Thursday, May 11, 2017

James Baker Lobby's for Climate Action


A pretty good crowd showed up at Princeton University for James Baker's talk entitled "A Conservative Approach to Climate Change". Years ago, you'd be lucky to get 10 or 20 in an audience for anything having to do with climate.

At 87, Baker looks back on many successes for those he served. He lent competence to the Reagan and Bush 1 administrations, and outmaneuvered the Gore team in the 2000 post-election fight for Florida's electoral votes. Reagan cut funding for climate research, and the Baker-assisted Republican victory in 2000 tragically stalled progress on combatting climate change for 8 years.

Having used his considerable diplomatic and administrative skills in the service of those who sabotaged solutions to the problem, Baker and some of his esteemed Republican colleagues, such as George Schultz, are offering what he calls a "conservative" solution for climate change. He is now, in effect, going up against the monster of denial and political expedience his former employers--Reagan and the Bushes--did so much to create. It's hard to see how even the extraordinary charm and tactical capacity of a James Baker could crack the nut of Republican resistance--a resistance that has served Republicans so well by letting voters off the hook for dealing with a massive problem.

Baker deserves credit for backing a worthy goal--a carbon tax. Essentially, a tax is levied on carbon-based fuels used to create and transport products, whose cost in the marketplace is then affected. The tax would be predictable, starting low and gradually rising. The carbon "content" of imports would be taxed as well. Business would appreciate the predictability, and be motivated by cost incentive to shift towards renewable energy. The tax revenue would be returned to all citizens of the U.S. as a check in the mail. A $40/ton of carbon tax would make that check $2000/year, in Baker's estimation. Regulations--many of which, it should be said, were created because Republicans have resisted solutions like a carbon tax--would be eased as the carbon tax took effect.

Though he claims that he and other conservatives came up with it, the approach sounds remarkably similar to what the Citizens Climate Lobby, a bipartisan group that's been around since 2007, has been working towards. George Schultz is very involved with CCL, and Baker claims to have started speaking about climate change as a problem back in 2004, but it's unclear to what extent they contributed to the development of the approach. There was no mention of CCL in his talk or during Q and A. (Note: I've since been told that Baker's approach gives more emphasis to rolling back regulations, and starts with a higher tax/ton that the CCL proposal.)

Baker doesn't admit that carbon emissions are causing the problem, but instead says the risks are too large to ignore. He declares hyper-partisanship to be a problem, but doesn't admit that much of the partisanship is artificially created by his ideological brethren who deny the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change poses a huge risk to our future. Truth is an important source of unity. Denying it creates polarization where none need exist. We do not have, therefore, a "both sides are to blame" equivalence when it comes to political gridlock on climate change.

There seems to be a tacit understanding that Baker needs to label the proposal conservative in approach and origin, in order to avoid being labeled an "Other" by the Republicans he seeks to persuade. Therein lies the greatest sadness, that his political party has embraced the political expedience of climate denial, purging itself of any who dare acknowledge reality, so that Baker must still pretend there is scientific uncertainty, as in "carbon emissions may be causing our problem."

At least Baker dares to use words like "tax" and "liberal" in positive contexts, as in his support for a "liberal global order". These are small victories, coming long after the brutal effort, by Newt Gingrich and his progeny, to burden those words with enough negative connotation that no one dare use them, and to demonize liberals to the point that anything they say is rejected out of hand. Thus is political dialogue rendered dysfunctional, and problems like climate change fester for thirty years. 

At the beginning of the talk, Baker joked about a friend of similarly advanced age who told Baker that they were living "in the fourth quarter". No, Baker replied, "we're in overtime." He's happy to be alive, still active, still relevant. If he contributes to an unlikely last minute victory for climate action, we can cheer him on, while being mindful that he spent most of his life serving those who have set the nation up for defeat.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lies as Drugs

When it comes to matters of budget and climate, the Democrats have been forced into the role of the responsible chaperone, standing soberly by while the Republicans in Washington party down, their heads spinning with an elixir of lies intended to keep their Party in power indefinitely. Buy into the Party line, and you, too, can shed the dreary burden of responsibility and enter a fantasy world where tax cuts pay for themselves and global warming is nothing to worry about.

The counter culture of the '60s experimented with drugs, often to bad ends, but the lies that national Republican leaders have soaked their brains in, and are pedaling to the nation, are far more dangerous. Drugs mostly hurt the people taking them, but lies can lead a whole nation down the wrong path. Listen to a lie-besotted employee at Home Depot blame the high price of incandescent bulbs on the Save the Whale crowd. An imperfect stranger, he touches your arm lightly, as if for balance while he takes a psychedelic ride down paranoia's slippery slope, telling you how "they" want to control your life, how, if we let them, "they" will dictate what food you eat, what color shades you put in your living room, and before you know it, we'll be under Nazi rule if we don't fight for our freedom.

That freedom, it seems, is to heedlessly bequeath to our offspring a collectively polluted and radically damaged world. All you had done to trigger the employee's rant is remark to him how amazing it is that they're selling LED light bulbs for 43 cents each--cheaper than incandescents. You thought it was good news, but he sees it as part of a sinister plot. Just look at the price of candy bars, he says. In order to impose healthiness upon the people, he claims, "they" have made them $3 each. And vegetables. We're told to eat lots of vegetables, but they're expensive. Movie stars can afford healthy food, he says, but the working man can't.

And so you see how someone has fed him lies that drive a politically expedient wedge between him and those movie star environmentalists, and even makes him resent progress in the form of cheap, efficient light bulbs, while the real reason chocolate is more expensive has to do with our having exported a love of chocolate to Asia, which now competes with us for the world's limited supply of cocoa. Shall we resent those who want to be more like us? He may think he's fighting for freedom, but his mind is controlled by lies that let him experience a drug-like high of indignation.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The New Wild (and crazy ideas about nature)

In this post-2016 election world, many of us are seeking ways to break out of our bubbles and help others to do the same. I have a suggestion. If you have an area of knowledge and experience, seek out the books being written on that subject, particularly those you're likely to disagree with. Amazon.com and Goodreads.com offer a convenient way to do this without necessarily buying the book. You may well find some wild and crazy ideas being peddled, and even more disturbing, large choirs of adherents giving those books high marks in the review section. Perhaps your own views will be challenged in the process, or maybe you will be astonished by how biased, arrogant, and misleading the books are, and how gullible the readers. If the latter, then go ahead, break their bubble. Write a review that will help people think more critically about what they are reading, or about to read. It's better than just preaching to the choir on facebook, and you're impact could extend beyond the bookreading world. Misleading books beget misleading articles by misled journalists, spreading the misinformation far and wide.

Below is my latest contribution to the genre, a critique of The New Wild, by Fred Pearce. The book is described by Beacon Press as "A provocative exploration of the “new ecology” and why most of what we think we know about alien species is wrong." It was "Named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist." Impressive, engagingly written, and yet it is one of the most skewed books I've ever encountered.

Upsetting the applecart is a great way to sell a book. We cheer for the underdog, the David who slays the scleroticized, conformist, institutional Goliath who wouldn't know the truth if it hit him square between the eyes. What a rush to think ourselves smarter than all those scientists isolated in their ivory towers. Whether denying human-caused climate change or the threat posed by invasive species, the polemics against both of these share many of the same techniques even as they arise from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

Yes, we should question authority. But the appetite for contrarianism for its own sake has undermined the nation's capacity to respond to proven threats. Now, in part due to the resulting paralysis, we have an authoritarian occupying the White House.

The critique below draws primarily from The New Wild's Introduction, which is reckless and deeply flawed in logic. Other portions read suggest the Introduction is typical.

(Click below on "Read more" to access the critique.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

When Truth Has to Sit in the Back of the Bus: How Journalistic Conventions Undermine Consensus on Climate Change

If you're wondering how the country became controlled by a science-denying president and political party, it's worth taking a look at how climate change is reported by the mainstream press. Below is an "embedded critique" in which a Boston Globe article on climate change is examined paragraph by paragraph, to see how its structure and content sustain controversy and doubt despite the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real, human-caused, and a grave threat to our future.

Here is a summary of what this fine-grained look revealed:
  • Controversy and uninformed, contrarian views are front-loaded--in the headline and first half of the article--while compensatory truth, good news and growing agreement (colored brown to reveal the pattern) is forced "to the back of the bus" (the end of the article, which many readers don't reach). I explain in the critique how this article structure could be serving to perpetuate political polarization and paralysis.
  • Use of the word "skeptic" in the context of climate change falsely implies a tough-mindedness in people who lack any skepticism about their own stubbornly ill-informed views. A more accurate term would be "rejectionist".
  • The article applies a corrupt form of populism, in which the opinions of highly visible but inadequately trained meteorologists are given equal weight with those of climate scientists.
  • Readers are left uninformed about the basic mechanisms that drive global warming. Just as campaign coverage focuses on the horse race, and coverage of forest fires describes the damage while offering no insights into fire ecology, coverage of climate change indulges contrarian views while leaving readers ill-equipped to resist false assertions.
The embedded critique below, of a Feb. 13, 2017 article by David Abel, an experienced journalist with the Boston Globe, shows how misleading this seemingly mainstream journalism can be. My comments are formatted left, while the article's text is indented. 

(Click below on "Read more" to access the article.)

Sunday, February 05, 2017

When Political Cowardice Poses as Strength

This is a highly deceptive time, when cowardice, irresponsibility, and political opportunism are portrayed as tough-mindedness. Even those news media sources that aim for objectivity appear helpless to expose the deception, and instead often perpetuate false assumptions.

Consider a recent PBS News Hour piece on Obama's climate change legacy. Of course, it's exceptional to see 9 minutes of broadcast time devoted to climate change. The NewsHour has done more than most to give the subject visibility.

But what those nine minutes reveal is how warped is the lens through which we view the massive problem of climate change and the efforts to reduce the terrible risks posed. If you follow the link above and watch the piece, the problematic aspects play out in the following order:
  • False Balance: The report begins by telling us that Obama took action against climate change "despite opponents who criticized the costs or doubted the science". That suggests that there's a cost for taking action, but not for inaction, that opponents have no responsibility to offer their own solutions, and that doubting the science is still a defendable position. None of that is true. If one side of the political spectrum is disciplined in its drift from reality, in essence decides to wear no clothes, even respected news sources like the News Hour dare not point out the obvious, for fear of appearing biased. The "opponents" are presented as tough-minded critics, protecting us from costly actions and false alarms, when in reality they are running from a profound threat to the nation and the world.
  • The politician's role in enabling honest reporting: Speaking to a dinner audience, Obama sharply criticizes Republican inaction on climate change, but through the prism of comedy, with his "anger translator, Luther". He calls Republicans irresponsible, but the visual is of a crowd laughing. There's no mention of whether Obama consistently and forcefully, throughout his administration, took Republicans to task for running from the problem of climate change. My memory is that he did not. Without the aid of strong, quotable criticism of Republican obstructionism coming from a prominent politician like Obama, it has been harder for the news media to point out on their own the cowardice and naked political opportunism of climate denial.
  • Climate Change is Not Santa Claus: The "anger translator" scene is followed by the weakest quote on climate change ever, from former EPA administrator Carol Browner--"I think that this president believes that climate change is real." As if climate change were a matter of belief, like Santa Claus! 
  • Stoking fear of big government: Then, we hear criticism of Obama's proposed action as "very intrusive and heavily regulatory". The consequences of inaction, and the lack of Republican alternatives, again go unmentioned. The famous quote from Reagan's 1981 inaugural address began with four oft-forgotten words: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem". Failing to heed those words, Republican leaders have warped national decision-making by drawing false conclusions from the 1980s. Reagan's implication is that, in some crises, government is part of the solution. 
  • When cowardice and pessimism pose as tough-minded criticism: In the next scene, Republican House leader John Boehner plays the tough-minded critic, eviscerating proposed climate legislation, "flipping through and reading pages randomly", finding "something bad on every one." Boehner reads the bills recommendations, "Twenty percent of the electricity that goes into every federal agency has to come from renewable sources. Do we have any idea whether this is possible? I can’t find the answer here." What appears to be tough-minded skepticism is in fact a deep pessimism about the country's capacity to identify and solve problems. Again, a Republican is portrayed as a gate keeper. He need not provide any solutions of his own, but merely find fault in others. The resulting governmental paralysis opened the door for Obama's nihilistic successor.
  • Solution Assassination--Then, playing into the image of skeptics as tough-minded, a West Virginia hunter is shown out in the woods, shooting a hole through Obama's cap and trade bill, pinned to a tree. Will the hunter's gun and macho demeanor fend off oceans lapping at the foundations of Miami resorts? All we're left with is an image of tough resolve expressed by people who are too selfish and afraid to face up to national threats.
  • Connotation Overwhelms Denotation: The piece describes how Obama's proposal of cap and trade became labeled by Republicans as a tax. But the reflexively negative connotation of taxes goes unquestioned. Investing words with strong connotation shifts discourse away from thought and towards emotion, which protects politicians who lack facts to back up their views. Government needs revenue in order to operate. How does one raise that revenue? That is another tough issue that Republicans have consistently run from. Those who oppose Obama's climate legislation, and anything else called a tax, are not held responsible for the consequences of their opposition, whether it be future climate chaos or the rising deficits that have characterized Republican administrations since 1980.
  • Blaming the Problem Solvers: Then, a talking head blames Democrats for legislative failure, while the Republican opposition is given a free pass on even acknowledging the gravity of the threat. The uniformly obstructive, denialist nature of the Republican Party is confused with strength, and becomes in many people's minds an almost geologic entity, an insensate rock that has no volition or free will. Thus, Democrats get blamed for not being deft enough to avoid the rock, while it's the rock that's causing the obstruction. 
The aim here is not to find flaw in PBS news coverage, but to show how deeply embedded a false notion of strength has become in the nation's political discourse. The news media can be more aware of how it perpetuates a false storyline, through its selection of images and quotes, but the media is hampered by the absence of a strong counter narrative, repeated over and over until it begins to sink in, that dares to call cowardice by its name. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

From Ronald to Donald--Comparing Inaugural Addresses


For many of us, the 2016 election demonstrated that we now live in an upside down political world, where facts don't matter, bad behavior is rewarded, existential threats can be ignored, nonsense sways more than sense, and cowardice and denial are viewed as mental toughness. Cabinet appointees appear intent on dismantling the departments they are entrusted to lead. Righting the ship means looking back at the ideological currents that swept us over and have now left the nation dead in the water and drifting backward.

Where we are now has a lot to do with where we started heading 36 years ago, so it's fitting to compare the inaugural addresses from when the presidency took these sharp ideological pivots, in 1981 with Reagan and in 2016 with Trump. They show many similarities as well as some sharp contrasts. A deeper look at Reagan's address also shows him, surprisingly, to be praising those who pay taxes, implying that government isn't always the problem, and sounding like Al Gore on climate change. I will use the Ronald/Donald motif, rather than their last names, because of their similar sound.

Donald John Trump rode to victory on the story of America that Ronald Wilson Reagan embedded in the national consciousness through endless repetition. Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama--for all their success at leaving the country better off than they found it--harnessed that power of repetition, and so they left the storyline Ronald forged largely intact. To a considerable extent, the country continues to live inside Ronald's brain, where fiction was mightier than fact, science was suspect, and big government was the enemy. With some notable and seldom mentioned caveats, that story gets told in Ronald's first inaugural address, from which Donald appears to have borrowed heavily. A comparison of the two reflects both the continuity and the ongoing devolution at work in the Republican Party. 

PARALLELS BETWEEN RONALD AND DONALD

The Niceties
Both mention the orderly transfer of power, and complement the outgoing Democrats on how gracious they are at ceding power.

Sense of Urgency
Ronald's "We are going to begin to act, beginning today." becomes Donald's "That all changes starting right here and right now" and "Now arrives the hour of action."

Populist Appeal to the Working Class
Reagan's "a special interest group that has been too long neglected ... made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories ..." becomes Trump's "the forgotten men and women of our country".

Patriotism as Gateway to Inclusion
Ronald's "How can we love our country and not love our countrymen" becomes Donald's "through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice."

Purging A Washington Elite
The deep satisfaction of catharsis drove many to vote for Ronald and Donald, whose populist rhetoric seduced even those sure to suffer from the resultant economic policies favoring the wealthy. Voters can be riled up to kick politicians out of Washington no matter how unpromising the replacements. Ronald's "we've been tempted to believe ...  that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people" become's Donald's "a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost."

Dream Big
Ronald's "we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams" and "We have every right to dream heroic dreams" becomes Donald's "And we will bring back our dreams." and "we must think big and dream even bigger." Unfortunately, both have equated dreaming big with the extraction and burning of more fossil fuels, which leads inevitably to a big nightmare of radicalized weather, climate refugees, and loss of America's coasts to rising oceans.

International Commitments:
Reagan's "we will strengthen our historic ties" becomes Donald's "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones"


CONTRASTS

Amped Up Negativity
It's telling, in terms of the respective depth of their intellects, that Donald's inaugural address was about half as long and twice as negative as Ronald's. Even Trump's attempts at positive statements come off as veiled criticism. Though it may sound positive to say that we will "rebuild our country and restore its promise", what is really being said is that our country currently lies in shambles, stripped of promise. To say that we "will make America strong again" is to imply that it is not strong now. Ronald claimed that "we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world", and spoke of "an era of national renewal", which sounds like America needs a renovation, rather than a last-minute rescue from what Donald calls "American carnage".

Past Leaders and Future People Disappear
Unlike Ronald, who mentions Winston Churchill, some founding fathers and a war veteran, and speaks of insuring "happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children's children", Donald makes no mention of past or future generations. For Donald, there's no need or inclination to link his administration to past or future. He sees himself as singular, an improvisor immersed in the moment.

Speed of Change
Ronald was much more modest about what he could achieve. He was promising persistence above all. His "progress may be slow, measured in inches and feet, not miles, but we will progress"
becomes Donald's "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now", and "terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth."

God's Role Changes
There's been a slow shift in people's view of what God can do. In keeping with his era, Ronald adopted the view that God helps those who help themselves, e.g. "with God's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us." The tendency among the religious more recently, particularly when confronting big challenges like climate change, is to believe God will do all the work for us. Interestingly, that was Ronald's scathing critique of welfare programs, that recipients were using government aid to avoid putting forth effort. Now, people are using God's supposed omniscience as an excuse to be passive, as in Donald's more absolutist "we will be protected by God."

Compassion
It's been said that Ronald created a lasting deception by putting a kind face on heartless policies. That divide between image and reality, between a candidate who connects with the people but implements policies favoring the privileged, has only deepened with time. Ronald at least made reference to compassion: "We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we ... not love our countrymen; and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they're sick ..." Donald promises only that "you will never be ignored again." There are a lot of voters out there who like those words, and the emphatic way they are said, whether they mean anything or not.


SOME SURPRISES IN REAGAN'S 1981 INAUGURAL ADDRESS

The Heroes Who Pay Taxes
Like Ronald's language about compassion, there was a time when Republicans were still allowed to say something positive about taxes. Though Reagan spread the illusion that tax cuts could magically increase government revenue, his inaugural speech contained the following: Among the nation's heroes are "individuals and families whose taxes support the government".


A Famous Quote Infamously Misquoted
Ronald's famous quote about government is invariably misquoted. It begins with an important qualification: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." In other words, his view of government as the problem was particular to that time and circumstance, and not to be taken as an eternal truth.

When Reagan Sounds Like Al Gore
Much of the cowardice, political expedience, and pessimism that parades as tough-minded skepticism about climate change is rooted in Ronald's era, but two quotes in his 1981 inaugural address express a more positive, can-do approach to problem solving more associated with Democrats today.

Consider, as the Republican Party continues to run from the problem of climate change with a mix of denial and fatalism, Ronald's statement that 
"I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing." 
Or, at the end of his address, 
"The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow (a soldier) and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God's help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us." 
Though Ronald was not talking about climate change, he captured beautifully the spirit of taking on great causes for which, unlike war, no one need die.

PRELUDE TO DONALD'S ADDRESS

The inauguration speech was preceded by several short speeches. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said "the humble shall inherit the earth", which, given the setting, sounded far-fetched.

The freshly minted president's spiritual advisor, Paula White-Cain, said that the U.S. is a gift from God. 

Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Americans are a "forward-looking, problem-solving" people, a positive outlook that in the election lost out to nostalgia and resentment.

Schumer quoted at length from a letter written by Civil War soldier, Sullivan Ballou. What seems significant in the excerpt below is that the soldier risks his life not only for the country but also for the Government (underlined). Much of our nation's paralysis and polarization is due to the rigid depiction of our government as the enemy of the country, as if our heads were the enemy of our bodies. In addition, the lack of an adequate critique by Democrats of the government--a critique that would identify the government's shortcomings while clearly identifying the government's positive role in our lives--has contributed to the polarizing perception that Democrats want only more government, and Republicans only less. The Civil War soldier holds a much more integrated view of government and country:
"Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure – and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt."
At least early on, Reagan was not reflexively anti-government: "Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

DONALD'S AND RONALD'S ADDRESSES--FULL TRANSCRIPTS WITH COLOR CODING

After Pence was sworn in as vice president, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir--a sea of white faces--sang about God shedding his grace on thee.

Then, Donald John Trump addressed the nation. Below, if you click on "Read more" are Donald's address and Ronald's address 36 years prior. In red are the negative sections. In brown, the veiled criticism. And in blue, Donald's particularly momentous statements.

Scanning the two addresses shows the contrast in negativity. Both are negative early in their addresses, but unlike Ronald, Donald cannot let go of the negativity and articulate a positive vision. Afterwards, Rev. Franklin Graham gave a positive spin to the rain that began to fall during Donald's address: "In the bible, rain is a sign of God's blessing."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oil "Production"--An Economic Illusion Embedded in the Language


There's an irony in that quote, "Stay humble", which popped up on the screen halfway through a Forbes oped entitled "The Irony Of President Obama's Oil Legacy". The oped's point is that presidents can be unfairly given credit for what was not their doing. But the article's language itself is permeated with a false claim, that people "produce" oil and natural gas. The word "production" is used 22 times.

Go to talks on political science or economics and you will hear no mention that societies and economies are dependent upon a planet. That environment and climate went essentially unmentioned in the recent presidential campaign was not a fluke, but rather indicative of an anthropocentric bias and a long-broken relationship between people and the planet that sustains us.

To begin the mending, and a return to reality, economists and journalists need to stop deceiving people about how we get oil and gas. We don't "produce" it, any more than a baby "produces" milk from its mother's breasts. If the baby, a very precocious baby, rather than drinking the breast milk chose to bottle it and sell it at the local grocery store as a product, would anyone believe that the baby had "produced" the milk? No, the baby is milking its mother for all she's worth. People would question the baby's ethics and wonder how the mother was holding up under all the pressure to produce.

We don't produce oil and gas, we extract it. "Extraction" makes clear that earth is the producer. Although we can refine and repackage what we extract, the ultimate source of wealth is from the earth itself. "Oil production" also creates the illusion that we can simply keep making the stuff. "Oil extraction" makes clear that, once something is extracted from the earth and consumed, it's gone.

These distinctions are a first step in weaning the economy, our language and ourselves of the narcissistic tendency to falsely take credit and claim we exist outside of nature.