The Virtue of Stupidity

Once again, dear friend Hugh has hit the nail on the head regarding the dangerous attitudes of this nation toward addressing environmental issues, most notably climate change, or global warming. Please take a minute to read his excellent post … and make note of his new “law” at the end! Thank you, Hugh, for the post and the permission to share!


Temperatures around the country have recently been plunging and the nay-sayers once again point to the thermometer and tell us why they deny that the globe is warming. They ignore the fact that South Africa is experiencing the hottest summer on record and that what happens in Alabama or Alaska (or South Africa) is beside the point. Global Warming is a fact and it is not to be identified with passing weather events in particular parts of the world. Confusing the two and ignoring hard science are marks of the “virtue of stupidity” among those who remain with their heads in the sand — or somewhere equally dark. (This is a repost, which I have updated.)

In his remarkable book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, Charles Pierce quotes Norman Myers of the Climate Institute who estimated that in 1995 [over twenty-four years ago!] there…

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A Waste Of MY Money?????

Grrrrrrrrr …. If I choose to ‘waste’ my money on such frivolities as making the air breathable and the water drinkable for those who come after me,  is not it my right to do so???  Not according to John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, who said “we consider that to be a waste of your money.” Hey Mick!  The keyword here is ‘your’ … it is MY money and personally I think that leaving the world a place where people are able to breathe is a fairly worthy cause!!!  Actually, I think it is a much more worthy cause than your paycheck! I think it is a much more worthy cause than buying more fighter jets to use in killing people.  I think it is more worthy than giving those people who already have millions … nay, billions … of dollars a means for evading their civic responsibility of helping the poor! And I damn sure think it is more worthy than supporting your air-headed boss as he flits down to his ‘estate’ in Florida every weekend.

This, folks, is where we need to step in and write to our senators and representatives in Congress and tell them that no, we do not see science research and controlling our environment as a ‘waste’ of money.  I tried to be generous and give da trumpeter and his minions a chance.  Okay, so I didn’t try all that hard, but still, I tried.  This, however, is the final straw.  When one man comes out and says that he and his ugly, ugly boss have decided how MY money should be spent, we have a problem.

As far as I am concerned, there is not a single Republican in Congress who deserves to be re-elected next year.  They have supported terrible choices for Secretary of Education, EPA Director, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Attorney General, to name just a few.  They are seriously considering passing a healthcare bill that will ensure that most of us who do not have sizable bank accounts will die within the next five years.  They have not stood up to a single issue that Donald Trump wants, and not a single one has stood up to Trump and told him that his way is the wrong way.

Now this … this abomination he is calling a budget, would ensure that a decade from now, our children and grandchildren will be walking around with oxygen tanks, as they will not be able to breathe the air in the atmosphere, and this sorry excuse for a Budget Director has the unmitigated gall to tell me it is a waste of MY money to try to head off such an eventuality???  What you need to understand, Mr. Mulvaney, is that we are not all a bunch of bumbling dolts who do not know what is best for us.  At least half of the citizens of this country are rational, thinking beings who have the ability to understand the difference between helping and hurting, who understand what actually makes America great vs. what makes Donald Trump richer!  Do you want to know what would really make America great again?

For starters, doing our part to help combat the threats of our planet becoming unlivable in the future is something that would make America great.  Providing quality education at little or no cost to the next generation and the ones after that would help make America great again.  Taking care of our land and the flora and fauna that inhabit it would help make America great again.  Giving a helping hand to the people who, through no fault of their own, have less than most of us would make America great again.  Keeping our population healthy would help make America great again.  And welcoming to our shores those who are fleeing persecution in their native lands helps make America great again.

Thus far, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has done nothing … not one single thing … that contributes toward making America great again.  He has attempted to destroy the very things that once DID make this nation great.  Not one thing.

In the past, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has referred to climate change as a ‘hoax’.  Just last week, Scott Pruitt said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Guess what???  It does not matter what Scott Pruitt says he believes … scientists have proof that contradicts Mr. Pruitt’s beliefs. This is redolent of Benoit Loueillet, the French official who was suspended just this week for saying of the Holocaust, “there was no mass murder as has been said.” At least France had the good sense to discipline their idiot … we just keep cheering ours on!

I understand, Mr. Mulvaney, that you espouse Trumpetcare, that you eschew all gun regulations.  A regular bloke ye are, Mr. M … everyone should wear a pistol on their hip, nobody should be able to afford their life-saving medications, and what the heck … because in ten years or less, we won’t be able to breathe the air or drink the water anyway, right?  Might as well have some fun while we can, rather than try to spend a few bucks to try to preserve the planet for our children and their children.  Speaking of which, I understand you have triplets, Mick … so I guess you don’t like your kids very much, if you are willing to doom them to an unlivable, uninhabitable planet, eh Mick?

“We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. Meals on Wheels sounds great. […] I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money but we’re not going to spend it on programs that show they deliver the promises we made to people.”

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no evidence they’re helping results, helping kids do better in school, which is what — when we took your money from you to say, we’re going to spend them on after-school program, we justified it by saying these kids will do better in school and get jobs. We have no proof that’s helping.”

In closing, let me just say this, Mr. Mulvaney.  Nether you nor your boss have the first clue what the U.S. taxpayer/citizen/voter wants our government to spend OUR hard-earned money on.  So let me tell you … we want to help people, plain and simple.  We do not want to have the most sophisticated weapons and be prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat.  We want our elderly, our sick, and our disabled to be taken care of.  We want to welcome people of different cultures into our country to enrich our lives and show us how to be a more diverse nation.  And we want you, your boss, and all your co-minions to go back into the rabbit holes from whence you emerged and let us hire some employees who will work hard to really and truly make America even greater than it already was prior to January 20th!

Did Anybody Notice???

It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams

Yet, despite our many advances, our environment is still threatened by a range of problems, including global climate change, energy dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels, and loss of biodiversity. Dan Lipinski

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

Did anybody notice the news last week? In California … about the Oroville Dam, north of Sacramento?  More than 190,000 people were forced to leave their homes under an evacuation order.  The fear was that a largely earthen emergency spillway could collapse and cause catastrophic floods on the Feather River.


And what of the bushfires and bats in Australia, in the midst of one of the most ferocious heatwaves on record?  Parts of South Australia and Victoria reached 46 °C (115° F), while New South Wales and Queensland recorded temperatures above 47 °C (117° F). At least five towns in New South Wales and four in Queensland had their hottest day ever recorded over the weekend. As Ed McMahon used to say to Johnny Carson, “how hot WAS it?”  Well, it was so hot that thousands of bats dropped dead from the heat in eastern Australia, falling from the trees. The latest heatwave has led to people being admitted to hospitals as well as blackouts due to excessive use of air-conditioning. It has also sparked dozens of bush fires in New South Wales that firefighters are still trying to contain.


Why am I writing about this now?  What is the connection between a potential dam failure/flood in California and a heat wave in Australia?  Climate change. Pure and simple … climate change brought about, at least in part, by the habits of mankind and his obdurate burning of fossil fuels, as well as other things that produce excess carbon emissions, thus causing a greenhouse effect and destroying the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. As to why I am writing about this now … first, the two above-mentioned incidents were widely reported, but little noted here in the U.S., where the masses were consumed by Trumpy Tweets and scandals involving national security advisor Michael Flynn, spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, and the contentious confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions.  The stories of a heatwave in Australia and a narrowly-averted disaster in California, along with that of six tornadoes in and around New Orleans were apparently not all that interesting.

In recent news, on Monday, 23 January, just after Trump’s inauguration, employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received the following memo:

I just returned from a briefing for Communication Directors where the following information was provided. These restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until further direction is received from the new Administration’s Beach Team. Please review this material and share with all appropriate individuals in your organization. If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA.

  • No press releases will be going out to external audiences.
  • No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.
  • No blog messages.
  • The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward.
  • Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.
  • Incoming media requests will be carefully screened.
  • No new content can be placed on any website. Only do clean up where essential.
  • List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.

I will provide updates to this information as soon as I receive it.

Meanwhile, on 03 February, Florida representative Matt Gaetz introduced a bill that would terminate the EPA by the end of 2018. Terminate.  No more research, no more directives, no more scientific studies.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  The bill is co-sponsored by representatives Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Steven Palazzo of Mississippi.

climate-change-meme-kyle-hGaetz, a freshman in Congress, said the EPA’s rules and regulations designed to protect the environment actually hurt people and that the agency has “violated the sovereignty of the states.” Democrats in Congress are not overly concerned that the EPA will be abolished, as Gaetz’ freshman status likely means that he will not have the political clout to push his bill through.  Additionally, to completely abolish the EPA would require repealing a number of laws entrusting the agency with a number of specific environmental responsibilities.

However, Trump still appears to be set to chop the EPA’s budget drastically, and then there are the braying duo, Ebell and Pruitt …  .  Pruitt has spent the better part of his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the EPA … in fact he has filed a total of 14 lawsuits against the EPA.  And now he will, in all likelihood, run the agency.

The full senate is set to vote this week on the confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the EPA, climate-change denier and supporter of the fossil fuel industry, Scott Pruitt. Trump already placed another climate change denier, Myron Ebell, in the position of director of the Center for Energy and Environment. I have written about both Ebell and Pruitt in the past few months.

Recently Pruitt acknowledged the existence of climate change, though he argued that the role of human activity is subject to debate. Just last year he referred to climate change as a ‘religious belief’.  During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt was asked by Senator Bernie Sanders about his personal opinion on the link between climate change and human activity, Pruitt demurred, claiming his opinion would be immaterial to his job as EPA administrator.  I love Sanders response:

“Really? You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?”

Much can and should be argued in favour of continuing research into climate science, additional regulations to reduce carbon emissions, and a number of other initiatives for which the EPA has been responsible, but I and others have said it all before.  The question before us today is what will happen to the EPA and how will it affect the earth’s future?  Fortunately, other nations are taking climate change seriously and will continue to do so even if the U.S. backs out of the Paris Climate Accord.  However, every nation needs to do its part, lest heat waves, droughts, floods, and melting polar ice caps become the norm.  It is interesting that the representative who wants to do away with the EPA is from Florida, a state where they are already fighting against rising sea levels.

We can hope that the senate, seeing the chaos the Trump administration has been this past week, has begun to shed its collective rose-tinted glasses and will vote with their minds and consciences when the Pruitt confirmation comes to the floor for a vote, but I am not counting on it.  Perhaps somebody should take them, in their stuffy suits and ties, to Australia and leave them for a week … then perhaps they would understand.  Probably not, but it is fun to think about, yes?

Scorched Earth – The Beginning

EPA Releases Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities


WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its sixth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing greenhouse gas pollution trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities. In 2015, reported emissions from large industrial sources, representing approximately 50 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, were 4.9 percent lower than 2014, and 8.2 percent lower than 2011. 

“Under the President’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is taking steps to ensure a safer future for our children and grandchildren,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “The Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is supporting this by providing high-quality, long-term data for the largest emitters, and contributing important details on greenhouse gas emissions trends. The program is showing us that the trend is moving in the right direction.”

More than 8,000 large facilities reported their direct greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to EPA. The data from these facilities show that in 2015:

Power plants remained the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly 1,500 facilities emitting approximately 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas pollution in 2015. Power plant emissions in 2015 declined by 6.2 percent as compared to 2014, and by 11.3 percent since 2011.

Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest stationary source of emissions, reporting 231 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Reported emissions for 2015 were 1.6 percent lower than 2014, but 4.1 percent higher than 2011.

Reported emissions from other large sources in the industrial and waste sectors were a combined 852 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, down 1.6 percent from 2014.  Most sectors reported emissions reductions, with large declines in reported emissions from the iron and steel sector and the production of fluorinated chemicals. 

The above is a portion of a news release by the EPA three months ago.  You can, at least as of this writing, view the entire release on the EPA website.  You can also download the 2016 Climate Change Indicators Report.  At least as of this writing (Tuesday night, 10:15 p.m.) you can do so.  Tomorrow?  Who knows? Will there ever be another?  Who knows?

Big Brother is watching and shutting down the information flow from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) division of the Department of Agriculture.

On Tuesday, the EPA staff was told by members of the Trump administration not to speak to reporters or publish any press releases or blog posts on social media. EPA staff have also been asked not to publicize any talks, conferences, or webinars that had been planned for the next 60 days. In addition, all contracts and grants are to be stopped indefinitely.

Environmental groups reacted with outrage. Sierra Club’s climate change policy director Liz Perera said, “President Trump’s move to freeze all communications and EPA grant programs on the first day of his job should be a major red flag for all Americans at the start of a new administration. The EPA was created to ensure that all Americans can enjoy clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and have their health protected from environmental and climate threats. Trump’s action puts American lives and communities at risk.” 

Scott Pruitt, who is Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, has not yet been confirmed by the senate, and in fact no vote is scheduled at this time.  Since Pruitt is a climate change naysayer, it is likely that if confirmed he will fully support Trump’s gag order.

Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, is a Democrat, and from what I know of him, basically a straight shooter and a good guy (he IS a New Yorker, after all).  In August 2013, he filed a $40 million civil lawsuit against Donald Trump for his “Trump University”, alleging it to be an “unlicensed university” and calling it a “bait-and-switch scheme” (see, I told you he is a good guy!).  Schneiderman said in reaction to the EPA freeze that his office “will examine all legal options to ensure the EPA meets its obligations to keep our state’s air and water safe.”  There are a couple of problems with that, however, the first being that he has jurisdiction only in New York, and there are 49 other states.  The other problem is that, in this post-truth world where ‘alternative facts’ are considered legitimate by some, who is to say what is “safe”?

Trump has promised to promote oil drilling and mining by cutting regulation, including by targeting President Obama’s initiative to combat climate change. In fact, Trump has already begun the process to resume work on both the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as the Keystone pipeline, but that is a topic for another time.  Sigh … I cannot keep up!

The Department of Agriculture also has seen efforts to curb communication. On Monday, staff at the department’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) were asked in an email to suspend the release of “any public-facing documents.” The ARS focuses on scientific research into the main issues facing agriculture, including long-term climate change.

The Department of Agriculture disavowed the email on Tuesday, saying in a statement that it was released without “departmental direction and prior to departmental guidance being issued” and that peer-reviewed scientific research would still be published. The ARS is the main research agency of the USDA and is tasked with “finding solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day from field to table.”

Government science is what determines which strain of flu should go into each year’s flu vaccine. It’s what helps us avert pandemics and helps farmers maximize yield of the foods that feed us all. The work of Cooperative Extension, which exists to improve the livelihood of farmers, is underpinned by government science. The research has value because of its dissemination to the public. When science isn’t released and discussed, we can’t make decisions based on it.

Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Agriculture is one Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, who is, like Trump and Pruitt, a climate change denier.  In addition, Perdue enacted strict voter ID and immigration laws in his home state.  If there is long-term hope for transparency from the ARS, it does not rest with Perdue. In 2014, Perdue wrote in the National Review: “It’s become a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”  I … I … I am …. speechless (for once)

Scientific inquiry is meant to produce hard facts that the world can rely on. But the easiest way to make science lie is to keep the public from interrogating it.

All of these moves do not bode well for the citizens of this nation, for our environment, nor for the health of planet earth and all its inhabitants.  At this point, our hopes may have to lie in private and academic scientific institutions who are doing research into climate change, as I suspect that even when/if the agencies dealing with climate change are no longer under a media freeze, we will no longer be able to believe what we hear from them.

Wisconsin Backtracks on Climate Change

Last month the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources updated its website.  Among the changes are the removal of all language implying that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.

“… as it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Department of Natural Resources.”

dnr change.jpg

For entire article, click here.

According to Wisconsin DNR spokesman Jim Dick, [The] updated page reflects our position on this topic that we have communicated for years, that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, wind events to changing demographics. As you know the causes and effects of any changes in climate are still being debated and research on the matter is being done in academic circles outside DNR.” While some scientists have painted doubt for the reason why the planet is warming, the vast majority of climate scientists agree that burning of fossil fuels has increased global greenhouses gases in the atmosphere and has caused warming.

A 2014 United Nations report that surveyed the latest science of climate change found “human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history.” How is that considered “being debated”? Ah, but we must remember, we have now entered the post-truth era where truth is whatever the people in power want it to be, and facts no longer matter.

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker has been critical of President Obama’s climate initiatives, and he has a track record of actively undermining pro-environment programs and policies while supporting the fossil fuel industry.  Walker also has close ties to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who made a fortune in fossil fuels and who for years poured money into groups that cast doubt on the science of climate change. In his 2015 budget, he cut funding for renewable energy research, as well as municipal recycling programs.  He did, however, budget a quarter of a million dollars for a study into the health effects of wind turbines.  The study attempts to connect inaudible sound waves from wind turbines to insomnia, anxiety, and other disorders. Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission attempted to impose a surcharge on monthly bills that homeowners would have to pay if they purchase their own solar panels!

In 2011, Governor Walker appointed Cathy Stepp to head the state DNR.  Stepp was an outspoken critic of the DNR.  As the Wisconsin State Journal noted, “Putting Cathy Stepp in charge of the DNR is like putting Lindsay Lohan in charge of a rehab center.”

I am confident that the reason the Wisconsin DNR made the change to their outlook now, rather than several years ago, has much to do with the incoming president who has repeatedly referred to climate change as a “hoax perpetuated by the Chinese”.  My concern is that more states, particularly those whose economies rely on coal or oil, will follow suit, given that the new administration seems set to follow a course of reversing past gains in environmental issues. The reality of climate change has been scientifically verified many times over, and those who would deny the reality do so either out of ignorance or greed.  For a state government agency, with the blessing of the governor of that state, to do so is dangerous and unacceptable.  Fully 70% of the U.S. population believe that carbon emissions are a danger to our environment and support such measures as the Clean Air Act.  However, Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is a known climate change denier and he and Trump have plans to shut down Nasa’s Earth science division, calling it “politicized science”.  Climate change is NOT a ‘matter of scientific debate’, but a very real, very dangerous phenomenon for the planet that sustains human life.  I hope that other states will do the right thing, rather than following in the footsteps of Wisconsin!

Trump & the Climate Change Deniers

foxRather like assigning the Fox the job of guarding the Henhouse, Trump has named climate change denier Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. While the EPA is technically not a Cabinet department, the administrator is normally given cabinet rank, and it seems likely that Mr. Ebell will be named administrator of the EPA on January 20th, when the transition is complete and Trump becomes … well, you know. I had planned to write a post about this latest, disturbing appointment, but in the course of trying to catch up on reading friends’ blogs last night, I discovered that a fellow blogger, Tug of Faith, had beat me to it. She has written an excellent piece, including some suggestions for how we might voice our protests of Ebell’s proposed policies. Please, if you care about our planet and its future, take a minute to read Kristen’s post, as I think it has value.

Climate Change – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Scientists around the globe are in agreement. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.” “Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change,” says da trumpeter.

climate-2I cannot possibly explore all the scientific evidence that climate change exists, nor all the effects in a single blog post, nor even a series of posts.  There is much reliable information at hand with just a few clicks of the mouse button, so you do not need me, the person who actually flunked biology in high school (probably mainly because I refused to dissect any critter and hung out in the bathroom smoking instead of attending class) to explain climate change to you.  What I do want to accomplish with this post, however, is bring to the reader’s attention three groups of people:  those who are going the extra mile to help educate and make a difference, those who are doing everything they can to hinder the efforts of the first group, and those who simply refuse to see or acknowledge what is right in front of their eyes.

natl-geoNational Geographic has the best website I have seen yet with more valuable information than a person could peruse in a day, and in terms that those of us who are not science nerds can understand.  Please take a few minutes, at least, to check it out here.  That is not all they are doing, however.  Beginning October 30th, National Geographic Channel will air a documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously in eight episodes.  This will actually be “Season 2”, Season 1 having aired on Showtime in 2014.  The series will feature such hosts as Thomas Friedman, Don Cheadle, David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver, and  Arnold Schwarzenegger. It will focus on exploring the effects of rising sea levels, historic droughts and the rapidly increasing extinction rate of species, but also on solutions that individuals, communities, companies and even governments can use to address worldwide climate change.  It should be “required watching” for everyone over the age of twelve!  Two thumbs up to the producers of this series, and to National Geographic!

Other organizations that are going above and beyond to promote awareness and be part of the solution:

  • founded by environmental activist Bill McKibben with the goal of uniting climate activists into a movement. Activists in 189 countries have organized’s local climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions. In India, for example, organizers have mobilized people to speak out against the country’s dependence on coal for growth. In the US, the group has campaigned to divest public institutions — such as municipalities and universities — from the fossil fuel industry, and to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Sierra Club, founded in 1892 by conservationist, naturalist and explorer John Muir, for years promoted the appreciation and stewardship of the outdoors but steered clear of civil disobedience. A change came last year when, in the face of increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists, the group’s executive director, Michael Brune, and then-president, Allison Chin, were arrested — with about 50 others, including McKibben — outside the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. “This particular project — the Keystone XL pipeline — is so horrendous, it’s so wrong … [it] would guarantee that we’re locked into the most carbon-intensive fuel source on the planet for the next half-century.”
  • Greenpeace was founded in 1971 with the goal of opposing nuclear testing, but in recent years has shifted its focus to confronting climate change. Their strategy is direct action with an international focus, and last year, 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise drew international attention when they were detained by authorities after a demonstration at a Russian drilling rig in the Arctic. The activists sought to highlight the exploitation of the fragile Arctic environment for fossil fuel extraction.
  • Idle No More, a group of mostly Canadian Native North Americans, came into existence in October 2012, when Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper pushed a law, known as C-45, through parliament that rolled back both environmental protections and indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in order to make the country’s tar sands, and the crude oil that could be extracted from them, more easily exploitable.
  • Union of Concerned Scientists is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous effects of climate change. “Traditionally there have been two types of science: basic and applied. UCS has added a third category to the canon: engaged science,” the group’s website says. “Since its beginning, UCS has followed the example set by scientists: We share information, seek the truth, and let our findings guide our conclusions.”

climate-3This is just a handful of the many organizations that are doing good work in the area of climate change, and I wish I could list them all, but I cannot!  In just a minute I will tackle the naysayers, but first, there is an even more disturbing group of corporations here in the U.S. that are talking out of both sides of their mouths, so to speak.  These are U.S. companies that, while claiming to fervently support President Obama’s climate change initiatives, are actually funding the lawmakers who are skeptics and naysayers, who are blocking legislation to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and other measures.  This, friends, is unconscionable!  Among the biggest companies known to be engaging in this process are Pepsi, DuPont, Google, AT&T, and Verizon.  There are over 130 legislators, mostly Republicans, who are receiving donations from these companies.  Again, I cannot list them all, but two prime examples are Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an energy advisor to presidential candidate Donald Trump who once argued the Earth was cooling not warming, and Republican U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who last year held up a snowball on the Senate floor as evidence global warming does not exist.

Now we come to the deniers, those who blindly close their eyes and ears to all the evidence that scientists have been presenting for years.  This year, especially, it must be difficult for these deniers to keep their small heads buried in the sand as they sweat and struggle to breathe!  There are a number of individuals and organizations that actively encourage people to deny the existence of climate change, among them:

  • Steve Milloy – “We don’t agree . . . that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are having either detectable or predictable effects on climate.”
  • Fred Singer – “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster.”
  • Marc Morano – Climate scientists “deserve to be publicly flogged.”
  • Joe Barton – “The science is not settled, and the science is actually going the other way. . . . We may in fact be going into a cooling period.”
  • Sarah Palin – “Climate science is to this century what eugenics was to the last century.”
  • Rupert Murdoch – “Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here. There will always be a little bit of it. We can’t stop it.”
  • David and Charles Koch – “Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.”
  • Bjorn Lomborg – “On average, global warming is not going to harm the developing world.”

Some of these people outright refute the scientific evidence, while others either minimize it or claim the effects will be minimal and therefore not to worry.  Why?  Why do otherwise reasonably intelligent people turn a blind eye when it comes to climate change?  Because, my friends, to admit it, to own it, means that we can no longer continue as we have been, burning fossil fuels, building ever bigger factories that belch contaminants into the atmosphere with no regard for anything beyond profit.  And the individuals who listen to the deniers are comforted to think that it is okay for them to continue to drive their jumbo SUVs, to keep their furnaces running 24/7 in the winter, and their air-conditioning in the summer.  They can continue to live exactly as they have without regard for the long-term effects.  It is simply easier, more comfortable.

climate-1To be sure, climate change is a global issue affecting every nation on earth.  The scope of this post is narrow, and I do plan to address other aspects in future posts, but for today I just wanted to bring into the spotlight some people and organizations that are doing the right thing, as well as those who are keeping us from taking the steps we need to take. Two thumbs up to those who are doing the good work and getting the word out, and a big raspberry to those who are too blind, stupid, lazy or greedy to take care of our planet!

Just this week, there was a pipeline leak in Alabama, with more than 250,000 gallons of oil spilled, and the main focus of every single news story was that it could mean a temporary increase in the price of fuel at the pump!  Little or nothing about any possible damage to the environment.  Is this all people care about?

climate-5This month, climate scientist Michael E. Mann and the Pulitzer Prize–winning political cartoonist Tom Toles published a new book, The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy  that I highly recommend.  I apologize for the lengthiness of this post (in fact, I trimmed it from 2,200 words to just over 1,500!!!), but this issue is too important to ignore. Tomorrow I will be looking at Hillary Clinton’s platform on climate change, so please stay tuned!

Let’s Talk About The Issues … Part III

We are hearing very little during this election season about issues that are near and dear to our hearts, issues that we, as voters, think need to be addressed by government.  Instead, we are hearing hatred, criticism, and accusations carelessly flung about in an attempt to rile the masses.  Even when a candidate does address issues, the media downplays that conversation in favour of the more colourful, though not useful, rhetoric. So, I take it upon myself to discuss issues in a calm, informed manner.

In my last two post,  Let’s Talk About The Issues … Part I  and Let’s Talk About The Issues … Part II, I discussed the issues that citizens consider the most important according to a national  Gallup survey of July 13-17:

  1. Economy
  2. Racism/Race relations
  3. Dissatisfaction with government
  4. Crime/Violence
  5. Ethics/Moral/Religious decline

In this post, I will briefly explain my own list of top five issues:

  1. Bigotry/racism
  2. Environment/climate change
  3. Gun control
  4. Education
  5. Refugee crisis/immigration

I already discussed the issue of bigotry/racism in my last post, Part II, so I will not waste time and words repeating it here.

In my first post of this series, I noted that I would discuss only domestic issues, as international/global issues deserve an entirely separate discussion and none of those issues made the national list, so apparently most citizens are more concerned with domestic issues.  However, #2 on my list, climate change, is obviously a global issue, but also a national one in the sense that the United States is, and must continue to be, actively involved.  The U.S. is the 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG), yet ranks only 44th in performance to combat climate change.

A Gallup poll released in March of this year shows only 33 percent of Americans are worried a “great deal” about climate change.  Despite the fact that 97% of scientists are firm believers that climate change exists and is a real problem, and 84% are convinced that the problem is a result of human actions, there is still a substantial portion of the population that either outright deny the concept, or are skeptical that humans are at fault.  Why?  How?  Many large corporations, including the infamous Koch Brothers, are funding climate-denial groups.  Koch Brothers alone have contributed millions of dollars to the effort.  Here are some of the arguments used by the deniers:

CO2 is not actually increasing.

Even if it is, the increase has no impact on the climate since there is no convincing evidence of warming.

Even if there is warming, it is due to natural causes.

Even if the warming cannot be explained by natural causes, the human impact is small, and the impact of continued greenhouse gas emissions will be minor.

Even if the current and future projected human effects on Earth’s climate are not negligible, the changes are generally going to be good for us.

Whether or not the changes are going to be good for us, humans are very adept at adapting to changes; besides, it’s too late to do anything about it, and/or a technological fix is bound to come along when we really need it.

The last one is particularly interesting.  It would appear that what humans are very adept at is making excuses such that they do not need to feel guilty or make sacrifices. To paraphrase, “Oh well, even if it is true, we will adapt, or a fairy godmother will just come along and fix it for us”.  The evidence to support the fact that climate change is, in fact, a very real issue is far beyond the scope of a single blog post, but National Centers For Environmental Information has an  excellent website  which I highly recommend to anyone who is interested.

President Obama has given climate change top billing during his second term, calling it the most immediate threat facing the country.  The United States is engaged in a number of multilateral activities that promote clean and efficient technologies and the sharing of critical scientific information among a wide range of government, private sector, academic, and other interested stakeholders. These efforts must continue if we are to ensure the future of our planet.  In order for us to successfully do our part in reversing or slowing the effects of climate change, the citizens of this nation must stop fooling themselves into believing it is not an important issue and get on-board.  We must be willing to make the necessary sacrifices and stop saying, “Oh well, I don’t care, I’ll be dead before it becomes a catastrophic problem.”  cropped-pogo.jpg

Gun regulation/control, #3 on my list, tends to be the most contentious topic I have ever addressed.  People will defend their gun rights every bit as vociferously as they will defend their religions or families.  Admittedly, gun deaths declined in the U.S. during the 1990s and have remained fairly steady since.  However … there are still, on average, between 11,000 and 12,000 gun-related homicides every year in the U.S., and that is 11,000-12,000 too many! That does not even include accidental shootings and suicides.  To put it into perspective, the U.S. is the only nation to have more than 1 gun-related homicide per 100,000 citizens.  We have 3.6 per 100,000 citizens, while countries like Australia, France, and Germany have 0.2 per 100,000.  Norway, Japan and the UK have 0 per 100,000.  A reader from the UK recently commented in response to a post that “In England we forget there are countries where firearms are commonplace.”  We have laws on the books that allow for “open-carry”, others that allow for “concealed-carry”, but very few that control who may carry a gun or where they may carry it.

Gun proliferation is, in my eyes, a huge problem.  Today in the U.S., there is an average of one gun for every man, woman and child in the nation.  I am enough of a realist to understand that we will never get rid of guns in the hands of civilians, though I would whole-heartedly support such a move.  That does not mean that we cannot pass laws to make our nation safer.  We hear that “more guns make us safer”, but this is a fallacy.  We hear that “guns in the hands of “good guys”, or “law-abiding citizens” make us safer, but there is really no way to distinguish a “good guy” from a “bad guy” in most instances.  We are all good guys until we aren’t anymore.  I am a “good gal”, but I also have a temper and would never want a gun at my disposal under certain circumstances.

Those who support gun ownership will not regulate themselves, else they would have done so by now, therefore we simply must have laws that ensure:  a) people are not toting firearms into public venues such as theaters, churches, shopping areas, schools and the like, b) people with a history of emotional problems are denied the right to own or carry firearms, c) a person with a single firearm violation forfeits the right to ever own a gun again.  Only when we have these laws and actually enforce them, will I feel safer.

Once again I have over-stayed my welcome on the soapbox and have not yet addressed all the issues on my list, so there will yet be a “part IV” in this series in which I will address the last two topics on my list and then you can all breathe a sigh of relief!  Stay tuned … just one more, I promise!