Religion

img_2456-3

The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

img_2274-2

A mother demands #ClimateAction #auspol 

On the heels of three consecutive years of record-breaking warmth, we recognize that global climate change is undeniable.

 This is why all the nations of the world came to agreement in Paris to keep the world well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial baseline.

As a mother and retired teacher, I have grave concern for the challenges my adult children and my young students will face because of climate change. 

And, of course, those challenges will increase with each generation unless a major course correction is taken.


Science tells us that we’re changing the planet’s climate by burning fossil fuels, that we’re headed toward a dangerous tipping point in the next two decades if we don’t radically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

 This tipping point is expected to set up positive feedback effects such as the melting of Arctic Sea ice, which in turn increases the amount of heat absorbed by the Earth. 

Warming causing more warming.

 Of course, we’ve already seen the effects of that warming — droughts, worsening storms, flooding, wildfires and freak weather events — all of which will quickly intensify as global temperatures rise.

We have but one course of action. 

We must leave most of the coal, oil and gas on the planet in the ground and unburned, and transition rapidly to a renewable-energy economy.

While responsibility for this transition rests squarely on the shoulders of all of us, “We the People” cannot bear these burdens alone while the coal, oil and gas industries continue to reap huge profits, and government continues to ignore its responsibility to the mandates of science and the consequences of climate change. 

Politicians at every level of government must be held accountable for their action and inaction.


To our county representatives: Investment in renewable energy infrastructure, local entrepreneurship and both traditional and innovative agriculture that will keep jobs and our young people in this county. 

Fossil fuel infrastructure will only devalue our most precious assets — clean air, water and land — while providing few long-term jobs.

To Gov. Cuomo: A state that rightfully banned fracking should not have increased its use of fracked gas 18 percent between 2005 and 2014, nor increased its gas customers by half a million in the same time period, by granting permits for ongoing gas infrastructure projects. We know that all these projects leak methane, the main component of fracked gas, at every stage, and that methane is 100 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the critical 20-year timeframe before us.


To our federal government: Trump’s cabinet picks — Tillerson for secretary of State, Pruitt for EPA, Perry for Energy and Zinke for Interior — all have ties to the carbon lobby and either deny global warming, doubt human activity as its cause, or downplay its importance. We have our work cut out for us in pressuring law makers to rein in these friends of oil and gas.
An alternative theory about the motives of these climate-change skeptics was posited by Alex Steffen in a recent article, “Trump, Putin, and the Pipelines to Nowhere.” These skeptics may, in fact, be surreptitious climate change believers with a big agenda. 

While the extreme measures needed to extract fossil fuels today make them both uneconomic as well as catastrophic to climate, the Trump team may be determined to delay climate action and to keep the carbon bubble from bursting by propping up the extraction industries long enough for them to reap the last benefits of high valuation and large dividends from their substantial investments. 

They want shareholders buying into the perception of future oil and gas profits, even though they are fully aware of the magnitude of the damage ahead, to the economy and to the climate. 

The end game for them is short-term, but it’s disastrous for the planet, and we must call them out on it. Steffen writes, “The most serious political fight on the planet — the need to end use of coal, oil and gas — is at the center of America’s current political crisis.”

We will have to redefine prosperity and growth with new meanings and a return to some old ones. 

We will need to grow community, grow alliances, grow food, grow networks, grow resilience, grow support and grow local enterprise. 

The innovations needed to transition to a renewable energy economy with new industries and millions of jobs are already here. 

We just have to commit to the tough but necessary work of making this transition in our communities and to holding our representatives’ feet to the fire of our warming planet by demanding climate action and a jobs economy based on renewable energy.
Joan Tubridy, of Meredith, is a mother, retired teacher and former farmer.

Press link for more: The Daily Star

img_1028-5

Lasting Effects of Pope Francis’ #ClimateChange Edict #auspol 

The Lasting Effects of Pope Francis’ Climate Change Edict
New research finds thinking about the pontiff changes the way we frame the issue.
By Tom Jacobs

(Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AFP/Getty Images)

Last fall, a study reported that Pope Francis’ much-discussed encyclical on climate change largely fell on deaf ears. Researchers from Texas Tech University found the appeal “failed to rally any broad support on climate change” among Americans, whether or not they were Catholic.
But newly published research suggests the pontiff’s call for taking care of the Earth has had a more subtle impact on American public opinion. It finds brief exposure to a photograph of the pope “increased perceptions of climate change as a moral issue.”


What’s more, this shift in how the issue is perceived was particularly strong among Republicans — a group that has traditionally been resistant to acknowledging the fact that humans are affecting the Earth’s climate in dangerous ways.
“The pope’s message may transcend political boundaries and fundamentally reshape how the issue is conceptualized among the public,” a research team led by Jonathon Schuldt of Cornell University writes in the journal Climatic Change.
The pontiff’s call for taking care of the Earth has had a more subtle impact on American public opinion.

The study utilized an online survey that featured 1,212 American adults. It was conducted in May of 2016—11 months after publication of the encyclical, and seven months after his visit to the United States.
Half the participants were shown a photo of Pope Francis and asked how familiar they were with his views on climate change. All were then asked three climate-change-related questions:
“Do you consider climate change to be a moral or ethical issue?”

“Do you feel personally responsible to contributing to the causes of climate change?”

“Do you feel personally responsible for helping to reduce climate change?”

For each, they answered “Yes, definitely,” “Yes, somewhat,” or “No.”
Among those who had briefly thought about the pope, 51 percent said they viewed climate change as a moral issue. For those who had not, that figure was 46 percent.

This gap was particularly large among Republicans. Thirty-nine percent of those who were exposed to the pope’s image said they considered it a moral issue, compared to 30 percent among those who were not. That’s a potentially important shift, as pondering about the ethical consequences of environmental destruction may shift behavior more effectively than thinking in utilitarian terms.
Similarly, the percentage of people who felt personally responsible for contributing to climate change increased from 48 to 52 if they had seen the photo of the pope. On this issue, it was Democrats who made the difference: Sixty-four percent of those who were exposed to the pontiff expressed responsibility, compared to 56 percent who were not.
Thinking about the pope did not increase the percentage of Republicans who felt personal responsibility for climate change, which stayed steady at 36 percent.
Nevertheless, the results suggest a reminder of the pope’s views can change the ways members of both parties think about the issue. Given the dangers of inertia, that has to be a positive sign.

Press link for more: psmag.com

img_2193-3

George Monbiot: The Pollution Paradox #auspol

The Pollution Paradox
Dirty industries spend more on politics, keeping us in the fossil age.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th January 2017
Make America Wait Again. That’s what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.

Trump is the president corporate Luddites have dreamt of; the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone.


Recent research suggests that – if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement on climate change is not taken – ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of seawater, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.

The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.
These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.

In their careers so far, they have championed the fossil fuel industry while contesting the measures intended to prevent climate breakdown. They appear to have considered the need of a few exceedingly rich people to protect their foolish investments for a few more years, weighed it against the benign climatic conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish, and decided that the foolish investments are more important.
By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart; he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500 billion deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Mr Putin.
The deal was stopped under the sanctions the US imposed when Russia invaded Ukraine. The probability of these sanctions in their current form surviving a Trump government is, to the nearest decimal place, a snowball’s chance in hell. If Russia did interfere in the US election, it will be handsomely rewarded when the deal goes ahead.
Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.
The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Trump’s appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
It was once possible to argue, rightly or wrongly, that the human benefits of developing fossil fuel reserves might outweigh the harm. But a combination of more refined climate science, that now presents the risks in stark terms, and the plummeting costs of clean technologies renders this argument as obsolete as a coal-fired power station.

As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13 million jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It’s not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it’s also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.
Understandably, commentators have been seeking glimpses of light in Trump’s position. But there are none. He couldn’t have made it clearer, through his public statements, the Republican platform and his appointments, that he intends to the greatest extent possible to shut down funding for both climate science and clean energy, rip up the Paris agreement, sustain fossil fuel subsidies and annul the laws that protect people and the rest of the living world from the impacts of dirty energy.
His candidacy was represented as an insurgency, challenging established power. But his position on climate change reveals what should have been obvious from the beginning: he and his team represent the incumbents, fighting off insurgent technologies and political challenges to moribund business models. They will hold back the tide of change for as long as they can. And then the barrier will burst. 

Press link for more: Monbiot.com
www. monbiot.com

img_2193-2

A Human Economy? #auspol 

The paper has a larger aim, setting out some initial thinking on the constituent elements of a “human economy approach” that can turn around both inequality and other public bads created by prevailing orthodoxies. Here are the headlines:
A human economy would see national governments accountable to the 99 percent, and playing a more interventionist role in their economies to make them fairer and more sustainable.

A human economy would see national governments cooperate to effectively fix global problems such as tax dodging, climate change and other environmental harm.


A human economy would see businesses designed in ways that increase prosperity for all, and contribute to a sustainable future.

A human economy would not tolerate the extreme concentration of wealth or poverty, and the gap between rich and poor would be far smaller.

A human economy would work equally as well for women as it does for men.


A human economy would ensure that advances in technology are actively steered to be to the benefit of everyone, rather than meaning job losses for workers or more wealth for those who own the businesses.

A human economy would ensure an environmentally sustainable future by breaking free of fossil fuels and embarking on a rapid and just transition to renewable energy.

A human economy would see progress measured by what actually matters, not just by GDP. This would include women’s unpaid care, and the impact of our economies on the planet.

img_2193-1

Interfaith effort spreads the word about climate change #auspol 

Interfaith effort spreads the word about climate change
Interfaith groups throughout Philadelphia came together to challenge climate change deniers as part of the National Day Against Denial recently, and Black organizations want to keep up the momentum.


Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faith communities braved the cold to gather for a march through Center City on Monday. The two-prone effort had others engaged in phone-bank calls to policymakers and lawmakers.
Members of Philadelphia PA Interfaith Power & Light joined with groups outside the faith community to champion the cause of keeping the issue in the political forefront as President-elect Donald Trump has nominated people who question or refute climate change science.
The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch of the Philadelphia PAIPL was among those answering the call to action.
“This is part of the national response to the climate deniers to let them know we are organized,” Pyrch said.
“I could not make it to the event,” he added. “I do know that Rev. Alison Cornish [executive director of PAIPL] was planning this for a while. The 350.org is also involved under the direction of Mitch James. They are involved in different climate environmental justice issues and are active right now.”
Philadelphia PAIPL plans to hold a brainstorming retreat to strategize on how it will help faith communities in the area address climate issues. The event is scheduled for Tuesday at the Summit Presbyterian Church in the Mount Airy section. Pyrch is the pastor at the church.
Mary Wade, founder of One Light, Building Respect in Community, said the issue of climate change came up at one of her recent events. But the associate minister at Wayland Temple Baptist Church in North Philadelphia said race, violence and environmental issues should remain among the focuses for faith-based groups and churches.
“Underlining every issue confronting our community is a disregard for the integrity of life,” Wade said. “Whether in the workplace, by those in authority or everyday people walking the streets of the community, the problem is the same — a lack of appreciation for our Creator and the sacredness of life. There is a lack of awe and deep respect for the God, who created us all and this planet.

“Our national culture is that of extreme irreverence and lack of honor,” she said. “There is little respect and appreciation for the Creator and creation. This undermines and destroys the fiber of society and hope for our future on this planet.
“That’s why we must continue to call upon people of all faiths and goodwill to show dignity, respect and care,” Wade added.
Gloria Jones of Germantown was among those who attended a tree planting along Germantown Avenue. Though the trees planted by PAIPL and others are small, it still brings her great pleasure, she said.
“I believe in a God who loves us so much that he gave us a beautiful place to live,” Jones said. “I think it is wonderful that many are trying to make sure that we save this planet. I know that I try to do my part.
“When I talk about climate change, I find that most African-American Christians do believe it is real, but what I find is that most think other things are more important. I tell them if you cannot breathe or lose the earth, all those other things will not matter,” she said.
“So, I applaud any group that is speaking out about this,” Jone said.

Press link for more: Phillytrib.com

img_2168

We are already in danger! #auspol 

The risks of climate change are not easy to communicate clearly. 

 Since the atmosphere affects everything, everything will be affected by its warming — there’s no single risk, but a wide and varied array of risks, of different severities and scales, affecting different systems, unfolding on different timelines. It’s difficult to convey to a layperson, at least without droning on and on.
 One of the better-known and more controversial attempts to address this problem is a graphic from the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The so-called “burning embers” graph attempts to render the various risks of climate change — “reasons for concern,” or RFCs — in an easy-to-grasp visual form.
 In a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change, a group of 17 scholars examines the RFC conceptual framework and reviews the latest science. (Because IPCC reports take so long to produce, the science they contain is always a few years behind.)
 Long story short, they find that the graphic is generally accurate (though it has key limitations). They offer suggestions for how the RFC framework could be extended in the future to “better account for possible changes in social and ecological system vulnerability.”
 I won’t get into the details — I just want to have a look at their new and improved burning-embers graph, which is up at the top of this post.

 As you can see, there is a ton of information about the risks of climate change crammed in there, so it’s worth unpacking a bit. It offers a remarkably coherent overview of the various risks that lie ahead this century.

The thermometer on the right shows temperatures relative to preindustrial levels; the thermometer on the left shows them relative to 1986-2005. The distance between the two blue lines is warming that occurred through 2005. (As that note on the right indicates, warming is up a bit 2003-2012.)
Following the IPCC, risks are divided into five buckets or RFCs:
Risks to unique and threatened systems. These are ecological or human systems that are geographically constrained and have a high degree of “endemism” — they are uniquely adapted to a particular geography and climate. The authors cite as examples “tropical glacier systems, coral reefs, mangrove ecosystems, biodiversity hotspots, and unique indigenous communities.”

Risks associated with extreme weather events. This is what it says, i.e., “risk to human health, livelihoods, assets, and ecosystems from extremes such as heat waves, heavy rain, drought and associated wildfires, and coastal flooding.”

Risks associated with the distribution of impacts. This reflects the fact that some groups will be hit earlier and harder than others. Distribution of impacts can be uneven with respect to “geographic location, income and wealth, gender, age, or other physical and socioeconomic characteristics.”

Risks associated with global aggregate impacts. This refers to “impacts to socio-ecological systems that can be aggregated globally according to a single metric such as lives affected, monetary damage, number of species at risk of extinction, or degradation and loss of a number of ecosystems at a global scale.”

Risks associated with large-scale singular events. These are the much-discussed “tipping points,” whereby a series of incremental changes pushes some system over a threshold, at which point it shifts into a period of rapid, discontinuous, and sometimes irreversible change. The iconic example here is “disintegration of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets leading to a large and rapid sea-level rise.”

Scattered across these five buckets are eight “key risks,” coded by those little colored circles, and which RFC buckets they fall into. Here’s the key to those:
 key risks (Nature Climate Change)

These are the more granular risks: rising sea level, flooding, infrastructure damage, food insecurity, etc.
For each RFC, there are four levels of risk: undetectable, moderate, high, and very high.
The little graphics along the bottom are selected key risks, which are plotted at various points on the graph to illustrate specific dangers. Next to them is a letter indicating the level of confidence scientists feel in predicting the risk — M for medium, H for high.
So, for instance, scientists believe:
with a high degree of confidence that biodiversity hot spots, coral reefs, and Arctic systems will come under very high risk at 2 degrees;

with medium confidence that there is high risk of heat waves and extreme precipitation at 2 degrees;

with medium to high confidence that agriculture is already at moderate risk, which becomes high risk around 2 degrees.

RFCs 4 and 5 are the biggest, scariest dangers — the species-level impacts — but they’re also the ones in which scientists have the least confidence. Still, medium confidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will come under high risk by 3 degrees ought to terrify us. That’s gambling with trillions of dollars.
In short, panic
There’s a lot to glean from this graph, but here’s the takeaway: We’ve already crossed over into moderate risk on the first three RFCS. Pushing temperatures up 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels — the target at which the world claims to want to stop warming — puts us at high risk on the first three and moderate risk on the last two. That is the best-case scenario.
Three degrees over preindustrial levels, where we are very likely headed this century, puts us at high risk across the board, very high for those uniquely threatened systems. Five degrees, which is entirely possible, puts basically every human and ecological system at high to very high risk.
We are already in danger, there’s more danger to come, and the best we can hope for is to slow and stop the process before the dangers are catastrophic. That’s the shape of things.

Press link for more: Vox.com

img_2051-4

A post-environmental epoch #auspol 

As the New Year begins, I’m scrounging for hope. I’ve been wracking my brain for a resolution that will bounce me out of bed in the morning, despite my concerns for the next four years.
After some pretty desperate digging, I found something that works for me. I will promulgate the word “Anthropocene.” This is a portmanteau, meaning a word that combines two seemingly separate ideas into one convenient package. In this case, “anthro” equals humanity and “cene” equals geological epoch. Using this doublet conveys the truth that planet Earth is so pervasively and dramatically transformed by its 7 billion souls that we’ve entered a whole new epoch of earthly existence. A post-environmental epoch.

The word environment comes from environs, which means to surround. By definition, it’s the actual world we live in, everything from the clutter in your kitchen to the birds in your backyard. But beginning in the 1960s, the scope of this word was narrowed as a general synonym for nonhuman Nature. For example, the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 dealt largely on the otherness of Nature. Dominating the debates were aesthetic and ethical considerations that constrained human opportunity for the benefit of nonhuman interests.


By the 1970s, this idea of humans vs. nonhumans was morphing into one that pitted good humans against bad humans. On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, cartoonist Walt Kelly’s protagonist Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This defined the struggle as mainly between those who pollute and those who work to halt pollution. This struggle created a whole new sector of the American economy and a whole new regulatory realm in government. The label “environmentalist” (a term I have never embraced for myself) was affixed to someone committed to the care of Nature. Environmentalism became an ideology on par with racism, sexism, patriotism, Nazism and so forth. This political football gradually inflated over the next half-century.
Divisive politics continued during the next four decades as the game grew to global proportions. Environmentalism became an international high-stakes sport with debates about depleted fishing stocks, gyres of plastic debris in the ocean, bleaching of coral reefs, melting ice, rising sea level and climate change. Resistance to progress strengthened as the environmental issues grew too large and too complex for the average voter to comprehend, or too remote from daily experience. This rendered environmental issues vulnerable to exploitation by powerful corporations and political candidates.
Twenty years ago, American political football was nicely summed up by historian Richard White in his essay, “Are You an Environmentalist, or Do You Work for a Living?” The pitting of jobs against the environment has since become a red herring, now that the creation of so-called “green” jobs has outpaced those in sectors based on resource extraction.
My hope is that the ideology captured by the word “Anthropocene” will replace the one called environmentalism. This will help dissolve the fiction that Nature and human nature are separate entities. And, if we can see the whole planet as something we’ve created together, then we’re more likely to join forces to care for it properly.
Pogo’s maxim for the environmental movement was “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I don’t like this anymore. I suggest we revisit the popular song title “We Are the World,” but tweak its title to “We Are the Planet,” and extend the lyrics to include the whole of the planet, not just the different human groups.
It took a leap of the imagination to develop an environmental consciousness. Now we need another leap.
If we can get our collective heads around the big idea of Anthropocene thinking, then taking care of the planet will be seen as a form of self-care, as natural as brushing our teeth.
Robert M. Thorson is a professor at the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at profthorson@yahoo.com.

Press link for more: Courant.com

img_2070

America’s youth are suing the government over climate change #auspol

At a time when humanity must reverse course before plunging over a climate cliff, the American public has elected a president who seems to have both feet on the fossil fuel accelerator.

 If there is a mechanism to force the Trump administration to put the brakes on dirty energy policy, a lawsuit brought by 21 young people against the Obama administration may hold the key.
 Two days after the presidential election, on Nov. 10, a federal district court in Oregon issued a path-breaking decision in Juliana v. U.S. declaring that youth – indeed, all citizens – hold constitutional rights to a stable climate system.
 The youth, aged 9 to 20 years old, seek a court-supervised plan to lower carbon dioxide emissions at a rate set by a science-based prescription. The judicial role is analogous to court-supervised remedies protecting equal opportunity for students after Brown v. Board of Education.
 The Juliana v. U.S. decision could be a legal game-changer, as it challenges the entire fossil-fuel policy of the United States.
  Cruel irony
 Environmental lawsuits typically rely on statutes or regulations. But Juliana is a human rights case that bores down to legal bedrock by asserting constitutional rights to inherit a stable climate system.
 The court, which ruled the suit can proceed to trial, rightly described the case as a “civil rights action” – an action “of a different order than the typical environmental case” – because it alleges that government actions “have so profoundly damaged our home planet that they threaten plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life and liberty.”

  The litigation, variously called “a ”ray of hope,“ a legal ”long shot“ and a ”Hail Mary pass,“ yielded its groundbreaking decision not a moment too soon.

2016 is the hottest on record, Arctic sea ice has hit its lowest recorded level. Heated ocean waters threaten coral reefs and marine ecosystems.

To have any hope of reversing or stalling these effects of climate change, the world must restrict fossil fuel production and ultimately switch to safe renewable energy. Even continued production solely from currently operating oil and gas fields will push the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial temperatures, beyond the aspirational limit set by the global Paris Agreement on climate change.
President-elect Trump, who notoriously claimed that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, has said he plans to immediately approve the highly contentious Keystone Pipeline, open public land to drilling, rescind Obama’s Clean Power Plan, eliminate NASA’s climate research, and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. He intends to spur production of US$50 trillion worth of shale, oil, coal and natural gas.

The 70-year-old president-elect will not live long enough to witness the worst consequences of rapidly expanding fossil fuel development. The cruel irony for young people is that actions taken during Trump’s time in office will lock in a future of severe disruptions within their projected lifetimes – and sea level rise that could make coastal cities uninhabitable. James Hansen, formerly the nation’s chief climate scientist at NASA, has warned, “Failure to act with all deliberate speed…functionally becomes a decision to eliminate the option of preserving a habitable climate system.”

Constitutional argument

For decades, the political branches have promoted fossil fuel consumption despite longstanding knowledge about the climate danger. President Obama ignored warnings when he charted a disastrous course of increased fossil fuel production early in office. In a last moment of opportunity to avert climate tipping points, Americans should recall an elementary school civics lesson: The United States has three, not two, branches of government. 

The founders wisely vested an independent judiciary with the responsibility of upholding the fundamental liberties of citizens against infringement by the other branches.
As the president-elect promises to ramp up fossil fuel production and dismantle Obama’s recent climate measures, and with no obvious statutory law to prevent him from doing so, only a fundamental rights approach carries any hope of trumping Trump.

Press link for more: Salon.com

img_1949-4

Nature is being murdered. #auspol

By Dr. Glen Barry

Miraculous nature is being murdered. Everywhere we look inequitable over-consumption is devastating the natural ecosystems that sustain a living Earth. Together we yield to ecological truth – personally embracing a global ecology ethic, and demanding others do so as well – or we all needlessly die at each others’ throats as the global ecological system collapses and being ends.

Gaia’s ecosystem organs – old-growth forests, natural waterways, bountiful oceans, vibrant soils – will be restored and maintained at all costs as global ecological reserves to power the biosphere and maintain a living and livable Earth. — Dr. Glen Barry
The Signs
Everywhere you look humans are destroying nature. We are eating the ecosystems that sustain us, crapping in our own habitat, calling it development as we destroy our one shared biosphere.
Look outside your window. Chances are that the “nature” you see – some degraded secondary forests, power lines and roadways, with disturbed soil and degraded waterways – was a million year old natural ecosystem only a few generations ago. Never have naturally evolved ancient ecosystems been so swiftly destroyed to produce throw away consumer junk.


We are witnessing the age of ecocidal, conspicuous, and inequitable over-consumption. 90% of old growth forests have been mowed and large ocean fish harvested. Half of both natural soil and vegetation have been destroyed. Oceans are dying from bottom trawling, acidification, and over-harvest.
Abrupt and runaway climate change is well underway as humanity continues to treat our atmosphere as a waste dump. We piss and worse into our natural waterways as billions lack clean drinking water. Plants and animals as well as people are fleeing collapsing ecosystems.
And most people are too fucking dumb to realize what is occurring, little more than microbes being pickled in their own waste as their and all being ends.

The Outlook
China is going to ecologically collapse first, as industrial filth on behalf of all nations has proliferated, and it will be soon. Collapse of this ecocidal tyranny may well by itself pull down the biosphere. Similarly India and Europe are most at risk – where millennia of ecological simplification, along with tremendous over-population, will ensure mass migration and conflict until these population bases are brought into balance once again with natural ecosystems.

The United States may persist longer as the ecocide has not occurred for as long. But here nationalistic militarism along with an unparalleled sense of entitlement, and a lack of understanding of community and the natural world, is perhaps most dangerous. If every American is not allowed to realize their exceptional birthright to wantonly overconsume, they damn well will destroy everybody and everything in fits of infantile rage.
Prepare to see the vegetation, what remains, wither and die. Get used to there being no water in the tap much less locally available. Be ready for major energy shocks where your car sits lifeless in the driveway, a chunk of immobile metal, as your house remains unheated and uncooled. Consider what food can be raised locally, and at what price, as that is all that will be available.


Expect bands of marauders to pillage your belongings and have their way with your wives and daughters. The re-emergence of slavery and warring autocratic city-states is a virtual certainty as centuries of social progress are jettisoned. We are already witnessing the rise of authoritarian demagoguery as environmental conditions worsen.
Entire bioregions are going to be laid to waste and have to be evacuated as they become uninhabitable. Mass migration at unprecedented scales is imminent. Given uncertainly in lag times, and what wells of ecological resiliency remain in the Earth System, it is difficult to know how long it will be until the biosphere goes into positive feedback and collapses and dies. It is also virtually impossible to know when it is too late and will occur regardless.
That is why we must seek an ecological ethic and way of life until our dying breath. Despite its shortcomings, ecocidal inclinations in particular, the human species is an amazing creature. Our ability to think abstractly, examining and learning from our natural surroundings, are unsurpassed. Our opposable thumbs are cool too. Now if we could learn to not use them to destroy nature we will be set to live essentially forever as a species.
The Options
We have everything we need to construct a just, equitable, and verdant future for all. Plentiful renewable energy sources exist. We know how to recreate natural ecosystems and permaculture gardens from the plant diversity that remains. Educating girls, providing free birth control, and economic incentives for small families can stabilize and then reduce the population.
Throughout human history we see time and time again people coming together to do what must be done to beat back evil, reset the social order, and advance. Together we will have to shutdown the fossil fuel industry, demand global demilitarization and demobilization, and insist upon a reduction in the size and influence of corporations and governments alike.

From justice, equity, and ecology will flow peace and well-being to all Earth’s peoples and species.
So much of our prospects depend upon living more simply and naturally. That is why posing, preening “climate activists” like Leonardo DiCaprio are so dangerous. They tell us climate change is real from the back of a polluting private jet, spewing emissions from luxurious lifestyles that the majority seek but can never attain. We are going to have to learn to live more simply materially, as we explore the rich abundance in knowledge, sport, arts, leisure, and making love.
A global ecology ethic based upon ecological truths must arise spontaneously utilizing all the tools at our disposal including the Internet. We must come to realize we are one human family spinning through space upon a naturally evolved living organism upon which we are utterly dependent. Gaia’s ecosystem organs – old-growth forests, natural waterways, bountiful oceans, vibrant soils – will be restored and maintained at all costs as global ecological reserves to power the biosphere and maintain a living and livable Earth.
Such a global ecology ethic goes well beyond the obvious and demands a complete reorganization of the dominant paradigm. We perish unless we come to accept the truthful worldview that we are one human family, nation states are a lie, there is no god, and ecology is the meaning of life. Together we embrace and act upon ecology and other such self-evident truths or we face vicious, merciless death at each others’ hands as we collapse the biosphere. And then being ends.

Press link for  more: Ecointernet.org