15 June 2005

Most Americans Want Energy Independence

A recent Yale poll to gauge U.S. public opinion on energy issues reveals some interesting results:

92% of Americans say that they are worried about dependence on foreign oil.

68% say dependence on foreign oil is a "very serious" problem.

90% say building more solar power facilities is a "good idea".

87% support expanded wind farms.

86% want increased funding for renewable energy research.

93% of Americans say requiring the auto industry to make cars that get better gas mileage is a good idea, with 96% of Democrats and Independents and 86% of Republicans supporting the call for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Gus Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said in a press release related to the poll that it "underscores the fact that Americans want not only energy independence but also to find ways to break the linkage between energy use and environmental harm, from local air pollution to global warming."

The survey, which polled 1,000 individuals nationwide, also reflects broad sentiment for actions "to improve air and water quality but growing discomfort with "'environmentalists.'"

The survey questions and full results can be found at the website http://www.yale.edu/envirocenter for the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

09 June 2005

It's Time to Terminate Global Warming...

President Bush says the U.S. has spent more on climate change research than any other nation. That's true. But this week's revelations that a White House aide with no science background toned down a report linking greenhouse gas emissions with global warming puts a cloud over the government's $1.8 billion-a-year effort, an effort designed to "clarify" the cause and consequences of the growing climate crisis.

It's time for Bush to concede, as almost everyone else has, that we have the science to suspect the connections between emissions and warming. And that is enough. Even developing countries like Brazil, China, and India, that were exempt from reductions in certain international agreements, and were used by Bush in his excuse to keep the U.S. from signing on to such agreements, have come on board. The three countries, along with representatives from the scientific community in 11 countries worldwide, signed a joint letter calling for action now.

States in the Northeast are taking measures into their own hands, in the absence of federal leadership. Even California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting into the act. Announcing his challenge to Silicon Valley to come up with solutions to reducing his state's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over the next 50 years, the Ah-nold said, "We know the science, we see the threat, and now it's time to act."

It's time to take that $1.8 billion annual investment and turn it over to innovative thinkers here and abroad who can help derive solutions to the problem, as well as new technologies that can drive our economy in this century. Americans are bold enough to take on a challenge like this; entire industries can be transformed or created with the right investment. If we set loose such investment to developing free market solutions to this global crisis, while hastening inevitable federal regulations, there's no telling what we can do. That means more jobs, a cleaner environment, and a hopeful future.

So what are we waiting for? "Let's terminate global warming!" as Ah-nold might say.

04 June 2005

We Need a Bigger Tent

I and a colleague had an email exchange about the environmental movement the other night. He'd just read my post on enviro-evangelicals, which was really -- as he put it -- about how "just as those whose actions we decry rely on a strategy of creating a false 'other' (we can kill it because it isn't us), we enviros do the same. Indeed, we apply that strategy to everyone, so that in the end we are the only people left in the tent and here we stand arguing with each other about whether we are dead!"

That made me think that maybe the real problem is our tent isn't big enough. When my family went from three (two spouses and a son) to five (add twins born seven years after their big brother), we didn't decide to stop camping. We bought a bigger tent. Now we have a six-person tent rather than a four-person tent. It's roomy and bulky and while I'm not going to pack it into the Sierras in September, I'll admit it's a pretty comfortable tent.

The environmental movement is a bit like my expanded family. Sure we were nervous about how the twins would change the dynamic of the family; I was even a little worried about how they would change the existing relationships of the "Anderson 3". But I must admit, aside from a few minor inconveniences, the “Anderson 5” is better. There's more variety, our world views keep getting expanded in very interesting ways, and we've had to relearn or unlearn a few old tricks and even learn some new ones.

So it was alarming to me as I began to think more about the "Death of Environmentalism" debate and started to follow it a bit more, that the movement to make a better, more sustainable world is even more fractured that it appears. Whereas I was concerned that we weren't opening our tent flaps to evangelicals, people of color, and others, the situation is much worse: we aren't even inviting our own into the tent, let alone asking them to sit by the campfire.

In response to "Death," Ludovic Blain and others remind us how "white", "elite", "male" and "American" is the environmental movement. They also want to claim that the environmental justice is the true environmental movement, that we "already have a movement positioned to build a multiracial progressive agenda that democratically represents environmental interests of communities." Right on, Ludovic; so if I hear you correctly, the funders to whom Shellenberger and Nordhaus gave their report should shift all their funding to environmental justice groups and stop giving to any others, because they're all run by "elite, white male Americans." (He uses a variation of such phrase over twenty times in a recent Grist piece.) I'm sorry, but this doesn't sound very inclusive. Can't we all just get along, as Rodney King implored over a decade ago. Isn't it time to get beyond name-calling and race-carding? Your tent has some holes in it.

Michael Gelobter and his co-authors do a better job in "The Soul of Environmentalism," recently released by his group Redefining Progress. (As a poet, I’ll admit to enjoying the fun they have comparing the response to "Death" to the flak received by Dana Gioia's "Can Poetry Matter?" essay of the early 90s.) In "Soul," the authors push for an agenda that is more integrated, inclusive, and interdependent. They draw some interesting parallels between where the environmental movement is today and where the civil rights movement ended up almost twenty years ago, after its peak. Finally, they call for "getting people to recognize [their] interconnectedness. Socially, economically, and environmentally," and suggest "it's time for us to start walking the talk." Now that's more like it. The tent flaps are open.

A few years ago, at the conference I mentioned in an earlier post, I took part in a series of dialogues on how to make the environmental movement more inclusive. Running-Grass, an environmental educator who runs the 3 Circles Center in Sausalito, California, was the only African-American in our room. And it was duly noted. He and Greg Watson were two of the few people of color in attendance at the conference. (We had a lot of women, however, so we could all pat ourselves on the back about that.) Running-Grass said that when he was invited to be a speaker he wasn't sure he wanted to participate -- he was also asked at what amounted to the last minute. We were glad he came.

The conversation we were having that day centered on the need for a new language to talk about nature. "Nature is different things to different people" and "While we may be high on biological diversity or ecological diversity, we are woefully inadequate on cultural diversity," read my notes from that session. I'm reminded now of something that Robert Hass, another one of the conference presenters, said, "Spirit is that which calls things into form." Maybe what we need is an old-time spiritual tent revival.

And when we look inside, I hope to see all of us there.