As soon as I noticed that trees are dying, I assumed that it was from climate change. It took about a year for me to realize that in fact, it is pollution. Even so, because the pollution - the precursors to ozone - largely result from the same industrial civilization that produces such copious emissions of CO2, they seemed obviously connected. But over the years any such linkage has been rebuffed by almost every environmental activist and climate scientist I have ever contacted. Sometimes quite rudely rejected.
The explanation for what initially seemed paradoxical eventually became clear. The CO2 adherents didn't want to include ozone even as a topic of discussion, because it is what has been described an "intractable" problem, for the simple reason that the ONLY conceivable way to fix it is to drastically curtail our level of consumption not only of fuel but also, of absolutely everything else - including food, which would require a decrease in population.
And I've understood that deep down inside, these activists and scientists harbor the hope that we will find magic technological fixes for our energy use, so that we can maintain the contemporary life-style of a developed country by replacing fuels that create CO2 with so-called "cleaner" sources like natural gas, biofuels and the rest of the solar, wind, and wave array...and if necessary geo-engineering can offset temperature increases.
Even assuming climate change can be mitigated by such efforts - a big stretch - it won't do a thing to slow the acidification of the ocean, or the collapse of forests. And since most reactive nitrogen comes from fertilizer, and methane is a major ozone precursor, these facts have all conspired to make ozone about as taboo a conversation in climate and environmental circles as incest - they won't even entertain the topic.
This is just a long way of introducing the article written by co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, an effort I've always wished was a lot closer than Britain, Paul Kingsnorth. "Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist", which in addition to being evocatively written, has crystalized my thoughts on the above in a way that is simultaneously exhilarating, humbling and, not too surprisingly, really sad. What follows is a little bit, but not nearly all - better to follow the link and read the whole thing because he has much more to say. Naturally I liked the painting too:
"Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist" ~ by Paul Kingsnorth
Today’s environmentalism is as much a victim of the contemporary cult of utility as every other aspect of our lives, from science to education. We are not environmentalists now because we have an emotional reaction to the wild world. Most of us wouldn’t even know where to find it. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability.” What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the nonhuman world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so.
It is, in other words, an entirely human-centered piece of politicking, disguised as concern for “the planet.” In a very short time—just over a decade—this worldview has become all-pervasive. It is voiced by the president of the USA and the president of Anglo-Dutch Shell and many people in between. The success of environmentalism has been total—at the price of its soul.
Let me offer up just one example of how this pact has worked. If “sustainability” is about anything, it is about carbon. Carbon and climate change. To listen to most environmentalists today, you would think that these were the only things in the world worth talking about. The business of “sustainability” is the business of preventing carbon emissions. Carbon emissions threaten a potentially massive downgrading of our prospects for material advancement as a species. They threaten to unacceptably erode our resource base and put at risk our vital hoards of natural capital. If we cannot sort this out quickly, we are going to end up darning our socks again and growing our own carrots and other such unthinkable things. All of the horrors our grandparents left behind will return like deathless legends. Carbon emissions must be “tackled” like a drunk with a broken bottle—quickly, and with maximum force.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt the potency of climate change to undermine the human machine. It looks to me as if it is already beginning to do so, and that it is too late to do anything but attempt to mitigate the worst effects. But what I am also convinced of is that the fear of losing both the comfort and the meaning that our civilization gifts us has gone to the heads of environmentalists to such a degree that they have forgotten everything else. The carbon must be stopped, like the Umayyad at Tours, or all will be lost.
This reductive approach to the human-environmental challenge leads to an obvious conclusion: if carbon is the problem, then “zero-carbon” is the solution. Society needs to go about its business without spewing the stuff out. It needs to do this quickly, and by any means necessary. Build enough of the right kind of energy technologies, quickly enough, to generate the power we “need” without producing greenhouse gases, and there will be no need to ever turn the lights off; no need to ever slow down.