Saturday, December 06, 2014

Can't Breathe

I can only take note of the ongoing actions in cities across America protesting the police killings of young unarmed black males.  I did see that the protests in Pittsburgh shut down part of the Parkway, something that to my knowledge has not happened since the 1960s.

Protests have included members of the St. Louis Rams football team making the "hands up" gesture, referring to the killing in Ferguson, Mo., and now NBA player Derrick Rose, wearing a t-shirt with the symbolic last words of a black man who died after a police officer had him in a choke hold in New York.

While these incidents were in the courts and in the news, a 12 year old black male was shot and killed by a police officer who described him as 20 years old, and an unarmed 33 year old black father in Phoenix was shot and killed by a white police officer while bringing food to his two daughters.  Remind you of anyone?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lima Update

Silence in the media--what else is new?  Here's an NPR report on the terms of discussion at the climate talks in Peru.  Kyoto only applied to developed nations, but this time there's movement in expanding to all countries.  The big fund to aid developing countries in confronting the climate crisis is an incentive (and a huge business opportunity for clean energy.)

But most nations haven't met Kyoto voluntary goals, but by setting their own goals publicly, there is at least accountability.  The story asks, what happens if even the self-set, voluntary goals don't add up to enough to stop runaway climate catastrophe?  That may be what confronts the treaty-making meetings next year, for which Lima is a crucial preliminary.

Meanwhile, the world is on track for its hottest year in recorded history in 2014, and Antarctic ice is melting faster than ever, and California's drought is the worst in 1200 years.  

So here's a pretty elementary shot at understanding the psychology of climate crisis denial.  How is it that the so-called science of psychology seems to have actually gone backward in the past 75 years?

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Climate in Peru

Climate talks begin in Peru Monday, and some diplomats are expressing optimism, according to the Guardian:

UN climate negotiations opening in Lima on Monday have the best chance in a generation of striking a deal on global warming, diplomats say.

After a 20-year standoff, diplomats and longtime observers of the talks say there is rising optimism that negotiators will be able to secure a deal that will commit all countries to take action against climate change.

The two weeks of talks in Peru are intended to deliver a draft text to be adopted in Paris next year that will commit countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions without compromising the economic development of poor countries.

Diplomats and observers of the UN climate negotiations said recent actions by the US and China had injected much-needed momentum.

I have never felt as optimistic as I have now,” said Tony de Brum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, which are sinking as sea levels rise in the Pacific. “There is an upbeat feeling on the part of everyone that first of all there is an opportunity here and that secondly, we cannot miss it.”

The New York Times also spots the optimism and emphasizes the stakes:

After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact to halt climate change, United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week are expressing a new optimism that they may finally achieve the elusive deal.

Even with a deal to stop the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn, the world will become increasingly unpleasant. Without a deal, they say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans."

"Unpleasant" is an uneasy euphemism for what may already be on the way.  Besides the long term goal of saving planetary life as we know it,  an agreement on attacking the causes of global heating has another crucial purpose: it makes it more possible to openly acknowledge and deal with these effects that have already begun, and which will increase from now on.

Michale Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor geosciences and international affairs is quoted in the Times piece setting forth what is now the generally accepted future.

“What’s already baked in are substantial changes to ecosystems, large-scale transformations,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. He cited losses of coral reef systems and ice sheets, and lowering crop yields.

Still, absent a deal, “Things could get a lot worse,” Mr. Oppenheimer added. Beyond the 3.6 degree threshold, he said, the aggregate cost “to the global economy — rich countries as well as poor countries — rises rapidly.”

People can extrapolate from the changes they see to what could come in the far future, but increasing attention is inevitably going to be focused on dealing with the effects as they happen.  So it is important to deal with the causes now, for a couple of reasons.

First, because there is not yet an overwhelming clamor to deal with effects that could drown out any attempt to attack causes.  Second, because opponents of attacking causes (fueled by reactionary titans of the fossil fuel industries) cannot acknowledge effects if they deny the phenomenon of global heating caused by greenhouse gases emissions.   An international treaty is a broad acknowledgement of the climate crisis.  It could at least gradually sap the power of deniers, and especially the attention they are afforded by a somewhat captive media.

Effects are already on the agenda in Lima. Peru  is already experiencing effects of their diminishing glaciers, vital to fresh water supplies.

 A Reuters story focuses on these issues, which go by the name of adaptation. "From the Andes to the jungles, communities are doing what they can, but their efforts will never be enough without ambitious global action to tackle climate change,” said Milo Stanojevich, CARE International's Peru director.  He advocates help for poorer countries to deal with effects as part of the international agreement.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hey Cuz, I Mean Mr. President

Thanks to stumbling on my parents' names in a genealogy online, I discovered for the first time that I've acquired new relatives.

An email exchange to the person who posted it confirms that the daughter of one of my first cousins married into this family.  But in first trying to figure out why my parents were part of this family tree, I followed one of the branches to find some familiar names: George Bush, George W. Bush.  Yeah, those Bushes.

So I am distantly related to the Bushes, which means I am even more distantly related to the Clintons and the Obamas, because they are all related.

So, however distantly, I am related to the last four Presidents of the United States, and maybe the next one.

And not one of them invited me to Thanksgiving dinner.