Year 2, Month 6, Day 20: Lie Back And Think Of An Island Nation

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs an AP piece on the reality of climate refugees. Yow:

OSLO, Norway (AP) — About 42 million people were forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world in 2010, more than double the number during the previous year, experts said Monday.

One reason for the increase in the figure could be climate change, and the international community should be doing more to contain it, the experts said.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said the increase from 17 million displaced people in 2009 was mainly due to the impact of “mega-disasters” such as the massive floods in China and Pakistan and the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti.

This letter is part of my ongoing “total capitulation to the forces of evil” theme. Sent June 6:

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the climate-change denialists are going to change their tune. As the atmosphere warms it’ll hold more moisture, which means more precipitation: snow, rain, sleet, hail. More extreme weather events will mean more climate refugees; as people’s homes and regional economies are destroyed, they’ll have to move elsewhere. And the GOP, the engine of climate denial, will be faced with the consequences of its anti-science policies: more refugees crossing borders, more emergencies requiring intervention, more jobs lost and economies undermined. But what changes denialists’ minds will be the realization on the part of their corporate sponsors that the multiple crises emerging from a runaway greenhouse effect offer enormous opportunities for graft, corruption and profiteering. If offering a license to steal is the only way to get the world’s largest corporations to bring all their resources to bear on climate change, I’m all for it.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 28: La La La La La La La….

The Citizen (Tanzania) runs an article on the recent Gallup poll on the environment, which shows that most American’s just can’t be bothered to worry about global warming.

I’ve never written to Tanzania before:

Sent March 18:

The numbers given by Gallup’s annual polling on the environment are distressing but hardly surprising. Enabled by the country’s promiscuous consumption of fossil fuels, most Americans enjoy many of the privileges of wealth, including that of ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence. Given enough money and comfort, it’s possible to remain oblivious to even the clearest danger or the most egregious injustice. With per-capita CO2 emissions at levels twenty-five times greater than (for example) Bangladesh, the United States is one of the world’s primary drivers of climate change — but with American media and politics increasingly beholden to petroleum interests, it’s unlikely that US citizens will receive the information they need about how their habits of consumption affect the rest of the planet. Ignorance is indeed a luxury; as global warming’s feedback loops quicken, Americans will discover that great wealth is no protection from the consequences of their wastefulness.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 2, Day 4: Actually, ALL Of Us Live On Islands

The Philippines Inquirer runs an article predicting that 2011 is going to have more weather anomalies — a prognostication that falls in the “utterly obvious” category. It’s a much better piece than you’ll find in the American media.

Of course, Filipinos and Filipinas are seeing climate change up close and personal:

Here at home, in Baguio City, millions worth of fruits and vegetables were ruined by heavy frost of an unseasonably cold weather.

More than a week of abnormally heavy rains left 33 dead last December. About 70,000 fled the flash floods and landslides in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Albay.

Our people in those areas remain in turmoil—hundreds of hectares of rice lands, private property and infrastructure destroyed; a total of P431 million in newly planted crops and fertilized soil washed away; and contagious diseases and rat hordes added to their immense misery.

So the least I can do is add a voice in sympathy. As is all too often the case, finding the LTE link was an exercise in frustration.

Ban Ki-moon’s plea to the developed nations of the world is heartfelt and sincere. The unpredictable weather countless nations have experienced over the past year is only the beginning; the orchestra of chaos is only tuning up, and in the decades to come we are going to witness extreme weather events that are certain to shatter record after record. Unfortunately, the political system in the USA has been captured by (to use Theodore Roosevelt’s trenchant phrase) “malefactors of great wealth.” Operatives of the world’s biggest corporations wield almost unchecked power in the halls of American governance, and the notion of a national climate policy based on scientific fact now seems hopelessly unrealistic. The U.N. Secretary General is apparently now refocusing his attention and energy on an economic rationale for changes in the world’s energy economy. Let us hope that “profit” is a more effective motivator than “planet.”

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 11: It’ll Feel Better When It Stops Hurting. But When Will It Stop Hurting?

Well, this sucks:

The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.

The move to delay the rules, announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.

Beating my head against a wall would feel better.

President Obama’s reversal on EPA policy is a shameful capitulation to some of the most environmentally irresponsible elements in the global economy. The big oil companies, unsatisfied with year after year of record-breaking profits, are anxious to undermine the only remaining authority with the capacity to regulate pollution — and the President, incomprehensibly, seems to believe that acceding to their agenda will be a positive step for this country and the world. When accelerating climate change is endangering the world’s agricultural systems, when increased acidity is jeopardizing the ability of our oceans to sustain life, when the scientific evidence for human causes of global warming is irrefutable — it is not the time to bow to the desires of the fossil fuel industry for an even more unconstrained regulatory environment. Fossil fuel is the crack cocaine of the American economy. Why should we reward the dealers?

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 8: Help! I am Trapped in a Consumerist Fortune Cookie Factory!

I just sat down and wrote this thing, and then spent the next hour wondering who to send it to. For the moment, faute de mieux, it’s going to my local newspaper. If anyone has any suggestions, please pass them along.

If humanity as a species is to survive, we must change the way we treat our environment. But for this to happen, we must recognize that the ongoing destruction of our planet’s biodiversity, atmosphere, and oceans is the result of a disastrously misguided conception of economic values. Americans have been told over and over again that our contribution to the common good is to consume. After September 11, then-President Bush famously instructed Americans to go shopping.

When we go shopping, what do we do? We buy thousands of dollars’ worth of plastic merchandise, manufactured in the Third World and packaged in vast quantities of plastic armor which is immediately torn off and thrown away. The products themselves are likely to get used up, destroyed and discarded before too many months have gone by; a trip through an American suburb on “garbage night” shows innumerable trinkets and appliances destined for the landfills. From this perspective, our economy appears to be entirely based on buying things and turning them into trash as quickly as possible.

And, obviously, this economic model is bad for the long-term health of our society. Aside from the fact that ultimately we’ll run out of resources to destroy (the most immediate of which is “peak oil,” the point where our store of hydrocarbon fractions begins to dwindle inexorably), a consumerist model is bad for our mental health. We exhort our children to give back as much as they take, but unless we exemplify these values in our own lives, it’s just moralistic prattle for the youngsters — another example of grownup hypocrisy.

The next few decades will determine whether we live in a world that offers our children and their children the hope of a meaningful future, or a blighted, poisoned landscape clogged beyond recognition with toxic trash. We can’t fix the climate unless we transform our economy. And the way to transform the economy is to focus all (that’s ALL) our power and attention on living in ways that give back more to the Earth than we take out. Americans are woefully ignorant of how to do this; I know I am. But for our grandchildren’s sake, we’d better start learning.

Warren Senders