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Open Letter to Joseph Romm

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Author 8638
Message Wes Rolley


I would first like to congratulate you for your selection as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  There are few who have done more to keep alive the connections between activism on climate issues and effective policy for the mitigation and adaptation of a warming planet. 

But in that congratulatory statement, there hides a problem  While you are reaching one group of people with the message, there are two significant groups that you are missing: environmentalists without policy and, more importantly, the large portion of the electorate that gets their news from main stream media. 

As an example of the first group, let me site Bill McKibben and  This is what I mean by activism without policy.  McKibben's goal of holding CO2 levels is exemplary.  It is really targeting an unreachable goal in the hope that we just might make it half way there and save ourselves from ourselves.  It is the progressive stance of let's all get riled up and out of the confusion might come someone with the policy insight to make it happen. 

It is really too late for such oveall, nebulous, consciousness raising activity alone.  We  read today in your own Climate Progress about the release of methane from the ocean floor in the Eastern Siberian Shelf.  The Chinese understand the issue but not the American public.  Most probably see that as a great source for more natural gas to generate electricty and heat our homes and that leads to the 2nd problem. 

While you have been highlighting the positive change implied in President Elect Obama's picks for his Cabinet, agency heads and advisort, others are viewing this with alarm., calling it Enviro-Marxism and putting forward the denier rhetoric as news.  In other words, you may be winning a policy battle but are losing the war with the American Public.  

It is very easy to make fun of Lou Dobbs, Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh.  Still, they reach more people on one MSA than you do with Climate Progress. 

Most Americans still believe that there is a conflict between environmentally sound action and economic prosperity.   In this sense, Nordhaus and Schellenberger are correct.  It is going to be very difficult to sell the American publich on cutting back, saving, having a lesser life style, just to prevent a future benefit.  Time and again we fall prey to the tyranny of small decisions. 

Van Jones's Green Collar Economy is one way to break this connection, but it is has to be done this time, right now, in the middle of an economic crisis that has everyone worried.  People without a job will welcome the opportunity, but you have to be careful that the Clean Coal lobby does not soak up all the stiulus funding.

Here is another suggestion for you.  Use Climate Progress and the rest of what you do to shift some of the emphasis from the massive projects (basically electricity generation) to the host of small, local project that will reduce demand.  Architecture 2030 has done this very well, but the rest of you climate folks seem unwilling to recognize their existence.   You need to fight this battle in every local planning commission in the country, but that seems to be too big of a task.  However, unless and until we do, the reductions that you seek will never happen. 

As a City Commissioner (Parks and Recreation) in my community, I fought to have solar electrical generation be installed as part of the design of a new Outdoor Aquatics Center.  It went nowhere because the argument was that there was more return from increasing function (more pools, more play area) than from saving on the energy to maintain the 3 outdoor pools.   We have to start winning those battles, not losing them. 

One last request, Joe.  Support the Architecture 2030 Stimulus Plan.  I know it did not come from the Center for American Progress but it is still the best plan I have seen. 



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Greens come from many backgrounds. There are more than a few who were, like myself, once Republicans and who left that party... or rather found that the party left them. Right now, having found a political home with the Greens, I want to make sure (more...)
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