Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Time to Face Ugly Reality

I'm still waiting for the arrival of my copy of George Monbiot's widely praised book about global warming, _Heat: How to Stop The Planet from Burning_, but I don't expect it to contain too many things I disagree with. Here's a quote from a review that I think is particularly telling,

"We wish our governments to pretend to act," he writes. "We get the moral satisfaction of saying what we know to be right, without the discomfort of doing it. My fear is that the political parties in most rich nations have already recognized this. They know that we want tough targets, but that we also want those targets to be missed. They know that we will grumble about their failure to curb climate change, but that we will not take to the streets. They know that nobody ever rioted for austerity."

You can read the rest of the review here, but if we're honest, it doesn't tell you much that we didn't already know. That is, the 60% reduction in emissions required to stabilize global warming before the planet turns into Venus really means 80 or more reductions in emissions for those of us in the western world, since it is not fair to screw people who use energy for running water and the occasional antibiotic out of their share, so that we can have our cars and vacations. That that means a bunch of hard, hard, serious choices, that are only even remotely possible because the alternative is to be dead - to have your children be dead, and your grandchildren. To have the coasts of the world be uninhabitable and people starving because of drought and flooding.

Dick Cheney said that the American way of life is non-negotiable. Well, we're about to find out - will we negotiate, or would we rather die, and kill our children and grandchildren than give up our airplane travel, our microbrews, our vacations, our private cars, our shopping habit?

Now I think Monbiot is right on the money about what most people, including most "environmentalists" really want - they want the perception of trying to change without actually doing anything hard. We don't want to admit that what we really need is a totally different way of life. But sometimes reality confronts us, whether we like it or not, and this is reality, unbearable or not.

COWARDS!!! Not just you, but me, and all of us are engaged in a "Mommy, can't I just have five more minutes and two more drinks of water" bit of whining with the blunt reality of what we have done to our world. We've partied, we've spent what we had and mortgaged our children's future and now we're desperately trying to bum a buck from someone because, as James Kunstler has eloquently put it,

"The signal failure of public debate in this country is embodied in our obsession with this particular theme -- how to keep the cars running by other means at all costs. Everybody from the greenest enviros to the hoariest neoliberal free market pimps believe that this is the only thing we need to worry about or talk about. The truth, of course, is that we have to make other arrangements for virtually all the major activities of everyday life -- farming, commerce, transport, settlement patterns -- but we are so over-invested in our suburban infrastructure that we cannot face this reality."

Well guess what, sometimes reality is reality, and it doesn't always negotiate with what we'd like it to be. I'm 34 years old, I have four kids under 7, and I'd love to believe that they can have long distance travel and vacations, private cars and the wealthy lifestyle I've enjoyed. But I'll settle for having them live, and if I am too damned big a coward to give up my luxuries for that, I deserve to pay the price in hell, if there is one.

Read Monbiot's book. Look at your life, and realize that every single thing you do has a carbon cost. Every book you buy, every toy, every drive, every plane flight, every meal, every shopping trip. Look at it and think "how can I, and everyone, do 80% less. And when you get to the point of answering, as I am "I have no freakin' idea, but I have to try" that's the beginning. And it is easier for all of us if a lot of us try at once. It is easier to get out and grow food if others are there to help. It is easier to give up flying to visit family members, to weddings, on vacation, if others are there to understand. It is easier to give up driving if there are thousands of other people committed to the same change. Heck, with enough of us, we can even ask the idiots who mostly run things to make it a little easier for us. But we can't wait for them.

It is time to stop being pathetic cowards and confront the dark reality we've created. Deal.



RAS said...

I want to let you know that I hear you and agree. I can't remember how I found your blog, but I'm glad I did. You're one of the few people who is willing to face the ugly truth. I like to think of myself as another. Lately I've been fighting off depression because I'm in the environmental movement and everyone of my peers -everyone of them -thinks we can just buy hybrids or switch to ethanol, recycle, and use cloth bags and that will save the world. Sorry, but that just ain't the truth. It's time to face the full truth, and to react. Even some enviornmentalists who kind of glimpse the truth don't want to admit it, lest they "go too far" or "scare people".

I think its time for them to get scared.

Eileen said...

Guilty. In part....

I know I'm justifying, but I swear I need that garden tool for growing my own potatoes this year. And I needed the row covers too, my pumpkins totally failed last year.

And I need the CFLs to reduce my footprint.

But I know, they all come on a truck, with packaging. It makes by brain hurt that I have to buy stuff to make progress in some areas.

Shaunta said...

I found your blog through...some other site that I can't remember right now. And I just wanted to let you know that for the first time, I want to sit down and read an entire blog.

The thing that brought me to your blog in the first place was your vision of five years in the future. And your autistic son (I've got one of them, too!)

Just wanted to let you know...I think you're cool and I can't wait to read more. We're moving from Vegas to a small, northern Nevada city in six months and I have a feeling your blog will be giving me some strength. Thanks!

Amy said...

It's so easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. It makes me want to throw up my hands and say "fine, let the next generation fend for themselves."

I won't, but goodness it's difficult to keep plugging away. I really haven't come that far at all.

Anita said...

Well said as usual. I too am waiting for my copy of "Heat" to arrive. I really admire Monbiot's writing and am looking foward to what he has to say.

I have found myself frustrated as well by the fact that mostly either people are oblivious to the problem, or if not they shrug and say well what can you do, it's such a huge problem. And the environmentalists tend as you've noted, to see the solution as to what sort of fuel-hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, etc can we find that will allow us to continue business as usual. I think that one of the reasons Kunstler draws such ire at times is that he doesn't go along with this notion and in fact rebuts it head-on. Which is why I admire him for doing so, as well as for being an intelligent and good writer.

My state legislature has made global warming the focus of their agenda this session, and has started off with guest speakers. Amory Lovins spoke last week and it was more of the same; low-weight composite super cars, alternative fuels, etc, and it seems the crowd ate it up. Sigh....

Whenever I try to point out that this may not at all be realistic, it is greeted with horror by most people who cannot conceive of a different lifestyle.

So where do we go with this? We seem to be mostly divided between those who are oblivious, those who feel it will be their grandchildren's problem(oh well), and those who think the solution will be a techno-fix that is just around the corner.

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