August 23, 2006

Poster Child with Proven Public Appeal

A trusted source says that it will be impossible to do anything about global warming without a poster child. In today's culture image is the bottom line. Some candidates:

1. The Polar Bear. Polar bears spend their days lounging around on the Arctic ice waiting for seals to come up for air. Global warming is decreasing the extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap at an alarming and accelerating rate.* No ice, no polar bears, except in zoos. And they are vertebrates, furry mammals no less, very photogenic.

*There was a diplomatic meeting not long ago in Sweden to discuss the shipping lanes that will be opening to the north of Siberia, and Canada and Denmark are fighting over rights to an island in the middle of the soon-to-be-navigable Northwest Passage.

2. As described in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the American Southwest is littered with the skeletons of pinion pines that have been killed during a 6-year drought.

3. The mosquito, especially one carrying a tropical disease like malaria, is a strong candidate as 'anti-poster-child'.

4. Climate change has lead to the steady northward advance of armadillos and opossums.

5. A resident of a South Pacific island whose ancestral home will be put under water by rising sea levels

But after careful consideration I have decided that the best candidate to be the global warming poster child is President Bush. He is as guilty as anybody, and perhaps more so, of using too much energy to support a lifestyle that is not sustainable in the long-term. And, he is as innocent as anybody, in the sense that he does not seem to be aware that he is violating our biblical duty to care for the earth we have been given. And what's better, in contrast to possums with their naked tails and ratty furs, or the vampiric mosquito, he has proven public appeal. So I say, think of George W. Bush, and help save the planet.


At August 23, 2006 8:47 PM , Blogger beedubs said...

"He is as guilty as anybody, and perhaps more so, of using too much energy to support a lifestyle that is not sustainable in the long-term."

Hey Matt, do you really think that using a lot of energy is a bad thing per se? Isn't pumping out a lot of CO2 the bad thing? And do you think that an amount of energy used per person can be said to be sustainable or not sustainable when there are several different ways to come up with that energy and those ways are constantly improving?

Sorry to write-in only when I'm being contrarian; I just tend not to make the effort when my only comment would be "I agree."

Also I think it's really important to be precise about the problems (as I see it the problem here is unaddressed externalities from certain kinds of energy use as opposed to too much use of energy) both so that the solutions are directly aimed at the real problems and so you don't unnecessarily alienate people who would otherwise be on your side.

BTW, on an earlier post (but I suppose not completely unrelated to this one both in terms of overconsumption and negative externalities), I was in Owatonna last week for the fair and I can only say that if there are any sign theives down there it's too bad they don't have a better work ethic; way too many are still standing.

At August 24, 2006 2:37 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Hey BW, thanks yes, precision is the key. Usually we don't have the option of using lots of energy without producing CO2 since the largest single energy source is fossil fuel. There are alternatives (wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, to some extent nuclear) but they don't have the capacity, flexibility or low price of fossil fuels. So, one great way to reduce CO2 emissions is to cut down on energy use. Now, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones with a solar powered airplane, more power to you. One of the great advantages of contrarianism is that one must be engaged to be contrarian. And once the contrarian's questions have been answered, they can become staunch supporters.
I am thinking about a series of articles about alternatives: CO2 sequestration, hybrid vehicles, heat exchangers, when time permits.

At August 24, 2006 6:27 PM , Blogger beedubs said...

I'd suggest an article on nuclear power too. I'm surprised that global warming people don't talk about nuclear power more. What would the reduction in CO2 emissions be if the US used nuclear power to the same extent as the French? (I think the French get about 75% of their electricity from nuclear power.) Also, if the relative price of electricity could be reduced through increased use of nuclear power (esp. if combined with an increased carbon/gas tax), electricity-using products would become more attractive substitutes for fossil fuel-using products (e.g., furnaces, stoves/ovens, lawnmowers, weed-whackers, scooters, and even cars).

I think framing the issue and not going beyond the real problem is a huge deal. One of the reasons people are unconcerned or skeptical about this is that it so frequently (and entirely unnecessarily) gets lumped in with other political goals. Saying that CO2 emissions are too high is based on science; saying that certain lifestyles are the problem sounds more like it's based on an redistributionist or leftist political/philosophical view than on the science.

At August 25, 2006 1:18 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Nuclear is fine as long as it lasts (and is handled safely). I was surprised to find out that known uranium deposits will only provide about 40 years worth of energy, a stopgap solution.

Reducing CO2 emissions will involve changing our lifestyles, there's no way around it. But who says change is bad, or that it can't be profitable or an interesting technical challenge?

At September 02, 2006 8:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biblical duty!!! How dare you insult the presidente! He has a Biblical duty to bring about the rapture ASAP!!! This comment clearly feels like it was written by an expatriate. What are you running from Johnson? Perhaps it's the fact that the Replacements were nothing but a teeny bopper band.

At September 12, 2006 10:25 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Dear Anonymous,
I'll tell you one thing, if you really want to test your patriotism, try living abroad!
As far as the Replacements go, you are so wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to start. First tell me, have you ever watched the stars lying flat on your back in the bottom of a canoe?

At September 12, 2006 11:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot about the bibilical duty comment...

At September 14, 2006 4:52 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Two simple steps.
1. Pick up a Bible
2. Read the Book of Genesis

At September 17, 2006 8:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point is that if you start referencing the Bible you open up a Pandora's box of interpetations some ambiguous... some not so ambiguous... that will also lead you to conclude that it is your Biblical duty to bury adulterers up to their necks and stone them. The Bible is an old ambiguous document that can be interpreted in many ways. Are you willing to accept all those interpretations, or do you just want to pick and chose in order to place blame on some schmuck who happen to be elected president of the United States?

Papa T

At September 18, 2006 3:33 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Dear Papa T,
I understand your concern yet I persist: there are more options than simply biblical literalism vs. secular humanism. We have no choice but to read, discuss and interpret the Bible, it is the foundation of our civilization. There are even experts running around who have studied the book for years who can help with the interpretations.
Human society is in control of earth's climate. This coincides with what is written in Genesis, that we have been given dominion over creation. We have a self interest and a moral obligation to take care of the earth. It can be argued from a Christian perspective, from a new-age perspective, from an economic perspective, any way you choose. I wrote what I wrote because of the disconnect between the values this administration claims (morality, Christianity) and its actions.


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