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The Climate Is Invading the Earth

11:06 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

If an alien invader with a face were attacking the earth, the difficulties that governments have getting populations to support wars on other humans would be multiplied a thousand fold. The most common response to officials calling some petty foreign despot “a new Hitler” would shift from “yeah, right” to “who cares?” The people of the world would unite in common defense against the hostile alien.

If only it had a face. And what’s a face anyway?  Doctors can create faces now. You’d still love your loved ones if they lost their faces. And I hear there’s a movie in which a guy falls in love with his faceless computer.

The point is that there is an alien invader attacking the earth. Its name is climate change. And Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight it, as does Uncle Boris and Aunt Hannah and Cousin Juan and Brother Feng. The whole family is in agreement on this one, and we are a family now all of a sudden.

Climate change breathes fire on our land and roasts it, killing crops, drying up water supplies, breeding dangerous diseases and infestations. Climate change circles over the oceans and blows tidal waves toward our coasts. It melts the icebergs in its evil claws and sinks our beach resorts beneath the sea.

How do we fight back?  We organize quickly, as only humans can. We grab the $2 trillion that we spend on wars among ourselves each year, plus a few trillion more from some multi-billionaires who suddenly realize they don’t have another planet to spend it on. We start coating the rooftops with solar panels, aimed right at the face of the monster. We put up windmills that will turn his nasty breath against himself.

And we hit him where it really hurts, we cut off his supplies with crippling sanctions: we stop buying and making and consuming and discarding such incredible piles of crap every day. Consumerism becomes rapidly understood as planetary treason, support for the Evil One. We put a stop to its worst excesses and begin reining it in systematically — working together as we never have before.

Ah, but the dark lord of the heat is subtle. He has cells of loyalists among us. They push fossil fuels on us and tell us comforting lies. No longer! We will drag them before the House UnEarthly Activities Committee. “Are you now or have you ever been a promoter of oil, gas, or coal consumption?” They’ll crumble under the pressure.

Imagine how we could unite for this battle, what wits and courage and self-sacrifice we could put into it, what inspiring acts of bravery, what stunning creations of intellect!

Ah, but climate change is not a person, so forget the whole thing. Did you ever notice what a funny grin Vladimir Putin has? It’s beginning to get on my nerves.

Why We Allow the Destruction of Our Earth

6:46 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Justice Seekers Storm Unconventional Fuels Conference at the University of Utah #FearlessSummer from Steve Liptay on Vimeo.

It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas.  Of course it is.  And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy.  But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.

Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there’s just no money for new ideas, sorry).  Of course.  But when the planet’s climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.

Why don’t we?

Misinformation is a surface-level explanation.  Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?

Here’s one reason: They’ve already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception.  The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute.  But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.

According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist.  And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle — so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime.  This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds.  In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.

Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.

Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican from a gerrymandered monstrosity in southeastern Illinois says the planet is in fine shape and guaranteed to stay that way because God promised that to Noah.

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Drowning on Wall Street and Ending World War II

7:21 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Imagine if George W. Bush had stood on the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and declared, “We are going to continue our pursuit of world domination and environmental destruction until the oceans rise, the storms surge, and this spot and all the surrounding streets are drowned in routine floods, destroying the infrastructure, and collapsing the buildings of this great city, while you morons are distracted by my screams for vengeance and genocide against people who’ve never driven an SUV a block in their lives or ever heard of us.”

America's Deadliest Export: Democracy cover

America's Deadliest Export: Democracy

Imagine if Barack “Clean Coal” Obama had followed the same honest path, and not only competed with Mitt Romney in debates over who could drill more oil, but also stated plainly and openly that the Pentagon is still not ready for World War II to end.

On August 14, 1941, the military brought before the Senate plans to build a permanent building that would be the largest office building in the world and would be called the Pentagon.  Senator Arthur Vandenberg asked for an explanation: “Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?” Then he began to catch on: “Or is the war to be permanent?”

We weren’t supposed to have standing armies, much less armies standing in everyone else’s countries, much less armies fighting wars over the control of fuels that destroy the planet and armies that themselves consume the greatest quantity of those fuels, even though the armies lose all the wars.  Before the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out to war makers, it was intended for those who had done the best work of removing standing armies from the world.  World War II changed everything.

We never went back to pre-WWII taxes or pre-WWII military or pre-WWII restraint in foreign empire or pre-WWII respect for civil liberties or pre-WWII notions of who deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.  We never saw another declaration of war from Congress, but we never stopped using those of 1941, never left Germany, never left Japan, never dismantled the Pentagon.  Instead, as William Blum documents in his remarkable new book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, since the supposed end of WWII, the United States has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of them democratically elected; interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries; and attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 nations.

Oh, but we meant well, and we mean well.  Absolutely not so.  There’s no “we” involved here.  The U.S. government meant and means global domination, nothing else.  And yet, even foreigners buy the U.S. snake oil.  Gaddafi thought he could please Washington and be spared.  So did the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein.  When Hugo Chavez heard about the coup planned against him in 2002, he sent a representative to Washington to plead his case.  The coup went ahead just the same.  Subcomandante Marcos believed Washington would support the Zapatistas once it understood who they were.  Ho Chi Minh had seen behind the curtain when Woodrow Wilson was president; World War II didn’t change quite everything.  Maurice Bishop of Grenada, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana, and the foreign minister of Guatemala appealed to Washington for peace before the Pentagon overthrew their governments.  “We” don’t mean well when we threaten war on Iran any more than we meant well when “we” overthrew Iran’s government in 1953.  The U.S. government has the very same agenda it had in 1953 because it is still engaged in the very same war, the war without end.

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The End Is Near

5:37 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Apocalypse has been given a bad name.  The Seventh Day Adventists are still around.  The Nike sneaker cult failed to open Heaven’s Gate.  The new millennium brought us George W. Bush, not Jesus H. Christ.  And everybody’s terrified of “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

But our species is living beyond its means.  If we continue down this path, the planet, our food supplies, our climate, and life as we know it will collapse.  If we bring population growth, consumption, and pollution under control, the damage already set in motion will play out for centuries, but complete catastrophe will likely be averted.

Nobody likes to be told that the end might be near.  Either it is or it isn’t.  And the question is resolved by a personal lifestyle choice.  Do I wish to be a pessimist or an optimist?  Of course, optimist is far more popular.  Even most predictors of apocalypse have actually believed they were predicting a good thing.  The world was to be replaced with something better.  Even our best environmentalists who understand the radical changes needed for survival guarantee they will happen.  Harvey Wasserman says he simply believes in happy endings.

Meanwhile, we can barely get half of us in the United States to “believe” that global warming is happening.  Of course, we step outside and there’s a sauna, but that could just be “natural.”  So what if the ocean is a few inches higher?  The people who’ve been predicting that for decades have been wrong until now, and now they’re only a little right — if you even believe them.  The ocean looks about the same to me.  And if they predict exponential acceleration of such changes, meaning that once the changes have become visible it won’t be long before they’re enormous, well that just proves one thing: they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.  They’re pessimists.

In 1992, governments finally got together in Rio and took some baby steps.  In 2012, they reconvened and collectively proclaimed, “To hell with all that.  This rock may be doomed, but that’s our great-grandchildren’s problem.  Screw them! This is Rio.  Roll down the windows.  Turn up the air conditioning.  Pass me a drink!”  Well, actually, a few scientists and diplomats stood off to the side and muttered, “What we need to save us is a really bad catastrophe.”  And a 17-year-old girl stood up and blurted out the truth, which made everybody feel really important.  Imagine: you were at the meeting that could have chosen to save the planet; how cool is that?  Imagine how the judge feels who is sitting in Washington, D.C., deliberating on whether the atmosphere ought to be protected or destroyed.  The atmosphere!  Of the earth!  Now that’s power, and the longer you deliberate the longer you can fantasize about possibly even using that power.

In 1972 a group of scientists published a book called Limits to Growth.  It passionately urged the changes needed before human growth and destruction exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.  In 1992, the same authors published Beyond the Limits.  There were by then, they found, too many humans doing too much damage.  We were beyond sustainable limits and would need to change quickly.  In 2004, they published an update, arguing that we were already 20 percent above global carrying capacity, and that we had “largely squandered the past 30 years.”  Their warnings grew sharper: “We do not have another 30 years to dither.”

The updated book charts the course we’ve been on these past 30, now 40, years.  Population has exploded in less industrialized countries.  Many millions of poor people have been added to our species, while a shrinking percentage of the world’s population has continued to hoard most of the wealth.  The planet has become less equitable through the repeated act of giving birth.  Then it has become less equitable still through economic growth that has been made to benefit most those least in need.  Meanwhile, nations with high population growth have been least able to invest in infrastructure, being obliged to take care of their people’s immediate needs.  This has resulted in still greater poverty, triggering higher birth rates in families dependent on children to survive.  These vicious cycles can be broken, and have been broken, but not by wishing or hoping.  And time is running out.

Sustainable agriculture is being practiced in some places and could feed us all if practiced everywhere and the food distributed to everyone.  The problem is not figuring out what to do so much as simply doing it.  But we can’t do it individually, and we can’t wait for those in power to do it on their own.

Corporations will not learn to make more money by behaving responsibly, not to a sufficient extent to reverse current trends.  The logic of the market will not correct itself, except in the most brutal sense.  If we wait for Wall Street to decide that destroying the Earth is a bad idea, the basic systems of life on Earth will collapse in shortages, crises, and widespread suffering.  Instead, we have to enforce change as a society, and we have to do it now.  If we’d acted in 1982, write the authors of Limits to Growth, we might have avoided serious damage.  If we’d acted in 2002, we also still had a fighting chance.  By 2022, it will be too late to avoid decline.  We’re halfway there.

Limits to Growth offers the crisis of the ozone layer as evidence that humanity can face up to a global environmental disaster and correct it.  Of course, we can.  We have always had that option and always will.  Even beyond 2022, we will have the option of lessening the destruction to as great an extent possible.  But slowing the damage to the ozone layer required changes to a relatively small industrial cartel, nothing to compare to big oil.  The question is not, I think, whether the world can act collectively on behalf of the Earth.  The question is whether the world can act collectively against the organized strength of the fossil fuels industry, its closely aligned military forces in the United States and NATO, and governments far gone down the path of inverted totalitarianism.

For you optimists, I should point out that living sustainably need not mean suffering.  We could live better lives with less consumption and destruction.  Our culture can grow while our population declines.  Our society can advance while our production of waste products retreats.  Our mental horizons can broaden while our food sources narrow.  Millennia from now, people living sustainably on this planet could look back with wonder at the insanity of the notion that everything had to grow, and with gratitude toward those who gave their fellow passengers an awakening smack to the face.

Here’s one small place to start.

Judge Deliberates on Whether to Save Earth’s Atmosphere

1:47 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

US District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins heard the arguments on Friday in Washington, D.C., and is deliberating now on the question of whether young people can sue to compel their government to take serious measures to stop global warming.

Judge Robert Wilkins is familiar with discrimination, having been the plaintiff in a well-known driving-while-black case of racial profiling in Maryland.  But few of us are familiar with the concept of discrimination against future generations.  We grow easily indignant when living people are unfairly treated.  We grow confused when considering the injustice of depriving our grandchildren of a habitable planet so that we can drive our SUVs and fight our wars.  There’s no living person or group of persons we can point to as being wronged, unless perhaps it is the young.

Judge Wilkins is familiar with, and appreciative of, the role federal courts played in the U.S. civil rights movement.  But a case had been made that certain people’s Constitutional rights were being violated.  Whose Constitutional rights are violated by condemning young people to grow old on a damaged planet turning to desert and barren rock?

There may be an answer to that.  The Constitution’s purpose is to “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Surely there is a violation of the Constitution in making the earth uninhabitable for our Posterity.  But no court has ever arrived at that conclusion.

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” says the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which under Article VI of the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.”  How can we protect those rights for everyone, including the young and the not-yet-born, without putting everything we have into trying to preserve a climate in which humans can prosper?  How can the U.S. government fulfill its obligations to Native American nations while finally completing the destruction of their land along with everyone else’s?

Courageous young people filed suit a year ago against the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of the Interior, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Energy, and the United States Department of Defense.  One would think being sued for ruining the earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases was not terribly desirable, but there was a mad rush by other parties to be added to the list of defendants.  These additional defendants succeeded in getting themselves added: Delta Construction Company Inc., Dalton Trucking Inc., Southern California Contractors Association Inc., California Dump Truck Owners Association, Engineering & Utility Contractors Association, and The National Association Of Manufacturers.

The National Association of Manufacturers openly claims selfish interests for being involved:

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As We Ruin Our Kids’ Planet, They Take Us to Court

11:07 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

The Big Blue Marble 2.0 (photo: R. Stockli, A. Nelson, F. Hasler, NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS)

Here in the land of the free lunch and the home of the instant gratification, most people make a huge deal out of children’s rights or fetuses’ rights, or occasionally both.  Which is extremely bizarre — crazier perhaps than bombing houses in Afghanistan to protect the rights of the women inside them.  Because we’re engaged in the deliberate and knowing process of slowly and irreversibly rendering the whole damn planet uninhabitable.  If not our children, then their children will be forced to live in a desert or move to the North Pole if we don’t quickly change our ways — and possibly even if we do.  And if we don’t change our ways, the approach we take to the coming crisis will make fascism look like summer camp.

If we do change our ways rapidly, our children will still have it very hard, but their children may start to see things turn around.  That’s the sort of time delay involved in correcting catastrophic climate change.  And much can never be corrected.  When the fish in the sea are killed off, they will not return no matter how many Pentagon contracts you throw at that project.  The damage we are doing cannot be fixed by drilling another oil well or leveling another mountain or identifying another gene.  The destruction of our world is for keeps, and it is the destruction of the world of our children.

We claim to care about children.  In fact we do care about children, at least our own children.  Yet somehow we mentally set aside the fact that we are condemning them to a future of misery and suffering.  Our brains are well-trained to perform this feat.  If we did not constantly set aside the fact that we are each about to die, we would go insane.  We must of necessity set outside our everyday awareness the single most important fact of our existence: its brevity.  Many people aid themselves in this project by fantasizing about a future life in the sky or heaven or paradise or ghost land or whatever.  This, too, is perfect mental training for setting out of our consciousness the fact that those we care about and those that they will care about are going to have to live in a severely damaged home.  If we could stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and shake ourselves by the lapels, we would — I have to think — halt everything we’re doing other than pressuring our genocidal government to shift its priorities from making war to protecting our planet.

Although our children today may not have time in their lives to see things turn around even if we act at once, some of them are able to do what many of their elders apparently are not.  They are able to care about those who will come after.  Young teenagers today are able to care about children their generation has not yet borne.  In some cases, as a credit to our older generation, their parents assist them in this task. Read the rest of this entry →