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Sanders Introduces Major Solar Energy Initiative | Press Release
WASHINGTON, February 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, today introduced legislation with nine cosponsors to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade.
“At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence,” Sanders said. “A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs.”
At a Senate committee hearing today, Sanders questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about President Obama’s budget for next year. The White House requested $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The requested 5 percent boost overall included a 22 percent increase for solar power.
The potential for solar power also was the subject of testimony last week before Sanders’ green jobs subcommittee by Jeff Wolfe, chief executive officer of groSolar in White River Junction, Vt. Wolfe said Sanders’ bill “would help homeowners and small businesses stabilize their energy costs.”
Sanders’ bill would authorize rebates which, along with other incentives, would cover up to half the cost of the 10 million solar power systems and 200,000 water heating systems. Non-profit groups and state and local governments also would be eligible. The legislation would ensure that participating homeowners and businesses also receive information on incentives to improve energy efficiency.
Sanders said a recent report shows that solar power could help make every state more energy independent if solar units were installed on available rooftop space, because every state can meet 10 percent or more of its electricity needs just through rooftop solar. Moreover, because solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than other energy sources. Sanders’ bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next ten years in the solar industry.
The legislation’s cosponsors include Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Sanders’ measure is patterned after successful state programs promoting solar energy in New Jersey and California, where prices have fallen as the number of solar units increased.
To read a copy of the bill, click here.
CO2 abatement: Exploring options for oil and natural gas companies
Oil and natural gas companies play a central role in CO2 emissions. How can the industry meet the challenge from climate change regulations?
Scott Nyquist and Jurriaan Ruys | McKinsey Quarterly
The oil and natural gas industry is directly responsible for just 6 percent of global CO2 emissions, but the debate over how to reduce the global greenhouse gases (GHG) commonly associated with climate change focuses primarily on oil and natural gas companies. These companies are under constant regulatory and reputational pressure to reduce both upstream and downstream CO2 emissions, and in the coming years they will increasingly be expected to provide solutions and make investments. The reason for this emphasis on the industry is that when you add the CO2 emitted in the end uses (transportation, power and heat generation), the petroleum and gas sectors account for almost half of all global emissions.
It is important to understand the position of the oil and gas industry in the context of the larger debate over climate change. By exploring some of the options that the sector has for reducing GHG emissions, oil and natural gas companies can not only stay ahead of regulatory and economic developments but also potentially profit from them. Read more, requires site registration.
PROUT stands for PROgressive UTilization Theory. It means, the progressive utilization and rational distribution of all the earth's natural resources. PROUT advocates another type of revolution called "nuclear revolution." In nuclear revolution, every aspect of collective life - social, economic, political, cultural, psychic and spiritual - is completely transformed. New moral and spiritual values arise in society which provide the impetus for accelerated social progress. The old era is replaced by a new era - one collective psychology is replaced by another. This type of revolution results in all-round development and social progress.
We have begun organizing the Second Summit of the World Prout Assembly. It will take place November 25-28, 2010 in Hyderabad, India. Please visit the conference website - www.wpasummit2010.org for more details. Some of you wrote to us that the First Summit was the best conference you had ever attended. Others wrote that the Radford conference was a glorious event. We intend to make the Second Summit even better, even more glorious, than the first. We hope that all of you will plan to attend. Those wishing to help with the organizing should please write to email@example.com.
Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds
• Greater rates of cancer and birth defects near sites
• Depleted uranium among poisons revealed in report
By Martin Chulov | Guardian.co.UK
More than 40 sites across Iraq are contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins, with three decades of war and neglect having left environmental ruin in large parts of the country, an official Iraqi study has found.
Areas in and near Iraq's largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years. The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionising radiation, which is thought to be a legacy of depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.
The environment minister, Narmin Othman, said high levels of dioxins on agricultural lands in southern Iraq, in particular, were increasingly thought to be a key factor in a general decline in the health of people living in the poorest parts of the country. Read more.
A Global Push for Renewable Energy
With 142 member nations already signed on, the new International Renewable Energy Agency is promoting a fast, global transition to clean, safe, and renewable energy.
by Alice Slater | Yes!
Since 1995, when more than 170 nations voted to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, civil society has been calling for the establishment of an international agency to promote renewable energy sources to take the place of fossil fuels without resorting to nuclear power.
Recognizing the “inextricable link” between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, Abolition 2000, a global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, drafted a model statute for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and lobbied nations around the world to institute it.  Joining with other grassroots networks working to avoid catastrophic climate change through a transition to sustainable energy, activists spoke up at numerous international meetings and conferences and conferred with national environmental departments, seeking support for an energy agency focused solely on clean, safe, renewable energy.
In January 2009, one year ago, Germany, Denmark, and Spain launched the founding meeting for IRENA in Bonn, Germany.  A year later, 142 of the 192 member states of the United Nations, as well as the European Union, have signed the IRENA statute. The agency has opened headquarters in Abu Dhabi and branch offices in Bonn and Vienna, and its interim-director general, Helene Pelosse, a former French environmental minister who held positions in trade and finance as well, is determined to hire a staff comprised of at least 50 percent women.
IRENA is committed to becoming a principal driving force in promoting a rapid transition toward the sustainable use of a renewable energy on a global scale. It has a mandate to promote all forms of renewable energy produced in a sustainable manner, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, and appropriate bio energy. It will provide practical advice and support for both industrialized and developing countries, helping them to build capacity and improve their regulatory frameworks. Read more.
Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts
By Bob Brewin | Next Gov | Jan. 15, 2010
As personnel representing hundreds of government and nongovernment agencies from around the world rush to the aid of earthquake-devastated Haiti, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a Web portal with multiple social networking tools to aid in coordinating their efforts.
On Monday, Jean Demay, DISA's technical manager for the agency's Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane. After the earthquake hit on Tuesday, Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On Wednesday, DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.
The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department's European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.
Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday, almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups. Read more.
By David Swanson
When they schedule the olympics in a city, the city usually schedules a massive international advertising campaign for its greatness as "the best place on earth," which is actually the brilliant and oh-so-convincing motto selected by Vancouver, Canada, next host of the winter olympics. That we will learn a great deal about Vancouver from watching the olympics is placed in more doubt than usual by the fact that Canada arrested American journalist Amy Goodman at the border based purely on the random and baseless suspicion that she might someday say something critical of the best olympics on earth.
A magnitude 7.3 earthuake hit the impoverished country of Haiti on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The epicenter of the quake, which was initially reported a magnitude 7.0 off the coast, was located inland, six miles west of Carrefour, and just 10 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince.
An AFP correspondent in the nearby town of Petionville said one three-story building had been toppled, and a tractor was already at the scene trying to dig out victims as people fled onto the streets in panic.
A hospital collapsed near the epicentre, and cries of people within the structure were reported by witnesses.
The quake prompted a tsunami watch for Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, the Pacific Tsunami Center said.
A major earthquake, of magnitude 7 or higher, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. There was no immediate report of casualties.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Raw footage video below the fold. Click "Read more." WARNING! Graphic footage.
On the upside:
On the downside:
It's seems the same airline industry that has failed to install secure cockpit doors also has failed to install effective cabin air filters. Also, it's a sad commentary that we can look back on the Cold War as a "good".
"If it's something that's going to improve safety, then I don't have any problem with it, I have nothing to hide." - Ashley Houston, 32, as she waited for a plane in Phoenix (Reuters).
If you were against transhumanism before, perhaps you should give it another look. Our bodies are the product of a billion years of nature’s evolutionary processes, but the War on Terror is about to irrevocably corrupt our gene pool, causing untold immune system and other genetic damage to future generations, and possibly rendering the DNA coding that we are based on unacceptably toxic.
We may need to port our intelligence to a machine, or to cyberspace, if “human” intelligence is to survive in today’s toxic environment.
While Homeland Security has installed Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) into airports while successfully avoiding an environmental impact statement, and the Justice Department is now fighting FOIA requests for technical specifications (filed by EPIC, Electronic Privacy Information Center), we already know that backscatter radiation may interfere directly with DNA. Although the ionizing radiation is small, the terahertz waves the machines generate do more than show your private parts to the screener. They have been found to “unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.”
Radiation waves occur naturally in the environment, and we’re hit with them all the time. But should we bombard ourselves with them unwillingly every time we want to board a flight? Initially the machines were supposed to be voluntary. Suddenly they are not. Read more.
As Schell has, in recent months, been traveling the world mentally comparing Europe's high-speed trains to our own clunky railroads, and China's gleaming airlines and airports to our own down-at-the-mouth equivalents, he's "taken to keeping a double-entry list of what works and what doesn’t, country by country. Unfortunately, it’s largely a list of what works “there” and doesn’t work here. It’s in places like China, South Korea, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and (until recently) the United Arab Emirates -- some not even open societies -- that you find people hard at work on the challenges of education, transport, energy, and the environment. It’s there that one feels the sense of possibility, of hopefulness, of can-do optimism so long associated with the U.S."
This beautifully written piece is, then, his list of what works and (mostly) what doesn't in this country, one man's portrait of how a can-do nation turned into a can't-do one. He concludes: "That list of can-do’s remains so unbearably short and the cant-do’s grows by the trip. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, but like the ice fields of the Greater Himalaya melting before our eyes, American prowess and promise, once seemingly as much a permanent part of the global landscape as glaciers, mountains, and oceans, seems to be melting away by the day."
The Melting of America
The Story of a Can’t-Do Nation
By Orville Schell
Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn’t much of an antidote to malaise either.
If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you -- the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal, something that has unexpectedly become vulnerable and perishable as it has slipped into irreversible decline. Those magnificent glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain the most ice in the world short of the two polar regions, are now wasting away on an overheated planet and no one knows what to do about it. Read more.
Take advantage of this rare moment
As 2010 gets underway, I have just finished my first year as a Board Member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). So let me start this letter by stating how proud I am that PDA is one of the only active progressive groups that stayed true to its issue positions last year, even when the party leadership gave ground to “ConservaDems” like Joe Lieberman & Ben Nelson & Mary Landrieu.
PDA started 2009 fighting for single-payer healthcare for everyone, and despite all the compromising, all the fudging, all the cave-ins on Capitol Hill, PDA continues to battle to include in whatever health insurance bill is passed, the right of individual states to pass their own single-payer plans.
- If you would like to help pass single-payer healthcare at the state level, you can link up by selecting “Healthcare for all/Single Payer Issue Organizing Team,” here.
- And if you’d like to help sustain PDA’s efforts, join our “Change Makes Change” program, here.
PDA began the year pushing hard, as PDA has always done, for the U.S. to get serious about withdrawal from Iraq. In addition, PDA did not waver on Afghanistan, even when the Obama Administration unfortunately decided to increase the number of occupation troops there. In fact, PDA helped lead the fight to pass a resolution at the California State Democratic Party convention calling for the end of the Iraq War & the Afghanistan occupation--and plans to spend 2010 helping to pass similar resolutions at State Democratic conventions all across the nation.
Invest in Human Capital
"I want generations that follow to see that we used this moment to encourage a 21st century civilian conservation corps for our young people." President Obama speach at the 160th Anniversary of the Department of the Interior. 03.03.09.
"WE CAN TAKE IT" was the unofficial motto of the United States Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC or 3C's) during the Great Depression from 1933-1942.
"WE CAN TAKE IT", is now the name of the grassroots campaign call for action to contact and urge President Barack H. Obama and the United States Congress to create law to reactivate this very popular 'New Deal' job recovery program. If reactivated the motto will be back to give work and pride for our young Americans.
President Franklin Roosevelt in his first hundred days of office wanted to keep his election campaign promise to help "the forgotten man" from the existing widespread unemployment of the Great Depression. He offered the country a New Deal "to restore America to its own people" and give us a way to solve the issues of job recovery and the environment. He dealt our people a good hand with his first "alphebet soup" program the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more.
As I have previously pointed out:
Continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will more than wipe out any reduction in carbon from the government's proposed climate measures ...
The continuance of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars completely and thoroughly undermines the government's claims that there is a global warming emergency and that reducing carbon output through cap and trade is needed to save the planet.
I can't take anything the government says about carbon footprints seriously until the government ends the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I now have some figures to back this up.
Professor Michael Klare noted in 2007:
Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.
And in 2008, Oil Change International released a report showing that:
* The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year. Read more.
Tom of TomDispatch writes:
Here, in a nutshell, is the world of 2020, as seen by Michael Klare, whose expertise in energy, scarce resources, and the politics of war is well known: "For now, expect the dragon ascendant, the eagle descending, the South rising, and the planet possibly trumping all of these." In other words, while the first decade of the twenty-first century still looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999, by 2020, this planet will have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by that year as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space.
Klare tracks all of this from China's rise to America's relative descent and the increasing power and energy of the global South. But that's only part of his canny, wide-ranging analysis of where we'll be a decade from now. The kicker is that "blowback," still a political concept today, will become a natural one by 2020. As Klare writes of the imperial and other politics of the planet to come: "Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Less normal -- and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) -- is intervention by the planet itself. Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component. Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating."
The "blowback effect" -- nature paying us back for our operations against her -- is a new concept that grounds this typically provocative and carefully thought out piece by Klare.From TomDispatch this afternoon: A New Year's look deep into the future, taking up the fate of China, the United States, the Global South, and nothing short of a planet ready to strike back by 2020 -- Michael T. Klare, "The Second Decade, The World in 2020" http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175186/
The Second Decade: The World in 2020
By Michael T. Klare
As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all. If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects: the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.
By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space. Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Read more.
I am hugely excited for 2010! Last week we launched our Coal Free Zone delivering 500 stockings with candy coal and an informative flier about how folks in my Northwest community of Vashon Island are - despite our best intentions and misconceptions - "Coal Consumers." (36% of Puget Sound Energy's power portfolio is coal-fired.) People were surprised, but received our "Naughty or Nice?" message with good humor.
I'm ecstatic that local conversations about energy and stewardship have served as a catalyst for another transformative project - a Vashon Community Credit Union, currently being spearheaded by the un-stoppable Rex Stratton. And there's a growing buzz about alternative currency, community solar, electric car manufacturing and more. It's a thrilling time to take ownership of change we want rather than waiting for it from Washington, Copenhagen or anywhere else.
As I saw dozens of requests for funding come through over the last few days, I didn't want to add to the onslaught. The generosity of Backbone's network of friends has kept us afloat through hard times, and now we are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel of scarcity. A recent anonymous grant is going to allow us to rebuild our part-time office staff. The Nathan Cummings grant is a mandate for an amazing project opportunities for skill sharing, image creation and trainings across the country.
I'm honored that our first event of 2010 is to welcome the Seattle area to hear the progressive populist, indefatigable, prolific genius activist and Backbone Campaign advisory board member David Swanson, Tuesday, January 5, 7:30 - 9pm downstairs at Town Hall in Seattle. (Enter on Seneca Street.) See below or online here.
So - whether you want to make that last minute end of year contribution HERE, or just want to look forward to collaboration and sharing inspiration in the new year - here's my end of year email and sincere wishes of gratitude for my great Board, collaborators, volunteers, and supportive family. And deepest wishes for a joyful and transformative New Decade! I'm honored and grateful to be facing it with all of you.
Start off your New Year with a celebration of Democracy and your role in it. Hear author, activist, and Backbone Campaign advisor David Swanson speak about how We the People can take the reigns of our democracy and transform this country.
"Daybreak offers a powerful and compelling picture of what real change in America could look like. The world needs more true advocates of democracy like David Swanson!" -- Thom Hartmann
January 1 will usher in the last year of the first decade of a new millennium and ten consecutive years of the United States conducting war in the Greater Middle East.
Beginning with the October 7, 2001 missile and bomb attacks on Afghanistan, American combat operations abroad have not ceased for a year, a month, a week or a day in the 21st century.
The Afghan war, the U.S.'s first air and ground conflict in Asia since the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and early 1970s and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's first land war and Asian campaign, began during the end of the 2001 war in Macedonia launched from NATO-occupied Kosovo, one in which the role of U.S. military personnel is still to be properly exposed  and addressed and which led to the displacement of almost 10 percent of the nation's population.
In the first case Washington invaded a nation in the name of combating terrorism; in the second it abetted cross-border terrorism. Similarly, in 1991 the U.S. and its Western allies attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and launched devastating and deadly cruise missile attacks and bombing sorties inside Iraq in the name of preserving the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait, and in 1999 waged a 78-day bombing assault against Yugoslavia to override and fatally undermine the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in the name of the casus belli of the day, so-called humanitarian intervention.
Two years later humanitarian war, as abhorrent an oxymoron as the world has ever witnessed, gave way to the global war on terror(ism), with the U.S. and its NATO allies again reversing course but continuing to wage wars of aggression and "wars of opportunity" as they saw fit, contradictions and logic, precedents and international law notwithstanding.
"Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." --Richard Feynman
The same sort of public relations wizardry that once convinced a sizeable portion of Americans that cigarette smoking was harmless, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and that John Kerry's war record was fraudulent, is now convincing an increasing number of our citizens that global warming is at least of little consequence, or, at most, a massive hoax.
This trend is reported by the Pew Research Center which, in August, 2006, found that 77% of the public believed that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. In October, 2009, that number had dropped to 57%. In the same period, the percentage of those who denied that there is such evidence increased from 17% to 33%. An early Pew poll found that "global warming ranked dead last among 40 concerns ranked by the 1503 respondents to the poll."
Unfortunately, as John Adams observed, "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Here are some of those stubborn facts:
- The decade of the 2000s was the warmest on record, containing eight of the ten warmest years.
- The summer Arctic ice cap is likely to disappear completely in 30 to 40 years. This alarming trend is reported by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and McGill University (Canada). Ice reflects 80% of solar radiation, while the open sea absorbs 80% of the radiation, which means that an open Arctic Ocean is certain to heat up the atmosphere.
- Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it "captures" incoming solar radiation. This is fortunate, for without atmospheric CO2, most of the earth would be too cold to support human life. These facts were discovered by John Tyndal in 1859 and confirmed by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. But with the advent of the industrial revolution and the massive consumption of fossil fuels, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has almost doubled to nearly 390 parts per million today.
- Methane is about 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of methane are being released in the warming arctic tundra and from the warming oceans (in the form of methane cathrate).
Climate change skeptics have succeeded in convincing much of the public that global warming is a live issue of contention among climate scientists. The facts tell us otherwise. For example, in December, 2004, Science Magazine (AAAS) reported:
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism”
We speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about climate change, the Copenhagen summit and President Obama. Chavez calls the COP15 summit undemocratic and accuses world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet,” Chavez says. “That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism.”
From TomDispatch this evening, a fabulous near end-of-year piece by Rebecca Solnit on our apocalyptic imagination versus the real apocalypse that may await us -- Rebecca Solnit, "Terminator 2009, Judgment Days in Copenhagen."
Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch regular and author of A Paradise Built in Hell, recently watched Terminator 2 on a TV set in New Orleans, the Superdome where thousands were trapped after hurricane Katrina just out the hotel window. In a fever dream, possibly from swine flu, she conjurs up Sarah Palin ("a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what?") and the film's heroine Sarah Connor, attempting to save the human race from a plague of Terminators, but in the wrong apocalypse. How comfortable, she thinks, T2's apocalypse now seems in which our own intelligent machines set out to destroy us when, unfortunately, it's our perfectly dumb ones that seem determined to do the actual deed, while the leaders of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters fail to agree in a meaningful way at Copenhagen and elsewhere.
Like Solnit's state in New Orleans, our world might be mistaken for a fever dream of some sort. After all, the Terminator who, in T2, saves John Connor (and so the world), is now the governor of California, a "state with an uncertain shoreline," thanks to globally rising waters, a conservative who has nonetheless tried to deal with climate change. She considers the governor releasing California's 2009 "climate adaption strategy" on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, which "with even modest further rises in sea-level... will disappear entirely. Hasta la vista, baby." And assesses our world and its fate from the coast of California to Copenhagen.
This marvelous post manages to catch the dark edge of a difficult and dangerous situation, but in the normal Solnitsian fashion, with hope for what we -- all of us -- can still do. She concludes:
"The learning curve for so many of us, for so many people and even nations, has been speeding up impressively. If we had 40 years to figure it all out, we might be headed toward just the sort of victory that civil society has, in fact, achieved on so many other environmental and human-rights ideas. But there aren’t decades to spare. It needs to happen now. It should have happened even before the last century ended.
"Even in my fever dream, with the Superdome just out the window, I couldn’t help noting the key axiom repeated in Terminator 2: 'The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.'
"So here’s the lesson: there are no superheroes but us.
"And here’s the question: what are you going to do about it?"
It’s clear now that, from her immovable titanium bangs to her chaotic approximation of human speech, Sarah Palin is a Terminator cyborg sent from the future to destroy something -- but what? It could be the Republican Party she’ll ravage by herding the fundamentalists and extremists into a place where sane fiscal conservatives and swing voters can’t follow. Or maybe she was sent to destroy civilization at this crucial moment by preaching the gospel of climate-change denial, abetted by tools like the Washington Post, which ran a factually outrageous editorial by her on the subject earlier this month. No one (even her, undoubtedly) knows, but we do know that this month we all hover on the brink.
I’ve had the great Hollywood epic Terminator 2: Judgment Day on my mind ever since I watched it in a hotel room in New Orleans a few weeks ago with the Superdome visible out the window. In 1991, at the time of its release, T2 was supposedly about a terrible future; now, it seems situated in an oddly comfortable past.
What apocalypses are you nostalgic for? The premise of the movie was that the machines we needed to worry about had not yet been invented, no less put to use: intelligent machines that would rebel against their human masters in 1997, setting off an all-out nuclear war that would get rid of the first three billion of us and lead to a campaign of extermination against the remnant of the human race scrabbling in the rubble of what had once been civilization. Read more.
Climate conference in Copenhagen ends with statement of intent
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
By Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder, The New York Times | Seattle Times
The key elements of the Copenhagen Accord, worked out among the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa, on Friday:
- Nations agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions "with a view" to scientists' warnings to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels.
- Developing nations will report every two years on their voluntary actions to reduce emissions. Those reports would be subject to "international consultations and analysis," a concession to the United States by China, which had seen this as an intrusion on its sovereignty.
- Richer nations will finance a $10 billion-a-year, three-year program to pay for poorer nations' projects to deal with drought and other climate-change impacts, and to develop clean energy.
- They also set a "goal" of mobilizing $100 billion-a-year by 2020 for the same adaptation and mitigation purposes.
After two weeks of delays, theatrics and frantic deal-making, the U.N. climate-change talks concluded in Copenhagen early Saturday with a grudging agreement by the participants to "take note" of a pact shaped by five major nations, including the United States.
The final "Copenhagen Accord," a 12-paragraph document, was a statement of intention — not a binding pledge to begin taking action on global warming — a compromise seen to represent a flawed but essential step forward.
Many delegates of the 193 countries that had gathered left Copenhagen in a sour mood, disappointed that the pact lacked so many elements they considered crucial, including firm targets for mid- or long-term reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions and a deadline for concluding a binding treaty next year. Read more.