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I was “in” the fossil fuel industry for years, so I know a little bit about it. They have been very successful in meeting our energy needs – which is great. They have accomplished this because we helped them to meet our energy needs. The Federal government helped out the fossil fuel industry by incentivizing them to a great deal. That is how corporate socialism works. But let’s all acknowledge that we and the fossil fuel companies have been getting away with dumping their/our combustion waste products into the air for free for over 100 years. This may have been understandable and beneficial when there were far fewer people on the Earth. Today this practice has caught up with us and we are now severely damaging our health, our economy, and our future.
Fortunately, there are other economical and cleaner energy options available to us today. We can stop burning these valuable resources and either use them for other purposes or keep them in the ground as a strategic resource in case we need them in the future. Hopefully, by then we will have learned how to use them with less harmful effects to our health and our future.
One way to accomplish a transition from our current, near total dependence on fossil fuels to a much greater use of clean and renewable energy alternatives is to implement a national “carbon cap” or a “carbon fee” to pay for the real and hidden costs to society of using these dirty fuels. Applying true costs to fossil fuel usage will allow the market to implement a smooth transition to alternatives. Last year we saw the majority of economists across the political spectrum endorse this strategy. After many years of debate they have concluded that “a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary”. They went on to say that “by correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future”.
What are we waiting for? We just need to do it. Even Exxon/Mobil has supported this approach – of course the devil is in the details… the speed that the fee is implemented will be hotly contested. But the first thing we need to do is to get all the voices at the table to encourage the passage of one of these macro-economic tools ASAP. To get involved you can join/support the Citizens Climate Lobby, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, or others and keep pushing your representatives to support the passage of one of these carbon emission solutions (bills). This needs to happen now and we need to hold our representatives in DC accountable. I hope that each of you will get even more active today and then vote with climate issues foremost in your mind.
Guest Post by Author Julie Dunlap
Growing up has always been tough. But the millennial generation, my young adult children’s cohort, faced especially daunting challenges. The 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and SuperStorm Sandy, along with melting ice caps and bleaching coral reefs, have been formative events in their youths and childhoods, shaping their understanding of people and planet along with their maturing characters. As an environmentalist and a parent of four, I wondered and worried how early experiences of a shifting and troubled Earth may alter young adults’ attachments to place and the natural world.
To explore these questions, I joined with Anne Arundel Community College professor Susan A. Cohen (also a mom of two millennials) to collect essays by young writers grappling with growing up in an era replete with environmental and social crises. The result is a new anthology, published this month by Trinity University Press—Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet. The collection’s title alludes to Bill McKibben’s book, The End of Nature, published in 1989 before many of our contributors were born. In the 1990s, McKibben’s best-seller introduced me and millions of other then-young parents to the looming threats of climate change and humanity’s ubiquitous alterations of our basic natural systems.
Perhaps anger was the emotion I most expected at the project’s outset, and some Coming of Age contributors do rail against their earthly inheritance, against the losses imposed as forests shrink and oceans sully. Yet others question older generations’ ideas, rejecting the view that a tourist-thronged canyon is inherently compromised, and insisting that pristine wilderness need not be the ultimate definition of natural beauty. Many find ways to celebrate remaining pockets of tenacious nature, the return of raptors to urban parks, or the rejuvenation of community through sharing food foraged in the wild. And most heartening of all, woven through essay after essay, are feelings of love, of home, and of commitment to a thriving future. Far from the entitled laggards of media myth, these young people are seizing and creating opportunities to protest, study, plant, explore, build, teach, and of course write about the challenges they face and the solutions they foresee. McKibben, in his generous foreword to Coming of Age at the End of Nature, praises the essays as “mature, reflective, deep, and lovely,” but also and most of all “hopeful.”
Of course, I still wonder and worry about what lies ahead for my children and yours, as places and processes we knew to be timeless transform at an accelerating pace. But thanks to the youthful voices in this collection, I know the rising millennial generation has roots in their Earth, deep and wide, and the resilience to face whatever comes next.
Julie Dunlap is a writer, editor, and educator living in Columbia, Maryland. For more information about Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet, please visit: http://tupress.org/books/coming-of-age-at-the-end-of-nature .
Jedediah Purdy’s essay in AEON may be challenging bedtime literature but it’s worth reading, and rereading, if you want a more holistic view of our current planetary predicament.
I find his conclusions to be a theoretical exploration if not a remedy to the daily frustrations that I run into. The whole idea of being able to do nothing about everything does not sit well me. I much prefer the lessons we have learned in the past that we can change behaviors and cultures, but it often takes a lot of effort and it can take decades.
The Transcendental Movement of the early 1900s took decades but eventually changed the American perspective of the human ability to change – to change one’s situation, one’s place in life. It gave us the sense that we can achieve much more than the life we were born into.
The Conservation Movement of the late 1900s taught us that we can and should preserve our natural resources including lumber, land, water, and of course our great national parks. We went from a culture solely focused on exploitation to one that started to balance other qualities of life into the equation.
The woman’s suffrage movement also took decades as did the human rights for people of color and sexual preference.
The basic idea and struggle for human rights – such as the right to democratic standing in planetary change – allows us, in fact, impels us to challenge our institutions to create a better and more sustainable world. We need to turn what appears to be an unmanageable situation into a campaign where we can all better focus our energies.
Purdy’s concept of a “democratic Anthropocene is just a thought for now, but it can also be a tool that activists, thinkers and leaders use to craft challenges and invitations that bring some of us a little closer to a better possible world, or a worse one. The idea that the world people get to inhabit will only be the one they make is, in fact, imperative to the development of a political and institutional program, even if the idea itself does not tell anyone how to do that. There might not be a world to win, or even save, but there is a humanity to be shaped and reshaped, freely and always in partial and provisional ways, that can begin intending the world it shapes.”
Purdy is Professor of Law at Duke University in North Carolina. His forthcoming book is After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.
I have listed below my recommendations for summer reading. Several of these were instrumental to me in developing my perspectives on environmental issues. Others were helpful in my research for my books (see below). Yes, of course, I would like you to read and get inspired by my two books, but don’t stop there. These other ones are classics. (more…)