Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Brewing Questions over Coffee

I saw this piece on Thursday but just didn't want to think about it on Thanksgiving. I was trying to focus on the positive that day because I do have so much to be grateful for. But no matter how thankful I am for all I've been given, it's difficult to avoid feeling the weight of these issues every day. It was all I could do not to grill my seventy-nine year old grandfather about what he was doing to save the polar ice-cap!

According to the Reuters article, "Ocean and so-called greenhouse gas levels are rising faster than they have for thousands of years..." And guess what? Much of what the scientists found in the study shows that human activity is the cause. Now, why get more upset about this? Isn't this something we know and accept as reality?

My reaction to the report was to read the headline on Thursday, then scamper off and busy my mind with myriad other thoughts, each just so crucial: Would having another cup of coffee make me jittery or pleasantly chipper for our holiday guests? Would the baby nap long enough that I could steal a short nap and forego the coffee? Before I knew it, the baby was calling (read: screaming) and the decision was made for me. Anyway, the point is that global warming was the last thing on my mind....and I'm someone who thinks about the environment a lot, especially after I've had one of those cups of coffee.

So what is it about the thought of global warming that makes people shut down in some way? Is the potential for disaster simply too large for most of us to willingly face? The paradox is that the larger the problem the more urgent it is that we think about it, talk about it, and do everything we can to fix it -- yet we often only focus on the smaller, easily accessible issues of everyday life (more coffee?) in the face of a seemingly insurmountable dilemma. How can we start thinking about the destruction of the planet in a way that is as tangible and accessible as the morning coffee?

I might not have given further thought to yet another article about climate change had the first sentence not ended this way: "...according to two reports published on Thursday that are likely to fuel debate on global warming" (my emphasis). I know that the energy lobby and the corporate-controlled media would like for us to think that there is room for debate on the causes of global warming. And I realize that our government still questions the necessity of the Kyoto Protocol, a measure which stops far short of what we need to halt global warming. I know these things, but I guess I still find it hard to believe that there is really a "debate" about the existence of global warming.

How can we get past this red herring "debate?" How can we start making progress? How do we get people to stop burying their heads in the mundane and start working together to fix this? These are the questions I am thinking of this morning as I drink that cup of joe.

9 Comments:

  • At 4:23 PM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    The red-herring debate is something created by the Republican power structure as a kow-tow to corporate entities that simply do not want to do what must be done to help solve the problem. (This makes no sense to me, by the way since 77% of Americans in a recent poll believe in global warming; even if you think this belief is wrong, it seems to me that there is a strong business case for marketing to these people, not telling them they don't know what they are doing.)

    In any case, there are three major steps that we can all take to work on this problem:

    1. Write ALL elected officials and make it clear that (a) you believe the science, and think human-caused global warming is real; (b) you vote based on this belief (c) "greenwashing" or poorly spun government efforts to appear concerns will not work to get your vote.

    2. Insist that the US require and invest in sustainable electric sources, including solar cells for virtually all new construction and 80-90% tax credits to put new solar on more roofs. (My house is 100% solar; my local electric utility uses 71% coal!)

    3. Insist that the FEDERAL government put in place significantly stronger emissions standards, and if they will not provide penalties for automakers who fail, include 50% tax credits for all-electric vehicles, 75% if the vehicle is owned by a person resident in a zero-emission electric home.

    On a more day to day basis, the key is to reduce your hydrocarbon usage at every turn. Less auto usage, or buy a Gem (all electric); less electricity usage, or sign up for all green power, or get solar.

    Finally, register as a Green.

    Neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans get what a large portion of us out here already understand -- that ecological insanity may win short term votes, but we all lose when a few selfish folks with campaign funds dictate public policy. By registering Green you send a clear msg. to both parties that ecological dithering will not be tolerated.

     
  • At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger lauren said…

    Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions Roger. When we buy a house, we plan to look into alternative electricity sources. It sounds like solar is working out wonderfully for you!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep up the letters to elected officials. Your suggestions seem to be focused at the federal level. I'm curious if you write your local politicians about this too. It seems like point #1 could send an important reminder to city council members and state legislators that their consituents vote on global warming.

    I completely agree about the two dominant political parties, but I have to admit that I never considered registering Green. I wonder if not being a registered Democrat affects your ability to vote in the primary in my state. That could be problematic if there was no Green party candidate on the ballot.

     
  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    First, amusingly, my personal efforts are focused at the local level completely and first! This is, in many ways, far more important than the Federal level, because the feds will follow the local politicos! But I kept my comments national, because I am pretty sure you do not live in Pasadena, or maybe even in California (grin). Watch my blog for an "EASY GREEN: Change Your City" coming up soon. (grin).

    Second: Absolutely registration affects primary voting. In most (but not all) states, only members of a party can vote in that party's primary. Last year the realization came to me that it didn't matter which Dem candidate ran in many respects, because even the ones I respected and would likely vote for in the regular election would lack the understanding and resolve to go after these important issues effectively. (And Republicans, although espousing "conservation" are for no such thing.) Party registration tells the majors going in that to X% of people, these issues are very important.

    Although many third parties dream of becoming "the" third party, I think given people's concerns the Greens have a strong chance at doing so in time -- even as the big parties tend to miss the point. But that is NOT why I changed my registration.

    Party registration, to me became an issue like driving my bike more or buying organic food whenever possible. If I wait until the government tells me its a good idea, or until everybody is doing it so I don't feel like a fringe nut, or so I can vote in a primary for someone who will not do what is needed on important socio-enviro issues, it will be too late. Indeed, I realized, that by joining a party that didn't address these issues, I was *endorsing* and encouraging inaction.

    Last year, after years of dithering, I changed my registration even though I had been registered in a major party for decades and voted my conscience always. I explained my reasons in a letter to my old registered party. This November we got a green elected to a local school board, and I have been an appointed (and now officially)Green transportation commissioner for years. Because the Greens are very active locally, and enjoy some support on principles, Pasadena is an especially green (small "g") town. Greens have been known to support Dems and Republicans in local non-partisan races, especially if the person was willing to come to the issues that Greens represent.

    The other thing that sealed the deal for me was the Green 10 Key Values; these represented significantly my philosophy about how parties and government should govern. Have a peek: http://www.cagreens.org/platform/10k.htm Although this is at the California Greens website, these are pretty universal. (See also http://www.cagreens.org/ and http://www.gp.org/ )

    In some ways, my Green registration did not become comfortable for me until I hit a certain level of despair over things like global warming, and the fact that the majors ignore the relatively easy solutions laying around at their feet. I still vote my conscience, whatever the party. But I know that my little ballot will not be taken for granted by a major candidate either.

    See http://www.flickr.com/photos/66825352@N00/67483325/ for an amusing button that also sums it up for me.

     
  • At 10:32 AM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    Ooops. I forgot to mention that the reason I focused on the FEDERAL emission standards, is that the Federal government, under BUSH in particular, just sued California because we enacted stronger emissions standards than the rest of the country. The Bush administration said that only Congress could regulate car emissions, and that California had to have the same bad air as everyone else -- including Texas, with the worst air pollution in the country. (Now there's a suprise!)

     
  • At 12:01 PM, Blogger spiral said…

    I'm intrigued most by your questions about debates. I know I may sound unreasonably academic when I mention reading an article, but the topic of how "debates" are created in our society when no such "debate" should exist is the focus of one of my writing classes. I have students read Deborah Tannen's "The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue," and my department is using Edward Larson's Summer for the Gods to discuss how debates are created in our culture when no real debate exists or should exist.

    I think it would be interesting to apply this thinking to the way the media and the public at large discusses the environment, as I think you are so correct in saying that a "debate" about whether or not our environment is being seriously harmed by people has been created when I think most scientists would argue there is no debate about that. There is debate among issues related to our environmental debauchery, but there is no debate about the fact that we are doing serious harm. Instead, our media, political figures, and culture at large have to make every issue plaguing us into a debate so that people can take sides and feel like they are discussing said issues intelligently in some freaky post-modern twist. Unfortunately, such polarizing only creates problems where there should be none because if an issue is a debate, then there's always a side where people can just not believe a problem exists and thus not do anything to correct the problem. After all, if it's a debate-able problem, then it must not be a real problem, or so the thinking seems to go. I think this thinking needs to be corrected before we can correct anything related to the problems at hand, especially environmental ones. That's just my two-cents, though.

     
  • At 4:24 PM, Anonymous madgeneral said…

    Your post and spiral's comments about how debates are created and managed by the mainstream media in our society reminds me, perhaps because it's sunday, of the play-action pass in football. A quarterback drops back and fakes a hand-off to an effective running-back that the defense fears. The running-back pretends to be taking the ball and running with it, but the quarterback has kept the ball and since the defense was focused on the running-back who, it turns out, did not take the ball, the quarterback has three or four extra seconds to look for a wide-open receiver and toss downfield.

    This "debate" about the existence of global warming is and has been an engineered stall-tactic so the big extractors of our natural resources who long ago parasitized our government and media can pass an extra trillion or so to their political cronies, their executives, and their shareholders and, in so doing, position themselves smartly to control the direction of the next generation of "cleaner" technology. And when they're in front on that, they'll wring our ingenuities of their last ideal and their last penny and continue poisoning us if it can enhance their profits. The longer Americans focus on the controversy surrounding the debate about global warming and the environment, the longer we get lit up by this juggernaut.

     
  • At 7:11 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    Good point about the feds following local movements, Roger. I'm hopeful that the mayors who have agreed to meet or exceed the Kyoto targets will be an inspiration for some at the national level. As of November 9, 2005, 188 mayors signed onto the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Check out the list of participating mayors here. If yours is not on the list, perhaps that could be the first local letter you write!

    I also have a lot to chew on about the Green Party. I read the principles outlined by the California Green Party and they seem like a dream platform! Roger - what are your thoughts about "the spoiler effect" of having a Green party candidate on the ballot in a situation like Nader vs. Gore vs. Bush? I'm not sure what I think about it, but I agree with you that endorsing either of the major parties is further afield from my core beliefs.

    Spiral - welcome. I like "unreasonably academic" comments! ;) In fact, I'm quite interested in reading the Deborah Tannen piece that you mention. I think that you've touched on a really critical point: our mass media creates the appearance of debates and controversy simply because they sell . The frightening corollary to all of this "debating" of non-issues is inaction while we swirl around arguing with each other about the non-issue rather than potential solutions! An important piece of the puzzle in turning around the way that we treat the environment and myriad other social issues has to be a change in the media. At the very least, Americans will have to wake up to what the corporate-controlled media is doing. Perhaps a healthy dose of Noam Chomsky ought to be prescribed!

     
  • At 9:40 AM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    For a longer discussion than you might want in your blog comments, feel free to drop me an email at easygreen@snarfbargle.com; meanwhile to your questions:

    I will check on the mayor thing, as Bill Bogaard is one of the few mayors to declare International Car Free Day . . .

    Meanwhile, I have never voted party line. In any party. Al Gore needed all the help he could get, and I felt he was sufficiently tuned in to my green (small g) concerns, and Kerry seemed like a guy who could get those and definitely got other issues (Iraq, Health care, etc) so I did not cast a spoiler vote in either case.

    That's why the button says register Green, vote your conscience.

    The Nader thing created a bit of a rift among Greens, by the way.

    One good solution for that is IRV or Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting. Have a peek and see if you don't think it would (1) eliminate the spoiler effect (2) help diversity in democracy and (3) bring back voters who feel a vote for "their" candidate "doesn't count" or who hate choosing the lesser of two evils.

    IRV was recently adopted by a city near Washington D.C., Tacoma Park MD, so maybe it will get some more exposure.

     

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