Year 4, Month 3, Day 8: Who Dat Who Say Who Dat When I Say Who Dat?

The Denver Post marvels at the relationship between family-oriented community life and support for sustainable energy:

What might you expect to find in communities where “family values” are the strongest? More churches? More parents helping out in classrooms? Maybe more bake sales? Yes, perhaps. But there’s one thing you would definitely find: solar panels.

Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that one modern marker of communities with greater “family interdependence” — a social science term that indicates the value a person places on time spent with their family — is that more new solar energy businesses take root. Further, where state solar incentives are in place, high levels of family interdependence seem to supercharge the effectiveness of those incentives.

These aren’t just weird facts. The information is mind-blowing. It suggests that if government cares about solving climate change, or clean energy jobs, or entrepreneurship, then social norms — the unwritten rules of community conduct — might matter as much as rebates and incentives.

There’s a big difference between saying “pro-family” and being “pro-family.” Sent February 26:

It’s hardly counterintuitive to notice that vibrant, family-friendly communities are more likely to adopt renewable energy and make it work. A family is a chain of relationships extending forward and backward in time — an unambiguous argument for sustainability. It takes a village to raise a windmill or a solar panel.

For all their pro-family rhetoric, anti-environment conservatives are unlikely to believe that “family values” extend to people who aren’t just like them — and the GOP’s extreme libertarians are far more likely to adopt every-man-for-himself ideologies that discount and disrespect the crucial importance of community, inclusiveness, and long-term stability.

Equally important, the inevitable disruptions of global climate change will impact all of humanity significantly, damaging physical infrastructure and crippling agriculture. Coping with these changes will require a strengthened social infrastructure, and a recognition that America’s motto is “E Pluribus Unum,” not “what’s in it for me?”

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 26: Coal-Baggers Unite!

This weekend (April 15/16/17) is the Power Shift conference in Washington. 10,000 young environmental activists came to DC to try and influence the power structure. The WaPo, naturally, covered it as a political story: the kids don’t like Obama’s policies! Oh, no!

Sent April 16:

The real story is hardly that environmentally conscious young people are disappointed in President Obama’s energy policies. The real story is that thousands of people came to Washington to offer their dedication and initiative to free our country, once and for all, from its crippling dependence on fossil fuels — and that the print and broadcast media almost completely ignored them. If the standard reporter-to-teapartier ratio had applied to the Power Shift conference, more than five hundred journalists would have filed stories. While the teapartiers have amusing signs and wear amusing costumes, their contribution to public discourse is based on fundamentally erroneous premises — something which cannot be said of the Power Shift participants, whose perspective on public policy is based on hard and irrefutable scientific facts. What must these responsible and forward-looking young people do to obtain fair media coverage? Wear funny hats festooned with lumps of coal?

Warren Senders

Month 11, Day 13: The Millers’ Tale

The Times reports on Nathan Miller, a guy in California who wants to set up a windmill in his backyard. Naturally his neighbors object.

If we are to survive the turbulence of the coming centuries with our civilization intact, we must, as Nathan Miller says, “change our idea of what’s aesthetically pleasing.” His neighbors’ objections to his plans for a windmill will seem increasingly petty as climate change’s effects begin to disrupt our cosseted existence. A choking pall of smoke from a burning forest, blotting out the sun for weeks on end; a sudden flash flood that renders several thousand people homeless; a few hundred thousand acres of cropland dessicated by drought; a nation submerged by rising seas and its population dispersed — all these are uglier by far than a thirty-five foot tower. While a single such project cannot solve the problem of climate change, it’ll never happen without thousands upon thousands of idiosyncratic local solutions to local problems. A backyard wind turbine will soon be a thing of beauty.

Warren Senders