Lords of the Lemmings
Why the Green Program is Hypocritical and Doomed to Frustration
Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger have a new article in The New Republic called The Green Bubble comparing the waxing and collapsing of environmental sentiment, not coincidentally, to the labored breathing of the ailing business cycle. They point out than in actuality we have done nothing of significance to address the Global Warming problem, and that we are not likely to. All of our actions for the environment are symbolic, more addressed to guilt management than anything else. Several times since Earth Day was started, the American people have gotten all worked up about the issue, only to change their minds when the economy shifted.
The authors point out the hypocrisy of green-strutting (my word), posing their green poses like prairie partridges on the lek, as if their actions were significant. CFLs and Priuses are not going to do the job. Not when the systems that drive our daily lives burn on unchanged. Nobody is going to make significant sacrifices. Understand that. Nobody is really prepared to return to the idyllic pre-industrial life, where life was so noble ... as well as nasty, brutish and short.
Green philosophy would have the aspirations of the world's impoverished billions redirected into a Utopian myth. These people are not that dumb. Chinese people want to drive cars. Indonesians want air conditioners. Nobody really wants to work the fields by hand. They want what we have, and now we're telling them that they can't have it ... just when hope finally begins to seem justified. Good luck with that.
Cap and trade appears to be off the table. All suggestions of a carbon tax generate massive resistance from Americans of both parties, even when it is suggested that other taxes can be reduced. Americans get angry at HOV lanes for God's sake. No Daddy is big enough to make us take our medicine. The Kyoto treaty itself has not been successful at creating CO2 reductions. Don't expect that to happen any time soon either. IMO, only the nuclear treaty that Bush negotiated with India is of sufficient scale to matter. Nothing else presently under consideration addresses the concerns of the developing nations and provides any hope of addressing environmental concerns.
Americans, in spite of the example of French success, are unwilling to encourage nuclear energy as a clean alternative. Obama is afraid to bring it up. In fact, our irrational preference for solar and wind power, both expensive and unsuitable for base energy needs, has reduced the likelihood that new nuclear will be affordable. Nuclear is a suitable base, actually more reliable than coal, since it doesn't rely on frequent deliveries. Coal untaxed is, however, the cheapest form of energy. Any preferences applied to solar and wind will come at the expense of nuclear rather than coal.
It appears, when everything is weighed up, that what we must do, we cannot do. Environmentalists lack the necessary knowledge, vision and clout, and Americans in general lack the conviction and willingness to sacrifice. Under the current civic regime, it's not going to change.
I say that when you finally see that a problem cannot be solved, you are free to solve it. You do it by backing up a few steps and including the problem within the context of a larger system. The system that we must change is our collective method for generating decisions. Democracy is effective only in a contributory context, where the best of our thinking is collected and distributed. We are, today, being tyrannized by the Least Common Denominator.