“Young people, remember this day, and make sure you’re registered to vote. It’s your planet and your future.”

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For one brief, glorious moment, the world seemed to agree to curb carbon emissions. image via https://medium.com

Remember back in December of 2015, when the eyes of the world were fixed on Paris? During that historic month, the UN hosted world leaders who haggled, bargained, and were eventually successful at signing the Paris Climate Agreement, which set ambitious global limits for carbon emissions beginning in 2016 and continuing into the foreseeable future. (see the UNFCCC’s e-handbook for details of the agreement here.) For a bright, beautiful moment, world leaders came together in the spirit of hope that by diligently working to reduce carbon emissions, the world and everything (including us) in it might stand a chance of a sustainable future. High fives all around!

Enter the Trump administration. From the beginning of his presidency, Trump made it clear that doing the right thing and saving the planet from climate heating was the antithesis of their leadership model. And so, bit by bit, they demolished laws, rules, policies and federal agencies in their war on sustainability.

Today, November 4, 2019, President Trump’s office issued a statement officially bowing out of the Paris Climate Agreement. According to The New York Times,

The action, which came on the first day possible under the accord’s complex rules on withdrawal, begins a yearlong countdown to the United States exit and a concerted effort to preserve the Paris Agreement, under which nearly 200 nations have pledged to cut greenhouse emissions and to help poor countries cope with the worst effects of an already warming planet. 

Though American participation in the Paris Agreement will ultimately be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election, supporters of the pact say they have to plan for a future without American cooperation. And diplomats fear that Mr. Trump, who has mocked climate science as a hoax, will begin actively working against global efforts to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas.

Keeping up the pressure for the kinds of economic change necessary to stave off the worse effects of planetary warming will be much harder without the world’s superpower.

Negotiators spent the early months of the Trump presidency debating strategies for salvaging American support for the accord. Mr. Trump proved immovable.

While no other nation has followed Mr. Trump’s lead and left the Paris Agreement — indeed, more countries have joined — few are toughening their emissions-reduction targets. Analysts attributed that to the absence of pressure from the United States and they warned that the Trump administration’s antagonism toward climate action could dampen future ambitions.

The letter to the United Nations on Monday would allow Mr. Trump to officially pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement the day after the presidential election. The United States would still be allowed to attend negotiations and weigh in on proceedings but would be downgraded to observer status.

Analysts cautioned that even if the United States elects a Democrat in 2020, re-entry will not necessarily go smoothly. The Paris Agreement is the second global climate change pact that the United States joined under a Democrat and abandoned under a Republican. George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Jonathan Pershing, who served during the Obama administration as the State Department’s special envoy for climate change, said a Democrat rejoining the Paris Agreement would likely be expected to deliver a specific suite of policies showing how the United States intended to move away from fossil fuels. Even then, he said, other countries would be rightly wary that the pendulum of support for climate action could swing back in another election cycle. The United States will have to live with that lingering mistrust, Mr. Pershing said.

“The United States has been written off in many cases as a partner,” he said. “You just can’t count on them.”

Story by Lisa Friedman, who reports on climate and environmental policy in Washington. A former editor at Climatewire, she has covered nine international climate talks. @LFFriedman

Once more, comments by readers to this news article ran the gamut from sad and frustrated to reactionary. I share some of their comments with you, Dear Readers, in hopes that you’ll take heart in the fact that many, many millions of people here in the United States and around the world support the Paris Climate Agreement, and are vehemently opposed to the actions coming from the current White House administration. I take comfort in this fact, and am glad that many articulate, intelligent and ecologically aware individuals cared enough to write their opinions to the NYTimes.

Young people, remember this day, and make sure you’re registered to vote.  It’s your planet and your future.
11 Replies 782 Recommend

Preening and posturing, the president is taking obvious and obscene delight in unfastening yet another achievement that his predecessor labored to bring into being. President Obama, more responsible and mature than his successor—by any generous measure— enlisted the world’s leading (and following) nations to take heed of the damage to our planet caused by human behavior.
Realizing that our only home is not without a “sell by“ date, its permanence far from guaranteed, the 44th American president, demonstrating genuine international leadership, persuaded the leaders of the world to pool their resources so that generations yet unborn might find a breathable environment with potable water without which life is impossible.
In irresponsible answer, Donald Trump, stomping and screaming, throwing things as well as a tantrum, now takes a chain saw to the figurative (and, perhaps, literal) tree of life. Maybe what the rich really want is to wake up from their dreams and experience an earth that’s inhabited only by themselves. Think they’ll want fossil fuels, then? Believe in a super-heated planet? Or will it all be “Obama’s fault?”
8 Replies 478 Recommend

Anyone who has small children or grandchildren ought to be frightened and furious. Murder is to a parking violation as what he is doing to the environment is to his actions in Ukraine. What he did there is worthy of impeachment, as are a number of his other actions, but his disinformation campaign on the climate crisis and promotion of fossil fuels are of another order entirely. They are the highest of crimes.
6 Replies 416 Recommend

This decision is immoral, unwise, and unnecessarily destructive of our country’s reputation, alliances, and leadership. History will harshly judge Trump, Pence, and Pompeo.
Many millions more people will likely die as this planet’s atmosphere and oceans rapidly warm as a result of our GHG emissions than would have if this country had kept its Paris commitment. The severity and speed of the mass extinction now underway will be increased as a result of this decision. The cultural and economic devastation that will follow as cities are submerged, famine spreads, tropical disease invades new landmasses and regions, and drought becomes commonplace in many areas of the planet could have and would have been lessened with an enduring American commitment to the Paris compact.
The day will come when the names of Donald Trump, Michael Pence, and Michael Pompeo will be remembered only in infamy and disgust.
25 Replies 700 Recommend

When the catastrophic history of the Trump maladministration comes to be written, this decision, withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord and failing to lead on the most pressing issue of our time, may well prove the most damaging act by Trump. Like so much of what Trump does, it is borne of ignorance and arrogance.
He is an unmitigated disgrace.
15 Replies 643 Recommend

Just to read those words, that leaders of other nations feel they just can’t count on the United States anymore, it breaks my heart. I don’t know what Trump thinks “making America great” means, but this isn’t it. The people of the world are already suffering the effects of climate change, as are the American people. I fear it will not matter what history says of the Trump presidency. Our world, our lives, will be devastated in ways no one can imagine. Selfishness, greed rule. The lives of real people do not.
5 Replies  437 Recommend

I am without words. I want to be angry right now, but I’m just sad. For everyone that’s still supportive of Trump and of this policy move in particular, I want you to cement this day in your head. The thought has to stay in your mind through the next 30 years, so when we have to start doing the actual work of moving the populations of entire cities that sit at or near sea level…you’ll remember what side of history you stood on. Those of us young enough to live through the consequences of this action certainly won’t forget. Shame or an apology at that point is going to be pretty meaningless.
4 Replies  426 Recommend

 

American Impeachment: The Subject Everyone Loves to Loathe

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US Bill of Rights, via Daily Kos

Happy November, Dear Readers! As we continue to plow through this unwieldy year of changes, indictments, whistleblowing, and revelations of various kinds, many of us are by turns exhausted, enraged and saddened by world events. Climate changes and extreme weather events continue, including the latest round of fires in California. Particularly hard to take is news of farmers in Ventura County who are losing their citrus and avocado crops to the fires burning there. And again, the wine country of Northern California has been struck by fire and loss. Please join me in sending all the people and animals involved prayers for the help and support they need during these trying days.

This week on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C., the House finally voted to proceed with formal impeachment hearings for President Trump. It has been a long time coming, as anyone who follows US politics is well aware. In this blog post, I’d like to share my own opinions on the current situation, and would love to read yours in the comments below.

First, for the record, I am no fan of Mr. Trump. In fact, I have purposefully avoided writing about him during the time I’ve been blogging simply because I haven’t wanted to give any more energy to that person or his administration than is already given (an enormous amount on the daily). Like many of you, I have helplessly watched as one protection and helpful policy after another was slashed and burned away across federal agencies during the past three years. One wonders how much more can be added to the already huge body of damning evidence which clearly shows that his true colors (instead of the red, white and blue that he claims), run strictly the color of dollars. Likewise, I am not a fan of the Republican Party, given that they simply stand behind Trump’s lawlessness without even a whimper, let alone any of them showing Americans that they actually have a spine or a trace of morality or justice. On the other hand, it is also clear that there are also some lawmakers within the Democratic Party who have shown similar traits, and neither can they be trusted to do the right thing for America as a whole. We are in the middle of a conundrum, with no clear path out.

Having said all this, however, what is obvious to most awakened Americans is the fact that President Trump has absolutely no regard for the United States Constitution, its laws, and its very structure. It is quite possible that his whole premise for becoming president was to systematically dismantle our government, piece by excruciating piece. Dear Readers, I’m sure all sorts of articles and books have already been written about this very theme by writers far more clever and knowledgeable than I am.  For me, more than any other wicked act this man has committed, the idea that he actually wants to collapse the American government’s very essence—three branches that have equal power and a system of checks and balances—is the most disturbing of all. Chilling, in fact. The Constitution makes it clear that no one in high office, including the President, is above the law.

The United States of America’s Constitution remains one of the great works written during our common age. More than simply words on parchment, the ideas and laws written therein are alive, embodying a sense of justice and freedom for all human beings to aspire to, to be inspired by, and to strive to live by.  Here is an excerpt from the US Constitution (I have included the most salient points in regards to our current fiasco.) (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript)

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I, Section I. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section III. The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article II, Section I. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: (the section goes into detail about how the states may create electors to vote on the president by a majority vote. See here for details.)

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Additionally, and equally important to the Constitution, are the Amendments, or Bill of Rights. Here are the original ten amendments that were ratified by Congress on December 15, 1791.  https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript

Amendment I: 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.

Amendment 2: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10:  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

As one reads the rights guaranteed the citizens of the United States back in 1791 (228 years ago), it is clear that the current administration is doing everything within its power to erode and reinterpret some of the most critical ones. Take a close look at Amendment 1–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.

It is obvious to any thoughtful person that there is a spirit to constitutional law which was never intended to be used for personal, manipulative gain. Yet, here we are. Trump and Twitter in 2019.

From the NY Times, here is a concise takeaway of the Impeachment as it currently stands:

A Guide to Impeachment

What Impeachment Is: Impeachment is charging a holder of public office with misconduct. Here are answers to seven key questions about the process.

What the Accusation Is: President Trump is accused of breaking the law by pressuring the president of Ukraine to look into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 election. A second person, this one with “firsthand knowledge” of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, came forward and is now protected as a whistle-blower.

What Was Said: The White House released a reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

A Visual Timeline: Here are the key figures and dates as Mr. Trump and his allies pressured Ukraine to investigate his political opponents.

Why Now: A whistle-blower complaint filed in August said that White House officials believed they had witnessed Mr. Trump abuse his power for political gain. Here are 8 takeaways from the complaint.

How Trump Responds: The president said the impeachment battle would be “a positive” for his re-election campaign. Mr. Trump has repeatedly referred to the whistle-blower as “crooked” and condemned the news media reporting on the complaint. At the beginning of October, Mr. Trump publicly called on China to examine Mr. Biden as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relentless Energies of Change

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The Munch bunch Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images via The Guardian, March 24 2019

To borrow a phrase from the reporters at the New York Times, it’s been a busy couple of weeks–not only in politics, but in the world generally. The sound byte version: major floods of biblical proportions in Southeastern Africa that devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, taking hundreds, most likely thousands, of lives and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless; epic flooding in the United States’ Midwest as rains melted snow on top of frozen ground, causing rivers to swell and burst, and causing major highways in Nebraska to close; while major political upheaval continues with the UK’s Brexit impasse, prompting over a million protesters to march in London over the weekend demanding a new referendum vote.

Just before the close of business Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III delivered his report concerning the Trump administration’s alleged ties with Russian intelligence during the 2016 election campaign to Attorney General William Barr. On Sunday, Barr released his short synopsis of Mueller’s report to the American public. (NYTimes, March 24, 2019). His conclusion is that there is not sufficient evidence within the report to claim that Trump, or any of his aides, committed crimes. Barr wrote “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Barr continued his synopsis by explaining there were two parts of the investigation, and regarding the second part, he stated “The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/24/us/politics/mueller-report-summary.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage)

Many readers of the New York Times commented on Sunday’s news, with the majority agreeing that while there seemed to not be enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings, this debacle will continue under Congress in the months to come. Many commenters ended their words by exhorting readers to VOTE 2020.

The past two weeks have felt torrential—one tornado after hurricane after flood, both figuratively and literally. Part of me dreads next week’s news, and next month’s. Superlatives no longer hold much meaning, as the times we’re living through are a continuous stream of superstorms, supercorruption, superviolence, and generally a hyped-up version of everyday reality from what many of us were accustomed to for decades before this one. The relentless energies are exhausting and difficult to manage, prompting people to find any excuse to zone out, shut out, and get out of them in any way they can conceive to do it. Who can blame them? This level of reality is not for those who don’t have the mental and emotional endurance to withstand it.

I’ve been groping to find any shred of positivity within this hurricane of extremes. Toward that end, I pulled out my copy of Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (New World Library, 2012). Joanna Macy is that rare writer who can acknowledge the pain and struggles we experience as beings in human form on this planet, while also reminding us of the absolute wonder and joy of embodiment. In the chapter entitled Honoring Our Pain for the World, she writes,

We can exist in both realities at the same time—going about our normal lives in the mode of Business as Usual while also remaining painfully aware of the multifaceted crises unfolding around us….one way of dealing with the confusion and agony of this splitting is to push the crisis out of view….but this way of living is difficult to sustain, particularly as the condition of our world continues to worsen.

It is difficult even to talk about this….when we feel dread about what may lie ahead, outrage at what is happening to our planet, or sadness about what has already been lost, it is likely we have nowhere to take these feelings.

We can be caught between two fears—the fear of what will happen if we, as a society, continue the way we’re going and the fear of acknowledging how bad things are because of the despair that doing so brings up. (pg. 65)

Macy and Johnstone go on to describe a method of working with these feelings of despair, that she coined The Work that Reconnects. They write that a “central principle is that pain for the world, a phrase that covers a range of feelings including outrage, alarm, grief, guilt, dread and despair, is a normal, healthy response to a world in trauma.” (p. 67)

Macy and Johnstone have been offering workshops and the template to create groups around The Work That Reconnects for many years. They argue that when we allow ourselves to admit our deepest feelings about what’s happening in our world within a safe group, a space is created where a shift can happen. They write,

When we touch into our depths, we find that the pit is not bottomless. When people are able to tell the truth about what they know, see and feel is happening to their world, a transformation occurs.

A range of factors acts together to bring about this shift. It is enlivening to go with, rather than against, the flow of our deep-felt responses to the world. Second, we feel tremendous relief on realizing our solidarity with others. (p. 70)

They describe the grief process developed y J. William Worden, including the stages of first accepting the loss and second, feeling the pain of grief. Macy writes, “each day we lose valuable parts of our biosphere as species become extinct and ecosystems destroyed—yet where is their funeral service? …we need to digest the bad news. That is what rouses us to respond.” (p. 71)

Right now it feels like more than a funeral service, but rather a global memorial is needed to honor all the sentient lives that are being lost with every passing week, month, and season. Our world is being swept away, destroyed and reformed into something different as we go about our lives, with one foot in each—the old world that’s dying, and the new one, forming under the very ground we are shakily standing on. Perhaps the best metaphor for our current state can be found in a remarkable story in this weekend’s Guardian. A Norwegian luxury liner found itself in big trouble as it ran into a section of very rough waters off the Norway coast. Huge waves rocked the ship, as its engines failed. The captain sent a mayday distress signal to the mainland, who responded by sending emergency rescue teams to take the guests off the ship to safety. This was a tricky and careful operation, involving smaller boats, several helicopters, and an entire team of rescuers. Eventually, the engines were restarted, and the luxury liner was escorted back out of the danger zone, and into a safe harbor farther south along the coast. The crew said that they were very close to a major disaster, had the liner run aground among rocks in the shallow coastal waters. Fortunately, the crew was able to prevent that from happening, and everyone got through the disaster alive, with few injuries. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/23/hundreds-evacuated-from-cruise-ship-off-norwegian-coast)

In a sea of dramatic and worse news stories, this story appears as a sign of hope. Yes, the people on board the ship were suddenly in a life-threatening situation. They, I assume, all experienced the profound fear of realizing their lives were at stake. They stared mortality in the face, in the middle of an otherwise lovely holiday on a cruise ship. By the end, they were saved from death and forever changed by the experience. And isn’t that what we are collectively experiencing together on our planet now? We are staring at the mortality, not only of uncountable numbers of species, but of coastlines, wetlands, forests, ice sheets, coral reefs, and myriad other natural formations that we’ve known for thousands of years. And we’re staring at our own possible mortality, if we can’t find the way to turn our ship around and get out of the danger zone we’ve created. We must all be willing to talk about it, as Joanna Macy points out. To talk and to acknowledge our fears, our grief, and our bafflement at our situation.