by Martin Murie
(Swans - May 18, 2009) Time to get realistic about greenwashing. Definition of greenwashing: What corporate America announces to show that they are good earth-bound citizens.
l. Vehicle mileages: Pathetic. Ford claims over 30 mpg, That won't do a thing to delay our destruction of the planet, and ourselves. Wal*Mart is equally frivolous, claiming they will work on a paltry few mpg increases by their cross-continental trucks. And who's watching to see if they accomplish that in a year, or ten? And why do we need food from huge distances?
2. Carbon sequestration by coal plants: The technology isn't even invented yet that will capture CO2 from smokestacks. And some soils in coal burning country -- most of the states of the union -- are not suited for injection of CO2. But the coal corporations announce merrily that they are ready to put in that technology as soon as it is invented.
3. Wind power: One trouble with wind is that it is fickle. The prairie states have the best opportunity to harness wind, especially if put in by individual farms and isolated dwellings for their own use instead of feeding the grid. Construction and maintenance of industrial wind towers requires lots of oil and gas. When wind dies the power line feeds power to the turbines to keep props turning.
4. Solar: This is promising, but only on the condition that the world uses less electric power rather than more. This is not the case now and the transition period, in years, is not going to save us because solar cannot substitute as an energy source across a transition period. Besides, profit-insistent corporations will do their best to stretch the transition period. The corporate state, which is what we have now, plans for the short term, not to the seventh generation.
5. Tidal power: Limited to high tide areas, as the one in France that backs up water in a river, allowing a dam's sluice gates to close at high tide and allow sea water to flow through turbines.
6. Wave power. Still to be tested.
7. All-electric vehicles: Depends on a revolution in the use of electricity in cities, towns, remote farms, everywhere, so that enough surplus electric power is available in the grids to supply energy to recharge vehicle batteries. However, as with all of the techno-fixes, the transition will take too long.
8. Hydro Power: The Columbia River is nearly all backed up by dams to the Canadian border. All the big rivers have at least one huge dam. These dams produce a significant amount of power and irrigation water, but we're running out of big rivers. The problems here are well known: salmon and other trout spawning runs disrupted, both upstream, and young fish trying to find their way in slack water to the ocean. There are other glitches in these huge systems, including irrigation water for food crops that in turn are shipped long distances to consumers -- huge dependence on oil and diesel fuel.
9. Hydrogen power: This has been talked about for years but the development time is too long. We can't afford those long transitions. It might actually be too late.
There are other harebrained schemes such as spraying stuff into the high atmosphere to reflect solar heat; launching shields to shade the arctic and Antarctic regions. These are pie-in-the-sky schemes that will have collateral effects we are not prepared for, don't even know about.
The fundamental problem with global market economy is that it depends on profits for the short term, and that means mindless exploitation of limited planetary resources, with no consideration at all for future generations. We know that. And we know that the Kyoto accords are way out of date when compared to new findings on the fast pace of climate change. None of the federal or corporate greenwashing announcements are robust enough to even begin to grapple with the earth's vast and complex ecological systems. Let's face it, we don't know enough.
Let's not forget that the Endangered Species Act, signed by Richard Nixon, is a very radical document, one that explicitly requires economic developments to curtail trashing of the planet when that trashing interferes with the restoration of an endangered species' original habitat. That's why the past eight years have been a time of federal bowing down to corporate power. And it helps explain one of Bush's last minute gifts to his corporate buddies, the gutting of the ESA -- no need for developers to consult with scientists of Fish and Wildlife or Oceanic and Atmospheric on habitat conditions.
So, what is to be done? Nothing will be done until a good fraction of world citizens realizes that market systems are a human-created segment of the ecology of the earth. It is not a God-given arrangement. The arrogance of mainline economists, banks, and corporations knows no limits. It leads, and has led, to useless wars where our own species, humans, die by the tens of thousands.
It might be that we will have to get back to the world by way of individual experience to form a sensuous attachment to counteract the false, glib, over-simplified, and cheerful propaganda issued by our own governments and corporations and, of course, the media.
Bonner McCallester writes this on Packrat Books Web site, packratnest.com:
On horseback you notice a lot that you don't get from the view out the windshield, plus there is no radio to make you think you are in Washington or Iraq or some music hall. One thing you notice is the ears of your horse. Another is the way the guard rail is bending your right foot. On one of those rides I was coming home on the north side of the road and noticed yellow ladyslippers. I won't say where. I'd never seen them from the car.
On foot you might miss the ears, but you sure notice a lot more than you do even from horseback. For one thing, you have more time. I had 50 minutes in (to town) and 50 minutes home. That is time enough to see the world around you and spare a little for contemplation. There is no radio, but if you want to think about Washington and Iraq you can. Or you can think about the preponderance of pileated woodpecker workings this year and the fact that the birch twigs are so red already and it's only January. You can notice the sparkling clear crystals of salt on the pavement, like a lot of broken glass, and wonder what happened to the citizens' outcry over such a lot of salt in Monterey, when we used to pride ourselves on Low Salt use.
Maybe, just maybe, we can put our two feet on the good earth and build immunity against the manipulators who build a fake world of personality, narcissism, wealth, deception, lies. If we can do that, we will be ready to build. Time is short, the bell is tolling.
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