Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse gases emissions’

The Sierra Club of Canada just came out with this slamming report on the Canadian government’s environmental policy:

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way is Sierra Club Canada’s advice to the federal government in its 2008 Kyoto Report Card, released today. The Report Card’s release comes on the same day that senior European Union and Canadian officials are meeting to discuss successful European practices in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Canada has a lot to learn from the European Union and we hope that Environment Canada officials will listen carefully to governments that are rising to the challenge of meeting their Kyoto targets,” said Stephen Hazell, Sierra Club Canada’s executive director. “The EU is not only reducing emissions, it is creating a green economy with more than a million new jobs for Europeans. There is no reason why Canada should not share in these green economic benefits. “

The 2008 Kyoto Report Card describes the leadership assumed by municipal leaders, including the 150-plus municipalities that have signed on as Partners for Climate Protection. The Report Card also highlights the efforts of provinces such as Québec and British Columbia that have serious emission reduction strategies, and those of countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany that are on track to meet or exceed their Kyoto targets.

“If the Harper government refuses to follow the leaders, it should at least get out of the way of provinces taking serious action such as adopting California standards for cars,” said Emilie Moorhouse, atmosphere and energy campaigner. “After two decades of foot-dragging, the federal government should be racing to catch up, instead of diluting efforts by adopting the weakest standards.”

“Not only were the federal government’s domestic actions to fight global warming in 2007 inadequate, Canada became known as the colossal fossil in United Nations negotiations,” said Jean Langlois, national campaign director. “The next federal election will give Canadians the chance to demand serious action to reduce emissions so that Canada can hold its head high internationally as a respected steward of the atmosphere.”

For a second, I thought they were talking about the U.S . . .

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Third day of Not So Green Exposure Project. I open the Business Section of my daily paper and I read this:

With just a few days left before Christmas, the nation’s retailers are in a lather to attract last-minute shoppers to salvage what has been a mediocre December.

Department-store operator Macy’s Inc. has slashed prices on everything from clothing to jewelry, while Toys “R” Us is offering price cuts of up to 75 percent this weekend. At stake are retailers’ profits for the year and perhaps even the strength of the economy.

While consumers jammed stores at the start of the season for big discounts and shopped early for Nintendo Co.’s hard-to-find Wii game console, popular video games like “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” and Australian sheepskin UGG boots, they waited until the end for most everything else, to take advantage of the best deals amid a challenging economy.

The biggest disappointment comes from women’s apparel, extending a downturn that’s grown deeper in recent months and serving as an ominous sign for the health of retailing in general. Women do the primary shopping for the family, so analysts say it’s troubling that they are spending less time in the stores.

“I have no money or time to shop,” said Tina Morabito, who just started her holiday shopping on Friday morning at the Providence Place Mall, in Providence, R.I. She was buying some greeting cards and mint chocolates, but didn’t plan to buy clothing.

“There’s been a malaise” among women’s clothing sales and “it has spread to other areas,” said Dan Hess, chief executive of Merchant Forecast, a New York-based research firm. “The panic button has been pushed, particularly in department stores.”

And even with an expected sales surge this weekend, which traditionally accounts for about 10 percent of holiday sales, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater expects that the last-minute spending will be “too little, too late” to save Christmas.

“When people think they are in a recession, they spend like they are in a recession,” Slater said.

A series of snowstorms hampered spending in recent days, but clearly, economic worries – particularly higher gas prices, an escalating credit crisis and a slumping housing market – weighed on shoppers’ minds.

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a research company that tracks total sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, business for the week ended Saturday slipped 0.4 percent compared to the same week in 2006. Total U.S. traffic for the same period slumped 8.9 percent from a year ago.

The apparel market was hit even harder because there was nothing new that wowed shoppers. The new style – cropped jackets with bell sleeves – failed to generate a lot of buzz, says research analyst Jennifer Black.

Hess estimated that discounts at department stores are about 10 percent to 15 percent higher than a year ago, a worrisome sign for profits. Price-cutting at specialty clothing stores, which had better control of their inventories, were at the same level as a year ago.

Slater said that he estimates that large department stores are missing their sales plan by as much as 10 percent so far in December.

Slater noted that even gift card sales have been disappointing; in some cases, the gift card business may be “even down,” based on spot checks with retailers. Gift card sales have been a bright spot in recent years though they mute pre-Christmas business because sales are not recorded until recipients redeem them.

The toy industry is expected to match last year’s sales, at best. In addition to a challenging economy, the industry was hurt by a slew of recalls of Chinese-made products that made some shoppers cautious.

Online retailers, which have had an uneven season, are ending with a strong finish. According to comScore Inc., consumers spent almost $25 billion online from Nov. 1 through Dec. 18, a 19 percent increase, though a bit below its 20 percent forecast.

While it’s hard to discern how much of the discounting in the final hours is unplanned, stores are clearly slashing prices to eke out sales wherever they can. Toys “R” Us stores are staying open till midnight every night until Christmas Eve. Beginning Friday at 7 a.m., several of Macy’s stores in the New York metropolitan area, including its flagship store in Manhattan, won’t close until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

At Macy’s Herald Square store, the entire inventory seemed to be on sale. Plenty of women’s career apparel was discounted by 50 percent, for example.

“I usually do all my shopping on Black Friday. But I missed it. So I waited for the deals,” said Goednee Coteland, of Manhattan, who was leaving Macy’s Herald Square store Thursday night carrying bags of clothing marked down 50 percent.

Subtle, but powerful. Our whole economic language is imbued with capitalistic values. Consumer spending needs to be up, and so do profits. At stake is a ‘strong’ economy. The signal I get as a consumer, is that spending is good for my country. Not a single mention of the associated environmental costs in greenhouse gases emissions. Spending would be good if it took into account those costs. Really, I am all for free market capitalism. But there’s got to be a new way of looking at and talking about consumer spending. I have heard it best described by Robert Kennedy Jr. Listen to his words – and forget the lousy image quality, this is the only video I could find that fully captures his views on free market capitalism – :

The common financial and economic language needs to make room for words like, green, carbon, environment. It needs to reflect a shift in the way our economy views and incorporates the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions. It also needs to make the distinction between goods and services that make a positive contributions to the environment, versus the ones that don’t.


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Kyle Schuant is the Aussie blogger over at Green With A Gun and a frequent visitor on this blog. It is hard to find a blogger as passionate as Kyle. If you comment on this blog, you have probably encountered Kyle in many of the lively discussions that animate La Marguerite. I have come to appreciate the depth of Kyle’s comments, his thorough knowledge of environmental issues, and also his talent for using compelling arguments to rally others to the green cause. Please join me to welcome Kyle as the new guest writer in the BlogActs series. In this article, Kyle does a brilliant demonstration of what it would take for the average Australian to achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gases emissions, just with the status quo, only reasonable behavioral changes, and without the need for new technology. Kyle invites us to take a cold, hard look at the facts, and comes up with some pretty surprising numbers. These numbers can be easily extrapolated to other developed countries, U. S. included.

What are we being asked to do to “save the planet”? George Monbiot in Heat talks about a global reduction of 60% of carbon emissions by 2050, which means a 90% Western world reduction, since we’re so far above the average.. Climate change conferences between countries tend to be less ambitious. And then there are scientists out there who say we need more than a 100% reduction, we need to be taking carbon out of the air, not adding any at all. But let’s be moderately ambitious, go for Monbiot in the middle and aim at 90%. Sounds pretty rough, yeah? Probably big sacrifices required? Well, let’s see. It turns out the average Australian can drop their greenhouse gas emissions by about two-thirds without significant discomfort or expense, and saving money.

What are we starting from?

It’s easy to talk about reducing or increasing emissions, but what does it really mean to us in our day-to-day lives? Do we have to live in a cave, or can we live in a hydrogen-powered computerized pollutionless mansion if we get the right Science! (TM)?

Well, let’s look at what the average person here in Australia uses during the year, and the carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions they produce. Once we know what it means day-to-day for us to live this polluting lifestyle, then that helps us figure out what it’d mean to live a different lifestyle.

We’ll just look at what the average person can affect, their household stuff and transport. We won’t worry about factories and mines and so on, since you and I can’t affect those directly. Since methane (cow farts) and other gases actually have a stronger warming effect than pure CO2, but break down over a while, so we’ll give the figures in “CO2e”, which means “carbon dioxide equivalent”, over 100 years. This is calculated as per the figures in my article on carbon emissions. The following is what the average Australian consumes in a year, and the emissions they cause as a result.

 Petrol 1,230lt, causing 2,854kg CO2e
 Aircraft 4,000km, causing 1,000kg CO2e
 Bus, petrol/diesel, 500km, causing 12kg CO2e
 Train, diesel, 250km, causing 2kg CO2e
 Train, electric, 500km, causing 7kg CO2e
 Tram, electric, 250km, causing 13kg CO2e
Household power & gas
 Coal-sourced electricity 3,000kwh, causing 3,630kg co2e
 Natural gas 36,500MJ, causing 2,008kg CO2e
 Meat 107kg, causing 1,231kg CO2e
 Fruit, vegetable, legumes and grain 400kg, causing 1620kg CO2e
 Dairy 100kg, causing 6kg CO2e
 Rubbish 600kg, causing 2,400kg CO2e
 Recycling 200kg, causing 200kg CO2e

All this adds to 14,981kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

Yes, that is a lot. The world average is more like 3,000kg CO2e per person of these domestic controllable emissions. I know, I know – you’re different. You don’t drive but you do fly a lot, and your friend eats more meat than that and leaves the lights on all the time, and your mum never goes anywhere on any kind of transport and is vegetarian – but we’re talking about averages across whole countries, millions of people. So that’s what we’ve got.

Now let’s look at ways the average Australian can reduce this – not making any big “sacrifice”, not waiting for any Science! (TM) or The Market! but just using what’s available to us today.

The average Australian lives in a city, and has access to public transport. Over half their petrol is used in getting to work. In general, public transport sucks – it’s dirty, often late, irregular, not always on when and where you want it, but it can get you to work, and will give you another half an hour or more a day to relax before and after work, read a book or newspaper, chat to friends. Once you factor that leisure time and lower cost in, public transport sucks less than do traffic and parking and speed cameras and so on. So let’s walk, bike, and take the bus or train to work, and that halves the petrol consumption. The average car travels 15,000km each year, so that adds 7,500km to bus, train and tram. Not every city has trams like Melbourne, so we’ll split it 50% trains, 40% buses, 10% trams.

Next we’ll eliminate the aircraft travel, and change that to diesel train. Sorry, no more overseas trips – but that still leaves a whole continent to explore. That ought to be enough to fill a lifetime of holidays.

This takes our transport-related emissions from 3,888 to 1,660kg CO2e. That’s dropped us 15% on the total.

Domestic energy:
Electricity? In most places in the developed West, you can choose your electricity provider, and choose the source of your electricity. Let’s choose the least polluting, wind. Not bad – that takes us from 3,630 to 120kg CO2e. Only thing is, wind power costs more. So let’s just use less electricity.

For heating and cooling, remember that in your home you’re usually in one place for some time. You’re at the kitchen table, at your desk in your study, or on the couch in front of the tv. You don’t need the whole house to be the right temperature, just where you’re sitting. So for cooling, wear light clothes and have a cold drink. Turn off your 2,500W airconditioning and replace it with a 50W fan, point it wherever you’re sitting. For heating, wear a jumper and have a warm drink. When you’re sitting for a long time, use a hot water bottle in a little blanket.

Now, the hot water system.. Go out to your hot water heater and turn the thermostat down a bit. An hour later, check on the temperature of the water from the tap. It should be no hotter than you can stand on your bare skin. You don’t need to make coffees straight from the tap – heating 140lt to get 2050ml of hot water? Are you crazy? Use the kettle. You need it just hot enough that when you take a shower you don’t need to add any cold water. If it’s still too hot, go out and lower the thermostat again. (Some people tell stories about legionella and other deadly diseases you supposedly get from doing this, but I’ve never had anyone meet my challenge: Give me a single case mentioned in medical journals of someone getting sick from their non-boiling shower. Just one.) Now make your showers about 4 minutes. You’re not a surgeon, you don’t need to sterilise yourself, washing all over is quite enough. Shave in the sink, boys.

For lighting, as your old incandescent globes die out, replace them with compact fluroescents. They cost $5 instead of $1, but if you have it on for four hours a day (pretty typical for a house light), you’l make that $ difference back in four months, and the things last for years. Turn off all lights and appliances at the wall when not in use – how many clocks do you need, really? Is it so much trouble to switch on the tv as you pass it to flop on the couch? Is it so horrible to wait while the computer boots up?

Okay, now wind power usually costs 50% more than coal, but with all that you just went from the Aussie average of 8.2kWh/day per person to about 3kWh/day.

Alright, all that just reduced your domestic power-related emissions from 5,638 to 445kg CO2e. That’s 35% gone.

Ideally we’d all eat organic and locally-grown food. But that can be hard to get, and it’s bloody expensive. Besides which, they may save on emissions at the farm, but that’s not much use if they trucked the stuff all the way in refrigerated trucks from Gippsland to Sydney. The key thing is how much meat you eat. 107kg is the Australian average, and that’s 290g a day. That’s half the meat on a cow a year, or a couple of chickens a week, or three or four pigs. Really you don’t need that much for your health. Aim at half a kilo a month of meat of some kind, making sure that any children or menstruating women get red meat in preference to other things, they need more iron than us blokes.

With the rest of your food, buy fresh fruit and vegetables, or dried. Don’t buy tinned stuff unless there’s nothing else available, and avoid anything pre-made like fish fingers, tv dinners and so on. Buy also pasta and rice, nuts and beans. Nutrition is a complicated subject, but an easy way to do it is to aim for colourful meals. When you chop up the vegies there should be three or four different colours there. So if you had onions, peppers, spinach and carrots, there you go. Try to eat beans or nuts every day. Wash it down with some milk or fruit juice, and have a piece of fruit for dessert. You can’t cook? If you can read, you can cook. It takes time to do, but if you have time to watch Neighbours or The Simpsons or read people’s blogs, then you have time to cook. You can always make a big lot on the weekend and freeze things, that uses the time more efficiently.

Plus you’ll impress your spouse and make more friends, everyone likes someone who can cook nice meals.

That takes food-related emissions from 2,857 to 2,104kg CO2e. Another 5% saved.

You can reduce this. Basically you’ve got three categories of waste – rubbish (400kg), recycling (200kg) and food scraps (200kg). In your kitchen you should have a bin for the stuff that can be recycled, and another for the stuff that can’t. Most areas have decent recycling programs now. Check what they can and can’t recycle. If they can’t recycle (say) plastic type “6”, then when you go to the shops to buy something, don’t buy things with that as their container. There are so many brands of everything, you can have your choice of containers, too. Generally if you stick to glass jars, cardboard and wax paper containers they should be able to recycle them. If you have a garden, you should compost all your food scraps. If you don’t have a garden, find a neighbour who does and give them your scraps, they’ll love it.

In this way, you ought to be able to turn 3⁄4 of that rubbish into recycling, and all your food scraps into compost. Your total emissions from waste then go from 2,600 to 973kg CO2e. Another 11% down.

So what do we get from all that? Remember, none of this has cost us any money, in fact it’ll over time save us money.

 Petrol 615lt, causing 1426.8kg CO2e
 Bus, petrol/diesel 3,500km, causing 80.5kg CO2e
 Train, diesel 4,250km, causing 34kg CO2e
 Train, electric 4,250km, causing 59.5kg CO2e
 Tram, electric 1,000km, causing 52kg CO2e
Domestic Power & Gas
 Wind 1095kwh, causing 43.8kg co2e
 Natural gas 7300MJ, causing 401.5kg CO2e
 Wood, clear-felled 0kg, causing 0kg CO2e
 Meat 6kg, causing 69kg CO2e
 Fruit, vegetable, legumes and grain 501kg, causing 2029kg CO2e
 Dairy 100kg, causing 6kg CO2e
 Rubbish 100kg, causing 400kg CO2e
 Recycling 500kg, causing 500kg CO2e
 Compost aerobic/kg 200kg, causing 73kg CO2e

All this adds to 5,175kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. That’s 35% of the average, a 70% reduction.

I dunno, maybe I’m a really tough guy or something, but none of those measures seem to me to be a great “sacrifice.” Most of them will improve my life – I’ll have more money, or less time at work earning that money, less stress, and better physical health. The average Westerner can get a 70% reduction while improving their life, and without having to become some stupid drugged-out hippy communist.

Okay, that’s 65%, what about the other 25%?
The rest is where we either are deprived of things and get real hassle, or else where we need some support from the public purse and government. Because we’re being lazy and don’t want to sacrifice anything, let’s not think of real deprivation. “Damnit, government, we’ve done 70% of it, you sort out the other 20%! What am I paying taxes for?” We need better public transport, more localised work and agriculture, and better packaging for our stuff.

If that 501kg of food, the fruit, vegetables, beans and grain were grown in a lot on your block, or even on a farm a couple of kilometres out of town, all organically and harvested by hand, you’d get zero carbon emissions from it, and that’s another 14% saved.

Better public transport or living within a few kilometres of work and your hobbies would let you get rid of the car entirely, and that’s another 10% saved, only 1% to go. Better packaging for the stuff we buy would mean none of it is rubbish. Do we really need a paper tea bag to have a plastic wrapping on it, then be in a paper box with a plastic wrapping around that, too? Is this a cup of tea or surgery? That saves us another 3%. Awesome, we’re over-target.

So by our own day-to-day actions we can reduce our carbon emissions by 70% while improving our lives overall, and the other 20% we need some government help for.


Again, this is all talking about the average Westerner and what they can achieve in their own day-to-day lives. And it turns out that we can make a 65% reduction in our personal greenhouse gas emissions while improving our lives and physical health. For the other 25% we need some help. I say we make the 65% reduction, then our elected representatives will be more inclined to help us out with the other 25%.

An easily-achievable, 65% reduction. By contrast, as I write this, representatives of the developed world are wailing in terror just at talk of a non-binding goal of a 25-40% reduction… by 2020. For Australians, 25% is 3,745 and 40% is 5,992kg CO2e each. Taking public transport to work saves us 2,267, and changing from coal-generated to wind power without lowering power consumption saves us another 3,510kg CO2e, there you go, easy. 2020? I can do that by tomorrow!

Sure, this doesn’t make agriculture or industry change, but that’s a “what difference does my contribution make?” question, which will be the subject of another article.

Wow, and we didn’t even need Science! (TM) for it. A pity, really, it could have been fun.

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Al Gore’s Nobel Lecture emphasized the role of the United States and China as the two nations responsible for the most greenhouse gases emissions, and the ones that should take the lead in the search for climate change solutions. While the U. S. reticence to taking action can be traced back to the personality of its leader, George Bush, China’s perceived lack of goodwill has its roots in an entirely different situation. In his latest San Francisco Chronicle article, Bali needs to know – can China go green?, Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Public Policy, explains:

Beijing’s leaders are not being stubborn or in denial. To the contrary, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao seem much more aware of the global warming problem than President Bush or many members of Congress. The crucial sticking point is that Beijing’s top leadership seems largely incapable of complying with any significant cutback commitments.

Amid China’s explosive economic growth of recent years, the Communist government has lost so much political and regulatory power that it has been unable to force provincial and municipal authorities to obey environmental laws. Despite its image abroad as an all-powerful dictatorship, the government desperately needs real regulatory clout.

For example, the central government has made high-profile pledges to reduce energy intensity by 4 percent annually and to punish local officials who fail to comply, but many local authorities have blithely ignored Beijing, continuing to pursue economic growth at all costs. As a result, the country cut its energy intensity by just 1.3 percent last year and by 3 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to official statistics – which are believed to be marred by the data-fudging of local officials.

“The situation remains extremely bleak, with some work not being properly done,” Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, told a Beijing press conference Nov. 29. Asked about the government’s claims that local officials would be judged by their environmental performance, Xie replied, “I know one province that will take action against leaders of selected areas and enterprises if they fail to meet the final energy conservation and emission reduction target.”

What’s urgently needed to help China go green is a crash program of technical aid, modeled on California’s 20-year record of quietly helping Chinese officials learn from the state’s own success in setting standards on air quality and energy efficiency that are tighter than those required under federal law.

With virtually no publicity, scientists and specialists from the California Energy Commission, California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board, Public Utilities Commission, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the nonprofit Energy Foundation of San Francisco have traveled to China to advise the national, provincial and municipal governments. They have set up pro-conservation electricity rate structures, clean-energy technology tax incentives, tighter vehicle emissions regulations, stronger building insulation standards, home appliance energy standards and other programs. Researchers from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Resources Institute and Harvard University’s Belfer Center are giving similar assistance. The resulting reduction in China’s energy consumption has saved the equivalent of scores of coal-fired power plants and supertankers full of oil.

In contrast, the U.S. government gives little energy assistance to China, totaling less than $2 million per year, little of which will have any impact in the near term. This stinginess is partly caused by the Bush administration’s preference for private sector-led programs, and partly by the sanctions imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodshed. Most U.S. energy assistance is focused on clean coal technology, such as so-called carbon capture and storage, which is not expected to become commercially ready until about 2017.

At Bali, Chinese diplomats find it easier to beg for money than to admit that they are no longer kings of their roost. They are demanding that foreign governments create a multibillion-dollar fund to promote the spread of environmentally friendly technology to the developing world, and they also propose that wealthy nations relax patent protections on green technology.

These proposals are much needed for poor nations without enough money to go green, and China has the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves, at $1.4 trillion and growing by about $30 billion per month. Rather than use this money to create the sort of green investment funds that the West is now expected to provide, central bank authorities in Beijing have followed an orthodox investment strategy, largely in U.S. government securities that enable the Bush administration’s war programs and deficit spending.

China is already receiving large sums of foreign aid through the Clean Development Mechanism, an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrialized countries to gain emissions credits by investing in energy-saving projects in developing countries. China is the largest single recipient of these funds, and about $15 billion in credits have been registered over the past two years. Many foreign experts say these funds are largely superfluous, supporting projects that would have been built anyway without the extra money.

Another kind of help that is not needed is the confusion of global warming with Western principles of free-market democracy.

To many in Washington, the idea of helping a communist government regulate its citizens more effectively is sheer anathema. Some U.S. policymakers see the environment as a potential tool to try to support Chinese democracy activists, similar to the way citizen movements helped to transform the former Soviet bloc.

It’s certainly true that the lack of democracy enables local Communist Party authorities to repress citizen complaints about pollution. But the Chinese government is already suspicious that the West is using global warming as a Trojan horse for pro-democracy plotting. Leaders of China’s beleaguered but heroic environmental groups privately beg their foreign colleagues to never even mention George Soros, who is seen in the United States as an arch-liberal but is viewed by Chinese security officials as the man who almost single-handedly overthrew communism in Eastern Europe and would seek to do the same in China.

Any muddling of global warming and democracy would be counterproductive, poisoning Beijing’s attitudes and undermining the stance of top leaders who want China to go green. The cause of democracy in China is a noble issue, but the overwhelming need to stop global warming requires that it be dealt with on a separate plane.

As in the United States, the issue of global warming brings strange bedfellows together in China. Like Washington’s neoconservatives who drive Priuses to help wean the American economy from Middle Eastern oil, Beijing’s own security establishment increasingly supports energy conservation for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. In recent years, the hard-liners complain, China’s booming energy consumption has not only turned China into a net petroleum importer but also has made its economy totally dependent on U.S. military control of shipping lanes for oil and coal – thus severely restricting the Chinese military’s strategy on Taiwan.

The uniting factor amid this kaleidoscope of self-interests is the need to develop modern, efficient regulatory enforcement. Given that, China could turn around its emissions-belching economy and adopt a clean, green development path – and in the process, give the world hope in the battle against climate change. Without it, that fight will be lost.

More than money, more than whiz-bang technological breakthroughs, China needs to gain the capacity for environmental governance. Western nations, using the tested California model, can help it do so.

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During his opening talk for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, UNFCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer stressed the importance of political will in a successful climate change outcome.

The problem is George Bush refuses to sign a binding agreement on cutting emissions, unless China also does so. Such childish behavior is puzzling to me. Why doesn’t our President choose the high ground and take the lead? The stakes are so high, it is worth taking a look into the psychological root causes of our leader’s attitude. In his book, ‘Bush on the Couch‘, Dr. Justin Frank, offers us a unique perspective on the pathology of George Bush. Below are some excerpts from an interview with Dr. Frank.

I came to the conclusion that his entire life, from early on, has been dedicated to managing, through evasion- his anxiety. That he was an overwhelmingly anxious person who built up layers and layers of different ways to protect himself from anxiety.The anxiety, in a child like that, is usually about their own destructiveness and also about being humiliated. His father was a star. His mother was cold and distant. He was the first born and his sister died; there was no mourning. There was no discussion of her death. And so, he was sort of left on his own.There are lots of different ways of managing anxiety, and, there are several of them that have come out since he stopped drinking. But, of course, the first way to manage anxiety is through alcohol. But, by being a born-again Christian, he can also manage anxiety by being connected to God, by feeling that he’ll be saved in any kind of a rapture, by feeling that he’s always on the side of the Good.

Another way to manage anxiety is to make other people anxious, so he can project his anxiety into the rest of us. So we can experience the kind of anxiety-and the rest of the world does, in lots of ways, experience the kinds of anxiety that he must have felt as a child. Another way of managing anxiety is to simplify things; to divide the world, his own inner world, into good and bad, into black and white. . .

Another way to manage anxiety is to be cruel to other people, by making them anxious, and by gratifying your own sense of power to compensate for feeling helpless.

And, finally, there is another way to manage anxiety, which is to become detached from the consequences of your behavior. Something that I call malign indifference, which is a repudiation, really, of the damage that you’ve done, and not taking responsibility for it. . .

So, that’s what my book is about. My book is, essentially, a detailed study of the psychological phenomenon that involves mental splitting, mental function, mental action, and how, ultimately, Bush has decided to play his anxieties out on a global scale. . .

He is essentially saying that he wants to spread freedom throughout the world, which has to do with getting rid of anxiety. I think that when he’s talking about tyranny, he’s talking about his own internal experiences, that he is feeling tyrannized by his own anxiety and his own fears. And, he’s getting the rest of the world to live out his own inner fantasies. It’s amazing that he’s come this far. I think part of it is that he’s been able to manipulate and sweet-talk lots of people who are far better than he is. I mean, I think that people who are really good people, well-meaning people in middle America, are really seduced by his religiosity, his posturing, and of course, by their own fear, that he has helped create. . .

For somebody who is grandiose, and for somebody who is using everything at their disposal to manage anxiety, those people can never fully rest. So, he’s going to get worse and worse, psychologically; although, he may, at times, seem to be very calm. But the increase in his grandiosity and his paranoia are, if unchecked, just going to take over. He already wants to break down the Social Security system that’s been working for a long time.

And, he is very interested in doing certain things such that, if he’s driven to manage anxiety, he will be indifferent to the results of his destructiveness, because, if he looked at the results of his destructiveness in a serious way, it would make him anxious! So, this is why he can’t really look at Abu Ghraib, or look at the devastation you caused our own troops, and certainly the Iraqi citizens-it’s not possible for him to really take those things in. And, of course he doesn’t allow much exposure to come into this country. So, I think that the future is that he is going to have to run faster and faster to manage anxiety, and the victims of that race that he is having against his internal tormentors, are going to be the rest of us. So, I’m not very optimistic about the future. . .

Well, there will be an unraveling. All these defensive layers are definitely frightening to people who live outside of those layers, because, you are being bullied. You are being intimidated, and that’s very frightening. But, if people ever stand up to him-first of all, he’s going to show his teeth, and do the kinds of things you’ve just cited. But, it’s also going to show a massive defensiveness and an eventual collapse.

Bullies are basically frightened people, even though they are frightening. And, all of the behaviors that I’ve talked about, and that you have asked about, are the behaviors of a bully. . .

And, his behavior has always been him, and what he’s done is, he’s allowed people to think that there is optimism, everything will work out, he’s not really doing anything, he’s not that smart. He is very smart, but in a certain kind of way. He is very tricky, very cagey, and extremely dangerous as a President, and as a person. . .

We, the people, cannot reason with George Bush’s pathology, but we can take note of Dr. Frank’s assessment and draw inspiration from it, for an action plan:

Now, one of the things that happens with a megalomaniac person, is that people who are that grandiose and that desperate, have to control more and more things, and take over more and more things, and challenge more and more traditional sets of values, or traditions, really. And, the last person who did that, in a clear way, was [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, when he, essentially, was beginning to challenge Eisenhower himself. And, I think that what happens is that, these people never stop, unless some outside force stops them. And, Bush will not stop of his own choosing. He will only have to be stopped. And that would have to be, by people who are willing to stand up and say, “Stop it! You can’t do this any more. I don’t care if you’re President.”

Where are those people, with the power and will to stand up to our President?

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Thanks to my friend Roupen, for calling my attention to this video, that was just featured today on Tim O’Reilly’s blog:


The black balloon certainly has the power to do more for our collective awareness of carbon pollution, than all I have read on the topic in a long time.

Part of what will help us transform awareness into action, is the internalization of such arresting images. I was thinking back on all the changes I have made over the last few months, and the trigger for those changes. Each time, it was not words that set me into action, but images instead, that I have learned to make mine over time:

  • No more beautiful green lawns for me, ever since I learned what it does to the environment. Now, whenever I see a lawn, I see an artificial green cover for what used to be a natural landscape of dirt, native grasses, and shrubs.
  • Something similar happened with my shopping expeditions. Last time, I went to Target, and passed by their latest Go Designer Collection, all I could see were not clothes to covet, but instead hideous man made fabrications, made in far away factories, and a cloud of pollution rising.
  • I have written before about the effect of ‘Synthetic Sea‘ video on my green conscience. It is now impossible for me to grab a plastic bag without feeling huge pangs of guilt, usually enough to discourage me and look for other alternatives.
  • Numbers can be powerful visuals as well. Not until I took the time to research, ‘The Top Three Green Actions to Reduce Your Ecological Footprint’, did I get a clear sense of priorities, and got motivated to take action and start looking for a bike.
  • Last, there is If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brow, flush it down

Advertising geniuses where are you? We need more images like the black balloon.

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Day 22 of Daily Footprint Project. The numbers about the top three contributors to greenhouse gases emissions have left a permanent imprint in my brain cells. And are fueling my determination to get a bike.

Big step today. I visited the bike shop down the street, in search of a used bike. I refuse to get a new bike. And I don’t want to pay too much for it. The guy at the shop, told me this is a bad time to look for a used bike. All the new Stanford students wiped out his entire inventory at the beginning of school.

Next step: Craigslist.


Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #22


flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
rinse dishes 3
wash fruit 3


electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on all ½ day


organic milk
organic orange
organic oatmeal
organic persimmons 2
leftover turkey
Indian bread 1
organic yogurt
dinner out Italian restaurant


toilet paper
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
turkey stuffing leftovers
sweet potato puree leftovers


new boots box
2 papers
junk mail


drive to pool  6 miles
drive to renters’ house 6 miles

Non food shopping


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