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July 20, 2011

Cylons among us

I haven’t been mad about anything these past few months. Lubbock is insulated from woe and stress and I’ve been pleasantly distracted with beer and pretty girls. My research has been moving along while my fitness, cello, guitar and Spanish self-development have stayed on schedule. With all this peace of mind, it’s difficult to remember that so much is happening in the fast-paced political and corporate worlds.

I prefer the insulation, some separation from the environmental tragedy developing in our atmosphere and oceans. It’s rather nice to have my head in the sand, or perhaps just to be away from the front lines. From here I can still look at climate data and be shocked and afraid, but like everyone else, I feel there is nothing I can do to make a difference. I’m learning how much of the problem really is an infrastructure issue.

The city here doesn’t have curbside recycling; there’s really no vegetarian restaurants or even dishes. People don’t understand the long-term consequences of their decisions. The idea of “away” is strong here; nobody seems to consider life-cycle/death-cycle of stuff. Places like Lubbock have me convinced that legislation is the only viable solution. Behavior change will happen here only after the entire world has moved on or been destroyed.

The nature of change is incremental and a green revolution will take many steps. For this kind of change, we need to have long-term vision. People think that we got into this mess because we lacked vision, because we made a lot of short-term decisions, but I have a different take.

I’ve been thinking about the nature of how our government takes direction for change. People think politicians listen to constituents, the voice of the people, but in my experience there is another layer of bureaucracy between the people and the elected officials. The voice of the constituents is communicated to the officials based on the number of lobbyists and quantity of money coming from one side of an issue or another.

In this process, corporations have a huge advantage over environmentalists. The corporations understand incremental change and they have long-term vision. You don’t create a global oil monopoly overnight (research Standard Oil and the Seven Sisters). Automobile and Coal companies were also masters of the long-term lobbying to create legislative change. The officials are temporary, but the lobbyists are forever.

I’m reminded of the re-imagined Battlestar Gallactica prologue, “The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”

They evolved:

While a driven person may decide that their love for the spotted owl is so great that they are willing to spend their life savings moving to DC to lobby for habitat preservation for the rest of their professional lives, it’s certainly not typical. I agree that America is the land of the free and if this is your thing, then you are free to do it, but you will essentially do it for free. On the other hand if you want or need to do things for money, you could always work for a coal company. The spotted owl has no money to pay you, but the coal does; the motivations are different. It’s much more common to argue on the behalf of a paycheck than your moral responsibility. No one argues that we should take the coal out of the ground because it’s pretty or right; it’s about money and people getting paid will trump someone’s love for pretty things every time. It’s not that greed trumps love, I’m still a romantic, but money is a generic motivator that can be converted into almost anything.

They rebelled:

At some point corporate interests became detached from local interests. The lobbyists in DC don’t live in West Virginia and don’t care about the local destruction from coal mining. They don’t live in the Gulf and don’t care about the local destruction from offshore drilling down there. The corporations themselves are no longer based in the United States at all and large portions of the stockholders are international. Globalization may one day result in a sense of patriotism to the planet, but currently the results are global devastation of resources in an economic arms race. If the US keeps losing the economic race, we will burn more fossil fuels in a misguided and shortsighted effort to keep pace. Meanwhile, smaller countries are investing in long-term, clean solutions that will stabilize their economies when ours tanks. The will of the corporations may have at one time been aligned with what’s best for the people, but that time has long passed.

There are many copies:

Since the corporations can employ lobbyists, the environmentalist lobby finds themselves outnumbered 100 to 1. The individual environmental lobbyist has a personal stake, they are dedicated for life, but the corporate lobbyists work the job for a few years and then move on, only to be instantly replaced by a younger fresher model.

They have a plan:

Having a plan is the most important part. My example conservationist may fight to save a tract of land, the one that he/she loves. The conservationist may even win that battle, but the corporations have a much bigger agenda than this one section of land. Take ANWR for example. For now the environmentalists have won, but look at how every time a new drilling site is proposed any environmental objection is met with “we gave you ANWR.” ANWR has become the battle cry of the corporate machine and it’s working. Saving one tract of land makes it harder to save the next; it’s all part of the plan.

Song of the Month

My song of the month is from JB and the Moonshine Band. GO BUY THIS ALBUM! It’s unbelievably good and these guys are very cool. We saw them live here in town and my mind is still blown. I bought the album at their show and one of us here in Crowhold has probably listened to it every day. It’s a damn good album all the way through. The first track goes something like this here,

"I'm broke" JB and the Moonshine Band
     Well I’ve blown a lot of money in my lifetime on pretty girls, lawyer fees and beer,
     but my truck ain’t repoed yet
     and my whistle’s stayin’ wet
     My friends they see me spendin’, but my checks don’t ever clear
     I’m broke, I’m broke, man alive it ain’t no joke my wallet’s gettin’ pretty thin.
     I got just enough for snuff and smokes and a 12-pack til I’m back on top again.
     My broke status don’t preclude me from establishments like this
     and if you’re like me you’d probably do the same.
     I ain’t afraid to pay to drinks with quarters,
     dimes and nickels if I have to, is this what Obama meant by change?