09 November 2008

Let Every Voice be Heard

Truth be told, NaBloPoMo became more of a NaBloPoWe (National Blog Posting Week). I will still post regularly, but I do have other work taking up my time. My internal reflections about the current state of our environment, agricultural policies, the food on my table are endless, so I will make an effort to lend voice (a silent cyber blog voice) to these thoughts on a regular basis.

It seems that our new president-elect has inspired any- and everyone with an agenda to put forward their ideas, hopes and demands for the next administration. I find it absolutely beautiful that with this election Americans have realized that their voices do matter and their opinions count. The eco-foodies and environmentalists have wasted no time to express the urgency of their mission. I already quoted Willie Nelson's open letter on behalf of Farm Aid. My friend and food-activist Paula posted her letter to the Obama administration at Civil Eats. Even before the election Michael Pollan wrote his open-letter to the next farmer-in-chief.
And now Al Gore has published an Op-Ed in the New York Times, "The Climate for Change." You can read the entire piece following that link, but let me provide a few highlights. Firstly, he spells out the world's primary endowment as "the integrity and livability of the planet." He presses the urgency of the environmental crisis and underlines that facts that support its existence for any skeptics. Despite the tragic nature of the current state and trajectory of the environment, he does offer some good news in that "the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis." For those who believe that at a time like this, soft issues like the environment have to take the back shelf, he clearly shows how closely linked the economy and our environmental policy really are. He concludes his piece with a tidy five step plan:

"First, the new president and the new Congress should offer large-scale investment in incentives for the construction of concentrated solar thermal plants in the Southwestern deserts, wind farms in the corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas and advanced plants in geothermal hot spots that could produce large amounts of electricity.

Second, we should begin the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid for the transport of renewable electricity from the rural places where it is mostly generated to the cities where it is mostly used. New high-voltage, low-loss underground lines can be designed with “smart” features that provide consumers with sophisticated information and easy-to-use tools for conserving electricity, eliminating inefficiency and reducing their energy bills. The cost of this modern grid — $400 billion over 10 years — pales in comparison with the annual loss to American business of $120 billion due to the cascading failures that are endemic to our current balkanized and antiquated electricity lines.

Third, we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.

Fourth, we should embark on a nationwide effort to retrofit buildings with better insulation and energy-efficient windows and lighting. Approximately 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from buildings — and stopping that pollution saves money for homeowners and businesses. This initiative should be coupled with the proposal in Congress to help Americans who are burdened by mortgages that exceed the value of their homes.

Fifth, the United States should lead the way by putting a price on carbon here at home, and by leading the world’s efforts to replace the Kyoto treaty next year in Copenhagen with a more effective treaty that caps global carbon dioxide emissions and encourages nations to invest together in efficient ways to reduce global warming pollution quickly, including by sharply reducing deforestation."
Is the country ready for this? Is America prepared to become a role model in environmental policy? Are Americans willing to reconsider their relationship to the environment and alter some of their more wasteful habits? I hope the answer to these questions is a resounding "yes," but I have my doubts. However, by electing Obama, Americans proved that they are ready for change and they want our country to move away from its old, destructive ways. I'm doing my part; are you?

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