Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More Inconvenient Truths

As you are no doubt aware by now, thanks to a massive publicity campaign as well as Blogtopic (©Skippy, but barely...I may claim credit for this iteration) discussion, former Next President Al Gore has a new movie about global warming coming out called "An Inconvenient Truth".

Trailer Here. (For you folks who absolutely refuse to recognize the superiority of Apple technology, here)

Based on the lecture that Gore has given for five years now, "AIT" explores the effects of unfettered global warming as predicted by scientists for the past three decades. The lectures were scary enough, but now it has been polished up with video and CGI graphics that will knock your socks off.

Perhaps, finally, this will be the "Rachel Carson" moment the environmental movement has yearned for since the Carter administration.

Or not. See, another inconvenient truth about America is that we are a society of capitalists. That's not a bad thing. That's not a good thing. It's a thing we have to acknowledge and respect in planning how to change the dynamic of this nation.

We measure our decisions not in national prestige or moral truthiness, but in terms of cost/benefit analyses. How does this thinking affect decisions? After all, it's clear that the devastation of global warming far outweigh any possible benefits it could offer, such as milder winters in our large urban areas, or beachfront property in Barstow.

Capitalism insists that anything be measured with how much cash you have to lay out in order to obtain it. Truly a simple model. Evaluating that model is the tricky part.

Look at Iraq. We were told back in 2002 that it should take no more than $84 billion dollars to secure our freedom from terror. Would any Senator have voted for the war if you had told them the ultimate cost would be closer to one trillion dollars?

See? Even "freedom" has its price, somewhere between $84 billion and one trillion. I'm often reminded of the story told about Winston Churchill, wherein at a cocktail party, he is approached by a gushing woman whom he wishes to get away from. He asks her if she would sleep with him for one million pounds.

"Certainly, Prime Minister."

"Well, then, how about one pound?"

"Goodness! What type of woman do you take me for?"

"Oh, I've already established what kind of woman you are, now we're merely negotiating price!"

Establishing price. There's the rub. How much would it be worth to us now to stop lower Manhattan from flooding clear up to Canal Street? How much will it be worth to us when it's imminent?

America has always operated in crisis management mode. We wait until the problem is so apparent that we can no long ignore it and then act. That's a function of capitalism, because God knows Christianity implores the opposite, that we behave as if we will outlast our bodies.

Capitalism begs for crisis management. For capitalism to act, it requires three things: 1) A problem be imminent, 2) A problem be catastrophic, and 3) That problem has a solution that can be afforded.

Capitalism failed New Orleans during Katrina. Christianity failed New Orleans during Katrina. Both capitalism and Christianity, as embodied by the Religious Right and the President and Congress, have continued to fail New Orleans in recovery. It has taken far too long with too little progress made, as if both tropes suddenly found themselves reeling like a punch-drunk fighter, staggering and swinging at air.

The global warming crisis is imminent. Even the most hardened among us do not seriously doubt its existence or effects. The trouble is, we've had all this warming warning, and when it happens, it's going to happen fast. Our earth hangs in the balance.

We know what type of planet it is. It's time to negotiate the price.

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