Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stepping it Up.

While I fully support the major goals of the Step It Up campaign, I have doubts about it's efficacy. I sent the following to a GPCA email list today, but it belongs here.

If you are a member of the Green Party, you most certainly agree with the statement that you are concerned about Global Warming. However, to turn that concern into action by the legislatures, local, state or national, you have to convince those legislators that there are electoral consequences for not doing the right thing. Right now, that is clearly not the case.

In July, 2006, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press published a report that says Global Warming is not a significant election issue.

According to this report, while most Americans said it was really happening, it was not all that important. In fact, it was listed as less important in America that in Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria or China.

Among Republicans, it was listed as the lowest of 21 issues.
Among Democrats and Independents, it was listed as 13 out of 21.

In an update to that report in January, 2007, it was still dead last for Republicans, and had fallen to 17th for Democrats and 19th for Independents.

All three groups listed the budget deficit as having a higher priority.

One of the reasons that we are all here is that we believe that the threat is maybe greater that Al Gore's famous movie indicated. The challenge we have before us is not only to convince the public that priorities should be higher, but maybe to convince our own party's leadership that they should be talking about Global Warming at all.

Here is a good example of just what has happened. The Step it Up campaign is connected to the Climate Crisis Coalition. I was told by a national party officer that one Julia Willebrand (NY) was the GP liaison to that organization. (I heard from another Green that they had gone to two early meetings but nothing since.) I have tried to email Willebrand to request information on behalf of the National's EcoAction Committee... no response.

There is a real danger that government will come forward with half measures, or worse yet, with plans that look good when spinning, but which are ultimately worse: e.g. "clean coal" or nuclear.

A quick survey of the Democratic Candidates for president shows that most do not have any firm plan. The mumble the acceptable words about "market based solutions" that are intended to offend as few as possible, and quickly get back on message.

Bill Richardson is talking about "potential improvements in building codes". He won't mention nuclear in the campaign, but was a strong supporter of nuclear during his time heading the Dept. of Energy.

Barack Obama refuses to eliminate nuclear options and his most aggressive position is to implement "cap and trade" programs.
Hillary Clinton's Energy Policy is all good intentions with no specifics, rhetoric without substance.
In the White House, Hillary will lead the charge to stop global warming by investing in clean energy technologies, establishing a national market-based program to reduce global warming pollution, increasing our fuel efficiency, and restoring the United States' rightful place as a leader in international efforts to address the problem of climate change.

But that also talks about "market based" programs, like "cap and trade". Even in the Economist Magazine, not an environmentalist's required reading, they say...

> Too bad, then, that politicians seem set on a second-best route to a greener world. That is the path of cap-and-trade, where the quantity of emissions is limited (the cap) and the right to emit is distributed through a system of tradable permits. The original Kyoto treaty set up such a mechanism and its signatories are keen to expand it. The main market-based alternative—a carbon tax—has virtually no political support.
The fact is that those developed countries (Canada, EU) who DID sign the Kyoto Protocol, have made almost no progress in reducing GHG emissions.

We have to get behind the work of Architecture 2030. I thank Orvall for supporting that. For everyone who is involved in one of the Step it Up session, we have to make this a key ingredient of local action.
I recently read an analysis that says we have experienced a transformation from a world where there was a deep investment of social capital in organizations (life time employment, union membership, civic clubs, ethnic community centers, bowling leagues, etc.) into a one where the ties are much more shallow but cover a wider area. The example is job networking rather than relying on the good old boys club that you play golf with every weekend. In this new world, individuation is more important than community. It is much more interesting, but much less safe. We live, perhaps, in a world of insecure affluence.

If all of that is true, then perhaps we need to be talking of taking personal responsibility for the world that we are leaving our children. We need to show that personal action can deliver a better, more secure future. And then to make it work. I am not convinced that the rhetoric of sacrifice, cutting back will change people's behavior unless we show them a better future.

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