From what have we done ... to what can we do?
The news is flying fast and furious this week: from the revelation that North Dakota is burning up, or “flaring”, over a third of all the natural gas being produced in the Bakken Shale oil fields (very disturbing, yet strangely compelling, satellite photos of the flares here), to Senator Mary Landrieu’s takeover of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (first hearing under her watch: “Importing Energy, Exporting Jobs: Can it be Reversed?”), to yesterday’s New Jersey appellate court decision that Governor Chris Christie broke the law when he withdrew the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (congrats, NRDC and Environment New Jersey!).
So much to opine about, and yet I’m going to leave all of it on the table, because this week is just so overwhelmingly busy that there’s no way I can hammer out this blog post. Here’s what’s on tap:
- On Thursday, my team heads to Sacramento to co-host a briefing on the Monterey Shale, alongside the Post Carbon Institute and Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy. We’ll focus on the question of whether this motherlode of oil can really be extracted, and if so, whether it’s really all that great for California’s economy – let alone our environment. Tom Steyer will be with us; you too should join us if you can! And if you’re in another state or country but still want to dive into California oil issues, read this extensive cover story in Sunset Magazine, which gives color – and faces and names – to the fundamental water vs. oil battle central to the Monterey Shale debate.
- Right after the briefing, we’re headed to the Green Schools National Conference to watch Tom Steyer give a keynote focused on his work passing Proposition 39 in 2012, and on why high-functioning school facilities are so important to California’s economy. (Weirdly, Tom’s picture isn’t showing up on the marquee of keynoters on the website, but trust me, he’ll be there.) Tom will surely mention the recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics, showing nearly one in five schools in the U.S. surveyed have reported unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory ventilation, air conditioning and indoor air quality. Keep an eye out for a blog post from our very own James Barba on that issue, later this week.
- Then on Friday, I’ll be chatting with the inimitable Susan Frank and others on a panel at the Navigating the American Carbon World conference in San Francisco. We’re on at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, with a panel called “Chainrings and Cassettes Moving Together: Other Markets.” (My main goal for the panel: understanding what exactly that title means.)
- And of course, most important for me this week, we’re doing performance evaluations at Next Generation, which gives me a chance to recognize my awesome Energy & Climate team.
So you see, no time for deep thoughts on the issues of the day! If you want deep thoughts, my absolutely favorite read this week comes from author Zadie Smith, who has a wonderful essay on the emotional side of climate change in this week’s New York Review of Books. There’s no way I can do her justice by paraphrasing, so I’ll leave you with her entire final paragraph:
Oh, what have we done! It’s a biblical question, and we do not seem able to pull ourselves out of its familiar – essentially religious – cycle of shame, denial, and self-flagellation. This is why (I shall tell my granddaughter) the apocalyptic scenarios did not help – the terrible truth is that we had a profound, historical attraction to apocalypse. In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Like when the seasons changed in our beloved little island, or when the lights went out on the fifteenth floor, or the day I went into an Italian garden in early July, with its owner, a woman in her eighties, and upon seeing the scorched yellow earth and withered roses, and hearing what only the really old people will confess – in all my years I’ve never seen anything like it – I found my mind finally beginning to turn from the elegiac what have we done to the practical what can we do?
A lot. We can do a lot. Let’s get moving.