This is a guest post from one of our regular readers, Phoenix. In my opinion, it’s one of our best posts ever. Check it out:
Before I launch into this article, let me share a few things about myself that may help to explain all of this. Ever since I can remember, my life has revolved around being a Republican. When I was in first grade, I remember seeing Reagan on the news and my family loved him. There have been times in my life when I would just simply look for the R and vote for that person.
But these days I have become disillusioned with the mainstream Republican party. Despite fact, science, and other countries pioneering ground-breaking accomplishments in renewable energies, the party fights its progress as if it were a plague. But why? If you think it is just because they are paid to do so by Dirty Energy, you would be at least partially correct. But there is so much more history and psychology there as well; and to leave that out would be to tell only a half-truth.
Years ago, it used to be the Republican party that encouraged business, while the Democratic party represented the needs of the less fortunate, people who needed someone to fight for them. And during Reagan’s time, there was a critical mass of people within the United States that the Republican Party stood for. They were the middle class, the blue collar population. And during that time frame, there were lots of corporations that lobbied, but elections were somehow more connected to the people.
Also back then, there was a disconnect between Republicans and the fledgling green movement. Very little research was done to understand our impact on the planet, and those who fought pollution were hippies outside of the norm of establishment. For thousands of years, we were able to do anything we wanted and the natural cleansing properties of the planet would easily fix our transgressions. Doing anything to help the planet was viewed as simply unnecessary and a waste of precious business resources. The roots of conservation are deeply marred in the psyche of the Republican Party, much the same way that as a nation we have a deep-rooted belief of freedom of speech. The Republican Party viewed progress as a synonym to clearing the land and building industrial complexes powered by oil, coal, and nuclear energy. Those who controlled these forces controlled the powerbase. Anything outside of this collective was viewed with distrust.
To make matters worse, when Al Gore came out with his message to the world, “An Inconvenient Truth,” it only widened the chasm between Republicans and anything outside of business. Some have argued that if a Republican had brought this message to the world, the Republicans would be more supportive. But this still doesn’t explain why some of the really intelligent people I know still refuse to recognize the facts that are written on the wall for anyone to see. Which brings us to the next point about people and their deeply seeded need to associate with groups like themselves. Inside all of us is a need to hang out with others similar to ourselves. People who enjoy the food we like are the groups we associate with. We also have a desire to have everything within our social framework co-exist in similar ways.
Let me draw this last point in a different perspective. I grew up in a family that had a really poor example of a father. And when my sister was younger, she protected this dysfunctional person despite his best efforts to sabotage her development. She had to do a lot of growing up as a person before she realized that she could still love her father but simultaneously realize that he was a really poor role model. They say that is a sign of higher intelligence, when someone can hold two contradictory ideas in their mind and their intelligence can accept both. My sister now realizes that she can love her father but also knows that she can’t depend on him, whereas when she was younger she thought she had to love him and protect him for fear that the truth would change that.
Many really intelligent people I know have this same problem with their politics. We know that Germany can run 50% of their country on solar, wind, and other renewables, and they are growing their job and industrial base because of this green revolution within their borders. We see their local tax revenues fueling their economy while the rest of the world struggles. Articles are written about how profitable solar is for regular people, and yet all of this information is blasphemy to regular people in this country who simultaneously complain that we lack job growth and see a rising debt load.
I have found myself pondering this question: “How bad does it get before sheer embarrassment makes those in charge of the Republican Party change their position?”
Here are 10 possible catalysts of change:
- Other countries choose to take action against the US because of lack of attention, while simultaneously being one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.
Reality: German politicians have already talked publicly about our issues on this side of the pond. They have openly discussed that one of the things holding us back are the likes of the Republicans and the Koch Brothers. It doesn’t seem too farfetched that this kind of talk could spread and change to demands of action.
The rest of the world is catching up and passing us, we won’t be able to wield our dominance over them forever. We are already being left behind in renewable energies — what would happen if China came out with a process to power cars with processed algae before the United States? Well, we could buy their technology from them instead of selling it and making a profit for ourselves. Imagine how the Chinese economy would grow if we sent them 700 billion US dollars every year for their oil instead of the Middle East. They would profit, we wouldn’t.
What if the rest of the world decides that enough is enough and something must be done to reign in US emissions?
- The sheer success of other countries.
Reality: Germany is leading the world in the development of renewable energy. They have entire cities that run completely on renewable energy and make a huge profit selling excess energy back to the grid. They have been working to successfully turn off all of their nuclear energy and replace it with solar and other greener alternatives. Other countries are taking notice, with Japan about to start a similar program of Feed-in Tariffs. If you look at Germany’s economy, it is one of the strongest in the world right now. Their stock market is soaring, they are creating jobs, and regular people are getting richer because they sell freely acquired energy back to the grid. As this type of program gains momentum, it is only a matter of time before we feel left out and demand that our country catch up with the rest of the world.
- The sheer demise of our country.
Reality: The only reason we didn’t go into a deep depression 4 years ago is because we spent our way out of it. Had we embraced austerity, we too would have hit 25%+ unemployment. Combine that with all the outsourcing that has taken place to fuel China and India’s success at our peril, and one has to wonder if we are even capable of getting back to even without something to drive it. The current theory is that we don’t have to pay off our debt, just grow the rest of our economy while keeping the debt static and the percentage of the debt gets smaller and smaller relative to the growth of GDP, making it less and less important. But, what if we go backwards, or the debt gets blown out of proportion to our growth? What are we going to do, sell all the gold in Fort Knox to get back to even?
- Cataclysmic weather conditions.
Reality: A winter or two ago, some Republicans jumped up on the table and in the dead of winter asked the world where Global Warming was? I guess it would be in poor taste for anyone to point out that severe drought is one of many symptoms of climate change. Maybe no one says anything because they are afraid that as soon as someone does it may reverse and they will look foolish. So how bad does it get before we are forced to address the elephant in the room? If we have to use a lot of our resources to combat drought, what will be left over for prosperity? If our farmers can’t grow food, then what?
- Greenland becomes green again.
Reality: Story after story has been in the news about massive chunks of ice breaking off of the north and south poles. We see that massive amounts of ice are melting in Greenland as well. Some have speculated that climate change will escalate; and when it starts to rain on that ice sheet, one can conclude that it will escalate rapidly. Perhaps we should start a pool and ask how much the water level will rise before we start to evacuate cities, before we realize we can’t ignore the issue?
- Regular people want to get rich just as much as rich people do.
Reality: Venture Capitalists are putting billions more into renewable energy here in the US every year. And as I have pointed out to skeptics, they don’t invest out of the goodness of their hearts. They invest for sheer profit. There is a school of thought that suggests Republicans are denying science just long enough to allow the rich to build all the new power plants, thus allowing them to keep selling energy to us and to continue to get rich like they always have. As many articles about Germany have pointed out, regular people in that country are getting richer by getting their own power sources and selling back to the grid. But in this country, we like to make the rich richer. Are you profiting from Republicans shielding the rich? If not, why not?
- Another Chernobyl, Fukushima, or Three Mile Island.
Reality: Germany was a nuclear power until the Chernobyl radiation cloud floated over their country and they learned how powerless they were to do anything about it. They started to hate that power source way back then, and Fukushima only reinvigorated that taste. Japan embraced nuclear power as well, and all around the world it was viewed as a power source. But after the entire world has and is still being radiated yet again by another meltdown, Japan has drafted their version of the feed-in tariff that was so successful in Germany. And many places around the world have seen a huge backlash towards the most expensive and most dangerous power source the world has ever seen. If the US were to see another meltdown, one within our border, we would see a similarly powerful resentment towards the technology. Even without this happening, the sheer cost of nuclear is turning that industry into the Dodo bird. (Think: extinct.) And as some have pointed out, when a windmill or solar panel goes bad, it doesn’t wipe out entire cities for decades (or radiate the entire world).
- Grid Parity.
Reality: At the end of the day, profit and a desire to do as little as possible win out over the environment. But, money and profit will always rule the roost. So, as some have already written, when it is cheaper, pound for pound, to build a solar CSP plant compared with a natural gas or coal-fired plant, without taking into consideration negative externalities like health issues — when that happens — stockholders will favor renewable energy, not because it saves the planet, but because the cost difference helps them achieve that bonus. As that point becomes more real in the minds and hearts of board members, the right decision will be made every time.
- Social Ostracism.
Reality: There was an article I read about a California politician that built many windmills decades ago and was referred to as Moonbeam because mainstream politics refused to fathom the potential. That tide is slowly changing. Ford Motor Company started turning off their computers every night and saves over 1 million a year in just idol waste. Imagine how much money would be saved in this country if every person in every corporation turned off their computer every night before leaving. One of the reasons why the suits don’t act to save money is because they are afraid of what their peers will think if they suggest something so outside the norm in business. And yet, the Empire State building is saving millions in energy efficiency renovations in one year alone. There are literally trillions of dollars of waste built into our economy that is up for grabs, but people are afraid of appearing liberal or hippy in the pursuit of these wasted dollars. But as more corporations realize real profits in cost savings, executives will get on board in bigger numbers. Because to do otherwise would be to leave money on the table. In one of my finance classes, we were told that, pound for pound, it is more profitable to cut costs then it is to increase sales, because every penny of cutting costs goes directly to the bottom line.
- Democrats Rise in Power.
Reality: I am a registered Republican, though some will label me liberal because I am capable of loving my party but realizing they are becoming less relevant by ignoring science, attacking the middle class and taking bribes from the super rich. If Democrats started selling conservatism and generating jobs for the middle class, there really wouldn’t be anything the Republicans could claim as their own any more. Imagine if Obama in his second term created even more jobs, eliminated affirmative action, and brought more manufacturing back to the States in the form of green energy production. What would the Republicans have? Almost nothing anymore, except those people who love them because they hate the idea of liking an idea from the left more than just being pragmatic and educated on science and the very real effects on an economy when new industries are embraced.
- Mass Extinctions / Cancer / Infections Run Wild</li>
Reality: I really wanted to only give 10 of these, but as I was brainstorming and I couldn’t ignore this one. How many animals will go extinct before we decide that the planet’s natural ability to bounce back has been overwhelmed by our billions and billions served? What if polar bears, whales, tigers, frogs, bees, salmon, apes, elephants, rhino, and several other species go extinct in our lifetime? What if cancer becomes the dominant sickness as more and more trees are cut down to grow coffee? What if the quality of our life is impacted because the ecosystems in the world get thrown out of balance? Now, to be honest, I have a hard time thinking that this would impact us negatively, but I suppose it could.
I am a pragmatic person, I don’t like labels like Republican, or Democrat, and I hate being called a liberal by Republicans and a Republican by liberals. I subscribe to the Pragmatic movement — whatever the best solution is, I am for. And right now I see that the world can be a much better place because of renewable industries. I am not a hippy, or a liberal — I want job creation, local tax revenues, better health, a stronger economy. I wish a Republican would have created “An Inconvenient Truth,” because based on the ideals of the Republican Party that I grew up with, making a profit from developing industries is a Republican ideal, not a Democratic one. I am saddened that top Republicans ignore science and come off as just mean, and I wonder what will happen next — book burnings, witch hunts, or communist accusations? Support whichever political party you want to support, but realize you can speak out against bad policy and STILL support your party in every other way. Vote Republican if you want to, but don’t support or continue to parrot back propaganda that isn’t making you rich.