There is an excellent commentary piece by in the StarTribune in the Sunday, June 6th 2010 edition of the StarTribune from Minneapolis. It is called “Going Green? Good Luck . . .” and it details the difficulties and problems associated with saving the planet from the benignly, yet evil actions of human beings. But, there are two especially interesting lessons to be gleaned from this article, neither of which the writer appears to understand he’s making. One is the process of going green is neither easy nor straight forward, and therefore there must be standards put in place the make this easier for the public to follow. The second is, we are our own worst enemy and in order to save the planet we must tame the greedy beast through, what else? more government involvement. These lessons are very instructive as to the political and social philosophy they promote and the dangerous road it presents America today.
Greg Breining is listed as a St. Paul writer who reports on science, nature and travel. As such, he is an expert on such things as, well, climate change, ecology, and energy usage, I guess. As a result, he tries to bring home to the little people the various ins and outs of conserving energy, reducing pollution, saving our waters, and overall limited human exploitation of the planet. He feels our pain and explains some of the pitfalls of our current monomania regarding consuming the earth.
First he explains that labels on products are not necessarily good indicators of what it took to make the product. Taking a long shower, for example, isn’t nearly as dangerous to Mother Earth as making a pot of coffee. “When you consider how much water is used in growing, processing, transporting, and selling coffee, the virtual water use of a single cup of coffee is 37 gallons. My goodness. That is a steep price for Gaia to pay for us to have some java. Just think of all the steps involved in torturing the planet for a jolt of joe.
First you must plant a coffee tree, which disturbs the soil, no doubt releasing hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide and other dangerous molecules into the atmosphere. Then, you must force that poor coffee tree to drink innumerable gallons of water, which it would otherwise not have consumed. Then, you must have human beings to rob that poor, tortured plant of its children. After curing in the sun (releasing more toxins), shipping those kidnapped seeds to nonnative points north, roasting, grinding, and spilling even more water over those remnants of that poor plant’s progeny, you have your evil cup of coffee. Take a shower, forgo the coffee, save the planet.
Breining outlines several other products that are even more waste oriented; tomatoes, e-books, and (the horror) leather shoes. A pair of leather shoes consumes 4400 gallons of water to produce. That’s before we step into a single mud puddle. We cannot understand just how much waste is involved in producing even the most mundane of items.
So, our first lesson in ecological frugality is, we are evil consumers of products that the earth cannot bare to part with. We are such terrible gluttons; we cannot fathom or account for the impact our very existence has on the poor, beleaguered earth. And, it gets worse.
Not only do we not understand the depth and breadth of our consuming, we also are foolish enough to believe some evil, wrongdoers when they give us helpful suggestions. There are groups that are tied to the industries they promote. For example, the Sustainable Forest Initiative is backed by timber interests to promote, well use of certain wood products. That is truly outlandish. Can you imagine, an industry promoting the sale of its products and using the holy word, sustainable? It’s practically a sacrilege. Some words are only for use by the select elite. For other groups to abscond with these holy words is an abomination. Here’s the lesson for the reader.
Breining’s illustrations were meant to convey just how complicated and Byzantine our planetary exploitation is. It is so bad; he bemoans any of us truly understanding our environmental footprints accurately. Since we are all so naïve and uninformed, it makes sense for there to be a set of rubrics governing the actually ecological cost of all products. If that were so, wouldn’t we all just buy the most environmentally friendly products and save the planet? Of course not. “Now, how many consumers are going to remember to pick one over the other in their haste to buy a load of 2x4s for a basement remodeling project?” he queries. Remember, we are too stupid and naïve to possibly make our own choices to save the planet. We are also too greedy and lazy. Even the most adamant of zealots on the left may occasionally buy an inexpensive box of cupcakes that could rob the planet of 37,000 gallons of water, 3 tons of CO2, seven dolphin lives, three Jenga sets, and a partridge in a pear tree. That is what is truly wrong with the world.
What Breining has presented to us is the first part of a logical syllogism. The general supposition in this syllogism is, we, including the most noble, frugal, bleeding-hearted among us, can not to be trusted with everyday economic decisions. We cannot possibly fathom the complex interconnectedness between human, scratch that, consumers, and the world we live in. Because of this big, wide, scary, unimaginable world, and our own greedy, selfish natures, we cannot be trusted to do the right thing for the planet. Instead, we must accept our weaknesses as forlorn, oafish dunderheads and accede to a better, smarter, braver way of doing things. The second part of the syllogism is who can save the planet.
That is the simple part. Breining quotes Paul Krugman, genius, socialist, collectivist authoritarian as having the answer. “Any serious solution must rely mainly on creating a system that gives everyone a self-interested reason to produce fewer emissions. It’s a shame but climate altruism must take a back seat to the task of getting such a system into place.” In other words, damn liberty, full speed ahead. Never mind American freedom or self-governance. Forget human dignity and ability to choice for oneself. We must collectivize power and distribute resources as we see fit. Only the best and brightest among us can see through the fog of competing interests and selfish goals to fairly decide who can get what.
Now, Breining is not a police-state authoritarian such that he doesn’t believe in direct distribution of resources through government stores and five-year plans. Breining introduces Krugman’s philosophy by explaining how to rationally adjust the market to force, er, guide consumers to a better path to saving Earth. If people do not have the financial incentive to do the right thing, we must make them through arbitrary and governmental dictation. This is most easily accomplished through taxing those things which these planners don’t want us to use. Windmill electricity costs four times that of a coal-fired plant. Well, then we must tax coal-fired energy enough to make wind energy a viable option. Solar panels are another great example. Throughout the cold, dark winter, you can pay five times the cost for heating your home but in the sunny, warm days of summer, your electricity will generate .2% of the costs of your solar panel investment. Just think, when you don’t need energy, it will be at its most abundant! It’s a win-win.
But won’t that decrease our standard of living due to artificial costs? Of course, but that is a small price to pay for saving Mother Earth. Doesn’t that erase our freedom to make our life choices? Your really don’t care about the planet, do you?
Well, at least we will all be peasants together, right? Well, probably not. You see, some people, like Greg Breining, science, travel, and nature pontificator, must travel and see things and tell us what he thinks about them. It’s his job and it’s an important part of saving the planet. He will not be as subject to these trials and tribulations as the little people will. Paul Krugman? He’s an important world mover and shaker and must fly hither and yon to spread his collectivist authoritarianism, in order to save our world. Krugman cannot be restrained to eating gruel and sharing a go-cart with three of his neighbors. Al Gore? Please. He’s worked so hard and fought so long for this under terrible circumstances. He will be allowed to make a fortune on carbon dioxide emissions, live in a big, expensive house, grow fatter and more strident with each day. But that’s okay because he’s earned it.
Meanwhile, the rest of us should just buckle. We are too stupid to save the planet, only authoritarian communitarians know how to save the planet, therefore, we must let the smart collectivist elite save the planet from the terminally moronic, us. It’s simple. It’s all laid out.
Now, just lie down and take it.