Climate Boomers, Doomers and Zoomers

Most people’s first reaction to the threat of climate change is the technofix. Raised to place our faith in market forces, we almost instinctively turn to technological solutions. A primary tenet is that innovation can solve any problem, including reversing the world’s destabilizing weather patterns.

This is the province of  “Boomers”—not Baby Boomers but Climate Boomers. Determined not by age but mindset, boomers are the market faithful ready to capitalize on carbon-reduction measures. They foresee—and preach for—a future in which current levels of international trade and consumption continue unabated; we just have to switch to electric cars, bullet trains and biofuel planes and all will be well, they proselytize.

A recent local example of the hypocrisy inherent in climate boomerism can be found along Elm Avenue in West Fresno where Boomers argue more ground-level air pollution is necessary if we’re to reduce greenhouse gasses. They’re wrong, but according to would-be Fresno City Council rezoner Annalisa Perea in Fresnoland, on May 19, without industrial expansion there, the current “no net increase” in emissions standard of the Southwest Fresno Specific Plan “would essentially stop us from being able to meet a lot of our climate goals in terms of transitioning to an increase in electric vehicles.” Wrong again.

Perea, whose father has openly lobbied for the rezone and whose brother is a full-time lobbyist for Big Oil, is arguing that without reverting back to heavy-use industrial zoning on the subject property and increased toxic diesel pollution, that the health of southwest Fresno residents will somehow be harmed.

“In short,” she misleadingly told reporter Gregory Weaver, “the conflict and zoning with neighborhood mixed use is going to potentially prohibit businesses down there from being able to clean and green their operations.” Fresno City Council Member Miguel Arias repeats similar contradictory justifications. 

There’s little cleaning going on, and the only green in play is that of money. Entire careers have been spent developing such business-friendly strategies—filled with such false promises and reliant on massive government subsidies and little regulation—to curb greenhouse gas emissions; backers’ favorite method is pollution credit trading.

It’s the same failed approach we’ve been using for 30 years to clear the San Joaquin Valley’s air of ozone and fine particle pollution; in those three decades of neoliberal regulation, peak ozone levels and unhealthy air days have been reduced by only 25%. For greenhouse gasses, it’s a worldwide crisis and cap-and-trade will not work in time. But it’s all that politicians are willing to try.

Frontline Zoomers

By Kevin Hall

The local climate adaptation battle is being waged on specific fronts, and my list of recommendations is limited to organizations focused on radically new directions in related public policy and investment:

And it’s getting worse. Hit hard by the increasingly harsh realities of worldwide weather destabilization, society as a whole is rapidly shifting into the technofix mode of response. “We have the technology,” we tell ourselves. “It’s only the political will that’s lacking.”

That’s where I started. It was the summer of 1999, and I’d just finished reading the late Ross Gelbspan’s The Heat Is On: The Climate Crisis, The Cover-up, The Prescription. The book is a startling investigative report with a grim warning about climate change’s impacts and the corruptive fossil-fuel powers blocking political reform. From the Kochs to Chevron, the same players were determining our fate then as now.

By that winter, I was running an old Mercedes 300D on biodiesel made from restaurant grease, carrying a business card from a start-up fuel company and even persuaded the Fresno Area Express to test its use. The idea was appealing: close the carbon loop by burning leftover restaurant grease and soybean oil. However, my reading continued and I soon learned of this crop-based fuel’s devastating impacts on landscapes in South America and Southeast Asia, which negate all benefits.

The same applies to 26 million acres of corn grown for ethanol in this country. Recent research “found that ethanol is likely at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline due to emissions resulting from land use changes to grow corn, along with processing and combustion,” Reuters reported in February. It’s boomerism run amok.

Meanwhile, Doomers either care too much or not enough. The people in this broad category, which includes most retirees, are there to party through life—or stay in bed—until the lights go out. Their ranks include old school climate-deniers and large religious sects that believe whatever disasters befall us is their god’s will, usually as punishment for socially liberal values.

Of growing concern is the emerging group of people debilitated to varying degrees by eco-anxiety angst as they work their way through the emotional toll of a bleak future and society’s empty promises.

Britt Wray, writing in Wired (May 2022), quotes researcher Panu Pihkala, who warns of the emotional immaturity of modern societies, “which will go to great lengths to block out the deep internal and collective external work that is required to face and process tough feelings to completion.”

Wray writes that “bromides like ‘action is the antidote to despair’ can oversimplify a complicated experience and indicate a society that is averse to difficult emotions.”

Which brings us to Zoomers. 

They’ve been through the Boom and Doom phases and regard the Covid-19 shutdown experience as a preview of the near future. They’ve taken a clear-eyed look at the science of climate change, society’s decades-long feckless response, and the time remaining to prepare for our dangerously unstable future, which for hundreds of millions has already arrived.

Zoomers are preparing for the future as it appears from 2023 onward, not through 1990s strategies corrupted by industrial interests and compliant politicians. Zoomers are demanding government investment in transit microgrids, community resiliency hubs, community-supported agriculture, clean water systems, flood protection, local clean energy generation and more. 

Zoomers accept that the American political and economic systems failed to meet the challenge of reversing global warming and are doing meaningful work on adaptation. As Gelbspan warned decades ago, “Absent the rapid mobilization of climate advocates at every level—and the pooling of all their energy, creativity, and resources into a coordinated, no-holds-barred campaign—we will soon be crossing the threshold into climate hell.”

Author

  • Kevin Hall

    Kevin Hall hosts Climate Politics on KFCF 88.1 FM every second and fourth Friday, 5 p.m.–6 p.m. He tweets as @airfrezno and @sjvalleyclimate and coordinates an informal network of climate activists at www.valleyclimate.org. Contact him at sjvalleyclimate@gmail.com for presentations and information.

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Gene Richards
Gene Richards
9 months ago

Think riding a bike (and/or taking the bus/train/etc.) should be high on the list of climate change strategies – healthy for you, healthy for the environment…not to mention fun. Learn how to ride safely.

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