Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Dreaming Up Daily Thanksgiving 2015 Quote

"That our world is in crisis--to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question---in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom and courage, so that life itself can continue."

Joanna Macy
her essay on Gratitude

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

20 Days to Save the World

While Americans gear up for three big holidays (Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday), world leaders, diplomats and climate experts prepare to go to Paris for the fateful Climate Change Conference.

Paris is still on guard after the terrorist attack, nearby Belgium is in its third day of a remarkable national lockdown, and the U.S. State Department has just issued a worldwide travel alert, anticipating attempted terrorist acts.

But President Obama has made it clear he's going to Paris for the conference opening on November 30.  137 other world leaders will also attend--of all who were invited, exactly none have cancelled.

Things are different however for various activist groups that planned marches and demonstrations supporting a meaningful agreement to address the climate crisis.  All such activities have been banned by the French government because of the terrorist possibility.  They'll have their hands full protecting the conference itself.

Some activist groups first said they would defy the ban, and there may be some activism from within the country, but the established international organizations have since decided to obey it.  Bill McKibben, speaking for .350, emailed supporters with the message: Next weekend, when we would have been marching in Paris, we need everyone who is not there marching everywhere else. It’s going to be a test of our nimbleness. Already there are more than 2,000 rallies scheduled around the world...The problem is global warming, we have a global movement, and now we need to show it."

Meanwhile, the only political party in the world to deny the need to address the climate crisis continues to try to undermine President Obama's efforts, and therefore his credibility with world leaders.

They do so in the face of mounting evidence that the climate crisis is underway, and among other things is causing destruction, economic and social devastation, injury and death, and making life worse especially for the non-rich, and most especially for the poor.

A new UN report out today shows that in the past 20 years, the United States has had the highest number of weather-related disasters in the world.  These disasters happened twice as often as in the decade before.  There are an average of 335 such disasters worldwide--every year.

The numbers are huge: weather-related disasters killed some 600,000 worldwide, and injured more than four billion others.  The economic losses were more than 2 trillion dollars.  Weather events accounted for 90% of all disasters, and they are increasing.  Said the report:

"While scientists cannot calculate what percentage of this rise is due to climate change, predictions of more extreme weather in future almost certainly mean that we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead," the report said.

Margareta Wahlstrom, head of the U.N. disaster office, and Debarati Guha-Sapir, a professor at the Louvain center, said the report's findings "underline why it is so important that a new climate change agreement emerges" from a crucial meeting of the world's governments in Paris in December.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Climate and Violence

The terrorist attacks on Paris--ostensibly over French participation in the Syrian civil war--so close in time to the upcoming international climate conference in Paris, brought the two subjects together.

While many US Republicans are trying very hard to push the terrorism fear button, in part to drive out any other issue, Senator Bernie Sanders was quick to assert that the climate crisis remains the most dangerous challenge, in part because of its role in ongoing wars, including in Syria.

The latest to be mocked for saying this--but also the latest to inspire stories that make the link--is Prince Charles of the UK, who will speak at the conference in Paris.  Others also have been making this case.

But we don't need to debate the past, or the present, to see the potential for climate-related violence in the future--and the more extreme the climate crisis, the more extreme is the potential violence.

Recently an acknowledged scholar of the Nazi Holocaust argues that the climate crisis could bring about another genocide.  His contention is based on his research into the history of  Germany under Hitler, and the causes of German aggression.  An ideology of superiority and destiny justifying any action was crucial.  But what has been forgotten is the prime motivation: Hitler's conquests to obtain resources, especially natural resources.

The scholar Timothy Snyder put it this way: "[Hitler] led Germany into a war to seize the fertile territory of Ukraine. That’s what the war was actually all about. The western front, which we focus on, was a distraction for Hitler. The main thing was the eastern front, destroying the Soviet Union, seizing Ukraine."

This seems to contradict the way many understand World War II, and Hitler's "inexplicable" turn to Russia after the fall of France, when invading England seemed the next logical step.  But Snyder's view is not 21st century revisionism.  Some observers at the time believed this as well.  Journalist Pierre van Passen also believed Hitler's turn to the Soviet Union was about resources, although he emphasized iron ore.  Others claim that the Holocaust was in part a trial run for the genocide of Slavs, and the conquest of  farmlands of Poland and eastern Europe.

The first climate related (specifically drought-related) genocides may have already happened in Africa.  Extreme climate often destroys resources, with too little water or too much, with the devastation that continues after extreme weather, including disorder and disease.  People will fight over food, and groups--ethnic groups, nations--will fight for access to food and other resources.  To minimize those conflicts and that suffering in the future as well as understanding it and dealing with it appropriately in the present, requires addressing the causes and the effects of the climate crisis.