Ministry of Controversy

Shout Over The Wall And Vote

Black_beauty_july_28

The fence won’t help

Last Saturday,the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth report on global warming, and there was no mincing of words. 

Rajendra Pachauri, the scientist who heads the panel, warned, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases–China, where they are building a carbon-spewing coal plant per week, and the U.S., the world’s biggest economy headed by the world’s most puzzling president–to finally do something constructive.

Yet, what are our leaders doing?  Have they started taxing carbon emissions?  Have they finally leaned on those idiots in Detroit to start producing cars with better gas mileage?  Have they given any substantial push to alternative fuels?  Have they rethought farm supports away from oil-intensive agribusinesses?  Have they really even admitted that there is a problem? 

Nope.

But does anybody out there actually believe we couldn’t do better, given even a smidgen of real political leadership?  I mean, the ingenuity just never stops here in America when it comes to small consumer goods.  Have you looked at an iPhone?  You can do anything with one short of uproot dandelions.

It’s a good bet that there are solar panel people out there producing technologies that are nearly as nifty.  If only they could get a bigger slice of the corporate welfare pie, we might have something. 

Meanwhile, there is Angela Belcher at MIT using viruses to grow batteries.  So can anybody tell me why we are not driving electric cars?  If General Motors were made to pay for the carbon emissions it engineers, trust me, Angela Belcher would be invited to lunch at the Renaissance Center in Detroit at least once a week. 

We gardeners have to get political.  I know, most of us are not activists by nature.  The world is ugly and uncontrollable, so behind our walls (if we’re really lucky) and hedges and collapsing stockade fences (now we’re talking about me), we make paradise for ourselves. 

Self-sufficiency is the gardener’s most striking trait.  As every beginner’s gardening book points out, "paradise" comes from the ancient Persian word for "enclosure." 

But our many beautiful bulb- and basil-filled enclosures are now threatened on a scale not seen since the end of the last ice age.  Our sage enjoyment of our own lives may only last a few more seasons, if we don’t start shouting uncharacteristically loudly, and now. 

The IPCC policy-makers’ summary promises that with rising temperatures there will be "complex, localised negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers, and fishers."  They don’t mention the ornamental growers–maybe nobody at the U.N. is thinking about their spring lily order at present–but you get the picture.

Even if global warming proves to be nothing but fun for us Zone 3, 4, and 5 gardeners–and I have big, big plans regarding Bing cherries–we won’t be able to hide from the larger issues.  When places like Phoenix and Atlanta and Athens become uninhabitable thanks to heat waves and no water supply, let’s face it, we are going to spend a lot of time yelling at strangers to get off our strawberries. 

I have enough trouble with weeds.  Adding climatic refugees to the mix doesn’t strike me as pleasant at all.

In the past, I’ve almost always cast my votes based on some (frequently mistaken) perception of political courage, and never on individual issues. 

But as a gardener, I think I have to vote global warming in the next election.  While John McCain has broken my heart by saying all kinds of things I don’t think he believes out of sheer ambition, he certainly towers over the other dwarfs on the Republican side who don’t think carbon emissions need to be capped or Detroit ought to rethink anything.  On the Democratic side–though I fear it would be a bit like having a second grade teacher as president–maybe the draft Al Gore movement is not so stupid after all. 

Posted by on November 23, 2007 at 3:42 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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18 Responses to “Shout Over The Wall And Vote”

  1. It’s all fine and good to try and get a real person of substance with leadership abilities as president, but the election system is broken. It is too late for Al Gore in this cycle and he has said no. Getting elected to office is a very very expensive elaborate pyscological marketing strategy that has nothing to do with the issues facing the country or its citizens and makes elected officials beholden to those who gave them the most marketing money. It also does not help that you have a Career Congress with the best of perks who can make millions as corporate consultants after leaving office who are elected using the same marketing techniques working with the test marketed president.

    The congress and the presidency have been bought off. There is very little honesty, integrity, leadership or common sense left in Washington. The system is broken and we will not have any change or good results until the money needed to get elected to office is taken out of the system.

    And I have an idea for doing that.

    My idea is the Election Channel and Election.org. Every office for election from dog catcher to the president would only be allowed at these locations. A structured format of debates, biographies and position statements just for a start would be required of all candidates. It could be limited to 6 to 9 months before an election, run and repeated 24/7 and regionalized on cable and the net. Voters could go to these locations at their convenience and get good detailed information about what candidates actually stand for and propose to do for the electorate.

    The channels and website used would be owned by the people and facilities made available for the media production candidates would need. There is plenty of bandwidth on TV and the net to simply add them on without interrupting any other stations or websites or trying to get air time from anyone.

    All political advertising would be banned including all 501c groups. The Election Channel and Election.org could have non-political commercials to help pay for costs. This would not prevent candidates from talking at public events and gatherings and film of that can be used at Election Channel.org.

    The general response I get from people when I mention this idea is that it sounds good but what about the 1st amendment?

    The candidates will be free to say and produce whatever they want within the format and time guidelines for viewing at this single stop for voters locations. No one will censor what they say and this will be accessible to all very easily. Election Radio could also be part of the system.

    Politicians are filling a job in the government. We the people as their employers have a right to determine the job application procedure. People applying for work at any other company or business do not get to do and say anything to get the job. They have to follow company procedure.

    The same primary and party system we have now will operate in much the same manner with Democrats, Republicans, Independent, Green fielding candidates through their parties for placement on the ballot.

    We have to get the money out of the election process. Tampering around the edges doesn’t work as witnessed by the last elections barrage of 501c ads. There will always be some loophole to be found.

    What does it say that you have to spend over 300 million dollars to get a job that pays $400,000 a year? Even over a four year term the numbers don’t ad up.

  2. The Draft Gore movement has pretty much closed up shop. Al and his people asked them to stop. And he would have had to act in the last month to get onto the primary ballots. It would take a pretty bizarre scenario at this point for him to end up as the democratic nominee. Sure I’m disappointed. But I am hopeful that he (and more importantly the movement to deal with climate change and other environmental concerns seriously) will play a big role in the next administration.

  3. susan harris says:

    Christopher is absolutely right, and there’s already something happening – the clean elections movement. It’s voluntary, but a huge PR plus when candidates swear off fat-cat money and get elected using small contributions only. People of both parties have been elected this way lately (including at least one governor) and it’s slowly spreading. (But how can we get it to work on the presidential level? That’s a tough one.) Anything mandatory has been and will be overturned by the Supremes, unfortunately – like outlawing political commercials, a move that’s made politics much cheaper and more civilized in most of the developed world. But it won’t happen here in our ailing democracy.

  4. We don’t need to look to the Federal government for action. Even before the IPCC report was released earlier this year, there were already several regional inter-state initiatives.

    PlaNYC2030 contains multiple sustainability initiatives for NYC. In my neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn, there are several hyper-local community organizing efforts.

    More on my blog at “Gardening as if our lives depended on it”. [http://flatbushgardener.blogspot.com/2006/10/gardening-as-if-our-lives-depended-on.html]

  5. I think these things need to happen on the state level, and they are. A bunch of great plains states just signed an accord agreeing to reduce co2 and other emissions. I like watching the History Channel to make me feel better: last week I saw two shows on alternative sources of energy, and how companies like paper mills use methane from dumps to run their business, and use co2 produced to create more clean energy. Then, I saw in the southeast how one power plant is using algae to both generate power and clean the air (algae is the best at taking in co2 and producing oxygen). It is probably too late, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work hard now to get things back in line a few centuries down the road–but we don’t tend to be far thinkers. Poets and artists are, and we need more of those folks speaking to these issues and impacting us emotionally, too, along with Al Gore and the United Nations.

  6. Claire Splan says:

    Nice post. It breaks my heart that Al Gore isn’t running, but I’m beginning to realize that this is an issue that we can’t wait for the feds or even the state governments to come grips with. Berkeley recently passed some rather clever legislation to help homeowners install solar panels (read about it here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/07/BAT9T7GC0.DTL&hw=berkeley+solar+panels&sn=004&sc=341). We need to get more local governments on the ball in a similar fashion. This is one instance where the bumper-sticker philosophy of “think globally, act locally” could be really productive.

  7. sandra says:

    One simple answer is get out of/ get rid of your car and walk or take public transport. Since I left home over 50 years ago, I have lived within walking distance of shops, jobs (except for one) and whatever else I want to get to. Sure being carless restricts what I can do unless I manage to join with a car-owning friend to go places, but hey, that’s better than exacebating the environmental threat hanging over us. And biofuel is not an option. Because of the diversion of maize to manufacture biofuel, there is a shortage of maize for food and steeply rising prices are pushing maize, a staple diet in many countries, way beyond the reach of consumers.
    Maybe I was lucky growing up in Britain at the tail end of the last war, I learnt a lot about how to conserve and recycle, and how to live modestly.
    I hope today’s blog and comments reflect the feelings of many Americans, and sincerely wish that you can find some way to turn around both your political structure and the current extravagent American way of life.

  8. El says:

    I think a lot more of us need to get a lot madder, period. But I concur that most of the momentum begins from the bottom up, governmentally, with municipalities and then regions and states all ganging together. And the way that momentum begins is if we all just continue to be mad!

    Great rant, Michele.

  9. Fran Ark says:

    I thought I was connecting to a gardening site but somehow stumbled upon this political screaming, doom and gloom, do this or die place. Excuse me.

  10. Reading Dirt says:

    Like Jimmy Carter, Al Gore seems to be a lot more effective out of political office than in. While I would have liked to have seen him run, no matter who gets to pick up the mess after the Shrub leaves office (and will, no doubt, be blamed for the mess), it’s up to us, the ordinary folks, to shout together in hopes of shouting louder than the multinational corporations.

    But first we have to elect someone who is open to the idea of actually listening.

    What I’d like to see in office is someone who will do for the environmental movement what Kennedy did for the space race — stand up and say, “Within x number of years, we’re going to do THIS. Period.”

  11. I’m much more concerned about clean drinking water and the pollution of stupid political ideas and the return of a dark ages through neglect of reading the cultural treasures of the past than I am about global warming.

    Whatever the truth about global warming, it’s clear that the idea has been bandwagoned by all sorts of people to force through their pet ideas for society, whether they would have any meaningful impact on the climate or not.

  12. Marte says:

    But Michael, if political ideas are stupid, shouldn’t they be polluted? Just askin’

  13. Sarah says:

    Great rant! This Sunday’s Seattle Times had an article about gardening and global warming, with much of the usual (ditch the gas mower, choose appropriate plants, include a rain garden).
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw11252007/2004023330_pacificplife25.html

    And here is the website to which they refer: http://www.nwf.org/gardenersguide/
    Frankly, I was hoping for more from their gardener’s guide, but this is a nice step!

  14. Dear Fran Ark, climate is THE issue for gardeners. If you can’t predict what zone you’ll be in in 5 years, that is a problem even while you’re having a blissful Sunday afternoon buying shrubs at the nursery. Add in terrible droughts such as Atlanta suffered this summer–and more volatile storms such as Hurricane Katrina…well, it makes having an attractive flowerbed a much more interesting challenge than it was for our parents.

  15. Jon D. says:

    I can only shake my head and laugh when reading this article and the ensuing comments — no offense intended, but it’s all just silly.

    Carbon taxes? Al Gore? Global Warming?
    You have got to be kidding me.

    When has taxing anything reduced anything, unless you count the money in your pockets as something.
    Al Gore is a hack and a liar just like Michael Moore, and his movie has been debunked six ways from Sunday — again — like Micheal Moore’s slick propaganda films. A British judge just recently proclaimed that if UK schools had to show the Gore film, they also had to show a list of evidence proving that most of what Gore says is rubbish.
    After Katrina it was predicted by all the “experts” that every year from then on out would be a banner year for hurricanes, but guess what? No hurricanes have even made landfall on the continental US for the last couple seasons now.

    NASA just found out all their climate data for the last decade or so is based on false data and prone to computer glitches — and most of the global warming “evidence” we have is based on NASA’s data.

    The global warming myth continues to unravel faster that Mahmoud Admadinejad’s 70′s era leisure suit, but the pious holy rollers in the left wing greenie brigade will continue to milk it for all the research grants and political activism it’s worth. You’re all being fooled.

    Remember “global cooling” from the 70′s? Nuff said!

  16. So Jon D are you saying that the last two UN reports from a worldwide body of interdisciplinary scientists is a NASA plot?

    “No hurricanes have even made landfall on the continental US for the last couple seasons now.” I take that to mean if a tropical storm does not hit the continental US than it doesn’t count.

  17. Joan Kummer says:

    Global warming has changed the way I garden. This year we experienced an unbelievable drought and hot, hot temperatures. We prayed for rain, we danced for rain, we threatened for rain to no avail-this is the way it will be from now on. I have gardened for over 30 years and have never experienced the extreme changes. I have gardened in Fla, Tex, and TN, this year was brutal. We are the cause of climate change. All of us must work to make large and small changes in our own little worlds or we will all go down together. Our lakes almost dried up, we had some rationing of water, our rivers became dry gravel beds, it was sobering. My eyes were on Atlanta, because I thought sooner or later all those people would come looking for water. Thank heaven it finally rained a little. But it will happen again and again if we (as a group of humans) don’t make changes and very hard decisions about our lifestyles.
    I will always garden but I would like to have water to do so.

  18. Joan K TN says:

    Global warming has changed the way I garden. This year we experienced an unbelievable drought and hot, hot temperatures. We prayed for rain, we danced for rain, we threatened for rain to no avail-this is the way it will be from now on. I have gardened for over 30 years and have never experienced the extreme changes. I have gardened in Fla, Tex, and TN, this year was brutal. We are the cause of climate change. All of us must work to make large and small changes in our own little worlds or we will all go down together. Our lakes almost dried up, we had some rationing of water, our rivers became dry gravel beds, it was sobering. My eyes were on Atlanta, because I thought sooner or later all those people would come looking for water. Thank heaven it finally rained a little. But it will happen again and again if we (as a group of humans) don’t make changes and very hard decisions about our lifestyles.
    I will always garden but I would like to have water to do so.

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