Sunday, August 3, 2014

War on coal? No, war on our life-support system

Sixty million years of evolution since the last Extinction, and it comes to this:

Members of the Alabama Public Service Commission have been getting a lot of publicity about their resistance to what they call the “war on coal” supposedly being waged by the Obama administration and the EPA. PSC head Twinkle Cavanaugh even extends the metaphor, saying EPA's proposed rules, aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, are an attack on “our way of life in Alabama.” Incoming PSC member Chip Beeker has been quoted as saying Alabama coal is God’s gift to us and that the EPA’s “war against coal” goes against “God’s plan” for it to be used without interference.

One of the people who represented coal interests at a recent news conference held by PSC members, Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds, was reported to have given his version of Cavanaugh’s “our way of life in Alabama” that is supposedly threatened by the EPA: “It is the goal of the ordinary working man to go to work so he can come home to an air conditioned house, have a nice TV to watch, and have a comfortable life.”

If this is the highest goal a person or a people can aspire to, a way of life so materialistically self-centered and uncaring of the consequences, a life focused on worshipping in air-conditioned comfort at the altar of the "nice TV," it seems to me not worth defending. That’s not to say it isn’t an accurate depiction not just of Alabama but of the dominant American way of life. A life of unlimited, unfettered consumption of Earth’s “resources.”

That is, a way of life at war with our life-support system, aka “the environment,” which we systematically destroy so we can for a while enjoy “a comfortable life.” For how long? Not long, I’m afraid. 

Those proposed EPA rules, btw, do not dictate that Alabama has to change anything about the way it uses coal. The rules only say the state needs to find ways of its own – efficiency standards and improvements, solar, wind, even nuclear – to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% from 2005 levels. In other words, not even half-measures compared to the changes actually needed. The bridge is out ahead, but the party in the club car of the Doomsday Express goes on. 

The best overall presentation on the situation I know of is Nate Hagens' "Humans and Earth: Transitioning from Teenagers to Adults as a Species." That title sounds optimistic, I know. Nate's take-home, bottom-line, what is to be done: "I'm trying to be a better person."

Hagens, if you haven't seen his stuff, is a former MBA and millionaire Wall St broker, vice-president of Salomon Brothers, who quit the money business in disgust and got a PhD in natural resources from the University of Vermont; and for 8-9 years was a principal editor of The Oil Drum website. Now has a farm in Wisconsin.  He sees the Big Picture. 

I also recommend Guy McPherson's "Only Love Remains.

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