Saturday, August 13, 2016

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Truth Be Told

December 25, 2015 - We saw the movie The Big Short today; I highly recommend it.  It's surpassingly sad that we, i.e. American society, have allowed the compilation of lies accumulated during the Bush/Cheney years to go so long unaddressed.  This movie takes an important step in the direction of redressing these omissions.  I readily confess I didn't understand all parts of the movie, though the delightful "asides" provided throughout did help.  Though I wouldn't characterize the movie in general with the word delightful, it has its moments.

To what degree were the actions of our government, the banks, real estate companies, and investors set in motion the day Bush/Cheney were permitted to steal the 2000 election?  Permitted by an apathetic and confused electorate, aided and abetted by the Supreme Court of the United States, the patently nefarious intentions of the Republican candidates proceeded as planned.  Speaking for myself, I argued silently that my place was in Washington, D.C., along with the handful of demonstrators outside the Court.  But I couldn't go, I reasoned; I'd either have to quit my job or take vacation time, neither of which was going to receive my husband's blessing.  Add in the cost of gasoline and a hotel room, and this turkey of an idea just wasn't going to fly.  So I let myself off the hook, along with millions of the rest of us.

Of course, the failure of too-big-to-fail financial institutions was merely an anti-climax, considering the horror perpetrated by our government in 2001.  As we all now know, thanks to the ongoing research performed by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911), World Trade Center buildings were not only catastrophically attacked by airplanes, they fell very neatly into their own footprints because of having been wired for demolition.  As documented in their videos and literature, this organization of professionals and concerned citizens has shown that the WTC buildings should have toppled to the ground.  By that I mean they should have tipped over at some point, thereby increasing the death and destruction by an unknown factor.  Even today, an unthinkable outcome.  Bush/Cheney didn't want THAT mess to deal with, so they arranged for a neat and tidy tragedy of epic proportion.  For more information on this essential subject, go to ae911truth.org.

The lies just kept coming.  Unknown sums of taxpayer dollars have been spent on fraudulent wars.  At the same time ExxonMobil was rewording its own climate research in an effort to forestall the adoption of renewable energy.  Republicans have mocked and disparaged countless ethical, reputable climate scientists who have testified before countless committee hearings in Washington.  The death of a planet and its inhabitants suited their scorched earth approach to governing perfectly.  Climate change couldn't be happening because they said so.  The truth be damned; they would stop clean energy legislation because they could stop it.  Sidekicks and corporate cronies who kept them in office were the only ones to benefit; the planet keeps wending its way toward a cosmic graveyard.

How important is the truth?  It is the great enabler.  It sets us free to right wrongs.  When spoken loudly and emphatically, we all breathe more easily, because it touches the divine spark within us all.  We see ourselves and our neighbors more clearly.  We rest assured that justice will be served.  The hard work ahead pales in comparison to the effort it takes to live a lie.  Justice delayed is justice denied; nevertheless, I look forward to the day Bush and Cheney are tried at the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Monday, December 14, 2015

COP21: Setting Our Sites

December 14, 2015 - I wonder whether the US Congress will vote to approve the COP21 climate treaty or not.  I don't think it would be approved by the current Congress, but if the vote can be forestalled until a new Congress begins in 2017, perhaps it would.  There is a lot of debate in the press right now about the treaty's merits, but since it's the best global leaders could do, I think we should sign on.  If the U.S. can do better than what is required by the treaty, that would be wonderful.  That's really what we should set our sites on doing.

The fact that the entire world has acknowledged that drastic change is necessary is very encouraging.   At first I thought that wealthy countries were only donating $100 billion in total to help poor countries lessen their emissions.  However, I just heard on the Diane Rehm Show that that is an annual budget, beginning in 2020.  That sounds much more aggressive; I can only say I hope wealthy nations live up to the agreement.  It's an amount that could support real change.

Fossil fuels have been roundly rejected by the treaty.  The world has approached that verdict too cautiously, due to a lack of leadership on the part of the United States.  With Exxon Mobil now being taken to court for disguising its role in furthering climate change, the courage that was wanting has been found.  With clean, renewable energy becoming easier to access with every passing year, its wide use no longer seems impossible.  Far from it.  In fact, not using it widely has come to be seen as the dimwitted approach to cleaning up the environment that it always was.

As I understand it, each country has the freedom to lower carbon emissions in whatever way it deems best.  Countries will set their own goals, with the overriding goal being, I believe, less than 350 parts per million of carbon in the air.  That should allow us to keep the increase in temperatures to an average that falls below 2 degrees celsius, with 1.5 degrees the preferred outcome.  Because food production has already fallen at the current increase of 1 degree centigrade (celsius and centigrade are the same), this becomes a terribly significant number.

I thought it was interesting that countries will continue to meet to assess their progress.  It's important that this agreement not be based on trust alone.  While I do believe there is an understanding that the "benefit" of cheating is null, I also believe that this is truly an instance where "trust but verify" should be the way we proceed.  China's filthy air is everybody's filthy air, sooner or later.  Let us all take a moment to praise the long overdue death of coal!!  Sadly, it will still be burned in India and China for years to come.  As our standard of living in the US levels out, we can only hope India will exercise forbearance in its headlong pursuit of wealth.

Our thanks are owed to so many: Rachel Carson, Al Gore, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Les Brown; these and others sounded the early call to arms.  I can guarantee you this: their names will be all but forgotten, and in short order.  They gave their all because they honor the truth.  May those to whom they pass this enormous responsibility continue their work, and do likewise.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Look Who's Talking

October 4, 2015 – Business is at long last throwing its weight around on behalf of the climate.  Progress toward mitigating climate change has been a nearly nonexistent process, occurring at nowhere close to the scale it needs to happen.  Governments bewail the fact they have too many constituents to keep happy, while business has wrung its hands over the cost of switching to renewable energy.  Meantime, this weekend alone has seen over 100 people buried in a landslide in Guatemala, 17 killed by flash flooding on the French Riviera, and unknown numbers of missing or dead in South Carolina as a result of torrential rain associated with Hurricane Joaquin.

Corporations haven’t exactly broken any records in their rush to speak out, but ten companies came forward on October 1 with a letter to American and world leaders.
The chief executive officers of these firms are pledging to accelerate actions that will mitigate climate change, and are urging word leaders to do the same with an airtight international agreement this December in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, abbreviated as COP21.  More than 190 nations will attend yet another attempt at keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade (4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Issuance of the letter took place at a bipartisan, bicameral briefing on climate change in Washington, D.C.   The briefing was sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, and Rep. Chris Gibson, Republican of New York.  Six chief executives of the ten companies involved (Mars, General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg, Nestle, New Belgium Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Stonyfield Farm and Dannon) were present.  Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills, was quoted as saying, ‘To reduce emission levels, we must work across our collective value chains with growers, suppliers, customers, peer companies, government leaders, and industry partners.”

The rate of increase in crop yields is slowing.  This is especially true for wheat, which is sensitive to changes in heat.  By 2030, heat will have slowed crop production in both arid and non-arid regions of the world.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that climate change has already caused declining food supplies, and is contributing to price spikes and social unrest in various parts of the world, most notably Syria.

Mars, Unilever, and Nestle have each pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy during all phases of production.  In addition, Mars recently invested in a 211-megawatt wind farm in Texas.  Unilever has set a goal of halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  Nestle has already reduced 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent.  

Let’s hope their influence is as far-reaching as it needs to be.


With thanks to Ceres (www.ceres.org)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Land of the Rising Sea

Sept. 26, 2015 - Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, pushed a bill through the lower house of  Parliament last week which authorizes expansion of the military in Japan.  Japan was shorn of its military subsequent to World War II and today, the move is not a popular one amongst the Japanese.  They have grown unaccustomed to bearing responsibility for a well-armed military.  It will cost Japan a lot of money, for one thing.  In addition, the island nation is not well known for friendly relations with its neighbors.  The United States, however, supports the move, since it can ill afford to continue in its post-war role as world policeman.  Help from an ally would be very welcome.

Japan’s primary motivation is China’s growing military.  The actual building of islands in the South China Sea has disturbed all of China’s neighbors, with good reason.  It would appear their purpose in creating the islands could well be an aggressive one.  It bears pointing out that North Korea is, at best, an unstable neighbor, and that there is no love lost between South Korea and Japan.

In my opinion, there are two other reasons to be taken into account vis a vis Japan’s remilitarization.    One would be the fact, already stated, that Japan is an island nation.  We know from reports issued by various government and scientific agencies that islands will suffer enormously because of rising sea level.  There are already a few that have, to all effects, disappeared, necessitating the relocation of their populations.  Far more of this kind of tragedy lies ahead.  Does sea level rise threaten Japan?  Let’s take a look.

In the Japan Times issue of July 12, 2014, author Elena Johansson tells us that a one- meter rise in sea level could cause catastrophic beach erosion for the half of the Japanese population that lives along the coast.  Combined with the winds and rain associated with typhoons – there’s been a very active typhoon season this year – the encroachment of salt water could be life threatening.  Given that more than one meter is now the expected sea level rise, island life does not hold out great promise.

The other reason for Japan’s remilitarization might have to do with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  While decontamination moves forward in the 105 municipalities affected, the nature and extent of the work make its completion widely subject to question.  Furthermore, the cost of making the hundreds of square miles of land impacted livable again, if we are honest with ourselves, may never be known.  Seventy-nine thousand people have had to be relocated.

Can a tiny nation with a population of 127 million make do without hundreds of square miles of land over the long term?  Is it possible that, between the land lost to salt water incursion and the land lost to nuclear contamination, Japan may need more land, or even an entirely new place to live? Will they go about seeking a new homeland through the auspices of the United Nations?  Or will they simply take matters into their own hands?  With the reactivation of the Japanese military, there’s a lot to consider.

With thanks to the New York Times, Japan Times,  Los Angeles Times, and Wikipedia

Monday, September 14, 2015

Too Little, Too Late

September 14, 2015 - The news just isn't getting any better, is it?  Heroic people all over the world are working very hard to keep climate change from reaching the tipping point, but governments continue down the same road they've been following for decades.  Sadly, their inertia means the bill that's coming due just keeps getting bigger.  And oh! how badly they and their super-wealthy citizens don't want to pay it.  That's ok.  This bill collector is never turned down.  It will all work out in due course.  After all, it's only humankind that may face extinction.

Actually, I do believe there will be survivors.  I don't mean that in the sense of "me and my family have this all figured out."  I mean that in the sense that the odds favor it.  Somebody, somewhere, will get through this.  Maybe a lot of somebodies.  Humanity's chance to influence a more favorable outcome is just about over, however.  Much as we human beings love to believe we're in control, we have utterly sacrificed whatever control we might have had.  For money, it would seem.

None of which means we should give up.  What we have is so wonderful, we must fight for it as long as we're able.  We know so little, it would be an awful mistake to assume that we know exactly how things will turn out.  We don't, although the brains G-d gave us have allowed us an at least partial view of the future. If it looks like the present, we're in a world of hurt.

Having moved West, I am particularly sensitive to the vagaries of wildfire.  Mixed with drought and wind, both of which are in plentiful supply, particularly east of the Cascades here in the Pacific Northwest, the situation quickly becomes dire.  California continues to be in the worst shape, with hundreds of homes now having been immolated.  Loss of life, due to the unflagging efforts of fire fighters, thus far stands at only one person.  Remarkable.

The typhoon (a hurricane that occurs in the western Pacific) season got off to a quick start, producing some of the strongest storms on record this year.  To date, there have been 27 tropical storms, including 19 named typhoons, of which 6 have been super typhoons.  Last week,  Japan was inundated with rain caused by a tropical storm.  Three million people were evacuated!  Insult has been added to injury with the eruption of Mount Aso today.

The leading climate change story this year concerns NOAA's prediction of dramatic sea level rise during the coming century.  Sea level rise, due to the melting of west Antarctica's ice and Greenland's glaciers, has been predicted before, but never so much so quickly.  The reason for NOAA's report was to urge immediate action.  That is certainly what is needed on all fronts.  We've run out of time.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Washington El Nino

July 27, 2015 - It's great to be sitting in my very own office, and writing to you from Washington state. We've been here for 3 months now, and feel very much as though we've wound up in paradise.  The views of Mt. St. Helen's, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood are spectacular, the Columbia River Gorge is incomparable, and Portland is a very fun town, albeit one that suffers from horrible traffic.  We're feeling very blessed these days, and humbled by our good fortune.

The weather here is quite different from what much of the country has endured.  Unlike the rain which has flooded so much of the middle and the south of the country, Washington is in the midst of a drought, along with Oregon and California, of course.  While our situation is nothing like California's, which is dire, there have been a number of wildfires this summer.  Farmers are getting by using irrigation, and the fruit crops look abundant to my inexperienced eyes.  I, for the first time, am the proud owner of 2 fruit trees, an apple and a pear.  The apple tree is pollinated by the extravagant number of apple trees in the area, and the pear tree is self-pollinating.  A Bartlett pear branch was grafted onto an Asian pear tree.

Our house was previously owned by non-gardeners, who did nothing in the way of pruning.  As a result, the fruit trees are tall and skinny, although they have a fair amount of fruit hanging from the branches.  A visiting garden consultant informs me I'll need to cut them in half, and cut back the branches., in order to encourage further branching.  With any luck, we have a lot of apple pies and fruit salad to look forward to.

It's funny about the sun way up north: it has a very direct feeling to it.  (When I say "way up north," I mean that we are as far north as the northern half of Maine - and Montreal.)  I notice that some of my bushes look a little sun-burned!  Generally, however, whatever you stick in the ground grows very well.  Roses especially like moisture and sun, and I have a number looking beautiful in my backyard.  I'll do a lot of experimenting in the coming years, and hope to learn a lot.

What about the impending El Nino?  Forecasts are for a warmer, slightly drier winter than usual.  I'm hoping the "slightly drier" part is true; we'll definitely be in need of precipitation by the winter, so "slightly" would be a good thing.  It seems like elsewhere in the country, the sporadic weather phenomenon may have already arrived.  Of course, our current drought may also be a part  of the bigger, El Nino picture.

How has the weather impacted you where you live?  Has it become increasingly volatile?  How so?  I'd love to hear from readers about the changes you're observing.  Thanks for your input.