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There is going to be a legacy to the present times that our children will have to bear, and I’m not just talking about the many new debts that the Bush administration is leaving them to pay.  There is a good chance that our children, when traveling or doing business abroad, will be treated like pariahs.  They will be blamed for the way the boomer generation ignored our pollution and turned our backs on developing countries in their time of need.  Others will point out that we did it all knowingly, that we knew exactly what we were doing when we decided to turn our backs on them.

Thanks to our weakening of the mileage standards, the miles per gallon declined for 25 years – and there are now twice as many cars on the road because of inadequate investment in public transport.  

Because we elected to burn coal and oil for electricity rather than build safer nuclear power plants, we have fueled greenhouse warming, leading to exactly the climate change that our own scientists warned us about, starting in 1956.  

Together, cars and carbon power have not only fouled our nest but those of people far beyond our borders.  You can’t treat a commons such as the air and the ocean as a sewer without others noticing – and organizing to make your life miserable in retaliation.

When climate change hits even harder, the other countries who have contributed a lot of CO2 will also become unpopular – but the world’s irritation will focus especially on the countries that, like the US, didn’t try to do anything about it despite ample warning and a high technology capable of great things.  Who didn’t devote a significant amount of resources to developing clean power, clean refrigerators, and clean cars for the developing world so that they don’t have to burn their coal, oil, and forests just to improve their standard of living.  Who once helped them slow their population growth but then conspicuously retreated into religious fundamentalism.  

Our past record shows that we knew what we were doing, that it wasn’t merely ignorant blundering. The spread of militant religious fundamentalism elsewhere will help convert exasperation into hate, as well as to organize an effort to "bring us down." You would think that the present leaders of this country thought that Armageddon was a good idea and had set out to promote it.

Being responsible world citizens was once a good idea, even a moral imperative for many people. Now we need to do it to keep the next generation from suffering from our own mistakes.  We see ourselves as a great country and in many ways we are, but unless we get our act together and conspicuously try to make up for the past 25 years of arrogant neglect, our citizens will be treated as pariahs in coming decades.

Originally posted to William H. Calvin on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 04:35 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Did we not just "increase" the required mileage? (0+ / 0-)

    I sometimes read too fast, but I could swear I just recently read where governmental requirements for autos produced in (...?...) was to be 35mpg. So this is weakening?

  •  Don't Look Now (6+ / 0-)

    But we're already Pariahs in most places.

    And now everybody knows where I got my screen name.

    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

    by Pariah Dog on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 05:12:54 AM PST

  •  Nuclear Power is still a bad idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hens Teeth

    It's where we get the depleted uranium for the ongoing war crime of using it in wepons.
    Nuclear power requires a security state for safety reasons.
    Our president reminds the world he's a fool trying to pronounce it.

    The recent breakthroughs in solar tech show more promise. Let's see every asphalt roof shingle replaced with a photo-voltaic collector surface.

    Let's carefully remove all nuke plants from the planet.
    Shame on you for trying to slip that by here.

    •  listen up, and i cant stress this enough (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and hydroelectric sources will never be enough to replace base load energy and are at best suplimentary power sources.

      if you want to replace coal and oil, you need nuclear power.

      waste can be recycled, and the terror threat is minimal at best (and why are you letting fear govern your actions anyway, haven't the past 7 years taught us otherwise)

      supply of fuel isn't a problem once we perfect using thorium as fuel.

      shame on you for mindlessly dogging nuclear power.

      When my generation finds itself without a future, it will find itself seeking justice.

      by Dude1701 on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 06:27:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "A bad idea" compared to what? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I too would prefer something other than nuclear for the long run (see chapter 19). But we have to survivce the short run to get there and that means retiring coal quickly. Nuclear is the only power option that can be constructed quickly, a billion watts at a time. It has also, Chernobyl excepted, been the safest power source, averaging only one death per year for 50 years. Coal mining kills 5,000 miners every year in China.

      --author, Global Fever: How to Treat Climate Change (University of Chicago Press, Spring 2008).

      by wcalvin on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 12:13:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am less optimistic than you. (9+ / 0-)

    I don't think our kids will be travelling much, especially overseas.  I think they will be too busy trying to exist and cope with the much changed world.  The next two generations will see more change in their lives than any other has ever seen.  And it won't be fun and exciting change.

    "Do you want to tumble? Let's tumble." Stephen Colbert

    by tobendaro on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 05:37:20 AM PST

    •  There's a story about an Arab oil sheikh (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is probably apocryphal, but he is telling the narrator of the story, "My father drove camels. I drive a Rolls Royce. My son drives a Lear jet. His son will drive camels."

      Which pretty much encapsulates the Peak Oil story.

      The generation that came of age right after World War I saw tremendous changes. Most grew up with no indoor plumbing, few had electricity, and coal or wood stoves were the typical method of heating. By the time they died they had the Internet, personal computers and color televisions, central heating and air conditioning, toilets, showers and hot water on demand, Medicare and Social Security, automobiles and the wherewithal to fly back to the old country on vacation if they wanted. They had seen humans land on the moon and come to the brink of nuclear destruction, watched movies go from black and white silents to full color and audio, and viewed photos from the front lines of war and from the surface of Mars. It's hard for me to imagine another generation seeing that kind of change in one lifetime. I hope the descent back down to no electricity, no running water, no toilets, and heat in one room takes a little bit longer than the 90 or so years it took to climb up this slope.

      •  It seems impossible, (0+ / 0-)

        but I think in my kids' life time we will see a decline back to the outhouse days.  I see little transportation, little medicine, much lower food consumption and variety, heat-energy problems and a myriad of other deprivations.  My hope is that the intellect developed by the rise in living standards will be able to produce a new way to survive and thrive.  Here's to innovation!

        "Do you want to tumble? Let's tumble." Stephen Colbert

        by tobendaro on Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 09:02:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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