Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Awesome essay: Sarah Palin and seeing the problem in ourselves, not just in "them"

Three Way Mirror album cover"What -- I thought you were going to show me the folks destroying teh Earth! But that's me!" Image via Wikipedia

Ladies and gentlemen: Sharon Astyk.

Klein gets the problem right. She gets that we can’t continue to live this way. But she still is attached to old enlightenment political categories that simply do not function well in the face of our crisis. She imagines a rapine right, selling the Business As Usual model, and a at least partially critical left. There is some truth in this analysis (and there is often some truth in the criticisms of the left from the right) - but not enough to take us where we need to go. Because the left has been complicit in creating other myths, just as false. It is the left who created the idea that we could buy our way out of this, simply because we want to retain our identity as consumers. It is the affluent left that has told us that if we just buy better products, if we just recycle more, it will be enough.

It is leftist environmentalists who have understated the scope of the problem, and who have told us over and over again that our economy will grow again, this time with plenty of green jobs for everyone, that sacrifice is not necessary. But when you look closely at the studies that support this idea, they all involve radically lower emissions cuts than those that are necessary, radically longer time frames, the viability of technologies that do not presently fully exist and the assumption that we have all the energy in the ground and all the money in the world to do it. All of those assumptions are fundamentally false - they are still working with old numbers, often with 450 ppm rather than 350 ppm, and without acknowledging that many of the things we thought we had a lot of time for - the melting or arctic ice, the leaking of methane out of the permafrost - are happening now, decades or centuries before even the IPCC reports expected them.

Left and right, working together, have conspired to create a culture of denial, have declined, for the most part, to offer clear terms to the general public. The right has claimed that we can drill our way out, the left that we can build solar panels in the desert and capture our coal emissions. Neither one has a remote handle on climate change, much less climate change intersecting with peak oil and economic crisis.

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