Cabbage Truck, part CMXXI

As in, just fell off the.

And just as a review:

green (?ri?n)adj immature, unsophisticated, or gullible

If you were wandering how much contextualization is required to understand this, spend some time discussing it with a seventh-grader. Or trying to – it’s difficult but a reminder of just how far you have to back up to bridge the chasm between the (to me) unseemly elation and unnecessary fear the event may have engendered.*

The best thing I’ve read about the events that may have led up to it is here, via atrios.

* Obviously applicable to many events, conditions and situations likely to be encountered.

Opiates for the People

You may not have heard of this; I certainly had not. Via LGM, re-framing Afghanistan’s poppy problem as an opportunity for global health:

The Afghan poppy crop could be repurposed away from illicit drug production, and towards manufacturing licit opioid analgesics to address unmet needs for pain palliation, particularly for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer in the developing world—that is, illegal opium could be converted into legal pain medicine, solving two problems at once.

Are they saying that you could actually think about a problem differently and then do things differently to achieve a desired result? Instead of being a’scourge’, opium production in Afghanistan could be channeled into a legal, profitable trade that would reduce pain and suffering worldwide? Wha? Would this sort of change in thinking be open to other issues, or is this a one time offer? I think we should still take it.

Bonus question: What’s the drug war going to say about this? I’ll bet it will worry and won’t be happy.

Growing Inequality

Like it’s the garden variety sort of divisiveness that might propel us forward instead of say, back a couple of hundred years. Ah, yes, heads will roll. I’d much rather link to Spy, but because we’re about the green, (and you’re the priest) this VF article by Joseph Stiglitz cannot and should not go unread. At least not by you.

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

And now it won’t, go unread. The ruin part is mostly assured. Right?

Clean Energy Race?

No, it’s not newly discovered caste of green humans.

But actually, a pathetic tale.

Our research shows that the clean energy sector around the world has roared back from flat recessionary levels, increasing 30 percent from 2009 to achieve a record $243 billion2 worth of finance and investment in 2010. More than 90 percent of all clean energy investments were directed to companies and projects in the G-20. Excluding research and development funding, clean energy finance and investment in the G-20 countries totaled $198 billion, 33 percent more than was invested in 2009.

That’s from the Pew Charitable Trusts report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?” You can guess the nature of part the next:

The Americas region is a distant third in the race for clean energy investment, attracting $65.8 billion overall in 2010. Investments in the United States rebounded 51 percent over 2009 levels to reach $34 billion, but the United States continued to slide down the top 10 list, falling from second to third. Given uncertainties surrounding key policies and incentives, the United States’ competitive position in the clean energy sector is at risk. Growth is sharper in Latin America, where private clean energy investment in Argentina increased by 568 percent and in Mexico by 273 percent, the highest growth rates among G-20 members.

That’s right. Growth is sharper in Latin America. I mean, God bless ’em and all, but this is actually too serious to be an embarrassment. Our competitive position in the clean energy sector, such that it is, is at risk in the toilet because of a failure to face up to the facts. Instead we just want to debate them. Opportunity knocking a plenty, but only others answering.

Godspeed you clean energy racers.

Existing Technology

Stanford University researchers are on the job, making the case for producing all the world’s energy needs from renewable resources in 20-40 years, using only what we know today:

The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy.

Geothermal and hydroelectric sources would each contribute about 4 percent in their plan (70 percent of the hydroelectric is already in place), with the remaining 2 percent from wave and tidal power.

Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters – no more natural gas or coal – and water would be preheated by the sun.

They point out the obvious – that there are no technical barriers to converting the entire world to clean energy production. Only a lack of will. That, and a refusal to count the entirety of actual costs of relying on fossil fuels, which facilitates the lack of will.

One of the benefits of the plan is that it results in a 30 percent reduction in world energy demand since it involves converting combustion processes to electrical or hydrogen fuel cell processes. Electricity is much more efficient than combustion.

That reduction in the amount of power needed, along with the millions of lives saved by the reduction in air pollution from elimination of fossil fuels, would help keep the costs of the conversion down.

So back off, Kochs. Everybody else, wise up; we’re getting punked on energy and how impossible it is to change. Don’t wait for the commercials. Believe in clean energy now and start expecting it.

Green Culture Wars

Sure, Republican presidential contenders are going to roll out the DADT/Abortion carpet all over Iowa in their quest to be the Rightest of the Wrong. It’s what they do. It’s all they do. And Democrats might welcome their inclination to secure the 27-percenters.

But as this keeps happening over and over again, it might occur to us that the culture war idea is in need of expansion. After all, if the Kochs are going to fund movements and candidates to secure their right to pollute, they’re probably happy to keep people focused on these supposedly ‘values-oriented’ issues – that motivate the base of one side, and use up limited resources on the other – instead of fighting back in the green ground game.

Do you believe global warming is real? Do you support wind and solar energy projects? Should we incentive utilities and reward them for getting us to use less electricity? These are questions worth sparring over. And developing this ‘culture of life’ will probably be funner.

We’re playing catch- up on refocusing the big questions. Abortion? Or stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels? Culture of Life?

Just sayin’.

Dark Green

Cue the rollout for the new Lexus Wagon:

Lexus is embarking on one of the largest marketing campaigns in the brand’s history to launch this new vehicle. The multi-faceted campaign, which breaks today, features pioneering computer-generated imagery (CGI). Only the interior shots are real time video.

Our favorite of these shows tree-lined pedestrian promenades opening into tree-lined avenues as the car nears them. The city opens before you as you drive through in a scene seemingly inspired by the imaginative film Inception. Actor and best-selling author Hill Harper appears in the spot and provides the voiceover. He declares the CT to be, “Just what you need to forge your own path.”

Okay. 42 mpg, got it. presumptuous Green attitude: slightly offensive, but okay. Wedding the the conservation mindset with “enrich, empower, escape” triumvirate was always going to be entertaini- oh crap:

They have also joined forces with Microsoft in an entertainment series entitled, Fresh Perspectives. The documentary series focuses on six artists, each commissioned to create three original pieces in 24 hours, inspired by the themes of Enrich, Escape and Empower.

Why does ‘entertainment series’ sound so purposefully euphemistic, like something one would be subjected to in a prison camp?

You Can Go Green Again

Because you can’t stop being what you are. By way – though like any good thing, just barely – of having a favorite bar, and a favorite poet to meet you there, here’s a snip from Lean Down Your Ear Upon the Earth and Listen: Thomas Wolfe’s Greener Modernism by Robert Taylor Ensign.

As Jonathan Bate pointed out, “Wordsworth wrote poems about how flowers may vitalize the spirit.” Not surprisingly, then, the romantics celebrated life’s inherent and ineluctable movement in all its guises and forms. Wolfe expresses this vitalistic concept in the section of Antaeus, or A Memory of the Earth where the wife of Furman, her home having just been destroyed in a flood, yearns for an existence apart from all rivers, change, and movement: “Oh God! Just let me live where nothin’ moves! Just let me live where things will always be the same!” Nature’s movement and changes, however,  are inescapable and Wolfe underscores this universal and organic reality when Furman’s wife realizes that her consciousness continues to be lapped by the rivers of life:

I know each sound that comin’ from the River! I hear the willows trailin’ int he River! I hear oak-limbs snagged there in the River! Al my thoughts are flowin’ like the River, all my life is movin’ like the River, I think an’ talk an’ dream just like the River, as it flows by me, by me, to the sea.

Based on their notion that nature acts as a vitalizing agent, with the senses serving as the conduit, the romantics valued emotions not only because they are individualistic and subjective responses, but also because they are the signs and expressions of vitality. According to Kroeber, “Wordsworth treats emotions as the psychic manipulation of sensation, the process by which psychic activity, inner impulse, mingles and coordinates with physical sensation, the reception of stimuli from outside.” Wolfe’s writing suggests that he shared this same belief in the external, sensory-drawn origin of human emotions. Based on this belief, the romantics valued pleasurable feelings the most and “joy” in particular. Wolfe himself speaks reverently of joy: “when a person has in him the vitality of joy, it is not a meaningless extravagance to say that ‘nothing else matters.’ He is rich. It is probably the richest resource of the spirit.” The romantics viewed joy as not only being “at its highest… the sign in our consciousness of the free play of all our vital powers”, but also, according to Coleridge, as the pathway to a state of oneness with the physical world.

And so it is.

Massive Eco

As in, “check out the eco on that chick!” or “He’s got an eco the size of Kansas.”

That is, these don’t refer to a nice set of ta-ta’s but a sort of dialectical framework that, when and where necessary, might be detectable from the outside. You might identify yourself with/by something as benign as carpooling or as radical as making your own clothes. The continuum here is not based on the relative merits of either one in opposition to the other – which may be considered greener, for instance – but in opposition to more conventional, energy-intensive ways of doing things. The question is not does it make a difference, but does it make a difference to you. Because we don’t wake up one day and decide to start looming our own thread; but over time, we do consider things like where we live, how much we can use alternative or mass transit, what kind of roof we are going to invest in for our house, that kind of thing.

Those kinds of choices, where we pause to consider the externalities related to our decisions, are the ones that will send the most durable signals. This flies in the face of green advertising, though it has much the same aim. Instead of a particular product or company, these more-general types of choices begin to play a larger strategic role in cutting down our GHG emissions and getting back to somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 ppm, mainly by establishing multiple routes to these goals.

So, of course I’m joking about ‘massive’ – because it’s more about smaller, individual-scale choices that will have giant ramifications, and effect the public attitudes around you.

The point is, know what you think about this stuff and why you live where you do, buy what you buy (or don’t) – because unless it was your own idea, then it wasn’t and someone gave to you, effectively deciding for you. Whichever side of this point you’re on, everything else flows out from there. By taking some control of what you think and why, you won’t feel so cynical about vain attempts to save the world from far-off problems like those effecting the climate, nor so horribly pained by the antics of the idiot caucus. I promise.

Is Luck a Skill?

This is a crucial point – also crucial, too, is that it does not undermine capitalism but does expose its chief weakness, which itself eerily resembles it’s great strength. Funny that.

Green does not equal smarts or vast expertise, and probably should denote rougher trade qualities like foolhardy gumption. The minute we get too sensible about things is the minute we turn toward convention. The rich we have now are bold mostly in the outlandish links they’re willing to go to protect their winnings, in common parlance. Of course our new billionaire overlords, who believe in nothing so much as their own genius, know nothing but to go into a crouch, expand their fortunes and spend millions to save their billions from the gov’mint. Acute failure of imagination. Symptomatically nouveaux riche – the only question is will they be able to hang onto their green cushions long enough to learn to doubt the perfection of its comfort?