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Dr. Rajendra Pachauri Says Grass Roots Efforts are Needed Now

12/13/09

There were no specific activities for NGOs today at the Bella Center for COP-15, so Jay and I went to the Bright Green conference. As we walked in, Steven Chu, the Secretary of the Department of Energy, was finishing a speech. As he left the stage, he walked right by me. That alone would have made my day, but then Dr. Rajendra Pachauri of the IPCC walked by me! Dr. Pachauri gave a powerful speech following Steven Chu about the system change needed to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Dr. Pachauri first highlighted the interesting and innovative solutions that Secretary Chu spoke about in his speech. After explaining how hard it is to follow Chu’s words, Dr. Pachauri highlighted some of the science; he remarked that even a young schoolboy could do the math needed to calculate the thermal expansion of the ocean when its temperature has increased. There were also quotes from the Fourth IPCC Report. . One statistic he gave was that, “one meter of sea level rise will affect many parts of the world, possibly even Denmark”. I have no doubt that this sentence struck a particular chord with many Danish people. Dr. Pachauri spoke more about sea level rise and temperature changes as well as the destruction of many small island states.

The most interesting part of Dr. Pachauri’s speech was the short history lesson about the most important inventions in human society. Humans lived as hunter-gatherers until the discovery of agriculture; this invention revolutionized society because people no longer had to migrate to new locations for food. Agriculture gave people a stable source of food. Pachauri said the second important invention of human society was the industrial revolution. Before this change, people had to rely on themselves or the muscle of non-human animals to produce goods. With the industrial revolution, humans could use the remains of ancient, preserved animal muscle and other biological material to power machines to do the work. Dr. Pachauri said the third great invention of human society must be an energy revolution where fossil fuels are replaced by alternative energy solutions.

Dr. Pachauri ended his speech with a very powerful statement. He said that our survival cannot rest on nations states alone, and that it cannot rely on governments or industries. Rather, the environmental movement needs grass roots movements. He concluded by saying that the time to see those grass roots efforts is now. Dr. Pachauri single-handedly endorsed the many demonstrations that have already occurred in Copenhagen and abroad, and the many more that will continue during and after this conference. He firmly believes in the necessity of a bottom-up approach, and believes it is the key to success. His words should encourage people all over the world that any individual or collective effort is seen, heard, and will help affect a system change.

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