No Whining

The global warming "points of light" featured in this issue represent a start—and just a start—in our epic journey to confront and turn around the massive climatic changes that are already underway around the world. As you"ll see, in the absence of any federal action in the U.S., cities and states are filling the vacuum with innovative programs. And in other parts of the world, particularly Europe, governments and private initiatives are quickly moving to the forefront with aggressive plans to abandon their oil addiction in favor of wind turbines and bio-fuels.

© Jerry Russell

Rising sea levels, increasingly ferocious hurricanes, loss of important animal and plant species, mysterious new diseases crossing from animals to humans, all of these are no longer effects we’re likely to see only in the distant future. They’re here now, and only an international effort akin to a post-war Marshall Plan will provide a solution.

We’ve risen to occasions like this before. During World War II, for example, auto companies stopped making cars for two full years so they could instead make tanks for the war effort. Elsewhere, companies and the people who worked for them planted victory gardens and suspended normal activity because they saw the war as a just cause and wanted to be part of it. As my parents pointed out to me (and sorry for the unfortunate example), Lucky Strike cigarettes even gave up its green logo so the Army could have the dye for uniforms.

These days our enemy isn’t Hitler or Hirohito but—arguably—ourselves, first for allowing our conveniences and indulgences to bring the global environment to near collapse; and second, for taking so long to do anything about it.

There aren’t many climate naysayers left, but there are still many who will keep trying to obstruct by saying that curbing emissions will destroy jobs and hurt our industrial base. But tell me: How many people work in the typewriter industry today, as opposed to just 25 years ago? Indeed, typewriters were once as ubiquitous in offices as chairs, but now there’s usually just one left, sitting in a corner for typing that occasional mailing label. Yet former typewriter workers are not all living in shelters. That’s right: The economy shifted into making computers instead and, assuming companies didn’t move operations to Mexico or Malaysia, the workers were retrained and rehired.

Car companies change their designs every year, requiring major re-tooling. If they can do this, just to change the shape of fenders or incorporate satellite radio and GPS systems, they can certainly convert cars to hybrid operation and, down the road, hydrogen-fueled, zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles.

Our cover story this issue is about innovative people doing innovative things, under the radar and in many cases despite the lack of any legal mandates. No, shifting to a clean energy economy won’t be easy. We’re still going to have to endure some inconveniences. But like the man says, "No pain, no gain."