Wednesday, December 08, 2010

California's climate is changing. Will we?

Since my pessimistic post on dot earth's interview with Bill McKibben, I have been challenged by Gerry Gross to explain why he should listen to yet another session of gloom and doom Jeremiad. It made me do some additional thinking about what we should be doing. So this may ramble, but it hopefully provides energy of some kind for the work that needs to be done.

"more than anything, it's just a question of power." Another quote from McKibben that starts to explain why he started If it is a question of power… the fossil fuel companies have it and we don't… then McKibben wants to build an organization large enough to have power.

I see two problems here. The first is that McKibben has chosen not to come forward with a firm statement of policy. What changes do we need to make? When do we make them? How might government provide incentives to change in the right way? In one way McKibben is right. There are many solutions and every country, state, province, group has to find the one that works locally. One of the reasons that Copenhagen failed, and that Cancun promises to just a disappointing, is that there is no solution that works for everyone. That is addressed in the video segment I linked.

The other problem is essentially one for Greens to deal with, but also seems to apply to other progressives and independents. People don't really trust those in power. This distrust is one of the reasons for a lack of cohesion within various Green organizations. The devolution of power to the people rarely results in a unified sense of direction.

Let me ramble back to Gerry's original question. Should we be supporting the Million Letter March… an effort to send a million letters to Congress underscoring the need to act on climate change now. I guess that it is like eating chicken soup to fight a cold… it can't hurt but I would not expect it to cure H1N1. As it is, even with the names of Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Lester "Plan B" Brown attached to the effort, they have so far generated less than 400 letters from US Sources.

We have to acknowledge that our Federal government is not going to act at least for the next 2 years, since any action will be blocked in a Republican controlled House of Representatives. An examination of the people that are being selected to head committees in a Republican House makes it abundantly clear. A good example is the selection of Oil-Industry cheerleader Ralph Hall to head the House Committee on Science and Technology. Whatever action takes place will have be local, or at least at the state level.

For example, we should learn more about the Panoche Valley Solar Farm Project in San Benito County. This is a photovoltaic installation designed to eventually supply 420 megawatts of power when completely built out. There are pros and cons for the project, and some environmental groups would like to stop it over the question of habitat loss. You can read the draft Environmental Impact Report here. The scope of this project is such that we can not allow a mistake through ignorance or indifference.

Let me underscore the fact that most Greens acknowledge the importance of climate change. The draft of the 2010 version of the GPUS Platform clearly states that "Climate change is the most grave environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever met." On it's own, that will have as much political effect as a Million Letter March that only generates 400 letters.

If we believe, as I do, that the formulation in the platform is correct, then we need to organize around that fact. It is time for California's Green Climate Hawks to get together and start having an impact.

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