5 Jul 2011, 12:01am
environment Politics:

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    Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
  • Year 2, Month 7, Day 5: As Predicted…

    As expected, on June 20 the Supreme Court rejected the 8-state lawsuit against the utility companies, placing the ball once again in the EPA’s court.

    In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court kills a global-warming lawsuit filed by eight states and environmentalists against the nation’s five largest electric power companies. The court says Congress and the EPA already have authority to make rules regulating greenhouse gases and courts need not get involved.

    This one went to the LA Times:

    So it’s unanimous: the EPA has the power to regulate greenhouse emissions and toxic pollutants, and the states do not. The lawsuit against major energy companies was always a long shot, and this ruling is hardly a surprise. What remains for us as citizens is to pressure our federal government to do its duty: preserve the environment for the sake of our children and their children for generations to come. If that doesn’t fall under the general welfare clause of the Constitution, nothing does — for absent a livable planet, all the corporate profits in the world won’t do anyone a bit of good. It is time for the EPA to live up to its mandate, and time for the Obama administration to abandon its timid and incrementalist energy policy. We need to move rapidly; the scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming, and the danger of catastrophe is undeniable.

    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.

    Day 22: To The Boston Phoenix

    I was thinking about time-cycles and the tragic inability of contemporary culture to imagine scales of time significantly larger than our own, and the full dimensions of the SCOTUS ruling became apparent.


    The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in “Citizens United” makes it increasingly likely that the few remaining vestiges of independent thought in our Legislative branch will come under corporate control. Nowhere in our public policy will this have more devastating impact than in the area of climate change. Why? Because corporations are legally required to focus on maximizing short-term profit (quarters and years), and legislators’ attention spans work out at two and six years respectively, due to the nature of electoral cycles — while the slow catastrophe of planetary climaticide will unfold over the sweep of the coming century or so. No wonder it is always “not the right time” to address the climate crisis! It can never be the right time when a three-decade lag between climate action and climate effect is five times longer than the elected term of a U.S. Senator, fifteen times longer than that of a U.S. Representative, and a hundred and twenty times longer than the quarterly attention span of our New Corporate Overlords.

    Warren Senders

    Day 21: To The Medford Transcript

    Because they’re more likely to publish it.

    Today’s SCOTUS decision comes like a kick in the teeth after Tuesday’s slap in the face. I have a faint, vague fluttering of hope that the President will do or say something that helps in next weeks State of the Union address. But that’s a pretty faint fluttering.

    The SC’s ruling was the theme around which this letter was built. Short, sweet, sad.

    The Supreme Court’s decision to deregulate corporate spending on elections will have far-reaching effects on our nation’s politics, and hence on the world’s progress in overcoming the threats posed by catastrophic climate change. Compared to the amount Exxon (for example) spends every year on advertising, the total cost of a national election is a drop in the bucket; corporate speech will dominate our political discourse for decades to come. Say goodbye to the few remaining scraps of genuine political debate. Say goodbye to effective citizen advocacy. Worst of all, say goodbye to the few lone voices of scientific fact trying desperately to call our attention to a looming climate disaster. Because corporate behavior is statutorily focused on short-term profit, outcomes a decade or a century from now are irrelevant. Do worst-case climate scenarios predict Venus-like conditions on Earth within a few centuries? “Who cares? Let’s elect the politicians who’ll maximize our Return on Investment!” This would be an obviously non-partisan issue were it not for the fact that the entire Republican party is utterly and completely in the thrall of corporate interests, and will block any attempts at reform — even when they are obviously in the best interests of the nation as a whole. Not to mention the planet.

    Warren Senders