Climate Change in the ‘Hood

On Class M, James Hrynyshyn shows us how climate change will benefit the economies of some U.S. counties while damaging many others. This mostly has to do with location; coastal areas and southern latitudes are more threatened, with Florida poised to suffer worst of all. James writes, “we’re not just talking about polar bears anymore. It’s now about jobs, wages, infrastructure, crime.” Meanwhile, William M. Connolley reports Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf is 12% smaller due to a giant iceberg splitting off and heading (presumably) toward Miami. Greg Laden says denial of global warming has shaped political discourse for decades, thanks to “deep pocketed one percenters and corporations harboring the unfortunate delusion that if we pretend climate change is not caused by the burning of fossil fuels, everything will be fine and they’ll keep getting rich.” But public awareness of the problem, like sea level, continues to rise.

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Thanksgiving Gratitude and #NoDAPL

Today is about American tradition, and feeling grateful for all that we have been given. The first Thanksgiving represented the gratitude of American settlers towards the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited this country. It is about the men and women who came to North America on the Mayflower giving back to the men and women who helped them to survive in the ‘new’ world. It is about Tisquantum, a Patuxet enslaved by a Briton, sold in Spain, liberated by monks, and steeped in the English language before returning to his homeland and teaching the colonists to “catch eel and grow corn.” It is about Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag, who “had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.” It is about coming to understanding with your adversaries and beginning life anew.

Although Thanksgiving is literally about gratitude toward Native Americans, many today will be content to stuff themselves with industrial meat and processed foods, purchased for the least price from the most socially and environmentally irresponsible corporation, all while whooping about football games on television and waxing philosophical about the acceptability of the Cleveland ‘Indians’ logo, Chief Wahoo. Not to mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, in the Dakotas, the bloody history of our republic repeats itself. Time and again we have appeased Native Americans with treaties only to turn around and break them violently for the sake of our ‘progress’ and ‘manifest destiny.’ While your Uncle Bob cheers on his favorite team today, many Americans in the heartland are literally at war. I imagine the diverse community at Standing Rock has much to be thankful for: their own resilience, the aid and sympathy of people from around the world, and their mighty river, the Missouri, which they are trying to protect from harm. What the peaceful warriors at Standing Rock will NOT be thankful for are the mercenaries assaulting them with pepper spray, rubber bullets, water hoses, and concussion grenades. #NoDAPL is not just a native issue: it is relevant to all individuals concerned that climate change is a moral and existential threat to humanity. Scientists should be on the front lines among the water protectors demanding that the new 1172-mile-long oil pipeline, the ‘great black snake’ connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Illinois, should not be made whole. We must ALL demand that the Dakota Access Pipeline remains unliving. Because President Obama, in his usual modus operandi, is not about to lift a finger.

See also: Hundreds Of Veterans “Self-Deploy” To Standing Rock To Defend Protesters

Fossil Fuel, Wildfire, and Fort McMurray

Four weeks after a wildfire began in the Canadian province of Alberta, thousands of structures in Fort McMurray have been destroyed, over 100,000 people have been evacuated, and 2200 square miles have gone up in smoke. The fire has also shut down commercial extraction of tar sands, a source of fossil fuel and the reason for Fort McMurray’s prosperity. Greg Laden points out the perverse cause and effect of it all: tar sands contribute to global warming, global warming contributes to weather variation and drought, drought makes regions extra-vulnerable to wildfire, and wildfire shuts down tar sands extraction. While it’s tempting to think residents of Fort McMurray are ‘getting what they deserve’ for their involvement with fossil fuels, Greg Laden writes “the people of Fort McMurray did not decide to cause climate change.” As John DuPuis says on Confessions of a Science Librarian, “The issues around fossil fuel development that have gotten us into the trouble we’re in are systemic and historic, not in any way directly the fault of the actual people who are caught in this situation.” Thus, the short-term need for disaster relief is independent of the long-term need to stop using fossil fuels.

See also: Ft McMurray Fire and Climate Change: Michael Mann Comments

Fracked Over for Natural Gas

Research makes it increasingly clear that along with drilling for oil and mining coal, extracting natural gas from deep underground causes serious damage to the environment and to public health. On The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg examines the contamination that may result from dumping fracking wastewater into disposal wells, writing “about 1,000 different chemicals are used in the fracking industry, with more than 100 being known or suspected endocrine disruptors.” Researchers collected water samples downstream from wells in West Virginia, and after “exposing both female and male mammalian sex hormones to the water, researchers found that the water blocked the hormones’ normal processes.” In another study, researchers found “fracking wastewater disposal wells in southern Texas are disproportionately permitted in areas with higher proportions of people of color and people living in poverty.” Meanwhile, air pollution around fracking sites may contribute to skin conditions and respiratory disease. While the science surrounding pollution from hydraulic fracturing is far from settled, many fingers point in the same direction: fracking is bad news for communities and for the planet.

At The Nation, Bill McKibben reports that unbeknownst to the EPA, “US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent” between 2002 and 2014. The culprit? Leaky natural gas infrastructure. Although methane lingers in the atmosphere for less time than carbon dioxide, it traps heat much more efficiently. McKibben says the true extent of methane leaked from fracking means that the rate of greenhouse gas emissions during the Obama administration has been higher than previously estimated, and could actually be increasing. Fracking is also a technology that the U.S. has pushed worldwide, and we can expect to see both its local and planetary effects multiplied many times over. As McKibben concludes, “we need to stop the fracking industry in its tracks, here and abroad.”

Keeping Hillary off the Half Dollar

In January, Hillary Clinton still possessed the benefit of the doubt. Memories of her and Bill snarling at Barack Obama in 2008 had faded, and despite her long and dreadful record, it’s always possible to turn over a new leaf. But Clinton’s ongoing response to Bernie Sanders shows why she is unfit for the presidency. Even as the frontrunner, Hillary shows no leadership ability; she, too, follows Sanders, trailing him to the left as he takes meaningful positions on issues like income inequality and campaign finance reform. Her saccharine smile says “I can do that too!” but truly she should be inspired by competition, not forced to shift uncomfortably because of it. Her recent anger at being asked about money from the fossil fuel industry illustrates her shortcomings perfectly. Confronted with a fair election, faced with her own record, she becomes defensive instead of inspired. She says something that isn’t true to blunt the inappropriateness of her rage. She enjoys the benefits of Citizens United just as they were meant to be enjoyed: as a carte blanche that allows her and other mainstream candidates to deny the corrupting influence of big money even as millions of industry dollars are spent on her behalf.

But Clinton has never shown interest in a fair contest; she moved to New York in 2000 because it was the only state in the union that might elect her to the Senate. In her 2008 bid for the White House she carried herself as though presidential candidates are anointed by the Democratic National Committee, a private organization having no constitutional roots. She dismissed the possibility of nominating Obama just as she has dismissed Sanders. She and her jolly encampment harp on her inevitability; one of their favorite terms for her is “our next president.” Having every superdelegate in your pantsuit pocket is one thing, but insulting Americans by saying they have no choice is just asking to get burned.

Clinton seems to think her sex, along with her inimitable résumé, is a golden halo; although she is a lackluster feminist, she yearns to set a historical precedent as the first female president, and casts aspersions on anyone who would deny her the opportunity. Look at her inane campaign slogan: “I’m With Her.” But do you remember Gloria Steinem, advocating for Hillary, saying girls who support Bernie are only doing it to impress the boys? Do you remember the Clintons throwing Monica Lewinsky under the bus after Bill had thoroughly exploited her in the Oval Office? According to CNN, Hillary called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon,” which is at least somewhat ironic. And do you remember Hillary deliberately praising Nancy Reagan for her crusade against AIDS last month, either out of sheer ignorance or else to saint the memory of an arch-conservative? Do you remember how until 2013 she advocated against gay marriage and now she thinks it’s great? Hillary Clinton is not a feminist, she’s simply a woman, and if that’s her strongest claim to the White House, it’s not enough. Her posturing is sexist in and of itself.

Meanwhile Clinton and her handlers and her campaign staff and the last godforsaken newspapers in this country have worked tirelessly to influence public perception with rhetoric and omission rather than take a stand on important issues. Outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times have seriously undermined their credibility by covering this race not as a democratic contest, but as a victory march beset by ungrateful and even dangerous support for Bernie Sanders. First they say “Sanders can’t win” and then they say “Unite! Or Trump will take over in November” and now they say “Bernie is fighting dirty!”

But let’s think about Donald Trump for a minute. Like Hillary, Trump has a long public record, and along with the fact that he used to be very liberal, we all know he’s a world-class hustler and con artist. One thing Trump repeats throughout his fascist babblings is true: he’s a really smart guy. He knows exactly what he’s doing. But do we? Even if he becomes more centrist and “presidential” in the coming months he’ll never win back women and minority voters. But everything he says riles up the GOP’s most steadfast supporters, which is why he can’t be denied their nomination without the whole party going down in flames. Trump’s campaign has been carefully calculated to disrupt and even destroy the GOP. Should he win their nomination, he should be an easy target for the democratic coalition and sensible independents and Republicans.

There are two things that matter to the future of the United States in 2016: income inequality and climate change. Not surprisingly, they are directly related. They both result from an economic system that gives corporations free rein. Like King George III in the colonial era, corporations exploit us with no intent of letting us gain independence. They are designed to pay laborers as little as possible, tell sell the fruits of labor for as much as possible, and to keep all the profit for themselves. As a result the middle class becomes steadily less rich and more people slip into poverty, where some resort to crime. The U.S. compensates for the criminality it engenders by imprisoning more people than any other nation on Earth, and the truly sickening part of it is, many U.S. prisons are now privately owned and for-profit. They want more human beings within their walls, for longer periods of time. Corporations control the media through advertising dollars, and control the government through campaign contributions and even “speaking fees.” They control you and me. This is not how America is supposed to work.

The image at the top of this post shows two cents: the so-called Indian Head and the Lincoln. The Native American figure is not just anyone; she’s a woman, she’s a symbol, and she has a name: Columbia. She appeared on the cent for 116 years; Lincoln has been on it for 107. While the tradition of a noble women conferring respectability on a country’s coinage predates the United States, Columbia once provided to us a beautiful symbol of ourselves, long before she briefly appropriated the ceremonial headdress. In 1909, Abraham Lincoln was the first historical figure to appear on a United States coin, and now our pockets and purses are full of mens’ heads. Even the heraldic eagle has been removed from the quarter in favor of honorary dioramas. This is the best ideal we aspire to now: fame, or at least enough influence to leave a mark and thus be remembered. We used to aspire to something greater: justice for all. Despite the fact that he’s a democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders offers a return to our foundational roots, the chance to re-assert our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, rather than the right to liberalism, and the pursuit of security. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, probably wants her profile on the half dollar.

The global ecosystems that nurtured us as a species are withering all around us; climate change is not only raising sea levels, it’s precipitating mass extinction that will likely lead to our own. Even if some of us survive, we won’t be human anymore, we will evolve into something else—hopefully something that can metabolize ash and plastic. Our pollinators are dying, the last big animals on Earth will no longer be wild, and ocean acidification may wipe out the food chain.  There will be so many of us and our new smartphones that we will starve, or else live on bread and jellyfish and soylent whatever. Capitalism has played a valuable role in the development of our economies; but the hard truth is that our economies must not be developed any more, they must be stabilized, streamlined, and even diminished. Democratic socialism is the future, and it is also the present, as some European countries exemplify. Personally I like being human, and I think every human being has the right to be grateful for their existence, and that is why I will vote for Bernie Sanders. I encourage everyone who still has a say in this primary to do the same. It is time to demand that our policies are determined by science and not by for-profit interests.

I understand that you make think of Hillary as your ally, I understand that many in Congress and the executive branch have worked with her and respect her, I understand that she herself is friends with many on Wall Street and around New York; she and her family have made connections everywhere. I don’t think Clinton is a bad person. But I know she has never been a leader.

This election is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s about more than personal loyalty. Bernie Sanders has offered America the possibility of a political revolution. Without it, we will run the risk of a real one. That’s my two cents.

Et tu, Exxon?

New reporting by Inside Climate News shows that petroleum giant Exxon knew, more than thirty years ago, that burning too much fossil fuel would cause catastrophic climate change. Comparing Exxon’s subsequent emphasis on profits over planetary health to the efforts of Big Tobacco hiding the dangers of cigarettes, PZ Myers writes “the future is going to look back on rabid capitalism as one of the damning pathologies of our history.” Now that the wider public is accepting the fact that anthropogenic global warming will transform and could destroy our way of life, Exxon is very much on the hook. Greg Laden, conducting data analysis to prove the accuracy of Exxon’s early research, asks “How surprised should we be that a major corporation would both look into and ignore, possibly even repress, the science associated with their primary activity?” While a conspiracy comes to mind, William M. Connolley is a bit more circumspect on Stoat, noting that Exxon’s research, building on well-known science, appeared in the peer-reviewed literature. Connolley writes, “confirming publically available information with other publically information available is hardly the stuff of deep dark secrets.” But with the public face of Exxon obfuscating the truth since 1989, it’s hard not to look at them as evildoers. See also: Exxon speaks.

No Rest for the Warming

Climate change denialists are apt to grasp at straws, which may explain their heralding of a global warming “hiatus” or “pause” that since 1998 has supposedly invalidated scientific consensus and its models of climate change. Clearer and more clever heads have renamed the hiatus a “faux pause,” playing off the French faux pas which means false step or blunder. For one thing, the data showed only a relative slowdown in warming, not a pause; temperatures were still increasing. As Greg Laden says, “a hiatus or a pause in global warming is at present physically impossible.” Now a new paper published in Science suggests that even the extent of the slowdown was overestimated. Furthermore, the slowdown jibes with ongoing natural variations in surface temperature, as modulated by, for example, El Niño and La Niña events, and does not contradict the long-term upward trend. Greg says that any scientist championing the “pause” is either ignorant or “willfully obfuscating the science, in an effort to distract from the reality of human caused climate change.” Meanwhile, on Stoat, William M. Connolley notes a pointed revision to the Wikipedia entry on the so-called hiatus.