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Monday, October 22, 2007

Minding the gaps: it's time to make the connections

Lately, my mind has been obsessing over gaps ...
  • The gap between the rosy colored fictions of global warming deniers and the the paint it black reality of the scientific evidence predicting dire consequences of continued inaction.

  • The gap between the real needs of our society and the upside-down priorities of our government's funding choices.

  • The gap between the backward looking solutions of the misleaders vying to steer the teetering US ship of state and the type of future focused vision we'll require to see us through trouble tossed times that lie ahead.

After years of official foot-dragging and corporate funded refusals to kick our fossil fuel addiction, a new report is in showing that increased reliance on coal-burning power plants is speeding up the damage we're doing to the planet's atmosphere and oceans (see Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere Increasing from the Associated Press).

Despite the Kyoto protocol, which the world's two biggest polluters (the US and China) refused to sign on to, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have gone up 35% since 1990. That's a rate that outpaced the worst predictions of climate scientists, and it shows the ineffectiveness of cap and trade models that try to set modest goals for reducing our carbon emissions.

The time has come for bold vision and a radical re-imagining of society that gives highest priority to creating a sustainable economy built on renewable energy sources. We need a call to action you won't hear from any of the contenders for 2008's presidency, in either party, as both are heavily funded by business interests with large stakes in the status quo.

The politicos may want to take a look at the October issue of Wired Magazine, which includes a story on a new book that's creating controversy in environmental circles. In Break Through, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger have taken on some of the movement's leading lights (including recent Nobel-prize winner Al Gore) for not doing enough in deference to special interests, such as labor.

They've staked out a position outside the traditional perspectives of conservative and liberal policy makers alike, and advocate a major investment of federal monies to develop new green technologies. Here is an interesting and timely excerpt from the article Two Environmentalists Anger Their Brethren:
Even if every American SUV owner were to buy a hybrid tomorrow, that wouldn't come close to offsetting the environmental damage being perpetrated around the globe. In fact, all the standards, cap-and-trade limits, and emission reductions that environmentalists have been pushing for may slow, but will never reverse, global warming. And that is Nordhaus and Shellenberger's inconvenient truth. "There is simply no way we can achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions," they write in their introduction, "without creating breakthrough technologies that do not pollute."

... Nordhaus and Shellenberger argue passionately that the only appropriate response to the climate crisis is a federally funded, $300 billion Manhattan Project to rapidly develop new forms of greentech. Nothing short of that, they argue, can jump-start the transition to a green economy in time. ...

Read the full article
I haven't read the book yet, so I don't know the details of what they propose, or their specific criticisms of the movement's old guard. They've certainly cast aside any concern for stepping on toes, but the time for niceties and half-measures is past and I applaud anyone kick-starting a debate with new ideas.

Our priorities have been misplaced for too long, and we're getting to a point of no return. Some projections forecast a doomsday climatic scenario as early as 2030 if we don't reverse current trends. Where could we get the kind of money needed to invest in such a large scale federally backed program? Ending Bush's Middle East fiasco would make a good place to start (see Bush asks skeptical Congress for more war money from Reuters)

Note: Image above taken from Matthew D. Wilson's (LtPowers) photo of The Kintigh Generating Station in Somerset, New York.
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