Small Island Nations, Early Victims of Global Climate Change, Need Help

According to this piece on the U.S. News & World Report blog, the 44 small island nations of the world are asking the developed nations to step up their commitments to and support of their fragile economies in the face of early signs of massive disruption from global climate change.

small-island-nationsI had no idea there are 44 nations comprised of small islands, did you? But it’s apparently true. They have banded together in the Alliance of Small Island States to give themselves more visibility and clout in international circles. As global climate change has begun to make its effects felt throughout the world, these nations have already paid a high cost.

The article’s author, Ahmed Sareer, is from the Maldives, so he’s had first-person experience with these problems. He says that, “Some Pacific island nations face extreme rainfall, cyclones and droughts that could result in losses beyond their total annual government expenditures altogether.” (Sareer is the Maldives’ permanent representative to the United Nations and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.)

Sareer points out that, “according to a United Nations report released earlier this year, climate change has magnified the risks and increased the cost of tropical disturbances around the world.”

These small island nations have a combined population in excess of 63 million people. Being low-lying lands surrounded by oceans, they have little recourse but to figure out how to survive and sustain their meager, fragile economies in the face of climatological crises caused by the larger developed nations. We clearly owe them as much help as it takes to maintain their survival.

Islam Isn’t the Problem, Fundamentalism Of All Stripes Is

I just posted a long essay on my spiritual teaching blog responding to Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana’s remark at a speech in London last week that, “Islam has a problem.”

While it’s true that fundamentalism in the Muslim world is a problem that grabs a lot of headlines and attention these days, the point of my essay is that the problem isn’t with Islam — or rather not just with Islam. Fundamentalism of all stripes is the source of violence, hate and fear in the world. That has been the case since the early days of the Judaic religion and was certainly true of Christianity in its early days…and continues to be to this day with the condoning of the killing of doctors who offer abortion services.

Fundamentalism is defined as “The tendency to reduce a religion to its most fundamental tenets, based on strict interpretation of core texts.” Notice the emphasis on strict interpretation of texts being the core feature. Fundamentalism is primarily a fear response. The Crusades, which were aimed at wiping out Islam and all of its adherents, were sustained over a period of approximately 500 years. That was a deliberate attempt at genocide conducted with the full authority and sponsorship of the Christian church.

In my article today, I touch on some of the similarities and differences between fundamental Christianity and Islam in an effort to promote interfaith understanding and interspiritual appreciation.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

Dutch Citizens Take Novel Approach to Climate Change, Sue Government for Inaction

Calling the government’s failure to act to deal with global climate change a human rights violation, hundreds of Dutch citizens have filed suit against their government in what is believed to be the first action of its kind. According to a story in the Deccan Chronicle, some 900 citizens filed the legal action in a court in The Hague.

I like this approach. It’s bold and it puts the courts, which fear political consequences much less than governmental agencies and legislative bodies do, in a position to establish at a minimum a higher moral suasion position. I am hopeful that in the United States, court proceedings and class action suits will become more a part of the climate change response.

The European Union has in general been more aggressive than the United States, China and India — the Big Three Polluters — in establishing regulations designed to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. That’s the threshold most scientists see as the Rubicon beyond which many of the more devastating effects of global climate change become irreversible.

I’ll monitor that lawsuit to see if it can act as a harbinger of other similar actions that could raise consciousness another notch. Until more citizens outside the government get engaged with the problem, the incentive for politicians to stay the course is too powerful to be expected to move in the direction of a solution.

 

 

All-of-the-Above = Nothing-is-Left

climate-greenpeacePresident Barack Obama has been a mixed bag of results for people like me who are convinced that global climate change is largely caused by human behavior and is an existential crisis for humanity. He has done some good work in promoting renewable energy sources, but he has also maintained a politically safe and mostly unhelpful “all-of-the-above” energy policy. This approach allows him to continue to kowtow to Big Coal and Big Oil while making some measurable progress on climate change.

In the end — and make no mistake, there is an end to this strategy — it is far too little. Nothing short of a Green Revolution creating fundamental change and economic growth through the wholesale replacement of fossil fuels by wind and solar is going to have any chance of saving us.

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton, for whom the Democratic Party nomination is hers to lose, is an advocate of those same not-enough policies. They have, after all, worked for Obama, so why not continue the course?

That’s why I’m voting Green in 2016. We need unequivocal anti-fossil-fuel policies and commitments. We cannot continue “all-of-the-above” until nothing is left.

 

For the First Time Ever, I’m a Single-Issue Voter. You Should Be, Too!

I’m about to cast a ballot in my 14th Presidential election. And at the ripe old age of 70, I’m breaking two long-held traditions for voting in my family and in my life. The two changes are closely related.

First, as you know if you read this blog regularly, I’m bolting the Democratic Party this year. This will mark only the second time in my life I’ve backed a candidate from a party other than the Democratic Party for President, but this time around I’m backing the Green Party candidate. I anticipate it will be Jill Stein but I am confident of one thing: whoever the Green is, he or she will be right on the only issue I care about this year.

And second, as you probably deduced, I’m a single-issue candidate. The march toward planetary collapse is the only issue worth considering or voting on in 2016. Because if a candidate who is anything less than fully committed to and engaged in reversing that march is elected and if U.S. politics continue with more of the same when it comes to minimizing the effects of and reversing where possible the disastrous consequences of, global climate change, there won’t be a planet, let alone a United States, worth fighting over in 50 years or less.

No one who has even been whispered as a possible candidate for either of the major parties — with the solitary exception of Bernie Sanders and he’s not a real Democrat and therefore has no chance of getting the party’s nomination — has a formal position or platform plank on the subject that is anything more than lip service.

Green-Party-Values-LogoThe Green Party has been front and center on this issue for years. It has a strong, massive and detailed plank in its current platform on Ecological Sustainability of which Climate Change is the primary consideration. The platform has only five major planks and this is one of them.

In its recitation of the party’s 10 key values, here’s what it has to say about “Ecological Wisdom”:

Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature.  We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.

It is my sincere belief that only by forcing the “two” major parties to at least have an honest debate on this central and critical issue can the 2016 Presidential election mean anything to future generations. The question we will ask as we choose our next national leader is whether we actually care how we leave the planet for our children and our grandchildren. I have both and I must say I’m ashamed to leave them the mess we’ve created. It may well lead to the extinction of the human race or, at the very least, to a paring back to a sparsely populated, technology-primitive, factionated world of 200 or 300 or more years ago, with a long path to rebuilding.

From now until the end of the 2016 election cycle, I am committed to frequent updates of this blog focused only on the issue of a sustainable environment and the politics attendant to that issue.

I invite you to join me and to get your friends and neighbors and colleagues to join you. Corporate America along with their Corporatist Republicrats and Dempublicans are arrayed against us. They have the money. But we have Wisdom, Spirit and Voice with us.

The stakes could literally not be higher.

Let’s march!

I Could Get Behind Biden

I’ve made no secret of my decision to bolt the Democratic Party in the face of its domination by Corporatists like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton along with dozens of senators and congresscritters. I’ve switched my allegiance to the Green Party in the first phase of a long-term strategy to force broader discussion and consideration of the Progressive agenda in this country.

Vice-President Joe Biden. Maybe for President 2016?

Vice-President Joe Biden. Maybe for President 2016?

But if the current rumblings about Joe Biden taking a run at the Democratic Party nomination turn out to be true, I may have to revisit my decision. Biden’s a legitimate progressive thinker with the intelligence and experience to make a fine President. At a time when our two biggest problems — economic inequality and global climate change — call for outside-the-box thinking and bold action, Biden represents a possible alternative to the Greens with a viable chance of victory in 2016.

I’d want to know a lot more about Biden’s policies. He’s spent eight years in the deep shadow of the presidency of Obama, many of whose policies have been far too centrist to say noting of ineffective for my taste. I’d want to know the extent to which Biden fought for more Progressive thinking behind the scenes even as he fell into line like a good soldier when decisions went against his preferences. But his reputation as a Senator was certainly that of someone who identified with and earnestly supported the cause of the Middle Class. The disappearance of that class is already well under way at the behest of Republicans and Corporatist Democrats. If he could convince me he’d reverse that untenable and unDemocratic course of action, I could be tempted to volunteer for him and contribute to his cause.

During a recent trip to the Bay Area where I used to live (I live on the Central Coast now, not that far away), the Veep was absolutely mum about his possible candidacy. But there is a growing movement in the party that someone needs to challenge Hillary both for her good and for the good of the party. I agree and further believe that if such a challenge could move her to the left a good bit, she might even become palatable…barely…to a diehard Leftie like me.

 

Progressive Minnesota Out-Performs Conservative Wisconsin Economy by 100%!

In one of the best apples-to-apples comparison studies I’ve seen in many years, Ed Harris at EconBrowser.com demonstrates that since 2011, the growth rate of the Wisconsin economy has lagged behind neighboring and near economic mirror Minnesota by nearly 3%. In “log terms” (which economists use to even out mathematical comparisons) that’s on the order of a 100% gap.

As you undoubtedly know, Wisconsin, which has inexplicably made a sharp turn right in the past few years from its one-time place as one of the nation’s leading progressive states, is under total GOP control. Gov. Scott Walker, who has Presidential aspirations, has been following the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) guidelines for so-called economic recovery along with his pet dog of a legislature. He touts a $3.6 billion state budget surplus but turns mute when asked who benefits from the surplus when unemployment and other economic indicators that affect real people are headed in the completely wrong direction. Cut taxes, cut spending, impose austerity and watch your economy become yet another great example of how to further widen the economic gap that will absolutely prove this nation’s downfall.

This is the kind of information that needs greater dissemination and emulation. Fact-based information about a field as frequently nebulous as economics is hard to come by. Here’s a great example of directly comparable situations. Let’s see if we can learn from it before it’s too late.

 

The Nation Offers Three Reasons for Optimism on Climate Change

global_climate_change_4The Nation magazine, in its current 150th anniversary issue, features an article entitled “3 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Fight to Save the Climate.” Summarized quickly, here are the reasons:

  1. International leaders are starting to frame the debate and discussion of climate change in strongly moral language, which appeals more to peoples’ guts where political decisions are often made than do facts and statistics.
  2. Renewable energy sales and installations around the world are soaring well beyond expectations and in many cases much faster than even the most optimistic predictions.
  3. The coal industry — biggest criminal group in the continuation of the use of carbon-based fuels — is in serious financial trouble and shows every sign of being in decline, due in some small but growing part to calls for divestment of investments in fossil fuel companies.

I could go on to explain each of these points in more detail, but that’s what the article in The Nation does so well, so I’m going to shut up now and urge you to go read that excellent and optimistic piece now.

 

In What Universe is it Senseless for U.S. to Pursue Climate Change Remedies?

The American Right, finding itself in disagreement with most of its own followers, is beating a hasty if somewhat ragged retreat from the outright denial of the reality of global climate change and humanity’s role in the crisis. The new fallback positions being staked out by the GOP front liners are:

  • The “I’m no scientist” approach that suggests that they are too ill-informed and not sufficiently educable to grasp the underlying simple science at work in understanding the climate crisis.
  • The “No use in the U.S. doing anything if the rest of the world won’t” myopia that ignores a reality that is far more obvious than the science at the root of the issue.

I am particularly appalled at the second position. By all calculations, the United States is in the top 5 of nations contributing to global climate change, both historically and presently. China ranks higher than us in recent years but per capita and historically is well below the level of our contribution. But that’s relatively moot; President Obama has concluded an historic agreement with China to reduce both nations’ carbon emissions.

But the overriding point here is even simpler. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the United States alone takes action to deal with climate change even though Germany and several other nations are well ahead of us in this respect. By doing all we can, we definitely extend the period of time before the human race’s extinction becomes an irreversible trend. Say we buy just 25-50 years by doing that. If we don’t assume the rest of the nations of the world will continue to stand still as the situation continues to worsen (i.e., if we don’t assume they are collectively suicidal), then maybe that buys enough time to continue to slow the outcome and even to discover a remedy that can reverse the damage.

To suggest that unless other large polluters do something, the actions of the first or second largest polluter on the planet can’t have any impact on the problem is to play ostrich. Dead ostrich.

 

Key to Democratic Party Future: Learn to Capitalize on GOP Blunders and Stupidity

The Democratic Party has for many decades — since the 1930’s in fact — has apparently been unable to respond aggressively and clearly to repeated horrific governance decisions made by the Republican Party. I don’t know if the Democrats are afraid of not playing nice and thereby offending someone who might be not quite a Republican or if they’re just inept. Probably some of both.

But a footnote to an insightful piece appearing today on Huffington Post brought the problem into stark relief for me. The article was about Fox’s George Will’s “firing offense” uttered during an interview about the economic policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930’s. During the interview, Will, a right-wing polemicist whose primary claim to fame is a good vocabulary, made this comment about the way the depression was handled and the cause of a recession that took place for 9 months during the depression:

There is a serious argument to be made that Roosevelt stopped too soon. Far from being bold, he wasn’t bold enough, because the recession within the depression that came along in 1937 came because they prematurely declared victory.

In other words, in the context of both the interview and the history he was reviewing, Will suggested that a good argument could be made that cutting government spending (stimulus) too soon caused the recession and prolonged the Depression.

This kind of thinking, as the article points out, is right-wing heresy. And while Will still has his job at Fox, it’s safe to bet that high-level conversations about his future with the network are being conducted as you read this.

HuffPo columnist Paul Abrams placed a footnote at the point in the text when he was discussing Will’s heretical comment. Here’s the footnote itself:

Note how nothing has changed on the Right. Despite their opposing all of FDR’s spending in the first place, despite calling for even more precipitous cuts in spending that would have made everything even worse, they had no embarrassment, no twinge of intellectual dishonesty, calling it the Roosevelt Recession. Today, they [falsely] accuse Obama of cutting Medicare, whereas they would destroy it, forever. The difference is today’s Democrats are so inept, they cannot make hay of it, whereas FDR did. (Emphasis added)

The Democrats, if they are to regain any sort of legislative control nationally or in the states, must call out Republicans when they make outlandishly ridiculous, historically inaccurate, ignorant comments such as can be heard and read on all of the mainstream and progressive news media in great numbers every day. As distasteful as I find it, name-calling may well need to become the Order of the Day.

Climate change deniers’ comments are in fact unsupported by the science, self-serving and incomplete, but those high-falutin’ judgments don’t win voters. Let’s call them what they are: dangerous, selfish, ignorant, and flat-out wrong. The people who espouse such views are not well-meaning, misguided individuals, they are selfish, narrow-minded bigots interested only in political pandering. They either know they’re wrong in which case they are immoral pursuers of power at any cost, or they don’t realize they’re wrong in which case they ought not be qualified to hold public office. There is no sense in which this subject comes down to different ways of accomplishing the same goal. The planet is in danger. The human race really could become extinct. And as my favorite video on this subject argues, even if 97% of scientists are wrong, fixing the problem is less expensive than not fixing it in any case.

Democrats need to be bold, to call foul when confronted with willful ignorance or political pandering. To use clear, unambiguous language to call out the opposition and force them to defend their positions with facts and science, not ancient holy books and centuries-old prejudices.

I don’t expect this to happen. I expect the Democrats to continue to try to out-Republican the Republicans, to tread lightly when describing their opponents despite the ugly language used against them, to turn the other cheek and to cede control to the Party of No. That’s one of many reasons why I’m a Green.