Archive for November 2014

Preparing for Black Friday   Leave a comment

Jesus the Homeless

Jesus the Homeless

” False idols are everywhere these days: in newspapers, on TV ads, on billboards, in magazines, in the margins of every website, even on the phone. They are meant to excite us and arrest us and, they hope, seduce us. It’s not what we pass up because we can’t afford it that counts. It’s what we pass up because we don’t need it even when we can afford it. Then we know that we are free. “

Joan Chittister in her book, The Art of Life, p. 117

A Sad Night for the United States of America   Leave a comment

IMG_2156Many black families woke up this morning (November 25, 2014) knowing that the lives of their children are worth less than the lives of white children in America. The deep distrust of law enforcement in their own communities that so many African Americans feel just got deeper last night — 108 days since the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown — when the prosecuting attorney announced the decision not to subject the police officer who killed Brown to a trial where all the facts could be publically known and examined.

We now all have the chance to examine the evidence — released last night — in the grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who fired multiple bullets into Michael Brown. But the verdict on America’s criminal justice system is already in for many Americans: guilty, for treating young black men differently than young white men.

According to veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys, many things were unusual about the grand jury that ultimately decided not to indict Wilson. But most unusual may have been the decision to hold the news until after dark — as anxiety rose and hundreds gathered on the street. The decision was reportedly in by 2 p.m., so why did authorities wait seven hours to announce it? Why did they wait until people were off work and anxious young crowds had gathered outside police headquarters in Ferguson? Focus quickly turned from the grand jury’s decision to the response in the streets. While most protestors remained peaceful, the media naturally focused on the very unfortunate violence.

Other large questions remain …

READ THE FULL ARTICLE by Jim Wallis.

Posted November 25, 2014 by allanbaker in Politics

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Suzuki comments on latest IPCC report – choices?   Leave a comment

IPCC report is clear: We must clean up our act

Wind Farm in Germany
Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, now gets a third of its energy from renewable sources, and has reduced carbon emissions 23 per cent from 1990 levels and created 370,000 jobs. (Credit: David via Flickr)

It’s become a cliché to say that out of crisis comes opportunity. But there’s no denying that when faced with crises, we have choices. The opportunity depends on what we decide to do.

What choices will we make when confronted with the fact that 2014 will likely be the hottest year on record? According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global land and sea temperatures up to September’s end tie this year with 1998 as the warmest since record keeping began in 1880. “If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record,” a NOAA statement says.

The world’s warmest 10 years have all been since 1998, and last year carbon dioxide levels rose by the highest amount in 30 years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, released November 2, summarizes three reports released over the past year on the physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation. It offers a stark choice: Unless we quickly curtail our fossil fuel dependence, we face “further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

As a broadcaster, I’ve interviewed hundreds of scientists over the years, but I’ve never heard so many speak so forcefully and urgently as climatologists today. It’s a measure of the seriousness of the crisis.

What choices will we make? Will politicians close their eyes while fossil fuel industry executives shovel money at them and enlist propagandists to spread misinformation and lies? Will we listen to those who, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, continue to say the global warming they once claimed never existed stopped 18 years ago, or that human activity doesn’t contribute to climate change?

Or will we heed scientists from around the world who offer evidence that we still have time to do something about this very real crisis — and that confronting the challenge presents more opportunities than pitfalls?

Believing our only choice is between a strong economy and a healthy environment is absurd. Yet that’s the false option many political leaders and fossil fuel industry proponents present. Never mind the insanity of thinking we can survive and be healthy if we destroy the natural systems on which we depend; research shows taking measured steps to address global warming would have few negative economic effects and would offer numerous benefits. Failing to act would be disastrous for the economy and environment.

Energy conservation and clean fuels offer the greatest opportunities. Conserving energy makes precious, non-renewable resources last longer, reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, saves consumers money and offers many economic benefits. More than 100,000 Canadians are directly employed in improving energy efficiency, with total wages estimated at $8.27 billion for 2014.

The fast-growing clean-energy and clean-technology sectors offer similar benefits. Improved performance and cost reductions make large-scale deployment for many clean-energy technologies increasingly feasible. By focusing on fossil fuels, Canada is clearly missing out. Worldwide spending on clean energy last year was $207 billion. Canada spent $6.5 billion — a start, but we could do much better.

Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, now gets a third of its energy from renewable sources, and has reduced carbon emissions 23 per cent from 1990 levels and created 370,000 jobs.

In contrast, Canada subsidizes the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $1.3 billion a year, despite a 2009 G20 agreement to phase out subsidies. The federal Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner’s recent audit found Canada has no detailed plan to shrink carbon pollution and meet its international commitment, and has failed to release or enforce oil and gas sector emission regulations for our fastest-growing source of emissions, the oil sands, promised since 2006. Expanding oil sands and liquefied natural gas development will only make matters worse.

People around the world want leadership from elected representatives on climate change and pollution. Business leaders are getting on board. Will we take advantage of the numerous benefits of energy conservation and clean energy or remain stuck in the old way of just blindly burning our way through? The choice is clear.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Remembrance Day, 2014   Leave a comment

“Edith” lives in a nursing home in the United Kingdom, not far from the town from which she immigrated in 1946 from Berlin, Germany. The following quote about her views of Remembrance Day was published in the United Church Observer, November, 2014.

i-remember-for-peaceOf course we should focus on peace, yes, but first we have to understand why it is so important. Remembrance Day, is about remembering how easy it is for any nation to follow the wrong leadership and fall over the precipice into chaos. We remember the horror, the devastation, the depravity and the colossal losses and waste of human life. But most important is to remember what human life is capable of when we lose our way. We all have much to seek forgiveness for.”

 

Environmental Rights in Canada   Leave a comment

IMG_1840MP Linda Duncan recently introduced “An Act to Establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights” in Parliament. If it’s passed, our federal government will have a legal duty to protect Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.

David Suzuki writes that:

“Progress is possible when enough people recognize its necessity and come together to make it happen. Protecting our country and planet, our health and the future of our children and grandchildren is absolutely necessary. We can’t live and be well without clean air and water, nutritious food and the numerous services that diverse and vibrant natural environments provide.”

 

Read the remainder of Suzuki’s post at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/11/the-movement-for-environmental-rights-is-building/

Latest UN Climate Report – is Harper Listening?   Leave a comment

Latest UN Climate Report Spells out Tough Work Ahead

And the world’s eyes are on carbon-spewing Canada. Your move, Harper.

By Nick Fillmore, November 5, 2014, originally published by: TheTyee.ca

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We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours.‘ French President Francois Hollande told Canadian Parliament of the upcoming Paris climate summit.

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Canada’s dismal record on fighting climate change was brought into the spotlight twice this week — first with a crucial UN report spelling out the tough task ahead for the world’s nations, and second, with the president of France delivering an embarrassing lecture to the Harper government in our own Parliament on Monday.

Practically tongue in cheek, French President Francois Hollande, glancing at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told Parliament that he had no reason to doubt Canada’s commitment to reaching a global agreement on climate change when the final round of negotiations are held in Paris in December 2015.

But the president warned Parliament that negotiations must not be left to the last minute.

“We would like to avoid what happened in Denmark, in Copenhagen, where the heads of state and governments thought they could reach an agreement in the very few, last few hours. This is not possible,” said Hollande. “We have to find an agreement within the coming months.”

Released Sunday, the latest United Nations report on the threat of global warming is by far the most comprehensive to date, and includes the most serious warnings ever. It describes in detail the disaster ahead unless humankind can reverse carbon emissions by 2020 and then phase out emissions entirely by the end of this century.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was prepared to provide up-to-date information for governments attempting to deliver a new global treaty on climate change during the final UN Climate Summit next year.

The looming Paris summit presents a new challenge for the Canadian government in view of the fact that Canada remains, by some measures, the worst performer in fighting climate change of all industrialized countries.

Bad Canada

As hinted by the French president, Canada plays a leading role in destroying the atmosphere. Mechanical engineer John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota toldScientific American: “If we burn all the tarsand oil, the temperature rise, just from burning that tarsand, will be half of what we’ve already seen — an estimated additional nearly 0.4 C from Alberta alone.”

A federal election is scheduled to be held before the Paris summit. Over the next few months, Harper’s government will have to decide if it will adopt a more progressive climate change position — a move that, while unlikely, would probably win the Conservatives votes in the election. If another party becomes the government next October, it would have very little time to develop a new position in advance of the summit.

The IPCC strongly acknowledges that carbon emissions are rising at an alarming rate. While changes in the weather are not having a big impact in developed countries, climate chaos is already causing massive destruction and an estimated 150,000 deaths annually.

Even so, the IPCC report also offers hope. Panel chair Rajendra Pachauri said the world has the means to limit climate change. He said if the right solutions are put into place there can be continued economic and human development.

But considering the overall content of the report — as well as the harsh information in a number of earlier reports — it is questionable how much progress can be made because of a number of difficulties that must be overcome.

What must be done

The UN lacks the power to force governments to follow any particular course of action. While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sounds like he is in charge of a solid campaign for change, he’s really a concerned cheerleader. Moreover, Sunday’s report includes only vague — and questionable — suggestions concerning actions that should be taken to slow global warming. It says that:

  • Most of the world’s electricity should be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050;

  • Renewables will have to grow from the current 30 per cent share to 80 per cent of the power sector by 2050;

  • Fossil fuel power generation without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would need to be phased out almost entirely by 2100. (However, the world has only one CCS plant in operation as the technology has not proven to be reliable);

  • Behavioural changes, such as eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions (a meek offer).

One ongoing issue that could delay progress concerns to what extent wealthy countries, which are responsible for much of the climate destruction to this point, are willing to assist less developed nations in covering the costs of mitigating the damage caused by climate change.

However, pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which was to raise $100 billion, have been slow to come in, so the UN now hopes governments and the private sector will commit $15 billion as starter capital. The Council of Canadians says the federal government should contribute $4 billion a year to the fund.

A serious issue ahead concerns whether the U.S. and China can reach a bilateral agreement on the burning of coal. If not, some countries may be reluctant to sign onto a binding deal next year.

UN officials fear that U.S. President Obama will not be able to sign a full agreement in Paris because the Senate, with many members receiving large donations from the energy sector, will veto the agreement, and the non-governmental sector is claiming that powerful multinational corporations are trying to hijack the entire UN climate process.

In anticipation of the release of the IPCC report, 55 Canadian environmental researchers and academics came together to urge the Harper government to begin fighting climate change in a serious way.

The group praised work carried out by lower levels of government to mitigate climate change. They pointed out that Ontario is phasing out coal-fired electricity plants and that Vancouver is promising to be the greenest city in the world by the year 2020, but they emphasized the country is lacking overall federal leadership to help co-ordinate such activities.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal PoliticsEnvironment,

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (7)   Leave a comment

Four Prime Questions about Harper’s Response to Ottawa Shooting

PM’s moves at home and abroad demand closer scrutiny.

By Murray Dobbin, November 3, 2014, TheTyee.ca

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Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Two weeks after the senseless murder of a soldier on Parliament Hill (and another earlier in Montreal) there are several things we know and many we don’t. Obvious questions have been asked and inconvenient ones have been left aside.

We know — and indeed could predict one second after the shooting — that Stephen Harper would use it as an excuse to expand the security and surveillance state he has been constructing.

We know that the shooting was not a terrorist act, but a criminal one, regardless of what the RCMP and CSIS, eager to enhance their political role and resources, are saying. (Within an hour of the shooting an over-eager CSIS official was declaring hopefully, “this will change everything.”)

We know that the enhanced security measures and police powers will do nothing to help us understand, let alone deal with, the root causes of what the Harper government claims is an existential threat to Canada and the West (but is content to deal with symptoms).

We know that there will be no additional resources from governments to deal with mental illness as Mr. Harper plans to cut billions from medicare. There will be no revisiting of the issue of gun registration in spite of its obvious importance in dealing with such incidents. And there will be no effort on the part of our Christian fundamentalist PM to counter the anti-Muslim backlash he knows he is contributing to by hyping the terrorist threat.

The bigger questions remain to be asked and so they won’t likely be answered. They include:

1. What freedoms must we now erode and why? Mr. Harper, who eagerly adheres to the (simplistic) idea that jihadists “hate our freedoms,” might reasonably be asked to explain why he is so eager to destroy those freedoms in response to the jihadists’ “war” against the West. Isn’t that exactly what they want — or does Harper want to rid us of freedoms so the jihadists won’t hate us so much? Wouldn’t a genuine response be to celebrate and enhance our freedoms even more (perhaps by ending the auditing of groups critical of the government)?

2. What is producing Canada’s homegrown jihadists? This is another question the government seems decidedly uninterested in: what is it about our Western societies — supposedly the model for the entire world, morally, culturally and socially superior — that alienates some young people so much that they can suddenly decide it’s all right to kill innocents and it’s worth dying for a cause so remote and alien to their lived experience that it is scarcely possible to believe they can understand it let alone truly embrace it? Could it possibly have anything to do with 35 years of neoliberal assault on community and consumer capitalism’s failure to provide meaning to their lives beyond purchasing the next electronic gadget?

3. What is the most effective response to Islamists? Yet one more question not being asked is what would a rational, enlightened (we are enlightened, right?), effective response to so-called “radical” Islam look like? The “this changes everything” gang certainly don’t intend to change Canada’s foreign policy or recommend a change to its allies. Yet it is key to any long-term solution.

There are countless experts and historians who are eager to address the issue. And we know what they would say about Stephen Harper’s efforts to transform Canada from a moderate, middle power with a history of virtually inventing UN peacekeeping, into a shrill, warmongering nation ever ready to rattle its (insignificant) sabre at any opportunity.

The fact that these two unconnected killings were not terrorist acts doesn’t mean such acts cannot or will not happen. And while Mr. Harper puts on his warrior’s armour and militarizes the government’s response, he ignores the impact of his reckless Middle East foreign policy on escalating such threats. Canada’s ham-handed policies actually do put us at risk.

According to a report in the National Post, on Sept. 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani “urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans…. Rely upon Allah…. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict.”

This threat is clearly connected directly to Canada’s policies and its determination to join the war against ISIS. Harper, in what has become his standard adolescent response to events in the Middle East, bravely declared he would not be “cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists.” Yet Canada’s contribution is laughably minuscule — but just big enough, perhaps, to put us at risk of a future attack. And all, as usual, for domestic political consumption as evidenced by the total inability of the government to explain its mission.

To their credit the opposition parties in Parliament, the NDP and the Liberals, voted against the ISIS mission for most of the right reasons: what exactly was the mission, what were the government’s expectations, how was success being defined, what Canadian interests are being served and why six months? Not one of these questions was answered and instead the questioners were treated to the usual contempt from the prime minister.

4. Can we learn from how we got here? We are supposed to learn as children that actions have consequences so I suppose we are left to conclude that current leaders of the Anglo-industrialized countries (in particular) were badly neglected by their parents. A catastrophic failure of imagination on the part of the West has led us to this point. It’s worth tracing back to its origins. The first failure belonged to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and the key architect of the mujahedeen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. began arming, financing and training the original handful of religious zealots opposed to the godless Soviets, they were a threat to no one.

In an interview that appeared in 1998, Brzezinski revealed his impoverished imagination when asked if he regretted creating Islamic terrorists: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

ISIS would not exist had the U.S. not created its predecessors. And this failure of imagination is replicated year after year in the White House, in the Strangelovian world of NATO and now in Ottawa. Imperial hubris, wilful ignorance, political opportunism and sheer incompetence still determine Middle East policy. Harper enthusiastically bombed Libya, with the unintended but predictable consequence of handing over thousands of tonnes of sophisticated weapons to another branch of radical Islamists. He gives Israel absolute carte blanche in its savaging of Palestinians, alienating even moderate Arabs throughout the region, and now he pointlessly tweaks the tail of the ISIS tiger.

His every act in the name of Canada creates more jihadists. We are just lucky that an attack on Canada initiated by ISIS is extremely unlikely.  [Tyee]

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