Friday, March 31, 2017


From Healthcare to Earthcare

Many voices from various parts of the political spectrum joined to defeat the ill-considered replacement of the Affordable Care Act in the House this past week. This unity of moderate Republicans with the Freedom Caucus and House Democrats was the result of a vigorous outpouring from constituents during the recent congressional recess. Once the contents of the bill were actually mooted, and people understood that it was not just “other folks” - including the forgotten poor – who would lose their healthcare, but a significant number of those in the middle class as well as the working poor,, then the bill was dead.

The President, impatient with congressional politics, decided to move on. Having already severely weakened the EPA earlier on, he followed this major defeat a few days later with a barrage of executive orders, combined with a draconian [proposed budget designed to cripple environmental protections of all sort. This “sledgehammer” has unified the environmental community for a terrific fight. Such a fight, however, will not be won by an outcry from Greens, but by forging a new national consensus, much as progressives feel that the Trumpcare bill's defeat opens the door for a single-payer system like the rest of the developed world.

Healthcare is important, but we desperately need to care for the health of the earth, what the faith community calls Earthcare. Only with a minimally healthy Earth system can we have not only personal and community health, but all the advantages, comforts, opportunities, and approachable challenges that together make up civilization. Organized society itself depends upon Earth health, as the increasing number of failed states due to climate change (especially water shortages, and, increasingly, regional famine) starkly illustrates.

Slowly, definitely not fast enough, our country has been approaching a consensus on this. As I pointed out here, both parties acknowledged climate change in their 2012 platforms. Despite the denialism that has been a hallmark of the GOP and the corporate disinformation campaign they have abetted,behind the political smokescreens and cartoons, folks are finally starting to get it . The last national poll on global warming found almost 60% of Republican voters accepting its fact. The united front of Republican denialism was starting to crumble before this election, and even after that cataclysm, the number of Republicans in the House climate caucus has grown (they actually lost one in the Senate, due to NH Senator Kelly Ayotte's defeat).

Yet now we have the ongoing Trump disaster. Only it's not just one terrible bill, but a whole host of things, much of it pivoting upon the choice of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA. This past week has seen a series of executive orders attempting to cancel much of Obama's environmental legacy – the Keystone Pipeline now has a green light, CAFE standards are being dropped, and the Clean Power Plan gutted. All this accompanied by a presidential 2018 budget proposal that eviscerates environmental protections and climate change regulations. A budget is a moral document, and this one lays it on the line: this President does not value the Earth or the well-being of its inhabitants, human or otherwise.

To take one prime example of the folly of all this, relaxing CAFE standards, which have been a bi-partisan effort through multiple administrations, will actually weaken the US auto industry. Dropping these carefully ratcheted increases in efficiency, combined with Trump's proposed cross-border tariffs, will signal global customers that the future is elsewhere. That future includes electronic vehicles, whose sales are booming worldwide. Rather than helping the auto industry reduce costs, it will collapse demand for its products, which will be retrograde. Not only does this proposal damage the atmosphere, it will undercut the very business it purports to help. This is not a matter for a real estate moghul, abetted by ideologically-charged pseudo-economists to recklessly wade into.

Similarly, Obama's Clean Power Plan works in favor of several regional economies and of some big states, including Red Texas. A trio of western governors, from Oregon, Washington, and California, have come out with a joint statement stoutly defending it, and committing their states to meeting those standards. I expect this will be true of the New England consortium of states, and Gov. Cuomo of New York came out with a joint statement this week with Jerry Brown affirming the plan as well. This aspect of Trump's defiance may help some states economically in the short run, but it will not revive coal, which has been left stranded by economic forces stronger than any faux-populist America-first language. And both of these attempted rollbacks must pass several bureaucratic hurdles before implementation. It will be a long fight.

As for the Paris Accord, the prevailing position within the administration is that we should nominally stay in the UN protocol network, but drop our commitment towards emissions reductions. This would give us political leverage, while cynically washing our hands of the moral commitment. Our leadership in this crucial global effort will be dead, and our biggest competitor, China, will assume that compromised mantle. It is clear that, under Trump's broad assault, the world's tiny sliver of a chance to keep warming below 2C is doomed.

Sadly, our efforts as a nation, and the concerted effort of the UNFCCC over decades, were already insufficient to halt climate disruption. Unless Trump's broad assault is reversed, the next chance for global cooperation on climate will be desperate geo-engineering projects. It is time to put this immoral, incompetent regime under total siege. The Earth's health depends upon it, as do our communities, civic order, and any remaining possibility for sustainable life for future generations.

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Friday, February 03, 2017


Into the Breach

Before the election, Mahan Siler wrote an op-ed for the Asheville Citizen-Times, inviting readers to join his passionate work for social and ecological justice. One person responded. I previously blogged about Mahan, who was the oldest member of the week-long March for Our Grandchildren in 2013, quoting his inspiring words at Lexington Park at the end of the march. Since  the election, dozens have joined Mahan and Steve Kagan, the founding pair of Elders Fierce for Justice, now deep into strategizing a series of actions joining elders and millenials. Some of these actions will involve civil disobedience. After taking my cues from for many years, I now plan to join this vibrant regional group as they move from planning into action.

I know of several women in both the Asheville area and from our local community in the South Toe Valley who went to the Women's March in DC. Most of them were marching for the first time, and they were thrilled and energized. Similarly, the surge of activism that I observe all around me contains more newbies than veterans.

Here in South Toe, many collaborative, overlapping groups have sprung up. I am a co-sponsor of Surviving Climate Change, one of the largest. We focus on making a strong, highly-networked community even more resilient. But as one person said at our first meeting, we still need to work on ways to mitigate the problem (which means getting rid of Trump and his anti-environmental agenda as quickly as possible). In this winter's semester of Cabin Fever University, many of the events have focused on community organizing (Dinner and Democracy; Forming a Chapter, Higher Ed and its Discontents, Progressive Educators Unite, Advocating for Children, etc.). We are noting the many points of overlap, and weaving our network more thickly.

But the most focused response to the Trump Coup has come from Yancey-Mitchell Indivisible, with groups in Burnsville, South Toe, and Spruce Pine. On the Indivisible site map, I note 8-10 Indivisible pods across Western NC. Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda LINK, is a sophisticated, highly organized plan for emulating the Tea Party strategy that emerged after the 2008 election out of revulsion to Barack Obama. Congressional staffers who understand how things work in Washington wrote it, with the whole strategy focused upon pressuring MOC's in every possible congressional district as relentlessly as possible, especially at publicized events like town halls and ribbon-cuttings. Though I have been a climate lobbyist for years, I learned quite a lot from reading through the site, and look forward to working with my progressive neighbors in implementing Indivisible's strategy in my rural conservative district.

Many of Trump's executive orders have questionable legality. Democratic attorneys general of several states have already lined up to file suits against his most unconstitutional act to date, banning visitation and immigration from a host of Muslim countries.

Our biggest legal avenue will be to push the limits of freedom of assembly, crossing the line into trespass and blockage of egress to provoke arrest and a day in court to publicize our cause. Many people I have talked to in this new year, rent by its disruptive politics, have said that they expect they will be going to jail before the year is out. I expect to be among them. Potential targets of these actions are manifold, increasing with every new round from DT's Gatling pen: federal lands on the giveaway list, DAPL and Keystone pipelines, the Marcellus terminus pipeline heading down the Atlantic Coast, not to mention immigrant detention centers, abortion clinics, banks who fund Big Fossil – name your cause. We need to quickly train a non-violent militia to be deployed in several places, ready to stand up to what could devolve into a police state.

As events are moving swiftly, panic beckons. But we each need to take the necessary time to discern our priorities, our role in what could become a confused patchwork of actions, rather than a coordinated campaign. These are indeed trying times, but perhaps we are made for these times.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Shock and Awe

Like most of you, I am absolutely stunned by Donald Trump's shock and awe campaign. He wields the executive pen like a kid in a candy shop. Not only is he delivering on his abominable campaign promises, he's added nasty surprises like proposing to sell off public lands. Congress has already changed the rules to make it easier for him to do so. These lands are the foundation of the modest beginning for EO Wilson's audacious, noble proposal to set aside half the earth for wildlife to recover from the ravages of human-driven extinction. One quickly realizes that it's not only the efforts to combat climate change that his actions put at risk, but the protection of habitat against the assault on wildlife. And he includes the National Parks, our national treasures, in his inventory of real estate on the block. Park Rangers (my son Jesse is one at Yosemite) have courageously resisted his gag order, and the NPS chief has issued a magnificent rejoinder to our demagogue president.

It is hard to imagine a worse set of cabinet picks, and the Senate is not showing the backbone on either side of the aisle to stand up to him. He bullied and lied his way – and worse – to election, and now he's using the same tactics as President, relentlessly tweeting his “alternative facts.” More subtle tactics are being employed by the true masters of propaganda, the Russians, to convince the majority of it's citizens to acquiesce to a totally false narrative about the historical and current realities in their country, but Trump's moves in the same direction are chilling. We must resist, and never tire of it.

Trump's narcissistic lying means that nobody, friend or foe,can trust his word. This has potentially catastrophic consequences. By continuing to belittle NATO, he threatens the future of peace in Europe, with NATO members Latvia and Lithuania looking like easy pickings for an emboldened Vladimir Putin. If NATO does not resist their takeover, it is not only obsolete, but dead. Meanwhile, Trump and Rex Tillerson are rattling sabers over China's claims in the South China Sea, risking war between major nuclear powers. John F Kennedy, a seasoned politician with diplomatic skills, similarly risked nuclear war with the Soviet Union over their Cuban missiles. But Kennedy was reasserting the longstanding policy of control of our neighboring waters declared in the Monroe Doctrine. Can our leaders not see that China, as an established world power, has similar interests in their own backyard pond? It is important that the World Court in the Hague has ruled against their claim, but the Philippines, whose territorial waters have been violated, has absolved China. We cannot afford to police the world indefinitely. Are the South China atolls and fortified reefs in our “core interests,” as China claims for itself?

But can we count on President Trump even knowing what the Monroe Doctrine is? Perhaps, since he has delegated national security briefings to his vice-president, he can have Pence do the research for him on our own geopolitical history. After all, we shouldn't expect knowledge of political science or policy matters from a real estate mogul and reality tv host with the emotional intelligence of a six year-old (by his own admission ).

From my perspective as a climate journalist and activist, the ascension of an outright climate denialist, with cabinet choices of a half-dozen more, completes the campaign of disinformation mounted by the fossil fuel industry, aided and abetted by virtually the entire Republican Party. The rest of the world stands in absolute disbelief that the world's leading power, with a strong postwar history of helping the recovery of defeated nations and development of the Third World, has turned its back on the future of civilized order on this planet. The tragic irony is that this is occurring after a reluctant US finally was party to a successful climate accord in Paris in December 2015, the culmination of decades of agonizing diplomacy, attempting to reconcile the competing interests of 197 signatory countries.

Trump appears to be preparing the way for pulling out of the Paris Accord. Legal experts point out that doing so formally would require almost an entire presidential term. But prominent in the executive orders from his Gatling-pen are a wholesale attack on government scientists, with gag orders issued for all agencies. His leaked memo about dismantling the EPA may simply be rumination, but he has fulfilled virtually every promise, a feat even the best of politicians could not match. The US has the best tools for data collection and analysis in the world (NOAA, NASA, DOE, EPA), and these tools are being mothballed by executive order. As one government scientist put it with respect to climate data, “We are flying blind.”

So what can we do? The purpose of shock and awe is to make such a gargantuan show of force that the opposition is overwhelmed and collapses. That has not happened, and I don't think it will. The women's march was one of the largest marches ever, with simultaneous marches all over the country, in Canada and abroad. From the women I have talked to, they were so crammed that marching was not possible, everyone was smushed together, inching along, or marching in place. This means the usual guidelines for crowd estimates did not apply. The estimate of 500,000 seems low, lower than the 750,000 estimated in LA. Nevertheless, the overall estimate of 3 to 4 million marchers across the country definitely sends a message. But the Trump Resistance involves much more than a one-off day of marching, as I will explore in my next post. Courage!

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Friday, December 30, 2016



At this mornings meditation, a solitary warbler flew into my visual field. I was filled with gratitude, made more acute by the following emotion, regret that it was only one bird. I thought back to William Bartram's eighteenth-century description of great flocks of birds flying overhead in North Carolina, so thick that he could hardly see the blue sky behind them. Today, if you were a film director shooting that scene, you'd be hard pressed to corral that many song birds from the whole western part of the state.

Not only are we well into the Sixth Extinction, with rates 1000x greater than the rate when we emerged in Africa, but the numbers of wild animals are dropping precipitously. By 2020, scientists predict that we will have lost 2/3 of their total number. We are already past 60%. This data reinforces personal anecdotal experience: numbers of butterflies and moths have dramatically decreased in rural WNC since I was a boy. And I know that the decline in insect numbers radically affects bird populations. In The Moth Snowstorm, Michael McCarthy  speaks of the loss of the “moth snowstorms” many of us remember from the 50's, when our car headlights revealed thick clouds of them every evening. Have you noticed how many fewer bloodied insect carcasses there are on your car hood? Soon, even the Jains will be able to drive our monster fossil-devouring vehicles without collateral damage to the web of life, because the web will have ceased to exist, replaced by a motley grid with large, sagging holes.

EO Wilson, father of sociobiology, who has worked tirelessly for wildlife habitat preservation and teaching ecological values (he calls it biophilia), used to advocate saving pockets of high biodiversity here and there over the planet. After a talk he gave at nearby Warren Wilson College several years back, I asked him whether he had thought about what might happen to these small biodiversity jewels in the era of climate change. Would not some of these third world pockets move into urban areas as climatic zones shifted? He waved off my question, saying that introduced too many variables. “One problem at a time,” he said.

Wilson has now had time to think this one through, and his response is a bold proposal for saving half the earth for wildlife habitat, laid out in his forthcoming book, Half-Earth. These preserves would feature both north-south and east-west corridors to allow migration in response to climate shifts. His idea builds on the longstanding proposal for a “buffalo commons” in the upper Midwest, possibly extending southward into the vast interior of North America. With 15% of the world's land already set aside as natural parks and preserves guaranteed by governmental action, we have a start. I have not read the book yet, but in the reviews I have seen, the proposed areas for these protected lands are in North America, where the work has already begun by private conservationists (Ted Turner's Flying D in Greater Yellowstone and MC Davis's Nokuse in the Florida Panhandle), and Europe, where the European Green Zone has worked for a dozen years to promote setting aside a corridor along the old Iron Curtain, including 20 countries. The idea is stunning in its boldness, and a salutary antedote to the bad news about both species loss and rapidly dwindling wildlife populations, with the loss of 10% of remaining wilderness in the last two decades amplifying the pressure on habitat.

I must say that, as soon as I read about Wilson's proposal, I wanted to see the plan for Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and China. I expect it would not be hard at all in Australia, and am aware of progress in Central and South America that could form a sound foundation for such a plan. Is there the political will for such a project in heavily populated China and India? Indonesia, where palm plantations sprig up, despite legal restrictions? What will happen to the rural poor? Does Wilson and others who share his vision envision any human sharing of this set-aside space, or does he see it as the pure and pristine preserve of other species? Does the proposal integrate the pioneering conservation work that includes indigenous people in monitoring the territories, while also making a living? Their participation in planning the set-asides and monitoring a half-earth zone seems absolutely critical to having a chance for such plan to work. These are all important questions in the context of anthropocene realities, and I plan to return in this blog with an analysis of his discussion on these issues. I do find it troubling that one reviewer (Guardian, April 11 2016) faults Wilson for the lack of specifics on how to implement his plan.

I started this blog during the George W. Bush years, and it matured during the Obama administration. I was highly critical of him during his first term, but ended admiring him for his work against the grain towards stabilizing the climate during the second. Now the unthinkable has happened, and everything we work for as earthkeepers is at risk under the upcoming Boy-King's administration. Resistance is in order, but I also plan to engage the few Republican senators (Lindsey Graham SC, Lamar Alexander TN, and Susan Collins ME) who are on record accepting anthropogenic climate change. NC's own “moderate” Republican, Richard Burr, has made carefully moderated comments on climate in the past, and his office worked quietly with Democrat Kay Hagan while she was in office on renewable installations in the state. He will be hearing from me very soon, as will Lindsey Graham.

But even if we have four years of serious backsliding on carbon emissions in Washington, there is a campaign sponsored by Avaaz for counteracting the Trump attack: big states and big cities ramping up their shift away from fossils. California alone is the sixth biggest economy in the world, and continues to lead the way on renewable energy, vehicle emissions, and other initiatives to stabilize climate. Other countries – Japan, Canada (finally, under Justin Trudeau), several South and Central American nations, and the politically vulnerable European Union – will continue to do their part. But if China and India become shirkers along with the US, then we are in jeoparday of losing any possibility of turning the tide of warming, for some of the positive feedback loops have already begun, and time is almost out.

Pray for your Mother, and love and appreciate every gift you have from her while you can.  Today, I'm especially thankful for those incomparable songbirds.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016


Shell-Shocked But Resilient

Dear Friends and Family,
     Today, I write you at the beginning of a new era in American politics – I pray a very short one. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think it would come to this. I am shell-shocked, incredulous. The president-elect makes Nixon look like a progressive (created by the political climate of 1970, when I attended the first Earth Day), and Reagan a relatively harmless genial grandfather, though his policies created a launching pad for Mr. Trump. George W. Bush, with all his failings, at least acknowledged the reality of climate change on several occasions, as did the 2008 Republican platform. That platform even insisted we had an obligation to the poor who were at risk from its ravages, already threatening their shores. Climate justice in a Republican platform, two cycles ago.
     The list of hard-won accomplishments in the last eight years that Trump plans to do away with is frightening. You all know that list, which, when erased, would indeed wipe away Barack Obama's legacy. The pivotal role of the Supreme Court going forward is key to much of what Trump intends to undermine. At the very least, the Roberts Court will go forward with a 5-4 conservative balance, and the probability of one or more of the liberal octogenarians being replaced during Trump's term is quite high, which would entrench that majority for another generation.
     I speak from a place of privilege, a white male with a PhD, comfortably retired. I am personally protected from the harm that Trump has either promised or darkly hinted at, aimed at women (especially abortion rights), undocumented workers, and the LGBT community. Muslims, both within and without our borders, most of all climate refugees from the Middle East, have been especially targeted.
     However, as a human being living in the Anthropocene period, I am hugely vulnerable to his most momentous threat, to withdraw as soon as possible from the Paris Accord which was negotiated last December, and went into effect just last week under the looming shadow of the US election. The odds of preventing catastrophic climate change are slim at best. Without an international agreement pushing nations to set and periodically ratchet up their carbon emissions reductions, those odds go from slim to virtually zero.
     One of the climate warrior organizations to which I subscribe wrote today that the Paris Accord would go forward without us, and the rest of the world would continue to develop renewable energy so rapidly that we would be caught up in the economic tide. But let's not kid ourselves. The US and China, as the biggest emitters, need to lead the rest of the world in the energy revolution. We are rapidly running out of time, and the US's leaving the pact, just as it is getting on its feet, would effectively kill this fledgling effort. The Paris Accord only has a chance to dampen climate disruption if a culture of peer nations, each trying to outdo the others in their pace of carbon reduction through periodic review, is quickly established. Any remnant of “greatness” left in our country would manifest in competition with China to be first among those peers. To align “greatness” with an attempt at rapid expansion of our economy, powered by an all-out expansion of fossil fuel extraction, would be even more devastating now than it was in the Reagan era.
     As for China, they are poised for leadership in the huge renewable energy market, once we abdicate as their chief competitor. This happened before, when Reagan tore down the solar collectors on the White House roof after defeating Jimmy Carter and mothballed the emergent solar energy revolution. Carter's plan for foreign aid during his second term centered on capitalizing the shift in developing countries to renewable energy for providing their increasing need for power. The far-seeing Carter, our only engineer-president, saw this as a way to leapfrog over the destructive fossil fuel pathway. I know this from a member of the energy team he had assembled at the end of his first tem. This was a huge blow to the climate struggle, even before we realized what we were doing. This was thirty-five years ago, when CO2 registered 339 ppm. We are well past the point where we can afford a second blow of this scale. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Yes, Lord, in 1980. And now? The Creator's forgiveness is endless. Not so the Earth.
     So what are we to do? If Thomas Berry's prayer for “the re-invention of the human at the species level” is answered rapidly enough, it won't matter that we won't have an international agreement or governments committed to reducing emissions and building a post-carbon energy infrastructure at a wartime pace. Whether or not this requirement becomes reality in the tiny interval remaining before it's too late, 3-10 years, we can still work to change our own habits, and to build the resilience of our local communities. Some of those communities are destined for early dissolution, especially coastal communities that are already vulnerable to frequent storm surges from rising sea-levels. But others, like my own in Southern Appalachia, have a fighting chance, at least for awhile. International climate diplomacy aside, climate change happens at the level of the entire earth system, so even if some places are spared the initial onslaught of the awakened giant of climate disruption, refugees, some armed and desperate, will converge on them soon enough. Stark questions of sufficient water, food and shelter will ensue. This is already the reality in the Middle East and East Africa.
     The issues associated with rapid climate change are inescapable. It's just that with a Trump presidency looming on the horizon, they are coming at us even faster than we had hoped. And those we would educate and encourage to act mutually for the sake of our community, whether it be local, national, or global, are now in power, ready to entrench the very interests that are threatening global climate stability. Our task is huge, and it involves some fundamental actions. First, we must accept the new reality of a Trump presidency and everything that entails. Secondly, we need to redouble our efforts at grounding ourselves in a greater Reality, so that we are less effected by the tides of change, the pain, angst, and loss. Thirdly, we need to each find our place of resistance to the new regime, sharing with others our process of discernment among the range possibilities available.
     My next post will outline my own personal choices along this spectrum within the rich context of possibility in the international network for sanity, resilience, and resistance. A key immediate opportunity is to support the camp at Standing Rock, the Sioux water-keepers who are risking their lives to block deployment of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) through their Missouri River watershed and sacred sites. As they prepare for the harsh North Dakota winter, they need food, water, firewood, warm clothing and bedding, and reinforcements. They also need contributions to their legal defense fund. I am happy to report that a benefit at the Celo Community Center just down the road this past weekend raised $900 for the fund.
     Standing Rock is the spear-tip of the phalanx constituted by the global climate insurgency (Jan 18 post). It is a pivotal community of civil disobedience against the infrastructure being laid for a new era of fossil fuels, the fracked oil and gas from the Bakken (Dakotas), Marcellus (NY, Pennsylvania, and West Virgina) and Permian (West Texas) deposits. Resistance groups are sprouting up along all of these proposed pipeline routes. The attorney general of New York, backed by the governor, has ruled against fracking in that state. But civil disobedience, followed by consistent use of the necessity defense at trial, remains our chief legal tool, in the US as well as globally.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016


One Nation, under God, Indivisible..

Like you, I am dismayed by the tone of the present election. That tone has meant that attacks on and defenses of personal character have displaced many of the most important issues facing our country and the world. These include campaign finance reform, with Citizens United looming largest, banking reform, and the usage of public lands. But the largest omission overshadows all the rest, namely the worsening global eco-crisis. Above all is climate change, which permeates all the other issues. This blog has always been dedicated to alerting my fellow global citizens to this overriding danger, and to dialogue about how best to address it. My last post addressed the absence of electoral debate on climate, which at least got some air-time in each of the last two elections. As I noted there, in 2008 the Republicans even had a platform plank arguing for addressing its real and present danger.

Today I want to address not climate, but the climate of the election. Even before the election results, our nation is in deep need of healing the split which threatens to widen into a rift. Some have even warned of “civil war.” As the election frenzy continues to its climax, now less than two weeks away, it is time to initiate a process of forgiveness and healing, a process which will need to continue long afterwards. Hopefully, the election results will be accepted by both sides and we can move forward in response to the immense challenges which face our country and the world. If they are not, then this work will be even more important, and much more difficult.

The election is no longer a single date, but a protracted process. The number of early voters is headed towards record levels. But election day is still the focal point, and the time we vote as neighbors in our neighborhoods. On that day, I want to propose that clergy of all stripes and from all sides in this battle be present at polling places to pray for forgiveness of one another, and for moving forward with compassion for all sides and at least a baseline level of respect for each other. As a Quaker, I strongly believe there is that of God in everyone, and when we truly accept this in one another's presence, it has a mutually positive effect. The closer that acknowledgement comes to being unconditional, the more the possibility of healing, even transformation from neighbor into friend.

I commit to working for this kind of witnessing, non-partisan presence on election day in Yancey County, NC. If we can't have a prayerful presence in every precinct, then at least we can have a group of citizens from both sides in the town square, with appropriate placards. For those signboards I propose the language my wife quoted in a recent Quaker Meeting as she prayed for healing and unity in our nation: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. If you have a better vehicle, please respond at this site. But we need to do this, and I will be speaking with County Commissioners from both parties (one of the Republicans is a personal friend) as well as pastors in the next couple of days about this leading, so lay out your mind and heart as soon as you can. Please. 

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Friday, August 12, 2016


Three Party Climate Platforms

With respect to climate change, this party advocates the following: 1) “technology driven, market based solutions that will decrease emissions”; 2) “mitigate the impact of climate change...”; and 3) a call for “global efforts to address climate change.” It adds that the world's poorest “would suffer terribly if climate change is severe – just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled. We must not allow either outcome.”

Sound familiar? In stark contrast, that same party's 2016 platform alleges that “environmental extremists in the Democratic Party” are working to “sustain the illusion of an environmental crisis.” The party would “forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide,” and “do away with the Clean Power Plan,” abolishing the EPA as we know it, to be replaced by a bi-partisan commission answerable to the states, not the Feds. The party platform would halt funding for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whose auspices the Paris Agreement was forged (through an extraordinary act of global diplomacy). It rejects outright the Paris Agreement, and would authorize its candidate to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement. Their nominee has said that climate change is a “hoax.”

How far the Republican Party has come on this issue, as with so many others, since the 2008 election. This is not because the electorate has shifted in a conservative direction, but because the democratic process of representative government was hijacked by the brilliant maneuvering of party operatives who used their control of state houses to gerrymander congressional districts in the majority of states after the 2010 census. Popular votes for Congress have amassed a plurality of votes for Democratic candidates in each election since 2010, but due to redistricting, the Republican Party now has a stranglehold on Congress. The most infamous of these districts nationwide is NC's 12th, which runs from Charlotte to Greensboro, respecting no county lines, city limits, nor any test of common sense.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform on climate change is the mirror opposite of their colleagues'. It acknowledges climate change as a “real and urgent threat...requiring ambitious, immediate action across our economy.” “We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged,” it adds. Democrats would “close the Hallilburton loophole stripping the EPA of its ability to regulate [fracking],” and it would “price carbon to reflect the negative externalities” (i.e. environmental damage which is not reflected in corporate balance sheets). Thus they would push for a carbon tax.

The climate debate is effectively over, with the Paris Agreement marking a global consensus. To withdraw from it, as the currently unrecognizable GOP demands, would severely cripple any foreign policy agenda of our president, in addition to effectively dooming global civilization. The document was carefully crafted not to be a treaty (contrasted with the Kyoto Accord, which the US never ratified), and is thus a matter of executive action, rather than Senate ratification.

It is a global tragedy that a reality tv personality, an amoral narcissist with absolutely no political experience, has become the standard-bearer of the GOP. He has thoroughly embarrassed a once-great political party, reducing its legislative leaders to forced acquiescence to outright lies. Regardless of what you think of his opponent, members of all parties, as well as those unaffiliated who continue to reflect the fiercely independent spirit of the mountain people, should think long and hard before voting for a demagogue who has made a mockery of our political process. The short-sighted electoral maneuverings of party operatives have unfortunately insured his rise to prominence, and removed moderate politicians from both major parties, whose leavening presence once allowed governance of this hugely diverse country. The system is badly broken, just when we desperately need it to work. The solution would be to turn redistricting over to nonpartisan commissions (which a handful of states have). In the meantime, the planet is burning, and we have a crucial choice to make in November.

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