Posts Tagged ‘climate protection’

Maybe I will change my mind about the “we” campaign?

Their latest “Oil and Coal” ad is getting at the main issue, at last:

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Unless, you live in California, as I do, you may have missed this latest development in the California Apple Moth spraying initiative:

California urban areas will not be sprayed aerially with pesticides to fight the light brown apple moth, state and federal agricultural officials announced Thursday. Instead, officials intend to fight the invading, leaf-munching pest by releasing sterile moths and using other methods, according to California Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura and Cindy Smith, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in charge of insect control. The change of course comes after thousands of citizens questioned the safety and effectiveness of the spraying program that was promoted by Kawamura and federal officials. The officials had said the pesticides contain a synthetic pheromone – and other ingredients – that would confuse moths and interfere with reproduction.

Needless to say, I am pleased. No pheromone for me and my family. The name itself sounds like it could cause cancer!

More importantly, what happened is a testimony to the power of grassroots organizing. I thought it would be worthwhile to go over all the steps that led to the citizens’ victory:

  • City of Albany’s Integrated Pest Management Task Force, led by Nan Wishner, worked with concerned citizens and environmental groups.
  • To bolster citizens support, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other members of California delegation and state legislators who introduced bills to restrict use of chemicals, city mayors, and UC Davis entomologists, all wrote letters to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Based on reports from local MDs, there was evidence from from earlier limited aerial sprayings, that chemicals were responsible for hundreds of respiratory and other health effects. 
  • Internationally known UC Davis entomologists James Carey, Frank Zalom and Bruce Hammock wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer asking that the program be re-evaluated and warning that spraying a pheromone product wouldn’t eliminate the pest. They also said the moth would pose no more of an economic threat to California’s crops than similar pests.
  • A coalition of eight cities – San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond, Piedmont, Alameda and Albany – as well as 185 nonprofit citizen groups – prepared to send letters to Kawamura, insisting that the department complete an environmental impact report before doing any aerial spraying.
  • Earthjustice attorney Deborah Reames argued that spraying major urban areas with potentially harmful chemicals to eradicate a species could have significant effects on public health and the environment.

Some key lessons here:

  • It helps to work on an issue that moves citizens, in this case personal health.
  • Do your homework, collect enough evidence to support your case, and ask for experts to back up your points
  • Create a non profit organization to champion your cause
  • Co-opt other existing organizations that have a stake in the issue
  • Work up all the echelons along the power ladder, from neighborhood associations, to city council, all the way up to the House and your Governor
  • Get the judicial system involved
  • Befriend your local media; if the story is good it will get picked up in the blogs and the national news

I have written before about the evil role of special fossil fuel interests in blocking some key climate protection initiatives. What happened with the apple moth made me wonder, if the same kind of smart grass roots organizing could apply. The only problem is the impact of Big Oil lobbying is not as direct and personal as being sprayed with some pheromone. . . Still, there must be a way!

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It is happening finally. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, ‘Dollar’s Fall Forces New Standard of Frugality‘ amidst Americans. I could not be more pleased. ‘Squeezed by food and energy prices, tight credit, stagnant incomes and falling home and stock values, many consumers are throttling back.’

‘Ins and Outs of New Economic Order’

Source: Chronicle research, BudgetSavvyMag.com

What puzzles me however, are the responses from the economists:

We are going back to the good old days of living within our means . . . This is not the end of the world. It’s not Armageddon. It doesn’t mean we’re going to have to live in a cave or a hut or an RV. The areas of retrenchment are in areas we can do without, such as cutting out that extra vacation.’ David Rosenberg chief North American economist for Merrill Lynch

‘We are seeing the first pangs of a new economic structure. The next year or three will be about the transition to a new equilibrium. Consumption by households will grow more slowly than their incomes, which is the exact opposite of the last 25 years when consumption grew faster than incomes.’ Neal Soss, chief economist for Credit Suisse First Boston

‘Standards of consumption have to fall. The burden really falls on households.’ Ronald McKinnon, economist at Stanford University

‘The world has become multipolar. Our dominance will decline.’ Barry Eichengren, international economics expert at UC Berkeley

‘We should not look at today’s rising of credit standards as being bad. We’re returning to a more realistic credit paradigm after a period of excess. What people are comparing it to is something that was outlandishly unrealistic.’ Catherine Mann, professor of international economics and finance at Brandeis Business School

‘I see no reason that we can’t continue to enjoy productivity gains and double the standard of living in the next 30 or 40 years. I still sense that there’s lots of excitement for things like solving our clean echnology problem. I don’t see a country that’s down on its luck and out of ideas.’ Joen Shoven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

You would think these new behaviors from the American people would be the perfect occasion for a paradigm shift in the economics narrative, but no . . .

Being an optimist, I am choosing to retain the good news. People do respond to limits. And in its own twisted way, the market system does work, including for climate protection.

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Finally, Al is tapping into the power of advertising. The news just came out of a $300 million ad campaign on global warming set to start next week. The campaign is the product of the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore‘s organization. According to 60 Minutes,

Some of the ads will feature unlikely alliances to drive home the message that people of all stripes are concerned about global warming. These include the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Pat Robertson, Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks, and Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich.

This seems  just an awareness campaign to drive home the fact that global warming is to be taken seriously. Unless it is followed by a more action-oriented campaign, I doubt very much that it will do much to change people’s habits. Most people do not doubt the seriousness of global warming. The real problem lies more in how to move them to make changes.

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