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California: Lowering Greenhouse Gases AND Promoting Economic Growth

California tends to lead America in both progressive politics AND innovative business models. The two come together in the search for solutions to global climate change – without damaging the economy.

Naysayers say this is impossible. We can have a robust economy, or we can cut carbon emissions, but we cannot have both. California is out to prove that false.

The crazy thing, is we have already done it. Since the year 2000, California has grown in both population and GDP while reducing emissions. By 2020, California will be back down to 1990s emission levels, even with all the increases in population and economic output.

GHG: Greenhouse Gas | Graphic: California Senate

(GHG: Greenhouse Gas) | Graphic: California Senate

Not satisfied with the success of the last 15 years, California has set new targets beyond what any government has ever achieved: a 40 percent cut in the next 15 years.

As Vox explained:

It’s hard to overstate how ambitious this is. Few countries have ever achieved cuts this sharp while enjoying robust economic growth. (Two exceptions were France and Sweden in the 1980s and ’90s, when they scaled up nuclear power.) The EU is also aiming for a similar 40 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2030, though they’ve got a head start.

Given all the things that have to change in California’s economy to achieve this, only a highly dynamic system of incentives can make it happen. The lead policy is cap and trade. Polluters buy emissions allowances. These allowances are limited, or capped, and then decreased year by years. Less and less pollution is allowed, the cost of the allowances goes up, and the market figures out the best solutions. Industries that cannot lower their emissions will be willing to pay more, while more flexible industries will find it cheaper to modify their systems than to continue polluting. As the cost of emitting goes up, the drive to innovate increases, and in theory, everyone wins.

As Vox put it:

California is essentially offering itself as a guinea pig in the world’s most important policy experiment. Everyone else will be watching and learning from the state’s successes and failures — whether it can develop the needed clean tech, whether it can spur innovation, whether it can control costs and navigate political opposition, whether it can rejigger the grid to accommodate enormous quantities of renewable power.

Progressive believe we can lower pollution while maintaining economic growth. California is about to find out whether this is true.

For more detail on how the state aims to make this happen, and the challenges ahead, see Vox’s excellent explainer.

Perspective: The Pale Blue Dot

The space probe Voyager 1 completed its mission and was headed out of our solar system when the astronomer Carl Sagan convinced NASA turn the craft around and take one last picture of the Earth. That photograph taken on February 14, 1990, taken from 6 billion kilometers or 3.7 billion miles away, became known as the Pale Blue Dot. Here is the immortal Carl Sagan on the human perspective of that dot:

And just because it is so beautiful, here is a picture of Saturn taken by Cassini with the Earth visible as a tiny blue dot just inside the second ring in the upper left.


Saturn, with Earth inside the second ring to the upper left | Photo: NASA


Life Is Glorious, But Life Is Also Wretched. It Is Both.

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness—life’s painful aspect—softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose—you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.

~  Pema Chödrön, Start where You are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Antagonism: When Everyone Different Is The Enemy

Key to Us versus Them thinking is the belief that Us represents everything good, and Them is our opposition embodying everything evil. It sounds cartoonish, but this dynamic is visible across society.

There are plentiful examples on both right and left, but William Solniger provides an exceptional example on the far right site Alternative Right. Known for its views on white supremacy, anti-Semitism and nativism (declaring whites the native people of North America), the site is useful for its clarity on far right thinking. In his post on “The New Newspeak,” he noted that political correctness from has a shadow side:

wherever politically-correct language speaks of affirmation of a particular group or tendency, turn instead to the consideration of the groups and tendencies that are to suffer negation thereby

While it may sometimes be true that life comes with trade-offs, his example does not necessarily back his case:

where progressivists speak in their coded language of “marriage equality” for homosexuals, we should consider instead the inevitable negative result of this positive value, which is of course the further dissolution of traditional marriage.

So a lesbian couple formalizing their 50 relationship through marriage has the inevitable result of dissolving straight marriages. Every federal court that reviewed that argument with all the evidence available and opinions subject to testing by cross examination rejected it strongly.

Worse, he attributes part of the support for equal marriage to malice:

In this we do not need to deny that the progressivist agitating for “marriage equality” truly experiences some feeling of benevolence for the organised homosexual community which he seeks to mobilise; we simply aim to give proper consideration to the nasty, aggressive thrill simultaneously experienced by such a person at the thought of spitting upon the religious sensibilities of people he despises.

I doubt many people celebrating the marriage of their gay friends are taking malicious pleasure in offending the religious. There might be some pleasure in overcoming misguided religious sensibilities that have been used to bludgeon the gay community for decades, but that is not quite the same thing.

The article helpfully defines a series of terms from the Alt-Right perspective:

  • Inclusiveness: abolition. [meaning the exclusivity of a group or nation is abolished when forced to let just anyone in]
  • Diversity, multiculturalism, right of free immigration, etc.: negation of the national rights of native [meaning white] peoples; ethnic replacement of these peoples.
  • Women’s liberation: replacement of procreation and ‘tradition’ by economic production, consumerism, and taxpaying.
  • Open society: a society open to globalist control and exploitation.
  • Racist: a racial epithet for a person of white European culture and descent.
  • Sexist: a term of contempt for normal men and women.

Several are truly bizarre, like the supposed connection between women’s liberation and taxes. It appears it is an Alt-Right belief that liberationist culture pushed women into the workforce in order to increase the tax revenue of the state. The increase in the labor force may have had that effect, but hard to imagine that as a driving force behind women seeking legal and social equality.

That last term may be the best example. The dictionary says that someone who is sexist stereotypes or discriminates against women because of their sex. Only someone deep in the mire of oppositional either-or thinking could redefine that to mean “contempt for normal men and women.” How about viewing ‘normal’ women as individuals and not discriminating against them?

The left can be equally guilty, as explored in other posts, but this way of thinking is toxic. By making anyone who disagrees into the enemy, dialogue comes to a stop.

Finding Peace: Love Versus Tolerance

Cory_Booker_image_from_Senate_biographyLiving bravely requires loving what irritates and scares us. This may seem counter-intuitive to either-or thinkers, but something can be frightening AND essential, or uncomfortable AND good for you. A wise friend once told me: If life doesn’t scare you, you’re not doing it right.

Senator Corey Booker delineated why tolerating those we disagree with is not enough:

We can’t devolve into a nation where our highest aspiration is that we just tolerate each other. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love. Tolerance says I am just going to stomach your right to be different. That if you disappear from the face of the earth, I am no better or worse off.

But love – love knows that every American has worth and value, no matter what their background, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together, that when we are divided we are weak, we decline, yet when we are united we are strong – invincible!

This understanding of love is embodied in the African saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

Learning to love our enemies is more than a platitude, it is an essential piece of our humanity if we are to reach beyond our tribal natures.

Melting Pot America: Both Our Sub-Groups AND A Unified Whole


America has been called a melting pot since its founding, because people from all over the world came into the country, went through a transformational process, and came out American. From our disparate origins arose a nation of astonishing coherence and shared values. In some ways, the melting pot made us all the same in profoundly important ways.

At the same time, Americans have never been all the same. Through it all, sub-groups retained their ethnicities, races, religions, and cultures. States and regions maintain differing identities. Groups of common interests or experiences thrive. Political divisions section us off into tribes with fierce allegiances and little awareness of overlap.

There is a debate going on over which version of America is right. Are we contesting sub-groups, or are we a unified whole? Issues are framed as if we are divided, like Black Lives Matter versus supporting the police, or gay marriage versus traditional marriage. Most of these are false dichotomies, because the answer is usually Both-And.

Americans are both firmly rooted in our common experiences AND we retain the differences of our various cultures, heritage, and experiences. It is the melding of all that in common cause that makes America great.

[photo credit: VFW Post 6675, South Side, Pittsburgh, October 2, 2015 (license)]

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