Pope Francis on the Climate Crisis. Some say this is revolutionary. Pray they’re right!
As went the dinosaurs, so go the humans. The difference being those ancient reptiles didn’t bring it on themselves. We, on the other hand, are supplying our own asteroid in the form of a global industrial society completely out of control. The most recent Fifth Assessment Report on our climate from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just adds more urgency to an already resounding alarm; an alarm far too few are acting upon.
Isn’t it peculiar so many taboos exist among the religions of the Anthropocene against the taking of one’s own life when we as a species are daily committing collective suicide? The Catholic priest down the street will tell you it is a mortal sin to commit suicide, so much so that your remains will be banished from the “sacred ground” of a Catholic graveyard. Likewise the Jewish religion forbids the burial of suicides in a Jewish cemetery. Surely exceptions are made here and there, but the underlying irony is there for anyone who cares to contemplate it. The alleged righteous among us deny comfort to those so in discomfort that they choose death, yet these moralists contribute daily to the eventual death of everyone.
Of course, it’s not just the religious who embody such hypocrisy. The secular world has its proclivities as well. It is standard practice in U.S. newsrooms to avoid spending too much ink, airtime or electrons dwelling on suicides in an effort to prevent copy-cat suicides. Meanwhile, out in the real world where the climate that sustains us all degrades daily at the hands of western civilization (such as it is), the greatest copy-cat suicide of all times goes for a large part unreported.
Perhaps this deception is most glaring on the far right of the political spectrum where unencumbered economic growth is held up as sacrosanct as the bible itself. Never mind that such growth is at the heart of our ecological demise; that it is akin to the growth of cancer. Putting aside the many contradictions in the bible, not the least of which describes the money changers being driven from the temple, the bible is used to justify the long discredited belief that riches are a sign of god’s favor. This seems odd, given that the wealthy are driving our species (and most of the rest of life on Earth) off the cliff into climate chaos. It is the carbon barons, the methane men and their enablers of all political stripes who engineer our mass suicide. They are the ones offering only minimal choices for redress of this greatest of all disasters to the 99%. They are the Jim Jones’ to our foolish followers.
Will these enemies of the planet allow anyone the right to die? Not at all, or seldom if ever. Their minions in government pass laws against suicide even as their near every act moves us closer to death; closer to what could well be the extinction of our species and untold others. Do you think this extreme? Laughable? If the growing reality of the Climate Crisis was not so serious, if it was not the most dire issue we have ever faced, it would be perhaps amusing to see who has the last laugh.
What would Jor-El say now?? The COP19 climate talks are underway (in the wake of the WORST STORM EVER) and the President’s guy, Todd Stern is fudging on binding agreements. How long has this been going on?? Here’s an exchange between Stern and a reporter:
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Inga Czerny from Polish Press Agency. You said that the objective is to have this international agreement in Paris in the end of 2015, so I would like to know if Washington – if U.S. would be – would accept to having Warsaw a sort of binding roadmap – how to achieve this goal in 2015?
MR. STERN: Yeah. It’s a good question. Look, I think that some form of roadmap or path forward, whatever we end up calling it, if we could do that, that would be a good idea. I’m not sure if you said “binding”?
MR. STERN: Yeah. Well, I don’t know about – I mean, “binding” has a particular meaning in these negotiations. What I think is important is that there ought to be a signal about how we’re going to move forward. In the first instance, in the upcoming year – so there’s two years, basically 24 months until Paris, so there’s a lot of things that need to be done between now and Paris to have an agreement that people can actually sign on to.
I think, by the way, that the two years that have elapsed between Durban and now have been well spent. I mean, I don’t think anybody who kind of lives within the bubble of these negotiations thought it was a good idea to start literally negotiating and laying text down on the table and all of that right away. I mean, what we’ve had is a kind of conceptual period, a discussion period, ideas have been discussed in all kinds of different forums, and that’s been completely appropriate. I think that we’re kind of getting to a point where you kind of gradually start to narrow things down, and you start to actually gradually focus on what can actually be in an agreement.
Moving forward! Does that sound familiar to you…….even though the movement seems….um…painfully slow? How about a “signal” that we’re going to move forward?
When Jor-El was trying in vain to convince the movers & shakers on Krypton that their world was coming to an end they dithered, ignored him or laughed at him. Most denied the drastic change that science predicted was coming their way. So, he sent his son, Obama….um…sorry, Kal-El off to planet Earth (maybe thinking folks there were more reasonable?). And here we are: life imitates art and the movers & shakers? Well, they come across like comic book characters.
On Monday, August 29 some 40 Valley residents in Western Massachusetts rallied and held a vigil outside a TD Bank in Amherst to demonstrate their opposition to TD’s financial support of Canadian tar sand extraction and the danger such tar sands present to the planet and its inhabitants. “TD Bank is one of TransCanada’s largest shareholders and is bankrolling the toxic Keystone XL pipeline. TD Bank’s corporate greenwashed image as a community friendly institution is being tarnished more every day. People along the East Coast are taking action to expose this tar sands profiteer and send a clear message that TD’s investments in KXL are just as toxic as the contents of the pipeline. TD Bank must divest or continue to be met with resistance in the communities where it attempts to conduct business”, notes the Tar Sands Blockade Coalition. You can take action on TD here.
After the End of the World
Predictions about the end of the world have come and gone for millennia and we all know how those turned out. This latest one concerning misreadings of the Mayan calendar got its legs from social networking and the media, but like so many others, when the date on the calendar passed……..nothing. Having said that, it seems way past time we seriously addressed the real end of the world: the Climate Crisis. Going back decades and longer, the world’s leading scientists (and more than a few activists like myself) have been sounding the alarm about humanity being on a collision course with the natural world. Way back in 1992, exactly two decades ago, The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity stated: “The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth’s limits”. Then the Scientists’ Warning went on to say: “No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished”. That was two decades ago.
During the intervening years, in every avenue available to us, environmentalists and others have been sounding the alarm. When we launched The Enviro Show on Valley Free Radio in late 2005 we read from the World Scientists’ Warning on our very first show. Just this past summer we read those words again on this, the two decade anniversary of the Warning’s release. These days we have no shortage of warnings concerning the Climate Crisis. Activists like Bill McKibben and the folks at 350.org , Al Gore and even more mainstream groups like Greenpeace or the Sierra Club, as well as a growing student movement may be out in front on this, the most critical issue facing humankind, but governments and industry are not. Do we really need to ask why? In case you missed it, scientifically proven, human-caused climate change is a product of western civilization, industrial development. You probably won’t be hearing that from Bill McKibben or Al Gore, much less cable or network news. You can read about the numbers, about the need to return CO2 levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, down from its current level of 392ppm, or the need to transition to alternative energy and away from fossil fuels, but seldom will you read or hear about how our own industries, how Corporate America, is destroying the biosphere on our planet, how it is diminishing the lives of our children and future generations.
Recently we had wildlife biologist Guy McPherson on the show. His take on the Climate Crisis is even more grim than McKibben’s or The World Scientists’ Warning. McPherson’s position? Game over. The link takes you to his recent presentation at Greenfield Community College. Rumor has it that he will not be invited back. Why? No one wants to hear about the end of the world. This is not to say that McPherson has all the numbers right, that his analysis is, dare I say, the last word. I enter it here simply to point out two important things: 1) the real end of the world (as we know it) is an ongoing process, and 2) everyone, everyone, needs to fight back. The time for denial or waiting for the UN or government or God to fix things is over. We are the savior we’ve been waiting for. Regardless of McPherson’s gloom & doom, just the chance that we may lessen the effects of climate chaos, just the chance that we can give future generations more time, should be enough to motivate us into action. This is what is required: a massive popular groundswell, a movement even more powerful than the abolition of slavery or civil rights. It is the Rights of Nature, and our right to a livable planet that should empower us. Some Mayans have said the turning of their calendar was not “The End of the World” but rather the beginning of a new world. We need that new beginning now.
— d.o. 1/1/13 [Also published on the Arise blog]
Michael Perlman, presenta!
I just had the disturbing experience of finding one of the early voices on the climate crisis slipping down the memory hole. Dr. Michael Perlman, author of “The Power of Trees – A reforesting of the soul” and other works lived here in the Valley in the ’90s. He helped greatly to raise awareness of what he insisted we call “climate chaos” or “climate disruption” (instead of the less cogent phrase “global warming”). Below I’ve reposted Bob Leverett’s heart felt tribute to Perlman. It is vital that we honor those who have sounded the alarm about what is the gravest threat to life on planet Earth. This, even more so since it is believed that Michael Perlman took his own life out of despair over humanity’s lack of or concern or action regarding climate disruption.
In the 1990s I had a great friend named Dr. Michael Perlman, one of the co-founders of ENTS. He died in April 1998. Michael was absolutely brilliant. He had many credits. He wrote The Power of Trees – A reforesting of the soul . He was an adjunct professor at Vermont College, a Jungian psychologist, and an ecologist. He was editing the Einstein papers for Princeton University at the time of his death – a testament to his immense intellect. He was also working on a paper that explored the basis of mathematics as an expression of inherent universal structure and properties. He had previously thought of mathematics as a product of abstract human thinking divorced from any natural roots – an artificially developed discipline carried on within the confines of classrooms, private studies, and lecture halls, but not outdoors – conceptually perhaps, but seldom in practice. I don’t know precisely what was in Mike’s mind, but his new hypothesis may have been that true mathematics is in encoded in our DNA as an expression of the universal physical laws – and of course the architecture of trees. When mathematics is observed to ooze out of the brain of some precocious genius, Mike would likely maintain that that expression isn’t a consequence of some sternly developed human talent, but the song of the spheres, so to speak, manifesting itself through genetic pathways formed from several million years of trial and error.
Mike and I used to walk the forest together and he would unabashedly hug trees. Feeling uncomfortable, I would always look around first to make sure nobody was watching. But, Mike? No hesitation. He talked freely of going to meet a tree. He saw trees as life forms with psychological structures as surely as he accepted the obvious physical ones. He didn’t see the psychological structures of trees as human. He wasn’t projecting his own traits into their outstretched branches. He was far too intelligent for that. His thinking occurred on many levels, and that left those of us trying to understand him groping. Language is not always a sufficient tool to convey understanding, so Mike’s explanations as transmitted through his words were seldom sufficient to enable the rest of us to understand how he came to his conclusions. I finally gave up, but not before many conversations had taken place both in the forest and over a beer or two in the comfort of my living room.
Mike probably influenced me more than I can fully comprehend, and I can also say with humility that I influenced him. When in his presence, he coaxed me to think more deeply about the role of forests and tree and our interaction with them. Were he with us today, I can well imagine him struggling hard with the Forest Futures process, currently underway. He had little tolerance for corporatized thinking. He certainly would not have seen most of the TSC members as visionaries. By contrast, I am more tolerant and pragmatic. He sometimes envied that in me, and I sometimes disliked it in myself. We often served as a balance for each other – idealism and pragmatism. I suppose he could be pragmatic, but I don’t think I ever fully witnessed it.
I have to smile when I think of Michael returning from a convention with his fellow and lady psychologists. He would come back fuming and complaining that none could climb out of the deep well of anthropocentric values and priorities. He would explain that everything of value to them had to be a byproduct of human emotions and personality traits, a self-absorbed examination of how one felt instant by instant. Such a preoccupation with a moment by moment fretting over what what is inside of one’s head left no room for thinking more broadly, about what is good for plants and animals. I often wondered what had lead him to Jungian Psychology. Of course I always had the answer. It was his great compassion. He saved many from taking their own lives. He could save them, but not himself.
Mike has a tree named for him in Mohawk Trail State Forest. Mike’s tree is perfectly straight and is located right on the Mahican- Mohawk Recreational Trail. His tree was not chosen out of impulse. It is the site of two friends coming together, Mike and John Knuerr. Mike’s tree is on the docket to reach 150 feet in height at the end of next season’s growth, an accomplishment that Mike would not have concerned himself from his own inner priorities, but would have indulged on my account.
I often think of Mike and visit his tree when in the Algonquin Grove. If I think of Mike, I must also think separately of his tree. To think only of Mike and not of his tree as a separate being would be to miss the whole point of Mike’s life and what was important to him.
Saturday December 1st. Five College Rally Against Climate Silence.
Hundreds of area students gathered on the Amherst Town Common at 2pm on Saturday for a spirited rally calling for an end to silence by government and the corporate media on the issue of climate change. Unfazed by the snow and cold, students and others from the community cheered speeches, chanted and sang out in support of a renewed effort to put the Climate Crisis front and center on the nation’s agenda and on their respective campuses. Former Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein spoke of the pressing need to address the crisis and fight for “our climate”. Another student spoke about the climate not as “ours”, but as integral to the planet, supporting all life on Earth, and belonging to no one species. Various national groups such as 350.org and the Greens were represented, as were local organizations focused on climate change. At about 4pm everyone spread out to encircle almost the entire main Common. After a moment of “climate silence”, the massive circle went into a long chant of “End climate silence!”, drawing the attention of all in the center of town.
The event gave the impression that the Climate Crisis will no longer be an also-ran issue on the public stage. The recent disaster caused by mega-hurricane Sandy in metropolitan New York, last summer’s killer drought and last year’s mega-storm Irene seem to be the planet’s way of bringing the issue to the fore. Now, all the politicians and the corporados have to do is follow the peoples’ and the planet’s lead. As student organizers point out, “Our futures are at stake, let’s get to work!”
More information about Colleges Against Climate Silence can be found on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/371024976316844/?fref=ts. Share on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CollegesEndCS . Also contact: