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You, Obama And The Secretary Of Transition

By Bill Henderson

19 July, 2008

Somebody should send Obama a copy of Tom Whipple's The Secretary of Transition.

We need a Secretary of Transition if we are going to have any hope of getting back below 350, back from a world getting warmer to a world getting cooler, in time.

We need a Secretary of Transition for energy because we haven't done the decades of planning and change we had to do before the end of cheap energy and now there's going to be hell to pay, and $5 a gallon gas is just small change to the pain we will feel as problems compound.

And we need a Secretary of Transition to once again save capitalists from themselves; this isn't a temporary recession - we are in the beginning of economic collapse and the pace of the slide gains more momentum every day. Without stabilization and a new direction instead of car-sprawl-suburbia there's little hope for the future.

Without possibilities of real growth instead of more financial chicanery - real growth that can't be material because we are going to have to slim down our cumulative footprint in lowering carbon emissions and we can't afford to waste precious energy on now luxury consumer toys - without real growth down a much different path than "the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world", the wheels are going to fall off the capitalist American Dream.

The next president could be like Gary Cooper in High Noon facing a whole gang of global scale problems all exacerbated by each other, a new president alone with a much diminished and impoverished government afraid and paralyzed.

Barack Obama should be that new president because he is the one man at this time who can unite the nation in making the changes America needs to make. But he could use some help. A guy with a gun who knows how to use it: "This individual is going to require unprecedented, nearly dictatorial powers akin the War Production Board in World War II. Congress and the President are going to have to delegate a great deal to this individual for much of our civilization is going to have to be peremptorily torn apart and put together in a new fashion. There does not seem to be much other choice".

Obama should consider and meet and consult with Lester Brown to be his Secretary of Transition. (Or maybe the 'brains' behind a Gore or Gubernator Secretary.) Lester Brown has written the book, Plan-B 3.0, about getting ahead of and containing climate change, peak oil and the coming economic collapse. He has a plan that promises reduction of carbon emissions by 80% by 2020. While getting America off the oil addiction with renewables and efficiency. While building that new relocalized, sustainable economy.

Mr. Brown is pragmatic not an ideologue. He's a Beltway insider who knows how government can work, but he is in no way part of the Beltway politics that has ignored these building problems for so long. He's done the spade work of practically imagining an alternative, crisis saving future. He has offered a plan that you can at least disagree with in particulars when everybody else stayed safe within BAU.

Obama because uniting America for change is the necessary first step. A Secretary of Transition because a transition is essential. Mobilization because of the daunting scale of change. Your support or we're not going anywhere.

Except that in the real world Obama is being transformed before our eyes into a president like Clinton or Bush. In the real world we're going to crash economically, run out of energy and go over the melting Arctic tipping point before we invoke a Secretary of Transition and it will be too late. In the real world you, we the people, are going to become more horribly divided - like cats in a sack in Monbiot's haunting metaphor - as the problems get worse.

newnoah (at)


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