Labeled a Liberal Elitist!!

My wife and I have been working on making our daily lives more sustainable every year.  With the world in ecological overshoot and the effects of over-population

The Offending License Plate

and resource depletion showing up day–to-day (climate change-induced weather events, food price spikes, environmental pollution, energy cost hikes, etc.), we have been instituting lifestyle changes some of which include:

  • buying carbon offsets when traveling;
  • supporting companies that have true sustainability practices;
  • buying local food from sustainable agriculture;
  • increasing our home’s energy efficiency – new windows, insulation, lighting motion detectors, low flow shower heads, CFL light bulbs, a new high efficiency gas burner, cellulose attic insulation, purchasing a clean energy blend that is mostly wind from our local utility and many other efficiency upgrades (our home is in the woods otherwise we would have a PV system also);
  • and driving a hybrid.

The car is a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid with a license plate that reads “CO2LESS” (we buy carbon offsets for the gas engine use).  Anyone that knows me knows that having vanity plates is not something I would normally do, but I feel strongly about the immediacy of sustainability issues we are facing as a global society, especially C02 emissions-induced climate change.

Imagine my dismay as I was approached recently in a Washington D.C. parking lot by a man who pointed at my license plate proclaiming, ‘You liberal elites are killing our country. There is no such thing as climate change and this is a strategy you people are using to corner wealth from the American taxpayer! “

I was too stunned to reply, and he wasn’t the least bit interested in a rebuttal.

According to Wikipedia the term Liberal Elite is a “political phrase to describe affluent, politically liberal-leaning people. It is commonly used with the pejorative implication that the people who claim to support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the upper class, or upper middle class, and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect . . . .  As a polemical term it has been used to refer to political positions as diverse as secularism, environmentalism, feminism, and other positions associated with the left.”

This definition is not at all a fit with my history in any sense.

Labels and discord like this do nothing to solve the very real climate change problem, which is a result of burning fossil fuel and making bad land use decisions (deforestation, biological decomposition, and over-farming) worldwide. The myriad effects of climate change on populations have no class distinctions. The resulting disruptions to farming, depletion of water resources, and reduction of quality of life is already exceeding expectations in many developing nations where poverty is the norm and coping with rapidly changing climate patterns is exacerbating survival living.  With the U.S. accounting for a large portion of cumulative atmospheric C02 over the last 100 years, we are clearly all “elites” in the minds of people in emerging nations as they struggle for basic survival in this new ecological overshoot era.

The Relationships of Fossil Fuel and Land Use and C02 Accumulation Source: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment

My work in the solar energy industry overlaps regularly with sustainability and climate change thought leaders, and as a result, I have a good understanding of the complex and often conflicting facts. These facts are often brushed aside and obfuscated with generalities by the minority of climate change and environmental deniers. Beyond the detailed knowledge I have attained over the last 15 years, I rely on a few simple premises:

  1. We use science every day to support our shared and safe human existence.
  2. For every action there is a reaction (equal and opposite).
  3. The C02 accumulation graph at left (click to enlarge) coincides with the discovery and burning of fossil fuels.
  4. Detailed science and research shows no prior warming in such a condensed period.

Climate change is happening right now. It can be viewed with fear and paralysis, or it can viewed as a great economic opportunity for all. We have the technologies, science and knowledge (if not the political and economic will power at the moment) to create sustainability solutions, and entirely new industries, as the global population continues to increase.

As many scientists around the globe have said, to do nothing is unacceptable, as the risk of being wrong is too great. If supporting the science and industry that can slow down and eventually reverse man made climate change makes me a Liberal Elitist in the minds of others then so be it!

Climate change resources:

The U.S. EPA Climate Change site presents an easily grasped, balanced presentation of the issue.

Information Visualization has a great “for and against” visualization of the climate change camps.

Carbon War Room is working on solving the problem industry by industry, by seizing on the economic opportunity: “Over 50% of the climate change challenge can be addressed today – and profitably – by existing technologies, under existing policy.”

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