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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Parts of the picture
June 8, 2010 - 9:25pm

I was reading through the latest edition of Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution scenario. It's the third such effort, and lays out a more aggressive (but still practicable) plan, reducing global GHG emissions by more than 80% by 2050. I say "still practicable", because the scenario depicted includes creation of millions of good new jobs and fuel savings which pretty much pay for any increases in capital costs. It's a set of projections based on a set of assumptions and, so, clearly subject to criticism. But it paints a picture of a future which is not only imaginable but attractive. And that's the kind of picture we need to be painting.

As I was reading through the report, I couldn't help but correlate aspects of Greenpeace's proposal to the flag-waving public service announcement I was talking about yesterday. To be emotionally effective in the domestic market, the PSA probably needs to play more into the tradition of American isolationism and exceptionalism than Greenpeace or I would be totally comfortable with. Still, the resonances are clear.

The main points that jump into my alleged mind include

  • appealing to pride in American know-how and can-do-ism,
  • creation of millions of good new jobs that can't be exported because they're tied to local energy creation and distribution,
  • cheaper, cleaner electricity over the long term, because the "fuel" is free, resulting in
  • clean air and water for our kids and grand-kids,
  • decreased dependence on foreign oil, leading to
  • a decreased trade deficit,
  • less chance of foreign companies polluting American waters and shorelines, and
  • establishment of a dominant position in a major growth industry, resulting in
  • American leadership in the new world economy.

OK, so it's going to take more than a 15-second PSA. But, in effect, climate change gets framed less as a direct threat than as an economic necessity which is going to create opportunity for someone. Getting society to seize that opportunity is a matter of firing up the competitive juices. Nationalism has proven its potential to mobilize the populace in support of military conflict -- with any luck at all, it should also be able to mobilize folks in support of economic conflict. Especially when winning the economic conflict is likely to put food on the table.

But if that's the sales pitch that finally leads the public to address climate change seriously, how the topic gets addressed on campus (particularly, outside the classroom) is going to have to change. I'm still thinking through what that might mean.

Anybody got a good idea?

 

 

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