Year 3, Month 11, Day 29: Found My Way Downstairs And Drank A Cup / Looking Up, I Noticed I Was Late…

The Riverside, CA Press-Enterprise notes a recent study suggesting some folks are waking up:

Nothing like a natural disaster to make you believe in global warming.

A post-election survey of voters found that a majority of Americans understand Hurricane Sandy was made worse by climate change. The survey also found strong majorities of voters connecting climate change to the record high summer temperatures witnessed in 2012 as well as this year’s extraordinary drought.

The survey by Penn Schoen Berland found that 60 percent of Americans who voted in the 2012 presidential election agree with the statement that “global warming made Hurricane Sandy worse.” The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Global warming is affecting extreme weather events in the United States.”

A small but significant number of voters indicated that damage from Hurricane Sandy directly influenced their vote in the presidential election. Twelve percent of respondents said yes when asked, “Did the damage from Hurricane Sandy and the government response influence your vote in the presidential election.” And of those saying yes, 42 percent said it was “a very important factor” in casting their vote.

How much time have we wasted playing pretend games? Sent November 24:

The really troubling part of the Penn Schoen Berland study showing significant change in Americans’ increased awareness of climate change is that fully forty percent of our nation’s citizens don’t recognize a strong correlation even if it’s flooding their basements and dessicating their farmlands. That number testifies to the power of fossil fuel interests and their well-paid media enablers, who have spent enormous time and resources on muddying the debate — fostering confusion where the data instead points overwhelmingly to certainty.

How much more evidence will these doubters require? Clearly the statements of climate scientists won’t do the trick; when conservative politicians must reject even basic science to pass muster with their supporters, the testimony of experts is an irrelevance. Superstorm Sandy hit home for many. Perhaps our nation will only accept the scientific consensus when climate change isn’t just knocking on our doors, but knocking down our homes.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 22: We Have Three Days To Learn To Live Under Water

The Jerusalem Post goes Old Testament, in a column titled, “Noah vs. Isaiah: The Torah Of Climate Change.” The final few paragraphs:

THIS BRINGS us to this week’s reading from the Prophets, which provides a strong counter-balance to Noah’s complacency. Isaiah is the prophet par excellence: He admonishes people to change their behavior, speaks truth to power, and lifts the spirit of a nation with visions of redemption and covenants.

Specifically, Isaiah says this week that just as God promised that “the waters of Noah nevermore would flood the earth,” (Isaiah 54:9) so does the Creator promise never to abandon Israel. Isaiah is the leading light of “social justice prophets,” and whose “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6) designation imparts on us, as Elie Wiesel teaches, a special burden: the responsibility and privilege to rebel.

Noah is the luckiest guy on the planet.

Yet not for other reason you might think.

Noah had a non-burning source of light.

“Tzohar ta’ase lateyva” (Gen 6:16), which some of the commentators say was a precious jewel that glowed and provided light in the ark.

The future of life on the planet is wrapped up in the number 350. To prevent the “end of the world” by adding more than 350 parts per million carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, there needs to be non-fossil-fueled “rays of light.”

We have today all the renewable technologies necessary to power and light the world, yet missing is Isaiah’s fiery spirit. Noah’s spirit of acquiesce dominates; therefore, the waters are rising.

So let’s rise to the challenge. Are there any prophets or rabbis – indeed, any Jews – out there willing to decree solar power a mitzvah and burning the fossil fuel remnants of lost and drowned worlds an abomination? Or perhaps, within five years, a crime against humanity?

Only my father’s side of my family was Jewish, but I’d like to think of myself as having an Apikoros quality. Sent October 15:

Leave aside the terrifying mathematics of atmospheric CO2 for a moment, and contemplate the extraordinary miracle embodied in the fossil fuels that we burn every day. Each unit of fossil energy is the long-preserved sunlight of a time innumerable eons before humanity emerged on Earth. 450 million years ago, during the Carboniferous era, giant trees stretched their branches and leaves to the sun, turning solar energy into living matter before dying and joining a slow accumulation of matter on the forest floor, there to concentrate into pools of oil or deposits of coal.

Human beings, no matter what their origins or beliefs, universally regard the very old as worthy of respect. Whether it’s an ancient document, a building hallowed by millennia of use, or a story passed on through countless generations, we venerate these reminders of our species’ long and magnificent history. How, then, can we in good conscience continue to irresponsibly burn the sunlight of Earth’s early life?

The casual consumption of fossil fuels is an environmental tragedy, a moral predicament, and a profound insult to the antiquity of our planet.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 5: Right Time, Wrong Place?

We need more like this (from the Washington Post):

LONDON — Four climate change activists scaled gates at Queen Elizabeth II’s Buckingham Palace home on Saturday and locked themselves to railings in a protest demanding more urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The group, from the Climate Siren environmentalist movement, wore T-shirts with the slogan “Climate emergency. 10 percent annual emission cuts” and chanted through a loud hailer.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the four had climbed up a gate at the front of the palace and secured themselves to it, sitting with their legs through the railings.

The protesters unfurled a banner quoting a 2008 speech by Prince Charles, the queen’s son and heir, warning over a lack of progress on tacking climate change. It read: “’The doomsday clock of climate change is ticking ever faster towards midnight.”

This letter was an easy one to write. Sent June 24:

It’s easy to share the anger and urgency of the British environmentalists who recently locked themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace. After all, the grim scientific news on climate change is depressingly complemented by the systemic paralysis of our political system when it comes to tackling the most crucial issue of our time.

But those four activists are directing their intensity at the wrong palace. While British royalty offers a telegenic backdrop, they’re not the real villains of the climate crisis. That role is reserved for the giant multinational corporations currently fighting tooth and nail to guard their exorbitant profits against meaningful climate and environment policies. They are the drug dealers to the world, misrepresenting their product as “cheap” and “harmless” when it is neither. The corporate headquarters and boardrooms of these oligarchs are more appropriate targets for the outrage of those justifiably concerned about our threatened planet.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 5: You Can’t Get There From Here

The San Francisco Bay Area would seem to need an upgraded regional public transportation system (San Jose Mercury-News):

“We want to get a sense of whether the public wants this region to continue growing in a way it has for several decades, or whether the public is ready for a change,” said Lisa Klein, a senior transportation planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are jointly developing the plan.

Denser development with more homes per acre near transit centers reduces people’s need to drive to work, school, stores and play, planners say.

But some critics are uncomfortable with the trend they see as heavy-handed pressure to push residents into “stack and pack” housing.

“They base their utopian model on high-density housing with shops underneath, no parking, but a lot of cycling and walking,” said Heather Gass, an Alamo real estate saleswoman, in a blog post critical of the growth plan. “What these people don’t seem to understand is that people move to the suburbs to get away from this type of urban lifestyle.”

Assholes. Sent January 1:

While people may indeed be moving to the suburbs to escape a bike-and-walk urban lifestyle, as a real estate spokeswoman suggests, there is another sort of escape happening in the dispute over increased public transportation in the Bay Area. Simply put, that is the desire to continue convenient amenities while ignoring inconvenient facts.

Like it or not, the next twenty years will see a transformation of American transportation that will outdo the introduction of the automobile in the previous century. As fossil fuels become more expensive in the short term (due to burgeoning extraction costs) we’ll become increasingly aware of how expensive they are in the long term (what with cleanup costs, health impacts, resource wars and the impact of global climate change). And it will become obvious that a car-based economy is no longer sustainable.

Cities and regions that prepare intelligently for this crisis will prosper in the ensuing decades.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 5: FSM Is An Iron

The beaches at Cancun are being eroded. (USA Today) Perhaps building a resort city on a narrow, storm-vulnerable peninsula wasn’t such a great idea?

It’s a sad irony that the beaches of Cancun are under threat from rising seas and intensifying storm systems. The vulnerability of this tourist destination is eerily similar in microcosm to the state of our own global civilization, in which the survival and prosperity of billions of people is predicated on interdependent systems of extraordinary complexity. Food travels hundreds or thousands of miles to reach our tables; the fuel we burn comes from halfway around the globe; the products that support our consumer economy are shipped from China, Pakistan or the Philippines. A disruption anywhere will have huge impacts everywhere; as climate change’s effects are felt across the planet, our lifestyle will be threatened in various and unpredictable ways. Like a resort erected on sand, our civilization is built on a shifting, fundamentally unsustainable platform. One hopes this similarity is not lost on the delegates to the Cancun climate convention.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 2: Get Me Two Packs of Marlboros. With Cheese.

Looks like we’re not going to keep drilling, baby, drilling after all, as the Times reports.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it had rescinded its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast because of weaknesses in federal regulation revealed by the BP oil spill.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that a moratorium on drilling would be in force in those areas for at least seven years, until stronger safety and environmental standards were in place. The move puts off limits millions of acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that hold potentially billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

Well, that’s excellent, and worthy of praise. But I’m just a grouch, I guess.

While it’s certainly good news that the Obama administration has abandoned its plans for further exploratory oil drilling on the East coast of the U.S., it is also a demonstration of just how far we have to go in our long national struggle for an energy economy free from the environmental and fiscal impacts of fossil fuels. Like those of Big Tobacco, the extractive industries’ P.R. aims to persuade us that fossil fuels are clean, safe, cheap and desirable — and all the past century’s collapsed mines, moonscaped mountaintops, sunken drilling platforms, ruptured pipelines, exploded refineries and drunken tanker captains have failed to change our minds. In the light of American intransigence regarding any possibility of a meaningful greenhouse emissions agreement at the Cancun Conference, Secretary Salazar’s announcement reminds one of a morbidly obese person topping off a Supersized order of junk food — with a diet soft drink.

Warren Senders

Month 6, Day 7: Adapt or Die — Choice We Can Believe In

The LA Times has a nice op-ed from Bill McKibben, who is, as usual, uncomfortably correct.

Bill McKibben has it right. The President has the opportunity to turn the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico into a sea-change for America and the world. The millions of gallons of oil now washing ashore on the coasts of Louisiana and Florida illuminate a stark choice: adapt or die. With smaller spills every day of the week around the world, the true costs of fossil fuels can’t be ignored. Are we going to continue basing our way of life on an incredibly dirty commodity, a substance that has profoundly negative effects on our atmosphere, and one which is going to become ever scarcer and costlier in the years to come? Or will America rise to the challenge? Now is the time for an energy economy that does not devastate ecosystems, shatter communities and pour millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We can no longer afford oil.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 24: A Good Head Of Steam Tonight

There was no chance in hell that a mainstream publication would print the following, so I decided to send it to The Nation. I know, preaching to the choir and all that. But it was fun to write, and I’d love to see the “oil and coal reward the stupid and evil” meme get established.

Looking at the smug arrogance of oil and coal executives, one is convinced that a fossil fuel economy is inherently biased to reward the nasty and stupid. Don Blankenship, whose Massey Coal Company has never met a regulatory corner it couldn’t cut? Tony Hayward, who reassuringly tells us that the environmental impact of Deepwater Horizon will be insignificant? Exxon? Chevron? Leaving aside the likely impact of catastrophic global climate change, the huge costs of post-disaster cleanups, and the multiple other factors that make fossil fuels our most expensive energy source in the long term, the behavior of these companies and the individuals who head them is reprehensible at best and stunningly vile at worst. That fact alone should motivate us to move to a new energy economy. If corporations are worthy of personhood, we must ask, “What kind of person threatens the lives of others without thought of the consequences?” Oil and coal reward criminal sociopathy. Which is yet another reason that the world needs to stop rewarding Oil and Coal.

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 5: Sticker Shock

This is, plain and simple, horrible news.

I wrote the following letter to the Boston Globe.

While the Shen Neng disaster is tragic enough for its implications to the world’s largest coral reef and its unique ecosystems, it is also a warning: we need to understand the huge hidden costs of so-called “cheap energy.”

The Chinese coal ship could just as well be a picture of miners with black-lung disease, or a Tennessee village destroyed by a broken coal ash dam, for these tragedies are undeniable costs of the coal we burn. It could just as well be the loss of the polar ice cap, or the terribly devastating storms triggered by global climate change, for these are unacknowledged costs of our addiction to oil. Until our economic models include these factors in the price of our energy (along with the expensive wars we wage to protect our sources), we will be living obliviously and unsustainably. With catastrophic climate change looming on the horizon, it seems clear that our fossil-fueled paradise will soon be going the way of the dinosaurs.

Warren Senders