Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quoting Jeremy Rifkin

Last Wednesday, I created a post called "We still don't get it on climate change." In it, I took a few shots at the climate change conference I attended over the weekend.  Considering how upset I had become last Saturday, I thought I was quite fair and factually-based in my critique.  Unfortunately, it was taken badly by one of the event's organizers who posted the following comment.  It was good enough to promote to a real post.
I don't mind your harsh criticism of what we tried to do on Saturday. I admit we still have so far to go. But for one who has tried to move the Minnesota legislature and my local Utility Co-Ops to consider a feed in tariff policy to move us more quickly toward renewables and establish the kind of local economic shift we need, I am also encouraged by small movements in as you say 'raising awareness.' Moving the Titanic may have been easier. Today for some reason I pulled my 1981 copy of Jeremy Rifkin's "Entropy" which he begins by saying, "Hope is the feeling that what is desired is possible . . . " I guess I am still there. Hoping that we can in some way meet the challenges that we are faced with. I don't know what else to believe in. I know over the years of our friendship my gifts of understanding this problem are not as great as yours and I know there needs to be so much more done, but simply doing nothing I can't abide. So I keep doing what ever I can to get others to join me to make even little steps forward.
- David Bly

Thank you for this.  I am sorry you got upset enough to write a comment but quite honestly, I most certainly did not mean to make my critique personal.  I know you well enough to understand that you worked VERY hard to pull off this event and that goodness knows, your heart is in the right place.

Even so, I am not backing down from my ongoing criticisms of what I call "liberal climate change denialism."  A "liberal denier" is someone who accepts the findings of the scientific community but refuses to accept the implications of those findings.

The most obvious example of this sort of creature is Al Gore.  In his An Inconvenient Truth, he spends the first 80% of his movie using a powerful presentation to point out the dangers of the climate experiment we are conducting.  Any reasonably sentient being would have found this part of the movie frightening and potentially life altering.  Then he winds down this horror show with suggestions of how we can avert this crises.  Among his suggestions was to hang out your laundry.  Seriously, how big a problem can it be if we can solve it with clotheslines?  But just to prove that he clearly doesn't understand the impending catastrophe, he starts traveling the world in a bizjet.  But this is no problem in Al-world because he has purchased carbon offsets—the modern version of indulgences that allowed him to personally have a carbon footprint of a medium-sized Indian village without a trace of guilt.

Jeremy Rifkin is another good example of a liberal denier. He has a new book out called, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.  In it, he posits his Five Pillars

The five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution, as described by Rifkin in his book The Third Industrial Revolution are:
  • Shifting to Renewable Energy: Renewable forms of energy— solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean waves, and biomass— make up the first of the five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution. While these energies still account for a small percentage of the global energy mix, they are growing rapidly as governments mandate targets and benchmarks for their widespread introduction into the market.
Ah yes, you cannot be a good liberal without believing in the power of mandates to make things better.  I always thought King Canute covered this but apparently not.
  • Deploying Hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies. To maximize renewable energy and to minimize cost it will be necessary to develop storage methods that facilitate the conversion of intermittent supplies of these energy sources into reliable assets. Batteries, differentiated water pumping, and other media, can provide limited storage capacity. There is, however, one storage medium that is widely available and can be relatively efficient. Hydrogen is the universal medium that “stores” all forms of renewable energy to assure that a stable and reliable supply is available for power generation and, equally important, for transport.
Storage?  Ya think Jeremy?  I have never been in any discussion of solar power without the subject of storage coming up and I heard my first conversation in 1957.  Of course a cheap, safe, environmentally-friendly method of electrical storage would change the whole discussion.  Your idea of storing energy as hydrogen sounds expensive, wasteful, and dangerous.  Batteries are out—too expensive and needs resource-constrained chemicals (like lithium).  So you are telling us here that even without an obvious choice for electrical storage, you saying its possibility will lead us to your Third Industrial Revolution.

There are three more pillars but you get the point.  Rifkin went shopping for green technologies and came back with a list.  And this is what he passes off as genius.  Sounds like a guy who would be confused by something from IKEA.  And of course, the economic adjustments necessary to pay for all this is never properly covered.  This is a Wharton man here—he would never rock THAT boat.

You see David, when technology is involved, the opposite of "hope" is sound industrial maintenance.  When you have taken proper care of your car, it starts on a cold morning.  If you haven't, you are reduced to hoping it will start.  The fact that Rifkin would even bring the concept of hope into a technology discussion is a sure sign he is utterly clueless when he is not being obvious.

But you indicate your sympathy for liberal denialism when you take satisfaction in little steps when the subject is climate change.
  • Small steps may have their place in many areas.  Climate change is NOT one of them.  If we are to meaningfully address the climate-change problem, we will have to shut down 90% of the planet's fires in 15 years.  No small steps will accomplish that.
  • Willingness to even suggest small steps shows you don't think the problem is serious.  
  • Finally, David, I didn't join the DFL Party to be a person of small ideas.  We are the people who came up with Medicare, and a bunch of other ideas just as sound.  Read the foundation documents of the Non-Partisan League or the Farmer-Labor Party—no little ideas there.  If the very real possibility that we have triggered the means to destroy the habitability of human life on earth isn't enough to trigger big ideas, what is?

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan,
    As I hope you know I am an avid reader of your blog. I meant what I said, "I don't mind your harsh criticism of what we tried to do on Saturday." It is a pleasure to read your take on what's happening in the world. I do get this challenge is larger than most admit and I am not surprised at your critique of Rifkin. Yes, I agree it is a "technology" and, yes, a "producer" problem, as you sometimes say. But it is also a political problem that demands (in a democracy) we find more ways for more people to embrace solutions to the problem. If only a few can understand and implement necessary changes to the problem we face and those few are powerless to make those changes are we any closer to the solution? You understand this problem why aren't you solving it? You write about it, how is that different from Al Gore's traveling around. I don't really blame you for that my point is simply understanding and writing about the problem, unfortunately is not enough. I get important insights from your writing, but I can be voted out of office. Initiatives passed in previous years to move us closer to policies or technologies that have some hope of changing things can be undone and we are no closer. Or are you really saying that our task is hopeless and why bother doing anything because nothing we do will matter. We are just too stupid to save ourselves and too bad we are not as smart as those who really know. Perhaps mass suicide is the only way to save humanity? If more people don't understand that shutting down those fires is the answer, how short of mass sabotage and mass murder or suicide will it be accomplished? Does someone have their hand on the lever that will shut them all down? So what is your big - larger than medicare idea for changing this if you can point me in the right direction I will gladly work toward it. - David