Every so often I come across something that makes me smack my forehead and say "Jeez, now I get it." And then of course, being the sort of self-critical type I am I invariably follow with "...now why couldn't I have come up with that?"
Well, today's blast comes from Tom Friedman's article in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, headlined The Power of Green. Frankly, I would have preferred he name it 'Of Zingers and green piece' or something like that, but he didn't, and so I had to. "Why?" you ask? Because this piece is so full of zingers--read: powerfully enlightening realities about climate change vs. the globe as we know it. And, it's about a kind of green that not too many of us have been able to articulate yet, or even envision.
I would love for you all to read this piece. In full. But in case that's inconvenient, I'll lift a few of the choicest parts for you. On second thought, do read it, because this article's true mastery lies in how well it's all connected. But go ahead, sample a bit...
"In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. One thing that always struck me about the term “green” was the degree to which, for so many years, it was defined by its opponents — by the people who wanted to disparage it. And they defined it as “liberal,” “tree-hugging,” “sissy,” “girlie-man,” “unpatriotic,” “vaguely French.”
Well, I want to rename “green.” I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism."
"The dirty little secret is that we’re fooling ourselves. We in America talk like we’re already “the greenest generation,” as the business writer Dan Pink once called it. But here’s the really inconvenient truth: We have not even begun to be serious about the costs, the effort and the scale of change that will be required to shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years."
"Sometime after 9/11 — an unprovoked mass murder perpetrated by 19 men, 15 of whom were Saudis — green went geostrategic, as Americans started to realize we were financing both sides in the war on terrorism. We were financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars; and we were financing a transformation of Islam, in favor of its most intolerant strand, with our gasoline purchases. How stupid is that?"
"No wonder more Americans have concluded that conserving oil to put less money in the hands of hostile forces is now a geostrategic imperative. President Bush’s refusal to do anything meaningful after 9/11 to reduce our gasoline usage really amounts to a policy of “No Mullah Left Behind.” James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, minces no words: “We are funding the rope for the hanging of ourselves.”"
"People change when they have to — not when we tell them to — and falling oil prices make them have to. That is why if we are looking for a Plan B for Iraq — a way of pressing for political reform in the Middle East without going to war again — there is no better tool than bringing down the price of oil. When it comes to fostering democracy among petroauthoritarians, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a neocon or a radical lib. If you’re not also a Geo-Green, you won’t succeed."
"“Think of the climate change issue as a closet, and behind the door are lurking all kinds of monsters — and there’s a long list of them,” Pacala said. “All of our scientific work says the most damaging monsters start to come out from behind that door when you hit the doubling of CO2 levels.” As Bill Collins, who led the development of a model used worldwide for simulating climate change, put it to me: “We’re running an uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have.”"
"To convey the scale involved, Socolow and Pacala have created a pie chart with 15 different wedges. Some wedges represent carbon-free or carbon-diminishing power-generating technologies; other wedges represent efficiency programs that could conserve large amounts of energy and prevent CO2 emissions. They argue that the world needs to deploy any 7 of these 15 wedges, or sufficient amounts of all 15, to have enough conservation, and enough carbon-free energy, to increase the world economy and still avoid the doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. Each wedge, when phased in over 50 years, would avoid the release of 25 billion tons of carbon, for a total of 175 billion tons of carbon avoided between now and 2056.
Here are seven wedges we could chose from: “Replace 1,400 large coal-fired plants with gas-fired plants; increase the fuel economy of two billion cars from 30 to 60 miles per gallon; add twice today’s nuclear output to displace coal; drive two billion cars on ethanol, using one-sixth of the world’s cropland; increase solar power 700-fold to displace coal; cut electricity use in homes, offices and stores by 25 percent; install carbon capture and sequestration capacity at 800 large coal-fired plants.” And the other eight aren’t any easier. They include halting all cutting and burning of forests, since deforestation causes about 20 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions."
"According to Lester Brown, the founder of the Earth Policy Institute, if China keeps growing at 8 percent a year, by 2031 the per-capita income of 1.45 billion Chinese will be the same as America’s in 2004. China currently has only one car for every 100 people, but Brown projects that as it reaches American income levels, if it copies American consumption, it will have three cars for every four people, or 1.1 billion vehicles. The total world fleet today is 800 million vehicles!"
"The only way to stimulate the scale of sustained investment in research and development of non-CO2 emitting power at the China price is if the developed countries, who can afford to do so, force their people to pay the full climate, economic and geopolitical costs of using gasoline and dirty coal. Those countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are starting to do that. But America is not."
"President Bush claims he’s protecting American companies by not imposing tough mileage, conservation or clean power standards, but he’s actually helping them lose the race for the next great global industry. Japan has some of the world’s highest gasoline taxes and stringent energy efficiency standards for vehicles — and it has the world’s most profitable and innovative car company, Toyota. That’s no accident."
"Being serious starts with reframing the whole issue — helping Americans understand, as the Carnegie Fellow David Rothkopf puts it, “that we’re not ‘post-Cold War’ anymore — we’re pre-something totally new.” I’d say we’re in the “pre-climate war era.” Unless we create a more carbon-free world, we will not preserve the free world. Intensifying climate change, energy wars and petroauthoritarianism will curtail our life choices and our children’s opportunities every bit as much as Communism once did for half the planet."
...OK, I'm back. If only to say, "I'm sorry NY Times and Mr. Friedman for lifting so much of your stuff--but it's got to get out there. I hope you'll understand."
Thanks for reading this far, and by the way...don't forget about Earth Day this coming weekend. If I'm able, I'll put up a few pointers before it's here. But meanwhile, go find something you can do to make a little noise about it. Your eConsciousness will definitely be happy you did.