Year 4, Month 6, Day 11: They’re Not Going To Care, Are They?

The Boston Globe looks at the pressure facing John Kerry over KXL:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who for decades has portrayed himself as one of the nation’s leading environmentalists, is under siege from all sides as he faces one of the most difficult decisions of his career: whether to approve the Keystone pipeline.

Several environmental groups are set to launch campaigns this summer to pressure Kerry into opposing the pipeline. One will publicize his past calls to fight global climate change — statements that they argue would make Kerry look like a hypocrite if he now supports the pipeline.

Pipeline advocates, meanwhile, aregearing up for lobbying efforts of their own, hiring firms whose consultants include several former Kerry aides.

One measure of the intensity of public sentiment: A staggering 1.2 million comments — an unprecedented number — have been submitted by the public as part of the State Department’s review process.

The Keystone pipeline would transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Environmental groups warn that a spill along the route would have a devastating effect on drinking water and that turning the tar sands into usable fuel would result in excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

Just fucking block the thing, ok? May 28:

If John Kerry approves the Keystone XL pipeline, he will have bowed deeply to the corporatist forces which have largely co-opted our system of government. Given Kerry’s lifelong environmentalist orientation, such capitulation is a depressing diagnostic indicator of how deeply the rot has penetrated into our society.

The pipeline’s claims of minimal environmental impact have been revealed as risible, the loudly-touted job creation claims have been substantially debunked, the authors of the State Department’s study of the project are case studies in conflict of interest, and the world’s leading climatologists are unified in their assessment of the tar sands’ potential to trigger devastating and geocidal destabilization of Earth’s climate. What’s left? The Keystone XL is about profits, and nothing more.

If John Kerry wishes to be remembered as a statesman, he must place the lives of our descendants above the lure of unfettered gains for the privileged and powerful few.

Warren Senders

Published.

Year 3, Month 12, Day 31: Drink A Cup For Kindness’ Sake

The Cleveland Plain Dealer sums up various responses to the nomination of John Kerry for SoS, and includes this paragraph:

Huffingtonpost.com says that Kerry presents a potential opportunity for climate action. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, released a statement praising the decision. “Sen. Kerry is a true leader on climate change and other environmental issues and has spent his career advocating for policies that are good for our planet and our national security.”

Kerry has been stronger than others on the issue, though that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot. Sent Dec. 25:

While Republican politicians prefer an alternate reality where marriage equality and Sharia law represent the most pressing geopolitical threats on the horizon, those of us who live in a reality-based universe have other concerns. Which is why John Kerry’s nomination for Secretary of State is good news. While the Massachusetts Democrat has long been one of our saner voices on foreign policy, the most critical issue facing America and the world today is another of Mr. Kerry’s areas of expertise. A comprehensive approach to global warming demands long-term thinking and a resolutely fact-based approach; the GOP strategy of explicitly rejecting scientific findings only works for a little while, before the laws of chemistry and physics reassert themselves.

Let us hope that Senator Kerry is confirmed without unnecessary grandstanding from his erstwhile colleagues, and that he can bring the United States to a position of genuine world leadership on climate change.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 20: Time To Make Some Connections

Continuing on the theme of political upheaval in Pakistan in the aftermath of the flood, the New York Times had a good analysis (which naturally didn’t mention climate change). I started out reading the article thinking I’d write a standard admonitory letter, bla bla bla disgrace to the media bla bla bla well-informed citizenry bla bla bla.

Then I saw that Kerry was headed over there, and tonight’s letter formed itself.

The UN Development Programme’s statistics on CO2 as a proportion of world population are available here, and are well worth a look.

Dear Senator Kerry -

We learn that the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is going to have drastic and unpredictable consequences for America’s own foreign policy in the region. The shape of our aid to Pakistan is certainly going to be profoundly transformed. I was glad to hear that you are headed there to assess the situation, for your experience in foreign affairs is invaluable.

It is a tragic coincidence that the disaster in Pakistan should also intersect with another policy area in which you have great knowledge and expertise — climate change.

Pakistan’s inundation, like New York’s heat wave, Russia’s drought, and Washington’s blizzard, is part of our new post-Industrial weather pattern — climate chaos.

Climate chaos was predicted twenty-five years ago and climatologists have been affirming and substantiating their predictions ever since. We’re just getting the first taste of it now, and even if we had taken decisive action in this Congress, climate chaos is going to get worse before it gets a lot better.

As you know.

Please use your public statements on the subject of Pakistan to make the point that the region’s political instability and upheaval is a diplomatic consequence of climate change. Please use your statements on the Senate floor to make the point crystal clear to your colleagues.

Even as America mobilizes to do its very best to alleviate Pakistan’s climatic miseries, we must focus on the conditions that gave rise to them.

The proportion of a nation’s CO2 emissions to its share of world population is a useful measure. America’s is five times greater. Pakistan’s is one-fifth. We put enormous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere; Pakistan’s contribution, by contrast, amounts to a rounding error. In other words, Pakistanis didn’t create the climate chaos that is now destroying their country. We did.

Weather-triggered political instability is a predictable consequence of climate change, and yet another reason that quick and robust legislative action must be taken.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 16: Filibusted

Figured I’d write to Kerry and whine about the filibuster.

Dear Senator Kerry,

On the assumption that the upcoming November elections will preserve the Democratic majority in the Senate, I am writing to ask you to speak as powerfully as possible on behalf of filibuster reform. The shelving of critical climate legislation has been a bitter pill to swallow for any of us who are concerned about the looming climate crisis. At the moment when it seemed we might possibly be able to make headway against Republican obstructionism, the problems involved in assembling the sixty votes required for cloture effectively doomed any hope for a meaningful bill. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

The behavior of Senate Republicans and a few conservative Democrats has left the United States in a deplorable position: as billions of people around the world face an uncertain future due to the ravages of climate change, a tiny group of rich and powerful men and women hold the power to stall any action. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

Even for bills that are broadly popular, a single senator from a state with a population less than that of Massachusetts’ capitol can effectively stymie forward motion — until special provisions, concessions or earmarks are inserted. A single senator can place an anonymous hold on legislation without giving any reason whatever, again halting forward motion. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

It should be no surprise that Congress’ approval ratings are low, for voters see that there is no political will to get things done; there is only a will to procrastinate….and procrastination is not a characteristic we expect in our leaders or our representatives. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work.

I am a lifelong Democrat and a fervent environmentalist. I believe deeply in the potential of our system of government. But right now, America’s Senate is completely dysfunctional. The Senate is supposed to work — and it doesn’t.

Please advocate forcefully for filibuster reform. The Senate needs to get to work. We cannot survive another legislative session of delaying tactics.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 20: Two Hundred and One. But Who’s Counting?

I figured I’d invite John Kerry to be part of a work crew on October 10, 350.org’s Global Work Party. Are you planning on doing something?

Dear Senator Kerry,

I am hopeful something will come of all your hard work on putting together a meaningful climate/energy bill. If you can find a way to persuade Ben Nelson that the security of America’s agricultural, forest and water resources are even more important than next year’s utility bills (even for Nebraskans), I would be very happy.

But this letter is to ask you something else. I’m writing to ask you to commit publicly to joining a work party on October 10 — the international Global Work Party sponsored by 350.org. People all over the world will be pooling their resources, putting their sweat equity into their communities by helping with weatherization, solar panel installation, bicycle repair, tree planting and countless initiatives. As of today’s date, there are at least thirty separate work parties already planned in Massachusetts, and over twelve hundred actions in 116 countries around the world. They’re all listed at the 350.org website (www.350.org).

I’m not officially affiliated with this group, but as an ardent citizen activist, I think that what they are doing is tremendously important. I hope that you are already aware of their work and accomplishments.

It would be enormously meaningful if you were to come to one of these actions and pound a few nails. If you were to encourage members of your staff to get involved, that would be even better, and if you were to make a public statement of support for the October 10 action (which is, after all, exactly what citizens are supposed to do: get involved)….it could have a profound impact on the thinking of our fellow citizens.

I know that you and I agree on the urgency of the climate crisis; I hope that we’ll see you on October 10.

Thank you for all that you’ve done.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 10: Yes, I Know It’s A Sucking Chest Wound, But Please Fill Out These Forms. In Triplicate.

We really really really need to change the way the filibuster is used in the Senate. You should write to your senators (if you’ve got some Democrats) and tell them something along these lines. The emergency-room analogy in this letter pleases me; I’m going to try and use it some more.

Dear Senator Kerry,

The Senate needs filibuster reform, for all our sakes.

Despite having one of the smallest minorities in recent history, the Republicans are making it impossible for us to move forward. Every bill is watered down, every policy initiative is gutted, every noble impulse turned into a tepid and uninspiring porridge.

This is most appalling and damaging in the case of climate legislation. We are asked to wait. And wait. And wait. And give up the things that might actually make a tiny bit of difference to humanity’s next century, in the hope of appeasing Olympia Snowe, or Lindsey Graham, or Scott Brown — or some damn Republican or another who will end up voting against the bill anyway.

The United States Senate is like the admissions clerk in an emergency room; someone is brought in bleeding to death, and rather than receive treatment, is forced to spend hours filling out insurance forms. That’s what the US Senate does, thanks to the abuse of the filibuster by the Republicans.

And if Democrats want to keep a majority, they’d do well to enact meaningful filibuster reform at the beginning of the next congress. Senate Democrats must overcome the timidity that has kept them quivering and cowering at the threats of their Republican colleagues, and this must begin with ending the most egregious abuse of Senatorial process in the past century.

With Arctic sea ice at its lowest level yet, with methane bubbling up out of the ocean floor, with BP’s toxic cocktail destroying the Gulf of Mexico, with the ocean becoming more acidic, with atmospheric CO2 at 394 ppm and rising…learned helplessness is a luxury we can no longer afford. We need a strong climate bill, or we may not have any descendants to curse us for our inaction.

There is no time left to waste in appeasing a group of anti-science, anti-environment, anti-humanity opportunists who are guaranteed to oppose anything you do. Reform the use of the filibuster. Advance genuine climate legislation.

That’s all.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 7, Day 5: Tiny Little Glimmers. Just Tiny Little Glimmers.

The striking thing isn’t that a famous scientist thinks humanity is likely to go extinct within a century. The striking thing is that many other scientists agree with him.

Dear Senators Kerry and Reid -

The continued forward motion of climate legislation is heartening to those of us who are concerned about the Earth’s future. It is sickening to watch the obstructionist tactics of the opposition party, and those Democrats who, placing narrow interests above that of the nation as a whole, continue to support “business as usual” (BAU for short).

Because it is daily more evident that BAU is not going to work any longer. The Australian biologist Frank Fenner states baldly that continued population growth and unchecked consumption (key elements of BAU, needless to say) are going to bring humanity to extinction within the century — and other scientists nod grimly and say things like, “While there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will.”

We need to recognize the nature of the crisis and educate one another, and we have to do it in a hurry.

Which is why I’m writing, begging you: don’t capitulate any more.

Don’t capitulate to the oil interests.
Don’t capitulate to the coal interests.
Don’t capitulate to the natural gas interests.
Don’t capitulate to the financial interests.
Don’t capitulate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Don’t capitulate to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
Don’t capitulate to the Dominionist Christians who anxiously await armageddon as promised in the Book of Revelations.
Don’t capitulate to Lindsey Graham’s political exigencies.
Don’t capitulate to Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories.
Don’t capitulate to President Obama’s accomodationist bipartisan instincts.

Don’t capitulate. Make the bill stronger. We need a price on carbon. We need to make the cost of carbon reflect its true cost to our planet and ourselves. How much will it cost to clean up the mess we’ve made? Trillions of dollars, at minimum — and the longer we go on with Business As Usual, the more costly and inconvenient it’s going to be. Those trillions need to be added to the price of carbon, as soon as possible.

We have fooled ourselves that fossil fuels are cheap. They are anything but — and the sooner our economic thinking changes to reflect the true cost of oil and coal, the more likely it is we can avoid the fate Dr. Fenner has predicted.

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
781-396-0734

Month 5, Day 16: Quick and Dirty

Busy tonight. Lots of stuff to do, a long day of teaching tomorrow, and a small gig in the evening. Not a lot of time to invest — so I went to Time Magazine’s website and found their article on the Kerry-Lieberman bill. The letter is a rehash of many of this week’s themes.

The Kerry-Lieberman climate/energy bill’s inclusion of offshore drilling is a testimonial to the destructive influence of political expediency. The Deepwater Horizon disaster needs to be a game-changer. We must learn that fossil fuels are vastly more expensive than we’ve been led to believe; their true costs must include health effects, environmental destruction, catastrophic global warming, and the extremely expensive wars we require to protect our sources. Senator Lindsey Graham, until recently a third partner in the climate legislation, said in a recent statement that abandoning offshore drilling “isn’t realistic.” Maybe so…but it is completely delusional to think that we can continue as we have. “Business as usual” creates climate legislation designed around political exigencies; “business as usual” is a state of profound and complete denial. The Kerry-Lieberman bill needs to be passed — and it needs to be strengthened significantly. America has to kick the fossil fuel habit without delay.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 14: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

Two articles in the NYT. One is a generic piece on the Kerry/Lieberman Climate/Energy Bill (sigh). The other notes that BP doesn’t want to know how much oil they’re releasing. Of course there are people who are making estimates that are closer to reality than the figures the Oil Flacks are giving out, but they’re all Dirty F**king Hippies, so the hell with them.

The oil corporations are demonstrating that given a loose regulatory environment, they will behave like rabid skunks on speed. I fear for us all; I cannot really begin to imagine what it will take to rein them in at this point. Jail time in a maximum security prison for all their chief executives would help.

We discover with depressing regularity that corporations are adept at minimizing, denying or shirking their responsibilities. B.P.’s unwillingness to engage scientific specialists in measuring the size of its oily underwater volcano is an indication that their PR department is making policy decisions — always a bad strategy. Drill, baby, drill; spill, baby, spill; spin, baby, spin! Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a climate and energy bill that does nothing to stop offshore drilling in the Arctic, where Shell Oil is getting ready to begin “exploratory drilling” within two months. Needless to say, weather and oceanic conditions in the Arctic are considerably harsher than in the Gulf of Mexico. Can anyone say, “disaster waiting to happen”? How many Deepwater Horizons is it going to take before we come to our collective senses? The catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake-up call: we must eliminate fossil fuels from our energy diet.

Warren Senders