Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Bad Boys"? Whatever, nerds.

I don't normally like posts that consist of nothing but a plug, but in this case I'll make an exception to my general aversion. Break Through is a really important book, and everyone even remotely political or environmental needs to read it.

The short version of Shellenberger and Nordhaus' idea, first set forth in their essay "The Death of Environmentalism," is that the environmental movement, whatever its original intent and founding efficacy, has become a culture of complaints and ineffective restriction. The subtitle of the book is "From the death of environmentalism to the politics of possibility," and that's definitely the spirit in which they write. Environmental protection requires the luxury of critical thinking, no matter whether it's inspired by aesthetic virtue or enlightened self-interest, and critical thinking doesn't occur much in people who are hungry, terrified, or even existentially insecure; therefore to go forward, environmental protection and sustainability must go hand-in-hand with improved standards of living, growth, and progress.

Essentially - and I know this seems like an obvious idea to many of us, but you'll note that it hasn't been done yet and that modern environmentalists and especially politicians still speak in terms of "limits" and "protections" and "repair" - in order to get the world to embrace the idea of protecting the world and thinking in the long term, we'll have to offer them something that will look appealing, and very few long-term benefits are going to look appealing so long as their lower-order needs are unfulfilled.

This is why technologies like photovoltaics are so vitally important, and why it's equally important that we get both people and leaders of people to realize that a massive investment in those technologies is necessary, not only to jump-start clean energy, but to create accompanying economic growth through diversification and, yes, to ease security concerns by reducing dependence on foreign energy sources.

This isn't an unconditional endorsement of Break Through or of Shellenberger and Nordhaus' ideas. I have my issues with them, and especially with their attitude that everything and everyone that's antedated them in environmentalism is rather petty and backwards. I dislike the way they dismiss luminaries like E.O. Wilson and Al Gore without so much as a word of recognition of the many good things they've done. All in all, though, I do agree with them, and I do think that even if it's sometimes aggravating and maybe even offensive, their book is a very important one.

I rather want to buy a copy and go hit Hillary Clinton upside the head with it. "Here, Madame President-to-be. You'll need this."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I'm sorry

...about the long silence. I didn't forget.

It's really astonishing to me the difference that dysthymic depression makes in my life. It's not what usually termed "clinical depression"; it's something different and wholly more insidious. Rather than a crushing, smothering coat of wet concrete that leadens and suffocates, it's more like... well, like ADD with a dash of bitters. Dysthymic depression, for me at least, tends to take the form of lethargy and demotivation. It's not exactly an inability to focus, just... disinterest. I still have my passions, my pet causes and my hobbies, but when it comes to actually applying myself, to stirring myself from comfortably, numb routine, I'd rather go play video games. I'd rather not deal with it.

I have this percolating stew of ideas in my head, perhaps more vigorous and sharply focused now than they've ever been. I want to, I need to get them out. The energy is there and the purpose is defined, but somewhere in between the mechanism is disconnected. The pistons are pumping and the wheels are free, but the driveshaft is broken and the steering is locked up.

The clarity with which I can perceive this condition now is astonishing to me. For years I had no idea if I was ADD, stupid, or just lazy. My high school and undergraduate GPAs both wound up, if not in the tank precisely, then certainly well below what they ought to have been, and I came away from the University of Texas with a single BA instead of the BA and two BSes I really wanted. (Now, I'm not trying to excuse my dilatory negligence by any means; I am who I am, and any conditions I have are simply a part of me. If I fail, I fail; there is no "I failed but...")

Anyway, I suppose that all that is a roundabout way of explaining that I haven't been updating because I haven't cared enough to update, and that, ultimately, I haven't cared enough to update because my motivation is broken and I was allergic to the medication that came close to fixing it. Hopefully, I'll soon have an opportunity to try out another class of medication that will help even more and, ideally, not make me break out in hives and suffocate.

Incidentally, I hate being an "allergic person." I never had any allergies whatsoever before I came to this city, you know, and now that I have at least one, I feel frail and vulnerable, like at any moment someone is going to shoot me in the heel with an arrow smeared with crab and cochineal. I do not enjoy having a weak point in which I can be shot for massive damage.

More on my own personal Green Revolution coming soon.