Friday, April 22, 2011

"Generation Hot"

Here's a term that needs to go global/viral in emergency time, courtesy of Mark Hertsgaard, author of the new book, Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

It's "Generation Hot," Hertsgaard's term for "the two billion kids who have been born around the world since we were put on notice about this problem in June of 1988 by Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist, who went to the Senate and said, 'Look, this is happening. If we don’t do something about it, we’re threatening the habitability of this planet.'

As the victims of extreme weather all around the planet know very well now, the US Senate chose to sit on its stupid ass and do nothing (and we are shocked and stunned by this, right?) And last week the US House, which is fifty times more stupid than the 1988 Senate, voted by 248-171 that there is no such thing as climate change taking place.

Says Hertsgaard, "My daughter and her generation are going to have to live with this. And I think that’s a terrible crime."

We do, too.

The full interview with Hertsgaard is here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Freedom to be Free of liberal ideas that threaten Freedom!


RBLP rouses itself from a long sleep to bitch about a guy named Russ Harding (pic below) from the Mackinac Center in Michigan, who is on an anti-environment roll recently.

First comes an editorial from Mr. Harding claiming that "The biggest threat to freedom in America is from within — the modern day green movement." Say what? Yes, that damned green movement, supporting things like CAFE (gas mileage) standards for cars and — gasp! — regulations on soap phosphates going into the water supply.

What dastardly affronts to freedom are these? More important than a sustainable, livable planet are "motorists' preferences of safety, convenience or personal choice," writes Harding. And who cares what dishwasher soap does to water supplies, "if it does a poor job of cleaning"?

Oh, those bastards in state and national government, actually regulating and legislating things that cause planetary destruction! "Liberty is seldom lost in one fell swoop," Harding warns. "In America, freedom is dying a death by a thousand green cuts."

"Freedom." Interesting word. Freedom, as in freedom from poisoned water and air? Freedom from killing heat waves and homicidal weather? Freedom from a society brought to its knees by a lack of oil that would come even sooner if CAFE standards didn't exist?

No. "Freedom" as in what businesses should have — freedom from government "intrusion" on corporate decisions that determine profit margins. Because, you know, as the Good Book says, all rich men get to take their riches with them when they die, so that just proves how making lots and lots of money in this life is more important than leaving a survivable planet to those whose lives haven't yet been created.

Giddy over having written that exercise in amoral capitalist logic, Harding followed the very next day by claiming that "Global Warming Fears [Are] a Threat to National Security." Never mind that if the waters dry up and the weather goes insane, there won't be a nation to secure. Harding's argument holds that if government attempts any environmental innovation or improvement now, it will somehow lead to... er, China having all of the material to make cell phones, or something. You read it; see if you can figure it out.

The Mackinac Center claims to be apolitical and ideology-free, but that's a laugh. The place and its crew of writers are as apolitical as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity over at Fox Noise — fair and balanced on the side of far right, pro-business, anti-government, anti-progressive "stewards of the earth," while clinging fast to the Bibles That Built This Country (and gave us the whole "stewards" idea, but never mind.)

Oh, and by the way: according to the good people at the Mackinac Center, turns out that the Great Depression really wasn't caused by bad banking practices or greedy stockbrokers, as today's liberal hippie douchebag teachers make it out to be, either! No, it was — as you can guess — all the fault of government rules and regulations.

FREEDOM would have kept the Great Depression from happening, probably. Just as it prevented the Great Foreclosure Disaster of 2008... oh wait, that one happened because of no regulation at all. So, Mr. Harding, it appears that your conspiracy theory about a "green threat" is just a bunch of steadily warming air.
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Monday, April 05, 2010

Waterworld, update.

The Aral Sea has lost 90% of its water. The Mekong River has dried up to a crisis point, not deep enough to allow shipping or fishing boats to travel on it. Las Vegas could be completely out of water by 2013. Across the United States, 36 states will have water shortages by 2015. They'll likely try to start draining the Great Lakes, but those are drying up, too.

Springtime, and the first 70-degree day of it, arrived at the end of March this year in Michigan, a state that used to reasonably expect cold and even snow through the end of April. And everyone is happy, because the flowers and trees are blooming.

But those need water, just as people do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yes, they can. (And they did.)

Sickening story in the Guardian about China holding the Copenhagen talks hostage — and the rest of the world caving to its homicidal demands.

Why?

"China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to."

So, two words: Boycott China.

Of course, that's not 100% possible anymore, since the world has made China its exclusive manufacturer for many of the daily basics people consume. But a boycott is 80% possible. Maybe even 90%. The world must strike back against the Empire.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"You're ridiculous"


From Politico: "Jim Inhofe gets cool reception in Denmark."

Yep, the climate change-denying senator from Oklahoma flew all the way to Copenhagen to deliver his message of "nothing to worry about" to — well, to pretty much no one but a group of reporters who didn't know who the babbling fool at the top of the staircase was.

But they did know what he is.

“[The hoax of global warming] started in the United Nations,” Inhofe said, “and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is [sic] the Hollywood elite.”

[A German] reporter... told the senator: “You’re ridiculous.”

Bravo.


Monday, December 14, 2009

And a big FU! from North America

Here's a Google Map showing the number of votes that have come in from citizens demanding strong, binding agreements from the "leaders" currently butting heads in Copenhagen. Europe, which has experienced killer heat waves: nearly 60,000 people. Africa, in the process of being scorched to death: 125,000 people. Asia, where coastal nations are likely to become memories: over a million people. Australia, in perpetual drought and at risk of becoming a deserted continent: 25,000 people. South America, with its glaciers disappearing and many nations having no other water source: 13,000 people.

And North America, where Fox News reigns in the United States, and where Canadians still see snow out their windows, and where Mexico just wants the drug murders to stop: 7,600 people. That's roughly the population of New York City back when the United States was being founded.

And that's really all there is to say about this. The map says it all.
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Monday, December 07, 2009

A tale of two headlines

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Today in the Huffington Post:

"56 Papers in 45 Countries Publish Joint Editorial On Climate Change: 'A Profound Emergency.'"

Today on NPR:

"For Public, Climate Change Not A Priority Issue."

This will be the history that gets written — if there's anyone left to read it. Meanwhile, life will be good as long as we continue believing in the really important stuff.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Earthquakes, landslides — and ski vacations


An article at The Guardian carries an ominous headline and a ridiculous block of supporting information. "Climate change: melting ice will trigger wave of natural disasters," the headline reports — only to be followed by the kinds of miserable attempts at persuasion that a planet full of apathetic idiots requires.

It's not enough that the planet will be rocked by "earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions... and tsunamis" within the next 50 years, or that methane, 25 times more destructive than CO2, is being released into the atmosphere right now. The methane which, in large part, was overlooked when scientists created their computer models to predict future destruction, and now multiplies those scenarios times 25.

It's not enough that 50 years from now is exactly the time when the babies being born today will be entering the prime of their lives. When they reach that prime, God help them if they've decided to have babies of their own, because they'll be seeing their children's world literally destroyed, piece by piece, along with their own.

Zzzzzzzzzzz. No one cares. Technology will fix it. Some magical new form of fuel and energy will be discovered that not only emits zero carbon dioxide and methane, but actually reverses all of those elements that were pumped into the atmosphere in one century.

That's not going to happen. So instead, the newspaper has to appeal to this inane scenario instead:

"The Alps, in particular, face a worryingly uncertain future.... Rock walls resting against glaciers will become unstable as the ice disappears and so set off avalanches. In addition, increasing meltwaters will trigger more floods and mud flows. For the Alps this is a serious problem. Tourism is growing there, while the region's population is rising. Managing and protecting these people [is] now an issue that needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

Oh no — tourism will suffer? This calls for immediate action! Protect the tourists! Don't protect the planet, or the global population, but by God protect those tourists in the Alps!

"Maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something," The Guardian quotes a scientists as saying.

Gee, ya think?

To be clear, this is not a critique of The Guardian or its reporting. It's an example of how desperate journalism has to become when it realizes that a story about billions of bodies, shattered economies, depleted resources, mass starvation and dehydration, and uncontrolled primitivism will have zero impact on its readers. But threaten their ski vacations in the Alps, and maybe, just maybe they might start to care.

Do something
? Probably not. But caring is a start.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Reimagining ideology - a case study as case study


Quite a while back, before the world economy melted down, and GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, and my head exploded from trying to maintain my original argument with many of its basic premises crumbling and disappearing by the hour, I wrote this:

When I was 17, I let a blue Plymouth Roadrunner 383 slip out of my hands, and for the next 32 years, I vowed to replace it one day. There wasn't a week, over those three decades, that I didn't think about my lost love at least once.


The day to replace it has finally come.


And I will not be getting the car.


This is an ideological shift that physically hurts, because my heart is broken, and I've been in mourning for half a year. I deserve this car, my left brain screams. I've worked hard for it. I've been patient, and I've let all of the more important aspects of a responsible adult life come first—children, jobs, mortgages, insurance, retirement fund, maturity, boredom. Hundreds of thousands of other guys have classic cruisers in their garages, so why shouldn't I have what they have?


I'll tell you why: because when I look at the two cars in my driveway now, one built in 2001 and the other in 2007, I see two wretched machines representing unforgivably antiquated old tech. The best of the two gets a respectable 37 miles per gallon, but it's still the same basic contraption that my great-great grandfather used to get himself around town more than a century ago. His didn't have as many options, but it still had a big, heavy chunk of iron under its hood where gasoline exploded and made parts go up and down and around.


I don't play my music on 78s, I don't keep my food cold with a huge block of ice, I don't wash my clothes with lye on a ribbed board—but I transport myself from one place to another in a piece of centenarian technology that has long outlived its usefulness.


There was more, but the basic point here is that I'd managed to physically wrestle a mental conglomeration of desire, patience, and ideology out of its place where it'd lived for more than 30 years, and to bury it. Having done that, I felt... not too bad. It was more interesting to have actually felt the ideological landslide taking place in my head. Until this point, I'd never known that ideologies could do that.

And I was confident that my rationale was sound for jettisoning a 30-year pursuit from my life landscape — until 15 months later when I happened to catch an opinion piece in the Detroit News about the "cash for clunkers" program. In it, author John McCormick writes:

"The real target of the government initiative is not the tiny percentage of the overall vehicle fleet that comprises genuine classic cars. Though these vehicles do pollute the air far worse than today's cars, they are driven so rarely that their emissions impact is statistically irrelevant.... What the program aims to accomplish, beyond a general stimulation of the stagnant new car market, is to take the real clunkers -- the stinking, out of tune, poorly maintained machines from '80s and even the '90s off the road."

And for the second time in my life, I felt a physical shift take place in my brain, and the first cracked ideology from 15 months ago suddenly uncracked, healed itself, and retook its former place of daily obsession. Cars in and of themselves are not evil. It's how they're used that's the problem.

Realizing that, two words slammed suddenly and forcefully into place; two words that had been chanted daily for more than 30 years but then were put on cold storage for 15 months.

Plymouth Roadrunner.


Owning a car that leaves the garage ten or twelve days a year and drives no more than 50 miles if it's lucky — that is the very definition of responsible, eco-friendly motoring. Do the other cars still need to go? Does the highway still need to be replaced by the railway? Absolutely; none of that changes.

But in the meantime, there's no need for martyrdom. A happy road warrior is an effective one.

Beep Beep.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The way it should be, the way it is

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Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi is a master of The Rant — and the clear successor to the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in the "gonzo journalism" department. But his latest eruption of molten opinion, "The Great American Bubble Machine," in the current issue of RS has some major blind spots.

The piece is lengthy attack on Goldman Sachs, and on Barack Obama for staffing the White House with a number of key Goldman characters who, according to Taibbi, are manipulating this President just as they did the last one, engineering legislation that, while claiming to be good for the country and good for the world, will first and foremost be good for Goldman Sachs. Everyone else comes fifth.

It's at the end of the attack, when Taibbi addresses Goldman's role in "helping" to combat global warming through supporting cap and trade limits on carbon emissions, that he goes blind, writing:

"If cap and trade succeeds, won't we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming? Maybe — but cap and trade, as envisioned by Goldman Sachs, is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap and trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax collection scheme."

I hate to take the side of those "swine" in any argument, but in this case, we need to face facts. First, the "unclean energy producers" are... us. The end users, consumers of electricity and gasoline and natural gas (methane) and propane and firewood and charcoal and all of the other things that burn and release CO2. (We won't even get into the maniacal consumption of things that consume energy.) The way the United States and its proud and avowed capitalist system works is that producers produce what consumers demand. Nobody does anything that doesn't make money. There is no altruism involved, unless it's a good guise for generating more revenue.

And: if the U.S. government were to "simply impos[e] a fixed levy" (i.e. tax) on carbon, then this is what would happen: four years after signing the legislation, the President would be voted out of office, along with all of the members of Congress who supported it with him. A new crew would come in, all of them wearing elephant patches on their sleeves, and repeal the tax in the name of "freedom from big government."

That is why, in a capitalist system, you use capitalism to get things done, not altruism, not ethics, not intellectualism, not legislation or the balance of powers. You let the bankers and their clients get rich, and since their clients include the owners and shareholders of the energy producers having CO2 limits imposed upon them, everyone's happy. If the companies don't scream, and the shareholders don't lose money (and instead gain it), and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have no Democrats or "liberals" to attack because it wasn't them demanding climate sanity, it was the financial system and the corporate world it supports, then we all win by losing.

It's a fucked up way of doing things, but in a society so tightly encapsulated in an unbreakable ideology of money ├╝ber alles, then hey, let's take what we can get.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You say planet, I say... lobbyists?

One of the most memorable scenes in the George C. Scott movie, Patton, shows General George S. Patton slapping a shell-shocked soldier who's lost his composure. For good measure, the general then slaps the kid again. Then General Patton is relieved of command.

While accurate, that scene doesn't hold up, because there's no such thing as "shell shock" anymore. For a while, it was known as battle fatigue, but now we know it as plain old PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder. And pretty soon that's gonna change, too, because "disorder" has negative connotations.

Language shapes reality, and reality is rhetorical, and rhetoric is situational; consider the swine flu, otherwise known as the non-story saturating all media through all of April. And because of that overhyped oversaturation, some Iowa pig farmers — er, make that pork producers — became really, really nervous, because people weren't buying as much swine for the kitchen table anymore. (Eating pig can't give you pig flu, but people don't respond to these terror-alarm stories with logic or intelligence.) So the pork producers called their Iowa representatives in Congress, who twisted some arms — um, persuaded the Centers for Disease Control — to stop calling the swine flu swine flu. Now it was just H1N1, and swine were back to being cute little kids' toes going to market to buy some barbecue. And that one pig in the Bible that gets filled with a demon and plunges off a cliff into the sea, but never mind.


But here comes a reversal of this example where a term (swine flu) scared people into action (boycotting pork): Americans are putting the steady warming of the world — not just the U.S., but everywhere, although "world" means America to many Americans — at the bottom of their list of concerns because the terms "global warming" and "climate change" have made them not just comfortably numb, but annoyed. Why? Rather than make people think of globes, or climates, or warming, or changes, the terms make folks think of... hippies.


Yes, hippies. Peaceniks. Radicals. Treehuggers. The founder of ecoAmerica, an environmental marketing firm, explains: "When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”

And those are all annoying, so the notion of a green and blue planet becoming a barren moonscape is annoying, too.

Swine flu kills 150 in Mexico and three in the U.S. — RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! STOP BUYING PORK NOW!

Nine or twelve billion die in unimaginably horrible berserk-weather events: Zzzzzzzzzzz.

ecoAmerica has suggestions: Talk about a "deteriorating atmosphere" that can be improved with "cap and cash-back" plans to create a "prosperous future" with clean "water our children drink." Happy happy, joy joy.

Meanwhile, Americans put their planet last, claiming to be more concerned about rules for political lobbyists (we're not making this up) and about some nebulous "moral decline" that includes teen pregnancy, single motherhood, STDs, substance abuse, and all kinds of other things that never existed before, say, 2006 when An Inconvenient Truth hit theaters.

But those same people don't realize that, by putting earth at the bottom of the list, they're leading the "moral decline" parade right down the middle of Desolation Boulevard. To paraphrase the old Chiffon margarine commercial slightly, it's not nice to fuck Mother Nature.
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dear Google: never mind.

There's been a key glitch taking place at RBLP for the past many weeks: a lockout from the admin panel. And when Google's own two-step process for account retrieval was put into action, it kept providing only one of those two steps and starting the lockout process all over again, in 48-hour cycles. And then, as suddenly as the glitch appeared —

It went away.

Everything's working again, and all of this empty space needs some writing added to it! Thanks for stopping by and checking for updates; updating is exactly what's going to happen now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Now that's much better....

Just a small blurb from the Boston paper, caught while scanning Google News: "The United States promised closer cooperation with the rest of the world...." This sounds so radically different from eight years of the U.S. told the rest of the world to go piss up a rope that it could fill hearts with joy and hope — if we didn't all remember something called Kyoto, which the U.S. pledged to join one year and then abandoned the next when administrations changed.


But the next Republican to take office (and it will happen, eventually) is still at least four years away, and for now, we can borrow the tagline from a Lowe's commercial and say to the rest of the world in a warm Gene Hackman voice: Let's build something together.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Pain continues for 2009

Things fell apart so quickly at the end of 2008 that this blog clattered to a standstill while familiar solid ground turned into alien squishy marshland. Rampant consumption and overproduction of worthless bling turned into an anti-consumption movement so strong that it threatened, and then toppled, world economies. Oil prices that had pulled the emergency brake on casual motoring came crashing down from a high of $147 per barrel to a no-demand $37 (the price is up to $41 as I write). Automobiles, which have been the target of a lot of the posts here, suddenly stopped moving off of dealer lots. The car companies went to their governments for bailouts (more like life preservers), the OPEC nations cut production but still saw their profits dry up, and — oh yeah, the comedy team of Bush & Cheney were evicted from their D.C. residences and rode (or rolled, in Cheney's case) off into the sunset. That was a big one.

With so much changing so quickly, Right Brain/Left Pain smashed into a wall. Would consumers fall for the $40 oil price and resuscitate the Hummers, F-trucks, and Rams that had turned into immovable fossils just a couple of months earlier? Would the previous turn toward responsible transportation, under an oppressive $147 oil price, keep going, or suddenly end? Would people be generally smart enough to realize that the energy monster hasn't gone away, it's only resting and regathering its strength?

"The price [of oil] is low because demand has fallen because economic growth in most parts of the world has stopped," said the Executive Director of BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, at a January 29 OPEC meeting. "This is not about low prices because we've added lots of new capacity. It's about demand destruction, at least in the short term. And the big challenge for all of us is to recognize that when economic recovery returns, demand will come back very fast." 76

So much of what we've been talking about here through the last year was thrown into instant flux, with the planet's governments and economies heaving and rearranging by the hour, that it was impossible to carry one idea to its full end before a new one came along to replace or redirect it.

But now, it's Obama time. And Al Gore went to testify before Congress that a wrecked economy can't be used as an excuse to stand still on climate initiatives. And Fox News reported that story this morning, this way: "Former Vice President Al Gore went to Washington to discuss the immediate need for 'cap and trade' legislation... on a day when the city was locked in ice. Here to debate the idea of global warming...."

And then came the split screen, with a responsible scientist on one half and a somewhat hysterical spokesman for the Cato Institute on the other. The scientist said he would rely on the reports of all sixteen of the world's major climate science reporting organizations that capping carbon outputs, right now, has to happen. The Cato guy said that in the time that average American temperatures went up one degree Celsius, American corn output rose 500 percent. So, carry on. As we were.

"The facts are out there," the Fox commentator said. "We'll leave it to our viewers to become informed and decide for themselves."

Okay. We just did this at the end of November, but let's do it again:

1. Just because there is ice in Washington D.C. does not mean that the entire planet is miraculously back on its normal climate track. It's like saying that there are no rats in your back yard, so the rat population of New York City is all gone now.

2. And there is no such thing as a "debate" to be had anymore. Look at it this way. Your house catches fire and starts billowing smoke from the windows, but you think it might just be natural clouds of dust blowing off the sills because you're a terrible housekeeper. Fire departments from sixteen cities roll up to your yard and say no, it's definitely fire, and we need to put it out now or you'll have no house. One of your neighbors weighs in: "I dunno. I still say it might only be dust." Do you really want to stand there and "debate" this issue, or would you prefer that the firefighters leap into action... even if it turns out to be a "just in case" precaution?

3. Let's assume that American corn yields did in fact go up 500% during the same time that the average mean temperature increased in the United States. How would that fact negate the corresponding decrease in Australian wine grape production, the decrease in Bolivian water supplies, the decrease of fish populations worldwide, the decrease of crops in post-hurricane Haiti, the decrease of rice output in Asia — and the in-process decrease of viable cropland in California because of an alarming decrease in water supplies for irrigation,77 meaning a decrease in American fresh vegetable output? Is the Cato Institute really sending its version of Marie Antoinette over to Fox News to announce, "Let them eat corn"?

And all of this while Fox's founder, Rupert Murdoch, is allegedly into his second year of "inspir[ing] people to change their behavior" as he helps his network's viewers understand that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats." 78 The Fox founder's own words. So what's up with him, and with that?

Some day — maybe as quickly as it took for the world economic landscape to change, but most likely not — the networks may still come to realize that they can't play this story both ways. That it's not a "controversial" story ripe for bringing four shouting heads together for three minutes of sputtering over each other. That the leadership and change coming from the new White House isn't material for "entertaining" challenges from the Limbaugh-Hannity-O'Reilly hydra, but something those three could help to lead, too.

Meanwhile, the greatest tragedy in human history proceeds apace.



====SOURCES====

76 "Energy Leaders Tell Davos That Oil Prices Too Low for Serious Investments." Radio Free Europe, Jan. 29, 2009.

77 Associated Press, "California farmers idle crops, veggie prices may rise." Jan. 26, 2009


78 Amanda Griscom Little, "Thinking Outside the Fox." Grist, May 9, 2007.