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Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture (Wendell Berry Senior Adviser)

Ryan D. Hottle, Global Climate Solutions
“Great problems call for many small solutions.” Wendell Berry

The intersection between food and energy in the 21st century inscribes one of the most critical crosshatches in American history. It’s framed within the circumstance peaking world oil and gas supplies, and completely surrounded by the juggernaut of all global problems: irrefutable, worsening and potentially catastrophic global climate change.

President Elect Barak Obama would do well to appoint secretaries and advisers who knew what the hell they were talking about when it came to agriculture. The time for change is ripe. It’s time to compost the usual corporate food conglomerate cronies who weasel their way into positions of power. They’ve been creating a terrible stench now for quite some time–best we toss them out so they can decompose on the pile. It’s time to appoint some real people. It’s time to appoint some folks who give a damn about our communities and about the land and about our precious Earth.

If we did indeed elect Obama on the ticket of change and hope then let’s change this unsustainable food paradigm into one that can breathe hope and nourishment into our countryside. There’s no better way to prepare for a declining economy or peak oil or climate change than by investing in a sustainable food system and that’s a fact.

To this end, may I formally recommend that Mr. Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism at University of California, Berkley, be appointed to Secretary of Agriculture. And seeing that we’re on the right track with this formal recommendation, let me make one more: Mr. Wendell Berry for senior adviser. Old Mr. Berry’s been around the block a few times and knows a thing or two about culture and agriculture in America.

Some might ask why I focus so heavily on agriculture on a climate blog. As Michael Pollan says it, agriculture in the US has “transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases.”
(17 November 2008)

In the Reality Lounge

James Howard Kunstler, Blog
… The world has changed faster than anyone realizes. One big question is how long the American people will stumble around in a daze before we get back to work doing constructive things in this country — and by that I mean activities scaled to the resource realities of the years just ahead. More specifically, I mean how we are going to grow the food we eat without massive quantities of diesel fuel and petroleum-based “inputs” and also how we are going to make any of the useful products we need in an energy scarcer time.

Perhaps Mr. Obama knows that we’re not going back to anything even close to the business-as-usual that shaped our lives for the generations born after 1945. I would advise him to begin thinking about this by dividing the problem into two parts. The first part is how his government might handle the sheer emotional fallout of a people whose standard-of-living will be pulled out from under them. For a while, perhaps the first year or so, the public is apt to be trusting and generous, especially regarding a president who has had some acquaintance with being short of cash himself, and who can speak English both clearly and empathetically. Mr. Obama stands a good chance at playing that role successfully, at least for a while.

The second part, though, is the more difficult operational and administrative matter of promoting the necessary downscaling of all the essential activities of daily life. This is especially difficult given the current trend of the government suddenly taking ownership of everything, from the banking system perhaps to certain areas of heavy industry (if Detroit gets its way). The Obama government will have to resist the temptation to prevent enterprises from failing. These failing things have to get out of the way before new activities can get underway. It will also require government leaders to tell the public the hard truth that it can’t do everything we would like it to do.

The fiasco of medical care is certainly a product of connivance between greedy and heartless insurance companies, profit-driven hospitals, and avaricious drug-makers. But the public itself is responsible for its own suicidal diet of double cheez burritos and Dr. Pepper. How about a national health-care system with one basic requirement: to qualify, participants must be within ten pounds of their appropriate weight. Pretty harsh, huh?
(17 November 2008)
Today’s column is a hybrid of Kunstlerian Jeremiads and sound policy proposals. Although I enjoy the Jeremiads, I think Kunstler’s “reasonable” side has the potential for a much wider audience. His ideas might even become … dare I say it? … mainstream. -BA

Opportunities for clean energy in stimulus
(video and transcript)
Monica Trauzzi, OnPoint, E&E TV
Alliance to Save Energy’s Callahan discusses opportunities for clean energy in stimulus

How should President-elect Barack Obama address energy efficiency during his first year in office? Can the next economic stimulus package boost prospects for efficiency?

During today’s OnPoint, Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, gives her take on what the incoming Obama administration will mean for energy efficiency. She addresses how clean energy and efficiency can be incorporated into the next stimulus package. Callahan also discusses how the credit crunch has affected efficiency projects.
(18 November 2008)