Green Beat - Green Citizenship: First Step to a Sustainable World

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By Chuck Brands

Solor Panels
OK, I’m ticked off.  This is going to be a bit of a rant that will
touch on hot-button issues facing all of us.   Just in case that
prospect deters you from reading the rest, I’ll share this month’s
green treat with you up front.  Wanna be a “green” know-it-all?  Visit daily
for the single best source of links to all the best articles and commentary
relating to green and sustainability on the web.  Period.

Now that I’ve offered that little green carrot, and before I share
a bounty of more useful East County-oriented leafy green bunches of goodness
in future columns, I first want to lay the groundwork for understanding the
real big-picture sustainability mess we’re in--and the role each of us
plays in solving those problems.   So, I hope you’ll stick
with me as I get a few things off my chest and help you connect some “green

I’m very concerned as you probably are, too, about
the health of our country and the world.   I’ve long believed
that the first obligation of citizenship, and indeed patriotism, is the responsibility
to be well informed (hint –for starters, visit the above link).  For
most of us, casting an enlightened vote is our only way of ensuring that our
leaders govern in a way that is beneficial to our mutual long-term interests.   But
with the increasingly rancid fiasco of traditional corporate media coverage
on important issues (such as gas price gouging and Big Oil’s windfall
profits, discussed below, or our current presidential election), I’m
wondering how the average citizen can even exercise that obligation in the
face of so many corporate-owned media forces dispensing disinformation, distraction,
and downright manipulation of our minds designed to make and keep us dumb consumers
instead of enlightened citizens.   Want to get the truth?  Start
by clicking on the links below.

It’s not only hard finding reliable and
useful news sources, but it’s
getting harder to make sense of financial matters.  Every day, things
are getting tougher for the average family as we struggle to stay afloat paying
for skyrocketing costs of living and soaring fuel costs.   (By the
way, I strongly suggest you question the official
government inflation and unemployment figures
as they are mostly just gross
and cynical falsehoods (lies?)
that don’t even include the increases
in the food and energy costs that most affect our pocketbooks).  

Yet, even as many of us grapple with diminishing business, income, and career
prospects, a certain segment of our economy (psst – the fossil fuel industry,
better known as “Big Oil”) is swimming in cash  and profits
while average people and the environment suffer to support their prosperity,
forking over huge sums at the pump.   For sheer gut-wrenching outrage
and more specifics about our predicament, have a look at the below litany of
corporate financial and environmental abuses and exploitation by just one multinational
oil and gas corporate conglomerate.   This ought to be a wakeup call
signaling America that something is seriously wrong with the affairs of the
good ole U. S. of A.   So follow with me on this trail of tears.

Now let me get something straight.  I don’t have a problem with
capitalism, free enterprise and the profit motive.  In fact, I think that
the profit incentive is a necessary element of any sustainable system of trade
and commerce.   However, the last time this country saw the above
kinds of abuses and crony capitalism, it entered a Depression from which it
recovered largely due to government intervention--curtailing monopoly practices
and other abuses of the perks of power and the public trust. 

So to be clear, my problem with Exxon Mobil (and many other globalized and
conglomerated multinational corporations and industries) is not so much the
profiteering on the backs of average citizens.  Worse than that, even
while they are swimming in cash, these conglomerates are paying an ever-shrinking
share of taxes--and not being made to pay for the damaging costs of fossil
fuel addiction to the environment and the common good of our shared long-term
future as a country.   In a very real sense, we are practicing corporate
welfare by giving them massive subsidies of taxpayer money while we allow companies
like Exxon to avoid things like full
cost accounting and true cost pricing
in calculating what should be their triple
bottom line
responsibility of incorporating social and environmental costs
into the profit equation.  In essence, they are externalizing those costs
onto others.  That is not fair, sustainable or healthy for our nation
or the world.

But here’s the real bottom line.  For the last two hundred years  or
so, we’ve been on a resource binge that has devoured about half of all
the earth’s known reserves of the ancient stores of oil and other fossil
fuel energy (especially the cheap and easy-to-extract variety) that were built
up over hundreds of millions of years.  Likewise, we have poisoned the
air and plundered the land and oceans of their precious resources in the name
of endless economic and population growth and nonstop development.  Cheap
oil and other plentiful, but now dwindling, resources made it all look easy
and created the illusion that our unchecked consumer way of life and pursuit
of material happiness was and is a sustainable norm.  It is not. 

matter what the highly-paid, but often ill-informed (and sometimes ill-intentioned)
talking-head corporate gasbags and blowhards of talk radio and cable TV tell
you, rest assured that the unbridled growth and consumption patterns that most
of us have experienced in our lives are NOT SUSTAINABLE.

So what does all this
have to do with green citizenship?  Just this.  If
we are to overcome the economic, environmental and social challenges and keep
America strong and secure, each of us will have to do our part in being well-informed.  Without
such collective insight, it will be very difficult for the world and for us
as a country to find a sustainable path forward.  Given the bias against
knowing what’s really going on and the stranglehold of corporate media
working endlessly to program us to be mindless consumers of pop culture and
material garbage, the challenge is daunting. 

Rest assured:  this
quest to preserve a friendly climate and habitable earth for ourselves and
future generations will be the greatest challenge in the history of modern
man.  If we are to rise to that challenge, we’d
better wake up, get smart, and take sustainable civic action. 

This column
is dedicated to working together on those causes.   Oh
and one final thing, watch gas prices continue to fall as the election approaches,
just to trick you into thinking everything is alright.  It’s not.