The Primer is designed to be scanned and skimmed, with plenty of links to send readers down digital rabbit holes for hours on end: a quirky mix of history, science, politics, agriculture, engineering and economics.
There is no sugar-coating the seriousness of what's at stake, which makes it even more crucial to understand what can be done about it—and also what has been done about it. For example, most people have no idea that efficiency technologies have had 30x the impact of renewables in keeping fossil fuels "in the ground." Over the last forty years, efficiency, by reducing demand, has kept at least 100 ppm of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Instead of carbon levels somewhere in the 500 ppm range, we are dealing with measurements in the low 400s. That's still roughly 60 ppm above what they should be for a stable climate, but the point is it could be worse.
Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute has noted that "the cheapest barrel of oil is the one you don't need." To shut down pipelines requires all the tools in the toolbox: renewable energy, institutional divestment and efficiency. Who needs supply when there is no demand?
The Primer is full of examples of what Lovins calls "applied hope." From energy to agriculture, from economics to business models, there is so much good work that has already made a difference and is poised to scale up quickly to make all the difference.
Below is an excerpt from The Primer.
— J. A. Ginsburg
On Valentine’s Day 1990 (355 ppm CO2), Voyager I, a small satellite then 13 years into a mission to explore the solar system and beyond (a mission that continues to this day), turned to face Earth for the last time. At the request of astronomer Carl Sagan, a series of photographs were taken of our planet, a barely visible “pale blue dot” 4 billion miles away, “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives..
“Saving the planet" is code for saving ourselves. Earth’s future is assured, at least for the next several billion years until the sun expands into a red giant that envelopes and vaporizes it. Our future is less certain.
It is hard to believe that it took only a few hundred years of burning coal, oil and natural gas to put us on the brink of catastrophic climate change. And it is far too easy to believe that the extremes we are experiencing today—floods, droughts, heat, cold, rising sea levels, mass extinctions—are only a prelude of what is to come.
There isn't much time left to turn things around: to slow global warming and bring a poisoned planet back to health. What happens over the next decade will determine what happens for thousands of years into the future. The mission of The 11 Project is to serve as a resource and inspiration—to show what is possible—and to develop a network of people whose work is already making a difference.
With literally everything at stake, it is essential to expand our collective peripheral vision as we focus on the tasks at hand. It is going to take collaboration, cooperation and a belief that the greater good benefits us all. Knowledge really is power.
...There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known...
Ok, then. We have our marching orders.