Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Earlier this week, Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) told the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality chief Janet McCabe: “You’re not living in the real world,” in response to her testimony regarding EPA’s proposed standard for future power plants that would require coal-fired units to capture between 30 and 50 percent of their carbon emissions through the use of carbon capture and sequestration.

According to Environment and Energy News,  Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) told McCabe that EPA’s proposal for future power plants would have a negative impact on low-income people because it would drive up the cost of electricity that they rely upon.

Who is living in the real world?

The Cranes Return

I heard (and then saw) cranes on my bosque walk this morning!

In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote about the returning of geese:

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving to the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.

We New Mexicans know that Leopold lived here in Albuquerque for a time, and I have no doubt he gave equal respect to the winter return of our sandhill cranes.  As do I. The sandhill crane is among the oldest living species of birds, dating back 2.5 million years. Their primordial sound (which Leopold  called “the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution”) reminds me to keep our own species in perspective.

Replacing Sustainability

Working with Robin Craig. I recently published Replacing Sustainability, a law review article making the argument that, since at least 1992 and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, sustainability and sustainable development have been explicit and persistent goals for the governance and management of socio-ecological systems (SESs). 

We argue that the repeated invocation of sustainability ignores the ecological realities of the Anthropocene — biodiversity loss, increasing per capita resource consumption, and climate change. Climate change in particular makes human-focused ecological sustainability — the long-term maintenance of ecosystems, species, and natural capital in particular states that humans find most economically and socially productive — increasingly futile as a governance and management goal. We examine resilience as a concept that might have a more productive and meaningful relationship to the “no analog” future we face.

“We cannot solve the problems we have created with the same thinking that created them.”–Albert Einstein

I am interested in how we as a society address environmental and natural resource challenges, including how we conceptualize those challenges.   For this reason, I’m increasingly intrigued with emerging research in neuroplasticity, the capacity to change neural pathways in ways that actually alters the brain–including how we perceive situations and emotionally respond.

Can we change our individual and collective relationship to the challenges of the Anthropocene by cognitively remapping how we think about them?  Those who are similarly intrigued may be interested in Rick Hanson’s work on to brain science, relationships, well-being, contemplative practice, and related topics.