Brazil’s Stand at the UN 2014 Climate Summit

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Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest - BrazilDeforestation in the Amazon Rainforest – Brazil
Photo Credit: Manchete Online

 

On September 23, over 900 leaders from government, business, finance, and civil society came together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 2014 Climate Summit. Judging from the Summary of their most significant announcements, they issued more promises “to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Promises are easy. Following them through is another story.

The pledge to halve deforestation by 2020 and reach zero deforestation by 2030 is ambitious. Since trees release carbon when burned, such a move would secure an additional 4.5 to 8.8 billion tons of carbon yearly. This is equivalent to carbon emissions from one billion cars on the roads worldwide.
Continue reading

Guyana, Cheddi Jagan & the Cold War

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Cheddi and Janet Jagan - Wedding Photo - Chicago USA 1943Cheddi and Janet Jagan – Wedding Photo – Chicago/USA – 1943
Photo Credit: Cheddi Jagan Research Centre

 

On Saturday, at the People’s Climate Los Angeles – Building Blocks against Climate Change, I had the opportunity to chat with the leader of the small contingent from the Communist Party USA. I learned that he had visited Guyana in 1967.

In the 1960s, in what was then British Guiana, the Catholic Church had drilled the fear of communism into my young impressionable mind. Those were the days of the Cold War. With their dread of the Soviet Union and fear of another Cuba in their backyard, the US government covertly ousted from power Guyana’s populist East Indian leader, the Marxist Cheddi Jagan.

“I met Cheddi Jagan and his wife, Janet,” the white American male said with pride. Continue reading

The People’s Climate March 2014: Join the Global Weekend for Action

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People's Climate March - 20-21 September 2014

 

Has your life been changed by a record-breaking climatic event? Have you lost your home or means to support yourself and family because of climate change? Are you concerned about global warming and climate change? Are you frustrated with the inaction of our political and industrial leaders?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, here’s an opportunity to take action, to do your part. This coming weekend of September 20-21, 2014, let’s show up at the People’s Climate March in a city near us.

“The People’s Climate March is an invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced” said Bill McKibben, climate author and environmentalist turned activist, and co-founder of 350.ORG, a global climate movement.

In the United States, the major event will take place in New York City where the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 is scheduled for September 23. Heads of State and Government, together with leaders from business and civil society, are invited to announce significant and substantial initiatives to help move the world toward a path that will limit global warming (UN Press Release No. 6418 dated 11 August 2014).

“The race is on, and now is the time for leaders to step up and steer the world towards a safer future,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Extreme climatic conditions affect all aspects of our lives: health, economy (jobs), education, and the security of our families. The longer we delay to build cleaner, low-carbon economies, the more expensive it will become. The number of people worldwide facing hunger and malnutrition will catapult.

Learn more about how we got here and the consequences of ignoring climate change. Watch the documentary film, Disruption, produced by 350.ORG and released on September 7, 2014.

Over 1,000 organizations have pledged support for the People’s Climate March; over 300 colleges and universities are expected to attend. The world will be watching. For information about events in or near your location, go to the People’s Climate website.

We need ACTION, not more words. Join the People’s Climate March.

Show up.

Is California the next Dust Bowl of America?

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 Map of the United States showing intensity of drought
California, on the west coast, shows intensities D3 & D4

 

According to data released on September 4, 2014, by the U.S. Drought Monitor, California, with an estimated population of over 38.3 million, leads the nation with 82 percent of the state facing extreme to exceptional drought. Water scarcity is dire in the Central Valley where half of America’s fruits and vegetables are grown.

On January 17, 2014, California’s State Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency. He called on all state officials to take every action necessary to prepare for water shortages. (Learn more at California Drought.) Continue reading

“Isaiah” – Poem by Jean “Binta” Breeze

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Dead Palestinian Children - Gaza - July 2014

Dead Palestinian Children – Gaza – July 2014
Photo Credit: Aanirfan Blogspot

 

In my Poetry Corner this month, in remembrance of over 500 Palestinian children who died in the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian 50-Day War, I feature the poem “Isaiah” by Jamaican dub poet Jean “Binta” Breeze. Her chosen African middle name ‘Binta’ means ‘close to the heart.’

Brought up by her grandparents, peasant farmers in the hills of rural Jamaica, Jean “Binta” Breeze lived as a Rastafarian – commonly known as Rasta in Jamaica – during the early years of her life.

Rooted in a blend of Ethiopian-Hebrew-Christian spirituality, Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974), as their spiritual leader. They regard Ethiopia, considered the birthplace of humanity, as their Zion: a utopia of unity, peace, and freedom. In contrast, Babylon is the degenerate society of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures.

To commemorate the Millennium, BBC Radio invited Breeze, who lives in England since 1985, to contribute a poem for their live poetry event. Selecting the BBC’s Old Testament theme, Breeze portrays the prophet Isaiah as de rastaman who comes down from the mountains to remind Israel (equated with Babylon) of God’s plan and calls on them to remember what love mean.

For readers unfamiliar with the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah was born around 765 B.C.E. In the year of King Uzziah’s death (733 B.C.E.), Isaiah received his prophetic mission to proclaim the fall of Israel and of Judah as punishment of the nation’s infidelity to God.

While Breeze’s poem was well-received by the British public, it was rejected for presentation at a 2005 Human Rights Watch (HRW) fund-raising event in London. The Middle East Department of the HRW New York Head Office censored the poem as “unsuitable and inappropriate” (57 Productions).

Rasta Prophet Isaiah breathe brimstone pon Babylon / Israel, you forget God plan. He calls out the sins of Israel:

Israel, yuh forget yuh God
Corruption mek yuh choose de bad
Wickedness defile yuh
De lust for blood done spoil yuh

[Note Breeze’s Caribbean Creole English and the Jamaican dub/reggae rhythm.]

Recalling the Holocaust, Rasta Prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel that they should know better:

stop pushing others to where you’ve been
you of all should find genocide obscene

He warns them of God’s anger:

Israel be humble and prepare
God’s wrath is drawing near.

Inspired by recent events in Gaza, my Haiku poem “Israel” is a reflection on the nature of the God of Israel.

Read “Isaiah” and learn more about Jean “Binta” Breeze at my Poetry Corner September 2014.

Brazil’s Largest City Faces Worst Drought Since 1930

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Cantareira Reservoir - Aereal View - Sao Paulo - Brazil - February 2014

Level in Cantareira System falls to 18.2 percent
São Paulo – Brazil – February 2014
Photo Credit – Cenário MT

 

Brazil’s largest city of São Paulo and its Greater Metropolitan Area are running out of water. Due to its worse prolonged drought since 1930, the State’s complex Cantareira System of reservoirs is drying up. Managed by the Basic Sanitation Company of the State of São Paulo (Sabesp), the Cantareira System supplies water to 8.8 million residential and industrial clients.

Alarms sounded in summer. Rainfall in December 2013 was 72 percent below normal. Reductions continued in the New Year with 66 percent in January and 64 percent in February. Exceptionally high temperatures aggravated the situation. Continue reading

Guyana’s Forests Under Threat

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Bai Shan Lin Logging Concessions - Guyana

China’s Bai Shan Lin Forestry Projects in Guyana
Second World Congress on Timber & Wood Products Trade
China – November 2012
Photo Credit: Guyanese Online Blog

 

Since starting work on my second novel, I’m immersed in the rainforest of the northwest region of Guyana where the story unfolds. After watching the video of “Bai Shan Lin Aerial View of Massive Logging Exports,” posted on the Guyanese Online Blog, I was perplexed.

Just five years ago, Guyana had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Norway agreeing to work towards Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). To make this possible, Norway established the REDD+ Investment Fund with the commitment to provide Guyana with up to US$250 million by 2015. What had gone wrong? Continue reading

America’s Culture of Violence

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Armored Police - Ferguson Missouri - 13 August 2014Armored police watch protestors following fatal shooting of Michael Brown
Ferguson – Missouri – 13 August 2014
Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis / The New York Times

 

During the last week in July 2014, my eighty-one-year-old mother was physically assaulted in a Culver City bus in Los Angeles County. As a regular passenger on the Culver City line, I have never felt threatened. The bus drivers, most of whom are black, are always courteous. Therefore, the news of my mother’s assault came as a shock.

With the aid of a walking chair, my mother moves around Los Angeles by bus. When she entered the Culver City bus near her residence, two white women sat facing each other in the front section of the bus. The two seats in this section, reserved for the elderly and physically disabled passengers, fold upwards to accommodate passengers using motorized and other wheel chairs. My mother judged the stout woman to be in her fifties. The other woman was frail and older, probably in her seventies. As is normal during the slack mid-morning period, there were only three other passengers on the bus.

While the bus driver, also white, waited at the bus stop for my mother to take a seat, the stout woman stood up and spoke to the frail woman across the aisle. While they spoke to each other, my mother positioned her walking chair to sit down next to the frail woman. (These side seats each hold three passengers.) Continue reading

Brazil Recalls its Ambassador from Israel

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Smoke from Israeli attack on Gaza - July 2014Smoke from Israeli Attack on Gaza – July 2014
Photo Credit: Hatem Moussa /Associated Press

 

Since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 on Palestinian territory, the two nation states are locked in a death grip. The latest renewal of fighting exploded into a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Of the 700 dead and 4,000 injured Palestinians, an estimated 75 percent are civilians. A large part is children. On the Israeli side, only two civilians were numbered among the forty Israelis killed.

As the humanitarian crisis escalated in Gaza, Brazil took three measures to call international attention. On July 23, 2014, at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, South America’s largest nation and economy voted in favor of a resolution calling for an investigation into alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip. With a majority of twenty-nine votes in favor, the Human Rights Council passed the resolution. Remaining on the fence, Western European members abstained from participation. The United States was the only council member to reject the motion. Continue reading

“When the Storm is Forgotten” – Poem by Saul Murray

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Hurricane Katrina waits with dog for help - USA - August 2005Hurricane Katrina survivor waits with dog for help
New Orleans – Louisiana – United States – August 2005
Photo Credit: Hurricane Katrina

 

My Poetry Corner August 2014 features the poem “When the Storm is Forgotten” by Saul Murray, an African-American poet, songwriter, and performing artist. Murray’s poetry blends the rhythms and themes of Beat and Black alternative hip hop.

Written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Murray’s poem is not a reflection on the storm itself. Instead, it presents a dismal view about American life: complacency, self-centeredness, pride, violence, celebrity worship, and more. When the storm is upon us, we become vulnerable. We learn that our survival depends upon others.

The poet calls on us not to forget the storm. When we forget the storm, the struggle to change our lives comes to an end.

The inspiration for my Haiku poem, “In Denial,” came from the repetitive first line of Saul Murray’s poem: When the storm remains distant… In California where I live, drought and firestorms have already reached critical levels.

Read “When the Storm is Forgotten” and learn more about Saul Murray’s work at my Poetry Corner August 2014.

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