Let's Get Real, Eh? | Freyne Land
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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Let's Get Real, Eh?

Posted By on Sat, Apr 14, 2007 at 8:10 AM

click to enlarge mckibben_1.jpg
*UPDATED 4:15 p.m.

"Where I live on the east coast, if I want to eat a head-of-lettuce today, to bring one calorie of that lettuce back east from California takes about 36 calories of fossil energy, to grow it and to transport it.

"I can eat close to home for a lot less energy, and in the book describe the winter my family and I spent eating out of the valley where we live in northern Vermont."

That was Ol' Bill McKibben from Ripton, Vermont being interviewed Friday evening on PBS by Ray Suarez. In case you didn't know, today, April 14, 2007, is the day a whole lot of Americans in every state in America have decided to STEP IT UP,  no more sitting on our hands watching Big Oil, Coal & Gas complertely destroy the atmosphere we depend on for survival.

Bill wrote the landmark book on the climate-change horror we've successfully been ignoring for decades - The End of Nature (1989). But Bill is a whole lot more than a brilliant author and writer. He's for real. A regular guy, too. One who is an inspiration to many of us.

They still haven't posted the script at pbs.org so here's a taste off the ol' "Freyne Land" tape recorder:

SUAREZ: "So do you want people to pay a different amount of money for biting into that Chilean plum in February or have them do without it all together?"

McKibben: "Well, I think in a sense the answer’s sort of the same. In the end, all of the work that you’ve been talking about all week with people figuring out how we’re going to deal with global warming, has something to do with changing the price of energy. We need very much to make the cost of coal and gas and oil reflect the incredible damage it’s now doing ecologically.

"And if we do that then things will start to change, in some ways, of their own accord. We won’t be flying in fresh fruits and vegetables from around the globe. We won’t be ordering take-out from 2000 miles away every night. Instead we’ll be rediscovering how much we can do closer to home.  Food’s just one example."

SUAREZ: "What are some of the others?"

click to enlarge mckibbensuarez.jpg
McKIbben: "Well, you can make to same argument with almost any commodity you can think of.  Think about energy itself. We’re use to, like food to think about it as a very centralized thing., you know Exxon-Mobil and Peabody Coal provide our btu’s and our electrons.

"But it doesn’t need to work that way.

"The roof on my house in Vermont has solar panels on it. They’re tied into the grid. When the sun comes out, I’m a utility. I’m sending electrons down the line for other people to use. My neighbors fridge runs off the sunlight falling on my shingles. When the cloud goes over, I suck electricity up the grid myself.

"In the end, not only is that a lot better ecologically , but it allows a much more durable form of energy than the one we have at the moment."

SUAREZ: "But I’m wondering if you aren’t asking for something that’s just too big for people to do since we’ve spent so long building this other life? There are people watching you right now, sitting in a chair that was made in Asia, drinking a glass of orange juice  from an orange grown in Brazil, watching you on a TV that was made in Singapore. And you’re asking that person to now think locally?"

McKibben: "I should say first that I’m not the absolute biggest optimist that there ever was. I mean, I wrote a book called The End of Nature, the first book that there was about this crisis. I’m not certain it’s going to come out right. I know however that the physical forces we’re confronting are so large that we’re going to have to start changing some things if we have any hope of dealing with them."

SUAREZ: "So there’s one set of arguments that goes to Americans, the most intense users of fossil fuels on the globe. What do you say to aspirational Indians and Chinese who are seeing in this globalized economy, the possibility of climbing into the world middle class and living a lot better than their parents and grandparents did?"

McKibben:
"A lot of the book takes place in China where I’ve done a lot of reporting in recent years. It’s the perfect question. They aren’t to blame yet for the global-warming crisis that we confront. We’ve been doing this for 100 years and getting rich in the process. We’re going to need to help them figure out some other path toward development. It can’t look exactly like ours because there simply isn’t enough atmosphere to make that possible.

"But unless we give them some real options. And unless we reengage in the international discussion that we’ve dropped out of for the last six years, then there’s very little chance of getting this right in the end."

SUAREZ: "In the reporting in your book, you point out that simply  stopping the increase in the amount of emissions put into the air, not only isn’t it enough it’s not even close to enough. How do we not just stop the increase, but turn it around and start decreasing in order to have any effect on the wider environment?"

McKibben:
"
And the problem’s even harder than you imagine because we just don’t have to do it, we have to do it darn fast - something like the next 10 years, according to the best science.

click to enlarge b_mckibben2.jpg
"Look, the only way it’s going to happen is if we have strong political movement in this country demanding that kind of change. So far, Congress has been embarked on a 20-year bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing and it’s been highly successful.

"That’s why Saturday [TODAY] we’re having 1350 demonstrations in every state in the union around the country - the biggest demonstrations on climate change that there yet have been. People are joining together to ask that Congress commit to cutting carbon by 80 percent by 2050 with the hope that we can send a really strong signal, a really strong signal to anyone anticipating any kind of investment in the next 40 years, any kind of economic planning, they better not count on carbon [being] the free good that it’s been for the last hundred."

Amen.

Thank you, Bill McKibben....for being you!

And yes, mon ami, you are making a difference.

*UPDATE:

Hey, Billy-Boy was also on Democracy Now Friday - available here to listen to or watch. He was in the zone. Focused:

"If you poll Americans as people have done since the end of World WarII, asking them are they happy with their lives, the number who saythat they are very happy peaks in 1956 and goes downhill ever since.Now, that was before I was born so I missed what was ever going on in1956.

click to enlarge demnow_mckibben.jpg
But the tragedy of it is that that downward curve coincides withan upward curve of about – we’re about three times as rich as we werein the late 50s. We have three times as much stuff. If what we think weknow about economy was true, those two curves, satisfaction andprosperity should move in somewhat the same direction. That they aremoving in opposite directions, really should lead us to ask some prettystiff questions, and should lead us also not to fear the kind of worldthat we are going to need to create to deal with the environmentalproblems that are at hand, a world with much more localized economies,and much stronger communities, and much more emphasis on belonging andmuch less on belongings."

"Very happy" peaks in 1956, eh?

Well, that may be before Mr. McKibben's arrival, but not mine.

In fact, 1956 was the year when I first set foot in Burlington, Vermont. A six-year-old back seat passenger in the Freyne Family Mercury that summer with big brother and big sister. Mom drove. Dad sat in the front seat with the road map, the newspaper and an endless supply of Pall Malls to puff on.

You couldn't buckle up even if you wanted to.

Very happy?

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

More by Peter Freyne

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