IBI Watch 2/17/13

17 02 2013

What the People Want //

In the January/February Mother Jones, editors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery laid out arguably the biggest legacy choice faced by President Obama in his second term. The multitudes massing in the nation’s capital right now point to that choice – it is whether his strong words in the State of the Union message will translate into action to do everything possible to mitigate and reverse climate change.

What struck me most in the Bauerlein/Jeffery essay was this – a Yale/George Mason poll from 2012 that detailed public opinion on climate legislation. Here are a few highlights: 63 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans said climate change was a key issue in their vote. And in 2011, a Stanford study reported 77 percent of the public would support a candidate who said climate change is real, humans are the cause and cleaner energy is needed.

This is powerful. It is also simultaneously encouraging and perplexing. Encouraging because it says – Heartland Institute, Limbaugh, Inhofe, etc. be damned – people understand this issue. Perplexing because – with this level of public awareness, why the policy paralysis? Why would many expect President Obama’s oft-cited “all of the above” energy/climate policy balance sensible protections with the explosion of the biggest carbon bomb yet, the Alberta tar sands? Here is one prominent commentator, Bonnie Blodgett, who expects just that cave. I cannot disagree with her analysis, and yet I hold out hope. The climate disaster that Blodgett describes is just what will result from approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is the target of the Washington demonstration.

Two guests on this week’s Moyers and Company, Dan Cantor and Jonathan Soros, did not mention climate change a single time. And yet, their message holds the answer to why progress has been nigh impossible on this crucial issue. It’s the corporate money that pollutes and overwhelms our political system. The two men come from very different backgrounds, but have landed on the same cause – get political power back into the hands of the people. And they have successes to boast of – particularly a victory by a populist candidate in a squeaker of a New York State Senate race. Cantor and Soros are founders of a SuperPac, Friends of Democracy. I highly recommend the Moyers segment, which runs 30 minutes. It includes several imbedded videos, and of course an inspiring message. Cantor and Soros are emphatic on this point – the biggest barrier to replacing one dollar, one vote with one person one vote is the all-too-familiar one – apathy.

Removing corporate influence over elections has long been a Moyers cause – here is his latest essay on the topic. I like his take on the “golden rule of politics.” Here are two more groups fighting to get corporate money out of our elections – The Move to Amend and the Center for American Progress.

Climate Commitment is Building

Regular IBI Watch readers know that I like to collect and share the latest climate change research findings. For a change of pace, let’s stay away from shocking new findings and instead look at a few hopeful signs.

First – Senator Barbara Boxer, much more widely known and influential than progressive crusader Senator Bernie Sanders, is introducing legislation calling for a carbon fee/dividend system. The article treats this idea as a “new twist,” but of course James Hansen, Bill McKibben and others have championed this approach for some time. Second – the Sierra Club, an organization I have long supported, has abandoned its longtime refusal to engage in civil obedience. Its current leader, Michael Brune, got himself arrested in a protest at the White House. Watch him hold his own here against a hostile Fox interviewer who leads a tag team trying to drag this guy into the mud. Third – there is a major institution in the US that is not waiting for the do-nothing, corporate-ruled Congress to act. That would be the US military. The current Mother Jones has an excellent cover story on how the military is leading the charge on renewable fuel. (It’s not linkable on line just yet.) And why not? They are the ones who have to fight our endless petrol wars.

Finally, I put my faith in the young people. A fine example is this video from SciShow. The young narrator is informed, world-weary and entertaining. I like the attitude here.

Rising Waters

Sorry, I broke my promise. But hey, I am not running for office, so cut me some slack. If you have been puzzled – as I have – about how global-warming-induced sea rise could vary by coast and region, here is what seems like the story. A friend pointed me to this link about the latest research on the slowing Gulf Stream (part of the great ocean conveyor belt, properly called the thermohaline circulation). And another friend sent this in-depth article on what is at stake in the Keystone XL battle. Michael T. Klare – author of Resource Wars, Blood and Oil, and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. makes a persuasive case that denying approval to Keystone will deal a body blow to tar sands exploitation. Approve, and accelerate global warming and all its ill effects – which are already playing out faster than scientists projected several decades ago. And finally, here is a provocative article suggesting that hydraulic fracturing of rock to yield previously unavailable deposits of natural gas may not be the climate savior it is fracked up to be.

Explosion-Induced Tone Deafness

Remember the earlier theme – about the people stifled by powerful financial interests? Listening to the assertions of NRA leaders David Keene and the better-known Wayne LaPierre yields the conclusion that these guys will forever choose not to hear the people’s will. Why this selective deafness? It’s not the effect of nearby gunshots for sure. Maybe it is the financial power of the gun and ammunition manufacturers and merchants who pay these guys’ salaries.

I choose instead to follow the researchers who have continued research into the impact and implications of America’s problem of gun violence – such as those at Johns Hopkins University. More important, I choose to hear the survivors and families of innocent victims of the seemingly endless toll – Kim Odom, who lost her son to gun violence; the family of Hadiya Pendleton, victim of a gang war in Chicago; former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, gun owners themselves who are courageously turning their tragedy into a struggle for reasonable gun regulation.

Change will not be easy, and there is no guarantee of success. In fact, when organizations speak up in favor of reason, they end up here. (Note – a friend had sent me that original link, which was indeed tossed down the NRA memory hole.) But – just like with climate change – people understand this issue. For proof, I leave you with this video on the incredible outpouring of sympathy for the shattered community of Newtown.

Yes, the Sky is Falling

It is hard to top the cosmic timing. On the very day that a predicted fly-by of a large asteroid occurred on schedule, a sudden, unannounced visitor exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia.  Though it sounds way-put, we should be planning and preparing for such events. The consequences of not preparing are grave, and we have the technology to divert disaster. This Space.com article brings it all together nicely and has some eye-catching, concise videos to boot.

For the Birds

We humans strut around like we own the place. And of course, for better or worse (too often the latter), we do. Just consider how we continually expropriate more and more of the natural world for our own use. Hey, there are more and more of us all the time (seven billion and ever mounting, but who’s counting?!) – so what do you expect? But putting all that aside for another day, I have two items that remind us that nature can still strike back. First – maybe these vultures are trying to tell us something. Second – I challenge you to watch this very brief video of an unexpected wildlife display in an unusual space and not root for its protagonist.

Best Jeopardy Answer Yet

Back when I (seemingly) had more time to burn, I was a Jeopardy junkie. This affliction struck early – I would race home for lunch in the third grade and watch Art Fleming (predecessor to the long-tenured Alex Trebek). I in fact tried out for the show in Chicago some years ago. I didn’t quite make it (damn!), but then there is always the looming senior tournament. But I have never seen anything quite like the display of guts and wit in this segment from the venerable quiz show’s current teen tournament.  Will it have a happy ending? You will just have to watch.

“Environmental justice for all is civil rights in the 21st century.” – Majora Carter

Contributed links to this posting – Bonnie Blodgett, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy, Lucinda Plaisance, Tammie Stadt

 

Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN

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