Saturday, December 19, 2009

Seeing REDD? It's Either a U.S. Bill Signed by Earth Day, Followed by a Summer Summit in Mexico City or Eco Cold War Devolving into Thunderdome

The "Primitivist" Henri Rousseau painted "The Dream" in 1910.

The most progressive US president in a generation comes to the most important international meeting since the Second World War and delivers a speech so devoid of substance that he might as well have made it on speaker-phone from a beach in Hawaii ...
Then a Chinese premier ... takes such umbrage at Barack Obama's speech that he refuses to meet – sulking in his hotel room, as if this were a teenager's house party instead of a final effort to stave off the breakdown of our biosphere.
Late in the evening, the two men meet and cobble together a collection of paragraphs that they call a "deal", although in reality it has all the meaning and authority of a bus ticket, not that it stops them signing it with great solemnity.
Josh Garman, Independent/UK, 12-20-09

For humanity together, it’s shameful that the Western countries have only offered $10 billion for climate change ... The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful. The budget for the Iraq war, according to the figures we have, is $2.6 trillion for the Iraq war ... while trillions are going to the wars, on the other hand, to save humanity and the planet, they only want to direct $10 billion. Democracy Now!, 12-16-09

Seeing REDD? It's Either a U.S. Bill Signed by Earth Day, Followed by a Summer Summit in Mexico City or Eco Cold War Devolving into Thunderdome

By Richard Power

As with the US Senate's "deal" on "healthcare reform," the Copenhagen "deal" on climate change shows that many of the world's leaders are not just out of touch with you and I, they are out of touch with reality.

Government and news media still do not understand that this is not one among several issues. The political and news media establishments are not yet operating in emergency mode. It's still business as usual. "Let's post our stories and go home." "Let's agree to behave ourselves and go home."

The time for speeches is over, as Obama said -- in his speech. Unfortunately, the actions proposed are not in alignment with the realities of our circumstances. We have a very long way to go, and we do not have enough time to get there.

Little real progress came to pass in Copenhagen.

Sometimes I feel we must be from the future, and expect too much from the past; but if indeed we are from the future, that would mean that the human race somehow gets through this planetary crisis.

It has become clearer and clearer to me as the years dwindle away, and especially so now, in the aftermath of Copenhagen, that our problems are not ideological, or organizational, or methodological, they are psychological and spiritual.

And to paraphrase the recovery language of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the human race just has not hit bottom yet, and we cannot expect a change until it has hit bottom.

Some of us have been organizing and raising consciousness for years in the ramp up to the Copenhagen climate crisis showdown. But what is perhaps of the most profound and alarming significance is not what happened in Copenhagen, but what didn't happen everywhere else in the developed world.

Of course, most of us in the developed world live largely in a dream.

We turn on the lights, without wondering or caring where the energy comes from; and we take it for granted that it will keep flowing.

We turn on the tap to pour water, without wondering or caring where the water comes from; and we take it for granted that it will keep flowing, that it will be relatively clean.

We go to the market and purchase groceries, with numerous gourmet and organic options, without ever wondering or caring without wondering or caring how the distribution chain is kept going; and we take for granted that it will not be interrupted.

Inside of this dream, we are largely insulated from what is going on in the lives of the less fortunate whether they are across the city or on another continent, whether we are concerned for them or not, we do not see their plight as one we might well share someday.

How many people you know asked you how it was going in Copenhagen? How many people you know were tuned into the proceedings in any way? How many e-mail threads were forwarded to you? No, I am not talking about among friends in the progressive blogoshere or the environmental movement; I mean among people who are just living their lives and doing the best they can to attain their personal goals or meet the needs of their loved ones.

How many live reports did you pass by as you channel surfed? If you live in the USA, almost none. During the course of the gathering in Copenhagen, you heard a lot more about Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, and their perverted political posturing on healthcare reform, than you did about the critical mass of nations meeting inside the hall or the throngs of activists from all over the world demonstrating outside.

Copenhagen was not supposed to be business as usual. It was supposed to be, it had to be, a defining moment for the human race. Well, if it was a defining moment, then we have defined as self-absorbed, unengaged and doomed to a grim future.

Time to think so far outside the box that you won't be able to fit back inside?

Yes. (Which is OK because the box is on fire and seems to be collapsing in on itself.)

Time to prepare for the worst?

Yes. And to do so by creating a simple, accessible vision of a new Earth, with which you can seed rapidly the collective consciousness.

What do I mean?

Ask yourself what if the leaders of government, news media and business (including in particular energy, agriculture, transportation and technology) fail to act with courage and haste that our circumstances demand, i.e., what if they fail the population of the planet, when then?

And what if indeed over time these institutions literally fail?

Where does that leave you and your loved ones personally, and where does that leave our communities collectively?

Is there anything that you should re-think? Is there anything you should organize differently? Are there any preparations that you want to take more seriously than you have hitherto?

What should you tell your children and your grand children moving forward?

But first, some reflections on Copenhagen, and then some short-term goals, i.e., what needs to happen in the next few months. (Because there is always hope.)

I will start with the bad news, and then end on a more positive and proactive note.

For me, the most obscene moment in Copenhagen occurred when the representative of the Sudanese government (yes, the regime responsible for slow-motion, incremental genocide in Darfur) took it upon himself to scold the developed nations on their willingness to allow a climate "holocaust." Why should he be upset? After all the great nations have allowed Sudan its own little holocaust.

The watered-down climate change text sparked angry reactions among delegates. Poorer nations denounced it as a death warrant. Sudan said the declaration, code-named L9, would incinerate Africa and he compared it to the Holocaust: “L9 asks Africa to sign a suicide pact,” said Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping. “It is a solution based on the values which, in our opinion, channelled six million people in Europe to the (Nazi) furnaces.” Euronews, 12-19-09

Hopefully, we will move beyond the weak agreement achieved in Copenhagen; and hopefully by the time we do, the thugs in Karthoum will be on trial in the Hague.

The most infuriating single outcome in Copenhagen concerns the effort to fund the U.N.'s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) initiative.

A plan to protect the world's biologically rich tropical forests by paying poor nations to protect them was shelved Saturday after world leaders failed to agree on a binding deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Burning trees to clear land for plantations or cattle ranches and logging forests for wood is blamed for about 20 percent of the world's emissions. That's as much carbon dioxide as all the world's cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships combined ... Deforestation for logging, cattle grazing and crops has made Indonesia and Brazil the world's third- and fourth-biggest carbon emitters, after China and the United States
Business Week, 12-19-09

Unfortunately, the worst possible characterization of the Copenhagen end-product also happens to be the most accurate.

A Greenpeace representative told The Guardian, "This latest draft is so weak as to be meaningless. It's more like a G8 communique than the legally binding agreement we need. It doesn't even include a timeline to give it legal standing or an explicit temperature target" Raw Story, 12-18-09

So what happens next? And what is the best attitude for progressives in terms of the political debate ahead?

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) takes the high road.

“This agreement is not all we had hoped for. There's still more work to be done. But it strikes a credible blow against the single greatest environmental ill of our time. It gathers all nations around the common goal of ending this scourge that imperils us all. And it sets the stage for further action in the months ahead.
“Now the Senate can take up clean energy and climate legislation in the certain knowledge that Americans won't act alone. A hopeful nation watches and waits for the Senate to pass a bill that will put Americans back to work, reduce our reliance on foreign oil and ensure a safer future for us all
National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), 12-18-09

Al Gore scribbled directions on a cocktail napkin before he left Copenhagen.

Gore is putting his full weight behind an accelerated plan to take advantage of the momentum generated at Copenhagen. It calls for an April 20th deadline, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, for the Senate to pass its bill, which gives several months to integrate the official U.S. targets into the new UN document.
Also he thinks having a summer accord in Mexico City, one of the regions hard hit by heat waves and drought, will be a good reminder of the type of challenges we will face in a warming world.
Karl Burkhart, Mother Nature Network, 12-18-09

If we overcome the daunting challenges ahead, it is possible that Al Gore and the IPCC will be awarded a second Nobel Peace Prize. (There is precedent. The International Red Cross (IRC) has won three Nobel Peace Prizes, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has won two Nobel Peace Prizes.)

Meanwhile, back in the USA as well as in Copenhagen, Greenpeace was demonstrating the power of non-violent action. Such activity is going to intensify.

Today, protesters from the environmental justice group Greenpeace declared the Chamber headquarters in Washington, D.C. a “climate crime scene.” As protesters scaled the Chamber’s building, draping it in yellow crime scene tape, Greenpeace vehicles designed to look like police units and ambulances marked “Climate Crime Unit” surrounded the building and blared their sirens. Think Progress, 12-17-09

Whatever course of action you choose after this summer (even if it is only a life of deep contemplation), know this -- defeat is not an option.

Well, not a viable option.

With the question of dollars at the center of the table, the world is preparing to transition from the geopolitical “post-9/11″ epoch into a new one: Eco Cold War. Joe Walsh, Red, Green and Blue, 12-19-09

If I were a gambler, I would bet against us. Of course, if I were to win, it would probably be difficult to collect in Thunderdome.

Time to sit down with your friends and family and have a serious discussion?


Time to sit down with yourself and have a serious discussion?


Cultivate gratitude for the electricity, the water, the food, the opportunity to live another day.

Cultivate engagement locally, nationally and globally.

Perhaps most of all, cultivate self-reliance, with the caveat, of course, that all life is utterly interdependent.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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