Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

December 14 – 20

Posted by Trey Smith on December 13, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of December 14 – 20
Volume 4 No. 35
an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Greener Times Collective: Maryrose Asher, Duff Badgley, Tom Herring and Trey Smith (Editor)

In This Week’s Issue
* For Your Consideration…
* Thoughts By the Way: A Memorial
* Our Climate Crisis: 350 – A Call to Revolution
* From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis — The Unspeakable
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: Do Unto Others

For Your Consideration…
The Case Against the Skeptics Stirring Up the Warming Debate

Four years ago, public relations executive James Hoggan began looking more deeply into the issue of global warming. The more he read, the clearer it became that the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists, representing the globe’s leading scientific institutions and academies, agreed on the basic facts: The world was heating up rapidly, industrial activity was driving much of that warming by pumping heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and continued temperature rises threatened the relatively stable climate under which civilization had flourished for the past 12,000 years. Yet despite this near-unanimity in the scientific community, Hoggan realized that some segments of the mainstream media and an overwhelming majority in the conservative media were telling another story…

Liberals Are Useless
Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama — as if he reads them — asking the president to come back to his “true” self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision…

How History’s Biggest Climate Change March Almost Got Lost in the Media Smog
If you weren’t in Copenhagen yesterday, you might be excused for thinking the big climate march was all about violence and protest. That was the message blasted out in headlines across the internet, all variations on the same theme of destruction and danger. “Hundreds of Protesters Arrested at Climate Talks,” read the New York Times front page, just above the headline “Protesters Compared to ‘Hitler Youth.” But if you were here, you might have known that the biggest rally against climate change in history was, like much of the rest of the sideline activity in this cozy city, mainly about hope, play and compassionate concern. By the time the march ended — with a civil candlelight vigil outside the Bella Center — the greatest violence was registered only in a few broken windows at the foreign ministry…

The Devil and Mr. Obama
This frustrating ping pong game in which the margin of first time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both the Republican and Democratic parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know, each other, as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues, or worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two. Thus, the game is limited to two players between two corporate parties. One is the Republican Party, which believes we should hand over our lives and resources directly to the local Chamber of Commerce, so the chamber can deliver them to the big corporations. The other, the Democratic Party, believes we should hand our lives and resources to a Democratic administration — so it alone can deliver our asses to the big dogs who own the country. In the big picture it’s always about who gets to deliver the money to the Wall Street hyena pack….

Despite US Laws, Thousands Still Virtual Slaves in America
Sebastian Pereria told a friend last year about his life in America. How he wanted to see his wife and children in India, but his boss kept his identification papers and wouldn’t let him go. Other waiters who worked with him at a Topeka restaurant told of how they were forced to work 13-hour days, six days a week. They talked of how the boss underpaid them and pocketed their tips. In the end, Pereria, 46, got his wish. He finally arrived home last year. In a coffin…

Thoughts By the Way: A Memorial
Tom Herring is a former Vashon Island Community Council member, but now chooses to sort nails in his shop. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

The memorial Tuesday for four murdered police was spectacular. Twenty thousand police it was said, crowds waiting in the icy cold for the procession, and a ceremony fit for a president. Out of proportion comes to mind and is perhaps accurate, but inappropriate seems to me the right word. And with that, off I go into deep water.

Ever since the civil war, police in this country have been agents of the rich. The most overt period was that of industrial growth and the “robber barons” at the end of the 1800’s when strikes rocked the burgeoning nation and the police attacked, fought, and massacred strikers. And for blacks, this was business as usual. The police were in fact nearly indistinguishable from the private militia of the rich, the Pinkertons and their ilk. Where the police were too few the rich called in the National Guard, but at times the guardsmen mutinied and joined the strikers. The police have never mutinied. Strikes continued through WW I and into the depression, but Roosevelt’s legislation was the beginning of a middle class and more sophisticated control of workers than locked fire exits and clubbings. The middle class brought stability. But with the invasion of Viet Nam, US capitalism went global. For the police, this has added the role of crowd control to its bread and butter job of protecting the rich. Police in riot gear now commonly attack protesters. Meanwhile we have the Rodney Kings, the NYC police sodomizing Abner Louima, and last week a Seattle cop slugging a girl in jail. And just this week, the City has paid for the illegal WTO police arrests in 1999. A culture of violent oppression is well established in US police just as in the police of every other country in which the rich are threatened. US police violence has worsened lately for two reasons in my opinion. The grist available for induction now includes brutalized veterans from Iraq in addition to the, usual, men psychically damaged in youth by poverty’s ministrations. The other reason is the torture nod from the top by US administration officials and their mercenary lawyers. Where have those sadists at Guantanamo come from, and why?

The size and degree of ritual of the memorial were extraordinary, and so was the size of the turnout.

The sorrowful and distressed civilian mourners shivering in the cold must have been aware of the unequal treatment afforded blacks by the police. For that reason, I figure that if the killer had been white, then fewer would have suffered the cold. There was sorrow, yes, and there was fear.

The memorial was indeed extraordinary, which not only reflects the usual lack of sensitivity to the number of blacks the police have killed without fanfare, but I think also presents something ominous for whites. It was a message to not even think of stepping out of line.

Thanks to the eagle eye of Elliot Stoller, the memorial can also be viewed in the “big brother” context so unforgettably named by George Orwell: Sprint received 8 million law enforcement requests last year for GPS location data, data revealing the location and movements of Sprint’s customers. In this context, the memorial is a polite introduction to the Police State of America.

Our Climate Crisis: 350 – A Call to Revolution
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

The call to achieve 350parts per million of global atmospheric CO2 is a Call to Revolution. Except politicians globally are ignoring it—the latest is senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State. And so many climate activists pretend 350 is just numbers to spray paint on bed sheets for easy photo ops, as I saw last night in Seattle.

Unless, and until, we recognize the revolutionary message of 350, Business-As-Usual will continue and climate bills like Cantwell’s CLEAR (introduced on the Senate floor this past week) will continue to divert our energy and our time. As Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown said, “…with climate change, time is our scarcest resource.”

Since Jim Hansen’s epochal study of February, 2008 established 350ppm of global atmospheric CO2 as the safe level—beyond which lies grisly climate “cataclysm”—350 has become what 350.org founder Bill McKibben calls the “most important number in the world”. We’re at 390ppm now, so we must somehow reduce atmospheric CO2 if we are to have a Livable Planet.

But almost no one is talking about the revolution that getting back down to 350ppm requires. 350 is a Call to Revolution as immediate as the Russian Revolution of 1917, as life-altering as the Industrial Revolution, circa 1750.

Maggie Zhou, PhD., of Climate SOS, is one of the few to talk about how to achieve 350ppm. In her short October, 2009 essay, “Path To Below 350ppm” Zhou says:

this requires radical changes to the laws and structures of how societies are run, that need to result in ending corporate rule and restoring/installing democracy in its rightful place, so as to allow truthful information to reach billions of people whose decisions and actions will together determine our future.

Achieving 350 requires a revolution. It means, in my words:

1. Corporate ownership of oil, coal, gas, auto, airline, shipping, concrete production, and banking industries stops. Replaced by nationalization. Only public ownership can stop Business-As-Usual in these key industries and divert them to the common good—getting back down to 350.
2. Big Agriculture goes away. So do Big Box food chains. Replaced by local, organic farms selling produce at local co-ops.
3. Market pricing of carbon goes away. Replaced by upstream carbon taxes (starting at $60/ton in 2010 and rising to $240/ton in 2020) coupled with government-imposed carbon caps and carbon allowances. Low income exempt from, and subsidized by, taxes.
4. False solutions stop, including biomass, biofuels, carbon trading, and offsets. Replaced by government-subsidized, genuine renewables—wind, wave and solar energy.
5. Global North carbon colonization of Global South stops. Replaced by eco-reparations.
6. Global de-forestation ends, funded by these eco-reparations. Full protection of forest people and species.
7. Drive-about, jet-about lifestyle goes away. Replaced by walking, biking, busing, trains and communities where we can walk to work.
8. Private ownership of TV goes away. Replaced by public TV. TV is the primary medium for corporate creation of our Greed Culture.
9. iPhone and plasma TV world of energy-hogging toys goes away. Replaced by books borrowed from public library and public TV.
10. Central heating goes away. Replaced by individual heating elements and thermostats in each room. Unoccupied rooms are unheated.
11. Animal product diets go away. Replaced by veganism. As much as 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock.

We have no choice, really. We either embrace the revolutionary message of 350 or face the cataclysm.

From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis — The Unspeakable
“From Where I Stand” is a revolving column currently featuring the writings of Swaneagle Harijan and Dr. Richard Curtis. If you’d like to get in on the act and contribute to this feature, contact editor Trey Smith.

Sadly, I believe it is time to speak the unspeakable: Some people don’t like the police, in fact some people hate the police…and with good reason. We are not supposed to admit that last part, at least not in polite society. In popular culture we are familiar with terms like, “narc” and “pig,” and phrases like, “don’t tase me bro.” From what seems a simpler age, we know phrases like “off the pigs.” What is all this about?

Police brutality and an uncaring justice system that is demonstrably racist and senselessly cruel.

Is that hard to understand? Not really, but we don’t want to think about it, especially when it is somebody else’s experience. We really don’t want to think about it while our economic and environmental infrastructures are collapsing. Humans are creatures of habit and we like the future to be very much like the present and the past. But things change and we are currently facing two extreme changes that will challenge our humanity and creativity.

We like to deny these things are happening, but deep down we know things are getting worse. One thing that is quite predictable is that violence involving the police is going to increase. We have seen lately violence against the police. We now know that both perpetrators were demonstrating symptoms of serious mental illness and both had experiences with or a history of concern with police (or judicial system) injustice.

Indignation in the face of injustice is a virtue, Aristotle taught us. What do we do when our own social institutions are the source of that injustice? What are we to do when that system doesn’t demonstrate an understanding of basic moral principles?

For example, the Army is preparing to charge the obviously insane Maj. Hasan with 32 counts of premeditated murder (the Ft. Hood tragedy). Just how is it that insane people premeditate? The problem is that treating the mentally ill as criminals – yes, even when they commit crimes – only perpetuates the problem. It is immoral and contrary to basic principles of law to treat the mentally ill as criminals; yet far, far too often they are, even when they have not committed any (or any serious) crime.

At this point some will wonder why I have focused the discussion socially and not individually. Because I believe that the recent tragedies are warnings, they hint at something far beyond the individuals involved.

What of the individuals, law enforcement officers who had no part in any injustice that might have involved the perpetrators? This is also part of the unspeakable. You see, to people who’ve been victimized by the system, the individuals who choose to be part of that system can be indistinguishable and morally equivalent. This is the inverse of the racism of our society. Racists assume all people not like them are inferior and some victimized people assume all cops are racist, violent, and unethical. After all, what ethical person would be part of (what seems to some) an unethical system?

Therein hides the real issue. Many people see the police as upholding moral standards – they preserve the ethical. Whether this is true or not seems to depend on your experience. And this is unspeakable. We don’t want to admit that some of us have good reasons for hating the police and (rationally) viewing them as evil.

It is more complex, of course. We like to think of the police the way we imagine King Arthur’s Knights. They were pure of heart, brave, honest, and loyal. They were understood in iconic terms that – and this is the important part – fail to express modern ethical values. In the modern world, ethics are universal and what Arthur’s Knights failed to do is think about right and wrong universally. They were pledged to the King, not to universal ethical standards. Today we expect police to follow, to be exemplars, of universal ethics. The system in which they work fails them and us; and some of us come to view them as the other side’s knights (who do evil, from one point of view).

We must admit all this, but we must not stop there. The point is to change this situation before more innocent people are killed, whether in uniform or not. I do not believe our justice system admits to its injustices and this is a primary factor in violence against the police. If even crazy people did not have a righteous anger against injustices done to them by the system, then the enforcers of that system would not be seen as the enemy. It is extraordinarily dangerous for the population in a democratic society to see the police as the enemy, and even more dangerous for the police to see us as the enemy.

Before the tragedy in Lakewood, I wrote both the acting Chief of the Seattle Police Department and the King County Sheriff and offered to help their organizations to think about this problem. They have not replied (yet). I worry that this is because they feel they don’t have to think about how societal changes might affect them. We are all creatures of habit. But these changes will affect them and all of us. We simply cannot hide our heads in the sand while the fabric of society is tearing apart. We have to admit that things are changing and that makes life difficult and in our context we know with virtual certainty that this means more violence, both against the police and by the police.

That cannot be allowed to happen. A moral society does not hide from its problems – it admits and confronts them.

Dr. Curtis is a Seattle based educator, author and activist.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 15, 1791: The Bill of Rights became law when Virginia ratified the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution.

December 17, 1982: The U.N. passed a series of 4 resolutions attacking apartheid in South Africa: To organize an international conference of trade unions on sanctions against South Africa (approved 129 to 2); To encourage various international actions against South Africa (126 to 2); Support of sanctions and other measures against South Africa including international sporting events (139 to 1); Cessation of further foreign investments and loans for South Africa (138 to 1). The U.S. was the only country to have voted against all 4 resolutions (joined only by the United Kingdom on two).

December 18, 1999: Julia Butterfly Hill descended from her tiny platform 180 feet up in a giant redwood tree (sequoia sempervivens) named “Luna,” after perching there for 738 days to protect it from loggers. Luna survived a chainsaw attack in 2001 but still stands.

Pencil Shavings: Do Unto Others
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

If one looks at all of the major religions and philosophies of the world, there is at least one aspect of human relations that all agree on — treat others as you would want them to treat you. If doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Pagan, etc. Though each belief system phrases it in their own individual way, the maxim still holds true.

Yet, as I gaze out into the world today, the Golden Rule seems nowhere to be found. In the US, the rabid right — supposedly those who hold to the fundamentalist brand of Christianity — spew forth with the most vile comments imaginable and suggest that the best way to get what they want may be at the end of the barrel of a gun. Is this the way they wish to be treated?

In Israel, the Jewish authorities have authored a strategy to rape, murder and pillage innocent Palestinians. Is this the way the Jewish authorities wish to be treated?

In many places in the Muslim world, people are recruited and trained to become suicide bombers. Is this the way such Muslims wish to be treated?

In the corporate world, people are moved around as pawns and notions like worker safety, environmental stewardship and basic human rights are given a short shrift. Is this the way corporate honchos wish to be treated?

We on the left are not immune from this plague either. We call our opponents names, shout them down at meetings and write letters suggesting that anyone we disagree with (the capitalists, the right-wing, the government) should be drawn and quartered. Is this the way we wish to be treated?

Of course, as a defense, each group or individual claims that they/we are only dishing out what is being thrown at them/us. Everyone claims that “we” didn’t start it! In the end though, it doesn’t matter who fired the first salvo or how other people treat you. If you believe in the message of the Golden rule, then it is incumbent on each of us to practice it — regardless of whether or not it is returned in kind.

If we only treat those who agree with us in a respectful manner, then we’re no better than the people we criticize. In fact, we’re worse.

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