Larry Fessenden (9/11/06, filmmaker) Robert Leaver (12/31/06, writer, poet) Mark Ribot (12/31/06, musician) Vaclav Havel (9/27/07, former president of the Czech Republic)


Larry Fessenden


This site is under development and always will be. It has been put together to provide access to a number of on-line and real-world resources on the topic of Climate Change and environmental stewardship. There are no more significant issues in the 21st Century. The so called War on Terror pales in scale to the consequence of a fundamental shifting in the ecology of the planet: What if the world was no longer a life-sustaining organism but a carbon soked wasteland?

In time we hope to invite visitors to this site to submit video content on the topic of fuel alternatives and life-changing choices and to build a library of faces and voices that represent and inspire change. We want faces of Hope, of an entrepreneurial spirit, of an American idealism now withered in the new-world partisanship that has poisoned our national character.

We putting this site together are artists, not engineers, not scientists, not politicians. But there is no vocation that exempts us from thinking about and addressing the issue of Climate Change. This is not an elite issue. This is an issue from which there is no escape.

Let's show some dignity and face it now.



Vaclav Havel
(former president of the Czech Republic)
Op-Ed, NYT, Septembr 27, 2007

OVER the past few years the questions have been asked ever more forcefully whether global climate changes occur in natural cycles or not, to what degree we humans contribute to them, what threats stem from them and what can be done to prevent them. Scientific studies demonstrate that any changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale could mean danger for all people on all continents.

It is also obvious from published research that human activity is a cause of change; we just don’t know how big its contribution is. Is it necessary to know that to the last percentage point, though? By waiting for incontrovertible precision, aren’t we simply wasting time when we could be taking measures that are relatively painless compared to those we would have to adopt after further delays?

Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.

The effects of possible climate changes are hard to estimate. Our planet has never been in a state of balance from which it could deviate through human or other influence and then, in time, return to its original state. The climate is not like a pendulum that will return to its original position after a certain period. It has evolved turbulently over billions of years into a gigantic complex of networks, and of networks within networks, where everything is interlinked in diverse ways.

Its structures will never return to precisely the same state they were in 50 or 5,000 years ago. They will only change into a new state, which, so long as the change is slight, need not mean any threat to life.

Larger changes, however, could have unforeseeable effects within the global ecosystem. In that case, we would have to ask ourselves whether human life would be possible. Because so much uncertainty still reigns, a great deal of humility and circumspection is called for.

We can’t endlessly fool ourselves that nothing is wrong and that we can go on cheerfully pursuing our wasteful lifestyles, ignoring the climate threats and postponing a solution. Maybe there will be no major catastrophe in the coming years or decades. Who knows? But that doesn’t relieve us of responsibility toward future generations.

I don’t agree with those whose reaction is to warn against restricting civil freedoms. Were the forecasts of certain climatologists to come true, our freedoms would be tantamount to those of someone hanging from a 20th-story parapet.

Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies. Maybe it is no longer a matter of simply promoting energy-saving technologies, but chiefly of introducing ecologically clean technologies, of diversifying resources and of not relying on just one invention as a panacea.

I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.

Either we will achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.

The end of the world has been anticipated many times and has never come, of course. And it won’t come this time either. We need not fear for our planet. It was here before us and most likely will be here after us. But that doesn’t mean that the human race is not at serious risk. As a result of our endeavors and our irresponsibility our climate might leave no place for us. If we drag our feet, the scope for decision-making — and hence for our individual freedom — could be considerably reduced.

Vaclav Havel is the former president of the Czech Republic. This article was translated by Gerald Turner from the Czech. (go to NYT page)

Robert Leaver (writer, poet)

Dec 31, 2007. 4;27 A.M.
West Shokan NY

Pre-dawn. Pitch-black morning outside my window. Or is it night?

The light comes slow to these mountains. My wife and child are twitching safe in their dreams upstairs. This is the hour of the wolf.

There is much to be thankful for and there is much to fear. The list is long. What road is this? The people behind the wheel are intoxicated and small children are in the backseat. Who are these thugs in ski masks and leather coats putting the noose around that man’s neck? Who are we?

How did this happen? Better minds than mine can map it out for you in excruciating detail. I say the truth is not open to interpretation. This regime and their cronies are at the wheel. Call them fiends or fools, saviors or slime, whatever the name you choose the truth remains; we have allowed them to take control. Things have been set in motion, things that have the power to poison the soul of this country far into the future.

They would have us believe that any truth other than theirs is a mistake. While we wrestle with opposing points of view they pursue their agenda and the world is driven to new depths of misery.

It is time to awaken the New Patriot. The New Patriot has a powerful sense that the policies of this administration are dead wrong. And this knowledge makes a patriot angry in the same way a feeling human being would be outraged if they saw their children’s bus driver blind drunk on the job.

Some of us have been outraged for years and some of us are coming to it for the first time. Welcome all. There is no shortage of fuel for this fire.

Out there right now people that once supported our current leaders are experiencing new flickers of doubt in their chest as they read about arctic ice shelves cracking off the North Pole or bombs tearing off limbs in our latest war. That flicker of doubt is not weakness or uncertainty or confusion. It is the first fires of homegrown patriotism. It is the proper response, the human response, when one bears witness to a crime.

As we all suspect the Bush administration is engaged in a vast spectrum of criminal and negligent behavior. Their policies and actions are anti-earth, anti-human and more tothe point they are anti-American. The word betrayal feels too weak. Treason barely feels like a stretch.

Those of us who find a voice and are angry enough to speak out are being met with the label of unpatriotic. This response strains the tether of reason and distorts all logic but it is everyday practice courtesy of our leaders. But the New Patriot has seen another light, another kind of rapture on the horizon. Never before has right and wrong been so clear.

The world and its problems and its machines are all increasingly complicated and there are facets and sides and perceptions for everyone to get tangled in. It’s tiring getting untangled and wading through the muck. They want us tired and distracted. It’s better for them if we grow weary, numb and forget what matters.

The New Patriot is not rigid or cold. It is possible to act on the truth and remain open minded and generous. The truth is the catalyst that leads to an impulse. One day one stops and says, wait a minute, this can’t be right, this can’t be good. A doubt leads to a question and a firm demand for an answer.

New Patriotism transcends politics, religion and personalities. It is the clear cold water of patriotism needed now when a nation is suffering, when it is thirsty and sick from the polluted policies of its leaders. It is this new patriotism that will bring a desperately needed humanity, compassion and common sense to a confused and depressed homeland.

This Nation is great. This is our homeland. That is another truth. The President and the New Patriot may agree on this point. The difference is that he and his team are not worthy of this nation’s greatness. They should not be allowed to call this place home.

And the one who leads us into darkness will also lead us to a new day? Accelerate the night and prepare to be blinded by the dawn? No. We must take back the night and take back the day, take back the clock and the calendar, the road map and the mangled rulebook.

On this New Years Day our great nation is home to millions of New Patriots. Some of us are still sleeping. We are all in this together, all comrades. It is still night, still dark outside. The hour of the wolf is at hand. We who are up early must wake the others with the cracked and clanging bells of liberty. The bells are our voices, voices of reason and voices of outrage. Hear them rise.

Mark Ribot (musician)
New Year's e-mail to friends, 2007

“...a wave large enough to break civilization is forming, and...the only real question is whether we can do anything at all to weaken its force...”

The above, and the following,  are quotes from a New York Review of Booksarticle entitled “How Close to Catastrophe Are We?” by Bill McKibben, which reviews 5 publications representing current scientific research on global warming:

“ James Lovelock... among the planet’s most interesting and productive scientists... predicts...that we have already pushed the planet over the brink, and that we will soon see remarkably rapid rises in temperature, well beyond those envisioned in most of the computer models now in use themselves quite dire...”

“...for the past twenty years... most of the effects of heating on thephysical world have in fact been more dire than originallypredicted....virtually all of [the new data] showing results at the very upper end of the ranges predicted by climate models, or beyond them altogether. Compared with the original models of a few years ago, ice is melting faster; forest soils are giving up more carbon as they warm; storms are increasing much more quickly in number and size...
“...Some or all of these processes will be enough, Lovelock estimates, to...make life as we know it nearly impossible in many places...”
“...James Hansen of NASA... [is] the planet’s top climatologist ...Hansen is not quite as gloomy as Lovelock. Although he recently stated that the Earth is very close to the hottest it has been in a million years, he said that we still have until 2015 to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere before we cross a threshold and create a “different planet.” ...”

“... even Al Gore’s fine and frightening film An Inconvenient Truth now lags behind the scientific cutting edge on this issue...the science is moving fast...” .

(Bill McKibben, NYR 11/16/06)  

Dear people-
As the above makes clear, there has been some really, REALLY bad recent news on the subject of global warming. If you have already read this material and are already responding, please forgive the intrusion.

Assumptions most of us have made about our own and our children’s futures are probably radically incorrect. Some models predict the death of over 2/3rds of the earths population before the end of the century. And they’re talking about effects beginning to be felt in ten-twenty years, not hundreds. They’re talking about OUR middle and old age, and our childrens’ adulthood, if they survive. The real effects are simply unknowable.

On reading this article, I consulted my brother Jesse Ribot, who holds a PhD from the Energy and Resources Group—an energy and environmental policy department—at Berkeley and works at the Washington DC based think tank World Resources Institute. While Jesse’s view is that there are other disaster scenarios deserving equal attention, he didn’t dispute the conclusions of the article—and doubted most serious scientists would. In my own opinion, while other  scenarios may involve the loss of a city or gradual degradation of the conditions of life, there are none with a general impact capable of ending civilization itself within my and my daughter’s life.

I looked in the next issue of the NYR for a letter challenging the article’s conclusions. So far, none has appeared. I’ve waited, also in vain, for an appropriately serious government or media response. It appears we have a serious problem.

I’ve never been an environmental activist. I’ve always assumed that rich people would not permit the conditions sustaining their wealth to be destroyed- that capital itself would intervene to prevent ecological disaster.

This assumption is, unfortunately, completely incorrect. The market, due to its many ‘imperfections’ and the logic referred to as the ‘tragedy of the commons’, is incapable of generating the necessary resources far enough in advance.

Regular voters whose futures are threatened, one might hope, would organize for government intervention. And indeed, the mechanisms for averting disaster in a democracy will eventually kick in. The problem is that they will kick in at least 10 years too late. There are decade long time gaps between cause (release of greenhouse effect causing gasses) and effect (rising of the earth’s temperature, etc). There are other long gaps between decisions to act- to organize, for example, for green insulation standards in housing codes, and any actual reduction in the earth’s temperature.

We don’t have decades. If we are lucky, and James Hansen (“the planet’s top climatologist”) is correct, “we still have until 2015 to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere before we cross a threshold and create a ‘different planet....’” (Bill McKibbons op cit) This reversal demands that major new sources of energy be in place in 9 years. This demands construction beginning in a few years. This demands a major change in national/global politicalpriorities ... yesterday.

There are different technological responses which could,  if  the government acts, effectively address the problem.  One of the best so far remains already existing technologies of insulation and conservation (on a mass scale). Others have suggested that nuclear power, with all its potential dangers, should be rethought in light of the current, certain danger. Some favor wind or solar or all the above. In any case, the resources needed to address the problem are at a level not possible without major government resources. A purely personal voluntaristic response- while admirable- will not change the outcome: this isn’t only a question of buying “green” products or getting really fanatical about recycling. There is, without  question,  a need for a governmental re-channeling ofmaterial and diplomatic resources on the level of the mobilization for thesecond world war.

According to the NYR article’s author, Bill McKibben,“even the widespread adoption of solar power would not put an end to the threat of global warming...Some scientists have estimated that it would take an immediate 70 percent reduction in fossil fuel burning simply to stabilize climate change at its current planet-melting level.”

Unfortunately, there is little to suggest that this magnitude of government intervention is achievable. There is a social science literature on the conditions under which governments respond to disaster. Famines, for example, are politically untenable under democratic government, and democratic governments will normally act to avoid them before there are large numbers of fatalities. (see “Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation” Amartya Sen 1981)


But the conditions under which governments intervene always include media images of current fatalities.  There is little or nothing to suggest that, lacking these images, governments will implement changes to deal with a problem whose consequences won’t be felt for 10 years at the soonest. There is much to suggest they won’t: the vulnerability of New Orleans’ levees and of the Cypress Street Viaduct on the Nimitz Freeway (Interstate 880) in San Francisco were widely known for decades before both collapsed.

This combination-  that disaster is approaching and that our existing political/economic structures are not suited to prevent it-  is bad enough news to invite disbelief and inaction, which has been the reaction of most of those beyond the scientific community, as have escape into fantasies of rescue, religious or technological.

There are, as always, divergences in scientific opinion. Some are suggesting adding more particulate matter to the atmosphere as a way of cooling the earth by reflecting the sun’s rays back into space. I’m sure there will be other ‘miracle fixes’ proposed. One is faced with a question: is it ethical to bet our personal and planetary future on untested and un-testable theories which will almost certainly have unforeseen and possibly equally disastrous consequences themselves while other options may still be available?

In my opinion, it isn’t.


Technology that could enable us to survive the greenhouse effect exists. And the possibility exists that a new political phenomenon can force our political structures to implement it in time. As long as there is at least some possibility, I intend to  support whatever groups seem most effective in fighting global warming, and to make this not just another issue, but a priority.

I feel strange sending this letter.  Becoming an environmentalist puts me in the company of... people whose priorities I might question on other issues (i’m not a vegetarian, and I admire scientific method, even, believe it or not, in medicine).

Intellectually, I find global warming boring. The debate is between people intelligent enough to want to avoid destroying their lives and the planet and those too stupid to understand what they are reading, too greedy to care, or investing way too much childlike faith in institutions structurally unable to respond. Say what you will about socialism- it generated some elegant theory, both pro and con.

There is not now, and will never be, a sense of media inspired or reflected urgency on this- until much too late to change the outcome. The monster being battled currently wears the face of an enjoyably warm winter day. And the “other world [that’s] possible” if we are hugely and improbably successful in halting global warming, is simply the same rather shabby one that exists now. (Actually, this last may not be true. If we survive the end of fossil fuels, we will also have at least left behind us the middle eastern wars which are the future shock of their eventual depletion. The ergonomically concerned protester may find it more effective to march for green energy policy than to protest man’s inhumanity to man.)

Time to dust off our copies of Soren Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’,*** and get to work.

I have included a list of organizations below. My sense, after having contacted most of them, is that they are highly institutional, and that new and more militant orgs may have to be founded or developed from among the mass of fledgling dot.orgs.   This sense is shared by Stanley Aronowitz, former Green Party candidate for governor of NY. “The problem is that there are no grassroots militant organizations,  city by city, town by town, coordinating environmental action. Without that you have institutional advocacy organizations. They’re fine for what they do, but they’re not sufficient.” (conversation with Stanley Aronowitz, 1/3/07).
My ten year old daughter believes she’s going to grow up into a world somewhat like the one we live in now. I resolve to do what I can to at least make that one infinitely humble ambition of hers possible.

I look forward to sharing information and ideas on how to develop an effective response with you.
A group that meets locally in nyc:

Other organizations:

Sierra Club
The Greenhouse Network
Happy 2007,  
Marc ribot
*** Kierkegaard’s “knight of faith” fought the good fight alone, without the reward of heaven, human acclaim, the joy of victory, or even the pleasure of a clean conscience.