Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Stroll Down Easy Street, USA

Wall Street? Main Street? No, Easy Street is the American Way. Americans prefer slogans to thinking. They want SUVs, air conditioners and golf courses; let future generations worry about environmental damage, fossil fuel dependency and potable drinking water. It's easier to paste a ribbon on the pickup truck than to actually think about whether what we've accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 8 years is worth a single young American's life -- let alone thousands. We have made a collective, national decision not to try to answer the hard questions that confront us.

As a people we have been brainwashed by the millions of dollars worth of propaganda corporate America rains down upon us. Every branch of government continues to cede more power to corporations, edging the American people farther and farther away from reality.

The global warming "debate" is an example. It isn't a debate and global warming is only part of a related series of hard questions we have to answer about the envelope of life around the planet on which we live. We have been carefully taught to ignore such hard questions. Corporate America, led by Exxon, the most profitable corporation in the history of man, has persuaded us to stroll down Easy Street shouting slogans and listening to the elevator music of phony science.

The debates we ought to be having haven't even started; the white noise of corporate bovine excrement has shut them down. Everyone gives lip service to "green energy" -- sort of like pasting those "support our troops" ribbons on the SUV -- but having blinded us to the real motivations for it, corporate America won't invest seriously in it.

The area in which I live in New Mexico could be an enormous source of renewable energy from wind and sun. But the extraction industries that hold political power here have coached the people in NIMBY.

Another potential treasure trove of renewable energy is the Mojave Desert in southeastern California. Not only does it have 360 days of sunshine a year, but it also has some fierce wind that could be harnessed. There's a small wind farm development not far from the city of Mojave; now, there's interest in developing solar power there as well.

The Mojave is also home to a great many rare plants and animals, a precious and fragile ecosystem that some environmentalists want to protect from development of any kind even as other environmentalists promote renewable energy development.

The hard question is:Shall we have clean energy if it destroys sand dunes, endangered animals and plants, ancient lava flows, fossil beds, cactus forests and the pictorial record of native American culture? The answer is not to be found on Easy Street, USA.

The feds at one point authorized solar energy development on a million-acre tract of Mojave desert land that was donated to Uncle Sam. "Whoa," said the donor, the Wildlands Conservancy, which gave the land to the feds for conservation. Sen. Diane Feinstein of California is moving to protect the area by having it designated a national monument. The solar developers have backed off.

The Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies hasn't given up.V. John White, its executive director, says the Mojave is a very big place that should have room for everybody. "There's 4.5 million acres set aside for the desert tortoise, there's 3.5 million acres for the military reservations, there's 1.5 million acres for state-protected species, and the monument will take another million acres off the table," White told NPR radio. "Right now we have more land available for off-road vehicle parks than we do for solar, and that's crazy."

Maybe it's not so crazy on Easy Street, USA, where the corporate wealth of the ATV industry speaks loud. "Public land is for everybody," is their slogan.

Don't bother thinking about it.

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