Local Blogs

Raucous Caucus

By Tom Cushing

E-mail Tom Cushing

About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

View all posts from Tom Cushing

Sustainability 2: Green Tyranny?

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2013
According to one popular philosopher, "Life moves pretty fast." But has the world really gone from 'Silent Spring' to 'Green Tyranny' in three generations? Some folks would have you think so.

Rachel Carson's seminal book about the disastrous implications of DDT's tendency to "bio-accumulate" – move up the food chain with its poisonous effects intact, was a wake-up call to the world that 'better living through chemistry' sometimes wasn't. It demonstrated the interconnectedness of everything in the earthly realm, and suggested that being at the apex of all life forms did not imply insulation from those beneath. The book was a Defining Moment that gave impetus to mid-century environmentalism, which, up to that point, had been better known as the conservation movement.

So-called 'Green Tyranny' is a current rallying cry of those who fear that concern for human effects on the natural world is over-blown -- that counter-measures designed to sustain that world for future generations will impinge on today's precious liberties. Remember Walter Peck, the anatomically incorrect EPA inspector in Ghostbusters? He might be the archetype for these tyrannical Greens. Predictably, if ironically, the charge against sustainability is being led by the Tea Party.

The specific object of their concern is a 300-page document called "Agenda 21." Its saga begins roughly in the 1980s, when the term 'Gaia' took hold, in recognition of the fact that the earth is, ultimately, one circular system. One organism's waste (our exhaled CO2, for instance, as this is a family publication) is another's food, and around-and-around. That system does not respect man-made borders – 'Freon' escaping from our coolers carved a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer, for example, and pollution from China is detectable here.

The UN, then, took the lead in organizing transnational approaches to address these global concerns. Its conference in Rio in 1992 produced the Agenda, named for the 21st century. It was updated in later meetings, on its 10th and 20th anniversaries .

It's no mean feat to cobble together a document that can appeal to 192 countries in every region and stage of development. Obviously, 'sustainability' sounds different to folks in search of their next meal, or on the cusp of competing with big boys, than it does in Europe or here. And it is a truism in these multilateral negotiations that the language must remain general: more specifics usually means somebody will find a reason to opt-out, and generality may provide enough wiggle room that at least directional progress can be made.

In content, it's a voluntary undertaking, not a treaty (a problem for its foes, since it was never formally ratified), and divided into sections headed Social and Economic Dimensions, Resources, Empowering Major Groups and Implementation. For our purposes it's important to note that the first section seeks to integrate sustainability considerations into planning processes and encourage market-based mechanisms to reduce pollution and promote Agenda goals.

Section 2 deals with traditional environmental protection, broadly defined, while Part 3 notes the importance of empowering particularly NGOs and, notably, women, in pursuing these ends. Regarding Implementation, the Agenda reiterates its voluntary nature, committing its signatories only to 'continuous and constructive dialogue' in the 'delicate balance between environmental and developmental concerns.' The shorter 2010 update repeats the primary role of national policies, development strategies and the rule of law in pursuit of global sustainability.

So, what's not to like? I was frankly not sure, so I consulted the website of the East Bay Tea Party for direction. Among several Issues (which did not include forlorn and derelict billboards along 680, which may instead constitute an important private property right), was Green Tyranny. "Right now," it exclaims, "forces are working to eradicate the United States Constitution and give regulatory and political power to the United Nations and their vision for a global, one-world government."

But wait, there's more: according to the EBTP, more specifically: the UN, via Agenda 21 wants to dictate your car (if any!), where (and when!) you may travel, where you can live, where (and whether!) you may own property and how many offspring you may produce.

Now, if true, those claims would be deeply troubling, starting with the Constitution and ending with enforced family planning. So, I looked for any links on the site that would indicate how I missed all these dire outcomes in my quick review of the Agenda. And here's the problem: they do not exist. The site plays very fast and loose -- it is all fear-mongering contention, and no evidence. It does contain one linked passage critical of private property rights – but that sentence is from a different UN document written in 1976, 16 years before Agenda 21. And somehow our system of government has survived the intervening 38-year conspiracy. Perhaps others will come up with something to trouble my slumber in this regard, in the Comments?

Otherwise, I'll be left with just the irony of an organization that has bleated incessantly about the unconscionable consequences of the government debt we're leaving our grandchildren then turning both blind eyes to the global environmental catastrophe they are advocating. A national debt of any size will simply not matter in the context of calamities associated with an unsustainable planet, fifty years hence.

In the meantime, instead of gumming-up the local planning works with dark, unsupported warnings about sustainability conspiracies, perhaps the Tea Party faithful could take on fluoridation of our water, the Communist menace or maybe impeaching Earl Warren?

Synopsis: The concept of Sustainability is sustainable; Green Tyranny is not.

Comments

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Agenda 21 is a great idea---for you guys. The world would be better off if people in the U.S. moved out of single family homes and into stack & pack housing near job centers.

Ideally, no one would have more than 900 square feet of living space. Less space to heat & cool. You'd need less furniture (likely made by slave labor in China out of wood illegally cut from endangered Indonesian forests).

You'd drive less, pollute less, walk more, interact with people. Roads wouldn't wear out as fast.

If you want to see Agenda 21 in action, head to Oslo, Stockholm, or Copenhagen. Don't stop at the Potemkin village they present to tourists, with the quaint shops, cafes, cobblestone streets, etc. Head out to where people really live. Better yet, as you fly in, look our your window at the endless sea of high rise apartments.

Personally, I would have a hard time adopting to this type of lifestyle. It's too late for guys like me. I've tasted the good life and I'm not giving it up. I love my 4,000 sq. ft. house, my swimming pool, my SUV, Costco, etc.

But you guys should do it. Go for it.

Obviously, people need incentives to adopt an Agenda 21 lifestyle. One popular way is to make suburban commutes miserable. And we've done this. We've essentially stopped building new freeways in California. And we've created 26 government agencies that must approve freeway expansions. And our environmental laws enable activist groups to greatly delay road and bridge expansions. California freeways cost triple to maintain than the U.S. average. We also take toll money and other taxes away from roads and fund things like San Jose light rail and San Ramon buses (that no one uses). That's a start.

We need to make suburban commuting more expensive. California already has the second highest gas taxes (after New York). We require a special gasoline blend that adds another 20 – 30 cents a gallon. And in 2015, when AB 32 kicks in, that should raise the price of California gasoline by another 18 cents. But gas is still much cheaper here than Europe. If we truly want to embrace Agenda 21, we should dramatically increase the price of fuel as Steven Chu, Obama's former energy secretary, suggested.

We also need to make suburban living more expensive. One way is to raise utility rates on family sized suburban homes. We're already doing this in California. If you have a typical Danville family size house, you'll use around 900 kWh of electricity per month, which is less than the U.S. average. But you must pay $0.34 kWh for most of that. The U.S. average is around $0.12 kWh. It costs PG&E around $0.05 kWh to deliver it to your home. Under California law, PG&E is allowed to charge you $0.34 kWh. This provides people a financial incentive to live in smaller homes so they'll use less electricity or switch to solar (which costs "only" $0.22 kWh). California law also requires PG&E to give financial subsidies to poor people. So, in effect, PG&E over-charges Danville family home owners so PG&E can give discounted electricity to small unit city dwellers. Spreading the wealth and saving the planet at the same time.

Increasing the cost of housing, education, and raising children will help people make the choice to have less children. We've eliminated the scenario where 25-year-old newlyweds buy $100,000 homes and multiply like they did in the 1950's. When people have no choice but to live in small apartments, they're less likely to have large families. Consider the benefits this could have on the environment:

Over his/her lifetime, each American born in the 1990s will produce an average of:

-- 3.1 million pounds of CO2 (same as 413 plane trips from New York to Tokyo)

-- 22,828,508 pounds of water waste (the equivalent of 48,060 10-minute showers)

-- 16,372 pounds of yard waste (enough to fill 442 large garbage cans)

-- 7,249 pounds of food waste (as much as 16 households produce in a year)

-- S/he will eat 1,654 chickens, 74 turkeys, 25 pigs, 11 cows, two sheep, and 18,675 eggs.

-- And s/he will use 1,870 barrels of petroleum (enough to fuel a Subaru Outback for 822,800 miles).

But we will never truly embrace Agenda 21 principles until we adopt a value added tax (VAT) as proposed by Nancy Pelosi and other forward thinking politicians. The U.S. is practically the only country in the world that does not have a VAT. That's why goods are so cheap here. We pay a fraction of the cost for consumer goods than what Europeans and the rest of the world pay. This makes suburban life affordable for the masses. If we want the earth to survive, we must stop this massive consumerism. A VAT would encourage people to consume less and also fund important social goals, like Obamacare.

Clearly, Tom is right. There is no dark conspiracy. Just common sense.


Posted by Citizen Paine, a resident of Danville,
on May 10, 2013 at 9:59 am

A Senator makes the religious case for taking action on climate change. Web Link

"...It is less an expression of religious thinking than it is of magical thinking. The statement that God won't allow us to ruin our planet sweeps aside ethics, responsibilities, consequences, duties, even awareness. It comforts us with the anodyne assumption that, no matter what we do, some undefined presence will, through some undefined measure, make things right, clean up our mess.

That is seeking magical deliverance from our troubles, not divine guidance through our troubles..."


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Preserving Disorder
By Tom Cushing | 73 comments | 2,083 views

The drought drives lawmakers to action
By Tim Hunt | 12 comments | 1,443 views

Jim Kohnen Post Office Signed into Law
By Roz Rogoff | 5 comments | 609 views

CPRA: Balancing privacy, public's right to know
By Gina Channell-Allen | 3 comments | 240 views

Five Will Get You Fives
By John A. Barry | 1 comment | 118 views