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The Age of Adaptation

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....crisis with deadly consequences is spreading across the globe... It is not the strongest of the species nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. Charles Darwin At least 99.9% of all species that have ever walked, crawled, flown, swum or otherwise abided on Earth, are extinct. Extinction of intelligent species has already happened on Earth. It would be naïve to think that it may not happen again. Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Cirkovic, Future of Humanity Institute University of Oxford A Global Reboot production According to the theory of evolution, all beings evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection Adaptation is the mechanism whereby an organism becomes better suited to deal with changing habitats As a species, human beings have reached now a critical juncture We have entered .... the age of adaptation Chapter # 1 - systemic crisis Bush: We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis Merkel: ...economic crisis of global scope Sarkozy: that the crisis does not hurt anyone's enterprise Wen Jiabao: The crisis that occurred in the United States may have an impact that will affect the whole world Putin: The speed of the crisis' development beats every record... Brown: There is no one country that can solve this crisis on its own Obama: This constitutes a full-blown crisis... Our leaders acted immediately to respond to the economic crisis Yet, international plans to tackle climate change have always been delayed Indeed, our model of development is based on systematic exploitation of natural resources We do not create wealth. We simply turn natural resources into money In doing so, we have inflated our planet with carbon dioxide thinking that, sooner or later, it would go away But it didn’t work Most of our activity because it's fossil fuel powered must be unsustainable, we can't continue forever We can't continue to find fossil fuels forever and even if we could, there's now deep concerns that the climate... ... the atmosphere, cannot assimilate that level of waste In the past century, most countries have developed by increasing their level of CO2 emissions due to the exploitation of natural resources Since the 1950s, developing countries as well have embraced the same approach thereby emitting growing quantities of CO2 before being able see progress in terms of national wealth The rationale behind this process was the complete trust in continuous economic growth represented by one single indicator: the gross domestic product also known as GDP The GDP was invented in the 1940s to measure the value of goods and services produced in a country Ever since, politicians have spread the mantra of GDP as the supreme goal of social and economic development From industrialized nations, this enthusiasm rapidly spread to developing countries Lula: We'd have to make the country grow... ...and that is exactly what is happening in Brazil Wen Jiabao: Our GDP grew by 9%... ...when china, a large developing country runs its affairs well... can help restore confidence in global economic growth Manmohan Singh: That the long term outlook for India's economy... ...remains strong and robust ...a 9% growth trajectory But what does GDP tell us about wellbeing? Simon Kuznets, the economist who developed the GDP formula was the first one to warn against misusing his indicator He argued that ‘the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income' and that ‘distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth’ 'more growth of what and for what’... If GDP is what we think is success, people will strive for... GDP! And political leaders all the time say: look at what we've done, I... I - they always put it.... I've succeeded in getting the economy to grow at 6% Now what HE did is hard to figure out, but the politician does that 'I've created x million jobs'. That's part of the political rhetoric The question is, by doing that, they focus policies on things that will increase GDP Occasionally, though, some have criticized the GDP fever and the illusion of infinite growth Robert Kennedy campaign 1968 Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things That Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children the quality of their education or the joy of their play It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages the intelligence of our public debates It measures neither our wit nor our courage neither our wisdom nor our learning neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country it measures everything in short except that which makes life worthwhile Even though it does not measure real wellbeing GDP has now acquired a life of its own In its name, the world has been pushing economic growth at all costs by depleting the planet’s natural resources most of which come from poor countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa If our world were a country, it would be one of the most unjust in history 1.5 billion people live on less than 1 Dollar a day 10 million die every year of hunger Rising food prices may push 100 million people deeper into poverty Meanwhile we are making our planet even hotter through our habits of consumption so we further contribute to climate change thereby endangering our natural world and the ecosystem in which we live When I was growing up the whole village was forested We had big forest that as kids we were scared to get inside Now when I look back, many years later all this has disappeared The many streams, the many springs, the many rivers that we used to swim in as children ...are all gone The greenhouse effect caused by CO2 emissions has wreaked havoc with our climate In the past five years, the number of natural disasters has increased by over 38 times if compared to the beginning of the 20th century Besides floods, droughts and other natural disasters changing weather patterns affect our ability to grow food and access drinking water In turn, this makes people more vulnerable and increases the likelihood of famine and conflict Farmers can no longer predict rain periods In the past they would prepare their fields with that accuracy and it would normally concern the rains This time they have to gamble So it's not uncommon to see farmers divide their seeds during planting time Just plant half of it and hold back to see what happens Will the rains come on time? Because if they plant everything at the same time it goes Again, linked to poverty It's really quite a complicated issue So people are confused, they can no longer predict and things are quite different We must be able to ‘connect the dots’ The economic crunch increasing poverty and inequality and climate change are converging into a ‘systemic crisis’ resulting from the pursuit of infinite growth that our development model dictates These crises are closely connected and more worryingly they are mutually reinforcing Chapter # 2 - resistance to change We know that this process is not sustainable and yet we try our best to avoid changing our development model We want to believe there can be technical solutions to address these convergent crises Advertisers have quickly caught on to the growing concern of consumers to reduce their environmental impact A new commercial rhetoric is being used to promote technological remedies to address ecological degradation Climate change has quickly become a new business Advert by CLEAN COAL - I belive in the future - in the future I believe in protecting the environment I believe in energy independence I believe we can limite greenhouse gases and keep energy costs affordable I believe in technology brings out the best in us We will do this I believe - I believe - I believe we can be energy independent We can continue to use our most abundant fuel cleanly and responsibly We can. We will. Clean Coal " Speaking of clean coal is like speaking of healthy cigarettes " - Al Gore Some people believe and look for the technofix Rather than changing behaviour the way we're thinking, the way we live we're still hanging out for the technofix The technological solution that will simply allow us to carry on and solve our problems I'm not a great believer in the technofix The most popular technofix is probably carbon offsetting a service available to private companies and individuals alike Thousands of new websites have sprung up on the internet promising to develop mechanisms that will offset the personal carbon footprint of their clients These websites help you calculate your environmental footprint and then offer the possibility to neutralize it by purchasing specific services ranging from investments in renewable energies to planting trees These services are usually quite cheap and for a few tens of dollars they provide a rather easy way to make consumers feel less responsible for emissions caused by their last holidays their daily electricity consumption and their commute to work These days it seems like almost everyone has started making some changes towards a more eco-friendly life And at BEF we can help you discover even more simple ways to soften your impact But we also realize that reducing our carbon footprint only goes part of the way to a truly clean lifestyle That's why we developed our carbon offsets program At BEF we view our carbon offset as an investment in clean energy Because burning fossil fuels for energy is the main cause of global warming we decided to focus our efforts there At the root of the problem It's actually quite simple Your carbon offset allows you to make an important decision Dirty fossil fuels, or clean energy Finally you have a choice Just like you can choose between fuel efficient or gas guzzling vehicles When you take responsibility for your carbon footprint the funds go directly to build BEF winds and solar projects And when we produce clean energy and feed it into the system or energy pool, the dirty, non-renewable sources are scaled back as wind and solar take over Which means less carbon dioxide in our atmosphere Changing the way we create energy is the most meaningful way to slow down, and eventually stop climate change This is an evolution, the way we live on our planet, that cannot wait Offsets give us the power to choose this change right now BEF also guarantees that your support of clean energy is money properly spent Green E, a national third party certification ensures that we deliver what we say we will deliver If you fly from here back to Europe well that takes about 24 hours to get there and the carbon is emitted over that 24 hour period When you buy an offset which might be somebody planting some trees on your behalf the question you have to ask yourself is that over how long a period is the carbon in the offset going to take to sequestrate your 24 hours of emitting behaviour Very few people buy enough trees to be planted that will offset the carbon in a 24 hour period Very few people actually buy enough offset to plant trees for one year to offset that 24 hours of activity And if you only buy a few trees it may take a hundred years or whatever the growth period of those trees are before they reach maturity to offset that 24 hour activity And the question you have to ask yourself is what did you do the next day Did you emit no carbon the next day for the next 100 years while your trees grow? Of course not So the danger is that the offsetting behaviour will never keep up with and never catch up with your emiting activity So unless you can systematically find other ways of reducing carbon in your emitting activities or any GHG (green house gas) the tree planting is never going to be sufficient Planting trees to capture carbon is quite easy but presents several problems Trees have to be protected throughout their whole natural life after which timber has to be stored properly so that it does not decompose releasing carbon back into the atmosphere At the moment, wind turbines and solar panels are produced by using energy from fossil fuels and in the short run a sharp growth in the production of these tools might increase the level of CO2 Therefore carbon offsetting has been criticized by many with scientific arguments and by some with irony Now what we do is 'cheat offseting' So if you're in a relationship or you're lucky enough to be with someone and for whatever reasons something goes a little bit wrong One of you does something that you probably shouldn't have ... Yeah right... Well what you can do is you can come to us and pay us a small amount of money and what we do is we take that money and we invest it in couples like yourselves who are faithful to each other and that way we can neutralize the damage that you've done to your relationship All we're doing is taking this well-established concept of carbon offsetting and moving it into the arena of cheating Carbon offsetting doesn't provide us with a solution to climate change and it in fact delays people in making real changes in their lifestyles And the longer we put off those changes the harder it's going to be to make them The more damaging and the more destructive it's going to be when we do eventually have to move to this low carbon economy If you depict it as a caricature you have a rather indulgent, overfed, fat westerner buying offsets, thinking they're doing a great thing and then there's some poor african being displaced from their land in order to put in a monoculture forest so the westerner can carry on their activity So there's a real justice issue in here that often doesn't surface, necessarily Based on the Kyoto Protocol the European system of ‘cap and trade’ is considered the most advanced policy to curb climate change It is an administrative approach used to control CO2 emissions by providing allowances to firms and companies and then let the market regulate how these credits can be traded However, this system reveals the same shortcomings as the carbon offset principle How are allowances established? How does one make sure they do not become permissions to pollute? Unfortunately contradictions are quite common in the European context Recently, the European Union has approved new drilling in the arctic following the pressure of oil companies interested in exploiting the new possibilities offered by melting ice caps to establish oil fields at the North Pole Remember that the underlying philosophy here is to create a market that allows people to trade carbon credits that will create a price for carbon that will then create an incentive for conventional activities, if you like, to decarbonize or take the carbon out of their systems And the price of carbon creates that incentive But the market will also create a possibility where you have... just pure traders that buy and sell credits to try and make money out of them As long as we refuse to recognize that climate change is simply revealing the unsustainability and profound injustice of our development model we will not be able to address the systemic crisis the world is facing State policies, market dynamics and technological innovation can surely help, but only if they become part of a general revolution of our way of life Chapter # 3 - adaptation It's changing faster than people can cope So it's creating more vulnerability Now we see longer dry spells or heavy rain falls Like in Kenya, where I come from you can split the country into two The northern half that really suffers from long droughts or very bighting droughts Or when there's no drought there are very severe floods In western parts of Kenya we have perennial floods People can no longer predict anymore More cyclones will be generated and they will be generated earlier in the season and they will also be generated further south further away from the equator Climate change is no longer just a possibility It is happening Everywhere A recent study by the British charity Oxfam reports that the number of people affected by climate-related disasters will rise by over 50% in the next five years The Global Humanitarian Forum a think-tank run by Kofi Annan estimates that climate change is responsible for 3 hundred thousand deaths every year and that this number could grow more than twofold by 2030 There are two types of responses to counter the climate crisis: mitigation of the effects and adaptation to change Since 2000, when the Kyoto protocol was adopted CO2 emissions have not decreased On the contrary, they have continued growing and climate change has accelerated its pace To mitigate climate change our governments should have acted much sooner and more aggressively As a result, human beings are now left with essentially one option: adapt For many many centuries people have adapted to the physical climate in which they find themselves I think it is just happening so rapidly now that people struggle to keep up They are also probably finding themselves in a situation where they're not quite sure how exactly do they go about to adapt What will the future hold If they adapt, let's say just agricultural practices, today in five years time what new adaptation do they need to do And I think that uncertainty, where people are very cautious 'cause in many cases this is the livelihood of many, many communities. The process of adaptation will not only affect poor countries It will have an impact on rich countries too Since 1999, the NATO military alliance has been developing strategies to deal with the new phenomenon of environmental security In April 2009, the European Union has further integrated its approach for adaptation to climate change "Even if the world succeeds in reducing emissions our planet will take time to recover from the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere Thus we will be faced with the impact of climate change for at least the next 50 years". European Union - White Paper on adaptation to climate change According to the EU climate change will bring longer and drier summers leading to more use of air-conditioning thereby creating a heavy temporary demand for electricity 1 billion people may be forced to move between now and 2050 in a dire global crisis with more far-reaching consequences than the aftermath of World War II Floods are already Europe's costliest natural catastrophe but a more devastating long-term threat is the complete collapse of the Greenland ice sheet which would cause a 7-meter-sea-level rise thus destroying major cities like London and Amsterdam Because of rising sea levels some of the most beautiful European cities might disappear in the next decades Our development model based on continuous economic growth has left the planet with a systemic crisis of rising poverty, unstable economies and global ecological disaster Our planet is a universe of unique beauty and renewable energy, which makes human life possible To recreate all processes that nature offers us for free from water flows to pollination we would need to spend more than a thousand times the global economy Who can afford that? I do believe if we carry on the way we are we will pick the earth bare of resource and will make the atmosphere so badly polluted that we simply can't continue the way we are So there's actually a moral responsibility by the international community So, I think, the moral responsibility of the international community combined with home-grown solutions looking again at the coping strategies and how we can fill in the gaps I think we really need a concerted effort There are no alternatives to adaptation but we can still decide how to adapt There are two possible scenarios We can continue with our development model based on economic growth and prepare for the worst Or we can view climate change as a warning As the final evidence of the deep injustices that ravage our societies Perhaps, this might be our last chance the age of adaptation a film by Janine Schall-Emden and Lorenzo Fioramonti produced by Global Reboot in partnership with Beyond Development Inc. editing and post-production Riccardo Fioramonti design Studio Zot language support Rosemarie Schall-Emden and Helga Mostlener music by Lorenzo Fioramonti and open source tracks news and disaster footage from Wikipedia, Fora TV, Youtube, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera A special thanks to Markus Milne, University of Canterbury - New Zealand John Abuya, ActionAid - Kenya Didier Yound CARE - Madagascar Dewald Van Niekerk, ACDS - South Africa Carol Kayira, ActionAid - Malawi Edward Merger, Albert-Ludwigs University - Germany Locations: Austria, Belgium, Egypt, Fiji, Germany, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Venezuela This film does not pretend to be carbon neutral. Most of the footage was taken during field visits for international development programmes. Our commitment is to continue advocating for these issues in our work and personal life By distributing this documentary on the internet we hope to make a small contribution towards positive social change.

Video Details

Duration: 31 minutes and 36 seconds
Country: Italy
Language: English
Producer: Global Reboot
Director: Janine Schall-Emden, Lorenzo Fioramonti
Views: 258
Posted by: janine_se on Oct 21, 2009

The 'Age of Adaptation' conveys an urgent message to move away from our current development model that pursues infinite growth at all costs. This documentary explains how global warming, social inequality and economic instability are converging into a systemic crisis affecting the whole planet.

The 'Age of Adaptation' also uncovers the rhetoric behind many alleged techniques to resolve climate change, from clean coal to carbon offsetting, and concludes that only a general 'reboot' of our social and economic model can help us adapt to the challenges lying ahead.

As part of the social communication campaign 'Global Reboot' (, this documentary attempts to stimulate debate on how we can individually and collectively 'reboot' our system.

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