White students with MAGA hats, Native Americans with drums, Black Hebrew Israelites with attitude: How the Left Got this One Wrong

If you’re reading this you’ve seen the photos and videos that ignited indignation on the political left: white high school students, several with MAGA hats surrounding a small band of native Americans drumming and chanting (and filming).

The most iconic shot involves the leader of the native American group elder Nathan Philips drumming and chanting face to face with a silent, smiling MAGA hat-wearing student.

maga hat and native photo

 

This is the shot circulated like wildfire on social networks and news media arousing outrage at the brazen disrespect of these white students for a Native American elder and veteran.

It was reported that Nathan Philips was a Vietnam veteran, he wasn’t (according to an update in the Washington post he served in the Marines in the 1970s, but wasn’t deployed). It was also reported and portrayed as if the student had confronted him, when other videos show that Nathan Philip and his marchers walked directly into the crowd of students and it seems more likely that Mr. Philips walked up to the student and got in his face.

Much has been made over the expression on the student’s face, most often referred to as a smirk as well as to the behavior of other students described as mocking the native Americans and chanting “build the wall.” A longer video of the student shows his facial expressions changing and showing degrees of discomfort. The student himself says he was trying to diffuse tension by simply standing there and looking the elder in the face.

In addition, I have seen no video clearly showing students chanting “build the wall.” It may have been chanted a few times by a few individuals (I just haven’t seen clear video proving otherwise). Nevertheless, it was hardly an extended, group rallying cry of any kind based on what I’ve seen.

However this media event got started, it was too easy to get liberals fired up. The young white boy with a red MAGA cap staring down an old brown Native American veteran in front of the Lincoln Memorial–the image seemed to capture in miniature Trump-inspired xenophobia, arrogance, and white nationalism. Politically liberal folks shared, liked, memed and generally made themselves feel like they were on the right side of this moral battle. The media took this up and repeated the same liberal framing.

Well, liberals make mistakes. The media makes mistakes. And we need, more than anything, to recognize when we do and own up to those mistakes. If we double-down, as I’ve seen many do on social media and news programs, we seem to be taking our cues from the double-downer in chief. Let’s not. Let’s admit our errors in judgment. What a thought! This is not so much about “taking the high road” as modeling what being open to new information looks like.

The longer video taken by one of the Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI) show them as the chief provocateurs.

Black Hebrew Israelite Video

The above video (over 50 minutes long) show the BHI insulting every group around beginning with Native Americans (they lost their land because they were “idolaters” and didn’t worship the true God, and claiming “Indian” means “savage”), black bystanders (they were “Uncle Toms” because they were angry at BHI instead of the MAGA hat-wearing teens), the Catholic High School students were called “child-molesting faggots,” “dirty ass crackers” etc. multiple times

The only point that BHI made that I personally agree with was the rhetorical question: “Let me ask y’all something, Ya’ll wanna build a wall with Mexico, when’s the last time you ever seen a Mexican, or a Hispanic, or a native American or a negro shoot up a school?”

The video shows BHI engaging with the students, taunting them, suggesting they will become school shooters. At one point the students laugh at the ridiculous suggestion. Then the video seems to show the high school students moving away from BHI and explicitly not engaging them.

The BHI video acknowledges this “Look at they ass. They ass scatter offa that one!….look at the mob of these dirty animals, they gone!”

About this time we begin to hear drumming from Native Americans and they come slowly walking in. Rather than turning up the steps to Lincoln Memorial that are clearly visible, they walk directly into the crowd of students.

The BHI video does not show the interaction between students and Native Americans in detail, but the student chanting and singing is shown and it looks more like young kids nervously trying to have fun and create a sense of solidarity in what must have been for them an unexpectedly hostile environment (given the continual stream of insults from BHI).

In subsequent interviews Nathan Philips has stated he felt endangered by the students surrounding him. This seems to tell us more about Nathan Philips’ own anxieties or insecurities than the situation on the ground. Similarly an older white person might say he or she felt endangered if a group of young black men enter a Starbucks, for example. People of color have insecurities about certain situations, just as white people have insecurities about certain situations. These sets of insecurities and anxieties are not the same. People of color have experienced structural forms of discrimination and prejudice which inform their suspicions and anxieties. White people’s anxieties are often informed by a position and assumption of privilege. While our insecurities can be differently structured, those insecurities don’t tell us the truth! They feed our suspicions and give us unfounded and irrational reasons to fear. So all of us need to do a better job of keeping our unfounded fears and suspicions in check so that we can see the truth that’s right in front of us.

So, my views of this situation have changed from “These kids are full of arrogance, disrespect and racism” to “these are kids on a visit to DC caught in a bizarre convergence of ‘protests,’  in the era of Trump.”

Disrespect towards native Americans? Check out Standing Rock for that! Or the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en indigenous people in Canada. Young people can certainly be better educated about the history and experiences of native Americans, but militarized police forces protecting corporate interests over those of the people is the primary battle ground for indigenous rights today.

My views have also been modified from “Anyone who wears a MAGA hat must assent to Trump’s xenophobic at best, racist at worst agenda” to “Make America Great Again is an effective political slogan that appeals not simply to dyed-in-the-wool racists, but to kids who don’t know any better and is an example of Trump’s brand of genius.” Racism is a problem, but the solution to ignorance and insensitivity among children is education and guidance, not name-calling, belittling, and threats.

My message for my fellow liberally-minded readers is that this is a good opportunity for us to learn and grow into more sophisticated consumers of media. Just because something pushes our buttons and lines up with our expectations or fears doesn’t mean it’s true. You’ve probably read about confirmation bias. Well, learning to deal with it is a life-long journey. This event is a great opportunity to self-reflect and think about what triggers us and recognize that sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. We also do well to remember that liberal-minded means broad-minded, not small-minded; it’s a burden, not a privilege.

 

P.S. There may be videos that I haven’t seen that could add information that could alter my view. If their were, for example, better evidence of hateful attitudes among the students, that could shift my views. As it stands they seem more like a typical group of kids, away from school.

There is NO such thing as Climate Science

There is only plain ol’ science used to study the climate and modern scientists have been studying climate for over 100 years. The greenhouse effect was first named and explained by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) in 1896; he received a Nobel Prize for his work in 1903. Since then more scientific research has piled up evidence of the impact of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The most significant greenhouse gases of concern are CO2 and methane (CH4). Industrialization and the explosion of human populations and agriculture and animal agriculture have all dramatically increased the amount of greenhouse gases being released. It is important to note that almost all of these increases have to do with human populations and human activities. Scientific models have predicted changes in temperature, changes in climate, and in sea level rise which correspond with rises in CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere. All of those predictions are now being observed in real time.

WE are living in the AGE of CLIMATE CHANGE, it was once a theory, now it is a reality, OUR REALITY. We can no longer avoid dramatically altering our atmosphere through greenhouse gas emissions–we have already done that. The climate change education and advocacy organization 350.org is named for a number used to measure the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. This WAS the goal to avoid drastic climate change scenarios. Before industrialization, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere was around 275 parts per million. We are now beyond 400 parts per million and our planet is generating historic storms, droughts, and those are producing historic floods and forest fires. The destruction linked to climate change related weather disasters in 2017 is estimated to be $330 billion.

parenting banner

The catastrophic fires and floods we have seen over the past decade or so and the costs of their damages is but a fraction of the cost and destruction that is guaranteed to increase if emissions do not dramatically decline, which is why we must take this challenge seriously and shut off emissions of greenhouse gases! The most knowledgeable scientists tell us that we must cut them in half within 12 years and completely eliminate emissions from fossil fuels by 2100. Our priority must be ramping up efforts on every front to radically reduce emissions by 50% within the next 12 years. The momentum of such radical transformations will help ensure reaching the longer range target of zero or even negative emissions (through carbon sequestration–e.g. expanding of forest cover).

While this transformation is clearly daunting we must embrace the challenge and see it as an OPPORTUNITY to build and even BETTER future. The Green New Deal is one such vision, probably the best. In Canada there is the Leap manifesto. These are two comprehensive approaches to building a better tomorrow which include replacing dirty sources of energy with clean ones. They also include increasing prosperity for working people and ensuring that the wealthiest, those with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in wealth, pay their fair share to clean up the mess that much of their wealth has been built on, especially in fossil fuel industries. Fossil Fuel companies know they are on the hook, which is why they have spent billions to buy politicians, fight legislation promoting clean energy and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and spread misinformation about the science of climate change.

Part of a just future will mean those who have profited from misleading the public on climate change will be prosecuted, the sooner the better, so that the narrative can shift from one of obfuscation to one of truth.

The Green New Deal evokes a war time mobilization to transform our energy systems and systems of social welfare. The LEAP emphasizes that small steps aren’t enough, we must LEAP into a better future. To get such massive programs moving will require ALL of US who believe in the science and who care about the health of the planet or our children’s future must pressure our government and corporate leaders to embrace these radical solutions. At the same time we can help make this shift by choosing cleaner alternatives. Such cleaner alternatives have become more accessible and available than ever. Solar prices have plummeted. Today more than 20% of Australian homes have solar panels! The adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles helps to reduce emissions, but to ensure this they need to be powered by sun, wind, hydro or geothermal sources. This can be done, it won’t be overnight or easy, but it can be done. See scenarios for 100% clean energy for 139 nations by Stanford scientist Mark Jacobson.

evs w power

Another important step for those who believe the science and wish to do more is to reduce and, if possible, eliminate beef from your diet and reduce, or eliminate, dairy products. Beef and dairy are connected to livestock which are a major source of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere. They are also a driver of deforestation, especially in the Amazon (the lungs of the world). As consumers we can influence corporate behavior. Stop buying gas-guzzling SUVs and car manufacturers  will stop making them! Stop buying beef and milk and ranchers will switch to other (less resource intensive) animals or solar or wind farming! In a just transition, the government will help ranchers with this transition, as they spread information about the negative health impacts of beef consumption and promote the end of industrial livestock systems.

veggies and fruit banner

As always there will be winners and losers. The end will be a better world for everyone, our children and future generations. If we don’t act with urgency things will get very bad. If you want to know just how bad things could get see here or here. Unchecked climate change not only permanently floods islands and coastal regions (goodbye southern Louisiana and coastal Florida) it also impacts food supplies (crops will fail, yields will be reduced), more hunger, and more refugees spilling across borders. It is simply a nightmarish world that gets worse and worse. No one should wish it upon the children of today and that’s exactly what we do by not embracing radical change now. We are the generation that must do this. If we fail, the future is lost.

Ready to get started? I’ve already mentioned reducing or eliminating beef and dairy in your diet. A &W is ready to help, they now offer vegan “beyond meat” patties for all burgers across Canada, and if you live in an urban area you are sure to find more vegetarian and vegan options than ever. The next time you are shopping for a car look for electric vehicles and hybrids. If you can, install solar on your roof. Start making plans, start researching and saving. Be vocal about your concern. Let your local politicians and state or provincial leaders know you support the building of green infrastructure and rapid phasing out of coal and other fossil fuels. Pressure institutions and corporations you are part of to divest from fossil fuels. There’s lots we all can and must do. Let’s get busy!

every bit matters IPCC

For a start: Like/Share/Retweet! 🙂
Go here for additional ideas and explore my blog form more information.

You Cannot Be a Good Parent and Be Nonpolitical

As parents we should be alarmed, incensed, and demand change to build a safe and healthy society for our children. But how do we know what to fight for? This can be tricky, especially because the same corrupting powers influencing politicians are also working hard to influence our views. As parents, we have to break free of the influence of those powerful lobbying groups to think for ourselves, and to gain clarity. Only you can decide what is most important to you and your family, but I will present my thoughts on a few issues that are worth fighting for in America.

Legislation to Prevent Senseless Massacres
(of our children)

This is a hot button issue and people are primed up to jump on it one way or the other. Why is that?  Why is it so important for fellow Americans to own military grade assault rifles like the AR15, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks (which modify rifles to fire like a machine gun)?  No one can seriously suggest any of these are needed to hunt or even to protect one’s life, family or property (do you live in a live war zone of attacking militias? if so, consider other fixes). So what does regulating or banning such weapons and accessories have to do with parenting?  Do you remember the massacre of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 at their elementary school named Sandy Hook in Connecticut?  As a parent, that was one of the saddest days of my life and it still fills me with sadness. I’ve never been to Connecticut, I didn’t know any of those kids or their parents, but as a parent, I know what it is like to drop your kids off at school and can imagine the unspeakable horror to have my own beautiful innocent children taken away in such senseless violence. How did this happen? How did it happen in Parkland, FL? In Vegas? And so many other places?  I’m no expert, but one of the common threads in the massacres mentioned is use of the AR 15 which is designed to kill humans by tearing up their internal organs. Those conducting autopsies on the victims in Parkland said they’d never seen anything like it. It is easy to use and once hit there is no little chance of survival which is why it is increasingly the weapon of choice for mass murder.

As parents, we should ask ourselves would we rather work now to prevent future massacres of our own children or wait until it happens to one of our children, like the father of Jamie Guttenberg, gunned down at her high school in Parkland, FL? NO, we should educate ourselves now, write emails, make calls, donate money. Those are the basic ways to be a participant in our democracy. Because powerful organizations like the NRA do this, it requires all parents to stand up together to fight for our children and their safety. It’s not easy to become an expert, and so we have to rely on others at some point to make the best decisions about gun control. But the wrong positions are easy to identify and protest; the talking points of the NRA and their proxies are usually in the interest of making more violent weapons more widely available (facilitating more massacres).

Legislation to Protect the Environment

Another important issue for parents to be informed about and active on is the environment. Once again, it has become politicized thanks to powerful corporations who have full time lobbyists to influence politicians and marketing teams to confuse the public. As parents we have to recognize that we want to insure our children have clean air and clean water and not let corporations or politicians stand in our way. How would you feel if you were among those families in Flint, MI exposed to lead in your drinking water, harming your children?  We have to keep up the fight for high environmental standards. We also have to become educated about climate change and work to address it in the name of our children and grandchildren. Again, Parents stand the most to lose on these issues, we should STAND UP and BE HEARD. We should organize as PARENTS fighting for our CHILDREN and their FUTURE. The political parties have just paid lip service to our needs; we need to demand more of all of them. We can do it together.

Healthcare Reform

Maybe you are happy with your healthcare, maybe you have good insurance, or maybe you have found it prohibitively expensive. As parents we need to ask ourselves what we want for our kids and fight for it. Polls suggest that most Americans are interested in universal coverage such as is found in Canada and most other developed countries. America is the outlier on this, as it is on guns, because of the corruption of our political system. Do you want to go broke getting medicine for your child? Do you want them to go broke after they are grown? No, it’s not right and there is a better way.

Other Issues

As parents we have many other concerns: internet safety, drugs, education, sexuality, money, racism and more. There is much we can do on our own to protect and educate our children, and some issues may not have clear legislative fixes. We should be careful not to think everything can be legislated. Some things are left to us and our wits and responsible actions. What we want to work on at the political level are those threats that are more difficult to protect ourselves from through our own wits and efforts, which is why I’ve listed three: guns, climate, healthcare. These three already have robust resources to explore and organizations to help. I welcome thoughts in the comments below on the issues I’ve raised or ones I may have missed.

The Bottom Line

Being a good parent requires a great many things besides being political. In fact, being a good parent is MOSTLY nonpolitical in nature. BUT, due to the unbridled corruption of our political systems we the people need to fight to make the world safe for our children. This is why I think parents are a critical source for political action and change. We love our children and would do anything for them. If that is true, political action is part of our call as good parents, to ignore politics is to make the world more dangerous.

 

Organizations and News Outlets Working Against Climate Change

We are busy people and as much as we would like to research, advocate, and demonstrate, we can’t do everything. That is why we rely on the work of others and should support those who are committed to fighting climate change.

Organizations Working to Prevent Climate Change

Please consider supporting these organizations

350.org   – Founded in 2008 by Bill McKibben and associates, 350 is named after 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 350 is a global network linking activists in 188 countries that uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions.

The Sierra Club  – Founded in 1892 by John Muir and associates, the Sierra club is arguably the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. Over recent years they have focused on fighting climate change.

Oil Change International – Founded in 2005 by Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change is a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy. The production and consumption of oil, gas, and coal are major sources of global warming, human rights abuses, war, national security concerns, corporate globalization, and increased inequality.

The Rainforest Action Network  – Founded in 1985 by Randy “Hurricane” Hayes and Mike Roselle, the focus of the organization has been to protect rainforests and thereby prevent climate change. More than most groups they pressure corporations to act responsibly.

Greenpeace – Founded in 1971 by Irving and Dorthy Stowe with other activists working to ensure earth’s ability to nurture life in all its diversity. It is now a global network of activists involved with direct actions, lobbying, and research and has done much to raise awareness of environmental issues.

The Natural Resource Defense Council – Founded in 1970 by law students and attorneys to protect America’s air, land, and water from pollution and corporate greed. Apart from advocacy and information, this group also engages litigation to support environmental protection.

The Union of Concerned Scientists – Founded in 1969 by scientists and students at MIT to engage in scientifically informed advocacy on critical issues such as nuclear weapons, climate change, and sustainable agriculture.

The Best News Organizations for Climate Change Coverage

-Please consider supporting them. Neither accepts corporate sponsors, which is a key reason they are the best source of news on climate change. Both of these are politically left of center, but that has more to do with respect for science and concern with justice when it comes to climate change, rather than any political bias.

Democracy Now

The Guardian

 

If I’m missing your favorites please let me know and I will see about adding them to this list.

 

Parenting in the Age of Catastrophic Climate Change

Saving for college, keeping them healthy, making their teeth straight, chauffeuring them to activities, parties, and competitions and so on and so forth–the time and money spent on raising our children is a labor of love and has always been worth it. But what about now? How can we justify those expenses when we are on a crash course with annihilation if we don’t turn the corner on climate change? Should we start shifting our energy to battling climate change, battling climate skepticism, reducing our carbon footprints, political action and advocacy? All of those things cost time and money that as parents we spend on our kids, but what if our kids have NO FUTURE?  Wouldn’t our time and money be better spent on ensuring they have a future?

These are the questions an (overly) rational parent begins to ask in this moment of impending  climate doom.

If you are an (overly) rational young person, you too will be asking similar questions about the time and effort you spend in preparing for a career, in building a future with a lover, in saving money to buy a car or a house or start a business. You too must wonder if you should put it all on hold, somehow, and fight for YOUR FUTURE.

Looking soberly at the reports of the scientific community, the most rational response to the current unprecedented situation is to drop everything we can and bring LASER FOCUS to FIGHTING FOR OUR FUTURE.

Climate Change is a Downer

You may have flirted with such ideas or fantasized about being more active, but what if we really began to do this with all the available time (I’m assuming people keep doing what they do to pay the bills). Those of us who have experimented with climate “activism” have probably found it a lonely frustrating vocation. If you’ve just broached the topic you’ve found just how devastating climate change is to a conversation. If you are speaking to (inactive) allies, climate talk elicits muted assent, along the lines of “Yep.” And the conversation typically ends. If you are speaking to a climate skeptic, the conversation can go on quite a bit longer, but almost never leads to any progress. You’re left with some combination of feelings of annoyance, disappointment, frustration, anger, disbelief–all emotions we can’t get enough of, right? Wrong, climate change is a downer and our social lives tend to benefit if we keep it off the table. So….how do we do this!?

 

vote against women sufferage

The fight for women’s suffrage wasn’t easy either.

I’m Sure Abolition, Civil Rights, and Women’s Suffrage Have all Been Downers

Downers, that is, for the groups threatened with radical change. That’s why broad-based social movements and mobilizations have been required to move the conversation forward. Those of us concerned have to get together with other like-minded people concerned for our futures, the future of our children or grandchildren. This has to be the rallying cry: MAKE THE WORLD SAFE FOR OUR CHILDREN. We need to build grassroots connections in OUR COMMUNITIES. Sure, we need to communicate and coordinate at national and international levels, but the vast majority of US need to expend our time and money working LOCALLY. In democratic electoral systems this is where elections take place and has to be one of our points of attack. Public Policy is where far-reaching impacts can take place backed by state authority. To influence this we must become active in our local communities wherever we are. Your representatives, your senators, your MPs, your congresspersons all have local offices where you can deliver letters, news articles, reports and schedule appointments to speak with them. You can also participate and organize in public demonstrations at these offices in coordination with other jurisdictions or not. The local communities where each of us live are the places where the vast majority of us can have the most impact.

abolitionist among you

The fight against entrenched slavery wasn’t easy either, but our ancestors did it. We are at another juncture where we need to rise.

 

If you’re still reading, you are interested in fighting for your future and, especially, our children’s future. Your recognizing the absurdity of saving thousands of dollars for your children’s education only to realize you are sending them off to the wolves unless you fight now and fight hard for their future. So, what do we do? The good news is that WE HAVE SOLUTIONS!

Three levels of Impact

Your Wallet – How you spend your money

The first change is in OUR OWN consumption habits and value systems. We have to educate ourselves on reducing our own carbon footprints. Something we can immediately do is consume LESS BEEF and DAIRY. Maybe you’ve been thinking about doing this for one reason or another, well NOW IS THE TIME to do it with full commitment and the blessings of future generations (for more on how this helps climate change go here). Other steps that individuals and families can take is to drive an ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) and power it with renewable energy, most likely SOLAR. Prices on EVs and solar continue to drop and become much more feasible for middle class families. You can also walk and bike when possible and work to make such modes of transportation common. You can make sure you switch to an electricity provider who uses and/or invests in renewable energy. As a consumer you can purchase and advocate for moving BEYOND PLASTICS; there are lots of excellent plant-based plastic substitutes now available. These are just some starting points, check this blog for additional ideas and links.

Corporate Responsibility – Make them listen

Corporations are important because they have a much larger impact on climate change than any individual family. We can influence their behaviors in a variety of ways. One is through the power of our wallets….don’t buy from corporations who deny and work against climate action (I will provide more info on this in future posts). Pressure entities to divest from fossil fuels (see here); divestment was part of the successful strategy to end apartheid in South Africa, it is one of the strategies needed now to weaken irresponsible corporations. The other way to push corporations to act responsibly is through political advocacy and action, which is the third level of impact.

Public Policy – Make governments work for the people

This is where you will have to be more determined and patient because it takes months and years to see any movement in this arena. But don’t let that discourage you. It’s time for all of us to dig in and make our governments more responsive to the demands of climate change. There are various ways to contact and petition governments around the world. In general you have government representatives who represent you wherever you live. There are mayors, city council members, governors/premiers and various state/provincial/federal representatives. There is political power at every level of the system and we should target them all. One way of working for climate progress is, for now, to become a one issue voter: which candidate believes climate science and is most willing to act on it?  If there is a particular party that should lead on climate change, insist that they do. Write, email, call, meet, demonstrate. In short, one of the special asks of this moment, is for all of us to become more politically informed and active (More on how to do this in future posts).

If We Want a Future for Our Children We Have to Act Now

It is daunting, it may not be fair, but this is the lot we as parents in this moment have drawn. We owe it to our children to fight for their future. This fight happens on three levels: our individual buying and eating habits, corporations, and governments. We owe it to our children to wage war on each level to make the most happen in as short a time as possible. We now know that we have to cut carbon emissions by 50% within 12 years. This is a monumental task that requires our time, money, attention, passion, creativity, and commitment. Another way to begin making an impact is to support organizations and news outlets who are working to educate and prevent climate change (see list here).

We all need to do our part-  we don’t really have a choice.

October 2018 – The Month Humans Began to Save Civilization

The Scientific Consensus: Change or Die. What’s it Gonna Be?

History will look back at this month as the month the tide to turn back climate change began in earnest OR the month the world gave up on the future. Yes, THIS moment IS that CONSEQUENTIAL. The October 8 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave a short time frame for the world to rapidly change course in terms of energy, food, and wasteful consumption OR literally end human civilization as we know it by devastating human populations, food supplies, and entire areas of the planet lost to rising seas and desertification. The time frame is ten to twelve years. This time frame is the greatest contribution of this report, because it throws down the gauntlet. If you want A FUTURE, GET BUSY! 12 years is the time it takes for a kindergartner to graduate from high school. Parents who have seen their children grow up, know how quickly those 12 years pass. The clock is ticking and that is why October 2018 will forever be the CRITICAL JUNCTURE in the fight to transform global energy, food, and values.

What happens if we don’t act?

The report outlines the scientific consensus of what the coming climate catastrophe looks like. Imagining this future has gotten easier over the past few years as forest fires have devastated communities all over the globe, just as floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis have done the same. All over the world communities have suffered historic calamities that have caused billions of dollars in property damage and priceless loss of life. These kinds of disasters, marked by death and destruction will grow in frequency and power, wreaking unimaginable havoc year by year. But wait, there’s more. Entire islands and what are now densely populated coasts of the world will be submerged under rising seas. The movements of populations we have been seeing over the past few years, tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war, political oppression, and food insecurity will be nothing compared to mass movements of millions if we don’t act NOW. The food insecurity and starvation seen in parts of Africa will play out all over the planet as food supplies are devastated through climate change.  This is only the beginning of what awaits us if we don’t act NOW. The sad truth is that the many feedback loops that have helped keep climactic and atmospheric equilibrium over the millennia, are being stressed so that there is physically a tipping point, that will lead to what is known as Hothouse Earth, which is simply uninhabitable by humans. Scientists are very conservative by training and are careful not to be alarmist, but an uninhabitable planet is our future if we continue burning fossil fuels and eating beef at current levels.

If you would like to hear a climate scientist discuss how close we are to climate catastrophe watch the following video:

A Silver Lining

You may feel that it is a CURSE to be alive on this planet at this moment, but it is arguably a once in a world system opportunity. How often do sentient beings have the opportunity to save the world? We have the opportunity to be heroes, to be SUPERHEROES for real. Another positive is the moral clarity of this moment. Humans are intelligent amazing beings, and part of that means we seek not only to live, but to live well, to live A GOOD LIFE. Living that good life hinges on having clear moral vision and pursing it. Before now, there were many competing moral visions that just as often led us to inaction through confusion, or indecision. Now there is NO CONFUSION, we have absolute MORAL CLARITY. To embrace the future requires US to do several things as rapidly as possible. The change is so complete and radical that it will require our full attention for the next several decades. Say goodbye to indecision and ambiguity. We have work to do!

Where do we get started?

This is where that moral clarity is important. We must cultivate that clarity in ourselves and become advocates for that ecological vision every chance we get. This vision sees a future of CLEAN energy (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, hydro). This means making your next vehicle an electric vehicle (no matter what the sacrifice). This might also mean walking more, biking more, taking public transport and advocating for more walkable developments. This vision sees human diets embracing vegetarian and vegan choices and radically eating LESS MEAT and dairy. You have a choice to continue eating moderate amounts of chicken and pork while cutting back on beef and dairy, or going full vegetarian or vegan (see here for more info). The moral clarity impels us to SPEAK OUT in favor of green alternatives to our family, friends, strangers, on social media, and, importantly, at the ballot box. We must ELECT leaders at every level who confirm the science of climate change and are committed to transforming our energy systems. So, again, this is easy. It is very hard to find politicians who we fully agree with on every issue. The urgency of this moment means we can focus on candidates whom we can most trust to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and act to prevent climate change.  All of our other agenda items, if they can’t be wrapped into combating climate change must be put on hold (as hard as that may be). What good is progress on any of those other issues if we don’t have a planet supporting human life. There are other things to do as well, like supporting initiatives and programs for recycling and composting (landfills are a major source of greenhouse gases too). We must continue to educate ourselves about the science of climate change and the recommended actions and timelines.

ACTION is the Antidote to DESPAIR.

We must also SPEAK OUT against NEW fossil fuel projects no matter what kinds of ECONOMIC benefits they promise! There is no benefit better than a LIVABLE PLANET. This is where a change in VALUES comes in. We live in a world dominated by the idea that economic value is preeminent. That economic growth is inherently good and economic contraction is inherently evil. This assumption must be abandoned. Growth is NOT inherently good. HEALTH is inherently good. PEACE is inherently good. NOT ECONOMIC growth. Disasters tend to lead to economic growth by spurring things like rescue, cleanup, rebuilding, and funerals–all good drivers of the economy, but clearly not something we hope to encourage and promote!  Economic growth has pillaged the resources of the earth and is what has PREVENTED our LEADERS of industry, commerce, finance, and governments from acting. Fossil fuels continue to be GOOD BUSINESS. This is why, we must also have a CHANGE of VALUES. We MUST REJECT economically viable investments and projects associated with fossil fuels, unsustainable land use (whether for lumber, cattle, or mining). Why? Because this is the only path forward. Moral Clarity.

I am committed to continuing to update this blog with the best advice and science available. My focus, however, is on what we can do to make this transition happen over the next ten to twelve years.  Do it for all the children. Stop thinking about your bottom line. Saving money is not the most important thing right now, spending it wisely to effect this heroic transition is what is called for. Again, this blog is meant to help point you in the right direction.

Personally, I drive and EV (electric vehicle). My next major investment will be in solar panels to power my EV and home. Can I afford all this, not really, but I’m going to do it. This is my response to the current crisis.  If you have expendable wealth and not sure how you can best use it, I have many suggestions for you. If you are interested in hearing my thoughts, contact me.  For starters you can see my post here on ways to support the green transformation.

The thought I’d like to leave you with is this one: The revolution we are fighting is not just for survival. The revolution is for a BETTER TOMORROW. What this looks like will be explored in future posts; it is a future we will build together.

Cows and the Environment

“Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else.”
-The Triple Whopper… Global Meat Production

Livestock

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), 37 percent of human- induced methane comes from livestock. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas and warms the atmosphere much more strongly than CO2. However, it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2 (its’ half-life in the atmosphere is only about 8 years, compared to 100 years or more for CO2). Significantly, this means that we can reduce the dangerous greenhouse gases in the atmosphere much more quickly by reducing methane, than by reducing CO2 (see –Livestock and Climate Change). This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t focus on reducing CO2, it just means that in addition to our CO2 reduction measures, we can get more bang for our buck by reducing methane. The way to do that is one of the easiest things you can do: purchase less beef and dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt). If you want to be an ally in the reduction of climate change reduce your consumption of meat (especially beef) and dairy. If you want to be a climate hero go vegan! It is a rapidly growing trend that we can all support by not ridiculing vegans or vegetarians.

Going Vegan or Vegetarian

Just as there is much misinformation about human induced climate change, there is also plenty of misinformation about vegan and vegetarian diets. I’ll try to clear up any questions or confusions you may have.  I’ll start by saying that Vegan and Vegetarian diets are arguably the most healthy diet one can have. It’s not hard to find someone who will tell you how their health has been turned around for the better by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. Studies indicate that these diets prevent heart disease, strokes, as well as various diseases. In short, you can be strong, healthy and long-lived as a vegan or vegetarian. We have centuries of proof.

First what is the difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?

Vegans do not purchase or consume animal products and byproducts such as meats of any kind, or milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs or butter. Strict vegans are careful to check products for any animal products, this includes some vitamins and many packaged goods. Vegans can, nonetheless, consume the many plant-based meat and dairy substitutes which are increasingly available. Milk alternatives are made from soy, almond, coconut, cashew, rice, hemp and more. Silk brand makes milk substitutes from soy, almond, cashew, and coconut. Daiya makes better than average cheese substitutes. Some of the meat substitutes available are made by Yves, Morning Star, Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Tofurky,  Trader Joes, Lightlife, Boca Burger. Did I miss your favorite? Tell me about it in the comments.

If this sounds too great a challenge or you’re not ready just yet to abandon butter or cheese, consider going vegetarian instead. Vegetarians also include one’s who avoid eggs and milk, but there are also many vegetarians who consume milk, eggs, and butter. What all vegetarians avoid is meat of any kind, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, other seafood. As mentioned above, there are increasingly good substitutes available. Many which require no sacrifice in taste or enjoyment.  You should, however, educate yourself on how to best meet your nutritional requirements. A good rule of thumb is to include a good variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet (colors and textures) as well a consistent protein source (beans, peas, tofu, nuts, substitutes).  For more info visit: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Being a Vegetarian

The Alternatives to Beef and Dairy Are Healthy and Delicious

Beef and dairy can be replaced with protein found in vegetable sources. These sources of protein are better for the environment as well as socially responsible. The production of beef generates twice the greenhouse gas emissions of pork, four times as much as chicken, and 13 times that of vegetable proteins found in beans, lentils, and tofu.

Still feel you are not up to taking the plunge?  Feel free to try it out to the level that you are comfortable. You can take it slow by having “Meatless Mondays.” That one day a week can be completely meat free and give you a chance to explore and experiment with meatless alternatives. After a few weeks or months, you may have naturally begun to eat more meals which are meat free. If not, make a conscious effort to have another day or several meals meatless every week. Or, go further and limit yourself to meet and dairy on two or three days of the week. Whatever it takes to begin to make that shift. But start right away. There is no time to lose.

If you continue to eat meat you should choose responsibly. That means eating pork or pork products and chicken RATHER than beef or other meats. Pork and poultry are the most climate-friendly (they account for only 10% of total livestock greenhouse-gas emissions while contributing more than three times as much meat globally as cattle). “Pork and poultry are also more efficient for feed, requiring up to five times less feed to produce a kg of protein than a cow, a sheep or a goat.”-Livestock and Climate Change

So, the calculus is pretty simple. The less beef and dairy you consume, the greater contribution you make to reducing your personal carbon footprint. If you eliminate beef and dairy completely like hundreds of thousands of people have, you will be a climate hero. Heroic action requires struggle and sacrifice–but going vegan has gotten easier than ever!

Additional Links:

The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change

5 Ways Factory Farming is Killing the Environment

Why People in Rich Countries are Eating More Vegan Food

 

 

Urgent Action is Required by All of Us

We have known about the dangers of global climate change for decades, but we have continued to delay decisive action year after and decade after decade. Now we are careening towards a Point of No Return which threatens irreversible damage to life-support systems and possible extinction of human life unless we REVERSE COURSE immediately.

The Paris Climate Agreement, signed by the EU and more than 190 nations since 2015, is an agreement by governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperatures below a 2°C increase (from pre-industrial levels) and make efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C. This monumental agreement is meant to legally bind governments to avert catastrophic global climate change. The problem is that globally we are nowhere near reaching these targets.

What is the Point of No Return?

The authors of the Paris Climate Agreement are hopeful that the earth can handle a global temperature rise of just below 2°C to prevent tipping into a scenario called “Hothouse Earth.”

“If this were to happen, the world would become far warmer than it’s been for at least the past 1.2 million years. Sea levels around the globe would likely rise between 33 and 200 feet higher than they are now.” –Business Insider

It may be the case, however, that we need to keep warming to a maximum of 1.5°C to avoid descending into Hothouse Earth. If we are conservative, we should aim for the lower target of a 1.5°C rise in temperatures.

If we fail to dramatically ramp up the transition to clean energy and cleaner land use, we will be left with an increasingly uninhabitable planet. What does that look like, you ask?

If the earth’s average temperature warms by 2.0°C climate models predict that the climate will become dramatically unstable and conventional feedback systems disrupted making a higher temperature rise inevitable. Dramatic sea level rise would inundate coastal areas and large swaths of land while making deserts of large areas while a rise of 4 to 5°C would make the earth uninhabitable. Scientists say that we are entering the earth’s sixth mass extinction and have sounded the alarm about the tale tale loss of vertebrate species  which  entails “massive anthropogenic erosion of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services essential to civilization.”

If we don’t get this right, it’s game over for all of us.

How Much Time Do We Have to Act Decisively?
Not Much

In August 2018, a study attempted to identify a deadline for action to reach a 2°C. The study found that by 2035 we must have begun to replace 2% of global energy needs from fossil fuels to clean energy sources EACH YEAR. On my reading this entails a 50% reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2055 and a 100% transition to clean energy and agriculture before 2085.  2% per year may sound easy, but between the 1990s and 2017 clean energy only grew by 3.8%. We will have to pick up the pace technologically, politically, and as consumers if we are to reach the 2% per year transition required in the near future, while aiming to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels by 5% per year as soon as possible. This 5% per year beginning in 2019 is what is called for in the most recent report on climate change prepared by some 150 scientists for the IPCC in October 2018. This report, using the most updated scientific data, gives us 12 years to reduce carbon emissions by 50%. See news coverage here, actual report summary here.

What Can We Do?

We must support leaders in both government and business who take seriously this threat and denounce those who don’t. We must vote in climate leaders and vote out climate-change deniers. We must make purchases inline with our values to reduce our contributions to climate change. This blog is intended to help you make good decisions along these lines. Below are some starting points. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

1. We Must Transition to Clean Sources of Energy

In short, this means transitions from fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) to clean energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal etc). Utilities must begin to increase the amount of electricity generated with clean sources. Individual consumers can install solar, and possibly wind or geothermal to help this transition. Individual consumer can purchase and use electric or other non-carbon fueled vehicles. Investors must divest in fossil fuel companies and fuel sources and invest in clean energy generation and sources. All coal plants must be replaced by solar, wind, hydro or geothermal by 2030.

2. We Must Transition to Clean Use of Land

Apart from energy, the other major source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the way we use land and feed ourselves. We must stop clearing forests, especially rainforests in order to graze cows. Doing so is a double whammy for the climate. Trees reduce CO2 and cows emit significant levels of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Individual consumers can reduce the amount of beef and diary they consume as well as the amounts of meat they consume generally. You can also be an advocate for vegan and vegetarian options at restaurants, schools, and everywhere food is sold or served. For more on the harm by livestock go here. On the additional benefits of eating less or no meat go here.

3. We Must Change Our View of Economic Growth

We must abandon the logic that economic growth is an end and good in itself. It is not. It is destructive to the natural world. The increasing consumption of goods and the wasting of goods and energy is destructive behavior which is bad for the environment, but has been seen as good for the economy. This is why we must stop focusing on GDP and begin to use and advocate for other measures of human flourishing such as GNH (gross national happiness).

4. The Human Population Should Be Allowed to Decrease

For our own good, the good of the human species, we should stop being concerned about ageing populations. In 2018 we have more than 7.5 Billion people on the planet, up from 6 billion in 2000, up from  5 billion in 1990, with a projected 9.7 billion inhabitants by 2050. Higher numbers of humans mean more consumption of limited resources (material and energy), and greater damage to the natural environment. We need to stop seeing articles like this, or this, or this, bemoaning the fact that some countries are beginning to have negative population growth. Negative population growth must be welcomed as good news (in short, the problem of declining productivity can be alleviated by automation and robotics).

—————————————————————–

We have a lot of work to do, but the wind is at our backs!
These kinds of reports appear weekly:
Markets will advance green agenda–even if some governments lose interest
Get out of fossil fuels while you can:
Carbon ‘bubble’ could cost global economy trillions

But don’t let those reports make you complacent! The problem is the speed of our response and transition! Need a sober reminder? World ‘nowhere near on track’ to avoid warming beyond 1.5C target (27 September 2018).

Let’s get busy building a new world and fighting for our future.

 

 

The Science of Climate Change

This page is meant to be a place to find information about the science of climate change. It will be updated as relevant data or information comes to my attention.

Consensus? What Consensus?

Yes, there is a scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Many individual and groups continue, however, to sow confusion and doubt about the science of climate change. These groups often evoke the banner of “science” to back their claims. Whatever their motives are, they are performing a great disservice to the cause of truth.
Below are links to bonafide scientific sites or sites which cite and explore genuine science in good faith. (see also “Trump Administration Agrees CO2 Will Warm the Planet”)

consensus_(skepticalscience.com)

Climate facts at NASA
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ report on the scientific consensus and confusion about it.
The weather underground’s report
Skeptical Science.com’s report

What are the Causes of Climate Change?

The most important trigger of the climate change we are currently witnessing and experiencing is something called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect describes the way the earth’s atmosphere traps heat due to the presence of “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) . All of these greenhouse gases are released by various human activities. Since industrialization began we have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by more than 30%. Human sources of CO2 include the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation (forests act as “carbon sinks” which absorb CO2–more forests means less CO2, less forests mean more CO2). Industrial food production accounts for increases in methane, nitrous oxide and CO2 (through deforestation). Read more about these causes at NASA. Explore further here.

CO2_history_(sketpicalscience.com)

Explore graphics depicting aspects of climate change and its causes here.

How do we know the earth is warming?

In short, scientists measure temperatures of air and water and observe key indicators like ice melt. The measurements are taken regularly and then studied for patterns and averages. Over a span of years and decades one can detect patterns. These patterns indicate warming trends.

Warming_Indicators_(from skepticalscience.com)

 

Temperature_Composite_(skepticalscience.com)

The above graph charts the rise of global temperatures since 1890 using five different scientific data sets. More information on this graph may be found here.

How Do these Changes Impact Weather and Climate?

As the atmosphere warms up due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, the air warms up. Warmer air over land causes more evaporation, leading to increasing drought conditions. The drier conditions increase the likelihood and severity of fire. The result has been longer and more destructive fire seasons. This increase in evaporation leads to an increase in rainfall in other areas, thus leading to more devastating floods in interior regions. Warming ocean water expands, which means coastal areas shrink and when storms come ashore more water is pulled over land, increasing the damage done through storm surges in coastal areas. Finally, wind patterns are responsible for the formation of storms such as hurricanes. Warmer water produces greater wind speeds which increases the likelihood of more powerful storms. For a more detailed explanation of the connection between climate change and hurricanes and other weather events see scientist Katherine Hayhoe’s video here. If you need a friendly intro to climate related questions I recommended checking out Katherine Hayhoe’s videos here, she is a scientist and educator who lives in Texas.

 

Drawbacks to Electric Vehicles?

There are many advantages to changing to a plug-in electric vehicle (EV). Are there any drawbacks to going electric?

Yes, there are two related issues, which are drawbacks. Issues, which are, nonetheless, being resolved by engineers and material scientists: Range Anxiety and Long Charge Times.

Range Anxiety

The number one concern is driving range on a single charge.  This issue is captured by the phrase “range anxiety” which scared off many earlier generation buyers.

As of September 2018 there are three fully electric vehicles which resolve range anxiety issues: The Tesla Model S (100D), the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model S (60D). These vehicles have ranges of 335 miles, 238 miles, and 218 miles on a full charge.

The next best are the 2018 Nissan Leaf with 150 miles and the Renault Zoe with 180 miles (available in Europe). There are a handful of other EVs whose range is adequate for most commuters (VW eGolf, Hyundai Ioniq, bmw i3). The top three vehicles can handle any commute as well as go on short day trips with a charge at the destination. By 2020 there will be a dozen different vehicle manufacturers making EVs with ranges of 200 miles or more on a single charge, and half a dozen with ranges of 300 miles or more (see here).

Even then, as you do now, you will need to charge if you are driving beyond the range of your vehicle (say 200 or 300 miles). Which brings us to the related issue of charging times, which is the second biggest concern about EVs.

Charging Time

The concern here is the time it takes to charge the battery of the EV. Can you “fill up” the battery in 10 minutes?  The answer is “No.”  What about 30 minutes? Possibly, with the fastest charge available.

The first response to this drawback is that one should not compare charging an EV to filling up a conventional vehicle. Can you fill up a conventional vehicle at home or work while sleeping or working? No, but that is generally how you will charge your EV, while you are home (not driving) and the vehicle will be ready to get you where you need to go in the morning.

To understand this issue you need to realize there are multiple charging options out there. There are basically three levels of charge available, you might think of them as slow, medium and fast. Slow (level 1) uses your standard 110 volt AC outlet. Medium (level 2) uses a 240 volt AC outlet (like most clothes dryers, air conditioners and fridges). And DC fast charge options are available for an EV that can handle it. Tesla has a system of proprietary DC Superchargers, and other EVs use one of two other types of plugs known as CHAdeMO or SAE combo. For more on plugs and charging see here. The Fast charge options provide about 100 miles of charge per hour, the medium (level 2) charge provides around 25 miles of charge per hour, the level 1 charge is only useful overnight, as it provides around 4 miles per hour.

So, if you are on a day trip or a road trip, you will need to plan charging stops where you can sit and have a meal or do something for at least an hour as well as be sure to fully charge the vehicle over night. This, however, is changing and more and faster charging networks are on the horizon. One charger can reportedly provide 120 miles in 8 minutes.

The good news about both of these drawbacks is that they are not permanent drawbacks, they are being resolved in real time. In the near future, EVs will have greater range on a full charge than conventional vehicles on a full tank of gas and DC fast charging stations are popping up everywhere with Billions of dollars being poured into new charging infrastructure worldwide (see here and here). I will continue to follow these “drawbacks” and report on them on this blog. The anticipation is that by 2020 they will be less serious, by 2022 even less an issue, and perhaps by 2025 there will be no real drawbacks to going electric.

The Cost Issue

A third drawback, that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, is cost! In 2018, the best EVs are still more expensive than comparably functional conventional vehicles. That’s just the way it is. You can get into a very functional gas-powered vehicle for under $30,000.  This is much more difficult to do in the best EVs without government rebates. This is changing just as fast as the other issues. And like those other issues, prices for EVs are expected to fall below the prices for conventional vehicles in the near future, likely by 2025 (see here, here, here).