Month 5, Day 31: Too Tired To Write A Clever Headline

Hadn’t written to USA Today in a while, so I went over there and found an AP article on (surprise!) BP’s incompetence, which by now calls to mind a phrase from Ken Weaver’s Texas Crude: “Dick-fingered,” defined as “stupid with an undercurrent of malice” — or, put crudely, “what he can’t fuck up, he shits on.”

So I wrote ’em a letter.

Is anyone surprised that BP CEO Tony Hayward disputes scientific evidence of undersea oil plumes, or that he cites a study by his own company while refusing to disclose any details? It is by now glaringly obvious that British Petroleum had no workable contingency plan in the event of a catastrophic failure. Not one. Nada. Zip. Which raises the question: why entrust our nation’s energy future to a company that rewards incompetence?

In 1962, President Kennedy gave us a goal: put a man on the moon and bring him back safely, and seven years later Neil Armstrong’s small step became a giant leap for the world. It’s time for another giant leap: we need to get off fossil fuels entirely, and it needs to happen by 2030. The probability of more catastrophic spills and the certainty of devastating climate change starkly illustrate the necessity of ending our reliance on oil and coal.

Warren Senders


The second time so far this year.

On Consumerism and Daddying

I am alone.

My wife and daughter are in India, dealing with the recent passing of my father-in-law. The past two weeks have been hysterical; as the stay-at-home-and-work component of our marital pair, I’ve been responsible for organizing tickets, organizing passport renewals (thanks to Ed Markey’s office for their support!) and emergency visa authorizations. And, because I have massive amounts of work (including a Very Important Concert), I couldn’t go with them.

I am, instead, trying to clean and straighten the house, so that when they return in mid-summer there is order instead of uproar. Which means that I’m currently dealing with a problematic epiphenomenon of 21st-Century American Childhood. To wit, a serious stuffed toy problem.

My daughter is five, and I think her teddy-bear count is somewhere in the low thirties, with stuffed penguins running close behind. How in Sam Hill did this happen?

more »

Month 5, Day 30: Remembering The Fallen

This one is going to my local paper, the Medford Transcript. But I’m also sending a copy to the President.

In 1962, President Kennedy gave America a meaningful goal: by the end of that decade, we would put a man on the moon and bring him back safely. Although JFK couldn’t live to see it, we succeeded with time to spare, and the world was never the same. It is time for a new American president to give America another meaningful goal: shifting our energy economy entirely to renewable sources by 2030. Voices of political pragmatism will deride this as “unrealistic,” and point to all the reasons we can’t. But the ongoing geocide in the Gulf of Mexico is one of many reasons that we must. The laws of physics don’t adjust to political exigency, and the choice is ever clearer: if we don’t kick the fossil fuel habit, we will kill the planetary ecosystems upon which we all depend. The transition will call upon all of our ingenuity and resourcefulness, and it may well be the biggest challenge our nation has ever faced. But as John F. Kennedy said, “We do not do this because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” We need to hear those words again. President Obama, are you listening?

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 29: In The Warmer Climate, ALL Our Senators Will Be Nude

I was having dinner with friends tonight and one of them mentioned a campaign called something like “Make Brown Green” — aiming to persuade Massachusetts’ junior senator to jump Republican ship on climate and energy issues. I don’t have much hope of that happening (if he were capable of careful thought on climate issues, he wouldn’t be a Republican), but it made the hook for a fun letter. I brought back the Kwashiorkor analogy for a little cameo.

Dear Senator Brown – I write to urge you to make a firm commitment to supporting meaningful, strong climate/energy legislation.

On energy: the disaster in the Gulf is a clear indicator that our current energy policy is fatally flawed; we cannot sustain our present level of oil consumption without risking more and more Deepwater Horizons. How much of the ocean are we going to kill in order to continue powering our SUVs, manufacturing disposable plastic commodities and blowing leaves into our neighbors’ yards?

On climate: despite what Republican leaders wish to believe, global climate change is a reality, and a terrifyingly dangerous one. An anomalous blizzard in Washington, DC no more disproves global warming than a starving child’s swollen belly disproves world hunger. Your party leaders’ readiness to ignore factual scientific evidence when it conflicts with their ideological agenda would be humorous if it were not hindering our national effectiveness in contending with the gravest threat humanity has ever faced.

If ever there was a time to break ranks with Republican orthodoxy, now is it. There is no time to waste and none to lose.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Profile: Dominique Eade

I first heard Dominique Eade sing around 1980, when Matt Darriau and I had put together a short-lived big band. She sang on one or two of the charts, and I was bowled over by her musicianship. I still am, and I find it amazing that we have not shared the stage since then. Thirty years, huh?

This post duplicates the information about Dominique on the “Singing For The Planet” page, but it includes some music. Listen. She’s an extraordinary artist.

About Dominique Eade

Since her arrival in Boston in the late 1970s, vocalist and composer Dominique Eade has stood out as a musician of exceptional quality. Combining conceptual daring with superb technique, she has won admirers around the world for her fearlessness and artistry.

Dominique Eade — “Go Gently To The Water”

more »

Month 5, Day 28: Looking The Other Way

FishOutOfWater has his usual mind-bendingly scary diary at Dkos. That motivated me to sit down, but what came out was a response to a New York Times article from a couple of days ago. It’s more in my “Oil and Coal Reward Evil, Stupidity and Irresponsibility” series. I will write something on the Arctic, perhaps tomorrow.

We learn once again that there were warning signs of the impending disaster on the Deepwater Horizon, but that they were ignored. This should surprise no one; the oil and coal industries have had a lot of experience ignoring the signs of impending disasters. The siren call of quick profit drowns out the voices of caution, care and conscience, leaving our nation’s energy economy under the control of forces motivated entirely by profit, unhindered by any sense of responsibility to the greater good. British Petroleum’s behavior has been shameful, yes — but the entire fossil energy sector has a history of rewarding shameful, callous and irresponsible behavior. If ecocidal oil spills, coal mine explosions, and terrifying increases in world temperature levels can’t persuade us to kick our fossil fuel addiction, then we too are ignoring the signs of a planetary emergency that will make the Gulf spill seem small.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 27: A Pair of Hobnailed Doc Martens?

A good dkos piece outlining a variety of environmental/climate action items prompted this letter to the POTUS.

Dear President Obama — I’m glad to hear you’re going to “keep a boot on B.P.’s throat” until they take care of their responsibilities. That’s a big collection of responsibilities: they have to close the oil gusher, clean up the mess and pay the claims of those who suffered loss. Why am I doubtful that British Petroleum will follow through?

Look at B.P.’s record. They evaded regulatory oversight and took advantage of the Bush-engendered culture of corruption at the Minerals Management Service. They ignored safety procedures at the Deepwater Horizon site. After the accident, they held rig workers incommunicado for many hours and forced to sign nondisclosure agreements before being released. They steadily underestimated the flow of oil from the leak on the ocean floor, and refused to allow specialists to measure the flow more accurately — a position which will make it easier for them to evade paying their full share of disaster costs. Their CEO, Tony Hayward, has cynically stated that “it’s a big ocean,” and the environmental impact will be “minimal.” They used unprecedented quantities of highly toxic dispersant chemicals, and simply ignored instructions from the EPA. Their drilling disaster is well on track to destroy huge sections of the Gulf of Mexico, and may well contaminate other ocean areas as well.

You’re going to need a pretty big boot. These are not good people. These people are liars and criminals, and there needs to be more than cosmetic action taken against them. Accountability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster must include substantial economic damages, debarment, criminal prosecution, and civil fines under the Clean Water Act. The management of British Petroleum, as well as that of TransOcean and Halliburton, must be compelled to testify under oath both in court and in Congress.

And, ultimately, we need to put British Petroleum out of business. Not just because they’re avaricious, sleazy, conscienceless environmental criminals, but because we need to put all the oil companies out of business. It is obvious to anyone who’s paying attention that all of these companies reward antisocial behavior — behavior that is now putting the entire planetary ecosystem at risk.

The time is now, Mr. President. Address the nation, and make it clear that all of us will have to work hard and contribute to the common good — and that our survival depends on finding alternatives to fossil fuels.

The Deepwater Horizon is just one of countless examples which illuminate why we can no longer afford oil and coal’s so-called “cheap energy.” It’s time for us to start learning and stop burning.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 26: You Get What You Pay For.

I synthesized two separate articles in this one, which goes out to John Kerry and Harry Reid. Subtext: Fix The Damned Filibuster, You Twits!

Dear Senators Kerry and Reid,

While it may not be obvious to your Republican colleagues, it is crystal clear to anyone who’s paying attention that oil and coal are hugely more expensive than renewable energy sources.

Once we learn to count disasters, health effects, long-term environmental degradation, expensive wars and catastrophic global warming as inherent costs of fossil fuels, it’s obvious: we can no longer afford to keep burning.

Right now the B.P. disaster is threatening the native sperm whales, already an endangered species. Scientists say that it would only take a few deaths to condemn the entire Gulf population to extinction. How can we put a price on a sperm whale (ironically, an animal once almost hunted to extinction for its utility as an energy source)?

How can we put prices on the countless human communities along the Gulf coast — communities with unique customs, traditions and ways of life that are now facing similar fates? How expensive is the canary in the coal mine? And how many more canaries are going to die before we notice?

The oil advocates’ crazed eagerness to drill more and deeper sounds desperate at best and well-nigh pornographic at worst. Their insistence on expansion of oil sources regardless of the consequences is revealing: they know that Peak Oil has arrived, and they’re desperate. From now on, oil is never going to get cheaper. A rig like the Deepwater Horizon is incredibly expensive to operate, probably costing millions of dollars a year; Peak Oil means peak operating cost, which is why rig operators routinely ignore safety procedures.

We can either make a switchover to renewable energy sources swiftly, with the full support of the government and the world’s industrial base — or we can make the same switchover after the world’s energy economy has collapsed and the planetary ecosystem has been gravely damaged. Either way, the bill for our fossil foolishness has come due, and it’s time to tell the American people that the days of cheap hydrocarbon energy are officially over.

The crafting of the Kerry-Lieberman bill demonstrated the extent to which political expediency is a determining factor in the content of legislation. Alas, the country can no longer afford political expediency either. We need to get off fossil fuels, and soon.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders
629 Fellsway West
Medford, MA 02155

Month 5, Day 24: A Good Head Of Steam Tonight

There was no chance in hell that a mainstream publication would print the following, so I decided to send it to The Nation. I know, preaching to the choir and all that. But it was fun to write, and I’d love to see the “oil and coal reward the stupid and evil” meme get established.

Looking at the smug arrogance of oil and coal executives, one is convinced that a fossil fuel economy is inherently biased to reward the nasty and stupid. Don Blankenship, whose Massey Coal Company has never met a regulatory corner it couldn’t cut? Tony Hayward, who reassuringly tells us that the environmental impact of Deepwater Horizon will be insignificant? Exxon? Chevron? Leaving aside the likely impact of catastrophic global climate change, the huge costs of post-disaster cleanups, and the multiple other factors that make fossil fuels our most expensive energy source in the long term, the behavior of these companies and the individuals who head them is reprehensible at best and stunningly vile at worst. That fact alone should motivate us to move to a new energy economy. If corporations are worthy of personhood, we must ask, “What kind of person threatens the lives of others without thought of the consequences?” Oil and coal reward criminal sociopathy. Which is yet another reason that the world needs to stop rewarding Oil and Coal.

Warren Senders