An Inconvenient Attitude

This month David Suzuki has kicked off a year’s schedule of talks across Canada. If you are fortunate enough to be able to get to one of the venues and hear him talk it is well worth the while. I saw a televised speech of his in Australia and I was changed by it. It is statements like this following one by him that made me understand what is wrong with the way we are living:

The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are our biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity – then we will treat each one with greater respect. That is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective. (From A David Suzuki Collection)

I think respect is the key word here. We simply do not treat the world with respect. He mentioned earlier in the same piece I quoted from that if we could see how the world has changed in four billion years to become a life sustaining planet for all life including ours then we will be humbled by what we have, and understand that is not for us to indiscriminately take as though we own it, but to share with all other life.

This week I also saw An Inconvenient Truth. It was a little late in coming to Japan (early this month, to my neck of the woods). I was also too busy with final reports to make the seventy minute drive to see it in town.

The film had stated much of what I already knew. So I do not think the film is there to convince people like me. But rather it was a film to preach to those yet to be convinced or have not heard the message yet. In that sense it is a necessary film. But why does it have to be from a former politician before we will listen? Anyone could have said it with the same evidence in hand. People are already saying it. People like David Suzuki have already said it. So it must necessarily say something about the culture of America, to whom much of it was aimed, that they will only listen if it is from someone important.

Mr Gore did make one point which I have always harped about here – that disinformation and deliberately confusing the public by false talk has prolonged the problem. We have not been playing on a level field when it comes to information dissemination. By scare tactics and other means the public has been split into two or more minds. And it comes back to the concepts of propaganda, advertising and commercialism.

So how do we deal with the agenda of others which are not the best for sustainability? In the West that is dominated by advertising, a kind of capitalist propaganda if you will, the highest bidder gets to persuade us that buying is good, not just their product but any product. This idea is therefore not about just one producer but about producers as a collective. I don’t want to sound Marxist but Karl Marx had a point. What scares me is not the fact we don’t have choices, but that we are only seemingly making free choices when we are not. So Capitalism is no better than Communism, if you look at it this way. Personally both systems fail. There are only two choices in our current paradigm so we must only choose between the two evils.

The pseudo-choice concept isn’t new of course, but it needs to be remembered or recalled. Those studies of the 1970s and 1980s on advertising have all but been forgotten. My favourite books from that period have to be Ways of Seeing by John Berger and On Photography by Susan Sontag. It has a lot to say about our use of images and imagery still relevant (if not more) to today’s advertising-polluted world.

And just a final note: the strategies used in Mr Gore’s “award winning” documentary also come from this same well-honed philosophical logo-technology (as in “logos” or “word”). It is slick, almost too slick, but you can notice its agenda if you look hard enough.

So from which end of the wire shall we pollute the Earth with?

Why are we such suckers when it comes to electric cars? All we are really going to do is plug it into an electric wall socket so that the fossil-fueled power station at the other end of that wire can pump the same amount of – if not more – greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Haven’t we realised that the car makers are laughing all the way to the bank?

The problem with trying to reduce greenhouse gases

You know the problem with greenhouse gas emissions and laws like the one passed by Governor Schwarzenegger is not that there aren’t people like him willing to do it but rather the process to see it through is a difficult one if not down right impossible. The BBC article raised two really good points about why it may not work.

Firstly, the rest of the US states and the federal bureaucrats must follow suit in order to have any effect. This is a big “if” which seems unlikely. The self-interest of America will always come first. And when George W Bush says it will hurt the economy the American public will believe him.

The second problem is that – according to the BBC again – is that those businesses which will be hurt by the law will simply pack up and go somewhere friendlier to their philosophy. That is why I do not see it making a big difference to the cause.

I may sound pessimistic but that has happened all too often before. And there is nothing different to this law being passed and other attempts like it.

So what is the solution? I do not know. But I know this much – our political practices must change. I do not know exactly what kind of political system needs to replace it (if it exists at all) but I know only it isn’t the one we have now. In short I am saying we need a new political paradigm.

California to cut greenhouse gas emission

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, has signed a law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the first US state to do so. This is in direct conflict with current White House policy which sees any reduction being detrimental to its economy. Governor Schwarzenegger who like President Bush is a Republican. The law aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% before 2020.

British prime minister Tony Blair has praised the law saying “[it] will echo right around the rest of the world”.

And that is exactly what we will have to wait for. California alone cannot fix the problem but if other US states follow suit then we may see realistic reductions. America is still one of the highest in output greenhouse gases. So any kind of lead by them will truly echo around the world.

Honda to mass-produce bioethanol vehicles

Honda has announced it will begin mass-producing compact cars which will run off bioethanol. Bioethanol is a type of alcohol which is produced from sugar cane and corn and is considered an environmentally friendly solution that meets the the Kyoto Protocol requirements of zero emission because the carbon dioxide emitted from bioethanol vehicles and absorption rates by plants comes to zero.

According to Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper Honda will convert its Brazilian factories to produce about 30,000 vehicles annually because Brazil is the world’s leading nation in utilizing bioethanol in transportation.

Together with the Japan’s Research Institute of Innovative Technology, Honda has been able to produce ethanol efficiently from biomass (a renewable resource from plants). This means that the traditional resource of sugar cane and corn – a food source – will not be stretched or impinged upon.

This is a step in the right direction for the environment and for the Kyoto Protocol since nothing significant has come from car industry in a long while.