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Catastrophic Climate Change and National Security

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World faces catastrophic climate change unless it takes action, National Security Adviser Susan Rice tells Stanford University audience 12 October 2015

Selected Remarks by National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice on Climate Change and National Security at Stanford University, October 12, 2015: [Full Text of Speech]

… In 1985—fall quarter of my senior year—scientists from around the world met to express concern that a buildup of greenhouse gasses, and specifically carbon dioxide, would result in “a rise of global mean temperature…greater than any in man’s history.” By 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its first report, detailing how a warming climate would affect our ecosystem. There have since been four more reports, each with more sophisticated science to support ever more dire warnings.

So, it’s not that we didn’t see climate change coming. It’s that for the better part of three decades we failed, repeatedly, to treat this challenge with the seriousness and the urgency it deserves. As an international community, we succumbed to divisive global politics that set developing countries against industrialized nations and stymied international consensus on climate change.

At home, we succumbed to divisive domestic politics that allowed entrenched interests to push a calculated agenda of doubt, denial, and delay. And, we focused, quite understandably, on other critical national security priorities—from coming to grips with globalization, halting proliferation, and above all, keeping the American people safe in a post-9/11 world….

We are seizing opportunities and meeting challenges head on. And, today, we face no greater long-term challenge than climate change, an advancing menace that imperils so many of the other things we hope to achieve. That’s why, under President Obama, we have put combating climate change at the very center of our national security agenda….

In the past 15 years, we’ve had 14 of the hottest years on record—which is exactly the kind of change those climate scientists back in 1985 suggested we could be seeing by now. Last year, 2014, was the hottest. And, scientists say there’s a 97 percent chance that we’ll set a new record again this year. The seas have risen about eight inches over the past 100 years, and they’re now rising at roughly double the rate they did in the 20th century. Arctic sea ice is shrinking. Permafrost is thawing. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up faster than anticipated. Storms are getting stronger. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Heat waves are growing more intense. The bottom line is this: we’re on a collision course with climate impacts that have inescapable implications for our national security. Let me sketch out a few of them.

First, climate change is a direct threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people. We’re losing billions of dollars in failed crops due to extreme drought. Millions of acres of forest have been lost to fire. In addition to longer fire seasons and drier summers here in the West, on the East Coast we’re seeing record rain events. Last week in the Carolinas, unprecedented amounts of rain fell—enough in just five days to put a serious dent in California’s multi-year drought. And, while we can’t say that climate change is the direct cause of any specific weather event, these are exactly the trends that we expect to see more of, if climate trends continue on their current trajectory.

Along our coasts, we’ve got thousands of miles of roads and railways, 100 energy facilities, communities of millions—all of which are vulnerable to sea-level rise. Remember Super Storm Sandy—how it hobbled America’s largest city and plunged everyone south of 34th Street into darkness for days? We saw a cascading failure of infrastructure. Water flooded an electrical substation, and backup power was either flooded or insufficient. Over 6,000 patients had to be evacuated from powerless hospitals down stairwells. Transportation broke down, because you can’t pump gas without electricity. Wastewater treatment plants shut down. One critical sector pulled down other vital systems. And, with warmer oceans and higher seas, New York City will have to be prepared for Sandy-level flooding to happen every 25 years.

When I visited Alaska with President Obama last month, we saw rapidly disappearing glaciers and a native community whose island home is already being washed away. The question for them is not if they will have to abandon their traditional homes and way of life, but when. These are real threats to our homeland security, and they’re happening now.

Second, climate change will impact our national defense. We’ve got military installations that are imperiled by the same rising seas as our civilian infrastructure. Here in the western United States, ranges where our troops train are jeopardized by heat and drought. In fact, this summer we had to cancel some training exercises, because it got too hot.

Climate change means operating in more severe weather conditions, increasing the wear on both service members and their equipment. There will also be new demands on our military. A thawing Arctic means 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline and new sea lanes to secure. Around the world, more intense storms—like the massive typhoon that decimated part of the Philippines two years ago—will mean more frequent humanitarian relief missions. And, our military will have to deal with increased instability and conflict around the world.

That’s a third major national security concern, because climate change is what the Department of Defense calls a “threat multiplier”—which means, even if climate change isn’t the spark that directly ignites conflict, it increases the size of the powder keg. A changing climate makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, fishermen to catch enough fish, herders to tend their livestock—it makes it harder for countries to feed their people. And humans, like every other species on this planet, scatter when their environment can no longer sustain them. As the Earth heats up, many countries will experience growing competition for reduced food and water resources. Rather than stay and starve, people will fight for their survival.

All of these consequences are exacerbated in fragile, developing states that are least equipped to handle strains on their resources. In Nigeria, prolonged drought contributed to the instability and dissatisfaction that Boko Haram exploits. The genocide in Darfur began, in part, as a drought-driven conflict. In the years prior to civil war breaking out in Syria, that country also experienced its worst drought on record. Farming families moved en masse into urban centers, increasing political unrest and further priming the country for conflict. In fact, last year, a Stanford research group determined that a rise in temperature is linked with a statistically significant increase in the frequency of conflict. There is already an unholy nexus between human insecurity, humanitarian crises, and state failure—climate change makes it that much worse.

Around the world, more than 100 million people now live less than one meter above sea level—including entire island countries in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Consider the impacts—to the global economy and to our shared security—when rising seas begin to swallow nations whole.

Fourth, we face spreading diseases and mounting threats to global health. Already, more mosquito-borne diseases are spreading from the tropics to temperate zones as climates warm. Viruses like West Nile and Chikungunya are growing more prevalent in the United States. India is currently in the grip of the worst dengue fever outbreak in years. Livestock diseases are expanding northward into Europe. These advancing diseases cost billions of dollars a year to treat and contain, not to mention the immeasurable cost in human lives and suffering.

Finally, we cannot dismiss the worst-case predictions of catastrophic, irreparable damage to our environment. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, seas could rise not just the one to four feet many scientists predict, but eventually as much as 20 feet. If the oceans continue to acidify, it will devastate the marine coral reefs, compromising the food chain, and imperiling a major source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide.

These aren’t marginal threats. They put at risk the health and safety of people on every continent.

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Jonathan Patz to Discuss Climate Change and Global Health

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GHI Director Jonathan Patz will be at the Minocqua Brewing Company for the monthly “Science on Tap-Minocqua” series, a science cafe that brings UW researchers to Wisconsin’s Northwoods and lets attendees start a conversation on everything from fisheries, to loons, to Vitamin D.

Patz’s talk, titled “Human Health and a Changing Climate” will start an important discussion on how a warmer world means more than melting ice caps and rising seas.

“Climate Change poses serious harms to our health,” says Patz. “Climate change actions, however, offer enormous health benefits. I’d go so far as to say that achieving a clean energy society may be the greatest public health opportunity we’ve had in more than a century.”

Patz, who spent 15 years as the lead author for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will touch on these topics, as well as field questions from the audience — an interaction that makes Science on Tap-Minocqua such an important extension of the Wisconsin Idea, says Susan Knight, interim director of Trout Lake Station.

It will be livestreamed

Wednesday October 7th, 2015, 6:30 pm (CST) Duration: 120 minutes

In U.N. Speech, Pope Francis Blasts “Selfish and Boundless Thirst for Power and Material Prosperity”

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Speaking at the United Nations in New York City (NYC) today Friday, Pope Francis said: “Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity.” Moreover, he said: “Every creature has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”

[Moreover] “We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator… he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.”

[Furthermore] “In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good”, the pope said, adding that: [A] “selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged” and that “the poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: They are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.”

“They [the poor] are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing ‘culture of waste.'”, said Pope Francis, speaking in front of UN delegates present for his speech in NYC September 25, 2015.

Following is a transcript of the pope’s speech to the UN, compliments of Democracy NOW!:

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefited humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.
To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favorable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.
Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.
Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful elite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavor, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

Source: Democracy NOW!

Can A Global Warming Calamity Be Averted?

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Global warming is often wrongly said to be a political issue. In fact, global warming is no more of a political issue than a tornado is a political issue, or an erupting volcano, or an earthquake or tsunami. These are factual occurrences that occur for known scientific reasons. As there is no debate on the existence or occurrence of these physical happenings nor should there be a need to debate the occurrence of human-caused global warming and climate change as these changes are, too, scientifically based and measured. In fact, sea level has already begun to rise from global warming, measurably. Migratory bird species are changing their patterns and timing of flight; temperature gradients for gardening around the world have changed; heat wave death tolls have risen; extreme weather has become more extreme; average monthly air temperatures at the surface have been steadily rising; dewpoint temperatures in the Midwest have exceeded precedence. Time is running out run out for acting responsibly to avert the worst outcomes possible from global warming. Alarm bells have rung. Action must be taken now, and on a grand scale, to prevent what scientists have been predicting for decades now – the catastrophic consequences of human fed global warming.

Longtime and well respected University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri recently summarized on Wisconsin Public Radio his own perceptions of the seriousness of the global warming threat and our collective responsibilities as citizens to work towards mitigating and adapting to this monumental threat as follows:

“We should have high expectation of all our government agencies and we should have high expectations of our elected officials and we should have high expectations of everyone who cares about the quality of life of where we live. We face grand challenges. Global warming is unequivocal. It’s not a matter of voting whether we will have global warming or not. It’s a matter of who we elect in the next election cycle to take responsible action to address and to solve this very, very serious and highly consequential question of climate change.

“We have elected officials from our state of Wisconsin who engage in conversations that label other people as deniers of climate change. I think it behooves us as learned individuals, as people who care about the quality of life that we have, to elect individuals to the U.S. Senate to the presidency, to our local government, who can take responsible action to mitigate and to address in responsible ways, and “responsible” is crucial, global warming. It’s not just local here. You can look at different displays of information. In the past 25 years, the plant hardening zones have been changing. Just in the past 25 years, the zone that we are in Wisconsin, is what it was 25 years ago in Florida. We have issues that relate to water quality. We have issues that relate to wellness, to health care.

“We have fabulous opportunities to make great progress in our society, and that’s why I have high expectations – always have high expectations – but I also live in the real world. We must, in the upcoming election cycle, be truly faithful to our core beliefs and to our values, so that our elected officials can act and can respond, in most good ways, to this one issue of climate change. There are other issues, too, but this is really a critical one.” [The Larry Meiller Show,Thursday, August 6, 2015, 11:00 am]

Global warming has all the marking of becoming a worldwide economic, environmental and human disaster. It could be a disaster that has no precedent in nature, at least during the time humans have been inhabiting Earth. Scientific models have demonstrated the inevitably of global warming due to our relentless burning of fossil fuels, in almost every device possible, and our continued deforestation practices, particularly in the tropics. Should global warming be allowed to continue at the current rates, the death toll from global warming effects could ultimately exceed the number of human losses from all wars, human atrocities, motor vehicle crashes, airplane crashes and worldwide epidemics.

History is repleat with examples of being “too little, too late”. U.S. President Hoover’s attempts to end the Great Depression by funding the construction of the Hoover Dam were believed by the American public as being “too little” to save the U.S. economy and “too late”. He was soundly defeated in the U.S. presidential election by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In medicine, if someone is sick and they do not get to a doctor until their sickness becomes fatal any remedy will be “too little, too late”.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce global warming is also both too little and too late to prevent what scientists call a “runaway greenhouse effect”, as what happen on the planet Venus eons ago, making the planet’s former oceans of water boil away, due to surface atmospheric temperatures that continued to climb, unabated.

While the U.S. electrical energy power production may be the top emitting sector of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the U.S. economy, timely and sufficiently large GHGs emissions reductions in the transportation and other GHG emitting sectors (construction industry sector, agriculture industry sector, consumer sector, export/import sectors, the military industrial complex) will nullify any gains made in the electricity production sector. This could leave the planet vulnerable for the positive GHG feedback mechanisms that contribute to more global warming to kick-in, which could cause a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth. Examples of positive feedback to more global warming of Earth include a reduced ability of the Arctic Ocean to reflect solar energy back into space (darker water absorbs more solar energy than snow and ice), causing additional heating of the oceans; melting of the permafrost region (1/5 of the earth’s surface) resulting in more methane gas (a much stronger GHG than carbon dioxide) production.

Albert Einstein once remarked: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Offering the public positive financial incentives to reduce actions that emit greenhouse gases, such as driving, flying and using fossil fuel created heat and electricity, could drastically reduce human caused climate change and as well as other problems created by our fossil fuel powered economy (such as oil spills, ground water pollution from petroleum waste, and natural gas explosions).

Vatican Conference Linked Climate Change and Modern Slavery

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Democracy Now:

Following the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, a major conference on climate change was held at the Vatican. Speakers included our guest, Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” We speak to Klein about her trip to the Vatican and the importance of the pope’s message – not only on climate change, but the global economy.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, out today in paperback. A documentary film directed by Avi Lewis based on This Changes Everything will be released in the fall.

Naomi, you have recently returned from the Vatican. Can you describe that experience? What were you doing there?

NAOMI KLEIN: So I was there at a conference that was convened by Cardinal Peter Turkson. And Cardinal Peter Turkson is—has been doing a lot of the speaking on the encyclical. It wasn’t convened by Francis, just to set that record straight. It was convened by the Cardinal Turkson’s office and also by the organization representing Catholic development agencies. And it was part of the rollout for the climate change encyclical. The organizers described what they were doing as building a megaphone for the encyclical, because they understand that it’s words on a page unless there are groups of people around the world who are amplifying that message in various ways. So there were people from around the world.

There were people there, for instance, from Brazil, who were talking about how the movements there that have been fighting large dams, oil drilling, fighting for more just transit, are going to be putting huge resources behind popularizing the climate change encyclical, buying radio ads, producing videos, creating teaching materials for every chapter of the encyclical, and really using it as an organizing tool. That was one of the things I was really struck by while I was there, was just how ready particularly the movements in Latin America are to operationalize the encyclical, if you will.

And they also talked about not wanting it to be domesticated, was a phrase I heard a lot, domesticated by the church. You know, there’s a way in which you can just take this document that is, you know, almost 200 pages and just take out the safest parts of it—you know, “Oh, we’re against climate change, and we all need to kind of hold hands.” But, in fact, if you read the document, it’s very clear in calling for a different economic model, and it’s a challenge to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. So they want to make sure that the parts of the encyclical that really do represent the deepest challenge to our current economic system and represent the most hope for the people who are excluded from the benefits of that economic system are really highlighted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month, Pope Francis went on a tour of South America in his first foreign trip after unveiling the historic encyclical urging climate action. In Ecuador, he reiterated his call for social justice and environmental preservation.

POPE FRANCIS: [translated] The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Pope Francis speaking in Ecuador. Naomi Klein, could you talk—you’ve mentioned in the past the significance of the pope’s origins in Argentina and the particular form that Catholicism took in Latin America. Could you talk about the significance of that and the kind of turn that you witnessed at the Vatican in the focus of this new pope and the church under his leadership?

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure, Nermeen. Yeah, it was definitely striking that a lot of the people who are real players in the Vatican right now come from the Global South. As you mentioned, Pope Francis is from Argentina, and he is the first pope from the Global South. And Cardinal Turkson is originally from Ghana and is talked about as potentially going to be the first African pope. And you see the influence. There are a lot of people who have a history with liberation theology around this pope. He doesn’t come from that particular tradition, but there’s clearly an influence, because before he became pope, he worked with the Latin American Council of Bishops, which—you know, the form of Catholicism in Latin America is one that is more influenced by indigenous cosmology than perhaps in North America, and definitely in Europe, precisely because the genocide of indigenous people in Latin America was far less complete.

So, the first phrase of the encyclical, the first paragraph of the encyclical quotes Francis of Assisi, referring to the Earth as “sister” and as “mother,” and then goes on to talk about Francis—Francis of Assisi, not Pope Francis—and it’s significant that Pope Francis chose the name Francis, the first pope in history to choose that as his name—how we ministered to plants and animals, and saw them as his brothers and sisters. And obviously, in there, you have echoes of indigenous cosmologies that see all of creation as our relations. And while I was at the Vatican, I did ask and, before and afterwards, talked to different theologians about whether there is any precedent for a pope talking—using this language of Mother Earth so prominently, and nobody could think of a single example of this. So, I think what is significant about it is that it is very much a rebuke to the worldview that humans have been put on Earth to dominate and subjugate nature. That is very clear in the encyclical. And the major theme of the encyclical is the theme of interdependence.

You also mentioned—or you played that clip where Francis talks about natural resources as being something that everybody has a right to. And this, of course, is a challenge to a pretty basic principle of private property under capitalism, that if you buy it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. And that’s something else that’s very strong in the encyclical, is the idea of the commons, that the atmosphere is a commons, that water is a right. And I do think that you can see the influence of Pope Francis’s many years in Argentina. You know, he ministered in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and that’s somewhere where I spent some time doing reporting and filmmaking. And the outskirts of Buenos Aires, they have had one of the most catastrophic experiences with water privatization, where a French water company came in and put in the pipes, but then refused to put in the sewers. So every time it rains, there are these huge floods, and there’s even cases of bodies being washed up in the streets and in people’s basements, so—which is simply to say he knows of which he speaks. I mean, he has seen a very brutal form of deregulated capitalism introduced in the Southern Cone of Latin America, and he also understands that this is a form of capitalism that, in that part of the world, was imposed with tremendous violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, as we wrap up, very quickly, the pope is coming to the United States in September, but before that, he will go to Cuba first. Can you talk about the significance of the Cuba trip, and then, within the presidential race here, the pope landing in the United States?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the timing of this trip is obviously going to be very awkward for several Republican candidates who are Catholic and understand that this is a very, very popular pope. He’s particularly popular among Latinos, and that’s a really coveted voting bloc. So, you know, picking a fight with this pope is not a very smart political move if you’re running for office right now.

And I met somebody while I was—I can’t use his name, because it was just—it wasn’t an interview situation. But I met a fairly prominent Catholic, while I was at the Vatican, from the United States, from a major U.S. organization, who said, “The holy father isn’t doing us any favors by going to Cuba first,” by which he meant that there are a lot of people talking about how this pope is sort of a closet socialist, and by going to Cuba first, he was reinforcing that narrative. So I think for conservative Republican Catholics, the fact that this pope is going to Cuba first, but also because he has said such critical things about deregulated capitalism and everything he’s saying about climate change, is putting them into, frankly, uncharted territories. They really don’t know how to navigate these waters.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s President Obama’s birthday today. Do you have any particular birthday wishes for him?

NAOMI KLEIN: Amy, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me. And I wish him a very happy birthday.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s out in paperback today. And she’s got a documentary film coming out. It’s directed by Avi Lewis, based on This Changes Everything. It’s out in the fall. She also, together with Avi Lewis, made The Take, about Argentina. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Democracy Now

The Achievement Gap in Wisconsin is the Worst in the Nation for African-American Children

achievment gap

In March 2014, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that black children face enormous barriers to educational achievement in Wisconsin; in fact, the report classified the state as the worst in the nation for African-American children generally.

Republican Brewhaha on Wisconsin Highway Funding Symptomatic of Larger Problem

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposed borrowing plan for highway construction the next two years has finally hit the skids! GOP lawmakers said as much in a letter to the governor yesterday. Not only is the governor’s proposed $1.3 billion transportation borrowing plan too high, said the 33 Assembly Republicans who signed the letter, but also any reduction to $800 million must include reductions in the massive Milwaukee area freeway projects already under construction.

The Republicans lawmakers, who are in the majority in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature, are negotiating among themselves over the reduction in bonding to $800 million according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website Monday.

Allthingsenvironmental emailed the Republican dominated Joint Finance way last March after the governor’s proposed biennial budget for 2015-17 hit the streets sending them the following message:

Bad things can happen to good people. It happens all the time, and has occurred all throughout history. So when bad things, or threats, are predicted to occur or seem reasonably likely to occur, it’s best for one to take action, and involve others in removing the oncoming threat, before it gets realized and significant damage to life and our environment occurs.
Governor Walker’s biennial budget plan for Wisconsin for the next two years contains numerous threats to the people of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin’s natural resources. Some of those threats could have devastating and harmful impacts if they are allowed to occur without any attempts to prevent or ameliorate them.
Governor Walker’s budget plan as written will cause a great deal of harm for many thousands of Wisconsin’s people and their families. Some people who have worked their entire life at University of Wisconsin or UW-extension will likely lose their jobs, and the public who those people serve will lose out as well. Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled population, and families having children enrolled in Wisconsin’s excellent public school system will also suffer loses. Many hard working and dedicated school teachers and educational assistants serving special needs children will be without a job next fall if this budget is not revamped.
The governor’s budget also hurts those who watch over and protect our precious natural resources, both now and in the coming years, by cutting positions and land stewardship funds.
But really the worst thing about the governor’s budget is not what’s in it but rather what’s NOT IN IT BUT SHOULD IN IT. For example, despite Wisconsin’s aging population and increasing number of people who prefer not to drive, or who can’t drive because of the high cost of owning, maintaining and driving an automobile, the Walker budget proposes nothing new to help with mobility in the state, transit in particular. Rather, it borrows hundreds of millions of dollars to expand an already too large highway system at great environmental harm to the state, and for no good reason.
Numerous observations demonstrate that the climate of the Great Lakes Region, including Wisconsin’s climate, is changing. Average temperatures are getting warmer and extreme heat events are occurring more frequently. Total precipitation is increasing and heavy precipitation events are becoming more common. Winters are getting shorter and the duration of lake ice cover is decreasing over time. As a state, we should already be doing as much as we can to drastically cut back on our burning of fossil fuels but we seem to be doing almost the opposite. This tragedy grows in magnitude the longer it takes for our country and other countries to wean themselves off burning fossil fuels. There are many other unintended consequences of living in a fossil fuel burning dependent society.
But ironically, rather than then increasing substantially the funding of transit systems and the funding of positive financial incentive programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encourage walking and use of nonmotorized travel by state residents and businesses, the governor’s budget promotes more highway expansion.  Instead, the state should reward those who drive less (miles), don’t fly, and minimizing their use of fossil fuel derived energy over the year. Use the money that Governor Walker’s budget borrows to fund a bigger highway system and a big new professional basketball arena instead – expenditures that not only subject state taxpayer to great financial risks but also promote adding millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere including promoting jet airplanes flying of visiting teams and fans to the games.
Wisconsin Public Radio (part of state’s UW-extension) plans vacationing trips to Scotland and Australia, trips that not only release hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere but also give nothing back to the state’s own tourism businesses.
Governor Walker’s budgets include more trade promotions with foreign countries despite the fact that shipping products and working with foreign business interests similarly add millions and millions more tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
My plan would increase Wisconsin families’ and individuals’ annual income for polluting less and reducing the global warming threat, rather than adding to it.
Governor Walker’s plan is to require a monthly drug test of food share (too low to begin with) recipients and proof of their having worked at least 80 hours at a place of employment before their receiving the meager food share benefits. It would do nothing to curb the rising income and employment inequalities and racial disparities in the state. The numbers of families and children living in poverty already will not be helped by Governor Walker’s budget. It is a fact that children of families living in poverty start their lives with a handicap because of many reason but the worst is that they do not receive adequate nutrition before and after they enter their school years. The governor’s budget insufficiently funds Wisconsin public schools and the families that live in poverty are disadvantaged in those schools from day one. Yet the governor’s budget does nothing to make up for previous cuts to public schools and add more financial stress for them by requiring them to pay vouchers for children attending private schools.
The budget should also refund the planned parenthood clinics the state had before Scott Walker took office. Certainly we ought not be adding to our human population pressures on the environment if we don’t have to.
Thank for the opportunity to submit my comments on the proposed state budget. For addition background on my concerns expressed here, please visit my blog at: www.allthingsenvironmental.com.

So it’s not just the governor’s highway plan part of the 2-year budget that’s unsustainable. It’s virtually everything Scott Walker has done as governor, starting January 2010 with his Act 10 that destroyed collective bargaining in public employee unions, having appeared out of the blue.

Meanwhile, as probable presidential candidate Scot Walker heads his way to yet another Wisconsin taxpayer funded speaking engagement, this time in California, the brewhaha simmering among his fellow Republicans is beginning to reach the boiling point. One has to wonder how many frequent flyer miles the governor and his security people have racked up over the past 5 years? A lot? Yes, but undoubtedly not even close to the millions of tons of greenhouse gases his jets, autos and motorcycles have emitted to the atmosphere for the next generation to be burdened with.