Year 4, Month 5, Day 28: The Madness Of King George

Well-done, indeed. The Boston Globe:

SOMERSET — Activists in a lobster boat flying an American flag blocked the delivery of 40,000 tons of central Appalachian coal to Brayton Point Power Station Wednesday, bobbing for hours in the path of a freighter nearly 690 feet long.

“The climate crisis is real, and it’s staring us in the face, and we’re not doing anything,” said Marla Marcum, the on-land spokeswoman for the ­activists, who said she was there to bail them out of jail if the need arose.

The activists were not ­arrested, a Coast Guard spokesman said.

The lobster boat Henry ­David T. looked almost quaint, and certainly out of place, against the backdrop of the hulking power plant.

The freighter it blocked, more than 20 times its size, sat at the end of a long pier; the anchored lobster boat turned slowly in the current.

“I choose to place my body between the exploding mountain tops of Appalachia and the burning fires of our consumption and greed as a witness to the new way of being in the world that we know is possible,” one of the boat’s captains, Jay O’Hara, 31, wrote on the website coalisstupid.org, where activists live-blogged the protest.

O’Hara, of Bourne, and his co­captain — Ken Ward, 57, of Jamaica Plain — called for Brayton Point to be shut down immediately for the sake of “planetary survival.”

Ward and O’Hara arrived at Brayton Point around 9 a.m. and dropped anchor, activists said; the freighter, the Energy Enterprise, arrived at about 11:15.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said the two men cooperated with officials, but when the Coast Guard told them to move their boat, they realized that their anchor was stuck.

The Boston Coal Party. Works for me. May 16:

Boston’s role in our country’s creation lends the action of local environmentalists even greater historical resonance.

By blocking the delivery of almost a million pounds of coal to Brayton Point, Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward have struck a blow against a malign force which has co-opted our government for its own interests. Fossil fuel corporations, arguably the most powerful economic actors on the planet, exert incalculable influence on American politics. That they have offices on American soil doesn’t change the fact that they’re essentially colonial powers, enriching themselves on our tax dollars. Instead of funding schools, infrastructure, and a functional public health system, American citizens’ hard-earned money subsidizes oil and coal, pays to clean up spills, leaks, and toxic waste, and funds expensive wars — a textbook example of taxation without representation in the service of an occupying power.

O’Hara and Ward make me proud to be a Bostonian.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 11: Headless Body In Topless Bar

The Denver Post runs an AP story on the Human Interest angle:

MANTOLOKING, n.j. — The 9-year-old girl who got New Jersey’s tough-guy governor to shed a tear as he comforted her after her home was destroyed is bummed because she now lives far from her best friend and has nowhere to hang her One Direction posters.

A New Jersey woman whose home was overtaken by mold still cries when she drives through the area. A New York City man whose home burned can’t wait to build a new one.

Six months after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey shore and New York City and pounded coastal areas of New England, the region is dealing with a slow and frustrating recovery.

Tens of thousands of people remain homeless. Housing, business, tourism and coastal protection remain major issues with the summer vacation — and hurricane — seasons almost here.

“Some families and some lives have come back together quickly and well, and some people are up and running almost as if nothing ever happened, and for them it’s been fine,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Thursday. “Some people are still very much in the midst of recovery. You still have people in hotel rooms, you still have people doubled up, you still have people fighting with insurance companies, and for them it’s been terrible and horrendous.”

Getting your life destroyed has gotta suck big time. April 29:

People will still be reeling from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy for years to come. Losing a home, a business, or a cherished community to the impersonal forces of extreme weather can’t be healed with an insurance payment or a renovation plan. As we rebuild, let us recognize that as climate change intensifies, so too will the number of dislocated and traumatized individuals and families. The future will bring even more sad and disturbing stories as the consequences of our planetary greenhouse emergency make themselves felt, not just on our storm-battered coastlines, but in forests turned to tinder by invasive insect pests, in shrinking and algae-choked lakes, and in the drought-cracked farmlands whose yields once fed millions.

State and federal governments must develop and implement reality-based climate and energy policies, including initiatives to end our dependence on the fossil fuels that started the problem in the first place, infrastructure projects to mitigate the climate change that’s already inevitable, and, finally, humanitarian programs to ensure that those whose lives are shattered can again be part of a vibrant and generous civil society.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 25: You Only Gave Me Your Invitation

The Hyde Park Herald (IL) notes UofC students’ divestiture campaign:

Students at the University of Chicago aren’t remaining silent in their demand that the university stop investing its money in companies that deal in coal and fossil fuels.
“The petition is something we’ve been working on getting signed all quarter,” said Marissa Lieberman-Klein, a fourth year anthropology student.

The student organization Stop Funding Climate Change, UChicago delivered a petition with more than 500 signatures to president Robert Zimmer’s office on Friday afternoon.
The students asked the university to immediately stop investing any money in companies such as Exxon Mobil or Arch Coal and within the next five years have removed all of its financial investments from companies that produce fossil fuels.

Last quarter, the students delivered a letter to Zimmer’s office demanding a meeting on the topic with the board of trustees. Lieberman-Klein said the students had yet to receive a response.

This is a rewritten version of the letter published in the Journal of Higher Education. Sent March 14:

In the fight against climate change, the student-led campaign encouraging colleges and universities to end their fossil-fuel investments is a genuinely hopeful sign. While financial analyses have shown that divestiture won’t negatively impact institutional portfolios, doing the right thing shouldn’t require a fiscal rationale.

Education is based on the principle that knowledge can be transmitted across boundaries of age and culture, thereby ensuring a future of steadily increasing wisdom. Such a future is gravely imperiled by climate change, a planetary crisis precipitated by industrial civilization’s rapid introduction of millions of years’ accumulated carbon into the atmosphere in a geological instant, and exacerbated by the destructive business practices of big oil and coal companies.

Continued support of fossil fuels may be profitable in the short run, but it is a betrayal of our societal commitment to a better future. In striving to change UChicago’s investment policies, these students demonstrate a profound commitment to the true ideals of education: fostering responsibility to and for the greater social good.

Warren Senders

Published.

Year 4, Month 3, Day 9: Soothing.

The Barnstable Patriot offers a column from one Richard Elrick, noted as “From the Left.” Because the Right is always wrong:

The fact is that unless we substantially reduce our use of fossil fuels by 50 to 80 percent by 2050, when compared to 2000 levels, we will pass a “tipping point,” and most likely not be able to avoid the most catastrophic effects of a warming world.

The American discussion about climate change and cheap energy will be coming to a crucial crescendo soon when President Obama will have to make a decision about whether to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built. If constructed, the pipeline would cross from Canada down to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, carrying the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive oil from the tar sands and shale of Alberta.

There will be incredible pressure on the president to allow Keystone to proceed. We are addicted to cheap oil, and the perception exists for some that we “need” Keystone for the jobs and economy.

But the truth, as NASA scientist and climate change expert Dr. James Hansen so eloquently described recently to a Keystone Pipeline supporter, is that, “The climate science is crystal clear. We cannot go down the path of the dirty fuels without guaranteeing that the climate system passes tipping points, leaving our children and grandchildren a situation out of their control, a situation of our making.”

Mr. President, the choice is yours. You can start us down the road to a sustainable energy future, or you can give way to the short-term and short-sighted political forces that need their fossil fuel fix. Posterity’s future awaits your decision.

I brought out the heroin thing again. Sent Feb. 27:

As global warming’s effects get harder and harder to ignore, we can expect a gradual transformation in denialist rhetoric, from “it’s not happening” to “it’s too expensive to do anything.” Statements of this sort are typical rationalizations of addictive behavior, and as Richard Elrick and countless others have pointed out, American civilization is addicted to fossil fuels. In refusing to address climate change, conservatives deny the grim facts of our national dependency. Similarly, attempts to promote fossil-fuel “alternatives” ostensibly less damaging to the planet’s climate, such as “clean coal” or natural gas (extracted by the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”), are nothing more than the desperate bargaining attempts of an addiction.

Let’s consider these claims in the light of history — in particular another national dependency of a little more than a century ago. In 1895, millions of Americans were hooked on morphine, which was freely available over the counter. It was an enormous social and medical crisis, finally solved with by diacetylmorphine, a “non-addictive” substitute, marketed under the trade name of “Heroin.” Let’s remember how well that worked out before we put our hopes in natural gas and “clean coal.”

If humanity is to survive and prosper in the coming centuries, we need to transform our energy economy profoundly and completely.

Warren Senders

Published.

Year 4, Month 2, Day 12: Bad Guys Finish, Period.

More on the Keystone Clusterf**k, from the West Virginia Gazette:

President Obama hasn’t publicly drawn a connection between climate change and the Keystone XL pipeline, but new pressure is building on him and other officials to connect those dots.

Protests are springing up from Maine to Washington, D.C., to Oklahoma urging leaders to stop the Keystone XL and other oil sands import projects on climate change grounds. The Texas-bound Keystone XL is the biggest of many projects being proposed to connect Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries and export ports. Protesters claim the pipelines would commit the United States and other countries to a form of heavy oil that would worsen global warming.

On Jan. 26, some 1,400 people marched through Portland, Maine, against possible plans to move oil from Canada’s tar sands mines to local ports for export. Days earlier, hundreds of people joined solidarity rallies across New England and in Canada, where they picketed outside gas stations, locked arms along bridges, and hoisted signs that read “Tar Sands (equals) Game Over for Climate.” On Monday, indigenous rights activists in Texas and Oklahoma filled public squares to show support for efforts by Canada’s First Nations to block oil sands growth.

“We’re trying to build the social movement” against expansion of tar sands oil extraction, said Sophie Robinson, who organized events through the Massachusetts chapter of 350.org, a grassroots organization that focuses on climate change.

I’m gonna keep recycling the “this ain’t no game” trope till it gets some traction. February 4:

Whether it’s the inevitable spillage and aquifer contamination, the vast acreage of forests destroyed, the reinforcement of a global fossil-fuel addiction, or the devastating impact the Tar Sands oil will make on the already accelerating greenhouse effect, there can be no doubt that the Keystone XL pipeline project is a collection of disasters waiting to happen. But “game over for the climate,” a phrase popular among anti-pipeline activists, gives a misleading picture of what those disasters will do to North America and the world.

The after-effects of a game are limited to the playing field. If your team loses, just wait for next week, or next month, or next year. But more and more scientists are realizing with alarm that the possible consequences of a 4-degree centigrade increase in planetary temperature may include a complete collapse of the agriculture upon which our lives depend. The introduction of Tar Sands oil into the consumption chain will speed that increase, possibly irrevocably.

Earth’s climate is no game, and when it’s over, there’s no rematch, no mulligan, no “wait for next year,” no reset button. It’s just finished — and so are we. President Obama must block the Keystone XL.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 7: Ring-A-Ding-Ding!

The Orlando Sentinel joins the shrill chorus:

Earth is growing warmer; the records prove that. Some still doubt human activity has anything to do with it, but it’s past time for the rest of us to face reality.

We need, first, good leadership. The United States should provide it, as it has repeatedly promised but failed to do. To begin with, it needs to join those other nations that have committed to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Florida should be a leader among the states, because it is among those most threatened with ecological problems and rising sea levels.

Who’s to bell the cat? Sent January 2:

As 2012 shrinks in the rearview mirror, we can recognize it as the year that climate change came home for many of us. Whether it was the devastating drought that hammered the Corn Belt, the unprecedented destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, or the hundreds of other examples of extreme weather, last year Americans learned that geographical serendipity is no longer going to protect us from the accelerating greenhouse effect.

But one important group of our fellow citizens remains to be convinced. Congress and elected leaders have been shamefully timid, offering platitudes and half-measures where bold and forceful action is urgently needed. Did I say “one”? Make that two: our Politicians and their Ownership. We’ll only see genuinely meaningful policy responses to the climate crisis if we get fossil fuel money out of politics, or convince Big Oil and Big Coal to value humanity’s survival more than their already grotesque profit margins.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 13: Get Up, Stand Up / Stand Up For Your Rights

Bill McKibben and 350.org have been pushing hard for divestiture from fossil fuels – and taking aim at college endowments as an easy and significant target. The New York Times:

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

It’s a very unequal struggle. But the alternative is giving up. Nope. Can’t do that. Sent December 5:

Throughout the course of 350.org’s “Do The Math” tour, founder Bill McKibben over and over compared the movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry with the mid-80′s campaign to end financial ties with firms doing business in apartheid South Africa. These earlier actions were driven by college students possessed by the moral urgency to end the injustices perpetrated by institutionalized racism. Modern climate activists are equally motivated by their keen awareness of injustice — today perpetrated not by governments, but by a set of unimaginably powerful and irresponsible economic actors. The similarities are profound. But there is one important set of differences.

In the 1980s, the victims of apartheid lived in one state, on one continent — and at one memorable point in time. Climate chaos, by contrast, will disrupt lives everywhere on Earth for generations to come — a fact which dramatically reinforces the ethical imperative of divestiture.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 11: Nobody Here But Us Chickens

The St. Louis American reprints Eugene Robinson’s astute and blistering column from earlier this week, this time titled, “Obama Should Lead On Climate Change.” Good stuff:

The United States has never agreed to abide by the Kyoto Protocol, the binding 1997 treaty through which some countries agreed to limit emissions. Still, U.S. emissions have risen only slightly since then. The big increase has been in China and India, which are exempt from cuts under Kyoto.

Officials in Beijing and New Delhi understand that unchecked growth in emissions is not sustainable. But they also know that the United States and Europe are still responsible for far more carbon emissions per capita. And if a factory in, say, Guangzhou province produces iPhones for American consumers, who should be held responsible for those emissions?

Will these questions be answered in the Doha talks now under way? Not a chance. Not until the United States is fully involved.

And this is why President Obama should devote his next State of the Union address to climate change. He understands the science and knows the threat is real. Convincing the American people of this truth would be a great accomplishment – and perhaps the most important legacy of his second term.

Lots of luck with that. Sent December 6:

Environmentalists are justifiably disappointed in the Obama administration’s tepid participation in the Doha climate conference, and in our nation’s lackluster response to what is clearly the defining crisis of our times. And indeed there is plenty of cause for frustration, what with the steady drumbeat of bad climate news seemingly getting worse by the minute, while our diplomats dither and the United States routinely abdicates its position of leadership in the world community.

However, Mr. Obama’s timidity is not the real problem. If addressing an ongoing catastrophe responsibly means a reduced quarterly profit margin for Big Oil and Big Coal, it’s not going to happen. Our political paralysis in the face of a collapsing planetary ecosystem is caused by the all-pervasive influence of fossil fuels in our economy and fossil funds in our government. Presidential pusillanimity is a diagnostic indicator of how far, and how deeply, the disease has spread.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 6: Please Don’t Wake Me, No Don’t Shake Me, Leave Me Where I Am, I’m Only Sleeping

The Detroit Free Press reports on the bad weather we’ve been having recently:

DOHA, Qatar — An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the U.S. melted this year, according the United Nations weather agency, which said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening “before our eyes.”

In a report released at UN climate talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, the World Meteorological Organization said the Arctic ice melt was one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the U.S. as well as western Russia and southern Europe. Floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering.

But it was the ice melt that seemed to dominate the annual climate report, with the United Nations concluding that ice cover had reached “a new record low” in the area around the North Pole, and that the loss from March to September was 4.57 million square miles — an area bigger than the U.S.

Meanwhile, in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

DOHA, Qatar – The United Nations climate chief is urging people not to look solely to their governments to make tough decisions to slow global warming, and instead to consider their own role in solving the problem.

Approaching the half-way point of two-week climate talks in Doha, Christiana Figueres, the head of the U.N.’s climate change secretariat, said Friday that she didn’t see “much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions.”

These two were referenced in a letter to the DFP, sent November 30:

It’s a sad irony that at a point in history where our planetary environment is becoming completely unhinged, our governing institutions have almost entirely lost the capacity for meaningful action. The same week that the World Meteorological Organization confirms that 2012 has been a year of record-breaking weather extremes all over the world, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres comments that she doesn’t perceive much public pressure “for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions.”

The problem is as simple as it is intractable. There’s no shortage of public pressure on the world’s governments. In the past four years, millions of people have signed petitions, made phone calls, written letters and marched on behalf of responsible climate change policies. But these citizens have less influence on our public sector than a single signature — on a massive campaign contribution from a fossil fuel lobbyist.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 12, Day 1: Let’s Socialize The Profits And Privatize The Losses For A Change!

The Concord Monitor runs an AP article titled: “Climate change skeptics take aim at state energy mandates.” It’s our old buddies at the Heartland Institute!

The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank skeptical of climate change science, has joined with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation aimed at reversing state renewable energy mandates across the country.

The Electricity Freedom Act, adopted by the council’s board of directors in October, would repeal state standards requiring utilities to get a portion of their electricity from renewable power, calling it “essentially a tax on consumers of electricity.” Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have binding renewable standards; in the absence of federal climate legislation, these initiatives have become the subject of intense political battles.

The legislative council, or ALEC, is a conservative-leaning group of state legislators from all 50 states that has sought to roll back climate regulation in the past. It lost some corporate sponsors early this year because of its role promoting “stand your ground” laws that allow the use of force in self-defense without first retreating when faced with a serious threat.

But the involvement of the Heartland Institute, which posted a billboard in May comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, shows the breadth of conservatives’ efforts to undermine environmental initiatives on the state and federal level. In many cases, the groups involved accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.

The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles and David Koch, whose firm Koch Industries has substantial oil and energy holdings.

James Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s senior fellow for environmental policy, said he was able to persuade most of ALEC’s state legislators and corporate members to push for a repeal of laws requiring more solar and wind power use on the basis of economics.

“Renewable power mandates are very costly to consumers throughout the 50 states, and we feel it is important that consumers have access to affordable electricity,” Taylor said. “We wrote the model legislation and I presented it. I didn’t have to give that much of a case for it.”

Taylor dismissed the idea that his group pushed for the measure because it has accepted money from fossil-fuel firms: “The people who are saying that are trying to take attention away from the real issue – that alternative energy, renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy.”

Fuckers. Sent November 25:

Heartland Institute spokesman James Taylor’s confident assertion that “renewable energy, is more expensive than conventional energy” is disingenous at best, mendacious at worst. While oil, coal and natural gas appear cheaper initially, once externalities are included, the cost goes through the roof. What “externalities?” Well, let’s start with the enormous government subsidies to fossil fuel industries — since our tax money is what makes the price of these conventional energy sources so low to begin with, we’ve already paid once at the pump before we even start filling our tanks.

Next, let’s remember that tankers run aground, pipelines leak, and pumping stations can aren’t exactly disaster-proof. Who cleans up after catastrophic spills? Once again, American taxpayers are on the hook; while companies may pay some fines, these never actually cover the cost of such a disaster. Instead, mopping up and decontamination comes out of our wallets. The public health and environmental effects of coal and oil are handled similarly.

On a larger scale, the grim fact is that America’s military power is often part of the geopolitical strategy of energy. Would conservatives be beating the war drums so vigorously if Iran had no oil? These costs should properly be added to the bill for fossil fuels as well. Finally, it’s no longer feasible to deny either the existence of global climate change or the role of conventional fuels in the accelerating greenhouse effect. Far from being cheap, fossil fuels may well wind up costing us everything we value, and more.

Warren Senders

Published.