BY LINDA FALKENSTEIN APRIL 19, 2007
This is the year Al Gore won an Academy Award for his documentary ‘ really more of a disaster movie ‘ about global warming. An Inconvenient Truth was a surprisingly entertaining ride through blind misdeeds to the planet that have left Homo sapiens teetering on the edge of disaster. Is there still time to save life on earth as we know it?
Even as the film made Al Gore the unlikely Angelina Jolie of climate change, the man who was once the next president of the United States was ripped by the right-leaning Tennessee Center for Policy Research for not being energy efficient in his own lifestyle. His home near Nashville, the group charged, uses more than 20 times as much electricity as the national average.
While some have defended Gore and challenged the group’s claims, the incident underscores the importance of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. Turning back the clock on global warming requires not just rhetoric but personal sacrifice.
Governments have an essential role to play. The federal government can insist on higher fuel-efficiency standards and promote alternative sources of energy. President Bush, seen by many as an impediment to progress, has called for a 20% cut in gasoline usage over the next 10 years.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Spencer Black and Sen. Mark Miller have introduced a ‘Global Warming Solutions’ bill modeled on a landmark law in California. It seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels. Black says possible approaches could include the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, the development of biofuels, incentives for buying hybrid cars, an increase in mass transit, and other initiatives to reduce reliance on automobiles.
Locally, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has embraced a ‘Natural Step’ program to maximize the city’s energy efficiency. But the city council last month defeated a proposed ordinance to require landlords to use more energy-efficient lighting.
These initiatives aside, it’s clear, at least to some people, that turning back the clock on global warming will require widespread changes in personal behavior. The whole of our society is complicit in energy policies that have clogged the atmosphere; thus we all need to help find solutions.
But how great a role?
A common criticism is that the kinds of changes recommended for the average Joe ‘ buy a more efficient refrigerator, ease off on the heat and air-conditioning, use fluorescent bulbs ‘ are too slight. But when advocates advance more dramatic proposals ‘ fining people for driving gas guzzlers, making it harder to park, enforcing carpooling ‘ they are met with derision.
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t point to global warming as a looming catastrophe that cries out for forceful action, then ridicule and dismiss all calls for dramatic change.
In Madison, as throughout the nation, some individuals are taking personal responsibility for the problems caused by global warming. They are setting an example for others by altering the way they live their lives.
As we head into the 37th annual Earth Day this weekend, we’ve picked a half-dozen such souls from the Madison community, to present a range of responses to the crisis of global warming.
Finding win-win solutions
Jon Foley is not a pessimist. He knows the challenge is great, but he’s up to it.
‘To pretend everything is fine, to keep on dancing on the deck of the Titanic, is not smart,’ says Foley, 38, director of the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison. But he doesn’t think all is lost: ‘We have to get started on solving these problems now ‘ but we also have some time to keep working on them.’
Foley knows it’s frustrating that many solutions seem small: ‘One percent here and there. But if we keep at it and look at the long term,’ these little actions add up. Besides, encouraging small changes is more effective than ‘screaming at people about how we are going to have to live in caves and eat tofu by candlelight from now on.’
Where is the best place to direct our attentions? Foley plays the ‘win-win’ card. Almost everything that ordinary people do to help save the planet will save them money too.
Among his suggestions: Use compact fluorescents instead of incandescent bulbs. Get a home energy audit. Install additional insulation and weather stripping. Have your furnace inspected, and change the filter regularly for better performance.
Foley doesn’t mince words about SUVs: Don’t drive them. He blames much of the U.S.’s abysmal per-capita energy consumption on these ‘living rooms on wheels.’ Buy a smaller car, he advises, or use the bus system.
In his own case, Foley used to live in Mazomanie and commute. But he moved to live close enough to walk to work. His four-member family, including two drivers, gets by with one car. He takes a taxi when the need arises, which he says is far cheaper than insurance and maintenance on a second car.
Foley and his family have managed to cut their home energy usage in half, mainly through upgrading appliances. They get by without air-conditioning. He’s looking to make other changes to his home, built in 1910 ‘ better windows, a new furnace, maybe even a solar water heater. He sees it as a five-year process. He spins it as ‘not a sacrifice, but living smarter.’
In addition, Foley’s family buys 100% wind power through a green energy program that Madison Gas & Electric hopes to expand in 2008 (currently there’s a waiting list). And he’s planted trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
The good news, says Foley, is that solutions to global warming ‘are in our grasp. We have the engineering solutions we need.’ And while he’s troubled that the state is eying more coal-fired power plants, he’s encouraged by signs that it’s helping to develop cleaner energy.
‘It’s time to become leaders in this field,’ he says. ‘This is a whole new industry, and Wisconsin could become the go-to place in the world for renewable energy and smart biofuels. It’s a great business opportunity.’
Curtailing auto use
Mike Neuman has been working on ‘the car problem,’ as he calls it, for 25 years. His original job for the state Department of Natural Resources was to study the environmental impacts of state highway projects.
Looking at emissions and the effect of highways, he saw that car emissions were clearly causing environmental harm, including forest and wetland loss. And he tied vehicle emissions to an increase in asthma attacks, including the one that killed Madison Times publisher Betty Franklin-Hammonds after a peak traffic period.
In 1999, Neuman made headlines when he proposed a plan to actually pay people not to drive. An uproar ensued, and Neuman ended up being reassigned within the DNR. Having him continue to review environmental impact statements, he says, was ‘just too much for them.’
Neuman cites evidence that the climate is warming faster than scientists previously predicted. ‘We can’t put this off. We have to reduce motor vehicle use, increase mass transit use, particularly buses, get rid of single drivers and instead carpool.’
And while Neuman, 57, still owns a car, he tries to use it as seldom as possible. He bought his near-west-side home more than 20 years ago, and always commuted to his job downtown via bike or bus. ‘I can’t say I’m 100% non-driving, but I’m more watchful in terms of how many miles I drive.’
Neuman considers environmental advocacy his second job. He frequently writes letters to the editor and to public officials. He has testified before legislative committees, and works within groups, including the Preserve Our Climate Coalition and the Madison Bus Advocates. He also writes for madisonindymedia.org on environmental issues.
The number-one thing people can do to combat global warming, says Neuman, is to cut back on auto use. ‘The auto is the worst thing to ever happen to the environment,’ he says.
Well, actually, it’s the second worst thing. Air travel, it turns out, is even more of a burden on the environment, per passenger mile, than driving cars. Neuman suggests that people fly less and ‘invest in forestry somewhere’ to offset the impact of jet fuel emissions.
Andy Olsen, 46, has long cared about the environment. The former Dane County supervisor (and, briefly, Madison alder) is now a policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. He’s working on ‘repowering the Midwest,’ helping farmers invest in cleaner, renewable energies. This involves some ‘rabblerousing in very rural America,’ where farmers and environmentalists have often disagreed. A big part of his work is to form coalitions with ag groups.
Olsen helps farmers to become more energy-efficient and utilize renewable technologies like wind, solar power and biofuel. This allows agriculture to be ‘more part of the solution than the problem’ in terms of global warming. And farmers can own the energy-creating systems, so these initiatives contribute to rural economic development as well as environmental protection.
One innovative project Olsen supports is the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program. It would pay landowners for storing carbon in their soil through ‘no-till crop production and longtime grass-seeding practices.’ The Farmers Union would then trade the carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. Big companies could purchase these credits to offset their emissions. Thus industry would foot the bill to pay farmers for following environmentally sound practices.
At home, too, Olsen looks out for the health of the planet. Last year, as a birthday gift, he got a portable solar panel that folds up like a briefcase ‘ basically a solar generator that recharges batteries.
Olsen and his wife, Debra Stapleton, have bought a hybrid car, invested in a high-efficiency washing machine and an energy-efficient refrigerator and are continuing to weatherize their home. He’s also looking at installing solar space heating. He uses compact fluorescent bulbs, and has given these bulbs as Christmas gifts. Through such means, he estimates he’s cut his energy use by 30%.
‘Before you go solar, start with efficiency,’ he advises. ‘It gives the most bang for your buck.’
Having faith in the future
Dave Steffenson, a Methodist pastor, retired in 2000 and began working with Wisconsin congregations to reduce the ecological footprint of churches and parishioners. He’s now acting director of the Wisconsin Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign, preaching that protecting the planet invokes three central precepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition:
Stewardship. In Genesis, it says the role of humans is to take care of the earth for all creation.
Justice. The role of religion to speak for the voiceless ‘ including, in this case, the natural world.
Values. The prophets and Jesus believed in a life
not based in materialism. People of faith are called on to live a sustainable lifestyle.
Even so, urging people of faith to change their ways is a challenge, says Steffenson, because ‘congregations have not had environmentalism in their self-image.’ Some Christians on the extreme right ‘misunderstand environmental themes, see it as pagan or New Age, nature worship or blasphemy.’ But he sees a shift occurring, especially among younger church members.
Churches themselves can be somewhat wasteful, because they tend to be large buildings that are not in constant use. Steffenson likes to start with noncontroversial changes, like switching to compact fluorescent lighting, and move on to larger projects, like advocacy to the Legislature.
Steffenson, 69, has a long history of activism, starting with civil rights campaigns in the 1960s and the peace movement during the Vietnam War. He became interested in environmental issues when he moved to Green Bay in 1972. The environment, he says, is a ‘good way to get at a whole lot of social issues.’
He moved to central Madison so he could walk more, noting that he’s getting a little old to bike. He owns a hybrid car and buys locally grown food.
‘I’m just one indicator of the religious community in U.S. becoming aware of the threat [to] nature and becoming active,’ says Steffenson, who has 14 grandchildren and is ‘haunted by whether they will curse us in the future. We have a very short time to do the turnaround. That’s what motivates me.’
Pulling out all the stops
Jan Sweet, 48, is not actually a global-warming activist. He is, however, vehemently anti-car.
Sweet’s crusade to reduce oil use would doubtless help combat global warming, even though he is ‘neutral’ on the issue of climate change. ‘Weather does change in cycles,’ he says. ‘I’m not on board with global warming 100%.’
But Sweet does think humans have failed to manage the earth’s resources. Instead, ‘we extracted and exploited,’ creating a world of trouble.
Sweet devotes himself full time to raising public awareness over our finite supply of oil. He fronts a Madison group called Cities Without Cars, devoted to reducing oil dependence and strategizing ways to survive when oil is no longer available.
‘Maybe when the car you have right now reaches its maturity, you don’t get another one,’ he suggests. In the future he foresees, with more co-housing, groups of 25 families could share one or two cars.
He has proposed building new housing without parking and a ban on auto ads. He’s called for capping buildings at five stories in anticipation of the day when there won’t be enough electricity to run elevators. He’d plant fruit trees around town to stave off famine from breakdowns in the food supply.
To the extent that there’s been a response at all to Sweet’s push, it’s been hostile. A Wisconsin State Journal editorial has deemed his proposals ‘twaddle.’
Yet it may be a misstep to dismiss his ideas out of hand. One of Sweet’s more recent proposals, to charge drivers a toll to drive into central Madison, is modeled on a system adopted in London in 2003. If you’ve ever been stalled in a bottleneck on East Johnson or University Avenue heading in or out of the isthmus, you can see how the argument makes some sense. Even if everyone were driving a Prius, there would still be a traffic jam.
Sweet’s concerns about cars destroying communities started decades ago, when he went to the UW-Milwaukee for a degree in urban planning. He gave up his car in late 1980s. ‘The first year was the hardest,’ he relates. ‘It gets easier.’ Living in Madison ‘ a walkable city with good public transportation ‘ makes things a bit easier.
If some of Sweet’s ‘little economies’ seem a bit offbeat, his goal is sincere: ‘I’m tickled to think that I am doing something to help Madison.’
Getting by with less
Marion Stuenkel is so conscious of her carbon output she didn’t go to a family gathering in Ohio last Christmas. The 60-year-old grandmother could have ridden in a car with other family members ‘ as they pointed out, she wouldn’t be using up any extra energy ‘ but Stuenkel held her ground. ‘You have to give up the idea that you will only be happy through traveling,’ she says.
Stuenkel’s parents were conservationists. Her father, a steelworker, once turned down a job at a nuclear plant: ‘There was always a sense that we were mindful of the environment.’ She moved to Madison in 1993, in part to be closer to her son. ‘I didn’t want to waste energy going back and forth from New Mexico to Wisconsin.’
Last year, Stuenkel retired from her state job, after calculating that she could get by on retirement benefits. Given her lifestyle, it doesn’t take much.
Stuenkel avoids shopping, because ‘we don’t need all this stuff that we’re advertised into buying.’ She walks or takes a bus most places she goes; she owns only a few pieces of clothing; she drinks tap water. Her view is that stuff generates more stuff: If you buy books, you need a bookcase. Clothes need hangers. Bottled water generates bottles.
Because most grocery store food is transported long distances, she buys food only at farmers’ markets. That means this time of year, her diet is ‘somewhat restricted.’ The one indulgence she hasn’t given up, yet, is coffee.
If this makes retirement ‘ a time when others are playing golf and taking Caribbean cruises ‘ sound like enforced penury, Stuenkel doesn’t see it that way. As she puts it, ‘Working all your life does not give you license to destroy the environment.’
Stuenkel admits it’s been hard not to travel. She’d always dreamed of seeing the Great Wall of China; she has friends in New Mexico and a Swedish exchange ‘sister’ she may never see again. But she prefers to see the positives in staying put. She calls it ‘gathering appreciation’ and ‘swearing stability.’
In her 644-square-foot apartment on Madison’s east side, Stuenkel unplugs appliances (including her refrigerator) when they’re not in use and relies on natural light when she can. If she needs to use the Internet, she goes to the library. She uses a solar oven for her personal cooking. It’s portable and can cook eggs in about two hours, she reports, so long as the sun is shining. And when it’s not? ‘You don’t always have to eat cooked food.’
While Stuenkel believes in everything she’s doing, she is not one to force her practices on others. But she thinks others will come around as the need for change becomes more evident.
‘All this stuff has been thought of before and shoved aside,’ she says. ‘Thoreau has one paragraph that says it all.’ She’s referring, of course, to his classic advice: ‘Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!’ He wasn’t ahead of his time, says Stuenkel, so much as we are behind ours.
Doomsday Clock Has Moved Ever Closer Closer to Midnight, Signalling Major Change in Status Quo is Necessary Now to Avoid Armageddon
And as 2018 begins with the clock’s hands 2 minutes from midnight, the urgency for addressing the threats of global warming and nuclear war is now greater than ever before.
Though 70 years have passed since the Doomsday Clock debuted, human survival from these threats has never been greater. Human activity has set the stage for planetwide peril and only swift and unparalleled human action can change the course of our future. The ongoing changes to the Doomsday Clock not only serve as a warning about a dire situation but are also a call to action to shape a safer and more sustainable path for us all, Kennette Benedict, a senior adviser to the BAS, said in a statement.
Unfortunately, for today’s young and future inhabitants, both these outcomes are irreversible yet our political leaders in this country are failing to take the actions that are needed now to arrest the warming and get rid of all nuclear weapons!
It is a “now or never” situation on both runaway global warming and nuclear destruction of our planet for the long term. And please also consider the suffering and extinction of so many of Earth wildlife and also the many millions of domesticated animals like cats, dogs and many other species of life that will ultimately have no choice but to succumb to the world with unending climate havoc.
We are not the only life on Earth likely to be wiped out of existence due to our foolish, selfish and excessive burning of fossil fuels and the pavement of our planet’s limited green space. There are many billions and trillions of other forms of life that have occupied this planet long before humans existed on Earth. We have a responsibility and obligation to all those species, and all future species for that matter, not to not only to not destroy this “home” for so many of God’s creatures, but also to maintain this Earth in at least as good a condition for life as it was in when we humans began our occupation of Earth’s lands and seas.
Our Federal, State and Local Governments Have Failed Us All, Big Time, on Human Caused Global Warming, the Many Increasingly Severe and Costly Extreme Weather Events Occurring this Century Already, and Projected to Continue Worsening Global Warming Impacts, Which Will Especially Affect Every Child Living Today, and Every Other Creature that Lives on the Surface Now and in the Future
Our country’s and other countries’ federal, state and local governments continue to be negligent by not sufficiently taking on the necessary actions to bring human-caused global warming and the countless impacts of global warming caused climate changes, extreme and dangerous weather occurrences, rising and changing oceans, lakes, rivers and the many regions of the world. Concerted and effective actions by all citizens of the world that will bring about the necessary reductions in emissions from all people, businesses, organizations, institutions and governments to protect all who live on Earth and future inhabitants of Earth. The actions are already late. However, the adage that such actions are “better late than never” most certainly applies since to continue adding to the already accumulating volume of those gases in Earth’s biosphere (atmosphere and water bodies) is most definitely going to amplify the negative and increasingly dangerous physical,social and economic changes to our world and planet.
A famous civil rights leader, who lived in the last century and who’s birthday is celebrated every January in the United States, and recognized as an official U.S. holiday, once said: “the time is always ripe to be right” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). That is equally applicable to everyone fighting global warming by reducing their daily, monthly and annual greenhouse gas emissions to a flat minimum, and without anymore delay!
President John F. Kennedy’s Historic Inauguration Speech and Famous Words Challenging All Americans and People of the World
Hear and watch John F. Kennedy being sworn in as the thirty-fifth President of the United States and delivering his iconic inaugural speech on 20 January 1961 here.
Kennedy’s inaugural address is considered among the best presidential inaugural speeches in American history. The address took 13 minutes and 42 seconds to deliver.
The inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States was held on Friday, January 20, 1961 at the eastern portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The inauguration marked the commencement of John F. Kennedy’s only term as President and of Lyndon B. Johnson’s only term as Vice President. Kennedy died 2 years, 306 days into this term, and Johnson succeeded to the presidency.
Kennedy took office following the November 1960 presidential election, in which he narrowly defeated Richard Nixon, the then–incumbent Vice President. He became the youngest person elected to the office at the age of 43.
While his presidency lasted only 34 months, his political accomplishments helped cement his legacy as one of the greatest U.S. presidents. A transcript of his historic speech follows (Indented passages added by this writer for emphasis):
January 20, 1961
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice president Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge–and more.
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom-and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.
- If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.
- to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.
- So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.
Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.”
And if a beach-head of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
- Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
- And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Mass. His parents were Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in while traveling with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife, Nellie, in a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Photo below was taken shortly the assassination.