Year 3, Month 3, Day 31: Where There’s A Way, Unfortunately There’s A Will

Well, this is…unsurprising. The Very Serious People at the Washington Post are wondering why Americans don’t seem to care about climate change.

Rising sea levels threaten to inundate low-lying roads in Louisiana, costing billions in port activity, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports. Northrop Grumman sees potential damage to billions in shoreline defense infrastructure, such as the imperiled drydock in Hampton Roads built to construct the next generation of aircraft carriers. Other factors are also at work in these examples of rapid coastline loss. But Louisiana and Virginia offer a picture of how further sea-level rise and higher storm surges — just one set of climate-related risks — could seriously disrupt human activity.

America, meanwhile, is fixated on . . . paying an extra buck per gallon at the gas pump.

A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) underscores how myopic the country’s energy debate is — and, consequently, how delinquent the United States has been in leading the world. The organization calculated that the world is on course to increase its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050. That’s because global energy use will increase by 80 percent by mid-century, with 85 percent of the energy mix coming from fossil fuels. That would likely raise global temperatures well past the target of 2 degrees Celsius, beyond which scientists say climate change could be extremely dangerous. It would also produce lethal amounts of air pollution, manifested in more heart attacks, asthma and other maladies.

Coming from the paper that has given the odious George Will a platform for decades, that’s pretty rich. Sent March 25:

If Americans are fixated on gas prices and political trivia rather than on the dangers of global climate change, perhaps we should ask how this happened. What influences could let us ignore a threat of unprecedented magnitude for so long?

Politicians averse to having their actions and statements exposed will readily blame the media when reality intrudes on their prefabricated narratives. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, American news media tend to insert political narratives into reality rather than the other way around.

When conservative legislators block sane climate policies, it’s often framed as “a loss for environmentalists,” as if those advocating for our species’ long-term survival were just another special-interest group. If print and broadcast media discussed the real-world consequences of a failure to address climate change (droughts, famines, geopolitical upheavals, megadeaths) rather than treating it as mere political gamesmanship, perhaps more Americans would take the issue seriously.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 30: Give You Everything I’ve Got For A Little Peace Of Mind…

In the Savannah Morning News, Barbara Kelly speaks to our condition:

2010 was the wettest year on record, and tied with 2005 as the hottest year since records have been kept. We have more extreme weather, and more freak weather as a result of climate change.

According to Amy Goodman (the host of, as she spoke from the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Durban, Africa, recently, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are the only two countries who voted against the Green Climate Fund. This is especially strange because this fund was proposed by Hillary Clinton in 2010. My guess is that it is pretty obvious that such a proposal would never be able to make it through the current Congress. The corporate control by oil and gas would never let that happen.

Very busy today, so I just ground out a generic media-sucks-short-attention-spans-will-kill-us-all type letter and sent it off — March 24:

While the first amendment of the constitution guarantees freedom of speech, our present state of media-driven inattention and ignorance is surely not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote of a “well-informed citizenry.” The helter-skelter 24-hour news cycle virtually guarantees inadequate coverage of any issues requiring analysis or prior background; if it can’t be summarized in a sound bite, you won’t find it on network news.

Nowhere is this more potentially damaging than in the profoundly troubling area of global heating. The multi-decade lag between human action and climatic reaction means that quick fixes are unavailable — but enduring fixes are too slow to merit prime-time slots.
At a time when we desperately need wisdom, our national discussion is dominated by foolish bluster. By framing environmental policy in purely political terms, our media abdicates its responsibility to the long-term health and prosperity of our nation and the world.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 29: A Bitter Cup

The Logan Herald-Journal (UT) notes a slight change in people’s thinking:

The public debate over global climate change in Cache Valley could be shifting.

Local institutions are clearing up confusion by adopting clear positions on the topic, even making them easily accessible for the public to see. A recent move by Utah State University’s Department of Geology, for instance, shows how global and local organizations are taking a formal stance on the issue. A link on the department’s homepage takes viewers to an official position on global warming.

“There were a lot of inquiries from students, particularly in the large, introductory classes,” says Dave Liddell, geology department head. “The faculty thought it would be useful to highlight our position on the topic.”

Liddell says he and his team of academics strongly support the scientific consensus that climate change is happening.

“The Department of Geology supports the Geological Society of America position paper on Global Warming,” the site reads. “We agree that the Earth’s climate is indeed changing and the changes are due, at least in part, to human activities. This is a critical environmental challenge that will require active study and long-term planning and mitigation.”

The department is not alone in its decision to air its position. The Bridgerland Audubon Society board shared its view. It says rapid physical changes will affect biological systems that will compromise habitat and disrupt wildlife populations that cannot adapt fast enough.

Sent March 23:

While it’s encouraging that institutions are working to “clarify their positions” on climate change, the fact remains that in a halfway sane world, such a concept would be recognized as an absurdity. One might as well require institutions to “clarify” their positions on the three Laws of Thermodynamics. But because our national cup of crazy is more full than empty, the factuality of global warming is now the basis of a “controversy.”

How did that happen?

The world’s climate scientists overwhelmingly agree on the basic facts: the greenhouse effect exists; it is exacerbated by human CO2 emissions; the impact of this on Earthly life and human civilization is going to be significant. The so-called “controversy” is the production of people and organizations heavily in the thrall of big oil and coal companies which anticipate reduced profits should our country move to an energy economy based on sustainability.

At a time when we should be working both to prepare for the problems of the climate crisis and to mitigate its worst effects, time wasted is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 28: Inhofe Is INHERENTLY Unconstitutional

The Bradenton Herald (FL) runs the same piece on Inhofe to which I responded yesterday.

The real hoax is the claim that a scientific debate exists about the reality of climate change. It is promoted by organizations that benefit from our current energy choices and groups that are opposed to any regulation whatsoever, even the most sensible safeguards that help protect our children’s health.

The hoaxers claim climate scientists are “in it for the money,” a ludicrous proposition as pointed out by Jon Koomey. Dr. Koomey used his expertise in mathematical modeling to study the economic impacts of climate change for two decades at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. If Koomey and his colleagues were in it for the money they would have taken their analytic expertise to Wall Street long ago, where their salaries would have been five to 10 times what they can make working for the government.

The hyped rhetoric around this issue is an attempt to convince Americans that accepting the scientific evidence will require taking actions inimical to our shared values of liberty, freedom, community and entrepreneurship.

But one need look no further than the studies of America’s military and intelligence officials who understand how disruptive human-caused climate change could be to our nation’s interests both at home and abroad (in 2009 the CIA established a Center on Climate Change and National Security). Putting our head in the sand about climate change is a sure way to undermine American liberty, economic prosperity and national security. Of all the alterative paths before us to address this problem, doing nothing to reduce the threat of serious climate change is a dangerous and expensive option.

There’s a climate change hoax all right, but it is Sen. Inhofe and his science-denying associates who are trying to do the fooling. We are all going to pay a price if we don’t call-out their campaign of misinformation and get down to the real work before us. The question now is what will be the cost of inaction to our health and our pocketbooks? The longer the hoaxers can prevent serious action, the higher the price we will all pay.

The guy is a disgrace to idiots everywhere. Sent March 22 (80 degrees outside):

Oklahoma senator James Inhofe is egregiously ignorant about basic science. His approach to climate change is equal parts stout denial and hippie-punching; apparently mocking environmentalists and rejecting the existence of the burgeoning crisis is enough to make the problem go away. Inhofe recently stated (on MSNBC) that he used to accept the conclusions of climatologists until he figured out how much it would cost to address the problem, demonstrating that the power of wishful thinking trumps reality every time — in the U.S. Senate, anyway.

Anywhere else? Ignoring your cardiologist’s warning doesn’t mean an automatic heart attack, and driving drunk doesn’t always mean a crash — but your insurance company and the arresting officer know: reality wins.

Mr. Inhofe’s thinking is so steeped in the apocalyptic wishful thinking of Biblical end-times theology that his involvement in climate policy should probably be forbidden under the Establishment clause of the Constitution.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 27: More Like This, Please

The Kansas City Star offers a platform to some scientists who have a few words about James Inhofe:

We are scientists who agree with critics such as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., that there is a climate change “hoax” being perpetrated on the American people.

We just don’t agree on what the hoax is and who is being fooled.

Sen. Inhofe and his associates want us to believe that the science of climate change is the contrived “hoax.” Their claims cannot withstand even the most cursory scrutiny. Does this “hoax” date back to 1896, when Nobel Laureate Svante Arrhenius presented his findings that human activities releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could change Earth’s climate? Did it start when scientists Charles Keeling and Roger Revelle demonstrated in the 1950s that a large part of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of coal, oil and gas was remaining in the atmosphere because the oceans couldn’t absorb it fast enough? Did an evil cabal of “warmists” trick a science advisory panel into warning President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 of the dangers of adding greenhouses gases to the atmosphere?

In 2009, the National Academies of Science of the world’s major industrialized nations (including China, India and Brazil) issued an unprecedented joint statement on the reality of climate change and the need for immediate action. Do those who claim climate change is a hoax expect us to believe this was a put on by an international bunch of con men with doctoral degrees? The U.S. Evangelical Environmental Network tells us that global warming is one of the major challenges of our time, and Pope Benedict XVI has called for coordinated global action to address dangers of climate change – have they too joined the conspiracy?

Of course not.

Always fun to mock one of the biggest idiots in American politics, which is really saying a lot, these days. Sent March 21:

Senator Inhofe recently admitted on national television that he once accepted the scientific consensus on global warming — until he learned how much it would cost to deal with it, at which point he became the go-to guy for climate denial. The idea that ignoring a costly problem will make it disappear is bizarre, to say the least, but entirely typical of much twenty-first-century American politics. The Oklahoma senator has certainly made it pay; he’s handsomely funded by extractive industries apprehensive over the prospect of shrinking profit margins in a sustainable-energy economy.

Mr. Inhofe’s recipe for environmental and energy politics? Equal parts of big oil’s obscene greed and the apocalyptic imaginings of dominionist Christian sects, liberally flavored with hippie-punching and wacky conspiracy theories.

Although addressing climate change now will save trillions of dollars in the future, the Senator’s position has hardened. Don’t burden him with facts; his mind’s made up.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 26: Go Slowly, Beloved

The Toronto Globe & Mail runs a piece by Rose Murphy that addresses long-term thinking:

Recently, David Finch, Paul Varella and David Deephouse – analyzing polling data around oil-sands development – explained that while climate change is seen as an important issue by most Canadians, it isn’t personally relevant because the most dramatic effects will not be felt until the end of this century.

I gave birth to my first child last year. According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, his life expectancy is 79; if he reaches that age, he will live until the year 2090. The normal anxiety I feel as a parent about my child’s future is heightened by what I know from a career spent considering the implications of climate change and analyzing the economic impacts of climate change policy. And for me, it couldn’t be more personal. The best information available today tells me this issue touches anyone who has a child in their life who they love. Action we take, or fail to take, right now to address climate change will profoundly affect their lives.

Well-said. I took advantage of my father’s address in Toronto to pretend a local affiliation for this letter, sent March 20:

As children, we are taught to value old things. Ancient monuments fill us with reverence, and we would never knowingly grind petrified bones into garden gravel — yet we have no qualms about using fossil fuels to power our lifestyles of convenience. The light bulbs illuminating both our productivity and our profligacy burn sunshine that once shone upon dinosaurs. If wisdom is the ability to conceive timespans longer than a single human life, it is obvious that our rapid-fire media environment needs to change if our species is to survive and prosper in the coming centuries. While the 24-hour news cycle may be keeping us “infotained,” it has failed to foster long-term thinking, which is another way of saying “sustainability.”

Nowhere is this failure more evident than in the case of climate change, a slowly-unfolding catastrophe triggered by the wasteful and thoughtless consumption patterns of our industrialized civilization.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 3, Day 25: Voices In The (Vanishing) Wilderness

The Seattle Times runs a dynamite column by William Geer on whether environmental policy should be dictated by polls and media bullshit:

SHOULD elected officials and policymakers let public-opinion polls decide our nation’s future response to climate change? Indisputably, no.

The roller-coaster path of public acceptance on climate change charted by political polls is frustrating to the pragmatists among us. With nearly 98 percent of the world’s climate scientists saying climate change already is affecting the natural world, effective action requires the knowledge we gain from focused investigations and sound science — not political polls.

We should solicit the views of those not subject to political debates — fish and wildlife.

Biologists do that through field investigations on the distribution and abundance of species in habitats that meet their life-cycle requirements. If one habitat no longer will support a species, the species must move to another habitat that does. It cannot debate habitability in the public square and it votes by adapting, migrating or dying.

Read the comments on the article if you wanna get seriously depressed. Sent March 19:

Before we can begin to tackle the interdependent crises presented by global climate change, there’s a question that needs a response.

“What’s in it for me?”

As long as we remain selfishly focused exclusively on our momentary desires, we will fail in our responsibilities to our descendants, and all the life that shares our common DNA. Some are selfish through love of Mammon; their lust for continued profits blinds them to the destruction their exploitation leaves behind. Some are selfish through religion; craving immortality, they rank their own souls above the well-being of the web of Earthly life. For some, it’s political power; for others, the chance at transient fame. Perhaps saddest of all are those whose selfishness is born of apathy; having abandoned any hope of influencing the process, they drift along, watching unhappily as their world is gutted by malefactors of great wealth.

We’re not going to make progress against the epiphenomena of a runaway greenhouse effect until we can start asking, “What’s in it for us?”

Warren Senders

Strings Against Climate Change: Eliot Fisk & Zaira Meneses

Eliot and Zaira delivered a marvelous set. What a pleasure to hear these great players!

Fandango of Joaguin Rodrigo

Violin Duets of Luciano Berio

Zaira Meneses performed two solo pieces:

Queca Chilena of Antonio Lauro

Cuban Landscape With Bells — Leo Brouwer

Eliot Fisk performed a set of solo pieces by Agustin Barrios:

The duo concluded with a set of Chopin Waltzes:


This music was performed to benefit Please consider donating some money to them if you have enjoyed listening. Just click on the photo.

Year 3, Month 3, Day 24: Dangerous Lack Of Minds

The Springfield, MI News-Leader runs another version of the fact-check on Rick Santorum:

Santorum’s “tell that to a plant” crack begs the question — how dangerous can carbon dioxide be? Too much is definitely a bad thing. Exposure to high levels of CO2 can cause “headaches, dizziness, restlessness, a tingling or pins or needles feeling, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia to convulsions,” warns the Wisconsin Department of Health, “and even frostbite if exposed to dry ice,” which is solid CO2. Poor air circulation in buildings and high carbon dioxide in soil seeping into basements can lead to high levels of the gas.

Plants do, in fact, absorb CO2. But even plants might not like too much of it. A 2008 study conducted at the University of Illinois found that instead of increasing organic matter in soil, higher carbon dioxide levels actually led to less organic matter. Increased CO2 also may limit plants’ ability to cool the air. A 2010 article in Science Daily said that a study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science found that carbon dioxide’s effect on vegetation was causing some of the earth’s warming.

Santorum is entitled to his own opinion, of course. But voters shouldn’t be misled into thinking carbon dioxide isn’t a problem, or that climate scientists don’t overwhelmingly agree that global warming is real and human activities are making it worse.

So I wrote another version of my “Rick Santorum is a dangerous idiot” letter. Sent March 18:

Rick Santorum’s words on climate change demonstrate what happens when American anti-intellectualism gets carried to ludicrous extremes. The former Pennsylvania senator no longer has any need for facts, for the worldview held by his core constituency is entirely conditioned by ideology. No reality need apply.

These hard-line denialist conservatives are eager to believe any rhetoric that reinforces their preconceptions, which makes them easy marks. Let’s look at those preconceptions briefly, shall we? On the one hand, Santorum’s followers are addicted to the convenience of cheap fossil energy; on the other hand, they are fervently awaiting the Biblical apocalypse. In short, they’re a demographic group for whom conservation and long-term thinking are not just pointless, but actively evil.

If Mr. Santorum believes his own words, then he’s just another mark — as gullible as his followers. If he doesn’t, he’s a con artist. Either way, he has no business leading America.

Warren Senders

The Tony Schwartz Music Exchange Tape

In the mid-to-late 1970s, I lived in group houses with a broad assortment of interesting people. One of them was Seth Deitch, who had as part of his vast array of stuff an assortment of reel-to-reel tapes inherited from his father, the brilliant animator Gene Deitch.

Eventually we acquired a reel-to-reel machine and began the process of dubbing all these tapes onto cassette. They were in poor condition, so this amounted to a rescue operation.

Some of the material was old jazz, some of it was old radio commercials; one reel contained a set of 1949 performances by John Lee Hooker that many years later got released as “Jack Of Diamonds.”

And one reel held this extraordinary document:

Tony Schwartz, master of electronic media, created more than 20,000 radio and television spots for products, political candidates and non-profit public interest groups. Featured on programs by Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue and Sixty Minutes, among others, Schwartz has been described as a “media guru,” a “media genius” and a “media muscleman.” The tobacco industry even voluntarily stopped their advertising on radio and television after Schwartz’s produced the first anti-smoking ad to ever appear (children dressing in their parents’ clothing, in front of a mirror). The American Cancer Society credits this ad, and others that followed, with the tobacco industry’s decision to go off the air, rather than compete with Schwartz’s ad campaign.

Born in midtown Manhattan in 1923, a graduate of Peekskill High School (1941) and Pratt Institute (1944), Tony Schwartz had a unique philosophy of work: He only worked on projects that interested him, for whatever they could afford to pay.


For many years he was a Visiting Electronic professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, teaching physicians how to use media to deal with public health problems. He also taught at New York University and Columbia and Emerson colleges. Because Schwartz was unable to travel distances, he delivered all out of town talks remotely. Schwartz was a frequent lecturer at universities and conferences, and gave presentations on six of the seven continents (not Antarctica). He was awarded honorary doctorates from John Jay, Emerson and Stonehill Colleges.


“Documenting life in sound and pictures” is something Tony Schwartz begin in 1945, when he bought his first Webcor wire recorder and began to record the people and sounds around him. From this hobby developed one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of voices, both prominent and unknown, street sounds and music, a collection that resulted in nineteen phonograph albums for Folkways and Columbia Records.


During the 1950s, Tony Schwartz sent this recording out into the world, presumably under an early version of a Creative Commons license.

While I was already getting interested in what was then called “Ethnic Music,” this recording was something completely different — dozens of different songs from all over the planet, each introduced by the same voice. I must have listened to the Tony Schwartz Exchange Tape a couple of hundred times over the next few years, but time marched on and the dubbed version of the Tony Tape came to rest in my collection alongside hundreds of other cassettes. In the early 2000s I duplicated it onto a CD, where it continued to lie dormant.

I bumped into Tony Schwartz’ name a few times on various Folkways lps, but never learned much about the man until I started listening to the Kitchen Sisters’ wonderful “Lost And Found Sound” series — and then I had a delightful shock of recognition. Give this audio portrait a listen.

Anyhow, I’ve been transferring all my sound files to my computer, and this one finally had its turn…and I says to myself, says I, “Well, this certainly deserves to be out in the world.”

Here you go, world.