Posted by Big Gav
Kenny Ausubel has a look into the future and asks if the end of the Age of Extraction will herald the beginning of an Age of Extinctions or an Age of Restoration ?
He also calls for a "Green Deal" - I wonder if the successor to the crumbling Bush administration will be a new FDR (yes, yes - I know we're more likely to descent into some sort of totalitarian dystopia than to see any dramatic improvement on the political side of things, but it is worth keeping an eye out for positive alternatives) ?
A friend of mine in Texas had a hobby of doing grave rubbings. She favored old, out-of-the-way cemeteries, the final resting places of the notably not rich and famous. She would place a large piece of thin paper over the tombstone and rub it with charcoal to take an impression. My favorite was one that was roughly chiseled, obviously home made. The epitaph said simply, "I told you I was sick."
That's what the Earth is telling us.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have finally sounded alarms loud enough for the country to hear. The message is crystal clear. When we fight nature, we lose. The disconnect between the state of nature and the nature of the state is producing a state of emergency. The first homeland security comes from environmental security. The law of the land must become the law of our land.
Katrina also unmasked the corrosive injustice that poisons us as surely as the pollution unleashed by the storm. It's an open secret that poor people and people of color are consigned to live amid the worst environmental hazards of industrial civilization. As E.L. Doctorow said, "We have two types of citizenship in the United States: common and preferred."
While an inept, cynical government staged damage-control press conferences, a new Underground Railroad provided real damage control. A fiercely compassionate person-to-person daisy chain surged with the loving determination of friends and relations, and the kindness of strangers. It's largely the American people and local heroes who salvaged the disastrous government response from utter disaster.
This extraordinary public response signified a larger trend. Even as our institutions are failing, people of good will everywhere are rising in waves of caring, conscience and kindness. Our true social security is woven in community.
But the choice we face is stark: an Age of Extinctions or an Age of Restoration. Which do we choose?
The mission is daunting. Katrina and Rita are just coming attractions for the new world disorder. The violence of these storms should come as no surprise. Over the past twenty years, the force and duration of hurricanes have doubled as a result of global warming. There is a certain poetic justice that these ill winds souped up on fossil fuels struck right at the matrix of the petrochemical industry.
Meanwhile, half a world away, American troops fight for more oil in a hopeless war that only deepens our dependency and binds our ties to anti-democratic regimes. No wonder they call oil the "devil's tears."
What we the American people need, what the land needs and what the world needs is to reclaim democratic governance and restore the public trust. We have a lot of work to do. We need to reinvent our infrastructure to harmonize with nature's infrastructure. We need to align business with biology. We need fairness and equity and good jobs. As Paul Hawken wrote, "If we are to save what is wild, what is irreplaceable and majestic in nature, then ironically we will have to turn to teach other and take care of all the human beings here on earth. There is no boundary that will protect an environment from a suffering humanity."
As those holding power well know, the creation of wealth is largely dependent on public policy and the public purse. We must change public policy to serve the common good. Imagine creating a Green Deal, a green public works program to jump-start the restoration. We can launch it just by shifting the current existing subsidies to speed the transition to renewable energy, ecological agriculture, and a robust public health system based on wellness, disease prevention and the restoration of the ecosystems on which all health depends.
With a Green Deal, we can reboot a flawed domestic economy that the IMF now warns is heading for a "wrenching correction." We can reverse what Warren Buffet calls our "sharecropper society." We can attend immediately to our crumbling, misbegotten infrastructure, to which the American Society of Civil Engineers just gave a near failing grade of "D."
By doing all this, we will dramatically enhance our national and environmental security. We will catalyze a vast jobs-creation program of meaningful, living-wage work. We will spur countless new businesses and technological innovations that can be disseminated worldwide to spread the wealth.
These kinds of favorable government policies have made Germany and Japan the world leaders in wind and solar energy. Toyota and Nissan are posting huge profits while Ford and GM credit ratings have sunk to junk-bond status. Global business is already moving steadily into clean technology investments, which are expanding exponentially. Ironically, a growing sector of the US business community is chafing at our government's retrograde policies while it watches other countries seize the lead.