Thursday, October 23, 2014

Into the National Conversation

The other day as my running buddy and I cruised though our usual loop, we wondered aloud if there has been any progress since Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York area.

We loosely mused that New York is still probably unprepared for another storm surge and rising seas. The city is thinking about preparation and debating preparation, but it's not prepared. We are a species, or at least the American variety, that learns the hard way.

Though we may not be prepared, there has been steady progress, and optimism shines as bright as fall foliage.

It's in the stats that say more Americans than ever believe climate change is a real problem. It's in the 311,000 hearts (by one sound account) beating for action at the recent climate rally. The grand surge of bodies in the city streets, like a river of unstoppable positive energy, won't be forgotten anytime soon.

The optimism even glints from the political rhetoric heating up many states in the mid-term elections. Out of the usually useless hot air a hopeful picture emerges of American politicians finally talking about climate issues.

"Ads mentioning energy, climate change and the environment — over 125,000 spots and climbing on the Senate side — have surged to record levels during the 2014 midterm election cycle," according to the New York Times.

A year ago, it was hard to get anyone to even whisper about such things.

How positive the messages are for a clean energy future depends on where you are and who's talking. In Iowa, 40% of the political ads mentioned clean energy. In Kentucky, it's about loving coal.

But I'll take it. The future of energy is on the board. There have been so many years of squawking about the issue and barely getting an ear even among the most indulgent friends and family. It was those warm, silent smiles that said "no one cares" or "just let her get this out of her system."

And now we finally have sides defined. Far fewer shadows. Much less subterfuge.

"The explosion of energy and environmental megadonors — such as Thomas F. Steyer, a California billionaire and environmental activist on the left, and Charles G. and David H. Koch, billionaire brothers on the right — take sides," according to the Times.

Supporters of fossil fuels and carbon pollution may have more resources and the most powerful industries in the world behind them but clean energy supporters have something better. They know they're fighting the good fight and they intend to win.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Good Fight Continues

In states across the union, Koch Industries and other fossil fuelers actively work against the future of clean energy and support carbon pollution.

"It’s all part of a multibillion-dollar, self-interested scheme by groups including Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council to keep people tethered to old-fashioned energy sources.

The organizations are systematically working in Kansas and other states to attack consumer-friendly laws, often called renewable energy standards," according to the Kansas City Star.

It's more of the same bad deal for America and the world.

The key is to continue to fight the slick PR, the outright untruths, and the general obfuscation at every level.

Record increases in renewable energy usage, improvements in public awareness, and four hundred thousands hearts all beating for change at the recent climate rally are certainly victories. But the war continues.

"Promoters of clean and renewable energy must continue providing the positive facts about solar and wind power," said the Kansas City Star.

Good news is vital. Even the most optimistic person cannot bear only doom and gloom. That said, the urgency around climate change is integral to the message. There is sometimes a fine line between optimism and naivete.

“We’ve watched the summer Arctic disappear and the ocean turn steadily acidic. It’s not just that things are not getting better. They are getting horribly worse. Unlike any other issue we have faced, this one comes with a time limit. If we don’t get it right soon, we’ll never get it right,” said Bill McKibben.

To get it right, the battle against fossil fuelers bent on denying a clean energy future rolls into perceived victories. A coal plant cleaning up its dirty spout by 2030 is not enough. A municipality's goal of 20% renewables in the fuel mix by 2035 falls short.

The time is now -- climate change is happening now, it's not a future event. Otherwise, even small victories are empty.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Daily Necessity

In a recent piece of good news, charges were dropped against two environmental activists who stopped a huge waterborne shipment of coal for a day. They anchored a much smaller boat in its path and refused to move.

Charges were dropped by a sympathetic district attorney. "Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced," said Sam Sutter, the Bristol County district attorney, according to the New York Times.

Even more provocative and encouraging, the defendants were planning to evoke the necessity defense. It goes like this: They had no choice but to act because the consequences of climate change are so urgent and grim.

It made me think -- I feel like evoking the necessity defense every single day.

Do I think it is necessary to defend the planet because it's the only one we have and it's under siege? Yes and yes.

It's indefensible that we are destroying the planet yet fossil fuel companies have made something harmful -- carbon pollution -- a necessary part of our lives.

There are alternatives, and the challenges to rapid adoption are not technological or economic anymore. The challenges to a clean energy revolution are social and political.

Change scares people and the people who want everyone to remain in the past spend a great deal of money and effort to tap into that fear. That's the social challenge.

Fossil fuel money is deeply embedded in politics. Votes go to the highest bidders and special interest groups pay for ridiculous access and influence. That's the political challenge.

The revolution is coming. It's not a question of if but when. Then why are we still making so much noise? Why not show a little patience, you crazy activists?

Sorry, we don't have enough time.  It's absolutely positively necessary to act now.