Monday, November 09, 2009

Hope on global warming? Not likely.


It has always been easy for Greens and others who consider themselves progressives to find reasons for the easy reception of the climate change denial message. We blame it all on the power of corporate advertising, on lobbyists, on the evil nature of a pair of ex-junkies (Beck and Limbaugh) on talk radio, on our own failures to adequately frame our own messages.

This morning I read a very different view that Dr. Genevieve Marcus forwarded to the Green California Forum. It was an LA times OpEd (now available only in archives for a fee) by Ted Kennedy biographer, Neal Gabler, in which Gabler asserted that conservatism had been transformed from a political movement into a religious one, where the certainty that one is right is much more powerful than rational discourse.
It's understandable that liberals prefer to think of their subordination as a matter of their own inadequacies or of conservative wiles. Theoretically, you can learn how to improve your message or how to match wits with adversaries, and a lot of liberal hand-wringing has been dedicated to doing just that. But it is becoming increasingly clear that liberals haven't just been succumbing to superior message control, or
even to a superior political narrative (conservatives' frontier individualism versus liberals' communitarianism). They are up against something far more intractable and far more difficult to defeat. They are up against religion.
It reminds me of book I had read long ago, The True Believer by Eric Hoffer or The Captive Mind by Cseslaw Milosz. The word of Milosz seems most to come to mind: "The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history."


Even highly respected figures like Joe Romm (Climate Progress) mix it up in the media ring in order to get the story told rationally. Today, he went after the NewsHour program on PBS for it's failure to admit that CO2 is a primary cause of our current climate change.

Greens want to arrive at a solution to our climate, energy and water problems that will provide a sustainable future for all. In order to do so, we have to provide sensible policy options in the current, highly charged political environment and then champion them with just as much passion as Gabler recognizes in the political fundamentalism that currently unites what is left of the Republican Party.

We seem not to be able to do both a the same time. Bill McKibben can raise our passions with 350.org, but he absolutely refuses to deal with policy. The writers at any number of sites can discuss policy until sunrise but often with a passion for action. Those who have both, Dr. James Hansen for example, have become the enemy of the climate deniers. But this weekend, Hansen, who has just recovered from surgery and treatment for cancer, joined students outside the Massachusetts Statehouse who refuse to sleep in dorms/apartments powered by coal-fired electricity.

I closely follow the machinations of the US Senate where our own Sen Boxer chairs the Committee on Environment and Public Works. There is where the search for votes has backed her into the corner of allowing Joe Liebermann and Lindsey Graham rewrite a bill that was only marginally successful.

Unless we offer alternatives we will never be the alternative. It is time that we push forward our policies with a passion, a passion for action rather than rhetoric, offering policies that point to a future of sustainable living instead of joining the Republicans to "just say no."


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