Thursday, July 17, 2008

Feeling a Bit Quotatious

Some odd quotes -- laugh, cry, or bury your head in a blankie and hope for a good, long nap.

As seen on This from an interview in Newsweek with J. Robinson West "chairman of the oil and gas consulting firm PFC Energy, a former U.S. assistant secretary of the interior under President Reagan, and a [buckshot-free] friend of Dick Cheney’s . . .

Welcome to the age of energy insecurity. Worldwide production will peak. The result will be skyrocketing prices, with a huge, sustained economic shock. Jobs will be lost. Without action, the crisis will certainly bring energy rivalries, if not energy wars. Vast wealth will be shifted, probably away from the U.S. For the last 20 years, U.S. policy has discouraged production and encouraged consumption. If we dither any more, we will pay a terrible price, the economic equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina was Category 4

This from a NY Times interview with Bjorn Lomborg, who is, according to Times Magazine, one of the 100 most influential people in the world:

"But the best strategy [to combat global warming], he says, is to make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners."

Geez, why didn't I think of that!!

Also from quoting UK's The Sentinel:

"The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock

This from

Vonnegut wrote this in 1988, as a letter to people in 2088:

“Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on--during the past seven mission years or so. In my time, they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

“The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appear to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:
1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean and stupid.
7. And so on. Or else.”

It really is hard not to call someone a pessimist who wrote that he quit lecturing when he found himself saying to his audiences “that one day fairly soon we would all go belly-up like guppies in a neglected fishbowl. I suggested an epitaph for the whole planet, which was: ‘We could have saved it, but we were too darn cheap and lazy. . . .’ My Lord, I think I even said--in fact I know I said--that humanity itself had become an unstoppable glacier made of hot meat, which ate up everything in sight and then made love, and then doubled in size again

as seen on Our Pueblo

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Call Me Irresponsible

I am flying blind. I don't like to admit it, even to myself, but it's true. I'm not a climatologist. I'm not a nuclear scientist. I'm not a geologist or an economist or any other 'ist' that I can thing of. I know jack s**t . I rant and rave and carry on, but it's all bluster.

My husband, in one of the rare moments in which he was actually right, called me 'irresponsible' for posting a comment on I had cited a news article describing the problems French nuclear power plants encountered during the heat wave of 2003 with the implication that future heat waves might interfere with the generation of nuclear power, something to consider in a warming world. He reminded me that I know nothing of the advances in nuclear technology or how heat might affect generation in the future. I guess it was an irresponsible post -- product of a silly urge to be part of something bigger than myself. I did take comfort in the thought that I am not alone in my irresponsibility -- a trait I share with the President and Vice President at the very least. At least I only posted a comment -- I didn't take the world down a path of death and destruction, so I'll allow myself a pass on this one.

I'm supposed to be smart . . . but I don't feel smart. I listen to financial advisors and politicians and scientists and it seems like they're speaking foreign languages. But what's a girl to do? I can either put blind faith in what I am told to believe or I can take my limited knowledge, my limited understanding, and try to make some sense of it all.

Call me irresponsible.

Why Not?

Last night as I was falling asleep, I started trying to imagine a better world -- the world as it could be. Change, good change, always begins with a vision.

I started with the assumption that Obama gets elected President and that he takes global warming seriously and puts policies in motion that actually save us from our own folly. We will still have at least twenty more years of weather getting worse and another twenty or so to get back to where we are today. Assuming. Hey, this is my fantasy, I can assume what I will! As far as I can tell, that is the very best we can hope for at this point.

So we assume that, thanks to timely action, global warming is minimized and peak oil is moot. Does life really change or does the future look like today but with wind turbines instead of coal plants, electric cars instead of gas?

Well, we are in for economic hard times. Almost guaranteed. The current cost of oil is going to have prolonged effects and even if we start switching to other forms of energy seven months from now, that conversion will take time. So recession at best, economic collapse at worst. Let's go with the middle ground -- depression, which is, in all probability, the most likely.

Let's assume it goes like this: With prices up, discretionary spending is down. Businesses go bankrupt. People lose jobs. Dow Jones begins sliding and picks up speed as former millionaires find themselves selling Bentleys at auction. At the same time we are in an economic hole, we are being hit by more floods, more fires, more droughts, more tornadoes, more hurricanes. Insurance costs go through the roof. The housing market reaches even lower lows and we see even more foreclosures. The number of homeless is staggering. Houses sit empty and squatters move in, sometimes multiple families occupying a mansion which, in it's former life, was a vacation home for the super-wealthy. Authorities look the other way. America is gasping for breath, but it survives the storm.

What has happened to Average Joe in all of this? Remember, we're working on the optimist's version of the future, here. Assuming Average Joe still has his house, still has a job, still has his car -- how has his lifestyle changed? He has learned to conserve -- doesn't drive the kids across town to soccer practice and ballet lessons anymore. Doesn't use an electric can opener when a manual one will do. Doesn't keep the house as cool in the summer or as warm in the winter. He has even found ways to generate his own electricity -- from windmills and solar panels to power-generating seesaws and stationery bikes. He puts in cisterns and uses his roof and gutters to collect rain water which he uses to grow vegetables where his lawn used to be. It's the rage anyway -- the new act of patriotism. He spends more time outside and finally gets to know his neighbors After All These Years. His kids, bored now that they're home and Dad won't let them play video games nearly as much, start hanging out with the kids down the street. They make themselves a clubhouse in a neighbor's tree and drop water bombs on the unsuspecting. Mom has converted the garage to a workshop. She makes quilts from old clothes on her foot pedaled sewing machine, which she then barters for clay pots and pine needle baskets made by people down the block. As communities become more and more self-sustaining, people learn that co-operation is the key to survival; crime and poverty all but disappear.

Now this is all fine and good for small-towns and suburbs, but what about downtowns? What about cities? They go through a slightly different transformation. Think of all the space that will be freed up if our malls, shopping centers, and big office buildings go bankrupt and are abandoned. All those buildings can be reinvented. Imagine living spaces interspersed with shops, churches, schools, and medical facilities, all in one building. Imagine rooftops and former parking lots planted with vegetables, and parks landscaped with fruit trees. Imagine streets with bicycles and pedestrians instead of fume-spewing automobiles. Imagine gardens tucked into every available niche and window boxes with herbs on every store front.

But even this rose-colored vision is doomed unless the world at large realizes at long last:

Resources are finite.
Population growth is inimical to quality of life.
We either live sustainably or die.

We can get there from here. Maybe we will. Why not?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Abysmal Ignorance and the Broken Trust

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Angela Merkel. I had never heard that she is the first female Chancellor of Germany. I had never heard that she was named the most powerful woman in the world two years running. I had never heard that she is leading her country and the EU towards clean, renewable energy while the US continues to wallow in its oil addiction.

She is the most powerful woman in the world and I have never heard of her! What is wrong with me? Where have I been?

So, if I don't know that Germany, with its conservative older generation, has elected a female Chancellor, what else don't I know? Who are the leaders of the rest of the G8? If I think a while, I come up with Brown -- he's the prime minister of the UK. And I remember the hotly contested election in France last year (only because we were in Europe and watching European news at the time); if I saw the French President's name, I would recognize it -- but I can't quite pull it out of my brain. Canada, our next-door neighbor? I have no idea. What about Mexico, our neighbor to the south? Again, no idea. Japan -- one of the most influential countries in the world? Must be something Japanese-sounding. China -- the volatile giant and exporter of almost everything in WalMart? Nope. Surely I know Russia. Everyone knows Russia. Not anymore. Italy? Not the slightest.

Even if I don't know, my mother must. She watches television almost all day long. She watches CSPAN and Christian news broadcasts that deal with more real news than the networks do. So I ask her how many world leaders she can name. Zero. Okay, how about my husband? He pays more attention than I to these kinds of things and has a better memory. He is able, after some thought, to come up with four or five names -- Merkel, Castro, Chavez, Brown, and Mugabe of Zimbabwe whose election is in question. But not Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan, China, France, Italy . . .

What is wrong with us? We are relatively intelligent, relatively well-informed people. We watch the news every day -- sometimes several times a day. But when do we ever hear real news? When do we hear about the woman who has broken the glass ceiling in Germany and been named the most powerful woman in the world? When do we hear about the smoking hot election of the French President? When do we hear about the urgent statement of the joint academies of science? Is it before the dirt on Brittany Spears or after the hot-dog eating contest in New Jersey? Maybe it was slipped in between stories on child sex and Madonna's divorce.

It can be said that the networks are just giving us what we want. We don't really want news; we want entertainment. So entertainment is what we get. News is passé. News is old hat. News is as out-moded as the clichés I've been using. But what about the sacred trust? The press is supposed to tell us what is going on in the world at large, not just the gossip from next door. The press has a sacred trust to bring us the news, the real news. And they do know the difference. I've watched CNN in America and I've watched CNN in Europe and they are no way comparable. One is entertainment and one is news.

The sacred trust is broken and I don't know if it will ever be fixed.

Crimes Against Humanity

In 1999, the US Congress held impeachment hearings on then President William Clinton for having lied under oath about his sexual relations with a White House intern, a relationship which caused a great deal of embarrassment to his wife, his daughter, and the American public at large. I have no intention of either supporting or opposing that process. My intention is to question how it is, then, that President George W. Bush has gotten off scott-free for his many lies -- lies which have cost, not temporary embarrassment, but lives -- thousands of lives -- both present and future. This is no ill-advised peccadillo we are talking about, this is meddling with the truth in ways that affect our basic rights to survival.

I won't go into George W's personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein and the thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi, his bungling has cost. If you are interested in that travesty of the truth, you can watch the documentary No End in Sight. What galls me even more is that he seems to have sold our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for forty barrels of oil (forgive the mixed metaphor -- nothing else seems quite as fitting!) His transgressions are so egregious, I find myself wordless. I will let his actions speak for themselves.

The Bush administration attempts to muzzle scientists, most notably James Hansen, who are speaking out about global warming. Read the article here.

The White House Office of Business and Management edits a multi-million dollar, two-year study by the EPA and removes references to the potentially harmful effects of carbon emissions, as well as suggestions for cutting such emissions and costs involved. Rather than follow the Supreme Court ruling that The Clean Air Act applies to carbon emissions as well as particulates, the OBM suggests that the Clean Air Act itself is flawed and needs to be revoked. Read articles here, here, and here.

While promoting oil exploration in environmentally sensitive areas, Bush calls for a two-year moratorium on solar arrays on public lands so that "environmental impact" can be studied. Read the article here. Thankfully, he later rescinds the moratorium (see here) but still continues to mislead the American public with specious promises of an oil-rich future (see here)

And while George twiddles, the earth burns. Sometimes literally. If you live in California or Georgia or Florida, you know whereof I speak. I'm still looking for that good lawyer -- the one who is willing to try GW for crimes against humanity. And for the lies he has told.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Focus on the solution, not the problem

One of my favorite books is Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. It's kind of strange as, philosophically, we are light-years apart, but his books have probably done more to change who I am than all the mystical, New Age books I've read put together. Goodkind taught me that's it is okay to fight for yourself and for the things you believe in. Strangely enough, I have found that I rather like fighting. It is empowering to fearlessly speak my truth even if to deaf ears. And Goodkind reminds me to focus on the solution, not the problem. I have taken his advice.

It's incredible to me that there's anyone on this earth who still believes global climate disruption is not happening or who can deny that human beings are responsible. It all comes down to this -- anthropogenic global warming is here. We need to make significant changes now or civilization, if not the earth itself, is in peril. That's it, pure and simple.

And yet, there is a solution, there is hope. In seven months, the United States, the world's biggest offender, will have a new administration. If Barack Obama is elected President, one can hope that he will put men the likes of James Hansen, Joseph Romm and Al Gore in positions of power over the energy sector. With the price of oil going up, we may see policies not just espoused but actually implemented. Greg's book will be coming out at a critical juncture -- the new administration will be poised to move forward and heightened public concern could be the extra push needed. We will still have to deal with the climactic changes that have already been set in motion, but if we can cut emissions soon enough and deeply enough, we may avoid the worst case scenarios.

And then perhaps, just perhaps, mankind will awaken to the fragile perfection of the world on which we live. Perhaps then we will realize that the earth is not ours to be relentlessly exploited and that we either learn to live in concert with nature or destroy the only home we have. Perhaps then we will make a voluntary effort to bring our numbers down, replant the forests, renew the seas, and encourage the wild things to return once again.

It sounds like a fairy tale when I write it all out, but it could happen that way. Global climate change and peak oil might be the twin catalysts for a shift to a whole new paradigm. With that hope, I fight on.