Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So much going on

The amount of environmental news coverage is astounding. Larry King had most of his show dedicated to discussing climate change. The debate centered around whether or not it was a problem. They had clips from people interviewed on the street to see what their opinions were. The response was universal that something is happening and something needs to be done. However, the panel consisted of Bill Nye The Science Guy, Richard Lindzen of MIT, Julian Morris of the International Policy Network and someone from The Weather Channel who I can't remember right now. The debate was interesting. Lindzen is very convincing and is trying to point out that the amount of climate change occurring is not significant and not everything reported is scientific fact. At least that's what I got out of it. Julian Morris was explaining how economic activity would be altered and create negative impacts on society if resources were allocated to climate change action. Bill Nye was stating that we have the technology now to make changes to our energy use and reduce our impact on the environment. I think they are all right. Each one of them makes valid points. However, not one of the positions in isolation can be used to "make the world a better place". I think we need to use the best ideas from all disciplines and opinions to ensure sound policy decisions are made that will give us a little bit of everything. Making rash decisions can cause greater harm. The recent story of harvesting Indonesian palm oil as an alternative fuel creating more environmental damage than benefit is an example of how things can go wrong.

I think the reality is that sacrifices will need to be made for the benefit of future generations. Excess, waste and throwaway goods cannot be the norm simply because we can afford it and the supply seems endless. Efficiency and the use of existing technology has to be done to move us along to a sustainable future. Bill Nye raised the point of how on a trip to China he noticed that people did not have land lines but had cell phones. A developing country can skip a technology to still achieve benefits. The same principle can be applied to other areas of economic development, such as energy production, energy transmission and transportation. I don't think spreading the North American model of development and incremental use of technology will be a good idea. We may not have the luxury of time to develop all the best options but we do have technology and ideas currently available to make improvements.

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