Climate change, responsible governance, and potable water

I think there’s a fair argument to be made that the only governments taking their responsibility to their citizens seriously right now are the island nations who are doing things like trying to find a place to relocate the entire country. This shows a disturbingly rare understanding that a nation is its people, and the first duty of any government is meeting the basic survival needs of those people.

One of the many ways in which the government has failed in that duty is in the protection of our water. We’ve known for a long time that many of our fresh water supplies are not sustainable at the current rate of use, but not only have we failed to make the many obvious changes that could address that problem, we haven’t even stopped people from poisoning the water we do have. When you add in the vital need to keep existing nuclear waste and nuclear power plants from irradiating large portions of the landscape, it’s clear that we’re going to need to have a much better grip on how our nation uses and distributes water.

The good news is that – as with so many other environmental challenges – this is a problem we could solve, if we wanted to.
[Read more…]

De-regulation kills

We have an outbreak of E. Coli O157:H7 which makes you vomit blood, have bloody diarrhea, and even pee blood as you lose your kidneys. It's all because Trump overturned Obama-era rules to test our farm water. Farmers saved 12 million so that we pay $108 million in medical costs.

Also breaking: diseases are caused by small “germs”, and not evil spirits!

There are regulations that are bad. Calling all regulations bad is a declaration that you don’t value human life.


If you found this post useful or enjoyable, please share it! If you want to help me make more like it, please consider becoming a patron over at my Patreon page. Your donations make this blog possible, and even as little as one or two dollars per month adds up to make a difference. If you feel you can afford more than that, you can get access to all sorts of other content and perks! Your patronage allows me to put more of my time and energy into making this blog a useful resource. Thanks for reading!

 

Sunday Sermon: Evangelical Christians show they don’t understand morality. Again.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but for most of the non-European world, the arrival of Christianity was a bad thing. It meant the beginning of centuries of torture, rape, murder, slavery, and genocide across the entire planet. At various points over the last few centuries, some people in the various European cultures came to the conclusion that the ongoing crimes against non-white people the world over might be, in some way, bad.

By the time I became aware of the concept of colonialism, probably in the mid-late 1990s, the people around me uniformly viewed it as a massive injustice. It was a long time before I started to realize that there are people who not only continue to uphold the evil doctrine of Manifest Destiny (more simply described as “might makes right”), but that the exploitation, deprivation, theft, and murder that characterized the creation of colonial empires barely even slowed down in the late 20th century – we just changed how we talk about it.

The “old” attitudes still surface though, on a regular basis. You can see it in the way people like Trump talk about countries in the global South, and in the ease with which America’s alliances with the surviving native tribes are still being violated.

The rise of white supremacy as a dominant economic and political force across the globe was justified both by the claim of white superiority, and by the claim of Christian superiority. Christian missionaries often shaped early interactions with non-European cultures, and death often came with them. For some people, the invading Christians stole children and indoctrinated them to “civilize” them. Others brought slavery, or simple extermination. The tactics of genocide are many and varied, and Christianity was right there for the whole journey.

Today, if this is brought up, I think most white people in America would describe it as something in the past – something we don’t really do anymore. As with so many other “sins of the past”, our obsession with them being in the past, and with “moving forward” seems to have blinded us to the fact that we never actually took the time and effort to really make the case that the activities of the colonial empires were – and are – bad.

That makes repeats inevitable, and so we have the story of a missionary who ignored history, laws, and the wishes of the people living on North Sentinel Island, because he thought he knew better. Because he had to “spread the good news”. Because he didn’t care why they might not want to see him, or listen to the same propaganda of people who have hurt them in the past.

Worse still, a Christian group is trying to get these people charged with murder. The message is clear: No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what the Sentinelese think or want, they must be forced to allow Christian missionaries to come try to convert them. They must be made to submit, because anything less than total Christian dominance is “persecution”.

The Sentinelese learned what many non-Christians have learned over the centuries – it’s often hard to tell a missionary’s “good news” from a threat. If Christians want that to change, they’re going to have to accept that they don’t have a right to push their ideology on people, especially people who have clearly said that they’re not interested. Nobody exists in isolation from history, and nobody has a right to claim otherwise.

 


If you found this post useful or enjoyable, please share it! If you want to help me make more like it, please consider becoming a patron over at my Patreon page. Your donations make this blog possible, and even as little as one or two dollars per month adds up to make a difference. If you feel you can afford more than that, you can get access to all sorts of other content and perks! Your patronage allows me to put more of my time and energy into making this blog a useful resource. Thanks for reading!

 

Air pollution solution: We need plants to survive anyway, so let’s make there be more of them…

Even if the temperature wasn’t rising, air pollution would be high on the list of problems we need to solve as we work for a more just and peaceful future. There’s no ambiguity in the research – air pollution from transportation and from industry have a large, measurable affect on human health.

Traditionally, the worst effects of air pollution are felt by those with the most exposure, and those with heightened vulnerability. The sick, the very young, the elderly, and developing fetuses are all more likely to be harmed by poisons in the air, and the less wealth and power you have, the more likely you live near a freeway, factory, or power plant.

And, of course, higher temperatures mean more dangerous air pollution. If you want to look into it more, the WHO might be a good place to start.

So what can we do about it? [Read more…]

Breathing water in a warming world: Oceanic dissolved oxygen update

While the general public – even in the United States – is ever more convinced of the reality and dangers of climate change, most of the focus is, understandably, on large events with a human death toll and a big price tag. While these big changes are important to track, to respond to, and to prepare for, it’s useful to check up on the ones that aren’t as easy to see, so that we can, at least in theory, plan for when they become more obvious, and more dangerous. [Read more…]

Massive crop failure is coming, and nationalism will kill us all.

2010 was a particularly frustrating year for climate activists, at least in America.  It was a year of massive, destructive climate catastrophes, and it barely caused a ripple in American politics. Growing up, I learned a lot about how important rainforests – the Amazon in particular – were for producing oxygen. 2010 marked the second time since we were able to measure it that the Amazon rainforest suffered a drought so severe that it became a net producer of CO2. That particular headline was overshadowed, mostly by the flooding in Pakistan.

Because that was also the year that Pakistan got so much rain that about 20% of the country was under water. But of course that water had to come from somewhere, right? A lot of it came from Russia, which was suffering a heat wave and drought so severe they had to halt grain exports, causing global food prices to rise. The global river of wind called the Jet Stream had changed its pattern, and that held the heat on Russia, sucking up all its water, and carrying it over to the mountains of Pakistan, where a continent’s worth of rain was dumped on one small country. All of that also lost a bit of attention when Nashville flooded over here.  Oh, and China had some problems, as did Australia. The whole planet got hit pretty hard all at once, and it caused food prices to spike. And to be clear – when food prices spike, that means that there really is less food. The whole planet got closer to starvation in 2010, and there were, without question, people who did starve to death, because – and it can’t be said enough – a bunch of politicians and fossil fuel executives decided to spent vast amounts of money lying to the whole world.

And the one, consistent refrain from the scientific community was that this was a glimpse of what we can expect normal conditions to be like later on in the 21st century. Almost a decade later, and we’re just as vulnerable. It’s not a question of if we will need food assistance from the rest of the world, but of when we will need it.

So what can we do about this? The first, most urgent thing to do is fight against the current trend towards nationalism and authoritarianism. If we further the divides between our various nations, we will not survive as a species. If the world is made up of self-centered, nationalist regimes who focus only on themselves, then the only “solution” to a nation- or continent-wide crop failure will be war, which will mean more land made infertile, and fewer people able to focus on growing food.

In addition to strengthening international bonds, we should be taking steps to change our own food production. In the long run, if we want a human civilization that can have a long run, multiple-story, enclosed farms may be the only way to both ensure farm production, and allow for natural ecosystems to exist and evolve. I honestly don’t think it would be less resource intensive than current large-scale farming, but the resources needed would be different, and more importantly, available. The primary farming resource for all of human history – predictable annual weather patterns – is now depleted. Our food system is operating on the scraps of stability that remain, but those are going to go away, and it’s going to happen very soon.

Indoor farming is a growing method of food production, but as has been said so often, we need to be mobilizing on the scale of our mobilization in WW2. We could be doing this. We should be doing this. Currently, we’re not.

 


If you found this post useful or enjoyable, please share it! If you want to help me make more like it, please consider becoming a patron over at my Patreon page. Your donations make this blog possible, and even as little as one or two dollars per month adds up to make a difference. If you feel you can afford more than that, you can get access to all sorts of other content and perks! Your patronage allows me to put more of my time and energy into making this blog a useful resource. Thanks for reading!

 

Exxon lied, crabbing died: Fishermen suing over the destabilization of the climate

There’s a long list of individuals and corporations who understood the reality and dangers of climate change, and chose to steal the future from humanity for their own profit. At or near the top of that list is Exxon, and everybody they made rich over the last 40 years or so. That money belongs to humanity, and the resources it represents will be needed if we’re going to survive.

The lawsuit being brought by Our Children’s Trust is part of trying to get back some of what was stolen by forcing the U.S. government to take action on climate change, and re-allocate its funds and power as a result. It’s a good start, but it’s only the beginning. As ecosystems enter the final stages of their collapse, industries are dying too, and taking whole ways of life with them. Other victims of this crime are starting to fight back. [Read more…]

Sea walls vs flood-friendly cities: Boston’s plan to adapt

The life of a sincere environmentalist is one of perpetually hoping and working to avoid the opportunity to say “I told you so”. The biggest successes are marked by nothing notable happening in the world, other than the continued thriving of life that all of us have known for our whole lives. If we had moved off of fossil fuels in time to prevent catastrophic warming, we would be facing a much happier, healthier, and less bloody future, in which some people would undoubtedly use the stable climate as a reason why the actions that kept it stable were unnecessary. That would have been nice.

I would have like to live in a world where climate change, like Y2K, was a disaster averted by hard work, so a lot of people thought there wasn’t potential for disaster in the first place.

Too bad, I guess.

There is one small rhetorical benefit to being past the point of no return, when it comes to a stable climate, and that is that regardless of your politics, the sea really is rising, and that’s going to be more obvious and more expensive every year. Never, ever let anyone forget that this could have been avoided, but at this point, what matters is the tasks at hand. Seas are rising, so how are we going to deal with that?

The most common proposal I’ve heard over the years is seawalls – if we’re expecting a couple feet of sea level rise, then we just build a wall, and carry on with life. This always frustrates me, because it’s basically a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the very real danger that sea levels won’t stop rising at just a couple feet.

Well, now it won’t stop, and so now we’re seeing plans that actually try to come to terms with the scale of what’s happening to our planet.

Building a wall, when we don’t know how much sea levels are going to rise, or how fast, or what kind of storm surges we’re going to see, is not a real solution.

So rather than spending vast amounts of money on allowing their city to exist as if the sea wasn’t rising, Boston is taking a tip from the Netherlands, and looking into a new kind of city designed to let people live with sea level rise, and to pull the city back from the water’s edge a bit.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a Democrat, announced the city would be scrapping the idea of a sea wall in favor of, among other things, a system of waterfront parks and elevation of some flood-prone areas. The city will add 67 new acres of green space along the water and restore 122 tidal acres.

The idea is to give people access to the shoreline when the weather is nice, but when the parks get flooded — well, it’s not that big of a deal.

While Boston needs to do a lot better when it comes to economic and environmental justice, this is a big step toward a more just future. The horrors wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina underscore a simple fact – walls that allow building below sea level mean gambling with human lives, and those most at risk will always be those with the least political power, and the fewest resources to help them withstand the losses of a failed levee or seawall. This plan avoids the creation of neighborhoods that will flood should the walls fail, whether by accident or by design.

As always, this isn’t the only way to solve the problem of sea level rise, but I think it’s a big step in the direction of a better philosophy of how to interact with the planet we live on. It’s the kind of change we’re going to need if we’re to survive what’s coming.


If you found this post useful or enjoyable, please share it! If you think the contents of this blog are worth a dollar a month please consider becoming a patron over at my Patreon page. Your donations make this blog possible, and even as little as one or two dollars per month adds up to make a difference. If you feel you can afford more than that, you can get access to all sorts of other content and perks! Your patronage allows me to put more of my time and energy into making this blog a useful resource. Thanks for reading!

 

A bid for empathy: Three letters that can make white folks understand non-white fear of police

Beau of the Fifth Column has a bit of insight that might help clarify things for those who’re confused about why non-white Americans are upset about the status of policing in this country:

 

 


If you found this post useful or enjoyable, please share it! If you think the contents of this blog are worth a dollar a month please consider becoming a patron over at my Patreon page. Your donations make this blog possible, and even as little as one or two dollars per month adds up to make a difference. If you feel you can afford more than that, you can get access to all sorts of other content and perks! Your patronage allows me to put more of my time and energy into making this blog a useful resource. Thanks for reading!

 

Trump is concentrating hundreds of “unaccompanied” children into a camp.

And they’re lying about why they’re doing it.

A surge of undocumented children at the border ― and not the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating migrant families ― was driving the need for more beds, HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe told The Washington Post last month. Officials have “worked round the clock to add beds or add shelters to avoid any backup” at the border, Wolfe said.

A follow-up New York Times article reported that huge increases in the number of detained migrant children in recent months were due to a reduction in the number being released by the federal government to live with families and other sponsors ― and not an influx at the border.

[Read more…]