Love Me, I'm a Liberal

By Keith Kloor | July 24, 2011 2:52 pm

When I lived in the affluent, liberal, eco-friendly universe of Boulder, Colorado in 2007-2008, I noticed that bikes and SUV’s were ubiquitous.

Similarly, here’s an observation from a reader who resides in another well-to-do community:

I live in a very “˜eco friendly’ community just outside of Seattle. Styrofoam cups have been banned, various street signs are solar powered etc etc etc.

The community soccer field is about 1/2 a mile down the road. I’ve never seen even a single econobox parked in that parking lot. It’s GMC Yukon city at soccer practice time. There are plenty of “˜no war for oil’ bumper stickers on the back of those GMC Yukon’s.

That’s political reality. The very demographic that should be the most supportive of action on climate change (upper middle class, educated, liberal) is completely blind to the fact that their lifestyle’s are the problem.

Until someone figures out how to make a vehicle as safe, convenient and comfortable as a GMC Yukon that doesn’t guzzle fossil fuels, action on climate change is going to be limited to “˜feel good’ measures.

This generation really needs someone like Phil Ochs, my all-time favorite folk singer.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, environmentalism
  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Ah yes, more eco bashing, sort of sport that Anders Breivik enjoyed recently

    http://theidiottracker.blogspot.com/2011/07/breaking-yes-anders-behring-breivik-is.html#comments

    It’s the old game that people who don’t agree with you have to be perfect otherwise they are hypocrites and Tom Fuller doesn’t own a car.  And yes, Anders got it from Chris Monckton, and Monckton is a big wheel in a UK right wing nutter party.

    So let’s discuss that too.

  • charlie

    Of course it isn’t owning a SUV, it is driving one that is the problem.

    In their defense, I saw a lot of this in Colorado as well.  Their second car tended to be a prius.

     

  • Keith Kloor

    Eli, nobody has to or can be perfect. I’m certainly not. And it’s not about people being in perfect agreement. But it is about how a lifestyle seems to be at odds with a particular eco-philosophy.

    What Tom Fuller or the others you cite has to do with any of this beats me. Just more evidence that you have no interest in engaging intellectually with these contradictions, and instead boil everything down to a zero sum political debate. Typical.  

  • Sashka

    @ Eli

    nutter party

    Pot, meet kettle …

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Ah Sashka, you mean like Gerlich and Tscheuschner and the boiling pot

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2008/02/example-of-why-ethon-flew-in-using-way.html

    The nuts don’t fall far from the tree.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    And for Keith, take a look at the comments to Ross Douhat trying draw a parallel between the right wing raters and Beivik with  Al Gore and the Unibomber

    http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2011/07/25/opinion/25douthat.html

    The public is not buying it (comment 4)
    ————–
    Breivik’s psychology is so extreme that ordinary labels such as “conservative” or “liberal” do not apply. But trying to downplay the connection between conservative tendencies and the resulting unpleasant consequences by comparing Gore to Kaczynski seems to be one humdinger of a false equivalence. Gore isn’t trying to blow up the environment, he’s trying to save it. 

    I can’t help feeling that while Breivik’s actions were horribly extreme, they are simply further down the road that mainstream conservatives tend to travel. Reasonable people said as much in the aftermath of the Gifford’s shooting, citing it as a natural consequence of the inflammatory, militaristic, second-amendment-solution, crosshairs-on-candidates speech that was rampant in the months preceding the event. Liberals may not have all the answers, but they tend to talk about things like protecting health care for seniors and retirement security rather than the evils of immigration and s-e-x.

  • Keith Kloor

    Eli, I’m at a loss to understand your point, especially since Douthat does the opposite of what you accuse him of. BTW, to me, the much more salient piece related to the Norway tragedy appears on page one in the Times, headlined “Killings Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in the U.S,” including this:

    Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik’s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam “is the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

    “This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost-free.”

    One of the anti-Islam bloggers mentioned in the Times article is someone I’ve been critical of here.  

  • Jarmo

    Many people preach things and then fail to follow up on what they preach. I think this eco friendly failure to live greenly just highlights how dependent we are on fossil fuels and how few real options we have. Green-thinking celebrities drive their Priuses but haven’t given up on their flights on private jets etc etc.
    Bringing up Breivik and the massacre in Norway in this context… I think such people share one trait with Breivik which total lack of concern for the victims to score some points against your opponents. So shut up and show some respect.


     

  • Dean

    What this all says to me is that the idea that only with wealth will environmental problems be addressed is a fantasy. Grow the economy first and then we will have the money to address more issues. Technically true, but it doesn’t end up working that way.

    Btw, a better test than seeing large SUVs would be to look at their total carbon footprint, but I really doubt that would come out any better. Even if their Yukon is matched with a Prius, they probably take long airplane flights on vacations to go trekking somewhere.

    I read somewhere that the Americans with the lightest carbon footprints are urbanites in Manhattan. With all of our focus on transportation, I think the multi-family vs. freestanding homes is as important, particularly in most climates that need heating or cooling.

  • Dean

    I would also add, having lived in Boulder in the 1990′s, that while the scene depicted is true, it is by no means true of everybody there. You aren’t going to see much visible evidence for those who walk or ride the bus. The consumerists stand out like a sore thumb.

  • Paul Kelly

    SUVs exist because CAFE standards killed the station wagon. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @11
    That is so spectacularly wrong I have to ask for evidence. If anything CAFE standards incentivized station wagons with the trunk space provision (e.g. the PT Cruiser is considered a light truck for compliance purposes).

  • harrywr2

    Eli,
    I live in the ‘moderate income’ set aside area of town. My primary form of transportation is a moped. Most of my neighbors have at least one econobox in the driveway. I don’t have air conditioning and neither do any of my immediate neighbors. I have 18″ of insulation in my ceilings. All of my windows and doors are EPA approved ‘energy star’.

    Microsoft is 8 1/2 miles up the road and Boeing Renton is 10 miles in the other direction. At precisely 5:16 PM every day I could walk to Microsoft on top of the cars that are backed up for 8 1/2 miles from Microsoft to the bus stop 200 yards from my house. I’ve only ever seen two people take the bus, it’s the same two people and one of them lost their drivers license as a result of ‘drinking and driving’ and the other is a Mexican woman here to clean houses.

    About a mile up the road is a brand new modern multi-story park and ride.

    I’m not sure why we spent money on it as there was always plenty of parking available in the old park and ride parking lot. But we did.

    There are also very nice bus terminals at Microsoft and Boeing.

    The state offers a 50 cent/KW subsidy for solar panels and a few of the 5,000 square foot palaces with 3 car garages have their ‘politically correct’ square meter of solar panels on the roof.

    We also have ‘preferred parking spaces’ for hybrids, which end up being used about as often as the handicapped parking spaces.

    We just dropped $30 million on a bicycle overpass that terminates at the soccer fields. When I was young I rode my bicycle to soccer practice. I’ve never see any bicycles at the soccer fields. The bulk of the bicycle traffic is middle aged people on weekends.

    There is nothing wrong with recreational bicycle riding but we are kidding ourselves that the $30 million dollar bicycle overpass is going to reduce CO2 emissions or encourage people to ride bicycles to work.

    The school bus runs right past my house and is only a short ride to the elementary school. About half the parents drive their children to school.

    In my youth a school that close would have been classified as ‘walking distance’ and all the kids would have walked to school. If your mommy drove you to school you would get called a ‘baby’ by the other children. Of course now if your child calls another child a ‘baby’ you can expect to have a long and painful discussion with the school counselor about the need for ‘sensitivity’.

    I’m not eco-bashing Eli. Jimmy Carter sent me off to the Middle East to protect ‘America’s Strategic Interests’ long ago. Two of my children have also had ‘all expense paid trips’ to the Middle East.

    We’ve spent 30 years lying to ourselves that this ‘last nasty little conflict’ would buy us enough time to do all the ‘right things’ to get off our oil addiction.

    There isn’t a single automotive engineer that can’t design a gasoline powered car that gets double whatever the mileage it gets now.

    They can’t build it because no one is willing to invest the necessary money in materials science.

    Here’s a brochure on the DOE Carbon Fiber research facility.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/merit_review_2010/lightweight_materials/lm003_warren_2010_o.pdf

    $34 million budget(including capital expenditure). Enough to build one bicycle overpass that might get used by a dozen people a day.

    Materials Science is boring and tedious. nobody gets to have ‘instant gratification’ at how eco-friendly they were for supporting a materials science research facility.

    Manned space flight used to be the ‘pizazz’ that managed to find funding for materials science. That’s over now and the big R&D money dried up decades ago.

    Burt Rutan is one of the biggest AGW deniers in the world. He is also the guy who managed to built a spaceship out of lightwieght composite materials for chump change.

    I would hazard a guess that he probably knows something about how to build a GMC Yukon that gets 50 MPG and has all the comfort and convenience of a 16 MPG GMC Yukon.

    But he’s on the ‘wrong’ team.

    Ohh wait…here it is..he designed a 4 passenger car that weighed 420 pounds without the engine…
    http://www.scaled.com/projects/general_motors_ultralite_show_car

    Here it is with the engine…1400 lbs..a 20 year old design that got an EPA estimated 88 MPG with a top speed of 135 MPH.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_Ultralite

    What’s holding up production? The cost of carbon fibers.
    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/30/business/gm-to-show-a-high-mileage-experimental-car.html

    GM and Burt Rutan demonstrated a 4 passenger car that got 88 MPG  20 years ago and Secretary Chu finally managed to get a lousy $34 million for low cost carbon fiber manufacturing research in 2009.

    I’m not privy to the internal deliberations of the various climate change advocacy groups…but taking 20 years to get a lousy $34 million in research money for a critical component required to fight climate change seems to me to be a major failure.

    But then the $34 million would go to people who are on the ‘wrong team’.

  • Leo G

    WOW Harry, what a post!

  • Paul Kelly

    arlowe,

    You obviously are not a car guy. Read your own comment. Station wagons are cars. SUVs, minivans and crossovers are trucks and are a direct result of CAFE standards which are much higher for cars than for trucks, especially when first imposed. Read the wikipedia entry which states:
    Since minivans and SUVs are classified as light trucks under US CAFE standards, manufacturers had a strong incentive to market those vehicles over station wagons, which are classified as cars. Station wagons have remained popular in Europeand other locations whose emissions and efficiency regulations don’t distinguish between cars and light trucks
    I’m not above being spectacularly wrong, bit on this one I think it’s going the other way.


  • Marlowe Johnson

    whoa foot caught firmly in mouth after brain freeze. you’re right of course. pass the humble pie.

    see here for details.

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/cafe/rulemaking/anprm_dec22-2003.html#VI_B

  • Paul Kelly

    Marlowe.

    No harm, no foul. Please save that humble pie for a time when we can both enjoy a slice.

  • Jon P

    Looks like Eli is done pooping here, but he just posted another “deniers are idiots” rant at his site. Yawn. And he wonders why people get entrenched in their positions.

    Eli might not like the hypocrite issue, but it plays a major role in influencing people nonetheless. How a professor could not understand this is difficult to comprehend. CAGW we are told is going to have dire consequences unless we act now. When the people who are trying to convince/sway the general population it is not Climate Audit or Wattsupwiththat that prevents this, part of it is the “do as I say, not as I do” actions of the well known CAGW spokespersons, aka Gore.

    Imagine someone going around warning people they need to be vegetarians and no longer eat meat and that person is often seen chowing down a 20oz Porterhouse, medium rare. Do you really think that is going to work?

    I guess you could call the people who still eat meat and deny that being a vegetarian is beneficial, stupid deniers, but we know that will not work. At least some of us have that figured out, some are still in denial.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Since +1 is now some kind of a trademark, I’d say that I reposted harrywr2′s #13:

     http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/8091682967
     

  • Jack Hughes

    +1 to Jon P

    The enemy is not a secret cabal of denialists -
    no it’s SOCCER MOMS 

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Naw, Eli has posted multiple times here

  • JD Ohio

    RE: Eli & Deniers,

    On 6/27/11 Eli claimed on the Blackboard that he was using the term rejectionist (much preferable to me because of the lack of Nazi allusions) instead of denier to describe those he felt to be unscientific.  See link & comment at 3:31 p.m.  http://rankexploits.com/musings/2011/more-auto-complete-fun-not-a-river-in-egypt/  Seems that he has reverted to his old ways and that he has abandoned his belief that “rejectionist” is righteous.

    JD

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »