Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:
Well, Congress will be teeing off in the great cap-and-trade debate this week (see also, Climate Bill Seeks a Broad Coalition), with many Democrats struggling to get meaningful carbon dioxide reductions written into law, while Dems from big fossil fuel producing states join with Republicans to struggle for the ongoing right of industry to waste and harm our planet in the name of economic growth and jobs, as if we have no other way to put people to work.
We are not big fans of cap-and-trade since it creates yet another market for profit-making corporations (which some lawmakers worry will subject this strategy to the same market manipulation that just brought down our whole financial system) when what we really need to reduce emissions is for all of us to start paying for the damage we are doing, for the true costs of fossil fuels. Carbon taxes, fossil fuel use taxes, would get most of us using dramatically less energy, which is the direction we must go, and will have to go in any case once the fossil fuels begin to run short — not too long from now.
This does not increase profits for the fossil fuel industry, and guess what industry is a major contributor to congressional electoral campaigns? (See: Big Oil Protects Its Interests, and Lobbying Spending Database Coal Mining.) If Congress is bought by the coal, oil, and gas industries, what are the chances of getting meaningful, adequate legislation to get this nation, the world’s number one per capita CO2 emitter, to sharply reduce emissions as quickly as possible (and we mean ‘possible’ in practical terms, not in terms that protect profits and do not involve some serious economic jolts)?
The mainstream on this issue is still looking for ways to do this without impacting current economic growth models, corporate structures, or the frameworks of wealth generation and consumer-driven trade regimes. THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE. WE DO ACTUALLY HAVE TO DECIDE BETWEEN TWO DIFFERENT TRAJECTORIES. Don’t let them fool you otherwise.
Now, there are two ways to get ready for the post-fossil fuel future — by disaster or by deliberation that takes the planet and the welfare of the majority of human beings into account, those human beings who do not benefit from this deeply entrenched industrial capitalist economy. We can get there by way of chaos and breakdown, or by way of preplanning, getting ourselves used to a new way of life before we are forced into it — because at that point, really terrible things will already be happening (are happening now, actually).
So, we root for Congress to do something meaningful. We hope you will all get involved – vociferously — in this national debate, one of the more crucial of our time. But something more than this is required here, far more.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we live. Our way of life, our economies of ‘growth,’ depend upon vast destruction of the ecosystems of our planet. Most biological creatures are smarter than we self-aware college-educated Homo sapiens sapiens. Most biological creatures are tuned in to when they are in danger.
Here is my example for the day, a standard favorite of mine, right up there with mountaintop removal coal-mining, this article about Canada’s oil tar sands from today’s NY Times, Report Weighs Fallout of Canada’s Oil Sands.
Just look at the scale of the devastation we are talking about. The physical destruction of the land is horrific enough, but when you add all the other elements that go into this mode of oil/gas production, like the immense amounts of water used to force the oil out of the sands, and then what it services — the ongoing growth monster of fossil-fuel-based industry and transportation — this begins to look like what an old Catholic like me might call mortal sin, as opposed to the lesser venial sin — the kind that condemns you for all eternity — which is what we are doing to the current species alive on our planet, including us, by this way of life.
Again, the ‘wrong’ is fundamental. It is not about new policies to make this way of life a little less awful in its impact on the planet. There are no quick or easy fixes within the economics of growth that can fix our predicament. We must learn how to live differently — fundamentally.
Are we ready for this? Because that is the heart of the matter, the essence of our struggle to preserve the rich and diverse ecosystems of the planet within which we are embedded. We human beings must learn how to live with a fundamentally new framework of meaning built upon a fundamentally different set of values. We know this; we actually know this. But we are afraid to take this leap into the unknown of our future.
But trust me, that unknown looks far less scary than the future we know if we continue on this course. Oh my goodness, we have got to stop tearing at the heart of this beautiful planet in order to keep up the profit margins of energy companies and to enhance comfort, convenience and wealth generation for the affluent of our world, or to preserve the power base of elected politicians.
The change required is fundamental, and we can start living that change within our world right now.