Just as I was beginning to enjoy Wired again, they pulled a horrendous bait-and-switch with one of those overdone “everything you thought you knew about environmentalism is wrong” feature assemblage of featurettes. Stark reverse text is scrawled over a safety orange and lime cover.
The premise: In the fight against Global Warming, only carbon matters. So, ahem, “Screw the spotted owl” the subhead bawls.
Well, slow down. I mean, even the climate lags.
Consider, the enormous levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere today have been building for some time. Likewise, the changes now underway won’t stop even if we cut all carbon emissions tomorrow. We’re in for at least 200 years of the current industry-prescribed meltdown.
So, yeah, while there is time to make intelligent change, our policies have dragged so long that CO2 actually increased in the U.S. last year, according to the Department of Energy.
Wired would have us signing on not only with nukes, but taking down old growth forests, eschewing organics, and embracing genetic engineering. That’s the bait.
The switch comes (offering supposed balance to the weight of shock already tilting grocery store lane captives, where the cover does all the talking) with a well-drawn, counter-weight of argument by Alex Steffen, editor of Worldchanging.com, appropriately titled “It’s Not Just Carbon, STUPID.”
Steffen dismantles some of the more egregious errors in the stirring staff offerings:
No one with any scientific sense now disagrees about the severity of the climate crisis. But some people — and some magazines — believe that climate change trumps every other problem. If we take this argument to its extreme, we should ignore any environmental concern that gets in the way of reducing emissions. And that’s just plain wrong.
Make no mistake: Tackling climate change is vital. But to see everything through the lens of short-term CO2 reductions, letting our obsession with carbon blind us to the bigger picture, is to court catastrophe.
Climate change is not a discrete issue; it’s a symptom of larger problems. Fundamentally, our society as currently designed has no future. We’re chewing up the planet so fast, in so many different ways, that we could solve the climate problem tomorrow and still find that environmental collapse is imminent. Myopic responses will only hasten its arrival.
So this increasing pro-nuclear slant invading a misguided media empire (Discover had another recently), we are finding ourself forced to ask such questions as: Is there an “environmental” agenda to nuke the Southwest again?
Hugh Gusterson writing for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
Chris Paine of the Natural Resources Defense Council pointed out that, in 1995, shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. nuclear weapons complex consisted of eight sites in seven states. By 2020, Energy’s preferred weapons complex “will still consist of the same eight sites in the same seven states, but this complex will be maintaining a stockpile that could well be one-tenth to one-twentieth the size.” (The eight sites are Livermore in California; Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico; the Nevada Test Site in Nevada; the Pantex Plant in Texas; the Kansas City Plant in Missouri; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee; and Savannah River Site in South Carolina.)
Paine particularly criticized plans to maintain “two nuclear weapons design laboratories and an active test site almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War.” He advocated retrenching to a “Southwest Triangle” complex located around Amarillo, Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and the Nevada Test Site. This complex would have a small plutonium pit production capability.
Sounds like a lost ally, to me. Remember, we down here are still being inundated with uranium mines, threat of new nukes, a uranium fuel processing plant, and new plutonium pit plans for the next generation of warheads – and it’s all centering around the Panhandle of Texas and into New Mexico.
Perhaps, it’s time we simply declared the region a nuclear sacrifice zone and launch a federal mass relocation program. That would seem to follow the Wired Way. Why does Wallace’s Infinite Jest come to mind and an odd passage about the annexation of a chunk of Canada for the U.S. toxic load.
Anyway, I fall in with Wired’s prognosis that climate change is inevitable and that we should “be prepared for the worst,” but not the notion that we should be unleashing bio- and geo-scale sciences with brooding oceans of turbulence residing in each thesis.
To start scattering sulfur dioxide clouds across the skies to shield us from continued warming, or dumping massive amounts of iron into our seas, is to suggest that this new era of uncertainty is one to be “solved” by exponentially increasing our impact on the global systems – systems the mainstream of our scientific community didn’t even know we were influencing until three short decades ago.
The moment we start seeing planetary systems as something we can master our way through, the less likely it is we will ever throttle back our destructive inputs where they need to be and thereby allow Mother Earth to heal herself and get back to regulating, protecting, and guiding life on this planet.
Top image is from Wired, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand; Graph courtesy of DOE; Gusterson illo from the Union… I’ll try to get back to my our photos, etc., soon… almost train time.