Bad News, Good News

As I have done in the previous blogs, I want to pass along several bits and pieces of environmental news culled from the pages of the monthly Sierra magazine. I will begin with the bad news first, because there is always some of that, and end with the news that provides a glimmer of hope for the planet.

Under the heading of “so what else is new” we find that 55 percent of the Republicans in Congress still deny climate change — and those people are all heavily supported by Big Oil. In the House, there are 128 climate deniers out of the 233 Republicans; in the Senate there are 30 climate deniers out of the 46 Republicans. Those deniers in the House collect $231,000 in contributions from Big Oil (as contrasted with $69,000 for the non-deniers). In the Senate, the deniers collect $699,000 whereas the non-deniers collect $171,000. I suppose we should be grateful that there are some who collect contributions from Big Oil who are willing to admit the truth that stares them in the face. But the correlation between the amount of money from Big Oil and the denial of the truth about our planet is stunning when seen in such detail.

To continue with the bad news for the moment, I shall simply list some of the items Sierra tells us will bring us “Up To Speed” about what’s going on in the world the past couple of months.

Ecuador has abandoned its pledge not to drill for oil in remote Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rain forest.

Fracking is now linked to an increase in U.S. earthquakes — as is geothermal power production.

High fertility rates in Africa have led demographers to revise their estimates of peak world population upwards. They now expect there to be 11 billion people by the end of the century — up from 7.1 billion. (I find this particularly unsettling since, as I have said in the past, I consider the population explosion the fundamental problem facing humankind, and the root of most of our other problems.)

Tons of radioactive water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant have leaked into the Pacific Ocean.

And now for some Good News!

The United States has installed 10 gigawatts of solar capacity, though it still trails Germany, Italy, and China.

The White House has re-installed solar panels put in place by Jimmy Carter and removed by Ronald Reagan.

The World Bank has declared that it will sharply restrict funding for the new coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank has declined to fund a huge new coal plant in Vietnam on environmental grounds.

The Bureau of Land Management lease sale for 149 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin failed to garner a single bid!

So, just when we are about to tear out what little hair we have left, we see faint signs that all humans have not lost their minds. Just remember what Red Green says: “we’re all in this together.” And “Keep your stick on the ice”!

Just Plain Stupid!

Aside from the fact that the Republicans seem intent upon trashing the public education system in this country, there are two items high on their agenda that are just plain stupid. The first is the urge to cut-taxes-at-all-cost mentality that ignores the fact that many of the programs under the axe are essential to the health and well-being of this country and its citizens. At the extreme right end of this pole are the TEA partiers who simply want to slash taxes with no thought for tomorrow. But, as a fellow blogger pointed out in a recent blog, the Democrats are not without blame, either. since they failed to support a bill that would have increased taxes along with the cuts in a 1 to 10 ratio. ” last summer’s Obama/ Boehner 10 to 1 compromise [should have passed] in a heartbeat. . . . That should have been a no brainer..” Clearly, there is waste and there should be cuts. But we must also be willing to pay for the benefits we receive and in many cases desperately need.

The second stupid item on the agenda is the attack on the environment in the name of good business. This is stupid because it rests on the false dichotomy: either we protect the environment or we save jobs. We can do both. But as a recent item in the Sierra magazine points out, this Republican Congress is “the most anti-environmental Congress in history.” It has passed 209 anti-environmental bills in the name of business, while the clean energy industry waits patiently for a sign that they will also receive some of the government’s largess.

But the news is not all bad, as it happens. The American citizens may be waking up slowly. And this is a good thing, because we may not have much time if even the most optimistic predictions of the scientific community are correct. The good news, as also reported in the Sierra magazine, is that electric cars and hybrids are selling at record rates. In addition, electricity generated from coal has “dropped to 36.7 percent in February, the lowest level since 1973.” And in “five states electricity generation from wind now equals or exceeds 10 percent. In South Dakota [of all places!] the figure is 22 percent.” Further, we read that Warren Buffett has thrown his considerable weight and influence behind investing in solar energy. There is hope, and clearly there is also money to be made in clean energy.

That is why these items on the Republican agenda are so stupid: they are short-sighted at a time when we need enlightened leadership and long-term planning to help save the planet and all life on it. The Republicans need to wake up. But so do the Democrats. It is time for the politicians in this country to realize that our priorities in the past have run their course and we need to turn in another direction before it is too late.