Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Babysteps vs. Global Warming, Part III

leave a comment »

It is 100 degrees and sunny in Taipei today. I rode my scooter six times to and from work, a typical commute. Believe me, I am not one of those vegetarians who tells people who eat meat they are evil. I am a work in progress. It so happens that most people I call my friends see themselves the same way, are cognizant of this fundamental building block of hope. I expect it of them. Speaking with them builds my hope.

My friend Kizha told me it helps her to actualize things by writing them down. Since then, I have written down more personal goals. It reminds me of something you read in those “7 Highly Effective Habits” books. I agree with Kizha. Writing something down leaves a physical trace of its existence. Failing to live up to this pencil scratch links directly back to you. There is no escaping your own actions, no justification. It puts the pressure on, and I dig that.

I believe in the hope of works in progress. Even in babysteps, I am trying to live up to the progressions I demand of myself. It starts, for me, with the simple things and builds on that success. It is mental. I believe that. Confidence develops in one’s ability to accomplish tasks when tasks are accomplished. It is subconscious. The results are unseen. They manifest in future action.

So what can be done about global warming? Even in my best moments, the weight of my realist cynicism shackles my reasoning for hope. Most people are not doing a damn thing. People still do not believe it is happening. Some do not believe the United States, the world’s largest promoter and polluter, should take action. We need action movies where explosions happen on a larger scale to re-sensitize us.

But, I can do something. My actions speak for themselves, but I am their spin doctor. So what are my next steps, and what can be done? Here are some ideas, starting with the super simple.


1.      The same answer to every problem:  Become involved, participate in democracy.  Vote, obviously.  This should be mandatory.  Get a grip, literally.  Besides voting, join organizations, support NGOs and NPOs, sign petitions, join mailing lists of activities you can support in your neighborhood, write a congressman (websites will mail you pre-written messages you only need to sign).  There are so many ways.  At the core, become educated and force the issues.  Let me be very clear, global warming cannot be combated by a massive grassroots movement.  We need governmental leadership!  We need effective, responsible, accountable leadership.  There needs to be someone with the moral authority and the prescient vision to say, “Hey, time’s up.  We are making serious changes.  They will require great sacrifice, but we will be stronger and better for it.  It starts now.”  The international community asked the United States to reduce green house emissions to below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.  That was 1997.  We did not sign that protocol.  The European Union is currently below 1990 levels, while we have increased our emissions by 16%.  The G8 will meet this year to discuss the next steps post-Kyoto.  The United States needs to be active and sign-on to this from the onset.  Politicians need to know this.  If you believe in any issue, it needs to be on the tip of your tongue.  Speak up.  Here are just a few of the many websites with ideas:

2.      Even simpler: Turn off the lights.  Lighting accounts for 17% of global energy consumption.  Change those old bulbs.  I remember my parents always hampering me about turning off lights.  Whatever, I thought, it costs pennies per day.  I was mistaken. 

3.      Grow a plant!  It is the idea of it, the nurturing, the creation of oxygen.  We should all have plants in our home.  Show nature you have a crush on her. 

4.      Leave the paper trail in the 20th century.  Get online with your banking, your newspapers or magazines, and any other viable means to reduce your mailbox and your trashcan. 

5.      Create the demand. Politically and commercially.  An article in today’s New York Times reports gas prices at the pump are going to continue to rise.  Oil companies are hesitant to invest in refineries and infrastructure that could help the US filter more gas for itself because of rising demand for alternatives.  YES!!!  Read that again!  Success, man, babysteps!  Take it further.  Get ready for solar and wind power.  I just read about young entrepreneurs developing kite-like windmills launched into the upper atmosphere to utilize increased wind speeds.  Learn about cap-and-trade carbon policy, it is going to be the next big thing.

6.      Buyer beware!  Bush was right, we are addicted to oil.  Transport is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions amounting to 20% of global energy use and over 50% of worldwide oil consumption.  We are stuck in what economists call “path dependence,” where previous choices determine future economic outcomes regardless of more rational decisions.  We keep manufacturing archaic automobiles because people keep buying them.  More cars means more government spending on auto infrastructure.  More roads means less traffic, means less incentive for alternative transportation ideas, means more cars are purchased.  It is a self-sustaining cycle.  There seems to be no incentive for an automaker to radically alter his business plan, which I believe is incredibly short-sighted, yet reasonable to understand.

7.      Don’t be protectionist.  American companies are reluctant to take the reigns in the new market of alternative energy because the transition could be costly, though the rewards immeasurable.  We should not isolate our markets to protect these guppies, but rather throw them overboard and let them compete in the water like everyone else—the ol’ fashioned American capitalist way.  Capitalism will save our ass if we let it.  In Brazil, ethanol now accounts for 40% of fuel usage.  More than 80% of newly manufactured vehicles are capable of running on gasoline, ethanol, or a mixture of both.  The United States has asked Brazil to drastically increase its production of ethanol, so that we may buy it in our pursuit of reducing our gasoline (not GHG) consumption by 20% by 2012.  There are many problems within this.  The most troubling is the fact that the US actually dissuades Brazil from producing more ethanol with protectionist tax tariffs.  We tax Brazil $0.54 per gallon of ethanol imported to US, measures the Congress (including B. Obama) and US corn producers say are necessary “because Brazil has an ‘unfair’ advantage of 30 years of ethanol-technology development.”

8.      Research and Develop, baby.  It is just unacceptable that Brazil is more advanced in ethanol technology, China is building more advanced cars, and Europe is below its 1990 emissions levels while US corporations whine and beg for protection from an emerging inevitability.  The invisible hand is about to bitch slap American industry if it don’t wise up.  I have zero pity for foolish enterprise, and I think my buddy Bianj is very plugged into this.  The Wall Street Journal just ran a special report on the market realities of a geo-green market versus global warming.  Let us create.  We have done this before.  We drastically increased funding in military R&D after WWII.  Semi-clandestine government agencies like DARPA inadvertently brought us the internet and GPS communication.  Not to mention some killer other advancements.  We achieved.  I am confident we can do it again.  As Thomas Friedman wrote, “It’s about getting our best brains out of hedge funds and into innovations that will not only give us the clean-power industrial assets to preserve our American dream but also give us the technologies that billions of others need to realize their own dreams without destroying the planet.”

9.      Dream without destroying the planet.




Written by Miles

May 25, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: