Skip to main content

NOTE: This diary is also posted at Greenstate Blog, a community blog made up of Kossacks who wish to discuss environmental issues and policy goals. Check us out!

Apparently, the environmental movement is dead. That's news to me, but Michael Shellenbeger and Ted Nordhaus argue in a provocative report to major donors that not only has the environmental movement failed, it is essentially dead, and needs to be replaced. As Salon put it:

If you want to get someone's attention, tell him that the movement he's dedicated his life and career to is dead.

If you really want him to take notice, declare that his own strategies and tactics dealt the fatal blows, but he's too blind to see that he's still beating a corpse.

And if your aim is actually to force him to stand up and fight, announce all this publicly to the very generous folks whose grants fund his programs and paycheck.

Once I got over the title, and read the paper, I found myself in agreement with many of the authors' arguments. I would encourage everyone interested in the environmental movement to read the report. The paper primarily concerns itself with global warming, and with good reason, as it is both the most critical and most complex environmental issue of the day. To date, the progress made on global warming in this country has been almost non-existent. As the authors put it,
From the battles over higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks to the attempts to reduce carbon emissions through international treaties, environmental groups repeatedly have tried and failed to win national legislation that would reduce the threat of global warming. As a result, people in the environmental movement today find themselves politically less powerful than we were one and a half decades ago.
So what's the problem? Why have we as an environmental movement failed so spectacularly on such a grave issue, an issue that the rest of the world takes seriously? Well, the authors identify a number of problems with the U.S. environmental movement. Let me just list the salient points, and add some comments:

Cautious Approach

The mainstream environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club and the NRDC, have become, well, too mainstream. Despite the cataclysmic threat of global warming, these groups have focused their efforts on raising fuel standards and other policy fixes. When push comes to shove, they have failed to aggressively push an environmental agenda, not willing to embarrass their Democratic allies with "extreme" rhetoric. I quit the Sierra Club myself a few years ago due to such frustration. While a rise in fuel standards would certainly help the situation, it would not in the long run answer the threat of global warming.

As the authors point out, most scientists agree that we need to reduce emissions by at least 70 percent. What does this mean for our society? Well, simply enough, we need to re-design our economy and way of life to no longer be dependent on fossil fuels. Yes, that's a daunting task, but anything less is rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. We need to not only be honest about the serious implications of global warming, we also need to propose suitable answers to the problem, no matter how radical they may seem.

Lack of  a Big Picture

Perhaps the gravest failure of the environmental movement is its inability to reach potential allies in the labor movement and elsewhere. Instead, it has narrowly focused on "environmental" issues, to the exclusion of outside factors that have contributed to the current political climate. As the paper states,

What, then, is the cause of global warming?

For most within the environmental community, the answer is easy: too much carbon in the atmosphere. Framed this way, the solution is logical: we need to pass legislation that reduces carbon emissions. But what are the obstacles to removing carbon from the atmosphere?

Consider what would happen if we identified the obstacles as:


  • The radical's right control of all three branches of the US government

  • Trade policies that undermine environmental protections

  • Our failure to articulate  an inspiring and positive vision

  • Overpopulation

  • The influence of money in American politics

  • Our inability to craft legislative proposals that shape the debate around core American values.

  • Poverty

  • Old assumptions about what the problem is and what it isn't

  • Frankly, I would think the above is obvious, and yet mainstream environmental groups seem unaware of these contributing factors. They continue to diligently promote legislative goals at the federal level, when in the current political climate such efforts are a complete waste of time.

    To me, perhaps the single most important factor to the modern conservative era would be the size and power of corporations. This has led to the corrupting influence of money in politics, to trade policies that overrule national laws, to growing corporate pollution, and to massive income inequality, fueling the rise in poverty. Yet the environmental movement, despite its resources, has failed to address the need for corporate reform. Instead, we focus on the consequences of such corporate power, instead of attacking the need for reform of corporations themselves. Which is sad, really, as a push for corporate reform would find plenty of allies, both within the labor community and in the general populace, as well as putting Republican defenders of the status quo on the defensive.

    How about our trade policies? Global warming is, of course, a global issue, one that cannot be solved by U.S. legislation alone. One idea listed in the report would be to promote the use of alternative energy through our trade agreements. So as an example, if a country wanted access to the U.S. market, we could require that they invest heavily in renewable energy, in addition to labor agreements designed to reduce poverty in the developing world.

    Or take the tax code. As the authors point out, environmentalists, and indeed progressive in general, have for too long ignored the importance of tax issues. So whereas Republicans and their allies see the tax code as the single most important issue, Democratic allies typically pay less attention, leading to new rounds of tax cuts every few years. I'll blog more about this in the future, but not only does the debate over taxes affect every other government program, the structure of the tax code itself can promote progressive goals.

    The author, as an example, talk of how Japan rewards R&D investments with tax credits, one of the reasons Japan is the most technically advanced country in the world. Here at home, in addition to tax credits and other ideas, why not go for a more radical approach? Why not advocate for replacing the payroll tax, one of the most regressive taxes in the country, with a tax on natural resources and waste? Not only would this accomplish important environmental goals, it would also be a boon to labor, by increasing employment (via reduced labor costs) as well as reducing the tax load on the working class. Sure, this would be a very radical idea, with plenty of controversy, but aren't we tired of playing it safe? Of small ideas and incremental reforms, while Republicans promote drastic changes in the tax code and the role of government?

    Lack of a Vision

    As stated above, I believe, as the authors do, that in order to address global warming we need to be willing to re-design our entire economy, in order to move ourselves away from fossil fuels. Yet while the environmental movement believes this in theory, their efforts are geared to such goals as the Kyoto Treaty, which would not have come close to reducing emissions by the necessary 70%. The Sierra Club seems to argue for greater efficiency in our cars and power plants, which seems like an inadequate solution to me. In short, we are still focusing on technical policy fixes, instead of the long-term vision of an alternative economy and way of life.

    Now, the authors do not get into the details of what such a vision would entail, so bear with me while I attempt to explain the details. Let's get back to the basic problem: too much carbon in the atmosphere. What leads to carbon? Primarily, emissions from cars and coal burning power plants. So, first we need to severely reduce or eliminate carbon from transportation. I believe doing so through more stringent emissions standards doesn't address the real problem; our car-centered ways of life. The modern city is completely built around cars and roads, making it very difficult to reduce the impact of cars on the environment.

    Why is it that most New Yorkers use the subway, while public transit in Dallas struggles to stay afloat? Are New Yorkers simply more environmentally conscious than us Texans? Well, probably. But more importantly, New York was designed in such a way to encourage high-density living and mass transit. Dallas, however, was designed to promote the use of cars and the spread of sprawl. So let's redesign our cities. Let's encourage "smart growth" policies that can build a sustainable future. Instead of sprawl, we can use the principles of New Urbanism to address two key problems facing most cities: the growth in traffic and the lack of downtown economic development. The paper notes, and I agree, that too often we in the environmental movement only focus on our own goals, without considering how we can help others. So while completely redesigning our cities may seem a daunting task, fighting for such an approach allows us to promote a positive vision, where instead of restrictions (i.e. fuel standards) we can argue for ways to improve peoples' lives (less traffic, less crime through downtown development, a vibrant city center, etc.).

    But what to do about those power plants? Well, the only solution I see is to move to an electric system built around renewable energy. But that won't happen until the price of renewable energy, particularly solar panels, falls to the point where it is competitive with fossil fuels. This will take a much greater increase in R&D. Instead of trying (and likely failing) to get the federal government to fund such research, why not simply do it ourselves? The Sierra Club alone possesses roughly $120 million in assets, with millions more going to other environmental groups. As usual, I suspect the majority of this money goes towards efforts at the federal level, with smaller amounts going to local causes.

    Why not take at least some of that money, and create a venture capital fund, one that would invest in renewable energy companies? Investing in research that would lower the price of renewable energy sources would do far more good than any federal policy. What's more, the nature of venture capital would allow us to impose any type of agreement we want on companies receiving the money. So in the covenant agreement (yep, that's what the industry calls it), we could not only fund innovative companies in renewable energy, we could also impose a number of labor friendly terms, everything from affordable healthcare benefits to decent pay and union rights. This would win us much-needed allies in the labor movement, allowing us to create a much stronger progressive force.

    Image Problem

    Finally, the authors point out that the environmental movement needs to do some serious PR, and remake its image. Like progressives in general, too often environmentalists expect the validity of their arguments to win the day, without paying attention to the overall political climate. Yet we cannot expect to convince average Americans if we do not understand how they view us. Simply by talking to friends and family, I get the feeling that the environmental movement is viewed as:

  • Restrictive of personal freedoms

  • Extreme

  • Unconcerned with economic growth

  • This is not something that can be ignored. If we are to succeed, we must improve our image and reach out to potential allies in the progressive world, most importantly the labor movement. We must find ways to promote economic growth through environmental solutions. As an example, Michael Shellenberger, one of the authors of the report, also helped to create the Apollo Alliance, a new alliance of labor and environmental groups that seeks to create jobs through the promotion of renewable energy and smart growth policies.

    Well, I apologize for the long post, but as you can see, the paper inspired me to really think about some of our problems in the environmental movement. Which is not to say I agreed with everything; I felt the authors were too quick to dismiss the potential of technology to radically change our economy, and thus solve many of our environmental problems. And while I agree with the underlying vision of the Apollo Alliance, so far I have not seen many real accomplishments. But the big picture the authors paint, of an environmental movement in need of drastic change, is something I most definitely agree on. Hopefully their paper will spark some much-needed discussion over the future, of both the environmental movement and the world.

    Originally posted to byoungbl on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 11:49 PM PST.

    Your Email has been sent.
    You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

    Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
    Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


    More Tagging tips:

    A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

    Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

    If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

    Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

    Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

    You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
    Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
    Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
    Rescue this diary, and add a note:
    Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
    Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

    You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

    Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
    Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
    (The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
    (The diary will be removed.)
    Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

    Comment Preferences

    •  image problem is a big one (none)
      Talking to normal people (i.e. not particularly politically-involved people), a lot of them these days tend to see groups like the Sierra Club as just "pro-Democratic-Party lobbyists", which limits the strength of their message, since they just get lumped in with everyone else "on the left".  So instead of looking at their actual arguments, people seem to tend to decide what they think ahead of time—liberals think the Sierra Club is good, and conservatives think it's bad, even before they look at any specific policy proposal.

      Not sure how to best fix that.  In limited cases, "apolitical" groups seem to be vaguely effective—the Wilderness Society, for example, has a very limited focus on keeping wilderness land from being developed, and hasn't developed a reputation as partisan, perhaps because their focus is on such a narrow and well-defined goal.  But obviously they can only be one small part of the bigger picture.

      •  to an extent (4.00)
        I agree, that there is an image problem. But as the authors point out, it's probably a waste of time trying to reach out to otherwise conservative voters. I just think that most Republicans have become downright hostile to environmental causes, regardless of the logic.

        So I would advocate reforming the green image by proposing ideas that will resonate with people, such as less traffic, lower payroll taxes, etc., all of which can can be achieved through visionary environmental policies.

        "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

        by byoungbl on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 11:50:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Republicans and environmental causes (none)
          I don't think all Republicans, especially women, are hostile to environmental causes. But I do think people respond more viscerally to issues that affect the lives of their families, like toxic cancer-causing chemicals in the air and water. Global warming, unfortunately, seems pretty remote.

          I think mercury in fish, for example, is an issue that is gaining traction outside green circles.

          I agree that we need more visionary policies--confronting the fact that coporate power seizing the upperhand politically is the root of most evil. Basically, "the people" would never allow the trashing of their air, land and water. Problem is, even when people fight tremendously hard to stop it, it's nearly impossible to make a dent in the problem. Lop off one poisonous head through citizen action, and another even uglier one sprouts in its place (or in a community downstream).

          Many people no longer believe that their actions can make a difference. And given the way things are going these days, it's easy to see why. People are working harder to keep their families afloat and have less time for volunteerism. Plus, there are more than 100 channels on cable to keep everyone distracted. Depressing.

          •  agreed (none)
            In fact, conservative environmentalists were one of Dubya's biggest headaches.  Basically, the NRA crowd: they want to preserve the environment so they can hunt in it.  Duck-hunters were furious at the weakening of wetlands protection, for example.  

            Not sure if we can peel them off, because they're so paranoid about gun laws.  But we could perhaps make some strategic alliances on the local level.

            Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

            by randym77 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:33:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You hit the nail on the head (none)
              My experience has been just that - people understanding their own self interest. I live in a beautiful and environmentally rich shoreline area in WA state that is attracting a lot of rich Californians to live.  Clear cutting and destructions of the streams and shoreline habitat took on a real meaning for them in a way that was visceral and in their face as opposed to theoretical.  They understood on both a esthetic and economic perspective what it meant to "lose habitat".  Many of these people are republicans, but we have been able to get some real support from them on certain development and habitat protection issues.  

              I have so much to say on this issue and I am just going to have to organize my thoughts a bit before I respond more completely to this diary.  But I wanted to emphasize, if nothing else, and agree with you in the importance of reframing the debate on this away from the false stovepipe issue called "environmentalism" and into a number of health, economic and quality of life issues that imbed critical values.  That is the ticket for eventual success.

        •  Lower payroll taxes?! (none)
          OK, how would this work?  Essentially all environmentalist proposals involve large up-front costs, even if (in principle) those would eventually pay for themselves.  "Green Economy" stuff is quite pie-in-the-sky at this point; in the near term every major environmental improvement (CO2-neutral energy, recycling heavy metals, reforestation, etc.) will be hideously expensive.

          [Important note: I support the expenditures necessary; I'd much rather wreck our current economy than cause human extinction 100-200 years hence.  This, incidentally, is where reactionary apocalyptic Christians find common cause with the Opulent Right: Watt's infamous remark seems reasonable if you really do think the world will end in your lifetime.]

        •  Republicans are not all hostile to environmental.. (none)
          causes.  I work in a for-profit environmental company.  We have preserved over 20,000 acres of land in perpetuity with money to manage it.  We're a mix of liberals and conservatives, with most of the conservatives being hunters.  Hunters have been incredible allies for the land preservation movement in California and the west.  They understand the value of open space, and are willing to invest in preserving it.  
          •  Hunters & ranchers get it (none)
            When they see national forests and their own lands trashed by natural gas extraction and coal-bed methane extraction.  

            In quite a few places they have joined us tree-huggers.

            Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

            by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:46:33 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Hunters and fishers are natural allies but (none)
            they are cutting their own throats if they vote for Republicans.

            The Republican party is NOT working to protect public lands; in fact it is working very actively to do just the opposite.

            "Pro-environment" Republicans are just window dressing.

            Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey

            by willyr on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:26:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Outdoorsmen & outdoorswomen (none)
              in the West tend to be on the Libertarian side, impatient with the govt. poking its nose into their business on their private lands.  But now that the Big Govt. of Cheney and Bush is handing out fossil fuel drilling contracts and coal-bed methane extraction contracts as fast as they can, people who might have once supported them and local Republicans are beginning to wake up.

              I don't say we should coddle Repub outdoorspeople, but at least we should listen respectfully and show them ways that our aims coincide.  We don't want carbon in the atmosphere and they don't want the water table of the ranch destroyed by methane extraction and they don't want to find a lot of trucks and roads and trashed forest where they used to go fishing and hunting.  But this is what is happening, and these independent-minded folks are ready to act.

              Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

              by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:49:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  First a tipping jar for our diariast! (none)
          Great discussion of this increasingly important issue that unlike what I have read in some of the defeatist postings, is very much alive and well, but no longer effectively represented by the standard "organizations" or approaches.  
    •  yeah (none)
      this is a great thing, since there are no serious threats to our environment now.  Right?
      •  um (none)
        Not sure what this is supposed to mean. Of course there are serious environmental issues. The problem is that our current approach has had very little success over the last 10-15 years, so it may be time to completely overhaul our strategy. I would encourage you to read the entire post, as well as the paper written by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

        "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

        by byoungbl on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:42:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No I understand you (none)
          I was being sarcastic.  I am sorry, but I am feeling pretty discouraged tonight.
          •  no problem (none)
            I wouldn't take "death of environmentalism" too literally. It just means we need to re-examine our approach, that's all. Really, I think the discussion will benefit the movement in the long run.

            "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

            by byoungbl on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:07:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Beltway Environmentalism (none)
      This is a silly debate engendered by the moral and political bankruptcy of the beltway environmentalists.

      The Sierra Club is a prime example.  Years of insular alienation from its membership brought voter participation to near-zero levels.

      As a result, xenophobic, racist and neo-fascist elements around Dick Lamm, that included actual Kluxers and Nazis flooding the rolls, tried to take over the organization and its $100 million budget last year. [There has always been a tension over zero pop growth and anti-immigrant platforms on the right wing fringe of the environmental movement.]

      No reason for crocodile tears if these ossified beholden beltway-bound bureaucrats die the slow death they so richly deserve.

      Hal C.

      •  What happened next (4.00)
        It's true that a bunch of nutcases ran for the exec. board of the Sierra Club, but the good news is that, given the actual threat, voter participation in the Sierra Club election tripled, and the nuts were defeated by at least an 8-to-1 margin.

        [Note:  the rest of this is a general comment, not a reply to Hal per se.]

        If groups such as the Sierra Club go, I'm not sure who's going to take their place.  Earth First?  Greenpeace 1970's-style?  I remain skeptical.

        And why stop at environmental groups?  A lot of other groups have been losing in Washington DC since the 1990s.  Why not just abolish the NAACP, public television, planned parenthood, labor unions, and for that matter the Democratic Party while we're at it?  For that matter, perhaps America should've scrapped its Navy in early 1942 since it has been getting spanked by the Japanese for several months.

        I guess I just don't see the fundamental problem as one of errors by the mainline environmental groups, but rather the fact that the environment is listed as a top-tier issue by some piddling percentage of Americans (3%? 5% tops.).  Depending on how you measure it, that's between 1/5 and 1/12 of the size of the Christian Right.  We live in a Democracy--should we be so surprised that 3-5% of people (without oodles of money) can impose their vision on the rest of the country?

        Can we borrow some Ukrainians to teach us about how Democracy is supposed to work?

        by Go Vegetarian on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:10:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  typo (none)
          The last sentence should of course read:

          should we be so surprised that 3-5% of people (without oodles of money) can't impose their vision on the rest of the country?

          Can we borrow some Ukrainians to teach us about how Democracy is supposed to work?

          by Go Vegetarian on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:14:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  This is an important comment (none)
          (go vegetarians I mean). I'd like to add that like justa bout everything else the right/corporate shill's have worked to define every interest except their own as a "special interest" and the environmental groups have done little or nothing to counteract that. So, yes, its easy for "the sierra club" to be dismissed as just some kind of democratic auxilliary because everyone who is not lockstep for the republican agenda is represented as lockstep for evil and to be disregarded.

          When my sister in law said to me casually, a few years ago, "don't you expect one of these days that organic food will be found out to be bad for you" I didn't realize where this bizarre remark was coming from. But it was coming from a well funded and organized anti environment push that seeks to discredit every aspect of environmental thinking.  Even local, grassroots issues like mercury in fish, or air pollution, has gotten subsumed into a larger culture war in which there can be no objective facts and no disinterested public action (except actionw hich focuses on sexual morality). We've essentially lost that battle by not engaging in it directly.  I belong to the sierra club and pay my dues, but I don't see an all out fight to engage children and suburban housewives in the fight. And we've left the organizing to the churches which allow themselves to be used as a front for corporate intersts.  

          You asked how three percent of the population can impose its views on the rest of us. Well, the answer is to be found in the actions of the far right. But they have insittutions to organize around and through to make their votes count. We don't.


          •  This ( aimai ) is for me the singular comment here (4.00)
            "When my sister in law said to me casually, a few years ago, "don't you expect one of these days that organic food will be found out to be bad for you" I didn't realize where this bizarre remark was coming from. But it was coming from a well funded and organized anti environment push that seeks to discredit every aspect of environmental thinking.  Even local, grassroots issues like mercury in fish, or air pollution, has gotten subsumed into a larger culture war in which there can be no objective facts and no disinterested public action (except actionw hich focuses on sexual morality). We've essentially lost that battle by not engaging in it directly"

            The American Republican Party - over the past three decades - has sold it's soul to the devil by building a bulletproof base on the Christian Right that has it's own Christian media and culture and so is hermetically sealed off from World consensus reality :

            So, this Christian base has come to believe that most science is suspect and especially so when it addresses questions of health and the environment or - really - any issues that might clash with the short term profit margins of industry.

            Industry propagandists very consciously pitched anti-science memes through a Christian frame, and so that propaganda was taken to heart and now those memes have begun to spread to American culture at large.

            It's amazing what several billion dollars, judiciously spent, can do to shift mass cultural belief.

            Environmentalism has lost because it believed that telling the truth would get it somewhere - but, the leaders of the Christian Right and a number of corporations and hyper-rich American funders were playing a very, very different game :

            In that game, truth is irrelevant even it it's neglect might cause widespread destruction. No matter - in the Christian far-right End-Time eschatology, widespread destruction is a given - floods and droughts, freak weather and rains of frogs are part of the expected scenario and so the effects of Global Warming, more severe and unpredictable weather and climate shifts, will be seen by many Christians as preordained and not of human making at all. In another parallel eschatology - Christian Reconstructionism - the Bible is taken as the ultimate arbitrer of reality and so  Global Warming is just ignored as the evil propaganda of scientists and of the left.

            Through the efforts of corporate propagandists and the American religious right, American belief in shared, objective reality has been subverted and  though environmental groups have to a large extent had their hands in the sand while the culture wars blindsided the left and the religious right came to power, environmental groups are not so much to blame as the Democratic Party - for completely neglecting that strategic advance - and the US media, for neglecting the right's wholesale assault on empirical truth.

            Also see ( Note : the NYT is unwilling to call anything - such as the US right's denial of Global Warming or the health impact of Lead and Mercury - flat out lies. But this article is nonetheless useful )  : ( NYT, Jan. 1, 2003 ) "Outflanked Democrats Wonder How to Catch Up in Media Wars
            By JIM RUTENBERG

            orried that their party has been outgunned in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities, influential Democrats are scouring the nation for a liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh and the many others on the deep bench of Republican friends.

            For years, Democrats have groused about their inability to balance what they see as the increasing influence over the electorate by advocates of Republican policies.

            But they say their concerns have taken on a new urgency because of the rise to the top of the cable news ratings by the Fox News Channel, considered by many to have a conservative slant, and the loss of the Senate to the Republicans in November. Some Democrats say the election outcome enhanced the influence of Fox News and personalities like Mr. Limbaugh...."


            •  You nailed it (none)
              Solving environmental problems requires an educated, well-informed and active electorate. This is exactly the sort of citizen that the neocons and christian right have been trying to get rid off, and quite successfully.

              Another Brian Schweitzer Deanocrat

              by Ed in Montana on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:42:58 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Just keep underfunding education... (none)
                ...and ensuring a high dropout rate with No Child Left Behind, and say goodbye to an informed electorate.  And this GOP policy also ensures plenty of cheap labor for WalMart.  And if people suffer from being on the bottom rung of society because they have no education and are ignorant--well, maybe a faith-based charity will come along and give them some old clothes.

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:55:11 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Underlying structure. (none)
              it was coming from a well funded and organized anti environment push that seeks to discredit every aspect of environmental thinking.

              In a word, Convenience.  Americans have seen that "economies of scale" work.  Big Agriculture reduces transaction costs and frequency, and that's what matters.  Nobody sees or is bothered by the massive chemical industry underlying all aspects of it.

              "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

              by Odysseus on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:48:04 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Agriculture is a huge oil glutton (none)
                "Nobody sees or is bothered by the massive chemical industry underlying all aspects of it."

                I agree.  So how do we get households where each parent has two jobs and are scrambling to throw food on the table to think about the big picture regarding where their food is coming from? They figure the pesticides and chemcial fertilizers (if they even know about them) must be OK because nobody they know is sick or dead from them.  

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:54:05 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Dick Lamm (4.00)
        Look, as the Economist noted some months back, the world can't afford millions of more people living like Americans currently do. Yes, encouraging immigration keeps labor costs down, housing costs rising (both arguably bad things), and international ties stronger (good, except when those ties include terrorist cells). But American population growth is more costly to the world - because of our consumption patterns - than population growth anywhere else in the world.

        That's what Lamm was concerned with. That some of the "elements around" him, as you put it, were racist doesn't mean that Lamm was. Lamm was precisely right about the ethical course the Sierra Club should take on immigration, if we allow that ecological disaster is the greatest current threat short of all-out nuclear war - which is a threat only because it, too, is an ecological disaster.

        The real racism is the continued underemployment of Blacks and Native Americans due to the legal and illegal importation of labor to take the jobs that would otherwise go to them. But they can always go in the Army and go kill Arabs, right?

        •  It's Not Just The Forces Around Lamm (none)
          We have a severly dysfunctional political economy. To fix it, we need to organize, informa and mobilize an effective political majority. While it's true that one aspect of this dyfcuntion involves immigration policy, Lamm (and you) have done nothing to assess the magnitude of this dysfunction and put it into context with other aspects. Nor have you looked at how embracing this policy would undermine the possibility of mobilizing an effective political majority.

          The fact that racists gather around such proposals like moths to a flame should tell you something. It's not just about those individuals, it's about how the whole field of political forces are arrayed.

          Finally, if you want to control immigration, how about an aggressive policy of making Mexico and the rest of Latin America a better place for these people to live?  Everything we've done over the past 30 years--with trade policy, investment policy, training their militaries, giving shelter to their death squad alumni, etc.--has been devoted to doing the exact opposite.

        •  immigration (none)
          It's something of a third rail, I know, but I really think it's something we have to think about.  Not only can the world not afford more people living like we do...I fear that before long, we will no longer be able to afford living like we do.  

          The U.S. population has tripled since the Great Depression.  By 2050, the American population will be nearly 50% larger than it is today.  Those people will need housing, food, water, energy...and that won't be good for the environment.  

          This growth will be largely due to immigration.  In Europe, population growth is much lower; in many countries, the populations are expected to actually decrease by 2050.  The difference is our higher rate of immigration.  Immigrants not only increase the raw numbers, they tend to have larger families for several generations after arriving.  This is why Alan Greenspan says all the economic growth of the past 20 years has been due to immigration.

          Growth is great for business, but it's bad for the environment.  We cannot keep growing forever.  Malthus was wrong only in his timing.  

          Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

          by randym77 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:21:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Two thoughts (none)
      1.  The US populace is quite pro-environment, particularly if the issues are framed fairly, and yet Kerry and the Democrats were nearly silent on environmental issues in the last campaign.  I think this reflects the "centrist" democrats tendency to kiss corporate A$$, a strategy that seems doomed from the outset.  Environmental concerns need to be trumpeted rather than muttered!  If Democrats are not enthusiastic about preserving and improving the environment, why should other voters take these issues seriously?  

      2.  The remainder of the world is very different from the US.  The Bush administration is, by any measure, rabidly anti-environment and is doing its best to prevent the remainder of the world from dealing with global warming and other issues.  My perception, however, is that environmental movements are growing in other countries.  There is even a significant environmental movment in China--not particularly successful yet, but growing.  On top of this, it is worth noting that other nations are beginning to see that the future does not lie in burning coal and oil--19th century technologies.  
      •  pro-environment (4.00)
        Yes, the U.S. is pro-environment.  In a way, it's quite a victory.  Protecting the environment has gone from being flaky leftwing nuttery to mainstream in only a few decades.  Over 70% of Americans think it's important to protect the environment, and they all know Bush's environmental record is terrible.

        But do they vote on this issue?  IME, no.  Support is broad, but very, very shallow.  Kind of like prayer in school: depending on the poll, anywhere from 65% to over 90% of Americans favor prayer in school, but they don't vote on the issue (thankfully).  

        Just as many Americans favor prayer in school but don't actually go to church, a lot of people say they're pro-environment...but only if it means they can keep their SUVs, and don't have to pay any more for them.

        Protons have mass? I didn't even know they were Catholic.

        by randym77 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 06:40:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Precisely!--Salience! (4.00)
          Support for environmentalism is indeed quite broad. The trick is to make it more salient as an issue.

          The right did this with crime. It is, in fact, virtually the only issue area in which the public moved to the right in a study of public opinion trends from the 1950s to around 1990. But while the public was moving left on most issues, the right transformed crime from a local non-partisan issue to national, partisan issue--despite all their lip service railing against big government, and their endless blather about local communities. And this helped them enormously, not just because of crime directly, but because it became a frame for them to paint Democrats as "soft on crime," and "caring more about the criminals than about you and me."  At the most fundamental level, the focus on crime reinforces the perception of a "dangerous world" out there--which is a key component to the logic of the Strict Father model, as described by Lakoff.

          We need to be thinking about how to do something similar with the environment. We need to make it more salient, not just as an issue in itself, but as a frame for other issues. Environmentalism is about nurturance and protection--fundamental aspects of the Nurturant Parent model.  It's a natural for us. It's also a natural for the vast majority of people--which is what the broad support shows. It's up to us to activate what's already there.

          I suggest that part of this involves connecting local activism with state and federal level legislative and investigative efforts.  You want to get 70-80% support mobilized? Try taking on local environmental threats. Things that are endangering the health of people's children now. That's an example of a good place to start.

    •  Local vs. Federal (4.00)
      I'd just like to note a couple of state-level items. There's the New England states adopting the Kyoto protocols. And here in Colorado, where Republicans outnumber Democrats, we passed the country's first renewable energy initiative and an expensive mass-transit plan. I'm not sure this is the answer - just wanted to mention them.

      Free the heel, free the mind

      by Blue the Wild Dog on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:08:48 AM PST

    •  All good suggestions (none)
      All good suggestions ( / )

      But we need to act to save the environment ASAP.  Redesigning cities and getting renewables to provide more than one percent of the nation's energy are admirable goals and should be pursued.

      Haven't we environmentalists been thinking on a petty scale?

      Here is the main, really urgent problem:  
      too much carbon in the atmosphere, most of it put there by coal-fired plants and cars here and abroad.  So what are groups like the Sierra Club fixated on?  Stopping the only large-scale, workable technology already in place to do this.  Our descendants are not going to believe our stupidity.

      After thirty years of our environmental campaigning, lots of Americans have heard of wind and solar, and renewables have received over 61 billion dollars in federal subsidies, tax breaks, grants, etc. But wind and solar supply less than one percent of the nation's energy.

      One of the greatest environmentalists around, James Lovelock, who wrote "The Gaia Hypothesis", is one of the leading Greens.  He's terrified by the prospect of the extinction of millions of species and the rise of oceans as much as seven meters given the accelerated melting of the Arctic and the Greenland Ice Sheet.

      He said in a recent speech:
      The Earth system, Gaia, functions because within it are powerful restraints to growth, as we will soon discover. We have to make our own restraints if we are to avoid those the Earth will surely apply. Perhaps the unreasoning fear of nuclear
      energy is an advantage for it implies a built in restraint.

      So what will happen and what should we do? I have heard of three alternatives but there
      may be more. The first is laissez faire: just continue to enjoy a warmer 21st century while
      it lasts, and make cosmetic attempts to hide global warming. I suspect that this is what
      will happen in much of the world. Second, is the deep Green way: eat nothing butorganic food, use nothing but renewable energy and raw materials; and use alternative not scientific medicine. Either of these policies might restore the Earth to health but at the cost of a massive reduction in the numbers of people and possibly the loss of some civilizations as well.

      There may be a less unpleasant way: the high tech road. It would require us to take global change seriously and do our best to lessen the footprint of humans on the Earth. It would involve these things: first and most important, no more
      natural habitat destruction anywhere. To attempt to farm the whole Earth to feed people
      would make us like sailors who burnt the timbers and rigging of their ship to keep warm.
      We must embrace science and engineering, not reject them; we needtheir skills and
      inventions to lessen our impact on the Earth. If more food comes from less land by
      genetic engineering then use it; better still, if food can be synthesised by the chemical and
      biochemical industries from carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen, then let's make it and
      give the Earth a rest. We need a portfolio of energy sources, with nuclear playing a
      major part,at least until fusion power becomes a practical option; and we must stop
      fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. One
      quarter of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all
      pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger,
      which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates
      from overheating in Europe last summer.

      Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

      by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:28:18 AM PST

      •  Key Facts (none)
        Key Facts
        ·    Because nuclear power plants do not burn fuel, they do not emit combustion by-products. By substituting for other fuels in electricity production, nuclear energy has significantly reduced U.S. and global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the chief greenhouse gas.
        ·    Between 1973 and 2000, U.S. nuclear power plants reduced cumulative emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide--pollutants controlled under the Clean Air Act--by 33.6 million tons and 66.1 million tons, respectively. Over this same period, the nation's nuclear plants reduced the cumulative amount of carbon emissions by 2.79 billion tons. In 2000 alone, U.S. nuclear plants prevented the discharge of 174 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
        ·    Worldwide, 438 nuclear power plants reduced the world's emissions of CO2 by about 500 million metric tons of carbon during 2000, the latest year for which data is available. In many countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, nuclear energy helped reduce--that is, mitigate the increase of--carbon emissions per capita.
        ·    Environmental responsibility is an important part of nuclear power plant management. Plants are designed, built and regulated to prevent radioactive emissions. And nuclear power plants voluntarily work to protect nearby wildlife and their habitats.
        ·    Nuclear power plants produce relatively small amounts of used fuel and low-level waste. The management, packaging, transportation and disposal of this waste is strictly regulated and carefully controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Department of Transportation.

        Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy:

        Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

        by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:33:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  German Greens Are Dismantling Nuclear Industry (none)
          Via their power as junior partners with the Social Democrats, the Greens have enacted a plan that will eliminate all of Germany's nuclear reactors in the next 20 years. Obviously, there are some important points you are leaving out.
          •  German solution: burn more coal (none)
            Without nuclear energy, Germany will be burning more coal and also purchasing electricity from its neighbors, like France, with nuclear power plants.

            According to the Green James Lovelock, coal combustion has increased in Germany since the wind farms have gone online.

            Some environmentalists in Germany are waking up to the fact that to eliminate nuclear power will be very expensive.  It will aslo make meeting the Kyoto requirements difficult.

            Stay tuned.

            Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

            by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:07:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  PS (none)
              When you have a country relying heavily on wind farms, electricity for the grid comes from coal or nuclear when the wind is stalled.  That happened during the big heat wave in Europe.  So wind turbines had the paradoxical effect of causing Germany to increase its coal combustion.

              Coal and hydro are the only other reliable sources of baseload electricity if you have eliminated nuclear plants.  

              Hydro is increasingly unreliable due to climate change and to the fact that just about every place that can be dammed has been.  The environmental impact of dams is immense and destructive whereas a nuclear plant takes up less than a square kilometer.

              Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

              by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:34:04 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Nobody (none)
          wants spent nuclear materials stored in their back yard-so nuclear is not a good solution either.
          •  Misconceptions... (none)
            ...about nuclear waste lead to statements like this.

            The US generates 2,000 tons of solid nuclear waste per year from nuclear power.  At every step of the way, this small volume of waste is isolated and shielded.  
            The following facts from:
            The Red Herring: The "Problem" of Nuclear Waste

            The entire nuclear power industry generates approximately 2,000 tons of solid waste annually in the United States. All technical and safety issues have been resolved in creation of a high-level waste repository in the United States; politics are the only reason we do not have one. In comparison, coal fired power produces 100,000,000 tons of ash and sludge annually, and this ash is laced with poisons such as mercury and nitric oxide. Industry generates 36,000,000 tons of hazardous waste, and the kind they make will be with us forever, not decaying away. Also, this waste does not receive nearly the care and attention in disposal that radioactive waste does. This is not to say that radioactive waste is more dangerous; it is not. We should probably be more careful with other industrial wastes.

            It gets down to this:  a few thousand tons of sequestered nuclear waste or billions of tons of carbon in the atmosphere.  

            We're quite comfortable with all that toxic industrial and coal waste that's destroying the environment but we have a lot of superstitious fears about waste from the one large-scale, baseload energy source that contains all its contaminants and produces electricity more cheaply than coal or natural gas.

            As an environmentalist I was opposed to nuclear energy until I learned the facts and got updated information.

            Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

            by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:16:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Just for starters... (4.00)
              "All technical and safety issues have been resolved in creation of a high-level waste repository in the United States; politics are the only reason we do not have one.

              While the nuclear industry would no doubt like us to believe that it's only politics, the truth is, Yucca ain't the right place to dump this sh*t.

              In 1998, the Energy Department said the site is a fractured, leaky mountain plagued by earthquakes and that its untested waste containers have limited viability.

              In 1999, proof that the repository is periodically flooded came from zircon crystals discovered deep inside. "Crystals do not form without complete immersion in water," said Jerry Szymanski, formerly the Energy Department's top geologist. "That would mean hot underground water has invaded the mountain and might again in the time when radioactive waste would still be extremely dangerous. The results would be catastrophic."

              In 1998, the Yucca site was found to be subject to earthquakes or lava flows 10 times more frequently than earlier estimated. This means radiation dispersal from the site is much more likely during the proposed 10,000-year lifetime of the dump.

              In 1997, DOE researchers announced that rainwater had seeped 800 feet into the repository in only 40 years. The government had earlier claimed it would take hundreds or thousands of years. The law has long held that fast-flowing water would disqualify the site.

              In 1995, a Los Alamos National Laboratory report said that after the waste containers dissolve, the uranium might erupt in a fission explosion, scattering radioactivity to the winds, into groundwater, or both. "We think there's a generic problem with putting fissile materials underground," said co-author Charles Bowman."

              More from this site]  


              "The science is not there. The scientific standards originally created to be met by any potential permanent waste storage facility cannot be met by Yucca Mountain, so the Department of Energy and EPA continually lowered the standards until Yucca Mountain could pass. Any long-term facility must be able to prevent nuclear waste from escaping into the surrounding area. With nearby fault lines, active volcanoes and variable water table levels, Yucca Mountain cannot."

              From here

              Not to mention the thousands of trucks full of nuclear waste on our highways.

              Not to mention that Yucca Mountain is a sacred site.

              Not to mention Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

              Just for starters.

              "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war."

              by RonV on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:36:45 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yucca Mountain (none)
                This disposal site for spent nuclear fuel is located in a geological basin on the Nevada Test Site, home to nearly 1000 atomic tests.  Nuclear waste is buried in atomic bomb craters there.  It is a highly restricted area.  

                The worst-case scenario suggests that some radionuclides could arrive in 15,000 years at a site about 15 miles away where the water is already undrinkable due to natural salts, etc.

                That seems a small hypothetical risk compared to the enormous risk posed by the hundred additional coal plants that are now asking to be licensed.  Or the enormous risk from toxic chemical wastes industry piles up year after year.

                I agree that there are better places geologically speaking, but Yucca Mountain is sufficiently safe.  There have been a great many studies that show this to be true.  

                Do not confuse low probability scenarios with inevitable outcomes.

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:02:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Nuclear Energy is Flawed (none)
                  Please don't try to defend it if you are trying to do the world a favor. See comment below or above. Its a red-herring. Ten nuclear accidents in a century would probably wipe us all out-or, all civilization. Likely? Are human beings in charge of these places? I quit the profession when I realized that I was only safe because I was miles from the reactor but they would hire Homer Simpson to actually do my hands on work at the reactor!

                  If only rational people would ever have anything to do with the entire process of making electricity and it could be done in an alternate universe, then maybe. But if this is Earth, it'll kill us all.

                  A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                  by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:01:50 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Nuclear the least bad option (none)
                    There is no way that even ten nuclear plant accidents in a row of the worst kind could wipe out humanity.  

                    Chernobyl is truly a worst-case scenario.  Around 41 died according to multiple UN studies, and most of them were the heroic rescuers who tried to put out the fire.  The explosion was caused by steam and hydrogen (so we should stop using steam? forget about the hydrogen economy?).  The reactor was of an obsolete design that is only used in the former Soviet Union--a reactor made of flammable graphite.  No European or US reactors follow this design any more than automobile technology today imitates the Edsel or the Ford Pinto weaknesses.  Chernobyl had no containment dome.  

                    The exclusion zone around Chernobyl has a background radiation level lower than that of Spain or France.

                    That was the worst nuclear accident possible, caused by a crazy experiment on a vulnerable, poorly engineered reactor.

                    So ten nuclear accidents will not put much of a dent in the world population.  But some scenarios project that the consequences of global warming will lead to a billion deaths.

                    Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                    by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:01:11 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Au contraire (none)
                      You know I am going to have to write a diary on this now.  The pollution cau8sed by nuclear energy is not visible, so it seems so much neater. I cannot believe you have drunk the industries kool-aid. The absolute worst possible thinking that one can have on this subject is to say it is better than coal.

                      I never have been known to favor fossil fuel electric generation because it sucks. Nuclear energy is not any better. Too lomg to list all the reasons here but look for my diary in the next few days.

                      Right now I would have to say that having no electricity from 2 to 6 in the morning is a heck of a lot better than either burning more coal or being cute with nukes.

                      A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                      by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:29:06 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Security? (none)
                      Run this through your computer. The Russians built there friends in N. Korea a nice little nuclear reactor for all the good reasons you said. It has a small footprint (duh!), it does not need the same infrastructure to maintain as a coal or oil plant that needs constant truck traffic on half decent roads, etc.

                      I figured the Russians kept all the doors locked and didn't even tell them that the reprocessing plant down the road was turning out Plutonium which you can use in this other reactor we'll build for you someday.

                      So how did they get control of all this stuff. I can take you through the same walk in Pakistan. Nuclear energy is not the way to go, at least not on Earth. Not if any of your plans require that bad people never get control of them. Never is a long time. Don't keep passing out the kool-aid.

                      A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                      by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:06:36 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  Nuclear energy hardly clean or safe (none)
          Nuclear power has one fatal flaw that everyone would be wise to remember:

          Nuclear waste.

          There is nothing "safe" or "clean" about nuclear energy. One Chernobyl like accident can wreak total devestation on a large portion of the global population and our environment.

          "As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together, we make a mighty fist" Watanka Tatanka (Sitting Bull)

          by wild salmon on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 01:00:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No way, Wild Salmon (none)
            See my comment above.  

            Forty-one people died in the Chernobyl explosion.  Expected cases of leukemia, etc. never materialized.  

            There are about 2000 cases of thyroid cancer from exposure to radio-iodine in areas where people exposed were not given potassium iodide, which prevents uptake of radio-iodine.  It is not clear how many of those cancer cases are directly attributable to Chernobyl, since the population had not been screened before for thyroid cancer.

            I think you'd have to have about a million Chernobyls in order to have the scenario you propose.

            Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

            by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:04:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I (none)
      too quit the Sierra Club. I still support the NDRC. The Sierra Club I agree has become too pc. When they refused to address over-population, I didn't renew. It seems the Sierra Club like so much of Democratic Party has forgotten some of their earlier causes. I also support the Nature Conservancy.

      "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." Thomas Jefferson

      by llih on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:43:14 AM PST

    •  Long term planning (none)
      One of the things that's so daunting about global warming and other macro-environmental problems is that they operate at a timeframe longer that most societal decision making processes.

      Global warming isn't something that started in the 1970s or even the 1920s -- it's an artifact of the last 250 years of coal- and oil-based industrial technology.  You can't just turn it off.  Voters, politicians, businesspeople, and even environmental activists have much shorter decision-making timespans.  Only visible crises tend to get attention, and there is no visible short term crisis from global warming, e.g. the Gulf Stream hasn't shut down yet.  On the other hand, the longer you put off decision making, the more difficult the alternatives tend to become.  Global warming, by the way, won't "destroy" the planetary ecosystem.  The biosphere will simply adapt, most probably by rendering much of the human race extinct -- this will definitely end global warming as an issue.  We overestimate our importance to Mother Nature.

      The United States has a particularly insidious political problem.  A lot of Americans believe that God will save them, or that the Second Coming is coming, or some other theocratic form of denial.  (Reagan's Interior Secretary, our buddy James Watt, said so publicly.)  These are the same people who vote against their own economic interests, and who are also likely to vote against their own interests as a species.  You can't blame it all on the oil companies.  They do whatever their customers will pay for, and a lot of their customers are buying urban sprawl and SUVs.

      So this is one more manifestation culture war -- the same attitudes that inform red-voter views of God, guns, and gays affect how red voters think about macro-environmental problems.  If you believe that there were 40 days and 40 nights of rain, you won't understand modern climatology.  That's what we've got to fix.

    •  Isn't This a Complete Non-Issue? (4.00)
      Liberalism as a whole has been decimated over the past 15 years so we could pick a large number of other liberal issues and write this same blog entry.

      I don't see that anything specific to the environmental movement has anything to do with our current situation.

      The environmental movement in my casual view seems to have been premised on the expectation of a liberal government and a liberal, education-driven society. Well, we ran a nation for a couple of generations and that system lost. We have a corporate society and a corporate government now. Every movement premised on a liberal society has lost out.

      It seems to me that there have been sub-movements within environmentalism that have tried a corporate approach and had some success. Dow chemical for example has made commitments to lower greenhouse emissions.

      For the forseeable future it seems that the opening for progress will be in portraying immediate economic threats to the economy, especially through insurance for example.

      I personally doubt that America has a system of government that would allow a return to a liberal society but if such a thing is possible at all, any individual movement with a stake in such a goal is going to have to divert some of its resources to making possible that kind of society.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 07:55:26 AM PST

      •  Isn't This A Complete Defeatist Stance??? (4.00)
        Good Lord, dude!  This document we're discussing is evidence--however belated--of the dawning recognition that something much more fundamental and profound needs to be done, and you, in effect are saying, "Why bother? Something much more fundamental and profound needs to be done, and I don't think we will do it."

        A big first step is this struggle will be to get people like you to stop being so knee-jerk defeatist.

    •  Well written,good analysis (none)
      Thank you for this post.

      I would add another "problem" that the environmentalists have--their ignorance and sometimes fighting over Tribal treaty rights, including fish, water and hunting rights.  While shamelessly appropriating the "Indian world view of the environment", they have often fought with Tribes.  

      Consider the pacific northwest as an example.  We would have NO wild fish if it weren't for tribal treaty rights.  Now with the assault on the ESA, the ONLY thing that will save the fish over there is the Tribal treaty rights.  But do the environmentalists see this?  No.  They will continue to fight the (losing) fight against the federal agencies, but making the feds live up to their treaty rights would do more to protect fish than all of the environmental efforts combined.

      I am extremely disillusioned with the environmental movement, for all the reasons you mentioned plus these issues of my own.

    •  I respectfully disagree (4.00)
      If environmental groups like the Sierra Club have failed by advocating for incremental change and relatively small steps, how are they going to do advocating for massively restructuring the American way of life (i.e. the car, the road, unlimited access to cheap electricity, etc.)?

      I think the answer is quite simple.  70-80% of Americans describe themselves as supporting environmental protection.  Environmental groups need to make an end-run around the politicans and target the public directly, through massive information and advertising campaigns.  Most Americans don't the slightest clue what global warming is.  I have intelligent, liberal friends who have bought into the "scientists are uncertain" bullshit that the Republicans spread.  We need to inform these people.  Clearly it will take more than just a book, as Silent Spring affected the DDT issue 40 years ago.  But by properly framing the issue as one of health/safety and by waging an effective advertising campaign, environmentalists can turn the public to our side, and then the politicians will follow.  That's how every major political movement in this country has happened.  Start at the grassroots, and the legislators respond.  Our politicians - on both sides - won't get off their asses unless they believe that the public will hold them to the fire for their actions on global warming.  It all starts with education.

      You can be active with the activists or sleepin' with the sleepers - Billy Bragg

      by Scott in NAZ on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:24:51 AM PST

      •  Education, activism, and political change (4.00)
        No question that education is key, and grassroots action is what ultimately brings about change. The third leg of that stool, though, is political power. Right now, and at least since 1994 when the Republican right began its deathgrip on Congress and then the White House, the ability to enact any environmental legislation has been just about nil.

        This isn't the fault of the Sierra Club or other environmental groups. It's the fault of members of Congress who support or enable an agressively anti-environmental agenda. Until these people are voted out of office, environmental issues will never even get a hearing in Congress.

        The few times an environmental issue gets voted on is when the oil companies need Congressional approval to drill in a high profile place like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And the only reason this vote is needed is that in 1980 a Democratic Congress banned oil drilling there, so an Act of Congress is needed to undo that ban.

        Meanwhile, carte blanche is given to open up our public lands and wilderness areas to drilling, with the very active but behind the scenes support of the Republican Congress and the Republican president. The only folks who are fighting them are environmental groups---whether it's the big name ones like the NRDC or the Sierra Club, or smaller issue-specific ones like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance  or the Alaska Wilderness League. In addition to educating the public, and organizing the grassroots to take action, these organizations use the courts to stave off illegal abuses of the environment. And not incidentally they are protecting Americans with laws that were passed by Democratic Congresses.

        So the issue isn't that we don't have a vision, or think big enough. It's that we don't have enough allies in Congress to get legislation through, and we have a rabidly anti-environment president in the White House who is advancing a corporate agenda that views the environment as  free raw materials.

        And yes, there are a few Republicans who care about the environment. But they don't care enough to vote for different leadership in their own party. They are enablers of the very agenda they profess to oppose.

        Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey

        by willyr on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:40:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Political power isn't necessary (none)
          Nixon was probably the best environmental president ever.  The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and NEPA all came out of his presidency.  But Nixon didn't support all that legislation because he was an environmentalist by nature.  He supported it because he saw the groundswell of public support for environmental action that came out of the 1960's and early 1970's.  

          The same thing can happen today.  Politicians can only be changed by one thing: the knowledge that they could be voted out of office if they do something that will piss off enough voters.  Educate enough voters, and the politicians will follow.

          You can be active with the activists or sleepin' with the sleepers - Billy Bragg

          by Scott in NAZ on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:29:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But it IS necessary (4.00)
            As you correctly point out, Nixon signed all that legislation. But he did it because Democrats in Congress had political power, and they also allowed the relatively few environmentalists among them to get their bills passed. Nixon couldn't care less about environmental issues. He had bigger fish and a major war to fry.

            The Republican party, then and even more so now, is adamantly anti-environment. No Republican Congress is ever going to bend to the "will" of the electorate in favor of the environment, because the people who vote for Republicans know exactly what kind of agenda they are voting for.

            And...if anyone was the best environmental president ever, it certainly was Jimmy Carter. He singlehandedly protected the vast majority of Alaska---with the help of a Democratic Congress, which itself was led by the citizen activism of the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the Alaska Coalition.

            And if you don't agree with my nomination of Carter, then maybe President Al Gore? He woulda been a pissa.

            Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey

            by willyr on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:36:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Environmentalism CAUSED the Reagan Revolution (none)
      There are certain types of people in the world who, when warned that resources are running out and we have to change our ways, made a concerted effort to suck up as much control of these resources for themselves as possible. THEY know we're in the final phases of a monstrous pig-out, and that's why the division of resources has changed so dramatically. In 1970, 50% of U.S. wealth was controlled by 2.5% of the people; in 2002, 50% of the wealth was controlled by 0.5% of the people. They're not going to get caught short when the crash comes, it's everybody else who will suffer. Americans aren't going to change their behavior until they feel pain.

      In a way, I think poor people might fare better because they're used to scarcity, want and prioritizing; the mental state and coping skills of the middle class will be sorely tested when they find out that they have to redefine success as something other than "bigger and better, year after year." The American Dream is predicated upon limitless growth - each generation better off than the previous one - and, we are just now seeing the  sharp, gleaming edge of the approaching limits.

      The world cannot sustain more growth like America's: what if India and China had more cars than people too? I wish I could sustain optimisn and realism simultaneously, but I don't think in general Americans' altruism and (reputed) common sense can overcome our TV-programmed greed and sense of entitlement in time to make a difference. There's going to be lot of pain.

    •  Reversal (3.66)
      I have more confidence in the reverse of the hypothesis presented here; namely, that environmentalism is weakened by the more extreme elements of the environmental movement. The obvious cases are the environmental vandals who destroy RVs, logging equipment, etc. They do manage to raise insurance rates for industry, but the PR effect of these actions is devastating; it enables the right to sling around labels like "environmental terrorism" and brand all environmentalists as extremists. It's false, but it works.

      But even the suggestions made here are indicative of the problem. The author suggests that we need more research money for solar photovoltaics, but lack of research money isn't the problem. There already is a market for solar photovoltaic, and it is growing slowly, and there is already lots of money going into nanotech-based solar photovoltaic. The problem is physics, not money; it will take a while to get that price down.

      Similarly, the suggestion that we redesign our cities strikes me as naive. The cost of such an effort would easily run into the trillions, and the fact is, most people prefer to live in suburbia or exurbia, not downtown. This kind of talk only puts people off.

      So what are some practical things we could implement that would help? I would suggest a tax-neutral shift to a carbon tax: lower income tax rates while adding taxes on things that emit carbon. Phase it in over ten years. Instead of ranting about SUVs, let's just raise the net price of gasoline until some of these people start appreciating the merits of good gas mileage.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the correspondent who suggests a more tech-based approach to the problems. We really need to use more nuclear power; the technology is solid and its problems have been resolved satisfactorily.

      To reduce all this to a simple slogan-like statement: environmentalism that comes from the heart collides with other people's hearts; environmentalism that comes from the head can make headway.

      •  HLW? (4.00)
        Anything that remains poisonous for a quarter million years is something humans haven't "resolved satisfactorily".  How do we secure something for 250,000 years?
        •  Another misconception (none)
          Uranium, which laces the earth's crust and is a fairly common element, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. This uranium today is mildly radioactive.  Life evolved with much higher levels of radioactivity.

          The hotter the radioactive material the more quickly it decays.  I don't know where you get that figure of 250,000 years.

          Deep geological disposal of radioactive waste, isolated from the biosphere and accessible only by shafts that will be sealed with concrete, seems safer to me than disposing of billions of tons of carbon in the atmosphere--a surefire way to accelerate the acidification of the oceans and other habitat destruction which, as someone pointed out, will probably wind up ending the human race as well.

          There is no perfect solution.  There are unintended consequences.  One would be the elimination of nuclear power for sure causing even more coal-fired plants to be built.

          I know you don't like either one, but we do not have the luxury of being picky.  It would be great if something magical happened in the next decade that would change everything--a purely clean power source that is cheap and widely available and does not require a huge new infrasructure.  Ain't gonna happen.

          Ask any scientist the forced-choice question of whether they would rather live near a nuclear plant or a coal-fired plant and they will almost always choose nuclear.  

          Coal kills over 32,000 people a year in the US.  Deaths from nuclear power production in the US for the last 50 years: zero.

          Discarded solar panels have to be isolated in toxic waste dumps.  Some of the chemicals and toxic heavy metals in solar panels will be around for a lot longer than 250,000 years.

          Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

          by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:45:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ever seen this? (none)
            This solar tower, when completed, will produce 200MW of entirely non-polluting energy, and can be constructed with existing technologies.  Its cost is $800 million in Australian dollars, which are worth significantly less than $US.

            This is the kind of simple innovation we need to be concentrating on.  Finding plentiful non-polluting sources of electrical energy is the single most important step away from fossil-fuel-based transportation.

            "Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles." --Luke 1:52

            by Scarpia on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:10:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Solar thermal (4.00)
              SoCal Ed built a smaller one of these in the Mojave Desert about 30 years ago. They didn't like the results and never followed up (although it should be noted that SoCal Ed is one of the more hidebound utilities). It is possible that with better materials and larger scale, the technology could now be cost-effective. Still, at USD3/MW capacity, it's on the higher side of power plant construction. Let's see how it turns out; if they can really deliver good performance with it, it might be something for the American southwest, so they can get rid of that monstrosity burning coal at Four Corners.
              •  Agree (none)
                Even a monstrous, ugly, habitat-devouring solar tower would be preferable to those soft-coal burning 4-Corners plants pumping out carbon, greenhouse gases, and radionuclides 24/7.

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 11:06:15 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Sounds great... (none)
              ...if you don't mind 20,000 acres of habitat destruction. If you do not mind the tallest structure in the world in your desert solitude, and all the paved roads and other infrastructure that would be involved. That tower is going to make a huge environmental impact.  But it may be worth it if it replaces coal combustion for 200,000 homes.  The kangaroos will probably find somewhere else to hop.

              I suggest you look into the toxic gases, etc., involved in production of solar technology.

              As an environmentalist, I have taken a stance against further habitat destruction if there is a safe alternative.

              A nuclear plant takes up the smallest footprint of all per megawattage while providing the biggest number of homes with electricity--.33 square miles.  That's the whole campus.  The surrounding acreage is usually given over to wildlife programs.  A nuclear plant in SC has won environmental awards for its stewardship of its few hundred acres from local conservation groups.  The plant supplies complete electricity to the equivalent of nearly a million households.

              Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

              by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 10:51:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Rad waste disposal (4.00)
          Larry, rad waste disposal is not a controversial issue among the scientists. There remain some diehards who continue to object (UCS being the best example), but the great mass of technical people familiar with this stuff are satisfied that deep rock disposal and/or bedded salt disposal are satisfactory solutions. The American Physical Society published a long technical report to this effect nearly 30 years ago, and the situation has gotten better as we have learned more. True, there are some particular objections to the Nevada site, but the overall assessment remains positive.

          If you're worried about poisons in our environment, let me tell you about something far worse. There are several large US corporation that are responsible for directly injecting millions of tons of toxins far worse than most radiotoxins into our environment. They don't just dump it anywhere, they actually spray it on our food! They're called pesticides...

      •  Nuclear Energy (none)
        As a lapsed nuclear physicist, I must give you my 2 cents.  Diffuse background radiation is a given.  Concentrations of plutonium are not good. Over forty years ago I grokked the problem of mining, milling, concentrating, shipping etc., nuclear materials and realized the whole thing is impossible. I included terrorists in my pre-internet eveluation. It can only be worse, now.

        Can you just imagine one lunatic runnung around a liquid sodium reactor? Did it need more than a six year old kid to tell Kim Jung Il that the stuff they were taking out of the reactor was more than 4% Plutonium? And when they retire the rod delivery truck because it was getting "too radioactive" and they ship it off to Hanford, do they teleport it? Is the driver happy to learn that the truck can get too radioactive, but how about him? Too many problems that will kill us all about ten minutes before the fundamentalists pour over the hills.

        A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

        by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:02:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  With all due respect... (none)
          I suggest you update your research.  And do a comparison study with coal combustion.  Then decide which has the greatest risk to public health, coal or nuclear.  

          Look into the kinds of casks that are used to transport spent fuel and other high level nuclear waste.  They're heavily shielded and have been rigorously tested for fire, penetration, impact, etc.

          Look into the staggering amount of coal waste going into the atmosphere and how much nuclear power has reduced that megatonnage.  Note that coal waste also produces enough U-235 per plant per year to make several atomic bombs.

          If we eliminate nuclear power, coal will take its place, because we have to have a baseload source of electricity 24/7 in this society.  Nobody is going to give that up.

          Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

          by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:09:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Have you seen a liquid sodium reactor? (none)
            How do you think that one lunatic is going to get into the sealed, negatively-pressurized reactor containment building and thirty meters underground where the reactor is?

            Do you really believe nuclear plants are left with all their doors and windows open?  

            Anyway, we don't use sodium cooled reactors in US and European nuclear power plants.  They are cooled by pressurized water.

            Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

            by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:24:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  LMFBR (none)
              Yes, the LMFBR was a very BAD idea; I still can't believe that the Clinch River project got as far as it did before Carter killed it. I read a paper once on neutron reverberations inside the reactor, and the guy concluded that, while they were unlikely to attain much magnitude, there were conceivable conditions in which the reverberation amplitude could grow exponentially -- as in "kaboom!"
              •  Liquid metal reactors were of course experimental (none)
                ...and their drawbacks are not a good reason to reject nuclear power. Fast flux reactors have their place, though--like turning used nuclear fuel into new fuel for repeated trips through a power reactor and therefore reducing the volume of waste.

                Suppose people refused to buy hybrid cars because the Edsel was such a dud. Or that people refused to buy laptop PCs because the 1988 Zenith portable weighed twelve pounds and was slower than molasses.

                That's often the thinking in regard to nuclear energy.  

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:45:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Is this Earth? Are they guarded (none)
              by human beings. Have you ever heard of Iraq? Well, we shouldn't be there either. But, we are.

              I haven't even addressed a tenth of the problems that this subject could generate. Let me remind you that during the debates one of the few things Bush and Kerry agreed on was that loose nuclear material was the number one problem facing the world.

              It is hard to believe that you yourself couldn't find several weak points (security-wise) between the mines, the factories, the processors, the reactors themselves, and most definitely, the nuclear garbage. When I was in the club, the hubris was, "we were smart enough to invent nuclear energy we'll work out the garbage next week. Well, fifty years later and you know we have it worked out now. Sorry, its just not true.

              Do you work for the nuclear industry? You are not helping your fellow man spouting this company non-sense. Sorry. But you are dead wrong.

              A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

              by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:46:07 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I work for the environment (none)
                Thanks for asking, Brother Artemis.  I welcome your comments.

                I spent time opposing anything nuclear, in particular the bomb but also power plants.

                Now that I am better informed, I support nuclear power generation over coal generation, the only other available baseload kind.  I support it because it has the best safety record of any form of conventional power.  Deaths from coal, oil, natural gas, and especially hydro far outstrip those from nuclear energy.  Which is why the European Union, after a thorough study, designated it as the safest power source.

                People have beliefs and one of them is that renewables can replace nuclear and fossil fuels.  But this is extremely unrealistic.  The American Wind Energy Association thinks wind power will be an unbelievable success if they can get its use up from less than one percent to six percent by 2020.  Do we wait or do we keep allowing coal plants to fill the atmosphere with billions of tons more carbon when we have a viable and safe alternative?

                Thirty-two countries have nuclear power plants but few of them make bombs.  Anyway, as you must know if you really were in the nuclear world, you do not need a reactor to generate fissionable material.  All you need is a uranium enrichment plant.  So preventing countries from having nuclear power only prevents poor people from having electricity.  The lifespan in parts of the world where there is no electricity is 43.  

                Loose nuclear materials are a serious matter.  These are by and large created by all kinds of sources--but not by power plants. Spent nuclear fuel, as you must know, would instantly kill anybody dumb enough to try to steal it.  It has to be processed in a big plant in order to be salvaged for bomb grade materials.  Fuel for power plants is enriched to three percent; weapons-grade to over 95p percent. Big difference.

                 Nuclear medicine, oil pipeline equipment, etc.  There are a million loose sources of radioactive materials from stuff like old x-ray machines.  When the US military broke the locks at the biggest nuclear site in Iraq and then left, they neglected to secure cesium and cobalt and other gamma-emitters used in medicine and the oil industry.  They were of course looted.  Iraq has never had a nuclear power industry.

                In regard to nuclear waste, you must not have kept up with all the ways it is being cleaned up, sites remediated, etc. after the unforgiveable lapses that occurred during the bomb production years when people were careless about their garbage.  You must not be aware of the innovations in nuclear waste technology and transport and storage.  Otherwise you would not be saying what you are saying, as someone trained as a scientist.

                I hope that for the sake of the environment you will investigate what I am saying.  I don't expect you to take my word for it.

                Best wishes.

                Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                by Plan9 on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 03:43:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Thank you (none)
                  for clarifying your position.  I knew you weren't a troll.  If the choice was between coal and nuclear, i'd move to Mars.  Coal sucks. Nuclear sucks because it requires human beings to operate machinery and drive trucks.  We still retrofit old reactors because there is no good way to take one apart.  And, of course you need a reprocessing plant for fuel rods, perhaps like the one the
                  Russians built in N. Korea.  The more nuclear the world, the more weak points there would be to exploit.  And why couldn't a well trained physicist bring down the plant he works at after accepting the Jihadi cause. Given the history of human beings on this planet, having nuclear materials to play with could only shorten our future.

                  I do not care how safe and slick you make a reactor, and they are magnitudes safer than in the sixties, but, alas, they require a human input and there are plenty of terrorists but there are even more Homer Simpsons.

                  If all that mattered was the rules, there wouldn't be no referees!

                  A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                  by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 06:26:05 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Good points (none)
                    It's true that more nuclear plants around the world could lead to more problems.  So far that has not really been the case.  It's true that human error is a concern.  But one thing that has been done in the US and Europe is to reduce human error via human engineering, multiple backup systems, and a lot of care about who is allowed in the control room.

                    I think your scenario of physicist going for jihad at a nuclear plant might come from the movies.  To the best of my knowledge (and I am still learning), the people who operate the reactors tend to be Nuclear Navy veterans with degrees in nuclear engineering.  So they have been scrutinized quite a bit by the time they get to a nuclear plant.  Since even visitors to a nuclear plant must obtain clearance from the NRC, I doubt if a crazed nuclear physicist could drop in and wreak havoc.  Also, there are surveillance cameras everywhere, alarm systems, and the reactor can go into shutdown mode within seconds.

                    So what could a crazy person do in a nuclear plant before he was shot by a guard with an M-16 or overpowered by his fellow operators?  Not much.  If he shut off the water to the core, backup water systems would come into play.  That's just about all he could do and I doubt if he could do that.  But suppose he succeeded in shutting off all the water systems.  Then a spray system would come into action to cool the steam.  Suppose there were a meltdown.  The effects would be kept inside the containment building.  The fuel in the reactor,already many meters underground, would melt, over a period of several days,heat up enough to melt through multiple containment barriers, steel, concrete, etc., until it reached bedrock.  Along the way the radionuclides would be fusing with the materials.  

                    But this scenario presupposes that nobody at all would be able to come to the plant and shut down the reactor or get water to it. Hard to believe since US plants have their own fire departments and SWAT teams. Since Three Mile Island a great deal of thought has gone into how to prevent just such a scenario.

                    Of course you are aware of all this but some of our readers may not be informed.  I was not.

                    Here's the thing about coal-fired plants to keep in mind.  They are run by human beings too.  And they do not have regulations to obey the way nuclear plants do.  They do not have the equivalent of the NRC stationing officials at every coal-fired plant.  Coal plants can emit all the radionuclides they like--and they do, along with mercury and carbon.  That's what human beings who own and operate coal plants do.  A nuclear plant would be shut down if it emitted anything approaching the radioactivity a coal plant does.

                    Bush's bogus Clear Skies act is going to make it possible to roll back EPA regulations of coal plants.  The air is going to get dirtier.  And at least 100 new coal plants are going to be licensed in the next few years.

                    So maybe your best bet is to move to Mars.

                    Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                    by Plan9 on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 12:53:07 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  If we had a real government (none)
                      we would not be rolling back on allowable carbon emissions, and we would not have been insulted by the Clear Skies Act, which must have been named in memorium of.

                      My thinking is that if it really means shutting down a bunch of plants and spending the millions required to keep the smoke cleaner, then put generators in the hospitals and dole out the only electricity you have left. Sometimes it takes a little inconvenience before some people realize there really is a CRISIS.  Now, and not with SS. (Can you imagine if you were not allowed to save the planet without the approval of the SS?  O, but that is another SS, isn't it?)

                      A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                      by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:37:17 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

          •  Again, I ask you (none)
            where have I argued that coal is better than nuclear? You are setting up a straw dog. My own position is that if they both suck, do neither.

            Saving energy by not producing any between 2 and 6 in the morning is to my mind a better quick fix than either.

            Then use our noggins to come up with something we don't have to choose just because it is less bad. That is almost an anti-environmental position.

            A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

            by Brother Artemis on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 08:35:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Move to a country, then... (none)
              ...where people use neither fossil fuels nor nuclear and sustain our level of technology and health care.  See how you do.  See what your life span will be.

              Or, if you don't like my suggestion and decide to continue to live in the US and to use electricity like you are doing now to be online, let me know how it works out to give up baseload electricity and shut down the grid for four hours in the middle of every night.  

              Let me know how you do in persuading hospitals, telecommunications companies, factories, etc. to do that.

              To save the environment, you need to live in the real world, not in the faith-based one.

              The fact is, the anti-nuclear-power movement has helped the coal industry hugely.  You can say that it is your greatest achievement.  So you really do support coal.  No straw dog, honest.  Do your research and you will see.

              I once thought as you do.  I was wrong.

              Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

              by Plan9 on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 03:51:27 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  To save the world (none)
                you have to save the world. Compromising on saving the world is doing nothing. Sorry, half measures here will do nothing.  I'm for more R&D, accepting the fact that we do not have our energy program together.  If we have run too far ahead of ourselves, then cutting back while we explore the alternatives is a more life affirming program.

                Easiness is not an option just because it is easier.

                A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 06:31:58 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  For instance, (none)
                I would rather have a clunky wind generator on my roof while I waited for something else, like amorphous solar collectors, or that one thing necessity will mother, that we have not even considered.

                I also do not think we should be driving around with gasoline.  If we didn't start off our auto industry with cheap ripped off oil, we might all be driving spiffy Stanley Steamers with the new rhodium retorts heated by hydogen...or, any number of other visions that fell by the wayside when the totally impractical internal combustion fiasco got its almost free energy boost.

                Least bad alternative only works with governments. Nuclear energy is like throwing yourself off a cliff with the thought, "It will only hurt if I land. So, I just won't land."

                A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 06:55:56 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Where do you get the hydrogen? (none)
                  In a recent diary about the hydrogen car, Devilstower pointed out a number of risks and problems.  I recommend it highly.  He had a link to a Popular Science article that went into the problems of how to produce hydrogen.

                  Right now fossil fuels are used.  That's why Bush gave hydrogen a plug with his Freedom Car.  To make hydrogen you have to add energy.  To make it on a large scale--enough to power millions of cars--you have to have a big source of electricity.

                  The main problem with a wind turbine for my roof or my yard is that it would cost me $40,000--and that's with all the rebates, tax breaks, etc.  Renewables are for the richest people in the country.  I am all for them, but they are not going to make enough electricity to put coal out of business, or nuclear either.

                  Brother A, we have different mindsets. You prefer to wait for a beautiful moment and an ideal energy source.  I agree with James Lovelock, a founder of the environmental movement, that we have to act quickly if we are going to save species and habitats.  We can't wait around until somebody invents something we really approve of because it is a perfect, totally efficient, and free source of energy.  And we can't wait around until people start thinking differently.

                  Anyway, it's too late to stop nuclear reactors.  We rely on them for nuclear medicine, and they supply electricity to a billion people or more.

                  Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                  by Plan9 on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 01:05:47 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You are perfectly right (none)
                    I want to thrust forward into a future motivated by our desire to replace what doesn't work precisely because necessity is a mother, and will be activated when we stop clinging to the voodoo of our past.

                    Half way measures only make you half way safe. If you don't take it seriously, it ain't ever going to happen. I say that because I have led a pretty long life on this planet and that's the facts.

                    I knows what I know and I knows no less.

                    A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                    by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 02:48:08 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  I am beginning to like this. (none)
                    I'll leave you alone to dwell on the following:

                    Name the last two decommissioned reactors  that have been disassembled.  How were they disassembled?  Where was the radioactive debris dumped or stored?  What does the site look like today, after it was cleaned up?

                    If you are happy with all of your answers, then I have shot my wad. Fifty years ago the rap was that you build a reactor, it lasts forty-years, and then you disassemble it. If you couldn't get rid of it, they figured it could be buried under a 750ft. mound of earth and you could build houses all around it.  Are today's plans any less of a joke?

                    A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                    by Brother Artemis on Wed Jan 19, 2005 at 06:52:23 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Help me out here... (none)
                      Are you referring to power plant reactors in the US?  To experimental reactors? To reactors used for producing medical isotopes that are used to treat millions of patients with cancer? To reactors that were once used to make plutonium for bombs during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War and that now have all been shut down?

                      I've visited decontaminated reactors and nothing regisers on the dosimeter.  

                      For a scientist, you seem to have a lot of inaccurate conceptions.  

                      You say: "Are today's plans any less of a joke?"
                      Of course they are. Nuclear engineers have now had five decades of experience, study, experimentation, and the benefit of numerous technological breakthroughs. Knowledge of radiation effects on health has grown exponentially.  And the understanding that sometimes it is much safer to remove the spent fuel and then leave the reactor in place, lock it up, and let the low-level radiation remaining in a containment building decay for sixty years.  A lot of the metal can be processed and recycled.

                      Are today's automobiles safer?  Or are we still driving around without seatbelts and airbags and ABS in cars with gigantic fins?  You seem to think that technology regarding nuclear matters came to a standstill fifty years ago while technology in, say, hydrogen-powered cars has just skyrocketed.

                      Are you using a computer from the early 1980s?  Do you think Silicon Valley stopped after the first Apple?

                      Think of hundreds of thousands or hundreds of thousands of solar panels, which contain plastics, heavy metals, and other environmental hazards which will never decay, filling up controlled waste dumps.  That's a fine gift for our descendents in 100,000 years.

                      If you have a problem with a reactor being entombed in concrete, which would shield its post-decontamination low level radiation, you had better also start worrying about wind farms.  For every wind turbine, there is a serious concrete base. Get used to the idea of seashores, open plains, and deserts being littered with rows and rows of permanent concrete platforms big enough to anchor wind towers 435 feet tall--taller than the Statue of Liberty.  

                      I agree, Brother A.  This is fun!

                      Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                      by Plan9 on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 06:51:40 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  POWER PLANT REACTORS (none)
                        But with all your pride in security, we all watched 6 to 12 plutonium bombs materialize in a barbaric 3rd world country because they just took control of it.  Hard to prevent things like that happenning in the real world I've lived in.  Nukes are safer, not safe.  Why go for half a loaf when we will need a whole loaf so soon?  And if you want to live through a novels worth of musings on rampant atomic energy, try Vonnegut. Because something is reasonably safe, except in its breach, does nothing to honor it.

                        Small medical reactors, linear accelerators, lots of nuclear fun and games can certainly be carefully continued, but so can coal burning if we spent the money for nuclear on cleaning up the coal plants that the Bush Administration seems to think don't need much cleaning.  It costs megabucks to retrofit coal plants...but less than replacing it with a nuclear reactor.  Either way, we should only be buying time, of which we have precious little, to come up with a holistic plan that is better then either.  Or, we are sloping seriously toward destruction.

                        Keep me honest, but open your eyes a little.  You haven't gotten me to even nibble at your least bad alternative excuse.  It's because people will resist giving up the perks of an energy profligate culture that I believe our native ingenuity will come up with a groovy alternative future that may not need tweaking for another few hundred years.

                        Don't choke during the anointing of our furer (don't know how to put an umlaut there) we will still need all the fertile minds we have to flesh out this non-nuclear future...before, or after there is or isn't the need for a stop-gap nuclear program.

                        A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                        by Brother Artemis on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 09:11:58 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  A "clean" coal plant... (none)
                          is an oxymoron.

                          Coal plants are retrofitted to cut back on particulate emissions, and hooray for that.  But mercury vapor and radon gas still go up the stacks of the cleanest of plants.  Every body of water in the US is polluted with toxic mercury, a heavy metal that will never go away.  It concentrates in plankton, etc. that critters eat and winds up in the fish on your dinner table, and then in your brain causing cognitive and neurological damage.  Fetuses are especially affected.  Radon gas decays to radionuclides like polonium which are inhaled and can initiate lung cancer.  It's not yet clear why people downwind of coal plants also have higher rates of cardio disease as well.

                          But the worst culprit is probably carbon dioxide.  It is creating the greenhouse affect at an accelerated pace that is already melting glaciers and ice caps, raising the sea level, causing more intense storms and storm surges.  Look for more drowned coastlines as a result.  

                          Coal mining releases methane and kills miners.

                          Coal mining results in decapitated mountaintops and huge amounts of coal waste, billions of tons a year. Dammed up coal waste breaks out and floods rivers and lakes, destroying wildlife because this ash is so toxic.

                          Coal combustion kills 32,000 people a year in this country.

                          So do factor in the health care expenses when you retrofit all the coal plants.  You could build several nuclear plants for that price.  And what about making coal plants sequester their waste from the environment.  You can retrofit them but they are still going to produce mountains of toxic, radioactive ash and sludge.

                          Even if North Korea bombed six cities--and that would be a horrible scenario--it could not kill as many people as the increase in global warming brought about by fossil fuel combustion has and will.  Some scenarios put the death toll at one billion people.  

                          The reason you are not persuaded, I think, is because you have a belief system in which you give far more weight to one risk than to comparable ones.  And you ignore the consequences of what you think is the lesser risk, coal.  You imagine the consequences of nuclear power to be far worse, but the information and the record do not back you up.  

                          I don't blame you for thinking the way you do--you have heard this scare message for years.  So have I.  It has taken a lot of reflection and research on my part, and asking a lot of questions, and weighing the facts, to come to the conclusion that the EU and many other international agencies, that the scientific community in general, and a lot of very smart people, including some outstanding environmentalists, have concluded that nuclear is the safest, cleanest, most environmentally friendly, and cheapest form of energy.

                          This whole discussion began because of questions about what the environmental movement has done to itself.  It has exaggerated risks without having the facts to back up those claims.  

                          Meanwhile, a really serious threat is looming and people without enough info are imagining it can be cured by windmills and turning down the thermostat.

                          Nuclear is not pie-in-the sky.  It supplies 20 percent of the US's energy today.  Wind and solar, after 30 years, after lots of R&D, are stuck at one percent and may get up to six percent or so in twenty years.  I think they get the pie-in-the-sky award, along with the hydrogen economy and its dependence on fossil fuel combustion.

                          Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                          by Plan9 on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 11:25:44 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I'll agree with everything you've said (none)
                            but two wrongs don't make a right. A nuclear industry that has argued unconvincingly for over sixty years, "where do we put the garbage", AND IS STILL ARGUING, is something you probably don't have the fifty year perspective that I do.  You seem to believe people are infallible.

                            There is a very good fable by Chuang Tzu, called Cutting Open Satchels.  In it he points out that the careful traveler is sure to hide all his valuables in secret compartments, he locks them all up and ties them with sturdy rope.  But along comes a master thief and he grabs the whole pile praying only that the rope is strong and the knots are tight as he runs off into the night.

                            By the way, when I was still a believer, I asked if it was dangerous to work in the industry.  I was told that the population at large had 8 deformed babies per thousand live births, but that in the workers at nuclear plants it was only 9, barely a statistical difference. Mmmmmm...

                            And what about the guy driving the rods from Oak Ridge to wherever?  Does he have the Iraqi National Guard surrounding him?  Are we at risk that terrorists might want to do something with his vehicle (stealing it would be only one prospect)?  I'd rather stick to my solar powered laptop and read on rainy days that do anything to perpetuate the destruction of this planet or sort of perpetuate the half-destruction of my planet. Simply put, neither is an option.

                            But, on one of those rainy days, I know thousands of busy hands and minds will be figuring out how to keep the good thing going. And one of them will hit. But not if the corporate oligopoly we have gotten ourselves into will squash it like they did the Tucker. We have a lot of problems. It takes a kind of innocence of the true treachery of human beings to think you can throw nuclear energy onto the pile of choices and there will never be a catastrophic problem.

                            By the way, there are two nukes in NJ that are at the edge of disaster. What do you think we should do with them?

                            And speaking of bin Laden, I mean us, the numbers after Hiroshima (don't quote me on this) were something like eighty thousand deaths in the fireball and another forty thousand from complications of radiation exposure (bone cancers and leukemia mostly). Most deaths from
                            Chernobyl were from helicopter pilots who flew many missions into the reactor in order to cover it.  Large populations were decontaminated and moved.  That is why the death toll was so low.  No one, well almost, lives anywhere near there now. A large swath of useless land, mostly in Belarus.  No people means no births, hence, no birth defects in the area no longer occupied.  But for someone who agonizes over the waste of land for wind generators et al, it would seem the loss of valuable environmental resources are greater with nuclear mishaps.

                            But you have reaffirmed my lack of enthusiasm for coal fired electricity. I still do not know how to disassemble a nuclear power plant without having a whole bunch of difficult to solve problems.  I sure wouldn't want to build any more till I'd worked that kink out of the system.

                            Oh. It is definitely the power plant of choice if you want to electify a neighborhood that doesn't even have paved roads. Like N. Korea. Yup. You sure can do a lot of things with Nuclear stuff.
                            Especially, if you have a science deaf executive who is only thinking geo-strategically. Still think smart  physicists will always be in charge and wouldn't let Homer Simpsons in government do something stupid? Do you think physicists have that kind of power? Does Kim Il Sung really reside on my planet with six to twelve plutonium warheads that he would have gotten even if there were no nuclear stupidity afloat on our planet already?

                            There are no problems with Nukes? What do you think of as a problem? As always, respectfully,

                            A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                            by Brother Artemis on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 03:31:22 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                            •  Thanks for all the points you raise (none)
                              I have copied your comments and then appended my indented replies.  Makes for a long post--sorry about that.

                              I'll agree with everything you've said (none / 0)

                              but two wrongs don't make a right. A nuclear industry that has argued unconvincingly for over sixty years, "where do we put the garbage", AND IS STILL ARGUING, is something you probably don't have the fifty year perspective that I do.  You seem to believe people are infallible.

                                    There is a very successful nuclear waste facility in New Mexico, half a mile underground, in a salt bed that has the capacity to absorb radiation.  It only receives transuranic military waste but could also store spent fuel indefinitely.  The repository will be sealed up in a decade or so and the shafts filled with something like concrete.  The salt bed is between two layers of impermeable rock.  The salt molds around the barrels and eventually entombs them.  It's true that I lack your 50-year perspective.  It's also true that NAS recommended in the 1950s that nuclear waste be put into bedded salt and AEC and other facilities just ignored NAS's repeated insistence on salt as the best solution on dry land.

                              There is a very good fable by Chuang Tzu, called Cutting Open Satchels....  
                                  I am a big Chuang-Tzu fan! I must be dim tonight because I'm not sure what your point is.  That people will steal nuclear waste no matter how well sealed up and inaccessible?  But why go to all that trouble when you will need a major infrastructure to turn nuclear waste into something usable? And how far can you get with this really heavy, dense stuff that may kill you in minutes?

                              By the way, when I was still a believer, I asked if it was dangerous to work in the industry.  I was told that the population at large had 8 deformed babies per thousand live births, but that in the workers at nuclear plants it was only 9, barely a statistical difference. Mmmmmm...

                                  I wonder who told you that, because there is no evidence at all of deformed babies among the offspring of Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors, who have been studied, along with their descendants, for 60 years.  Genetic mutations were predicted based on some studies done on fruit flies around 1920 but that has not turned out to be the case.  If you read the UN reports you will see that populations beyond the Chernobyl area who were exposed to radioactivity from the accident have been extensively studied for birth defects, etc.  They have not risen above the norm.  Studies of shipyard workers for the Nuclear Navy show that they are actually healthier than shipyard workers in non-nuclear shipyards.  This is probably because they have to get medical checkups on a regular basis, not necessarily because the slightly elevated exposure to radiation is somehow making them healthier--although there is a faction that believes some radiation is good for you.  Well, we get plenty every day from rocks and the cosmos and jet travel and X-rays.

                              And what about the guy driving the rods from Oak Ridge to wherever?  Does he have the Iraqi National Guard surrounding him?  Are we at risk that terrorists might want to do something with his vehicle (stealing it would be only one prospect)?  I'd rather stick to my solar powered laptop and read on rainy days that do anything to perpetuate the destruction of this planet or sort of perpetuate the half-destruction of my planet. Simply put, neither is an option.
                                  The sad fact is that you and I, simply by living in America and paying our taxes and buying groceries are contributing to the destruction of the planet.  Americans per capita put 15,000 pounds a year of carbon into the atmosphere.
                                      I suggest that you look into the transportation system set up for nuclear materials.  They have been shipped around the US for decades without incident.  Trucks hauling casks of nuclear fuel and waste are continuously monitored by satellite. Their position is always known by people who spend their time simply tracking the trucks.   Just what could terrorists do with the vehicle?  How would they penetrate the thicknesses of multiple shields?  You can't blow up these casks unless you have shock & awe, Baghdad-leveling explosives.  I've seen these casks and they are indeed impressive.  You know what scares me on the highway? Trucks carrying chlorine and gasoline.  They do get in crashes, and they can be terrible.  I doubt if they're monitored the way nuclear cargo vehicles are.

                              But, on one of those rainy days, I know thousands of busy hands and minds will be figuring out how to keep the good thing going. And one of them will hit. But not if the corporate oligopoly we have gotten ourselves into will squash it like they did the Tucker. We have a lot of problems. It takes a kind of innocence of the true treachery of human beings to think you can throw nuclear energy onto the pile of choices and there will never be a catastrophic problem.
                                  Treacherous human beings can work with anything and make a mess.  The 9/11 attacks were low-tech and relied on lots of planning and cunning.  The only reason terrorists might try a dirty bomb or something like that is because people are so full of misinformation and fear that mass panic would result.
                                      You speak as if there is no nuclear energy being used in the world and as if we are debating whether or not we should let the world have it.  But 32 countries use it, 438 reactors, a billion people. About 70 new reactors are in the works.  It's out there. The EU gets 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear.
                                       The catastrophic problem is accelerated global warming.  Newer plants use MOX, made from the pits of nuclear weapons, and this fuel is much harder to convert back into weapons because it has been mingled with uranium oxide.
                              By the way, there are two nukes in NJ that are at the edge of disaster. What do you think we should do with them?  
                              I leave that to the NRC.  NRC has generally shown itself to be meticulous and, since TMI, really, really nervous about having a repeat of anything remotely like that.  So it has instituted all kinds of safeguards and inspections.  That's how they caught the problem with the Davis-Besse reactor head. NRC shuts down plants that do not meet safety standards. They are not perfect but they try hard.  Also, the nuclear industry understands that if anything happens to one plant it affects everyone.  So there's a lot of peer pressure.  You don't see that with coal or gas fired plants.  Natural gas, by the way, is dangerous.  Pipelines explode every year, causing deaths. And when natural gas gets into the atmosphere, it's worse for the environment than carbon, etc.  Gas plants leak gas.  

                              And speaking of bin Laden, I mean us, the numbers after Hiroshima (don't quote me on this) were something like eighty thousand deaths in the fireball and another forty thousand from complications of radiation exposure (bone cancers and leukemia mostly).

                                  The Japanese who survived the first few months have lived just as long as the comparison group who were not exposed to any radiation.  The only difference is that there is a very small increase in cancer among the survivors as they age.   That's pretty amazing considering the huge dose they received.  And, as  you know, those cities were rebuilt and people immediately resumed living in them, and they don't have a higher death rate than other cities in Japan.

                              Most deaths from
                              Chernobyl were from helicopter pilots who flew many missions into the reactor in order to cover it.  Large populations were decontaminated and moved.  That is why the death toll was so low.  No one, well almost, lives anywhere near there now. A large swath of useless land, mostly in Belarus.  No people means no births, hence, no birth defects in the area no longer occupied.
                                  This is not accurate, as you can see in the UN reports.  The exposed populations of the surrounding areas have been extensively studied.  Everybody had anticipated a big upsurge in cancer, a general increase in mortality rates, etc.  Didn't happen.  
                              But for someone who agonizes over the waste of land for wind generators et al, it would seem the loss of valuable environmental resources are greater with nuclear mishaps.
                                  James Lovelock has proposed storing nuclear waste in places where you want wildlife to flourish, as it has around Chernobyl in the exclusion zone (another place studied by zoologists, etc.).  The big reservations around the US where reactors and bombs were tested are a boon to environmental studies because these areas remain about 90 percent or more undeveloped and so become refuges for wildlife.  Three Mile Island--no evidence of contamination.  Everyone is healthy there, and so are the plants and animals.  Chernobyl and TMI represent the worst accidents that have occurred for power reactors.  And it would be hard to imagine a worse accident than Chernobyl.  Experts agree it was as bad as you can possibly get.  It was unforgivable, it was terrible, it was traumatic. But compare it to annual deaths from fossil fuels and you see that even factoring in Chernobyl, nuclear power has the lowest mortality rate of any form of significant energy generation.   Bhopal remains the greatest industrial accident of the 20th century. The chemical contamination of that area is still harming people.  About 400,000 Americans die each year of smoking-related causes.

                              But you have reaffirmed my lack of enthusiasm for coal fired electricity. I still do not know how to disassemble a nuclear power plant without having a whole bunch of difficult to solve problems.  I sure wouldn't want to build any more till I'd worked that kink out of the system.
                                  Why do you want to disassemble a nuclear power plant? A few have been in the past but no large reactors have.  Once the spent fuel is out, and the place is decontaminated, all that remains is low-level radioactivity.  Lock it up for 60 years.  Some power reactors have been shipped off to reservations where they can be isolated there.

                              Oh. It is definitely the power plant of choice if you want to electify a neighborhood that doesn't even have paved roads. Like N. Korea. Yup. You sure can do a lot of things with Nuclear stuff.
                              Especially, if you have a science deaf executive who is only thinking geo-strategically. Still think smart  physicists will always be in charge and wouldn't let Homer Simpsons in government do something stupid? Do you think physicists have that kind of power? Does Kim Il Sung really reside on my planet with six to twelve plutonium warheads that he would have gotten even if there were no nuclear stupidity afloat on our planet already?
                                  I think that India has done a pretty good job with its nuclear plants, and it doesn't have a lot of paved roads.  Its engineers are so bright that we could not have had the digital revolution without their participation.  S. Korea was very poor and backward.  Other nations helped it attain nuclear power and it has become modernized and it also exports brainy, well-educated scientists and engineers.    Physicists don't run nuclear plants by and large--engineers do.  And the International Atomic Energy Agency comes around all the time, inspecting and trying to make sure nobody is trying anything funny.  I wish we had a similar agency to monitor coal combustion--the atmosphere would be a lot cleaner.  Ideally, I wish that an international agency operated all the nuclear plants in the world as an independent franchise, and dealt with the refueling, reprocessing, etc.  That would be the best arrangement of all.  The agency would own the equipment, do the installation, and charge the country for the service.

                              There are no problems with Nukes?

                                  I have never said there are "no problems".  I am only saying that when you look at the big picture, nuclear energy logically looks like the best choice in an array of imperfect choices.  When you compare its risks to the ones we have already agreed to take by accepting coal combustion as a part of our lives, they seem relatively small.  I don't doubt that there will be other nuclear accidents, but I think everyone in the industry works hard to prevent them.  The people I have met are the most safety conscious I have ever encountered.  Not so in the coal plant world.  Not so in the chemical industry--which told Congress that it would not secure its plants against terrorists because it was too expensive.
                                  Here's a nuclear problem.  Bush opposes the international treaty of many years' standing to ban nuclear weapons tests.  All the nuclear scientists I know fully support nuclear power but hate nuclear weapons and want them and all testing of them to be forever banned.  Now, even if all the nuclear power plants in the US were shut down, that would have no bearing on Bush and his scheme to build and test new nuclear weapons.  We have enough plutonium for many decades, thanks to dismantling Soviet warheads.  About half of all of the fuel in US nuclear power plants comes from former Soviet weapons.  I like thinking that it really is possible to turn swords into plowshares.  More of it, I say.

                              Respectfully yours, and in the hopes that Bush and his co-conspirators fail miserably,

                              Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                              by Plan9 on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 08:57:33 PM PST

                              [ Parent ]

                            •  AMEN (none)
                              All of your comments are well reasoned. Only two points left to say. PANIC, as you noted is the worst result of a nuclear accident or attack. That is bad enough and makes all nuclear sites targets.

                              And, on the Homer Simpson angle, and I mean this as a derisive metaphor, we have not only the N. Korean lunatic, but our own.

                              A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                              by Brother Artemis on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 05:31:18 AM PST

                              [ Parent ]

                            •  When indoor plumbing was installed in DC... (none)
                              ...people were in a panic about "deadly sewer gas" coming into their homes and streets.  News paper articles explained how it could kill you or cause all kinds of ailments. Inexplicable deaths were blamed on sewer gas.

                               Over time, people with plumbing seemed to survive and even flourish, and pretty soon everyone went for it, and the panic about sewer gas emanating out of the bathtub drain or the kitchen sink drain was forgotten.

                              So I don't think getting rid of nuclear power, which is saving the environment from billions of tons of greenhouse gases annually, is the way to curb panic.  There's only one way:  accurate information.

                              Sewer gas can actually be dangerous if you are down in a sewer, so of course sewer workers take precautions. But as we all know, as a threat in a household it's a joke.

                              Nothing is without risk. In terms of energy generation, coal plants happen to pose a greater risk to your health and mine than any other energy source except oil and natural gas.  The risks of nuclear energy have been greatly exaggerated by people who simply do not have the facts.  They mean well, but they think nuclear plants must be just like coal plants, with huge piles of waste out back.  If people understood how nuclear power plants work, if they understood what radiation can and cannot do, panic would not occur.  

                              My concern is that ignorance will cause a stampede that will kill more people than any incident at a nuclear plant or any dirty bomb would.  

                              Since 9/11, why hasn't the govt. had a program to educate citizens about what to do if there is a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility or if there is a dirty bomb?  Because Bush WANTS a panic.  He WANTS mass hysteria.  Frightened people turn to a strong leader.  So it suits him and his handlers to keep these myths going.

                              It would be very easy to have Homeland Security and FEMA staff appear on TV or even have a little spot on the nightly news with safety tips.  For example, in case of a dirty bomb, just stay indoors.  Take a shower.  Wait for the all-clear announcement, which ought to come within hours.  Even the Bush people have admitted that there would not be enough radioactive material in a dirty bomb to kill people or even make them sick.  All the risk is from the explosives.  But most of the public does not know that.

                              That's why I am so motivated to tell people what the risks are and what they are not.

                              Also, the environment is suffering because of this ignorance.

                              In this diary someone referred to New Yorkers riding around in the emissions-free subway instead of in cars.  Well, the electricity for the subway comes from the Indian Pt. nuclear power plant, which people want to shut down.  Meanwhile, they are ignoring the chlorine plant in Westchester --an accident or attack on it could cause hundreds of deaths.

                              OK, end of rant!  

                              It has been great having this discussion.

              •  NYT Wednesday 12/22/04 (none)
                LIVING IN THE DEAD ZONE on the OP-ED page.  It is about the current state of Chernobyl and environs.

                "In 250 years everything is back to normal.  Except for plutonium--that will take 25,000 years."

                They also mention how they stopped cleaning up Chernobyl because when they buried the waste it polluted the ground water.

                How many Soviet style reactors are there?  How much better would we fare if a 767 took out the containment as it crashed through it into a reactor?

                Planning on nothing ever going wrong is downright poor planning. And one can never presume that one has planned for all possibilities, when one does not know all the possibilities.  

                The problem with moving to another country is that we are all on the same planet and if I stay here I can still fight your pie-in-ther-sky mis-thinking about nuclear energy.  The problem with complaining about a reduction in energy usage is that all the complaining in the world will not prevent the reduction in energy usage by the US.

                Its pretty simple math.  The Earth can hold an estimated 9 billion human beings.  But it can only sustain 2.1 billion consuming energy at avg. US consumption.  There are already 6.1+ human beings on our shrinking planet.  Are there still any questions about what has to happen from a purely thermodynamic perspective? And soon.  Let me throw another number at you:  We are using up our renewable resources at 20% greater rate than they can be renewed?  You wanna wait ten years and see what our planet looks like?

                A democracy that is fixed, is broken.

                by Brother Artemis on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 06:25:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  We both care about the future (none)
                  I agree that the gluttony of the US is horrifying. If China becomes a first-world country, as it's determined to do, and consumes at our dangerous level, we're doomed.  

                  Because nuclear power has the least environmental impact and consumes the least amount of material in producing energy, and produces the smallest volume of waste of any energy source, it has the capacity to help developing countries without destroying their resources.

                  Whenever we shop at WalMart we are contributing to global warming by buying Chinese.

                  The good news is that China has understood what coal combustion is doing to their country--its cities are hotbeds of pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.  So its plan is to build more reactors, which will have zero impact on the atmosphere.  

                  I did read the NYT article you mention. Those old folks living in the hot zone nearly 20 years later seem to be doing just fine. Of course Chernobyl contaminated the water table.  Of course Pu takes a long time to decay.  But what the writer neglected to mention is that if that elderly couple decided to leave the area to go to a less risky place and they moved to France or Spain, their exposure to radiation would increase.  The natural background radiation in the Chernobyl area is low.  The contamination from the plant upped the general millirem count.  By now, thanks to atmospheric nuclear tests, we all have had plutonium pass through our bodies.

                  Take a look at the study done by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiations- UNSCEAR.  Representatives of 21 countries participate in its work. The United Nations gave UNSCEAR the task of evaluating the level of exposure to ionizing radiations and their effects. Governments all over the world draw upon the scientific base developed by UNSCEAR when they estimate risks and create protocols for radio-protection.  It's worth reading the report UNSCEAR submitted to the UN in 2000.

                  Paragraph 136 reads as follows:

                  "Apart from the increase in thyroid cancer after childhood exposure, there is no evidence of a major public health impact 14 years after the Tchernobyl accident. No increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality have been observed that could be attributed to ionising radiation. The risk of leukaemia, one of the main concerns (leukaemia is the first cancer to
                  appear after radiation exposure owing to its short latency time), is not elevated, even among the recovery workers. Neither is there any scientific proof of other non-malignant disorders, somatic or mental, that are related to ionising radiation."

                  I wish the Soviets would decommission all their graphite reactors, and Bulgaria too.  But even with that terrible design, it took a crazy experiment done by fools to cause the disaster.

                  As for your scenario of a 767 crashing into a containment building, the laws of physics preclude it.  As a physicist you should be able to work that one out.  Ground effect, for one thing.  Remember, reactors are sited underground.  For another thing, small target area. The terrorist who was circling around Washington DC was evidently supposed to hit the White House or Congress, but those targets were way too small, so he flew at one of the biggest buildings in the world, the Pentagon. It was out in the open and the approach was favorable. Most nuclear plants are down low.  Even a really skillful pilot would have trouble hitting a containment building, and then the impact would crush the plane.  Worst case:  a crack in the building.  The reactor would go into automatic shutdown thanks to its seismic sensors.  Also, nuclear plants are not built like the Pentagon or the WTC.  Theý're built like bunkers that can withstand nuclear blasts.  

                  On the other hand, a Piper Cub flying into an oil refinery or a chemical plant, like a chlorine plant, could cause serious damage.

                  Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

                  by Plan9 on Thu Jan 20, 2005 at 07:22:41 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Where not to look for help (4.00)
      The fact is, that however shrunken the influence of environmental groups is today, it remains the single most broadly popular and supported aspect of what might be called progressive politics.  There are even many fundies (of the non-apocalyptic sort) that share environmental concerns.

      Looking to labor?  That was the course of the 70s and early 80s.  But today the condition of unions is much more dire than that facing the environmedntal movement.  Here they are, in a state of almost utter collapse, with private sector union membership just a quarter of what it was 40 years ago, and what is the AFL-CIO doing about it?  Why, they're having an enormous jurisdictional dispute over what the union movement of the future will look like, more or less guaranteeing their own death-knell.

      Secondly, even those few "progressive" union leaders that might support a new political approach that involves an alliance with small-g greens have no impact on the social and cultural attitudes of the actual union membership.  In fact, the most anti-environmental attitudes in the country are by and large held by well-off blue collar workers, the unionized labor aristocracy in the trades, that spend their union-fortified incomes on things like massive gas-guzzling pickup trucks and habitat destroying all-terrain vehicles.  They define themselves far more by that macho "lifestyle" than they do as the vanguard of the proletariat, let me assure you of that.

      Finally, your own solution seems unworkable without imposing an authoritarian regime.  How are we to force people to move into the center cities?

    •  I have had just the opposite reaction (none)
      You state in your diary:

      "When push comes to shove, they have failed to aggressively push an environmental agenda, not willing to embarrass their Democratic allies with "extreme" rhetoric. I quit the Sierra Club myself a few years ago due to such frustration".

      During the 1990s, the Sierra Club went through a series of takeover attempts from more extreme elements  of the environmental movement, frequently led by the aging David Brower. The Sierra Club board was mired in controversial arguments about pursuing more agressive tactics on a variety of issues, such as pushing giant multi-state wilderness bills. The more extreme board members also wanted to grab large portions of the Club's budget and devote the funds to their own single pet issues.

      I almost quit in frustration with dealing with these idealistic, but totally impractical people. Changing the present course of our country on environmental issues will take enormous amounts of hard work done primarily on a local level and can't be done with a few "silver bullet" tactics.

      Although i disagree with you on this one point, thanks for posting a discussion on this important topic.

      Another Brian Schweitzer Deanocrat

      by Ed in Montana on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:23:41 AM PST

    •  Slow changes are hard to see (none)
      so we only catch on slowly to the insidious environmental damage we inflict. And we react to it poorly because it's hard for us to grasp. I'm not being intentionally insulting: it's part of our human natures, and an evolutionary response to our original environment: fast-moving things typically posed greater dangers to us (leopards) than slow moving (tortoises, to be extreme).

      Thus, it is easier to get support for cleaner air or water, and much harder to garner support for the smaller things (say, not using anti-biotics in feed and thus increasing bacterial resistance). And much of this is just plain hard to grasp without suitable education. Again, I am not being insulting, but most people don't think about science any more than they have to, even well- educated people.

      Also, to 'get' the big picture, you have to accept that humans are just a small part of a larger--forgive me--circle of life. Many on the right (read: the religious right/fundies) see themselves as the top of the heap, not part of a larger biota, and, if they admit to evolution, as the ultimate goal of the process.

      I think that improved education, and re-framing, will be required to get folks back on board. Saving the environment will require top-down (gov't regulations) and bottom-up (individual & community actions), approaches that often run counter to each other (and collide) in the US.  

      I realize this is long and has no solutions embedded in it, but understanding some of the whys can help find the how-to-changes.


    •  Start using scare tactics (none)
      in the same way as the Bush administration uses scare tactics to push through every piece of policy THEY want.

      Take the tsunami disaster, so fresh in everyone's minds, and link it with the clear evidence that the weather is becoming more extreme both here and abroad.  Don't equivocate.  Don't try to "educate" the public with measured, balanced lectures; instead, batter them over the head with the kind of apocalyptic visions we're treated to daily by BushCo in pursuit of their own goals.

      I am using "SUV owners" as a metaphor for all the voters who will NEVER get behind the environmental cause when I say, "Don't worry about backlash from SUV owners."  They're the PROBLEM.  They deserve to be lashed.  Let them lash back if they like, but with what?  What exactly can be the nature of their retort, that would be damaging to the environmental cause?  "We're not going to vote for you."?  Big deal; they didn't vote for us last time.  Chances are, someone who drives an SUV is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter (if not Bushist) in the first place.  The decision to own an SUV is as indicative of your native attitude to yourself and to the world around you as the decision whether or not to get a tattoo.  You are either "like that" or "not like that".  Stop fretting over whether the SUV owners will be shamed into joining us; they won't.  The Republican base is not our target audience, so use them as ammo rather than trying to win them over.

      The target audience of the environmental cause is bifold:  it's the existing moderates and liberals who are either already on board or on the verge of crystallizing their positions in favour of environmentalism, and the generations of future moderates and liberals that are waiting in the wings and, presumably, hoping to have an Earth left to live (and vote) on in 20 years.

      Target them with no-holds-barred advertising campaigns and literature.  Ignore everyone else.  The moral difference between using scare tactics on environmental issues and using them in furtherance of party political policymaking is that the environment is common to everyone and if we don't protect it, we're ALL doomed.  We have to stop worrying about upsetting or offending the people who are part of the problem in exactly the same way as BushCo doesn't waste any time worrying about whether anybody is going to be upset or offended about the dismantling of Social Security insurance.  Instead of "worrying" about opponents, BushCo bombards them with ads to indoctrinate their opinions.

      Let's take a lesson from BushCo and use that tactic, safe in the knowledge that we're actually RIGHT about this environmentalism thing.  We're justified in scaring people awake on this issue where BushCo is not justified in scaring people because BushCo does it only to promote Neoconservatism for the benefit of the few who benefit from it.  Let's get past the hurdle of moral panic at the idea of using a heavy hand where it is justified.  Some issues are so pressing -- so universal, so immediate -- that a heavy hand is the only right thing to use in getting people's attention if they won't listen otherwise.  This is one of those issues.

    •  Red (labor) - Green Alliance (none)
      In countries where the switch to a sustainable economy has been embraced things are moving ahead nicely. Denmark for example has watched the environmental community and the labor movement come together to actually create industrial policy that is similar, though more visionary than , which would be a good start.

      It's good to be having this conversation. I am glad Nordhaus & Schallenberger have picked this fight.

      Their next paper should be solution-based. A new sustainble industrial policy in the US that creates profits from sustainability provides a great opportunity.

      The Bioneers folks have a lot of good ideas, but so far it's still mostly a talk shop. Check it out.

    •  here's my take (3.66)
      Even the simplest of ideas, like recycling have not yet become as widespread as they should be. There is no recycling at my high school except for white paper, but even that nobody uses it and I live in a really progressive area. On an individual level, Environmental education isn't seen as important at all.

      It's just easier not to. Its easier to use coal than to invest in wind energy or anoter sustainable form. Its easier to throw all your waste in one place than to seperate it out. Organic food is just more expensive. Recently, my father bought a new car and despite pressure on him by my brother and me, he didn't buy a hybrid because its too expensive, especially with my college tutiton. Environmentalism has become accesible only to the rich or at least not the poor. To most Low income households, envoronmentalism is not a direct concern. I think a key aspect of the environmental movement should be addressing this.


      •  Elitist image (none)
        I agree, Laura B.

        Most folks can't afford expensive solar technology.  It and wind technology cost more than any other form of energy, even though they have been given huge subsidies and even though energy companies try to sell people on buying renewables.

        I think that the environmental movement suffers from being out of touch with reality due to ideological blinders.  And I say this as a member of the movement who has worked on sustainable agriculture and conservation projects, and who has fought for a cleaner environment.  

        I am deeply grateful for the gains the movement
        has achieved.  But there are some reasons it has stalled and I am happy that we're talking about them.

        Protest the war. Don't shop Jan. 20, coronation day!

        by Plan9 on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:19:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  2 words: Michael Moore (none)
      I almost left this as a n/t, because it is Monday, and I'm tired and grumpy (having to follow a major European chess event where games start at 5:30 am Pacific). But let me see if I can make the point clear.

      we live in a country that has been taken over by anti-American forces, hell-bent on destroying our civil liberties, our environment, and just about everything else. Small steps are not going to get us anywhere. It is essential to energize and radicalize as many people as possible.

      For over a century, the media has more or less controlled the thinking of a substantial number of Americans. The corporate media rarely discuss the environment in serious terms. Oh, they're happy enough to show a cute endangered species once in awhile, and occasionally mutter about the potential long-term effects, but most of the major dangers to the environment cannot get mentioned on the major news networks.

      So we need someone like Michael Moore to come along and do a best-selling documentary. We need to see reactions similar to those of the people who change their minds about Bush or the war in Iraq just as vividly as with Fahrenheit 9/11. We don't need stop the half past romantic ventures like The Day After Tomorrow. We need to graphically demonstrate the harm to our quality of life that is coming soon if we don't make radical changes in our lifestyles.

      A number of posts in this thread suggest that we have alienated that hallowed center of American political thought by being too confrontational and radical. Sorry, but that's the same whining that led the Democrats down the road to defeat in the last elections. Stop worrying about offending people. Offend hard and often. Get in people's faces and don't let go until your point has been made.

      The self-centered greed of the mainstream leads people to hide and duck issues whenever possible. The only way to get people off their butts is to create an atmosphere in which they have no choice. The radicals of the 1960s were the spark that got progressive views moving in mainstream America. Radicals cannot achieve anything alone, but only radicals have the energy and commitment to push things into the public arena in a way that they cannot be ignored.

      And while we're stirring things up, let's remember that we must prevent the evildoers from training the argument. There is no such thing as Eco- terrorism! terrorism refers exclusively to activities taken against innocent, non-participatory civilians with the primary intent of intimidating them and causing them to be in a state of fear. the actions even of the most radical groups almost never rise to that level. But you can be sure that even if an act of civil disobedience is carried out, say running through an office and wrapping evidence to be presented to the media, the Bush administration will consider it an act of terrorism.

      So, we need a Michael Moore to inspire the mainstream, and we need the radicals to continue to keep up the fight and do whatever is necessary to protect our planet against the true echo terrorists, the administration of George W. Bush and its backers.

      I'm a linguist, licensed to use words any way I want to!

      by MakeChessNotWar on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:41:13 PM PST

    •  Not dead- just under seige (none)
      Since GWB took the WH in 2000 and Congress went to the GOP in 2002, the struggle to protect our environment has been a bunker-like struggle.

      So many battles being waged on so many fronts- it is mindboggling.

      We aren't dead, we are in the courts suing the Administration on many issues, many fronts, as best we can.

      This is why Bush and the GOP want to re-write the ESA and deny environmental review or litigation over federal land management decisions.

      Some of the hard cores veterans of this war are the federal scientists working for the various federal land managing agencies (FS, BLM, NPS).

      We need everyone's help.

      We are organized and we are working, daily, on these issues on multiple fronts.

      If people want to help out, my advice is to pick a single issue you feel passionately about and work that issue as best you can. The internet is a great resource for info and getting involved. But action on a state and local level is empowering and productive.

      And yes, contribute $$ to those orgs whenever possible. After this past election I have vowed: no more money to the DNC or Dem candidates, instead I donate to those orgs working the issues I care about.

      Being and environmental activist is no longer akin to being a radical tree hugger- though we still have those too. Environmentalists have gotten older, wiser, and more determined. We are degreed scientists and lawyers. We take it to court. And often, we win.

      Environmentalism is about leaving the planet in as good or better condition as we found it, for future generations.

      Sure the current leadership is not the least bit concerned about the future or the quality of life for future generations- they operate under a rape, plunder and pillage paradigm justified by the delusion that the end-times are here and the Rapture is just around the corner.

      "As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but all together, we make a mighty fist" Watanka Tatanka (Sitting Bull)

      by wild salmon on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 12:52:01 PM PST

    •  $$$$$$$: greed vs. green (none)
      I would say that the two biggest problems are public perception and changing political tides. As for the latter, the country continues swinging mercilessly to the right (I won't comment on this part here). As for the former, I think many have the feeling that we've "done enough" because look! we have clean air/water acts, no one's talking about landfills anymore, smog and air pollution have stablized at merely hazardous instead of increased in areas like LA and Houston, etc. There's a lack of urgency now, not at all unaided by the Media Cartel.

      We need ecological economics. Adam Smith needs a makeover to reflect 21st century instead of 18th century realities. Being green is profitable. But you wouldn't know that by looking at our government and industries. The way our government approaches environmental issues is beyond careless: it's deliberately destructive and hopelessly outmoded. We subsidize the rich and the biggest polluters: An appalling quantity, much more than to equal opportunity programs, goes yearly to industries that destroy ecosystems. If we taxed pollution and consumption instead of personal income, for example, you'd see health care costs plummet, the standard of living for the majority of Americans skyrocket.

      Basically, natural capital must start to be included in the equation. Dollarizing natural resources, ecosystems, and processes is a tall order, but hopefully at some point would become moot, assuming our corporate incentive and taxation system is revised to reward efficiency, durability, desirability, sustainability, instead of subsidizing big ag, mining, oil, nuke power, etc.

      Let me go further on a limb and say that once we begin to have a sane and compassionate populace, we won't need to spend more than the rest of the world combined on "defense". Suddenly we don't need welfare anymore.

      Point being, the Titanic analogy is a good one. I've had more experience than I care to about doing the bare minimum and finding all the loopholes when it comes to environmental regulation. Therefore, I don't think all the regulation in the world will save us. Only willing and fundamental reform at all levels of industry (and indeed society) will work at this point. So yes, we should reform: we should push relentlessly for a healthy planet. This should not be a matter of politics or ideology. It's just common sense. As much as we all might be liberal here, and as much as environmental quality and justice is interrelated with other important issues, it's probably for the best to keep it separate from other issues so to minimize politicization.


      1. Advocate the science of how sustainability=profitability

      2. Relentless lobbying to change federal taxes and subsidizing from destructive growth to sustainable growth

      Do it GREEN, know what I mean?

      by SonofFunk on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 02:39:30 PM PST

    •  Feedback (none)
      First off, let me apologize for not responding to each of you individually. I posted this diary late last night, then was busy all day, so I did not have a chance to engage the conversation. But I do appreciate all of the feedback, most of which was positive. There were certainly some good discussions.

      So let me just respond, in general, to some of the themes I saw. First, I for one do not think we need to eliminate any specific environmental group, as long as these groups are willing to change their focus. We must start engaging the root cause of our problems, both environmental and otherwise. In short, the problem is the rightwing takeover of this country, fueled by the rise of massive corporate power. That's the issue we need to look at, not fuel standards or any other short-term fix.

      Now, as for global warming, I agree with one of the posters, in that the problem is that the global warming crisis is simply too vague and long-term to be taken seriously by most Americans. I know those polls show overwhelming support for environmental issues, but I don't buy it. I think an "education" campaign would simply insult most Americans.

      The challenge we face is to propose radical ideas that would actually improve the lives of Americans, not simply ask them to sacrifice their current lifestyles. Which is why I proposed such ideas as replacing payroll taxes with taxes on natural resources, or building an alternative energy venture capital fund, or promoting smart growth policies. These are ideas that we can build support for, without framing them as "environmental" issues. Yet by accomplishing them, we could do far more good for the environment than any legislative policy currently being promoted by mainstream environmental groups.

      Finally, as for reaching out to conservative groups such as hunters, the point the authors made, which I agree with, is that doing so forces us to distance ourselves from other groups in the progressive community, such as pro-choice groups or other social concerns. And in the long-run, we can build a much stronger movement by staying unified on progressive ideals than we can by peeling off some small percentage of the Republican coalition.

      "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson

      by byoungbl on Mon Jan 17, 2005 at 09:03:50 PM PST

      •  The bottom line is laughable (none)
        The source material is cruelly turgid.

        So let's cut to the chase:

        Werbach is unequivocal: "It's time for us to drop our veil of bipartisanship and fight to fix the deeply broken Democratic Party."

        So let me get this straight.

        The beltway-bound Sierra Club was ok with the Iraq war and they are among the white knights coming to fix the deeply broken beltway-bound Democratic Party.

        This is parody.

        Hal C.

    Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

    Click here for the mobile view of the site