Gotta admit this whirlwind continental journey is full of insights for an islander seeking signs of hope as we turn now to confront global warming and its consequences.
It's one thing to sit on a beach in Hawaii and grok the need to cut American carbon emissions by 90 percent, and quite another to wander America's halls looking for ways and places this could be done.
I mean, where else to ponder the challenge of auto-dependency than the LA basin?
Or the challenges of green city management than in Seattle? Or the challenges of integrating scientific findings with best practices than in Madison?
These are the places I'm probing as I swing through my semi-annual trip to grandots.
Yes, I've offset this particular set of air travel and car rental emissions.
Oh, and I come bearing new 'oooops' stories for the grandots, as well.
Stories of stunted lung development among children growing up next to highways, and of nickel mine devastation that feeds hybrid car production, and of Indonesian peat bogs whose disturbance released vastly more carbon than we will ever save from the palm oil now growing thereon.
Yup, still plenty of 'ooops' to make us all more mindful and cautious.
Still, I gotta say that the shift even from private autos to smart jitneys seems beyond the beyond in places like, say, Huntington Beach or Bellevue or Middleton. The development pattern in these otherwise fairly green 'burbs is too set, the numbers too overwhelming, the behavior change too imponderable.
More worse, where your government and corporate citizens agree to reduce carbon emissions voluntarily, as in Seattle, the prospects for major change are actually quite limited. Even at this large metro scale, most of the big energy reductions rely on someone farther up the chain doing something. Like building different cars and utility plants.
And even in Madison, where a summit of community leaders focused on sustainability is underway as I visit, the distance between town and gown on basic understanding of ecosystem funcioning remains far too wide. From one quadrant come the SAGE folks with pace-setting tools for ecosystem assessment, while from another quadrant come corn farmers seeking subsidies for ethanol production.
Can these disparate folks reading the same research findings come to consensus on how to achieve one planet living in this town?
Mebbe not, yet.
Even the low-hanging fruit seems out of reach.
But then, the unusually cold weather may just be getting to me...