Energy Collective blog power policy climate - the conversation happens here

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stupidest. Problem. Ever.

At some point, I'm going to turn this into a longer and better linked post, but this has got to be said. Right now. Again.

The worst thing, the most depressing thing, about global warming, isn't the melting ice cap or the short time horizon. It certainly isn't the current state of our technological advancement or knowledge, which is largely sufficient to the problem. It's the stupidity, inactivity, timidity, shortsightedness and fecklessness of humanity's ruling elites. Really. That's why I think the proper way to refer to it is as a suicide pact, because it's both deliberate and avoidable.

Consider that we've got at present tremendous financial liquidity. The environmentally unsustainable suburbs are emptying out like mad due to wave on wave of foreclosures and debt-ridden consumers mailing their keys to the bank. There's also a large reserve labor force of unemployed, underemployed, and discouraged workers. Fuel is becoming more expensive, but is still cheap and abundant enough that it could be put to use setting the country on a path towards sustainability. Altered land use is one of the largest causes of climate change, and industrialization, deforestation, suburbanization, and a mad paving craze have been exacerbating every single (very expensive) climate-related problem. These crises are making our current system unsustainable, pushing us into financial meltdown in the US and destabilizing world markets, which is going to have the inevitable result of decreasing this society's ability to well address even one of these problems, let alone all of them at once. All together though, I think these issues could solve each other.

Shorter, the scenario: We have a lot of money, people, recently available land, and resources. This is not always going to be true, and if society were better governed, it would be seized as a golden opportunity for positive change rather than an excuse for more of the same.

But what, what, I ask you, is the solution that our brilliant leaders are putting on the table as a necessary part of 'the mix' of fixes? Nuclear power. Which takes years to get online, is unreliable in drought conditions such as those predicted in all the global warming scenarios, is fabulously expensive, and can't be supported in any wise by an open market solution even though it's a fairly mature technology.

So please understand, in all ways, that the greatest tragedy of global warming, this very serious and urgent climate crisis, is inaction. Is a belief in human powerlessness in the face of a problem we ourselves had the power to create. Is the blinkered moronicity that allows leaders to make decisions exactly as if money were edible. Is the trap within which the public is caught that makes it difficult to have the time and resources to do more than buy what they're offered and try to chill out a little bit every evening by the flickering glow of reality television.

And in that frustration, there's the seed of hope. We did this to ourselves. We can't change the inexorable laws of physics that are destabilizing our weather. Yet we can change each other's minds and willingness to act, we can help each other find the way out.

"If one thing could be different, everything could be different." - G.I. Gurdjieff


Anonymous said...

I like the phrase "incremental ecocide" for describing our situation.

Anonymous said...

I basically agree with your comment. I work as a hydropower engineer in Africa ( ) and lots of work could be easily done for developing small hydropower schemes instead of buring oil and wood.

Anonymous said...

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