Thursday, February 5, 2009

Musings: Same Old, Same Old

A few geometric patterns of light passed for sunrise in an otherwise cloudy, gray sky when Koko and I went walking this morning. She was friskier than usual, set off, perhaps, by a dog that barked furiously at us from the front seat of a passing truck, which prompted dogs around the neighborhood to join in the chorus and had Koko lunging and snarling at every subsequent truck, of which there were many.

It was a scene not unlike what is happening around the $900 billion economic stimulus bill, which has President Obama sounding the alarm as he presses for quick action, right-wing politicians and radio commentators snapping over pork and a so-called war on prayer and environmentalists howling over plans to spend billions on nuclear power.

Yup, $900 billion is a pretty big bone, and it’s not surprising it’s causing more than a few fights. But can we really spend our way out of this mess using borrowed money, especially when over-spending, over-consuming and over-borrowing is largely what got us into it?

We keep on doing the same things, while expecting different results, which is not unlike the situation with agriculture on Kauai. Farmer Jerry gave me a copy of a the proceedings of a 1971 conference on “The Future of Agriculture on Kauai,” and it's proven to be an interesting trip down memory lane.

Yup, even 38 years ago those in the know were deeply concerned about the deleterious affect of land speculation. They issued a strongly-worded call to protect ag lands, strictly enforce land use zoning, stop granting variances for non-farm uses on ag lands and halt the process of fragmenting large parcels into smaller lots.

They even went so far as to say no subdivisions should be allowed, “especially on Class A or B lands, and only seldom on Class C lands.”

We all know how well those cautions were addressed, that advice heeded. And why were they ignored? Because special interests groups held sway, using the argument that unless we pursued development, the economy would end up in the crapper. So we did, with a vengeance, and yet it still wound up in the crapper.

Is it so wild and lunatic fringish to suggest maybe, just maybe, it’s time to try another approach?

On a similar note, a Big Island reader responding to Monday’s post, which touched on the not-so-greenness of solar power, emailed to say:

“Gee, Joan, I thought I was doing the right thing four years ago when I chose to invest in solar panels and batteries rather than continue to pour money into HELCO's gaping maw.

I have to admit, I was surprised to see that the panels were made by Shell, but I wasn't given a choice of manufacturers, and is it even possible to produce solar energy without some kind of carbon footprint? I can't help but think this alternative is way better than forever burning imported oil.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to solar power, and if I had a house on the Big Island, I’d likely choose it over HELCO and the scourge that is geothermal. My point was only that so-called “green energy” isn’t always green, especially in a corporate-controlled world where people are constantly forced to choose the lesser of two evils, whether it’s energy or politicians.

As a New York Times blog post notes:

In the latest installment of the debate over the emissions impact of corn-based ethanol, researchers from the University of Minnesota and other institutions found that corn ethanol is worse for health and the environment than regular gasoline, and far worse than cellulosic ethanol.

It prompted a reader to comment:

Seems like no matter what we do, it’s wrong. For every possible solution to a problem, there seems to be ten reasons why it won’t work. Or one person’s solution is the cause of the problem to another person.

Hello! Yes, let’s think these things through and figure out their true costs and full ramifications before we start touting them as the next great saviors, replete with tax incentives and subsidies and vacuous marketing campaigns. Because what bugs me even more than shallow thinking is the hype that invariably accompanies, and trivializes, these various initiatives.

As the late George Carlin observed in his own inimitable way: “It’s all bullshit — and it’s bad for you.”


Anonymous said...

Wait. There's something wrong with geothermal now? OK. What form of energy would be acceptable to you?

Joan Conrow said...

The folks who live around the Puna Geothermal Venture plant can tell you all about the ill effects of geothermal.

Anyway, it's not about what form of energy is acceptable to me, it's just getting real about the fact that they all have impacts and drawbacks.

Anonymous said...

Nobody denies they all have impacts and drawbacks.

Joan Conrow said...

Oh, kala mai. I thought you expressed surprise that there was something wrong with geothermal.

Anonymous said...

That wasn't me.

Anonymous said...

1) "war on prayer" ...oh that is too funny. i love it

2) RE geothermal...huh, well the kids in iceland seem to like it fine. i wonder if its one of those things where you really need to be a few miles away from it (just like its prob not best to live right under a super high voltage humming power line for 10 yrs)

3) gov and academia and biz have often worked well together in green tech development. they all bring something to the table

Anonymous said...

if we hurry we can be the first to jump to conclusions and blame the navy for the fish/whale kill, or gmos...SF too!! :)

ya know ya wanna ;)

yet have hypoxia, algae blooms etc been known to knock out seals, fish and whales at once? fish only i get, but the others too? seems suspect

Anonymous said...

The price you pay for living on the side of a volcano thinking this is the magic mountain.
I'm sure the vog is unacceptable to kona residents.

Andy Parx said...

The “folks in Iceland” most certainly do NOT all appreciate geothermal. Those in the west, where a new huge project has been under way- all to serve those in the more populated capitol and eastern regions- have been forced to fight the environmental and even negative economic effects.

Anonymous said...

"The “folks in Iceland” most certainly do NOT all appreciate geothermal. Those in the west, where a new huge project has been under way- all to serve those in the more populated capitol and eastern regions- have been forced to fight the environmental and even negative economic effects."

-- hey ill give ya credit for not trying to claim there is no wide scale geothermal in iceland (which was of course my point) as usually when i state facts here i get a ~ "oh thats western corporate media propaganda" response, which is both funny and unnerving

Anonymous said...

Here's good news: "A radical activist who helped set a $1 million fire to protest research on genetically modified crops was sentenced Thursday to nearly 22 years in prison...

The terrorist and her husband "targeted a campus office that held records on research related to moth-resistant potatoes for poor parts of Africa."


Anonymous said...

"moth-resistant potatoes for poor parts of Africa"

na she was just trying to stop (oppressive neo colonial imperialists) academics from using (the magic of western capitalist supported) science to help poor people get food