Global charming

  • John Mecklin

 

In England to meet with erstwhile British Prime Minister Tony Blair last month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke optimistically about solutions to global warming. Business opportunities, he said, could make clean technology the “new gold rush,” according to the Sunday Telegraph of London.

“Technology in the end is going to save the day. Technology is going to save the environment,” Schwarzenegger pronounced. “The faster we can improve technology with cleaner cars, cleaner jet engines and so on, the better it is.”

It was a typical Schwarzenegger performance, by which I mean to say it was charming and, as is too often the case with the telegenic former Terminator, unrealistic. Discounting asteroid and comet strikes, there are two primary threats to humanity’s existence: nuclear war (which Schwarzenegger will have no chance of addressing outside the four corners of a movie screen) and global warming, which he could address, but is instead using as the set for his latest politico-cinematic feature, Arnold Against the Hotness.

In promoting Hotness, Schwarzenegger has done a good job of attaching his administration to the general idea of greenness (and a dizzying array of environmental/anti-warming proposals that may or may not ever become reality). The tack has been great for the governor’s image; over the last two years, he has gone from 31 percent voter approval to 61 percent support and another term in office.

I know Schwarzenegger is dedicated to image. I am less certain that he intends to do much about the reality of global warming, and this issue’s cover story, “Hydrogen Highway Revisited” by Matt Palmquist, offers a glimpse at some of the reasons for my skepticism.

In 2003, Schwarzenegger proclaimed a bold new age: Hydrogen filling stations would sprout every 20 miles on major California highways, and half a million hydrogen-powered cars would bustle cleanly and greenly hither and yon across the state. It hasn’t happened, of course, and anyone with a speck of interest in the field would have known that hydrogen — as alluring an energy panacea as ever could be imagined — is at best a shaky long-term bet as a transportation fuel.

So why does Schwarzenegger continue the fiction that hydrogen can be a large and current part of the global warming solution?

First, hydrogen is sexy, and both Schwarzenegger and George Bush hope its aura of environmental innovation will rub off on them. Second, a focus on hydrogen pleases oil and auto companies that are heavily invested in fossil fuels (and in the current governor of California and president of the United States). The oil and car companies know that hydrogen bromides delay a real response to global warming for decades — decades that could allow them to recoup their fossil fuel-related investments as they set themselves up to dominate a new, hydrogen-powered world.

But the planet can’t wait decades. Global warming is a real and present danger, and we shouldn’t be girly-men, waiting for the big strong scientists to save us from the Hotness. We can be heroes to our children and grandchildren by simple expedients: driving smaller, more efficient cars, and demanding that our governments strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Now.

High Country News Classifieds
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...