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The Age of Stupid?

November 13, 2009 3 comments

The Age of StupidI don’t always consider myself the most prudent environmentalist. I sometimes throw things out and don’t recycle them – and I definitely still use anti-bacterial hand gel even though I know it is full of chemicals. Swine flu is serious, people!

The thing I do know is that every day I am conscious of our planet and the issues it faces. This has to do, yes, with the fact that I work at an environmental nonprofit. But it also has to do with the fact that I seek this information out. I want to know how bad things are, and how I can fix them.

In the spring, I took a course at NYU with my husband called The Global Natural Resource Crisis. An older man taught it – who had made a ton of money the bad way – the oil way. He reached retirement, and realize that he had been ignoring the perils of his work for a long time. He retrofitted his house in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to be “green” and has taught this class for the last 5 years.

In it, he taught us a lot about peak oil, and statistics and where to find them, but mostly he allowed us to fight with each other. There were always those 2 people that took the class in order to just argue with us climate change believers and see where they got. Usually they got nowhere. This was a liberal class in Greenwich Village, New York.

Since then, many books have gotten more and more popular on this issue, and a variety of shows, movies, and even entire channels have been devoted to sustainability. As we approach the December climate talks in Copenhagen, I have been thinking if these people are talking – or if they are just reality show actors.

Last night we watched a movie called The Age of Stupid. The Times review has a lot of interesting things to say about the film, which shows an archivist going through video footage in 2055 of our current life, and the things happening to the planet – and essentially, how we ignored them. He has thus dubbed this time an “Age of Stupid” because we saw so many things happening, and it took 40 more years of turmoil before the planet finally acknowledged the inherent risk.

I actually really liked the film, but the review brings up some interesting points. Mainly, it brings up the idea that if we are bombarded with depressing information (no clean water in Africa where Shell pumps oil, glaciers melting in the Alps, a commercial airline in India primed to spread even more fossil fuel across an exploding population) we may not do anything. We may be paralyzed by this depression, and feel it is too late.

I definitely feel that way sometimes. The world’s problems are too big and I am too small. But instead I actually found the movie one of the most effective films I have seen thus far about the issue. This is mainly because it was documentary – with a little bit of flair that movies can give a problem.

We can all decide to freak out, or we can do something – we can act.

Categories: Environment, World Issues

Profit Vs. Pollution?

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Alternative EnergyI work for a nonprofit that deals in climate change and environmental issues. The organization  almost always walk the fine line between trying to do something positive, and doing something in its’ own self-interest. Can it ever be both?

Today, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Gore’s Dual Role: Advocate & Investor.” It essentially looked at the crucial role that Al Gore has played in the introduction of green issues, as well as the entire climate change debate, into a more centralized realm.

Essentially, after leaving office and participating in many different environmental activities (founding his own nonprofit, producing An Inconvenient Truth, and many more) Gore has become the public political face of the Environmental Movement in the U.S. He has taken a lot of criticism for this from the right, but ultimately remains a fairly respected figure.

He has, as the article explains, also invested heavily in alternative energy companies, as well as venture capital firms that are awarded government funds for “Green Jobs” grants. Many have felt like this is Gore’s attempt to profit from the very climate change legislation he hopes to help pass through Congress.

In response, Gore explains that he is simply following up with his money what he has already done with his beliefs. He is taking an investor risk now where he took a political one before. Even though he may profit, he is profiting with something that is actually eliminating environmental harm and degradation, as well as leading the U.S. towards a more self-sustaining energy future.

Now, I know that I actually really liked the idea behind this article – because it is important to address the links between private and public sectors. But in personal belief, I am siding with Gore. It is his right as a private citizen to invest, and to invest smartly. Any average citizen that invests in alternative energy at this juncture is most certainly set to make financial profit – and this is something positive that should be celebrated.

Of course he has advantages as a public figure, but I like to see famous people doing good things with their money and their time.

Well done, Al.

Categories: Challenges, Environment