Month 10, Day 1: Strategic Redundancies

I am cheating a bit here. Wife, daughter and I are all headed for Washington, DC, tomorrow for the 10-2-10 rally. I wrote this long letter to John Kerry because I didn’t have time to write a short one. And the letter for Saturday is going to be a loose paraphrase of this one, sent to Harry Reid. And the letter for Sunday will be for POTUS…and I’m going to be writing them all tonight, so I won’t have to do it on the bus.

Dear Senator Kerry,

I write to urge you not only to back filibuster reform when the next session of Congress opens, but to urge your colleagues to do so as well.

One of the most devastating casualties of the present situation in the Senate has to have been the climate bill you were instrumental in developing. While that bill was insufficient for the dimensions of the task, it at least represented a start on tackling the most profound existential threat humanity has ever faced. What an ignominy for it to be bluffed into irrelevance by a Republican threat of filibuster (aided, of course, by some of your Democratic colleagues who are seemingly determined to ensure that the nightmare represented by a Democratic majority in the Senate never occur again).

We need to pass a climate bill. Ultimately it needs to be a lot stronger even than the bill you co-authored with Senators Lieberman and Graham. But we need a place to start.

And we’re not going to get it unless we reform the filibuster.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 30: Bella, bella, bella!

The New York Times had a lovely article on a little Italian town that’s moved to wind energy and done itself a huge favor in the process. Go read the piece; it’s really inspiring.

At least, it inspired this letter:

The citizens of Tocco De Casauria have chosen wisely in moving their community to renewable energy sources. Perhaps a village that has existed for centuries is better-equipped to plan for an existence hundreds of years in the future. It is a measure of how far the United States has to go in this area that the concept of “sustainability” is still considered the province of tie-dyed back-to-the-landers, rather than a simple piece of common sense. Obviously we should be thinking in the long term rather than the short. But, alas, America is the home of the shortest attention spans on the planet, and sustainability isn’t shiny enough to engage the interest of the country that invented “planned obsolescence.” We need an energy economy that’s built to last…and we won’t find it in oil wells and coal mines. Tocco’s turbines are a lesson to all of us: “planned obsolescence” is obsolete.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 29: There Was A Movie By That Name, IIRC

LA had a really hot day, as the LA Times reported.

I’m really busy; this letter is pretty much a bricolage of earlier materials. What the hell.

“The record highs follow a summer of record lows.” That sentence sums up the Times’ coverage of the recent heat wave in the city. Left out of the article (and of most coverage of extreme weather in the nation’s press) is any mention of global climate change. It is impossible to specifically attribute any single weather event to global warming; science doesn’t work that way. But it is irrefutable that since the mid-1980’s, climatologists have predicted exactly these sorts of phenomena as consequences of the greenhouse effect: anomalous highs, lows, and general weirdness. As climate change is felt more and more forcefully everywhere around the world, our media continues to pretend that the evidence for human causes of global heating hasn’t been established. If the evidence for Iraqi WMD’s was as strong as that for anthropogenic global warming, we’d have been able to buy nuclear bombs on the streets of Baghdad.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 28: He’s Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

The Seattle Times ran an AP story on Governor Schwarzenegger’s remarks about the companies promoting Proposition 23 in California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday blasted the out-of-state oil companies that are trying to undermine California’s global warming law, saying they are motivated purely by greed.

Companies such as Valero Energy Corp., Tesoro Corp. and Koch Industries are spending millions of dollars to manipulate the will of Californians and “buy votes,” the Republican governor told the Commonwealth Club.

Their motivation, he said, is “self-serving greed.”

The Governator may be an idiot in many ways, but he’s on the money here.

Governor Schwarzenegger is exactly correct in his description of the corporations which are pumping money into California’s electoral process. Valero Energy Corp., Tesoro Corp. and Koch Industries are motivated entirely by greed — and a particularly short-sighted greed at that. By focusing entirely on profit in the short term, these corporations are endangering the natural ecosystems which sustain human civilization. Catastrophic climate change is not an abstract threat to some unspecified future generation; it’s happening right now in Pakistan (whose government may well be the first political casualty of anthropogenic global heating), and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. An economy shattered by climate chaos won’t be able to support major extractive industries; in their support of California’s Proposition 23, Valero, Tesoro and Koch are undermining their own chances of continued existence in the longer term. Along with ours.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 27: I’d Live There Even If They Didn’t Pay Me

The Times ran a piece on “Passive Houses,” which require little or no outside energy sources. They included some notes on the problems these buildings face from outdated building codes and government incentives that often don’t address or include these forms of construction…yet another way we collectively shoot ourselves in the feet.

As they struggle with outdated regulations and official incomprehension, proponents of “passive houses” face an uphill battle. It is axiomatic that bureaucracies are resistant to change, and when the bureaucracies in question are staffed by political appointees (who are often beneficiaries of the largess of fossil fuel industries) it would be naive to expect that resistance to fade in the face of facts. The predicament of builders and contractors seeking energy-neutral alternatives to conventional residential construction is just one facet of a systemic problem, best encapsulated in Sinclair Lewis’ apothegm, “It is difficult to convince a man of something if his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.” As America faces the challenges of Peak Oil and global climate change, we are going to have to do a far better job of convincing all of those whose paychecks are contingent on their unwillingness to recognize our collective peril.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 26: My Aunt Lives In Texas; Maybe She’ll See This Letter!

The Austin Statesman ran an AP article on the current climate talks at the UN, which are of course completely paralyzed.

While the deadlocked UN climate talks are an indicator of just how much remains to be done in educating people everywhere in the world about the dangers of climatic disruption, they also point to some sad facts about our nation. An America that honored both scientific expertise and the notion of “personal responsibility” would have acted long ago to cut greenhouse emissions and end our dependence on fossil fuels. The citizens of such an America would recognize that the scientific evidence for human causes of global heating is overwhelming, and would take responsibility for grossly disproportionate carbon dioxide emissions (4.5 percent of the world’s population; 20 percent of the world’s CO2). Such an America would lead the world in restoring the planet’s health, and helping poorer nations cope with the devastating effects of climate chaos. Alas, our country’s inability to address climate change has made risible our hubristic claim to a transnational moral authority.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 25: The Immortal Sociopaths Have Money To Burn

Californians are evenly divided on Proposition 23. The Koch Brothers are a pair of evil bastards, all right. This one went to the L.A. Times.

One of the casualties of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is likely to be meaningful environmental policies. The most comprehensive global warming law in the country is something of which Californians should be proud, and it’s terrifying to see corporate megabucks pour into the campaign for Proposition 23. Comparing the yearly profits of corporations like Tesoro and Valero Energy with the amounts they are spending on this campaign makes it very clear: it’s all about the Benjamins. Although it should be obvious that the best interests of the billionaire Koch brothers are far removed from those of the ordinary people for whom they pretend sympathy, the power of corporate money to persuade voters otherwise is staggering. If Proposition 23 is enacted, it is a certainty that any and all science-based climate policies in this country will be next up in the corporate crosshairs — and we will all lose.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 24: I’m Going To Donate Some Money To Democrats Now, Thank You Very Much.

Darrell Issa is a terrible person and should not be allowed to gain control of anything beyond his TV remote control. But here he is, blustering that if Republicans take the House, he’s going to hold his very own inquisition into “Climategate.” Which, of course, would ultimately exonerate the scientists involved, as it’s been demonstrated over and over that they were guilty of nothing more than being human beings…but Issa doesn’t give a shit. He just wants to make things worse.

I sent this to the San Diego Times-Union, which services Issa’s district among others. I couldn’t find an article to hang it on, which probably means it’s doomed. Since it’s unlikely in any case that a California paper is going to print a letter from Massachusetts, this was probably a lost cause…but it felt better to say it.

Now I’m going to go and spread a bit of money around. While the Blue Dog Democrats have been absolutely infuriating and the Dems in general have been appallingly weak, the Republicans cannot be allowed to take control this November.

Should Republicans gain control of the House this November, Representative Issa is now threatening to hold hearings on the so-called “Climategate” scandal. Although three separate investigations have cleared all the parties involved of any wrongdoing, the California congressman apparently never got the news. Issa’s reflexive denialism is now the rule in the GOP, with almost every single Republican candidate in the nation embracing an agenda that, if enacted, would be terrible news for our country and the world. While an anti-science ideology is evident in the Republicans’ vehement opposition to evidence-based policies in general, it is in their readiness to reject and misrepresent the work of climate scientists that they put us all in grave danger. The laws of physics pay no heed to the obstructive political games of our feckless opposition party; as atmospheric greenhouse gases accumulate to dangerous levels, time is running out.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 23: Variations on a Theme

The BP disaster was really the gift that kept on giving for a letter-writer. This goes to the New Orleans Times-Picayune in response to their article on BP’s inept handling of the spill.

Since BP’s low-ball estimates of flow rate were the ones accepted by the media and the Federal government, the profoundly inadequate response on both public and private levels is unsurprising. What is bizarre is how strongly Tony Hayward and the rest of the BP team appeared to believe their own misinformation, as if the power of a misleading number would somehow make millions of gallons of oil swiftly and suddenly vanish away. This global giant is either so incompetent it cannot measure its own work accurately, or it is so unethical that it would circulate misstatements and spin in order to avoid responsibility. That’s the choice, and it’s a pretty unappealing one. America needs an energy economy where citizens aren’t daily forced to support corporations whose behavior is stupid, malevolent or some combination of the two.

Warren Senders

Month 9, Day 22: And Tell It, Tell It, Tell It!

As promised.

Dear Director Lubchenco,

The environmentally concerned public is anxiously awaiting the release of your report on the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico by the disastrous wreck of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling project.

It is crucial that your report address the consistent spreading of misinformation on the part of BP and their allies in the industry. Lowballing of initial flow estimates; blocking the media from spill-affected areas; refusing to allow scientific specialists to conduct accurate measurements of flow from the gusher on the Gulf floor…the list goes on and on.

If we are to have a hope of trusting our government in a disaster of this magnitude, the report issued under your imprimatur must be absolutely truthful. The Gulf crisis was exacerbated by BP’s dissimulation, and it will be to the everlasting shame of our own government that the Administration accepted their estimates and assessments for so long. If it was obvious to any observant citizen that Tony Hayward and his spokespeople were lying through their teeth, why was our Coast Guard so trusting?

I recognize that your mandate is simply to provide an accurate scientific report on the consequences of the oil spill. But failing to address the toxic effects of corporate misinformation is to abdicate your responsibilities to the American people and to the health of the oceans you’ve devoted your life to studying. We cannot afford another Deepwater Horizon…and we cannot afford more lies, misdirection and dissimulation from the extractive industries who are responsible for so much of the world’s environmental degradation.

Thank you,

Warren Senders