Let me lead with a question – Is the threat of environmental catastrophe ringing from every pulpit and ethical organization in the country? If not, why not? The Bible records many prophets and the price of ignoring them. Surely making clear the moral and religious imperative of preventing catastrophe is a basic function, a duty of the clergy. Read the rest of this entry »
Congress has been considering changing mortgage banking, reducing the role of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, the two federal superbanks that have been insuring and buying our mortgages for decades. Actually, the government should stop encouraging the suburbanization of America. Read the rest of this entry »
I just got back from Chicago where I attended a national meeting of political scientists. One of them described at length the local, national and international barriers to doing anything about climate change. His basic point was that those whose livelihood seemed to depend on activities that are bringing on climate change are strategically placed to prevent the rest of us from doing anything. His point is that to make anything happen it would be necessary to make people come to think about what they are doing as wrong in the teeth of evidence that it is good for them in their own lifetimes. That also makes them totally resistant to the idea that climate change is happening, that human activity is a substantial cause of the change, that it will do any damage and that it is worth dealing with. Ouch for the rest of us.
Then I attended a meeting where the speaker described the change of ideas. He regarded those changes as inexplicable. For most of human history war had been considered noble, a good thing, that made people stronger and better. Then just before World War I, that started to change. After that war, no one makes claims about the generic benefit of war – war has become an occasionally necessary evil, but not a good thing. And for most of human history, people had slaves. Those that could would. Slaves and slavery were valued. It made you a big shot, and made your life easier. Then suddenly in the eighteenth century it changed dramatically in Europe. England began to block the slave trade and shortly it was banned in Latin America, the serfs were freed in Russia, and only the U.S. clung to slavery of the modern nation states.
In the speaker’s description, both ideas turned in reaction to novels that separately described war and slavery as disgusting, as indeed they are. In regard to war, the novel described the scene of rotting and dismembered corpses on a battlefield. In the case of slavery, another novel described the brutality of the way slaves were treated. Both of course were accurate. The facts, however, were not new. What was new was disgust.
I’m no novelist but global warming is disgusting. Global warming is an extinction of ourselves. We and our children and children’s children will be strewn on nature’s battlefield gasping for water and air, our bellies distended for lack of food, our homes lost to the elements, our skin alternately burned and frozen, unable to protect our children, wives, husbands or parents, indeed some will become too desperate to care. Global warming will take everything from us that makes us human. It has been doing that piecemeal in the aftermath of storms that have left people totally destitute in parts of the world. It will exceed our capacity to put people back on their feet as the oceans take back the coasts. It will poison us, as a warming climate spreads diseases for which we have no defenses, leaving us to rot from diseases few of us have seen and none of us care to see except as the noblest of doctors and nurses. It will extinguish our food supplies and it is attacking the supply of the air we breathe.
Global warming is disgusting. Pass it on.
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, April 8, 2014.
I don’t think of myself as a motivational speaker. I try to explain, and hope my commentaries provide helpful explanations. But this time, I want to challenge and motivate everyone to take strong action on the environmental catastrophe facing us.
We know burning gas, oil, coal and wood release carbon and help produce global warming. Some of that carbon acidifies the oceans when it’s absorbed. Air and water contamination destroy our food supplies, by destroying habitat and causing draught, among other ways. That destroys us. Global warming and ocean acidification threaten the oxygen we breathe. They threaten to sicken us with new diseases. The science is now well known.
Law generally defines murder as an intentional killing. And we infer that people intend the natural and probable consequences of their actions. And we know. Aren’t those of us who stand by guilty of mass murder-suicide, intending the natural and probable consequence of our use of carbon fuels, the death of many, perhaps billions, of human beings. Isn’t it reckless indifference to human life to fire global warming into this crowded planet. Read the rest of this entry »
Before moving to Albany thirty-five years ago, we lived in Morgantown, West Virginia – a university town and a mining town. We knew people in both worlds. Our daughter was only seven, but after we moved she got letters from a little friend there who was the son of a miner. Miners lived all around.
Morgantown was very special, but the chemical leak and contamination in Charlestown reveals the naiveté of many in West Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S., who believe that whatever is good for the companies is good for us, that the companies are looking out for our welfare. Read the rest of this entry »
Let me begin by congratulating the station on a successful fund drive. These guys are terrific, the work they do is important.
For me it’s been three weeks since we’ve last talked, and I’m glad to be back. I’ve spent time thinking about what’s really important. A lot of what I try to do is to put things in a perspective that I hope you can use. For many of you, I’m preaching to the choir, but collectively, there is a mountain we have to move.
Some people don’t like to think about global warming, either because it’s too big a topic, or because thinking about it doesn’t make them happy. But not to think about it is to help to bring it on, to be part of the failure to force our politicians to make stopping the greenhouse effect a top priority.
Let’s understand how the earth can rebalance itself. It’s really very simple. The earth can flood, boil, infect, dehydrate and starve us to death. Have you seen people starving to death, or people dying of thirst? It’s not a pretty sight, even when it’s someone else. But an angry earth won’t spare us. Some of the changes are happening faster than predicted. And it’s not clear to me whether the changes will be gradual or catastrophic. Some of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will be in the sights of disaster. Once the earth gets rid of most of us, the greenhouse gasses will slowly decline in the atmosphere. And then, maybe, if the hot earth doesn’t boil the atmosphere itself away, maybe the earth can begin to rebalance and cool down. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night at the Egg I heard Bill McKibben talk about climate change. I was very proud of Joe and Alan and WAMC for organizing it and proud of the WAMC audience for coming out in droves to hear him. The message he brings is not a happy one but it is a message we have to hear and understand; more, it’s a message we have to act on. Read the rest of this entry »
During the fund drive I heard Joe Donahue and this station working hard to bring Bill McKibben to this audience and lead us away from the catastrophe of global warming. He and the station did a great service and I am proud to be associated with them.
If your house was on fire you wouldn’t stand like a bystander waiting for it to collapse; you’d call the fire department and get anyone you could reach out of there fast.
If you child or your grandchild were about to drown, you would not turn your back moaning that it was too awful to contemplate; you’d raise hell to get your children out.
If your children disappeared on a camping trip, you wouldn’t sit around moaning; you’d search, call the rangers, find those children.
If your baby was dying of thirst, you’d find water. If your child was dying of hunger you’d find food. I met one six year old girl whose mother released her to others who brought her to America after the young girl’s brother had died of starvation in Liberia. It’s awful to contemplate but as parents we do what we have to in order to protect our children. Read the rest of this entry »
I have no illusion that what I say today will register over the important news that will be coming out of the Democratic Convention in North Carolina. But I want to respond to the Republican Convention and the party line the Republicans have been repeating.
Romney at the Convention told his people that “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” In other words Romney made fun of the single largest threat to the American way of life, coming in hurricanes, droughts, floods and the spread of serious diseases, suggesting if we didn’t already know it that the basic Republican position on the seriousness of the environmental threat is denial and ignorance.
But the basic Republican attack on Obama is that his policies have failed the economy. Read the rest of this entry »