By Climate Guest Blogger on Mar 18, 2012 at 7:49 pm
by Jorge Madrid
With a regional GDP contribution of $47 billion and over half a million jobs created in 2010, the clean energy economy is alive and well on the West Coast.
And the potential for continued growth in jobs and investment is enormous with more regional collaboration, according to a report released last week by members of the Pacific Coast Collaborative. At the this year’s GLOBE Conference on Business and the Environment in Vancouver, B.C., three U.S. states (Oregon, Washington, and California) along with the province of British Colombia have endorsed an action plan to further grow the clean economy along the West Coast.
“We have proof that our actions are already working…. Now we want to go even faster – and create up to one million jobs in the next decade through the 2012 Action Plan on Jobs,” said Washington Governor and Pacific Coast Collaborative Chair Chris Gregoire in a press release.
“We have come together … to reject the myth that jobs and the environment are in conflict,” said Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. “More than 500,000 Pacific Coast residents are cashing clean economy paychecks right now. And job creation rates in the clean economy are well above those for other shrinking sectors of the economy, pay better, and have been more resilient to the recent economic downturn.
The plan, which is also expected to generate $147-192 billion in GDP growth for the region by 2020, will focus on 5 key Clean Economy market opportunities:
A Heartland Institute front man phoned a Greenpeace activist and lied about his identity in an effort to get her to turn over UN climate conference documents to which he had no legitimate access. Heartland senior fellow James Taylor then boasted about the scam in a press release decrying what he described as Greenpeace’s preferential access to UN information.
Now, in a belated act of optimism, Greenpeace’s Cindy Baxter has written a letter to Heartland [PDF here] requesting an explanation for the double standard. Baxter is asking, in effect, why Heartland thinks it’s completely okay for them to misrepresent themselves, repeatedly, and to celebrate the misrepresentations of others who are attacking climate scientists, but then gets all righteous when someone suckers them into handing over their entire budget and fundraising policy for 2012.
The Heartland misrepresentation about which Baxter is now complaining occurred in 2007 at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bali. The Heartland caller phoned Baxter at four in the morning (Bali time), claiming to represent a U.S. environmental organization and asking if she would hand over the UNFCCC media list – which Heartland clearly had failed to secure through legitimate means.
Baxter demurred, after which Taylor sent out a press release, recounting the conversation, linking to a (possibly illegal) recording that Heartland had made of the phonecall, and “exposing” the fact that Greenpeace has a better working relationship than Heartland with just about everyone in the climate, diplomatic and scientific communities.
At the time, Baxter brushed off the incident as nothing more than you would expect from an organization that exists to take money from tobacco firms and oil moguls and then misrepresent the health risks of smoking and the science of climate change.
But lately, Baxter has grown annoyed by the double standard.
The revolution will be televised. So will the post-apocalyptical fight to feed ourselves on a ruined planet.
Those are two key themes of the wildly popular YA trilogy that begins with The Hunger Games, whose movie version comes out this week. The trailer gives the key plot points:
After what seems to be a climate-driven apocalypse, Panem, “the country that rose up out of the ashes of the place it was once called North America,” is divided into a Capitol and 12 districts, who launched a failed revolution many decades earlier.
The annual Hunger Games are televised and the rules are simple:
In punishment for the uprising, each of the 12 districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in the vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
The winner “receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food,” all year round.
This is “Bread and Circuses” combined — by design — since that famous phrase comes from the Latin panem et circenses (also “bread and games”).
The books have sold some 10 million copies globally — and the author, Suzanne Collins, is the “best-selling Kindle author of all time.” They are a shrewd combination of standard YA fare — another love triangle between a girl and two boys … really? — and pop-culture riffs. You have the extreme version of reality shows like American Idol and Survivor. You have the young girl who reluctantly grows into a ferocious killer, which started with Buffy and Nikita (if you have to ask…) and now seems to be found in almost every other movie.
The books also had some fortunate timing for the author in terms of catching the zeitgeist, since perhaps the core theme is the 99% (the 12 districts) vs. the 1% (Capitol), the poor and underfed vs. the rich and overfed.
The Hunger Games makes that challenge a literal and hyper-violent one. But like much (though not all) post-apocalyptic fiction, the book spends exceedingly little time actually explaining to anyone how we got in this mess.
Indeed, after reading all 3 books, I find only one sentence devoted to explaining what caused the apocalypse:
[The mayor] tells of the history of Panem. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts…”
Sounds a lot like global warming, though the books do not flesh out what happened.
Back in 1972, one year after the book came out, a young law professor from USC named Christopher Stone wrote an influential article, called “Should Trees Have Standing?” Stone argued that trees and other natural resources should have rights (e.g. to exist) and that environmental groups should be entitled to speak for them and to present their claims in court. In a legal sense, this would mean that trees do have standing.
Dr. Seuss’s title character, of course, famously stated (again, and again): “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” Did the Lorax predict Stone’s paper? Did Stone read Seuss?
The same year as Stone’s article, Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court argued in a famous dissent to Sierra Club v. Morton that trees and other natural resources should have legal rights. Soon after, with the Clean Water Act of 1972 and CERCLA of 1980, Congress finally granted legal rights to natural resources —albeit in different language from the plainspoken Lorax’s.
Under the “natural resource damages” provisions of these laws, governments can sue for compensation for injury to natural resources—on behalf of those resources. Most tellingly, the law says that governments, in so doing, are acting as “trustees” for natural resources, not suing in their own right as governments. Moreover, the law requires that all recoveries be spent on the resource itself; the government cannot spend natural resource damages, say, on roads or schools. The money belongs to the resource, not to the government.
“Trustee,” importantly, is very specific term used in law to describe a situation where an entity has a right of its own but cannot speak for itself (e.g. an infant or a disabled person) on behalf of that right. The Lorax, again, seemed to be invoking this principle when he said: “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” (And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs… What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?)
So, while the Lorax is a parable (and perhaps now a commercialization of a parable), there is still a profound legal issue beneath the colorful pictures.
Peter Lehner is Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. This piece was originally published at NRDC’s Switchboard.
Squatting in a dusty field in the village of Rataul, two hours north of Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, a young woman, like uncounted generations of women before her, is shaping a small mountain of cow dung into Frisbee-size cakes that will fire the family’s cookstove. Perhaps she will make a couple of phone calls before preparing dinner, using her new mobile. She’ll get a five-bar signal: barely a hundred yards away, across a patch of waste ground where some water buffalo are nosing around in the dirt, is a tall, slender cell phone tower. The photovoltaic panels that power it glitter in the late-morning sunlight. That strip of waste ground is a bridge between past and future, and hundreds of millions of Indians may now be poised to cross it.
Ask any Indian to name the quintessential symbol of the bad old days, the era of rigid state control of the economy and stultifying bureaucracy, and the answer will often be simple: getting a telephone. You could wait many years for a landline, the only way of speeding things up being whom you knew — and how many rupees you were prepared to slip them under the table. Ask for a symbol of the new India, the thing that most dramatically improves a person’s life prospects, and the answer will be equally straightforward: the cell phone. No further need for insider contacts or bribes; all that counts is the basic law of supply and demand.
India has 1.2 billion people and almost 900 million mobile subscribers, a figure that has more than doubled in the past three years. This growth spurt has gone hand in hand with the country’s economic boom. Which is cause and which is effect is hard to say, but Indian telecom executives like to cite a study by the consulting firm Deloitte, showing that a 10 percentage-point increase in “mobile penetration” corresponds to a 1.2 percent increase in the rate of growth of the gross domestic product.
There’s a hitch, however. The fruits of the boom have not been equitably shared; about a third of the population, most living in villages like Rataul, still have few paths to the economic mainstream because they lack reliable access to electricity. Energy is India’s biggest problem. True, there are utility poles here, and sagging wires, but the juice flows through them for only a few hours each day. Maybe this spurt of power will come in the morning, maybe in the middle of the night. Maybe they’ll tell you those hours in advance, and maybe they won’t. And that’s a huge headache for the cell phone providers as well as for the villagers.
India’s urban market is now saturated, with more phones than people, but only about 35 percent of the rural population have gone mobile. The remaining 65 percent are the next market frontier, but if the industry is to reach these people it needs to keep building towers. Today there are about 350,000 of these towers, where “base transceiver stations” convert electricity into radio waves. Ten percent of them are completely off the grid; 30 percent are in places like Rataul, which have power for less than 12 hours a day. To tap the rural market, the mobile companies plan to add at least 200,000 towers in the next three to five years, and almost all of them will be in areas without a reliable — or any — power supply. So where will the electricity come from? For now, the answer is diesel generators, which are both dirty and expensive. But in the future, the logic (strongly endorsed by the Indian government) lies with solar power and other renewables.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.