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Here to spread despair
When the Ringwraiths arrived on any scene, they always brought their most powerful weapon. It wasn’t their swords, nor the fell flying beasts they rode. It was despair.  Wherever the Nazgul went, hope fled.

Here, late in the Fourth Age, the Nazgul have returned, no longer only nine in number.  You can recognize them by a clear signature: Their insistence that nothing can be done.

At last our country appears to be gaining some awareness of the climate crisis that has already arrived, and will worsen in the years to come. Since it’s getting tougher for the deniers to deny the facts that are singing outside our windows, now we are seeing a big wave of stirring calls to inaction: It’s going to happen no matter what, so there’s no reason to even try to do anything.

The arrival of swarms of Nazgul is actually great news, because it means that deniers are running out of other options. Outright denial has allowed them to delay effective climate action for years, but it won't work any more. If their main remaining argument is "There's nothing you can do", then this creates the perfect opportunity for us to showcase the many positive climate solutions that are already happening, and new ones that are arriving on the wings of the eagles every day.

Thanks to Kossack Eowyn9 for a comment in a prior diary, which helped to inspire this diary. For a great read about how we can learn from the lessons of the Middle Earth, check out The Wisdom of the Shire, by Noble Smith, which I reviewed Here.

What agent sent them?
Of course, it’s always been in the denier playbook to create a feeling of futility. Take for instance the so-called Jevons Paradox, which states that increased efficiency will result in increased usage, undoing any gains from the efficiency. The purveyors of despair often reach for this one, because it purports to show that energy efficiency standards, or mileage standards, are futile.  

Woo hoo! My mileage is so good, I think I’ll go drive another hundred miles today!  I don’t think so. If you really need the hard core debunking, it's at the Climate Progress link above. This one should be called the Jarnevon Paradox, after the planet on which this theory might have originated.

A flagrant recent example of Nazgul-inspired despair masquerading as economics was the paper that purported to show that exporting gigatons of coal to China would somehow reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Try to follow this one, because it’s pretty trippy: The coal goes away from here, so the domestic price of coal goes up, so we use less here in the USA. But over in China, apparently the same rules don’t hold – they will consume the same amount of coal regardless of price. Add some technical-looking economic doublespeak, and voila!  Digging up and shipping all that coal is good for the environment!

Sometimes, a counter-intuitive idea leads to a new realization. Other times, like this one, an idea is counterintuitive because it’s wrong. This particular kind of idea deliberately plays on our personal gremlins of self-doubt, trying to paralyze us and stop us from taking a stand.

When they swarm, what does it tell us?
But before you despair, consider this: The arrival of the Nazgul is a good thing.

If the main drumbeat you’re hearing is about futility of action, it implicitly accepts that there is a real issue. This is a huge retreat from the more overt denial, of the facts themselves, which has defined the public battle in the USA in recent years.

Sure, you’ll still have a Rubio here and there parroting the old denier lines to please their base and prepare for the next primary election.  The flying monkeys will keep doing their thing. But, the center of gravity of climate contention in the mainstream media has moved from questioning the reality of climate change to discussing the magnitude of the problem, and what can be done.

To see why this matters, it’s worth looking at the layers of climate denial.  Similar to the Four Dogs defense used by tobacco lawyers and other polluters, climate deniers wear layers to ward off the weather of the facts. When a layer gets peeled away by the truth, they move back to the next one. “It’s not happening.” Oops, it’s happening! Ok, “It’s not caused by humans.” Hmm. Let’s move back to “But it’s not a bad thing.”  
Then came Sandy.

For a denier, if you’re down to “There’s nothing you can do,” it means that you’re running out of layers. In fact, the only layer behind this one is "Squirrel!" That very last layer, also known as “Al Gore sold out to Al Jazeera!”, is time tested and should not be underestimated, but is much less effective when it’s all they have left.

So when the Nazgul are swirling around saying “There’s Nothing You Can Do,” it means they have been recalled to defend Barad Dur.  This unleashes all of us to answer that last desperate attack: we can show all of the great things that we can do, and are doing.

As states and as a nation, we are deploying improved lighting efficiency standards, vastly improved vehicle mileage requirements, setting renewable portfolio standards, creating incentive programs for energy efficiency, encouraging utility solar deployment on public lands, and enacting a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) which will effectively prohibit new coal burning power plants unless they include a carbon capture unicorn.

We can do so much more at a state and national level. It starts with prohibiting massive carbon export such as via west coast coal export terminals and Keystone XL, because these are not in our national interest. We can, and must, make gas and oil extraction operations fully accountable for their costs such as damage to water resources.

Defeating the Ringwraiths of Despair
We can apply tough emission standards to existing coal burning power plants, and then use the EPA Endangerment Finding to reduce emissions from the most egregious other GHG sources. We can set a carbon tax and put some of the proceeds toward clean energy. Leading public figures can keep climate change in the center of national conversation, as President Obama has begun in his inaugural address and State of the Union.

As individuals and communities, the sky is the limit. We can reduce the energy and materials that we use, recycle the materials that come our way at a very high percentage, and use recycled materials. We can turn away from factory food. We can support great local and regional organizations that devote every working day to creating climate-friendly solutions.   We can push our communities to expand transit, recycling, and other services that preserve our climate. We can live like hobbits, cherishing the simple things that make life special.

Each of us can spread the word on climate change and positive solutions, in person, in lights, online, or even on a first date.  We can share information about the beauty and importance of places that must be protected. We can help get out the vote for real climate hawks.  We must be willing to change, and to help others not to fear change.

So: Are there things we can do, that will matter?  

This is the debate we want to have! Because - Yes!

There are so many things we can do, which create great jobs and will help restore our economy, that the only problem is choosing which ones to get going next.

Any time you think that you don't have a choice, you actually do.

Any time you think you have to do something that's wrong, you don't.

Our Future - Worth  Saving
Not Here
Not Today
Not Any More

We shall not participate in our own destruction.

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 02:54 PM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Holy $h*tters, Climate Hawks, and DK GreenRoots.

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