Coal and the horse it rode in on

Just keeping this debate about coal on the radar is an accomplishment, so this article pointing a sooty finger at Europe can be commended in that respect. As it states, without carbon capture and sequestration, or storage, coal simply cannot be green. Capturing carbon invokes the specter of attaching costs in the form of penalties to carbon emissions, which presumes there’s not already a cost. We’re in the process of admitting to ourselves that there is, and that we’re running out of time to remedy the situation. Can penalties be turned into value? There’s where the carbon credits switcheroo comes into play, but convincing ourselves of this sort of inevitability seems to be predicated on the assumption of an everybody’s-all-in-or-it’s-not-going-to-work state of affairs.

So, as the above graph illustrates, there are only limited amounts of gas and oil remaining, though there are substantial coal reserves. Mostly, we fall into three categories:

1)Global climate change is a hoax and there’s no need to do anything.

2) Technology will catch up and save us from the worst.

3) It’s too late and nothing can turn the tide of the planetary destruction our civilization has wrought.

1) is interesting with respect to its shrinking constituency, bearing a striking resemblance to the polar bear clinging to an small ice float. The pervading acknowledgement that there is a need to do something is one benefit of the oversaturation with ‘Green’ everything. However 2) immediately puts a strict limit on what we might do in favor of the hope of a magic bullet. I can say with certainty that scientists and engineers are, as I write this, toiling away on everything from hydrogen fuel cells to enzymes that will break down cellulose more quickly… but – these labors by themselves will not be enough. There must be an element of 3) mixed in with 2) to persuade and engender a mass effort – people, governments, industries – to change the way we light, heat and travel the world. Sure, I can tell you that we can make money while we save the environment, but continued growth? And what’s a world without continued growth?

Just a world, I’d say.

Image courtesy of James Hansen, NASA GISS

Natural Racehorses

I’m going to pick door number three.

There is a wonderful book written by Howard and Elisabeth Odum (kinfolk to the father of modern ecology, Eugene Odum) called A Prosperous Way Down. But it’s just not a conversation many of us modern first-worlders will deign to have. We just seem to not want to talk about it, unless there’s some angle we’re pushing, hence the Green marketing explosion. Yet it hides a real, multi-tentacled phenomenom, which itself – if we really were smart capitalists on top our game – is shrouding a mountain of astounding opportunities.

As it is, we are ruled not by passion but by caution. Too much Greenspan, not nearly enough Rilke. Ugh. I can’t believe I just wrote that; I can’t believe it took this long. We are afraid to be scared and so just look the other way. Where are the real bastards of the renewables industry (There Will Be Wind!), anyway? We are going to have to be turned on the spits of our ugly sides, like so often is the case. All of this dissonance might not come to jarring end, but there will have to be some reconciling of this absurd idea of growth based on whatever we want vs. the actual laws of the universe. Sadi Carnot, people.

Also looming, and possible source of massive profiteering if you B-school droolers would spend some time in intro-to-engineering classes, is the correlation between the rising global thermometer and said running-on-empty scenario. For an excellent rundown of what we’re looking at as far as how much oil is left and what the real worry is, viewing this would be a good start.

Bio-fuel conversion

This is not what is usually meant when those two words are put together. It’s sort of the guerrilla aspect of using alternative fuel for transportation (green) before and until the law catches up with you ($). So these are two sides of green that clue into the fact that there are far more than two sides.

Good to know.

But this instance also alludes to being able to go green from a dead-stop; off-the-shelf enabling technology or in this case, a jerry-rigged Jiffy Lube ( Riggy Lube?). In gerneral, we are far, far off base from being able to walk into one of the Big Box home improvement stores and buy a wind-mill kit or a do-it-your-self solar panel set-up. It’s a huge opportunity that still going wanting, as of this weekend. Stop trying to come up with yer exotic financial instruments to fleece the lowlanders and come up with something for them to use.

Now that would be green. But, that’s what I thought.

Bio-fuel conversion

This is not what is usually meant when those two words are put together. It’s sort of the guerrilla aspect of using alternative fuel for transportation (green) before and until the law catches up with you ($). So these are two sides of green that clue into the fact that there are far more than two sides.

Good to know.

But this instance also alludes to being able to go green from a dead-stop; off-the-shelf enabling technology or in this case, a jerry-rigged Jiffy Lube ( Riggy Lube?). In gerneral, we are far, far off base from being able to walk into one of the Big Box home improvement stores and buy a wind-mill kit or a do-it-your-self solar panel set-up. It’s a huge opportunity that still going wanting, as of this weekend. Stop trying to come up with yer exotic financial instruments to fleece the lowlanders and come up with something for them to use.

Now that would be green. But, that’s what I thought.

Earth Day™

Okay, so I’ll admit that this whole endeavor was predicated on there being sufficient time remaining to wrestle and explore the question of what green means without the instantaneous digression into crisis mode.

But perhaps not.

There are connections between our habits and their consequences. The prattling on about how we are doing this and that to appear to ourselves and each other to be more ecologically conscious changes somewhat against the backdrop of mass food riots. Or does it? Does the moment one breaks through to the other happen only when the first rock shatters the eco-designer handbag window display at Barney’s? That barrier, that dimension being crossed into is one we can easily imagine; yet our ability to intercede on our own behalf and create new illusions of well-being and good-doing is at least as powerful as the rumblings at the door. These are capably lithe and mischievous, forgivable because they are required. Ah, here the unpacking begins.

Mis-labeled post number one. This is what I meant to talk about.

Eco-populism

A very smart interview with Van Jones on the link between anti-poverty programs and green ecological stimulus initiatives:

“As we move toward a sustainable economy, if we do not take care to minimize the pain and maximize the gain for the poor, they will join forces with the polluters to derail the green revolution.”

Preach it.

A good time to explain things?

Yes, the first day of the rest of your blog happens to be April 15? Come on… these ideas don’t come from nowhere. Will you believe in coincidence? Can we permit the actuality of ends and beginnings to coexist with the idea that there can be context and meaning to saving and conserving and recycling? Well, what about waiting, considering, pondering implications and consequences without being stifled by them; is this green? The seeming paradox – of at once letting go of something and grasping it more fully, without falling victim to the edgy marketing that we pass off as normal until we’re up to our necks and breathing becomes labored and our attentions dull –  is elemental to understanding the question of the day, the query of the year-y, the risque feeler of of the era, What does Green mean?

We’re going to call in the experts and break it down, lift up the skirt of what it means to be green and try to get everybody to look, and see.