Undoing the Undoing of the Environment

For most Americans, it is not a question that climate change is among the most important, if not the most important, issue of our time. In fact, global warming may turn out to be the greatest equalizer of all. Sure, for a while the wealthy among us will be able to trade our carbon sins for the equivalent of emission indulgences, but not forever. Soon enough there will be no graces left to extend. Or, as Garret Keizer puts it in a recent article in Harper’s Magazine, “…the days of paradise for a few are drawing to a close. The game of finding someone else in some convenient misery to fight our wars, pull our rickshaws, and serve as the offset for our every filthy indulgence is just about up.”

Shall we just give up? Is there really any hope for reversing the cataclysmic slide into hell on earth that is the ultimate result of climate change? Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy , begs us to consider the importance of electing a president who will dare to place global warming as the number one greatest threat to our national security. “The Kyoto Protocol we didn’t sign will expire in 2012, and negotiations are beginning for whatever will succeed it. Unless there is a U.S.-led effort to produce something truly dramatic, the world might as well not bother.”

So it seems the answer to the question of whether there can be an undoing of the undoing of the environment is one that should sound familiar to most economists: it depends. Indeed, it depends on each and every individual making a personal commitment to reducing the impact and immediacy of climate change. But how? Bill McKibben might suggest you start in the polling booth by taking responsibility to elect a leader who dares to recognize global warming as the nation’s greatest threat. Others offer suggestions for individuals to take action against global warming. For example,
• The Natural Resources Defense Council offers advice on how to fight global warming, including simple steps like keeping your tires properly inflated and changing your car's air filter regularly.
The Nature Conservancy also offers climate-saving tips, such as using compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs.
Greenpeace International invites individuals to join their "energy revolution."

Clearly, the one thing that cannot happen is nothing.

Caroline Heine

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 05, 2007 in Environment | Permalink | Comments (5)


As I’ve enjoyed reading many of her previous postings on this website, I was disappointed in the shrill, hysterical and poorly crafted manifesto which Caroline Heine posted on this blog on June 5,2007 “Undoing the Undoing of the Environment”. Perhaps climate change is the most important issue of our time, maybe our science and our intellects have at last revealed the dark truth that we’ve been looking for! A depleted ozone layer was never really the threat to life on this planet that some scientist had led us to believe it was. And the nuclear power industry that we were once told to fear, now seems green compared to the fossil fuel alternative.
But her rant against the wealthy was off the point out of context and unbecoming. If, as Ms Heine suggests later in the article, the solution to the problem of global warming “depends on each and every individual making a personal commitment to reducing the impact and immediacy of climate change”, it serves no useful purpose to demonize an important segment of our society who, when they’re not “finding someone else in some convenient misery to fight our wars, pull our rickshaws, and serve as the offset for our every filthy indulgence”, sometimes generously offer of their time, their energies, and their resources to do good in the world. This fact is evidenced by the very existence of the ‘Third Sector’ which is what this blog used to be about.

Posted by: Dan Scott

I adored the shrillness of both Mr. Keizer's essay and this one as well. We are well past the real usefulness of polite conversation abt the human effect on the climate. And both Mr. Keizer and Ms. Heine are at the heart of it absoultey right on the money. There really can be no effective policy to reduce human created climate change with out a critique of multinational consumer capitalism as currently practiced. And this includes both production and consumption. And the varying degrees of guilt environmentally conscious rich people may feel abt what these essays have said, well, put that guilt to some radical good use.

Posted by: Deran Ludd

Set aside polite conversation, I’d settle for reasoned and informed at this point. There are no soluble problems in the world that are beyond that kind of dialogue. If there is no time left to think, then there simply is no time left.

Posted by: dan scott

I appreciate the comments of both Mr. Scott and Mr. Ludd regarding my posting on "undoing the undoing of the environment." Clearly Mr. Scott had read the primary sources to which I referred in my posting, and was able to appreciate the context. Nonetheless, Mr. Ludd's interpretation that the posting was a "rant against the wealthy" is well noted. While it wasn't intended to be such, the posting was intended as a nod to Mr. Keizer's point regarding the politics of global warming, and how climate change, like most other of the world's greatest ills, disproportionately affects the poorest among us, and that unless we all make an effort, ultimately none of us will escape its devastating effects.

Posted by: Caroline Heine

The reason I haven’t read the article which was apparently the primary inspiration for this posting is that when I clicked on the link to Mr Keizers aptly titled “Climate, class and claptrap” I found that I would have to buy a year’s subscription to Harpers Magazine in order to do so. I decided not to subscribe for two reasons. First, the scathing verbal violence which I found in the brief excerpt that Ms Heine provided was more than enough to satisfy my most ravenous claptrap cravings. Secondly, I was concerned that prolonged exposure to such dangerous hyperbole might cause me, as it had Mr/Ms Ludd, to adore shrillness, and I already have too many vices as it is.

On a serious note, I want to thank Ms Heine for taking the time to clarify her position. Sometimes things are easier for me to understand when the noise level comes down a little bit.

Posted by: Dan Scott