Under certain traffic conditions, it's not easy being green.
Yesterday morning, while biking to work, my life flashed before my eyes. Things were already a little hairy as I made my way off the Brooklyn Bridge towards Pearl Street, and a van was pulling, without really looking, straight up against the sidewalk. Okay, that was cool, there’s no bike lane there, and I just went around it…a little less cool when it happened again a minute later with a speedier car, heavy traffic on the left, and oblivious pedestrians walking off the curb for no apparent reason. I went around again, into a blind spot behind a truck – and almost directly into the hood of some freak trying to edge his car into the road without any possible indication that it would be a good idea to do so.
My point is this. I love cycling, I really do. It feels great to get the exercise, I enjoy being able to move on my own around the city, and the eco-cred just can’t be beat. But – and I fully accept that I sound like Calvin’s dad here – there’s really no reason we should have to be second-class citizens on the road. Drivers don’t really respect you, pedestrians don’t really respect you…
Hang on. Maybe I’m not striking the right tone here – let me start again.
I got to thinking the other day after Alan wound up with a vehement comment accusing him of armchair environmentalism because he isn’t out raging against the machine in the streets and because he tends to express reservations about unaccommodating social tactics. Now, to be fair, he and I do spend much of our time in a shabbily awesome armchair (indeed: here I am right now), but there’s more to the story here.
The only way to be green?
The question of how to face up to the machine idols of our civilization has been asked for thousands of years, long before the Industrial Revolution made it concrete – asked by John of Patmos, by Marcus Aurelius, by Machiavelli, by Marx and Nietzsche, by Foucault and Borges, by Thoreau and Muir, and by Edward Abbey. And rage continues to be – as it has always been – only one of the options. Because the funny thing is, like I learned in aikido class, sometimes you have to gracefully use the momentum of your opponent to destabilize him and change his stance.
And I got to thinking: wait a second, I’ve heard this punchline before.
While scatter shooting around Earthday, and wondering how many more times I can hear about cool ideas that are “coming sometime soon” before my head explodes…
This is actually a time when public action matters. Dems and Reps alike are wiffling and waffling on supporting the current Clean Energy Bill put forward by Rep. Waxman and Rep. Markey. They have introduced a really good bill that will jump start the U.S. government regulating things it should have been regulating long ago. I don’t usually subscribe to people pushing out contact your representative requests, but this one is a big deal to me, and it should be a big deal to you. So. Read up on the bill. (or, if you are feeling super motivated, read the actual bill. I like OpenCongress.com for that) Then, click the link below.
Actually, I don’t care that it says it’s from Al Gore, and if you would rather go directly to your congress person that would be even better, but We Can Solve It is a good advocacy group that can use your voice.
This. Legislation. Matters.
Right now, Congress is debating clean energy legislation that will jumpstart our economy and help solve the climate crisis. I’ve joined with Vice President Al Gore and millions of others to show my support — will you?
Please click here to sign our petition in support of this crucial clean energy legislation: http://www.repoweramerica.org/earthday
Update! Everything has been quite on the Please Do These Things for the Environment front for a little while: not a lot of requests or demands from our in-box. That is, until this week, when everyone went CRAZY!
People been demanding all kinds of stuff from us, but the important one seems to be all surrounding the Bailout Package. Now, as we’re sure you all know, everyone is clamoring to get a piece of the big dollars Uncle Sam is about to be throwing around. And on Wednesday, the Obama Package (hehe) got past the House (along VERY partisan lines) and is on the Senate. Well, Green-For-All, 1Sky and WeCanChange are all suggesting that the package contains a lot of cash for the green-collar based plans. If you are interested in some really interesting reading (watch out: time wormhole!) the we recommend scrolling through both the stimulus bill as posted here and some of the comments sections. We aren’t really sure if the Bailout is popular on the left because Obama likes it, or because it’s actually a good Bill, and we aren’t sure if it was unpopular with House Republicans for the same reasons. It doesn’t seem like it’s all that different then what the Bush crew was proposing, yet the battle lines have totally redrawn. Balls to that.
To add our own voice to the hew and cry, the only thing that we would point out is that Republicans seem to have very short memories when it comes to how these things happened and how the economic crisis came about. To say that a Bailout package that gives money directly to industries instead of lowering taxes is “more of the same” or “more of the Liberal silver spoon elite” seems to ignore the fact that deregulation and giving money back to the taxpayers is what got us into this mess. Turns out that giving a tax credit means that poor folk who need it get a few bucks, and rich folk who don’t want to spend it get a lot of bucks. That’s how it works in a vaguely progressive tax system. Also: we don’t like Kool-aid! We were JUST having a conversation last night that the Kool-aid man sort of creeps us out! Please stop accusing us drinking Kool-aid!
But we digress.
The point of all this is that the stimulus bill might be rife with problems, or it might be pretty good. We aren’t nearly smart enough to know. But the Green-Collar economy lobby is strongly behind this Bill, and that’s the point of this site, ain’t it?
He makes some good points (sorry that its dated to before Al testified before Congress. Old news now. The concern has become the Senate, where a Democratic Majority can not carry the weight) and because it’s Al Gore, we clicked on this link and asked our Senators to support the stimulus. But, then again, they are democrats anyway, so we aren’t that worried who’s side they are on.
(interesting side note: the different green mailing lists we are on are starting to compete for time and compete for numbers. One crew offers that they contacted senators “more then 24,000 times!” other are nearing 40K. We wonder how much lobbying power each group can claim to muster, and we wonder how much of that depends on which form letter we choose to send to our senators when we click that button. Also, can you imagine if the New Senator from NY, Gillibrand, DIDN’T vote for the package? Man, would Paterson come off looking like a dick!)
UPDATE: VAN JONES THINKS I AM AWESOME! HE SAYS:
Here are three things we think you’ll be especially excited about in President Obama’s economic recovery plan: 1. GREEN JOBS ACT: $500 Million
In 2007, Green For All and our allies got the Green Jobs Act signed into law. The Act authorizes federal support for green-collar job-training programs. But last year, Congress failed to appropriate the money. Now, President Obama and the House want to invest $500 million in these programs. (YAY!) (Editor note: the YAY was Van Jones, not me!)
But the Senate wants to create a grant program at half that amount, and divide this smaller pie into smaller pieces – by directing the funds to train workers in various industries (not just green ones). (Boo!)
With the support of the President and the House, full funding for the Green Jobs Act finally is within sight. But we need your help to move the Senate.
2. WEATHERIZATION: $6.2 Billion
President Obama’s recovery package contains the largest weatherization investment in history, as well as funding for a number of other programs that will increase the energy efficiency of America’s buildings. Upgrading our buildings so that they protect us better from the weather means we can spend less energy heating and cooling them.
This is the single biggest thing we can do right now to stop global warming. Nothing in the country uses as much energy as our buildings – not even our transportation. And weatherizing won’t just save lots of energy and reduce greenhouse gases – it will also create a ton of new green-collar jobs!
3. DOUBLING RENEWABLE ENERGY
Efficiency is only part of the solution. We also need to replace the fossil fuels we’re burning with renewable energy. The recovery plan is part of that, with plans to double our capacity to generate renewable energy in just three years. Another big job engine!
If you wanted to contrivbute to Van Jones’ power to Lobby Congress (instead of Al’s) you would do that here.
What a SICK logo! We like it almost as much as the LtAG hummer-grill-tree peice!
Suddenly, we are having trouble finding the time to post as much as we would like on this blog. This means two things: one, that The American Green brain-trust are suddenly finding ourselves absurdly busy with other projects, and two, that the promises that we have made in this space have gotten us in a little bit of trouble.
Remember when we said that we would do whatever the “We Can Change It” campaign asked? Well, that’s growing to be a bit of an issue. We’ve written two more letters, placed another phone call, and attended that Green Jobs Now thing. But here’s the real problem: the We camp asked us to sign up for the Green-for-all campaign. We were already on their mailing lists, but because We sent us, (good lord its hard to write in the Royal We like this about We) we felt obligated to start including the Green-for-all requests on the list of things we have to do.
This, in turn, became a problem because they just asked us to buy a book.
It’s a book we are excited to have. Really. It’s the first from The American Green’s main squeeze, Van Jones, and its called The Green Collar Economy. Totally right up our ally, we realize. But now we have to READ the damn thing. And its not like we had a lot of free time kicking around BEFORE. Jeez.
To be serious for a moment: there are suddenly a huge number of people weighing in on the Green Economy. Thomas Freidman is in on the action, and if Amazon.com is to be believed, the market is rife with “other things I might like”. (The American Green institute will never be caught dead promising to do whatever Amazon.com recommends. Good lord.) To our shock and chagrin, however, publishing a book on a subject has yet to be linked to creating any sort of success!!
So, we realize that there are starting to be more and more books trying to capitalize on being green. But this book needs to succeed to be taken seriously, and to succeed it has to be read, and it has to be handed around. We don’t know about the preponderance of other Green Job texts, and we don’t know much about Van Jones as a writer… but we do know that there is no one out there right now that we respect more for a balance of Environmentalism, Secular humanism, Anti-poverty work and general personal charisma.
Starting to look like every other political ad to me. Buzzwords are flying fast and furious, and it doesn’t have the freshness to me that the huge light-switch thing did. Not a BAD ad, exactly, but not one that gets me fired up to give WE any of my loot to help buy air times.
However, instead of our usual nitpicking whine session, this time The American Green institute is going to step up (a little). We are going to try and throw together an entry for this competition on Vemio. Sure, we didn’t find out about this thing until three days before the end of the competition. But, not only will we get something up for that contest, but we will also use this an opportunity to launch a larger discussion point: What would you like to see in these WE videos? In the general green washing of political ads? Are you already getting a little tired of the smokestack V. Windmill breakdown, or is that just us? If you come up with a good idea, we will make it.
We know that we have spent a lot of time complaining on around these parts, but we also are pretty sure that, with everyone who reads this spot’s help, we can come up with something better then everything we’ve seen. Or, if not better, at least funnier.
Discussion questions include: What point needs to be made? What information isn’t out there that needs to be? Got a funny idea, something that’s new and you haven’t seen before? All suggestions would be fantastic, and we will have something up in the next few weeks. Come on, Vaunted Internet! Come up with something besides spam and flame comments!
We don’t watch a lot of TV these days. When we do, we usually watch it on some sorta Tivo, or at the very least, channel surfing around like mad during the commercial breaks. As such, we haven’t managed to get tired of this sweet new ad from We Can Change It, the group that we are trying to join whole hog. Check it out:
Here’s the thing though. It’s the same thing as before. It’s an ad asking for people to go sign up at the website. Which, in turn, means that you are on the list for getting a new ad… that tells you to go sign up on the website. We mean, damn, its a well designed inspiring minute of TV, but it still feels like a pyramid scheme type of thing. We know that we have to wait for critical mass, that that’s the goal of the thing right now, but where does the We Can Solve It crew eventually see this thing going? We hope they are building an email list like the one Barrack Obama is building, like the one that Hillary Clinton is currently holding in reserve. But what we don’t know just yet is what the email lists are eventually used for.
First, the We Can Solve It crew asked me to do something yesterday for the first time. They wrote me an email asking me to write a letter to the editor of my local papers decrying the inability of congress to take some sort of positive action on the energy situation. Not only did the congress get all gridlocked on the Drilling or not Drilling thing, but they also failed to renew the clean energy tax credits. This means that government incentive programs to support the solar and wind industries will expire at the end of this year, much more immediate then the “support our troops” debate that we all remember so well.
So, write I did, and for good measure I also sent it to all of my elected officials. Early returns from the We Can Solve It: I’m feelin’ good, and not yet over-pressured. Here is what I wrote, if anyone wants to forward it themselves, or generally get up in the grill of your congresspeoplez:
Congress needs to stop treating the discussion of Global Warming, and the corresponding urgency of converting to alternative energy, as an issue with two sides. Congress was willing to leave Washington without putting any new plans for a solution into motion, which shows how unable they current system is to deal with something on the scale of our current energy crisis. There is simply no space here for political tit-for-tat compromise; the stakes are higher then that, and every summer break of inaction will lead to long term effects on our climate and our economy.
We, the people, need to inject a greater sense of urgency into the discussion of energy policy. As the congress wastes time debating opening up larger off shore drilling areas, they are failing to recognize the need for a bi-partisan full court press. Their distraction has meant more then simply a lack of forward motion. The inability to renew the clean energy tax credits during this congressional session also means that government incentive programs to support the solar and wind industries will expire at the end of this year. Jobs will be lost as a result of their inaction, and we will take another step back that our country can not afford. We need to call on both candidates and their parties to stop trying to score political points on the drilling issue, and instead realize that they all need to be on the same side to make actual progress in moving our economy to clean energy sources.
Second point: The Europeans seem to be having a different set of problems. The issue here seems to be that the government is being too stringent with the rules for green energy, and the populace is chafing as a result. It’s interesting to watch, especially in light of the reactions I observed amongst New Yorkers in line the other day, how much people don’t want to do something because they have been told to do it. Americans, to date, don’t seem to be rushing to install green fixes like solar panels. However, the mean independent streak amongst our fellow countryman almost guarantees that making a law mandating green home improvements would go over poorly. It seems that the only way the government can really make a positive impact here is by increasing the size of the carrot, not beefing up on the stick. I hope, at some point, that we find a better way of getting people to choose to make these decisions, but it doesn’t look like the German model is something we would ever be able to emulate.