Well one obvious solution is nuclear power.

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This is an excellent analysis and the author's candor is to be commended. And these issues aren't going to go away.

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At times, I feel that the Left has taken everything I care for and made it hateful. That hasn’t moved me to the Right, it has dropped me in the middle of nowhere.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council did not oppose a new clean-energy transmission line in Maine. The Natural Resources Council of Maine is a Maine-based environmental org which opposed the transmission and they are unaffiliated with the national NRDC group. https://www.nrcm.org/

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Jan 15, 2022·edited Jan 15, 2022

I am concerned that there is a material error in this piece that undermines the point. I do not believe there is a link between the natural resources Council of Maine and the natural resources defense counsel. Because you cite NRDC as one of the 3 big environmental organizations opposing carbon reductions this is a serious error. I am curious as to whether you know there is a link between the two because I could find no link on the web page of the natural resources council of Maine. Facts and fact checking are very important even in Blogostan.

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This is such shoddy, path dependent thinking. Of course it is possible to develop sustainable power sources without destroying ecologically sensitive areas. The choice is not an intact biosphere or decarbonization. It just requires more analysis and care than industrialists feel like investing in.

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In many cases these groups are fighting what I call solar sprawl. We need to provide the economic incentives from state and federal government so that building on warehouse rooftops large parking lots and similar sites is as easy and economical as it is to build on a green field.

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Jan 16, 2022·edited Jan 16, 2022

<sigh> It's not NIMBYism to want solar panels on your own rooftops, on your parking lots, and on top of your neighborhood buildings while not wanting to pave over wilderness outside of one's metropolitan area. In fact, it's the opposite of NIMBY. Look, none of these environmental groups oppose solar panels, but it matters where you put them. Let me tell you a story:

There's a town where there are a large number of children on the streets who have no home. The people of the town get together and say, "We need to build an orphanage." So, they contact a construction company and ask them to come back with a proposal for building the town an orphanage. The construction company comes back and says, "No problem, we propose that you give us the elementary school, and we'll convert it to an orphanage." The town says, "Where will the students learn?" The contractor says, "That's not in the scope of my contract. Do you want the orphanage or not?" The town says, "We're not giving you the elementary school."

So the contractor says, "Okay, I have a plan B. Give us the hospital and we'll convert that into an orphanage." The town says, "No, that's a horrible idea. We need the hospital. We have lots of vacant lots around that we think would be great places to build the orphanage. Why can't you use one of those?" The contractor says, "If we build there, it will cost you more money than if we convert an existing building, oh, and also our profit margins will be lower." The town says, "Building the orphanage doesn't do us any good on net if it costs us something else essential." Then Noah Smith farms out his Substack to someone who calls the townspeople NIMBYs.

Does the environmental left have NIMBYs? Yes. Are some of the examples cited examples of egregious NIMBYism? Yes. Is this something the environmental left should be introspective about and ask themselves about before they start protesting? Yes. However, not every battle against renewable energy is NIMBYism. It matters where we build this infrastructure. Carbon dioxide is a critical problem that we face, but it's not the *only* critical problem we face. We're also in the midst of a human-caused mass extinction, and paving our wilderness when we don't need to only makes that worse. We should put out the house fire we started, but not by crushing the house with a boulder. There are a lot of good places to build solar panels, and wilderness should not be our first choice, because we desperately need that. Will we need to build some solar sites in wilderness areas? Sure, but it shouldn't be our first choice when alternatives exist. Rooftops, parking lots, brownfields, and other damaged lands should all be preferential sites for siting our green energy production. In many places, it's not. That's worth raising a ruckus about.

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I agree with the overall argument of this post that environmental groups are unreasonably opposing renewable projects due to baseless NIMBY complaints, but it’s not a well-argued point because the writer discuss the big, national environmental groups instead of solely focusing on the local groups or local Sierra Club chapters usually voicing opposition to renewable projects. Specifically, you cite the national NRDC, Audubon Society and the Sierra Club organizations as opposing renewable energy projects but:

1) As mentioned elsewhere, the Natural Resources Defense Council did not oppose the Maine transmission line. The Natural Resources Council of Maine opposed the transmission line and they have nothing to do with the NRDC.

2) The national Sierra Club organization is much more supportive of renewable energy projects than its local chapters.

3) The impact wind farms have on birds is largely overstated, but to the extent there is a legitimate basis for the idea that wind farms have a large impact on birds it’s because California stupidly allowed wind farms to be built in the Altamont Pass long ago and those wind farms have been devasting to local wildlife. The United States has plenty of land on which to build wind turbines, it is absolutely unnecessary to build them in the Altamont Pass. And I don’t think it’s fair to say the Audubon Society “lost the plot” by opposing a wind farm located in the Altamont pass.

If the article had just focused on how local “environmental” groups or how local Sierra Club Chapters are unreasonably and unnecessarily opposing renewable projects, the article would be spot on. But trying to drag in the major, national environmental groups makes the overall argument weaker.

There are tensions within the big environmental groups that lead them to take positions that are not the best positions to take if climate change is your biggest priority. But I think those situations have more to do with the point, well put by the author of this piece, that environmentalism is a broad term which encompasses a lot of policy positions which can be in tension with one another.

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There is some truth to the thesis of this article for sure. However, I feel like the author totally omitted concerns about biodiversity loss. Most of the examples provided here are of course silly, especially those preventing projects in or near cities. However, there is a real concern that projects in still-wild spaces could imperil endangered species. The article mentions in passing the tortoise species in question - the Mojave desert tortoise - is endangered. I’m glad that environmental groups were there to sound the alarm and bring attention to that fact, and work with the state to find solutions.

Sure, part of the answer may be encouraging a shift in thinking among conservationists. But I’m surprised the author didn’t discuss the importance of proactive land use planning that takes into account all the different concerns and perspectives. There will of course still be trade offs, but at least you’re making sure you are optimizing each space. Wind turbines might kill birds, but the type and number of birds killed depends on if you put them in a major migratory flyway or not. Climate change is also going to shift the ranges of many species, so it’s important to plan with an eye towards keeping some land open for them to move into.

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One technical remark : it’s a great analysis and useful primer for liberals etc.

But the last sentence is unhelpful. I got no pity for garages and very little pity for petit bourgeois terrified of high rises. However, I do like tortoises and if we’re going to put up new wind or solar farms, is there really no other sites than somewhere endangered tortoises are using? Really nowhere else was possible? I somehow doubt it…

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But this emphasis on local NIMBY activism doesn't explain why climate change activists are often anti-nuclear as well? Like Greta Thunberg for example. Clearly her strain of climate activism is not locally rooted, so how come she has anti-nuclear intuitions?

Is there something in left-wing psychology that codes for opposition to nuclear, beyond just NIMBYism?

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In Germany, the Greens have all admitted defeat over plans to build more windmills and transmission lines needed to reach their goals. Oddly 🔥 more coal is politically) more desirable than extending nuclear power plants.

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We need stronger governance of these orgs at the national level. The local chapters become captured the same way local politicians do - the most selfish members complain the loudest when their view might be affected by a solar panel, then when that doesn't work, they start from the outcome they want (no "ugly solar panels in their view") and manufacture bad faith reasons to get the same thing.

The grown ups at national need to make the hard choices, explain them, and when needed, revoke charters of rogue groups. Otherwise, the whole brand of Sierra Club becomes damaged (as it already has) and effectively means nothing more than what a local crank wants to believe - with no real principles to hold itself together at all.

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I am often amused by the knots that ideologues tie themselves in to pursue their single-minded objective. In this case, global warming alarmists want to silence the environmentalists because the environmentalists don't buy into the idea that climate change and carbon emissions are the only important environmental issue. At least, they want to silence the environmentalists doing actual work at the local level; they've converted the national leaders of the organizations. Warren Meyer at Coyoteblog has lamented that climate change has sucked up all the environmental energy, leaving things like air quality, water quality, and land preservation with short shrift. It seems that Mr. Smith and Mr. Nowinski lament that climate change hasn't yet sucked up all the energy.

My question to Mr. Nowinski, and others who think climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are so much more important than all other issues combined: How, exactly, do you determine that the problems from climate change are larger than all others? How do you balance the costs of immediate drastic action vs. the costs of slower action, or the costs of no action at all? Please don't cite the IPCC - the environmental damage projected under worst-case scenarios from the IPCC is rather modest, and the economic costs are very small indeed.

I understand that you have answered these issues to your own satisfaction. However, you should recognize that you have not convinced most of your fellow citizens. You may be able to get some projects implemented by appealing to Congress and the president, but if the projects start to impose real costs on large numbers of people, Congress and the president can be replaced.

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I was an unquestioning supporter of environmental groups for the first part of my life.

20 year ago, with a MSc in bio-engineering, and a second MSc in Nature Conservation from a South African university, I thought I was well equipped to contribute positively and rationally to "the cause". Although, red flags has emerged during my studies that the environmental topic is often an emotional one, I was still naive and not prepared for my first interview after graduating.

That interview was with the WWF, for a position in their European office in Brussels. It did not go well. Perhaps both myself and the interviewer had a bad day, but I left totally disillusioned.

The point of conflict was a follows: one of the questions i was asked was

"You have $100,000 in funds to use on one of two situations.

1. Save a penguin from an oil spill and create a big media event.

2. Buy 10,000 hectares of unexplored rainforest that may or may not contain a cure for cancer."

This to me seemed like an obvious answer, yet I got it wrong, as conveyed very mockingly by the interviewer with the comment that i clearly didn't understand the business they were in. To clarify, I argued to buy the forest land, but the "right" answer was to save the penguin because the associated media attention would be able to generate more donations, and their business was to "raise money"

My snarky " to do what? save more penguins?" was not received well and pretty much ended the interview.

I went home, cancelled my membership of the WWF and have never donated to any eco-activism groups again. Also, I switched my career to programming and never really regretted it.

Since that day, I've become very skeptical of idealistic groups since motivations are too often clouded by emotion.

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