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Imagine Life Differently: New Year’s Resolution (revisted / reinforced / restated)

January 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

Global Warming … Peak Oil … Financial meltdown … these all threaten our future prospects, our ability to see a positive future reality for ourselves and descendents.

George Herbert Walker Bush lies at the core of a driving motivation in my life.

President Bush was facing a reelection battle against Bill Clinton, and so advisers persuaded him to attend the world environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro, possibly the most optiistic moment in recent history. Before he went, however, he told a press conference that “the American way of life is not up for negotiation.” If that’s true, if we can’t imagine living any differently, then all else is mere commentary.

One thing that unites the progressive blogosphere is the drive to imagine a different life, a different world, a better one, a better path forward … and we all, in our own ways, fight to achieve those visions.

Twenty years ago, the first President Bush stated that “the American Way of Life is not up for negotiation”, showing an inability to imagine catastrophe from non-negotiation and an inability to see something better. Without imagination to see a better future and the power to achieve it, we will not progress out of catastrophe to prosperous sustainability.

A New Year’s Pledge: imagine that better path and fight to achieve it.

And, I imagine life differently and it energizes me to fight to Energize America.

The quote comes from the 2006 paperback edition of Bill McKibben‘s The End of Nature. Put simply, all Americans should read The End of Nature. For a strengthening of our polity, High School ‘global citizenship’ programs should return and have this as part of the reading list to help foster an understanding the interactions of our lives with those around us (human and otherwise), today and into the future, and how these feed back to affect our own lives (out into the future).

The End of Nature is about Global Warming. Published first in 1989, McKibben wrote the first mass accessible book about Global Warming. “The End of Nature” refers to McKibben’s (convincing) thesis that atmospheric changes due to CO2 (and related GHG) emissions have eliminated the concept of “untouched” wilderness and wrecked the notions of the constants of nature so central to core concepts of the world. (And, if serious in 1989, over 20 years later we are in a far worse situation requiring serious action to figure out a path not just to slow emissions but to return to 350 ppm.) McKibben calls on us (US) to think differently to try to avert the consequences he (and many experts) saw looking into the future.

In particular, my “imagine life differently” focus relates to Peak Oil and Global Warming. My casual concerns over these have turned to varying levels of fear and utter terror as I try to comprehend the world that we (collectively) are creating for ourselves and the future. I am learning ever more about the feedbacks and interconnections that are such a part of The End of Nature.

Bill McKibben’s article, Energizing America, appeared in the Sierra Club magazine in January 2007. McKibben, not for the first, time specifically called out the Energize America for praise (page 3)

a detailed 20-point plan they call “Energize America,” a remarkably comprehensive energy strategy that pays full attention to political reality. [Developed in 2006,] the plan proposed ideas ranging from the Passenger Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Act and the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit Act to measures designed to boost telecommuting, experiment with state renewable energy efforts, and put solar panels on 20 million roofs. It’s precisely the kind of full-blown proposal that, if adopted, might fundamentally reorient our energy future.

Reality check for a moment. The Energize America proposal is dated (after all, we developed it at a time of Republican control of Congress and the Oval Office, where any ‘green action’ at all seemed a rather long shot concept). It’s targets are inadequate, its funding a shadow of what seems possible today, and there are some very strong elements which merit adoption … and others that we are ready to walk away from. But, Energize America was important as a milestone in the open-source development of credible policy concepts and structures.

We are striving to imagine life differently.

I am a pessimistic optimist.

My pessimism envisions an extremely bleak future (sadly within far too near a term future), with terrifying economic (political, global, and perhaps conflict) havoc from Peak Oil and mass damage from Global Warming capped with a horrible die off to come.

My optimism drives a belief that I (that we) have something to say about this future. That we have the potential to change our path as per a talk given  in 2007

I am a CarboHolic. My last full tank was two days ago, my last plane flight a day ago, and I am beginning to feel withdrawal staved off by the CO2 emitted for the electricity to be on the web.

Let us face facts. … Take a moment to put together a list of the top ten challenges for humanity for the 21st century. Your list might include global economic growth, health issues, hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, water, terrorism and others. When considering such a list, there is at least one common thread. All are worsened by a future dominated by an expensive, uncertain, unevenly available, polluting energy system. And, all will face eased solution with a future dominated by a clean, sustainable, readily accessible, fairly distributed, and reasonably priced (if not inexpensive) power solutions.

At this time, the United States is hurtling toward the cliff like Thelma & Louise, but we’re in our Hummers rather than a convertible. And, we are dragging the world … and future generations … behind us, bound hand and foot by our dangerous habits and shaky energy structure.

My name is A Siegel. And, I am a CarboHolic.

Unlike President Bush, however, we are able to get past that first step in a twelve-step. We recognize the problem. And, we recognize that we are not powerless — we have the ability to change, to take control of the situation, to turn ourselves away from that addiction. We decided to figure out what we (as individuals, communities, and country) could do about it.

And, we are acting to seek that change. To end that addiction. To set the path to Energize America for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

In my life, From the Home to the Globe, I am striving to do my part to affect this change. Whether putting insulation in my roof, participating in The Climate Project, or communicating to others (including on Daily Kos), I am striving to turn us away from that cliff.

As part of those efforts, three years ago, I accepted. Actually, I embraced DannyInLA‘s Challenge.

Three years ago, I promised to and now again repledge to diligently challenge those who seek to maintain a path hurtling over that cliff, whether that is inefficient Christmas light displays, McSUVs, not recyling aluminum cans, challenging astroturf or Global Warming enablers (like Robert J Samuelson or George Will, systematic journalistic malfeasance, and otherwise). I will CHALLENGE those who threaten a path toward a Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society.
I take up Dannyinla’s Challenge TO CHALLENGE those who do not comprehend the reality of the threats that Peak Oil and Global Warming portend for us, US, and the future. I will take up that challenge TO CHALLENGE falsehoods, deceptions, and truthiness about energy and Global Warming threats and opportunities. I will take up that challenge TO CHALLENGE us all to imagine new and better paths forward, in an integrated conception of options to develop something better.

For example, I am absolutely fed-up with all the reactions, all too often, from the ‘progressive’ blogosphere about gasoline taxes.

Now, I am not a true believer in a gasoline tax (a Global Warming Impact Fee makes more sense) but, the American “Way of Life” must be open for ‘negotiation’ or else we are calling into question the potential for even having a ‘way of life’ that is worth living for tomorrow’s Americans (or, the later years of today’s Americans — both are true).

But, my reaction to ‘gas tax is impossible … is immoral because X, Y, Z’ is “if that is true, if we can’t imagine living any differently, then all else is mere commentary.”

We must change and a gasoline tax might be part of the package for making the change. We can figure out how to use the revenues to fast convert charities, government, people lower on the economic scale to lower-GHG (better fuel mileage) transportation. We can use the revenue in many ways, but exemptions; forget it, we want everyone (EVERYONE) to be seeking ways to cut their requirements for GHG-related fuels. Exemptions cut at that incentive.

And, that same principle applies to pollution permits in a potential Cap and Trade program. Giving away permits (any permits) undercuts, by definition, effectiveness toward achieving a cleaner and survivable future economy.

And, I will be extremely happy to see the end of subsidies (direct and indirect) to oil, coal, etc …

But, I can imagine life differently and I am terrified at the world that we are creating at a head-long pace. Global Warming … devastating economic prospects in coming years … Peak Oil.

I cannot any longer leave stand any comment about ‘gasoline taxes are regressive’. Not anymore. Is there any “tax” more regressive than the damage that we are doing to the globe and the dangers it creates for the potential of human life in the years ahead? Politically inconvenient? Perhaps. But what is politics about but striving to create a better polity for all, and a better polity that is improving into the future? Without a meaningful confrontation of both Peak Oil and Global Warming, that future will not be better.

Nor can I leave stand comments about ‘this is beyond us’ or ‘we can’t do anything’ or … I refuse. … Instead, I accept. No, I embrace Dannyinla’s challenge to Challenge.

As I contemplate several years that have past, two years after I made a quite public pledge to Imagine Life Differently — and a New Year’s Resolution, I can see real successes and failures to live up to my ideals.

In 2007, I

  • Sought to educate others about the threats of Global Warming and Peak Oil and about options to deal with these.
  • Trained (by Al Gore and others) as part of The Climate Project and have given presentations to a variety of audiences on Global Warming and action paths to change our destiny.
  • Challenged … Global Warming deniers almost daily, privately, in meetings, via blogging, and in the traditional media (including a letter in the Washington Post). Challenged … in discussions here and elsewhere thinking about Energy and Global Warming. Chalenged …
  • Aided others develop arguments, for publication and otherwise, in dealing with Global Warming.
  • Began working, as part of a team effort, with members of Congress and state legislators to turn blog-developed Energize America concepts into actual legislative action.
  • Formed Energize America as a non-profit (with Devilstower, Jerome A Paris, Meteor Blades, DoLittleSoThere, and others) as part of our efforts working with Congress and others to develop innovative, holistic energy policies and legislation to support radical change in our energy picture.
  • And, … and otherwise.

And, I continued to take actions in 2008, such as working in support of a number of Energy Smart candidates across the country. My home is more energy efficient, I commute more regularly by car pool and public transport, and am able to help change some energy practices via my professional life. Much to improve, much more to achieve, but efforts continue …

And, actions continued in 2009 with the change of Administration, from providing support to elements of the Administration about various options for Energy Smart policy, to challenging disinformation in the press and blogosphere on climate change an energy issues, to assisting neighbors and friends to improve their own energy situation, to reducing my own family’s energy use.

Yet, while the failures were there, the to do list grows longer rather than dissipates, the need for action and real achievement intensifies. There were failures, yet … In my life, I do not know if I have ever made a New Year’s Resolution with such import before last year. And, I do not know if I’ve ever lived up to a New Year’s resolution so resolutely before.

Thus, at the dawning of a New Year, it is time to pen one’s hopes and plans for 2010.

For 2010, my New Year’s Resolution is clear. I pledge to continue to embrace DannyInLA’s challenge to CHALLENGE.

And, unlike previous years, there is an Administration in place which has a grip on reality, that is working to achieve improvements ion the economic, energy, and climate fronts. The challenge is to support, encourage, assist good governance and seek to make it even better. Thus, I pledge to work to make the Obama Administration and the Congress strive for better, to push the Overton window on energy and global warming to help make the necessary to do politically realistic.

And, I pledge to

Imagine Life Differently …

Imagine it Better …


Seek to create that better life …

Join me in this pledge.

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Tags: climate change · Energy · Global Warming

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Robin Chase // Jan 3, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I boil down these ideas to the sentence “create the world you want to live in.” That is what I’m trying to do, day by day.