Calling Hydrocarbons Anonymous: Admitting my oil addiction…

Living with climate change

On the set of Sri Lanka 2048: Living with climate change

I have finally done it…and not a moment too soon!

There I was, moderating an hour-long TV debate on Saturday evening prime time television on Sri Lanka’s premier English language Channel One MTV. Our topic for this edition of Sri Lanka 2048 was living with climate change. After exploring its many facets, I was beginning to wind up.

But not before underlining the need for us to take personal responsibility for changing our lifestyles whose cumulative impact on the planet is significant.

The philosophical and political debates over climate change will continue for a long time, I said. Meanwhile, we have to live with climate change impacts that are already happening…and change how we use energy and resources so that we don’t make matters any worse.

This means we must consume less, share more, live simply and pursue smart solutions through green technologies. Of course, at the basis of all this is finding meaningful, practical ways of kicking our addiction to oil.

That’s when I put my hand up and admitted, on air, my own substance addiction: I am hooked on hydrocarbons, a.k.a. petroleum. I’m struggling to break free from it, but it’s not easy.

Of course, my individual addiction pales into insignificance when we look at how entire industries, sectors and countries are addicted to oil and stubbornly insist on continuing the status quo. But we must be the change we seek, so it’s never too late for me to work on my oil problem. When enough of us individuals do, countries and economies will follow.

But people with addictions often need expert guidance, as well as to keep the company of fellow addicts who are similarly trying to kick the habit. That’s why those having drinking problems find help in Alcoholics Anonymous.

We oil addicts could do with some organised help — environmental activist groups, please note. And Sir Arthur C Clarke has already suggested the perfect name for such a movement: Hydrocarbons Anonymous. Read his 2004 essay on Hydrocarbons Anonymous.

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Race Against Time

Nalaka Gunawardene moderates Sri Lanka 2048: Race Against Time

Here’s what the promotional blurb for last weekend’s show said:

Sri Lanka 2048 looks at living with climate change: how challenges can become opportunities

Climate change is no longer a theory; it’s already happening. What awaits Sri Lanka – and how best can we adapt to live with extreme weather events, disrupted rainfall, sea level rise and other projected impacts? How can Sri Lanka play a meaningful role in mitigating further damage to the world’s climate?

These and related questions will be raised in this week’s Sri Lanka 2048, the series of TV debates exploring Sri Lanka’s prospects for a sustainable future in the Twenty First Century. The one-hour debate, in English, will be shown on Channel One MTV from 8 to 9 pm on Saturday, 26 July 2008.

Titled Race Against Time, this week’s debate brings together concerned Sri Lankans from academic, corporate, civil society and government backgrounds to discuss the many challenges of living with climate change. The debate looks at aspects such as promoting renewable energy to reduce our carbon emissions, and emerging opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to adopt low carbon lifestyles and practices.

This week’s panel comprises: Dr. W. L. Sumathipala Director, National Ozone Unit, Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources; Dr. Suren Batagoda, CEO, Sri Lanka Carbon Fund; Dr Ray Wijewardene, Eminent engineer and specialist in renewable energies; and Darshani de Silva, Environmental Specialist, World Bank Office in Colombo. The debate is moderated by TVE Asia Pacific’s Director Nalaka Gunawardene.

The debate also seeks answers to questions such as: What niche can Sri Lanka occupy in the fast-growing global carbon market? How much money can we make from this market? What is the role of the recently established Sri Lanka Carbon Fund? Is the Clean Development Mechanism the right way forward?

The debate concludes with the recognition that climate Change is not just an environmental concern, but also has economic, social, political and security implications. While the philosophical and political debates over climate change will continue for a long time, everyone has to learn fast to live with it. This calls for consuming less, sharing more, living simply and pursuing smart solutions that reduce carbon emissions without compromising the quality of living.

Sri Lanka 2048 debates are co-produced by TVE Asia Pacific, an educational media foundation, and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in partnership with MTV Channel (Private) Limited. This editorially independent TV series is supported under the Raising Environmental Consciousness in Society (RECS) project, sponsored by the Government of the Netherlands.

Sri Lanka 2048

Sri Lanka 2048

Photos by Amal Samaraweera, TVE Asia Pacific

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Al Gore’s challenge to America: kick the oil habit in a decade

Al Gore making Climate Challenge to America - courtesy New York Times

“There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger. In such moments, we are called upon to move quickly and boldly to shake off complacency, throw aside old habits and rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of big changes. Those who, for whatever reason, refuse to do their part must either be persuaded to join the effort or asked to step aside. This is such a moment. The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk. And even more – if more should be required – the future of human civilization is at stake.”

With these words, climate crusader Al Gore opened a powerful speech delivered in Washington DC on 17 July 2008, in which he issued what he called ‘A Generational Challenge to Repower America’ to take bold steps towards solving the climate crisis.

At one point he told fellow Americans: “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”

Having outlined the environmental, security and economic implications of America’s addiction to oil, Gore challenged his nation “to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years”.

I was immediately reminded of President Kennedy’s pledge to Congress on 25 May 1961 where he said:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth.”

In fact, later on in his speech Gore referred to this saying: “When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.”

Al Gore’s full speech, according to a video recording posted on YouTube, lasted 27 minutes — but the We Campaign has released the highlights of the speech running for 5 minutes:

Read the text of his full speech on the We Campaign website.

Read The New York Times coverage of Al Gore speech

The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. Our ultimate aim is to halt global warming. Specifically we are educating people in the US and around the world that the climate crisis is both urgent and solvable.