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IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE SUV AGE CAME TO AN END ON THAT DAY WHEN EVERYBODY EVACUATED HOUSTON. WHEN THOUSANDS OF EXPLORERS AND NAVIGATORS AND OTHER PROUD-SOUNDING VEHICLES WERE SITTING IN THE BREAKDOWN LANE RUN OUT OF GAS. McKibben, continued from page 13 White House, at least temporarily, and it is not too much to say that they are reflected now in changes in wind speed and changes in sea levels and changes in all sorts of other things. It’s an enormously big problem and a wasted opportunity and we will forgive you if you send us someone better next time. But only part of the blame can be laid at the feet of Dubya on this one. Bill Clinton and Al Gore didn’t really do anything about it either. U.S. carbon emissions went up 15 percent during their presidency. The biggest reason is that we are the country that is most thoroughly addicted to cheap energy. We’re most reluctant to entertain any move away. TO: You talk about the need for a new environmentalism. What do you mean by that? BM: For a very long time environmentalism has largely been about worrying about the things that we shouldn’t dowhich has been important. But it is probably at least as important now for it to be kind of aspirational as well. Trying to imagine a world where we weren’t doing bad things but where we are instead doing useful things that are in the end more pleasurable than what we are doing now. For instance, I’ve been doing lots of work on local farming lately, largely for environmental reasons. Here in the East Coast if we get one calorie of lettuce from California or Texas it takes about 95 calories of fossil energy to grow it and bring it out to us. That’s not a very good ratio. There is also the fact that when it gets here it’s just Iceberg lettuce anyway. It doesn’t taste like anything and it’s undercutting our local farming communities and our neighborhoods. That’s what’s behind the fact that farmers’ markets have tripled in the last 10 years around the country, growing faster than any other part of the food sector. So I think we clearly need to be doing more than scaring each other as we think about the environmentalthough it’s pretty important to have some sense of just how deeply we have managed to undermine the physical stability of the planet. TO: Yet your statements like “we need to upend the entire way we go about powering our lives,” make change seem like a steep mountain to climb. BM: It is to some degree but it’s not as if it’s completely impossible. Here is a useful statistic. Your average Western European uses one-half as much energy as your average American. It’s not because they live in caves or something. It is possible to argue that the average Parisian has a life almost as elegant as the average resident of Plano or wherever. And it is not because they have some magic technology. It is because they have lives that are much more community-oriented than ours, less hyper-individualistic, hence they can actually bring themselves to do things like ride on the bus or the train with other peoplea concept that has become very close to un-American. TO: How do we break the paralysis? Do we have to wait for the next series of horrific storms? BM: That will do part of it, there is no question. We are reasonably close. I think over the last 15 years there has been a strong network of people around the country who have taken these issues seriously and in an almost subterranean way they are devising all kinds of good policies, networks and things like that. Since there is no possibility for action in Washington at the moment, the action has moved to the state level. For the first time California is going to regulate CO 2 as a pollutant along with sulfur and nitrogen. California has special powers through the Clean Air Act. They are the only state that can make their own stricter laws, although other states can then join them once they have done it. And so both Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger have signed laws passed by the legislature that would nix CO 2 output and would in effect allow Sacramento to do what 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 4, 2005