocarbon economy as soon as possible. It is essential that we accept this necessity and begin anew with a program of sustainable practices and innovation, regardless of the economic consequences.
After realizing that the so-called alternative energy sources are not truly renewable, I needed to step outside the box of what had been a limited range of choices, and I stopped advocating traditional “renewables” as our mainstay energy solution. I realized that my point of view was disappointing to many of my scientist, environmentalist and progressive colleagues, but I felt that I had to follow the truth as I understood it, even beyond this “credibility barrier.” In my quest to find a source of energy that would be truly renewable, I discovered a whole new field of breakthrough clean energy, some of which was based on the discoveries of Tesla, Schauberger, Fleischmann, Pons, Mills, Bearden and others. The principles they’ve demonstrated include zero-point (vacuum) energy, cold fusion, advanced hydrogen and water chemistries, and energy from the thermal environment. I also investigated reports of cars that run on water. A whole new science opened to me.
During the 1980s and 1990s I became aware of proofs-of-concept of numerous elegant, clean and abundant energy options. I spent many years researching these possibilities in great detail, often traveling to distant countries to visit and study with some of the best and brightest inventors in the world. Having been newly liberated from the confines of the Princeton Physics department where ideas such as over-unity “free energy” were heresy, my embrace of this “scientific impossibility” clearly set me apart from my former colleagues. But my new insights also opened up a world of new colleagues who were mostly unaffiliated with any establishment institution. These courageous and unrecognized investigators were struggling to bring forward new principles, theories and experiments on the efficacy of anomalous quantum effects, remote healing, consciousness, paranormal phenomena, and energy from the vacuum. A new physics of energy and consciousness was being born and was emerging within the minds of some of the most open and creative researchers.
For most scientists, environmentalists and progressives, as for most other people in mainstream culture, these ideas are still beyond the pale, even though they have been shown to be profoundly real and relevant to our time. The science of physics itself has been going through a major revolution about which most of us are unaware. Even though many scientists, environmentalists and progressives are unfamiliar with the new physics of energy and consciousness, the following questions are nonetheless relevant and compelling: Given the numerous reports of research on breakthrough clean, cheap and decentralized energy sources, should we not support further R&D, even if we’re initially skeptical of the outcome? Shouldn’t we leave no stone unturned in our quest for clean energy? Given the billions spent each day to “fill ‘er up” and to maintain and expand the military, is it not worth the“risk” to spend a fraction of that to explore sustainable breakthrough energy possibilities even if we’re not sure that any of this would ever work? What is there to lose aside from the possibility of professional embarrassment for being wrong one way or another? If we decide to take the risk, we must then ask how, when, where and by whom could the R&D and production most effectively be done? These are the kinds of questions we need to ask in spite of our preconceived notions about what’s possible.
Because these ideas have been pervasively suppressed in the past, it is now up to us scientists, environmentalists and progressives to break the ice and actively consider new choices that could truly give us a sustainable future. Together we can make a big difference in introducing profoundly innovative solutions to the crisis we are facing. But apart we can only expect to see more tinkering with the old paradigm, which will result in more environmental disasters like theBP Gulf oil gusher.
Time and time again, innovators have been disempowered by vested corporate interests in concert with a corrupt political system. After examining many such promising approaches and the dilemmas the innovators have faced, a number of us with experience in areas such as sustainable energy, agriculture, forestry, and materials, water and waste management, decided to team up and invite innovators to come forward with their concepts for independent assessments, free of vested interest. Called the Global Innovation Alliance, we had our first meeting at Montesueños, our eco-retreat in Ecuador, in February 2010 (see inset). Since then, innovators of every stripe have been coming forward to present their ideas, many of which if implemented would make a dramatic contribution toward a sustainable future. Whether in regard to clean, local energy, pure water or elegantly restored ecosystems, we have the ability to co-create a sustainable world, and our work has barely begun.
Our collective experience has already shown us the importance of avoiding the corruption and short-term profit-taking of the energy, agribusiness, pharmaceutical, weapons, chemical and financial industries that continue to this day. We need systemic change of our social systems toward responsible and ethical management practices that compel us to do things very differently; we need to start organizing our solutions from the bottom up (e.g., Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, Haymarket Books, 2010;O’Leary, The Energy Solution Revolution, 2nd edition, Bridger House, 2009). We invite our fellow scientists, environmentalists and progressives to join us in making the assessments, in beginning a dialogue about which technologies are most sustainable, and in publishing the results. We also need to provide information to relevant people in selected governments, most of whom are unaware of the potential for these new technologies.
The story of Ecuador is the familiar story of numerous countries that have depended on the temporary export of oil, gas, minerals, and lumber to sustain their economies. Chevron-Texaco is responsible for leaving behind massive and devastating toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, resulting in what is the largest environmental lawsuit in world history, with claims of $27 billion in damages for the disease and death of the people living in the area. The threat to the environment posed by imminent oil drilling in the Western Amazon region is extremely serious and widespread. The recent news of the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico is a wake-up call to humanity that we can no longer afford to gamble with sources of energy that are killing our planet. Any oil in sensitive environments should be kept in the ground. There has to be another way. Some of us in the Global Innovation Alliance and other groups realize that the government of Ecuador increasingly depends on income from extracting Amazonian oil reserves. Currently one-third of the total revenues come from petroleum exports. We are proposing that these revenues be replaced by income from new energy technologies, sustainable agriculture, medicinal herbs from the rainforest, innovative water treatment, eco-tourism, health tourism, and the acquisition of conservation land trusts through carbon credits and gifts.
We firmly believe that an open acceptance of innovation has the potential to generate sufficient income so that Ecuador can leave the rainforest and its indigenous peoples alone while creating economic sovereignty for itself. We propose that innovation sanctuaries be established, protected by the government, to allow researchers and entrepreneurs to do R&D on their technologies, the most promising of which would be implemented. We propose that the various candidate technologies be assessed for their potential before a decision is reached about entering the marketplace through open-sourcing and product development. This process should involve widespread discussion, debate, and support from interested scientists, environmentalists and progressives.If we are to develop the innovative technologies that humanity so urgently needs, some scientists, environmentalists and progressives must venture out of their comfort zone to learn more about what is possible.
One model for assessing new technology and verifying what is possible is the Office of Technology Assessment in the United States Congress. Established in 1972 as an objective advisory group on the health, environmental and cost implications of various executive branch initiatives, it became an empty shell in the Republican devolution of 1995. Our collective choices in technology have since become entirely the province of economic vested interests and partisan politics, and to hell with the health and the environmental implications.
“Congress needs an independent, impartial, no-axe-to-grind technical adviser under its own roof and responsive to its unique and timely needs,” Ralph Nader recently wrote (www.commondreams.org/print/56665 ). He then urged that Congress revive the Office of Technology Assessment. Approaching the same issue from a global perspective, I propose that we establish a worldwide body of scientists, environmentalists and progressives to expand technology assessments beyond particular institutions and share them with the global commons as a sensible menu of options for our consideration. There is really nothing to stop us from doing this besides our own timidity, or our failure to join forces and advocate for what the world desperately needs.
I also believe we should create an Earth Corps to provide jobs to those who lose them as a result of the transition to a new culture, the funding for which could derive from a reduced military budget and from taxes on pollution. Because there is so much to do in restoring our ravaged environment, it should not be a problem to provide sufficient jobs for anyone who wants to work; the resources for these jobs should come from an economy that can fairly assess the real value of nature, not the contrived values of exploitation, pollution, growth and greed.
The Turquoise Revolution: An Integral, Holistic Vision for Sustainability
For its more than forty years of existence, the Green movement has never managed to be politically effective in achieving its goals. In contrast, the only pervasive force in modern agriculture is the “Green Revolution,” with its intensive mechanistic farming and soil-damaging monocultures wracked with toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetic modifications. This has justifiably attracted much criticism from some Greens who focus on deep ecology and authentic sustainability. But we rarely hear from these individuals, who do not engage in politics and media. There is a growing consensus among many of us that the mainstream environmental movement itself has atrophied into an incremental, politically timid and bought-out force in society. Some of its funding even comes from the oil companies! It has become hostile to more fundamental scientific and integrated approaches to issues, and as a result, the Greens have become effete in contributing to any significant change. This decline of the Green movement has been discussed by the authors of theSpiral Dynamics human development model and further elucidated by philosopher Ken Wilber (http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/books/cowokev7_intro.cfm ).
Most scientists and progressives agree with the values of the Greens but do not see their action plans as bold enough–actions that are, as Mark Morford wrote, “merely the equivalent of trying to water the rainforest with an eyedropper” (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 28, 2007). Many scientists, environmentalists and progressives agree that there needs to be a top-down governmental component, one which adequately reflects a grass-roots passion for sustainability and sovereignty, if we are to achieve real change. The Greens will continue to work within their own set of assumptions, but it makes sense for scientists, environmentalists and progressives to include Green thinking within a more integrated, holistic “second-tier” worldview. According to Wilber, “The advantage of second-tier vision-logic awareness is that it more creatively helps with the solution of these pressing problems.”
In grasping big pictures, it can help suggest more cogent solutions. It is our governing bodies, then, that stand in dire need of a more integral approach. It is our educational institutions, overcome with deconstructive postmodernism, that are desperate for a more integral vision… It is the leadership of developing nations that might appreciate a more comprehensive vision of their own possibilities.In all these ways and more, we could indeed use ‘an integral vision of a world gone mad.’ ”Examples of this new thinking include Gunter Pauli’s The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs (Paradigm Publications, 2010; www.zeri.org ). Pauli lists 100 carefully selected innovations that work well with nature while creating livelihoods for entrepreneurs and over 100million more workers. According to Pauli (p. xxix), “The Green Economy, in spite of much good will and effort, has not achieved the viability so greatly desired. If we shift the spectrum, we see that a Blue Economy addresses the issues of sustainability that go beyond mere preservation. A Blue Economy engages regeneration. We might say that the Blue Economy is about ensuring that ecosystems can maintain their evolutionary path so that all can benefit from nature’s endless flow of creativity, adaptation, and abundance.”
Another nature-friendly integrated approach is Sacha Stone’s Green 2.0 and Exemplar Zero initiatives, which will commit governments to changing their priorities from decimating the rainforest and increasing carbon emissions to innovative approaches to sustainability (www.humanitad.org ).
The Ecuador Initiative I am proposing is yet another integrated approach to solving the dire situation in the Amazon, where an acre of rainforest is destroyed every second and hydrocarbon and metals extraction are increasing at an alarming rate. When we consider the new integrated and holistic approach of Wilber and Spiral Dynamics, what seems to emerge from a big-picture perspective is a “Blue-Green Economy”- a Turquoise Economy–that combines the best attributes of Pauli’s Blue Economy and Stone’s and others’ newer “Green”visions.
The color turquoise also represents the second-tier vision-logic of an integrated, holistic worldview—from which one can see the big picture and act on it. Most of what we see when we view the Earth from space is water, which is the basic stuff of life. Like the Earths surface, we are 75% water, the wondrous substance upon which we rely for our survival. Instead of keeping water pure to ensure our health and the health of the planet, we have treated our bodies and waterways as toxic dumping grounds. But it is important to remember that pure water is also the bridge to healing and higher consciousness within and around us. Recent research suggests that we can heal ourselves and our planet through the medium of water (which could be considered an essential blue element to our green thinking). Researchers have demonstrated that we can purify and energize water, both inside and outside of ourselves, through positive intention and through the vortex science of Viktor Schauberger and others. This relationship between consciousness and water is the basis for a new science of consciousness (e.g.,see “Water: The Great Mystery,” a Russian-made film available on the Internet).
The wondrous relationship between consciousness and water suggests that we are far more intimately connected to our world and one another than we ever dreamed of in the old paradigm. This is the world we’ve inherited, the world we can re-inherit in a new way, if we can openly discuss what it will take to restore what has been so badly abused. To achieve the goals of sustainability, radical innovation in cooperation with nature must become our priority.We need a Turquoise Revolution to restore our lands, air and oceans to their natural state—before it’s too late.
Perhaps the ravaged waters and life in the Gulf of Mexico and the crust beneath it are crying out for us to work with the Earth and its waters through a Blue-Green (Turquoise)movement that will be far more inclusive and effective than any environmental movement in the past. The tragedy in the Gulf represents a last desperate call from Nature for us humans to curb our addiction to hydrocarbons and focus our creativity on developing a truly clean and free source of energy. Do we scientists, environmentalists and progressives have the will to lead the way?