Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sacred Cows

I've never been accused of being a conformist. I think going my own way or thinking my own thoughts was just something I was born with, much to the exasperation of my teachers, bosses, and my mother (for which, I'm sure, accounts for more than a few white hairs). Perhaps I am a noncomformist, but it has never been a matter of being "rebelling" simply for its own sake. I've always preferred thinking and doing out of the box, and I'm sure the results always spoke positively for themselves. I've never been afraid of questioning an assumption or challenging a tradition, and questioning presumed authority (or authority figures) for that matter. Times and circumstances are constantly changing, and we must change and adapt with them or be swept away by them.

Ironically, despite this, I'm still a fairly conservative guy, at least concerning most things. For instance, I ardently believe in the foundation established by our Founding Fathers, through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Of course, some in Washington and elsewhere are saying that the Constitution is too "restrictive" or too "inflexible" for today's vastly more complex problems. Perhaps that's because today's problems have become more complex because of over regulation, over legislation, and over taxation. Perhaps what we need is a more simpler approach to government. By that I mean, perhaps the federal government should govern less and allow states more authority to deal with situations closer to home. It seems like the government's solution to everything is to legislate a situation to the point where it needs additional legislation to correct new problems which arose out their efforts to solve the original problem in the first place, while at the same time, leaving rather convenient loopholes for their corporate masters to exploit at our expense. After all, haven't we been told that money is free speech and those with the most money get to speak the loudest, and it's the loudest who get Washington's attention right?

But that's not what I'm wanting to discuss at the moment. What concerns me is that many conservatives are so stuck with preserving the past, they've lost sight into what's important. Let's look at the marriage issue briefly. I grew up (and believe) that marriage is between a man and woman. It's the basic foundation not just of America, or Europe, or even Asia, but of society itself. It's the core around which civilization itself has been built. But, as society has become more complex and gender roles have evolved, not to mention technology and self perception, so too has the concept of what constitutes a "family" , and by extension, a marriage. If two individuals---two adults---happen to be attracted to each other and want to make a lifelong commitment, who am I to say "no"? Sure, I could cite some biblical verses, but what does my faith have to do with theirs?

For that matter, let's not forget that the religious texts used by Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, as well as Muslims and their Koran, were written thousands of years ago, in another time and place, and for another people who had different societal needs and values. Providing a stable loving relationship seems to me to be more important than whether I agree or not with their choices. Who am I to decide who someone can love or not? And what if a particular church or other religious institution is willing to sanctify the union? How does that say about other religious institutions who don't? My own pragmatic conservatism (and touch of libertarianism ) also tells me it's none of my business or anyone else's.

Speaking politically, conservatives are getting their collective clocks cleaned where same-sex marriage has become an issue simply because the largest voting bloc, the Millennials, see this a critical issue. Overwhelmingly, the Millennials--those 30 and under---see no problem with gays, lesbians, or transgendered individuals, and certainly they have no issue with gay marriage by a wide margin---70%. Those that do tend to be the 40 and older crowd, which also happens to be a shrinking demographic while Millennials are the largest segment to come along since the Babyboomers (and as group, are more numerous than Boomers). Therefore, the party which accepts this political reality (whether or not they agree with it personally), will thrive while the other party will find itself repeatedly punished at the ballot box, perhaps to the point of political irrelevancy. This also speaks to the increasing candidacies of individuals running independent of party; something Millennials also favor by large numbers.

Let's take another issue--global warming. Those on the political Right insist that at best, global warming is myth; an attempt by the some in the government and certain industries, to tighten the noose around our energy policies. At worse, global warming, if it exists, is a natural cycle. A minor hiccup. Either way, Man doesn't play any significant role. Yet, most of those behind these claims are those business most likely to be negatively impacted, such as coal, oil, gas, and automobile industries. Some of those on the Left want much greater regulation of these industries it is true. They haven't met a regulation or tax they didn't like. They too dance to their own puppet masters.

My thoughts on global warming are this---the overwhelming majority of climatologists and other scientists---97%--- agree that the earth is getting warmer. The polar ice caps, which are not only our largest sources of fresh water, but also reflectors of solar heat, are melting; especially the Arctic (think of it as the earth's thermostat).The oceans are becoming warmer...much warmer...and less salty thanks to melting Arctic. Storms are becoming more frequent and more violent. Fertile lands are becoming more arid. Ocean life is dying. Water shortages are becoming more severe, more frequent and lasting longer. Co2, especially the type which has the chemical signature produced by manufacturing, and is the primary culprit in global warming, has dramatically increased over the last 100 years. Although I believe Man is the main cause of global warming, it really doesn't matter to me if someone else thinks it's all part of a natural cycle. The fact of the matter is that it's real; it's happening now; and we're all at risk.

So, Man-made or cyclical, we need to do whatever we can now to keep it from spiraling out of control. That means cutting CO2 emission anyway we can. For states which depend on coal production, they're going to take a huge economic hit. That's why they need to be preparing now before they become the proverbial buggy makers in the horseless carriage age (yes, I appreciate the irony of that analogy). Those states need to invest heavily in alternative income producing sources sooner rather than later. The auto industry needs to be given an ultimatum---produce exclusively vehicles with low to no CO2 emissions along with a non-moveable "drop dead" date which carries a stiff fine for each day missed. Other countries already have widely available and low emission mass transit (such as Iceland, whose mass transit vehicles run on hydrogen fuel cells. Their only emission is water vapor), so why don't we? The same goes for any industry which pumps CO2 into the air. Stiff financial penalties for any industry which fails to comply. Activists too can participate by bring pressure on corporations not just by protesting and bring attention to non-compliant companies, but by also becoming stockholders and speaking out at stockholder meetings. Meanwhile, the US needs to make alternative energy a national security issue. After all, we've been talking about it since Jimmy Carter and the original oil embargo in the mid '70's.

Smaller countries such as Germany get a substantial amount of their energy--27%-- from alternative energy sources, principally solar and wind. We have almost 1/3 of the country which would be ideal for solar energy production. We have more than ample offshore areas which would be excellent for energy producing windmills, yet we generate only 13% of our energy needs through alternative energy sources. Solar panels could be required for all new resident and commercial projects; planting green gardens on buildings and high rise tops to help adsorb CO2 emission. Planting of more CO2 absorbing trees and developing better means of conservation. Encouraging more home gardens, rain water conservation, and "buy local" projects in order to cut back oil and gas consumption as well as vehicle emissions.

No, the US can't do this alone, but it doesn't have too. There are already dozens of nations engaged in some form of CO2 reduction. A few countries, like China, aren't. Economic and political pressure needs to be applied to those refusing to comply. If we fail to act, and soon, we will be facing not just more deadly storms, rising water, or hotter temperatures, but an increase in brownouts or blackouts, higher prices for gas, oil and electricity. Food and water prices will skyrocket to the point where even basic commodities are unaffordable for the average family, and I wouldn't rule out food shortages or water rationing, which are already happening in some parts of the world. And let's not forget that the increased temperatures melting the polar ice caps are also killing off some species, and thawing areas frozen over for tens of thousands of years, releasing dormant and potentially deadly bacteria from its hibernation, as well as an increase in insect infestations (and who needs more spiders, flies, or mosquitoes?).

Now if these aren't reason enough, remember that global warming is of key concern to Millennials. After all, it will be their generation more so than ours how will be impacted the most. Once again, the party or individual that best embraces this will be the party which will succeed. At present, the Left may have the advantage since they accept global warming as the problem it is. Left on their own devises, they will gladly over regulate and tax. However, on the Right, they are heavily populated by the religious Right. I would assume they would embrace a biblical stewardship of the earth and demand changes in current environmental policies. The same would hold true for most other religions too. As for me, conserving the environment couldn't be any more conservative an ideal since it protects the planet, the air, the water, the animals and humanity while at the same encourages innovation for safer and longer lasting energy sources (besides, how much safer or longer lasting can you get than the sun and wind?).

Topics as diverse as these are sacred cows to those who oppose or resist change. Change isn't easy to embrace, especially when it affects our moralistic or economic self interest. However, all things change and evolve. It's a fact of nature. Those that do not adapt will wither and die. Be it an individual, a nation, or a world. That too is a fact of nature. We must adjust our perceptions of what it means to be a family just as must examine the environmental footprint that we leave, individually and as society.

Why the fight over same-sex marriage is over

5 Reasons Millennials Are Going To Save The World

NRDC and Global Warming

Iceland: 100% renewables example in modern era

Iceland phasing out fossil fuels for clean energy

Germany Sets New Record

Climate Hot Map

NOAA & Global Warming

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