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Deniers don’t believe it’s happening, Doomers think it’s too late to do anything about it, Dreamers think a miraculous fix will come along automatically, Doers roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Donald Trump is a Denier
Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old Swedish girl, is a Doer. She speaks truth to power for her generation
I have a good friend, LW, who is a Doomer. He drew up a list of all the things he says must be done if we are serious about combatting Global Warming. The list is long and would be difficult to implement. So, he throws up his hands and says nothing can be done. The best we can do, he says, is to plan for a future where all the ills of Global Warming will be manifested.
It’s true that we must plan for a future impacted by Global Warming because as anyone familiar with the science knows, these impacts are already upon us.
Here is my LW’s Fix List:
- Replace all power stations with nuclear power generation and require all new power generation to be nuclear. It is clean, there is plenty of uranium, and the knowledge of how to build and place plants is known. Irrational fear of radiation poisoning has stopped this solution. Maybe a change of attitude is needed here.
- Put in gas rationing. Force more car pooling. If you drive through Santa Rosa at 4PM, the right lanes are clogged. The left two passenger lane is essentially empty.
- Put a huge tariff on air travel. Force the use of Skype to communicate in business, making air travel only for the most important trips. Develop nuclear or electric powered aircraft (long term challenge.)
- Require everyone (not just new homeowners) to put in solar panels.
- Put in wind turbines and tidal turbines everywhere it makes physical sense. Don’t worry about the fish and birds they will kill. It’s people or birds!
- Phase out gasoline powered cars and require all cars to be electric.
- Forbid the destruction of forests worldwide. All lumbering should be sustainable.
- Reforest areas where they have been cleared wherever possible.
- Control population growth so that it is slightly negative. We have too many people on the planet.
- Recognize that economic growth is a thing of the past. The planet cannot sustain it and population growth.
- Develop technology to shield the earth from the full effect of sunlight – putting reflective particles in the air at high altitudes?
If we have the will to do all the above, he says, we will still have passed the tipping point and will have to deal with the consequences of a hot planet for a century or so, but eventually we might get down to a better level of CO2 in the air. I have no idea how to bring this about. This will be quite an attitude change, but maybe we can do it! It will require a huge change in leadership in the world. Maybe the answer is benevolent dictators.
Wow, that is some list. Impossible? Large as it is, Chad Frischmann has an even larger list. Yet Frischmann is not a Doomer. He does not think implementing the solution is impossible. It simply takes individual and political will.
You might call Frischmann a Dreamer but he combines his dreams with practical implementation so he is really a Dreamer-Doer combo. The difference between Chad Frischmann and LW is that Frischmann realizes that starting piecemeal is better than doing nothing. He also thinks, based on his reasoning, that reducing greenhouse gases is possible by taking more out of the atmosphere than we put in through a process he describes as drawdown.
It is possible that some proposed solutions won’t work or that they will take too long or that they will be too painful. Painful to whom? To those who inherit the earth we leave behind? No, some solutions are too painful for us who’ve been pampered and spoiled and are unwilling to give up our toys like Marie Antoinette and you know what happened to her. We need Doers, not Doomers, even if they are Dreamer-Doer combos. All real Doers are to some extent Dreamers. Berkeley economist Brad DeLong does a masterful takedown of a well known Doomer in his own profession, Robert J. Samuelson.
Governor Jerry Brown of California is another Dreamer-Doer.
Facing Global Warming head on can induce fear and confusion. Fear and confusion are warranted. But, fear and confusion alone lead to apathy and hopelessness. We need to get past the fear and eliminate the confusion by educating ourselves and developing and implementing a realistic plan. There is no guarantee that we will succeed. But, we must try. A Dreamer-Doer is better than a Denier or a Doomer.
In a free and democratic society we cannot just mandate the solutions. No one should have that much power over our lives. What’s to keep an autocrat from making the wrong choices? We need the checks and balances that a democracy provides even if that makes implementing the solution more difficult. We can pass laws to mandate some of the simpler solutions, fuel efficiency for example. We can provide incentives (taxes and subsidies). Such policies have been studied for years under the guise of environmental economics. The problem with Doomers has often been that they oppose policies that have a chance of working and then throw their hands up when they don’t like the only solutions we are left with.
It is important to get the word out, educate the public, discredit the Deniers and bring the Doomers on board. Literature and the arts have a role to play. Given the serious and immediate challenges of Global Warming, you might think literature and the arts are a luxury in today’s world, that they are a paltry tonic for a fatal illness. You would be wrong. I am reminded of a famous quote by John Maynard Keynes, an economist whose policies still dominate the field today.
Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
John Maynard Keynes
Building awareness and solutions for Global Warming depends on our entire culture, even something as seemingly unrelated as fashion design. The Tempestry Project is an example of how knitting can create an awareness of climate change.
Energy Humanities is an anthology “of the best and most influential work in energy humanities. Arguing that today’s energy and environmental dilemmas are fundamentally problems of ethics, habits, imagination, values, institutions, belief, and power—all traditional areas of expertise of the humanities and humanistic social sciences—the essays and other pieces featured here demonstrate the scale and complexity of the issues the world faces. Their authors offer compelling possibilities for finding our way beyond our current energy dependencies toward a sustainable future.”
The many themes in Italo Calvino’s 1974 story The Petrol Pump reverberate through the various other writings in Energy Humanities. The first sentence of his story gives the Doomer view: “I should have thought about it before, it’s too late now.”
Another chapter in Energy Humanities discusses the DEAR CLIMATE project which “hacks the aesthetics of instructional signage and the techniques of meditation to lead viewers and listeners towards a better informed, more realistic, and more affectionate relationship to the more-than-human world, including geo-physical forces, and others species.” DEAR CLIMATE has a number of innovative posters that can be downloaded for free and pasted around your community (compare Oaxaca’s Amazing Graphic Arts Studios).
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s “Night Ride” is one of the stories in Energy Humanities I liked the most. It expresses in human terms the tragedies our oil-based economy imposes on the poor.
In any discussion, even this short one, on Global Warming and literature, it would be remiss not to mention William T. Vollmann’s massive two-volume Carbon Ideologies (Vol 1: No Immediate Danger, Vol 2: No Good Alternative). Vollmann is more of a Doomer than a Dreamer or a Doer but his two books certainly represent one form of doing, that is outlining the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves and forcing us to think about it. Since I haven’t read the book, I will defer to Ted Hamilton’s excellent review: “When I Was Alive”: William T. Vollmam’s Climate Letter to the Future. In the review you will find reference to many additional books and articles of note along these lines. I’ll quote from the end of that review where we are exposed to what triggers Vollmann’s ire:
Vollmann reserves his only moments of real anger for the wealthy members of the “regulated community” who refuse to even entertain the possible dangers of their products. Proud oilmen are to be listened to and selfish nuclear executives are to be tolerated, so long as they’re willing to sit down and talk. But there is no excuse for the silence of the corporate “no comment.” Carbon Ideologies abounds with footnotes about unreturned emails and shameful tales of PR departments that, in the midst of flooding the public consciousness with news of oil’s wonders, refuse to so much as acknowledge a question on climate change.
The frustration with this selfish hypocrisy is understandable in a writer whose duty it is to elicit contrasting perspectives. But Vollmann’s rancor runs deeper. Despite decades of research and public debate on the effects of fossil fuel use, we’ve hardly even begun to grapple with what it would mean to cut ourselves off. Our writers have been late to this accounting, our politicians can’t be trusted, and industry, ever touting the wisdom of the marketplace, has done all it can to rig the economy of ideas. Instead of engaging in a fair fight over fossil fuel use, we’ve burned up our remaining reservoirs of time in a series of evasive maneuvers, trying to escape the shadow of the impending catastrophe.
For future readers, then, the true crime of our age won’t be denial. It will be indifference. Ted Hamilton
The legendary Anthony Bourdain understood the double-edged sword of fossil fuel extraction when he visited West Virginia. Even knowing the perils of Global Warming, he could not help but to identify as well with the coal miners. There is a tragic pride in the work they do, work that we cannot allow to continue if we want to have a chance at stopping Global Warming. We owe them our respect and help in transitioning something we have failed to do too often.
We’ve staked our very lives on this Pandora’s Box of energy that we’ve opened. As far as we know, this planet is the only place we have to live out our lives. Whether or not we can Bear With It, the pressing question for us today is whether this planet can Bear With Us.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
WHAT of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
The deed that set these fiery pinions free?
Ah! wherefore did the Olympian consistory
In its own likeness make thee half divine?
Was it that Juno’s brow might stand a sign
For ever? and the mien of Pallas be
A deadly thing? and that all men might see
In Venus’ eyes the gaze of Proserpine?
What of the end? These beat their wings at will,
The ill-born things, the good things turned to ill,—
Powers of the impassioned hours prohibited.
Aye, clench the casket now! Whither they go
Thou mayst not dare to think: nor canst thou know
If Hope still pent there be alive or dead.
Elegiac Poetry, 1135-50
Theognis of Megara
Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind;
the others have left and gone to Olympus.
Trust, a mighty god has gone, Restraint has gone from men,
and the Graces, my friend, have abandoned the earth.
Men’s judicial oaths are no longer to be trusted, nor does anyone
revere the immortal gods; the race of pious men has perished and
men no longer recognize the rules of conduct or acts of piety.
GLOBAL WARMING EVENTS (DOUG NUNN, MENDOCINO COAST)
Wed, Jan 8 Mendocino Sunrise High(Continuation school) 8:15am to 9:45 (60 minute)
Thurs, Jan 9 Jewish Justice Group, Caspar Schul 6pm (60 minute)
Fri, Jan 10 Mendo Community High Derek Hutchinson Civics Class 8:15 to 9:45 (60 minute)
Monday, Jan 28 FB City Council 6pm(30 minute presentation)
The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr.(former Vice President of the United States) “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Part of Gore’s work led him to found the Climate Reality Project, an organization which has trained more than 17,000 presenter/educators, all with the goal of educating the public about the dangers of anthropogenic(human caused) climate change and the measures we need to take to overcome it.
In late August Doug Nunn joined over 2200 Climate Reality trainees at the Los Angeles Convention Center where Al Gore and a group of educators, scientists, and political figures worked to pass on their knowledge, scientific training and passion. Nunn is now working to educate citizen groups on the realities of Climate Change and the work we need to do to begin the process of overcoming the damage being done. He will be addressing community groups, school classrooms, and interested citizens for the next many months.
The Climate Reality Project slide show can be presented in a variety of ways. Al Gore’s longest presentation at our conference was 2 ½ hours. He also does a “Truth in 10 minutes” version. I can offer 30, 45 and 60 minute versions along with a Q & A following. The main questions Gore posits are “Must we change?”, “Can we change?”, and “will we change?”. Initially the presentation explains how the atmosphere works, how we have polluted it since the Industrial Revolution and the resultant rapid changes in climate in the past 40 years. Evidence of increasing climactic disruptions like weather fluctuations, floods, fires, and droughts are explored. In the “can we change?” portion of the slide show, market share increases in solar, wind and decrease in the market share of fossil fuels are presented. Climate Change denial and its preponderance in the US is explored as are positive political solutions. We also discuss things citizens can do to influence the future of the debate.
Doug Nunn is a comic/improviser and recently retired teacher who has been an activist/environmentalist since his time at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s. Nunn has worked as a cook, truck driver, construction worker, warehouseman, actor/improviser, animator and school teacher. He co-taught the inspiring Eco-Literacy class of the SONAR(School of Natural Resources) from 2008-17, as well as Drama, History, and Continuation School at Mendocino High School from 2001-17. (Nunn also coaches the Improv Club) Doug has been doing improv theatre since 1980 and has coached improvisational theatre since the late ‘80s. He has worked with actors and drama students in the western US and Europe, most extensively in Germany and Britain. Nunn has produced improv and comedy shows from Mendocino to LA to London and has worked in cartoons as an animator on the “Simpsons” film(2007) and as a scriptwriter; his cartoon “Copzilla” was an award winner in the 1998 World Animation Festival. He has been a member of Hit and Run Theater since 1979 and worked as one half of the comedy team, Burns(Tracy) and Nunn from 1985-92. Along with Marshall Brown and Ken Krauss, Doug recently launched the podcast “SnapSessions!”, dedicated to interviews with artists as well as political and cultural commentaries. He is DELIGHTED to be involved with the Climate Reality Project.