Category Archives: global warming

Homo Sapiens Plastica: The Right to Die Forever Preserved

It was a heck of a thing – a hundred people at the Newport City Council at 6 pm most of whom wanted to talk about the proposed single-use plastic bag (grocery) ban that is an ordinance largely led by citizens, and members of the Surfrider organization. Interestingly, the Newport voters five years ago were asked in a vote to decide whether a plastic bag ban was what they wanted.

A minority of citizens brought that up – how very few of the registered voters voted in 2014, and the vote against a plastic bag ban was barely a feather’s weight on the scale of pro to vote it down versus pro to vote for it. One of the city council members repeated that he was afraid of voting tonight on the ban because he wanted the citizens (less than 1/3 of registered voters last go around voted) to have a crack at it again, to vote again on the measure. He somehow thought that a council voting up and down on the ordinance stunk of overreach.

Sea Lion with wounded, entangled neck

Ahh, the vagaries of representative and participatory democracy. I have to put the word “democracy” into big bold quotation marks. Here’s one issue tied to that – first, the very people who will see the effects of more and more plastic in the gullets of birds and around the necks of seals and in the bellies of baleen and toothed whales are the very ones who are learning concurrently the tools of research and expressing their voices at a city council meeting. Yet, they are 12 or 14 or 16 years old, not old enough to vote on a measure they show so much interest in and for which will affect them way into gray-haired adulthood.

I’m not going to jump down their throats – the school kids’ throats – or their overworked/overtaxed teachers for not knowing or teaching about the harder and truthfully more important issues of our time: the racist society that we work-love-govern-consume-die in has put countless millions in jails, countless millions more in other countries in open prisons and in death camps, and has destabilized the world from culture to climate to citizenship to community. The USA might lead in plastic production, but we are devils when it comes to arms and bullets and bombs. Lockheed Martin is just one firm, headed up by a woman, that is the grim reaper and devil in Brooks Brothers, in our name!

I wonder how long a teacher would last in a public school attacking the top arms dealers of the USA: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.

I am not going to ram down the throats of the citizens who think that a vote by the few people who believe voting counts on a benign ordinance is the only way to determine if the city of Newport has a ban on plastic bags. It’s too easy to list the tens of thousands of laws, codes, regulations, fees, fines, taxes, penalties, levies and regulatory language that we the people never voted on directly. I am not going to lecture people who think and believe there is a god-given right to use, buy, produce, consume, destroy, throw away anything in this barbarous society. They are, of course. wrong, but in late-stage predatory and extractive capitalism, that’s all Americans now have to hang onto: their right to their red white and blue lifestyles.

Image result for plastic inside whale's stomach

I am an ecosocialist, so I know all systems of oppression that are the basis of capitalism have to be thrown into the dustbin of failed experiments and genocidal ideas by the white man. The very idea of having standardized schools, standardized laws (against the people) and standardized oligarchical systems of benefits thrown to the minority (One Percent and Point Zero Zero One percent) against the majority in a casino game of gambling our futures on the whims and slippery thinking of the elite is plain wrong.

Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way.

— Rosa Luxemberg

Radical means setting down roots, the fabric of what it means to be a sane human and humane community. We need radical and revolutionary changes to this system of economic, cultural and environmental oppression.

Capitalism is the rotting rot of the evil!

If voting in a capitalist society really counted, or mattered, or gave the people a real choice and real chance at representative democracy, then it would have been outlawed ages ago, Emma Goldman famously stated.

The rights of nature do not end up on any ballot measure. We have to send in reams of paper to elected officials and to official agencies of the government and then also to the CEOs and shareholders of corporations to plead with them to stop this or that major attack on our ecosystems and wildlife.

We don’t get to vote with our money, or vote with our buying “power.”

Image result for orangutan burned palm oil

There is no power in consuming or buying or being labeled a consumer. There is no focus group in the world which is working for the benefit of the fabric of life – air, water, soil, biodome, ecosystem, ecology, human/non human community. The very concept of a throwaway society was never voted on, but rather was foisted upon the Americans who once were frugal, more or less.

Of course, this is the land of theft and thieves, ripped from the First Nations, and this concept of me-myself-and-I, or that is, my home and my family are my castle, that is what the concept of America the Taken is. This blind allegiance to the flag, and this racist pledge of one’s self to the group’s mob rule, well, that is part and parcel of the American lie. Do we even begin to start reparations for First Nations peoples?

When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Nick Estes, author of, “Our History Is the Future,” which traces Indigenous resistance from the Lakota people’s attempt to deny Lewis and Clark passage down the Missouri River in 1804, to the Red Power movement’s demands for treaty enforcement in the 1960s, to today’s Indigenous-led fights against fossil fuel projects. Writing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, where 300 Indigenous men, women, and children were murdered by U.S. soldiers in 1890, Estes highlights the revolutionary premise of the nonviolent Ghost Dance movement the victims followed. With a long tradition of daring attempts at decolonization, Estes argues, Indigenous people represent a powerful challenge to the profit-driven forces that threaten continued life on the planet.

Demonstrators chant and hold up signs as they gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC, September 13, 2016, to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The US government on September 9, 2016 sought to stop work on a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota that has angered Native Americans, blocking any work on federal land and asking the company to "voluntarily pause" work nearby. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Even a city council meeting in small-town America demands that mob allegiance to the Flag, one nation under god. A bloody idiotic pledge at a city council meeting at 6 pm. I, of course, do not stand for any flag, and taking a knee is not my cup of tea. I am a taxpayer, teacher, volunteer, activist and informed member of no blind allegiance to any body or group or country. I do not stand for the pledge or the national anthem, and some people get pissed off, and some would like to take me out to the back of the woodshed and shoot me.

In any case, the city makes a large chunk of its yearly income from visitors, beachcombers and general sightseers, the ones that come to town and plop down hotel fees and restaurant checks and park fees and fill up their cars with fuel.

Forget the microplastics debate. Just the fact that plastic straws and plastic bags and Styrofoam cups are unnecessary for human survival, and they kill marine life, now how difficult is it to prohibit these luxury items? For beautification of the town and environs that make the most money on visitors, of all any ilk, those on all sides of the same coin of American political belief “system” ;  and then what about the many out of state visitors and if we’re lucky to meet them, out of the country tourists?

No brainer — none of them, or us, wants to see plastic crap on the beaches and in the mouths of cormorants.

Yes, Japan and Norway and Iceland kill more whales each year than does the Safeway bag. Yes, US Navy sonar use and massive testing kills more whales than a plastic bag from Taco Bell does. Yes, more whales and other marine mammals are killed by ghost fishing gear and crab pot lines than the Target sofa-sized plastic shopping bag does. Yes, non-point pollution – from sewage and storm-water drainage overflows or direct source Big Ag and Farming pesticides and fertilizers and industrial raised animal waste kill more fish over time than does plastic Bic lighters do. But . . . the big but is how did we get in this place where shellfish warnings are given in a place that more or less looks pristine?

How is it that the Siletz Nation was ripped off by white men and then the  fiber wood  felons came in and logged hard; and now the forests reaching up to the coastline are clear-cut? Did I get to vote on that at the state level, in Portland where I once worked? Do I get to vote on that now that I live in Lincoln City? Who voted for confined animal feeding operations that produce more untreated manure, urine and body parts and blood than a small city produces and yet goes untreated, and many times is sludge that gets thrown across vast amounts of wild or green areas by the hundreds of square miles? That’s happening here, called biosolids, another name for toxic crap.

That is the contention now, is it not? Do we vote for our favorite glaciologist or paleo-biologist or climatologist or chemist or ecologist or physicist or oceanographer or archaeologist or botanist or geologist to run NOAA, NASA, or the US’s climate change policy group?

That simple process of having youth speak at a city council meeting, where the council was either going to vote for or against the proposed plastic bag ban; or was going to vote for or against bringing the measure up for a future public vote entailing expensive balloting measures; or for carrying through with more study group meetings as a council and then bringing it up for a discussion and then public council vote at a future city council meeting (that’s what the city council ultimately without unanimous agreement voted for) — now that was the galvanizing moment last Monday.

Seeing young people and their teachers and parents out for a city council meeting on a school night.

Again, the city council and city manager and maybe a planner or two will meet and discuss the ordinance that was crafted and recrafted by Surfrider; and it has to be made clear that this non-profit looked at other communities in Oregon and Washington which approved and put in force bans of single use plastic bags.

It’s more than just a little disturbing that in 2019 we are having spasms around forcing these purveyors of pain and pollution and toxic food to rein in their paper-plastics-pesticides-food calorie footprints. Plastic bags, and yet this community, Newport, and this county – Lincoln County – are rife with tipping points that are in free-fall: over-growth of human population, over-growth of youth living in poverty, over-growth of people working in the precarious labor market, over-growth of citizens about to be homeless in their pick-up trucks.

Aging in place with falling tresses and peeling roofing tiles. People who can’t name one person on their block but can tell you who R Kelly is. The adventures of surfing the internet and channel surfing for that just right R-rated flick but nary a moment to read the actual ordinance.

The conversation around plastic bags, man, this is the Pacific Coast, a town that depends on the fabric or façade of appearance – uncluttered viewshed and beach beauty. This is a coast where the fiber felons clear cut all the way up to the estuaries, rivers and beachheads. And we have to debate vociferously a plastic bag ban?

Talking about the inconvenience of banning plastic bags, some believe this is governmental overreach. Those jack-booted government agents are gong to come into our homes and rip those flimsy oil-based plastic bags from your cold dead hands.

This is what has happened in a society that has turned Tinsel Town thinking and the mall experience, where Disneyland and Disney cruises are the ultimate forms of cultural experience, into god-given rights.

Convenience. Hmm, how convenient is it to have to work for a felonious company like Amazon and rely on handouts and still have no health insurance? How convenient is it to let grandmother fester in her studio apartment with open sores and catatonic nightmares about being pulled out and tossed out on the streets because she’s amassed too many medical bills and rent-past due letters and warnings that the water and electricity are about to be turned off until payment is remitted?

We worry about the sanctity of shopping with those lovely little single use bags? Straws for slushy Starbucks concoctions? Waxed-up boxes for our takeout double cheeseburgers and fish and chips?

Do we have to go to Chris Jordan again? I used to teach this in my college writing classes, looking at things, the Story of Stuff, the power of mass consumption to pull the blinders off our collective magical thinking:

The number of cups airlines use in an hour — disposable, not! Look at his stuff here, Jordan, By the Numbers!

Chris Jordan’s Albatross — watch! If you do anything today, spend an hour and 47 minutes watching this documentary!

Then this daily consumption power of 7.4 billion people using those instant meal foil packages, all over the world. Plastic bags, all over the world. Flame retardant in every human being on earth, and then the shit hits the fan – every human has microbits and nano particles of plastics in their feces.

I’m curious when the city council vote or state capital amendment or federal election came up with my chance to vote on those realities? Atrazine in the food of babies and grandpa’s? The daily extrusion of more and more chemical produced in the factories of the felons, forced into foods, additives, pillows, clothes, internal combustion engine lubes, facial creams and toothpastes, into the bottles of crap consumed, and the wild fish caught.

The vote, man, where’s that vote tally for the rest of the world which has taken the burden of first world countries’ off-shoring of carbon chugging? All those First World so-called leaders bellowing how they’ve reduced their CO2 output, even though those same countries consume all the metals and products produced in other countries, whose carbon dioxide footprints are now chugging ahead to satisfy the needs of the multinational corporations and nefarious leadership of those countries to say, “yes, we Germans, have closed our coal-fired metal works factories and we have much cleaner air.”

In the scheme of things, the place to be is one where love and beauty can be captured, both in the eyes and ears, in the touch and smell of life, in hearing birds rustling and waves crashing.

Who better than literary muse and historical hero, communist Pablo Neruda:

Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.

[or]

We the mortals touch the metals,
the wind, the ocean shores, the stones,
knowing they will go on, inert or burning,
and I was discovering, naming all the these things:
it was my destiny to love and say goodbye.

― Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day

I said in my last piece I’d be talking about Peter Ward’s book, Under a Green Sky. I also know that someone like Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, also tugs at my consciousness. The reality of how geological time covers each 10,000 years of human history, in a blip of strata colliding with ocean and receding sea, or now, with each inch of sea wallowing up and moving into the fragile dungeons of our fears and dreams – cities along the coast.

Ward talks about that big impact, that dinosaur- killing event with the asteroid — Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary period around 66 million years ago when that space rock hit earth off of the Yucatan peninsula. But then, what about 200 million years ago, that event known as the “Permian extinction”: it wiped out 90 percent of all species and nearly 97 percent of all living things. While its origins challenged paleontologists, starting 30 years ago, as battle unfolded about whether it too was from above, an asteroid.

Paleontologist Peter. D. Ward studied with others, that great Permian extinction, and it wasn’t some space object that did in the world’s living creatures. Rather, it was caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide leading to climate change. And it was the heat that did them in, as in global warming or the greenhouse gas effect. In his book, we find out that the oceans, belching hydrogen sulfide did in the majority of all land, air and sea life. Think of the four of the five mass extinctions caused by too much carbon dioxide in the air which in turn fouled the oceans, which became stagnant and deadly.

Our fate is set in the same way, but it’s not basalt lava flows that are running up the CO2 levels; it’s our fossil fuel societies running up the carbon dioxide footprint. Deforested forests and jungles. Putrefying wetlands, and dying oceans. Methane releases now in the tundra zones. The albedo effect lessened because of less snow and glaciers, as well as dirty soot on snow and glaciers.

Yes, in 7 billion years, that sun of ours will implode and destroy us, planet earth. Yet, humanity is set on sixty-second time frames, 28-day calendars, two-year election cycles, 180-day school years, 100,000- mile bumper to bumper warranties.

Average human lifespan: 70 years. The solar year has 525,948 minutes and 48 seconds, and an average person has a heart rate of 80 beats per minute; then the total number of heartbeats in year would be 42,075,840 give or take a few seconds. That’s 3 billion heart beats for 70 years of living on earth as Homo Sapiens Plasitica/Consumpithecus.

All of those heart beats placed in the scheme of things! We try and frame that – perspective and scheme of things when we talk about Trump and those who toxically back him word, line and verse. We try and frame the context of any US administration whose marching orders have always been about empire, manifest destiny, overreach and displacement: displacing of original people’s, displacing of African citizens, displacing of people’s in other countries, displacing of various sub-communities and sub-populations within the 50 states and handful of territories.

Unfolding in real time the 6th Mass Extinction is part and parcel the reality of (un)civilization, the guns, germs, steel and artificial intelligence of our times. It’s the reality embedded in the defamation and despoilment of our own communities, our own parks and national monuments. What sort of species will save the whale when in our own communities we allow for old people, or the sick and infirm, to be put out on the streets? What sort of wolf protection or bee loving self can muster up the energy to stop the killing fields this country, with the support of other countries like Israel, UK, Canada, EU, Saudi Arabia, has created through the veins and arteries that are the delivery system of Capitalism’s own blood and heart flow?

Capitalism that weighs the actuarial logic of how long it takes for a person to drop dead from over-work, over-pollution, over-burdens of finances? We live in a system that says 20 deaths from exploding gas tanks on modern automobiles is worth the price in arbitration and legal payouts versus recalling millions of models and setting up a new assembly process?

A society that has allowable (safe) limits of tens of thousands toxins and carcinogens and nerve-eating metals in water, air, food, soil? Beauty products with asbestos in the foundation? What society, what species of animal, would allow babies to be exposed to mercury or aluminum in vaccinations, yet, somehow, we are going to protect the albatross from nurdles, fishing mono-filament and Bic lighters?

It’s that earth time, human time, the time it takes to wrap up this article and send it in on the Internet sphere, what does it all mean in the schema of things, when people who believe in the arc of social justice coming back to whack all those capitalists and armies of the capitalists? All those flimflam artists and scammers and deadbeats and despots against human kind and earth systems, will they get their comeuppance?

Yet, the average American, here in Newport, or in Hoboken, or Phoenix or Seattle (even Amazon-Boeing-Seattle) can’t see past their Maslovian Homo Sapiens Retailophithecus nose to save the gray wolf, save the orangutan, the golden toad, the bristle-cone pine, the everglades?

We are in these moments now, with instantaneous news feeds, Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of information on every imaginable topic on the head of a straight-pin. We have an opinion about everything but very little depth about anything. We are not critical thinkers but we are  criticizers and blamers. We are trapped in a hierarchy of needs way outside any desire or innate need to be people within communities. Struggling with the powerful, but we collectively are more powerful than all the Bezos’ and Gates’ and Bloombergs and Weinsteins and Koch Brothers combined.

Bearing Witness and an act of love for that species, which is really us, one species at a time. Chris Jordan:

I shaped it like a sort of guided meditation. At the beginning of these ceremonies you usually have to face your fears and something really scary happens. This is how it starts: facing the horror of plastic. We start with horror and fear, but when aren’t scared anymore then we open up to curiosity and learning. There’s a scene that I specifically talk about fear as birds have no fear of us. Then there’s a scene of curiosity as birds come towards the camera and look right into it in such an amazing way. In the presence of curiosity we get the encounter of others and we experience empathy. Empathy and curiosity are the beginning of connection. And connection is the beginning of love. As we fall in love with the birds we also see in multiple ways that they’re filled with plastic and begin to experience grief. That’s the core of the film – the understanding and experience of grief. Grief is not a bad feeling. It’s not the same of despair. It’s a sort triangle: it’s beauty, sadness and love, all mixed together. It’s incredibly vivid, it’s the experience of being alive and so it’s electrically powerful. It’s almost an ecstatic experience that connects you deeply with life.

What Albratross is really about is shifting consciousness and this is the attention behind the film and project. By shifting consciousness I mean reconnecting more deeply with our love for the living world. That’s really my wish. I want to spread Albatross as far as possible as it’s a love story, a love offering on behalf of all life, not only albatrosses.

Threading the Eye of the Needle: A Few Greenies Ain’t Gonna Cut Climate Change

Needle in a haystack. Little Dutch Boy putting fingers in leaking dike.

The beach clean-up along the Central Oregon Coast, near Devils Punch Bowl, down south to Beverly Beach, is an exercise in patience, Sisyphus, maybe, as many beach and marine life lovers are volunteering with tweezers in hand harvesting the global micro-plastic harvest.

Might as well have a fork to bring in all the world’s wheat crops.

Piece by piece. Or, scoops of sand, with organic matter like shells pieces and driftwood and these microplastic and plastic nurdles plopped on a gurney-sized fine mesh, is akin to — what? Using one household colander to strain the daily pasta and noodle intake in Oregon?

Scott Rosin is tall, grizzled, and head of Surfriders Central Oregon Coast. He’s chair of the Newport Chapter. Another chapter is called Siuslaw Surfriders, taken from the Newport-Yachats area where we live in, specifically the Siuslaw National Forest, also named after the river that runs through it to the Pacific.

Ahh, Rosin – former arborist, former surfer (his shoulder was blasted out in forestry work – he uses a paddle board to ride five-foot waves or less), poet and local activist – has been heading up this plastic clean-up on six consecutive Sundays, noon to 4 pm, on an incredible beach made to order for picnickers and surfers, even in March.

Helping hands included a few women, Mike Harrington, a 72-year-old member of the Siuslaw Chapter of Surfrider, and a black lab whose owner was down on her knees pulling out plastics of every color and shape.

This is what Scott told the Newport News recently about his efforts:

It would be great if we could get more locals involved. The beaches here are, or were, as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I’ve surfed and played on these beaches since 1973. I can tell you that the problem of visible plastic pollution here has grown exponentially.

Nobody knows what the full effects of plastic pollution may be. This isn’t a disaster that you can see coming, like a forest fire or a hurricane. I anticipate a long road to educating ourselves about the dangers involved.

It’s the local newspaper, and a message of doom and gloom and setting the doomsday clock to 11th hour (actually, 11:58) before the apocalyptic midnight hour hits doesn’t sit well for a local rag that sells ads for real estate, B&B’s, summer cottages, whale watching tours, crab fests, and buy-buy-eat-eat-consume-consume visitors.

Scott and I talked the real stuff tied to not just the amount of plastics in the ocean, and not just the bad-bad-bad hypotheticals of animals eating plastic and then humans eating them up, through the food chain. Anyone with a brain knows that whales and albatrosses and Homo Sapiens should be engorged with fossil fuel polymers.

We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution are natural born rights.

The local rag will not allow such real and systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.

One irony is that Scott and Surfriders and members of SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and the few volunteers from the American Cetacean Society might not realize that the Siuslaw people (nation) lived in villages along the river until 1860.

Siuslaw Nation living understanding the land, the estuaries, the ecosystems, the whales and avian world, the fish and fauna. The Siuslaw like all First Nations knew the limits of growth, the carrying capacities of their tribes, the allowable safe limit or killing animals or harvesting food.

So, these natural and long-studied indigenous people who could be here teaching in Oregon’s schools and advising all sectors of government and business, well, they no longer have a practiced language. We may romanticize that Oregon Trail story (even Woodie Guthrie has his song, Oregon Trail), but in 1860 the Siuslaw Nation was forcibly removed to an Indian reservation in Yachats. And, then, quickly those homes, farms, gardens and villages were destroyed and occupied by U.S. settler-colonists.

Now California transplants are on the beach trying in herculean effort to stop the infinite plastics tide from fouling everything they came to the Oregon Coast for in the first place.

From the evidence of locals who are blind to the plastic issue and looking out at these Surfriders and others, young and grizzled, the volunteers seem like a blast from the past. Environmentalists, who stick out like anachronous wandering souls, are the minority, as more and more business-as-usual and business-as-usual-to-the-tenth-power proponents have colonized the beach resorts, the city councils, school boards, county commissioner courts.

This Central Oregon Coast is magnificent, but even along the largest ocean covering 42 percent of the earth’s surface (62 million square miles), the Pacific (and the deepest of all oceans at that), microplastics from fish totes originating in Alaska come to the beach in small and colorful forms for a few volunteers to pick at.

Tumbling ghost fishing gear, equipment, supplies – all polymers – tumbling along the ocean currents and ocean floor, ending up floating at the surface, or just below. Colorful bits sea life take for sea nutrients.

Birds eat the plastics. Mammalian marine life eats the plastic. Fish eat it. The extra big yearly tides – the King Tides – push the plastic way up on the tide line. Now Homo Sapiens Plastica are out in small numbers trying to battle the plastic snow storm with a leaf blower.

Scott has never seen this amount of plastic in his 46 years fishing, playing and making a living in this part of the Oregon Coast.

We talked about plastic in every human being’s feces (recent scientific paper on that tidbit). We talked about how by 2050 plastic floating around the ocean and on the bottom will outweigh the total mass of all the organic-living matter in the ocean (another series of scientific papers). I talked about the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, the deepest canyon in the world — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide and maxing out at 36,070 feet deep from the surface.

In yet another scientific series of papers, researchers have ROV’s – remotely operated vehicles – filming plastic bags floating in the trench. Worse yet, the foundation of the food chain – amphipods – in each collection over many months resulted in every single crustacean-like animal containing plastic remnants in their guts.

We can read white paper after detailed scientific paper, but the bottom line is if humanity were to use even one-thousandth of our collective common sense, we’d all be ranting and raving about stopping plastic production and use of straws, wraps, single use bags, containers, noodles.

Forget the fact that plastics are oil based, and the process of polymerizing them involves a lot of electricity, toxins, off gassing and communities around the world exposed to the industrial toxins and waste products part and parcel tied to the entire harvesting, transportation (by a factor of 3 or 4) and production process.

Lucky for me, I can be a member of various touchy feely groups and do some volunteer work with them, but I am not longer hobbled by my scientific credentials or teaching certificates or so-called neutral journalistic standards. I can see through the hubris, magical thinking, delusional belief systems, the false hope and the elephants in the room as people in this society – good folks like Scott Rosin and others I met at a naturalist certification program I went through with the American Cetacean Society have their hearts in the right place, and many times their minds, but their guts are missing the fact that revolutionary change has to happen.

Not a future of greenie Jetsons, but rather a future like the Flintstones is only going to answer the call now.

I also ran into another old timer, like Mike Harrington, a member of Surfrider who ended up in Oregon in 1976, originally from Central California. He packed up the VW van and got his 20 acres near Eddyville.

He said he came here with two children and a wife, because he wanted his kids to be raised where nature and wildlife both counted and were part of their daily lives.

He made his livelihood as a farrier, and we joked about just who his customers are – well-off, bourgeoise, and those with big bucks and the largest ecological footprints.

It’s super tedious, this sieving the wet sand and separating the plastic from the organic matter. Harrington knows it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket (now it’s the drops in the ocean tub). “You have to start somewhere. I want to make this world a better world for my kids and grandkids. I guess it makes me feel better doing this.”

Amanda Zimmerman and Joanna Davis are sisters doing the bit by bit plastic treasure hunt. The sun is out, more than two dozen surfers are seeking curls, families are making sand castles, and the warmer winter Pacific shore waters are enticing some to go in up to their knees.

Joanna says she has to do something. She too is from California, and now is a 28-year-old living in Portland, wanting that Portlandia lifestyle. She has no children, wants none to bring in the world, and she tells me she’s shocked at how few shells and sand dollars she has seen seeing at Pismo Beach, the closest beach to her when she lived in Bakersfield.

The March 4 City Council meeting in Newport will discuss whether to go forward on proposing a single use plastic shopping bag ordinance. There will be many citizens there speaking on behalf of the proposed ban. Scott will be there, after having sent in written testimony.

I’ve looked at the no-to-the-ban citizens, and from the plastics lobby and grocery store lobby. Imagine, 2019, and a small city with 11,000 residents, and swelling to three times that in the summer months, can’t even wrestle with a plastic bag ban.

Even Forbes Magazine, rag of the uber rich, the uber capitalists, lists the coming age of plastic bag bans. But, again, if we can’t get Puerto Rico’s lights back on, and if we can’t even fund our PP12 schools, and if we throw money at Military Industrial Complex thieves and let them laugh to the bank, are we going to deal with climate change?

Ahh, more coming soon, on Peter Ward’s talk, Under a Green Sky (great book I reviewed).

You have Wallace Smith Broecker, the ‘grandfather’ of climate science, leaving a final warning for Earth at an ASU climate change conference via web right before he succumbed to Chronic Heart Failure. I’ll talk about him in a future blog-article.

We’ll talk about the humanity in all of this new fangled (not really) New Green Deal, which is again just another way to let Musk, Bezos, Silicon Valley, Gates, Dell and other techies play libertarian green game of thrones.

Plastics, man. And get this: Oregon’s State Parks will not let Scott and his cronies bring a solar-power pump to get ocean water to their sieving station. Imagine that, they have to haul all this water in 5 gallon buckets hundreds of feet to wash out the sand. Solar powered.

The state’s reasoning: “Well, goddamned goldminers might see this four hour operation and think, hell, I can bring in my gold mining dredges and pumps and arsenic and such. Damn fine idea.”

Are we going to really mitigate the worse and even least of the worse outfalls from climate change when we can’t even issue a special issue permit for greenies to clean plastics from the beach?

We love to believe that high-tech innovations will fix everything. To produce all of our fanciful technology, many of the raw materials are derived from exploiting other people’s land (Africa, South America, Asia), and the manufacturing comes at the expense of other people’s health and livelihood. Let’s hope eliminating this sort of environmental racism figures into the GND platform. Beyond that, thus far in the course of humanity, our technology has only further amplified all of our detrimental ecological issues. It involves over-consuming natural resources and over-producing more of what we don’t need, while leaving us with less of what we do – organisms and ecological systems.

People are saying the Green New Deal is impossible. What is impossible is saving our planetary ecosystem while preserving our current way of life. For any GND legislation to be successful, it must work to conserve more rather than produce more. Moreover, it must facilitate collective radical personal changes to our way of life that fundamentally change the underlying paradigms of our existence. Otherwise, it will be as fleeting as the original New Deal, and ultimately much more deadly.

When it comes to a Green Deal, the only sustainable policies are radical ones. And when it comes to a sustainable global environmental paradigm, unless you are talking about the natural world, less is always more.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher.

Forbes Magazine list for Oregon and Washington. See all the places for which a ban is in effect — HERE.

KENMORE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags, 5-cent fee on paper bags

LA CONNER WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT ANGELES WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mm, 5-cent tax on all bags

TACOMA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mils thick

FRIDAY HARBOR WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

SAN JUAN COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags

TUMWATER WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

THURSTON COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

OLYMPIA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

LACEY WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MERCER ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

SHORELINE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

ISSAQUAH WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MUKILTEO WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT TOWNSEND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BELLINGHAM WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

SEATTLE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

EDMONDS WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

MILWAUKIE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MANZANITA OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MCMINNVILLE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

HOOD RIVER OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

FOREST GROVE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

ASHLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags

EUGENE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

CORVALLIS OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

PORTLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

The Climate Fiasco is Solved through Socialism

Oh, Oregon is holding hearings on HB 2020, a baby step around putting feet to fire of those so-called polluters. I will list it below. I have been asked to attend a skyped hearing, one that tells me to go for no more than 3 minutes.

This is Kabuki Theater. The bill is about green as the new black. It’s always about Democrats and 350.org looking to capitalism to solve a problem — an entire set of problems — created by capitalism.

Instead of socialism — working for the environment, for the people, for communities and for a healthy truth-telling of how bad the climate disruption and changes are and will be — we have the Green New Deal/Plan that leaves out the 52 percent of the USA’s national budget — war, military, and all the tens of thousands of companies and corporations that make money off of prisons, surveillance, armaments, bombs, DARPA-inspired killing.

Forget the fact that the US military is the largest polluter in the USA, in the world. We are using valuable resources, funding, minds to perpetuate a dying project of star wars, Mother of All Bombs, perpetual war. So, what do I say, then, or do, when friends want me to go to a hearing and speak talking points? I have a letter below I tweaked to tell the truth to my two reps — David Gomberg, Democrat, District 10; and Arnie Roblan, Democrat, 5th District.

It’s milquetoast, still. Decorum and being respectful override being truthful and impassioned.

Image result for arctic ice melt

Dear Representatives:

I’m writing to urge you to make the Clean Energy Jobs bill a priority in the upcoming year. And that’s just a start. I’ve been an educator and journalist for more than 40 years, 80 combined years. I am 62, and have worked in public schools, community colleges, four-year land grant colleges, private universities and myriad of alternative and non-traditional learning places.

I have spent my time learning about the built environment many ways (master’s in urban planning) and sustainability tied to community participation (master’s in Communications/ English).

The bottom line is we need to do more than what HB 2020 asks for. This is only the tip of the iceberg, to use a prophetic way of telling you that we need more than a Marshall Plan to mitigate the negative effects of global warming. The scientists I communicate with and study are way ahead of any panel impaneled by the US government or corporations to look into global climate change.

We are in dire straits, tied to crop failures, record temperatures, desertification of ecosystems, lowering of oxygen in our atmosphere, species collapse, and a shift in the water cycle, to name just a few. We need to move quickly to an eco-socialist mindset.

If you can’t see HB 2020 as a small first step, yes, necessary, then your own myopia certainly would speak to an uninitiated mind. Hold all major polluters accountable with a price on greenhouse gases. Don’t allow for exemptions for any polluting industries.

Everyone under the cap! Make sure we’re reinvesting in Oregon to make our people resilient, to have food security, to plan sensibly, and to make sure our citizens are prepared for some tough times ahead. This is not a time to believe green is the new black (economically speaking).

The idea of green-washing vital human-ecosystems-cultural safety nets for the price of predatory capitalism as we have it in Oregon and in the USA, is worse than doing nothing at all. We need steady-state economic thinking, and to act and work locally and connect globally.

From better transit in cities to modern irrigation on farms, from renewable energy for homes to managing wildfire risk, the Clean Energy Jobs bill will benefit all communities in Oregon. I ask you to champion bold climate action with Clean Energy Jobs.

I’ll stay in touch about the progress of the bill. I ask you to get informed as quickly as possible to understand the full impacts of global climate catastrophe, over-harvesting of resources, and the impacts of business as usual in a no holds barred attitude that puts economy over equity and environment. Environment and equity far outpaces any economic boondoggles and schemes the industrialists and capitalists have devised for their immediate profit theft.

Sincerely, Paul Haeder

Crazy, I sent in such a mellow letter. I didn’t want to upset the political apple cart, by telling these representatives what they should be doing to grow Oregon: stop infinite growth, or any growth, and do steady state economics and the economics of the poor, as in the proposals of the barefoot economist, Manfred Max-Neef. Our entire system is flawed with town-halls and Skyped hearings. We need ecosocialism now, and a billion trees planted now. A plant-based diet NOW. All transportation predicated on true 200-mile diets and consumption patterns NOW. Durable goods manufactured locally NOW.

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My fellow writer, John Steppling, has a good piece out today over at Dissident Voice. Please read it. “Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches”.

Already, I am having arguments about Bernie. Those who support him will not allow for any criticism. Then, I have to defend Sanders when dyed in the wool culture wars Democrats ply one of their top ten (will it be 23 total vying for the nomination in one form or another?) as the real choice/champ/darling-to-beat-Pence/Trump and attack Bernie for being unrealistic, a spoiler, a socialist!

Bernie or the rest of the shills are not for socialism. Period. They are for war, no taxes, endless confusion and chaos, which are the by-products of vulture-predatory-zombie Capitalism.

Now, Ocasio Cortez is floating something she calls the Green New Deal (which, in another form, was already promoted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein) and which is a nakedly pro capitalist bit of three card Monte that will provide a boost to the nuclear power industry and line various corporate pockets. It’s capitalism.

Omar and Ocasio Cortez also signed the odious Code Pink letter condemning US involvement in coups while at the same time slandering and fabricating stories about Maduro. The logic of the letter was that US proxy forces and covert activities had a counter productive effect and only helped to shore up the credibility of the Maduro government.

In other words, fascism is OK, is just fine, only please do it in ways that will not bruise my delicate sensitivities.

— John Steppling

Only socialism can tackle what is happening in the world now, not just tied to climate change, but also tied to the global economic inequities and the murder and plunder and sexism, ageism, racism, ableism which Capitalism not only creates, but breeds incessantly.

Think hard who cares about animals, the aged, the young, the land, air, water, soil, the whales, the bees, ending prisons, developing safety nets for we the people.

Think hard who cares about First Nations and Civil Society and peasant movements and self-determination for people of the land. It’s not going to be the elephant at the end of the feast; i.e., Republicans.

The right-wing does not care about any of these groups or concerns. Right wingers do not care about us, the 80 percent, or the Romney 41 Percent, or the 99 Percent when looking at billionaires running for the Democratic presidential nomination — Bloomberg and Starbucks Howdy Doody Schultz.

The right-wingers do not care about teachers, about public institutions, about science (real science, not bought and sold science for the industries of Capitalism, the polluters, financiers, lords of war, and the infinite consumption/retailers’ products of obsolescence, planned lack of durability, etc.)

And, well, the democrats, too, from Clinton to Pelosi, and all the usual suspects this election cycle — all war mongers, genuflecting to Israel and $$$ — they think of us as super predators, super naive, super Utopian.

Steppling:

To fix or at least manage, to some degree, the worst environmental problems will actually require drastic socialist programs. Not fascism as Noam Chomsky** suggests…or as Bernie Sanders or AOC or any of the rest of these capitalist sock puppets … but socialist.

And nothing, NOTHING of any good is ever going come out of the Democratic Party. And nothing of any significance can happen via the US electoral theater. The amount of energy wasted in endless debate about the virtues or ‘electability’ (sic) of Elizabeth Warren vs Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris vs Tulsi Gabbard etc is breathtaking. Imagine that time spent on something useful.

Like, oh, how to prevent more war and carnage. And how to create a sustainable form of human development.

Socialism, in its most radical form, is about substantive equality, community solidarity, and ecological sustainability; it is aimed at the unification—not simply division—of labor. —  “The Indispensable Radical Left”

Here, a great quote from Steppling citing John Bellemy Foster, Monthly Review, February 2019

Once sustainable human development, rooted not in exchange values, but in use values and genuine human needs, comes to define historical advance, the future, which now seems closed, will open up in a myriad ways, allowing for entirely new, more qualitative, and collective forms of development. This can be seen in the kinds of needed practical measures that could be taken up, but which are completely excluded under the present mode of production. It is not physical impossibility, or lack of economic surplus, most of which is currently squandered, that stands in the way of the democratic control of investment, or the satisfaction of basic needs—clean air and water, food, clothing, housing, education, health care, transportation, and useful work—for all. It is not the shortage of technological know-how or of material means that prevents the necessary ecological conversion to more sustainable forms of energy.103 It is not some inherent division of humanity that obstructs the construction of a New International of workers and peoples directed against capitalism, imperialism, and war. All of this is within our reach, but requires pursuing a logic that runs counter to that of capitalism. —

And again, proof about just how broken the logic of our lefty intellectual, N. Chomsky. Note**

Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.

— Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002

The counterpoint to any of these baby steps, to speak power to money at these capitalism-will-forever-rule-and-dictate-our-futures believers on all sides of the duopoly aisle, is real rebellion. Rebelling in a time of student loans that murder future, militarized police, informants, pigs ruling all media, and cult of celebrity sounds daunting, but do we have any other choice? Extinction Rebellion!

From Rolling Stone:

Drawing inspiration from the civil rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, and HIV/AIDS protest group ACT UP, Extinction Rebellion makes clear demands, among them that the government must “tell the truth about the climate” and “enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.”

But it also aims to acknowledge and draw on the intense emotions that come with the environmental calamity that’s upon us. “Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn,” is how Gail Bradbrook, one the organization’s founders in England, puts it.

“Our intention is to provoke an uprising on a scale that’s never been seen before in the U.S., a national coordinated economic and government disruption that will be maintained until the government is forced to negotiate with us.”

Utilizing strictly nonviolent tactics and operating within a largely decentralized structure, the Extinction Rebellion has three ambitious demands: to push governments to communicate the truth of the ecological crisis to the public, to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to allow the formation of a democratic “citizens assembly” to oversee the massive changes this would necessitate.

The New York City chapter of XR also includes a demand for climate justice, or “a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty.”

Or, do we really confront all systems and break away from all structures of power, including government, government controlled by the elites, government in the hands of despotic thinkers, corporations riding roughshod over all our lives? Cory Morningstar:

How would you describe the general impact of liberal foundations on the evolution of research within universities and on intellectuals more generally?

Cory: It is my belief that the impact has been debilitating beyond measure. Worse, it is not only underestimated by society, but I would go so far as to say that the co-optation of growth and intellect is not even recognized by society. We like to believe that Euro-Americans are the brilliant ones (after all, we’ve been battling Nature for eons and winning): yet collectively we (the supposedly educated) are destroying our own habitat at an ever-accelerating speed.

Those chosen for positions of power, which accelerate our demise via the industrialized capitalist system, are cherry-picked from the Ivy League. Corporate control (via direct funding and foundation funding) has resulted in a cohesive silence on almost everything that flies in the face of common sense. Creativity has been grossly stifled.

Critical thinking has been framed as confrontational while submission and obedience are deemed admirable. I covered this topic more extensively in part 3 of my investigative report on methane hydrates (The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction: Methane, Propaganda & the Architects of Genocide) under the subsection Universities as Bedfellows| Moral Nihilism.

[Excerpt: “Corporate funding effectively silences dissent and buys legitimacy where none is deserved. The corporate influence and domination, like a virus, crushes imagination, strangles creativity and kills individual thought. Education pursued for the collective good is dead. Transcendent values — dead. The nurturing of individual conscience — dead. Ethical and social equity issues are framed and accepted as passé. Political silence reigns. Moral independence within educational institutes is being effectively decimated. It is of little surprise that empathy has declined by 40% in college students since 2000.”]

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Yes, The Paris Climate Agreement Sucks

The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 was a big deal as 195 nations agreed to take steps to mitigate global temperatures to +2°C, but preferably +1.5°C, post-industrial or over the past 250 years. When temperatures exceed those levels, all hell breaks loose with our precious life-support ecosystems.

Today, we’re already more than halfway to that first temperature guardrail but accelerating fast. Problematically, the latency effect of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions impacting global temperature is several years; similarly, a household oven turned to 450°F doesn’t immediately go to 450°F. Earth’s atmosphere, similar to that oven, takes time (years and years) to respond to GHGs that essentially turn up its thermostat.

Implementation of Paris ‘15, however, is another matter. With four years of hindsight, the original Paris Agreement appears to be nothing more than “hope springs eternal.”

The 2015 compilation of 195 signatories (subsequently 197) to the UNFCCC Paris Agreement was a great PR event. And, it was a very good wake up call regarding the seriousness, and dangers, of climate change. However, looking back at its origins, it was DOA.

For starters, ever since the ink dried, CO2 emissions have gone up and are now accelerating, as fossil fuel usage had its largest increase in seven years in 2018, prompting the prestigious Met Office Hadley Center/UK to issue a strong warning: “During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.”

Thus, on the heels the of Paris ’15 Agreement, CO2 emissions took a short breather but then took off and never looked back. In fact, the largest increase since 1957. Counter-intuitively, the Paris ’15 Agreement, unbeknownst to participants at the time, somehow (mysteriously) served to launch accelerating CO2 emissions.

Not only have GHGs started going gangbusters once again; additionally, there’s a very challenging “land use” issue with the Agreement, which is one more category of failure. Human land use is responsible for about one-quarter or 25% of global anthropogenic emissions. Also, land abuse severely constrains/limits/reduces terrestrial carbon sinks, thereby defeating nature’s moderation and balance of CO2, not too hot, not too cold for the past 10,000 years of the Holocene Era.

The land use imbroglio is the subject of an important new study: “Achievement of Paris Climate Goals Unlikely Due To Time Lags In The Land System” by Calum Brown, et al, Nature Climate Change, February 18, 2019.

According to the study, meeting the Paris Agreement requirement of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C or 2°C “requires substantial interventions in the land system, in the absence of dramatic reductions in fossil fuel emissions.”

Well then, in that case, as previously alluded to, “dramatic reduction in fossil fuel emissions” has become a bad joke. Therefore, “land use” takes on new significance to limit temperatures to 1.5°C or 2°C. But, in reality, land use is, has been, and remains a disaster in the making.

Commitments to implement provisions of the Paris Agreement are called NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Of the 195 countries that committed NDCs (representing 96.4% of global GHG emissions) no major industrialized country has yet matched its own ambitions for emission reductions.

Clearly, nobody is serious about curbing climate change and its consequence of global warming. The global motto seems to be: Let the chips fall where they may!

However, avoidance is a dangerous game as very big problems loom right now today as the planet’s three major sensitive areas to global warming are literally crumbling apart: (1) the Arctic (2) Antarctica and (3) Northern Hemisphere permafrost.

But, nobody lives in those areas to physically see it happen. Then again, scientists that take field trips to where nobody lives are horrified, aghast, dumbfounded by the rapidity of change. Time and again, year-over-year, they express disbelief at how much faster ecosystems are changing, especially in the context of paleoclimate history, ten times faster in many instances. That’s a formula for sure-fire disaster.

Meanwhile, one hundred countries have explicitly identified mitigation strategies involving “land use” with a common strategy of increasing forest “carbon sinks” by reducing deforestation and/or increasing reforestation. However, deforestation increased by 29% between 2015-16 in Brazil and by 44% in Columbia, and the net result of overall deforestation and land-use shows no real progress for years.

Furthermore, the voluntary aspect of nations fulfilling NDCs means that NDCs are not required to be demonstrably achievable. That appears to be a weak link in the Agreement.

Worse yet, most countries have no defined plans for implementation. Not only, countries like Australia have already abandoned emissions targets for their energy sector. And, some countries have issued contradictory objectives, for example, Scotland, which issued world-leading climate policies also simultaneously provided financial support for fossil fuel extraction.

Other examples of contradictory policies include Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium policy designed to reverse state-sponsored palm oil plantations that decimate rainforests. Their plan is confusing, and it’s counter-productive, as it temporarily slows down deforestation in some areas while increasing deforestation in other areas. Which is it supposed to be?

In fact, both Indonesia (rainforest) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (rainforest) deforestation rates exceed that of brazen Brazil (rainforest) by 1.5-to-2 times in spite of Paris ’15 commitments.

Equally concerning, voluntary commitments within countries are not enforceable, another shocker. Both China and India “encourage” reforestation via “voluntary tree planting by all citizens.” This approach is fraught with numerous issues. For example, effective leadership in localities is but one issue.

Meanwhile, on a global basis (1) China and India, since 2017, have increased emissions by 4.7% and 6.3% respectively, (2) China’s Development Bank is financing hundreds of new coal-fired plants in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, (3) Brazil is opening up its rainforests to massive development like there’s no tomorrow (4) France, Germany, and Japan have increased coal use (5) France scrapped some major plans to meet GHG reductions because of public pushback (6) Four U.S. states (Washington, Alaska, Colorado, and Arizona) rejected anti-fossil fuel initiatives in the most recent 2018 elections… and the list goes on, but the point is made.

In the future, it is likely that climate change mitigation will not be implemented until climate disaster strikes first. Then, expect public outcry: “Do something!”

Australia’s 2018 heat wave may be an early preview of one of many potential climate disasters in the near future that will serve as a catalyst for public outcry, pleading for help, do something!

Australia sizzled like a blazing-hot oven in late 2018 as temperatures exceeded 42°C (107°F). According to National Geographic: Sarah Gibbens, Bats Are Boiling Alive in Australia’s Heat Wave, d/d January 9th, 2019, asphalt melted on highways and animals and fish died by the thousands. Australian National University in Canberra predicts summer temperatures of up to 122°F in years ahead.

As for one more example of what may motivate the public, once Wall Street/Lower Manhattan as well as Miami Beach are repeatedly hit by flooding from high tide surges, there will be public outcry: “Do something!”

But, by then, the response will be: Do what? It’s already too late!

Postscript:

The various dependencies (and acknowledged insufficiencies) of the actions planned in support of the Paris Agreement mean that achievement of the 1.5°C (or even a 2°C) goal is highly unlikely.

— Calum Brown, et al, “Achievement of Paris Climate Goals Unlikely Due To Time Lags In The Land System”, Nature Climate Change, February 18, 2019.

The Green Old Deal

There are a lot of things to like about the recent resolution for the Green New Deal. The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the acknowledgment of the catastrophic events that will occur if the world does not act soon- these are all healthy signs. Like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which removed many stigmas about socialism, raising public consciousness about the structural changes needed to lessen the impacts of global warming are to be commended.

However, there are very serious problems with the language of the resolution, as well as the underlying assumptions, biases, and ideology which pervades the text.

Starting with an obvious problem, the “Green New Deal” is based on the political and economic mobilization of FDR’s New Deal. It was the New Deal, essentially, which saved capitalism from collapse in the US in the 1930s. If the Green New Deal is saying anything, it is offering cover to the ruling class- here is your propaganda model out of this mess you’ve created; here is another chance to save capitalism from itself. It’s a false promise, of course, as no purely technological scheme based in a capitalist economy will be able to fix what’s coming, but it’s a very convenient narrative for capitalist elites to cling to.

Roosevelt’s New Deal  placated workers and bought time for the bourgeoisie to rally, but it was the combined forces of post-WWII macroeconomic Keynesian economic stability, high taxes on the wealthy, the Bretton Woods agreement, the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan which helped grow the middle classes in the mid-20th century.

Indeed, the Green New Deal (GND) mimics the mainline liberal/reformist agenda when it pledges to try: “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation…”

That’s about as boilerplate as one can get. You’d expect to hear this blather from anywhere on the mainstream spectrum, out of the mouth of a Chamber of Commerce hack or a College Republican newsletter.

Another issue of basic civil decency is that the GND is blatantly cribbing from the Green Party’s own ideas, and then watering them down, without any reference to their origins. The limitations of the GPUS do not need to be run through here, but the point remains: stealing policies from others who have been campaigning on this platform for decades, without offering even a token of acknowledgement, is not a good look.

I mean, this is all so obvious, and frankly, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to live in a country with such little common sense.

There’s more. The resolution calls for “net-zero global emissions by 2050”. This sounds great, except it leaves the foot in the door for a carbon trading scheme, where polluters will pay to offset their emissions with money, “investments in technology”, false promises to plant tree farms which they can renege on in court battles, etc.

Further, the GND states that it supports:

to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.

It calls for:

[The] Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses…

First, who in Congress is talking about implementing the kind of direct democratic practices alluded to here, or drawing on the expertise of community leaders, local governments, etc? Nobody. Who in Congress is calling for actually concrete material reparations, reconciliation, and public methods to heal the intergenerational traumas, inequities, and systemic racism and classism which continue to punish vulnerable communities? No one.  Who in Congress is calling for an end to our intervention in Venezuela and supporting the Maduro government from the obvious covert and military-corporate machinations currently underway? Not a soul.

I understand that this resolution is a first sketch, a very early draft which may go through many changes. I am not interested in demeaning people who are serious about fighting climate change; or scoring points by being “more radical” than others; or by igniting controversy around a critical “hot take” of the GND.

What I am curious about is how those in Congress foresee the types of jobs being created. Are we going to have millions of people planting trees (the best way to slow down climate change) or millions toiling in wind and solar factories? The most effective way to slow global warming would be to support the Trillion Tree Campaign.

Another ridiculous oversight is the lack of acknowledgement in the resolution of quite possibly the 2nd most pressing issue regarding humankinds’ survival, the threat of nuclear war and militarism. Obviously only international cooperation can determine the nuclear states relinquishing their arsenals, as well as shut down all reactors worldwide. Further, the huge budget of the military and the interests of the defense companies in promoting endless wars are not called out.

The only way a GND can work is through international collaboration. Asking other countries with far fewer resources, infrastructure, and technology at their disposal to “follow our lead” as we undergo a purely domestic New Deal within our 50 states and territories is cruel, shortsighted, and disingenuous. It would be the 21st century analogy to socialism in one country, expecting other nations to simply deal with the wreckage of climate disasters after we’ve fucked over the entire world.

What I’m attempting to sketch out is that to even put a dent in global warming in the 21st century and beyond, the feeble approaches by bourgeois democrats must be denounced for what they are. A GND for the USA as the “leader” is not in the cards; the analogy I’d use is more like a fully international Green Manhattan Project.

This would mean councils of expert indigenous peoples, climate scientists, ecologists, and socio-psychological experts in conflict resolution and ecological and cultural mediation worldwide would begin directing and implementing structural transformations of society, by addressing the separation from nature, historical amnesia, and emotional numbness endemic to Western society.

Natural building methods would have to take prominence over Green-washed corporate-approved LEED standards, massive conservation, ecological and restoration projects would have to get underway, along with the relocation of millions globally who live in unsustainably arid or resource hungry areas, and programs for regenerative organic agriculture would need to begin being taught to our youth right now. Is anything like this happening or being talked about in the mainstream?

These supporters in Congress as well as most progressives are assuming we still have twelve years to act, which the latest IPCC report warned was the maximum amount of time left. Perhaps people should be reminded that 12 years is just an estimate. We might have two years. We may be already over the tipping point.

Really, this is all just bullshit for Democrats to get each other reelected by LARPing as progressives and social democrats, and anyone with half a brain can see that. There can be no mass green transportation system unless urban cores get significantly denser, because as of now, perhaps half the country is still based on a post-WWII design to accommodate the whimsies of suburban property developers who only cared for profit and segregated communities, city planners with no conception of the consequences of rising energy demand, and homeowners in the fifties who likewise did not understand the devastation that sprawl, large energy-hogging single family homes, inefficient energy transmission, and long commutes would contribute to global warming.

How many mountains would need to be mined and blasted, how many wild plants and animals killed and desecrated, and rivers and waterways polluted would it take to get every soccer mom and Joe six-pack a new electric vehicle?

It is possible that only a mass relocation to urban cores with public infrastructure and fair compensation for citizens to move would allow for a green transportation and energy network to work properly. If not explained properly, these positive ideas for change would only feed into conservative far-right paranoia.

There are two people in Congress out of 535 that identify as anti-capitalist. The evidence even for these two is lacking, and we don’t have time to wait electing the other 270 or so. The military, financial institutions, defense companies, fossil fuel multinationals, intelligence sectors, and mainstream media are in total lockstep on the march towards societal and economic collapse and continued ecological degradation. Can anyone see the Pentagon, Halliburton, Shell and BP, and any Democrat or Republican giving away the equivalent of trillions of dollars in renewable technology, resources, IT networks, medicine, etc., to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia? I didn’t think so.

If even self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t have the guts to speak out against imperial mechanized drone warfare and the CIA literally fomenting a coup in Venezuela, and the majority of citizens having no problem with this, it just goes to show the lack of empathy and education in this country. Both of them are childish and uneducated; and should be treated as such, even if we should show conditional support for this preliminary GND, if only because it could theoretically morph into something promising.

In short, this first draft GND is “old” for a couple of reasons:  first, the economic model and the signaling in the language come directly from the liberal-bourgeois-reformism of the FDR administration. Second, it is old in the sense of being behind the times environmentally; it doesn’t keep up with what science proves is necessary for humanity to thrive: the GND does not call for economic degrowth, a reduction in energy demand, a sharp reduction in obtaining protein from meat, and a thoroughly anti-capitalist method to regenerate civic life and the public commons.

The flip side is that to thrive in a truly green future, we will have to re-examine truly ancient “old” Green methods to balance the “new” methods of technological innovation: the ancient ways of working with nature that indigenous traditions have honed, which has provided humanity with abundance for tens of thousands of years.

Natural building, creating and promoting existing holistic, alternative medicine, localizing energy and agricultural production, and growing food forests must be at the top of any agenda for humankind in the 21st century. This might seem impossible to our Congress because these methods do not cater to “marketplace solutions”, do not rely on factories and financialization, do not use patents to create monopolies; i.e., because these priorities do not put more power in the hands of capitalists.

Here are a few final thoughts. The first is the whole premise of the GND is based on a very reductionist, analytical, and Anglo style of thinking. Basically, this resolution is insinuating that we can change everything about the economy and forestall climate change without taking apart the financial sectors, the war machine, etc.

The second thought follows from the first, which is that the Continental thinkers offer a more grounded, immanent approach which examines how capital itself has warped human nature. Specifically, many important researchers demonstrated how the culture industry has manufactured ignorance, false needs, and ennui on a mass basis.

For instance, in a US context, to put it in very crude stereotypes, how are we going to convince one half of the country to stop eating red meat, give up their pickup trucks, put their guns in a neighborhood public depot, and stop electing outright racists and sexists. On the other hand, how can we convince the other half to give up their Starbucks on every corner, give up their plane travel to exotic locations, not buy that 2nd posh home to rent out on Airbnb which leads to gentrification, etc.

Basically, most middle class people in the US don’t want to fundamentally change as of yet, and this resolution won’t have the force to confront the utterly fake, conformist, and escapist lifestyles most US citizens continue to choose at least partially of their own volition.

Simple, clear language is important to energize citizens and can lead to catalyzing change. The concept of the Green New Deal could very well be that theme which unites us. One hundred and two years ago, it was those three special words “Peace, land, bread” which helped unite a nation and sparked a revolution.

Here’s one last thing to chew on. In the 21st century, the nation-state has proven that its time is over, as it provides a vehicle which centralizes corporate and military power that now threatens the existence of life on this planet. The Green New Deal calls for:

obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples…

Although it is clear the writers meant this in a very general and vague kind of way, as obviously not a single agreement has been “honored” going back 500 years by invading settler-colonialists, enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples would mean the abolition of the USA. That’s a Green New Deal I can work with.

New Deal, Who Dis?

The Green New Deal is everywhere, perhaps in part because it has remained nebulous.  Years, cuts and specifics are all over the place depending on who you ask. The U.S. Green Party, for example, has detailed plans for what it might mean because they were the first to champion the concept here over the past decade, rather than just the past few months.  Those plans include decarbonisation of the whole economy by 2030.

Events this week supported by a large number of green NGOs (such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and Food & Water Watch) seem to be an attempt to clarify the current clamour.  Amongst a number of admirable details they have settled on calling for 100% renewable energy by 2035 (note that this is not the same as total decarbonisation, as it refers only to power generation), and the phase out of fossil powered land transport by 2040.  No specifics are given for other emissions sources (such as the fastest growing sector, aviation).

The phrasing for the electricity demand used in all documentation is some variant of “by 2035 or earlier.”  It is my hope that the use of “or earlier” indicates a willingness to admit that 2035 is too late for any serious target, and has been included to allow for improvement at some nearby point.  Because the people who drafted this particular sentence must know that when you give government a range of goals rather than a firm demand they will rise only to meet the easiest interpretation: it will be read as “by 2035, and not a minute sooner.”  So the wording must be for the benefit of future activism.

What doesn’t make any sense in this scenario is why we would build this huge push for legislation that we know to be inadequate.  We have taken this approach before and gotten nowhere. There’s no point going from half-honest to mostly honest about the climate crisis at this stage.  These same NGOs are currently complaining that the Green New Deal bill unveiled this past Thursday by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t explicitly ban fossil fuels.  But the tone set by these demands hardly gives them steady ground for dissent (Ocasio-Cortez’s bill at least calls for net-zero emissions within ten years).  As the media representative for Extinction Rebellion NYC, Rory Varrato, recently explained on Redacted Tonight:

Let’s pretend like [the deadline is] tomorrow, because functionally it is.  We know the inertia of this system, we know the obstacles we have to overcome, and 12 years might as well be a blink of an eye.   Indeed we have something like negative 30 or negative 40 or negative 200 years, depending on where you want to peg the problem . . . we have less than no time.

With this framing, you could make a legitimate argument that decarbonisation by 2025 — one of the central demands of Extinction Rebellion — is also too late, on the simple grounds that it may already be too late to avoid a runaway scenario that makes life impossible.  But the date must unfortunately be in the future rather than the past. The only sensible deadline is not four numbers but four letters: ASAP. You will struggle to find a climate activist who disagrees with that by now.  The sooner we can get to net zero, the better chance at avoiding decimation we will have. So why would we rally for a later date when we could rally for an earlier one?

To the argument that demanding decarbonisation by 2025 is unnecessarily steep and will turn people off the issue, let’s consider the recent IPCC report that got all this action supercharged.  That report called for a 45% reduction in global emissions by 2030 (much higher cuts in high polluting nations) and the end of fossil fuel burning by 2050, so within that framework, these demands seem reasonable.  But there are compelling arguments that the IPCC significantly underplayed the urgency of the situation as it has done in the past.  For example, the panel used 1850 as its baseline year rather than the pre-industrial period of a century earlier, ignoring 0.3 degrees of temperature rise.  They also ignored natural feedback loops, assuming that only greenhouse gases emitted by humans contribute to warming. The idea that there is any carbon budget that we can safely burn is a falsehood.  This is what Rory Varrato meant by “we have less than no time.”

You begin to understand why the Green Party plans aim for decarbonisation by 2030; some have been stating that this deadline is necessary for a number of years.  You begin to understand why Extinction Rebellion activists stepped up their messaging from “Oh Shit” to “We’re Fucked” in the weeks after the report.  You may not know how seriously to take these criticisms, not being a climate scientist, but there’s no controversy to the idea that every IPCC report in the past has been unreasonably restrained to the point of negligence.  To ignore the possibility that it may have been so again this time is nothing but a coping mechanism.  Holding back the worst news has not stoked action up to this point. It is time we were treated like adults and told the truth.

Another way to comprehend why the 2025 goal is the most sensible one being suggested is to look at targets that were being suggested by respected actors over a decade ago.  The Guardian columnist and Extinction Rebellion supporter George Monbiot wrote extensively and compellingly in the mid-2000s about the need to cut emissions in the rich nations by an average of 90% by 2030, with a greater emphasis on the earlier part of the period.  It goes without saying that we have utterly failed to do anything of the sort. In light of this, and without the need to understand complicated scientific calculations, it follows that we must now meet an even higher cut in an even shorter amount of time.  We have also learned in the intervening years that the situation is far graver than previously thought, for example, lowering (at the behest of the Global South) the recognised upper threshold from 2 degrees down to 1.5. Thinking that we should have similar or perhaps even lesser targets today as those proposed in 2006 is, to put it politely, illogical.

I suspect 2035 has been picked based on what is deemed to be physically possible, politically realistic or socially bearable.  2035 is far enough away to be thought of as “the future”; there’s a semblance of breathing room in it. Well, if we want to keep breathing, we don’t have time to breathe.  This Green New Deal coalition by definition acknowledges that the concept of “realism” is elastic, based almost entirely on political momentum and will, so let’s get behind some serious stretch goals.  Speaking of politics, we might also consider how the difference between a 6 year timeline and one of 16 years frames our view of election cycles.

The former allows no room to worry about the next presidential pissing contest, as doing so would burn almost a third of the available time.  The 16 year timeline allows us to continue engaging with that game and its soap opera entertainment. While it may be reasonable to assume that little will be done via the White House before 2021, the question is where do we wish to put our efforts?  We can, as we are already being encouraged, spend our precious time debating the differences among the many candidates, whose theoretical eight year terms will still not bring us up to the main target date, giving them plenty of incentive to blather and stall and kick the can down the road as we have seen many times before.  Or we can make an impact on the election passively, by building the boldest social movements possible and making those candidates chase us for votes.

There’s no doubt that the excitement for a Green New Deal has reignited the conversation around climate breakdown, and for that we should be pleased.  This is not about being more radical-than-thou, nitpicking or trying to poach fellow activists. But the proposals sent to government offices this week risk channeling our efforts into a deadly end, and drawing attention away from those voices that are telling the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.  The time for fiddling over percentage points with confusingly different base years and sector parameters is gone. We must get rid of it all and fast.

Global Warming’s Monster Awakens

The planet’s biggest nightmare is coming to life. It may be a bigger threat much sooner than ever before realized simply because it’s accelerating!

East Antarctica, the world’s largest body of water trapped in ice, is knocking the socks off expectations. Along the way, it’s the world’s most horrifying surprise, yet nobody really knows how it will play out because the science is still in early stages.

Nevertheless, a formidable issue is at hand: Vincennes Bay in East Antarctica is home to humongous glaciers, like Totten Glacier (2,400 square miles), which is the largest glacier in the bay and equivalent to at least 11 feet of sea level rise alone, but it is only one of several glaciers in Vincennes Bay.

Recent NASA research indicates that four glaciers west of Totten Glacier in Vincennes Bay have receded by 9 feet since 2008. Heretofore, there was no measured change in these glaciers… period!

Surprisingly, within one decade there’s measurable loss of 9 feet after years and decades and centuries upon centuries of East Antarctica stability. This is disturbing and begs the question of what if the melting accelerates more, and more, and keeps on accelerating more than previous rates of acceleration. Then what?

According to NASA:

East Antarctica has the potential to reshape coastlines around the world through sea level rise, but scientists have long considered it more stable than its neighbor, West Antarctica. Now, new detailed NASA maps of ice velocity and elevation show that a group of glaciers spanning one-eighth of East Antarctica’s coast have begun to lose ice over the past decade, hinting at widespread changes in the ocean.1

Additionally, and in the opposite direction, or east of Totten Glacier, a “collection of glaciers” doubled their rate of ice loss since 2009. By all appearances, the past 10 years has served to alter East Antarctica into early stages of a meltdown phase. As previously mentioned, this is an unexpected event.

Meanwhile, for some time now at the opposite side of the continent, West Antarctica has been in the grip of rapid breakdown. In fact, Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is one of the fastest-flowing ice streams on the planet.

For example, Pine Island Glacier is dispensing icebergs into the Amundsen Sea from ice shelves with increasing frequency, which is troubling, to say the least. The most recent, Iceberg B-46 (87 sq. miles) split off in October 2018. Pine Island Glacier (equal to 1.7 feet of sea level rise) shed icebergs in 2001, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Ice shelves are floating ice sheets that do not contribute much to rising sea levels since they are already mostly afloat, thus displacing their own weight. They extend out over the water from icy landmasses but significantly, as a matter of course, serve as a backstop or physical barrier of ice sheets, holding back rapid glacial ice flow into ocean waters.

Therefore, losing ice shelves out of the ordinary in rapid succession is obviously an ominous signal of trouble dead ahead, meaning glacial ice flow that directly impacts sea levels is freed-up, up and away.

Typically, in years past, West Antarctica shed an iceberg every six years whereas recent activity has shockingly compressed time over the past two decades to, respectively, once every 6 years, 4 years, 2 years, 2 years, 2 years, and most recently 1 year. That’s powerful evidence of a major change in ice sheet behavior.

For that reason, among others, scientists have always focused on West Antarctica’s instability rather than on East Antarctica. Now, in addition to serious concerns about the western region of the continent, surprise, surprise, after analyzing 40 years of data and satellite images, East Antarctica is no longer considered “immune to climate change.”

Not only that, but unfortunately this new data about East Antarctica is at odds with a significant 2018 study that showed less reason for concern and therefore, assuming this new information is thoroughly validated, “could dramatically reshape projections of sea level rise….”2

To say this news is disheartening is comparable to standing dockside at Berth 44, Southampton on April 10th 1912, waving goodbye to passengers on the Titanic.

East Antarctica destabilization, according to Eric Rignot, glaciologist, University of California/Irvine: “The more we look at this system the more we realize this is a fragile system… Once these glaciers are destabilized there is no red button to press to stop it,” Ibid.

Antarctica’s Ice Sheet is larger than the U.S. and India combined. Its three major ice sheets contain 70% of the planet’s fresh water in ice.

One catalyst behind ice sheet misbehavior is ocean absorption of 90% of anthropogenic global warming, which manages to flow underneath the massive ice sheets.

Additionally, global warming multiplies 2xs via “polar amplification,” meaning Antarctica’s surface temperatures increase twice as fast as the global average. This is a unique aspect of high latitude polar temperatures up north in the Arctic as well as down south in Antarctica.

Not only are temperatures magnified 2xs in high polar latitudes, but also in everyday contemporary life, global warming is striking hard, which does not bode well as to further magnification of polar temperatures.

For example, Australia sizzled like a blazing hot oven in late 2018 as temperatures exceeding 42°C (107°F). Roads melted, tens of thousands of bats dropped dead (many found on city streets) and hundreds of thousands of bony herring, golden and silver perch and Murray cod died, demonstrating the impact of erratic and excessive temperature variations.

Meantime, in similar fashion, due south of Australia, Antarctica’s ice sheets rumbled and tumbled, threatening inconvenience for coastal communities as a best-case scenario, but maybe (most probably) much worse.

As it happens, the world is changing right before humanities’ eyes. Nowadays, global warming is more than a threat of rising sea levels, which in and of itself looks grim, indeed, never so grim as of now, but it’s also turned into a vicious mass killer.

Still, the biggest questions of the 21st century remain unanswered: What can be done and who’ll take charge? After all, greenhouse gases are a fact of life not easily removed.

One answer: Build seawalls like Trump International Golf Links & Hotel – Ireland, which received a permit to build two seawalls in December 2017. Trump’s 2016 permit application cited “climate change, rising sea levels, and extreme weather conditions” as reasons for getting the permit.

  1. More Glaciers in East Antarctica Are Waking Up, NASA, December 10, 2018.
  2. Alex Fox, “East Antarctica’s Ice is Melting at an Unexpectedly Rapid Clip, New Study Suggests”, Science, January 14, 2019.

Capitalism’s Ownership of Global Warming

Capitalism not only owns global warming, there’s a big red mitigation arrow pointed at the heart of today’s rampant capitalism, which is eerily similar to the loosie goosie version of the Roaring Twenties, but with a high tech twist.

After all, somebody’s got to pony-up for climate change/global warming mitigation. Who better than deep pocket capitalists?

For historical perspective:  Today’s brand of capitalism runs circles around the Eisenhower 1950s with its 90% top marginal tax rate amidst harmony and good feelings all across the land, an age of innocence aka Leave It To Beaver.

In sharp contrast to the fifties era of good feelings with its emergence of spanking new suburbia, today’s landscape resembles the film Blade Runner (1982) high-tech, rich, and gleaming in some places but elsewhere (often times right next door) shabby and weakening as America’s middle class fizzles away attached to a ball and chain of indebted servitude.

With increasing frequency as climate mitigation is investigated certain statistics stand out like a throbbing sore thumb:

The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China, the EU and the US—contribute more than half of total global emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5%.  Collectively, the top 10 emitters account for nearly three-quarters (75%) of global emissions. The world can’t possibly successfully tackle the climate change challenge without significant action from these top-emitting countries.1

Interestingly enough, the socio-politico-economic genesis of global warming as of nowadays is known as Late Capitalism, as defined by Ernest Mandel2 or in the parlance: “Increasing commodification and industrialization of more, and more, sectors of human life” as the social fabric splits apart, delineating “haves” versus “have-nots.”

By definition, that socio/economic paradigm brings in its wake division, and fierce alienation.

So, Late Capitalism, what does it look like? According to Oxfam International, a confederation of 20 independent charitable orgs founded in 1942, sixty-two (62) of the richest billionaires held as much wealth in 2016 as 50% of the entire world population. That number dropped to 8 billionaires in 2017 controlling as much wealth as the bottom half of the world. That remarkable ratio is: 8 : 3,600,000,000.

The 2018 numbers are not yet available, but there’s speculation that the number eight (8) will drop, in time, to two (2) people that control as much wealth as one-half (½) of the world. That’s the absolute epitome, the zenith, of Late Capitalism.

It’s little wonder that wealth disparity, flashed all over the place, has become a target in the context of the climate crisis. In that regard, not many people grasp the issue as well as Kevin Anderson of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research/UK. Tyndall is one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions, and Anderson has a reputation for telling it like it is.

Recently, he spoke at the Oxford Climate Society.

Accordingly, as discussed by Kevin Anderson, knowing that climate change is a serious (existential) threat… what to do… just for starters: (1) The top 10% carbon polluters in the world must cut their CO2 footprint to the same footprint as members of the EU. (2) The remaining 90% of the world makes no reductions. (3) Ipso facto, global CO2 is cut by one-third.

That’s merely a starter, an appetizer for meeting the 2C temperature guardrail as agreed by the nations of the world at Paris 2015. Interestingly, the top 10% polluters are the heart and soul of effective mitigation, which is defined as an “equitable solution,” meaning those who emit the most carbon must carry the heaviest burden. Yet, an equitable solution has not happened, and there are no signals it will happen.

Getting to the heart of the matter, according to Anderson:

The taboo issue of the asymmetric distribution of wealth underpins the international community’s failure to seriously tackle climate change. Only when we acknowledge this can we move from incrementalism to system-change.

Believe it or not (of course, it is true and believable) 1,500 private jets flew attendees to Davos World Economic Forum to discuss, amongst other issues, climate change.

According to Kevin Anderson:

It’s about time we called these people out.

For example, the Davos paradigm, meaning plutocrats taking control, is legitimized (in Anderson’s words) by:

The climate Glitterati, such as, M. Bloomberg, L. DiCaprio, N. Stern, C. Figueres, A. Gore, M. Carney. All of these people have huge carbon footprints, and they fly around the world in private jets to inform us what to do about climate change. They are supported by a whole cadre of senior academics promoting offsetting, negative emissions, geo-engineering, CCS, green growth, etc. These are all ‘an evolution within the system.

Also, annual COP (Conference of the Parties) has been hijacked by climate glitterati-related influencers (COPs are annual UN Climate Change Conferences held to assess progress).

Well, surprise-surprise, not surprised, Royal Dutch Shell had a hand in shaping the Paris Agreement of 2015, and it influenced certain provisions of the “Rulebook” adopted at COP24 in Katowice 2018. This meddling clearly violates the ethics that only member states of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can determine “texts and rulebooks.” But, it happens with regularity.

At COP 24 in Katowice at a side event organized by the International Emissions Trading Association (a big time biz lobby) Shell’s chief climate adviser, David Hone, publicly announced that Shell should take some credit for inclusion of Article 6 in the Paris Agreement, which enables countries to trade emissions in carbon markets.

Not only, Mr. Hone also took a bow and credit for part of the text in the all-important “Rulebook” adopted at Katowice. By all accounts and according to various environmental groups, big corporations are “greenwashing.”

Fossil fuel companies were significant sponsors at COP24 in Katowice. Their logos were ubiquitous. And, at a mind-blowing out of this world event, the Polish Pavilion was stuffed full of actual lumps of black coal, as samplers.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda told COP24 delegates:

Using coal is not in contradiction with climate protection in Poland because we can lower the emissions and ensure economic growth at the same time.

What!!! Who falls for this kind of claptrap?

ExxonMobil pledged to cut its methane emissions and contribute funds for a carbon tax campaign in the U.S. Oh, please, stop it! Pseudo solutions like carbon markets and geo-engineering promises (that don’t work to scale) are pushed by corporate interests to legitimatize their current CO2 emissions. Oh, please! It’s a ruse because if you lay claim to geo-engineering technology that fixes CO2 emissions, then you legitimize using as much fossil fuel as your little heart desires. But, the brutal truth is the technology is not perfected.  Not by a long shot. Then what?

Climate change is ultimately a rationing issue. But, so far, forget it:

We’ve had 28 years of abject failure on climate change. It’s not that we haven’t brought emissions down. It’s just that we’ve watched them go up. In fact, since 2000, the rate at which they’ve gone up is even faster than the 1990s. (Kevin Anderson)

According to Anderson, the current CO2 global budget is roughly 700Gt of CO2 maximum to adhere to the Paris Agreement of temps below 2C. Meanwhile, 43Gt of CO2 is emitted per year, which equates to 16 years of current emissions to stay under 2C. Thereafter, and in fact, before then, CO2 emissions must drop to zero. (For the record, this has never happened.)

At the end of the day, the only conceivable way forward to prevent the world from turning into an oven is “system change” via transformation to decarbonized energy supply technologies with deep penetration of efficient technologies and a profound shift in behavior and reframing the value propositions re success and progress, an economic model that fits the purpose of mitigation, like eco-economics.

As for the current economic model of high-end neoliberal capitalism, it must be displaced in favor of eco economics. What are the odds? One hundred percent (100%) it will happen but way too late!

According to Kevin Anderson:

Everything is pointed in the wrong direction… We are guaranteed defeat unless we start to think radically differently.

He concludes:

We have an outside chance of still meeting 2C if society addresses the political, social, and economic implications, as well as the technical ones.

But, what if it’s too late?

Postscript:

Winning slowly is basically the same thing as losing outright. In the face of both triumphant denialism and predatory delay, trying to achieve climate action by doing the same things, the same old ways means defeat. It guarantees defeat.

— Alex Steffen, American award-winning futurist, 2017

  1. World Resources Institute
  2. Late Capitalism, Verso Classics, 1999.

Living Like It Matters

We actually do not have all the time in the world, so I am going to be bold.  What you do after you finish reading this is your business and ultimately, that is exactly as it should be. We may all be facets of a larger Oneness, tiny sparks of the Divine dwelling in human form, but for the moment—allowing the potential truth of a larger connection–we are very clearly individuals, each with our own experience and outlook. We have our own ways of coping and to some extent, each of us charts a unique course through this life. We are often granted some choice about how we live and how we die, though most of us vastly prefer to focus on the former.

Even there, we tend to let life happen, getting pulled from one urgency to another amusement without full consciousness of how we spend the time. “Where did the time go?” is a plaintive query, often-expressed. “Time flies!” When you are having fun, when you are busy, when you aren’t fully present.  Life happens to us more often than most of us would like to admit.  But still, we can always meet it–our life—where we find it today and choose differently how we experience the flow of time, how we interact with the circumstances we have been given and crafted for ourselves.  Such is the beauty of being alive.

As for dying—it is arguably the biggest taboo in first world cultures.  Whereas nearly every shamanic tradition teaches students the imperative of carrying death close by at all times, we’re not so comfortable dealing with it in the West, and thus we lose out on a lot of life.  Without death whispering in our ear, reminding us that our time is finite, it is easy to just let life happen.  And then, time flies and we don’t know where it went.

Never has it been more urgent to consider how we live and how we die.  We have—as individuals and a species–made serial choices about how we live, many of them unconscious and often without all the facts. But the sorrowful reality is that in a world of cause and effect, those choices have led us right up to where we are today, at least waist-deep in the sixth mass extinction. We stand right at the edge of the end of much that we have known and taken for granted.  It is my sense that most of us understand this in our bones, in our old reptilian brains, in what remains of our intuitive connection to the rest of life here on Earth. And, we are–in larger numbers–beginning to pay intellectual homage to the facts. They are overwhelming and increasingly hard to ignore.

So, on the one hand, there are more and more people acknowledging that we are pretty thoroughly screwed, that time has run out and there is no change we can make big enough to avert disaster. On the other, while there is clearly a lot of fear and grief out in the world, plenty of panic and the kinds of behaviors that arise in reaction to dire threat, these expressions tend not to be connected consciously to climate catastrophe. Projected on to anything but the mess we’ve made and don’t have the will to fix, we get pretty excited about protecting ourselves from taxes, Mexicans, Venezuelans, Cuban crickets, Palestinian children with rocks, vaccinations, as well as people who don’t vaccinate their kids, and, of course, Donald Trump and his gang of feckless thugs. The list goes on.  Add your own favorites.  Anything but the big kahuna.  The final finale.  Anything we think we might actually be able to solve, change, neutralize.  Our frailty is exposed here, and by avoiding consciousness of the imminence of catastrophe, we miss out on the chance to live as fully as we can, while we can.

No one knows for sure how long we have.  No one ever does, but we try to make reasonable assumptions and operate from there.  Estimates for the timing of civilization’s demise now range from a pessimistic year or two to an optimistic eighty or so, though nearly every day a new and often ‘shocking’ study announces that planetary degradation is happening much faster than previously predicted. From what I can glean, ten years might be a fair guess.  Not so long.  And for some, the wild and so-called ‘natural disasters’ have already come calling.  Maria in Puerto Rico, Paradise and the Polar Vortex have all claimed plenty of lives, thrown countless others into chaos. If I am wrong and the Arctic starts to freeze over again, the rain fills shrunken aquifers in the Central Valley of California, the oceans recede a few feet and vulnerable islands are reclaimed—well, then, I am in error and will gladly suffer the ridicule.  But if I, and many others better qualified to make the assessment, are not wrong, we don’t have that much time left to consider: how do I want to live?  And…possibly more helpful: how do I want to die?

Last week, I attended an informal gathering at a friend’s house in Berkeley, just ahead of a KPFA- sponsored talk on climate change by Dahr Jamail and Antonia Juhasz entitled ‘Is Our Earth in Hospice Mode?’  Joined only by our understanding of where the Earth is heading, everyone there was ‘post acceptance,’ far along the path of their own personal climate collapse journey. It bears noting that although some of these people would probably describe themselves as ‘doomers,’ I haven’t been in a room with as much joy, gratitude and laughter in a long time.

After sharing a potluck meal, we sat in a circle and talked about living and dying.  Not surprisingly, each of us had thought about how we wanted to engage with the time remaining, the time, however long or short, between now and ‘then.’  As we took turns talking, it emerged that some of us are focused on cultivating gratitude and looking for joy in the gifts of each day, each breath, each connection.  Others are prioritizing ways to be of service or finding the right means to stand in solidarity with the Earth. Checking items off bucket lists came up a number of times.  A few of us spoke of having work and family obligations that keep us simply putting one foot in front of the other, caught between an old paradigm and the gnawing awareness that it is not sustainable.  Predictably, being with loved ones and in nature were critical to many in the room.

Then we turned to our impending deaths, to our considerations of the manner and timing of our departure from this life.  It was a conversation far outside the bounds of normalcy, a discussion that could only happen in such extraordinary times. Listening to fifteen relative strangers lay bare how they imagine they will face their final days or hours was a profound experience.  The range of responses was broad, from a plan to hole up with a rifle to protect the last food and water, to a desire to choose a moment and check out intentionally before personal control has been completely forfeited.  Some of us admitted to stashing Nembutal while others have caches of rice and dried beans and bottled water.

One young person spoke of his ‘kit,’ which includes plenty of candy bars and tequila, along with a solar charger so he can spend his last days able to look at photos of family, friends and happier times.  Pure comfort.  Another man, who acknowledged that he had not been able to delve into this question before, found himself in tears.  He remembered the transcendent beauty of the time he spent, years ago, with a woman he loved, helping her to live while she died, laughing and crying together, enlivened and awake, during her last months.  He knew then that this was what he wanted to do with his grandchildren, all the way up until the last breath.

Despite what might seem to be a macabre topic, there was no despair in the room.  In fact, I think it safe to say that we all experienced some lightening, some lifting of mental weights, some new space cleared for joy. The opportunity to be totally honest with other human beings about something so important, so deeply personal and yet so widely silenced by our society was both freeing and energizing.  Overall, none of us want to die, but we are facing head-on the likelihood that we will.  Before our time, as it were.

A friend and I had already been conducting an exploration of our own death-desires over the past few months, meeting every couple of weeks to map out possible scenarios and trying to understand how we would ideally respond to each one.  In the end, the ‘plans’ are loose and full of holes; too many variables to account for.  But the process has been illuminating, allowing each of us to become clearer about our values and the things we want to remember when crisis arrives.  Just for illustration, I honed in on my truth that if given the option, I want to go out sharing with others, vulnerable and possibly a lot sooner, rather than sequestered and parsing out sardines and peanuts in order to eek out a few more days or weeks for myself and my family.  Since I have no idea what adventures lie ahead, I may or may not end up being able to act upon this, but I feel immensely more at ease, having gone to the mat with my survival instincts to see just how powerful they are. My friend’s truths are very different to mine in content, but he too was able to identify some of who he really wants to be in a time of crisis, as well as the challenges he faces in doing so. Knowledge in this case may not be power, per se, but it is unquestionably empowering.

Because I—and most of us– live within the duality of current reality, largely unchanged, and the foreknowledge, at some level, of massive tumult, this exercise often felt a bit surreal.  My life proceeds much as it has, yet death is now firmly ensconced on my left shoulder and for that, I am grateful.  It speaks to me: don’t miss a moment, choose the life you really want while you have the chance, don’t waste time on things you know don’t really matter. Having a framework for how I want to approach my death frees me up to live more authentically and with greater integrity and intention so long as am granted to live.  I am, paradoxically, more here since I have let myself contemplate the time when it will no longer be so.

Each of us must navigate the uncertainty and upheavals ahead in our own way, following our personal compass.  But for anyone who has reached a point of acceptance that their days are numbered, whether it be as a result of climate collapse, political chaos and war, or just the relentless advance of years, two big questions inevitably arise. How shall I live what is left?  And, how do I want to die when the time comes?  My experience, which echoes wisdom handed down through most mystical traditions, suggests that attending to the latter first provides essential guidance for understanding the former.  My life—whatever remains of it—is inestimably richer for having taken the time to investigate how I want it to end. I find that I’m living bigger and bolder, not holding back, not waiting for some mythical time in the future when perhaps it will be easier to do so.  I want to live as I want to die, sharing with others despite the risks.  In all honesty, I feel some trepidation writing this piece, speaking openly about death-designing to an anonymous audience. I am fairly sure that it will disturb more than a few who read it, and yet the old fears that would have stayed my hand in the past now seem less needful than the impulse to connect honestly as time grows shorter.

Clearly, there can be no one right way to live in these times; the waters are uncharted.  We will do what works for us. Denial, grief, gratitude, hope, anger, depression, action—who is to say which of these each of us must traverse, for how long and in what order?  But I share a fragment of my journey simply as an invitation: if it feels right to you, consider diving deeply into the truth of our collective and individual realities, facing your mortality and that of those you love. Death offers wise and consoling advice if you have the courage to listen.  And that courage is quite likely to be rewarded with a life more precious, richer, and ironically, that much harder to bid farewell.

Is it worth it?  I can’t answer for anyone other than myself, but we can probably agree that this situation seriously sucks. Given what is, and what almost certainly lies ahead, I find myself heartened and even hopeful, not about the quantity of my life, but about the quality of it. I feel very fortunate to have found this small silver lining, the goad I needed to finally be here now.

Thwaites Glacier Startles Scientists

“It’s a disturbing discovery,” according to Pietro Milillo, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, who co-authored a recently published study: “Heterogeneous Retreat and Ice Melt of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica”, Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 30, 2019.

It’s only within the past 10 years that NASA’s IceBridge Mission has served as the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice, providing unprecedented three-dimensional views of Antarctica’s ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. Scientists are now able to peer into glaciers with remarkable accuracy to see what’s happening.

Indeed, scientists are getting an eyeful, and they are discovering the true impact of global warming, which is much more powerful and happening considerably faster than they ever dreamed possible.

After all, the ocean has been absorbing most of the planet’s heat, and that heat finds its way underneath in the water, thus creating gigantic melt holes, like the recently discovered Thwaites Big Cavity. As such, considerable damage is/has been hidden from view.

The new NASA study, utilizing IceBridge, shows a surprising loss of 14B tons of ice in only three years from the Thwaites Glacier, where a humongous hole lurks beneath the glacier’s icy/snowy surface, a massive cavity nearly the size of NYC but hidden within the core of the ice sheet.

Fascinatingly, it’s calculated that Thwaites is responsible for anywhere from 5% to 10% of worldwide annual sea level rise (“SLR”). By the time the monster glacier disappears from the face of the planet, it alone will equal nearly two feet of SLR. But, how soon Thwaites fades away within Antarctica’s mid-summer 24-hour endless sunlight is a big mystery.

Thwaites Glacier is one of West Antarctica’s big kahunas. It’s 100 miles across and 4,000 feet deep. Surprisingly, and disturbingly, it’s melting earlier and much much faster than ever thought possible, which is downright spooky for a humongous icy glacier that has a permanent face in Antarctica ever since the dawn of humanity.

It should be noted that Thwaites, assuming it collapses and triggers a series of collapsing glaciers surrounding it, serves as a major-major backstop to a larger potential catastrophe on West Antarctica. Still, an event that catastrophic would likely happen well beyond current lifetimes. However, on a cautionary note, timelines for climate change have become moving targets, almost always way too timid.

Thwaites is one more crushing example of scientists exclaiming: “Uh-oh, this is happening much faster than we ever thought possible.” That’s become a common acknowledgment by scientists. Climate change is happening faster and faster, surprising scientists, as their “models” get blown away by new data.

It was only 5 years ago when scientists said the Western Antarctica ice sheet “collapse had started” but the same researchers said: “Even though sea level rise could not be stopped (10-13 feet) it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.” No sweat!

Now they are sweating.

Making matters dicey-er yet as for urban coastal planners, the United Nations’ IPCC most recent report did not factor in a melting of the Western Antarctica ice sheet into calculations of sea level rise this century.

Surprise, surprise, it’s happening so much faster.

According to the aforementioned study: “The Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE), (Thwaites is one of several glaciers in the embayment) sector of West Antarctica is a dominant contributor to sea level rise at present and for decades to come.”

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that, unfortunately: The fast-flowing main trunk of Thwaites accelerated 33% between 1973-1996, but lo and behold, the rate quadrupled in 2003-2010, flowing at a rate of 9.5 Gt/yr versus 2.2 Gt/yr previously. That’s 4xs faster, blowing away the old 1973-96 rate of 33%. Geologically speaking, Thwaites is a virtual supersonic melt speed demon.

Of course, once there’s a big new discovery (surprise-surprise) like Thwaites, the odds of similar glacier scenarios are quite high. After all, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world covered by a couple miles of ice equivalent to about 200 feet of sea level rise. There are plenty of potential additional scenarios.

With a sense of urgency, the U.S. and Great Britain have announced a $50M joint venture known as the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration to probe the glacier in every conceivable manner to discover ahead of time how precarious it may be.

And, collaterally, whether science has been way too tardy in identifying the risks associated with global warming.