jump to navigation

Pull The Plug On … June 16, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in clean energy, climate, economy, environment, football, politics, sustainability.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Did you catch POTUS BO’s Oval Office speech last night? I missed it live, but just saw it on YouTube. I didn’t realize that this was the first Oval Office speech POTUS BO has given—an analysis in the NY Times pointed this out. Strange given how long he’s already been in office and the potentially national course altering agenda items he’s already pushed through or is pushing right now—the Wall Street bailout, the economic stimulus, the troop surge in Afghanistan, the health insurance reform bill. Just shows what a political hot button this disaster has become.

I’m a fan of POTUS BO—he’s center-left on Mount Crushmore—and enjoy his speeches. This one was fine. I would have written a similar speech myself. I wouldn’t have delievered it with that gravitas and that charisma but the contents would have been the same. Mostly. Yes, “we will make BP pay for the damage they have caused.” And yes, we must “seize the moment” and “end our century-long addiction to fossil fuels.” But, do we really “need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of the region?” and do we really have to “make a commitment to the Gulf Coast?” I don’t mean to sound callous, but I hope not.

“The sadness and the anger the [people of the Gulf] feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.” Technically speaking this is not an anxiety. Anxiety is apprehension about an imagined or intangible threat. This is fear of a known future. 30 years hence, Prince William Sound has not recovered from the Exxon Valdez spill. When it’s all said and done, BP will make EV look like a ketchup stain. Current estimates are that the well is spilling 65,000 barrels a day. That’s just a touch higher than the 15,000 barrels a day that was the official estimate just two weeks ago! We’ve deployed 5,500,000 feet of boom to contain the oil. But the first major storm will spread the oil all over the place, boom or no boom. Shoreline cleanup will be nearly impossible. Cleanup workers essentially “power-washed” the rocky coastline of PWS. The Gulf coast is marshy—power-washing will do more harm than good. And the number of people who make their living off Gulf waters? It’s many times over the number of people that made their living in the sound.

I hate to use this particular figure of speech in this particular case, but it’s time to “pull the plug” on the Gulf coast. The region has been taking a beating for years. Even before the BP spill, the oil and gas industry had robbed it of its “beauty”, “bounty”, and ecological value. As things stand now climate-wise, category 5—or will that be 7—storms will come with enough frequency that even communities that are not perpetually underwater will not be able to recover from one storm before the next one hits. Sustaining a sizeable human population on the Gulf coast—something that will require massive investment, endless cycles of rebuilding, and may not even work—is simply not sound strategy from a resource standpoint. Compensation followed by relocation—they can take the Saints with them wherever they go—and withdrawal is better. Some have suggested that the BP spill is “Obama’s Katrina” or “Obama’s 9/11”. But maybe this crisis will and should become known by another moniker of a famous man-made disaster—maybe this is “Obama’s Chernobyl.” After all, Chernobyl not only turned the world away from nuclear power, it also turned the Soviet Union away from Chernobyl! If I were any more morbid and any less cheap, I would buy the domain name http://www.gulfcoastexclusionzone.gov. Alec Baldwin wants to let BP die. Perhaps we should consider letting the Gulf coast die—at least as the center of human activity we like to pretend it can still be. AIG was too big to fail. But the Gulf coast is smaller than AIG. Maybe it’s time to pull an Aron Ralston on the Gulf coast region—to amputate the already-dead flesh before the rest of us die from blood poisoning and dehydration.

P.S. Pulling the plug on the Gulf coast would have another side benefit—it would pull the plug on nutty first-generation-American Republican politicians. First, “Bobby” Jindal. Now, “Joseph” Cao. What is in the water in Baton Rouge? In case you hadn’t heard, Mr. Cao told BP America chief Lamar McKay to “commit hara-kiri” because “in ‘his’ culture, that’s how anyone who had so dishonored himself would ‘roll.'” By the way, if you have single-quotes inside double-quotes to end a sentence or a clause, does the period appear before both single-and double quotes or between them? Hmmm. Back to Mr. Cao. Evidently, this remark rendered many of his fellow Congressfolk speechless. I suppose that one third was stunned any politician should make such a comment in the first place. On the spectrum of George “makaka” Allen to Randy “baby killer” Neugebauer, to Helen “get the hell out of Palestine and go back to Germany” Thomas, it’s definitely between Neugebauer and Thomas. Another third was aghast that Mr. Cao—being a US Congressman and everything—would play the “Asian Culture” card. Does Mr. Cao suffer from Cultural Identity Disorder (CID)? The remaining third was probably dismayed that Mr. Cao —who is Vietnamese—would claim that Vietnam rolls by Samurai code. Perhaps, Mr. Cao suffers from not one but two cases of CID—dissociative CID (DCID) as it were. Mr. Cao, if I were you, I would put a golf-ball in my mouth and wait patiently for my congressional reprimand.

P.P.S. And for Mr. Boehner—who predictably reacted to POTUS BO’s call to non-inaction with “President Obama should not exploit this crisis to impose a job-killing national energy tax on struggling families and small businesses”—I have only this to say. In Bluejay culture, we would just hand you a knife and ask you to commit hara-kiri.

P.P.P.S. Here’s my two nickels for new offshore drilling regulations—and yes, offshore drilling will continue despite the bad karma now attached to it. My proposal is simple. No deep water well can operate without a ready-to-go relief well. Any existing deep water well without a relief well must suspend extraction until a relief well is drilled. How ’bout them golf-balls?

P.P.P.P.S. How in the name of “Joseph” Cao did North Korea make it into the World Cup tournament? North Koreans have nothing to eat! I suppose “Dear Leader” KJI divides his country’s limited resources exclusively among: i) the nuclear program, ii) the national soccer team, iii) his Courvoisier stash.


Ecological Intelligence March 31, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, climate, sustainability.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

I just finished Daniel Goleman’s “Ecological Intelligence”. So I thought I would pen (finger) a quick review/affirmation/rebuttal. The basic idea is that we are entering (perhaps) the age of “radical transparency” in the marketplace. An age in which consumers will know about the good and bad impacts of every product they buy–health impacts, environmental impacts, and social impacts. Armed with this ecological intelligence, 10% of consumers will switch to “responsible” brands even if they cost more, while another 75% will switch to “responsible” brands assuming cost neutrality. This will create a virtuous cycle in which companies compete not only on product quality and price but also on environmental and social stewardship. With the market now having stake in environmentalism, utopia will ensue!

Goleman is optimistic, but not quite that naively optimistic. He points out that environmental and social responsibility is already a mission for many companies and that there are fledgling services for providing impacts information on a B2B basis (Earthster) and at point-of-purchase (GoodGuide). But also that there are many challenges to creating such a radically transparent market (the amount of information you need to gather and collate is mind-boggling) and many questions about the scope and scenarios in which such a market would actually “work.” Presumably, there are large numbers of people in the world who are in no position to make purchasing decisions based on anything but cost. And presumably, there will be certain products and services which, by definition, will require disproportional damage to the public commons.

Anyways, I think that a ecologically transparent marketplace will be a good thing and will make the world better. I just don’t know that it’s enough. There are those who say that it is the market that created the climate change, environmental toxicity, and social imbalance and so it is the market that can most effectively fix these problems. But there are also those who say that the market has already proven it cannot deal with “commons” in a non-abusive way and that the most effective way to incorporate a commons into the market is to privatize it. Let us privatize the environment then. On a more serious note, I think that marketplace transparency can be effective in improving corporate social responsibility, and that it can potentially be effective in producing more sustainably derived, healthier to use products. But I think it is quite limited in what it can do to improve global environmental condition, specifically global warming. A transparent marketplace will allow people to choose low-footprint products over high-footprint products, but I doubt it will make them take the best choice–fewer products! That a pair of jeans requires 2100 gallons of freshwater to produce (cotton is very thirsty) is only part of the problem. The bigger part is that many people have ten pairs of jeans when in reality they only need 5. Or 3. That cars average 19.8 mpg and spew 1.2 lbs of CO2 per mile is only part of the problem. The bigger part is that people drive so much. Will GoodGuide help us buy less? Drive less? Live more responsibly? I doubt it. Only a realistic non-subsidized price on goods like water and CO2 will make us do that.

P.S. BO, what is this? If you want to throw Republicans a conciliatory bone, tell them that you will pick up Mike Steele’s tab at Voyeur’s. But lifting the ban on new offshore drilling is not going to accomplish anything positive (except for reduce the price of gas by an average of 2 cents starting in 2026) while perpetrating all sorts of damage to coastal environments and perpetuating habits we need to break! Say it ain’t so, BO!

P.P.S. Goleman also wrote “Emotional Intelligence” and “Social Intelligence”. Given my current emotional and social state, maybe I should put those on my queue as well.

P.P.P.S. In other news, it’s been the wettest March on record. This couldn’t be because there is too much moisture in the air because of excessive oceanic evaporation because it’s too damn hot, could it?