Archive for October, 2012

Obama, GOP steering U.S. into “climate storm”

October 31, 2012

POSTED BY JILL STEIN FOR PRESIDENT 2581.80PC ON OCTOBER 29, 2012 · FLAG

hurricane-sandy-climate-storm.png“The Republicans and Democrats each talk about the election of the other party as the end of the world; maybe they’re right,” said Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein last night, as the first winds from superstorm Sandy buffeted her on the windy expanse of Boston City Hall plaza. Stein made her remarks at a 350.org vigil during a brief campaign stop in her home state. She heads to Texas tomorrow to support the Keystone XL pipeline Tars Sands Blockade.

Scientists tell us that we now have access to five times more fossil fuels than we can afford to burn without triggering catastrophic climate change.

“If President Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy is pursued, it’s ‘game over’ for the climate,” said Stein. “Romney once was honest about climate, but now is parroting industry lines. Hurricane Sandy is not the first warning we’ve had; let’s not let there be another such warning before we act decisively to move to a new green economy.”

Stein noted that the recent events sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates were the first set of presidential debates since 1984 in which global warming was not mentioned. In response, over 2500 climate activists have signed a statement of support for Dr. Stein and criticizing the failures of the political establishment. Seehttp://www.jillstein.org/climate

Meanwhile, drought has blighted 60% of the corn crops in the U.S. and wildfires have turned thousands into refugees. The Arctic ice cap has lost 75% of its ice and dangerous methane gas is seeping out from melting subterranean deposits.

“The President and his Republican challenger are so firmly in the service of the gas, oil, and coal industries that they want to accelerate our plunge down the path of destruction,” said Green Party vice presidential candidate Cheri Honkala, adding that, “The only vote that will count for action on climate change in this election is a vote for the Green Party.”

At last year’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa, the White House’s team worked to delay the effective date of any international climate treaty until 2020. This will mean eight more crucial years of inaction that scientist universally agree could prove deadly for the planet. In fact, the President is proposing to spend 32 times more on his latest Wall Street bailout initiative, known as Quantitative Easing III, than he is spending on renewable energy.

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are the only candidates talking about addressing the climate crisis head on by pushing for a 100% renewable carbon neutral economy, with full employment. The Green New Deal that they are proposing would create 25 million jobs in sustainable energy, agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing infrastructure, as well as in social services and public education.

“When we show that we take the climate crisis seriously enough to vote for the Green option, the power of democracy will be unleashed, and our political system will finally respond to this growing threat,” said Stein.

 

About Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate.

She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports,  In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, andEnvironmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009.  The first of these  has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.

Her “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” teaching program reveals the links between human health, climate security, and green economic revitalization. This body of work has been presented at government, public health and medical conferences, and has been used to improve public policy.

Jill began to advocate for the environment as a human health issue in 1998 when she realized that politicians were simply not acting to protect children from the toxic threats emerging from current science. She offered her services to parents, teachers, community groups and a native Americans group seeking to protect their communities from toxic exposure.

Jill has testified before numerous legislative panels as well as local and state governmental bodies. She played a key role in the effort to get the Massachusetts fish advisories updated to better protect women and children from mercury contamination, which can contribute to learning disabilities and attention deficits in children. She also helped lead the successful campaign to clean up the “Filthy Five” coal plants in Massachusetts, an effort that resulted in getting coal plant regulations signed into law that were the most protective around at that time. Her testimony on the effects of mercury and dioxin contamination from the burning of waste helped preserve the Massachusetts moratorium on new trash incinerator construction in the state.

Jill has appeared as an environmental health expert on the Today Show20/20Fox News, and other programs. She was also a member of the national and Massachusetts boards of directors of the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her efforts to protect public health has won her several awards including: Clean Water Action’s “Not in Anyone’s Backyard” Award, the Children’s Health Hero” Award, and the Toxic Action Center’s Citizen Award.

Having witnessed the ability of big money to stop health protective policies on Beacon Hill, Jill became an advocate for campaign finance reform, and worked to help pass the Clean Election Law. This law was approved by the voters by a 2-1 margin, but was later repealed by the Massachusetts Legislature on an unrecorded voice vote.

In 2002 ADD activists in the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party approached Dr. Stein and asked her to run for Governor of Massachusetts. Dr. Stein accepted, and began her first foray into electoral politics. She was widely credited with being the best informed and most credible candidate in the race.

She has twice been elected to town meeting in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the founder and past co-chair of a local recycling committee appointed by the Lexington Board of Selectmen.

In 2003, Jill co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, a non-profit organization that addresses a variety of issues that are important to the health and well-being of Massachusetts communities, including health care, local green economies, and grassroots democracy.

Jill represented the Green-Rainbow Party in two additional races – one for State Representative in 2004 and one for Secretary of State in 2006. In 2006 she won the votes of over 350,000 Massachusetts citizens – which represented the greatest vote total ever for a Green-Rainbow candidate.

In 2008, Jill helped formulate a “Secure Green Future” ballot initiative that called upon legislators to accelerate efforts to move the Massachusetts economy to renewable energy and make development of green jobs a priority. The measure won over 81 per cent of the vote in the 11 districts in which it was on the ballot.

Jill was born in Chicago and raised in suburban Highland Park, Illinois. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1973, and from Harvard Medical School in 1979. Jill enjoys writing and performing music, and enjoys long walks with her Great Dane, Bandita. Dr. Stein lives in Lexington with her husband, Richard Rohrer, also a physician. She has two sons, Ben and Noah, who have graduated from college in the past few years.

 

Where we stand on the issues

Thank you for your interest  in learning more about what Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala will do on taking office.

We urge you to read about Jill and Cheri’s Green New Deal, the centerpiece of their campaign. The Green New Deal is an emergency four part program of specific solutions for moving America quickly out of crisis into the secure green future. You can read all about the Green New Deal by clicking here.

JOBS                                                                                                             

  • Enact the Full Employment Program which will directly provide 25 million green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing, as well as social work, teaching, and and other service jobs.
  • Provide grants and low-interest loans to green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community, rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
  • Renegotiate NAFTA and other “free trade” agreements that export American jobs, depress wages, and undermine the sovereign right of Americans and citizens of other countries to control their own economy.

WORKER RIGHTS

  • Provide full protection for workplace rights, including the right to a safe workplace and the right to organize a union without fear of firing or reprisal by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
  • Support the formation of worker-owned cooperatives to provide alternatives to exploitative business models.
  • Make the minimum wage a living wage.
  • Oppose two-tier wage systems.
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work, ending discrimination based on race, gender, or generation.

BUDGET AND TAXES  

  • Reduce the budget deficit by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste.
  • Eliminate needless tax giveaways that increase the deficit.
  • Require full disclosure of corporate subsidies in the budget and stop hiding subsidies in complicated tax code.
  • Rewrite the entire tax code to be truly progressive with tax cuts for working families, the poor and middle class, and higher taxes for the richest Americans.
  • Reject cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
  • Stop draining the non-profit sectors of our economy in order to give tax cuts to the for-profit sectors.
  • Relieve the debt overhang holding back the economy by reducing homeowner and student debt burdens.
  • Ensure the right to accessible and affordable utilities – heat, electricity, phone, internet, and public transportation – through democratically run, publicly owned utilities that operate at cost, not for profit.
  • Maintain and upgrade our nation’s essential public infrastructure, including highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, schools, libraries, and the Internet, resisting privatization or policy manipulation by for-profit interests.
  • Establish a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers.

FINANCIAL REFORM

  • Break up the oversized banks that are “too big to fail,” starting with Bank of America.
  • Create a Corporation for Economic Democracy, a new federal corporation (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.
  • End bailouts for the financial elite and use the FDIC resolution process for failed banks to reopen them as public banks where possible after failed loans and underlying assets are auctioned off.
  • Bring monetary policy under democratic control by prohibiting private banks from creating money, thus restoring government’s Constitutional authority.
  • Let pension funds be managed by boards controlled by workers, not corporate managers.
  • Regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.
  • Require banks to use honest bookkeeping so that toxic assets cannot be hidden or sold to unsuspecting persons.
  • Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.
  • Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means nationalizing the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and placing them under a Federal Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department.
  • Establish federal, state, and municipal publicly-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities and focus on helping people, not enriching themselves.

EDUCATION

  • Provide tuition-free education from kindergarten through college, thus eliminating the student debt crisis.
  • Forgive existing student debt.
  • Protect our public school systems from privatization
  • End high-stakes testing and stop punishing students and teachers for failures of the system in which they work.
  • Stop denying students diplomas based on tests.
  • Stop using merit pay to punish teachers.

HEALTH CARE

  • Provide complete, affordable, quality health care for every American through an improved Medicare-for-all insurance program.
  • Allow full access to all medically justified contraceptive and reproductive care.
  • Expand women’s access to the “morning after” contraception by lifting the Obama Administration’s ban.
  • Roll back the community drivers of chronic disease, including poor nutrition, health-damaging pollution, and passive dirty transportation.
  • Avoid chronic diseases by investing in essential community health infrastructure such as local, fresh, organic food systems, pollution-free renewable energy, phasing out toxic chemicals, and active transportation such as bike paths and safe sidewalks that dovetail with public transit.
  • End overcharging for prescription drugs by using bulk purchasing negotiations.
  • Ensure that consumers have essential information for making informed food choices by expanding product labeling requirements for country of origin, GMO content, toxic chemical ingredients, fair trade practices, etc.

HOUSING   

  • Impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
  • Offer capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income.
  • Create a federal bank with local branches to take over homes with distressed mortgages, and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants.
  • Expand rental and home ownership assistance and create ample public housing.

CLEAN ENERGY

  • Create a binding international treaty to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels deemed safe by scientific analysis to reduce global warming.
  • Phase out coal power plants to end their unacceptable harm to the climate, health and the economy.
  • End mountaintop removal in Appalachia.
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels and other dead-end industries toward research in renewable energy and conservation.
  • Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, terrorist-proof energy.
  • Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies.
  • Stop hydrofracking to prevent devastating pollution of groundwater, destruction of roads from the transport of millions of tons of toxic water, and the threats of earthquakes recently determined to be caused by drilling and disposal of fracking water in seismically unstable regions.
  • End Federal subsidies for “clean coal” — an expensive, carbon intensive, unproven technology promoted by the coal industry public relations campaign.
  • Halt all drilling that poses a threat to public lands or water resources.
  • Halt the Keystone XL pipeline and bring the tar sand oils under a comprehensive climate protection treaty.

CIVIL LIBERTIES

  • Issue an Executive Order prohibiting Federal agencies from conspiring with local police to infringe upon right of assembly and peaceful protest.
  • Repeal the Patriot Act that violates our constitutional right to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the president the power to indefinitely imprison and even assassinate American citizens without due process.
  • Oppose the Online Piracy Act and all other legislation that would undermine freedom and equality on the Internet.
  • Pass the Equal Rights Amendment to forever end discrimination based on gender.
  • Eliminate the doctrine of corporate personhood with a constitutional amendment to clarify that only human beings have constitutional rights.
  • Implement marriage equality nationwide to end discrimination against same-sex couples.
  • Expand federal support for locally-owned broadcast media and local print media.

VOTING RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY

  • Enact the full Voter’s Bill of Rights guaranteeing each person’s right to vote, the right to have our votes counted on hand-marked paper ballots, and the right to vote within systems that give each vote meaning.
  • Abolish the electoral college and directly elect the President.
  • Get the big money payoffs out of politics by implementing public funding of election campaigns.
  • Reverse the Citizens United ruling to revoke corporate personhood, and amend our Constitution to make clear that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.
  • Restore the right to run for office and eliminate unopposed races by removing ballot access barriers.
  • Require the use of auditable, hand-counted paper ballots in all local, state, and federal elections.
  • Guarantee equal access to the ballot and to the debates to all qualified candidates
  • Eliminate “winner take all” elections in which the “winner” does not have the support of most of the voters, and replace that system with instant runoff voting and proportional representation.
  • Provide equal and free access to the airways for all candidates, not just those with big campaign warchests.
  • Enact statehood for the District of Columbia to ensure the region has full representation in Congress, and full powers of self-rule.
  • Restore voting rights to ex-offenders who’ve paid their debt to society.
  • Require that all votes are counted before election results are released.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions.
  • Celebrate our democratic aspirations by making Election Day a national holiday.
  • Bring simplified, safe same-day voter registration to the nation so that no qualified voter is barred from the polls.
  • Protect our right to vote by supporting Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s proposed “Right to Vote Amendment,” to clarify to the Supreme Court that yes, we do have a constitutional right to vote.
  • Protect the legitimate exercise of local democracy by making clear that acts of Congress establish a floor, and not a ceiling, on laws relating to economic regulation, workers rights, human rights, and the environment.

PEACE AND FOREIGN POLICY

  • Cut the bloated Pentagon budget by 50%.
  • End use of assassination as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy, including collaborative assassination through intermediaries.
  • Increase our energy security by reducing our nation’s dependence on oil.
  • Demilitarize U.S. foreign policy to emphasize human rights, international law, multinational diplomatic initiatives and support for democratic movements across the world.
  • Restore the National Guard as the centerpiece of our defense.
  • Create a nuclear free zone in the Middle East region and require all nations in area to join.
  • Oppose attacks on nuclear facilities.
  • Ban use of drone aircraft for assassination, bombing, and other offensive purposes.
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing both troops and military contractors.
  • Make human rights and international law the basis of our policy in the Middle East.
  • Join 159 other nations in signing the Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines.
  • Close some 140 U.S. military bases abroad.
  • Initiate a new round of nuclear disarmament initiatives.

ENVIRONMENT

  • Create millions of green jobs in areas such as weatherization, recycling, public transportation, worker and community owned cooperatives, and energy-efficient infrastructure.
  • Adopt the EPA’s new tougher standards on ozone pollution.
  • Promote conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials.
  • Promote use of closed-loop, zero waste processes.
  • Promote organic agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.

IMMIGRATION

  • Grant undocumented immigrants who are already residing and working in the United States a legal status which includes the chance to become U.S. citizens.
  • Halt deportations of law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
  • Repeal the deceptively named Secure Communities Act.
  • Improve economic conditions abroad to reduce flow of immigrants, in part by repealing NAFTA.
  • Demilitarize border crossings throughout North America.
  • End the war on immigrants, including the cruel, so-called “secure communities” program.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

  • Repair our communities rather than dump resources into the prison-industrial complex.
  • Work to eliminate laws tying judge’s hands with mandatory sentencing requirements.
  • Immediately legalize medical use of marijuana and move to permit general legal sales under suitable regulatory framework.
  • End the ineffective and costly War on Drugs and begin to treat drug use as a public health problem, not a criminal problem.

Presidential campaign, 2012

In August 2011, Stein gave indication that she was considering running for President of the United States with the Green Party in the 2012 national election. She wrote in a published questionnaire that she had been asked to run by a number of Green activists and felt compelled to consider the possibility after the U.S. debt-ceiling crisis which she called “the President’s astounding attack on Social SecurityMedicare and Medicaid—a betrayal of the public interest…”. In the survey, she suggested that she would announce her intentions by the end of September 2011.[3] Stein later stated that she would announce her intentions on October 24.[27]

On October 24, 2011, Stein launched her campaign at a press conference in Massachusetts, saying, “We are all realizing that we, the people, have to take charge because the political parties that are serving the top 1 percent are not going to solve the problems that the rest of us face, we need people in Washington who will refuse to be bought by lobbyists and for whom change is not just a slogan”.[2]

In December 2011, Wisconsin Green Party leader Ben Manski was announced as Stein’s campaign manager.[28]

Stein’s decision to enter the presidential race was encouraged by a mock election at Western Illinois University where she fared well. The mock election featured the Green ticket of Stein/Mesplay, Democratic ticket of Obama/Biden and Republican ticket of Romney/Ryan, with Stein capturing an impressive 27% of votes, Romney getting 33% and Obama getting 39%. Encouraged by this success, she decided to run to try to win. During an interview with Grist, Stein said:

Jill Stein speaking at Occupy Wall Street

If I can quote Alice Walker, ‘The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing they have it to start with.’ And that’s true, for the environmental movement, the student movement, the antiwar movement, health-care-as-a-human-right movement—you put us all together, we have the potential for a Tahrir Square type event, and [to] turn the White House into a Green House in November.[29]

Stein became the presumptive Green Party nominee after winning two-thirds of California’s delegates in June of 2012.[30] In a statement following the California election, Stein said, “Voters will not be forced to choose between two servants of Wall Street in the upcoming election. Now we know there will be a third candidate on the ballot who is a genuine champion of working people.”[31]

On July 1, 2012, the Jill Stein campaign reported it had received enough contributions to qualify for primary season federal matching funds, pending confirmation from the FEC. If funded, Stein would be the second Green Party presidential candidate ever to have qualified, with Ralph Nader being the first in 2000.[32]

On July 11, 2012, Stein selected anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala as her running mate for the Green vice-presidential nomination.[33][34]

On July 14, 2012, Stein received the official nomination of the Green Party at its nominating convention in July in Baltimore.[1][35]

On August 1, 2012, Stein, Honkala and three others were arrested during a sit-in at a Philadelphia bank to protest housing foreclosures on behalf of several city residents struggling to keep their homes.[36] Stein explained her willingness to be arrested:

The developers and financiers made trillions of dollars through the housing bubble and the imposition of crushing debt on homeowners. And when homeowners could no longer pay them what they demanded, they went to government and got trillions of dollars of bailouts. Every effort of the Obama Administration has been to prop this system up and keep it going at taxpayer expense. It’s time for this game to end. It’s time for the laws be written to protect the victims and not the perpetrators.[37]

On October 16, 2012, Stein and Honkala were arrested after they tried to enter the site of the presidential debate at Hofstra University while protesting the exclusion of smaller political parties, such as the Green Party, from the debates.[38]

Positions

Along the lines of President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal solution to the Great Depression, Jill Stein advocates a “Green New Deal[39] in which renewable energy jobs would be created to address climate change and environmental issues with the objective of employing “every American willing and able to work”.[39] Citing the research of Dr. Phillip Harvey, Professor of Law & Economics at Rutgers University, as evidence of the successful economic effects of the 1930s’ New Deal projects, Stein would fund the plan with a 30% reduction in the U.S. military budget, returning US troops home, and increasing taxes on areas such as capital gains, offshore tax havens and multimillion dollar real estate. Stein plans on impacting what she sees as a growing convergence of environmental crises in water, soil, fisheries and forests, through the creation of sustainable infrastructure based in clean renewable energy generation and sustainable communities principles such as increasing intra-city mass transit and inter-city railroads, creating ‘complete streets’ that safely encourage bike and pedestrian traffic and regional food systems based on sustainable organic agriculture.[39]

Endorsements

Sandy Pushes Nation’s Oldest Nuclear Facility To Declare Rare ‘Alert’

October 31, 2012

Oyster Creek on “Alert” as Sandy Threatens Nuclear Facilities

October 30, 2012

Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

– Common Dreams staff

Hurricane Sandy tests the U.S.’s nuclear facilities as New Jersey’s Oyster Creek declares a rare “alert” while half a dozen other plants slow or shut down operations.

The Oyster Creek nuclear facility in New Jersey remains at “alert status” after Hurricane Sandy. (Photo via Institute of Public Accuracy)Oyster Creek—which is located on the coast of Barnegat Bay about 60 miles east of Philadelphia on the New Jersey Shore—is the country’s oldest nuclear power plant. The facility was theatened yesterday after a disasterous combination of the rising tide, the direction of the wind and the tidal surge caused water levels to rise 6.5 feet above normal within the plant, accordingto a spokesman from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), “potentially affecting the water intake structure” that pumps cooling water through the plant.”

The plant had previously been shut down for scheduled refueling and maintanance and so the cooling pumps were not essential yesterday at the time of the flood. However, the NRCwarns that a further rise “could submerge the service water pump motor that is used to cool the water in the spent fuel pool, potentially forcing it to use emergency water supplies from the in-house fire suppression system to keep the rods from overheating,” a situation reminiscent of that which followed the Fukushima disaster last year.

According to the NRC, the 43-year-old nuclear facility remains at alert status after being upgraded from an “unusual event” at about 9pm Monday night. The second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system, the “alert” indicates that conditions are not catastrophic but signals a “potential substantial degradation in the level of safety.”

In addition to the concerns in regards to the spent fuel pool, small outages also plague the facility. In a statement made on Tuesday, Governor Christie said the facility “lost a portion of its warning-alarm system Monday night, but other warning signals continued to function.” The plant’s owner, Exelon Corp. added that “power was also disrupted in the station’s switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand.”

The Associated Press writes:

Although nuclear plants are built for resilience, their operations get more complicated when only emergency personnel are on duty or if external electricity gets knocked out, as often happens during hurricanes.

“When external power is not available, you have to use standby generators,” said Sudarshan Loyalka, who teaches nuclear engineering at University of Missouri. “You just don’t want to rely on backup power.”

Oyster Creek is not the only nuclear facility at risk because of the storm. One of the units at Indian Point, a plant about 45 miles north of New York City, was shut down Monday because of external electrical grid issues. In a press release (pdf) issued Tuesday, the NRC writes that Salem in Hancocks Bridge, NJ was manually shut down early Tuesday due to a “loss of condenser circulators due to the storm surge and debris.” Also, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group’s Nine Mile Point 1 reactor in upstate New York underwent an automatic shutdown after an electrical fault in an event that was “likely storm related.”

The storm also caused power reductions at both units at the Limerick nuclear plant in Pennsylvania and one unit at the Millstone plant in Connecticut.

According to the NRC, conditions are still safe at “Oyster Creek, Indian Point and all other U.S. nuclear plants.”

Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy

October 30, 2012

 

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News

30 October 12
Reader Supported News | Perspective

 

es, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy – and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas, as well as other extreme weather disasters around the world. Let’s say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation.

Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.

There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.

Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.

Global warming systemically caused the huge and ferocious Hurricane Sandy. And consequently, it systemically caused all the loss of life, material damage, and economic loss of Hurricane Sandy. Global warming heated the water of the Gulf and Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in greatly increased energy and water vapor in the air above the water. When that happens, extremely energetic and wet storms occur more frequently and ferociously. These systemic effects of global warming came together to produce the ferocity and magnitude of Hurricane Sandy.

The precise details of Hurricane Sandy cannot be predicted in advance, any more than when, or whether, a smoker develops lung cancer, or sex without contraception yields an unwanted pregnancy, or a drunk driver has an accident. But systemic causation is nonetheless causal.

Semantics matters. Because the word cause is commonly taken to mean direct cause, climate scientists, trying to be precise, have too often shied away from attributing causation of a particular hurricane, drought, or fire to global warming. Lacking a concept and language for systemic causation, climate scientists have made the dreadful communicative mistake of retreating to weasel words. Consider this quote from “Perception of climate change,” by James Hansen, Makiko Sato, and Reto Ruedy, Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

…we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.

The crucial words here are high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small. Scientific weasel words! The power of the bald truth, namely causation, is lost.

This no small matter because the fate of the earth is at stake. The science is excellent. The scientists’ ability to communicate is lacking. Without the words, the idea cannot even be expressed. And without an understanding of systemic causation, we cannot understand what is hitting us.

Global warming is real, and it is here. It is causing – yes, causing – death, destruction, and vast economic loss. And the causal effects are getting greater with time. We cannot merely adapt to it. The costs are incalculable. What we are facing is huge. Each day, the amount of extra energy accumulating via the heating of the earth is the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Each day!

Because the earth itself is so huge, this energy is distributed over the earth in a way that is not immediately perceptible by our bodies – only a fraction of a degree each day. But the accumulation of total heat energy over the earth is increasing at an astronomical rate, even though the temperature numbers look small locally – 0.8 degrees Celsius so far. If we hit 2.0 degrees Celsius, as we may before long, the earth – and the living things on it – will not recover. Because of ice melt, the level of the oceans will rise 45 feet, while huge storms, fires, and droughts get worse each year.

The international consensus is that by 2.0 degrees Celsius, all civilization would be threatened if not destroyed.

What would it take to reach a 2.0 degrees Celsius increase over the whole earth? Much less than you might think. Consider the amount of oil already drilled and stored by Exxon Mobil alone. If that oil were burned, the temperature of the earth would pass 2.0 degree Celsius, and those horrific disasters would come to pass.

The value of Exxon Mobil – its stock price – resides in its major asset, its stored oil. Because the weather disasters arising from burning that oil would be so great that we would have to stop burning. That’s just Exxon Mobil’s oil. The oil stored by all the oil companies everywhere would, if burned, destroy civilization many times over.

Another way to comprehend this, as Bill McKibben has observed, is that most of the oil stored all over the earth is worthless. The value of oil company stock, if Wall St. were rational, would drop precipitously. Moreover, there is no point in drilling for more oil. Most of what we have already stored cannot be burned. More drilling is pointless.

Are Bill McKibben’s and James Hansen’s numbers right? We had better have the science community double-check the numbers, and fast.

Where do we start? With language. Add systemic causation to your vocabulary. Communicate the concept. Explain to others why global warming systemically caused the enormous energy and size of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the major droughts and fires. Email your media whenever you see reporting on extreme weather that doesn’t ask scientists if it was systemically caused by global warming.

Next, enact fee and dividend, originally proposed by Peter Barnes at Sky Trust and introduced as Senate legislation as the KLEAR Act by Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins. More recently, legislation called fee and dividend has been proposed by James Hansen and introduced in the House by representatives John B, Larson and Bob Inglis.

Next. Do all we can to move to alternative energy worldwide as soon as possible.

 


Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Sandy’s real name.

October 30, 2012

Bill McKibben – 350.org organizers@350.org
2:07 PM (43 minutes ago)

The fossil fuel industry is causing the climate crisis, leading to more extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. We’re calling on Big Oil to stop spending millions to influence this election and donate the money to disaster relief instead. Instead of funding climate silence, they should be funding climate relief.

Click here to sign the petition and contribute to relief efforts:

Contribute and Take Actionwww.350.org/sandy

Dear friends,

We woke up this morning with a deep sense of sadness.

Hurricane Sandy has brought serious hardship to many of the people we love and places we treasure. Large parts of New York City are underwater, millions are still without power, and tens of thousands have been evacuated from their homes. Last night the floodwaters were swirling around the bottom floor of our Brooklyn offices.

Right now, the most important thing we can do is come together as a community and support the relief efforts that are already underway.

But we’re not going to simply mourn our losses. The images coming out of the Atlantic seaboard, and from the refugee camps in Haiti, made us not just sad but angry. This storm was literally unprecedented. It had lower barometric pressure, a higher storm surge, and greater size than the region had ever seen before. It’s as out of kilter as the melting Arctic or the acidifying ocean. And if there were any poetic justice, it would be named Hurricane Chevron or Hurricane Exxon, not Hurricane Sandy.

These fossil fuel corporations are driving the climate crisis and spending millions to block solutions. Instead of buying climate silence, the fossil fuel industry should be funding climate relief.

We’ve set up a page where you can donate to relief efforts, as well as call on Big Oil, Coal and Gas to take the money they’re spending on political campaigning this election and put it towards disaster relief instead:

www.350.org/sandy

The fossil fuel industry has spent over $150 million to influence this year’s election. Last week, Chevron made the single biggest corporate political donation since the Citizens United decision. This industry warps our democracy just as it pollutes our atmosphere. And we’ve had enough.

In the coming year, we’re going to fight both forms of this pollution. Our biggest organizing effort ever begins one week from tomorrow, the Do the Math tour that will, we hope, ignite a long-lasting campaign to force the fossil fuel industry to change. We need you to get involved — by coming out for the show, by spreading the word and joining this fight.

Sandy is what happens when the temperature goes up a degree. The scientists who predicted this kind of megastorm have issued another stark warning: if we stay on our current path, our children will live on a super-heated planet that’s four or five degrees warmer than it is right now. We can’t let that happen.

So let’s get to work.

Many thanks,

Bill McKibben for the whole 350.org Team


LINKS AND INFO

Fossil Fuel Industry Ads Dominate TV Campaign  – The New York Times: www.nyti.ms/RtX89I

Did Climate Change Help Create ‘Frankenstorm’? – Climate Progress: www.bit.ly/Tsr6gG

 

 


350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook andTwitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharingyour story, and donating here.

McKibben on Sandy and Climate Change, “If There Was Ever a Wake-up Call, This Is It.”

October 30, 2012

Amy Goodman
Democracy Now/Video News
Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland.”
RESIZE TEXT + | – | R

Much of the East Coast is shut down today as residents prepare for Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. The storm has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba. “This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc,” says Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day. Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland. The megastorm comes at a time when President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have refused to make climate change an issue on the campaign trail. For the first time since 1984, climate change was never addressed during a presidential debate. “It’s really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, … in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude,” McKibben says. “If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it.” We’re also joined by climate scientist Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Medford, Oregon, broadcasting from Southern Oregon Public Television.

Much of the East Coast is shut down today as residents prepare for Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day. The storm has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba.

Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest ever to hit the U.S. mainland. While not as powerful as Hurricane Katrina, the storm stretches a record 520 miles from its eye. Earlier this morning, the National Hurricane Center said the hurricane’s wind speed increased to 85 miles per hour with additional strengthening possible. Describing it as a rare hybrid “superstorm,” forecasters say Sandy was created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm. The storm could cause up to 12 inches of rain in some areas, as well as up to three feet of snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains. Flooding is also expected to be a major problem. The National Weather Service has warned of record-level flooding and “life-threatening storm surges” in coastal areas. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced it’s taking special precautions for the storm. There are at least 16 nuclear reactors located within the path of the storm. Six oil refineries are also in the storm’s path.

While the news media have been covering Hurricane Sandy around the clock, little attention has been paid to the possible connection between the storm and climate change. Scientists have long warned how global warming would make North Atlantic hurricanes more powerful. Just two weeks ago, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a major study on the connection between warmer sea surface temperatures and increase in stronger Atlantic hurricanes. The report said, quote, “In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years.”

We begin today’s show with two guests. With me here in Oregon, we’re joined by Greg Jones, climate scientist and professor of environmental studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. And joining us by Democracy Now! video stream is Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org. He’s author of numerous books, including Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. On November 7th, 350.org is launching a 20-city nationwide tour called “Do the Math” to connect the dots between extreme weather, climate change and the fossil fuel industry.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s start with Bill McKibben. Bill, you’ve just made it back to Vermont, to your home. Can you talk about the significance of what the East Coast is facing right now?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I think, Amy, that the first thing is this is a storm of really historic proportion. It’s really like something we haven’t seen before. It’s half, again, the size of Texas. It’s coming across water that’s near record warmth as it makes its way up the East Coast. Apparently we’re seeing lower pressures north of Cape Hatteras than have been ever recorded before. The storm surge, which is going to be the very worst part of this storm, is being driven by that huge size and expanse of the storm, but of course it comes in on water that’s already somewhat higher than it would have been in the past because of sea level rise. It’s—it’s a monster. It’s—Frankenstorm, frankly, is not only a catchy name; in many ways, it’s the right name for it. This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc. The governor of Connecticut said yesterday, “The last time we saw anything like this was never.” And I think that’s about right.

AMY GOODMAN: There certainly was a lack of discussion, to put it mildly, in the presidential debates around the issue of climate change.

BILL McKIBBEN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: I don’t think it was raised at all in the three debates.

BILL McKIBBEN: How do you think Mitt Romney is feeling this morning for having the one mention he’s made the whole time? His big laugh line at the Republican convention was how silly it was for Obama to be talking about slowing the rise of the oceans. I’d say that’s—wins pretty much every prize for ironic right now.

There has been a pervading climate silence. We’re doing our best to break that. Yesterday afternoon, there was a demonstration in Times Square, a sort of giant dot to connect the dots with all the other climate trouble around the world. Overnight, continuing in Boston, there’s a week-long vigil outside Government Center to try and get the Senate candidates there to address the issue of climate change.

It’s incredibly important that we not only—I mean, first priority is obviously people’s safety and assisting relief efforts in every possible way, but it’s also really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, when we’ve seen the warmest month, July, of any month in a year in U.S. history, in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude. If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play the clip you’re referring to of Mitt Romney at the Republican convention in Tampa.

MITT ROMNEY: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mitt Romney at the conventions, but—at the Republican convention. But again, when it came to the presidential debate, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney raised the issue of climate change. I wanted to bring Greg Jones, climate scientist and professor of environmental studies here at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, into the conversation. The connection between the superstorm we’re seeing and climate change?

GREG JONES: Well, this is clearly a very unique event. And I—as a climate scientist, to some degree, I kind of worry that these type of unique events are clearly more frequent in the future. We have the conditions that have produced something that could be very damaging for the East Coast of the United States, and I often wonder why we don’t seem more of them. But, you know, the question is, today is, is that where we are in terms of our climate science understanding of these things, the rarity of this event is what makes it very unique. And I think all of the conditions came together to produce a superstorm. And we’ve had a few that have been close to this, but given the number of people involved and the location where it’s coming onshore, it’s a very problematic event.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, what do you think has to happen now? You have been traveling the world, warning people, working with organizations around the issue of climate change. Do you feel like the kind of organizing you’re doing has an effect? I mean, you see these three presidential debates. Tens of millions of people watch them. They sort of define the discourse in this country. And yet, not raised in any—it’s not only the candidates don’t raise them, the reporters who are the moderators of these debates don’t raise the issue.

BILL McKIBBEN: Look, we’re up against the most powerful and richest industry on earth, and the status quo is their friend, and they want nothing to change. And until we’re able to force them to the table, as it were, very little will happen in Washington or elsewhere. That’s why we launched this huge tour, beginning the night after the election, not coincidentally, in Seattle and continuing around the country. You can find out about it at math.350.org. But the point is that we really finally need to have this reckoning. Either the fossil fuel industry keeps pouring carbon into the atmosphere and we keep seeing this kind of event, or we take some action.

Here’s the thing always to remember. The crazy changes that we’re seeing now, the—you know, the fact that we broke the Arctic this summer, the fact that the oceans are 30 percent more acid, that’s all that’s all happened when you raise the temperature of the earth one degree. The same scientists who told us that was going to happen are confident that the temperature will go up four degrees, maybe five, unless we get off coal and gas and oil very quickly. And to do that, you know, it’s nice to talk to Washington, but in certain ways Washington has turned into customer service for the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to take on that industry directly.

Not time today. Time today is to take care of people all up and down the East Coast, to work in the relief efforts, to get the message out as this storm heads north. We in Vermont, knowing from last year, from last year’s superstorm, Irene, have a pretty good idea of just how traumatic this is going to be. So the short-term effort is all about people. But the slightly longer-term effort is to make sure that we’re not creating a world where this kind of thing happens over and over and over again.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, you mentioned that the storm is made up of elements both natural and unnatural. What do you mean by that?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, look, I mean, global warming doesn’t cause hurricanes. We’ve always had hurricanes. Hurricanes cause when a wave, tropical wave, comes off the coast of Africa and moves on to warm water and the wind shear is low enough to let it form a circulation, and so on and so forth. But we’re producing conditions like record warm temperatures in seawater that make it easier for this sort of thing to get, in this case, you know, up the Atlantic with a head of steam. We’re making—we’re raising the sea levels. And when that happens, it means that whatever storm surge comes in comes in from a higher level than it would have before. We’re seeing—and there are a meteorologists—although I don’t think this is well studied enough yet to really say it conclusively, there are people saying that things like the huge amount of open water in the Arctic have been changing patterns, of big wind current patterns, across the continent that may be contributing to these blocking pressure areas and things that we’re seeing. But, to me, that, at this point, is still mostly speculation.

What really is different is that there is more moisture and more energy in this narrow envelope of atmosphere. And that energy expresses itself in all kind of ways. That’s why we get these record rainfalls now, time after time. I mean, last year, it was Irene and then Lee directly after that. This year, this storm, they’re saying, could be a thousand-year rainfall event across the mid-Atlantic. I think that means more rain than you’d expect to see in a thousand years. But I could pretty much—I’d be willing to bet that it won’t be long before we see another one of them, because we’re changing the odds. By changing the earth, we change the odds.

And one thing for all of us to remember today, even as we deal with the horror on the East Coast, is that this is exactly the kind of horror people have been dealing with all over the world. Twenty million people were dislocated by flood in Pakistan two years ago. There are people with kind of existential fears about whether their nations will survive the rise of sea level. We’re seeing horrific drought not just in the Midwest, but in much of the rest of the world. This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened on earth, climate change, and our response has to be the same kind of magnitude.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, why are you waiting ’til after the presidential election to have your 20-city tour raising the issue, calling it “Do the Math”?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I mean, we’ve been involved as we can be in the political fight, but we don’t want this issue to go away when elections are over. Even if Barack Obama wins, we do not want everybody to just, “Oh, well, he’ll take care of it.” That’s what happened four years ago. What we want is for—no matter who wins and no matter who wins in the Senate and the House, we want to put the fossil fuel industry front and center and put real pressure on them. We’re going to try and launch a divestment movement that looks like the one around South Africa a quarter-century ago. We’re going to be bringing home the math that I described in a piece in Rolling Stone this summer that went kind of viral, explaining that the fossil fuel industry already has five times more carbon in its inventory than even the most conservative government thinks would be safe to burn. And every day, they go out looking for more. This is a rogue industry now. I mean, if Sandy is a rogue storm, then, say, Exxon is a rogue industry. They, in their inventory alone, have more than 7 percent of the carbon necessary to take us past two degrees. They’re outlaws not against the laws of the state, but against the laws of physics. And you begin to see the results of that when you look around events like today’s.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, I want to thank you for being with us. And very quickly, how are people in Vermont preparing? I mean, when—when Hurricane Irene hit, it ended up not being a very big deal in New York, but it ended up being a massive catastrophe for your state, for Vermont. What’s happening? How are you preparing here?

BILL McKIBBEN: [inaudible] in Vermont in a very long time. We’re expecting to lose power and have very strong winds. I think, selfishly, those of us in Vermont are just almost psychologically—I’m—you know, we really, really, a year later, don’t need to be the center of this storm. We don’t wish it on anybody else, but, you know, physically and psychologically, Vermont’s barely recovered from Irene. And we have some incredible sense of sympathy for the people who are getting hammered hardest by Sandy this time around.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Bill McKibben, for being with us, founder of 350.org, speaking to us from his home in Vermont. When we come back, we’ll stay with Greg Jones, climate scientist, professor of environmental studies here at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and we’ll be joined by meteorologist Jeff Masters. Stay with us.

Author pic
ABOUT AMY GOODMAN

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Monsanto’s Roundup, Glyphosate Related to Parkinson’s and Related Diseases

October 30, 2012

Elizabeth Renter
Natural Society/News Report
Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
Until pesticides and herbicides are no longer used on a mass scale, the growth of these diseases will likelycontinue.
Article image

We already know the links between herbicides and sterility in men, birth defectsmental illness, obesity and possibly cancer—but now we have something new to add to the nasty effects of pesticides list — Parkinson’s disease and similar neurodegenerative conditions.

New research, published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, indicates a connection between a component in Monsanto’s Roundup and Parkinson’s disease. Glyphosate is said to induce cell death, with frightening repercussions.

GreenMedInfo.com reports the study was investigating the links between herbicides (weed killers) and brain damage. These chemicals, the study’s authors say, “have been recognized as the main environmental factor associated with neurodegenerative disorders,” like Parkinson’s. 

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative nervous system disease. It slowly progresses as time goes on with common symptoms like tremors, rigidity, difficulty walking, poor posture, lack of movement, and slowness of movement, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The CDC reports Parkinson’s as the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2010 (the last year for which data is available), there was 4.6% increase in the number of deaths attributed to this disease. One has to wonder if there is a connection between this jump and the ever-growing prevalence of herbicides like Roundup in our air, food, and water.

Studies indicate that glyphosate is toxic to human DNA “at concentrations diluted 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.” Worded differently—the levels considered safe by our government are 450 times the levels at which glyphosate has been found to damage and destroy human DNA. Yes, it’s that serious.

One case study found a woman who was exposed to glyphosate in the workplace for 3 years at a chemical factory. She wore gloves and a face mask. She was initially a healthy, middle-aged women. But, she developed “rigidity, slowness, and resting tremor in all four limbs.” She was also experiencing severe dizziness, weakness, and blurred vision. And hers isn’t the only such case.

What’s so scary about the growing body of research on Monsanto’s Roundup, its components, and their presence in nearly everything around us, is that the federal government refuses to recognize the risk. Despite a growing concern on an international level, the powers-that-be are seemingly content to turn their eyes while the people demand accountability and safe food.

Until pesticides and herbicides are no longer used on a mass scale, the growth of these diseases will likely continue. Eat 100% organic produce whenever possible to bypass exposure to destructive pesticides and herbicides.

David Attenborough: U.S. politicians duck climate change because of cost

October 29, 2012

The broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough says scientists and environmentalists have been cautious of overstating the dangers of global warming, but recent evidence of melting polar caps shows the situation is worse than had been thought. He also discusses population growth and disappearing habitats

• You can listen to a longer version of this interview at Guardian.co.uk/scienceweekly on Monday 29 October

By Adam Vaughan and Camila Ruz

One of the world’s leading naturalists has accused U.S. politicians of ducking the issue of climate change because of the economic cost of tackling it and warned that it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to the dangers of global warming.Speaking just days after the subject of climate change failed to get a mention in the U.S. presidential debates for the first time in 24 years,Sir David Attenborough told the Guardian: “[It] does worry me that the most powerful nation in the world … denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don’t know what you do about that. It’s easier to deny.”Asked what was needed to wake people up, the veteran broadcaster famous for series such as Life and Planet Earth said: “Disaster. It’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it? Even disaster doesn’t do it. There have been disasters in North America, with hurricanes and floods, yet still people deny and say ‘oh, it has nothing to do with climate change.’ It visibly has got [something] to do with climate change.”But some U.S. politicians found it easier to deny the science on climate change than take action, he said, because the consequence of recognizing the science on human-made climate change “means a huge section from the national budget will be spent in order to dealwith it; plenty of politicians will be happy to say ‘don’t worry about that, we’re not going to increase your taxes.’”Neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney mentioned climate change in three TV debates, despite a summer of record temperatures and historic drought in the U.S.Romney used Obama’s commitment to taking action on climate change as a joke in his convention speech. The president later hit back by saying, “And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke.” However, environmentalists have been critical of Obama’s silence on the subject, and the Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, went as far as saying it meant he was, in effect, “another climate denier.”

Attenborough said he thought the U.S.’s attitude towards climate change and the environment was not just because of politics, but because of the country’s history. “[It’s] because they’re a pioneer country. There has been the wild west, the western frontier … that’s still there. You see it in the arms business, the right for everyone to bear arms. It’s part of the pioneer stuff that [Americans have] grown up with.”

By contrast, he said, people in the U.K. had “grown up with a mythology of black industry and wrecking the countryside.”

The current financial crisis has made it problematic for politicians to show leadership on climate change, Attenborough acknowledged. “Well, it’s a very difficult time to do it. In times of recession, it’s a very difficult time to advance these arguments [on the urgency of tackling climate change] that mean you have to spend even more money and take money from taxes to do things,” he said.

Yet he also warned that it was becoming clear the impacts of climate change were worse than had been expected. Talking about the record Arctic sea ice melt this summer, he said: “The situation is worse than we thought [in the Arctic]. The processes of melting are more volatile than we thought. More complicated. The ice cap is really melting faster than we thought.”

The 86-year-old naturalist, who is also a patron of the charityPopulation Matters, said many of the environmental problems the world faced could be helped by addressing human population, which isbelieved to have reached the 7 billion mark last year, and is forecast to reach 10 billion by the middle of the century.

The solution, he said, was to raise living standards and increase democracy in developing countries. “The only way I can think of [tackling population] is by giving women the rights to control their own bodies and control how many children they have. In every circumstance where women have that right, where they have the vote, where there are proper medical facilities, where they are literate, where they are given the choice, the birth rate falls,” he said. “That is a good start, if that could be spread.”

This story was produced by the Guardian as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Camila Ruz is a freelance science journalist who blogs about zoology and popular science books.
Adam Vaughan is editor of environmentguardian.co.uk. He previously edited sites for CBS and Haymarket.
READ MORE: CLIMATE & ENERGYPOLITICS

Also in Grist

“No War By Any Nation in Any Age Has Ever Been Declared By the People”

October 29, 2012

October 26, 2012

 

By Arlen Grossman

Eugene Debs spoke out against World War I, and all wars, in a 1917 speech. Because of that speech he was sentenced to ten years behind bars. Here are excerpts from that stirring speech.

::::::::

HISTORY LESSONS AND HEROES WE SHOULDN’T FORGET

Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs spoke out against World War I, and all wars, in a speech on June 16, 1918 in Canton, Ohio. Because of this speech, Debs was arrested two weeks later, charged with ten counts of sedition, and sentenced to ten years in prison under the Espionage Act of 1917. While in prison, Debs ran for president in 1921 and received nearly one million votes. He served two years, eight months in prison before having his sentence commuted (for health reasons) by President Harding in 1921.

Image: Library of Congress

Here are excerpts from his 1918 Canton speech:

“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages, when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth, they declared war upon one another.

“But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street, go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages–the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day–declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles”. 
“And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose–especially their lives. 
 
“They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world, you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. 
“And here let me emphasize the fact–and it cannot be repeated too often–that the working class that fights all the battles, the working class that makes the supreme sacrifices, the working class that freely sheds its blood and furnishes the corpses, has never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace.
 
“It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. “Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die.’ That is  their motto, and we object on the part of the awakening workers of this nation.”

http://recollectionbooks.comFrom his statement to the judge before sentencing:

“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

“I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions”

“Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change–but if possible by peaceable and orderly means”

 

P.S. The Espionage Act of 1917, though amended over the years, is still in effectPrior to the time President Obama took office, It had been used three times for cases involving government officials providing classified information to the media. It has been used at least six times during the Obama’s time in office, including against Bradley Manning. According to David Carr of the  New York Times , “the majority of the recent prosecutions seem to have everything to do with administrative secrecy and very little to do with national security.”

Actor Mark Ruffalo reads  Debs’s Canton speech : 

Submitters Website: thebigpicturereport.com

Submitters Bio:

Arlen is a writer/blogger living in Monterey, CA. His political blog is thebigpicturereport.com. He writes a weekly quotation quiz “What’s Your QQ?” (Quotation Quotient) for the Monterey County Herald, as well as a quotationquotient.com website and Facebook page. In addition, “Quirky Quotations” appears monthly in The Foolish Times, a local humor publication. He also does a weekly quotation quiz segment and talks politics on Monterey’s progressive talk radio station, KRXA 540AM. He has yet to win any Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes, but if he does, he will let you know.

California’s Prop 37 Could Make Food Safer for Us All

October 28, 2012

A kids campaign is under way urging parents to vote yes on Prop 37. (photo: Organic Connections)
A kids campaign is under way urging parents to vote yes on Prop 37. (photo: Organic Connections)

By Amy Goodman, Guardian UK

27 October 12

 

Californians can blaze a trail by voting for a ballot measure that mandates genetically modified food be properly labelled

f California were a country, with its population approaching 40 million, it would be among the 30 most populous nations on Earth. The economic, political and cultural impacts of California on the rest of the United States are huge. That is why citizen ballot initiatives in California – and any state law, for that matter – can carry such significance.

Of the 11 initiatives before the 2012 California electorate, one drawing perhaps the most attention is Proposition 37, on the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Whether or not this ballot passes could have a significant impact on how our food system is organized, favoring small, local organic food producers (if it passes), or allowing for the increased expansion of large, corporate agribusiness (if it fails).

The initiative is straightforward, requiring that genetically modified foods be labeled as such. The official California voter guide summarizes Prop 37 this way:

“Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural.’ Provides exemptions.”

More than 1m signatures were gathered in order to put the proposition on the ballot.

The group promoting the initiative, Yes on Proposition 37 California Right to Know, has garnered thousands of endorsements, from health, public interest, consumer, and farm and food advocacy groups, among others. Prop 37 spokesperson Stacy Malkan, a longtime advocate for environmental health, told me:

“It’s about our right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding our families. It’s about our right to decide if we want to eat food that’s been fundamentally altered at the genetic level, by companies like Monsanto, to contain bacteria, viruses or foreign genes that have never been in the food system before … Sixty-one other countries require labeling laws, but we haven’t been able to get labeling here because of the enormous influence of Monsanto and the chemical companies.”

Journalist Michael Pollan is no lightweight when it comes to food. His bestselling books include The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual and the forthcoming Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. I reached him in Berkeley, where he is on the faculty at the UC BerkeleySchool of Journalism. He supports Prop 37, and explained why:

“Something very exciting is happening around food in this country. There is a movement. You see it when you go to the farmers’ market … People are getting very interested in where their food comes from, how it was produced, and they’re trying very hard to vote with their fork, as the slogan goes, for the kind of food that supports their values, the kind of food that they deem most healthy or environmentally sustainable.”

For Pollan, the science is still unclear on whether or not GMO food poses a health risks:

“Genetically modified organisms may have been developed in laboratories by scientists in places like Berkeley, but make no mistake, they’re owned by very large corporations. Monsanto and DuPont now own something like 47% of the seed supply in this country. The real benefit of GMOs to these companies is really the ability to control the genetic resources on which humankind depends … this represents a whole new level of corporate control over our food supply.”

Prop 37 still might lose, because of these corporate stakeholders, which Malkan describes as “the world’s largest pesticide and junk-food companies, who are spending $40m carpet-bombing California with a campaign of deception and trickery, with lie after lie in the ads that are going unchallenged in the media”. The paid ad campaigns are slick and pervasive, suggesting that the labeling law is poorly written, will cause new state bureaucracy and increase food costs, and will provoke a flurry of frivolous lawsuits.

UC Berkeley agriculture professor David Zilberman opposes Prop 37, but, ironically, provides a strong argument in favor of broad food-safety regulation:

“Almost all the food that we eat is genetically modified … If we label, there are pesticides that are much worse than genetically modified food.”

Perhaps, in his opposition to Prop 37, he has planted the seed of a broader food-safety movement to include pesticide labeling as well.

California produces much of this country’s food. The Golden State’s labeling law just might set the gold standard for food safety for us all.