Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The USA's Reality Check has Bounced; Embrace the Autumnal Equinox, & Prepare for Electoral Madness in 2012, Oh Yeah, & the Collapse of the Climate

John Everett Millais, Autumn Leaves, 1856

Noam Chomsky: I mean, as you mentioned before, I just came back from Europe, where people just can’t believe what they’re seeing here, what people are saying. I mean, take one of the really crucial issues for the human species: doing something about environmental catastrophe. Well, you know, every single one of the Republican candidates—maybe not Huntsman, but every major one—is a climate change denier. It’s kind of ironic in the case of Perry. He says there’s no global warming, while Texas is burning up with the highest temperatures on record, fire all over the place, and so on. But it doesn’t matter, it’s just not happening. In fact, the one who has conceded that maybe global warming has taken place is Michele Bachmann. I heard a statement of hers in which she said, "Well, yes, maybe it’s happening. It’s God’s punishment for allowing gay marriage," or some comment like that. I mean, this—what’s going on there is just off the international spectrum of sane behavior. Noam Chomsky: 2012 GOP Candidates Views are "Off the International Spectrum of Sane Behavior" Democracy Now, 9-19-11

The USA's Reality Check has Bounced; Embrace the Autumnal Equinox, & Prepare for Electoral Madness in 2012, Oh Yeah, & the Collapse of the Climate

By Richard Power

Welcome the Equinox. Embrace it, and celebrate it.

This Equinox (Autumnal in the Northern Hemisphere, Vernal in the Southern Hemisphere) is one of the four great hash marks in the Earth's annual journey around the Sun. It offers hope, it provides an opportunity for both ends and beginnings. It represents perpetual change, and perpetual order. Yes, welcome that divine change, and embrace that divine order. We are in need of both.

Tragically, in the U.S.A., the only change we seem to bring about is a rapid deterioration (economic, environmental and cultural); and the only order currently in place consists of a brutal lockdown of our democratic institutions, a brazen co-opting of our news media, and a stranglehold on our body politic.

Consider some recent news items, and their implications.

Al Gore treated the globe to “24 Hours of Reality” Wednesday and Thursday, but before the finale, Mother Nature stepped in with a show of her own. As Hour Six opened from the Hilo, Hawaii offices of the Mauna Loa CO2 observatory, Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz warned ominously that Hawaii is “particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.” The Lieutenant Governor didn’t mention “summer snow”, but that is exactly what Hawaii received. By sunrise, the crown of Mauna Kea--clearly visible across the saddle from the CO2 observatory on Mauna Loa--was dusted with about an inch of the white stuff ...If this year’s trends continue, Hawaii will soon have snow during July and August... Summer Snow Falls on Mauna Kea after Al Gore’s “24-Hours of Reality” broadcasts, Hawaii Free Press, 9-16-11

Words of Power enthusiastically participated in the global event organized by Nobel-peace prize winner, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and his Climate Project; I made the USTREAM available from this site, and I tweeted almost every hour (yes, I took a nap).

It was a poignant and powerful testimony; twenty-four presenters (scientists, citizen activists, educators, officials) in twenty-four countries (both great and small), one every hour, moving sequentially across twenty-two time zones - one message, developed by Gore himself, and delivered in 13 languages, with expert panels sessions in between.

Poignant, and powerful, indeed, and yes, sad too. Over 8.5 million human beings viewed the event on-line. Wonderful. But imagine the impact if POTUS had participated, imagine the impact if one of the major cable news networks had devoted some time to simulcast or even provide periodic updates throughout the event? Why should the fate of "civilization" be left up to you, me and Renee Zellweger?

Remember, the Climate and Sustainability Crisis is not just one among many issues; it is the overarching issue of our era, and the greatest national security threat, the greatest economic threat, the greatest health threat ... Nor is it a political issue, however frantically the deniers try to frame it as such, it is a human issue, it is a moral imperative, and a survival imperative.

More than 30 million people were displaced last year by environmental and weather-related disasters across Asia ... Tens of millions more people are likely to be similarly displaced in the future by the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, floods, droughts and reduced agricultural productivity. Guardian, 9-19-11

While this climate change calamity gains momentum, the U.S. and most of the industrialized world have been distracted by the relatively trivial threat of terrorism and have spent trillions of dollars on defence and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. could generate 100 percent of its electricity from wind, solar, tidal and geothermal for much less than it has spent on defence and wars in the last decade ... Stephen Leahy, IPS, 9-15-11

But, regrettably, the U.S.A. has lost its way.

Government seems to be unwilling to stop itself from executing people even when their guilt has been seriously challenged, or even disproved. (Read Bianca Jagger's A Day of Shame for the State of Georgia and the Justice System, Huffington Post, 9-20-11) Mainstream news media seems unwilling to get a story right, if getting it wrong means hurting the renewable energy sector and stoking attack ads for 201. (Read Media Matters' What the Press is Getting Wrong About Solyndra, Climate Progress, 9-20-11) The body politic seems indolent and bewildered. Despite stirring examples from the streets of Cairo, Madrid, Tel Aviv and elsewhere, and despite having given the banksters $700 billion with no strings attached, only to be told that ordinary citizens will have to get a "haircut" re: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, only a thousand or so youth could be mustered to establish a protest camp on Wall Street. (Read Allison Kilkenny's Wall Street Occupation Continues, The Nation, 9-21-11) (Well, at least Roseanne Barr showed up to exhort them on).

Incredibly, Barack Obama's four years are almost up. Will he get a second shot? With a Congress less kowtowed to the corporatist agenda? Will Elizabeth Warren liberate Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat from the Playgirl model who sits in it now? Will the Speaker's gavel be wrested away from John Boehner or whoever the Zombie Cult replaces him with after they eat his brains? And if POTUS does get a second shot, will he take aim at the monster's vital organs, or continue his attempt to give it a pedicure? If he surprises us, and he is inclined to take his best shot, would he be allowed to do so?

Every indicator points to an utterly insane election cycle, that has even less to do with reality than in previous years.

Though CNN insisted that it maintained its journalistic independence in its Tea Party collaboration , the network widely promoted the debate with banners linking CNN to the Tea Party Express and fashioned the debate as something of a Tea Party rally. CNN coordinated with Tea Party activists to frame questions and arranged live satellite feeds from Tea Party gatherings in Arizona, Virginia and Ohio, the Times reported, adding that “even the graphics on the video screens behind the stage flashed flags that are often seen at Tea Party rallies.” Robert Parry, CNN Panders to the Tea Party, Consortium News, 9-13-11

As Robert Reich articulates in his insightful analysis, The Election of 2012: Why the Most Important Issues May Be Off the Table (But Should Be On It), the campaign ahead will not do much to foster mental health in the body politic.

Don’t expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall Street’s most lucrative and dangerous practices. You won’t hear there’s no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid – that a better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs’ bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes. Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all. Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security’s long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes. Don’t expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism – especially when we have so much to do at home. Nor are you likely to hear proposals for ending the corruption of our democracy by big money. Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than ever, they won’t be part of the upcoming presidential election. Robert Reich, The Election of 2012: Why the Most Important Issues May Be Off the Table (But Should Be On It), 9-18-11

In his 24 Hours of Reality presentation (embedded below) Gore urges us to fight on, offers suggestions on how to do so: "act now, speak up, win the conversation, choose reality." So does Reich in his Election of 2012 piece, reminding us that it isn't just a presidential election, it is, perhaps most importantly, a struggle for control of both houses of Congress. Remember Thom Hartmann's sage admonition: "Despair is not an option."

However you choose to respond to our current and future circumstance, I encourage you to welcome the Equonix. Yes, embrace it and celebrate it. And then the Solstice in turn, and after that, the next Equinox, and the next Solstice, and the next and the next and the next. And fight for this life, and this planet, as if you would fight for your own parent or child or lover, because it is, it is all of them.

On Saturday, 9/24/11, there will be another opportunity to "not go gentle into that goodnight." Bill McKibben and are organizing Moving Planet: "We will put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels." Join us.

Final Hour of the Climate Reality Project's 24 Hours of Reality (including Al Gore's presentation):

Video streaming by Ustream
Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power's seventh book, Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself, is now available. Here are links to purchase it from, or from CreateSpace.