Friday, April 11, 2008

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"It was a question of which way to be useful. It's not useful to be a critic of what is over and done. I was a critic of the future."

A character in Rock N Roll
by Tom Stoppard

The Fierce Urgency of the Climate Crisis

Talk about your fierce urgency of now. We've got no more time to waste. The Climate Crisis is here, and it's causing serious problems. And new studies says it could get a lot worse than previously believed, requiring not a gradual drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but something much closer to an end to them. Soon.

Two studies released last month came to the conclusion that only a goal of near zero carbon emissions would be enough. Then a few days ago came another by scientists that included one of the most prominent and respected climate scientists on the planet, NASA's James Hansen. He called for greater cuts than previously proposed: He argues the cut is needed if "humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed." His study found that warming would be twice as severe under the old targets than previously estimated.

According to the
Guardian story: The fundamental reason for his reassessment was what he calls "slow feedback" mechanisms which are only now becoming fully understood. They amplify the rise in temperature caused by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, the effects of global heating already underway are becoming more critically damaging. On Monday, the World Health Organization
warned that millions of people could face poverty, disease and hunger as a result of rising temperatures and changing rainfall expected to hit poor countries the hardest. Right now some long-predicted changes have begun. According to a WHO official: Malaria-carrying mosquitoes represent the clearest sign that global warming has begun to impact human health, he said, adding they are now found in cooler climates such as South Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

In the Marshall Islands and South Pacific island nations, rising sea levels have already penetrated low-lying areas, submerging arable land and causing migrations to New Zealand or Australia, he added. If it continues, global heating will affect the rest of the world in similar ways. "Without urgent action through changes in human lifestyle, the effects of this phenomenon on the global climate system could be abrupt or even irreversible, sparing no country and causing more frequent and more intense heat waves, rain storms, tropical cyclones and surges in sea level," he said.

Right now a doubling of food prices in many parts of the world is causing riots as well as widespread suffering. The media may report only the "economic" causes of these crises, but the Climate Crisis already contributes to the problems. Right now,
according to the UN's emergency relief coordinator the biggest challenge to humanitarian work is climate change, which has doubled the number of disasters from an average of 200 a year to 400 a year in the past two decades.

This will only get worse. Thursday more scientists
predicted that droughts and flooding will be more intense and widespread, and could have the greatest impact of any single effect of global heating. All of these effects can cause great political and social chaos, which in turn make matters much, much worse. Drought in Africa is already a major factor in warfare in Darfur and elsewhere. And like direct effects of the Climate Crisis, war can destroy well beyond where it is fought. Especially when so many nations have nuclear weapons, and (as a new study shows) even a regional nuclear war would "cause worldwide havoc for at least a decade" because of what massive fires would do to the ozone layer.

So what can be done? The Climate Crisis future can be addressed with various carbon cap mechanisms, the swift
deployment of already developed energy technology to slash greenhouse gases and the development of new technologies, including ways of dealing directly with those gases. No one method or category of action will suffice. Not everything will be successful, and perhaps nothing will. But the test of humanity will be whether or not it dedicates itself to this work.

But besides working to stop ultimate catastrophe in the next century, we must work to fix problems caused by the Climate Crisis in the present and inevitably in the near future, or human civilization will find itself overwhelmed by tragedies, conflicts and chaos. Again, the Climate Crisis in our own time is the test of human civilization and of humanity itself.

But at the moment we are not sufficiently aware and we are not focused. We are a little aware, and efforts such as Al Gore's "We Campaign" may be a start, although so far sympathetic analysts find it

Fortunately, we have the opportunity to jump-start both awareness and focus. In Barack Obama, we have a candidate we couldn't even dream of a year or two ago. Though he doesn't talk about the Climate Crisis all that much in his campaign (and no one else does either), he says enough--and says it often enough--to inspire my confidence. Plus he's said that his guide and perhaps his right hand man on this issue will be Al Gore, who has done more to bring the issue to the prominence it now has than any other American.

More than that, Obama's intelligence and communication skills are superior--he could well become the FDR of the Climate Crisis. And even more than that, he has identified the only way this can work politically: through the power of the people. In Indiana Thursday, Obama
said: “The reason that I talk the way I do is not just because I like to hear myself talk.... “But the reason I want to reach people and move them,” Mr. Obama said, “is because the only way we’re going to be able to bring about change is if the American people get involved and are motivated enough to hold Congress accountable, to hold the White House accountable.”

This is the cornerstone of his campaign, which pundits and other politicians don't seem to understand, but which his audiences understand. It is his definition of hope, and it is in fact our hope: the hope of the world. And that's how Obama ends his speeches: we can change the world.

But it's not only a matter of yes, we can. It's yes, we must. If we don't, the plain fact is this: human civilization has no future much beyond this century, and probably the world of life on Earth as we know it will be irrevocably over. And between now and then, we will be in for increasing hardship and suffering.

Not much of it will be my future. Once I lose my current good health, my future is likely to be pretty grim anyway, and relatively short. But it will be the future of younger people, of those babies we cherish, and the future generations of our dreams. There are no guarantees that addressing this crisis beginning in 2009 will work. There is increasing likelihood that not addressing it beginning in 2009 will lead to disaster that, unfortunately, many can't even imagine.

So the differences between when I started writing about the Climate Crisis on this site and now are these: the problem is seen a bit more clearly but as being a great deal more threatening; there are more ideas and more good possibilities for solutions, and most importantly, there is a way, there is one hope, that America will focus on what needs to be done in time to give us a fighting chance. That way, that hope, is electing Barack Obama as President of the U.S. I don't see another.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Torch

It would have been comic if it wasn't so serious:
neither supporters or protestors could find the
Olympic Torch in San Francisco yesterday because
they kept changing and shortening the route. But
protestors disrupted it anyway, and they had more
obviously in London and Paris. China's behavior in
Tibet and its attitude towards Tibet is the proximate
cause for the protests, but many have added China's
support of genocidal violence in Darfur and Burma.

China has tried to use its new wealth and power earned
from its capitalist surge to change its image, but this
situation has revealed the naked totalitarianism underneath.
For example, the Chinese people aren't allowed to see these
images of protest, and China's ongoing program to "re-educate"
Tibetans on the Dalai Lama that was a spark for the violence
there is only set to get bigger.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi called for peaceful protest in SF but
also commended the protestors in a cause she supports. Hillary
Clinton called for Pres. Bush to not attend opening ceremonies, and
the White House is suggesting he might not, as several European leaders have already said they won't. Barack Obama said: " "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the President should boycott the opening ceremonies" but he said the actual decision to boycott the opening ceremonies should be made "closer to the Games," which has the political effect of giving the Chinese the opportunity to make progress on these issues in the interim.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two Weeks to PA

One respected poll has him closing the gap, another doesn't, in the Pennsylvania primary that happens two weeks from today. (That's Michelle Obama being welcomed to Carnegie Mellon University by Pittsburgh's finest, Teresa Heinz Kerry.)

But one guy who has no doubts has this great country rock song on YouTube. Obama partisans in PA, it should fire you up, and get you ready to go!
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Photos from the past week or so in North Carolina, Montana and North Dakota... That's a line waiting to get into an Obama event in Missoula.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

For the Songbirds

On this site I may give the impression to some people
that I follow certain ideological or behavioral fashions,
which make me easy to categorize. But people who
actually know me know that I'm often a skeptic, a
contrarian, and that's putting it mildly sometimes. So
I don't necessarily follow trends, not even good ones, unless
I've got good reason. I know buying and eating
"organic" is a good thing, but I'm used to shopping for good
prices, too, and maybe sometimes that's a better reason. Now
however I've got something else to think about besides my own
health and virtue: songbirds. Pesticides are killing them, and
other migratory birds, especially in Mexico and South America.
Like this barn swallow. Some species have been depleted
by half. I love bird song. That's one of the things I miss most
about my apartment in Pittsburgh--which oddly enough, had many
more songbirds around it than this house in CA. So I already buy
organic shade-grown coffee, and now I'll stop trying to save a few
pennies on bananas--that's another big one--and always go organic.
Peppers, too. And strawberries. For the songbirds. I'll remember.
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