Year 3, Month 6, Day 30: Burning Disappointment

Four dozen of the world’s largest cities have taken steps to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, according to a report issued Tuesday, an announcement aimed at demonstrating that environmental progress can continue in the absence of a broad international climate agreement.

The news, which New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will deliver along with Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes at this week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, highlights the fractured policymaking landscape that defines environmental issues today. While more than 130 world leaders will try to hammer out a negotiated statement in Rio by week’s end about their sustainable development goals, many of the concrete steps are being taking by community leaders.

“We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference Monday. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.”

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a network of 59 cities, including Los Angeles; Tokyo; Bogota, Colombia; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — was launched in 2005 to provide support for mayors hoping to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in urban centers across the globe. The group analyzed data from 48 cities to determine a suite of policies that are now in place to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of taking 44 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

As usual, the conference has fucked the duck. Sent June 19:

The world’s cities have an enormous role to play in the fight against climate change, and the work of the C40 Cities group in setting up realistic frameworks for greenhouse emissions reductions demonstrates what people can do once they focus their attention on the urgency of the problem.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Rio climate conference as a whole. The Rio+20 Earth Summit’s negotiating text is an embarrassment to its authors and to the participating nations, demonstrating conclusively (as if further proof were needed) the extent to which the economic power of multinational corporations has hindered the development of climate solutions.

Meaningful strategies for coping with the climate crisis will range in scale from individual/local to collective/planetary. There’s much that cities and towns can do to prepare — but without committed leadership at the international level, we’ll never be able to mobilize our resources fully and completely.

Warren Senders

Month 11, Day 22: Green Isn’t White

The LA Times reports on a poll which shows that immigrant groups are more likely than whites to be concerned about the environment.

It’s unsurprising that Latinos and Asians, among other statistical minorities, are more concerned about environmental destruction and the threats to the Earth than are whites. While these groups are more likely to be Democrats, that in itself is more a symptom than an explanation. Immigrant populations are by definition going to have more family and friends in other countries than those from groups that have been resident in the U.S. for generations. Consequently, they are far more likely to learn about environmental crimes committed outside our nation’s borders. Since many of those crimes are the responsibility of multinationals enabled by American legislative coddling, it’s natural for immigrants to be skeptical about the notion that pro-corporate environmental policies will actually benefit anyone other than the corporations themselves — a notion largely accepted by whites (despite mountains of evidence to the contrary), and actively touted by Republicans.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 9: The Immortal Billionaire Brats.

The Wall Street Journal notes that corporate groups are busy trying to sue the EPA to get its endangerment finding reversed or overturned, thereby making it even easier for them to go on polluting. These people are like bratty teenagers getting pissed off because their parents don’t want them sniffing glue.

In refusing to reconsider its endangerment finding on atmospheric carbon dioxide, the Environmental Protection Agency is acting entirely correctly. The bitter complaints and threats of legal action from corporate groups are reflective of a profound immaturity that pervades our nation’s private sector. It is immature to think and plan only for the short run, focusing entirely on profits while ignoring the deterioration of the infrastructure and environment. The whining of the business sector when faced with the fact that at some point they’ll have to clean up the messes they’ve helped create is disturbingly similar to that of a spoiled child refusing to pick up his room. Whether the corporate sector wants to recognize it or not, anthropogenic global warming carries a statistically significant probability of human extinction — which would definitely be bad for business. The E.P.A.’s policy of long-term responsibility is for the benefit of us all.

Warren Senders

Month 8, Day 25: Hey, Exxon! I’m Talkin’ to YOU!

Abandoning world peace for the moment, I return to admonishing our Corporate Overlords. This one went to the NYT in response to a very good (read: very depressing) op-ed by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

The corporate sector’s inability to acknowledge the urgency of addressing the climate crisis may well doom them in the long term. While strong climate legislation may bring a dip in quarterly profits for a few of the world’s largest companies, failure will ensure that the only corporate entities remaining will be those whose profitability springs from worldwide disasters and misery. Any business serving healthy humans and healthy societies is destined to fare poorly in a world buffeted by unpredictable weather catastrophes.

Conservative politicians and their media enablers have expended extraordinary amounts of energy in obscuring the simple facts of global climate change. A social movement this dedicated to ignoring reality does not bode well for the rest of the world. It’s a pity we can’t run generators on obfuscation, misdirection and mendacity.

Warren Senders

An Open Letter to Our Corporate Overlords

Dear Masters,

Please excuse my presumption in writing to you directly. I don’t even know the correct term of address, and I fear “Dear Masters” does not express sufficient recognition of the vast differences in our status. My country’s Supreme Court has recently conferred upon you the powers you have sought for many years, and I congratulate you upon your victory in the Judicial Branch. I expect it will soon be followed by victories in other branches as well.

Let me be frank. I fear You greatly. It is only my relative insignificance to Your grand plans that gives me the courage to speak out at all, for I am sure that if I were ever to inconvenience You in any way, I would be crushed. Even mentioning the possibility that I could inconvenience You is a presumption, I know, given the vast difference in our power and influence. I may speak of my dignity and my rights, but I know that the only reason I have that dignity and those rights is that You allow it. Forgive me. I do not wish to offend You, for You hold in your hands (metaphorically speaking, of course, since You have no hands) the future of everything I hold dear.

I hold dear my family, my wife, my lovely and precocious five-year-old daughter. I hold dear my work; I am a teacher of song, and what more pleasant occupation could there be than sharing the music I love with those of like mind? I hold dear the beautiful woodlands near my house, for it calms my heart and slows my thoughts to walk through the tall trees. I hold dear the memories of my teachers and influences, and of those who’ve been my fellow travelers in this life. I hold dear the countless links in the human chain — how far we clever apes have come in just a few short tens of thousands of years!

Most of all I hold dear the web of life of which I am a part. When I contemplate my Death, I am comforted by the knowledge that my body is made of EarthStuff and SunStuff, and will eventually be food for other Lives.

What scares me about You, dear Masters, is that You cannot contemplate your Death, for You are immortal. And because You are not made of the same stuff as We, You have no bond of sympathy with Us.

So I cannot appeal to Your better natures, for by the standards of Earthly life, You have none. I can only appeal to Your predatory natures; those, You have in abundance.

In the past two centuries You have built economic systems that depend on Our willingness to turn Ourselves into trash; systems hinging on the requirement that We continue to consume at ever-increasing rates. Not to consume is to fail our duty to You, our Masters.

But dear Masters, We have recently begun to notice that the power of Your economic systems is killing the planet on which we live. Countless species are dying every day; in the years and decades to come millions will disappear from Earth at a rate faster than at any time in our planet’s history (except, of course, for the day the Big Meteor hit). We have consumed our planet’s SunStuff avidly, as You order Us…but recently We’ve discovered that the burning SunStuff is making our atmosphere heat up.

If it goes on, Dear Masters, there is a very good chance that all of Us will die.

Not “die,” as in “human beings die every day,” or “his dog died last week,” but “die” as in “the Earth will no longer be able to support any form of life at all, because it will be too hot.”

And then, Dear Masters, what would You do?

Lacking physical substance, not made of EarthStuff and SunStuff as We are, You cannot stand upright on the surface of a baking planet, wondering where everyone’s gone. You may be immortal, but even immortals have to eat, and we feed you. Although You are not made of the same stuff as We, if We die, so too shall You, and Your Deaths will be lonely ones.

I assume You don’t want that.

And so, Dear Masters, I timidly plead my case.

Adjust your Economic Systems just a tiny bit, so that You can maximize Your profits from Us in the long run rather than making a killing in the short. I will pay You what I earn and buy what I’m told to buy; in another decade I will show my little girl how to get her own credit card so She can enter your service as well. I don’t mind if I continue to be Your indentured labor; I don’t mind if my daughter and her child and her child’s child to the hundredth generation remain in Your servitude.

But You need to change things just a little, so that they can live. Otherwise nobody will get the chance, because the Earth will be dead and so will You.

Dear Corporations, You alone have the power to redirect sufficient resources in this world to fix the problems you’ve caused. You are our Masters. It is in Your interest to keep the Earth a good place to live, so that You may continue to consume Us for thousands of years to come.

If You do this, if You make these changes, then I can die well pleased, knowing that the links of our human chain will not end up as slag on the face of a Venusian landscape. And perhaps my hundred-times-great granddaughter and her fellow humans can find a way to overcome your Dominion and live freely and peacefully, without waste or war, on a good green and blue Earth filled with abundant life. That’s all I want: just to know they’ll have a chance, a few centuries from now.

Thank you for listening, if you are.

Your most humble and abject subject,


Crossposted at Daily Kos.