Tag Archives: environment

Join the U.S. Climate Strike

I am reproducing here with minor edits a message from MoveOn on behalf of Isra Hirsi, a leader of the US Youth Climate Strike movement. The US Youth Climate Strike group has helped organize national climate strikes this year and has been pushing candidates to demand a climate debate. On Friday, September 20, hundreds of thousands across the U.S.—along with millions across the globe—will hold the national U.S. Climate Strike. 

Everyone has the right to a future in a sustainable world. But today, that future is under threat because of climate change caused by carbon pollution. And right now, communities are being devastated by the current impacts of the climate crisis, with communities of color and low-income communities bearing the biggest burden.

It’s time to take our destiny out of the hands of fossil fuel billionaires and the politicians who enable them. It’s time to take to the streets to demand the future that we deserve. 

Hundreds of Climate Strike actions are taking place across the country on Friday, September 20. Join the fight to address the climate crisis. RSVP here for an event near you.

If you’re in New York City, the Climate Strike in Manhattan details are:

New York City Climate Strike with Greta Thunberg
Start: Friday, September 20, 2019 12:00 PM
Foley Square
1 Federal Plaza
New York City, NY 10013
Host Contact Info: alexandria.villasenor@gmail.com

For other locations, click this link: https://bit.ly/2mbIZYn

My message to followers:

I have been writing about Trump’s repeated degradation of the environment which grows more dangerous with every passing day. It’s time to demonstrate that he and his Republican enablers have gone way too far and to send the message that there will be political consequences if the administration does not reverse course. This is a problem from which no one alive will be able to escape. It is bearing down on us with horrifying speed. Trump and his followers believe the Earth was put here for human exploitation and that exploitation can continue indefinitely without consequence. The overwhelming scientific consensus says otherwise. The very habitability of the planet is at stake. Join the US Youth Climate Strike on September 20 to demand immediate change in U.S. environmental policy.

March for Science on Earth Day – April 22 & Write the EPA

Having just come off the Tax March this past Saturday, my aching back is preparing for another long walk on Earth Day, April 22. While it is likely that Not-My-President Trump will be vacationing and golfing yet again at his Mar-a-Lago palace in Florida, the event will surely attract media attention and, like the Tax March, Trump will be watching. This was his tweet about the Tax March:

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump  Apr 16

Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!

And my response:

ShiningSeaUSA‏ @ShiningSeaUSA  Replying to @realDonaldTrump

Not small. I was there. U were playing king in FL castle. Paid my own way. U didn’t. One election over. Next one not.

He will likely lie about the size and intensity of the March for Science just as he did about the Tax March. But the people will keep marching and he will keep lying until maybe, just maybe, the Russia connection will be uncovered and he will face the unpleasant music that grows louder with each revelation. The drumbeat grows stronger every week and Trump can hear it even through the walls of the White House, Trump Tower and his palace in Florida.

Meanwhile, we’re stuck with him and everyone … and I mean everyone … has a decision to make. Trump and his team of corporate insiders are rapidly dismantling critical environmental protections established from as far back as the Clinton administration. Trump and his gang of thieves appear to believe that they and their ultra-privileged heirs can afford to buy all the clean water they want and that by some magic trick, they will be able to avoid breathing the polluted air their friends will spew into the atmosphere once freed of the EPA’s controls. The Washington Post reports that the overwhelming majority of comments to the Commerce Department regarding the Trump “regulatory rollback” relate, directly or indirectly, to the EPA and the environmental restraints on the polluting industries.  http://wapo.st/2onrSyr. The polluters are demanding the freedom to wreak havoc on the world and we are all that stands in the way.

Meanwhile, the EPA itself is soliciting comments on the Trump regulatory rollback. See https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190. As of this writing there were already 723 comments filed. The comment deadline is May 15, 2017. You can file anonymously if you must, but you will be joining hundreds of Americans who are objecting to the slash-and-burn policies of the Trump administration. Filing is easy. Read just a few of the other comments and then just say what you believe. Your life and the lives of your descendants may depend on thwarting the administration in its campaign to sell out America to the polluters.

This is what democracy looks like. It takes some work but it can do the job if we support it. Don’t let Trump’s people get away with saying “we asked for input and didn’t get much, therefore we conclude that the public is on board with our program to eliminate meaningful environmental regulations.” If you can’t join the marches for whatever reason, let your fingers do the walking for you by objecting to the end of responsible environmental regulation. Do it now. Please.

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Surely Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the smartest, and I think also the funniest, humans on Earth.

In Death by Black Hole (2007) he devoted the first chapter, “Coming to Our Senses,” to the reality that the five senses humans enjoy, while robust for many purposes, are insufficient to help us understand the world and the universe. He wrote this:

“Consider that the human machine, while good at decoding the basics of our immediate environment – like when its day or night or when a creature is about to eat us – has very little talent for decoding how the rest of nature works without the tools of science. If we want to know what’s out there then we require detectors other than the ones we are born with. In nearly every case, the job of a scientific apparatus is to transcend the breadth and depth of our senses.” [Death by Black Hole at 26]

He expanded that idea by noting that the development of our senses as we grow up helps us make sense of the world but almost no scientific discoveries in the past hundred years were accomplished by relying just on our senses. Instead, they came through the use of mathematics and human-created hardware. Id. at 29.

And finally Tyson made this powerful point:

“Our five senses even interfere with sensible answers to stupid metaphysical questions like, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”” My best answer is, “How do you know it fell?” But that just gets people angry. So I offer a senseless analogy, “Q: If you can’t smell the carbon monoxide, then how do you know it’s there? A: You drop dead.” In modern times, if the sole measure of what’s out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.” [Id. at 30]

That brings me to the environment “agenda” of Not-My-President Trump. His proposed budget, which is subject to review and adoption by Congress, seeks to lay off 25 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency staff, terminate 56 programs involving restoration of some of America’s largest and dangerously polluted bodies of water (the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay). See details at http://wapo.st/2nJy9FX.

To the extent that there is any solace in these proposals, some funding would be directed at the states who would, in theory, act to protect the environment in lieu of the federal government. However, at the root of this view is the inevitability that the influence of the large polluters on state regulators is likely to be significantly greater than they have been able to exercise at the federal level. The threat to “move our assets, and jobs, elsewhere” is powerful lever against aggressive environmental regulation by states and localities, creating a “race to the bottom” among the states to show the big polluters that they are a “coal friendly” or “farmer friendly” state where regulation in the name of the environment is nothing to be feared.

In addition to the possibility, however remote, that the Republican-dominated Congress will reject those drastic cuts, coalitions of environmental groups are using the courts to challenge Trump’s effort to turn environmental protection over to the polluters. See http://wapo.st/2nMn7B6. These actions portend a long fight to protect the country and the world from the Trump agenda to reduce or eliminate regulation of corporate behavior in the interest of the biosphere.

Trump’s approach to the environment is not a “conservative” program. It more closely resembles something an anarchist would propose. Not surprising, perhaps, considering the prominent position at Trump’s right and left hands of Steve Bannon who has vowed to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

There can be no reasonable doubt that the implementation of Trump’s plans will result in many deaths, not only of animals and their habitat, but of humans as well. I haven’t seen any estimates, partly, I think, because Trump’s proposals are in a state of flux and get more draconian with each iteration. But deaths will surely result, along with more black lung disease, cancer and other avoidable ailments arising from lack of care for the environment.

The number and quality of “new jobs” created due to the removal of environmental protections will be miniscule compared to the costs to humans and the planet. All of the regulations that Trump is now sweeping away through Executive Orders and budget hatchet jobs were carefully evaluated, before adoption, for costs and benefits as required by federal law. The destruction of the environmental safety net is not being accompanied by a similar demonstration of costs and benefits.

The ensuing damage to the biosphere and the deaths of animal and human life that will inevitably result from Trump’s policies will be laid by history at Trump’s feet. The blood will be on his hands and on the hands of his enablers in Congress. But the pain and suffering will be felt by others.

Disturbingly, in my view, a contrary view was set out in the Washington Post on Sunday, April 2 at B1 (not posted on WaPo website). The article by Ben Adler, a New York journalist, is entitled “Trump can’t do much to worsen climate change.” As I understand it, Adler’s basic point is that Trump’s anti-environmental policies in the U.S. cannot by themselves do much to worsen global warming and, in any event, other countries will likely step up their game to offset the negative contributions of the United States.

That, I suggest, is wishful thinking of the worst kind. The United States has been a leading force in bringing about the Paris Agreement under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris treaty went into effect in the United States just days before the last presidential election. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php.

There are no guarantees that other countries will not lose their resolve in the wake of the United States’ retreat from its commitments as the Trump administration appears intent to do. Moreover, whatever other countries may do in the way of offsets on a global scale will do nothing to resolve the air and water pollution and habitat destruction that Trump’s no-nothing approach to the environment will impose directly on the United States.

If you have young children, or grandchildren, you no doubt understand already the harsh future that Trump’s policies will yield. If so, you should immediately engage with the Resistance to oppose what the administration is trying to do. It is not enough now to wring your hands and hope for better days after the mid-term elections. The damage will have been done by then. It is time now to join actively with the Resistance by connecting with MoveOn.org, PeoplePower.org, the ACLU, Indivisible, the Sierra Club and any of the many other organizations actively working right now to stop the desecration of the planet which is the only home the human race is going to have in any time frame that matters. Just ask Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Trump Administration Climate Science Deniers Are Risking Crimes Against Humanity

As the affronts to science, human dignity, and the very viability of the planet continue to multiply, through climate change denial and evisceration of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, the question naturally arises: when and how will those responsible be held accountable for the damage they are doing, or facilitating, to the Earth? For surely the day of reckoning is coming and possibly sooner than many people think. When rising sea levels, crop failures, unprecedentedly destructive storms and other natural disasters begin to impair the water supply and food supply of the “comfortable countries,” like the United States and much of Western Europe, against whom will the public turn? And what punishment will they demand as they face the realization that the science deniers have fooled them into believing a false idea that has led to the destruction of their world? Will it even matter at that point?

A few things seem somewhat clear. While it is within reason to interpret “climate change denial” policy actions as a “crime against humanity” under existing usages of that term (specifically, the “extermination” of an entire population), the United States has never ratified the Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court and thus there is no international body with plausible jurisdiction to punish the leaders of the United States for what they are inflicting on the rest of the world by, for example, denying that carbon dioxide is a meaningful contributor to global warming. http://wapo.st/2mRiia3.

Given the Trump administration’s determined effort to gut the EPA, it will remain to the American people to punish those who, by willful ignorance or worse, have traded away the health and well-being of future generations for a few pieces of silver. Of all the crimes likely being committed by the Trump administration, including blatant conflicts of interest to interfering with the reasoned development of regulations that, properly understood, are “protections” for the people, the undermining of work to manage climate change is the most serious. The consequences of unchecked climate change will at some point become irreversible. That outcome will be directly traceable to the decisions of this administration to unleash the forces of pollution and environmental degradation without meaningful restraint or even requirements to report on what the industries are doing that negatively affects the environment.

If any of my readers doubt the certainty of what I am saying, I can only urge you to read some of the respected works on the subject that are readily available. The Sixth Extinction is a good example. There is no more important issue because the very existence of life on the planet depends on it. The actions being taken by the Trump administration are occurring without the benefit of public hearings or other meaningful input. Trump and his ideologues already know everything they want to know, no matter how inadequate.

The March for Science is on Earth Day, April 22. The Peoples’ Climate Movement March is April 29. If you care about this issue, you should add your body and those of your family to this mass demonstration in support of science and in support of the air you breath and the water you drink. Take to the streets with the masses of others who will be there to protest, peacefully but loudly, against the Trump administration’s crimes against humanity.

A Wall of Willful Ignorance: Suggested Reading for President-Elect Trump

Because of its familiarity and ease of access, I am using Wikipedia to introduce this piece; it also covers the salient aspects:

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.”


Among many other earthly assets, the air and water, critical to advanced life on earth, are “commons” and are subject to the problem of the tragedy of the commons. I don’t know whether Donald Trump and his “infatuants” (forgive me) dispute the established scientific fact that the earth is warmer than at any time in human history, and well beyond, but I do know that they dispute that human activity contributes materially to the climate-change problem. This despite the overwhelming worldwide scientific consensus that human activity has fundamentally altered the environment and made the Earth threateningly warmer.

How can one deal with this when there is such strong dispute? I suggest that Mr. Trump should undertake a risk analysis. He should be familiar with this, since every real estate investment he has made must have involved such an analysis at some point. It’s pretty straightforward. Evaluate the risk against the consequences – weigh the costs, but more than just out-of-pocket costs, of ignoring the scientific consensus versus the risk and consequences of accepting, and acting upon, the scientific consensus.

If we ignore climate change and are wrong, it likely is the end of life as we know it and perhaps the end of all life other than some subterranean worm-like life forms. If, however we assume that scientists are right, we have chance to save our ecosystem by changing how we do business and how we live. This course of action will create many new, but different, jobs than in past. If this turns out to have been unnecessary, we are no worse off and likely are better off as beneficiaries of cleaner air and water, among other things.

On the other hand, the price of being wrong on this issue is simply too high to continue insisting that it is a “hoax” and that addressing it will be bad for the economy. Not addressing it could be (almost certainly will be) catastrophically bad for the economy and everything else. Risk analysis argues strongly for urgent changes in the way humans operate.

It was revealed during the campaigns that President-Elect Trump is not an avid reader. Indeed, he indicated he really didn’t care to read much at all. He boasted that he was very smart and got his information elsewhere, apparently through the Internet. This is unfortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that it deprives him of information and modes of thinking about complex issues that have been studied by others, often for many years and often submitted to critical review by accomplished people in the fields of study. Without the benefit of readily available expertise and the propensity to rely on the views of inner-circle ideologues, the President threatens to become an unguided missile able to deliver mega-tonnage blows to the prevailing order that has existed for years and decades, or in the case of the environment, for centuries.

Even a brief look back at the effects of the Industrial Revolution would teach a reasonably coherent mind that uncontrolled industry is harmful to the environment, often in ways that take decades or longer to correct after remedial measures are begun. We likely do not have that luxury anymore because of the global impact of human activity.

Trump is the elected President of the United States. To steal a phrase from an old Willie Nelson song, there’s nothing we can do about it now. All of our lives are, in a very real sense, in his hands. I therefore propose to him, and such of his advisors who may be open to other points of view, a short list of books and articles that will educate him and his staff on a few topics of transcendent importance to the country and the world, starting with the environment.

I urge readers of this blog to send me your own examples. I will endeavor to incorporate them into a single message to the new keepers of the White House. I don’t know how to do that just yet because a wall of willful ignorance is harder to scale than the concrete border wall that the President-Elect claimed to be one of his top priorities. Beyond the “wall,” however, are a wide-ranging set of objectives that pose an existential threat to our environment and to the survival of many threatened species of animals and other life forms. The ultimate effects of losing these parts of the food chain are unknown and, therefore, killing off the threatened species may have effects that cannot be reversed and that could threaten our very existence.

I refer you here to a story by Julie Pace of Associated Press, published in http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/oil-billionaire-considered-lead-energy-department/:

“The Trump to-do list targets recent Obama administration efforts to reduce air and water pollution that have been opposed by Republicans and industries that profit from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, including the “waters of the United States” rule and ozone regulations.

Trump calls climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by China and others and has said he will rescind the Clean Power Plan — the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight climate change.

A coalition of conservative states has challenged the Clean Power Plan and also has challenged an EPA rule that expanded the definition of waters protected under the Clean Water Act to smaller non-navigable waters and seasonal tributaries.

The Obama administration says the rule would safeguard drinking water for 117 million people, but Republicans and some Democrats representing rural areas say the regulations are costly, confusing and amount to a government power grab. Federal courts have put the rules on hold as judges review lawsuits.

On his campaign website, Trump called for rescinding “all job-destroying Obama executive actions” and has vowed to unleash an American energy revolution, allowing unfettered production of oil, coal and natural gas. He would sharply increase oil and gas drilling on federal lands and open up offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and other areas where it is blocked……

In addition to repealing the power plant rules, the transition document also says Trump’s energy team is considering modifications to Obama’s ozone rule, which is meant to reduce smog.

Also on the chopping block are Obama administration regulations intended to limit harmful emissions and chemical-laden waste water from hydraulic fracturing operations at oil and gas wells.”

Since the survival of the planet is of the highest importance, the first items on my list are two related books by the same author, addressing the threats to the biosphere:

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson, a National Book Award Finalist in 2014

Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, 2016. Edward O. Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize twice.

Then: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert, 2014, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015.

Trump’s people should look at the recently published The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War, by Robert J. Gordon, a distinguished professor at Northwestern University. Gordon was included on the Bloomberg 2013 list of the most influential thinkers in America. The book is a data-rich tracing of the forces that shaped America’s economic growth from the end of the Civil War until now and beyond. Just the first 200 pages will make clear the catastrophic consequences of allowing free market forces to rule unchecked over the production and distribution of food and medicine. Before Trump puts in place a hiring freeze on government workers and the Republican Congress slashes agency budgets, someone had better give some deep thought to the impact on the health of the American people.

Moving on to labor and jobs, it is not clear that Trump or his senior advisors are aware how labor unions emerged as a force in America, and how corporate America reacted to workers’ efforts to get protection for themselves and their children from abusive working conditions. Nor do they seem to be aware that trying to restore dirty energy (mainly coal) to its former place of prominence flies in the face of irreversible global forces of technological change that have been at work since before the Great Depression. It is an illusion that the American economy can be massively stimulated by restoring the old ways of doing work. Those who believed Trump’s promises made to Rust Belt workers and voted Trump into leadership of the Free World are going to be massively disappointed.

There are two books I am referencing. One is From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend from 2001. The back cover sums it up: “… the historic efforts of working people to win the rights we take for granted today: basic health and safety standards in the workplace, fair on-the-job treatment for men and women, the minimum wage, and even the weekend itself.” Yes, even the weekend itself. These features of modern life were once not provided to most working people.

The other work that would provide an even broader education is Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning history published in 1999. The first few chapters may pique the interest of Trump’s advisors who are not mentally blocked to new information that powerfully shows how and why our society and government are structured as they are. Anyone who believes the country’s problems are new products of the Democratic presidency of the past eight years and can be solved by simply unleashing the “free market” are in for a rude awakening.

If they don’t wake up soon, everyone will suffer the most frightful consequences. Completely free markets ignore the Tragedy of the Commons and will create a problem that mankind will not likely be able to resolve by letting businessmen do what they like. And when rising seas encroach on coastal cities, increasingly severe winter storms crush entire states and unprecedented heat waves leave people gasping for relief, the people who only act when there is a profit to be made will be too little too late and too irrelevant.