Trump Pulls Out Early

As the American Geophysical Union (AGU) noted a few days ago, “The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord – a political decision by the Trump administration – does not change the science of how our planet works.

We often speak of “rogue nations” in relation to nuclear proliferation and the danger that nuclear war poses for life on Earth. We now have the world’s second largest polluter going “climate rogue” with a promise to bring back their coal industry, pump more oil, and frack more natural gas. At a time when forward thinking nations are putting their best minds to work on research and development into cleaner alternatives, President Trump did the exact opposite.

It’s not like we didn’t have ample time to prepare. In June 1988 in the City of Toronto, The Conference on the Changing Atmosphere issued the following consensus conclusion: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.

By a strange twist of fate, 1988 was also the year that Oprah Winfrey teased a response out of Donald Trump that he was thinking of a run for the Presidency in 2016. Polly Toynbee, writing for The Guardian in 1988 also got this quote from The Donald: “If I want to be President, then I’ll be President.” Be careful for what you wish.

Now we are in a situation where this President has left the consensus of the global commons and joined Syria and Nicaragua in the last days of the fossil fuel economy. True, Syria and Nicaragua had never signed on to the Paris Climate Accord, which makes the U.S.A. withdrawal all the more shameful. The short-range thinking of the far-right Republican base who cheer at Trump’s rallies may be pleased, but the remaining 194 countries are more than a little miffed.

This Trump withdrawal is significant to the rest of the world for three reasons. First, it clarifies the role of far-right conservative corporations and their “think-tanks” to influence politics and education. Secondly, it pushes China to the top of the world stage for environmental leadership and innovative economic growth in the field of alternative energy technologies. And lastly, it undermines the value of science-based policies to make even a token attempt to deal with accelerating climate change.

While many pundits say that it was the influence of advisor Steve Bannon that pushed Trump to make his exit from the Paris Accord, it was really the years of lobbying by the Competitive Enterprises Institute (CEI) that turned the tide. The CEI had been influencing “charter” religious-right American schools for decades with their false science curriculum. The most infamous of these was the pseudo-science text “Facts Not Fear: a parent’s guide to teaching children about the environment.”

This text was published in the U.S.A. by the “Alabama Family Alliance” through funding by the CEI. It was authored by Michael Sanera of the Claremont Institute (a conservative “education” cult devoted to “Recovering the American Idea.”) and Jane Shaw, an economist then with the Political Economy Research Centre (now the Property and Environment Research Centre – PERC – a republican free market economic advisory group).

Along with Channel One propaganda being broadcast on large flat screens every hour, children in American private “charter” religious schools were given “Facts Not Fear” as a science text. CEI tried to do this in Canada via our own infamous right-wing Fraser Institute. Cleverly adapted for Canadian readers by “science” writers Liv Fredricksen and Laura Jones, they attempted to distribute this text free of charge to all Canadian middle schools. The Canadian educational system, province by province, flatly rejected the offer and the experiment failed.

However, in the U.S.A. the experiment succeeded in feeding the young minds of what would become Trump’s “base”. Adults and corporations were lobbied by CEI’s Ronald Bailey via publications like “Eco-Scam” and “Global Warming and Other Myths.” The reins of the lobbying were passed on by Bailey to Myron Ebell, who stood proudly by Trump’s side as he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

The second impact is the immediate leap by China into the leadership void created by the U.S. The economics of rising health care costs from decades of burning soft, high sulphur coal are driving innovation in high tech renewable and clean energy research and development. Investing in Virginia coal mines is NOT on their economic growth agenda. Similarly, ten states led by California, and a growing number of major American cities have unified to honour the original American commitment to the goals of the Paris Accord. With the federal administration currently stuck with its head in a fossil fuel tarpit, intelligent forward planning states and cities had no choice but to go it alone. Sort of an Environmental Civil War.

Lastly, Trump’s withdrawal from the international climate agreement signals the loss of a United States global leadership role. As the second largest polluter in the world, any attempt to reduce emissions would be a sign of hope for the world, that there was a consensus to try to ease and mitigate the effects of accelerating climate change. The loss of participation by most of the American States will make this more difficult. While Syria and Nicaragua’s lack of participation has little impact, the loss of the U.S.A. is morally significant.

Keep in mind, that the Paris Climate Accord was a small step for Earth’s living creatures. The acceleration of climate change that began in the late 1700’s has already gone into overshoot. Now add methane, being emitted in increasing quantities from the Arctic’s thawing permafrost. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Science refers to this phenomenon as a positive feedback loop. In this case, the atmospheric system becomes even more unstable.

Stupidity does not change the science of how the planet works. As Crosby, Stills and Nash reminded us back in the sixties, “Teach your children well.”

It’s time to stop being polite to stupid people.

***

Skid Crease is an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, an author, and a lifelong educator currently living in Caledon, Ontario.

 

 

 

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The Twitterverse

I recently signed on to Twitter. For years I avoided the temptation, but retirement and the Trump Comedy Show gave me time and motive to participate in the world of social media exchanges.

I began to appreciate the precision of a 140 character statement when trying to get just the right combination of intelligence and sarcasm into a Tweet. For example, whatever Trump was thinking when he told the Saudi royals “Drive them (the terrorists) out!” it wasn’t based on reality. My tweet was short and cryptic for some, so here is a brief history of why “driving them out” would banish 5 million extremist males from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar to metastasize throughout the world. While these extremists account for less than 1% of the the world’s Muslim population, they are the proverbial “one bad apple that spoils the whole bunch.”

The Royal House of Saud has declared that Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab’s teachings are the official, Saudi state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam. Wahhabism, an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, was recently identified by the European Parliament as the main source of global terrorism. This is the extreme interpretation of Islam that inspired the ideology of ISIL, preaches sharia law, and teaches that non-believers are heathens and enemies. So, the followers of purist Salafism, or Wahhabism, the state approved religion of Saudi Arabia, have just been told by the President of the United States of America that they are going to be “Driven Out!” of their homeland.

Yesterday I had a visit from Arab acquaintance from Egypt, a Coptic Christian now living in Canada shared his views with me when I mentioned Trump’s visit to Riyadh. He had no love for the House of Saud, nor for their fundamentalist Islam:

The West has it all wrong. You have to be able to read in Arabic, to read the Koran. Then you will see their true philosophy – if you convert, you are my brother, if not, you are a heathen, my enemy, and I will kill you.” He spoke passionately about the Coptic Christian churches burned and the murders of worshippers. “That is what they do. They kill.

Did The Donald forget that the Saudi terror mastermind, Osama Bin Laden, financed his team for 911 from Saudi Arabian coffers? That fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Wahhabist Saudi citizens? To where did the President want the Wahhabi population of Saudi Arabia driven? Libya? Europe? The United States?

While the total ignorance of this man is remarkable, even more remarkable is his inability to perceive the reality of his global audience. He thinks he is being seen as clothed in ermine robes with a shaft of holy sunlight illuminating his blonde wave. The rest of the world sees a naked fool. This Emperor wannabe has no clothes, his story has no plot, and his legacy will be announced not with a bang, but a whimper.

I avoided Twitter because of the early morning rantings of this delusional megalomaniac. Then I decided to Tweet back. Will it make a difference? No idea, but the number of “followers”, “re-tweeters” and “likers” is encouraging – only one “hater” so far … I’ll have to work on that … you can only tell if you’re really flushing the sewers when all the rats come out.

And we know there is a mischief of rats out there, as the results of last night’s Montana “special” election proved. Time to call in the Pied Tweeter and pay the Piper.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

 

 

 

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The Perfect Storm

Once upon a time in the twentieth century, we had Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, and Tojo. It was not a great quintet for world peace.

Now, upon our time in the twenty-first century, we have al-Assad, Erdogan, Putin, Ayatollah Khomenei, and Jinping. This bad boy band of dictatorial supreme leaders could be the perfect storm for world chaos once again. Fuel for this fire comes with the rise of far right-wing extremism from France’s Marine Le Pen to the Netherlands Geert Wilders and all across Europe as the golden mean collapses. Fortunately, both Wilders and Le Pen lost the war.

Meanwhile, we have the two megalomaniac, narcissistic man-boys, Donald and Kim, taunting each other with nuclear annihilation. “Oh, yeah! My mother of all bombs is bigger than your mother of all bombs!” This mature level of diplomatic conversation, tweeted in the early morning hours across the Pacific, can only be fanning the winds of the perfect storm.

To add to this chaos theory of world political physics, stir in every extremist alt-right group in the U.S.A. broadcasting their terrorist propaganda from websites like 4chan, 8chan, Alternative Right, and Breitbart and you have the Sailer Strategy for dumbing down the American public and winning elections for the Freedom Caucus fanatics.

The solution?

First, in democracies, stop electing far right-wing governments and ignorant twits as leaders, and change the U.S. second amendment to read “the right to bare arms” ….

Secondly, turn off the black mirrors, remember the breaking news is usually not, stop reading reports from sloppy journalists, get a comfort pet, take long walks in wild places, and hang out with wise people.

Thirdly, learn how to grow food, care for animals, fish and hunt. As hockey legend Eddie Shack used to say, “You never know when they’re going to do it to you.”

Fourthly, love your family, love your partner, love yourself, love Earth and Fire and Wind and Water.

Fifthly, when the perfect storm is coming we had better know how to build the perfect shelter, and protect and feed the inhabitants.

And lastly, learned from the writings of my wellness mentor, legendary Samurai swordmaster, Miyamoto Musashi, (forgive my translation):

Practice your skills every day, a thousand days.

Perfect practice, until the execution of your skills is like breathing.

Then you will be at the centre. Peace, love, and crush your enemies quickly.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Why Donald Likes Andrew

Donald Trump’s view of Andrew Jackson: “He had a big heart.

Quote taken from Salena Zito’s interview with the President on Monday, May 1, 2017. The full transcript of that interview is an addendum at the end of this article.

***

Our North American native peoples, however, had a different view of the seventh President of the United States of America. From the February, 20, 2017 issue of Indian Country Today:

A brief essay on why Andrew Jackson is one of the worst ten Presidents in United States history.

by Gale Courey Toensing • February 20, 2017

Andrew Jackson: A man nicknamed “Indian killer” and “Sharp Knife” surely deserves the top spot on a list of worst U.S. Presidents. Andrew Jackson “was a forceful proponent of Indian removal,” according to PBS. Others have a less genteel way of describing the seventh president of the United States.

“Andrew Jackson was a wealthy slave owner and infamous Indian killer, gaining the nickname ‘Sharp Knife’ from the Cherokee,” writes Amargi on the website Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. “He was also the founder of the Democratic Party, demonstrating that genocide against indigenous people is a nonpartisan issue. His first effort at Indian fighting was waging a war against the Creeks. President Jefferson had appointed him to appropriate Creek and Cherokee lands. In his brutal military campaigns against Indians, Andrew Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination. The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery. His frontier warfare and subsequent ‘negotiations’ opened up much of the southeast U.S. to settler colonialism.”

Andrew Jackson was not only a genocidal maniac against the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest, he was also racist against African peoples and a scofflaw who “violated nearly every standard of justice,” according to historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown. As a major general in 1818, Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida chasing fugitive slaves who had escaped with the intent of returning them to their “owners,” and sparked the First Seminole War. During the conflict, Jackson captured two British men, Alexander George Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, who were living among the Seminoles. The Seminoles had resisted Jackson’s invasion of their land. One of the men had written about his support for the Seminoles’ land and treaty rights in letters found on a boat. Andrew Jackson used the “evidence” to accuse the men of “inciting” the Seminoles to “savage warfare” against the U.S. He convened a “special court martial” tribunal then had the men executed. “His actions were a study in flagrant disobedience, gross inequality and premeditated ruthlessness… he swept through Florida, crushed the Indians, executed Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and violated nearly every standard of justice,” Wyatt-Brown wrote.

In 1830, a year after he became president, Jackson signed a law that he had proposed – the Indian Removal Act – which legalized ethnic cleansing. Within seven years 46,000 indigenous people were removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi. Their removal gave 25 million acres of land “to white settlement and to slavery,” according to PBS. The area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations. In the Trail of Tears alone, 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.

***

Addendum: Salena Zito’s interview with President Donald Trump was aired Monday, May 1, 2017 on Sirius XM radio:

TRUMP: They said my campaign is most like, my campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson with his campaign. And I said, “When was Andrew Jackson?” It was 1828. That’s a long time ago. That’s Andrew Jackson. And he had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and the nastiest. And unfortunately it continues.

ZITO: His wife died.

TRUMP: His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. And, you know, he was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, you know, he visited her grave every day. I visited her grave actually, because I was in Tennessee.

ZITO: Oh, that’s right, you were in Tennessee.

TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. Well, they love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.

ZITO: Yeah, he’s a fascinating —

TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why?

ZITO: Yeah —

TRUMP: People don’t ask that question. But why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

***

Hmmm … Why?

I wonder. As I also wonder about these revisionist historical observations from Mr. Trump at the outset of his remarks at a campaign stop in Buffalo on April 18, 2016:

“I wrote this out, and it’s very close to my heart because I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 711, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I’ve ever seen in action.”

Hold the presses! He may have watched the police and firemen on 911, not to be confused with the 711 convenience store, but if so he watched it unfold on television. He was neither “down there” … he was ensconced in Trump Tower, nor did he bother to correct his 7ll gaff.

At a later Columbus, Ohio rally in November 2016, Trump said he watched the towers fall from his New York City apartment. “Many people jumped and I witnessed it, I watched that. I have a view — a view in my apartment that was specifically aimed at the World Trade Center,” Trump said. “And I watched those people jump and I watched the second plane hit … I saw the second plane hit the building and I said, ‘Wow that’s unbelievable.'”

If indeed Mr. Trump saw this event unfolding from his lofty perch in Trump Tower, he must truly have the eyes of the Eagle-in-Chief he imagines himself to be. Trump Tower is fully four miles away from the site of the former World Trade Centre.

He could, however, have watched it unfolding in real time from one of his black mirrors, confusing something he is watching on television with actually being present at the event. It could explain his continuing confusion with thinking that viewing something on his really big screen is the same as experiencing it in reality.

True, he did seem to understand that Jackson came from an earlier era, but couldn’t seem to reconcile the fact that Old Hickory. who was “really angry about what was happening in regard to the Civil War”, had in the ground for sixteen years before the Civil War began. Hard to be angry when you’re decomposing.

Hard to be President when you’re not all there.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Preserve, Conserve, Renew

 

The year was 1969. I was in my second year of teaching in Canada when an American environmentalist named John McConnell proposed a global holiday to celebrate peace, justice and the integrity of creation. It was named, simply, Earth Day.  In October, 1969, at the National UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, McConnell announced his intention to organize a worldwide awareness campaign to honour the diversity of life on Earth.

The organizers selected March 21, the vernal equinox, the return of the light and a renewal of life in our little corner of the Northern Hemisphere. That day, in the city of San Francisco, McConnell made the first Earth Day Proclamation about the need to preserve, conserve, and renew the threatened ecosystems upon which all life on Earth depends.

Those were heady days for the emerging environmental movement in North America. Acid rain, oil spills, topsoil erosion, groundwater depletion, contamination of the oceans, and air pollution dominated the headlines. The passion for change was thick in the air as we demanded social justice, nuclear disarmament, and environmental literacy. They truly were the days of peace, love, and groovy. I missed Woodstock, but my Grade Five class added their voices to that first Earth Day Proclamation, still celebrated today on March 21 by the United Nations.

At the same time that McConnell was organizing, a young American law student named Denis Hayes was conscripted by Senator Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day marches in the United States on April 22 to coordinate with Arbor Day.

“The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” It succeeded beyond his expectations, Millions joined in celebratory marches across the U.S.A. and Canada, my class included, to demand an end to unsustainable exponential economic growth.

It was the beginning of massive arbor day tree plantings, garbage-less lunch campaigns, recycling programs, and resource conservation projects from classrooms to business offices.

In June 1970 McConnell created the Earth Day Proclamation for worldwide use and awareness. The Earth Day Proclamation declared the principles and responsibilities the signers undertook to care for the Earth. It was signed by 36 world leaders, including UN Secretary General U Thant, Margaret Mead, John Gardner and others. The last signature by Mikhail Gorbachev was added in 2000.

Earth Day indeed had increased environmental awareness in America, and in December 2, 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of Arbor Earth Day, more than 200 million people in 141 countries participated in celebrations.

Few remember though, that it was the partnership of John F. Kennedy and Rachel Carson that tilled the soil that would become our Earth Days. When Kennedy championed Silent Spring and defended Carson against the rage of the chemical industry, it began to stir an awareness across North America that it was time to get informed, stand up and speak out for the defense of our Home Planet. In 1963, Congress passed the Clean Air Act to deal with cross-border pollution from the Ohio valley into the Great Lakes and Canada. The war on acid rain had begun in earnest, and Big Coal was not happy.

On, November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Barely six months later, on April 14, 1964, Rachel Carson died of cancer. The seeds of our modern environmental awareness had been planted and they germinated in 1970 with our two Earth Day celebrations. Perhaps these two days are as much a tribute to Kennedy and Carson as to Earth. They serve as a constant reminder that greater love hath no one than this.

These Earth Days should remind us of the sacrifices made by women and men  around the world, like the legendary Gaura Devi of India’s Chipko (tree-hugging) movement, or Wangari Maathai of Kenya sowing seeds of hope across Africa, or Lois Gibbs of Niagara Falls, New York, who exposed the toxic wastes of the Love Canal, or Jacques Cousteau and Sam Labudde and Rob Stewart who fought for the sanctity of our ocean ecosystems, or Jeton Anjain of the Marshall Islands, sick to death with cancer, fighting to expose the dangers of nuclear waste and nuclear war.

This is what our Earth Days are about. It’s a lot more than planting one little sapling that may not make it through the summer, but looks good in a political photo-op with smiling children. It’s about speaking truth to power. It’s about campaigning for the security of the EPA, The same EPA that brought us the Clean Air Act and is now threatened with castration by Donald Trump and Scott Pruit. It’s about making certain that Kevin O’Leary never becomes a candidate for political leadership in Canada. It’s about standing up to hate speech and hateful actions that bring fear and division into our lives and thoughts. It’s about supporting the building of sustainable communities, of learning how to live elegantly with less, of realizing at last that, as E.F. Schumacher tried to teach us years ago, that “Small is Beautiful” in home and national budgets.

Earth Days are a celebration of participatory democracy, honouring the responsibility of a people to protect their families, their communities, their environment. A wise mentor once told me, “You know, we have no rights without responsibilities first. I do not have the right to clean water unless I make sure I’m not putting any pollutants into the global chain. I don’t have the right to breathe clean air if I leave my SUV idling to keep my winter heat up, or my summer air conditioning on.”

Game on. Time to accept our individual and collective responsibilities and truly celebrate the miraculous beauty of our Home Planet in words and deeds and responsible political actions.

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