Old people often shake their heads and mutter about “the younger generation.” Or they’ll say to one another, “It’s not the way it used to be,” with a solemn look of dismay as if the world was “going to hell in a hand basket.” That’s the problem when an elder like me writes about human-caused climate change: I come close to being a cliché.
Perhaps such sentiments come from nostalgia for a time earlier in one’s life, an era viewed as simpler, slower and more familiar. Friends occasionally email me photo collections that supposedly represent a decade such as the 1950s without a single photo of anyone of color. It’s as if no one other than white people lived in this country. On the other hand, since most filmgoers are younger than my cohort, and if the top 10 grossing movies of a typical week are any indication, most people attending movies today choose deeply dystopian films about the violent end of civilization as we know it.
A friendly and regular reader of this blog wrote me that she recently spent a week sitting in on the trial of a teenaged girl in Compton who was tried for murder and will likely spend the rest of her life in prison. She regularly responds to my essays and often asks me to explain exactly what we can do to change the circumstances of injustice that I write about. Such situations seem – like that of the young girl whose trial she watched – impossible to affect, much less fix.
Still, my reader’s question remains a fair one, and I have given it a lot of thought. I know what I do, and it ranges on a continuum from action at a distance to action up close. On that first end of the scale, I make it a practice to sign every petition that crosses my path. Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline,
Within about a month of the debut of Fwd.us, Mark Zuckerberg’s new DC lobby outfit aimed at promoting immigration reform, the group is already falling apart. If this week is any indication, the meltdown will be as spectacular and ignoble as every other ill-conceived, overfunded start-up in the Valley.
Fwd.us’ political problems began the way they usually do: with a cynical, too-cute-by-half strategy adopted by his Beltway proxies. Fwd.us’ approach amounted to this: Buy the votes of key lawmakers by dumping money into ads in their home states on issues that are useful to them but that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about.
What that has meant in practice is running commercials supporting South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham for his bold opposition to Obamacare and his support of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and applauding Alaska Senator Mark Begich for his support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
With a trumpet blast from the sources of conventional wisdom, the Keystone XL pipeline charged through the news sources last month. When the State Department released its positive environmental report that is seen as clearing the way for a pipe full of Canadian oil slurry to run through the heartland of America to the refineries of Houston, the pundits lined up to salute. They said the XL would add to American oil independence. They said it would bring jobs. They said it would never cause any of those silly problems the environmentalists were bothered about.
But as usual, the CW is wrong on all counts. The proposed pipeline will bring crude from the tar sands in Alberta province, down across the fragile Midwestern Ogallala aquifer to south Texas where it would be refined by the oil industrial complex, then shipped out to markets in Africa and South America. That’s right — the oil transshipment is not intended to produce for the American market,