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One Magical Politician Won't Stop Climate Change. It's Up to All of Us


One Magical Politician Won't Stop Climate Change. It's Up to All of Us

Rebecca Solnit

Lots of people eagerly study all the polls and reports on how many people believe that climate change is real and urgent. They seem to think there is some critical mass that, through the weight of belief alone, will get us where we want to go. As if when the numbers aren’t high enough, we can’t achieve anything. As if when the numbers are high enough, beautiful transformation will magically happen all by itself or people will vote for wonderful politicians who do the right thing.


I guess I am calling the emperor naked here. The best type of resistance is the boycott. How is the blocking of drill rigs, pipelines and gas storage facilities, and the divestment in stocks in the ownership of these things going to go anywhere when those doing all this continue to burn the stuff coming from these facilities?

Then, to add to the injury, they turn against the alternatives too, large swaths of California - and the NY Finger Lakes, oppose wind or large-scale solar development in their areas too.

This morning on DN, we had Josh Fox opposing essentially all natural gas transmission and distribution. Does he think that the furnace in the basements that keep those affluent people sipping their wine on Seneca Lake from freezing in winter on magic fairy dust? They better adopt and explain to the rest of us real affordable alternatives (we all can’t live out in the sticks heating with wood, nor can most of us afford, nor have the land or roof for, a completely off-the-grid solar power system) when they oppose these things.


San Francisco would make a difference if it had 850,000 vegans or vegetarians.


Articles like this almost never mention the US government is the #1 US polluter and the pentagon is #1 polluter in the government.

Endless war that turns toddlers to dust covered, fly infested trampled meat is the number one polluter.

Imagine how rich everyone would be without cowardly admirals, generals and spies fighting endless war for war corporation stock holders. Want to disinvest? Start at the top, sell of war stocks. How many low watt bulbs will save the pollution of one smoke belching atom bomb loaded B52 take-off?


Agreed. On the other hand from the points I made, resisting fossil energy development, and advocating carbon taxes or regulations that inhibit extraction and therefore supply, have a beneficial effect of increasing the price of fuel, and therefore reducing demand. And demand reduction efforts alone (like my efforts to live mostly gasoline-free) unfortunately reduce the price, and therefore counterproductively increase demand. So yes, there have to be coordinated work at both the supply and demand side.

But, watch as the same people blocking the Keystone XL or the gas facility in New York, then protest vigorously against $10 per gallon gasoline (what they were paying in the UK during the price spike a few years ago) and $400 winter gas bills. But I see no other way of shifting the economy away from fossil fuels

And I have encountered commenters here who claim to be “green” opposing carbon taxes. Go figure.


Doesn’t look like that to me. The way I read it is that it’s foolish to depend on any politician because politicians are basically going to do whatever yields the most wealth and power for them UNLESS we put them in fear and keep them there. Typical psychopaths.


A 0th-order cut would be pretty simple, really: polymerised aerogel insulation everywhere, plus small, fragile cars for commuting (where commuting remains necessary) that run on used oil from the kitchen, plus a crash program to reforest everywhere that forests used to be, modulo open space.


Level one in conscientious objection to destroying your own great-grandchildren is personal refusal to take part. Say no for yourself, just too disgusting, even if the money in your pocket says yes. It’s a big step.

Level two is realizing that everybody else hates the coming catastrophe too, because it’s morally wrong. That’s when we all start organizing to change things. Even for the level one COs, getting to level two organization is a big step. It’s a giving process, and some of us aren’t ready to take any risks.


Rather than fragile cars, just provide widely improved public transportation and stop all new suburban development and re-develop (while avoiding gentrification of) the large depopulated areas seen in the inner neighborhood and former industrial parts of most US cities, notably in the Rust Belt.

One problem with efficiency improvements is that, by themselves, they don’t lead to reduced consumption. The more efficient fuel-consuming thing just gets used more - helped by the reduced fuel prices that result from the efficiency improvements.

This is just Jevon’s Paradox - observed by the economist William Jevon regarding the steam engine efficiency improvements in the early to mid 19th century. Before I heard of Jevon, I called it the “Prius effect”. I am currently observing it with the new Smart electric car (closest thing to your suggestion) my wife is now driving for commutes and errands (cheap too: $1250 down, only $84 a month lease with incentives).

Efficiency improvements are critically necessary of course, but must be coupled with measures that increase the price of the fuel or electricity that powers the more efficient thing or they do nothing.


By “small, fragile cars” I meant, and perhaps should have specified, cyclecars. Essentially motorbikes in tadpole configuration with windscreens and rag tops. 1-4 seats, no amenities, about 150 KG unladen. Good for 50mph carrying 2 people on dry, level road at 200-250 mpg. 10-20 hp. Acceleration like a bicycle when laden, little or no heat. Motorbikes that can be ridden safely in snow because, being tadpoles, they can’t fall over, but otherwise no more safety features than any motorbike. Make those the only form of private transport available.


I know that it can’t be run on factory farms and lots of combustion. We’re demonstrating that right now, though not everyone is noticing consciously.


You are a right wing apologist.


So, I agree with just about everything you said… but… that doesn’t mean that there really is an answer… funny, I just got off the phone with my sister… we both… are “attuned” to our civilizations issues… but, I am rather obsessed with learning all that I can…in all directions…while my sister… well, she is really into the “well, if everyone grew their own food… yet… she hasn’t even started her own plants yet… I did… I have thirty or more tomato plants… .pepper plants… eggplant… etc…
She, is pushing an energy company using fossil fuels… through net work marketing… but, yet… she is saying if we all act as individuals… we will …what…stop climate change??? When I tell her that we have to change the system… we cannot stop climate change using a Capitalist system, she gets defensive and states that 'individual action thing”… she has always wanted to make a sustainable home… but, she gets into these money making schemes… saying she can then set up her homestead… now, it Ssounds like I am knocking my sister… I am not… I am saying that even though she firmly believes in the fact that climate change is real… she really does not UNDERSTAND IT… because when I talk about how we have so very few years to bring emission down drastically, like 80 % in about… 1–15 years… or we go extinct… “oh, you can’t talk like that to people… you have to give them hope.”…So, I say, well, I am talking like that to you… I would be more tactful … but, I will tell facts… She said she doesn’t want me to talk to her like that… about how we can’t fly any more… she said, 'what if your daughter gets a job in another cournty? Wouldn’t you visit her… what about people with kids who moved away… how are they going to visit?.. I said that …at this point, there may not be answers to some of our problems… if we are really going to reduce emissions… measurable reductions… .not just saying… what we have to do… but getting it done… waiting around for people to buy solar… or wind or growing their food… .or …what eve.r… when we start reducing our emissions 5-10 percent a year… then… and only then will I have hope… .and on and on…


Yeah, much of what some people say, doesn’t make sense… what the hell is this "we can’t have protest sh*t…/?? that is the way many become conscious of issues… and find out what to do… how to do… AND… PROTEST LIKE STANDING IN THE WAY OF PIPELINES… is a very important part … ALONG WITH JOINING FORCES IN OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES… it’s not either or… IT’S BOTH…AND… SO … GO SUCK AN EGG… IT’S INDIVIDUAL ACTION… ALONG WITH SYSTEM CHANGE…IT’S EDUCATION… IT’S EVERYTHING… .AND ALL OF THE ABOVE… BECAUSE WE HAVE NO TIME LEFT… 1–15 YEARS… IS NO TIME… NO TIME… NO TIME… DRASTIC CHANGE NOW…!!!


Rather than the usual circular firing squad, imagine what it would be like for oil, coal, gas and nuke executives to be faced with trying to get past the permanent blockading protests around the corporate headquarters, so they could go to their offices and try to deal with permanent blockading protests at every wellhead and mine, and pipeline, and PR firm, and PR event, and corporate officer’s house, and letters to the editor in every paper about some aspect of fossil fuel abuse and destructiveness every day, and boycotts and increasing pressure from the rapidly dropping cost of efficiency, wind and solar and other clean renewable energies, and having to fight divestment battles not only in every college and university but every kind of pension and investment fund, fending off initiatives at every stockholders’ meeting, and facing declining profits from the expense associated with all of those plus a tax and dividend… and… and…and… If every day was an endless hassle for ever-smaller profits with no end in sight and only the prospect of worse the next day, the next week and the next year, how soon would the determination collapse?

Not right away, I’m sure. But not as long as most people think. Collapse in belief in systems can happen overnight. And often does. In the last 6 months, there’s been a sudden and remarkable change in the intransigent stance of outright denial of the reality of climate catastrophe. The struggle is far from over but so many people on the right are distancing themselves from outright denial, and it’s becoming a much bigger issue, that it looks like by November we may have a large majority of people in both houses of congress and the white house who accept the science and that something much more radical needs to be done. That should be our goal, but it needs to be done on every level and in every forum.

Solnit has once again written an inspiring piece about hope. We need to be inspired by it and each write a letter to an editor or an op ed this week, and organize 2 other people who will each find 2 people to start an organization to work on some aspect of this locally and/or nationally.


Technological systems irreversibly use up limited natural resources to provide the energy and materials. They have limited lifetimes. They irrevocably produce material waste. These fundamental characteristics of technological systems should be taken into account in assessing how worthwhile they are.


Irreversible rapid climate change is under way primarily because technological systems have produced greenhouse gases and will continue to do so even if and when policies slowly reduce the use of fossil fuels to produce energy that society has become so dependent on for operations and transportation.
Policies that encourage society at large to reduce the use of energy provided by fossil fuels will only slow down climate change slightly. The wisest policy is to instigate measures that will help to cope with the consequences of climate change. Foe example, New York, London and the Netherlands are using natural resources to install more barriers to cope with sea level rise.


The only place where cars are really needed is rural areas and small towns. In particularly, in urban spaces cars are only a nuisance and can easily be replaced entirely by public transit. When I visit a city, I may need a car to get there, but I avoid car use and use public transit or walk once I’m there as I did in a trip to Cleveland a few days ago, and I always do when I visit Toronto. When I moved to Pittsburgh 15 years ago, I often met people who never bothered to own a car or even get a driver’s license. This has become less common with the disastrous public transit service cuts since 2006 and now Pittsburgh’s narrow streets can become intolerably car-clogged, in spite of a still-declining population.

Do some traveling and visit some real cities - not places like LA, Dallas or Detroit. The car is a scourge and has got to go.


Taxing gasoline… is only a way to hurt the working middle class… I can barely make enough to pay for my gas now… I would like to not have to explain my situation …or defendc it… but, I will probably have to… I live in a rural place… not even a real town. … I gew up in this area…but moved to Queens ny and Nassau County for 23 years… now I’m bqack home … I needed an affordable hoouse… which I now have… so, wht I want to sya, is that an upper middle class person, or a person of even higher income, will give a hoot about gas taxes… they won’t care, they make enough money… however… some one like me… or someone a little better off…


Matti always makes fun of protest, and makes fun of protestors. It’s his most consistent theme in these threads.