Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The View From The Driveway

It was a comment in response to a post about the urgency of forestalling climate catastrophe.

"All I know is that we have friends who have a hybrid car. They could not get up our driveway. We had to pull it up our driveway using a tow rope with our Jeep. I am not giving up my car."

Oh, sweet pea. I am sorry that is all you know. There's so much else.

All around you, people are making choices in their daily lives that must baffle you. They are paying more for items that aren't packaged in plastic. They're voting to tax themselves for greenspaces. They're checking the tags in their clothing to make sure they're not supporting slave labor. They're choosing to live where they don't need a car at all. Maybe they've found out that animal agriculture is the biggest driver of climate change and environmental devastation, and they've quit eating meat. They're doing these things because they have learned some stuff about the world, and they're unable to keep operating as they had before they learned it. It becomes a moral choice for them.

What they're not doing is changing their behavior in order to shame you. Something about your statement leads me to suspect you think your friends bought a hybrid car because they think they're better than you. But what do you do when you find out something you're doing is hurting others? Maybe it's something you didn't realize before, but once you learned better, wouldn't you change? I'm sure you would. Maybe that's what they're doing: trying to do less harm.

Of course their hybrid is still burning fossil fuel. And this is what is going to make our planet uninhabitable, in a matter of a few short lifetimes. It's a big deal. If you knew we had only ten years to get off fossil fuel altogether or risk an unlivable planet, wouldn't you embrace a solution? Maybe not--because there is so little one person can do to affect such a massive problem. It needs to be addressed on a national and world-wide level.



But here's a related massive problem: we are operating under a system of profit-driven capitalism that does not begin to account for the costs of enterprise. Shouldn't corporations be required to pay for the harms they cause? Should they be able to destroy our environment without any consequence? Should you be able to get away with poisoning your neighbor's well? We put people in prison for knocking over the corner store; why do we reward people who endanger every single life on the planet?

So nobody is going to confiscate your Jeep. You can keep your Jeep. But maybe gasoline should be $250 a gallon. Maybe that's what it would take to mitigate the harm done by the extraction and burning of buried carbon. It's not meant to be punitive--it's the cost of doing business. You might decide to make some different choices.

Seem like a lot to pay? A few decades ago someone had the idea of pegging gasoline at $5 a gallon. That was a lot at the time. People would use less, more efficient vehicles would be on the market, and the excess tax would be devoted to changing our infrastructure toward a more sustainable plan. It was a good idea. A number of things we could have done a few decades ago would have made things a lot easier now, but we didn't do them. And now we're out of time. It might even be too late.

I don't blame you or your Jeep. It's not your fault. There are real criminals involved in this scheme to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of literally everyone else. But it would be a good thing, for starters, to take a step back from your driveway and see how big the picture really is.

40 comments:

  1. It is time I comment on your blog since I've been reading for a while. All I want to say is, thanks for this!

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  2. It would appear that many corporations don't even pay taxes; I doubt we can get to pay fines for the pollution they cause. It's discouraging to live in a country where the government won't even admit there is a problem.

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    Replies
    1. Or where government is run by people determined to destroy government.

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  3. The profit-driven capitalism is supported by the Bible-thumping evangelicals. It seems God gave them (and only them, it seems) dominion over the earth, both land and sea. They interpret that to mean they are free to kill any living thing and pollute the environment. After all, "THE RAPTURE" is not far away so no need to worry.

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    1. The rapture can't come soon enough. Leave the rest of us the hell alone.

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  4. Things are looking worse and worse, aren't they? *stares gloomily at nothing*

    Usually I'm upbeat about this. I know the earth is a big ship and it would take time to bring 'er around, but lately there are more and more days when I feel we will not do what is needed and a great many little people are going to suffer before the big ones ever do.

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    1. I'm not upbeat, but I deliberately avoid thinking about it a lot. Although it might not appear that way.

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  5. Yes.
    I am with jenny_o on this. I try and be positive, but at the moment anxt and despair are more common.

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    Replies
    1. It is a singular thing, being alive at this point in the planet's trajectory.

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    2. And to make bad worse: just heard on NPR that the earth's population will double in 63 years, despite a decreasing birthrate.

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    3. In spite of my general pessimism, I find that hard to believe. But in any case, it's interesting that George Monbiot says it isn't the population so much as the consumption. Not that they're unrelated; but he says two dudes in New York City consume as much as some entire countries in Africa.

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  6. Yes we were supposed to have smaller, much more fuel efficient cars by now, but every time the gas prices fall people buy Escalades or Hummers or other big honking SUVs. Even my Ecoboost Ford Escape doesn’t have the gas mileage I would expect from a smaller car, and they stopped making the Hybrid version. I know life would be much different without the modern conveniences of affordable car travel, but we can all make better choices to reduce the demand for wasteful and less efficient consumer goods. Even small steps help.

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    Replies
    1. We can. And we must and we do. But we can't do it individual by individual. Big things must change and I don't see it coming yet.

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  7. Thankful for the ways you use your gifts. This is awfully, awe-fully good.

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  8. Something ate my comment. Probably the Prime Minister as I was less than complimentary about him!
    I think we've already done more than enough genetic tinkering, but maybe some Jacinda Ardern clones...

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  9. Wonderful! Outstanding! Thank you. xo

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  10. This reminds me of Mike Pompeo’s comment this week about the melting Arctic ice cap “opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.” Seth Meyers had this response:

    “Hey! The polar ice caps are melting, and you’re excited about new trade routes? That’s like being excited that your house burned down because now you can see your pool from the driveway.”

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  11. I do my bit by buying locally produced fruit and veg, much less meat than I used to and only buying clothes when the last few pieces are threatening to fall apart in the wash. I don't own a car, don't smoke, don't drink alcohol. I'm cheap. And I do most of that so I can afford to heat my tiny flat during winter and cool it during summer using airconditioning, which is the one really bad thing I do to be comfortable. I did produce four children, but less was known back then on the impact of so many people and on the plus side two of those children don't have children of their own.

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  12. Yes, Murr, this is great stuff. Classic, on target Murr. Amy reason I shouldn't tweet a link to this out to the world? Seems there aren't enough people reading it.

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    1. While we have you on the phone, do you see a share button down here anywhere? I had one in for years and now I don't see it anymore, but I don't know if that's just my computer. And also I have way fewer views than I used to. Yes of course please share!

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    2. Yes, there is a "share this" link right above the comments, at least, on my computer. Worth sharing, but then, I'm not on Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever.

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    3. So out of curiosity I tried the "share" button, and clicking on share doesn't do anything. If I click on the envelope to its left, I do get a screen to email the post to anyone with an email address. I'm not sure if the share button is supposed to go to a link or not, but it doesn't.

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    4. I need a young person to reinstall the thing, stat.

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  13. I do what I can to be "green", but even with that, I know that I am leaving a big carbon footprint just by being alive in this age. And then there is the fact that I am completely pessimistic about our chances for "turning this around." People, as a rule, do not change.

    A result of this pessimism is that I try to avoid "the news." Paul is a self-described news-junkie, and if there is anything I need to know about, he gives me a link to it. Also I "self-medicate" quite a bit. I'm actually glad that I am of an age when I probably only have twenty years left (unless my liver finally decides it has had enough.) I do not want to survive whatever comes after this. Survival is insufficient.

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    Replies
    1. You've just described me to a T.

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    2. I fear if the three of us ever met, none of us would get out alive.

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    3. We should the heck do that, though.

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  14. Alberta has just elected a new premier, the equivalent to the US state's governor. His big promise was to roll back the carbon tax, halt the planned phase-out of the province's coal-fired electrical power generators which were to be replaced by clean energy sources, and go to war with the federal government over environmental standards for new pipelines. As in the US, the Conservative governments at all levels in Canada deny climate change and forge ahead with tax breaks and no environmental regulations for polluting industries. I read Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" when I was 15 or 16 and it scared the poop out of me then. At 73 I've lived long enough to see the verdant and sacred earth I saw as a child destroyed. Here, in Calgary, our annual average temperature has increased 7.8 degrees since 1900. Personally, we have always lived a life of "Voluntary Simplicity", but there are too few of us. I think this new generation coming up now is not going to tolerate what we meekly allowed to happen. People 40 and above are so stupid as to be manipulated to vote by a "one-issue" campaign, "save all the millions of unborn", and never mind that climate change is already contributing to thousands of deaths a year in the US due to increased asthma caused by increased smoke, pollen and mold, through heat stress in the young and the elderly, by unprecedented bitter cold in winter, Lyme disease, Zika virus, tornadoes, hurricanes, fire and flood. I'm really in despair about this. Preach it Murr.

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    Replies
    1. I am too. And I didn't know that about your new premier. Holy shit.

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