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Urged by my sister-in-law to actually read Glenn Beck’s book(s) before I comment on him, I checked out his An Inconvenient Book from the library today, and have made it almost through chapter three.  Needless to say, I still disagree with many of Beck’s sentiments and his overall presentation of the issues, and while he poses some interesting questions and proposes some interesting solutions at times and makes some pretty solid challenges, his polarized and, at times, childish view of the world and use of false dilemma leave me less than impressed.

In the first chapter, Beck challenges the affects of humanity on global warming, the affect of CO2 on global warming, the nature of the Kyoto protocol, and proposes solutions to these issues. First, I agree with Beck that the media tends to sensationalize the debate, and while I disagree with the postulates of some of his satire (or at least don’t find it funny), I do agree that the media should explore both sides of the issue and give equal time to scientists with research that disagrees with global warming proponents. Discussions are fueled not by eliminating information, but by presenting both sides of the issue. However, I think Beck misses the larger picture when he ridicules governments like Australia, which is attempting to reduce CO2 by forcing folks to use halogen bulbs, or the Kyoto protocol, which attempts to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gases (including methane and nitrous oxide, both of which Beck mentions in his book but doesn’t link to the Kyoto protocol) through energy caps, reduced emissions, carbon sinks, etc. Beck criticizes the protocol for not being equal across the board (developing countries get off more than developed countries, such as the United States) and for the idea that he still isn’t sure that global warming is the hot button issue that many make it out to be. He creates a false dilemma, arguing that one can either support the Kyoto protocol or invest the trillions of dollars that it would take to decrease greenhouse gases by 2% and use it on things like education, feeding the poor, etc. What Beck ignores, of course, is that governments can and should do both.

                Here’s how it theoretically could work: The U. S. Government dumps serious money (think the war budget serious, and not the teaser bailout) into alternative energy research, technology, and implementation, thereby creating jobs, stimulating the economy to a point of self-sustainability and creating a cleaner future for its citizens. This model is repeated throughout the world, via gifts/donations/sales of the new ecofriendly technology to developing nations. Beck argues against this via capitalism, i.e., alternative energy should only be used ONLY when it’s as cost effective as fossil fuels. This is one of my major issues with Beck. Governments should not be run like corporations, which operate like irresponsible psychopaths, but with elements of far reaching moral and ethical concerns.  In other words, taking into consideration the damage that fossil fuels cause the earth through their harvesting (mountain top removal for coal, oil well disasters, etc.), transportation (Exxon-Valdez in Alaska, etc.), implementation and use, the government should opt for the less-immediately attractive but far reaching plan of eliminating fossil fuels as quickly as possible and investing in and developing as many alternatives as possible and by doing everything possible, from emission caps to corporate fossil fuel taxes and alternative energy tax cuts, to achieve a completely fossil fuel free nation. Beck speaks to this as a solution at the end of the chapter, but only as an investor, and not as social policy. In other words, Beck is content to let fossil fuels continue to be used for the reason that one person’s CO2 output really isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things, or because China isn’t going to cap emissions, so neither should we.

This sort of logic ignores the greater purpose of ecological reform, which is to stop harming the earth and the beings that inhabit it with humanity. The idea that one person’s contribution is so miniscule as to make no difference is a very narrow minded way of looking at things; Beck also argues that anyone who is interested in greenhouse gas emission but isn’t a vegan is a hypocrite due to their ignoring of the amount of greenhouse gasses put out by the waste of animals. This is the sort of demonizing and childish language which Beck employs, ignoring the idea that ANY contribution, no matter how large or small, makes a difference. It’s an idea from the Shambhala tradition—the less hate and destruction one puts into the world, the less hate and destruction one receives; the more basic goodness that people infuse into their lives and their interactions with the world, the more it will resonate throughout society. In other words, these miniscule changes, be they fueled by economics (driving a hybrid car makes my gasoline bill less), religion (humans were assigned to tend creation, so that means not eliminating species), or basic morals and self-preservation (destroying the earth is bad if I intend to live on it, or have my children, or their children do so), will ultimately have a ripple effect, creating larger and more profound changes in the way our society runs, and possibly in the way we treat each other.

That being said, Beck’s seventh chapter is titled “America’s Oil Dependence: The Peak of Stupidity.” I’m curious to see where this chapter goes, and how it’s balanced against the “do nothing” attitude of Chapter 1.

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