Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Those lines on your palm they can be read
for a hidden part of your life that only
those links can say--nobody's voice
can find so tiny a message as comes
across your hand. Forbidden to complain,
you have tried to be like somebody else,
and only this fine record you examine
sometimes like this can remember where
you were going before that long
silent evasion that your life became."
William Stafford

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Quarter For Coral...Or Anything Else

At least corporations and governments usually promise to do good things for the environment, even when they don't follow through. But the recent 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Doha, Qatar didn't even bother doing that. The nations attending just out and out refused to enact trade restrictions to protect from extinction the Atlantic bluefin tuna, six shark species and 31 types of coral (including red coral, pictured above), all of them crucial or keystone species in the waters that humans as well as other life depend on.

This group has protected thousands of species in the past. But this time..."This failure is not because negotiators weren't doing their job," says Andrew Rosenberg, an adviser to President Obama's ocean policy task force. "It's because short-term economic interests dominated this conference. Some nations just could not give up the last remaining money to be made on tuna and shark fin soup."

And the nations involved were hardly shy about it. In the forefront of blocking restrictions were the Japanese, who "hosted dinner at the Japanese embassy, and served blue tuna the night before the vote."

If any evidence were needed to support James Lovelock's just-published lament that "I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle as complex a situation as climate change."

The Roles of Gubment 2: Time After Time

In terms of time, government has two roles. One is to do what other parts of society can't or won't do to protect and make better the future.

Especially these days, corporations won't look beyond the quarterly report. And while government policymakers often won't look past the next election, it falls to them (and the unsung, often stereotyped career professionals within all branches of government, as well as citizen advocates) to transcend the nearest fears and opportunities to do what is in the best interests of the country and the planet long-term.

This is embedded in nearly every speech that President Obama makes, and is explicit in his epigrammatic statement from earlier this year: "Our future shouldn't be shaped by what's best for our politics; our politics should be shaped by what's best for our future." But the principle is stated most profoundly in the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois: “In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation to come.”

Though the Great Law is hundreds of years old, perhaps a thousand years old, it is still a novel concept among us. It is this future orientation that is our only hope for getting ahead of the curve of the Climate Crisis, or even responding in a timely way to its effects.

The second role of government in terms of time is to respond to the needs of the moment that no other entity can effectively address. For me, this function is summarized in something Harry Hopkins said to FDR about the need to address the Depression with policies of immediate effect: "People don't eat in the long-term. They eat every day."

Government must often respond to the needs of both kinds of time. The health insurance reform law, the last aspects of which will be signed today, responds to a need of now, and to the specific failure of insurance companies to meet the need. The effects of the law will occur over time, with some provisions beginning this year, and others in a few years.

It is perhaps evidence of the limitation of our thinking that we see this as addressing needs long-term. On the one hand, there is the somewhat laughable attempt to cost it out over decades, as if the world was economically and socially predictable. Such estimates are informed guesses, and if we were sane about time, we would admit that we need to respond to the unforeseen or to changes over time. But in this toxic political environment, everything is a political issue, especially when the rich suspect they might not get richer fast enough--this year.

And while the precise effects of global heating--its manifestations in event and in time--can't be predicted, at least using the tools we usually apply, the outlines of the long-range physical effects are about as certain as we ever get. So chances are that in the future--perhaps 10 or 20 years, perhaps 50, almost certainly in 70--the changes in the U.S. healthcare system so painfully made, and still so controversial, will seem puny and inadequate. And if we are in the full grip of Climate Cataclysm, pretty much irrelevant.

So I see this more as a response to the needs of the present, and for perhaps a generation, than really for the future. But that's okay. Because people need health care every day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Which Testimony Would That Be?

The Hutaree, which is not a nebula or a folk group but the apocalyptic Michigan militia group busted by the FBI for seditious conspiracy, are “preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.”

That would be the Jesus Christ who "lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." (Luke: 1:52-3.)

Or would it? Sounds like socialism, don't it, Glenn?