Why studying climate change made me quit my PhD

Why the knowledge that I gained while researching climate change at PhD level led me to renounce my career prospects, and how I now feel compelled to dedicate my time, writes Mathieu Munsch

The lack of consideration that decision-makers have for scientific evidence is a frustrating commonplace among those of us – scientists and influencers of all sorts – who spend our lives working to take on those ecologically-illiterate systems.

And yet, rare are those of us on a level of alert really commensurate with the scale and speed of the crash we are living through. Researching climate change has made me re-evaluate why I set out to study for a PhD and whether continuing was my best course of action.

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Climate change will kill my generation, unless we step up now

Ireland has the necessary means to invest in cleaner energy and should be flying way beyond our self-set climate accord measures, yet we continually fail them, writes Owen Hanley.

On November 17 events all over the world took place at the bidding of Extinction Rebellion, a growing call for direct action against those individuals, organisations, and states who continue to be complicit in the destruction of our planet. In my little corner of the planet, on the edge of the Atlantic, nearly two hundred people gathered on the coast of Galway city, Ireland. We were asked to wear black to mourn the unpredicted loss of 60% of global wildlife since the 70’s as a direct consequence of human activity. And children donned wildlife masks in protest at local plans to build a new hospice in local woods that serve as a biodiversity sanctuary.

The vast majority of us are well aware of climate change, the science behind it and its impact. And yet there seems to be a massive cultural apathy to system change.

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“What lasted for 3000 years has been destroyed in 30”: the struggle for food sovereignty in Tunisia

This article by Max Ajl was published by Verso on October 16, the International Day of Action for Peoples’ Food Sovereignty, organised by La Via Campesina. In this article,  he reports from Tunisia on the struggles for food sovereignty there, and on what it means for the Global South.

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Latin America’s environmental challenge

Peru’s indigenous Andean and Amazonian women are driving an economy based on distribution and ancestral knowledge about ecology, the environment and culture, which enables them to live in harmony with nature, writes Carmen Grau. Now they are working for visibility and for the recognition of their contribution to the global struggle against climate change.

For the 45 million indigenous people of Latin America, their link with the environment goes beyond its potential use as a resource to a spiritual and cultural connection. Seeing a river dying because of drought or pollution is like losing a family member.

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Book Review: Ian Angus on Climate Change, Anthropocene and the Intersections of Science and Socialism

Book review of A REDDER SHADE OF GREEN. Intersections of Science and Socialism. Ian Angus, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2017 by Barry Sheppard.

This book follows the author’s Facing the Anthropocene, also published by Monthly Review Press, in 2016.

The Anthropocene refers to a new geological period, where the activities of human beings are having major effects on planet’s geology and biology, including for humanity. Angus, and increasingly geologists, are focusing on the period beginning around 1950, when humanity’s impact, which had been developing gradually, underwent a “great acceleration” – a dialectical transformation of quantity into quality.

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12 reasons Labor Should demand a Green New Deal

Labor shouldn’t just back the Green New Deal, it should help lead the way, write  JEREMY BRECHER AND JOE UEHLEIN.

Workers have gotten a raw deal. Employers and their Republican allies are trying to eliminate workers’ rights both in the workplace and at the ballot box. But even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, they did little to protect, let alone expand, the rights of working people. Workers need a new deal.

Now, an alliance of social movements and members of Congress are proposing a Green New Deal to create millions of jobs by putting Americans to work making a climate-safe economy. This program meets the needs of—and has the potential to unite—the labor movement, environmentalists, and all those who have been the victims of inequality, discrimination, racism and, now, climate change.

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Nuclear power in Africa

Ann Garrison: In your Medium essay “Kagame’s Nuclear Power Plant Is a Joke,” you say that the cost of a nuclear power plant would be equivalent to Rwanda’s national budget for three years. Why do you think he is proposing anything so preposterous?

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Extreme Cities

The stark inequality of “extreme cities” is going to be exacerbated and tested by the effects of climate change, explains Ashley Dawson.

How will climate change affect our lives? Where will its impacts be most deeply felt? Are we doing enough to protect ourselves from the coming chaos? In Extreme Cities, Ashley Dawson argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world’s megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations. These not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk when water levels rise.

In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities as both the places where climate change will have its most devastating effects and as the necessary sites of crucial response. Extreme Cities is one of our core texts on our Environment and Ecology Student Reading ListIt was named one of the Top 10 Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly and Planetizen. 

Here we present the book’s introduction.

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GMO potatoes: The risks to health

Dr Caius Rommens developed GMO potatoes, but subsequently renounced his work. He explains why we should be wary of the products he created

Dr Caius Rommens developed GMO potatoes for the Idaho-based agbiotech company Simplot. The chief genetic modification he introduced was to silence the potatoes’ melanin (PPO) gene. This gene, when operative, causes potatoes to discolour when bruised. The GMO potatoes do not discolour when bruised. They have therefore been marketed as bruise-resistant and are being sold without GMO labels in the US under innocuous-sounding names like Innate, Hibernate, and White Russet. They’ve also been approved in Canada but are not yet being sold there, according to research by CBAN.

After finding that “most GMO varieties were stunted, chlorotic, mutated, or sterile, and many of them died quickly, like prematurely-born babies”, Dr Rommens renounced his genetic engineering career and wrote a book about his experiences, Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs, which is available from Amazon.

In an interview with GMWatch, Dr Rommens discussed the risks to health posed by the GMO potatoes he created.

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A Common Sense for Our Planet

On climate change, the world’s major economies are playing a game of chicken, writes Rebecca Long Bailey. It’s like a nuclear stand-off, with the difference that if things stay just as they are, catastrophe is guaranteed.

The science could not be clearer on the consequences of inaction. Yet each year at around this time, the world’s diplomats wait for someone else to blink first as they stumble over the same questions — who is most responsible for reducing emissions? Who should pay for efforts to avoid and adapt to climate change? How do we know national commitments will be honored, and what happens if they’re not?

This is not due to failings of diplomacy. Rather, it is the inevitable outcome in a situation where countries engage like vying businesses, keen to avoid the loss of any competitive advantage. Carbon dioxide emitted anywhere damages the climate everywhere. Common sense would suggest the need for engagement based on cooperation and solidarity, to the mutual advantage of all. Yet negotiators cannot escape what has become a “collective action problem.”

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