“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What's To Be Done?

I've followed the development of the +$800 billion stimulus bill and its debate in the House and now the Senate. It doesn't take long to fall behind in understanding this complex legislation, to become frustrated at it all. Some of it will do what is intended - generate activity in the economy; and some of it probably won't. I sense though, that it will fall far short of what we need.

So, what needs to be done?

There are at least three interrelated challenges we face.

First, we must arrest the increase of greenhouse gases and stabilize carbon dioxide at less than 350 ppm (we're currently at 385 ppm and increasing almost 2 ppm/year). If we achieved that, global warming would probably be held to less than 3.6 deg F, which would avert the most catastrophic effects of planetary warming. If we don't, humans are in for a scale of change that our current 'civilization' hasn't ever faced. I'm talking major hard times for us and the ecosystems we depend on.

Second, we must eliminate our dependence on imported oil. The major mission of our global military imperium is to protect and ensure a reliable supply of oil. It's why we maintain hundreds of military installations around the world projecting American power, why we invaded Iraq, why we coddle Arab dictators and kings, why our balance of trade is so out of whack. It's an addiction that could hit us cold turkey when we slide down the backside of the peak oil curve not long from now.

Third, we must create new jobs - jobs that afford a decent living wage, jobs that will stay in America - dignified, productive, socially valuable jobs that contribute to making this a better place.

The key to these three challenges is that we must transition, as quickly as possible, to a non-fossil fuel based energy economy. It took a World War to pull us out of the Great Depression. And it will take a similar, probably even greater, effort to transform our economy and society and get us out of the descending, steadily warming handbasket we find ourselves in now.

Instead of bombers and battleships, we build wind generators and solar collectors and smart grids. Instead of tanks and jeeps, we build light rail and electric cars. Instead of victory gardens, we embrace community supported agriculture and become localvores. Instead of a military draft, we employ an army of experts to retrofit our buildings to be energy efficient. Instead of debt to China, we sell Renew Bonds to invest in our transformation here at home.

If we can do these, we could build a low carbon, sustainable, renewable energy economy that reduces global warming and its negative impacts, that eliminates our dependency on foreign energy sources and the need to protect them, and that creates new jobs for a sustainable economy that plugs the leaks that drain our wealth.

Nothing less is going to save us from a world of hurt.

The change I believe in would have President Obama call on the American people to rise to meet these challenges. We don't need a new New Deal that tinkers around the edges, but a Great Transformation that will create an economy and society that will give us a fighting chance to pass on a better world. That's the speech I want to hear, the direction I want to pull in, and the hope and change I want President Obama to articulate and lead us toward.

What do you think? Will we hear that speech?