A good Anthropocene? – speech to Breakthrough Dialogue 2015

Speech by Mark Lynas at the Breakthrough Dialogue 2015, Cavallo Point, San Francisco
8.30am, 22 June 2015

Ladies and gentlemen,

“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”


The words of Charles Dickens of course; the opening passage from a Tale of Two Cities.

At this session, the opening debate of the 2015 Breakthrough Dialogue, you will hear not a Tale of Two Cities but a Tale of Two Planets. You get to decide which one you inhabit, and which one you want to inhabit.

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A Pope Against Progress

By Mark Lynas, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

In recent years, liberals and progressives have seen Pope Francis as a breath of fresh air — and with good reason. He has taken stronger action than his predecessors against child abuse by priests. He has toned down the church’s denunciations of homosexuality. And he has argued that the rich must do more for the poor.

It is thus understandable that so many on the left have praised the Pope’s new environmental encyclical Laudato Si. The document recognizes global warming as a serious concern, and calls for significant action.

Unfortunately, the Pope’s commitment to progress goes no further than that. While he takes care to celebrate science, reason and innovation, Laudato Si is at heart a book-length repudiation of just about everything progressives care about.

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Africa must modernise its farms in order to fight hunger and poverty

Africa desperately needs agricultural modernisation. With the most rapidly growing population in the world and hundreds of millions still suffering malnutrition, African leaders cannot afford to close the door to innovation.

Poverty is endemic and “yield gaps” mean that African farmers commonly harvest less than a tenth of the global average in maize and other crops.

Part of the problem has been political resistance to adopting new and improved technologies, particularly in seed breeding. Some of this unwillingness has been home-grown, but much has been imported to Africa by rich-country NGOs with a colonialist ideological agenda that see poverty as dignified and want to keep farmers permanently trapped in subsistence lifestyles.

For the full article, visit the website of the Daily Nation, Kenya

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The Maldives cannot represent climate leadership with an autocrat at the helm

This week sees governments meeting in Bonn, Germany for the last negotiating session in advance of November’s UN meeting on climate change in Paris – billed as the best chance in a generation for a worldwide treaty to tackle global warming.

The omens are better than for many years. The political landscape was changed dramatically by last November’s China-US emissions deal. With the world’s two biggest emitters covered, other pledges have been arriving thick and fast: the task for Paris will be to forge them into a global agreement with legal force.

The other major issue under discussion in Bonn is finance, in particular how the commitment to providing developing countries $100bn (£65bn) a year by 2020 for climate adaptation and mitigation can be funded. One of the strongest and most morally charged voices in this arena is the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), who are most vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate impacts. But this is where the problems start.

For full article visit the Guardian website

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Monsanto makes the wrong choice – again

Just what exactly is Monsanto playing at? Apparently not satisfied with its continuing role as the favourite pantomime villain for every anti-GMO activist in the world, the St Louis-based company everyone loves to hate seems to be doing everything possible to make its predicament worse.

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