Battlepanda: Plan A and Plan B


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Plan A and Plan B

Mark Kleiman has a clever post up that draws parallels between anti-condom fundies and rabid greens who thinks the only way to combat global warming decrease our fossil fuel use drastically. Stay with me here...he's not comparing the substantive strength of their cases, but their common M.O. -- take a value-neutral problem such as AIDS or global warming and fitting a moralistic narrative around it so that they can utilize that problem as a hammer to beat over the head of those who do not share their worldview. Thus AIDS becomes a punishment for loose living and homosexuality and global warming a cosmic comuppance for our earth-disrespecting consumer culture and the ugliness of our strip malls. Yes, I know that Mark and I are tarring with a broad brush here, but I've written before that there is an anti-consumerist, sanctimonious edge to the environmentalist movement that is tremendously off-putting to many people, and I stand by that assertion.

Having agreed with Mark and congratulated him on the ingenious way he set up his post by leading with an example that will have liberals nodding their heads before switching to a parallel example that cuts against liberals, I have to provide a bit of balance. Yes, I think that the radical, ideological wing of the green movement did tremendous harm by making environmentalism seem extreme. However, I think that there are a lot fewer of those uncompromising extremists in the far more diverse and mainstream anti-global warming movement.

According to Mark, geoengineering is not getting enough attention as a possible solution to global warming because it is "non-Gaian" and will not cut our consumerist ways down to size. That seems off-base to me. First of all, what was the last time you heard the word "Gaia" used by an environmentalist as opposed to those mocking environmentalism? It's simply not a metaphor that is in favor any more. Gore himself, which Mark singles out, is not ideologically opposed to nuclear and positively bullish on cellulosic ethanol. The Sierra club is working with coal-fired energy plants in Illinois ways that seem very reasonable and moderate. These are not folks that sees consumption as an evil in and of itself.

So, why no love for geoengineering? I think the answer is more simple. Even it's investigators caution that geoengineering measures like deflecting sunlight with trillions of wafer-thin lenses or spraying clouds with seawater are "fall-back options", and perhaps rather desperate ones at that. Do they merit more investigation, hell yeah. But I don't blame environmentalists for being cautious, or even guarded about promoting it as a possible solution. They have enough on their plate just trying to convince everyone that global warming is a real problem and that something should be done about it.