Open Letter To
Darren Bearson

Darren, I am writing this letter to you because I think you should quit the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

I remember when you and I cofounded a political club in high school back in Minnesota.  We loved ideas, we encouraged debate and discussion, and in many ways, despite being lighthearted and fun, The Nixon Posse was forward-thinking.  

For one, we openly discussed the topic of what was then called 'The Greenhouse Effect' long before it became accepted science among the general public.  Today, 'The Greenhouse Effect,' or rather the twin threats of climate change and ocean acidification, threaten the trajectory of humanity, our nation, and God's Creation, more than any other threat.  

I see no evidence that the ACCCE is genuinely working towards the noble goal of cleaner coal, and it is my understanding that as an executive at the ACCCE, my good friend of many years may be working on the wrong side of history on mankind's greatest challenge and threat to date.

I am writing to you today, also, because I believe in you.  As the person who understands your personal politics perhaps better than anybody else, and because of our history as friends, I believe I was given a unique opportunity to help you in this decision.  

Many might say that you and I have become different people in our adult lives, that maybe we've grown apart; that we have pursued life on completely different trajectories.  To them, I say, nonsense.  You and I are both Scandinavian Midwesterners who love water sports and discussing ideas quietely, of reasoning objectively and playing at life hard.  We are both fathers of hapa children of the same age.  There is more that binds us than separates us.

To illustrate my reasons for why I believe you should depart with the ACCCE, I want to look at the issue from 5 different perspectives. 

The Value of Human Institutions
Biodiversity as the Baseline Issue
Climate Change & Ocean Acidification
Coal threatens the Creation
The ACCCE Fails to Serve the Interests of Coal Miners and Communities

The Value of Human Institutions

What is the most important thing that we can do in our lives as humans?  Another, related question: what is the meaning of our existence?  Of course, there are many answers to these questions, and certainly they can be answered spiritually, or philosophically, in many different ways.  But because, as Americans, we prefer to discuss ideas that have political overtones in secular language, let me suggest an answer to that question in a way that could be accepted by anybody of any faith, and in a language that excludes nobody. 

First of all, we could say that the answer is to pursue lasting happiness.  And this is a fair answer, although perhaps a personal answer fails to satisfy the fact that we have relatives, and that a strong part of being human is our desire to pursue the health and happiness of others.  

Both in our community and among our descendents.  You could also say that the purpose of life is to live in God's image.  And this is a valid answer as well, but the answer invites the question, but how?  Another answer may be that the purpose of life is to pursue happiness, health and stability for our ourselves as well as our descendents.  But this also begs the question, but how?  

What about this one: the answer to life is to find happiness and fulfillment in doing good.

To me, there is an umbrella answer that answers all of these paths, and it is much more valid for our discussion today. 

I believe that the answer to our existence cannot be answered on the personal level, and that rather we need to ask it on the societal level.  We each have our own motivations and reasons for fulfillment, happiness and existence; trying to define meaning for every individual is futile.  But as a society, I believe there is an answer.  Our role as a society, despite our different searches for meaning, is to preserve and enhance our human institutions.  By institutions, I am referring to things like academic institutions, our religious institutions, the arts and humanities, science, literature.  I am referring to institutions like Democracy and free markets, to Museums and the slow progress of science, research and development.  I am referring to family, community, religion, academia, business, media and government.  I am referring to the passing on of recipes, cultural traditions, of preserving land and languages, of economic progress and the advancement of medicine.  These are the human institutions.  

In a globalized world, we more or less share the same institutions; and the preservation of these institutions ultimately passes on the framework for our potential from generation to generation.  

Over the generations, human institutions are the only thing that offers the structure for later generations to pursue happiness, meaning and health. It does not take many generations for our bloodline to dissipate.  Yes, my child is half my DNA, but a few generations removed, my contribution to human genetics will be washed away.  This is true for all of us.  But, broadly then, we exist to contribute in a positive way to the generations that come beyond us.  Whether we do this through art or science or religion or medicine, we either contribute to improving these institutions, or we do harm to them.  

As we explore the next set of topics, Darren, may I ask you to consider whether your role at the ACCCE is helping to preserve and enhance human institutions?

Biodiversity as the Baseline Issue

In our Minnesota political club, you and I often hashed out this question, "Which is the most important issue we face?"

What's more important, the economy, or national security? The rule of law? Tax policy? The federal debt? The gap between rich and poor? Education? The question itself is flawed, and it often reveals the leanings of the individual trying to answer the question. The economy is often cited as our most important issue. But there are other issues that are foundational to the economy. You can't have a good economy unless you have the rule of law and national security.

In this way, I prefer to stack issues on top of each other, perhaps in a way that might look similar to the Food Pyramid. An issue that rests on the very top, might be extremely important to the success of a nation, but it sits at the top because the other issues must first fall into place for a nation to thrive or succeed at that issue. I might think that education sits up there at the top, or even a complex public good such as protection against global disease outbreaks.

Anybody can quibble about which issue gets stacked above which issue, but I would like to suggest that there is actually one issue to which nobody can refute as the single foundational issue that preceeds all others.

Our planet's life has evolved for 3.5 billion years. As organisms on Earth have evolved, our inorganic Earth surface has changed along with them; a by-product of all these organisms interacting with the surface of the Earth. Because of this, our Earth's surface - our atmosphere, our oxygen levels, our Ocean's salinity, have themselves changed; resembling relative stability and favorable conditions to the planet's life. It appears sometimes as if the animals and plants have influenced the Earth to co-evolve with them. Whether there is any validity to that can be debated; but no one argues that the conditions of the surface of the Earth; the very building blocks of life on Earth, were not created by the history of evolving life on Earth.

For most of history, we considered the air we breathe and the resources we consume and the health of the natural world for granted. Today, we understand that the concept of biodiversity - the degree of the variation of life on Earth - is the baseline issue upon which all others rest. A healthy, biodiverse ecosystem literally creates the foundation for the very essentials we require to live.

In this way, you could argue that preserving biodiversity, or rather, upholding human institutions which preserve the world's biodiversity is an essential or fundamental role of the human in the modern age.

Erik Gauger calls out Darren Bearson

Climate Change & Ocean Acidification

When you think of biodiversity, don't think of polar bears and tigers. The biodiversity that matters most are creatures of types you and I have never heard of. Think of the creatures that make up the organic material of Earth - the thousands of beetle species, ant species, the hyphae of thousands of mushrooms and other funguses, weaving through living soils that are homes to countless bacteria, arthropods, nematodes and protozoa.

When you think of biodiversity, don't think of the orca. Think of the coccolithophores, the foraminifera, the tiny crustaceans and molluscs.

Recently, we have learned that an excess of carbon in the atmosphere is acidifying our oceans. This acidification breaks apart the calcifyied bodies of the tiny creatures that sit at the bottom of the ocean's food chain. As ocean acidification continues, the life of our world's oceans will be left devastated.

Erik Gauger calls out Darren Bearson

Like ocean acidification, the threat of climate change is created largely by human carbon emissions.

Throughout the history of our planet, the carbon in our atmosphere has played a fundamental role in the course of life on Earth. Many of our great extinction events are a consequence of relatively rapid carbon events.

But nothing in the last 800,000 years even comes close to the rapid increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This image below represents the possibility for a very grim future; one of millions or billions of human deaths, mass extinctions, devastated crops, oceans, rivers, water sources.

Erik Gauger calls out Darren Bearson

Coal threatens the Creation

One-third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from coal. Because of this, we see coal as the single biggest threat to the future of humanity and biodiversity of our planet.

Since there are many alternatives to coal, and as alternative energy solutions are booming, now is the best time to move away from coal - not only do our children depend on it, but there is no reason not to. Many economies around the world, including ours, are ready to abandon traditional coal and replace it with cleaner alternatives.

The ACCCE Fails to Serve the Interests of Coal Miners and Communities

The ACCCE is the most well-funded climate denialist organization in the United States. To that affect, you are an executive at the most powerful organization working on the wrong side of history on the single issue that will have more impact on humanity than any other issue in our past.

As you know, I have had a passion for the subject of clean energy for my entire adult life, and have dedicated long hours to its study. I am not an advocate for any one path to cleaner energy; I am an advocate for the science and for the conversation that needs to take place. I understand that clean coal will likely be part of the global energy mix required to slow climate change and ocean acidification.

However, the ACCCE is not a genuine lobby organization promoting clean coal, but is rather a lobby group that is working on behalf of the coal industry to slow progress on clean energy. To do so, the ACCCE resorts to polarization, deceit and unethical practices.

Coal Miners

The second most important document on the ACCCE website behind the home page itself, according to external links and emphasis, is the core document "The Social Benefits of Carbon" which makes the scientifically indefensible suggestion that global wealth increases as carbon increases in the atmosphere, and proposes the pseudo-scientific suggestion that adding carbon to the atmosphere improves the global environment.

Erik Gauger calls out Darren Bearson

No intelligent person would ever take this argument seriously, but the ACCCE knows how to trick unsophisticated Americans, and this is exactly what they do here:

Indefensible positions

Darren, make the decision that all of us, and your children, will be proud of you for. Quit the ACCCE - your decision will help make the world a better place.

Erik