We had been restored by our Road Trip, meeting so many inspiring folks doing things that if brought to scale could demonstrate a new path toward equity and justice. And then the Sunday NY Times happened.
What We Knew, When We Knew It & the Future We Leave Our Kids Because We Did Nothing
Yesterday I wrote to an old pal of mine from the Bay Area, Richard Hart. We have been tethered by our longstanding love of baseball generally and the Oakland A’s specifically. Each year the A’s begin with improbable success given their being perhaps the most under-resourced team in all sports, a team in a crumbling stadium, with a pathetic budget and an owner utterly uncommitted to winning. And so each year, they fade. This year, they are somehow the hottest team in baseball. This past weekend, they played three games without giving up a single run. They are young, enthusiastic, naive and confident that they know what to do and how to do it. Stadium, budget and owner be damned. There is a lesson in these A’s and I’ll return to it in a bit.
So I wrote him a short note. Richard replied with baseball banter, a family update and then asked: “Has your Road Trip restored your faith in our future?”
Had Richard asked a day prior, my response would have been yes. Roxanne and I have seen so many well-informed, heroic initiatives with each one showing promise of a new path, a way to social, racial and economic justice. We know how to advance, there is science, research and models for how it can be done and there are people out there who get it and who are working hard to advance principles of participatory democracy, worker justice, and dignified treatment of individuals who have suffered from chronic homelessness. It has been truly inspiring.
But then Sunday happened and we found a NY Times so we could do the Sunday puzzle. We were surprised to see the magazine with a stark all black cover and more surprised to find an article that comprised the entire magazine. No current events, movie reviews, or fashion or celebrity profiles, just one very long article that unraveled any optimism I might have mustered over the past seven weeks.
The article is called Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. the NY Times only allows a number of free downloads of their articles a month if you are without a subscription, so you can get the article as one of those free downloads. You should. It may take you several days to work through it but I have provided a few excerpts to encourage your doing so.
The article is relevant on several levels. It focuses on what we knew in the late 70s and early 80s, when a consensus of scientists began to raise alarms about climate change. It details how at one point Democrats and Republicans set aside their political divisions and thought that the threat of climate change was an issue around which they could unify. It describes how we were but a few signatures away from a meaningful, realistic and binding agreement to address carbon emissions and it describes the unraveling of that agreement. It goes on to describe how seeds were then planted by the extractive industries suggesting that there was some question about the science and that we needed to let scientists sort this out before taking drastic action. The notion that any action was ‘drastic’ is in itself interesting.
But while the article is important for its being yet another clarion call for action, it is also instructive in relation to my friend Richard’s question about our Road Trip and our optimism. My initial response would have been that we met heroes working hard on the ground proving that there are paths to sustainable justice, that there is knowledge of how to do this coming from Europe and from US, South America and researchers across the globe. We know how to do this and there are people who want to do it.
But in 1980 there were people who had the knowledge to address climate change; we knew the scope of the problem, we knew how to address it, and there was a growing movement pushing to implement strategies that could have saved the planet.
But then the next 30 years happened and look where we are. So, Richard, I wish I could tell you I was more optimistic. Given our inability to grapple with and address climate change, how optimistic can I be that our society will embrace these social pioneers and join together to invent a Next System when doing so would involve sacrifice, mostly from those who can afford it most?
Unless a whole lot of people stop what they are doing and commit themselves to non-stop activism that grinds this machine to a halt, an increase in minimum wage, an increase in funding for early childhood, or even universal healthcare will be dwarfed by what is coming from the arctic.
The good news is that if we can grind our current economic and political system to a halt, we may then have the power to create the Next System that we need to live in harmony with each other and the planet. And this is where the Oakland A’s come in. They are just crazy enough to think they can win despite being entirely under-resourced, inexperienced, and facing incredibly formidable challenge. But they have a sense of purpose and then each and every day, they put their bodies out there with unabashed confidence that they can win because they won’t accept the alternative.
Maybe we need to learn from those A’s.
So before the summaries and links to last week’s blog, I present excerpts from the NY Times Magazine with a link to the full article.
Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change
From the NY Times:
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20.
If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario.
Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum.
Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Everybody knew. In 1958, on prime-time television, “The Bell Science Hour” — one of the most popular educational film series in American history — aired “The Unchained Goddess,” a film about meteorological wonders, produced by Frank Capra, a dozen years removed from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” warning that “man may be unwittingly changing the world’s climate” through the release of carbon dioxide. “A few degrees’ rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps,” says the film’s kindly host, the bespectacled Dr. Research. “An inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi Valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water.” Capra’s film was shown in science classes for decades.
Everyone knew — and we all still know. We know that the transformations of our planet, which will come gradually and suddenly, will reconfigure the political world order. We know that if we don’t act to reduce emissions, we risk the collapse of civilization. We also know that, without a gargantuan intervention, whatever happens will be worse for our children, worse yet for their children and even worse still for their children’s children, whose lives, our actions have demonstrated, mean nothing to us.
Click here to review the entire NY Times Magazine Report, The Decade We Could Have Saved the Planet.
Paul & Roxanne
The Week in Review: $100B Giveaway, An Intro the a Next System
Urgent Call for Action on Behalf of Working Families in Santa Fe and Immigrants Statewide.
Tuesday, July 31. Two actions sought today (last Tuesday): Support for adoption of sensible ID laws in NM and a call for the City to engage in meaningful outreach and planning with youth, low-income workers and working families. The call for action related to the hearings on ID laws has passed but the Santa Fe City Council will consider whether to approve Councilor Villarreal’s amendments to the advancing of the planning process related to the Santa Fe University Art & Design. Click here to read from last week’s blog. It includes contact information for the Mayor and all City Council members. While I saw no evidence of the resolution being part of this Wednesday’s 5pm City Council hearing from the city website, I have been told that this is to be part of that meeting. Look for an update tomorrow or Thursday.
Unbounded Greed, Trump $100 Billion Tax Giveway (another one)– Time for a “Next System” to Replace Our Current Democratic-Economic Systems, Owned by the Oligarchs.
Thursday, August 2. While Trump is a radical expression of a ’democratic’ capitalist system, it is also just a logical extension of a trend toward autocracy that began in the 80s. We can tinker around the edges or invent something new. In addition to reflecting upon what that Next System might look like, we include info on the Texas race for US Senate and the remarkable and inspiring candidate of Beto O’Rourke who has closed the gap from 30% to 2% and is continuing that surge. Imagine a solid progressive ousting Ted Cruz! . Click here to read more about Trump’s planned giveaway and a preview of what a truly democratic and just “Next System” might entail.
Edging Very Close to 1984, The Impact of Fake News, The Russian Investigation. and Looming Mid-Term Elections.
Saturday, Aug 4. We examine the frightening implications of Trump’s continued assault on the truth, the media’s compliance, the GOP’s non-existent opposition to Trump’s megalomania and our inching towards fascism. This is not just a post about a President who needs to be reined in, but a dictator who needs to be prevented. Click here to read the full report.
Go A’s! Go us!
Categories: Personal & Collective Action