There are a lot of niggling details being argued over in climate change and environmental circles. 350 ppm. Peak oil dates. Number of species gone extinct.
But, I’ve come to the realization that many of these details are, for the most part, irrelevant. We’ve got a much bigger problem. And it’s called apathy. Actually, it’s much worse than apathy because apathy suggests something more hopeful. No, what we’ve got is distrust, disbelief, the desire to prove wrong and more, importantly, hatred.
Until these issues are addressed our message (whatever it is) will just bounce off the heads of those we are trying to educate or encourage.
One commenter chimed in with
Carbon taxes. People change their behavior when money comes into the picture. Mental change follows action change for most folks anyway.
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On a personal note, I don’t hold that global warming is man-made. On the other hand, Peak Oil, the loss of wealth from the world as demand for oil on a given day overshadows the ability to produce oil on that day, will drive nearly all the changes that the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) worriers propose. The AGW argument runs in two directions – stop burning fossil fuels and producing methane, and sequester carbon and CO2 already in the atmosphere. Peak Oil expectations are that cheap energy – coal and oil – are getting more expensive and will become too expensive to continue life as we know it.
Most of the proposals for sequestering carbon have been energy intensive. Anything energy intensive has to be re-evaluated under Peak Oil.
Someone pointed out that cows produce methane – so feeding cows has become somewhat of a point of dogma for AGW mitigation proponents. They don’t seem concerned about swamps and compost heaps that sequester carbon – and emit methane. In quantities to obscure what can be measured from all the cows in the world. This is just one of the politically correct and facile arguments I object to.
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Barry Goldwater had it several years ago, “You cannot legislate morality.”
Carbon taxes won’t work. Look at how punitive taxes have failed to reduce smoking, or the dangers to young and old smokers. Smoking sections in restaurants, now, made a difference. Smoking sections demonstrate, publicly, that smokers are harmful to others. That visual cue – the smoke in the air, the segregation, is an image easier to carry into home and family life, implying a credible message to smokers and bystanders.
Cigarette taxes barely inconvenience sellers and wealthy – and impose real hardships on the middle class and poor. And fuel a black market that gangs, thugs, and organized crime exploit.
If you want to shut down coal-fired power plants, the obvious step is to stop using electricity. If you want to shut down steel plants, stop using steel. And if you want to save the planet, stop sending scrapped machinery and cars to China. Re-use, repurpose, rebuild and restore, instead.
If you want to stop burning diesel and gas in cars, stop commuting for shopping and for work. And school – return to the one-room school within walking distance (a mile or so), put up the teacher in a nearby home instead of a “living” (euphemism for Union) or “comparable” wage, forgo the weekly (out of town!) football and basketball spectacles.
(I can see how consolidating schools makes for career advancement for administrators, for consolidating authority, but it fails to take into account the impact of longer travel times and fuel usage on the community. I have a lot of respect for teaching and teachers. But teachers unions seldom pressure a school to improve education results, and they do *not* keep money in the local economy.)
If you cannot choose, en masse, to live a sustainable energy lifestyle – how strong is your message? Really?
I mean, you have to allow a transition, a period where people expecting to live in a post-industrial age find the adaptations – the devices, the community planning strategies, the building codes, the school building construction concepts, the bicycles, the shoes not made of petroleum in third world countries and transported around the world, for goodness sakes!
I have a drawing in a book, “Farm Appliances You Can Build”, that shows a wooden frame to stuff straw or hay – to hand build hay and straw bales. My neighbors that bale and feed hay use the big bales that require heavy equipment to pick up, store, and dispense. I don’t begin to know how to make my own twine.
The flip side to “carbon tax” is the devaluation of human effort. Real wages have to return to the value of the food required (at the rice and beans level of nutrition) for that day, plus 10-20% so the “wealthy” can afford to feed a family. Wages cannot be kept at a level where the average worker buys a house, buys a car every five to ten years, pays for college for every child, and buys them computers as their school requires.
As a nation we may have to evaluate whether some jobs should pay enough for a worker to have a family, or be married. I expect this pressure on wages to redefine a lot, including selection of mate and circumstances for “dating” and marrying – and having children. I expect the home to become not an investment, but where you expect your descendents to live. This may come to overturn our current approach to real estate taxes – which today assume a level of affluence that is not going to persist.
That kind of re-adjustment to “real wages” is what is needed. Does that have to happen today? No. Today we have to adapt to a “hideously expensive” energy society. And the first things to look at are employers and city planners oblivious to the distance people commute, and that fail to take responsibility for their impact on fuel usage in cities.
That is how to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in personal life. Not employing more union labor to build big factory cars that burn less gas – or coal-fired electricity – to repeat the same rubber-consuming, time consuming, resource consuming commuter lifestyle we have taken for granted since the boys came marching home from WWII and Sears created the myth of the single family dwelling, and corporate America invented mass commuting.
The ship doesn’t go where the captain doesn’t steer. If we don’t like this ship, the answer has nothing to do with harassing the guy at the wheel. I just don’t see that many people getting off the “cheap oil” ship. That Cheap Oil ship has to stay to the established trade routes – it cannot get to the “uncharted wastes” where people could live without massive use of fossil fuels.
A Carbon tax is a politically correct bandage. It serves the “Tax the rich” mantra, and it keeps union workers on the take as we build new cars and new coal-fired power plants to take advantage of the new economic leverage ploys you create. And it is my understanding the national electricity grid is someone inefficient, delivering some portion of the energy it starts out with. So-called “clean” electricity from wind power is quite a bit more expensive – and oil intensive – to build and maintain. And requires coal-fired plants to serve when the wind isn’t blowing where it is needed.
Like recycling plans for plastics and paper – without government subsidies, you wouldn’t see the wind turbines going up – or operating. I understand the wind operators in Texas, some of them, *pay* the grid to take their electricity, making up the difference from federal grants. That is what “sustainable” means to me.