Thursday, October 15, 2015

Willfully ignorant howler monkeys

Now that I have your attention... have you seen this 2015 Ford Edge ad

A gorgeous young woman drives an enormous red SUV through a gleaming, modern city.  Sweeping, pop-serious music swells behind her.  In voice over, the woman resolutely enumerates her personal odds in a city of "two million, four hundred and thirty-four thousand, three hundred and eleven people."  As we begin to hear the lyrics - "this is MY LIFE!" - and the music reaches a thundering crescendo, all I can help but think is - we are F***ED.

What does this ad - what does anything about this ad - have to do with the CAR they are flogging?  Yes, I obviously get the stretch they're making (car = powerful) but... really?  What does this striving young hottie in a business suit have to do with how the car is engineered, or how well made it is, or the features it has? 

Oh - and - since I care about the emissions that are causing our climate to change... what's the MPH?

The 2015 Ford Edge gets "up to 20 mpg city, 30 highway."  That's per Ford.  That's their mileage brag.

These big, bulging SUVs - all curvy lines and jellybean colors, replete with cup holders and mini computer screens and icy air conditioning and GPS - are rolling off the factory lines at a tremendous pace and selling like hotcakes.

They're being sold the same way everything is sold these days, via shameless appeals to the id and the limbic system.  Is mileage even mentioned in this ad?  Nope.  Is it mentioned in most ads these days?  Not that I have noticed.

Instead, we're buying gas guzzling cars at an amazing pace, because... personal ambition.  Love.  Sex.  Family.  Babies. 

They all do it, although the Subaru "Love.  It's what make a Subaru a Subaru." ads make me craziest.

And every industry advertises the same way, with powerful music and gauzy images of happy, sexy, vibrant people.  The ads make us long for the feelings promised by the images and the music, and make us greedy - nay, LUSTFUL - for more.

We have never been more marketed to, and we have never been hungrier for MORE.

Anyone who knows anything about climate change should know by now that we must SLASH CO2 (and other GHG) emissions by HUGE percentages immediately in order to have a hope of slowing climate change and keeping the total warming under 2 degrees Celsius. 

But we're buying SUVs and pick-ups like they're going out of style.  We're consuming like it doesn't matter what we buy.  We're addicted to enormous cars and air conditioners and riding lawn mowers and immense TVs and power tools and heated swimming pools and cities that blaze like brush fires at night with light after light after light after light...  and we're mostly ignoring an issue so immense that it boggles the mind.

If you haven't read Margaret Atwood's piece about "it's not climate change - it's everything change!" I encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience.  And then I challenge you to get a good night's sleep, or stay on the sidelines of the climate change fight. 

Into this apex consumption moment, President Obama has rolled out his new national Clean Power Plan, requiring that U.S. power plants reduce their emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

No, the plan doesn't do anything about personal consumption, but bear with me.

Personally, the majority of Americans seem to prefer to keep the status quo.  They want their SUVs and their McMansions and their rooms full of flashy new appliances.

So maybe government can help?  Maybe government can implement sensible regulations, and work with private industry, to rapidly bring online cheap, renewable energy that will allow us to continue our lavish collective lifestyle without emissions?  Surely President Obama would like to include BOLD, effective action on climate change in his legacy, no?

Actually, yes.  He would - hence the plan.  The only problem is that, compared to the scale of the action that we need to take, this is an almost laughably meager effort.  No less an authority on climate change than James Hansen says the new policy is 
practically worthless.
Nevertheless, the usual troop of willfully ignorant howler monkeys are ENRAGED that our imperial muslin communist usurper president would DARE to make even the tiniest change to the relevant EPA regulations.  The GOP is prepared to fight with everything they've got to stop this new presidential action in its tracks.

And here we are, and that's why we're f***ed.

There's no personal will to learn about climate change and take sensible, immediate, personal action.  All the vast majority of us want to do is consume, consume, consume and damn the torpedoes.

There's no political will on the right to act with intellectually honesty and take immediate, urgent, "war effort" style action on climate change.  All the vast majority of politicians - left and right - want to do is get along to go along, appeal to their base, take Big Daddy Oil's money, and get reelected.

The president - our intelligent, caring, effective, fired up president - puts forth a demonstrably timid climate change plan that is doomed in the cradle.   

A national plan that would actually make a difference on emissions would be centralized and coordinated federally.  It would take enormous effort and enormous will and unprecedented amounts of cooperation and "reaching across the aisle," to use a tired old phrase.

It would require immediate government action and personal sacrifice from every single American.

And we're not there.  The people don't even care enough to worry about the mileage their new gas guzzling SUVs get.  The republicans pretend climate change isn't happening.  And our next president very well might be Donald Trump - the actual living embodiment of the MORE IS MORE personal credo of consumption.

Yep.  We're doomed.