Saturday, April 21, 2007

Preventative medecine

It used to be that every time it really rained – I mean – just poured for days on end, my basement would start to flood, which was OK,I thought, because I could suck it out with a shop vac once the rain  tapered down.

But that was bad design. I was wasting energy running a vacuum; and the more I sucked up the water the more it drew water from outside.  After I remarried, and my wife moved in she insisted on hiring a landscaping company to put in  proper drainage around the house.  Since then there has been no flooding, even though there has been no shortage of rain.

But it is not just me.  Together we are collectively wasting huge amounts of energy. It's because all the economic incentives are going in the wrong direction. They are encouraging more and bigger cars to be built with more gas consuming capacity. They are encouraging bigger and more energy hogging houses. They are encouraging oil exploration and wars to secure influence in oil producing countries. The existing economic incentives encourage us to use up carbon rich fuels as fast as we can and to expand demand indefinitely.

Good design can mean the difference between having a future and not having one. The existing economic incentives discourage public participation and public planning. But everyone needs to get involved in on the planning and the doing: individuals, organizations, and governments. Good design would lead to economic incentives that encouraged energy conservation and encouraged the development of clean energies.

We know what bad planning is. We've seen the results in the first World War and the Iraq War. We know what incompetence looks like, we've seen it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

We know what deception is. We've seen it in the arguments of the climate change skeptics. The deliberate attempt by the fossil fuel corporations to fuel doubt in the minds of the public and buy the industry a few more years of record profits.

The trouble with deception is that it leads to lethal design flaws, Deception led to the War in Iraq and deception led to stalling action on climate change. You don't stall when your health is at risk. It's as if your doctor gave you a clean bill of health when you actually have a curable cancer. A good leader is like a good doctor. He has a moral interest in his patient's good health.

Some problems are just too big for individuals or even organizations to solve. This is true with global warming. Global warming threatens all of us. We all face this same enemy so we need to cooperate amongst ourselves. Help each other out. Compete, but only to derive better solutions that we share together. This requires planning and design. Designing houses that are energy efficient, that utilize the energy of the sun and the earth. Designing cities that conserve energy rather than wasting it. Designing economic policies that favour renewable energy and that discourage the use of carbon rich fuel.

Yes Alberta, energy policies are necessary. It's not about you it's about saving the Earth. We need to minimize waste and the use of energy.

With the Iraq War, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Global Warming we have examples of the destructive power of poor leadership. A bad leader makes a bad situation worse and endangers his country. A bad leader sees a challenge and sidesteps it rather than facing it. Global warming is such a challenge. By pretending it wasn't there George W. Bush and Stephen Harper abdicated their leadership. They are like doctors who would deceive you about your cancer rather than helping you find a cure.

global warming is a classic example of “market failure”. A situation where leaving the market to sort things out leads to a catastrophic worsening of the problem. The “free market' encourages the prolifigate waste of energy and resources. It is poor way to deal with global warming because it doesn't treat the root of the problem. The root of our problem is our accelerating emissions of carbon dioxide. Like cutting out a cancer we need to cut our consumption of energy and resources drastically. This will take time, but above all it will take planning.

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