Month 9, Day 1: These People CANNOT be Allowed to Have Political Power!

The Boston Globe notes the ignorance and folly of Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill, the two conservative candidates for Governor.

In opposing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill demonstrate once again the anti-science stance of the Republican party on state and national levels. The scientific consensus on human causes of climate change is overwhelming (over ninety-seven percent of climatologists are firmly in agreement). Let’s put it this way: if the evidence for Iraqi WMD’s was as strong as the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, we could’ve bought loose nukes in the bazaars of Baghdad. Expanding and improving the RGGI will strengthen the Commonwealth’s leadership position on environmental issues. Baker and Cahill’s approach, by contrast, would make a mockery of Massachusetts. Home to M.I.T., Harvard and countless other major universities and research centers, our state cannot afford a governor whose readiness to learn anything about the science of climate change never moves beyond standard Republican talking points.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 31: Can I Keep It? It Followed Me Home!

The New York Times is doing good reporting on Pakistan. Climate Change is of course the rhinoceros in the living room — rarely mentioned and carefully tiptoed around.

Tumultuous though it is on the ground, Pakistan’s disaster unfolds in slow motion from this side of the globe. A newly homeless population greater than New England’s, a nation’s resources destroyed, an epidemiology textbook’s worst-case scenario — these may seem abstract from a comfortable distance, but we ignore them at our peril. In our newly-created Anthropocene epoch, catastrophes like Pakistan’s can unfold anywhere. By definition, freakish weather events are unexpected; the conditions foretold by climate scientists will make accurate prediction increasingly difficult (which perhaps is one of the reasons many meteorologists are loath to accept the evidence for anthropogenic climate chaos). Pakistan’s suffering holds a message to all the nations of the globe: the storms of the coming centuries are here, and we must change our ways of living if we are to last them out.

Warren Senders

The Antigravity String Band, 1982

By the end of 1981, the band had undergone significant changes in personnel. Dee Wood had too much else going on, and left the group (although he continued to play brilliantly in the “jazz” incarnation of Antigravity, documented here), and Skip Parente got a lucrative and creatively fulfilling gig with a major Irish band. After some shuffling, we wound up with Karl Boyle (on flute, pennywhistle and occasional guitar) and a fine fiddler named Anna Teigen, along with me, Anne Goodwin, Stefan Senders and Michelle Kisliuk.

It was this configuration that endured for several years. This band was certainly the most popular one I ever played in; because of the “world music” orientation we had a very different repertoire from any other string band on the scene (even though we did some traditional Appalachian and Irish numbers, they were recontextualized by being heard alongside Tibetan, Lebanese and African pieces) — but because of our instrumentation we had entree to all the venues of Massachusetts’ lively folk circuit.

Lover’s Desire

untitled Turkish Melody

United Like A Mighty River

Shona Agbekor

I’ll post more in the days to come as I get the pieces digitized and uploaded.

Month 8, Day 30: Ka-Ching!

The Chicago Tribune appears to have discovered that sustainability is good for business.

What is mind-boggling is that this epiphany is not rewarded with a resounding, “Well, duuuuhhhh.”

But I guess everybody has to start somewhere.

It should not seem counterintuitive that ecologically sensible practices are good business practices as well. Environmental destruction is the worst possible corporate strategy — because ultimately all wealth is a function of our relationship to the natural ecosystems of which we are a part. Most contemporary economists assert that infinite economic growth is both possible and desirable, ignoring the fact that we live on a finite planet.  As Edward Abbey famously said, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

The survival of our economic system is predicated on the survival of our species; even the largest multinational cannot outlast humanity. That’s why it makes absolute sense for business to embrace the disciplines of sustainability at every level, whether it’s implementing a careful recycling policy, adhering to green building practices, or supporting strong legislation to fight global climate change. Can someone tell the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 29: Falls ekwivalents maykz jernalizm ezee!

The LA Times ran an AP story about this summer’s bizarre weather.

I also sent a copy of this letter to the Associated Press’ contact line, with a request that they forward it to the author.

Mary Esch notes that meteorologists don’t see the recent planetary heat wave as a sign of global warming, and also mentions that “atmospheric scientists” are increasingly concerned about anthropogenic climate change. This apparent conflict should have been addressed by the author, who fails to point out that while no single weather event can be unambiguously attributed to global warming, climatologists have been predicting for decades that the greenhouse effect would trigger weirder and weirder weather, world-wide. Climatic prediction is based on statistical analysis; weather prediction is based on local and regional measurements. Given that their predictions have been repeatedly vindicated, it is irresponsible to suggest an equivalence between the overwhelming consensus of thousands of climate scientists (a consensus decades in the making)…and the apparently contrary opinion of Accuweather’s Brian Edwards, a young man who (as a little research shows) received his B.S. in Meteorology two years ago.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 28: That’ll Teach You To Be Sensitive and Caring!

More hippie-punching from the current administration.

I expect it from my enemies. Getting hippie-punched by the Cheney administration was a badge of honor. Getting it from the Obama team is utterly dispiriting.

Dear President Obama,

Your administration’s brief in Connecticut v. AEP argues that regulatory action by Federal agencies negates the legal standing of states or private entities to employ common-law “nuisance” provisions to protect their interests. The Solicitor-General argues that since the EPA has begun addressing carbon-dioxide emissions, the use of nuisance law to create de facto regulation of polluters is superfluous and legally ambiguous.

That’s a pretty tenuous rationale for a legal position that amounts to siding with major polluters on the interpretation and implementation of the Clean Air Act — especially given that your Administration didn’t even need to intervene in the case to begin with. If you couldn’t see your way clear to supporting the rights of individuals to sue for regulation of nuisance pollution, why not just stay out of the way?

Yes, it would be better to have strong statutory language specifically delineating a robust regulatory policy on emissions of CO2 and other pollutants. But is climate legislation with any teeth actually going to happen in the current political climate? The chances are slim to non-existent.

Who decided to intervene in Connecticut v. AEP? And why did they not consult any members of your administration with scientific or environmental expertise?

Mr. President, I worked and donated to ensure your election. As an environmentalist, I had confidence that you recognized the genuine existential threat posed by global climate change, and would be prepared to utilize your considerable rhetorical and oratorical skills to marshal support for climate/energy legislation in the current congress. I expect to work and donate for Democrats this fall, but with greatly diminished enthusiasm; “vote for us because our opponents are even worse” is a weak political motivator.

Nuisance law has long been an important avenue for citizens to address corporate criminality on a local and regional level; your administration’s contribution to Connecticut vs. AEP is an advocacy of disempowerment — precisely the opposite of your message to the nation in the election of 2008! What (besides being justifiably concerned about the future of our species) have environmentalists done to merit such shabby treatment?

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 27: We Brought It Upon Yourselves

More misery in Pakistan. Another letter to the Times.

While America’s mass media look the other way, Pakistan’s tragedy grows ever more horrifying. Imagining the entire population of New England rendered homeless by climatic upheaval conveys the size of the catastrophe. But it is more than the people whose lives have been overturned; it is more than the shattered infrastructure and threat of disease; more than the likely political upheavals — Pakistan’s affliction is an ugly picture of a post-global-warming world. While those extreme monsoons cannot be specifically attributed to anthropogenic climate change, climatologists have long predicted upheavals of just this type as a consequence of an increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As we begin to see the humanitarian consequences of climate change, it is no wonder our punditocracy usually chooses to look away. A final irony: unlike that of the USA, Pakistan’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is negligible. They did not create climate chaos. We did.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 26: Institutional Irresponsibility and the Culture of Malign Neglect

The Washington Post ran an article on the corruption in the Minerals Management Service — their willingness to let industry insiders write the regulations they were supposed to enforce. It’s infuriating.

The readiness of the Minerals Management Service to take dictation from corporate interests when it comes time to draft regulatory language is tragic but unsurprising. Republican appointees like James Watt are virtually without exception industry insiders who can expect to profit handsomely from their willingness to sacrifice the genuine environmental wealth of this country — wealth which by rights belongs to all of us. This affects every aspect of our government and our politics. Perhaps the most damaging manifestation of this systemic dysfunction is the inability of the U.S. Senate to pass meaningful legislation addressing climate change. By compromising, delaying and procrastinating, our politicians have enabled the continuing destruction of humanity’s common environmental inheritance in order to preserve the profits of some of the world’s largest corporations. The Senate is the Minerals Management Service writ large, and we are all of us the losers thereby.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 25: Hey, Exxon! I’m Talkin’ to YOU!

Abandoning world peace for the moment, I return to admonishing our Corporate Overlords. This one went to the NYT in response to a very good (read: very depressing) op-ed by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

The corporate sector’s inability to acknowledge the urgency of addressing the climate crisis may well doom them in the long term. While strong climate legislation may bring a dip in quarterly profits for a few of the world’s largest companies, failure will ensure that the only corporate entities remaining will be those whose profitability springs from worldwide disasters and misery. Any business serving healthy humans and healthy societies is destined to fare poorly in a world buffeted by unpredictable weather catastrophes.

Conservative politicians and their media enablers have expended extraordinary amounts of energy in obscuring the simple facts of global climate change. A social movement this dedicated to ignoring reality does not bode well for the rest of the world. It’s a pity we can’t run generators on obfuscation, misdirection and mendacity.

Warren Senders

Conservative Tabloids Don’t Check Their Facts

Just like the Boston Herald, the New York Post did not email or call me to confirm that I was who I said I was, before printing a drastically edited version of my letter.

There are five comments, each representative of the dumber-than-a-box-of-anvils school of thought.