The time is Now
Climate change is not linear; there are tipping points, such as the melting of the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets, or the collapse of the Amazon rainforest. Once we pass those tipping points, climate becomes a runaway train, and nothing we do can prevent catastrophic impacts—massive flooding of coastal areas, widespread drought and crop failures, famine, epidemics, and the breakdown of ecosystems on a scale most of us cannot imagine.
To stop short of the point-of-no-return, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent worldwide, and by 94 percent in the U.S. by 2030 at the latest; much of the reductions must come in the next five to 10 years. This cannot be achieved merely by changing light bulbs and driving hybrid cars; it requires a restructuring of our entire way of life, from agriculture and manufacturing to energy and housing. Think of the rapid U.S. shift to wartime production in 1941, and then multiply that 10-fold.
Is this even possible? Barely—but not if we wait for governments to act. This shift is far beyond the modest efforts currently debated in policy circles. We can only accomplish this with a global grassroots movement to directly change public policies and our way of life. It must include a shift in cultural values, from consumption to restoration, from endless growth to living within ecological limits, and from economic inequity to social justice.
This climate crisis coincides with the end of cheap, abundant energy from fossil fuels. Global oil production has peaked and will soon decline, with natural gas following. As demand outstrips supply, shortages will produce price spikes, supply chain disruptions, economic instability, and sooner or later, the collapse of nearly every aspect of the current oil-driven globalized economy. Peak oil may also lead to more resource wars over access to the remaining Middle East oil supplies.
Oil wealth made the United States a superpower, allowed us to build endless expanses of freeways, suburbs and malls, consume at historic rates and create a booming economy based on the illusion of endless growth. Now the boom is over, U.S. debt is at crisis levels, and our economy is largely propped up by Asian investment and the fear of a currency collapse.
The reason this matters is that the world will need all our remaining wealth and natural resources to pay for the conversion to a sustainable way of life. We have to build millions of wind turbines and solar panels, retrofit buildings and create mass transit systems before we lose the capacity to do so. And the United States, which is responsible for 25 percent of global greenhouse emissions, must take the lead.
In short, we need the biggest and most ambitious public works project in history, and the money to pay for it. Nothing short of this will prevent a climate meltdown. Yet we are wasting the needed capital on a destructive and immoral war which cannot succeed in maintaining long-term U.S. control of Middle East oil, but which will almost certainly consume enough public money and resources to bankrupt our government and preempt the possibility of shifting to a solar economy.
We have little time left to choose: either we devote all our economic resources to limiting climate change and preserving a livable planet, or we continue with business as usual. We cannot afford to do both. Military spending is not just bad foreign policy, it is economic and ecological suicide.
Daniel Solnit, director, Institute for Local Economic Democracy Sebastopol
One week too late
Re "The Liquidator" (Nov. 14): Your article about ticket terminology (scalpers vs. retailers vs. corporate scum) came one issue too late. I wanted to purchase tickets for Jersey Boys and found the Curran and Ticketmaster websites out, so I googled and did 10 minutes of looking. Many sites appeared to have two to eight tickets for that day, ranging in price from $150 to $226 a ticket. I used ClickitTicket and opted for the $150 seats. I was at the very end of the transaction when they said they needed a 15 percent service fee and a FedEx fee, which added $60 to my total. I grumbled and paid more for these than I have for a Broadway show, figuring they were the best seats at $150. When the tickets arrived five days later, they were $96 tickets, which meant ClickitTicket "retailed" me $108 plus the extra $45. Ticketmaster has long done an upcharge on their events, but nothing like this. I will never again use online retailers, even when I'm traveling to New York.
Mark Messersmith Mountain View