Saturday, August 19, 2006

solar eclipse at Stonhenge. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Living creatively, you don't constantly manufacture a future; you grow the life that is present."

Thomas Moore

Fix It AND Stop It

This is what I've been afraid of. This is what I saw coming: A debate among climate change experts has some researchers now suggesting that we focus on limiting the damage done by climate change, rather than on passing laws intended to prevent global warming.

This piece by Kate Raiford chooses two advocates to represent these opposing views. On the Fix It side is Sterling Burnett, an environmental ethicist and senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative nonprofit organization in Dallas dedicated to free market solutions. On the Stop It side is J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at
Fresh Energy in Minnesota.

Burnett says we should concentrate on efforts like building seawalls on threatened coasts and innoculating people in Africa who are in greater danger of malaria because of the spread of mosquitos in the regions getting hotter: that is on dealing with the consequences of the Climate Crisis, and even preparing for what effects we anticipate in the short term. Hamilton says that we must reduce greenhouse gases by 60% by 2050 to "protect against the most dangerous consequences" farther in the future, which according to scientists could include the end of civilization and a planet scoured of most life as we know it.

This is not an academic or even political argument (though it has elements of the latter), nor is it just a trumped up debate for the sake of a story. It is a battle for commitment, attention and resources, with the explicit premise--at least in Burnett--that there is only enough to do one or the other.

As consequences of the Climate Crisis become more obvious, more frequent and more serious (even when not everyone agrees to the causal link) the demand for action to respond to effects will grow. We are learning as we go, as we have already in the Californa heat wave of July and early August; there are problems (and solutions) few have anticipated.

The demands to concentrate on Fix It will grow louder. But can we really afford to concentrate only on that? Burnett argues additionally that we don't know enough about what might happen in the future to act now, especially on large scale changes such as dramatically scaling back greenhouse gases and switching to alternative energy.

Hamilton argues that we can't afford not to act to Stop It--stop the heating from reaching the tipping point of global catastrophe-- for scientists are telling us how horrendous the future is likely to be if we don't. Morever, by its very nature we must anticipate it, because the greenhouse gases we'll send into the atmosphere now and in the next decade will affect the climate years later. Once we find out the tipping point is passed and the accumulating climate changes are feeding on themselves, it will be too late to stop it.

Hamilton also maintains that action towards stopping it will improve the present: cleaner energy reduces dependence on foreign oil, reduces pollution and can help create a stronger economy and a healthier world.

Hamilton is right that many of the necessary steps to stop it in the long term will be of benefit in the short term. But those steps alone will not fix it. Wind turbines will not attack malaria; solar power doesn't help elders endangered by heat stroke.

Burnett is right that we have to pay attention to the effects of the Climate Crisis in the short term, in the now. But he is wrong that we would be wasting resources or taking an unnecessary risk by working to stop it. Both are necessary.

They are in fact equally necessary. But the reason I have been pounding on this theme of fix it and stop it is that very soon there is going to be a lot of pressure to fix it, and this is likely to be a right wing theme. Working to stop it has become identified as a left wing theme. Neither side so far embraces both, even though both are crucial. We must be here for each other now. And we must work and sacrifice for our children and grandchildren and the future.

The left so far is largely ignoring the fix it side. And they leave that issue to the right, which will sooner or later take it up, and run with it hard. Some will use it to end efforts to stop it. This is an early indication of that. But we can't let that happen. It is defeatist to say we don't have the resources to do both, before we've tried to do either. But we will certainly waste the precious resources of time and energy by getting into a political war about doing one and only one, take your pick.

We must work simultaneously to fix it AND stop it. Doing both is the test of our civilization. Even if we fail to see this we will surely fail as a civilization, and we will deserve to fail.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not your daddy's solar system: If the new standards for
planets is approved next week, this is what ours will look like,
at least for now... Click on photo to enlarge. From Posted by Picasa
Pay Attention to the Vote

Protecting the right to vote should be at the top of the progressives' agenda, but too often groups working in this field aren't getting the support from the broader progressive community that they need, writes Art Levine.

Why is this important?

"States that are hostile to voting rights have -- intentionally or unintentionally -- created laws or regulations that prevent people from registering, staying on the rolls, or casting a ballot that counts," observes Michael Slater, the election administration specialist for Project Vote, a leading voter registration and voting rights group. And with roughly a quarter of the country's election districts having adopted new voting equipment in the past two years alone, there's a growing prospect that ill-informed election officials, balky machines and restrictive new voting rules could produce a "perfect storm" of fiascos in states such as Ohio, Florida, Arizona and others that have a legacy of voting rights restrictions or chaotic elections.

His conclusion:

Common Cause, People for the American Way and the Democratic National Committee's Voter Rights Institute are all working to file lawsuits and educate voters about their rights, but it's not at all clear that will be enough to offer practical help to people who should have the right to vote, but are being thwarted by the GOP's vote-suppressing intiatives. It's time for the rest of us to pitch to ensure that there's a fair vote in November -- and, if the opinion polls are right, Democratic victories in Congress.
Turning Away from Future Disaster

As the violence in Iraq rages, and as Sy Hersh continues to report that the Bushites are still determined to attack Iran, the Los Angeles Times reports that 21 former U.S. generals, diplomats and national security officials will issue an open letter warning against making war on Iraq, and insisting that current Middle East policy is undermining U.S. security at home.

The letter is expected to call for a complete overhaul of U.S. policy toward both Iran and Iraq. The letter maintains that the Iran situation is not a "crisis" requiring immediate military action. It will be interesting to see how this letter is viewed--whether it is seen as indicating unrest within the current military at the highest levels. Sy Hersh insists that the top officers of all the services except the Air Force are dead set against action against Iran.

It's sad but necessary that fighting for the future involves opposing immense threats to it that responsible leaders would not be planning.

Meanwhile, these twelve will be on a watch list of candidates
for planethood in our star system. They're pictured in terms
of scale to the Earth, not in their position. Posted by Picasa
Is Wal-Mart A Potent Politicial Issue?

As the campaign heats up for Congressional seats in this November's election, the New York Times claims that "Democratic leaders have found a new rallying cry that many of them say could prove powerful in the midterm elections and into 2008: denouncing Wal-Mart for what they say are substandard wages and health care benefits."The erstwhile popular shopping choice, with more stores in more places than its top competitors combined, may now be a symbol for the economic race to the bottom that is affecting its core market of middle class and lower income Americans.

more at Shopopolis

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

corals, endangered in the endangered oceans Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Ideas are not just counters used by the calculating mind; they are also golden vessels full of living feeling. 'Freedom' is not a mere abstraction, it is also an emotion. Reason becomes unreason when separated from the heart, and a psychic life void of universal ideas sickens from undernourishment."

C.G. Jung

Lt. Watada with Veterans for Peace Posted by Picasa
Support Your Local Hero

On June 22, Lieutenant Ehren Watada of the U.S. Army became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq. "As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well," he stated, "I must refuse that order."

Last week, Lt. Watada spoke at the Veterans for Peace National Convention. His message was profound. He related his action to similar acts during the Vietnam War, but he emphasized one important difference, and in doing so, challenged us all to put our own actions where our declared convictions are.

"Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."

He spoke about the circumstances in which refusal would be appropriate, and the nature of their convictions. "They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield." He said they must be willing to endure not only punishment but ostracism by their peers and the worry over what it might do to their families.

But handling the consequences for themselves is one thing. There's only so much outsiders can do, though they must do those things--keep the military on notice that they're watching, make sure the soldier has the moral support of a new community even if other communities withdraw theirs. But the price families may have to pay is something else, and something that supporters need to act on. That's why Lt. Watada said this:

"Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action."

The first task is a familiar one--awareness. "If we want soldiers to choose the right but difficult path - they must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they will be supported by Americans," he said. "To support the troops who resist, you must make your voices heard. If they see thousands supporting me, they will know. I have heard your support, as has Suzanne Swift, and Ricky Clousing - but many others have not. Increasingly, more soldiers are questioning what they are being asked to do. Yet, the majority lack awareness to the truth that is buried beneath the headlines. Many more see no alternative but to obey. We must show open-minded soldiers a choice and we must give them courage to act."

But there is another practical consideration that may be different now. Vietnam had draftees and middle class kids who either weren't married or had the parental backup to take care of their spouses and families. It was also a more generally prosperous era. All that has changed. Soldiers today are more likely to be married and have children, and since they are predominately from lower income backgrounds if not outright poor, their families are at risk in the best of times. Having a soldier spouse--a father or mother--in prison and in litigation indefinitely is not the best of times.

In fact, for many, Lt. Watada said: "The choices are to fight in Iraq or let your family starve. Many soldiers don't refuse this war en mass because, like all of us,, they value their families over their own lives and perhaps their conscience. Who would willingly spend years in prison for principle and morality while denying their family sustenance?

I tell this to you because you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education. This is a daunting task. It requires the sacrifice of all of us. Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own."

This is Lt. Watada's challenge to his fellow Americans. He did what we ask of him and other soldiers. We ask them not to be the Universal Soldiers, for without them all this killing can't go on. What are we going to do, when they answer our call? 'Support the troops' just took on a whole new meaning.

These are not the only local heroes who need support. "Local" means what it says--people in your community, your neck of the woods. But it also means, not everybody may know about it. It's not necessarily on the news. You have to be alert to even see it, and then you must decide what heroism is.

Here's one kind of example. Douglas Giles, according to Henry Porter in the Guardian, used to teach a class on world religions at Roosevelt University, Chicago, founded in memory of FDR and his liberal-inclined wife, Eleanor. Last year, Giles was ordered by his head of department, art historian Susan Weininger, not to allow students to ask questions about Palestine and Israel; in fact, nothing was to be mentioned in class, textbooks and examinations that could possibly open Judaism to criticism.

But one student did ask a question, and Giles allowed the discussion. He was fired. This is not an isolated case, and it transcends subject matter. There are web sites standing in for the Red Channels blacklist of the 50s, who bully schools into restricting free speech or even free inquiry, as if the very mention of entire peoples or topics is heresy.

It's been my experience that certain well-worn issues get predictable support, partly because they are familiar, and mostly because they are safe. For example, if censorship is attempted to restrict dirty words or sexual content, everybody automatically rallies around the victim--at least in most academic communities and urban settings. In the past year or so, people in smaller communities in PA and Kansas have started standing up for the integrity of science teaching, against those with a political agenda masked as religion. But anything to do with the Middle East, Islam and terrorism is still pretty scary. That's why local heroes like Douglas Giles need conscious and proactive support.

Top of the charts for Al Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth." Posted by Picasa
The Message is the Medium

This Sunday, the paperback edition of Al Gore's Climate Crisis book, An Inconvenient Truth moved into first place on the New York Times bestseller list. It's now selling 20,000 copies a week. That's a lot of people getting the message, and potentially putting a lot of pressure on politicans and corporate decisionmakers to do something about it.

Plus, the TV experiment Gore helped to start, Current TV, is starting to show a profit by showing short videos made by audience members. Begun before Youtube took off, it has higher quality but the same democratic appeal, plus it showcases "citizen journalism"--so anyone with a camera can expose their local greenhouse gas abusers.

The future is in our hands.