North Dakota Tramples Journalist Deia Schlosberg’s Constitutional Right to Cover Historic Climate Protests

“We already have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as any scientist thinks is safe to burn.” — Bill McKibben

*****

Deia Schlosberg seems to me to be an exceptionally responsible person. A producer of the Josh Fox film How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t ChangeDeia has already helped thousands of people to more deeply understand the very serious risks associated with our continued burning of fossil fuels. To understand it on an intimate, personal level. And for this we owe her not only our gratitude, but the firm affirmation of our voices lifted to support her during her time of unjust persecution.

deia-schlosberg_climate-direction-action-activists

(Deia Schlosberg [left] and climate activists who briefly shut down TransCanada Tar Sands production on October 11 [right]. Image source: Desmogblog.)

For Deia appears to have earned herself the ire of some of the most powerful and destructive private economic interests on planet Earth. Interests that are apparently now involved in leveraging the loyalty of politically aligned persons within North Dakota law enforcement in an attempt to intimidate and silence this responsible and compassionate journalist.

Journalistic Documentation of an Unprecedented Protest Action

Back on October 11th, Deia provided journalistic coverage of a pipeline protest in Walhalla, North Dakota. The protest involved an act of civil disobedience in which 5 people used shut-off valves to stop tar sands crude transported by TransCanada pipelines from entering the U.S. These five locations were private holdings of TransCanada and represented the main access points for corporate-produced tar sands. When the protesters operated the shut-off valves, TransCanada’s significant flow of greenhouse gas producing syncrude was temporarily halted.

tar-sands-mordor

(TransCanada is a corporate producer of tar sands — one of the most environmentally and climatologically  destructive fuels on planet Earth. An energy source whose continued use risks extraordinarily damaging climate outcomes. Now that replacement fuels and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biofuels, and electric vehicles are much more readily available, we have an opportunity to turn away from such dangerous activities. For years now, climate activists have been fighting to make the public aware of risks and harms associated with tar sands extraction all while challenging an unhealthy level of economic dominance by fossil fuel interests that prevents and delays access to far less damaging energy sources. Image source: Desmogblog.)

Deia, according to her statements to Desmogblog, was recording the act of civil disobedience by one of the activists operating the shut-off valves — documenting what is likely to become an event of historic importance as a filmmaker and a climate journalist.

Deia noted to Desmogblog:

In general, I felt like this was an extremely important action to document because it was unprecedented — shutting down all of the oil sands coming into the U.S. from Canada. And as a climate reporter and someone who worries about the impacts of climate change and our future, I know that the Canadian oil sands are a pretty scary source of energy to be exploiting at this point.

False Charges That Violate a Journalist’s Constitutionally Protected Freedoms

To be very clear, Deia was both performing a public service by recording an event of historic significance and exercising journalistic freedoms that are held sacred by the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution plainly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Prosecutors apparently aligned with fossil fuel special interests in North Dakota obviously did not agree. Instead, on October 13th, they brought unwarranted, trumped-up charges against Deia for simply excising her Constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. Prosecutors claimed that Deia was involved in a conspiracy to steal property, a conspiracy to steal services, and a conspiracy to tamper with or damage a public service.

Ironically, not only do these charges serve to infringe upon the protected freedoms of an American citizen, they also have no legal basis whatsoever. For, acting as an event-documenting journalist, Deia in no way served as an accessory to or conspirator for any crime. Furthermore, the charges leveled by North Dakota do not in any way fit events as they transpired or match the legal definitions of possible crimes as they are technically defined. No property or services were stolen as part of the protest action. Access to tar sands crude was simply briefly interrupted. And since TransCanada is a private corporation that profits from its sales of tar sands to agencies within the U.S., labeling its wealth-seeking activity as a ‘public service’ is the very definition of inaccurate legalistic contortion.

Moreover, Deia’s record of the pipeline shut-off by activists has been unjustly and probably unlawfully confiscated. An action that removes from the public eye a critical piece of reporting related to an event of historic human welfare significance.

The Risk From Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels is Human Civilization Collapse, Mass Extinction

In the context of Deia’s climate journalism, we should very clearly identify the climate harms and risks that arise from continuing to burn fossil fuels and in expanding that rate of burning. And we should also state plainly that it is these harms, these risks which provide strong justification on moral, survival, and human safety and welfare grounds for the actions made by protesters covered by Deia.

The science is pretty clear on the fact that of the five major mass extinction events that have occurred on planet Earth, at least four were set off or greatly contributed to by large environmental carbon releases and related rising global temperatures. This includes the worst mass extinction event — the Permian — in which hothouse temperatures may have produced a Canfield Ocean that, in turn, wiped out most of life on Earth.

Based on our best understanding, it takes an atmospheric equivalent CO2 level (CO2e) of around 550 to 1000 parts per million under current conditions to generate an appreciable risk of setting off a hothouse mass extinction event. This is particularly true if, as is the case today, such an initial carbon spike occurs following periods of glaciation when Earth’s available carbon stores for providing added warming feedbacks are at their highest levels. Meanwhile, the currently unprecedented rate at which human beings are adding carbon to the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning presents further risks outside the context of past hothouse events.

(Neil Degrasse Tyson —  ‘I don’t want Earth to look like Venus.’)

We’ve already pushed CO2 levels, through our burning of fossil fuels and through other industrial activities, to above 400 parts per million (and to around 490 parts per million on the CO2 equivalent scale during 2016). The amount of carbon in the atmosphere already is currently enough to risk raising global temperatures this Century to 1.6 to 2.1 degrees Celsius above 188os values, to risk amplifying feedbacks in which the Earth System produces its own carbon spike that adds to the human sources, and to present serious challenges to the resiliency of human civilization and life on Earth.

But, even worse, there’s presently enough carbon listed as proven reserves on the books of coal, oil, and gas companies across the world to push atmospheric CO2 equivalent levels well above 900 parts per million. If we burn all this carbon, or if we discover and extract even more, we will see between 4 and 9 degrees Celsius warming this century and possibly as much as 9-18 C warming in the centuries to follow. So much burning and resulting heating of the Earth would set off a catastrophe that no current human civilization would be likely to survive. One that could also cause the worst mass extinction event in all of the deep, deep time of Earth’s long history.

These basic facts may be difficult for some to hear and understand — especially when they’ve staked their aspirations for economic growth on the false hope represented by fossil fuels. But, as tough as these facts are to listen to, they remain. Continuing to burn fossil fuels will wreck civilizations, disrupt growing seasons, raise sea levels, generate storms the likes of which we have never seen, evaporate water supplies, and transform our now benevolent and life-supporting oceans into a toxin-producing mass extinction engine.

In the face of such terrible harms, we as American citizens and as human beings have the responsibility to stand up and do what we can to help people avoid them. To help people make the right choices and to shine a light in the dark places where harms are currently being committed. Deia was within her rights to do just that in documenting a climate action by protesters who voluntarily risked arrest so that the rest of us could, yet again, have the opportunity to make the right choices before it’s too late.

Links:

How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t Change

Petition (Please Sign): Drop Charges Against Deia Schlosberg

350.org Please Support

Exclusive Q&A With Deia Schlosberg on Her Arrest While Filming Activist Shutdown of Tar Sands Pipeline

Fossil Fuel Reliance: Tar Sands

First Amendment of the Constitution

Canfield Ocean

Neil Degrasse Tyson Climate Change

NOAA ESRL

Carbon Tracker

Hat tip to Bill McKibben

Hat tip to Seal

Hat tip to DT Lange

Growth Shock and How the Gods of Our Greed Continue to Fail Us

Number_of_Planet_Scenarios_2008

(Number of Planet Scenarios as Calculated by the World Foot Print Network. Note that according to current data, our pace of consumption currently overshoots Earth’s sustainable resource base by about 50% requiring about 1.5 Earths to meet our needs. By 2050, consumption will nearly demand the yearly productivity of three Earths. Overshoot causes irreparable harm to resources and ecosystems resulting in a collapse of the resource base. See image below.)

We are living in the age of limits, the age of consequences, the age when our quest for an endless expansion of the production of goods and services and the resulting endless concentration of wealth under pure capitalism has resulted in ever more intense degrees of Growth Shock even as it risks a devastating collapse of current day industrial civilizations.

It is a world where Western governments run by ultra-conservative political servants of the oil and gas industry engage in scientific book burning, as recently happened in Canada. A world where 85 people own more wealth than 3.5 billion of their fellow human beings. A world where it is possible for one individual to consume the same amount of resources as hundreds of thousands of his fellows.

In this world, hydrogen sulfide gas is building up in the deep ocean, a bleeding Earth is contributing its own increasing volumes of methane and CO2 to a human-caused global warming nightmare, a world where CO2 levels have passed 400 parts per million, a level not seen in 4.5 million years.

We live in a place where rock stars like Neil Young join with indigenous peoples and environmentalists in a rebellion against the fossil fuel giants who rule so much of our planet and who seek to enforce continued and increasing consumption of dirty, dangerous and depleting fossil fuels. A place where climate scientists are forced to become political activists, to risk prison sentences, to have any hope of keeping a shred of the bounty of Earth safe for their grandchildren. A world where bloggers and activists are increasingly threatened and imprisoned for expressing their previously inalienable right of free political speech.

We live in a world that is an ongoing and intensifying wreckage. A calamity caused by our worship of the failed gods of our greed, a disaster born of our turning away from our fellow man, of our loss of faith in our ability to work together through rational and representative governments, and of our dramatic failure to impose limits — both upon ourselves and upon the most criminally greedy among us.

We are living in the age of Growth Shock and on this unsustainable path the days of human civilization upon this Earth are numbered. There are no second or third Earths to which we can extend our madness that is an economic system designed to endlessly increase consumption of finite resources. There are no green fields of Mars or Venus for us to plunder. The worlds within our reach are barren and as far as even our great telescopic eyes can see across the vast expanse of space there is nothing, nothing even within an insurmountable gulf of light years, of which we could even have cause to dream of to slake our boundless want.

No. We are here. And of all the worlds within our reach fair Earth is Alone. And so we must set our task to live within our means here. To find ways to be happy that do not involve an attempt at endless, mad, and harmful expansion. That do not involve an attempt at burning all the fossil fuels and rapidly ruining our atmosphere and climate for ages and ages to come. Ours is the terrible and hopeful task of the Easter Islanders, of the residents of Tikopia — one group who succeeded in living happily and sustainably upon an island world of limited resources, and the other who desperately and miserably failed.

Our choices are as essential as they are dire and we are making them now, mostly for ill.

Environmentalists get it. Ecologists get it. Anthropologists get it. Druids get it. Scientists get it. Everyday people slaving away under minimum wage or worse get it. Those who live in the shanty towns get it. Those who live down wind of a coal plant get it. Those in West Virginia who had their water ruined get it. Those who live in fracking towns where their water is at risk or must be pumped in get it. Those in British Columbia protesting tar sands pipeline expansion get it. Some in the drying, burning west get it. Some in the storm-wracked east get it. The middle class of America who has been scape-goated and sacrificed on the alter of billionaire greed for the past 30 years should have gotten it by now. Muslims in the middle east who would have rather found water than oil get it. Christian monks who construct solar panel farms get it. South Pacific Islanders witnessing their nations being devoured by the waves get it. So many more who have been forgotten, abused, or who remain unnamed get it.

And now, an economic historian, who clearly gets it, has broken ranks from the mainstream to pen the extraordinarily brave and insightful work: Green Capitalism, the God that Failed. Consider:

We can’t shop our way to sustainability because the problems we face cannot be solved by individual choices in the marketplace. In the final analysis, the only way to align production with society’s interests and the needs of the environment is to do so directly. The huge global problems we face require the visible hand of direct economic planning to reorganize the world economy to meet the needs of humans and the environment, to enforce limits on consumption and pollution, to fairly ration and distribute the goods and services we produce for the benefit of each and every person on the planet and to conserve resources so that future generations of humans and other life forms also can live their lives to the full. All this is inconceivable without the abolition of capitalist private property in the means of production and the institution of collective bottom-up democratic control over the economy and society. And it will be impossible to build functioning democracies unless we also abolish global economic inequality. This is the greatest moral imperative of our time, and it is essential to winning worldwide popular support for the profound changes we must make to prevent the collapse of civilization. A tall order to be sure. But we will need even taller waterproof boots if we don’t make this happen. If Paul Hawken, Lester Brown, Francis Cairncross and Paul Krugman have a better plan, where is it?

In the niddling little details, Richard Smith may be wrong. You can make steel without coal, for example (biomass can provide the coking carbon and electric furnaces can smelt the metal) and total renewable energy production worldwide is now 20% of overall demand (not .6 percent as stated in Smith’s report), plug in electric vehicles, especially when run by renewable power sources, do result in an overall lowering of fossil fuel emissions, and, yes, you can eventually weed out all the carbon-producing fossil fuel inputs from a manufacturing chain (just not all waste and pollution).

But all that over-pessimism aside, Smith is correct in the broad brush. Steel production is limited by its coal or biomass coking base and overall mineral and energy inputs. If you use coal, it is also limited by long-term damage to the climate and to water supplies. Manufacturing, no matter how efficient, will always produce some waste and consume some resources that are not recyclable.

Overshoot_2

(Classic ecological overshoot and degraded carrying capacity. Image source: The Elephant in the Room)

And, most importantly, any economic model requiring endless exponential growth in the consumption of labor and resources is eventually doomed to fail especially when it is primarily based, as it is today, on a set of finite materials (fossil fuels) that through their ever increasing use cause untold damage to the world in which we live. When such a model is also based on an endless funneling of wealth to the top of the economic spectrum it is socially horrific as well. A Godzilla Zombie of a thing.

To survive the age of Growth Shock will require not just a transition away from dirty, dangerous and depleting fuels. It will also require economic systems that do not demand more materials and resources than our single Earth can provide. And, in this, Mr Smith is absolutely correct. We need to reverse the trend that has so undermined both our faith in and the direct effectiveness of our systems of government. Corporatism, commercialism, and laissez faire neoliberal globalized capitalism all must vastly recede. The zero sum game must be put back into its box. Governments must be enabled to impose effective rules and constraints even as it is also enabled to redistribute wealth to its people. It must be enabled to gap fill for the industries it will most certainly have to shut down by providing alternate jobs programs and livelihoods for those who will inevitably be put out of work. It can no longer be the ineffective baby-sitter for anarchic corporations who do what they want, when they want, however they want. Either through active responsibility or passive turning away and collapse, those days are coming to an end. Lastly, the world’s civilizations must learn to work together effectively, acquiescing to rules and constraints that benefit all people.

These are tall orders. But if we wish to retain some shade of our current wealth and Earth’s current richness and beauty, if we wish to establish a powerful, capable, and effective world civilization, if we wish to pursue justice for all peoples and not just the wealthy, then we must pursue these goals with passion and ardor. For the path we are currently on has no viable future.

Growth Shock and Our Climate Change Choices: Mitigation and Adaptation, or Harm

Climate change, a topic that once was the purview of scientists and academics, has now become a central issue in today’s political and social discussion. The primary reason for this shift is the emergence of increasingly abnormal, damaging, and severe weather events that have come with greater and greater frequency to plague the world’s cities, states and nations. Tornadoes have devoured entire towns, hurricanes have become more numerous and powerful, freak hybrid superstorms are now a serious risk, 100 year flood events have become commonplace, wildfires are now endemic, causing damage in the billions of dollars annually, and immense country-spanning droughts now range the globe.

A secondary reason for our growing awareness is that it is becoming obvious that the world’s ice sheets are in rapid retreat even as sea levels are on the rise. Nine out of ten glaciers are in decline. The great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland lose hundreds of cubic miles of ice annually. The resultant sea level rise driven by this melt and by thermal expansion of the oceans puts entire cities, states and nations into existential crisis. By the end of this century, practically all of south Florida may be little more than a shrinking archipelago. Some Pacific island nations are planning their inevitable evacuation to places like Australia, New Zealand, or the continents. Almost all coastal cities will be forced to expend significant monies and resources over the next century if they are to have any hope of warding off the rising seas and more powerful storms. An effort that, in the end, may well prove in vain.

It is a slow motion disaster movie script that plays before our eyes now, almost weekly, on the evening news. And there are many, many events that the mainstream media does not cover, likely due to the fact that it has become saturated with stories of this kind.

Growth Shock and Climate Change

Unfortunately this rising climate change emergency is just one aspect of a larger crisis of civilization-wide Growth Shock. Growth Shock is a dangerous condition brought on by a combination of our inexorably expanding global population, our over consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources, and the damage to our environment via carbon pollution that results in climate change. These three forces are all enabled by a great human limiter — Greed — which has been institutionalized in so many of the world’s corporations and is deeply imbedded both explicitly and implicitly in the world’s political systems and ideologies. So to solve climate change, we will also have to do much better at solving the problems of overpopulation, dangerous and violent methods of resource consumption, and the underlying disease of human greed.

To this point it is worth considering a statement from the ground-breaking sustainability work The Limits to Growth:

“If a society’s implicit goals are to exploit nature, enrich the elites, and ignore the long term, then that society will develop technologies and markets that destroy the environment, widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and optimize for short term gains. In short, that society develops technologies and markets that hasten a collapse instead of preventing it.”

I have also just completed my own work on the issue entitled Growth Shock: Tragedy and Hope at the Limits of a Finite World which will see electronic publication within the next two weeks.

Here is the cover image, brilliantly rendered by Matthew Friedman, in which the Vitruvian Man (representing the unsustainable and exploitative structures of humankind) seems to have grown too big for his own good and struggles unhappily against the globe’s confines:

Growth Shock Cover Art

The roll-out for this work will proceed over the next two weeks and it will be managed in such a way as to responsibly redistribute proceeds to charitable causes that, in my view, have been most effective in working to reduce the harm caused by Growth Shock and the related climate emergency (more on this later).

In any case, as climate change is one of the four forces enabling Growth Shock, we have come to a time where we are compelled to make choices and act in ways that prevent further harm through mitigation, to attempt to adapt to the growing nightmare that is now upon us, or to make the choice to fail to act and therefore increase the degree and velocity of harm coming down the pipe.

Mitigation

The obvious and worsening climate emergency that we are now just starting to experience has galvanized a growing cadre of grass roots organizations and individuals dedicated to the cause of preventing as much of the coming damage as possible. These advocates of mitigation believe that strong action now has the greatest chance of reducing future harm. And their efforts and advocacy are based in the sciences. With extreme weather and damaging events ramping up at 400 ppm CO2, the situation is bound to be far worse at 450, 550, 700, or the 900 ppm CO2 predicted under business as usual by the end of this century. Mitigation advocates are clear in the understanding that the less CO2 and other greenhouse gasses we emit, the less dangerous the ultimate crisis will become.

Mitigation and preventing future harm, therefore, must rely on a combination of efforts. Rapidly increasing renewable energy development will be needed to replace a large enough portion of fossil fuel use to sustain life support systems for the planet’s 7 billion human beings. This will involve a politically difficult replacement of fossil energy sources with clean sources like wind and solar as well as the regulation and eventual elimination of carbon emissions altogether. A more efficient use of space and, over all, more efficient life styles will also do much to prevent damage through both reducing energy and materials consumption. Such a transition will be difficult under current economies that are designed to endlessly increase the consumption of materials, labor, and resources all while funneling wealth to the top of social systems. These social and economic structures dangerously enhance the level of damage we cause and so must be challenged and called into question if we are to make much head-way.

To this point, a large shift away from the massive agribusiness of meat farming may well be needed. Today, more than 65 billion livestock are estimated to be held in states of captivity far more brutal and intolerable than even the worst-treated of human criminals. The lifespans of most of these creatures is doomed to a tortuously short 1-4 years and the unspeakable suffering many experience during their times as livestock animals is a black scar of atrocity born by our race.

An estimated 40% of the world’s grain crop goes to supporting this terrible and inhumane manifestation of food industry. Further, the lion’s share of the 30% of human greenhouse gas emissions attributed to human agriculture is based in the meat industry. As such, our industry enhanced dependence on harming animals for food and materials is likely to have to be greatly abated as part of a comprehensive climate change mitigation action. In any case, the amoral practices required by industry to produce such high volumes of meat render it ethically as well as physically unsustainable.

A true comprehensive mitigation will also have to redefine current paradigms of growth and wealth generation. Economic systems will have to become less focused on short term gains and concentrating wealth at the top and more focused on long-term prosperity and survivability through a more equal sharing of and access to more limited resources. The exploitative paradigm of pure capitalism has failed and failed again. This is largely due to the fact that pure capitalism tends to demand all responsibility be placed on the less fortunate and successful masses as the more fortunate are enabled to behave as little more than privileged anarchists. To mitigate the social shocks that are inevitable during a climate crisis and to reign in the massive, excessive and abusive over-use of resources by the wealthy, more responsibility must be demanded from the most privileged members of societies. Wealth compression, therefore, is an effective tool in reducing the harm caused by an over-consumption of resources at the upper rungs of civilization where some members consume more than 100,000 times the resources of a subsistence farmer and about 3,000 times the resources of a person living in today’s middle class.

Since the levels of exploitation and consumption that have enabled climate change to run rampant are encouraged and required by today’s neo-liberal and globalized brand of capitalism, this manifestation of capitalism must be reigned in, caged and defanged if we are to have much hope of mitigating the larger crisis of climate change.

Adaptation

Since we missed our chance to mitigate much of the damage from climate change by about 30 years (we’d have been much better off if we began rapid CO2 reductions, sustainability and wealth compression efforts in the 70s and 80s), a massive effort to adapt to the changes now set in motion will probably be necessary. It is likely that we’ve already locked in many decades of increasingly severe weather, and, likely, centuries of rising seas. Ultimate sea level rise based on the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere will probably terminate at between 15 and 75 feet higher than the current day (rising at between 5 and 15 feet per century). These changes are probably locked in now even if we halt all CO2 emissions today. But, more likely, our best realistic hope is probably to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at around 450 parts per million, which would result in higher-end damages being locked in for centuries.

As a result, if we are to continue to have powerful, resilient civilizations at the global and continental levels, then we must do serious work to make those civilizations more resilient. Entire cities may have to be moved or surrounded by increasingly tall flood barriers. New port systems will have to be devised to cope with changing sea levels. Architects and engineers will have to alter building and structure design to deal with more vicious storms and weather conditions. Farming will have to become more adaptive. The world’s agricultural systems will have to do more with less. Most likely, humans will have to rely more on grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts (which are more efficient ways to transfer energy and nutrients to the human body) and far less on meat (also a mitigation as described above). We may need to expend resources to ensure that our fellow living creatures, which provide essential life support services, do not become extinct. In short, what damage we cannot prevent via mitigation, we will have to learn to adapt to. As such, human civilization will probably need to take more responsibility in both defending itself and the natural world from the harm that is now coming.

Harm

With carbon pollution already reaching dangerous and excessive levels, any choices that do not mitigate (prevent) or help adapt to future climate change result in an increasing degree and velocity of harm. These choices include climate change denial — which not only insanely disputes the basic physical science behind the effect of greenhouse gasses on Earth’s climate but also ignorantly attributes current increasingly severe weather, temperature and sea level rise to a scientific ‘natural variability’ that denial proponents, purposefully or through blatant stupidity, misrepresent and misunderstand. This is not to confuse those who are understandably scared by the force that is climate change and have succumbed to the natural, though in this case irrational, human response to withdraw from and avoid danger. Political climate change denial seeks to exploit this natural human response for short term political and economic gain and, as such, must be viewed as anathema. Human denial and avoidance of harm, however, is a basic instinct-driven response that must be rationally addressed. In the case of harm caused by climate change, the only rational way to avoid it is through mitigation and adaptation. Denial of the physical forces of the universe unleashed by human over-consumption and institutionalized greed, on the other hand, is little more than a withdrawal into the realm of wishful thinking. Denial, in both cases, causes inaction and paralysis, enables the continuation of business as usual, and, therefore, increases harm.

To this point, any efforts to slow down or reduce mitigation efforts also increases the velocity and force of the harm now rushing toward us. Pressures to slowly mitigate and gradually adapt may seem rational at first, but result in a less tenable future long term. Responses need to be measured, organized and swift — like the emergency procession to lifeboats aboard a sinking ship. Irrationally clinging to damaging systems for as long as possible amounts to playing fiddle on the deck as the critical time to find a place aboard a lifeboat trickles away.

Depression is another natural human response to challenges that far exceed the scope of an individual to overcome. In this case, social depression over climate change has manifest in a form of doomerism that clings to the notion that any action in the face of a growing crisis is futile. To the doomers, I would like to say this:

If there is even a small chance that mitigation and adaptation will bring us through the crisis, then shouldn’t we pursue all efforts and make that likelihood as great as possible? What if the British and the French had simply given up in the face of what, to them, must have seemed an invincible German military juggernaut during the early days of World War II (in fact, their early denial that a problem existed at all set up the conditions for this terrible war in the first place)? To the doomers I would say that the more we fail to respond, the worse the crisis becomes. And a crisis always seems most insurmountable at its start and just before creative response is initiated. Though it is true that many civilizations have failed in the past when confronted with problems that are similar to ours and that climate change, especially, tends to crush civilizations by creating problems that are outside of its ability to evolve and adapt, failure to respond almost always ensures collapse. We may argue now that response is too little too late, but we really won’t know unless we’ve expended all efforts. And so all efforts are, therefore, entirely moral and appropriate.

Lastly, a number of entrenched special interests are heavily invested in harm. These include the world’s fossil fuel companies, the industrial meat industries, a number of investment banking firms that support and profit from such activities via financing, and a large supply chain of industries that produce products based on these activities. Since the resources and profits of these industries are, in part, shared with broader society via the stock market and through the production of cheap, easy to access, goods and services, many states, cities and individuals are also, wittingly or unwittingly invested in harm. As such, a turning away from harm will require conscious choices on the part of individuals, cities, states and industries to not only divest in stock portfolios that profit from harm but also to actively change behavior, methods of consumption and materials use. As we begin this process, entrenched industries and individuals that profit from harmful and exploitative activities are likely to dig in and fight every step of the way. They will attempt to deny us product choices via legislation and market dominance even as they attempt to pretend that harm coming from their practices is both natural and inevitable (directly or indirectly enhancing denialism and doomerism). This institutionalized, irrational and entrenched manifestation of human greed represents the center of gravity of harm coming from human systems and, if we can address it, it is likely that both denial and doomerism will fade.

Considering Moral Responses

In the end, any action that delays or prevents a swift, encompassing, and organized response to climate change increases the level of harm that we are in for. Such a choice, whether conscious or not, is essentially amoral in that it reduces civilization’s chance to survive an emerging existential crisis. A choice that eventually results in an escalating level of damage and loss of lives and livelihoods.

So we’ve come to a tough pass and these, whether we realize it or not, are our choices:

1. To prevent and mitigate harm.

2. To do our best to adapt to the harm that is coming.

3. Or to increase the degree and velocity of harm by failing to act.

My best hopes are for your courage to make the just choices for the sake of you, your family, and for all of us. This is our responsibility to ourselves and each other. And the time to act is now, now, NOW.

Mitt Romney to Bring Back Torture? A Republican Establishment of Oppressive Government.

It may have been said before. I don’t know. But, regardless, I am saying it now:

Torture is the language of tyrants written in terrible signs, visible and invisible, upon the hearts and bodies of the oppressed.

That we should harbor that possibility in this country. That a political party that represents half of government should even entertain its use is nothing short of travesty. It is the very implement of an unfair and oppressive government that republicans claim to defend against. So why would they even leave open the possibility of bringing it back?

Among the darkest chapters in this nation’s history were the deaths and human rights abuses that resulted from torture at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and sporadically around the globe during the War on Terror. That the Bush Administration laid a legal groundwork for torture and vigorously defended it in courts was a devastating assault on human rights and dignity. It was also a dreadful abuse of the American state’s immense power.

In short, it was the willful execution and legal defense of the conduct of war crimes.

When Obama became President, he signed an executive order banning the use of torture by the US Armed Forces, espionage, and counter-terrorism forces. He removed all legal justifications for torture. Furthermore, he waged a far more honorable war against terrorism. A war that was many times more effective than the one fought by the Bush Administration.

A nation’s character can be defined by the way it treats the helpless and the less powerful. The poor, women, minorities, those serving time in prison, and, yes, prisoners of war. The fact that a person fights against the United States does not rob them of basic rights as a human being. And these rights include an abolishment of torture. It is the very premise of justice and honor that the power of a state to do violence is not applied as an act of vengeance or wrath. That it does not revel in causing harm needlessly. Even the ending of a person’s life in battle, a terrible consequence of the awful but sometimes necessary act of defending a nation through violence, does not fall to the level of abuse and torture of prisoners.

So it should deeply concern you that Mitt Romney, Presidential candidate for the Republican party, has again opened the door to torture. That the shadow of torture once again falls over the face of America.

According to news reports from Politico and the New York Times, Romney campaign spokewoman Andrea Saul has said that Romney would not rule out ‘enhanced interrogation.’ As you may well recall, ‘enhanced interrogation’ was the euphemism Bush Administration officials used to justify torture techniques like waterboarding or locking prisoners for extended periods in 3×3 foot boxes. In addition, and equally worrying, Romney has belligerently rattled his sabre, making unnecessary and possibly damaging statements about countries like Russia, Iran and China.

But what is more worrying is that Romney is bringing back a key Bush lawyer who helped pave the way for legalized torture. Steven Bradbury is well known for his signing memos to the CIA and DOJ claiming that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding were legal. In a 2008 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Bradbury claimed that harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding had a basic justification in law.

Leaving the door open for torture and inviting back legal counsel well known for its defense of wretched acts does not bode well for American democracy or for her standing as a leader of justice in an increasingly dark and difficult world. Given Romney’s stand on this and many other key issues, it is obvious that the dark spirits of the Bush Administration are far from banished. In fact, in light of economic positions and including this terrible stance on torture, it would seem that Romney is bringing all Bush’s old wraiths back with a vengeance.

Links:

http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=5A20C1AA-E60B-401D-9F43-2F7EC6D2124E

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/opinion/the-torture-candidates.html

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