Global Warming is Not an "Environmental Problem"

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Or so say two young environmentalists — Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus — who, a year or so ago, heralded The Death of Environmentalism. They struck a raw nerve by declaring traditional environmentalism a has-been, saying it’s been sidelined politically and that its approach is all wrong.

To paraphrase hugely, this was their premise: global warming is an epic catastrophe-in-the-making. It threatens not just plants and animals (a.k.a “the environment”) but also our jobs, our health, our global security. To fix it, we can’t rely on narrow technical and policy fixes that underpinned environmental successes in the 1960 and 70s. That approach isn’t working anymore. We need radical change: we need to rethink our economy and our culture to survive what global warming will do to our world. And to do that, we need to step beyond the limited definition of “environmental” activism.

Plenty of people disagreed with Shellenberger and Nordhaus (and you can read their challenges here at Grist). But there’s no denying they stirred up some soul-searching in the environmental community. So who’s stepping up to the plate? And what are they going to do? That’s what we want to try to answer this hour by talking with some of the young people who are working on global warming from new perspectives, including people you might not, at first glance, label “environmentalists.”

How do you think we can get people’s attention about the severity & immediacy of this problem? And who have you heard of who’s working on new approaches?

Jon Isham

Environmental economist at Middlebury College.

Working to build a new climate movement.

Michael Shellenberger

Co-author of The Death of Environmentalism.

Co-director of the Breakthrough Institute.

Billy Parish

Dropped out of Yale to fight global warming.

Co-founder and coordinator of Energy Action.

Travelled the country this summer on a biodiesel bus for Road to Detroit.

Founder of the Climate Campaign.

Jihan Gearon

Program associate for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative at Redefining Progress.

Eban Goodstein

Professor of Economics at Lewis & Clark College.

Executive Director of the Green House Network.

Extra-Credit Reading

stopglobalwarming.org

Green House Network

Energy Action

It’s Getting Hot in Here

And a great global warming blog: RealClimate

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  • A little yellow bird

    Global warming IS an environmental problem, amongst many; but it’s not one that human activities are significantly contributing to, from what I’ve read. Volcanoes and other geothermal phenomena account for far more “greenhouse gases” than we do; plus, mother nature has these little cycles every so many thousand years when things heat up and cool down. The ozone layer: now that’s a real problem; and endocrine-disrupting chemicals and pseudo-estrogens, and artificial light at nighttime, which stimulates estrogen production–and depleted uranium, and scumbags who dump their auto fluid waste in the sewer and toss their tv’s and monitors in the swamps; now those are things we could control.

  • ALYB, I do agree that global warming is an environmental problem, and we need to change our economy and culture to lessen the havoc we wreck on Mother Nature.

    I read an interesting book from the other side of this debate. Paul Driessen of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise argues in his book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death that ideological environmentalists are too focused on saving plants and animals that they would rather see thousands of people starve in the developing world. The developing world must spend a lot of money to use clean sources of energy instead of cheaper and more affordable sources like oil and coal. Those in the developing world cannot eat genetically modified food (the European Union is the champion of this effort) because of unproven concerns. He argues that GM food has become safer and more useful as technology progresses… Either way, he questions the whole environmental movement because he feels that it uses psuedo science and scare tactics while the third world languishes. I don’t agree with all that he claims, but his book makes one think.

  • peggysue

    Judi Bari (Earth First!) addressed the issue of placing the environmental movement into a broader context in her brilliant essay ‘Revolutionary Ecology’.

    she begins…

    “Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.”

    Judi Bari 1995

    Judi Bari website

    http://www.judibari.org/`bari_writings_index.html

  • Peter B

    I think there are more implications that go with our changing environment. Last time we had a major climatic change was around 1000 years ago- basically there was a warming trend, so warm that wine was grown on the British Islands, and a ‘mini ice age’. Of all the conclusions, the one that I hold most important is that wars broke out during this cooling period. Perhaps people emmigrated to new, warmer climates in the north during the warming period, and during the ‘mini-ice age’, came back south. Of course this is a period of over 300 years so cultures were changing incredibly.

    If we were to have another ice age, aside from environmental and economic problems I think we would find social problems. I wouldn’t mind Canadians moving into America but I don’t know about my neighbors.

  • I would LOVE to hear Helen Caldicott, one of the greatest Australian environmental activists of all time… now based in Washington DC. email: info at helencaldicott.com

  • peggysue

    According to British scientist Dr. James Lovelock, (Gaia Theory) it is already too late. An article about him regarding global warming appeared in the UK paper ‘Independent’ and is posted on the Common Dreams website. Dr. Lovelock has a new book titled ‘The Revenge of Gaia’ about global warming. He is a scientist/environmentalist who takes a broad view and would be a wonderful guest on this show.

    a quote from the Independent article…

    “The uniqueness of the Lovelock viewpoint is that it is holistic, rather than reductionist. Although he is a committed supporter of current research into climate change, especially at Britain’s Hadley Centre, he is not looking at individual facets of how the climate behaves, as other scientists inevitably are. Rather, he is looking at how the whole control system of the Earth behaves when put under stressâ€?.

    Dr. James Lovelock – ‘We Are Past the Point of No Return’

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0116-06.htm

  • ALYB, sorry to disagree. Global Warming is NOT an environmental problem; it is a human problem. Almost all of the evidence from reliable scientists (those not paid by big oil) points to the impact of human activity on increasing temperatures and the consequential environmental and social impacts (a problem for all of nature, which we shouldn’t forget includes the human species/parasite). Since it is a human problem, we have to change our behavior to solve it. Peak oil and the predicted decline of fossil fuels in the coming few decades will help, but by then it will already be too late for many people. Why do we not take greater action today? Why is solar energy not more cheaply available? Why don’t we ban RUVs? Why do we continue to transport commercial junk (most of the products we think we can’t live without) across the globe so that Wal-Mart can claim it has the cheapest price? Indeed, a radical departure is needed. We think that future technology will solve the problem brought about by present and past technology and that we can ignore changing our social institutions and our social patterns to reign in the harm from some technology. But I don’t think there will be any easy techno fix. We just have to consume less, make cities more environmentally sustainable, share our resources fairly, etc…etc… Does any greedy society have the political will to do this? I am not hopeful since we have mostly embedded leaders–those in tight with the corporate soldiers who protect them from a hard landing. This said, we will all just have to do what we can and keep pushing for social change.

  • George Robertson

    Shelleberger and Nordhaus are dead right.

    Envoronmentalism is dead and lies in the same bottomless hole the word Liberal fell into. As agents of important change and protectors of critical resources and policies, both movements have generally embraced approaches that are rooted in flexible compromising incrementalism. Unfortunatly, they did so little good, for so very long, that we have now have a global tsunami of technological and socio-economic change being implemented, way out in front of any, either broad or deep popular understanding of the real consequences. Now besides shitting globally in our nest, we have runaway concentration of wealth and structural political corruption raping the social contract in America.

    The answer is really pretty simple, we need a global resurection of Socialism and this time we need to paint it bright bright Green and wrap it tightly in responsible economic nationalism. Look South, Venezuela and Bolivia, and a lot of others not quite so in your face, are headed the same way. They are way out in front of us. Look East to northeren Europe, they have been showing us the way for decades. The Democrats won’t take you there. Their on the same payroll as all the other enemys of enlightenment. They simply don’t want to go any where near real change. They are deep in that hole along with the words liberal and the environmentalists The truely sad thing is, they don’t really want to do what it takes to get out.

  • avecfrites

    To motivate policy changes, we have to discuss environmental issues in economic and security terms. Both Katrina and the recent spike in gasoline prices have given us the ability to do this. I believe, however, that we’ll need another Katrina and another jump in gas prices before the anti-science conservatives are forced to yield.

  • peggysue

    If we are waiting for the anti-science conservatives to yield I’m afraid we are doomed. As the world burns they will be clutching their bibles wondering why they haven’t been raptured and blaming gay marriage for the wrath of God.

    The FBI has recently arrested a group of so called “eco-terrorists” (more appropriately called arsonists) for burning down a ski resort and setting SUVs on fire. I’m not defending arson but to me the word eco-terrorist is more accurately used to describe the big oilmen, including Bush & Cheney, who repress scientific evidence in order to stay the course toward global disaster.

  • mvisland3

    Greetings from Martha’s Vineyard. I have a question about the Cape Wind project which wants to build a lot of turbines in the water between Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod that will supposedly provide enough power for 75% of our area. There are many arguments against it, starting with the vision of these things rising up from the ocean to the noise they create and even how the fish will react to their presence. It has divided our community into two sides- those who resist change and feel the ocean is to remain untouched and those who clearly see that we need to think differently in order to promote healthy climate change. Many of us live here because of the natural beauty. How can you all justify a private company altering our landscape which has been a source of comfort for the inhabitants of the Cape and Islands for hundreds of years? It seems to me the young need to educate us older folks on this topic!

  • Cape Wind will jump-start the clean energy industry and mark a major step in the battle against global warming. See more on this in a recent letter to the Cape Codder http://www.townonline.com/brewster/opinion/view.bg?articleid=413583. Also, see the recent discussion on the Daily Grist http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/01/12/capecod/index.html

  • cheesechowmain

    Apologies to Frank Zappa: Environmentalism is not dead, it just smells funny.

  • Brendan

    Hey guys, in the control room here. As we kick off the show, a question: we’re talking about how to re-frame the global warming debate, but a broader question is how to re-frame the word “environmentalist.” To wit, from a paper co-authored by our guest Michael Shellenberger:

    According to a survey of 1,500 Americans by the market research firm Environics, the number of Americans who agreed that, “Most of the people actively involved in environmental groups are extremists, not reasonable people,” leapt from 32 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in 2000.

    So what’s the new word, if “environmentalist” is no good any more?

  • cheesechowmain

    Brendan: In my cynical opinion, the environmental movement needs to hire a small army of Frank Luntz message craft wizards to manufacture the consent that will be amenable to the general public.

  • baggott

    Its funny in a way– Earth Day 1990 (TM) helped to kill radical (meaning “root”) activism, and that is what is needed to address the environmental crisis we are in. By giving people a reusable mug, recycling and a snese that they could make a difference without having to develop an analysis of how the “system” works, the environmental movement of the 1990’s sapped a lot of budding intellectuals and college activists away from the kind of inquiry and activism that leads people to discover the ways that so many social issues are connected– and have been connected throughout history– at along deeper (root) socio-political, economic levels.

  • mbreslow

    Michael Schellenberger is right that global warming demands a new strategy from the environmental movement. But I think his statement that we need to stop talking about limiting consumption and talk instead about new types of consumption is largely wrong. In fact, the environmental movement has been using his rhetoric, saying people don’t need to sacrifice their lifestyle – just use renewable energy and buy hybrids.

    Yes, advanced technology will help, but we also need to stop being as consumptive as we are — Americans cannot all have huge houses and drive hybrid SUV’s, and expect that global warming emissions will fall. We need to conserve energy — and that will probably take higher energy prices.

    Marc Breslow

    Executive Director, Mass. Climate Action Network, http://www.MassClimateAction.org

  • baggott

    This is where your commentator is missing the boat…

  • baggott

    …so much environmental activism on campuses is band aid stuff.

  • baggott

    Reduce, re-use and recycle… and keep buying oil from Exxon-Mobil while wondering how THIS President ever got elected.

  • baggott

    Or why foreign policy towards Argentina is the way it is. Environmentalism became the opiate for the middle class masses of college students who were looking for a way to change the world before entering the corporate world… not judging– I did sort of the same in my own way.

  • baggott

    Changing light bulbs…

  • jaycurley

    This is an excellent conversation. I just finished reading a booked called “Cradle to Cradle”. (http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm) This book was written in 2002 and really hits a lot of these points. The one problem I have with it and the topic tonight is I just do not have faith that we can move the general population until it is too late.

  • baggott

    The environmental “movement” of the 1990s killed root thinking about the interconnectedness of all of these issues and now we reap the benefits of long-life lightbulbs and wonder why the environmental movement is dead and why we are losing our constitutional rights. I am a consumer too… but the irony is grand!

  • I have not heared at any point in this open source the ability to take personal action in helping to fight global warming. There are many ways the general public can become part in fighting climate change. I work for a small vermont owned renewable energy company by the name of NativeEnergy. It’s great they are now focusing more on this issue, and just tuned in at the right time. Go to http://www.nativeenergy.com to learn how you can offset your CO2 emissions from your house, car and your lifestyle. Lets spread the word that it is easy for everyone to help fight global warming. I would call in if I could! heh can you call into open source??

  • hannah

    In the 70s, there was a strong movement to create community based solutions to environemental and energy issues that related to people’s everyday lives. This movement was very nearly systematically dismantledin the 80s. One significant factor in that dismantlement was the Reagon administration. Another was the ego-driven power plays within various environmental groups themselves itself as they latched onto “causes” and lost sight both of communities and of the interweaving of the various parts of community life. Some evidence of this tendency shows in a few of the posts above. What began to dominate was the view of the environment as separate from the immediacy of human lives in this country, and many environmental groups defined themselves as crusaders whose mission was to save selected parts of the environement, as they defined it.

    The community based movement has not died– it is still alive, has continued to influence decisions at the individual and community level, and I think is now starting to experience a resurgence.

    Global warming is a large issue with intensely intimate consequences at the personal and community level. What we need to recognize is that choices at the local and community level CAN make differences– and that these choices are economic choices, choices about forms of consumption (humans have always been comsumers), they are political choices in terms of energy production, transportation choice. These changes begin and end at the local and personal level– federal legislation can help or hinder, but will not create the change. WE do.

  • Rycke

    We the people can move ahead regardless of what the government does. All you have to do is convince the people, individually.

    The best thing the government can do is get out of the way, and do nothing but repeal a lot of laws that restrict human ingenuity and violate our rights. Spending tax money on the problem forces people to fund ideas they may not agree with.

  • brosenmass

    I love hearing that so many people realize that there are better, more exciting ways to combat apathy towards “environmental” issues! What ever happened to our “Yankee ingenuity!?” We should all be out there trying to come up the next clean fuel source that can be produced within our borders, patented, and become the focus of a new entreprenurial company. And, yes, the problem is Washington, not in the rest of the U.S.A. We have two parties that sound exactly the same, and a Congress turn-over rate lower than that of the Soviet politburo! Do you think they have any clue about what their constituents want?

  • baggott

    Let me get this straight– make capitalism green and moral? Isn’t that against its nature? Not preaching… I am a capitalist… but only by necessity I guess. I would like to be a farmner maybe… ; ) Great show guys!

  • Rycke

    I want to be a farmer one of these days too, and build a U-pick garden, but capitalism is the only way to do it and stay in business. Capitalism, when it is done right, is moral. Farming, when it is done my way, is totally green.

    That is to say, Natural Farming, also known as Do-Nothing Farming. (Inspired by The One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka, Rodale Press, 1975.) No tilling, no chemicals, mulch gardening. I’ve been developing my techniques for the last 25 years, more intensively the last 5 years as a professional Natural Gardener.

    One major source of globe-warming methane is rice paddies, most of them in Asia. Fukuoka’s rice growing method floods the paddies for only a week, long enough to sprout the rice, instead of the whole season, and the rice grows in a ground cover of white clover. The yield of grain is as great, but the yield of straw is half that of fertilized, flooded paddies. The straw is spread back in the field, and barley is grown through the winter.

    Fukuoka’s techniques lend themselves to small, unmechanized farms like many of those in Southeast Asia. His book came out 30 years ago. His ideas need to be spread.

  • Potter

    I ran across this quote from E. OI Wilson today coincidentally:

    “Perhaps the time has come to cease calling it the “environmentalist” view, as though it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view.”

  • hannah

    Farmers are capitalists too. There is a difference between capitalism (investing capital to make a return, which can happen at many scales– and farming is no exception). The kind of supranational megacorporation control of resources and decision making that passes for capitalism in our culture. This is not capitalism as it has ever been understood. Most of us are not capitalists in any real sense of the word. Yes, some of us have money invested in banks or pension funds, and that money is invested for us. Some of us may own stock directly, but unless you own huge amounts of stock, you have no control over how it is used. Your money is being used for you.

    My power company (I grew up in Oregon, live in Vermont now) offers optional “cow power” at slightly higher than its regular rates. This supports locally produced methane-generated electrical power, and helps keep our dairy farmers in business. I am an active supporter of the small windfarms currently being proposed in our state. I buy local food, often from the producer, at most one step away–and the supermarket in our village is starting to carry local, because people are asking for it. This means less fuel used to produce and transport food, and our community is becoming more interwoven. We have an active re-use network– keeping stuff out of landfills and providing materials to low income people and nonprofit organizations. I belong to a local credit union.

    And yes, I am a capitalist in the smallest sense of the word, being partly self-employed, working at home using my investment in the very computer I am typing on. I work part-time, and am able to work at home some of that time. I walk to and shop at my locally owned bakery, bookstore, market, cafe, hardware store. I know my town officers by name. And they know me, because I go to meetings, and work with other members of my community to make decisions about what our community is going to look like and how it will function. I know what issues affect my community, and I know that they are part of my grandchildren’s future, whether they live here or on the other coast (some do).

    These are personal choices about consumption and how I live that can make a difference. I think that is what this is about.

  • baggott

    Well stated. I live in Grand Isle– where are you?

  • A great spike in oil prices–$200/300 a barrel (which isn’t unlikely with the growth in China and India and continued over-consumption in OECD countries (especialy the US & Canada)–will reframe the environmental movement. Unfortunately, it will also reframe the social security issue. With such a rise, especially if sudden because of fear in the market, many companies will go under. Stores will not be able to get their usual deliveries. People will be without jobs, food, heating and desparate. The chaos in New Oreleans may seem like a coxswain next to a sumo wrestler. A less consumptive way of life at this point might seem like a lightbulb–or should I say candle–in the dark.

  • Rycke

    Baggot, who are you asking?

  • Coffee01

    I definitely think there is a need to rethink the environmental movement and try to get the public and politicians to take climate change seriously. But I thought Shellenberger’s remarks were off the mark. He sounded more like he wanted to discredit the environmental movement of the past 4 decades than try to take it in a new direction. He sounds more like a right-winger trying to throw sand in the gears. Maybe there is no conspiracy, only true belief in the market. Shellenberger and others believe that the profit motive must be paramaount for environmental protection to succeed. I’d propose that love of place, spiritual connections to nature, and desire for personal security is the motivation that will work for people, as it has for many of environmentalism’s triumphs. That is entirely missing from his critique.

  • peoplestank

    I wonder how such new thinking can be applied to the population issues, which no one seems to want to discuss in regards to global warming and sustainable development.

  • Nikos

    re: WIND POWER

    GreenTagGuru, please comment on what follows.

    For decades on American farms, small windmills pumped water from wells into cisterns. It’s likely we’ve all seen these rusty multi-bladed eyesores on drives through the countryside. Then, in the 50’s and 60’s, another kind of eyesore began defacing the (already ugly suburban) landscape where the farms once spread: TV antennas fixed to chimneys. What’s the connection?

    Well, if we want to drastically reduce our fossil fuel consumption, why not provide an installment-cost tax write-off for power-generating wind-turbines atop the millions of American roofs?

    And why am I the only person I’ve ever heard suggest this?

    It can’t be unthinkable, can it?

    Think of how satisfying it would be to generate your own electricity, for free. All you’d have to do is install some sort of bird (and bat) guard.

    GreenTagGuru, can this happen?

  • ghomsy

    Why be so hard on Shellenberger? He’s not really “contradicting” himself, though he may have strange choices of words sometimes.

    He’s just advocating a progressive approach to environmental politics, rather than a regressive one. He argues that human nature and the free market have rejected regressive approaches as being restrictive, and that a progressive approach based on innovation and progress is what we need to get people on board a sustainable environmental agenda.

    That’s all.

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: Your concern for the birds is touching! I’ve suggested to my professional-conservationist brother (www.scenichudson.org) a sort of radio frequency repellent for us birdbrains to keep our tailfeathers out of those big wind farm turbines in major migration paths. The same could go for these small individual units you describe. BTW, you could not only squeeze your own free, fresh juice out of the wind (and sun!), but even sell excess back to the grid, thereby making your meter run backwards, and producing a small profit for yourself–it is done by some.

  • Peter B

    I think the idea of ‘nature’ needs to be redefined before we can get the message across to others that our environment is exaulted. I’m thinking of the negative connotations to ‘nature’: such as the wilderness, and the depictions of nature of which we can not understand.

    There is a common misunderstanding I believe that we are above nature, in ways that it is justified that we can do what ever we see fit to make our lives perfect. The environment, migratory birds and herds, other animals and what not, seem to get second rates, and Americans get a range of rates usually higher than nature, as if there is a caste and it is including nature (with humans at the top).

    Maybe what we need is better, more intuitive technology that gives us energy without the hazards of disrupting nature. But in my opinion this is a multi-step process, one that involves finding inovations to get energy without ‘harming’ nature. I believe that wind turbines do not harm nature, though they do disrupt it. Oil, Gas and Chemical power plants on the other hand harm nature, and it would be best to tackle this issue first, while keeping in mind that there many issues on all sides of this debate (including social issues).

  • Nikos

    ALYB: on selling back to the grid, yes, just so. This could be why I never hear this idea from anyone but me: because the Detriot Energies, Consolidated Edisons, and Puget Sounds Energies of the nation won’t tolerate thier electrical production monopolies to be diffused into the hands of their plebian consumers.

    Scoundrels.

    All the more reason to agitate for it, hmmm?

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: Wait, so does this mean you’re going all anarcho-capitalist on me now, eschewing your insupportable socialism worship?

  • Nikos

    Huh? Who sez it’s ‘insupportable’?

    Speaking of words, today I heard the prez say: ‘ar-tick-you-late’. Din’t no he noo that 1.

    Guess he dint get thru Yale completely uncantaminated, eh?

    Leest you noo inglanders dint make him into a librel.

  • Awfki

    Was it just me or was the host attacking Michael Shellenberger? He seemed really argumentative with Shellenberger and more relaxed with everyone else. Is there some grudge going on that we don’t know about?

  • metolius8

    Though the program ended the issue rolls on. Two nights ago I attended a speech by James Howard Kunstler (the long emergency) and he wakes us up to the rality that things are going to be VERY different in the future (near future, folks). We need, as citizens and a world society, to prepare for that reality, all the while doing what we can to minimize our negative impact on the globe. Oil has already depleted to the point where it can’t continue support the existing users, let a lone a world where the Chinese are only just begining to use it. Oil has peaked as an energy source and there is noting we can do, including raiding the Alaska refuge, to change that reality. In fact, postphoning it only has the negative impact of preventing us from getting ready for a world with out oil.

    Falicies: We can ‘tech’ our way out of this; we can conserve our way out of this; we can win some cosmic lottery and get out of this….

    While we consider what it is we are doing to the earth, we had better get ready for what it is doing to us, as we run out of the energy that drives the world as we know it. Capitalism/trade/transportation/business/life will look different is a post oil world. Everyone is encouraged to consider how they will offer value and community in the new world order.

    All of this presumes that the bombs don’t drop. But hey, I am optimistic.

  • Nikos

    Sometimes I wish the biblical Rapture-hoax were true. That way at least the zillion Revelation-believers would fly up to the clouds, leaving the rest of us to dismanlte the God-gave-the-earth-to-humans paradgim that the corporatocracy uses to justify its parasitism.

    But no, it’s a hoax.

    Wind power, baby! NOW!

    (What happened to GreenTagGuru?)

  • metolius8

    Nikos:

    You weren’t listening. There isn’t enough land and water on which to place wind turbines to replace the energy (and products) produced by Oil. It’s over man…get used to it and prepare for a world without oil. Or go Jimminy Cricket skipping on wishing on star that things weren’t they way they are.

  • Nikos

    metolius8:

    If you go about 10 posts back, you’ll see that I was talking about wind turbines as a home power generation option. I’m not advocating ‘wind farms’. I AM advocating non-fossil fuel power production — naively perhaps, yes, but hopefully, and seriously.

  • A little yellow bird

    Flying windmills in the jetstream! http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004052.html (Found at BoingBoing.net)

  • Nikos

    ALYB: thanks for the link!

    My first reaction was ‘this must be an early April fools joke’.

    My second was: ‘this is so bizarre it might just be true!’

    Either way, it’s well worth the little time it takes to read it.

    I therefore enthusiastically second ALYB’s recommendation:

    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004052.html

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: I should have saved, and then posted, my brother’s e-mailed reaction to that article. He’s a professional conservationist, and he pointed out threee objections usually made to windmill power: something like, 1. ugly (these’d be out of sight); 2. mah homies, da birds, won’t be made into canary sausage way up there; and 3. no noise issue way up there. Psyched! Sorted! Groovalicious! Oh, barkeep, another round for the good guys, s’il vous plait…

  • Nikos

    ALYB: I immediately noted all three of those too-good-to-be-true advantages. And then thought: can they really DO this? They seem serious.

    How cool it would be!

    (Or is boing boing a joke site?)

    Oh, and would’ya order me a vodka and soda, pleeze? With lemon, not lime.

    Thanks…

  • A little yellow bird

    “Nikos”: No, it’s a real story. I’m saying my brother noted what is good and workable about windmill 2.0. BTW, BoingBoing is both serious and fun. They are uber-geeks who blog beyond my ken on serious hack issues.

  • elphaba

    Last weekend I took my kids to Portland to the Science Museum. I decided to try the mass transit system. The kids like busses and Portland is supposed to have a good transit system. It took us about 45 minutes going to the museum in the morning and a little over an hour coming back in the afternoon. We had long walks in the rain and long cold waits. I could have driven to the museum in less than 15 minutes. Next time we drive.

    Mass transit is going to continue to be a dead proposition until the systems are made more competitive timewise with travel by car. I know the Sacramento area in California, gutted an excellent bus system to support light rail.

    There is a proposal by Arnold in California to get solar panels on every roof, or at least that is the talk. It would certainly make sense. Thousands of acres are going under subdivisions, we could at least generate some electricity from the roofs. What about the parking lots at the big box strip malls? They could even provide shade.

    Educate and make incentives for developers to orient houses with south facing windows with the proper overhangs. That’s passive solar gain. Its simple and it works.

    What about some sort of wood burner that creates electricty and burns cleanly? I live on 100 acres with 80+ acres that need thinning to make it a healthy forest.

  • Nikos

    elphaba: if you haven’t already discovered the concept that goes under the curious name of ‘permaculture’, then click this link and begin to explore:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=permaculture

  • Peter B

    elphaba:

    I think mass transportation is an issue that would take… honestly I don’t know what it would take but it’s a long haul. First of all, the US is so wide, that -other than major inner cities- mass transportation would become difficult to maintain. I think due to geographic conditions, we have some difficulties maintaining a good form of public transportation.

    The first step in my opinion would be to reconstruct all major non-highway road ways and create cycle paths on all of these major road ways and more rail trails. I witnessed this in Nagoya Japan, and I felt a whole lot more comfortable riding there…

    There are some drawbacks of course. I know many people who drive over 15 miles or more to get to work… up and down hills and what not… As far as Massachusetts is concerned, I make a plan when I have summer classes. I drive from my house to the Bedford Bike Depot, and bike from there to either Alewife Station or Porter Square and lock my bike. Thats about 20 miles car + bike, and I use my bike for about 12 miles or so.

    On this matter of bicycles- does anyone know a good store in Massachusetts that sells inexpensive bicycles? It seems that more and more stores are catering to the people who want to buy $800 bikes. I could buy a good bike in Japan for about $100 flat!

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  • elphaba

    Nikos: I have heard of permaculture and that is what I am aiming for, I think. The hard thing is to get a market for products. Then of course there is the danger that if there is a good market for small diameter timber, all of it will be stripped, leaving bare hillsides with streams of mud flowing down into the streams and rivers. Last spring I took the kids on a trip up the Oregon coast, going through the Roseburg area. I saw thousands of acres of stripped hillsides and rivers running mud.

    PeterB: Yes mass transit has problems in much of the US. I would love to see expansion of bicycle travel. I rode a bicycle through a crowded Chinese city with a guide once and it was one of my great experiences, though not a particularly safe one.

    I think improving gas mileage and emmissions is critical. I did hear a good arguement from a libertarian sort of person that a big gas tax would be the most effective way because the market would decide the most efficient vehicles.

    Rising gas prices has the most effect on what people drive.

  • Nikos

    elphaba: the main reason I cited permaculture is because it advocates and designs many, many energy-wise ideas beyond the purely agricultural — like fruit-growing yards instead of lawns and like your solar collectors over parking lots — which could make you into a hero among the permaculture club should they have not yet heard the idea!

    I suppose I might have offered you something more substantial than the google results, but it was late. Sorry!

    So, again I will advocate giving it a close look. I used to have a big hardcover permaculture book, but had to give it back to its real owner, and now can’t recall its title or author. I do know, however, that permaculture is a big enough (and valued enough) movement to have spawned a magazine or two.

    Anyway, good luck!