Tag: Barack Obama

Climate Change and Humanity

A powerful essay by Tom Engelhardt from his blogsite TomDispatch.

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs know that essays from TomDispatch often find their way onto these pages.  They are republished with the generous permission of Tom and I endeavour to select those essays that shine a new light on a current issue.   No less so than with today’s essay, first published over on TomDispatch on May 22nd, 2014.

Just a note before you start reading Tom’s very important essay.  That there are many links to papers, articles and other references throughout the essay.  (I know, they took me a couple of hours to set up!)  Could I recommend strongly that you ‘click’ on each link and make a note of the references you wish to read at a later time.  I shall be referring to some of them next week when I comment more generally on this fabulous essay.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Is Climate Change a Crime Against Humanity?

The 95% Doctrine

Climate Change as a Weapon of Mass Destruction 

By Tom Engelhardt

Who could forget? At the time, in the fall of 2002, there was such a drumbeat of “information” from top figures in the Bush administration about the secret Iraqi program to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and so endanger the United States. And who — other than a few suckers — could have doubted that Saddam Hussein was eventually going to get a nuclear weapon? The only question, as our vice president suggested on “Meet the Press,” was: Would it take one year or five? And he wasn’t alone in his fears, since there was plenty of proof of what was going on. For starters, there were those “specially designed aluminum tubes” that the Iraqi autocrat had ordered as components for centrifuges to enrich uranium in his thriving nuclear weapons program. Reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon hit the front page of the New York Times with that story on September 8, 2002.

Then there were those “mushroom clouds” that Condoleezza Rice, our national security advisor, was so publicly worried about — the ones destined to rise over American cities if we didn’t do something to stop Saddam. As she fretted in a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer on that same September 8th, “[W]e don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” No, indeed, and nor, it turned out, did Congress!

And just in case you weren’t anxious enough about the looming Iraqi threat, there were those unmanned aerial vehicles — Saddam’s drones! — that could be armed with chemical or biological WMD from his arsenal and flown over America’s East Coast cities with unimaginable results. President George W. Bush went on TV to talk about them and congressional votes were changed in favor of war thanks to hair-raising secret administration briefings about them on Capitol Hill.

In the end, it turned out that Saddam had no weapons program, no nuclear bomb in the offing, no centrifuges for those aluminum pipes, no biological or chemical weapons caches, and no drone aircraft to deliver his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction (nor any ships capable of putting those nonexistent robotic planes in the vicinity of the U.S. coast). But what if he had? Who wanted to take that chance? Not Vice President Dick Cheney, certainly. Inside the Bush administration he propounded something that journalist Ron Suskind later dubbed the “one percent doctrine.” Its essence was this: if there was even a 1% chance of an attack on the United States, especially involving weapons of mass destruction, it must be dealt with as if it were a 95%-100% certainty.

Here’s the curious thing: if you look back on America’s apocalyptic fears of destruction during the first 14 years of this century, they largely involved three city-busting weapons that were fantasies of Washington’s fertile imperial imagination. There was that “bomb” of Saddam’s, which provided part of the pretext for a much-desired invasion of Iraq. There was the “bomb” of the mullahs, the Iranian fundamentalist regime that we’ve just loved to hate ever since they repaid us, in 1979, for the CIA’s overthrow of an elected government in 1953 and the installation of the Shah by taking the staff of the U.S. embassy in Tehran hostage. If you believed the news from Washington and Tel Aviv, the Iranians, too, were perilously close to producing a nuclear weapon or at least repeatedly on the verge of the verge of doing so. The production of that “Iranian bomb” has, for years, been a focus of American policy in the Middle East, the “brink” beyond which war has endlessly loomed. And yet there was and is no Iranian bomb, nor evidence that the Iranians were or are on the verge of producing one.

Finally, of course, there was al-Qaeda’s bomb, the “dirty bomb” that organization might somehow assemble, transport to the U.S., and set off in an American city, or the “loose nuke,” maybe from the Pakistani arsenal, with which it might do the same. This is the third fantasy bomb that has riveted American attention in these last years, even though there is less evidence for or likelihood of its imminent existence than of the Iraqi and Iranian ones.

To sum up, the strange thing about end-of-the-world-as-we’ve-known-it scenarios from Washington, post-9/11, is this: with a single exception, they involved only non-existent weapons of mass destruction. A fourth weapon — one that existed but played a more modest role in Washington’s fantasies — was North Korea’s perfectly real bomb, which in these years the North Koreans were incapable of delivering to American shores.

The “Good News” About Climate Change

In a world in which nuclear weapons remain a crucial coin of the realm when it comes to global power, none of these examples could quite be classified as 0% dangers. Saddam had once had a nuclear program, just not in 2002-2003, and also chemical weapons, which he used against Iranian troops in his 1980s war with their country (with the help of targeting information from the U.S. military) and against his own Kurdish population. The Iranians might (or might not) have been preparing their nuclear program for a possible weapons breakout capability, and al-Qaeda certainly would not have rejected a loose nuke, if one were available (though that organization’s ability to use it would still have been questionable).

In the meantime, the giant arsenals of WMD in existence, the American, Russian, Chinese, Israeli, Pakistani, and Indian ones that might actually have left a crippled or devastated planet behind, remained largely off the American radar screen. In the case of the Indian arsenal, the Bush administration actually lent an indirect hand to its expansion. So it was twenty-first-century typical when President Obama, trying to put Russia’s recent actions in the Ukraine in perspective, said, “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.”

Once again, an American president was focused on a bomb that would raise a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. And which bomb, exactly, was that, Mr. President?

Of course, there was a weapon of mass destruction that could indeed do staggering damage to or someday simply drown New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, and other East coast cities. It had its own efficient delivery systems — no nonexistent drones or Islamic fanatics needed. And unlike the Iraqi, Iranian, or al-Qaeda bombs, it was guaranteed to be delivered to our shores unless preventive action was taken soon. No one needed to hunt for its secret facilities. It was a weapons system whose production plants sat in full view right here in the United States, as well as in Europe, China, and India, as well as in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, and other energy states.

So here’s a question I’d like any of you living in or visiting Wyoming to ask the former vice president, should you run into him in a state that’s notoriously thin on population: How would he feel about acting preventively, if instead of a 1% chance that some country with weapons of mass destruction might use them against us, there was at least a 95% — and likely as not a 100% — chance of them being set off on our soil? Let’s be conservative, since the question is being posed to a well-known neoconservative. Ask him whether he would be in favor of pursuing the 95% doctrine the way he was the 1% version.

After all, thanks to a grim report in 2013 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we know that there is now a 95%-100% likelihood that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming [of the planet] since the mid-20th century.” We know as well that the warming of the planet — thanks to the fossil fuel system we live by and the greenhouse gases it deposits in the atmosphere — is already doing real damage to our world and specifically to the United States, as a recent scientific report released by the White House made clear. We also know, with grimly reasonable certainty, what kinds of damage those 95%-100% odds are likely to translate into in the decades, and even centuries, to come if nothing changes radically: a temperature rise by century’s end that could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit, cascading species extinctions, staggeringly severe droughts across larger parts of the planet (as in the present long-term drought in the American West and Southwest), far more severe rainfall across other areas, more intense storms causing far greater damage, devastating heat waves on a scale no one in human history has ever experienced, masses of refugees, rising global food prices, and among other catastrophes on the human agenda, rising sea levels that will drown coastal areas of the planet.

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From two scientific studies just released, for example, comes the news that the West Antarctic ice sheet, one of the great ice accumulations on the planet, has now begun a process of melting and collapse that could, centuries from now, raise world sea levels by a nightmarish 10 to 13 feet. That mass of ice is, according to the lead authors of one of the studies, already in “irreversible retreat,” which means — no matter what acts are taken from now on — a future death sentence for some of the world’s great cities. (And that’s without even the melting of the Greenland ice shield, not to speak of the rest of the ice in Antarctica.)

All of this, of course, will happen mainly because we humans continue to burn fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate and so annually deposit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at record levels. In other words, we’re talking about weapons of mass destruction of a new kind. While some of their effects are already in play, the planetary destruction that nuclear weapons could cause almost instantaneously, or at least (given “nuclear winter” scenarios) within months, will, with climate change, take decades, if not centuries, to deliver its full, devastating planetary impact.

When we speak of WMD, we usually think of weapons — nuclear, biological, or chemical — that are delivered in a measurable moment in time. Consider climate change, then, a WMD on a particularly long fuse, already lit and there for any of us to see. Unlike the feared Iranian bomb or the Pakistani arsenal, you don’t need the CIA or the NSA to ferret such “weaponry” out. From oil wells to fracking structures, deep sea drilling rigs to platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the machinery that produces this kind of WMD and ensures that it is continuously delivered to its planetary targets is in plain sight. Powerful as it may be, destructive as it will be, those who control it have faith that, being so long developing, it can remain in the open without panicking populations or calling any kind of destruction down on them.

The companies and energy states that produce such WMD remain remarkably open about what they’re doing. Generally speaking, they don’t hesitate to make public, or even boast about, their plans for the wholesale destruction of the planet, though of course they are never described that way. Nonetheless, if an Iraqi autocrat or Iranian mullahs spoke in similar fashion about producing nuclear weapons and how they were to be used, they would be toast.

Take ExxonMobil, one of the most profitable corporations in history. In early April, it released two reports that focused on how the company, as Bill McKibben has written, “planned to deal with the fact that [it] and other oil giants have many times more carbon in their collective reserves than scientists say we can safely burn.” He went on:

The company said that government restrictions that would force it to keep its [fossil fuel] reserves in the ground were ‘highly unlikely,’ and that they would not only dig them all up and burn them, but would continue to search for more gas and oil — a search that currently consumes about $100 million of its investors’ money every single day. ‘Based on this analysis, we are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become “stranded.”‘

In other words, Exxon plans to exploit whatever fossil fuel reserves it possesses to their fullest extent. Government leaders involved in supporting the production of such weapons of mass destruction and their use are often similarly open about it, even while also discussing steps to mitigate their destructive effects. Take the White House, for instance. Here was a statement President Obama proudly made in Oklahoma in March 2012 on his energy policy:

Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75% of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

Similarly, on May 5th, just before the White House was to reveal that grim report on climate change in America, and with a Congress incapable of passing even the most rudimentary climate legislation aimed at making the country modestly more energy efficient, senior Obama adviser John Podesta appeared in the White House briefing room to brag about the administration’s “green” energy policy. “The United States,” he said, “is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world and the largest producer of gas and oil in the world. It’s projected that the United States will continue to be the largest producer of natural gas through 2030. For six straight months now, we’ve produced more oil here at home than we’ve imported from overseas. So that’s all a good-news story.”

Good news indeed, and from Vladmir Putin’s Russia, which just expanded its vast oil and gas holdings by a Maine-sized chunk of the Black Sea off Crimea, to Chinese “carbon bombs,” to Saudi Arabian production guarantees, similar “good-news stories” are similarly promoted. In essence, the creation of ever more greenhouse gases — of, that is, the engine of our future destruction — remains a “good news” story for ruling elites on planet Earth.

Weapons of Planetary Destruction

We know exactly what Dick Cheney — ready to go to war on a 1% possibility that some country might mean us harm — would answer, if asked about acting on the 95% doctrine. Who can doubt that his response would be similar to those of the giant energy companies, which have funded so much climate-change denialism and false science over the years? He would claim that the science simply isn’t “certain” enough (though “uncertainty” can, in fact, cut two ways), that before we commit vast sums to taking on the phenomenon, we need to know far more, and that, in any case, climate-change science is driven by a political agenda.

For Cheney & Co., it seemed obvious that acting on a 1% possibility was a sensible way to go in America’s “defense” and it’s no less gospel for them that acting on at least a 95% possibility isn’t. For the Republican Party as a whole, climate-change denial is by now nothing less than a litmus test of loyalty, and so even a 101% doctrine wouldn’t do when it comes to fossil fuels and this planet.

No point, of course, in blaming this on fossil fuels or even the carbon dioxide they give off when burned. These are no more weapons of mass destruction than are uranium-235 and plutonium-239. In this case, the weaponry is the production system that’s been set up to find, extract, sell at staggering profits, and burn those fossil fuels, and so create a greenhouse-gas planet. With climate change, there is no “Little Boy” or “Fat Man” equivalent, no simple weapon to focus on. In this sense, fracking is the weapons system, as is deep-sea drilling, as are those pipelines, and the gas stations, and the coal-fueled power plants, and the millions of cars filling global roads, and the accountants of the most profitable corporations in history.

All of it — everything that brings endless fossil fuels to market, makes those fuels eminently burnable, and helps suppress the development of non-fossil fuel alternatives — is the WMD. The CEOs of the planet’s giant energy corporations are the dangerous mullahs, the true fundamentalists, of planet Earth, since they are promoting a faith in fossil fuels which is guaranteed to lead us to some version of End Times.

Perhaps we need a new category of weapons with a new acronym to focus us on the nature of our present 95%-100% circumstances. Call them weapons of planetary destruction (WPD) or weapons of planetary harm (WPH). Only two weapons systems would clearly fit such categories. One would be nuclear weapons which, even in a localized war between Pakistan and India, could create some version of “nuclear winter” in which the planet was cut off from the sun by so much smoke and soot that it would grow colder fast, experience a massive loss of crops, of growing seasons, and of life. In the case of a major exchange of such weapons, we would be talking about “the sixth extinction” of planetary history.

Though on a different and harder to grasp time-scale, the burning of fossil fuels could end in a similar fashion — with a series of “irreversible” disasters that could essentially burn us and much other life off the Earth. This system of destruction on a planetary scale, facilitated by most of the ruling and corporate elites on the planet, is becoming (to bring into play another category not usually used in connection with climate change) the ultimate “crime against humanity” and, in fact, against most living things. It is becoming a “terracide.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (from which some of this essay has been adapted). He runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

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There are so many strong and fundamental points raised in this essay from Tom that I am going to return to them next week.  (Will give it a rest for July 4th!)

Patterns and ripples.

It’s not just the climate change that is unsustainable!

Early in yesterday’s post I wrote:

My post last Monday, The lure of patterns, appears to have resonated far and wide.  In the sense of many echoes reinforcing the perilous nature of our present times and the desperately uncertain decades ahead.  Tomorrow I shall be writing specifically about those echoes.

Those echoes, as I chose to call them, were kicked off by a recent item on the blog Economic Populist.  The item was called Maps of Economic Disaster and had some sickening information.  Such as:

Today 15% of Americans live in poverty.  Below is a county map showing the previous year’s poverty rate and we see once again the South has high concentrations.

povertymap

People are living on the edge.  People living in liquid asset poverty is a whopping 43.9%.  This means 132.1 million people lack the savings to cover basic expenses for three months if they lose their job, have a medical emergency or some other sort of crisis.  The below map** breaks down that percentage state by state.  Pretty much half the country is living on the edge, paycheck to paycheck.

** I’ve not included that map but it may be seen here.  However, I did want to republish the closing map.

Finally, the next map shows how income inequality has grown in United States over time.  The gini index is a measure of income inequality, the higher then index gets, the worse income inequality is. If there is ever a map which shows the the destruction of the U.S. middle class, it is this one.

[N.B. The following map is an automated GIF so just left-click on it to see the sequence.  That sequence is essentially a coloured graphical image of each year, from 1977 through to 2012.  Don’t struggle with it.  All you have to note are the changing colours.  More colours towards the green end of the spectrum indicate a worsening gini index, i.e. a worsening measure of income inequality. ]

Gini map

America is clearly in dire straights and the above maps it all out.  Why then has this government, this Congress not put wages and jobs as jobs #1 is a good question.  Why America hasn’t outright revolted, demanding this government do so is a better one.

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George Monbiot.
George Monbiot.

Let me now turn to George Monbiot, a British writer known for his environmental and political activism.  WikiPedia describes Mr. Monbiot, in part, as:

He lives in MachynllethWales, writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of books, including Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain (2000) and Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice (2008). He is the founder of The Land is Ours, a peaceful campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources in the United Kingdom.

On his own website, he offers us this:

Here are some of the things I love: my family and friends, salt marshes, arguments, chalk streams, Russian literature, kayaking among dolphins, diversity of all kinds, rockpools, heritage apples, woods, fishing, swimming in the sea, gazpacho, ponds and ditches, growing vegetables, insects, pruning, forgotten corners, fossils, goldfinches, etymology, Bill Hicks, ruins, Shakespeare, landscape history, palaeoecology, Gavin and Stacey and Father Ted.

Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.

Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice.

There was a recent essay concerning the UK’s energy strategy posted by George Monbiot published in the Guardian on the 22nd October.  It is also on his website.

The essay opens, thus [my emphasis]:

Fiscal Meltdown

The government is betting the farm on a nuclear technology that might soon look as hip as the traction engine.

Seven years ago, I collected all the available cost estimates for nuclear power. The US Nuclear Energy Institute suggested a penny a kilowatt hour. The Royal Academy of Engineering confidently predicted 2.3p. The British government announced that in 2020 the price would be between 3 and 4p. The New Economics Foundation guessed that it could be anywhere between 3.4 and 8.3p. 8.3 pence was so far beyond what anyone else forecast that I treated it as scarcely credible. It falls a penny short of the price now agreed by the British government.

Mr. Monbiot’s essay concludes:

An estimate endorsed by the chief scientific adviser at the government’s energy department suggests that, if integral fast reactors were deployed, the UK’s stockpile of nuclear waste could be used to generate enough low-carbon energy to meet all UK demand for 500 years. These reactors would keep recycling the waste until hardly any remained: solving three huge problems – energy supply, nuclear waste and climate change – at once. Thorium reactors use an element that’s already extracted in large quantities as an unwanted by-product of other mining industries. They recycle their own waste, leaving almost nothing behind.

To build a plant at Hinkley Point which will still require uranium mining and still produce nuclear waste in 2063 is to commit to 20th-Century technologies through most of the 21st. In 2011 GE Hitachi offered to build a fast reactor to start generating electricity from waste plutonium and (unlike the Hinkley developers) to carry the cost if the project failed. I phoned the government on Monday morning to ask what happened to this proposal. I’m still waiting for an answer.

That global race the prime minister keeps talking about? He plainly intends to lose.

NB. I edited out the links to a comprehensive set of references to make the essay easier to read off the screen.  But all the facts reported by Mr. Monbiot may be seen here.

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Just two more or less random pieces of writing that have graced my ‘in-box’. Nothing scientific about my selection; just the sense that they are representative of the reams and reams of articles, essays and reports coming in on an almost daily basis from right across the world showing an ever-increasing credibility gap between the peoples of many nations and those who purport to serve those peoples in their respective Governments.

Frankly, I can’t even imagine how or when we will ‘transition’ out of this present period.  But one thing I am sure about. This schism between us, the people, and those who govern us is unsustainable!

Fascinating times! (I think!)

Need to go and hug a dog!

Come here, Hazel! I need some loving!
Come here, Hazel! I need some loving!

Truth, Justice, Sanity and Brotherhood.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Apparently an epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”). Source.

Both the heading and the sub-heading to today’s post reflect strong connections to Chris Snuggs.  Chris has featured previously several times on Learning from Dogs and, I’m sure, my association with Chris has been mentioned.  An association going back too many years to the time when Chris invited me to run a course on sales and marketing for the students at the French Institute ISUGA in Quimper, France.  It became a regular event and Chris and I got to know each other well.

Chris has his own blogsite Nemo Insula Est from where one learns this about him:

A retired teacher, I am very worried about the state and future of the world. One thing may help, a determination to communicate and state the truth as one sees it, which is what I seek to do. I try to see things objectively; my horror of being brainwashed or motivated by some dogma or partisan viewpoint is absolute.

I salute the free press which has a good record of unearthing nepotism, corruption, dishonest and lunacy. However, the nepotists, the despots, the corrupt, the dishonest and the lunatics often have a lot of power, money and therefore influence. This allied to the fact that the lumpenmass is too busy toiling away to survive and often shrugs its shoulders in hopelessness means that the aforementioned get away with it.

Anyway, enough of me waffling on!  In my email in-box earlier today was an email from Chris offering me a couple of links to his posts on Nemo Insula Est.  One was very funny and one was decidedly less so.  The latter is being republished here today, with Chris’s permission.  It is called The State of America.

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The State of America

A Blog post from the “Daily Telegraph” on October 3rd, 2013 by:

Ghislane400

I haven’t got time to verify all of these statistics, but I assume they are accurate. I have added some from Nicholas Kristoff at the end.

As far as I understand, the only reason the USA is not totally bankrupt right now is because the rest of the world keeps lending to it, believing that it is “too big to fail.” Many countries and Empires in history have believed they are too big and important to fail, France being yet another one ………. On that point, see:  The Life Cycle of a Democracy, which is rather sobering!

After DECADES of bad decisions, America is now dangerously in debt!  Obama has crippled America since he was re-elected, and his ineptitude is highlighted by the facts below: 

  • 30 years ago the US national debt stood at about one trillion dollars.  Today it stands at almost 17 TRILLION DOLLARS!
  • About 40 years ago the TOTAL debt stood at about 2 trillion dollars, today it is more than 56 TRILLION DOLLARS!  
  • At the same time as they have run up all of this debt, their economic infrastructure and their ability to create wealth has been completely gutted.  Since 2001, America has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of jobs have been moved overseas. 
  • Their share of the global GDP declined from 31.8% in 2001 to 21.6% in 2011.
  • The percentage of self-employed Americans is at an all time low whilst the amount of them on benefits is at a record high.
  • During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
  • If they started to pay off the new debt accumulated under Obama at the rate of $1 per second, it would take them 184,000 years to pay it off.
  • Every hour of every day, the federal government steals more than 100 MILLION DOLLARS from their children and your grandchildren.
  • America has dropped in global economic competitiveness for the past 4 years running. 
  • According to “The Economist”, America was the best place to be born in 1988; now they tie for 16th place.
  • There are fewer Americans working in manufacturing today than in 1950, despite the fact that their population has doubled since then.
  • In Detroit alone, there are over 70,000 abandoned buildings.
  • When NAFTA was pushed through American Congress in 1933, they had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.  They had a trade DEFICIT with them of 61.6 billion dollars come 2010.
  • Their trade deficit with China was 6 MILLION DOLLARS in 1985 for the entire year.  In 2012 their trade deficit with China was 315 BILLION DOLLARS.  This is the largest trade deficit between nations in the history of the world.  
  • America also loses half a million jobs to China annually. Fewer than 65% of all men in America have jobs. 53% of American male workers make less than $30,000 a year! Only 7% of all non-farm workers in the States are self-employed.  This is an all time low.
  • 146 million Americans are either ‘poor’ or ‘low income’.  49% of them live in a home that receives benefits from the federal government, according to the U.S Census Bureau. One in every 6 Americans is on Medicaid and Obamacare will add another 16 million to the Medicaid rolls; this will be a total of 73.2 million come 2025. This will increase liabilities of 38 trillion dollars to Medicare over the next 75 years, which equates to $328,404.00 for every single household in the United States.
  • Of the 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits now, by 2035 that will soar to an astounding 91 MILLION!  That is a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
  • Americans on Social Security Disability exceed the population of Greece, and those on food stamps exceed the population of Spain.
  • 45% of all children in Miami now live in poverty, more than 50% of all children in Cleveland live in poverty, 60% of all children in Detroit live in poverty.  
  • More than 1 million public school students in America are HOMELESS.  This is the first time in American history this has ever happened.
  • Since Obama got back in, those Americans on food stamps have risen from 32 million to 47 million.  That number exceeds the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Colombia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming!

What a spiffing good job Obama is doing of bankrupting America!  Anyone would think he hates the States!  Seriously, anyone who voted for him owes an apology to the children of America, for whom a terrible country full of debt has been created by the biggest clown one could imagine.

AND, from Nicholas Kristoff in “The New York Times”:

  • The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
  • C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

POSTSCRIPT:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on on-going financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Want to know who said that, and when? ……

Senator Barack Obama on March 20, 2006.

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Just a footnote on that level of US inequality reported by Nicholas Kristoff using an extract from a recent post on Learning from DogsOur broken ways:

OK, that’s enough ‘copying’ from me so please go and read more about the plight of those poor billionaires.  But if the NYT and Paul Krugman will forgive me, here’s the paragraph towards the end of the Krugman essay that makes me sick [my emboldening]:

The thing is, by and large, the wealthy have gotten their wish. Wall Street was bailed out, while workers and homeowners weren’t. Our so-called recovery has done nothing much for ordinary workers, but incomes at the top have soared, with almost all the gains from 2009 to 2012 going to the top 1 percent, and almost a third going to the top 0.01 percent — that is, people with incomes over $10 million.

(Patrice Ayme has a parallel essay on this topic.)

There will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who share my view that this dimming of America’s historic beacon of truth and justice is a failure not just for the United States of America but for the rest of the world.

It seems appropriate to remind all you dear readers as to why I write this Blog.  Most easily encapsulated in what appears on my Welcome page:

Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.  Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer.  Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming,  thence the long journey to modern man.  But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite.  Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better!  Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Pharaoh, as with all dogs, is an integrous creature – man has much to learn from him, and all dogs.

Each and every one of us must fight for truth, justice, sanity and brotherhood!

True Independence.

Can’t believe a year has gone so quickly!

Last year, on this day, I published the transcript of the Declaration of Independence before Congress on July 4, 1776.  Part of one of the comments, left by Patrice Ayme, was this:

That the trust is gone is actually a good thing. We cannot trust a system where a few lead hundreds of millions, if not billions. Even if they come from the People, and especially if they come from the People. Because the less power where they come from, the greedier they are, and thus, the more eager to be bought.

Two thousand years ago, any grouping of a few thousands Germans got enraged when someone would proclaim himself a king. Now people venerate those who think they can do all the thinking in place of billions.

Hence we are facing the reality of a vastly incomplete revolution: Athens, at her apex, had direct democracy (OK, no women, no slaves…). We don’t.

Perhaps, what has changed most in the last year is the realisation, the growing realisation, as to where real power lies.

This highly subjective conclusion comes to me as a result of reading, very recently, two essays.

The first was an essay by ‘Gaius Publius’ seen on Naked Capitalism.  It was called: A Primer – What’s in a “Tar Sands” Pipeline?

In the wake of renewed interest in the Keystone Pipeline project and the likelihood that Obama will eagerly approve it unless we stop him, there’s a lot of interest in what actually flows through those pipes.

Van Jones has called it “planet-cooking goo.” I’ve called it “sludge.” But what is it really?

To answer that question, we need to look at:

▪ What is “tar sand“?
▪ What is extracted from it (answer, bitumen or “tar”)?
▪ What is done to the bitumen to make it “flow”?

All of which produces a great bottom line. Click any of those links to jump to that section.

The primary source, though not the only source, of this information is a great article and slideshow at the Scientific American website. Feel free to click and read as we walk through this material.

It is a thorough and very disturbing explanation of what Keystone XL is truly about; please don’t hesitate to read it in full.

It includes this video:

However, I will republish the closing paragraphs:

SO WHAT FLOWS THROUGH THE PIPES?

If you thought that diluted bitumen, as produced by the upgrading plants, is now capable of flowing through a pipeline to the cash registers in Texas (or wherever), you’d be wrong. Even in diluted form, bitumen doesn’t flow. To make it flow, it has to be heated — often to 150°–160°F — and then forced through the pipelines under high pressure.

So what flows through the pipeline? Keeping those cash registers in mind, you now have all the pieces. Tar sand pipelines contain:

A carbon-rich colloidal suspension …

Made up of lighter-than-water, easily-evaporated toxic liquids (like diesel) …

And heavier-than-water solids (the tar or bitumen itself) that sink to the bottom of rivers and below the mud in fields …

Which has been heated hot enough to burn your hand — or accelerate the external corrosion of the pipeline itself, including pinhole breaks …

Which has been forced to move under high pressure …

And which contains poisons and toxins like sulphur, arsenic, nickel, lead and mercury …

All so megalomaniacal carbon billionaires can make even more money.

That’s what flows through the pipelines. Or to put it more simply:

What flows through the pipes is the unmonetized assets of the try-and-stop-me CEO class, which if it spills, will poison everything it touches for decades or centuries, and if it gets into the air, will turn most of our grandchildren — the ones that survive — into hunter-gatherers.

Bill McKibben counts those unmonetized assets (proven reserves) at $27 trillion dollars. Add in reserves that are likely but not proven, plus the ones in the melting Arctic that are yet to be found, and you’re talking real money. The billionaire class won’t walk away from that in a hurry.

And that, kids, is Science Talk for today. We learned a little about a lot, didn’t we — everything from colloidal suspensions and bitumen “froth,” to billionaire psychopathology and cash registers in Texas. To those of you who got to this end of the post, my thanks!

So hold in mind the reference to the billionaire class as I cross the ‘pond’ to the old country for the second essay.

Recently, George Monbiot published an essay under the title of Robber Barons.

It opened, thus:

Why do we ignore the most blatant transfer of money from the poor to the rich?

It’s the silence that puzzles me. Last week, the Chancellor stood up in parliament to announce that benefits for the very poor would be cut yet again. On the same day, in Luxembourg, our government battled to maintain benefits for the very rich. It won. As a result, some of the richest people in Britain will each continue to receive millions of pounds in income support from taxpayers.

There has been not a whimper of protest. The Guardian hasn’t mentioned it. UK Uncut is silent. So – at the other end of the spectrum – is the UK Independence Party.

I’m talking about the most blatant transfer of money from the poor to the rich that has occurred in the era of universal suffrage. Farm subsidies. The main subsidy – the single farm payment – is doled out by the hectare. The more you own or rent, the more money you receive.

Later on mentioning:

The minister responsible for cutting income support for the poor, Iain Duncan Smith, lives on an estate owned by his wife’s family. Over the past ten years, it has received €1.5m in income support from taxpayers.

How much more obvious do these double standards have to be before we begin to notice?

Then Mr. Monbiot examines some of the cultural aspects such as how “A high proportion of the books aimed at very young children are about farm animals.” then closes with this thought.

Whatever the reason may be, it’s time we overcame these inhibitions and confronted this unembarrassed robbery of the poor by the rich. The current structure of farm subsidies epitomises the British government’s defining project: capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich.

So examples from both sides of The Atlantic that reveal deeply disturbing issues.  However …….

I celebrate America this day.  I celebrate the power of the common man to achieve justice and fairness for the peoples of all nations. I celebrate the Constitution of the United States of America.

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Preamble

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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2020 vision

A moving, sensitive video about the Arctic.

I won’t let on why I called this post ‘2020 vision’ but if you watch the video below to just before the 7-minute mark the use of the number 2020 will become clear.

This video came to my attention from a recent post on Climate Crocks.  It’s a strongly powerful message about the changes going on in Arctic region and the profound effect those changes will have on the rest of the planet.  Indeed, many experiencing the recent weather in North-West Europe will amend the future tense of my sentence to present tense!

You can read more here about Professor Ken Dunton at the University of Texas where he is Professor, Department of Marine Science.

Professor Dunton
Professor Dunton

 

He is the sort of person that we should be listening to very carefully as the world changes in ways not seen for tens of thousands of years.

The Keystone XL protest event.

A guest post from Tom Engelhardt.

As regular followers of this blog know, Tom Engelhardt of Tom Dispatch fame has very kindly given permission for essays on Tom Dispatch to be republished on Learning from Dogs.  I try to be circumspect about which essays I do republish.

I’m away from my desk for the next two days which seemed like a great reason to republish this reflection from Tom on the Keystone XL protest event held in Washington D.C last February 17th.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Climate Change as History’s Deal-Breaker

Where Is Everybody?
Why It’s So Tough to Get Your Head Around Climate Change 
By Tom Engelhardt

Two Sundays ago, I traveled to the nation’s capital to attend what was billed as “the largest climate rally in history” and I haven’t been able to get the experience — or a question that haunted me — out of my mind.  Where was everybody?

First, though, the obvious weather irony: climate change didn’t exactly come out in support of that rally. In the midst of the warmest years and some of the warmest winters on record, the demonstration, which focused on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline — it will bring tar-sands oil, some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-richest energy available from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast — was the coldest I’ve ever attended. I thought I’d lose a few fingers and toes while listening to the hour-plus of speakers, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, who were theoretically warming the crowd up for its march around the (other) White House.

And I also experienced a moment of deep disappointment. When I arrived early at the spot in front of the Washington Monument on the National Mall where we were to assemble, my heart sank.  It looked like only a few thousand protestors were gathering for what had been billed as a monster event.  I had taken it for granted that I would be adding one small, aging body (and voice) to a vast crowd at a propitious moment to pressure Barack Obama to become the climate-change president he hasn’t been.  After all, he has a decision to make that’s his alone: whether or not to allow that pipeline to be built.  Nixing it would help keep a potentially significant contributor to climate change, those Albertan tar sands, in the ground.  In other words, I hoped to play my tiny part in preserving a half-decent future for this planet, my children, and my new grandson.

Sixty environmental and other organizations were backing the demonstration, including the Sierra Club with its hundreds of thousands of members.  Given what was potentially at stake, it never crossed my mind that the turnout wouldn’t be substantial.  In fact, on that frigid day, lots of demonstrators did turn up.  Evidently, they knew the dirty little secret of such events: that much talk would precede a modest amount of walking and inventive slogan shouting.  So they arrived — poured in actually — late, and in real numbers.

In the end, the organizers estimated attendance at somewhere in the 35,00050,000 range.  Media reports varied between the usual “thousands,” generically used to describe (or, if you’re in a conspiratorial frame of mind, minimize) any demonstration, and tens of thousands.  I have no way of estimating myself, but certainly the crowd was, in the end, sizeable, as well as young, enthusiastic, and loud.  It made itself heard passing the White House. Not that President Obama was there to hear anything.  He was then on a golf course in the Florida warmth teeing up with “a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas, and pipeline players.” That seemed to catch another kind of climate-change reality of our moment and strongly hinted at the strength of the forces any such movement is up against.  In the meantime, Keystone builder TransCanada was ominously completing the already green-lighted first half of the Texas-Oklahoma leg of its prospective future pipeline.

In the end, I felt genuine satisfaction at having been there, but given what was at stake, givenFrankenstorm Sandy, the devastating Midwestern drought and record southwestern fires of 2012, the Snowmageddon winter storm that had recently dropped 40 inches of the white stuff on Hamden, Connecticut, the blistering spring and summer of 2012, the fast-melting Arctic sea ice, and the fact that last year broke all heat records for the continental United States, given the build-up of billion-dollar weather disasters in recent years, and the growing emphasis on “extreme weather” events on the national TV news, shouldn’t hundreds of thousands have been there?  After all, I’ve been inantiwar demonstrations in which at least that many marched and in 1982, I found myself in my hometown in a crowd of a million demonstrating against the possibility of a world-ending nuclear war.  Is climate change a less important issue?

“There Is No Planet B”

While protesting that Sunday, I noted one slogan on a number of hand-made signs that struck me as the most pointed (and poignant) of the march: “There is no planet B.”  It seemed to sum up what was potentially at stake: a planet to live reasonably comfortably on.  You really can’t get much more basic than that, which is why hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, should have been out in the streets demanding that our leaders begin to attend to climate change before it’s quite literally too late.

After all, to my mind, climate change, global warming, extreme weather — call it what you will — is the obvious deal-breaker in human, if not planetary, history.  Everything but nuclear catastrophe pales by comparison, no matter the disaster: 9/11, 70,000 dead in Syria, failed wars, the grimmest of dictatorships, movements of hope that don’t deliver — all of that’s familiar history.  Those are the sorts of situations where you can try again, differently, or future generations can and maybe do far better.  All of it involves human beings who need to be dealt with or human structures that need to be changed.  While any of them may be the definition of “the worst of times,” they are also thedefinition of hope.

Nature and the weather are another matter (even if it’s humanity that, by burning of fossil fuels atincreasingly staggering rates, has created its own Frankenstein’s monster out of the natural world).  Climate change is clearly something new in our experience.  Even in its relatively early but visibly intensifying stages, it threatens to be the singular event in human history, because unlike every other disaster we can imagine (except a full-scale nuclear war or, as has happened in the planet’s past, a large meteorite or asteroid impact), it alone will alter the basis for life on this planet.

Raise the planet’s temperature by three to six degrees Celsius, as various well-respected scientific types and groups are now suggesting might happen by century’s end (and possibly throw in some more heat thanks to the melting of the permafrost in the north), and if you live in a city on a coastline, you’d better watch out.  And that only begins to suggest the problems humanity will face.

The world, at best, will be a distinctly poorer, less comfortable place for us (and from there the scenarios only get uglier).

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m no scientist.  I doubt I’d even be considered scientifically literate (though I try).  But the scientific consensus on the subject of climate change seems striking enough to me, and what’s happening around us is no less striking as a confirmation that our world is changing — and remarkably quickly at that.   Whether you read about melting glaciers, the melting Greenland ice shield, melting Arctic waters, melting permafrostacidifying oceans, intensifying storms, greater desertification, wilder wild fires, or so many other allied subjects, doesn’t it always seem that the rates of bad news are on the rise and the word “record” is usually lurking somewhere in the vicinity?

So I continue to wonder, given our situation on this planet, given our future and that of our children and grandchildren, where is everybody?

Can You Organize Against the Apocalypse?

Don’t for a second think that I have some magic answer to that question. Still, as it’s been on my mind, here’s an attempt to lay out at least some of the possible factors, micro to macro, that might have limited the size of that crowd two Sundays ago and perhaps might tend to limit the size of any climate-change crowd, as well as the mobilizing possibilities that lie in the disaster awaiting us.

Outreach: Yes, there were at least 60 groups involved, but how much outreach was there really?  Many people I know hadn’t heard a thing about the event.  And while climate change has been on the human agenda for a while now, a real movement to deal with what’s happening to us is in its absolute infancy.  There is so much outreach and so much education that still needs to be done.

The slowness of movements: It’s easy to forget how long it can take for movements of change to grow, for their messages to cohere, penetrate, and begin to make sense or seem meaningful to large numbers of people in terms of their everyday lives.  Despite its obvious long-term destructive power, for many reasons (see below) climate change might prove a particularly difficult issue to link to our everyday lives in ways that mobilize rather than demobilize us.  On a similarly difficult issue, the nuclear movement, it took literally decades to grow to that million-person march, and even early anti-Vietnam War protests were smaller than the recent Keystone demo.

Politics: Attitudes toward climate change have largely polarized along left-right lines, so that the issue seems politically ghettoized at the moment (though there was a time when Republicans of some stature were concerned about the subject).  To my mind, it’s part of the insanity of our moment that the preservation of our planet as we have known it, which should be the great conservative issue of our era, is now pure poison on the right.  Even American paleo-conservatives, who are willing to make common cause on American war policy with left anti-imperial types, won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.  When this begins to change, you’ll know something of significance is happening.

Enemies: Here’s a factor it’s easy to ignore, but no one should.  Giant energy companies and energy-connected right-wing billionaires have for years now been funneling staggering amounts of money into a network of right-wing think tanks and websites dedicated to creating doubts about climate change and promoting climate denial.  In the latest revelation about the well-financed climate-denial movement, the British Guardian reports that between 2002 and 2010, $120 million dollars was shuttled, “using a secretive funding route,” into “more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.” It all came from conservative billionaires (and not just the Koch brothers) who were guaranteed total anonymity. And it “helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.”  The funders of this “movement” and their minions should, of course, be disqualified on the spot.  They are almost all identified with and profit from the very fossil fuels that climate-change scientists say are heating up the planet.  But they — and a few outlier scientific types they’ve scrounged up — provide the “balance,” the “two sides,” that the mainstream media adores.  And they play upon the arcane nature of Science itself to intimidate the rest of us.

Science: When you have a bad boss, or your country is ruled by a dictator, or your bank cheats you, it’s within your everyday experience.  You have some body of personal knowledge to draw on to understand the situation.  You are personally offended.  But Science?  For most of us, the very word is intimidating.  It means what we didn’t understand in school and gave up understanding long ago.  To grasp climate change means teaching yourself Science with no professors in sight.  Filling the knowledge bank you don’t have on your own.  It’s daunting.  Oh yes, the Ice-Albedo feedback loop.  Sure thing.  If the boss, the bank, the dictator takes your home, you get it.  If Superstorm Sandy turns your home into rubble, what you get is an argument.  What you need is an education to know just what role “climate change” might have played in making that storm worse, or whether it played any role at all.  Similarly, you need an education to grasp the dangers of those tar sands from Canada.  It can be overwhelming.  Doubts are continually raised (see “enemies”), the natural variability of the weather makes climate change easier to dismiss, and sometimes, when Science takes the lead, it’s easier just to duck.

Nature: Science is bad enough; now, throw in Nature.  How many of us still live on farms?  How many of us still live in “the wilderness”?  Isn’t Nature what we catch on the Discovery Channel?  Isn’t it what we pay a lot of money to drop in on briefly and ogle while on vacation?  In our everyday lives, most of us are, in some way, no longer a part of this natural world of “ours” — not at least until drought strikes your region, or that “record wildfire” approaches your community, or that bear/coyote/skunk/puma stumbles into your (urban or suburban) neck of the woods.  Connecting with Nature, no less imagining the changing natural state of a planet going haywire (along with the likelihood of mass, climate-changed induced extinctions) is again not exactly an easy thing to do; it’s not what comes “naturally” to us.

Blame: Any movement needs a target.  But this isn’t the Arab Spring.  Climate change is not Hosni Mubarak.  This isn’t the Occupy moment.  Climate change is not simply “Wall Street” or the 1%.  It’s not simply the Obama administration, a polarized Congress filled with energy-company-supported climate ignorers and deniers, or the Chinese leadership that’s exploiting coal for all its worth, or the Canadian government that abandoned the Kyoto treaty and supports that tar-sands pipelineor the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has put its money where its mouth is in American electoral politics when it comes to climate change.  Yes, the giant energy companies, which are making historic profits off our burning planet, couldn’t be worse news or more culpable.  The oil billionaires are a disaster, and so on.  Still, targets are almost too plentiful and confusing.  There are indeed villains, but so many of them!  And what, after all, about the rest of us who lend a hand in burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow?  What about our consumer way of life to which all of us are, to one degree or another, addicted, and which has been a model for the rest of the world.  Who then is the enemy?  What exactly is to be done?  In other words, there is anamorphousness to who’s aiding and abetting climate change that can make the targeting on which any movement thrives difficult.

The future:  In the environmental movement, there is some serious discussion about why it’s so hard for climate change to gain traction among the public (and in the media).  It’s sometimes said that the culprit is our brains, which weren’t set up, in an evolutionary sense, to deal with a problem that won’t deliver its full whammy for perhaps close to a century or more.  Actually, I wonder about this.  I would argue, based on the historical record, that our brains are well enough equipped to face distant futures and their problems.  In fact, I think it’s a reasonable proposition that if you can’t imagine the future, if you can’t imagine building something not just for yourself but for your children or the children of others and of future generations, then you probably can’t build a movement at all.  All movements, even those intent on preserving the past, are in some sense future-oriented.

The apocalypse: Here’s the thing, though.  It’s difficult to organize for or even against a future that you can’t imagine yourself and those children and future generations in.  The thought of world-ending events may simply close down our operative imaginations.  The end of the world may be popular in fiction, but in everyday life, I suspect, the apocalypse is the version of the future that it’s hardest to mobilize around.  If the prospect is that it’s already hopeless, that the suffering is going to be largely down the line, that we’re all going down anyway, and the planet will simply be destroyed, well, why bother?  Why not focus on what matters to you now and forget the rest?  This is wheredenial, the almost involuntary turning away from unpalatable futures that seem beyond our power or ability to alter, comes into play.  If the future is essentially over before it begins, then better to ignore it and go about your still palatable enough daily life.

Putting Your Money on Climate Change

Add all these factors (and others I’ve probably ignored) together and perhaps it’s a miracle that so many people turned out in Washington two weekends ago.  As we’ve already learned in this nuclear age of ours, it’s quite possible for a grid of exterminationism, a sense of hopelessness about the distant future, to descend upon us almost unnoticed.  That grid in no way stops you from thinking about your own life in the present, or even about the immediate future, about, say, getting married, having a child, making a living, but it’s crippling when it comes to mobilizing for a different future.

I’ve always believed that some of the vaunted organizing power and energy of the famed Sixties came from the fact that, in 1963, the superpowers achieved an agreement on the testing of nuclear weapons that sent them underground and more or less out of consciousness.  The last end-of-the-world films of that era appeared in 1964, just as bomb-shelter and civil defense programs were heading for the graveyard. By 1969, the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy had even eliminated “nuclear” from its own name.  Without necessarily being aware of it, many (especially among the young), I suspect, felt their energies liberated from a paralyzing sense of doom.  You no longer had to think about scenarios in which the two Cold War superpowers would destroy the planet.  It made almost anything seem possible. For a brief period before the Reagan presidency raised such fears again, you could look to the future with a sense of hope, which was exhilarating.

Can there be any doubt that, to steal a phrase from that era, the personal is indeed political?  On the other hand, the apocalypse, particularly an apocalypse that features Science and Nature in its starring roles, seems anything but personal or stoppable — unless you’re a farmer and a pipeline filled with a particularly nasty version of oil runs right through your nearest aquifer.  The real issue here is how to make climate change personal in a way that doesn’t simply cause us to shut down.

One of the cleverer approaches to climate change has been that of Bill McKibben, the man who organized 350.org.  In a determined fashion, he’s been breaking the overwhelming nature of climate change down into some of its component parts that can be grasped, focused on, and organized around.  Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging students to lobby to make their schools divest from big fossil fuel companies are examples of his approach.

More generally, climate change is, in fact, becoming more personal by the year.  In the “extreme weather,” which so regularly leads the TV news, its effects are coming closer to us all.  Increasing numbers of us know, in our hearts, that it’s the real deal.  And no, it doesn’t have to be the apocalypse either.  The planet itself, of course, will survive and, given a few hundred thousand or even a few million years, will recover and once again be a thriving place of some unknown sort.  As for humanity, we’re a clever enough species.  Sooner or later, we will undoubtedly figure out how to survive as well, but the questions are: How many of us?  On what terms?  In what kind of degraded state?  And what can we do soon to mitigate climate change’s worst future effects?

Perhaps a modern, post-religious version of seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous bet is what’s needed.  He argued that it was in the interest of those who remained in doubt about God to place a wager on His existence.  As he pointed out, with such a bet, if you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing.

Something somewhat analogous might be said of climate change.  Perhaps it’s time to put your wager on the reality of climate change, on its paramount importance to us and our children and our children’s children, and to bet as well that your efforts (and those of others) will in the end make enough of a difference.  Then, if you win, humanity wins everything; if you lose, well, there will be hell to pay.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt

Whoops!

Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.Aldous Huxley

Today’s post is a republishing of a recent essay on TomDispatch by Professor Michael Klare; professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College.  Once again, I am indebted to Tom Engelhardt for such permission.

However, before Michael Klare’s post let me interject this.

Tens of thousands marched to the White House on February 17th, to protest about the Keystone XL pipeline.  Hundreds of thousands more across the globe are in support of the campaign to prevent the XL pipeline from ever being commissioned.

To my mind, political leaders are expected to show wisdom, patience and care in terms of how they respond to public opinion.

So was this really the smartest thing for President Obama to be doing at the same time as the protesters were massing outside the White House!  From the Huffington Post:

Obama Golfed With Oil Men As Climate Protesters Descended On White House

al_obama_021813

WASHINGTON — On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline — to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly — President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.

Read more of this story here.

On to the TomDispatch guest essay, always introduced by Tom.

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Tomgram: Michael Klare, Will the Keystone XL Pipeline Go Down?

Posted by Michael Klare at 4:54pm, February 10, 2013.
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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Don’t miss Bill Moyers’s interview with TD Managing Editor Nick Turse on this week’s “Moyers & Company,” which you can watch by clicking here.  (And I don’t mind adding that, in introducing Turse, Moyers calls TomDispatch “the indispensible website if you want the news powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.”)  The focus of the interview is his new book, Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, which, miraculously enough, will be #35 on next week’s New York Times (extended) bestseller list — and well it should be.  If you want to know more about Turse’s work, check out Jonathan Schell’s powerful TomDispatch essay “How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?” Keep in mind that, for a donation of $100 to this website, you can still get a personalized, signed copy of the book.  Just check out the offer at our donation page.  Or if, like so many others, you are planning to buy the book at Amazon and you go there via any TomDispatch book link like this one, we get a small cut of whatever you purchase at no cost to you. Tom]

Think of it as a prospective irony: In a spirit of pure, blind partisanship, the drill-baby-drill folks in the Republican Party may have done themselves in.  After all, their obsession with the Benghazi incident led them to launch a preemptive strike against the president’s choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, for her statements on what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered there.  They sent her nomination down in flames.  In the process, it’s just possible that they took out something far dearer to them.  Though it didn’t get much attention during her disastrous nomination moment, we did learn that Rice and her husband had made significant investments in companies connected to the Canadian tar-sands industry and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring the resulting crude (and carbon-dirty) oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.  They reportedly had $300,000-$600,000 in stock in TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.  In addition, “about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel,” including Enbridge, a company which hopes to build another tar-sands pipeline.  Had she been secretary of state, she might have had one of the great conflicts of interest of our time (or a major divestment problem).

Congress seems desperate to see that pipeline built.  More than half the Senate — 44 Republicans, including key Rice opponent John McCain, and nine Democrats — signed a letter to that effect, but it matters little.  Because of the international border Keystone XL crosses, only two people stand between us and its construction, the secretary of state and President Obama, who alone will make the final decision on whether the project should proceed. The president’s second choice for secretary of state, who recently swept through the nomination process, is of course former Senator John Kerry, a “climate hawk” who has already said that he will be deeply involved in the State Department’s review of the pipeline.  (It’s worth noting that TransCanada, trying to cover all its bases, hired one of Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign staffers as a lobbyist, along with “heavyweights” from past Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential runs, and that Kerry does have to divest himself of holdings in two Canadian energy companies which have supported the pipeline.)

No one, of course, can know what the new secretary of state and the president will decide.  They are, however, already being pushed hard by a growing coalition of environmentally oriented groups, fearful of what it would mean to get all those tar sands out of the ground and (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.  In addition, this coming Sunday, February 17th, an enormous “forward on climate” rally is to take place in Washington.  Originally organized by 350.org and TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben but now involving dozens of groups, it is expected to draw worried protestors (including this writer) from all over to demonstrate on the National Mall.  The goal is, in part, to push President Obama to make the necessary decision on the Keystone pipeline.  It’s remarkable that one man has the power to shoot this project down.  As another TomDispatch regular, Michael Klare, explains below, should he do so, the tar-sands industry might never recover.  That would lend a genuine hand to our over-heating planet, which means there has seldom been a situation where demonstrations to pressure a president were more in order. Tom

A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World 
The Strategic Importance of Keystone XL 
By Michael T. Klare

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.  In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines.  It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet.  If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain.

Sometimes, what starts out as a minor skirmish can wind up determining the outcome of a war — and that seems to be the case when it comes to the mounting battle over the Keystone XL pipeline. If given the go-ahead by President Obama, it will daily carry more than 700,000 barrels of tar-sands oil to those Gulf Coast refineries, providing a desperately needed boost to the Canadian energy industry. If Obama says no, the Canadians (and their American backers) will encounter possibly insuperable difficulties in exporting their heavy crude oil, discouraging further investment and putting the industry’s future in doubt.

The battle over Keystone XL was initially joined in the summer of 2011, when environmental writer and climate activist Bill McKibben and 350.org, which he helped found, organized a series of non-violent anti-pipeline protests in front of theWhite House to highlight the links between tar sands production and the accelerating pace of climate change. At the same time, farmers and politicians in Nebraska, through which the pipeline is set to pass, expressed grave concern about its threat to that state’s crucial aquifers. After all, tar-sands crude is highly corrosive, and leaks are a notable risk.

In mid-January 2012, in response to those concerns, other worries about the pipeline, and perhaps a looming presidential campaign season, Obama postponed a decision on completing the controversial project.  (He, not Congress, has the final say, since it will cross an international boundary.)  Now, he must decide on a suggested new route that will, supposedly, take Keystone XL around those aquifers and so reduce the threat to Nebraska’s water supplies.

Ever since the president postponed the decision on whether to proceed, powerful forces in the energy industry and government have been mobilizing to press ever harder for its approval. Its supporters argue vociferously that the pipeline will bring jobs to America and enhance the nation’s “energy security” by lessening its reliance on Middle Eastern oil suppliers. Their true aim, however, is far simpler: to save the tar-sands industry (and many billions of dollars in U.S. investments) from possible disaster.

Just how critical the fight over Keystone has become in the eyes of the industry is suggested by a recent pro-pipeline editorial in the trade publication Oil & Gas Journal:

“Controversy over the Keystone XL project leaves no room for compromise. Fundamental views about the future of energy are in conflict. Approval of the project would acknowledge the rich potential of the next generation of fossil energy and encourage its development. Rejection would foreclose much of that potential in deference to an energy utopia few Americans support when they learn how much it costs.”

Opponents of Keystone XL, who are planning a mass demonstration at the White House on February 17th, have also come to view the pipeline battle in epic terms. “Alberta’s tar sands are the continent’s biggest carbon bomb,” McKibben wrote at TomDispatch. “If you could burn all the oil in those tar sands, you’d run the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide from its current 390 parts per million (enough to cause the climate havoc we’re currently seeing) to nearly 600 parts per million, which would mean if not hell, then at least a world with a similar temperature.” Halting Keystone would not by itself prevent those high concentrations, he argued, but would impede the production of tar sands, stop that “carbon bomb” from further heating the atmosphere, and create space for a transition to renewables. “Stopping Keystone will buy time,” he says, “and hopefully that time will be used for the planet to come to its senses around climate change.”

A Pipeline With Nowhere to Go?

Why has the fight over a pipeline, which, if completed, would provide only 4% of the U.S. petroleum supply, assumed such strategic significance? As in any major conflict, the answer lies in three factors: logistics, geography, and timing.

Start with logistics and consider the tar sands themselves or, as the industry and its supporters in government prefer to call them, “oil sands.” Neither tar nor oil, thesubstance in question is a sludge-like mixture of sand, clay, water, and bitumen (a degraded, carbon-rich form of petroleum). Alberta has a colossal supply of the stuff — at least a trillion barrels in known reserves, or the equivalent of all the conventional oil burned by humans since the onset of commercial drilling in 1859.  Even if you count only the reserves that are deemed extractible by existing technology, its tar sands reportedly are the equivalent of 170 billion barrels of conventional petroleum — more than the reserves of any nation except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The availability of so much untapped energy in a country like Canada, which is private-enterprise-friendly and where the political dangers are few, has been a magnet for major international energy firms. Not surprisingly, many of them, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell, have invested heavily in tar-sands operations.

Tar sands, however, bear little resemblance to the conventional oil fields which these companies have long exploited. They must be treated in various energy-intensive ways to be converted into a transportable liquid and then processed even further into usable products. Some tar sands can be strip-mined like coal and then “upgraded” through chemical processing into a synthetic crude oil — SCO, or “syncrude.” Alternatively, the bitumen can be pumped from the ground after the sands are exposed to steam, which liquefies the bitumen and allows its extraction with conventional oil pumps. The latter process, known as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), produces a heavy crude oil.  It must, in turn, be diluted with lighter crudes for transportation by pipeline to specialized refineries equipped to process such oil, most of which are located on the Gulf Coast.

Extracting and processing tar sands is an extraordinarily expensive undertaking, far more so than most conventional oil drilling operations. Considerable energy is needed to dig the sludge out of the ground or heat the water into steam for underground injection; then, additional energy is needed for the various upgrading processes. The environmental risks involved are enormous (even leaving aside the vast amounts of greenhouse gases that the whole process will pump into the atmosphere). The massive quantities of water needed for SAGD and those upgrading processes, for example, become contaminated with toxic substances.  Once used, they cannot be returned to any water source that might end up in human drinking supplies — something environmentalists say is already occurring.  All of this and the expenses involved mean that the multibillion-dollar investments needed to launch a tar-sands operation can only pay off if the final product fetches a healthy price in the marketplace.

And that’s where geography enters the picture.  Alberta is theoretically capable of producing five to six million barrels of tar-sands oil per day.  In 2011, however, Canada itself consumed only 2.3 million barrels of oil per day, much of it supplied by conventional (and cheaper) oil from fields in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.  That number is not expected to rise appreciably in the foreseeable future. No less significant, Canada’s refining capacity for all kinds of oil is limited to 1.9 million barrels per day, and few of its refineries are equipped to process tar sands-style heavy crude. This leaves the producers with one strategic option: exporting the stuff.

And that’s where the problems really begin. Alberta is an interior province and so cannot export its crude by sea. Given the geography, this leaves only three export options: pipelines heading east across Canada to ports on the Atlantic, pipelines heading west across the Rockies to ports in British Columbia, or pipelines heading south to refineries in the United States.

Alberta’s preferred option is to send the preponderance of its tar-sands oil to its biggest natural market, the United States. At present, Canadian pipeline companies do operate a number of conduits that deliver some of this oil to the U.S., notably the original Keystone conduit extending from Hardisty, Alberta, to Illinois and then southward to Cushing, Oklahoma. But these lines can carry less than one million barrels of crude per day, and so will not permit the massive expansion of output the industry is planning for the next decade or so.

In other words, the only pipeline now under development that would significantly expand Albertan tar-sands exports is Keystone XL.  It is vitally important to the tar-sands producers because it offers the sole short-term — or possibly even long-term — option for the export and sale of the crude output now coming on line at dozens of projects being developed across northern Alberta.  Without it, these projects will languish and Albertan production will have to be sold at a deep discount — at, that is, a per-barrel price that could fall below production costs, making further investment in tar sands unattractive. In January, Canadian tar-sands oil was already selling for $30-$40 less than West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the standard U.S. blend.

The Pipelines That Weren’t

Like an army bottled up geographically and increasingly at the mercy of enemy forces, the tar-sands producers see the completion of Keystone XL as their sole realistic escape route to survival.  “Our biggest problem is that Alberta is landlocked,” the province’s finance minister Doug Horner said in January. “In fact, of the world’s major oil-producing jurisdictions, Alberta is the only one with no direct access to the ocean. And until we solve this problem… the [price] differential will remain large.”

Logistics, geography, and finally timing. A presidential stamp of approval on the building of Keystone XL will save the tar-sands industry, ensuring them enough return to justify their massive investments. It would also undoubtedly prompt additional investments in tar-sands projects and further production increases by an industry that assumed opposition to future pipelines had been weakened by this victory.

A presidential thumbs-down and resulting failure to build Keystone XL, however, could have lasting and severe consequences for tar-sands production. After all, no other export link is likely to be completed in the near-term. The other three most widely discussed options — the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, British Columbia, an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver, British Columbia, and a plan to use existing, conventional-oil conduits to carry tar-sands oil across Quebec, Vermont, and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine — already face intense opposition, with initial construction at best still years in the future.

The Northern Gateway project, proposed by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, would stretch from Bruderheim in northern Alberta to Kitimat, a port on Charlotte Sound and the Pacific.  If completed, it would allow the export of tar-sands oil to Asia, where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees a significant future market (even though few Asian refineries could now process the stuff).  But unlike oil-friendly Alberta, British Columbia has a strong pro-environmental bias and many senior provincial officials have expressed fierce opposition to the project. Moreover, under the country’s constitution, native peoples over whose land the pipeline would have to travel must be consulted on the project — and most tribal communities are adamantly opposed to its construction.

Another proposed conduit — an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver — presents the same set of obstacles and, like the Northern Gateway project, has aroused strong opposition in Vancouver.

This leaves the third option, a plan to pump tar-sands oil to Ontario and Quebec and then employ an existing pipeline now used for oil imports. It connects to a terminal in Casco Bay, near Portland, Maine, where the Albertan crude would begin the long trip by ship to those refineries on the Gulf Coast. Although no official action has yet been taken to allow the use of the U.S. conduit for this purpose, anti-pipeline protests have already erupted in Portland, including one on January 26th that attracted more than 1,400 people.

With no other pipelines in the offing, tar sands producers are increasing their reliance on deliveries by rail.  This is producing boom times for some long-haul freight carriiers, but will never prove sufficient to move the millions of barrels in added daily output expected from projects now coming on line.

The conclusion is obvious: without Keystone XL, the price of tar-sands oil will remain substantially lower than conventional oil (as well as unconventional oil extracted from shale formations in the United States), discouraging future investment and dimming the prospects for increased output.  In other words, as Bill McKibben hopes, much of it will stay in the ground.

Industry officials are painfully aware of their predicament.  In an Annual Information Form released at the end of 2011, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, owner of the largest share of Syncrude Canada (one of the leading producers of tar-sands oil) noted:

“A prolonged period of low crude oil prices could affect the value of our crude oil properties and the level of spending on growth projects and could result in curtailment of production… Any substantial and extended decline in the price of oil or an extended negative differential for SCO compared to either WTI or European Brent Crude would have an adverse effect on the revenues, profitability, and cash flow of Canadian Oil Sands and likely affect the ability of Canadian Oil Sands to pay dividends and repay its debt obligations.”

The stakes in this battle could not be higher.  If Keystone XL fails to win the president’s approval, the industry will certainly grow at a far slower pace than forecast and possibly witness the failure of costly ventures, resulting in an industry-wide contraction.  If approved, however, production will soar and global warming will occur at an even faster rate than previously projected. In this way, a presidential decision will have an unexpectedly decisive and lasting impact on all our lives.

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left, just published in paperback.  A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil can be previewed and ordered at http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com. You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking here.

Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare

oooOOOooo

The expression of being between a rock and a hard place comes to mind!

Reflections on Integrity.

Going back to basics.

Many will know the origins of this blog; a chance comment by Jon Lavin back in England in early 2007 that dogs were integrous,  (a score of 210 as defined by Dr David Hawkins).

Way back in 2009, I wrote this:

“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.

When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague but knew that the Blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation.  Here are some early musings,

Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …

Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….

But as the initial, rather hesitant, start to the Blog settled into a reliable, daily posting, and as the minuscule number of readers steadily grew to the present level of many hundreds each day, the clarity of the purpose of Learning from Dogs also improved.

Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.

Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is running out.

Time left to change our ways is running out.

So what’s rattled my cage, so to speak, that prompted today’s reflection?  I’ll tell you! (You knew I was going to anyway, didn’t you!)

I’m drafting these thoughts around noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, 17th.  At the same time, tens of thousands of ordinary good folk (40,000 plus at the latest estimate) are gathering by the Washington Monument ready to march past the White House demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action.

Do I trust the US Government to take this action?  On balance, no!  That hurts me terribly to write that. I really want to trust and believe what the President of my new home country says.

State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.
State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.

Here’s a snippet of what the President did say in his State of the Union speech on February 12th.

Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense.

We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.

A frank admission that the climate is changing in dramatic ways; the overwhelming judgment of science – fantastic!

The evidence that burning carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) is the primary cause of today’s high CO2 levels is overwhelming. As a recent BBC radio programme reveals (being featured tomorrow) huge climate changes going back millions of years are a natural part of Earth’s history.  However, as one of the scientists explains at the end of that radio programme, the present CO2 level, 395.55 ppm as of January, is now way above the safe, stable limit for the majority of life species on the planet.

But say you are reading this and are not yet convinced?

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is among the most safest forms of transport.  If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft.

If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet likewise you would do something!  Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones.  The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

Which is where my lack of trust of leaders comes from!

Back to that State of the Union speech.  Just 210 words after the spoken words “act before it’s too late”  (I counted them!) Pres. Obama says, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

Here’s the relevant section:

I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

We don’t require any more oil to be used.  We are already using a staggering amount of it. Let me refer you to an essay on Nature Bats Last called Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind.  Prof. McPherson wrote:

I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).

5,500 cubic feet per second” Don’t know about you but I have some trouble in visualising that flow rate.  Try this from later in the essay:

Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip.

Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.

Burning a cubic mile every year!  Yes, Mr. President, more oil permits is a wonderful way of taking action before it’s too late!

cubic mile
Image taken from http://www.flashevap.com/bigthings.htm

So let’s see what transpires?  Let’s see if integrity is given the highest political focus.  As in “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”  Because if there’s ever been a time when all of us, from every spectrum of society need honesty about what we are doing to the planet, it’s now!

As the tag on the home page of this blog says, “Dogs are integrous animals.  We have much to learn from them.

A Chomsky afterthought.

Dogs wouldn’t treat other members of their pack like this.

(I realise how the heading and the sub-heading don’t appear to have any correlation but stay with me please!)

It’s widely known, I’m sure, that the wolf, from which the wild dog and the domesticated dog evolved, lives in packs of around 50 animals.  The size of the pack offers a cohesive, stable structure for the wolf, and other pack species, ensuring group survival and well-being. In a very real sense the way that wolves live is a fabulous example of the power of community.

Just be sidetracked a moment by the following graph, presented on the Berkeley University website:

hominid_graph
My understanding of early hominids is pretty basic but if ‘Homo habilis‘ represents the evolution of modern man then our species goes back less than 3 million years.

Compare that with canids. The website WolfWeb states,

The Dog linage began 37 million years ago in North America in predators that had distinctive pairs of shearing teeth and ran down prey. Early canids reached Europe seven million years ago.

Thirty-seven million years!  Now that’s what I call an example of  “group survival and well-being“.  The power of community.

As stated elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

The ten dogs we have here at home are split into two groups of five.  What we call the bedroom group: Pharaoh, Cleo, Sweeny, Hazel and Dhalia, and the kitchen group consisting of Lily, Casey, Ruby, Paloma and Loopy.  Both groups are separated by wooden fences so are more than aware of each other.

Something that is clear is that whenever one of the dogs is hurt, all the other dogs take notice. Others in the same group will come up to their hurt ‘buddy’ and offer comfort in a variety of ways.  Sadly, I can’t give you a better example than our poor Loopy who is suffering badly from the dog equivalent of dementia.

Here’s a picture taken of Loopy on Wednesday afternoon.  You will notice the strange sleeping position that she frequently adopts.  That’s an aspect of her dementia.

P1120522

The other dogs in her group all give her special attention.  Such as not grabbing her sleeping bed, not pushing or shoving near her, giving her a wide space in general.  The other dogs sense there is something badly awry with Loopy and accommodate that.

So what on earth has this to do with yesterday’s post Who owns the World?  Keep hanging in there!

A recent link in Naked Capitalism‘s daily news summary was to a story in the British Guardian newspaper.  Written by the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna, it was about the likelihood of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.

Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option

Even to a unionist like me, an Alex Salmond-led government is preferable to one that rewards greed and corruption

It’s an interesting article and I recommend you read it directly.  But what jumped off the page at me were these paragraphs.  Please focus deeply on the words and ponder on how foreign they are to the concept of community.

Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.

Last week, Goldman Sachs, one of the banks with its fingers in the till when global economic meltdown occurred, awarded an average bonus of £250,000 to each of its employees. The gap between the richest in our society and the poorest stretched a little more and we were reminded yet again that the UK government, despite its promises, allows greed, incompetence and corruption to be rewarded. (How many people do you think will go to jail for the Libor rate-fixing scandal?) Meanwhile, Westminster politicians are dividing the poor into categories marked “deserving” and “scum”.

Think a dog is just a cuddly animal that gives you a chance to do some dog-walking?  Again, written elsewhere on Learning from Dogs.

Dogs:

  • are integrous (a score of 210 according to Dr David Hawkins)
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

Now compare that with the last sentence in Noam Chomsky’s essay from yesterday, “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Hatred of the vulnerable“; “those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome” are not expressions that resonate with the values of loving communities.  If we humans want “group survival and well-being” we had better learn from species lupus and canid. Pronto!

wolf_pack