Sunday, January 13, 2008

Magic Pony

courtesy Bill Watterson, UPI

From the latest Sierra Club magazine:

Magic Ponies
Everyone wants an easy solution

A useful import from the blogosphere is the concept of the magic pony. Originating in an old Calvin and Hobbes strip (Suzie wishes Calvin were nicer and for a pony too), the magic pony is a miraculous but not-yet-extant solution to a problem--a solution so awesome that it would be foolish to waste one's time with partial, more immediate fixes. Such steeds run wild in the fields of environmentalism. In their recent book Break Through, for example, critics Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger argue that doom-and-gloom environmentalists are wasting their time trying to regulate carbon dioxide and that our only hope is to pour money into clean-energy technology in hopes of finding a complete replacement for coal and oil. A pony! When affecting concern for the environment, President George W. Bush finds magic ponies irresistible. Rather than promote higher fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, for instance, Bush decided to pursue still-elusive hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles. A pony! Fueling these cells, in Bush's plan, would be largely as-yet-unproven "clean coal." Another pony! And how would that clean coal be burned? In plants using not-ready-for-prime-time carbon sequestration. His plan, in effect, is the Triple Crown of magic ponies. The profusion of magic-pony plans prompted Grist's David Roberts to lay down a challenge: "Unless you also describe practical steps for how we can achieve your Magical Pony Plan . . . then you are not, in fact, arguing on behalf of the Magical Pony Plan. You are arguing that we should reject the incremental advance in favor of doing nothing." ... Lacking a magic pony, we're left with the advice a veteran Alaska bush pilot gave to a visitor worried about what to do if approached by a grizzly: "Son, do the best you can." —Paul Rauberr

I hadn't heard the term "magic pony" before and in this instance it's applied to the environmental issue ... quite aptly. Bush will always bring out hydrogen powered cars as the solution because he knows he doesn't really have to deliver. Hydrogen cars are so far removed from being production cars that Bush will be long out of office before they provide any kind of help. So, they serve the purpose of making him look like he cares about the environment without actually having to do anything.

It's not just Bush. It's a whole segment of naysayers that will argue against any incremental advancement that moves us in the right direction. And it's not just with the environment. Let's "fight terrorism" and "spread democracy" they say. They're spreading something, alright. It's all talk. They don't really want to do the hard work that will make those things happen. Long term fostering of relationships, working to lessen our dependence on oil, helping to lift people out of poverty, giving people an actual homeland, debt-forgiveness, curing disease, etc. -- those aren't as sexy as saying, we're "fighting terrorism".

The sad thing is, our society has shown over and over the last few years that they'll buy that "magic pony".


CyberKitten said...

"Magic Pony".... Cool.

I'm going to have to start using that.... [grin].

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