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Global Warming ... Peak Oil ... Financial meltdown ... these all threaten our future prospects, our ability to see a positive future reality for ourselves and descendents.

George Herbert Walker Bush lies at the core of a driving motivation in my life.

President Bush was facing a reelection battle against Bill Clinton, and so advisers persuaded him to attend the world environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro, possibly the most optiistic moment in recent history. Before he went, however, he told a press conference that "the American way of life is not up for negotiation." If that's true, if we can't imagine living any differently, then all else is mere commentary.

One thing that unites the progressive blogosphere is the drive to imagine a different life, a different world, a better one, a better path forward ... and we all, in our own ways, fight to achieve those visions.

Twenty years ago, the first President Bush stated that "the American Way of Life is not up for negotiation", showing an inability to imagine catastrophe from non-negotiation and an inability to see something better. Without imagination to see a better future and the power to achieve it, we will not progress out of catastrophe to prosperous sustainability.

A New Year's Pledge: imagine that better path and fight to achieve it.

And, I imagine life differently and it energizes me to fight to Energize America toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

The quote comes from the 2006 paperback edition of Bill McKibben's now 20-year old book, The End of Nature. Put simply, all Americans should read The End of Nature. For a strengthening of our polity, High School 'global citizenship' programs should return and have this as part of the reading list to help foster an understanding the interactions of our lives with those around us (human and otherwise), today and into the future, and how these feed back to affect our own lives (out into the future).

The End of Nature is about Global Warming. Published first in 1989, McKibben wrote the first mass accessible book about Global Warming. "The End of Nature" refers to McKibben's (convincing) thesis that atmospheric changes due to CO2 (and related GHG) emissions have eliminated the concept of "untouched" wilderness and wrecked the notions of the constants of nature so central to core concepts of the world. (And, if serious in 1989, over 20 years later we are in a far worse situation requiring serious action to figure out a path not just to slow emissions but to return to 350 ppm.) Over 20 years ago, McKibben called on us (including all of those in the US) to think differently to try to avert the consequences he (and many experts) saw looking into the future -- the consequences we are now experiencing and which will worsen, inexorably, without some radical shifts in our path forward.

In particular, my "imagine life differently" focus relates to Peak Oil and Global Warming. My casual concerns dating back decades over these have turned in the past decade to varying levels of fear and utter terror as I try to comprehend the world that we (collectively) are creating for ourselves and the future. I am learning ever more about the feedbacks and interconnections that are such a part of The End of Nature.

Bill McKibben's article, Energizing America, appeared in the Sierra Club magazine in January 2007. McKibben, not for the first, time specifically called out the Energize America for praise (page 3)

a detailed 20-point plan they call "Energize America," a remarkably comprehensive energy strategy that pays full attention to political reality. [Developed in 2006 by bloggers at this political website -- Daily Kos,] the plan proposed ideas ranging from the Passenger Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Act and the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit Act to measures designed to boost telecommuting, experiment with state renewable energy efforts, and put solar panels on 20 million roofs. It's precisely the kind of full-blown proposal that, if adopted, might fundamentally reorient our energy future.

Reality check for a moment. The 2005/06 Energize America proposal is dated (after all, we developed it at a time of Republican control of Congress and the Oval Office, where any 'green action' at all seemed a rather long shot concept). It's targets are inadequate, its funding a shadow of what seems possible today, and there are some very strong elements which merit adoption ... and others that we are ready to walk away from. But, Energize America was important as a milestone in the open-source development of credible policy concepts and structures.

We are striving to imagine life differently.

I am a pessimistic optimist.

My pessimism envisions an extremely bleak future (sadly within far too near a term future), with terrifying economic (political, global, and perhaps conflict) havoc from Peak Oil and mass damage from Global Warming capped with a horrible die off to come.

My optimism drives a belief that I (that we) have something to say about this future. That we have the potential to change our path as per a talk given  in 2007

I am a CarboHolic. My last full tank was two days ago, my last plane flight a day ago, and I am beginning to feel withdrawal staved off by the CO2 emitted for the electricity to be on the web.

Let us face facts. ... Take a moment to put together a list of the top ten challenges for humanity for the 21st century. Your list might include global economic growth, health issues, hunger, environmental destruction, climate change, water, terrorism and others. When considering such a list, there is at least one common thread. All are worsened by a future dominated by an expensive, uncertain, unevenly available, polluting energy system. And, all will face eased solution with a future dominated by a clean, sustainable, readily accessible, fairly distributed, and reasonably priced (if not inexpensive) power solutions.

At this time, the United States is hurtling toward the cliff like Thelma & Louise, but we’re in our Hummers rather than a convertible. And, we are dragging the world ... and future generations ... behind us, bound hand and foot by our dangerous habits and shaky energy structure.

My name is A Siegel.  And, I am a CarboHolic.

Unlike President Bush, however, we are able to get past that first step in a twelve-step. We recognize the problem. And, we recognize that we are not powerless -- we have the ability to change, to take control of the situation, to turn ourselves away from that addiction. We decided to figure out what we (as individuals, communities, and country) could do about it.

And, we are acting to seek that change. To end that addiction. To set the path to Energize America for a sustainable and prosperous energy future.


In my life, From the Home to the Globe, I am striving to do my part to affect this change. Whether putting insulation in my roof, participating in The Climate Project, or communicating to others (including on Daily Kos), I am striving to turn us away from that cliff.

As part of those efforts, fiveyears ago, I accepted. Actually, I embraced DannyInLA's Challenge ... "make this community better. More honest. More truthful. More civil. More powerful."  

Five years ago, I promised to and now again repledge to work to learn from others here and to help with engagement on critical issues to foster a more informed and energized community. I promised to and now again repledge to diligently challenge those who seek to maintain a path hurtling over that cliff, whether that is inefficient Christmas light displays, McSUVs, not recyling aluminum cans, challenging astroturf or Global Warming enablers (like Robert J Samuelson or George Will, systematic journalistic malfeasance, and otherwise). I will CHALLENGE those who threaten a path toward a Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society.

I take up Dannyinla's Challenge TO CHALLENGE those who do not comprehend the reality of the threats that Peak Oil and Global Warming portend for us, US, and the future. I will take up that challenge TO CHALLENGE falsehoods, deceptions, and truthiness about energy and Global Warming threats and opportunities. I will take up that challenge TO CHALLENGE us all to imagine new and better paths forward, in an integrated conception of options to develop something better.

For example, I am absolutely fed-up with all the reactions, all too often, from the 'progressive' blogosphere about gasoline taxes.

Now, I am not a true believer in a gasoline tax (a Global Warming Impact Fee makes more sense) but, the American "Way of Life" must be open for 'negotiation' or else we are calling into question the potential for even having a 'way of life' that is worth living for tomorrow's Americans (or, the later years of today's Americans -- both are true).

But, my reaction to 'gas tax is impossible ... is immoral because X, Y, Z' is "if that is true, if we can't imagine living any differently, then all else is mere commentary."

We must change and a gasoline tax might be part of the package for making the change. We can figure out how to use the revenues to fast convert charities, government, people lower on the economic scale to lower-GHG (better fuel mileage) transportation. We can use the revenue in many ways, but exemptions; forget it, we want everyone (EVERYONE) to be seeking ways to cut their requirements for GHG-related fuels. Exemptions cut at that incentive.

And, I will be extremely happy to see the end of subsidies (direct and indirect) to oil, coal, etc ...

But, I can imagine life differently and I am terrified at the world that we are creating at a head-long pace.  Global Warming ... devastating economic prospects in coming years ... Peak Oil.

I cannot any longer leave stand any comment about 'gasoline taxes are regressive'. Not anymore. Is there any "tax" more regressive than the damage that we are doing to the globe and the dangers it creates for the potential of human life in the years ahead? Politically inconvenient? Perhaps. But what is politics about but striving to create a better polity for all, and a better polity that is improving into the future? Without a meaningful confrontation of both Peak Oil and Global Warming, that future will not be better.

Nor can I leave stand comments about 'this is beyond us' or 'we can't do anything' or ... I refuse. ... Instead, I accept. No, I embrace Dannyinla's challenge to Challenge.

As I contemplate several years that have past, four years after  I made a quite public pledge to Imagine Life Differently -- and a New Year's Resolution, I can see real successes and failures to live up to my ideals.

Yet, while the failures were there, the to do list grows longer rather than dissipates, the need for action and real achievement intensifies. There were failures, yet ... In my life, I do not know if I have ever made a New Year's Resolution with such import before last year. And, I do not know if I've ever lived up to a New Year's resolution so resolutely before.

Thus, at the dawning of a New Year, it is time to pen one's hopes and plans for 2012.

For 2010, my New Year's Resolution is clear. I pledge to continue to embrace DannyInLA's challenge to CHALLENGE.

And, I pledge to

Imagine Life Differently ...

Imagine it Better ...

And

Seek to create that better life ...

Join me in this pledge.

383359478_3dd94a0fdf_m.jpgWe can all help make

America

Energy Smart.Ask yourself:

Are you doing your part to

ENERGIZE AMERICA

toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future?

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Comment Preferences

  •  A gas tax would cripple our economy... (0+ / 0-)

    we already saw what high gas prices can do to cripple our economy back in 08.

    If you want to address climate issues you need to fix our economic problems first. People are more open to change during prosperous times.

    The nicest and most intelligent people are the ones that share my point of view.

    by jbou on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:26:05 PM PST

    •  Not if it was poured into public transportation.nt (9+ / 0-)

      Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

      by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:40:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In a dream world, maybe... (0+ / 0-)

        as our country is currently mapped out public transportation is not a viable option.

        The nicest and most intelligent people are the ones that share my point of view.

        by jbou on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:56:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not good with looking up numbers but (7+ / 0-)

          am quite suspicious of the whole "it will cripple' our economy.  Big corporations may bet crippled and might have to change some of their ways and it might force us to buy local.... in my experience, those most in need don't drive cars, can't afford to.  Not saying it wouldn't hurt but definitely suspicious of the "cripple the economy" idea.

          And if we don't, the comeuppance down the road for not addressing these issues is only going to be far far worse.

        •  A network of NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles) (4+ / 0-)

          some of which would be personal, and others demand response jitneys for small groups feeding into a network of light electrified rail and trolleybuses, which in turn feeds into commuter rail and intercity rail can and would work in most areas. Public transportation worked in a much lower population country before WWII, and it is still the case that over 70 percent of Americans live in areas as population dense as Europe, where there is a much better public transportation system.

          Decisions were made in the 1920s and 1930s to dismantle a once excellent rail, and light rail system in order that oil companies and auto manufacturers could eliminate the competition. At the peak of US passenger rail in 1916-1920, there was nearly twice the extent of rail lines as there is today, and nearly every town of over 1000 people was served by rail, with many other even smaller towns also served.  The peak extent of US rail was 254,000 in 1916. Remember at that time the US population was less than 1/3 what it is today.

          Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

          by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 08:40:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  254,000 miles in 1916 (0+ / 0-)

            , most of which had passenger service. Heck, in lightly used corridors, "mixed freights" were run -  trains that carried both paying passengers and freight cargo. Current US rail system is about as extensive as it was in 1880, or 140K miles in extent. Only about 1/7 of this net mileage is currently served by passenger rail, and many of these only see 2 trains per day, 1 in each direction.

            Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

            by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 09:01:28 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Given... (8+ / 0-)

      ...the damage our economy has already inflicted upon most of us in this world, I'm not so sure that it shouldn't be crippled.

      We don't need to fix our current economy; we need a completely different economy that's based around sustainability, environmental justice, and long-term thinking.

      But what the hell do I know?  I'm just another hippie.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 04:39:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly what I am discussing ... (10+ / 0-)

      1.  "A gas tax" ... what is a gas tax? You should consider the question. A bit over a decade ago, gasoline was under $1 / gallon and a barrel of oil was well below $20.  Now, we are above $3 and around $100.  Where is the $2 / gallon / $80 per barrel "tax" going?  Certainly not to improve public transit, pay for improved health care, to improve the societal strength.  Facing peak oil, what will happen?

      2.  Right now, we have a 'gas tax' of health impacts on everyone, security requirements, etc ... If we were to account for the real costs of burning gasoline, the "price" per gallon is in the $15 range (at a minimum).  So, how do you count "tax"?

      3.  The existing gas taxes do not even pay the cost of maintaining roads.  Hmmm ... is this a sensible balance in the economy?

      4.  I have been on the record for a slowly implemented fee on gasoline, that would gradually build up over time in a very certain and announced way that would enable people, businesses, local governments, etc to make investment and other decisions that incorporated that costs. Writ large, to foster a shift to much more efficient uses of energy that would have far lower cost(s) -- including, in almost all cases, for that end user.

      Do you realize that the path to solving economic problems, to the extent that a "solution" exists, is through addressing climate change and peak oil?  Don't address those and, well, the economic problems are not going to be fixed.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 05:07:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Future oil shocks will cripple our economy (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alizard, NoMoreLies, John Crapper, JayDean

      The best way to protect our economy from very serious energy pricing issues is to reduce our need to either import energy or to resort to increasingly desperate measures to mine more out of the ground.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 08:23:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm still at the major carboholic stage (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eeff, A Siegel, ladybug53, JayDean

    ...but am buying a used car this week that will reduce my commuting gasoline use by a third.

  •  Thanks for this diary. (8+ / 0-)

    I have many days when even simply imagining a better world seems far out of reach.  I often need to be reminded not to give up.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 04:41:12 PM PST

  •  My 2012 resolution... (5+ / 0-)

    ...is to use 3 gallons of water/day for bathing purposes.  I've put a bucket in our shower stall, so I just do it Indian style.  Since I lived in India for many years, it's familiar territory for me.

    Just finished bath #1.  I'm clean.

    Along with that, of course, is the continuing resolution: keep grinding out those damned letters — one a day.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 05:09:08 PM PST

  •  I start my car about 1 day in 3 now (5+ / 0-)

    Gasoline made from the tar sands gives a Toyota Prius the same impact on climate as a Hummer using gasoline made from oil. ~ Al Gore

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 06:14:41 PM PST

  •  Best new taxes are those that affect capital (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, NoMoreLies, John Crapper, JayDean

    investments.  Large capital decisions such as a power plant have results that we then live with for up to 50 years.

    All new capital decisions for power and transportation should have to fully pay for their known impacts, including but not limited to global warming.  That includes power plants and vehicles.

    This would immediately move the needle to lower carbon power and transportation, while not imposing taxes on people who made reasonable decisions based on the pricing and tax environment at the time they made a purchase decision.

    We shall not participate in our own destruction.

    by James Wells on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 08:18:04 PM PST

    •  Influencing capital decisions ... (0+ / 0-)

      a 'carbon impact fee' that would be on a very deliberate upward curve over time would drive those capital investment decisions.  That was / is one of the real challenges of a cap and trade program without collars -- it enables decision-aversion due to uncertainties about economic impacts of long-range decisions.

      However, we need to have paths that also impact nearer-term decisions that can foster Invisible Energy (efficiency and conservation) choices from the individual (do you leave the car running while waiting for someone to come out of their house?) to the community (what about lights left on in schools and offices overnight) to the nation (do we foster a telecommuting / flex work schedule that reduces burdens on existing infrastructure while reducing gasoline use?).  Carbon impact fee can help achieve that too ...

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:56:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As always (4+ / 0-)

    an insightful and inspirational diary.  I wish they would get wider exposure here.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 06:56:52 AM PST

    •  Thank you ... (0+ / 0-)

      Although, I would be remiss if I wouldn't note that this was front-paged by MB in its first appearance some five years ago. (Which was weirdly difficult since I was in a family situation (1 January) with limited internet access but found the draw of a front-page posting very strong, thus was popping in and out trying to be engaged with the conversation.)

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:58:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Inspirational diary and I commend you for all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayDean, A Siegel

    your past efforts and will assist you in all your future efforts.  I personally believe that the most important thing that needs to happen before we truly begin to create that New Life - an Energy Smart Life - is a change of mind.  We need to create a new consciousness in ourselves.  We suffer in this country from a disease I call consumer diarrhea.  I have hope we can make the change but I don't think we can avoid a hell of a lot of pain before enough of us are ready to make the change in our behavior required of us.  
    P.S.  I fully support a "gas tax" or whatever you want to call it.  
    Happy New Year!

    "There is nothing new in human affairs. It is only history with ignorance in between." - Harry Truman

    by John Crapper on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 04:00:34 PM PST

    •  Have to say ... (0+ / 0-)

      that I have to actively 'fight' the all-too American (and now too global) consumerism drive in myself.  I see that $0.99 sign of "SALE! SALE! SALE!" and I salivate.  I value having quality food yet note that the industrialized (and driven-to-tastelessness) Red (not) Delicious apples are 1/3rd the price of local / organic apples.  And, well, who doesn't want that cool sweater in 14 different colors so that two weeks can go by without wearing the same thing?  

      While far from where it should be in terms of travel / consumerism / etc, I am highly conscious about the impacts of choices and, well, it influences choices & leads into engagement with others. ... Long way to go even as there is a voyage well underway.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 05:53:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I pledge (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper, A Siegel

    to work toward a prosperous, climate friendly future!  That is my resolution and intention.  Thank you for your activism and encouragement.  

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