Tuesday, November 20, 2007

True Believers

An Al Gore True Believer said this to me yesterday: "I'm not the problem. Society is the problem." This person sells real estate and drives a big Mercedes all day long in his job in our Connecticut exurbia.

A lovely anecdote, courtesy of Maggie's Farm, which also lists things you will do if you sincerely "believe in a man-made global warming crisis:"

Will not fly on airplanes
Will live close enough to work to walk or bike
Will turn off your electric power - and no oil lamps. No computers - they are energy sponges.
Will cease to mow your lawn
Will heat your home with solar power, or, better yet, not at all. It takes a lot of energy to create those solar panels
Will give up eating beef
Will junk your cars, tractors, lawn-mowers, boats, chain saws, etc.
Will wear no synthetics, or clothing requiring electric power to produce
Will grow all of your own food so it doesn't have to be trucked to your supermarket

Which is probably meant to be provocative, but it also happens to be a serious list. Like any good egoist, I checked myself against it and came out pretty far on the "green" side, but not necessarily for green reasons (I don't fly more than once every 4 or 5 years because I can't stand being sardined into coach class and I can't afford business class).

Really, a lot of these can be accomplished by the simple tactic of living in a small, older city without an extensive suburb. I work six blocks from my home (#2), mow my tiny lawn with an old-fashioned push-mower (#4), can keep the heat down because the buildings are close to each other and tree-shaded, which moderates the weather (#5, partially), and buy most of our groceries at a local farmer's market from the people who grow them, or are one step removed from the local producers.

And all that greenliness from a fascist centerpiece of the right-wing warmonger America-destroying wingnutosphere.

Back to Maggie's:

If you do not do those things, then I won't believe that you are genuinely concerned, and will not take you seriously. Show me what to do - don't tell me what to do. Government and the UN first, please. Greenies second.

Just don't tell me that you are going to continue to enjoy these luxuries until the government forces you not to. Show leadership and individual responsibility. No pseudo-virtuous tokenism, please.

There are two things to be kept separate here: One is the reality of the condition of the climate, so far as we can determine it, and the role of human activity in whatever ways it is trending (and that itself is three different things).

The other is the political and psychological quirks that surge to the surface of some people as they react to that situation. And those are potentially as dangerous to the balancing Earth as capitalism or whatever the bogey man du jour is.

A psychological need to punish Western and American prosperity in the name of saving the planet will drive you to downplay the effect of pollution and resource extraction from emerging economies in the non-Western world. Which figure to be serious contributors to the problem in the short-term, and in some cases already are.

Do you love the Earth more than you resent Bu$hco? Do you want to give your grandchildren a cleaner world more than you need to validate your own anger by protesting and picketing?

To be serious about it, you have to confront the climatological models, and you have to cut through the psychological fallacies as rationally and calmly as possible. Probably not one in 100 of the people most loudly participating in this debate is doing that.

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