“Within a century of little Kago’s arrival on Earth, according to Trout’s novel, every form of life on that once peaceful and moist and nourishing blue-green ball was dying or dead. Everywhere were the shells of the great beetles which men had made and worshipped. They were automobiles. They had killed everything.”
Beginning of Chapter 3, Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, 1973.
Today’s radio broadcast is filled with stories on last night’s acceptance speech by Barack Obama. In a rare use of our TV, we watched it, too.
The loyalists are energized. The Clinton crowd is stinging. The Republicans are gunning. The right wing is just plain stupid and selfish as usual.
He devoted a big section of his speech talking up getting off Mideast oil by pouring talent and intellectual energy into developing a new generation of clean cars that will generate tons of new American jobs but not tons of emissions. I heard not a peep about weaning ourselves from cars and devoting that same level of talent and intellectual resources to creating a viable, fast, and attractive public transportation system in this country.
Now, of course, Mr. McCain is a mixed bag but the team behind him is not filled with people of high moral standing and concern for a sustainable Earth. Yesterday NPR carried a story about the Republican platform committee http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94057387. This quote stood out as I listened, saddened but not surprised:
“He (McCain) has also urged action to curb global warming and favors a cap-and-trade system that many in his party oppose. The GOP platform makes no mention of cap and trade, while it rails against what it calls ‘doomsday climate change scenarios’.”
We wouldn’t want to confront the possibility of doomsday now, would we? Things are going to get better, trust us. Don’t listen to those whiners who say there’s not enough oil and not enough food. Our “can-do” American spirit can conquer anything if we put our minds to it.
Who is this really serving? My unvarnished opinion is that the Republican Party, especially since the horrific days of Ronald Reagan, have successfully convinced huge swaths of American voters to vote against their own best interests while wrapping that punch of the voting card in feel-good patriotism and misty-eyed conjurings of “family values.” As marketing goes, it was a pretty damn successful campaign that continues to this day. So much so that Mr. Obama now must pander to some of the same thinking when he invokes visions of freedom from foreign oil in 10 years and domestically-produced cars that will be part of that solution.
God and country forbid, would he actually tell us that we need to be using less of everything, including automobiles.
Let me offer a little counterpoint to this thinking from the British Medical Association Journal:
Worth a read. Short version: our rate of population growth is such that we are consuming resources at a faster rate than the planet can keep up with and even attempting to wipe out poverty and hunger would depend on increased use of fossil fuels, which, you guessed it, causes climate change.
Of course, we can deny this thinking in the name of getting elected. Wouldn’t want anybody to panic and stop driving now, would we?
My wife has pointed out many times lately that in all the discussions of climate change no one seems to be talking about that old concept of “Zero Population Growth” from the good old Seventies. I doubt McCain or Obama have read this BMJ article but I hope someone on their staffs are sensible enough to do so. In McCain’s case, his choice of Sarah Palin has pretty much dashed that hope, so I’m left with Obama.
I don’t want to downplay Mr. Obama’s message and his thinking and potential for leadership and even what was an encouraging speech, even if it was not rousing.
But on the issue of cars and fuels and climate change, I hope he changes.
A Little Bit of Cycling
This pre-Labor Day Friday is slow for many people and moreso for me in my between-jobs state. I really don’t have many places to go during the day beyond walking errands.
Again, my evening tai chi class requires a bike ride there and back. On yet another sterling evening, other cyclists are out on quiet Lincoln Avenue and cars give us all a wide berth without honking.
After class, I talk with some of my classmates for a while before I ride home without making any other stops.
I’m feeling good, a product of the rides and my class. This is my tangible reward for not driving.
My second hope for today:
I hope I’m doing some good for the planet.