Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On the other hand . . .

You could look at it this way: the whole problem in the first place is that the world is dependent on that nasty black goo, and we've got to start fixing that problem now even as we try to figure out how to unsnarl the horror in Iraq. We have, of course, an extra super-duper incentive because petroleum is a category of fossil fuel which if we keep burning at the present rate will, as Mark Hersgaard writes, bring about "environmental collapse as soaring temperatures and rising seas submerge cities, parch farmlands, crash ecosystems and spread hunger, disease and chaos worldwide." Oh yeah, that.

The G-8 is going to talk about this minor little problem in the next couple of days, but the smirking chimp has already told European television that, while it was awfully sporting of Tony Blair to send those young limey boys over to Iraq to take a few for the team, Tony can't possibly expect to get anything in return because, after all, Chimpy has to look out for his own. That means, of course, the oil companies, and since God has told him that global warming isn't for real, there is certainly no reason why he should do anything to interfere with their God given right to make billions of dollars.

(Now I realize that he said publicly that human activity is contributing to global warming, but as has been widely reported, although not on TV or in the newspapers, the U.S. advance team has insisted that the summit communique omit any statement to the effect that climate change is an urgent problem, nor will the United States agree to any binding goals to reduce its own emissions of greenhouse gases.)

The (satanically inspired) UN Intergovernmental Panel on Clinate Change says we -- i.e., humanity -- must cut carbon emissions by at least 50% worldwide. This is a big problem. But if our national government won't do anything about it, there are steps we can take personally, and at the local and state levels. Here are a few:

Mass transit. Make it a major issue in your city and state -- high quality, reliable, affordable mass transit. It not only keeps cars off the road, it discourages suburban sprawl and makes city life more affordable.

Low-income weatherization. State public utilities commissions can make electric and gas utilities invest in conservation, including grants, loans and technical assistance to help low-income people improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It saves the world and keeps the old folks warm at the same time. Of course, state and municipal tax dollars can be used for the same purpose.

Local and state government investment in energy efficiency. This includes buildings (schools, state and municipal office buildings, public works facilities), government owned vehicles, street lighting, you name it. And it can save the taxpayers money in the long run.

Your own self. Compact flourescents -- they're great! They cost 7 or 8 times as much as an incandescent bulb, but they last ten times as long and use 1/3 the electricity. And isn't it a pain when light bulbs burn out? Walk or bike as much as you can - don't drive to the corner store! Insulate and weather strip your home. When it's time to buy a new car, think hard about fuel economy. Remember to turn the lights out when you leave the room. Whenever some clown drives by in a Hummer, point derisively and laugh out loud.

None of this is any substitute for the much harder political action, at the national level, that will be needed to seriously address this crisis. But it will keep it front and center, in the public mind and in yours, and meanwhile do a little bit of good.

And oh yeah. Support our troops. Bring them home. Sabotage of the oil pipelines be damned.

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