It was 1961 when President Kennedy proposed – challenged us, really – to send a man to the moon and bring him safely back to Earth by the end of the decade. It was a daring choice. At the time we didn’t have propulsion technology for the job. Not just the propulsion itself, the rocket engines, but the technology to construct the massive engines that would be needed. We didn’t have the metallurgy or computing capability that would be required and didn’t even know how we would provide food for astronauts on a lunar journey. We just had a bunch of people with slide rules, most doing things that had nothing to do with NASA and who weren’t prepared for such an enormous, complicated and dangerous endeavor.
And on July 20, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put their footprints on the dust of the moon, as Michael Collins circled above in the command module. Imagine that.
Now we are faced with a far bigger challenge and we don’t have a choice on this one. The climate of the Earth is heating rapidly, perhaps as part of a natural cycle, but this time it is exaggerated because of human activity, largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The heating of the planet is making each successive year the hottest on record and it is already creating disasters of storms and drought. Sarah Palin, most of the Republican presidential candidates and the rest of the ostrich community may refuse to see that, but, as John Adams was fond of saying, facts are stubborn things. Things are getting worse regardless of whether the ostriches acknowledge that fact. Further, doing nothing about global warming is inherently self-defeating.
And that is a major driver of why Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) is promoting a bill to slash carbon emissions in California 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 emission levels baseline. He is being opposed by Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the California legislature who represent economically suffering districts in central California and who fear the impact on their communities and perhaps on their political careers.
He is also opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which is airing fear mongering ads on television projecting awful things that they say will happen if this legislation is passed. All of this is detailed in a New York Times article which captures well the mindset of this organization, which at its core is designed to protect the profit of its fossil fuel selling member companies. The president of the association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, is quoted:
“I can’t figure out any other way to reach a 50% reduction in that [time] frame without doing some pretty dramatic measures. If it isn’t gas rationing, what is it?”
“We think there should be a lot more detail and it should be articulated pretty clearly about how one thinks they are going to be about this super-aggressive mandate.”
And that’s it. Ms. Reheis-Boyd can’t figure it out. It’s simply beyond her; therefore, the legislators of California should scuttle Brown’s proposal. And she needs all the details before anything is done, so nothing should be done. It’s all about her and her limited abilities, so make this legislation go away, she tells us.
Compare that to President Kennedy’s challenge to America, when nobody had a clue how to do what he proposed, yet we proceeded anyway, figured it out and succeeded.
Here’s a piece of Human Being 101: Change always involves moving from what is known to some unknown future where we don’t know what the consequences may be. Change feels scary and is always resisted.
Here’s a piece of Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.
Here’s a piece of observation: When a group of 10 people are presented with a new idea, 8 will immediately explain all the reasons why it cannot be done. One will sit quietly with a deer in the headlights face. After all the naysayers have calmed down a little, the 10th will offer an idea for how to start.
We Americans are fond of seeing ourselves as can-do and proudly announce to ourselves and to the world our American exceptionalism. We have done wondrous things that have benefited not only ourselves, but the entire world and we continue to have the natural and human resources to do so much more. What is puzzling is how people with a big public voice can extol the wonders of our American exceptionalism and at the same time tell us how we can’t do anything about global warming. It is further puzzling that our fossil fuel industries, having such enormous resources, are doing nothing to create the new energy technologies that will be required when we run out of oil within the next 100 years. Where is the exceptionalism in that?
It is time to stop resisting change that is inevitable and to imagine a healthy, sustainable energy superstructure. It is time to imagine a planet that can sustain the billions of us who don’t want to die in a climate catastrophe.
To Ms. Reheis-Boyd, Sarah Palin and all the others with myopic vision or who willfully blind themselves: Stop resisting and instead, imagine.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.
ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe. Thanks! JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.