Last Stand of Common-Sense

Listen. You're being lied to. Even the politicians who are coming around, at this late date, to speaking soberly about global warming are still framing the situation as if it will affect our grandchildren (it will, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren, and so on, for at least a thousand years, minimum), but not affect us now, severely, over the next few decades. They are not declaring the real score: deserts; droughts; floods; killer storms; unearthly fires; bleached and naked, dying seas -- all this century. Measurable progress slowing the global rate of carbon emission: none.

Here's the shocker: the solutions for these problems have already been found! If implemented today, we could stanch the rise in world average temperature, hold it to a 2 degree C rise with 88% likelihood of success. I don't mean just replacing our grid electricity source with wind and solar power. The technology already exists (and the know-how) to gassify and burn fossil fuels much more efficiently, yield less of the carbon by-products, and even create a pathway toward burning waste organic matter on a large scale.

The reason that we are not putting these power players into the field now to even the score is obscured by economic rhetoric that is masking suicidal stupidity. We are told: these solutions are not yet cost effective. Before you accept that statement hook-line-and-sinker, consider what it really means. We are faced with broad extinction of life on Earth, perhaps even of ourselves, and recasting the planet as inhospitable territory for perhaps a longer period of time than modern humanity has been on the ground (and perhaps even longer than that). Given these consequences, wouldn't it be reasonable to do everything in our power to forestall such an eventuality, even if it meant tanking our man-made economy?

Imagine playing the board-game Monopoly, and discovering that the house you are in is burning. Wouldn't you get up and exit the building immediately, or attempt to extinguish the fire, even if it meant all your property deeds and monopoly money went up in flames? Only an absolutely asinine fool would sit there guarding his hotels and railroads while all hope of escape vanishes, and death creeps ever closer. In fact, the only trouble with this analogy is that, in the real world, there is no escape from the burning house. If we fail to lift our eyes and resolve the consequences of our aggressive fuel policies, we will bar passage out of hell not only for ourselves, but everyone around us, and 50% or more of the species that share Earth with us.

So what is the real problem? “Not cost effective” means that either we can't be bothered to do what needs to be done at any cost, guarantee a certain standard of living to the myriad workers who would be involved in implementing one of the available solutions, or there aren't workers out there who are ready to say: “Yes, I will be part of this. I will not charge by the hour, I will work overtime, I will accept a fixed wage – heck, I'll even do this as a quasi-internship for a stipend –, because this work needs to get done.” This is the kind of attitude that powered the massive upscaling of industry necessary to meet the military demands of World War II, and the men and women, even the children, of that era rose to meet the requirements.

We now face a moment of similar, but greater, necessity. And here's the truth: I believe that there is no shortage of individuals who would gladly work under such conditions and blow up the usual me-first attitude of the laissez faire economy, going to whatever length necessary to halt our march toward annihilation. I suspect that for every person headed to the oil fields or natural gas rigs right now, there are five people who would sign on to extraordinary work conditions if it would save us. The need for it just has to be clearly explained to the people, and the government has to lead us in taking the first step beyond the limited framework of our free market. The government can still lead us in saying, “We will bother to do what the moment requires, regardless of cost, outside of cost, in a new day where co-operation beats the current attitude of milking each other for our last dimes.

Join us in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 17, on the National Mall, for a massive protest declaring our rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which promises, if completed, to bring ruin to humanity's attempts to limit our greenhouse gas emissions. Urge the Obama administration to do the “common-sense” thing, and block the Tar-sands pipeline. We hope to see you there!