Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Time to Wake Up: What Big Oil Companies Say Vs. What They Do

Pushing Back against ALEC
(American Legislative Exchange Council)

“ALEC is an organization, which works to undercut climate science and undermine climate progress at the state level, interfering in our state legislatures. ALEC has tried to roll back state renewable fuel standards and has handed out model state legislation to obstruct and tie up the President’s Clean Power Plan.”

~ US Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Speech delivered on the Senate Floor, March 12, 2015

What I learned about politicians and government growing up in Guyana

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Assassination of Courtney Crum-Ewing - Guyana - March 2015

Assassination of Courtney Crum-Ewing – Guyana – March 10, 2015
Photo Credit: Kaieteur News

On March 10, 2015, Courtney Crum-Ewing was gunned down during his one-man crusade in his neighborhood, calling on residents with a bullhorn to vote out the current government in the upcoming May elections.

Growing up in Guyana during our struggle for independence from Britain and over subsequent years under an authoritarian government, I was not surprised by this brutal act against an unarmed, political activist. One of the advantages of growing up in the administrative capital of a small developing nation was the opportunity to get a close up view of politicians and government in action.

At a young age, I learned that the government was not some entity separate from we-the-people, but rather an integral and vital part of our daily lives. When a government is efficient and effective in executing its diverse functions, no one notices its existence. Not so in a small struggling young nation where bad roads took lives; where a movie at the cinema was cut short due to an unexpected blackout; where yards and streets flood during heavy rainfall; where tap water was red in color but declared safe to drink; where the importation of wheat flour was banned for lack of foreign currency… I could go on and on.

I learned that good governance depends upon politicians who place the needs of the people and nation before their personal gains. Corrupt politicians—those who receive kickbacks from local and foreign contractors and consultants, as well as pocket a percentage of foreign investment loans for their personal enrichment—bankrupt the nation, disrupt law and order, and foment moral decline.

I learned that political power in the hands of unscrupulous and narcissistic individuals lead to abuse of power and impunity. Such individuals have no qualms in silencing and executing those who threaten their authority.

I learned that control of the media, public and private, prevents the dissemination of information of vital importance to the population: poor governance, corrupt politicians, failures within the system, and abuses of power.

I learned that when politicians of opposition parties cannot work together in the interest of the nation, the entire system falls apart. With the collapse of law and order, the country becomes the playground of the world’s underworld and exploitative corporations.

I learned that when there is free and fair elections—without intimidation and with foreign oversight—our vote counts. When we fail to cast our vote, we empower those voters who have a personal stake in the current system of influence, abuse, and impunity.

Courtney Crum-Ewing was prepared to go it alone in protesting the abuse of political power and to wake up the population from their apathy. Honor his sacrifice by going out to vote on May 11, 2015. His life mattered. Your life matters. The lives of your children matter.

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Climate Change and the Jet Stream - Climate Central

Climate Change and the Jet Stream
Image Credit: Climate Central

Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming

Studies of new metrics of rapid Arctic warming and more frequent high-amplitude (wavy) jet-stream configurations “suggest that as the Arctic continues to warm faster than elsewhere in response to rising greenhouse-gas concentrations, the frequency of extreme weather events caused by persistent jet-stream patterns will increase.”

~ Environmental Research Letters, Jennifer A Francis & Stephen J Vavrus, published by IOP Publishing Ltd, January 2015. [Open Access to study available on IOP Science.]

A Blueprint for Ending War: An Alternative Global Security System

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World Beyond War Video

The warmongers among us who benefit from endless war would like us to believe that the human species is wired for warfare, that violence is the only effective response to aggression from our enemies. If that were true, we would not have survived as a species.

Warfare has served only to dominate weaker peoples or states for territorial expansion, control of resources, and a cheap subservient labor force. In modern times, war serves to secure the world’s oil resources held by so-called enemy states. In a not-too-distant future, fresh water and food production zones will replace our relentless pursuit for liquid black gold. Continue reading

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine LifeEffects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Life
Image Credit: John MacNeill for Climate Central (2010)

Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem

The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year, so as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, so do the levels in the ocean… [D]ecades of ocean observations now show that…the CO2 absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater, a process called OCEAN ACIDIFICATION.

~ PIMEL Carbon Group, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Brazil – Preparing My Sons for Our Move to the USA

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The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe - Book CoverThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Book Cover

 

After mailing my divorce papers to my mother in the United States, five years went by before I heard from her attorney that the application for permanent residence for me and my two sons were finally being processed. On the chance that our application might be approved, I began preparing my sons, then sixteen and eighteen years old, for life in an English-speaking country.

Ten years earlier, after their father left Brazil to return to Guyana, my sons had stopped speaking English. To ensure that they did not forget the English language, I continued to speak to them in English. Later, when they started high school, it helped that English was part of their school’s curriculum. They both excelled in English grammar and vocabulary.

To get them to practice speaking in English without making it an onerous activity, I set up one-hour reading sessions once or twice a week, depending upon my work schedule. They had to be engaging stories for adolescent boys their age. In Fortaleza, finding the popular English Classics, in the English language, proved to be a challenge. But I did manage to find some of my favorites:

  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

During our reading sessions, we took turns at reading out loud. Their reading proficiency in English surprised me. Whenever we came upon a word or expression that they did not understand, I translated it to Portuguese. To determine their level of comprehension, I ended each session with a brief discussion. While I did not get them to comment on the story in English, I was satisfied that they were hearing themselves speak the language. From my own struggles in learning to speak Portuguese, I knew what an important step this was for them.

Happily, they enjoyed the stories and looked forward to our reading sessions. While preparing this blog post, I asked them which story was their favorite.

Without hesitation, my younger son said, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

His older brother couldn’t decide. “I enjoyed them all,” he said.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the last book we began reading together. By then, there were so many other pressing matters to attend to regarding our immigration process that we never completed the book. As in real life, we did not know what lay ahead for us, beyond the wardrobe, in our future adopted homeland.

Climate Disruption: Thought of the Week

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Atmospheric CO2 - January 1959 to January 2015 - Mauna Loa ObservatoryAtmospheric CO2: January 1959 to January 2015
Mauna Loa Observatory – Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Source: CO2Now

 

Keeping Track of the Earth’s Atmospheric CO2

“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350 ppm.”
~ Dr. James Hansen, former NASA Climatologist

“Pantoum for Ferguson: 20 Miles a Day” Poem by Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

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We Can't BreatheWe Can’t Breathe – Against Police Tyranny
Source: IFWEA

 

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, my Poetry Corner March 2015 features the poem “Pantoum for Ferguson: 20 Miles a Day” by American poet Angela Consolo Mankiewicz.

The modern pantoum is composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and the third lines of the next stanza. As you’ll notice in Mankiewicz’ pantoum, the repeated lines take on a slightly different meaning and punctuation.

The pantoum’s pattern of rhyme and repetition is the perfect poetic form for giving us the sense of the four-step forward and two-step backward movement of race relations in America. Continue reading

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.

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