Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Climate Urgency Lies Buried Under Words

I went out to Brooklyn to a climate event recently.

It was organized by a group that is known for taking action. The urgency of doing exactly that on climate change in my head like a bolt of light, I rolled out on the subway wondering if anyone else in the moving underground menagerie was pondering carbon pollution.

I was looking forward to the meeting.  These events are energizing as like-minded people are reminded they're not alone. Also, inspiration is often in the air as newcomers have ideas and ask good questions.  This night was none of that.

First of all, few people showed up.  Maybe eighteen people in a city of millions.

Secondly, I was surprised and frustrated to find how splintered we were.  And this I cannot blame on the fossil fuelers, led by the the Koch Brothers' insidious money machine.

People had many valid points, their arguments well thought out, careful to avoid hypocrisy and to present a flawless future.

But we're missing the point -- while we talk and talk, the world burns. 

There's the guy in a gray jacket with a notepad balanced on his lap who questions solar and wind power because he asks what mountaintop are we going to have to remove to make these things.  He asks what does "clean" mean anyway.  

There's a guy in a red bandanna and combat boots who thinks that if we build a clean energy industry we're just doing more of the same oppression of the poor and indigenous.  He says he's a scientist.  I think he secretly just wants to throw rocks at the police.

He says people are protesting solar plants in China because they're spewing toxins.   I felt like saying what isn't spewing toxins in China but held back because that's another thing -- it's a pretty humorless bunch.

Also, the self-appointed leader, the same woman who made us put our chairs in a circle and go around the room and introduce ourselves, had already chastised me for getting a little too fired up.

So I kept quiet and we kept going around the room.

Another person talked about saving electricity.  She tells her friends to turn out lights.  She tells them that's what they can do to fight climate change.

Another guy, slouched in his chair like a bored student, said the West is irrelevant anyway as countries like India and China consume more electricity than us (China just passed the U.S. as the country that consumes the most energy).

One person, a girl with high cheekbones and long straight hair, said it helps to close our eyes and think good thoughts.  I thought my head might explode at that moment, and I caught the self-appointed leader giving me the you-keep-quiet dead eye. 

There were other people who made very good points, good ideas, good questions, and these people I mention are not wrong or right or irrelevant or anything like that.  It's just that:  Where is the urgency in all this?

It's there on the floor in the space between us under a pile of words.  

The point of no return on climate change is right around the corner and it's a travesty to let agonizing over the perfect plan and pure intentions prevent the good.

Renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal energy are vastly cleaner than fossil fuels, plain and simple.  They are not perfect because nothing is.  The time is now.

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