Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Are You a Solartopian?

If you've spent any time at all cruising the Internet investigating alternative energy options, you've no doubt run across the writings of Harvey Wasserman, one of the most articulate and outspoken advocates of a drastic shift in our energy priorities. See if you agree with his four basic pillars underlying the question, "Are You a Solartopian?"

The essence of the argument is as follows:
In the global campaign to save the Earth, a shared vision is vital.

“Solartopia” foresees a democratic, green-powered 21st Century civilization. Our economic and ecological survival depend on it.

Technologically, the vision rests on four simple pillars:

1. Total renunciation of all fossil and nuclear fuels. In a sustainable, survivable future, they are a 20th Century pox, neither green nor clean.

2. All-out conversion to renewable energy, led by the “Solartopian Trinity” of wind, solar and bio-fuels. Mother Earth gives us the natural power we need.

3. Complete commitment to maximum efficiency, including revived and solarized mass transit and passenger rail systems. Our automotive “love affair” is a hoax.

4. Zero tolerance for production of anything that cannot be re-used or recycled, including chemical-based food. Solartopia is an organic, post-pollution world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Merits of Carbon Offsets

Are carbon offsets a pointless attempt to justify bad behavior or a legitimate means of neutralizing those bad behaviors that are contributing to the demise of the planet?
In a Mother Jones article, Practical Values: Paying for My Hot Air, Kimberly Lasagor explores the topic and comes to some interesting conclusions.
Still, there's a bigger issue here. The whole idea of atonement by credit card seems counterintuitive. It's as if we're saying polluting is okay, as long as you can afford to pay. But Strasdas says we should think of it as a last resort. Yes, we should all strive to emit less carbon, but some emissions are harder to avoid ("You cannot have planes that are flying on renewable energy, at least not in the foreseeable future," he points out). That's where offsets can help. "This is not the way out. This is a temporary relief of pressure on the earth's atmosphere," Strasdas says. "For the time being I think it's a very good way to bridge the gap."

The full article is worth a read. It brings out a number of points that you've probably thought about yourself.