GOOD

Six Reasons Wired Is Wrong




Hi Wired. We think you guys are great. We said you were one of the best magazines of all time. But we'd like to take some issue with your "provocative" (read: irresponsible) cover (pictured above). We're all about questioning the conventional wisdom of the environmental movement because, frankly, a lot of it is wrong and not thought out very well. But what you've done here is employ fuzzy math and quirky facts to just make a contrary point that doesn't serve anyone in the fight to stop global warming. The main point, that we have to reduce carbon at all costs, isn't lost on anyone, but that fight is tied up in a larger societal shift that is going to need to happen to deal with the climate change crisis and whatever crises will come after that. We are living in an age of unbridled entitlement: people think that they have every right to own the biggest car they want, to eat strawberries year round, to have their house and workplace set to the exact temperature they want, and to be able to travel anywhere in the world at their convenience. Wired quotes Stewart Brand saying "We are as gods and might as well get good at it." But these God-like powers and the appetites they feed have led to our carbon crisis, and it's leading to our food crisis, and will probably lead to innumerable other crises. We can be easily provocative by finding different ways to cut carbon, but we're not going to cut carbon without the government's help, and the politicians aren't going to listen until people start living their lives as if they care about this. So, while it's cute to say that your SUV, by some complicated equation, takes less carbon emissions to build than a Prius, a nation of Priuses would get a lot of attention from Washington. Finally, because we have to say it, it would be a lot easier to take environmental advice from a magazine whose parent company didn't refuse to use recycled paper, even for their much lauded green issues, and insisted on sending all their magazines wrapped in plastic with useless advertising inserts inside. Just saying.


Let's look at what is wrong with some of Wired's "10 Green Heresies":

1: It takes more energy to heat an apartment than to cool it.

This is true. However, like many items on this list, that isn't the problem with, say, living in Phoenix. The problem with living in Phoenix is that you are living in the middle of the desert, pumping in huge amounts of water, and importing all your food because nothing grows in a desert. So, while it may be a good idea for us all to migrate to warmer climates, the real takeaway here should be: you can't just build a city wherever you want. The other takeaway: regardless of what takes more energy, we need to use less heating and cooling. People lived for hundreds of years with their houses too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. You can deal with a few degrees difference.

2: Organics don't solve anything and might be bad.

We'll buy that an organic cow causes more emissions than a factory farmed cow. We refuse to buy that this is at all making a difference because there are a minuscule amount of organic cows compared to the millions of cows living in feedlots in middle America and around the world. This was surely a fun point to make, but is utterly meaningless when you consider the scale. And yes, many organic companies are just run by large companies. But organic is less about cutting carbon and more about eating healthier, better tasting food, and those big companies still need to keep to the standards. Local is what is important (oh, thanks Wired, you did mention that in the last paragraph. Pardon us if we missed the helpful suggestion buried under the negative, manipulative headline). If there was a factory farm down the block that delivered lettuce to the supermarket, we'd be all for that. That seems not to be the case, and most of the small farms that do are organic. Sounds fine to us.

3: China is the answer.

We're all for not vilifying China, and they probably will get on the environmental bandwagon. But, perhaps you've noticed, China isn't the most clear-headed, rational government sometimes. We're not sure we want to just sit back and watch them hold the bag on our collective future right now.

4: Go Nuclear.

We're on board with this one, too. But only to a point. To get off coal right now, we're going to need to go nuclear. But nuclear isn't a long term solution, and we should be devoting just as much energy to finding a post-nuclear energy solution, or we'll end up with thousands of tons of still-radioactive spent fuel rods. Then we'll have the nuclear waste crisis to deal with just as soon as we're coming out of this carbon mess. You thought Yucca Mountain was bad? Then again, if Wired, the magazine of forward technological thinking, can't find it in their hearts to advocate for some sort of cutting edge new energy ideas, maybe we're just all screwed anyways.

5: Drive a Used Car Instead of a Hybrid.

The numbers on this one are fun. It "takes more carbon" to produce a Prius than a Hummer. We're always suspicious of these kinds of calculations. Where does it stop? Did you count the carbon of the people who work in the factories? What about their families? Regardless, a Prius makes up the difference on the road pretty quickly. Wired's real "solution": We should be buying used cars that get good gas mileage. Thanks. That sounds like a scalable and helpful model. We'll just keep recycling the used cars until they all fall apart. Again, if this is the best thing Wired can think of about using cars to find a way to cut carbon, we might as well just go off ourselves now.


6: Cut Down Trees.

This one is the most egregious. This is a solution? Here is a simple equation: Pre-carbon problem, there were lots of trees and very few people. Now, there are not so many trees and lots of people. But we're going to cut down trees instead of finding some other solution to solve the parts of the carbon excess that are actually, you know, causing the problem? You have got to be kidding.

Worldchanging's Alex Steffan (from GOOD 002) offers a rebuttal at the end of the piece. It's worth a read.
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