clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world


The Revolution has begun

Saturday, January 22, heralded the beginning of a new era in the United States. Within 24 hours of a new figurehead ensconced in the White House, millions of citizens took to the streets of major cities and small towns in nearly every state, to show an incredible solidarity and strength in numbers as they marched, sang, shouted, carried signs, and gave impassioned speeches. Not since the era of Civil Rights and the Vietnam war have so many people joined together in the streets to protest their government’s abuses of power and rhetoric. Welcome to the era of Love.

The Women’s March on Washington, accompanied by hundreds of Sister Marches worldwide, brought out everyone who cares about humanity, equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, economic class, educational level, or any other factor by which the US government creates statistics. Although it was organized and focused on Women and in large part was created as a response to the disgusting, disrespectful attitude of the new president during the election cycle, the marches and rallies were much more. Combined, it was a major show of support for the vast majority of humans who live, work, raise families, receive education, and contribute in myriad ways to our society.

Here in Denver, Colorado, the march and rally brought together a hundred thousand people, according to organizers. Denver is not known as a protest town, and the sheer numbers of people who showed up was extraordinary. Only Broncos football games bring huge throngs of people out into downtown Denver, so I am extremely proud of this community, joined by many from all along the Front Range area, for showing up to be a part of this movement.

For indeed an authentic, organized and strong movement has now begun in earnest within the United States. The past years have seen the beginnings of it with the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, NoDAPL, the Keystone Pipeline protests, and the supporters of Bernie Sanders, among many other justice movements. All of these together have worked to raise our collective consciousness and awareness of the extreme injustices being carried out daily by the heads of our government system, backed by powerful corporate interests, for their own benefit at the expense of most of us. No more, folks. With Trump now in office, the movement for a complete renovation of the system is on the menu.


Americans during the Women’s Protest March: The New Normal?
Actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd, “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. … We are America, and we are here to stay.”

What changed it so dramatically to bring millions of Americans into the streets during Saturday’s march, is that people have begun to understand that it’s no longer about isolated groups, causes or incidents, but that it’s about ALL of us. The new “president” (he’s not my president, no es mi presidente was a popular slogan at the marches) has succeeded in angering, disrespecting and inciting the majority of people from all walks of life, before even entering the White House. We are in for an interesting time to come.

In my view, the presence of Trump in the White House marks a turning point for America, from decades of apathy and ignorance, which only worsened and grew over the Obama administration, to this moment. People may still be addicted to their smartphones, but at least more and more are reading and watching stories about their new supposed leaders, and seeking out what is true, rather than continued reliance on corporate-controlled media outlets. They will continue to lose support and audiences as more people wake up to the lies being fed to them. The numbers of those protesting prove it: the People are waking up and they are finally paying attention.

The civil liberties and many laws designed to protect American freedoms are at greater risk of being lost than ever before. At this moment, it feels like there is smoke in the forest, and it could break out into massive fire. No one knows what will happen within the next hundred days, let alone the coming years. But it is clear from the protest marches across America and the world, that people are no longer content to let the status quo continue unabated. Many of the speechmakers spoke of the great need for continuous action on the part of all of us. That means Everyone, Every day, Doing Something. Putting our energy into thinking, talking, writing, and showing up to participate. Democracy is a verb, after all, as well as a noun. It is a living, breathing organism, made up of all of us. The only way to change a corrupt system is to clean it out, get rid of what has become diseased, and open it up to the clean air, water and life forces that will create a new, healthy system.

Dear Readers, if you attended a Women’s’ March and rally on Saturday, I applaud and thank you. If you supported them through your attention and prayers and energy, thank you. And if you weren’t there, weren’t aware of it, and would like to learn more, you have a great opportunity and journey ahead of you. These are the times we came here for. We are the ones we have been waiting for. The time is now: Step up. Show up. Speak up. Tell others. Together, we are changing our world.




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Rejecting the lesser evil, embracing the greater good

Today is a pivotal day in my political life, an Aha! Moment kind of day. Today I have gone to the mountain, and seen the proverbial Light.  I gained inspiration today, and also some sorely needed encouragement from a community of like-minded others. Today I went to a Jill Stein- Green Party rally.

Now some of you may be groaning, and ready to delete this post from your trigger-happy finger. Please don’t.  The last post I put up on facebook of a political nature (yes it mentioned Hillary Clinton in not the most glowing terms) landed a long and rather heated debate on my wall for a couple of days. That’s okay, at least people were reading and thinking and offering their opinions. Politics is one of the most emotionally charged subjects that we humans can address. I’d vastly prefer strong opinions, even anger, than apathy and denial.

Back to today’s rally. As some of you already know, I have been an ardent Bernie Sanders’ supporter this year. After the democratic convention and Bernie’s concession speech to Hillary, I (along with millions of other Berners) became despondent about the whole mess. I couldn’t go near the subject for the past month. And when I did speak with a trusted friend about the matter of what to do come November, his advice was to put aside the presidential nominee and rather focus on the issues at stake. The dems obviously have a better track record concerning matters of social justice, the environment, and then there’s the little matter of the future Supreme court appointees.  As I listened to his patient explanations, that made perfect sense, my heart and gut simply refused to listen. As logical as his argument was for voting ‘the lesser of two evils’, I went home feeling uneasy and anxious. No matter how plausible, I simply could not fathom myself actually ticking the box next to that woman’s name. Everything she stands for screams Status Quo. She is the Powers-that-Be’s gal, their latest puppet, and a vote for her is a vote for Business-As-Usual. Honestly, who really wants more of that?


The crowd at Mercury Cafe’s Green Party-Jill Stein rally.

A friend told me about the Green Party rally to support Jill Stein happening today at a favorite café and meeting place for all things alternative here in Denver. I decided I’d go out of curiosity, since I really didn’t know much about her or her platform. As I sat and watched the event unfold, it became more and more interesting. Arn Menconi, a candidate for US Senate from Colorado, spoke and did his best to rile up the crowd. He’s a very progressive candidate who is needing many thousands of signatures to get on the ballet this November. Then there was a funk band who did a great job of raising the collective energy in anticipation of Jill Stein. Finally she arrived, to thunderous applause. Stein spoke for about 45 minutes, and by about halfway through, I was won over. My cynicism, which began with the thought, ‘this woman doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning this or any election,’ was overtaken more and more with head nodding, agreement, then clapping and WoohHoohing. Jill Stein is no slouch, folks.

She told it like it is to the crowd, in plain and eloquent language. There was no hedging nor skirting issues. The Green Party’s platform is calling for a “Green New Deal” as a 2016 version of FDR’s famous New Deal during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She called for the creation of 20 million new jobs in the clean energy sector, a $15 minimum wage nationally, an end to fracking and a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure. They want to cut the military budget in half, thereby using all those trillions of dollars on social programs and green energy. Their goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030 (admittedly  a lofty, if important goal).  She spoke at length about racial injustice, and the need to create a Truth and Reconciliation commission that would engage in dialogs around racism and slavery that have existed for the past three hundred years, creating pathways for healing of those very deep wounds. She also spoke passionately about immigration, reminding us all of the fact that, other than the first nation tribes, all of us are immigrants in the United States. Their platform includes a roadmap for gaining Medicare for All at a national level, using a single payer system. She mentioned wanting to create a system for reparation to those who have (and continue to be) oppressed in this country. She came back to the goal of ending the United States’ role as warmongers in the name of peace repeatedly. She spoke about our Common Humanity on a world-wide level. She talked of forming a new Foreign Policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy. She spoke of creating a Peace Offensive, and mandating a weapons embargo.


Jill Stein telling it like it is and how she’d like it to be.

In short, Jill Stein’s speech embodied all the ethics, moral values and ideals of social and political justice, along with the creation of new ways of being a country for the greater good of everyone, not just those who are in power and want to remain so. She is a feisty, highly intelligent and non-corrupt human being who happens to be a white woman, and she is running for presidential office this November. She and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, are working hard to gain enough support to be able to be included in the presidential debates next month. If enough people supported them, they could be a part of the conversation, so sorely in need of intelligent and compassionate voices for us all.

Jill Stein put it plainly today: the idea of ‘voting for the lesser of two evils’ is simply propaganda that is promoted by the Power Elite through their arm of disinformation, The Media. She urged us to not buy into it any longer. It simply isn’t true that you must vote for one of the two corporate party candidates. You can, and indeed absolutely should, vote your conscience. Vote for what you most believe in, dear Readers. Are your beliefs based in fear, or in strength, in your own human power?  Stein urges us to take our power back, to choose to go from feeling powerless, to claiming the truth of our powerfulness. And this year proves that fact:  Millions of people turned out to vote for Bernie Sanders, enough to have voted him into the White House. Why he chose to concede to Clinton, and in fact support her efforts to become president, is frankly beyond me. But nevertheless, now Jill Stein is standing up to continue this fight for the future of not only the United States, but actually the Earth. What happens in America has huge implications for the rest of the globe. Do we really want to acquiesce to Business-As-Usual, the warmongers, fossil fuel execs and banking corporations that have done a fine job of utterly devasting large swaths of our land, water, wildlife, people and societies?  Think about it. If you give up and do nothing, then you simply give your power away. And if you choose the ‘lesser of two evils’ well you are still choosing evil, aren’t you?

I am telling you, it is NOT a pipe dream to change how things are, how they have been. We are powerless as long as we believe that we are, that They are too strong and We are too weak and our voices don’t matter. Our voices DO matter, every single one. If every disenfranchised person living in the United States woke up and decided to be powerless no more, to raise their collective voices for themselves, their families, their communities, their land, their waterways and foodways: in other words, if we collectively stood up and spoke our truth to power, well it’s pretty obvious what would happen.

Martin Luther King Jr., one of the bravest and strongest humans to walk this Earth in recent history, gave one of the most powerful speeches in the history of the United States in 1963, on behalf of Blacks in their struggle for Civil Rights. I feel that his words apply today, not only to people of color, but for all of us who are oppressed and have lives of hardship and injustice here in America in 2016.  Therefore I am changing his speech to reflect all the people who feel this sense of urgency. He said:
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of The People’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 2016 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that The People of the United States needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until all The People are granted their citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

Dear Readers, I implore all of you who are feeling even the tiniest bit uneasy with your political choices for the upcoming presidential election, to consider looking further into the Green Party’s platform and what Jill Stein is standing up for. Especially those of you who wanted Bernie Sanders for president. Look them up online at or just google her, Ajumu Baraka, or the US Green Party. Find out more and really learn about the choices and issues at stake. Take the time to do some research on your own and ignore the naysayers. As the old Zen saying goes, ‘The people who say it cannot be done should not get in the way of the people who are doing it.’







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The Cruelest Holiday

There is a waning crescent moon outside my window tonight, reminding me that there is still a sliver of light within even the darkest night. Tonight is the eve of the rather ubiquitous Valentine’s day, a holiday that, more than any other which falls within the calendar year, serves to remind one of the folly and pain of love for those who are not currently in a hot relationship or happy with their partner.

Working inside my local and very mainstream American grocery store today, everywhere was decorated with products emblazoned with pink and red, while roses, chocolate covered strawberries, hearts, flowers, and every other kind of kitch imaginable to sell shoppers this holiday of love is on offer. Ugh. The whole thing made me want to run screaming away (as I do so often while working, but especially so today.) Another marketing extravaganza for the great American consumer society to lap up. And lap they do. In the cheese shop section of the store where I work, many slices of creamy, sexy (?) brie cheese were bought by couples, as well as many other delicacies for their lovemaking weekend of bliss. Now, before you, dear Readers, think I am just an old sourpuss for not thinking it is sweet or fun, please know that I understand all too well just how sensual and wonderous food and wine can be, especially in concert with other kinds of sex and romance on just such an occasion. Back to my original point, which is the pain and folly of romantic love for some of us humans walking around the planet this weekend.

For the handful of you who read this blog, a few may remember that when I started writing, I was living with my Danish love in the country of Denmark, a bit lonely for my homeland and friends, but in love nevertheless. That was back in 2012, which feels like ancient history by now. Fast forward four years, and here I am on Valentine’s day eve, with no lover to dip strawberries into whipped cream and drink champagne with, among other delights that I won’t go into but instead will leave up to your imagination. It has been a long time since I have written honestly about my personal life on this blog, since I decided that it seems more important to write about what is happening in the larger picture of Earth and humanity than my own small life and problems. But. Tonight I am indulging myself in a bit of emotional processing for my own sanity, and you are invited to either read along, or delete this blog post. Your choice, as always.

Love Day, once a year?

This evening at work, I heard a couple of co-workers’ stories in short form. One, a woman about my age and a New Yorker through and through, described her life as a series of interesting jobs, a failed marriage, leading to her life completely coming apart, a brief stay with her father in southern Florida, meeting a nice man, working with, then moving in with him, and one day about a year ago, getting on a plane with him and coming here to Denver, where they remain to this day. There was a lot in between the lines of her story that I intuited, which involved pain and suffering. Then I heard another story, by a man who started the same week as I, who told me that ten years ago he was on track to finish his degree for becoming a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), when suddenly out of nowhere, the financial aid woman told him he’d borrowed his limit of money for school, and cut him off. He had only 4 courses to go to finish his degree. Zap, just like that, there he was with a big debt, no degree and no CNA career ahead.

I am guessing that, were I to interview others who work at that big, highly corporate grocery store, I would find many more variations of the same theme: people who have gambled with their lives and mostly lost. It is a kind of land of broken dreams that I now find myself in, and I admit that I fit right in with the other lost and broken dreamers. I too have gambled with my life and lost, many times. In fact, I could make the case that I have mostly lost everything that mattered to me at one time or other. Sometimes I get very down about this fact, and feel like a real loser in this game we call Western Contemporary Society. I see others who look like they are winners, and I feel badly in comparison. Now, some of you, dear Readers, may want to tell me to just change my attitude and raise my self esteem and everything will be just fine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, when I look around and hear fellow travelers’ stories, I have to shake my head. There are many of us who have not ‘won’ in this game we are forced to play. Very often I have only wanted to escape, and somehow find another way to live that doesn’t involve winning and success in order to be happy. I have had glimpses into these other worlds, alternative lifestyles, or ‘off-the-grid” living situations. They seem nearly ideal to me, and I have wanted to be able to stay there for the duration. But never was I able to do that, something or someone always pulled me back into mainstream life again. So here I am, summoning my will strongly each day I have to go into that job, putting a smile on and asking folks if they want to sample some cheese. I am a cheese pusher now.

Tonight before I left work, I caught the last five minutes of the Republican debate in South Carolina. I heard three of the candidate hopefuls give their last pitch to the good old conservatives of that state, to try to convince them to vote for him in the primary election. Each one of those men said very similar things, and the gist of it was as follows: “I will be the man to help get our great country back to being great again, to having its values restored of one man and one woman marriage, of having God be our authority and not the government, to getting rid of Obamacare, to abolishing the IRS (granted this is not a bad idea), to keeping our enemies afraid of us, and most of all, to once again being the most successful country in the world.” After each candidate spoke, there was a burst of applause as the audience obviously agreed and liked each man’s words. What I realized from hearing these speeches tonight, is that we are still very divided in the United States between the folks who want to keep things as they remember them being for much of their lives, and don’t like the idea of anything changing (this is obviously a very large topic), and the folks who are at the completely other end of the spectrum, like me, who are very much wanting things to change radically for the betterment of humankind, starting with better laws, much greater equality between classes, races and economic divides, more honest and progressive people making decisions for the rest of us, and of course, a lot greater protection for our environment and all the beings living here. For folks like me, the concept of “winning against our enemies” does not exist, it is about quite other issues entirely.

How can we humans possibly resolve the gaping split that divides us? How can we meet and agree upon the most pressing issues of our times, when half the population simply wants to pretend that we can keep doing business as usual, and even return to pre-catastrophic times here on planet Earth, just denying and not even being willing to see the state that the planet, the country, and many many many of the people are actually in? Just right now, on this rather depressing evening before Love Fest 2016, it is feeling slightly impossible. Then again, I recall my dear friend’s admonition to me: “We’ll do the possible today, and the Impossible tomorrow.” Tonight I can only say, We’ll see.


Change, awe, disgust and disillusionment

(Warning: this post will be a rant, so if you are feeling light and happy and wish to stay that way, don’t bother reading this one. Thanks for your understanding, Leigh)

In the space of the past twelve hours, my emotional soulstate has run the gamut from peaceful, strong and grounded, to disappointed, bored, anxious, resentful, sad, angry, doubtful, curious, frustrated, and even nauseated, and now simply grounded and resigned. Quite a boatload for one day in the life. Are you feeling alright?

If I had a magic wand or superpowers to change this world, I would not hesitate. Everybody would be in for quite a surprise after my rework of this third dimensional world was complete. The first thing I would do, I think, is to obliterate television and all the industry that feeds it while being fed by it. What a disgusting monster it is. It works to portray the absolute basest and worst of human nature while also drawing people into its poison trap. But no, that is only a small sidebar of what I need to rant on tonight, dear Readers.

Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Indian guru who came to the United States during the early 20th century to help raise human consciousness, once said (I am paraphrasing), “This world is like a terrible horror movie. All the people sitting in the audience don’t know that it is only a movie, and so as they watch it they are believing it is real. But the best thing to do is to get to the beam. Get to the light, for it is only a play. What is Real is the light of God.” His words are absolutely true, and more important than ever.

What is real, and where is the beam in 2016? Nearly everywhere I look I see disillusionment, despair, disappointment, disaster and people trying in various ways to cope. Self medication is popular through the use of tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol, gluttony, and caffeine. Many use electronic devices to distract. There are hundreds and thousands of ways to check out of this world for a minute or a lifetime. Yet for most of us, sooner or later we once again must come back to the basic nature of our life, and we find what? One of the great mysteries, ourselves.

It takes real audacity to live on this planet now, and to do it well, yes, superpowers. I mean this not metaphorically as much as literally. To stay sane and sober in the middle of it all takes creating some super powerful energy from within to develop ways to cope and smile and be compassionate.

Four weeks into my job as a cheese clerk at my local supermarket and I can barely stomach being there. It’s a Great American supermarket, full of just about every kind of food imaginable that’s available in this country. It’s bright, shiny, colorful and packed with foods and merchandise of every description. And it’s all on offer, every single day and night for one’s shopping convenience. All you need is money, honey.

Each shift that I work provides me with yet another opportunity to see how much food gets thrown out for the flimsiest of reasons. To be fair, my store donates a considerable amount of unsellable food to the food pantries, and so helps people to get a myriad of free groceries when they go for their allotment. But. So much more perfectly good food gets tossed into the garbage compactor or industrial compost bin even as people are sleeping on the streets of this town, cold, hungry and about as low as one can get in their station in life. Why can’t any of this food be given to the homeless?

As I am sure many of you know, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is gathering a lot of momentum now. Following the trail on facebook each day, it is obvious that the Occupy Wall Street movement has devoted itself to getting Bernie into the White House this autumn. He is the Everyman’s Hero, a regular guy who is honest, cannot be bought, has been playing the game of Washington politics for a very long time, and he’s rallying the troops big time. He’s calling out Wall Street and the “billionaire class” for their crimes against humanity, he’s taking names and he’s intent upon dealing with the criminals in the way that so many of us would like: throwing them the hell out of their cushy seats of power and sending them to jail with no bond. Bernie is making all kinds of promises about what he will do to right all the wrongs done to Americans by those evil billionaires when elected. And it sounds so good, and I want to believe it could happen so very much.

Then I catch myself. Our American political system is at the point of being so corrupted, so full of arrogance, greed, self-interest, blasphemy and idiocy, that I honestly do not know how it can really be fixed. It really needs a complete and real dismantling and starting over again. Ben Franklin said it: About every 200 years, governments need a revolution and a new plan. That is where we are now.

Thomas Jefferson engraving after painting by Rembrandt Peale.

Today I saw a video made by a couple of scientists who were in the Arctic in November and filmed a gigantic chunk of glacier ice calving, or splitting apart and crashing into the sea. They said the size of the piece that broke off was around the size of lower Manhattan, except the walls of ice were more than twice as high as the skyscrapers. Watching the short clip was utterly awe-inspiring. Before my eyes, the ice that has made up the top of our earth for thousands of years was deconstructing itself. I do not doubt that it won’t be too much longer before all of the Arctic has melted completely. Then our world will look considerably different than it does today.

The buds on some of the big trees in the park near my home are getting fat. It is the last day of January, I am writing from Denver, Colorado. What we used to think was normal, for example, trees budding in late April and blooming beginning of May, is quickly becoming a history lesson for the young. So much of nature is having to adapt to new patterns of growth and decay, or else will probably not make it into the earth’s future. Animals and humans as well. I envision a future where it will be virtually impossible to tell if the creature next to you on the street or in the commuter train is natural or a human constructed android of some kind or other. The science fiction authors are closer to the truth than we can really know.

I admit it freely: this future is not one that I want to live in. Not At All. I know I am an old-fashioned person with peculiar ideas, but living on a world that no longer differentiates between what is natural (meaning not messed with by man) and what has been created in a laboratory somewhere, where no one understands much of anything about the substances they ingest, including what passes for food, and where people are so disconnected from each other and themselves that they can no longer acknowledge another’s presence, is a world that I refuse to be a part of any longer. Sorry, but the game is over for me at that point. And it seems like it is fast approaching, already here.

Send me the map, give me the plan, help me to find the way. The way out of this madness that passes for our world, our common life, and into some nice bubble world where the people are kind, where society doesn’t undermine one’s efforts to simply live in peace, and where things are still Real. Does such a place exist in time and space? I don’t know the answer to that. But I surely want to believe that it does. Over the rainbow, perhaps. On another world. Maybe in another universe even. Tonight, I am ready to have them beam me aboard.

Here’s a quote I found by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Thanks for the encouragement! Pinkola_Estes_discouragequote


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Staying in the Good Fight

This article feels important and very timely, so I share it with you all in the spirit of hope. Leigh

To My Friend the Climate Defeatist: Here’s Why I’m Still In the Fight

(Photo: Trekking Rinjani / Flickr)

My English friend Paul Kingsnorth was the subject of a long article two weeks ago in The New York Times magazine, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It … and He Feels Fine.”

A former editor of The Ecologist, Paul has gained new attention of late for his passionate and public despair over “an age of ecocide” and his proclamations that we are now powerless to do anything about it. That expression of despair coincides with an equally public withdrawal from the battlefield of big-scale climate and environmental activism. He warns, “What all these movements are doing is selling a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t and you know that you are lying to people.”

We find ourselves at each step battling against powerful corporate forces pushing hard from the other side.

The article and his previous writings in the same vein have struck a resonant chord as the hard reality of what we face reveals itself, not in theories about the future but in the current realities of fierce storms, unprecedented droughts, mutating weather patterns, and a lack of political will to take strong action. More than 500 people left comments on the Times web site. A young activist who works with me at the Democracy Center, also from the U.K., emailed the article to her parents with a note saying, “This is exactly how I feel!”

The hard question that Paul Kingsnorth provokes is neither a new one nor is it only about the climate and environmental crisis. It has been a question inherent in political activism as long as there has been political activism: What action do we take when we have no guarantee at all that what we do will make any difference?

To be an activist is to plunge into the unknown and into a world where guarantees of results do not exist. On climate and the environmental crisis we don’t know how far we’ve already pushed the planet toward ecological Armageddon or what impact we actually have when we block coal trains, hold impassioned news events, or get arrested at the White House.

So we guess, and there are two different ways we can guess wrong. The first is to overestimate our power to change what’s coming and to give people the “false hope” Kingsnorth warns about. The second is to underestimate what is possible, to believe that we are less powerful than we actually are and to do less than we can. That’s the wrong guess that worries me more. Faced with a choice between disappointment or failing to do all that is possible, I don’t find the decision a hard one to make.

The dictionary defines hope as “to want something to be true and to believe that it can be.” Despite so much evidence and sentiment to the contrary, on the climate crisis I remain radically hopeful. I am hopeful because the fundamentals of what we need to do—abandon fossil fuels, protect the planet’s forests, and organize our communities for resilience—are not mysteries nor are they impossible. I am hopeful because I see among the young a powerful, rising culture of environmental consciousness, creativity and action that far surpasses any generation before it.

And I am hopeful because I’ve seen things happen that weren’t supposed to. A decade ago in the U.S. gay marriage was an issue Republicans put on ballots to bring out homophobic voters to the polls. Today it’s riding a juggernaut of support and inevitability.

What is truly possible never reveals itself until we take the risk to seek it.

That said, as an activist I am also radically realistic and action on climate is an especially hard case. Issues like gay marriage require changes of hearts and minds and public policy. Action on climate requires all that as well, and then on top of it we still face the great unknown of how nature will respond to the changes we are able to make. And as we press for action, we find ourselves at each step battling against powerful corporate forces pushing hard from the other side. There is no doubt that the challenge we face is enormous and that major ecological damage is now an inevitability. As Kingsnorth says, “Things that we value highly are going to be lost.”

It is easy to see how all this adds up to a crisis of hope at the heart of climate activism. To those activists, young and not so young, who feel this way, my message is just the opposite of Paul’s. Don’t retreat—step it up, and as we do keep these three things in mind.

First, we must be strategic. Citizen action and energy is too valuable a resource to waste. We must be realistic about where we are starting from, especially in terms of political support. We must be clear and smart about our goals and where we are trying to go. Then we need to develop plausible (not guaranteed) paths that have a real shot at taking us there, along with a commitment to making mid-course corrections in our strategies as we learn along the way.

Second, just as the world we seek to protect relies on natural biodiversity, we must respect that effective action requires “activism biodiversity.” Some of us will act locally, as Kingsnorth does now, teaching his neighbors how to wield a scythe and campaigning against construction of a local supermarket. Others will unmask the actions of fossil fuel companies, or chain themselves to trees, or campaign for more public transit, or take action in international forums. We need to do not one thing but all these things and more.

Finally, we must not let despair and resignation become the greatest gift we could ever hand to those who would love nothing more than for the climate movement to lose heart. Our truest strength does not come from any guarantee of outcome. It comes from the power of acting on our deepest convictions, of forming real community and acting together, and from knowing that what is truly possible never reveals itself until we take the risk to seek it.

Like Paul and others, I also mourn for what is being lost. I mourn most deeply on those days here in rural Tiquipaya when I awake to the roar of a chain saw and the wrenching thunder of a falling giant. What we can’t do is let that mourning stop us from doing all we can. As the labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill said on the eve of his execution a century ago, “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Jim Shultz

Jim Shultz, founder and executive director of The Democracy Center, has led citizen advocacy projects in more than two dozen countries across five continents. He lives with his family in Cochabamba, Bolivia and tweets at @jimshultz.


More thoughts about injustice, anger and power of the people

Dear Readers, as some of you might have noticed, my recent posts have centered around the themes of injustice by and outrage towards the elite and powerful of our world, the ones who are making decisions and working towards ever greater inequality and division of the world’s resources. This week I showed you the millions of people in Europe who are protesting against the EU’s austerity measures, which are, as usual, affecting the poorest and marginally managing people throughout southern Europe, but are not troubling the richest members of the European union’s population too terribly much. Then I blogged about the latest show of military power and abuses done towards the Palestinians in the Gaza by the Israeli government. And the last thing I reported on was the efforts by Greenpeace to put a halt to the world’s oil companies plans to rape and pillage the last free place on Earth, by drilling for oil in the Arctic.

None of these subjects, along with many, many others, are particularly pleasant to think or read about, and I am fully aware of how unwilling people often are (myself included) to even give them much thought, let alone devote time in one’s life to discuss them with others. In my own life, whenever my husband brings up the CIA and their outworkings in the world over the course of the past fifty+ years, I immediately blanche and do what I can to change the subject. It is simply too much, I cannot deal with the outrage and sorrow that I will feel if I engage in a conversation about it with him.

Having acknowledged this, I still feel, more strongly than ever, that as a society, those of us who are aware of the injustices and abuses which are being perpetrated by our own government leaders, have a moral (yes I did just write that) obligation to humanity and to the planet herself, to do a little more than simply shake our heads and sigh, then continue to fill up the gas tank and live our lives as the rest of the status quo. Therefore, I ask you now, what IS our moral obligation as humans living on the planet Earth in the year 2012? Aside from the basics of our immediate family, friends, and jobs, that is? Do we, or do we not, have some kind of responsibility towards the family of human beings, towards all of the living creatures with whom we share this planet, and in fact, towards the planet itself? And if so, how can we best take our responsibility seriously?

This weekend, I am considering the idea of ‘moral outrage’ and its place in the furtherance of the evolution of humanity. We are all aware that complacency is the death of our highest ideals. We can, in fact, see this happening all around us, as more and more of our ideals are quickly eroding, along with fundamental citizen’s rights due to fear and yet more power-hungry quasi-fascist leadership in the most powerful countries of the world. So why, may I ask, do so many people in the west simply shake their heads, say, ‘oh that is really too bad, tsk tsk,’ and then go about their business? They may be highly moral people in a hundred ways, and yet when it comes to the ‘problems’ of the world, they simply do next to nothing to further change. On top of that, some of these people then recommend that the rest of us do not get our knickers in a twist about the problems, because that is simply politically incorrect or, more accurately, spiritually incorrect. These days I get the distinct feeling that people who become angry or upset or otherwise show their passion about the world are somehow frowned upon and looked at with disdain, as if we all ought to somehow be ‘above’ all those lower, more base human emotions by now.

For the record, I am here to say that I, for one, am not. Not above feeling deep outrage against the people who continue to take, control, destroy, and rule the world in the most dastardly and abusive ways imaginable. Not above desiring them all to get their just desserts by the highest court of supreme justice there is. Maybe I am simply not so evolved yet, or maybe, I am simply fed up, have had it, at my wit’s end, with complacency and looking the other way at the mess we have collectively made, with all the greed, the abuse, the total inhumanity that exists here on Earth today. Life is about more than simply having a nice day, for Goodness sake!

Perhaps some of you also have moments when you are just so fed up with how things are, that you just want to rant about it to someone. And perhaps, like me, you don’t really have anybody to rant to. Perhaps it is simply human nature to not take action until something affects us personally. Maybe some of those poor people along New York’s coastline who are now having their homes bulldozed because of the effects of the hurricane are considering some things about the world that they didn’t take so seriously before. But. Do we really need to have the Arctic destroyed by oil spills and pollution, watch the animals die, have things become even bleaker, before we will collectively stand up to those  in power and tell them in no uncertain terms, NO MORE?

Didn’t Gandhi say, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world?’ I think his advice is more relevant than ever. By all means, meditate and be mindful. Stay calm (mostly.) Think positive. Smile. Be happy! Of course all of this is very important. And so is making your voice, your opinion, your ideas about a better world, heard in ways both large and small. I say this tonight as honestly as I can, without reproach, without arrogance, but with all the humility and humanity I can muster. Your voice matters. Use it for the good.

And the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
From the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
But it’s decreed the people rule
Listen, I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution
We have the power
People have the power – Patti Smith


Finally the tables are starting to turn: Europeans protest against austerity

Don’t you know, they’re talkin ’bout a revolution, It sounds like a whisper
While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time, in the unemployment lines
Sitting around, waiting for a promotion
Poor people gonna rise up and get their share
Poor people gonna rise up and take what’s theirs
Don’t you know, you better run, run, run, run, run
Cause finally the tables are starting to turn,
talkin’ about a revolution  –Tracy Chapman

Dear Readers, for those of you who are not following events in Europe, here is what is happening: another version of the Occupy demonstrations of the USA, prompted by extreme unemployment and slashing of social welfare money to millions of people across southern Europe, brought huge numbers of people into the streets to protest the EU’s austerity measures. Viva la Revolution!!  from

Wednesday, November 14th was an historic day in Europe, as millions of people took to the streets to protest the EU’s unfair and extreme austerity measures. Workers marched in 23 countries across Europe to mark the European Day of Action and Solidarity. General strikes had been called in Spain and Portugal, paralyzing public services and international flights, in Belgium and France transport links were partially disrupted by strikes and demonstrations, in Italy and Greece thousands of workers and students marched through the streets. Other EU countries, such as Germany, Austria and Poland, saw well attended union-led rallies.

Spain, which has the highest unemployment rate in the industrialized world, pioneered the action, with protests and clashes starting overnight and dozens of arrests reported by morning. According to the unions, some 9 million workers took to the streets across the nation. Slogans like “Rajoy Go Home” were chanted by Spaniards outraged over Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s public spending cuts that have led to a 26% unemployment rate in the country.

Leaflets saying “They leave us without future. They are the guilty ones. There are other solutions” could be seen all around Madrid.

Strikes and violent protests gripped Italy, as tens of thousands protesters took to the streets all over the country rallying against Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures. Rome became the center of the chaos, as rioting workers and students brought the streets to a standstill when they confronted the police, throwing rocks, bottles and firecrackers at them.

Portugal entered the general strike with anti-austerity rallies in 40 towns and cities throughout the country. Lisbon froze as people poured into the streets: the subway was shut down, railway strikes left commuters stranded and half of the flights were cancelled. Thousands of people frustrated by a record 15.8 per cent unemployment rate, gathered in front of the Portuguese parliament building, shouting “The troika does not rule here!” The clashes broke out as police tried to clear the streets of Lisbon in the evening with protesters throwing stones and rubbish in response.

After last week’s vigorous 48-hour anti-austerity strike, Greeks gathered in a relatively quiet 5000-strong protest in Athens and called for a three-hour work stoppage in solidarity with the Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese. People chanted “Athens, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon – everyone in the streets!” as they marched on Syntagma Square carrying flags. There were minor clashes with police, but the demonstration was mainly peaceful.

Meanwhile, in Brussels eggs and firecrackers were thrown at Portugal’s embassy as part of the solidarity protests as crowds of people came to the European Union headquarters to demonstrate. But although the demonstrations in Belgium were largely peaceful, the unions managed to disrupt transport links as railway workers halted high-speed train services countrywide.

France was hit by 130 rallies against austerity measures, with the French government lashed by the demonstrators. The French General Confederation of Labor referred to the 14 November strikes as the first “social movement of this scale” in the history of the EU.


A day in the life

Got up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head… someone spoke and I fell into a dream.” Lennon & McCartney

In the story Starbook, by Ben Okri, a maiden from a tribe of artists falls in love with a dying prince. She has never met him, only dreamt of and so made a wooden sculputure of him. She becomes obsessed with her image of this prince, and dreams each night that he comes to her, stares at her mutely, and eventually goes away again. Again and again she waits for him to speak, to say anything to her in order to know who he is. Yet he can only stare. Eventually,

“the maiden understood the stare of the prince. He was looking at her with complete love, complete adoration, a love without beginning or end, a love greater than humanity, a pure love; but it was a love without knowledge, without understanding. It was a love without mystery. A love too pure for a creator. For it was a love without life, without suffering, without tears, without blood, without pain, without history. It was a love without time, without a story, without a journey, without complications. …In fact, it was a love that did not know itself, that had not grown, had not evolved, had not lost its way, had not stumbled and dwelt in the dark.

It was a love that did not know what it was like to live without love, how hellish, barren, deadly, dry, forlorn, how miserable, cold, lonely, empty, useless, bitter, agonising, tormenting, twisted and how ugly it was to be and live without love.

It was a love that did not know the ecstasy of one who finally comes to know, after all the darkness, what it really means to love, to have love in the heart.”


Sometimes we tend to fantasize about love, to attach a kind of idealistic and other-worldly importance to the concept “Love” which I think is what Ben Okri is warning us against in his story. We throw that word around so often that it is in danger of losing its real meaning. We use slogans like “Be love” and “I am love, you are love” “love is all you need” “love is the only thing which is real,” etc….. but honestly, dear Readers, who of us FULLY understands and knows what love is?

I so appreciate Okri’s passage about the prince who loved the maiden purely and without any knowledge of what love is, without having ever experienced the reality of love from a human perspective. When we come down from our lofty and often careless expressions of it, and feel the real, raw, and often excruciating pain of love from within these bodies, then the word ‘Love’ takes on a very different tone. Okri expresses it so aptly when he compares it with the experience of living without it: how hellish, barren, tormenting and ugly it is to live without love.

And, how hellish and tormenting it can also be to live with love’s pain within the course of a day. I want us to stop sugar-coating all of this feel-good lovey-dovey stuff, and get real about our lives. I, along with many others, can easily fall prey to the ‘just don’t think about anything bad and it refuses to exist’ strategy. Of course I don’t want to look at ugliness and horrors and bad news about what governments are doing to people around the world, to name just one small example. And normally I don’t, I simply do not let that kind of ugliness and horror into my consciousness. But sometimes it comes knocking anyway. Case in point: this morning.

Today my husband and I had planned a bus trip up to a city north of here, a water-town called Holbæk. It is Autumn Holidays week here in Denmark, so all the schools have a week off. It was a humble day trip to shop and do something a little special. All fine, so far. But. At half past 8 o’clock this morning, as I was sipping my morning Earl Grey and attempting to wake up before we got out the door and over to the busstop, my husband decided that I needed to hear yet one more news item about the latest evil wrought upon the American citizenry by Obama, that acolyte of Hitler. Ignoring my pleas and groans and even threats to not join him for our outing if he didn’t stop, he prattled on regardless of my feelings in his rant about the evils of the president and how he is the worst ever, far worse than Mitt Romney, for example, and ranking right up there with the worst fascist dictators the world has ever known. All this while I was attempting to eat my little breakfast and acknowledge a new day of my life! I suppose it is easy to guess how my day progressed after that non-auspicious start. I did accompany him to Holbæk, shopped for our groceries and sundry items, then took a walk along the harbor, which goes out to a fjord and is quite lovely. Yet I fought my own feelings all day long: fear, anxiety, foreboding, anger, frustration, more anger, helplessness. I told myself to focus on love, and peace, and forgiveness. I brought in white light. I sat with my anger and sorrow at the injustices and humiliations of the weak against the powerful darkness. I went through the wringer today, folks.

Of course I forgave my husband for his foolishness and insistence upon thrusting ugliness from the outer world upon my morning. But the damage had been done. And isn’t that really how it is with us humans? We unwittingly, for whatever reasons we can justify in the moment, hurt each other. As Okri writes, a love without life, without suffering, without tears, without blood, without pain, without history. It was a love without time, without a story, without a journey, without complications. …In fact, it was a love that did not know itself, that had not grown, had not evolved, had not lost its way, had not stumbled and dwelt in the dark. This kind of love is not one grounded in experience or the nitty-gritty of living. Let us acknowledge the labyrinth of love’s intricacies and strive to understand as deeply as possible that our questing for human evolution involves suffering, it is messy, it is painful, and sometimes dark and lonely. I read blogs which are so focused on ascension to higher levels of consciousness, and some saying all the time that the Great Moment is nearly Upon Us! When we will all be somehow magically saved, lifted into the higher realms, far away from all this pain and suffering, evil and darkness. When that magic day comes, nobody will ever suffer again, my friends, no! It will be a new Earth, a new Jerusalem, we will have reached some plateau of salvation and all the evildoers will be whisked away into some dark moon planet somewhere and dealt with accordingly. Well that is all well and good enough, but frankly, I don’t think so. I am not trying to be cynical nor skeptical, simply practical. Love isn’t some magic carpet ride to the Pleiades, it just isn’t. (well, okay I admit I don’t know if it is or not…. ) But. If we humans really want to make a better world, a more loving, just and free society of humankind, well then we have to accept that we are all learning how to do it one day, one heartbreak, one mistake at a time.

Will Obama receive his just desserts for signing horrific laws into being which utterly destroy any last vestiges of constitutional rights for Americans? Will Mitt Romney rot in hell for being an utter idiotic fool and puppet for much more darkly intelligent beings than himself? Nobody really knows. Our ideas of justice are a bit, well, in the toilet about now. Face it, we have got a real mess on our hands in the year 2012. Yes, focus on the Light! Absolutely work to bring more light and love to this dark world we are living in. It’s great that the Sun keeps blasting us all with intense rays of electro-magnetism, I say Bring it On! We Need It NOW. Please, send those bloody bastards to the dark moon to rot for eternity, they more than deserve it! Let the prisoners of conscience go free, jail the Wall Street criminals and all those corrupt politicians and lawyers and judges, and follow the lead of Iceland, the most sane society on the planet at the moment. They fired their government, said No Way are we going to pay for your greed and evildoing, and had a revolution. If Iceland can do it, well…..

It has been a long and wearisome day, dear Readers. I love you all, tonight from dark Denmark. Thanks for keeping your lights burning.


Can’t stand the heat? Go tell it on ExxonMobil

In the interests of the ‘not-hiding-our-heads-in-the-sand’ category, I have vastly edited an article by Bill McKibbon, outspoken environmental activist and head of, down into a still-sizable piece for your edification. Though it is long and substantial, for those of you who are interested in the future of our planet and in understanding where we stand now, climatically-speaking, it is worth your time to read the following article.

Global warming article by Bill McKibbon
(in Rolling Stone, August 2012)

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe. Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change.

2° Celsius
If the movie had ended in Hollywood fashion, the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 would have marked the culmination of the global fight to slow a changing climate. The world’s nations had gathered in the December gloom of the Danish capital for what a leading climate economist, Sir Nicholas Stern of Britain, called the “most important gathering since the Second World War, given what is at stake.” As Danish energy minister Connie Hedegaard, who presided over the conference, declared at the time: “This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one. If ever.”

Copenhagen failed spectacularly. Neither China nor the United States, which between them are responsible for 40 percent of global carbon emissions, was prepared to offer dramatic concessions, and so the conference drifted aimlessly for two weeks until world leaders jetted in for the final day. Amid considerable chaos, President Obama took the lead in drafting a face-saving “Copenhagen Accord” that fooled very few. Its purely voluntary agreements committed no one to anything, and even if countries signaled their intentions to cut carbon emissions, there was no enforcement mechanism. “Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight,” an angry Greenpeace official declared, “with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport.”

The accord did contain one important number, however. It formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.” And in the very next paragraph, it declared that “we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required… so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius.” By insisting on two degrees – about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the accord ratified positions taken earlier in 2009 by the G8, and the so-called Major Economies Forum. It was as conventional as conventional wisdom gets.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. “Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a “suicide pact” for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, “One degree, one Africa.”

 Despite such well-founded misgivings, political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target – indeed, it’s fair to say that it’s the only thing about climate change the world has settled on. All told, 167 countries responsible for more than 87 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have signed on to the Copenhagen Accord, endorsing the two-degree target. Only a few dozen countries have rejected it, including Kuwait, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Even the United Arab Emirates, which makes most of its money exporting oil and gas, signed on. The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.

In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist.”the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

Even scientists, who are notoriously reluctant to speak out, are slowly overcoming their natural preference to simply provide data. “The message has been consistent for close to 30 years now,”says William Collins, a senior climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “If we choose to continue on our present course of action, it should be done with a full evaluation of the evidence the scientific community has presented.”

2,795 Gigatons
This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative combed through proprietary databases to figure out how much oil, gas and coal the world’s major energy companies hold in reserve. The numbers aren’t perfect –but for the biggest companies, the figures are quite exact: If you burned everything in the inventories of Russia’s Lukoil and America’s ExxonMobil, for instance, which lead the list of oil and gas companies, each would release more than 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That’s the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour..

People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.

At this point, effective action would require actually keeping most of the carbon the fossil-fuel industry wants to burn safely in the soil, not just changing slightly the speed at which it’s burned. The president, apparently haunted by the still-echoing cry of “Drill, baby, drill,” has gone out of his way to frack and mine. His secretary of interior, for instance, opened up a huge swath of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming for coal extraction: The total basin contains some 67.5 gigatons worth of carbon (or more than 10 percent of the available atmospheric space). He’s doing the same thing with Arctic and offshore drilling; in fact, as he explained on the stump in March, “You have my word that we will keep drilling everywhere we can… That’s a commitment that I make.” The next day, in a yard full of oil pipe in Cushing, Oklahoma, the president promised to work on wind and solar energy but, at the same time, to speed up fossil-fuel development: “Producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.” That is, he’s committed to finding even more stock to add to the 2,795-gigaton inventory of unburned carbon.

In early June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled on a Norwegian research trawler to see firsthand the growing damage from climate change. “Many of the predictions about warming in the Arctic are being surpassed by the actual data,” she said, describing the sight as “sobering.” But the discussions she traveled to Scandinavia to have with other foreign ministers were mostly about how to make sure Western nations get their share of the estimated $9 trillion in oil (that’s more than 90 billion barrels, or 37 gigatons of carbon) that will become accessible as the Arctic ice melts. Last month, the Obama administration indicated that it would give Shell permission to start drilling in sections of the Arctic.

What all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

The numbers are simply staggering – this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.

They’re clearly cognizant of global warming – they employ some of the world’s best scientists, after all, and they’re bidding on all those oil leases made possible by the staggering melt of Arctic ice. And yet they relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons – in early March, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.

Left to our own devices, citizens might decide to regulate carbon and stop short of the brink; according to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans would back an international agreement that cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050. But we aren’t left to our own devices. The Koch brothers, for instance, have a combined wealth of $50 billion, meaning they trail only Bill Gates on the list of richest Americans. They’ve made most of their money in hydrocarbons, they know any system to regulate carbon would cut those profits, and they reportedly plan to lavish as much as $200 million on this year’s elections. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surpassed both the Republican and Democratic National Committees on political spending; the following year, more than 90 percent of the Chamber’s cash went to GOP candidates, many of whom deny the existence of global warming. Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon – should the world’s scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations.”

Environmentalists, understandably, have been loath to make the fossil-fuel industry their enemy, respecting its political power and hoping instead to convince these giants that they should turn away from coal, oil and gas and transform themselves more broadly into “energy companies.” Sometimes that strategy appeared to be working – emphasis on appeared. Around the turn of the century, for instance, BP made a brief attempt to restyle itself as “Beyond Petroleum,” adapting a logo that looked like the sun and sticking solar panels on some of its gas stations. But its investments in alternative energy were never more than a tiny fraction of its budget for hydrocarbon exploration, and after a few years, many of those were wound down as new CEOs insisted on returning to the company’s “core business.” In December, BP finally closed its solar division. Shell shut down its solar and wind efforts in 2009. The five biggest oil companies have made more than $1 trillion in profits since the millennium – there’s simply too much money to be made on oil and gas and coal to go chasing after zephyrs and sunbeams.

Much of that profit stems from a single historical accident: Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break – if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. But the fossil-fuel industry is different, and for sound historical reasons: Until a quarter-century ago, almost no one knew that CO2 was dangerous. But now that we understand that carbon is heating the planet and acidifying the oceans, its price becomes the central issue.

So pure self-interest probably won’t spark a transformative challenge to fossil fuel. But moral outrage just might – and that’s the real meaning of this new math. It could, plausibly, give rise to a real movement.

Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry’s political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama’s signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically.

Even if such a campaign is possible, however, we may have waited too long to start it. To make a real difference – to keep us under a temperature increase of two degrees – you’d need to change carbon pricing in Washington, and then use that victory to leverage similar shifts around the world. At this point, what happens in the U.S. is most important for how it will influence China and India, where emissions are growing fastest. (In early June, researchers concluded that China has probably under-reported its emissions by up to 20 percent.) The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more.

Meanwhile the tide of numbers continues. The week after the Rio conference limped to its conclusion, Arctic sea ice hit the lowest level ever recorded for that date. Last month, on a single weekend, Tropical Storm Debby dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Florida – the earliest the season’s fourth-named cyclone has ever arrived. At the same time, the largest fire in New Mexico history burned on, and the most destructive fire in Colorado’s annals claimed 346 homes in Colorado Springs – breaking a record set the week before in Fort Collins. This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year’s harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can’t do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we’re now leaving… in the dust.

(P.S. At least four other blogs have reprinted this article in the past few days, so obviously quite a few people here in blogland are concerned and interested enough to post this quite lengthy piece.)

Al Gore: Science and Truth Vs. the Merchants of Poison
Climate Change and the End of Australia
As the World Burns: Why Big Oil Is Winning on Climate Change


Comfort in a Mad World?

(Be forewarned; Rant ahead.)  There was a song I used to like, it was atmospheric and melancholic in that 80’s style, and the refrain was, ‘Mad world….” Don’t get me wrong, I am not typically a morose and negative human, far from it. But. The evidence is simply overwhelming, dear Readers. We are living in a world full of madness, insanity, and injustice the likes of which cannot really be compared. How can we manage to rise above all of the craziness and sorrows, the inhumanity, the pain of these times?
Many of the blogs which I follow deal with the idea of keeping balance and sanity through being awake, aware and keenly interested in one’s own mind, thoughts and feelings. A few blogs which I read occasionally deal with the ideas of religion and spirituality as a way of coping with the sorrows and problems of being human. Others are more practical, their authors write about nature, gardening, practical life. Some bloggers wax lyrically, some philosophize, others dream and write about writing itself, tell stories, share poems and insights into our human condition. Still others are mostly concerned with their own personal lives, their families, perhaps their everyday lives as students, employees, parents, lovers.
The world goes on, in spite of all the madness. We each have the choice of turning on the news, or going to a news website, and reading or hearing about the latest dramas and horrors unfolding on Earth each day, or not. I respect each person’s personal choice about whether or not to accept the outer world into one’s consciousness. I do not believe in burying one’s head in the sand, but at the same time I do not see the value of being clobbered with bad news day in and day out. That can only add to a person’s sorrows and fears, in my opinion.
Since watching Until the End of the World the other night (I mentioned this in my last blog post), I have been unable to forget some of the images from that film. I had strange, semi-waking dreams with the characters from the movie moving around in my dream state, doing all sorts of strange things. It affected me and I think I understand why. Because there is a part of me which believes it could happen, a huge catastrophe may occur which would affect millions of people around the globe, with intensely painful results. Then what? How will the rest of us react in a situation such as a nuclear explosion, or devastatingly large natural disasters, or another type of global kind of disaster, the likes of which we have yet to see?
There is a woman who started a website called The Good News Network, several years ago. It was her reaction to the events of the 9-11 bombings in New York and Washington D.C. This woman decided that she had had enough of the media only bombarding us with bad news and more bad news, and went in search of ‘good news’ instead. I receive her weekly emails, which according to her, contain “good news.” Dear Readers, to be completely honest with you, I do not find too much in these stories to cheer me up much. Often the stories have to do with somebody giving someone else some money unexpectedly, or else someone rescuing a person or animal somewhere. Nice, banal, usually simple stories of random acts of kindness. A nice try, I give her ‘an A for effort,’ as my father used to say.
But, in the face of endless, daily doses of murder, gross injustices, outrageous exploitation, corporate thievery being rewarded, warlords, fascists, and all the rest of what we now call ‘world business as usual’ what the hell?? A few paltry philanthropists and nice firemen are all very well and good, but they are a spit in the huge bucket of what is truly needed in order to set this sorry world aright! I remember a bumper sticker I saw, a few years ago in America. It read, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!” I agree with this, many days. But, as my mindfulness blogger friends are constantly reminding me, what good does it do to be outraged? Better to calm the mind, ease the emotions, and get to a place of inner peace and knowing, than to run around frustrated and angry at the outrageousness of the world. Right?

Honestly, I am not at all so sure about this sentiment anymore. On a day like today, when I have simply had it with stories like “Gunman opens fire in a movie theater, kills twelve innocent people who were just trying to enjoy a lousy movie, for god’s sake,” I really think that maybe all of us peaceniks, us loving, calm, beautiful and happy folk of the world ought to DO SOMETHING. Anything. Write a blog, talk with some others, write to the stupid newspaper or news website and tell them that you are tired of it. All of it. The whole frigging, idiotic, mad, absurdity of this god forsaken world. Come on, Readers out there in virtual reality, is it helping the world to remain so passive, so peaceful, so meditative in the face of the state of this world?
We are so full of platitudes these days. Starting with John Lennon, (whom I love and respect) Give peace a chance. Make love not war. Be happy. Just relax. Have a nice day. No fear. Iphones are cool. Just chill. Calm down. Everything’s okay. Nothing to worry your pretty little head over. It will all turn out all right in the end. No problem. It’s all good. It’s all good??!! Who are you kidding? I am sorry to have to be the one to inform you, but No, “it’ is not all good. In fact, a lot of it is really, really lousy, unfair, and unbelievably bad. Just read some of the news stories in any web browser to see if I am right, and decide for yourself.

English: occupy wall street

 Occupy Wall Street is more or less dead. They, the powers that be, yup, those 1% bastards and bitches who simply do NOT care a hoot for the rest of the world, won again. They continue, with the help of the police force, the politicians who they pay to work for them, the court justices, all the way up to the supreme court judges, the president, the cabinet, the CEO’s of the multinational corporations, and basically anybody who is in a position of power. They are playing this game of ruling the world, its resources and its poor huddled masses, and guess what, they are winning. They are holding parties on their private islands, in their private jets, on their private yachts, in their privileged, oh-so-beautiful, artificially made and preserved world. They hang signs on these worlds, that say: Keep Out, All who would dare to ruin our party, This Means YOU!
We all love a good story, the kind where the hero wins over the evil bully or king, the wicked witch or queen, the Goliaths of the world. We want to be the hero, to save the day, save the town, save the sweet, good princess. It is in our collective psyches to want the Good to conquer the Evil. And yet. At the same time, we are fascinated with the Dark Sphere, the evil doers of the world or of other worlds, the warlords and criminals, the murderers and rapists, the wrongdoers and abusers. Take a look around your personal world, and see how much of these stories are lurking in your everyday. In kid’s comic books, all over the internet, in video games, movies, books, on t-shirts, backpacks, notebooks, on cereal boxes, in the supermarket, the checkout lane, the gas station. Good vs. Evil. It is everywhere. And that means that we must take a stand. Some claim these are the end times for dualism, that good vs. evil is soon to be a thing of the past, passe, out of fashion, no longer applicable. Fine. I hope they are right. But, what replaces them? If there is no clear lines between good and evil, between the Powerful and the Powerless, then where do we stand? Who do we become when there is no longer a hero to applaud, no more Wicked Queen to slay?
As usual, dear Readers, I leave you with yet more unresolved questions. Skeptical to the end, I am a real deconstructionist these days, an existentialist, but more than these, I am human, wondering where lies comfort in a mad, getting ever madder, world. What about you?