Virginia SUN State Representative
The question posed by the Occupy movement during its ten minutes of mainstream media play was, “You’re working for capitalism. Is capitalism working for you?” Occupy responded: “Another world is possible.”
It is increasingly clear that another world is not only possible, but necessary. The cadence of daily drumbeat of bad environmental news increases: icecaps melting, glaciers receding, oceans acidifying, starfish melting, deep-sea fish washing up on West Coast shores, Fukushima, soils eroding… all of which seems to be the work of unnamed, anonymous agents. When the truth is that WE are responsible; just as with innocents maimed and slaughtered in our endless foreign wars and drone strikes, we are the responsible parties. That realization carries a responsibility: if you do not wish to remain culpable, you have to do something different.
For me, the SUN project is that something different.
From engagement with the Doomstead Diner, I have discovered a community of like minded people sharing concerns about vital issues: the inevitability that business as usual (BAU) was finished; the relationship of energy to money and wealth; the inevitable end of the “happy motoring” lifestyle, victim of energy no longer cheap enough to drill or mine; that the financial system was a Ponzi scheme of immense proportions, and one that until and just until the “winners” decide to take their winnings off the table. Another key topic of discussion is the externalization of real costs from the capitalists to the consumers, particularly in areas of public health and safety, and environmental costs. We have reached the point where the environmental bill is coming due in many localities, and citizens don’t want to pay the tab.
In southeastern Virginia, where I live, the sober Virginia Institute of Marine Science has published a report on recurrent coastal flooding. It offered four scenarios:
- The lowest or “historic” scenario is a projection of observed long-term rates of sea-level rise going back a century or more. It incorporates no acceleration.
- The “low” scenario is based on the IPCC 4th Assessment model using conservative assumptions about future greenhouse gas emission.
- The “high” scenario is based on the upper end of projections from semi-empirical models using statistical relationships in global observations of sea level and air temperature.
- The “highest” scenario is based on estimated consequences from global warming combined with the maximum possible contribution from ice-sheet loss and glacial melting (a practical worst-case scenario based on current understanding).
For planning purposes the VIMS report recommends anticipation of a 1.5-foot rise in sea level above the 1992 datum within the next 20 to 50 years (2033 – 2063). If you’re scoring at home, that’s a foot and a half rise in sea level minimum.
That’s a sobering calculation. Especially when you consider that sea level is only one factor. Coastal Virginia endures generally glancing blows from hurricanes, nor’easters and intense rainstorms, resulting in high tides and storm surge. Other factors include land use change, sediment load, groundwater withdrawal, and land subsidence as well.
Some say that sinking land rather than rising seas, is the bigger worry here. One study has it that sea levels around the Chesapeake Bay less quickly than other places in the world. The bad news is that coastal lands around the Bay are sinking more rapidly than elsewhere, especially in Hampton Roads.
It is this sinking phenomenon, called subsidence, that makes Hampton Roads one of the spots in the United States most vulnerable to rising sea levels and to events such as flooding, tidal surges and storms. Only New Orleans is more susceptible.
Faced with rising seas, fiercer storms and sinking land, Virginia’s mayors and emergency responders voice frustration at a state government controlled by rural conservatives still denying the problem. Ultimately that’s a search for funds for mitigation. Already, residents of the island nation of Kiribati face the stark reality that within several decades, they will be climate refugees. It’s an open question as to how long it will take before residents of America’s coastal regions will find themselves faced with the same stark reality. What some will do is move before the emergency splashes through their front door.
And that’s part of why the SUN project is so important to me. If I ever had any doubt about the effects of anthropogenic global warming, or the moral bankruptcy of our habits of living, I would not after coming face to face with the effects. Solutions will not come from industry, from government, from some seemingly benevolent NGO: they will ultimately come from people like us who search for them.
At current, SUN poses more questions than solutions. Yet is the search for answers that makes SUN so valuable.
As noted on the Genesis page, the greatest problems we face long term are Food and Water Security. At some future point, it seems inevitable that Just In Time delivery and the monetary system that fuels the waste will come to an end. This “Great Reset” will involve an unimaginable dislocation for the unprepared; think of the Black Friday riots at Wal-Mart as a light scrimmage. Our charge will be to build our own resilient local systems using the lowest possible energy inputs and least damage to the surrounding environment.
In the end, the goal is to disseminate the knowledge, to teach more people to be self sufficient while at the same time securing our own needs in this world.
The first task of the SUN Project is to raise funds to creation of a working intentional community, based on permaculture principles and informed by a vision of sustainability. A working model will provide a demonstration that these principles work. Subsequent activities for SUN will be to educate others to replicate the model and to share hard won, practical knowledge. Some of us are skilled or budding permaculturists; some of us don’t know a seed from a shovel. But all of realise the enormity of the challenges facing us, particularly in the face of anthropogenic global warming In the clear and present danger to our current, unsustainable way of life.
Another world is not only, possible but essential. It is up to us who realize it to assist in ushering it in.