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An Action Request: Emails to Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Fatih Birol

 
Bill McKibben by Nancie Battaglia, High Res
Bill McKibben by Nancie Battaglia, High Res (Photo credit: 350.org)

In my two previous posts, Global. Warming. and Responses to Bill McKibbben, I referenced an excellent recent article by Nicholas Arguimbau.

Mr. Arguimbau now has a request. Since governments and industry are doing nothing about global warming, and are likely to continue doing nothing, we the public are left with only one option – direct individual and collective reductions in CO2 emissions. And, according to Mr. Arguimbau, it is Bill McKibben that needs to lead the charge. The request from Mr. Arguimbau is below, under the blue line.

And below that (under the Red Line) is the text from an email exchange I had with Mr. Arguimbau. Your comments are welcome.

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Arguimbau writes:

You may have read Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone about global warming. Bill may be our “last best hope,” and his article is carefully thought out, but he leaves out something essential: the importance of individual and collective energy conservation NOW. You may also wish to read “Bill McKibben is Wrong. We must not forget that ‘We have met the en....’ ” (featured in Countercurrents Editor’s Picks). Are you and everyone whose attention you can get by forwarding this email going to join me pestering Mr. McKibben, Mr. Hansen and Mr. Birol about telling people to radically cut their CO2 emissions because it can’t wait and just because it’s the right thing to do? We’ve tried for some centuries to be mean and selfish on principle, and look where it’s gotten us. Time for a “paradigm shift,” as is said way too much. The critters that bury nuts and later can’t find them, so the nuts grow into nut trees, aren’t being stupid – whether they know it or not they are being generous to future generations. It’s something they got through Darwinian evolution, so we can do it too.

There follow sample emails to Bill McKibben, and to James Hansen and Fatih Birol. You can modify them however you please. If you help out, please send a bcc of whatever you write to narguimbau@earthlink.net

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TO: Bill McKibben, mckibben.bill@gmail.com

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to change the direction you seem, based upon your wonderful Rolling Stone article, to be taking to deal with the issue of global warming. Specifically, I believe a focus on energy conservation is essential. That should be self-evident but is not at all the direction you seem to be taking. In your Rolling Stone article you stated that you have no intention to try to persuade the public to conserve. Although in a follow-up letter to supporters you have referred to a broader range of issues, you also appear in Rolling Stone to be planning on a focus exclusively on private oil companies, excluding attention to the publicly-owned companies or to the producers of coal and natural gas. The difficulty with the focus only on private oil companies is in my opinion self-evident. The difficulty with letting consumers off the hook is, as I see it,

1. You can’t reduce emissions without reducing emissions.

2. No meaningful government program for emissions reduction (such as Mr, Hansen’s carbon tax) can be adopted as long as the people are collectively opposed to meaningful emissions reductions on their own part.

3. Programs to which the fossil fuel industry is opposed are not going to occur as long as the public is collectively and freely giving the industry trillions of dollars per year to continue producing fossil fuels.

 So I am afraid that the direction you seem to be headed is not going to work, and certainly not as fast as the crisis demands.

 You may be our “last best hope.” But you need to change direction and difficult as it may appear, persuade the public as a central part of your campaign that substantial reductions in emissions are needed NOW, from them. With Greenland melting and with a severe climate-induced food shortage looming, there has been no better time than now to convince the public that they must change their ways, and there is not enough time to wait for intransigent governments to reverse the constantly-increasing CO2 emissions.. The time is NOW, and only the public can move that quickly.

You have a very strong base of support, and therefore should not limit your approaches to those found acceptable by traditional funding sources.

The direction of your campaign needs to be “Emissions reductions NOW.” The recent scientific report predicting that the United States is facing a century-long extreme drought, unavailable when you wrote the Rolling Stone article, makes that clear, and we have no better opportunity than now to convince the public.

Sincerely,

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TO: james.e.hansen@nasa.gov <james.e.hansen@nasa.gov>; fatih.birol@iea.org <fatih.birol@iea.org>

The purpose of this letter is to ask you to bring your influence to bear on the direction being taken by opponents of global warming to deal with the issue, and specifically assist in showing the leadership that a focus on energy conservation is essential. That should be self-evident but is not at all the direction being taken. You may already have read my take on what is happening in the latest Energy Bulletin: “Bill McKibben is Wrong. We must not forget that ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.’ “

Countercurrents, http://www.countercurrents.org/arguimbau300712.htm,

Countercurrents Editor’s Picks, http://www.countercurrents.org/editorspicks.htm,

Energy Bulletin, http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-07-31/bill-mckibben-wron...

In his Rolling Stone article he stated unambiguously that he has no intention to try to persuade the public to conserve. He also appears to be planning on a focus exclusively on private oil companies, excluding attention to the publicly-owned companies or to the producers of coal and natural gas. The difficulty with the focus only on private oil companies is in my opinion self-evident. The difficulty with letting consumers off the hook is, as I see it,

1. You can’t reduce emissions without reducing emissions.

2. No meaningful government program for emissions reduction (such as Mr, Hansen’s carbon tax) can be adopted as long as the people are collectively opposed to meaningful emissions reductions on their own part.

3. Programs to which the oil industry is opposed are not going to occur as long as the public is collectively and freely giving the oil industry trillions of dollars per year to continue producing fossil fuels.

So I think that the direction Mr, McKibben is headed is not going to work, and certainly not as fast as the crisis demands.

Mr. McKibben appears to be sincere in his efforts, and is in any event our “last best hope.”. But he needs to change direction and persuade the public as a central part of his campaign that substantial reductions in emissions are needed NOW, from them. With Greenland melting and with a severe climate-induced food shortage looming, there has been no better time than now to convince the public that they must change their ways.

It would not surprise me if McKibben has difficulty finding support for conservation efforts among traditional funding sources. However, at this time he has such a strong following among the general public that he should be able to cut loose from prior constraints.

There are, at least to my limited knowledge, few people if any as capable of persuading Mr. McKibben to change as you two. Accordingly, I ask you to communicate with him and try to persuade him that a focus on private oil companies is too narrow and that individual and collective fossil energy conservation and prompt direct emissions reductions should be the central goal of his campaign.

Sincerely,

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Below is the email exchange between myself and Nicholas Arguimbau. Arbuimbau’s responses are italicized and green in color:

Hello Nicholas, Definitely an uphill battle. It seems McKibben is gambling that by having a common enemy that is not us, his organization can get more traction…

He may be able to get more traction but I don’t see how he can get more emissions reductions, or in fact any. I had an epiphany a few months ago – that for decades the major “conservationists” have in fact not advocated conservation. It goes all too symmetrically with the better-understood conspiracy of silence on population among the enviros. “I=PAT” is a 50-year-old model of where major impacts on the environment come from (See Wikipedia, “I = PAT”), but it just happens that PA is the GDP, so they are interfering with economic growth if they advocate either conservation or population control. So they advocate technofixes ( T ) like the Prius, pollution control technology, geothermal energy, etc. This happens subtly – one way is failure of foundations to fund conservation campaigns. My gamble is that McKibben has a strong enough following that he can fund his campaign without “establishment” contributions and could be willing to do so.

…I think that can only be effective if it includes getting people to boycott buying all of their products in the myriad forms they come to us. Which would essentially mean curtailment (see Pat Murphy’s 2006 article), and dramatic emissions reduction.

Yes. Very difficult but impossible to dodge any longer. See the quote from J.K. Galbraith in my article. It’s a fundamental change people need to make ASAP. I think the US drought (really world drought) and the world depression may begin to scare people enough (with a little nudge from Bill’s charisma) to see that if they don’t change their ways their children are going to attempt survival in an uninhabitable world. As a practical matter, the cuts in consumption are inevitable because growth is over, so major conservation will happen within decades; it will come, but the more we fight it the more we and future generations will suffer. This has got to be the urgent message that all of us who understand it put out incessantly.

I am generally not fond of the ‘us vs. them’ activist mode. It has its place, and it may have won some specific battles of the environmental movement in the past, but it has not helped win the bigger picture war (metaphor appropriate for us vs. them constructs).

Yes, although the oil industry is both a convenient target and a realistic one. I’ve been fighting with them in the agencies and courts for nearly forty years, and they and their pawns are in fact psychologically different – compulsive liars, for starters. The case has been made that psychopathy has taken over the major corporations, literally. But even psychopaths should be viewed as ill rather than evil. They will not react kindly by being target as “the enemy,” and we also have to deal with the reality that much of the world has targeted Americans as the “enemy,” as a result of which we need to tread carefully. They have the power, and presently the inclination, to isolate the US economically as South Africa was isolated.

On the other hand, McKibben has a point about how hard it is to get people to change personal behavior,…

but as I keep saying, “The way to reduce emissions is to reduce emissions” – no changes in individual behavior, equals no emissions reductions. The enviros’ strategy has been to change T, but changes in T would now be too little too late; moreover, wholesale changes in T will only have sufficient economic impetus AFTER the supply or demand for fossil fuels has been cut drastically. There is no feasible passage from here to there without major cuts first, which lessen the competitive edge of the fossil fuels industry.

…but this is where strategic thinking and creativity is needed. I think Rob Hopkins is on the right track here with the Transition movement.

-         David

Yes, but I don’t think they are taking a realistic approach to how hard things are going to be, or to the fact that it takes generations to build a community, which can’t happen if everyone’s source of income is outside the community. I live in a very small town where the population is largely the same families as generations ago, and some town leaders who have ties to the town from the pre-revolutionary inception. They can see “the Seventh Generation” because they’ve been there seven generations and know that the quick buck will destroy their heritage. They also are not taking a realistic approach to how hard things are going to be, but I think they have the tools for survival.

-       Nicholas

Views: 64

Tags: Bill, Birol, Change, Climate, Fatih, Hansen, James, McKibben, conservation, curtailment, More…global, warming

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Comment by Kate Clark on August 24, 2012 at 12:04pm

Thanks for posting, David. Very interesting! 

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