“I am sorry Universe but I just can’t take these Humans a moment longer.” Sad, but the book The Suicidal Planet makes one ponder such things. Though it sells itself as a book about preventing global catastrophe, the major focus is on the science, consequences, and lack of commitment to fixing the problem. Written by Mayer Hillman, Tina Fawcett, and Sudhir Chella Rajan, the Suicidal Planet is well organized and voraciously researched.
The book is split into three parts: The Problem, Current Strategies, and the Solution. The first and second sections are disturbing, in-your-face facts with a heavy dose of pessimism. The major “Problem”, clarified in chapter three, titled “Eyes Wide Shut, The Response of the General Public”, is us. And, it is hard to argue this point. The authors tell us that we are using energy “as if there’s no tomorrow” and have been hoodwinked by the powerful and rich fossil fuel industry into questioning the science. That leads right into part two, Current Strategies.
In this section we learn that our government is “fiddling while Rome burns”. To carry home the point the authors mention President Bush’s State of the Union address in January 2006. The President announced that we need to end our addiction to oil by promoting ethanol use. Unfortunately, the very next week, the agency that would have been responsible for implementing this policy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, lost $10 million in federal budget cuts and was forced to lay off 40 workers. In this section we also get a warning that an over reliance on technology to save us is just “wishful thinking”.
The book takes a positive turn in part three: The Solution, where Hillman outlines his plan for decreasing carbon emissions. It is called “The Carbon Allowance Card”; each person would receive an electronic card containing one year’s worth of carbon credits. It would work much like a debit card in that every time you made an energy purchase, credits would be deducted from your smart card. At the end of each year we could sell unused credits. The amount of credits decreases each year until we reach a near zero emissions society and a stable climate.
The authors promote this type of cap-and-trade system versus a carbon tax system mainly due to ethical issues regarding poverty and the burden a new tax would place on lower income families. People in the lower income brackets tend to use less energy at home, travel less, and use public transportation more. Hence, lower income families would be able to supplement their incomes by selling carbon credits to those people who fly, live in large homes, and commute to work. A tax, on the other hand, would make essentials like heating/cooling and transportation much more expensive.
Suicidal Planet lays out an interesting solution though I wonder if some Americans may view actual suicide a better alternative than having to curb trips to Aruba and ride the bus. Nevertheless, this well thought out plan has merit and the planet needs creative solutions. Otherwise, Earth’s suicide note could say “If I am going down, I am taking those humans with me!” Hopefully the next book will not be titled “The Homicidal Planet”.
Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Gulf Restoration Network.