Green Games

Cover of "The Skeptical Environmentalist:...

Cover of “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World” Cover via Amazon

 

Here is today’s Green Chain column for the Lake County Record-Bee.

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” – John Maynard Keynes.

It appears we are witnessing the crumbling of the green movement, as we know it. Dr. James Lovelock, who postulated the ‘Gaia hypothesis’ of earth operating as a self-regulating organism, is the latest to stray, if not exactly leave the faith. The list non-orthodox greens grows continually and now includes Mark Lynas, the author of The God Species and Stewart Brand, the author of the iconic Whole Earth Catalog.

Perhaps the first to change his mind and leave the Greens was Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace. He felt those in the environmental movement had made their point,

“[W]hen a majority of people decide they agree with you it is probably time to stop hitting them over the head with a stick and sit down and talk to them about finding solutions to our environmental problems,” Patrick Moore says.

Greens have always been fractious, and similar to the Tea Party on the right, they hate compromise. Former Greenpeace director Paul Watson berated Patrick Moore in an email: “you’re a corporate whore, Pat, an eco-Judas, a lowlife bottom-sucking parasite…” And, Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist took a pie in the face from then true believer, Mark Lynas.

At the heart of the disagreement sits the use of technology. “There is a battle underway for the soul of environmentalism,” writes freelance journalist Keith Kloor, “It is a battle between traditionalists and modernists. Who prevails is likely to be determined by whose vision for the future is chosen by a new generation of environmentalists.”

Traditionalist Greens say, “Stop!” Technology is the Problem. The Worldwatch Institute says we should not simply stop growing our economies, but we must actually contract: “The rapidly warming Earth and the collapse of ecosystem services show that economic ‘degrowth’ in overdeveloped countries is essential and urgent…. Degrowth can be achieved through policies to discourage overconsumption, raising taxes, shortening work hours, and ‘informalizing’ certain sectors of the economy.” The goal, Rik Scarce writes in his book “Eco-Warriors,” is to arrive at “a steady-state relationship with all of nature’s creations, wherein human attitudes and actions dominate no one and no one thing. Their alternative seeks to guarantee life, liberty, evolution, and happiness for humans and non-humans alike.”

Modernist Greens say that technology has a role in making the world greener and more livable for all creatures, including humans. Stewart Brand says “If Greens don’t embrace science and technology” they risk becoming irrelevant.

The modernists are in favor of cities, people, and technology (including genetically engineered food).

Cities, people, and technology are…good? What is happening? Has the world gone crazy?

Perhaps the world is crazy. (Not exactly a news flash now, is it?)

As you know, I have argued on these pages that people, cities, technology, and economic growth have not only improved our lives here in the United States, but have improved the environment. Economic growth using non-renewables has overall been beneficial. The author of “The Rational Optimist,” Matt Ridley notes that technology takes less land and uses materials other species do not want:

“[E]conomic development leads to a switch to using resources that no other species needs or wants…. Contrast Haiti, which relies on biomass (wood) for cooking and industry, with its much (literally) greener neighbour the Dominican Republic, which subsidises propane for cooking to save forest…. [E]conomic growth leads to a more sparing use of the most important of all resources – land.”

Is economic growth and technology a wonder cure? A panacea that works with no side effects? No. But, then everything has its upsides and downsides.

If we humans continue to move from rural to urban (cities are denser), drill and mine for our energy rather than grow it, continue to wring more food and fiber from each acre, and develop incentives for conserving water and our fisheries, we will yet leave a better place for our (and Nature’s) children and grandchildren.

Matt Ridley sums it up well:

“Seven billion people going back to nature would be a disaster for nature.”

Notes/Sources:

  • Johnston, Ian. ‘Gaia’ scientist James Lovelock: I was ‘alarmist’ about climate change. msnbc.com. http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/23/11144098-gaia-scientist-james-lovelock-i-was-alarmist-about-climate-change
  • “If Greens don’t embrace science and technology and jump ahead to a leading role in both, they may follow the Reds into oblivion.” Brand, Stewart. Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary · “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Keynes
  • Kloor, Keith. “The Limits to Environmentalism” Discover.com http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2012/04/27/the-limits-to-environmentalism/
  • Assadourian, Erik. “The Path to Degrowth in Overdeveloped Countries.” Worldwatch Institute, STATE OF THE WORLD 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity
  • Moore, Patrick. “Confessions of a Greenpeace founder.” 2011. Vancouver Sun. http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Confessions+Greenpeace+founder/4073767/story.html#ixzz1BErUqcWL
  • Scarce, Rik. Eco-Warriors: understanding the radical environmental movement. 1990. Noble Press, Chicago, IL
  • “Seven billion people going back to nature would be a disaster for nature.” Comment by Matt Ridley. Hickman, Leo. Does consumption need tackling before population? http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2012/apr/26/royal-society-report-consumption-population#block-17

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‘Twas the Night Before Deadline

I write a column called the Green Chain for the Lake County Record-Bee‘s environmental page, the Green Scene. The Record-Bee printed this yesterday.

‘Twas the night before the Record-Bee’s Green Chain deadline.
I had writer’s block, and not for the first time.

When up in the sky, riding the clouds like a boat,
I spotted a wonder, a flying Chevy Volt.

Driven by Kris Kringle without reindeer with hoof,
it nose-dived straight into my roof.

Catching fire in a wink.
I said, “I’m going to get water to put it out, right here from the sink.”

I thought better of it yet,
and grabbed the old fire extinguisher, filled with still useful, Carbon Tet.

When I ran back to the outside, he’d already beaten down the flames
with an old reindeer hide.

He dropped down to my lawn.
“Drat, I sure miss Dandruff and Sitzbath, who now are gone.”

“Donder and Blitzen,” I said.

He turned, looked at me, and arched an eyebrow.
“Hmmph. Not bad for a guy who’s got writer’s block, right now.”

It was my turn to arch an eyebrow like his.
“So tell me, how do you know any of this?”

He made a ref’s timeout sign with his hands and quick.
“Look Sport, can we stop the Clement Moore, Night Before Christmas shtick?”

“I prefer to think of it as an homage.”

“Uh huh. You’re kidding, right? Look, I know about your writer’s block because the elves keep track of such stuff on the web.”

“The elves hack into computers?”

“The elves? Hackers? Ho, ho, ho.” His great beard bounced about. “Nah. They just use Facebook and Twitter. You wouldn’t believe what people post.”

“Can I use your phone?” he said and pulled out a card. “I need a tow. Boy, could I use Vomit and Pooka-head right now.”

“Comet and Cupid.”

“Whatever.”

I took him to the phone in the kitchen. “You learned about my writer’s block from my status update on Twitter?”

“Bingo.” He dialed and then put his hand over the receiver. “So, d’ya think you could fix me a double-shot cappuccino? It’s going to be a long night.”

When he finished giving his information to the dispatcher he plopped onto my kitchen chair.

I set a plate of cookies and the cappuccino on the table. “So, how are things on the North Pole?”

“Cold.” He slurped at the cappuccino. “You know, with this global warming stuff, everybody had worried that the polar bears and the ice caps would be gone this year. Frankly, I was looking forward to catching a Russian freighter and moving to the Bahamas like we did in the 1920’s.”

“The arctic ice was nearly gone in the 20s?”

“Sure, don’t you know any history?” He bit into a cookie. “Not bad for store-bought.”

“Thank Pepperidge Farms.”

“As for polar bears, did you know we have five times the population of those four-legged eating machines than we had seventy years ago? Geez Louise, Mrs. Clause has to shoo more of them away from the clothesline every year.”

The phone rang and I answered it. “The tow truck will be here in ten minutes.”

“Thanks.” He set his empty cup down. “Man, I miss Dopey and Sneezy.”

“Reindeer?”

“Nah, they were a couple of dwarfs that hung around this hot number named, ‘Snow White.’ Really lousy poker players. I miss them.”

“By the way,” I said. “What happened to your reindeer?”

“Probably in some hunter’s freezer now. Upper management said they had to go, said we needed a smaller carbon footprint, said those animals spewed too much methane into the upper atmosphere causing an increase in global warming, this according to the pointy headed engineers’ climate models.”

I nodded. “I bet you miss them.”

“The engineers?”

“The reindeer.”

“Well, right now, yeah. But, the new Volt has a heater and factory air. That’s nice. Though, I have to charge it for hours every 40 miles and there is a slight chance of fire in a crash.”

“So I noticed.”

“One of those fuel-efficient diesels would’ve been better; some of them get 50 miles to the gallon. Do you know how long it takes to go around the world, dropping off presents, when you have to stop every 40 miles to recharge a Volt’s battery?”

“A long time?”

“Darn right.”

A horn sounded outside.

Santa shook my hand. “Well, I gotta go.”

He turned and was gone. But I heard him shout as the Volt was towed out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to y’all, and to y’all a good night.”

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Santa’s been naughty, just look at those carbon footprints!

Author, director, playwright, interviewer, from the Great White North, Mark Leiren-Young has created a great little video for us. Mark is the director of the movie, Green Chain and author of a book of the same name and also Never Shoot a Stampede Queen. You may agree or disagree with Mark’s environmental stance, but he’s witty and willing to listen to other viewpoints–a startlingly rare combination in today’s hyper-heated rhetoric.

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