This blog has gone quiet for a long time. Life put too many things on my plate, and I just had to let some things go adrift for a time. In the meantime, environmental politics have turned worse at the national level, and there’s no sign of slowdown in the rate at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere. I believe it’s time for me to restart the blog. I have no illusions about the importance of any pushback I might generate, but there are new things to say, new dragons to go after, perhaps new readers to attract. We’re told that there are many hopeful signs for the world’s environment if we just look for them and lean into the future. Renewable energy technologies have been making substantial progress. And of late there’s new interest in taking assertive actions to actively draw down the levels of atmospheric CO2, and address social factors that bear upon the rates of CO2 emissions.
Realistically, even with the best efforts of all those on the right side of conserving this planet in a livable state, our progeny are in for difficult times. But we can get going on doing remedial important work. I’m enthused about Drawdown, a comprehensive plan to actually reverse global warming through an array of initiatives extending over energy, food, the status of women and girls, land use, transport and materials. The book, Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken is exciting in its ambition and comprehensiveness. The Drawdown team proposes 80 “solutions”, steps that are cost-effective and doable, each of which can reverse or mitigate the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2.
Presently we’re faced with the likes of Scott Pruitt and his fellow cabinet member, Ryan Zinke, to name the two most villainous critters in the Trump cabinet cage. They seem bent on reversing as much as possible of the progress made since the inception of the E.P.A. and other legislation protecting the nation’s treasured wild places. We can and should keep pressure on our congressional representatives to do what they can to block these political hacks’ attacks on the budgets and scientific frameworks of the agencies they control. But Margaret Talbot’s excellent piece in The New Yorker tells us how tough it will be. It’s easy to get discouraged.
My spirits were recently boosted by re-watching Kens Burns’s wonderful series on The Roosevelts. From Teddy Roosevelt through FDR’s New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps the legitimacy of government’s role in maintaining the commonweal was established. We have history on our side, in terms of admiration for past accomplishments and determination to continue the fight. Those of us who treasure a sustainable and beautiful world must not give up—we’ve got to keep pushing back, keep working for change.
Consider trees, just one aspect of the environment. Deforestation has led to loss of a significant fraction of the planet’s forests. In the early stages of human culture, wood was used as a fuel, to provide warmth, and for cooking. Then forests were stripped to provide land for agriculture, a process that continues to this day. But this must not continue, not only because we need trees to contribute to the carbon dioxide balance. Their destruction leads to loss of habitat for many of the earth’s species, and destabilization of the land, with resultant erosion and flooding.
And who would want to be without trees? Richard Powers, one of finest novelists writing today, has just published a new novel, The Overstory, that explores the essential conflict between humans and all the nonhuman living rest, while at the same time revealing the deeply complex webs woven in the natural world. A lyrical, inventive and heartfelt tale worth reading.
So now I’m motivated to write regularly, mostly about energy, the environment, food and the politics surrounding energy and the environment. By way of introducing the topic of my next blog, let me ask a question: What eventually happens to all the machinery, all the technological wizardry, that makes renewable energy possible? Everything we make use of eventually wears out, right? Cell phones, Solar panels, electric car batteries, those monumental wind towers. If you think recycling now is difficult and complex (it is), just wait.