Or, why it would have been a good idea to do so…

Image: Wikimedia Commons

(I wrote this for Worldchanging back in 2008, or so.)

The Anthropocene is a proposed new geological era, meant to signal the idea that we’ve changed the Earth’s biosphere and climate so dramatically that we’ve left the Holocene, the interglacial period that began 12,000 years ago.

It’s a catchy (if grim) concept, but one whose utility I find myself seriously questioning. I don’t doubt the magnitude of human impact on the planet. Quite the opposite. I think we consistently underestimate the degree of disruption we’ve already caused by…

Today’s cars are costly, dangerous and an ecological nightmare. What if the solution to the problems they create, though, has more to do with where we live than what we drive?

This is a rough draft of a long essay about why I believe building compact communities should be one of America’s highest environmental priorities, and why, in fact, our obsession with building greener cars may be obscuring some fundamental aspects of the problem and some of the benefits of using land-use change as a primary sustainability solution.

It’s very rough in some places. But I’d like to put it out there as an opportunity for discussion, and hopefully all you smart folks can help me make it better. …

I’m a climate futurist.

My work explores how natural and human systems are changing each other, and what those changes mean for us.

Every few years I share some key trends I see emerging — ones big enough to alter our lives and fast enough to matter now.

So, what’s next?

I find the biggest change around us is just how fast our understanding of the climate emergency* itself is evolving. Climate foresight, strategy, policy and politics are all in upheaval.

[*used here to mean the whole interconnected jackpot of climate and ecological crises]

I spent the last couple years…

Hey folks,

I wrote an open letter foryoung climate advocates, sharing some things I’ve learned over the years I’ve been fighting for climate sanity and sustainability. It might speak to you…




A letter to those getting ready to march.

You have been called on to become worldchanging. This Friday, you will be joining millions of others around the world in the largest climate protests in history. Demanding the future that is your right to claim. Fighting against powerful foes to save everything.

That future you’re fighting for? That’s what I’ve spent my whole life working to see. And if this moment and this crisis seem overwhelming to you, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned over many years of fighting for that same future. Maybe they’ll help.

First of all, you’re right.

You’re right to strike; you’re right…

The formation of a tornado [wikimedia commons]

I got an email recently which asked the question, “If our world is really looking down the barrel of environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?”

I know the standard answer: “Be the change.”

This motto — shorthand for Gandhi’s instruction that “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” — has become ubiquitous. And while a sensible person will appreciate the essential wisdom behind Gandhi’s words, in the context of sustainability, this shorthand has become associated as well with another idea: that the being the change is a lifestyle choice.

In this…

[I posted this at Worldchanging shortly after the BP Spill. It seemed worth republishing now that Trump and his gang are undoing the off-shore drilling protections that were put in place in the aftermath of that tragedy in the Gulf.]

We’ve gotten a few inquiries lately about why we aren’t devoting a lot more discussion to the BP Spill. After all, isn’t this the “worst environmental disaster in American history?” Shouldn’t a site whose purpose is to explore solutions to planetary problems be all over the planet’s most visible current problem?

In a word, no. The decision not to cover…

The “Last” Whole Earth Catalog; photographer unknown.

The Whole Earth Catalog turned 50 years old, recently. This is a (very) rough draft of a proposal I drew up for reviving the Catalog, in 2002. Before it could go anywhere, The Point Foundation (which owned Whole Earth) went under.

Many of the good ideas here instead became the starting point for Worldchangingwhich ended up having orders of magnitude more impact than this project would have. Sometimes things work out for the best. I offer thishere purely as a historical curiosity.

The Global Whole Earth Catalog: A Proposal

“We are as Gods and might as well get good at it. So far, remotely done…

`A giant building boom is on its way. (Image: Liebherr)

Inter-generational justice demands bold, rapid climate action; real climate action demands a giant building boom.

We speak, for the sake of brevity, of “the climate movement.” But there is not one climate movement, but several different movements of people who want climate action, and the tensions between them are rising as younger people get more engaged.

We can see this best, right now, in the U.S. where there is, first, the old mainline environmental movement, which has done the bulk of climate advocacy work for decades.

Largely, this advocacy work has focused on cap-n-trade/CO2 tax policies and support for clean energy.

Mainline enviro groups have tended to treat climate as an environmental issue, indeed, often…

Humanity is continuity.

The blood of every person alive today runs back through the eons to our first human ancestors, and through them back to early primates, and so on, back to the earliest life on Earth. Our family tree is quite long.

Less obviously, to some, our minds have deep roots. Though every baby’s mind is born afresh, we’ve learned that how we think (our inclinations to see and think and feel in certain ways) is part of our inheritance, passed down. The structures of the human brain and body shape how the world occurs for us.

What we…

Alex Steffen

I think about the future for a living. Writer, public speaker, strategic advisor. Projects: Worldchanging; Carbon Zero; Heroic Future; The Nearly Now.

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