[This diary was supposed to get written in November and talk about Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour. I didn’t get it done in time, as I’d promised, so instead of finding your way to a presentation, get your butt to DC on February 17 for a massive Keystone XL pipeline protest being organized by 350.org and the Sierra Club. Sign up here.]
The other day citisven gently knocked our collective heads together with a couple of clips from Chasing Ice and a plea to talk about what really matters. Fiscal cliff, shmiscal cliff... we're frying the planet, people, and time is running out to halt the apocalypse. We have to set the agenda. We have to be the change.
I generally try to balance my existential despair about climate change with more positive efforts to be the change by supporting clean energy in my home, my community, and my work (both paid and unpaid). It's a trickier balance when I find myself at a teachable moment with others. How much to depress the kids or be the wet blanket relative? This year, during holiday times with the extended family, with Hurricane Sandy as a backdrop, I had a couple of glasses of wine in me when a nephew raised the topic. Before I could stop myself, I proceeded to spread my wet blanket right out on the table – doom and gloom for their generation, a future of more droughts to threaten worldwide food supplies, Sandy-like storms, and underwater cities – and that I believed that we are too stupid, as a civilization, to stop the madness causing it.
When I give it to you straight, I can’t seem to do it without being depressing. But Bill McKibben can. So when I saw that he was coming to my area, and then saw PDNC’s diary offering interview time with Bill if I promised to blog about the event, I signed up. Which was great, because it led to the opportunity to join a conference call with Bill, wherein we talked about the movement. We asked Bill how he thought we could steer the conversation, and he stressed repetition, and compared the fossil fuel industry to the tobacco industry, saying it takes time to drum the message in.
Bill also talked about people we might not expect that have lately been validating the math – specifically the point that we’ve got to keep 2/3 of the remaining fossil fuels reserves in the ground to have any hope of staving off climate disaster, and that in 15 years we will have burned all the fossil fuel we’re allowed to burn this century if we want to save civilization. The International Energy Agency’s recent report report said it explicitly; it was also acknowledged recently in places as diverse as the Harvard Business Review, by Jeremy Grantham (a widely read financial guru), and in commentary in Nature magazine (it’s behind a paywall, so no link).
I wanted to ask Bill if he had ideas about how best to promote clean energy, and clean energy jobs, which is what I really like to talk about. The clean, green economic transformation around the corner, starting to happen in some forward thinking places. So I did. And it turns out, unsurprisingly, that he’s a big fan. He recommended checking out a new ebook that I’d read excerpts from, which talks about Germany’s renewable energy transformation.
A few days after the interview real life intervened and I had to turn in my Do-the-Math tour ticket, as family logistics made it impossible for me to go. So as penance for not saying any more about the 350 tour I’ll just send you to divineorder's terrific summary, which is comprehensive and really fun to read.
But what I really want to stress is the positive - clean energy, energy efficiency, and the messaging (plus the policies) that can get us there. And why we need to get on it – NOW.
Quite recently the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is a front group for Big Fossil Fuel, has joined with batshit crazy right-wing Heartland Institute -- purveyor of that billboard equating believe in climate science to sympathy with the Unabomber – to start a new campaign. They plan a massive lobbying push to get rid of state-level renewable energy mandates. This is a BFD, as 29 states have those mandates. And they’re popular, but on the other hand, you know, ALEC has more money than God.
So the misinformation will continue to pour buckets. We have to stop it! Here’s what I think we need to say - over and over, and then over some more:
1. We need to push the memes – CLEAN ENERGY = JOBS. ENERGY EFFICIENCY = JOBS. Because they’re true. You can’t outsource weatherizing buildings, installing solar panels, and maintaining wind turbines.
2. We need to kill the inane false choice – propagated by the Very Serious People inside the DC beltway, from the media to the White House – between environment and economy. One day the president is out there talking about the jobs of the 21st century, and the next day he’s out there saying we’ve got to address climate change, but not at the expense of economic growth.
Seriously? So all those clean energy jobs don’t add value to the economy? And climate change brings no economic pain?
3. Oh and by the way, CLEAN ENERGY = NATIONAL SECURITY too! Discuss.
4. Did I mention that CLEAN ENERGY = JOBS?
So that’s the bottom line, as I see it. Let’s keep it simple, and hammer the message home. Get out there and spread the word, all! Because the future’s gonna really suck if we don’t.
[PS - I was about to publish when I saw that Mark Ruffalo has put a petition on the White House website asking the president to declare climate change an enemy of the people. H/t A Siegal's diary from this morning. Sign the petition here.]