Get green or die tryin’

Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus

There is simply no way we can achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without creating breakthrough technologies that do not pollute.

— from the Introduction to “Breakthrough. From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus

To stop global warming, we need to get everyone on board, facing the same direction, and optimistic about the process. That’s where traditional greens and the left lose their potential audience. They scold that we must cut back, reduce growth, accept a greatly reduced lifestyle – then wonder why many are hostile to their ideas and nothing happens.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus, both longtime environmentalists, have a different plan. Launch a New Apollo Project with the federal government spending 300 billion on research for new non-polluting energy sources. They estimate private enterprise would then add 200 billion more and real solutions could certainly be found. They polled the public on their idea and found almost universal acceptance, Texas rednecks as well as Bay Area enviros were in approval.

Sadly, traditional environmental groups ended up opposing it, because it stepped all over their sacred cows (and donor base, no doubt.) So now the authors have an institute, new book, and book tour, and plan to spread the word.

“If this book doesn’t piss off a whole lot of conservatives and a whole lot of liberals, we’ve failed,” Nordhaus says.

I like their attitude.

Wired has a must-read article on this, and for me it was a real eureka moment. Yes, with a plan like this we have a real chance of both stopping global warming and solving the peak oil problem – and really, what’s the alternative? Wait for the oil to run out and the seas to rise bemoaning our fate all the way as endless wars for oil and water rage across the planet?

Socialists say this kind of change can only happen when a new form of government takes power, but that takes too long and then you’ve got years of fighting those forced from power. We don’t have twenty years. We need to start now. Free marketers think the market can do it alone, but this is illusion. Only governments have the resources and power to pull off a plan like this.

What if the economic solution to environmental disaster weren’t a matter of stepping on the brakes but of stepping on the gas?

Indeed. (I’ll be reviewing the book as soon as it arrives from Amazon.)