When I was young, I was given a thorough Catholic education that included the proclamation that I was cursed with “original sin” from the moment I was born. What did I do to deserve such a harsh condemnation? Nothing. It’s a very strange concept that you were “bad,” but not because of anything you did.
I didn’t know that burning coal was such a great idea until I saw this billboard in St. Louis. Orwell is probably already dizzy from spinning in his grave, but here we go again.
Here’s a link to the work of the corporate spinmeisters.
We now understand it’s about corporate partnerships. It’s not, “sue the bastards;” it’s, “work through corporate partnerships with the bastards.” There is no enemy anymore. More than that, it’s casting corporations as the solution, as the willing participants and part of this solution. That’s the model that has lasted to this day. . . .We’ve globalized an utterly untenable economic model of hyperconsumerism. It’s now successfully spreading across the world, and it’s killing us.
[I]t goes back to the elite roots of the movement, and the fact that when a lot of these conservation groups began there was kind of a noblesse oblige approach to conservation. It was about elites getting together and hiking and deciding to save nature. And then the elites changed. So if the environmental movement was going to decide to fight, they would have had to give up their elite status. And weren’t willing to give up their elite status. I think that’s a huge part of the reason why emissions are where they are. . . . where that really came to a head was over fracking. The head offices of the Sierra Club and the NRDC and the EDF all decided this was a “bridge fuel.” We’ve done the math and we’re going to come out in favor of this thing. And then they faced big pushbacks from their membership, most of all at the Sierra Club. And they all had to modify their position somewhat. It was the grassroots going, “Wait a minute, what kind of environmentalism is it that isn’t concerned about water, that isn’t concerned about industrialization of rural landscapes – what has environmentalism become?” And so we see this grassroots, place-based resistance in the movements against the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline, the huge anti-fracking movement.
In the June 7, 2012 edition of Nature (available online only to subscribers),Pavan Sukhdev, chief executive of environmental consulting firm GIST Advisory, offers a formula for turning corporations into environmentally responsible entities. Sukdev points out that our corporations tend to cater to rampant consumerism, and this is immensely damaging to the environment. The effects can be seen in the form of “emissions, freshwater use, pollution, waste and land-use change.” Corporations have also learned to excel at “influencing government regulation, avoiding taxes and obtaining subsidies for harmful activities in order to optimize shareholder returns.”
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I couldn’t agree more with Bill McKibben. it’s time to get angry.
So far we’ve raised the temperature of the earth about one degree Celsius, and two decades ago it was hard to believe this would be enough to cause huge damage. But it was. We’ve clearly come out of the Holocene and into something else. Forty percent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic. There’s nothing theoretical about any of this any more. Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere is about 4 percent wetter than it used to be, which has loaded the dice for drought and flood. In my home country, 2011 smashed the record for multibillion-dollar weather disasters—and we were hit nowhere near as badly as some. Thailand’s record flooding late in the year did damage equivalent to 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s almost unbelievable. But it’s not just scientists who have been warning us. Insurance companies—the people in our economy who we ask to analyze risk—have been bellowing in their quiet, actuarial way for years. Here’s Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, in their 2010 annual report: “The reinsurer has built up the world’s most comprehensive natural catastrophe database, which shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally, loss-related floods have more than tripled since 1980, and windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes. This rise cannot be explained without global warming.”
I’m getting really tired of hearing people talk the talk, without walking the walk. All of us do it, me included (what else can you say when I take a long airplane trip to vacation in San Francisco, despite the fact that I often ride a bicycle to work?). In the meantime, we are living in the only industrialized country that is still debating whether burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. I’m tired of people driving to Earth Day in big SUVs. I’m tired of the fact that most of us who whine about sustainability (including me) live comparable lifestyles to those who downplay the importance of such issues.
And how is THIS for a sobering talk?
The speaker is Dr. Peter Raven who, in a gentle voice, is reading the riot act to the audience (his speech “Saving Ourselves” runs from 5:55 to 29:00). Raven is a courageous speaker who is not afraid to tie the exhaustion of natural resources to the exploding number of human beings on planet Earth. His facts and figures are not in dispute by any thinking person.
[At the 29:00 mark, Raven describes an attempt to reclaim a precious preserve of extremely bio-diverse land in Costa Rica–this video was created at a fundraiser for that effort, titled the “Children’s Eternal Rainforest.”]
As Bill McKibben says, it’s time to severely devalue mere talk and to start making things really happen. The path is going to require some conscious change at the highest levels, because we cannot depend on ourselves to keep making the right decisions–we don’t have that kind of willpower. We don’t yet know exactly where we are headed, but we do know that we need to steer sharply away from fossil fuels. We also have some reason to believe that this future devoid of fossil fuels could be an opportunity as much as it is a crisis–see this talk by Amory Lovins, who argues that it is time to “Reinvent Fire.”
Barack Obama once promoted “Cap and Trade” as an alleged method for reducing carbon emissions, but has since backed off of that idea. Thank goodness, because cap and trade is a terrible approach for several major reasons that are well illustrated by this video, “The Story of Cap & Trade” by Annie Leonard.
The U.S. Green Building Council has gotten a lot of attention through promotion of its LEED standard. I am personally aware of several organizations that have focused intense PR campaigns on claims that their buildings have been modified, usually at considerable expense, so that they are LEED-certified and thus more energy efficient. Here’s the claim as to the meaning of LEED certification on USGBC’s website:
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
Consequently, buildings that are LEED certified are understood by the general public as indicating that a building is especially energy-efficient.
Today I read a disturbing article in Mother Jones (not yet available online): “Leeding us On.” The article focuses on allegations made by Henry Gifford, a New York City energy efficiency consultant, who calls LEED “a joke.” Here’s an excerpt:
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Pity Tony Hayward, erstwhile boss of BP. He’s really had it rough. He’s been “demonized and vilified”, to use his own words. The poor CEO was so busy dealing with the massive oil spill perpetrated by his company that he almost missed watching his yacht race in a very important race! Almost, but he was able to watch the race anyway. Because, you know, someone else was probably working on cleaning up the oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico. It’s not really the CEO’s job, you see. It’s more of a job for the “small people” of the world.
“Life isn’t fair. Sometimes you step off the pavement and get hit by a bus,” Hayward said recently. Yes, that’s true. And sometimes, you end up the CEO of one of the most powerful oil companies in the world. A company that has a long history of criminal and ethical violations that should make them unfit to operate a lemonade stand, much less a major multinational corporation with power to contaminate the entire Gulf of Mexico– and perhaps, Beyond!
I’m getting really tired of greenwashing, so much so that I’ve creating a new category called “greenwashing” dedicated to these sorts of incidents:
Today I am featuring Exhibit A, “Elephant Poo Poo Paper.” It’s being featured here as Exhibit A not because it is the worst offender ever, but because it is my first of a series of incidents of greenwashing I’ll be pointing out over the months. It’s worth our while to point out greenwashing because these sorts of products help maintain the illusion that we don’t need to change our lives dramatically to accommodate Earth’s depleted and contaminated resources. All we need to do is to buy cute products and claim that we thereby give a damn.
Now, back to today’s featured product: “Elephant Poo Poo Paper,” which was recently purchased at the St. Louis Zoo. Just think: we can now make good use of elephant poop (as though it can’t just be left alone to enrich the soil). We can help save the planet by manufacturing heavily-dyed paper and shipping it thousands of miles away from the “elephant conservation parks” where the elephant poo is purportedly gathered and then turned into paper by mixing it with bananas and pineapples.
Buy “Elephant Poo Poo Paper” and feel like you are doing your part to save the world. Better yet, give it as a gift so you can loudly broadcast to others that you are doing your part to save the world.
If it’s actually so good to the earth to make paper out of poop, there is a lot of cow poop (among other kinds of poop) just waiting for those who want to be “green” paper manufacturers.