Month 6, Day 3: Disaster Spells O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y ?

This DK diary contains two fantastic essays by Bill McKibben and Adam Siegel. Go read it. And while you’re at it, read this. These two posts are what brought this letter bubbling up.

More personal than usual, but I’m starting to really take this stuff personally, y’know?

Dear President Obama —

I just read that in its opening addresses at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, the United States never once mentioned a readiness to accept a binding agreement on carbon emission reductions.

Mr. President, I love my country.

Like you, I have lived abroad. When I first went to India to live, in the mid-1980’s, people asked me over and over again, “the Americans we meet are such wonderful people. Why is it that your government does such terrible things?”

That was during the Reagan years, and those of us with conscience were outraged by the behavior of our government. And all I could do was shake my head sadly, and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When the U.S.negotiator states that the negotiation text which had been approved by every country in the world at Copenhagen ‘had no standing,’ I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When my government’s negotiator promotes the Copenhagen Accord, a political agreement which takes seven degrees Farenheit of global warming as a given, I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

When I look at the consequences of that level of warming and realize that it will mean millions and millions of deaths due to food and water shortages, I can only shake my head sadly and say, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”.

I know that it takes a long time to turn things around. I am not so naive as to think that wishing will make it so — but I still wish.

Bill McKibben said recently that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has offered you the perfect platform for a genuinely transformative approach. While the oil chokes the water and poisons all the life in the Gulf of Mexico, you must remind us all that fossil fuel is dirty. It’s dirty when you take it out of the ground, it’s dirty when you process it, it’s dirty when you burn it…and, of course, as it burns it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Dirty. With the ruined ecosystems of the Louisiana coast as a backdrop, you need to ask the American people, “Is this what you really want?” And you need to offer some alternatives. McKibben notes that his organization,, is planning a “Global Work Party” for energy conservation and efficiency on the 10th of October of this year. He concludes with this wish: “Let’s hope the president is up on the roof of the White House, hammering in the solar panels that Ronald Reagan took down.”

Mr. President, that’s my wish for you, too.

I wish for an America that embraces the idea of energy independence, that acknowledges its global responsibilities, that recognizes that the global engine of predatory capitalism is causing irreversible damage to the planet we share. I wish for an America where I don’t have to keep shaking my head sadly and saying, “I know. It’s a terrible thing.”

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 26: Bill McKibben Speaks For Me

Daily Kos diarist A Siegel directed my attention to Bill McKibben’s piece in the LA Times, which included a telling analogy (and one particularly suited to the Los Angeles audience:

The “dream team” of lawyers assembled for Simpson’s defense had a problem: The evidence against their client was formidable. Nicole Brown Simpson’s blood was all over his socks, and that was just the beginning. So Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian et al decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson’s guilt in doubt — and doubt, of course, was all they needed. Hence, those days of cross-examination about exactly how Dennis Fung had transported blood samples and which racial slurs LAPD Det. Mark Fuhrman had used.


Similarly, the immense pile of evidence now proving the science of global warming beyond any reasonable doubt is in some ways a great boon for those who deny that the biggest problem we’ve ever faced is actually a problem at all. If you have a three-page report, it won’t be overwhelming, but it’s also unlikely to have many mistakes. Three thousand pages (the length of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)? That pretty much guarantees you’ll get some things wrong.

The whole piece is terrific; like all of McKibben’s writing, it is a model of clarity and logic. So I thought I’d send the LA Times a letter, reinforcing his words. Here you go:

Bill McKibben’s comparison of climate “skeptics” to the O.J. Simpson defense team is spot on. These corporate-funded denialists exploit our tragically short national attention span in order to delay or derail meaningful action on global climate change. How do they do it? By shrieking about ambiguities in the data while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that same data provides. Why do they do it? Because they’re paid.

Climatologists have long forecast that local weather will get weirder and more unpredictable as the atmosphere warms. It’s counterintuitive that planetary warming can bring unexpected snow — but it’s also counterintuitive that a starving child’s belly swells. Regardless of its importance to our politics, Washington, DC takes up a tiny fraction of the world’s surface area — 1/285,507th, to be exact. Kwashiorkor doesn’t disprove world hunger; a blizzard in Washington doesn’t disprove global warming. We must move boldly to address the climate crisis. There is no time to waste.

Warren Senders