Hard Choices


These are hard times for sure. The economy is still stalled. Unemployment is at a stagnant 9.6% (which I think is low, considering). And decisions are being made that pit the future of our planet against short term economic gains. There isn’t a single person that doesn’t want to move our current social situation off the dime. But the question we have to ask is whether we should look to the past (aka “good times”) for solutions–solutions that may have caused much of our current predicament. Or, do we look 50 or even 100 years into the future to where we want to be as a society. Hard times require hard choices “if” we are to progress beyond our fossil fuel dependent ways.

Proposition 23, which would have suspended AB 32, the “Global Warming Act of 2006”, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated.AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006”, was passed by the California State Legislature and signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proposition 23, if enacted by voters, would have frozen the provisions of AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters. California’s unemployment rate, which currently hovers around 12%, has been at 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters just three times since 1980. [Source: BallotPedia] Fortunately, Prop 23 failed to pass.

The sad thing is that AB32 only required carbon emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels.  I keep hoping that someone will ask for it be reduced to pre-Industrial Revolution level. Anything less is really a just a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Even if we stopped spewing CO2 into the atmosphere today, its CO2 levels would continue to rise for many years to come.

And so we come back to hard choices. Do we really want to bury our heads in the sand about global warming simply so we can jump-start our economy? Why can’t we see beyond the short-term gain/long-term environmental damage in order to get at longer term solutions? Why can’t we cease with activities that encourage our fossil fuel based economy, and really, truly undertake ones that are innovative and set us down a path of a new paradigm?

The longer we continue to convince ourselves that a few more years hooked up to the oil IV we’re on is OK, the longer, and more difficult, it will be before we can flip the switch on a new reality. We did it with organic agriculture–and today we’re still pushing the envelope of what that means. We’re trying to do it with alternative energy. All it will take is us realizing that the value in doing the right thing far exceeds the cost of doing the wrong thing. These are the times when it is actually easier to make hard choices because there is less complacency.

Folks, we need a new paradigm. But it won’t be easy. But critical junctures in history never were.

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About Farmer Mike Biltonen

Mike Biltonen is lifelong farmer with a passion for great tasting, sustainably grown food. He also has an opinion and this blog is his soapbox. But mostly he just likes to farm. Enjoy!
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One Response to Hard Choices

  1. Eric says:

    It takes more than a vision of where we want to go, but also technically feasible options and a willingness to let go of ways with which we are familiar and comfortable. I would argue it is the last of these three that is the most challenging. However, that doesn’t preclude the need to address the enormously complex issues we face.

    One of the major issues is that a strict focus on CO2 ignores many other GHGs that are much more potent and likely to see much greater emissions in the near future (e.g. arctic methane). Moreover, while there has been much focus on carbon trading, you can bet that one of the drivers is a search for profits rather than a climate fix. Ironically, one of the most likely uses of captured carbon is for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery.

    Oil and Gas continue to be the nation’s fastest growing sources of energy and could only feasibly be challenged by natural gas or nuclear (both with their own risks). To put it in perspective, at current consumption rates, the US has proven oil reserves that could maintain oil independence for about 2.5 years. With the use of EOR techniques, this could be pushed to about 60 years. Unfortunately, alternative energies just can’t match oil and coal (and natural gas). Even solar panels take on average 7 to 9 years to produce the same amount of energy that was used in their manufacture. Historically, energy efficiency gains have always led to more energy use, not less. It all comes back around to the need for a massive change in lifestyles that are much less energy and resource dependent and much more dispersed. Hard choices, indeed.

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