Issues

In the 21st century we face not only climate change and the end of cheap oil, but a broad range of environmental, social, and economic crises. We use the following major concepts to frame our approach to these complex and ever-changing challenges:

Climate

Human civilization developed on Earth under certain climate conditions. Over the last 150 years, however, we have released so much carbon into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels that the climate is changing — and not for the better. Rising sea levels mean devastating storm surges for low-lying farmlands and cities. Disappearing glaciers mean less water for vast areas of India, China, and the American West...

learn more

Consumption & Waste

We live on a finite planet: there is only so much "stuff" we can consume before it runs out. This is true not just for oil but for things like potash for agriculture and molybdenum for computers and cell phones. While we can often find replacements when resources become too scarce or expensive, these increasingly come at greater environmental and social cost...

learn more

Culture & Behavior

From the ancient Sumerian story of Gilgamesh to recent practices like mountaintop removal, history is full of examples of societies consuming resources (and competing for those resources) like there's no tomorrow. But there are also many examples of societies — both prehistoric and more recent — living in relative sustainability.

learn more

Communities

Our local communities provide us with some of our most important needs: access to basic materials like food and water; essential services like public safety, transportation infrastructure, and education for our children; and, not least, the social and cultural contexts through which we make sense of the world. We organize in communities to provide for the common good...

learn more

Community Energy

learn more

Economics

Our current global economic system has to grow in order to remain healthy — that's simply the way it is designed. But unending growth is not compatible with a finite planet, and even growth in the "knowledge" and "service" economies involves the use of non-renewable resources. Institutionalized perpetual growth together with an exponentially-growing global population is a recipe for disaster...

learn more

Ecology

We've only begun to appreciate in the last fifty years how complex — and fragile — ecological systems are. Even more recently we've realized how interconnected the health of those ecological systems is with our social and economic systems. We used to drain swamps to claim land for development and to control pesky mosquitoes, but now we understand that wetlands are crucial for flood control and for providing habitat...

learn more

Education

Education is about imparting skills for understanding the past and for navigating the future. As the crises of climate change and peak fossil fuels have become increasingly apparent just the last decade, the future suddenly looks a lot different than what we've been expecting. Many institutions are already exploring new directions...

learn more

Energy

Modern industrial civilization was built on fossil fuel energy, but climate change, overpopulation and resource scarcity require that we find other ways to power our societies — and fast. The energy problems the world faces are too big, too complex, and coming too fast for us to responsibly hope that new technologies or new discoveries will save the day...

learn more

Food & Agriculture

The introduction of fossil fuels into agriculture reduced much human suffering — but it also created a massive spike in global population, creating an ever-growing need for more food. While our population continues to grow exponentially, our resources for growing food — from oil (for fuel) and natural gas (for fertilizer) to freshwater and topsoil — are rapidly depleting around the world...

learn more

Government

Government is part of the problem and part of the solution, but that shouldn't be surprising because government is simply the means by which our communities make decisions — for good or for ill. Governments have power and resources, but they can also move very slowly. What are the best roles that government agencies and officials of all levels should play in confronting challenges...

learn more

Health

While the last sixty years have brought many astounding advances in public health and healthcare, in many ways our health has actually gotten worse. Our air and our waterways are generally cleaner, but our own bodies are now filled with chemicals and toxins. We've made driving safer, but we also now drive so much and walk and bike so little that adult and childhood obesity have become national epidemics.

learn more

Social Justice

The challenges of climate change will hit poor populations the hardest. Literally billions of people in Africa and South Asia face growing risks of extreme droughts and food shortages. Hundreds of coastal cities around the world, and even whole countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives, are threatened by rising sea levels...

learn more

Population

The industrialization of food production has allowed global population to grow exponentially, from 1.3 billion in 1850 to nearly seven billion today. With this comes exponential growth in the consumption of non-renewable resources like minerals, metals and fossil fuels, as well as the destructive overconsumption of renewable resources like topsoil and freshwater. Our current levels of consumption and population are so high that...

learn more

Water

Freshwater is essential for human life. Affordable and ample freshwater is also essential for our modern world — not just for 6+ billion people to drink, but for the industrial agriculture system that feeds us and the increasingly high-tech manufacturing system that employs and sustains us. Unfortunately, climate change threatens both to reduce available freshwater for expanding cities and agricultural lands that desperately need it...

learn more

Transportation

Our modern world was built on fossil fuels, and one of the biggest uses of those fuels is for transportation. As fossil fuels decline, the problem we face is not a lack of alternative technology — electric vehicles have been around as long as conventional cars, and just about everyone can walk or ride a bicycle. The problem is that...

learn more