Thursday, June 27, 2013

Obama on Climate Change



Good start, Obama, but not nearly enough. I know I don't think the way much of America does, but I think you spent too much time apologizing for the need to do anything about climate change and were too weak on the solutions.

You do spend the first nine minutes on climate change and how it's real and dangerous. At 10:45, you start talking about "carbon pollution," but it's clear to me that you are talking about carbon dioxide and ignoring methane. At minute 14, I think you do mention methane, but you ignore the methane that is leaked into the air through the extraction of natural gas. It may burn cleaner than coal, but it's not cheaper, cleaner, or safer to extract and produce.

At minute 20, you tell us that we don't "have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy. The old rules may say we can't protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time but [technology will save us]." You say that by using more renewable energy and wasting less, we can continue and our economy can grow. I think you're wrong.

At around 23:45 you say that "allowing the Keystone Pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so" will not "significantly exacerbate" the health of the climate. I don't trust that our definitions of "significantly exacerbate" are in the same ballpark. You say again that you want to "make sure we're not seeing methane emissions" around minute 25. Again, I don't believe you'll pay attention to that science. I want to believe it, but I am pretty damn skeptical.

You promise that our "federal government will consume 20% of its electricity from renewable resources" in the near future around 28:45. That does sound pretty great. It's a strong part of your three point plan to:
1. use less dirty energy
2. transition to cleaner energy
3. waste less

But it's not enough. 20% of an unnamed and increasingly growing number (or amount of total energy) is not sustainable. It barely puts a dent. You want the economy to grow, which with current models requires our energy consumption to grow... and which encourages our consumption to grow as we promote a hedonistic, wasteful, sinful, arrogant, immoral Western way of life (which I live and enjoy myself every single day).

Around minute 33, you do talk about the unavoidable climate change we're already facing and that we have to mitigate. You talk about the threat to security we'll face with more floods and weird weather occurrences. I think you know, Mr. President, that these things are happening. I hope that you face an internal struggle between a) telling it like it is and injecting a little hope and b) lying blatantly and paying just enough lip service to keep some of the environmentalist wackos at bay. I think you're leaning toward the latter but I'm hoping that you, a lame duck, have the courage to do the former. I don't trust the government to lead me this way, but a lot of the country still loves you, sir. A lot of the country still believes in this corporate capitalist conspiracy we pretend to call a representative democracy. We largely avoid direct democracy as much as possible. It's what we were born into. It's hard to get out of. And do we even want to.

That's no longer the question, or it won't be soon. I think the economy will continue to get worse. And if for some reason it doesn't I think that climate change will just happen faster and faster. We can't have both. And my guess is that we probably can't have either.

I still love my life and I think it's very good. But, as Derrick Jensen has said, we're pretty fucked.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Crisis of Civilization.9

Here's what I've been reading today:


  • "Al-Qaeda-affiliated networks remain useful as mercenary proxies for Anglo-American regional geostrategy in the Middle East" (157). As in - we're paying for so-called terrorism (though we can't completely control it - that's how double- and triple-agency works) to justify the government's having such a huge military, which we use to protect our interests of controlling all of the world's natural resources so we can continue to live the cushiest lives for as long as we can. 
  • "These crises [global ecological, energy, and economic] are recognized not as evidence that the global imperial system is fundamentally unsustainable and therefore requiring urgent transformation, but as vindicating the necessity for Western states to radicalize the exertion of their military-political capacities to maintain the existing power structures" (161-162). This is similar to what I wrote above. I agree with much of it but disagree with the implication that the people in power think that global imperial system is fundamentally unsustainable. There is a difference, I suppose, between thinking and knowing something and recognizing it publicly. I firmly believe that the people in power know that the house of cards is about to fall and just want to ride the wave (on the backs of the "have nots" of the world) as long as they can and live as well as they can before dying a fiery fiery death. They know it can't last but they don't want to be the ones to suffer. 
  • "While, internally, capitalist markets are designed to work without government interference, the actual creation of such markets in new territories requires a violent transformation of their social relations to take control of productive resources, dispossess large numbers from the land to create wage labourers, and open markets to foreign capital. If such efforts are resisted by local populations, then counter-insurgency measures are required to forcibly establish the 'liberal' conditions of the market - that is, a regulatory private property framework supported by appropriate political, legal and ideological institutions.Hence, military doctrines come hand-in-glove with a potent vision of 'liberal' imperialism, advocating 'the forceful extension of free markets, electoral democracies and human rights,' all of which are essential ingredients in the maintenance of 'legitimate states and capitalist markets to secure the expanded reproduction of a liberal world order'" (165, with author citing Alejandro Colas's 2007 Empire). - If this part isn't abundantly clear, what I interpret is that capitalism as we know it is bullshit. I was going to start writing about how in individual communities, doing work for profit makes sense, but then my brain started thinking about the psychological studies that refute the idea that people are best motivated extrinsically. The bottom line, I believe, is that turning land, plant and animal life, and even HUMAN life into "capital" and "resources" is wrong. It's the fundamental idea I've been wrestling with for about 12 years now - there is no "self" and "other." We MUST respect everything else as being part of what we are. Separating ourselves through the many means we use is wrong and it's going to kill life on this planet. [Future blog ideas about deifying separating institutions like language, religion, government, etc.]
  • "The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our culture assault" (166, quoted from Ralph Peters's 'Constant Conflict' from Parameters 1997; Peters is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel).
These quotations and the barely explained thoughts of mine derived from them are the reason I abbreviated the lunch break I took to make time to read them; there was too much here to add on to and too much I wanted to put into words to draw on in future arguments. Input is most welcome.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

In the News

Texas A&M and cheap, safe water

Rising sea level in Texas

These are some of the headlines of the maybe-weekly email that comes to all TAMU faculty, staff, and students.

I finished reading Carolyn Baker's "Sacred Demise," which was pretty good. Lots of food for thought. Now that it's summer I'm ready for a Barbara Kingsolver binge. And I'm still reading Nafeez Ahmed's "A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization." I just started the chapter on terrorism and foreign policy. I haven't encountered too many new concepts in this chapter yet, but Nafeez documents his sources well and I'm sure I'll have points to share as the chapter continues.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Western Way of Life

This really isn't news to most people I talk to who choose to think about such things or can stomach the truth, but it bears repeating. Preach it, brother Nafeez!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/04/rising-energy-prices-western-life-mod

This summer's foray into sustainability involves me pet-sitting, walking to work more, and making more soup and eating out less. Also composting a bit :-)