Letters: 9/21/17

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Hope in municipalization

As a 23-year-old living in 2017, I am often weary about the state of the world that my generation is inheriting. At the top of my list of concerns is a destabilizing climate system that will intensify problems of social and economic inequality across the globe for decades to come.

My weariness is rooted in a simple calculation; each year that our economic machine trudges forward powered by fossil fuels, the more suffering and loss we will inevitably endure in our lifetime.

So, what can we do about it? I invite young people who also feel uneasy about our collective future to support the creation of a local electric utility in Boulder by voting yes on 2L, 2O and 2P at the ballot box this fall.

Why? Because we need local solutions that are as bold and comprehensive as the climate crisis is grave and life-threatening; because this initiative is our best hope for averting the worst effects of climate change.

Sticking with Xcel Energy, which plans on burning coal until 2070, will prevent Boulder from achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

To the contrary, separating from Xcel will remove barriers that restrict the emergence of a decentralized, democratically governed electricity system powered by renewables. Making haste in removing such political and market barriers is crucial to letting the future unfold.

Boulder is on the verge of achieving something pretty incredible with its efforts to municipalize its electric utility. I urge my generational cohorts, who understand the dire need for bold, paradigm-shifting solutions, to support Boulder’s efforts to liberate our power from Xcel and create a city-run electric utility.

Within these types of local, concrete solutions, we might find respite from fear of what is to come, and a good reason to be hopeful.

Duncan Gilchrist/Boulder

Think broadly about environmental action

Thank you, Boulder Weekly, for the thought-provoking articles related to our environmental predicament in your August 3, 2017 issue. The piece on the Gross Dam controversy [RE: “Good ‘til the last drop,” News] in particular, encouraged reflection on the hard choices and inconvenient truths we are faced with.

The questions left in my mind are: Where are we going? Where is subservience to population and economic growth and the mega-project mindset leading us? What would be the consequences of turning away from the dominant paradigm and making decisions that are, to the best of our capacity and collective wisdom, aligned with the truth of our interrelatedness with nature and a sense of the sacred?

When will we come together to look clearly at the depth of our predicament?

The priest and eco-theologian Thomas Berry boiled a lot of intellectual nebulae down to a simple yet profound premise: We need to create a mutually enhancing relationship with the earth. Think about that! What does that even look like with 7.5 billion people on the planet and more every day, with perpetual resource wars, with 150-200 species already going extinct every day? It’s at least a little humbling, isn’t it?

What I like to add to Berry’s insight is the need to also create a mutually enhancing relationship with each other. I don’t see how the two can be separated and humility just might be a pretty good bridge.

When it’s clear that no one has all the answers and that separation has always been an illusion — we really are all in this together — then we will be ready to start the real work of healing our relationships to the earth and each other. And we don’t have to stretch too far to imagine what that healing process what might look like. Restorative justice points the way.

Too good to be limited to the justice system, the principles and practices of restorative justice can be used to address the most challenging issues and will strengthen the communities at the same time. Here we find a circle instead of a battle line, communication instead of litigation, and accountability in place of blame. Let us hope the time comes soon when we find the courage and wisdom to come together in this way.

Scott Brown/Boulder

The predictable and flawed reactions to Harvey and Irma

I suspect this letter will offend many. That’s not my intention; but defense of the truth demands a response. Quite predictably, Harvey and Irma have brought out irrational responses all around.

Background: Humans by nature jump to conclusions about situations they observe. We do this in an attempt to understand our world. These conclusions reveal loads about our preconceived notions. We rationalize how we know certain things by constructing arguments, often flimsy ones. Finally, and of huge importance, we dismiss evidence that runs counter to our preferred explanation. This behavior isn’t sinister, and, moreover, we’re usually not even aware that we do it.

In response to Harvey, some of my devout Christian friends state that what happened in Houston was a result of the wickedness in that city. While I’m sure that there’s wickedness there, and I do believe that it’s possible — if highly unlikely — that societies suffer disasters due to their sins, I stop far short of ever concluding as much.

From the “science” side, people are also concluding things that they have no business doing, claiming that the hurricanes were caused by climate change that was caused by human activity. They so much want it to be true that they dispense with intellectual rigor.

In an effort to offer some disclaimer, or to limit the extent of their claim, you will undoubtedly hear introductory statements like, “Of course, climate change cannot account for any specific storm.” Then, as though they’ve not even made such a statement, they proceed to draw unsubstantiated conclusions that fit their worldview. Such as: “It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly.” “With global temperatures rising, we should expect more such storms.” And, my favorite, “This is the new normal.” As if we’re patient enough to look at events over long enough of a timescale to determine what “normal” is.

Employing confirmation bias, they’re sure that this year’s storms provide proof for global warming’s effect on hurricanes, while they dismiss the fact that not one major hurricane made landfall in the U.S. in the previous 12 years.

Is it possible that hurricane Harvey hit Houston because of the sinful behavior of its inhabitants? Sure, it’s possible. Can we conclude as much? No way. Is it possible that Harvey occurred due to humans driving cars? Sure, it’s possible. Should we claim that human activity caused it? Not if we want to be taken seriously.

With most interesting timing, on August 30, NOAA issued a report titled, “Global Warming and Hurricanes” that covered more than 100 years of Atlantic hurricane activity. The summary statement starts, “It is premature to conclude that human activities — and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming — have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity.”

The report does suggest that we very well may see increased storm activity in the future, as a result of global warming. But they exhibit proper discipline in stating that no such claim can be made now. And we won’t be in a position to do that for decades to come.

The report continues, “In short, the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.”

To be clear, these recent hurricanes have brought serious destruction and have ruined many, many lives. These people need our help in order to rebuild. The occurrences of these storms should remind us of how powerful nature can be, and how humble and cautious we must be when we inhabit regions prone to such natural phenomena.

If we claim to be rational beings, and are dedicated to progress and honesty, we must make a clear distinction about what we know, and about what we only suspect.

Charlie Danaher/Boulder

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