Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Global Divestment Day – February 2015
Source: Go Fossil Free Movement

Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

The fossil fuel divestment movement, now in more than 60 countries, is having exactly the impact we hoped it would. By acting together, we’ve made sure that not a week goes by without a university, local government, faith group, medical association, or heavyweight institution divesting from those companies that are driving the climate crisis.

~ Katie & the Fossil Free team, Go Fossil Free

On Blogging: Finding Inspiration & Much More

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Very Inspiring Blogger AwardVery Inspiring Blogger Award

 

When one’s day starts with news of terrorist attacks and more war, it’s good to receive unexpected news that makes one smile and warms the heart. I received such news recently from blogger, Dr. Gerald Stein, a retired psychotherapist in Chicago. His candid blog posts on our relationships are well articulated, insightful, and knitted together with engaging humor and honesty. In his latest post, he surprised me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

When I started my blog over three years ago, inspiring others was far from my mind. As a newbie novelist seeking to have my work published, I started my blog as a means of building my author’s platform.

After learning that I was working on a novel set in Guyana, a friend sent me the link to the Guyanese Online Blog as a source of information. The blog, published by Cyril Bryan, went far beyond a resource hub. It connected me with the Guyana Diaspora, strengthening my frayed link with my native land. What’s more, in reblogging my posts, Cyril Bryan has expanded my readership.

Other bloggers inspire us with their life stories and vision of our world. As an Award recipient, I share the Very Inspiring Blogger Award with two such bloggers:

Bruce Witzel, a carpenter, lives on Vancouver Island, Canada. His self-constructed, off-grid home – powered by clean energy and integrated with a waste disposal system for maintaining a kitchen garden – gives me hope for our sustainable future. His down-to-earth spirituality expands my vision of life.

John Castellenas is a Vietnam veteran who found healing through poetry. The honesty of his prose and poetry touches my soul. His stories of saving himself from alienation and self-hate and finding love speak volumes to our nation engaged in never-ending wars.

In accepting the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, I’m also required to answer seven questions.

  1. Who is your favorite public figure?
    Senator Elizabeth Warren
  1. What do you like most? (I presume this refers to Question 1.)
    I admire Senator Warren’s political courage in defending consumers against the Too-Big-To-Jail financial institutions that decimated middle-class America.
  1. Do you follow trends?
    I follow trends that jeopardize our security and survival: changing job market, criminalization of the poor, militarization of the police force, privatization of prisons, growing income inequality, perpetual wars, and climate change.
  1. What do you do when someone gets angry?
    With strangers, I get out of their way. With bosses, I let them let off steam before I open my mouth. With close relations, I go with the flow.
  1. What have you loved most?
    My sons are my greatest treasure.
  1. Do you have causes?
    I support the following non-profit organizations:
    Feeding America (feeding the hungry)
    Public Citizen (getting Big Business out of politics)
    350.org (saving our planet for future generations)
  1. What quality do you admire most?
    Integrity: much needed to curb inequality and end wars.

Through blogging, I’m reminded that we all share the same humanity.

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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IPCC Climate Change 2014 - Synthesis ReportIPCC – Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report
Photo Credit: IPCC

Observed changes in the climate system

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”

~ Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers
U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Caribbean Energy Security: When? At what cost?

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Caribbean Energy Security Summit - Washington DC, USA - January 2015Caribbean Energy Security Summit – Washington D.C. – USA
January 26-27, 2015
Photo Credit: Caribbean News

 

Global oil prices rise and fall for all kinds of reasons. Credit or blame for the current fall goes to increased shale oil production, led by the United States. Contrary to what one would imagine, for small developing nations like Guyana and other member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that depend on oil imports to fuel their economies, the current low price is cause for concern.

Guyana, together with nine other members of the Caribbean Community, buys oil from Venezuela, South America’s largest oil producer. Under the PetroCaribe preferential payment program, members pay from 40 to 60 percent of the invoice value in cash upfront. The balance can be converted to a 25-year loan with interest rates from 1 to 4 percent. Continue reading

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Global Average Temperature Anomaly 1850-2014Warming Trends Continue in 2014
Photo Credit: World Meteorological Organization

“Fourteen of the fifteen hottest years have all been this century. We expect global warming to continue, given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future.”

~ Secretary-General Michel Jarraud, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, February 2, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – Fast-track to where?

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries with US Total Trade 2013Map of Trans-Pacific Partnership Countries
Showing Total US Trade in Goods for each Country, 2013
Source: Federation of American Scientists

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed multilateral free trade agreement between the United States and eleven other countries in Asia and the Pacific, is currently nearing the final rounds of negotiation. Some members, like Canada and Japan, still have unresolved issues. Accounting for around forty percent of global GDP, the TPP is a Big Deal. Given the lack of exposure in the national media, American businesses and the general population don’t appear to be concerned about what could become the largest regional trade block on the planet.

During his recent testimony before the House and Senate committees, US Trade Representative Michael Froman reported that the TPP is nearing the finish line. “We are not done yet but I feel confident that we are making good progress and we can close out a positive package soon,” he told Senate Finance lawmakers. He urged them to push for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as fast-track.

Armed with fast-track power, the administration can negotiate trade and other policies tied to the agreement. Once done, Congress can approve or reject the terms of the agreement but cannot make a single amendment.

Last Thursday, in a speech to the Washington International Trade Association, Representative Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees trade issues, defended the urgency for Congress to pass fast-track authority.

“Here’s the issue: When the U.S. sits down at the negotiating table, every country at that table has to be able to trust us,” he said. “They have to know that the deal the administration wants is the deal Congress wants—because if our trading partners don’t trust the administration—if they think it will make commitments that Congress will undo later—they won’t make concessions. Why run the risk for no reason?”

Most Republicans are in favor of signing the TPP and granting fast-track authority. Senator Elizabeth Warren and many other Democrats oppose the deal. In a letter dated December 17, 2014, to Ambassador Froman, Senators Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Edward Markey expressed concern that the TPP “could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises. With millions of families still struggling to recover from the last financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed, we cannot afford a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy.”

As a former international trade professional, I support and continue to promote the movement of goods across borders. But, like NAFTA and other modern-day international trade agreements, the multilateral TPP agreement goes far beyond eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, and setting quotas. The TPP will affect everything in our day to day lives: banking regulations, food safety standards, energy policies, medicine patents, environmental protections, government procurement, and much more.

Passing Trade Promotion Authority will mean fast-track for greater global dominance by transnational corporations and greater inequality for the rest of us. What’s more, it will mean fast-track to climate disruption and ecosystem collapse.

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Cartoon by Kevin CannonPhoto Credit: Cartoon by Kevin Cannon

Everyone deserves access to independent scientific information so they can make smart, informed decisions on issues that affect their health, safety, and environment.
~ Union of Concerned Scientists

“Obscure Life” – Poem by Black Brazilian Poet João da Cruz e Sousa

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Black Lives MatterPhoto Credit: Black Lives Matter

 

In honor of Black History Month in the United States, my Poetry Corner February 2015 features the poem “Vida Obscura” (Obscure Life) by Brazil’s greatest black poet João da Cruz e Sousa (1861-1898).

Born in the Southern State of Santa Catarina, Cruz e Sousa was the son of freed slaves. (Not until 1888 was slavery totally abolished in Brazil.) When their former slave owners adopted and gave João da Cruz their surname Sousa, it became both a blessing and a curse for the child named after Saint John of the Cross.

After he revealed great intellectual aptitude, they enrolled ten-year-old João de Cruz in the Liceu Provincial where he spent the next five years studying French, English, Latin, Greek, mathematics, and the Natural Sciences.

Exposed to higher education and Brazilian white society, Cruz e Sousa assumed he could enjoy the same dignity and rights of whites. But late nineteenth century Brazilian society was not yet ready for the learned, talented, and multilingual black man who did not know his place. His bold and independent manner was viewed as arrogant. Judging from his poem, “Acrobata da Dor” (Acrobat of Pain), he hid his humiliation from those around him.

He guffaws, laughs, in a tormented laughter,
Like a clown, unhinged, nervous,
He laughs, in an absurd laughter, inflated
With an irony and a violent pain.

Fleeing racial prejudice in his home state, Cruz e Sousa moved to Rio de Janeiro where he worked as the archivist of Rio’s Central Railway Station. At twenty-six years old, already married and father of three, he struggled with financial problems and poor health.

In “O Assinalado” (The Branded), Cruz e Sousa laments his affliction and misfortune but observes that they provide food for the soul.

But this same shackle of affliction,
But this same extreme Misfortune
Makes your pleading soul grow
And blossom into stars of tenderness.

In adopting the new French Symbolist poetry of Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and others, Cruz e Sousa countered the Parnassian poetic style, the dominant style among leading Brazilian poets at that time. Among Brazil’s literary circle, some branded him the “Black Swan;” others the “Black Dante.”

Lack of recognition by his peers drove Cruz e Sousa to strive harder for perfection in his art. In “Alma Solitária” (Solitary Soul), he dispels his melancholy which he likened to an adolescent archangel forgotten in the Valley of Hope.

O Soul sweet and sad and pulsating!
What kitharas weep solitaries
Across distant Regions, visionaries
Of your Dream secret and fascinating!

His battle with tuberculosis took his last profound breath. He was only thirty-six.

You can learn more about Cruz e Sousa’s contribution to Brazil’s poetic tradition and read his poem, “Vida Obscura” (Obscure Life), in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Poetry Corner February 2015.

Guyana Elections 2015: Can younger generations end the nation’s racial politics?

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Parliament Buildings - Georgetown - GuyanaParliament Buildings – Georgetown – Guyana
Source: Guyana Government Information Agency (GINA)

 

After suspending the nation’s Parliament last November to avoid a no-confidence vote, Guyana President Donald Ramotar finally made the long-awaited announcement. General and regional elections will take place on May 11, 2015.

Official representatives from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom stationed in Guyana released a joint-statement applauding the announcement. “We are hopeful that the upcoming electoral process will allow the Guyanese people to debate the important issues that are facing the country. We are committed to working with GECOM [Guyana Electoral Commission], all political parties, and civil society to support free, fair and peaceful elections,” they stated.

Since the 1950s, when working class Guyanese came together to demand independence from Great Britain, the nation’s politics evolved along racial lines of the majority Indo- and Afro-Guyanese populations. In power since 1992, the ruling party enjoys the support of the majority of East Indians. Regardless of the hardships they face under Ramotar’s government, older generations of East Indians continue to maintain them in power.

Results of the last elections indicate that support for the ruling party is wavering. Influenced by a wide range of factors at home and abroad, younger generations change with the times. Not all of them share the same allegiance, beliefs, prejudices, and fears as their parents and grandparents.

Based on estimated population figures by age group for July 2014, available on the CIA World Factbook for Guyana, only 12.6 percent (94,327) of Guyanese are 55 years and over, compared to 37.2 percent (273,456) in the age group 25 to 54 years old. Individuals ranging from 20 to 34 years old make up 23.6 percent (174,000) of all potential voters. Since figures are not given by specific ages, it’s difficult to include the number of potential voters 18 to 19 years old.

Born between the years 1980 and 1996, voters 18 to 34 years old did not live through the racial violence of the 1960s and 1970s. Those born in 1980, the year of Walter Rodney’s assassination, would have been five years old when the former black dictator Forbes Burnham died. The majority of these young adult Guyanese have lived under the dictatorship East Indian government. They have had twenty-two years or less to evaluate the performance of the ruling party.

Today, the younger generations have the voting power to say “No” to racial politics that has served only to stifle Guyana’s social and economic progress and enrich a small group of the local power elite. Inform yourselves about the issues. Inform yourselves about the leadership and goals of the opposition parties. Be engaged. Demand accountability. Demand change.

Working together with The Other is the only way forward. Bridging that gap takes courage, openness, and acceptance. If you haven’t yet taken that first step forward, do so today.

State of Chronic Crisis

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Police Special Force - Manhunt for Charlie Hebdo assailants - France - January 2015Police Special Forces – Manhunt for Charlie Hebdo assailants
Northern France – January 8, 2015
Photo Credit: Francois Lo Presti / AFP

 

Terror struck Parisians on January 8, 2015, when jihadist gunmen targeted the cartoonists and writers of the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo for their profane depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

We continue to kill each other in defense of our gods and our freedom.

How long will we persist in feeding on half-truths and fabrications dished out by the global minority power elite? How long will we persist in allowing them to manipulate tragic events to perpetuate fear of The Other? How long will we persist in responding to violence with more violence that makes our lives more insecure?

Our global “War on Terror” foments terror in distant regions under fire and propagates new generations of terrorists. In the name of our homeland security, we in the West now live in militarized police states under electronic surveillance of our movements and communications. Only those freedoms that serve the agenda of the global power elite are tolerated and promoted.

When are we going to wake up from our stupor? When are we going to realize that we are disposable pawns of the global power elite? When are we going to take action to end our state of chronic crisis?

While we are manipulated to fear, hate, and kill The Other, the profit-driven transnational corporations, run by the global power elite, are destroying our planet’s ecosystems that support human life. In pursuit of continual economic growth – which means more money in their coffers – they destroy natural habitats and contaminate our air, water, and soils. We are not without guilt. As voracious consumers, we are collaborators in their plunder and destruction.

We delude ourselves that we can continue on the path of our globalized capitalist economic system without self-destructing. We delude ourselves that we are not responsible for Earth’s climate disruption. We delude ourselves that we are separate and above the natural world.

We have come to a period in our civilization when we must end dumping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. We urgently need to come together as members of the human species to work towards transitioning to life-sustaining societies. We cannot allow the power elite of the fossil fuel industry to frame laws intended to phase out our use of fossil fuels and transition to clean renewable energy resources.

In February, I will introduce a new weekly blog feature: Climate Disruption – Thought of the Week (up to 50 words). My goal is to spread awareness of the greatest challenge of our times, share success stories at home and abroad in addressing anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), and offer resources for individual involvement in making the transition.

To fail to act now is to condemn our children, grandchildren, and future survivors (if any) to a world of widespread chaos.

 

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