The new nukes

Remember the Emergency Broadcast System? When I was a kid, that eerie, creepy sound sent chills up and down my spine. We wondered if someone in the Kremlin pushed the button, and if we were all going to have to fight radiation-enlarged cockroaches for the last scraps of food on the blistered planet. All until that deep baritone kicked in, saying, “this is only a test….”

We were all afraid of nuclear war back then. It was the early 80’s, and the arms race was out of control. We ran bomb drills in school, and television mini-series like “The Day After” gave us fuel for a month’s worth of nightmares. And that creepy sound. Little did we know that a quarter of a century later, our most realistic threat to a worldwide meltdown wouldn’t come from nukes from the other side of the Iron Curtain. No, the meltdown is coming from our own backyards.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article saying that an international network of leading climate scientists proved that human activity has caused most of the rise in global temperatures since 1950. As a result, more extreme heat waves and hurricanes are likely. Another Katrina likely. We’re crapping on the planet, and it’s fighting back.

The same article states that the United States, though only 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes 25 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. We’re the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. See, we didn’t need the Soviets to blow up the planet together; we’re doing just fine on our own.

Sure, we can point the finger at China — #2 greenhouse gas provider — or India, who’s also in the Top Ten. We could let that keep us from signing any kind of environmental treaty. But can’t we just leave the “that’s-not-fair-Johnny-gets-to-do-it” mentality on the playground, and take real leadership here? Didn’t Michael Jackson once sing, “If you want to make the world, a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change?” And it’s just plain sad that you don’t hear that kind of wisdom from the Gloved One anymore.

More importantly, in all of this, I can’t help but think we all — governments, corporations and individuals — are grieving God. The first job he ever gave humankind was to “work [the Garden] and take care of it.” We’re supposed to take care of this great, round, blue work of art we call Earth. As we take care of her, she’ll take care of us — that’s how it was all designed. But we’ve raped her, drained her of precious resources, filled her skies with pollutants, killed her inhabitants to extinction. And — ding! — the Earth has come out of her corner, swinging harder than Ali. Watch out: her hurricanes float faster than a butterfly and her heat waves sting harder than a bee.

Can’t we just get along? America: consume less, recycle, plant trees, bike, research, seek alternative fuels, carpool, ratify Kyoto, vote — do whatever it takes to care of the planet. Because if we take care of her, she’ll take care of us. And we’ll get a chance to honor the Great Artist too.

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10 Comments

  1. If this was xanga, i’d give you 50 million e-props.’

    I wrote this entry early 2004 in my old journal.. that’s about a year and a half after I first called myself a “Christian”… funny thing is the answer to the question i was asking could have been found by turning to the first book in the bible!:

    “grr! it makes me so angry when I talk to some of my friends about conservation. What bothers me the most is that Christians are the worse. No wonder some people hate Christians so much.

    “As Christians, we don’t need to protect the earth! The rapture will come before humans destroy it.”

    or even worse: “I’ll die before we depleat Earth’s resources so I don’t care what happens!”

    How can some people be so narrowminded and selfish. I really need to read more about what God has to say about this. Truthfully, I wouldn’t know where in the Bible I should start. You’d think as Christians we should be more conscious because we must take care of God’s creation. If I let a friend borrow something, I expect it to be returned in the same condition I left it. Unfortunately, there are more gas-guzzling SUVs every day. Our trash piles up while we continue to deplete Earth’s natural resources. As God watches what we are doing to his property, I can only wonder what he is thinking. how rude of us?”

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  2. thanks for this post!
    i also heard of that report recently and was extremely worried for not only us…but for the next generation(s).

    while i don’t consider myself a conservationist in the purist sense, i strongly feel that SMALLLLLL changes can really have exponential impact. and my slant is, of course, from an interior design perspective…

    i was shocked to learn how much we save (in every sense of that word) by changing one light bulb to a compact flourescent! just one. there are many little adjustments we can make to our environments for better insulation, utilizing more day lighting and not electricity, etc…

    anyhoo, small changes. it seems unrealistic to try and make drastic changes…small changes from a lot of people. that’s good, right?

    and could we (the US) please sign the kyoto agreement and stop being a hypocrite??

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  3. James,

    I thought this detail was pretty interesting.

    The EPA (and there are others scattered across the internets) has a Personal Emissions Calculator (link below). In a few minutes, one can get an approximation of their personal annual greenhouse gas emissions and reduction tips.

    While it is unlikely that one can reduce their emissions to zero, there are companies (see below) that offer individuals, organizations, etc. options for achieving carbon neutrality. One method is carbon offsetting and this blurb from Native Energy provides a summary of the option in practice:

    Your projects reduce global warming pollution on your behalf by reducing the amount of power generated by burning fossil fuels.
    — Under federal law, renewable generators can force utilities to buy their power.
    — For efficient grid operation, if the utility has to buy the project’s power, it is going to use it.
    — As a matter of physics, if the utility uses the renewable project’s power, it must, for any given level of demand, use less from other sources.
    — For efficient grid operation, they use less from those generators that have the highest fuel costs and fossil fuel plants.
    The result is that for every kWh generated by a renewable generator, one kWh less is generated by fossil fuel plants.

    I’m interested in hearing detail that anyone else has come across on this topic. My initial take is that, in conjunction with a personal/household greenhouse emission reduction strategy, the carbon offset strategy could have real positive impact.

    ==============
    http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html (Personal Emissions Calculator)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset (Carbon Offset background detail)

    http://www.newint.org/features/2006/07/01/keynote/ (New Internationalist article has no easy fix for climate change) The carbon offsetting industry is not without its problems or critics. This author is fearful that the idea of buying carbon neutrality distracts consumers from the real chore of actively reducing greenhouse emissions.

    ==============
    There are many carbon offsetting companies out there and these are 2 of the higher profile ones that I’ve researched thus far. As the article above suggests, some carbon offset providers have done a poor job fulfilling their mission and others have been downright fraudulent (research required).

    http://www.nativeenergy.com/ (Native Energy and their projects are focused on wind farms and manure digesters (to curb methane gas release on cow farms) in North America. The faq section provides some fairly straightforward detail regarding the mechanics of both renewable energy credits (RECs) and CO2 offsets.)

    http://www.self.org/cnc.asp (Solar Electric Light Fund and their projects are focused on “solar rural electrification” in developing areas.)

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  4. oh, global warming… it’s so hot right now (no pun intended). everyone seems to be jumping on this bandwagon. come on people, don’t you know that the environment goes through cycles, and there’s really no way to prove that those 450 million cars around the world are really doing any harm.
    ;P

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  5. Thanks to all of you who’ve posted links. Here’s another great article that Jinhee found. It offers ten really easy steps to be more green:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16399617/site/newsweek/

    Reply

  6. The US also needs more nuclear power plants. Obviously disposing of waste is a non-trivial problem, but countries like France and Japan seem to get along okay with it.

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  7. Amen James.
    I too remember those eerie sounds from the radio. Creeped me out. From the TV too.

    Global warming is one of those things that just leaves me feeling sick in the pit of my stomach. I hope we can stop it, but it really is going to take some major changes (can we say repentance?) and some miracle scientific breakthroughs (which I blindly hope can happen). Fareed Zakiria has a good article in Newsweek this month (at least the Asia edition), about how we also need to be focusing on adaptation now too. He says even if we made the most drastic efforts to curb carbon emissions, etc., they’d still be going up for several decades, temps would be rising, and sea levels would be rising and flooding places. So at least in the medium-term, we’ll have to get used to global warming as a reality. He was mainly mentioning things like moving rich seaside resorts back and strengthening the levees of New Orleans. But I think about places like Calcutta and Dhaka and the entire country of Bangladesh. And many other seaside cities around the world where majorities of the populations live in slums. What’s going to happen to these hundreds of millions of people?

    God, we repent! Help us come together as a human family and do what needs to be done. Give our scientists and engineers the wisdom to come up with the technologies that will aid in turning things around. Let us think about development in terms of shalom and sustainability and not mammon and ever increasing dollar signs.

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  8. My favorite suggestion on the site Jinhee found is #10
    Find an Eco-Date: There was the metrosexual. Then the retrosexual. Now there’s the ecosexual. So if one of your goals is to find that special, ecofriendly someone in 2007, check out social-networking communities like Vegan Passions (veganpassions.com), Earth Wise Singles (ewsingles.com), Green Singles (greensingles.com) or Green Passions (green-passions.com). Because two recyclers are better than one.

    hahah … awesome

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  9. I love that Al Gore won an oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. Even if I’m on the environmental backwagon — I think that’s a great thing. There are far worse bandwagons to be on!

    I just did the Personal Emission Calculator (from Isaac’s comment), and ended up with 22,522 pounds of carbon emissions for a household of two. That puts us at half the national average. What did others get?

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  10. I ended up with 17,428. Motorcycling for the planet :) I didn’t count the fuel I use on the job. Oh, and I don’t pay for utilities, so that was kind of a guess. Sorry :(

    Here’s an interesting article on climate change from Time.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914-1,00.html

    I agree we should be taking care of the earth, but I think we should be doing it simply because it is the right thing to do. Recent movements towards renewable energy are excellent! I love seeing the wind farms near Tehachapi. Education on how to live more green is great. These are all positive measures for change. I really don’t like the scare tactics and the negative measures that are proposed. Here’s an interesting point of view on that subject
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220&mod=RSS_Opinion_Journal&ojrss=frontpage

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much to me if global warming is real or not. Here’s why – taking care of the earth is the right thing to do. It is God’s will. That’s something I can believe in.

    Reply

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