IBI Watch 6/24/12

24 06 2012

Rio + 20 – Hot Air to Spare  //

The Rio+20 Conference started with low expectations.  At least it did not disappoint.  Turf, denial and most of all self-interest prevail in the final document emerging right now.  Though manmade climate change and all its ugly consequences are more evident all the time, it was pretty much off the table.  And forget the driving issue to drive all issues – continued human population growth.

George Monbiot, author of Heat, among other books, summed up the morphing of these cyclical grand international talks with this quote, posted to his blog:

“In 1992, world leaders signed up to something called ‘sustainability’. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: ‘sustainable development’. Then it made a short jump to another term: ‘sustainable growth’. And now, in the 2012 Rio+20 text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.

 This term crops up 16 times in the document, where it is used interchangeably with sustainability and sustainable development. But if sustainability means anything, it is surely the opposite of sustained growth. Sustained growth on a finite planet is the essence of unsustainability.”

Here is Monbiot’s complete article.  And if you visit his Guardian blog post, be sure to check the imbedded protest video.  Canadian activist Cameron Fenton leads a group of protesters who have little regard for the empty closing statement.

Here is another Canadian’s take on the conference. Bob McDonald gets it right when he says the conference is really about consumption, not sustainability.  He also sounds a familiar theme – science denial – and takes a swipe at his own country’s environmental record.

So – not much accomplished, to no great surprise.  I hear there were some great parties for the attendees, though.


What Rio Ignores

Of course, it would be impossible to document all the environmental degradation ignored by the Rio conference.  Here are just a few recent highlights.  This post from earthsky.org includes charts documenting the retreat of Arctic ice.  You know Shell is watching this carefully.  And here is a recent HuffPost article detailing melting on the other end of the planet.  It includes a nifty video on emperor penguins that actually holds some good news – at least for now.  And finally here is another HuffPost piece that looks at the big picture of how far we are pushing the planet to meet our ever-growing demands.


Duluth Deluge: Welcome to the Future

It’s common to read about a Duluth tested by monstrous snowstorms and icy gales off Lake Superior.  It is not so common to read about the kind of flooding that inundated the city last week.  By most measures, the floods and resulting damage are unprecedented.  Here’s a New York Times piece that tallies up the formidable cost of the destruction.  Whenever you read about an event like this, you find the phrase ‘the worst since . . .”  And for a while, people were comparing this event to flooding in 1972.  Those comparisons inevitably fuel climate change denialists’ smoke machines.  But in this case, there really is no comparison.  There is also no escaping the fact that this kind of event is becoming more common.  Welcome to the future, that we continue to build with our greenhouse emissions and laissez-faire (or worse) response.

Here is a quote on the Duluth event, from Douglas’s blog:

 “Was Climate Change A Factor? The question keeps coming up – people want to know if a warmer atmosphere somehow contributed to the mega-flood that may ultimately cost Minnesota well over $100 million. My answer, after teeing this up with climate scientists I trust, is yes. People who say ‘you can’t link any one event with climate change’ are missing the point. Climate and weather are now hopelessly intertwined, linked – flip sides of the same coin. It’s basic physics: a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. If there’s more water floating overhead you increase the potential for these extreme rainfall events. You may argue over how much is “natural” vs. man-made, but there’s no debating the fact that Minnesota is a warmer place than it was 30-40 years ago.

 A warmer atmosphere is now flavoring all weather events, making winter snows more sporadic, reducing the number of subzero lows, keeping ice on area lakes for fewer days, and increasing summer dew points and humidity levels, doubling the number of 3″+ downpours since 1961, according to a new study that came out in May. This warmer ‘background hum’ is our new reality. It will continue to manifest itself in strange, and (at times) violent ways in the years to come. The truth: the rain isn’t falling as gently as it did for our grandparents. This trend will ultimately impact everything from how we build our roads and homes to agriculture; engineering new strains of crops that are more resistant to downpours and (increasing) bouts of drought. The weather models we use are having a tough time keeping up with this brave new Weather 2.0 environment – the maps are crazy: just two months ago most of Minnesota was in an extreme drought – now we’re faced with one of the wettest Junes in Minnesota state history. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…”

Read and view lots more from Paul Douglas right here.  By the way, Douglas is a Republican.  He is a rare example that proves you don’t have to be pignorant to be GOP.  But it does get harder all the time.


The Big Money that Runs the Big Machine

Mother Jones magazine is doing a fine series on money in politics – arguably the biggest challenge to our democracy today.  Yes, even bigger than gay marriage and teaching evolution in schools.  This in-depth piece by Andy Kroll links our current ‘pay-for-play,’ Supreme-Court based system with the good old days.  Those would be the Nixon days.  The co-editors of Mother Jones (to which you can subscribe at an unbelievably low price) appeared on Moyers and Company recently.  Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein gave a great interview, well worth your watching.  I especially liked Bauerlein’s quote:  Q  “Now it’s really much more about – ‘Can I have a career in politics if I routinely antagonize the only interests that can afford to underwrite a campaign?  And that’s something that everybody from a city council member all the way to the president has to contend with.”  Jeffery and Bauerlein do have a prescription for this anti-democratic mess – legislation that requires transparency.  That way, even if the Supremes continue to characterize mountains of cash as ‘speech,’ we could see very clearly who is providing the cash.  That is, buying the players.  But there is a catch – we have to persuade those legislators – whose political survival depends on cash from the high rollers – to support transparency.

Legislation backed (bought) by the most powerful naturally benefits the most powerful, at the great expense of the public good.  A main agent of this greed-based agenda is Grover Norquist – he of the ‘never-raise taxes’ pledge.  Until recently, he worked in the shadows.  Even now, with more people watching, he remains powerful.  Sign an anti-Norquist petition here.


Happy 90, Norman Lear!

The heyday of my TV watching is long past.  Go ahead, ask me about Arnie, Run Buddy Run and Mr. Terrific.  On second thought, don’t bother.  But two shows have stayed with me over these many years – The Twilight Zone and All in the Family.  The creator of the latter, Norman Lear, recently celebrated his 90th birthday.  I especially enjoyed this NPR feature on the great TV producer – who also founded People for the American Way.  I find All in the Family to be completely relevant today – sadly, we are still arguing about the same stuff.

I was especially tickled to learn that Lear based his most memorable character, Archie Bunker, on his own dad.  Why?  My relationship with my dad – who passed away in February – could easily have been a prototype for Archie and his son-in-law, Michael Stivic.  For years, I called Dad ‘Arch’ in person and in our frequent e-mail missives.  I considered it an odd achievement when in his last few years Dad finally admitted his ideological affinity with Archie, and began calling me ‘Meathead.’  If you don’t like that remembrance, I have one word for you: ‘Stifle.’


Evolution – Two Exciting Applications . . .

And not a religious zealot in sight.  Listen to a short story on an experiment in aural evolution.  ‘Survival of the Funkiest’ indeed.  Next, check Krista Tippett’s On Being.  Her Guest, David Sloan Wilson, is applying evolutionary theory to society.  His ideas are intriguing – and very timely.  His book, Darwin’s Cathedral, is now on my reading list.  Both these stories are highly recommended.


“I ain’t got no respect for no religion where the head guy claims he can’t make no mistakes. Like he’s, waddya call, inflammable.” – Archie Bunker


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN


Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper




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