Scuttlebutt: The Green new Deal and . . .

Scuttlebutt: The Green new Deal and . . .

     The New Green Deal is certainly creating a lot of conversation- and that is exactly what it is intended to do. Even though it is merely a resolution of intent, it has the mainstream establishment freaking out. Such cries as “they're coming for your car” or “you're not allowed to own cows anymore” are definitely more ridiculous than, say, we are destroying the life supporting systems that allow us to live on this planet.

     Let me say early on that I believe the social goals included in the proposal, while laudable in themselves, should not be included in a plan to retain the earth's ecosystem. I'm afraid I think it is more important for us to solve the issue of human survival before chasing the illusive human happiness.

     Other policy goals complicate the politics and, of course, dramatically increase the cost. Let's save the planet first so that there will still be humans to become more just and equitable.

     The denial of most Americans of the level of danger of climate change reminds me of the analogy of the frog in the warming pot. Or maybe the Emperor's New Clothes is a better comparison. While it should be perfectly obvious that the earth has been altered by human activity, many people are more concerned about a fake crisis at the border than the real crisis facing humanity. Perhaps, because the problem is so huge and ominous people just can't face it; but it should be the responsibility of government to encourage us and to show us how to be part of the changes we must make.

     What is interesting to me is that those who are predicting catastrophic effects from trying to meet the global warming challenge ignore the consequences of doing nothing. There are plenty of studies telling us how expensive and disruptive non-action would be. While entrenched interests warn of eminent disaster if we try to meet this challenge, what they really mean is, “do we really have to change our lifestyle to have serious effect?” To some extent, yes, we do, but it doesn't have to be painful- some of us think of it as interesting. The Reason magazine blog, in their apoplectic fit, claims, “It invokes climate concerns to urge Congress to adopt a sweeping plan to totally remake the American economy.” It is, they decry “ A Bizarre Grab-Bag of Terrible Ideas” (their caps).

     Let there be no denying the fact that we are going to have to change the way we live on this planet. The old idea of unlimited resources should have been discarded about the time the human population hit one billion, shortly after Thomas Newcomen's first commercial, continuously operating steam engine.

     In 2015 a team of Stanford engineers led by Mark Jacobson actually worked out what it would take to convert to total renewable energy use. It is a big order: half a million wind turbines, tens of thousands of utility scale solar systems, millions of residential systems, and an extensive array of storage facilities. This is where the WWII and moonshot comparisons come in, but this is no moonshot. That mission merely required a focusing of energy and resources. Unlike the moonshot, WWII required the active participation of every American citizen. And some sacrifice.

Funny thing is, I grew up in the fifties and spent the whole decade listening to my parents (and everyone else's parents) talk about “the war effort”. Though they vividly retold stories about the sacrifices they all had to make, they always seemed really proud of what they had done. They also found that working collectively with their neighbors was a positive experience, both for themselves and the nation as a whole. It was easy to sense their pride in having come together as a nation to face a common threat.

     Of course, there was no denying after Pearl Harbor that a crisis was upon them. No such sense of imminent danger exists for many of us and having the President and a major political party telling the populace that it is a hoax certainly doesn't help matters.

     Todd Stern, Obama's chief climate envoy, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here.”

     The problem with the WWII comparison is that during that crisis the nation devoted nearly all of its resources to the military. In our effort we must divert money from the military to win this war.  Not that the military has no role to play and, in fact, they are leaders in alternative energy research and deployment. Luckily, the Pentagon deals with reality instead of politics. It is just that things like 12 new-class Columbia nuclear submarines with the lifespan cost of $347 billion will probably have to be let go. You have never even heard of that program have you? General dynamics and the other contractors building those war machines could still get plenty of contracts from the government, but maybe to build wind turbines instead.

     Whether we believe it or not, our lives are all going to be affected during this next generation. As the Earth continues to change in ways we have not yet experienced, resource wars, agricultural dislocations, and famines are certain outcomes. How quickly we adapt will determine the extent of pain to be suffered by humanity. Most national governments worldwide are beginning to take serious action. Whether ours does or not will depend on who we decide to put in charge.


Words on Wellness: Wild Fennel

Words on Wellness: Wild Fennel

Sonoma County Poet Meg Hamill

Sonoma County Poet Meg Hamill