We can’t just geoengineer our way out of climate change

From Rabble.Ca:  http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/david-suzuki/2014/03/we-cant-just-geoengineer-our-way-out-climate-change

By David Suzuki
March 18, 2014

Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected.

DDT was considered a panacea for a range of insect pest issues, from controlling disease to helping farmers. But we didn’t understand bioaccumulation back then — toxins concentrating up the food chain, risking the health and survival of animals from birds to humans. Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, seemed so terrific we put them in everything from aerosol cans to refrigerators. Then we learned they damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful solar radiation.

These unintended consequences come partly from our tendency to view things in isolation, without understanding how all nature is interconnected. We’re now facing the most serious unintended consequence ever: climate change from burning fossil fuels. Some proposed solutions may also result in unforeseen outcomes.

Oil, gas and coal are miraculous substances — energy absorbed from the sun by plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago, retained after they died and concentrated as the decaying life became buried deeper into the earth. Burning them to harness and release this energy opened up possibilities unimaginable to our ancestors. We could create machines and technologies to reduce our toil, heat and light our homes, build modern cities for growing populations and provide accessible transport for greater mobility and freedom. And because the stuff seemed so plentiful and easy to obtain, we could build vehicles and roads for everyone — big cars that used lots of gas — so that enormous profits would fuel prosperous, consumer-driven societies.

We knew fairly early that pollution affected human health, but that didn’t seem insurmountable. We just needed to improve fuel efficiency and create better pollution-control standards. That reduced rather than eliminated the problem and only partly addressed an issue that appears to have caught us off-guard: the limited availability of these fuels. But the trade-offs seemed worthwhile.

Then, for the past few decades, a catastrophic consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels has loomed. Burning them has released excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a thick, heat-trapping blanket. Along with our destruction of natural carbon-storing environments, such as forests and wetlands, this has steadily increased global average temperatures, causing climate change.

Continue reading at:  http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/david-suzuki/2014/03/we-cant-just-geoengineer-our-way-out-climate-change

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

Religious belief systems prefer a small cosmos with humans firmly at the center.

By Adam Lee
March 20, 2014

The new Cosmos TV series airing on Fox is a worthy reboot of Carl Sagan’s original. Following in Sagan’s footsteps, host Neil deGrasse Tyson takes viewers on a voyage through the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond, showing how our sun is just one star out of a hundred billion in the majestic spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, and even the Milky Way itself is a speck in the observable universe. As in the original series, he compresses the history of the universe into a single year, showing that on that scale, the human species emerges only in the last few seconds before midnight on December 31.

Sagan’s Cosmos was due for an update, and not just because our computer graphics are better. Since the original series aired, we’ve sent robotic rovers to Mars, sampling its rocks and exploring its history. We’ve detected hundreds of alien planets outside the solar system, finding them by the slight gravitational wobble they cause in their home stars, or by the brief dips in light as they pass across the star’s face as seen from Earth. We’ve found the Higgs boson, the elusive and long-theorized particle that endows everything else with mass. We’ve discovered that the expansion of the Universe which began with the Big Bang is accelerating, driven by a mysterious force called dark energy. All these scientific advances deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

The story of Cosmos is also the story of human beings. For the vast majority of our history as a species, we were wanderers, small hunter-gatherer bands. Civilization is a recent innovation, arising within the last few thousand years, and science is more recent still, appearing only in the last few hundred. But in just those few short centuries, we’ve made dramatic strides, from wooden sailing ships to space shuttles, bloodletting to bionic limbs, quill pens to the Internet. We’ve drawn back the curtain on ancient mythologies and glimpsed the true immensity of time and space. Compared to that vastness, we’re unimaginably small and insignificant; yet we possess an intelligence and a power of understanding that, as far as we still know, is unique among all the countless worlds. As Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

However, not everyone accepts this as a positive development. There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/neil-degrasse-tyson-shows-why-small-minded-religious-fundamentalists-are-threatened-wonders

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America’s Extreme Right Has A Patriot Problem / After May 9, it will be punishable by 5 years in Russian prison to talk about ‘Ukrainian Crimea’

From Truth wins Out: http://www.truthwinsout.org/opinion/2014/03/39904/

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Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

And it’s much worse for minority families.

By Paul Buchheit
March 23, 2014

The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a  commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller,  concurred: “The guy that’s making, oh my God, he’s making $35,000 a year, why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy.”

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the  Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the  Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The  median household income is $51,000.

The following discussion pertains to the half of America that is in or near poverty, the people rarely seen by Congress.

1. The Official Poverty Threshold Should Be Much Higher

According to the  Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The poverty line reflects a measure of economic need based on living standards that prevailed in the mid-1950s…It is not adjusted to reflect changes in needs associated with improved standards of living that have occurred over the decades since the measure was first developed. If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds.”

The original poverty measures were (and still are) based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But while food costs have doubled  since 1978, housing has more than  tripled, medical expenses are  six times higher, and college tuition is  eleven times higher. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the  Census Bureau have calculated that food, housing, health care, child care, transportation, taxes, and other household expenditures consume nearly the  entire median household income.

CRS provides some balance, noting that the threshold should also be impacted by safety net programs:  “For purposes of officially counting the poor, noncash benefits (such as the value of Medicare and Medicaid, public housing, or employer provided health care) and ‘near cash’ benefits (e.g., food stamps..) are not counted as income.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

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Anti-Choicers Really Upset, For Some Reason, That Random Feminist Lady Doesn’t Want Babies

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/19/anti-choicers-really-upset-some-reason-that-random-feminist-lady-doesnt-want-babies/

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Last week, I wrote a post about abortion where I explained that, personally speaking, I don’t want to have children and, because of this, I would have an abortion if my contraception failed and I got pregnant. By and large, the reception was positive, because, it appears, people are sick and tired of dancing around the topic of women’s self-determination. You shouldn’t have to cater to a sexist society’s ideas of what women “should” be like in order to justify using contraception and even abortion. Yes, most women who use these services adhere more closely to traditional gender roles than I do and want to get married and have children. Many to most already have done these things, in fact. But the point is that women should be free to be themselves, and compulsory child-bearing to force women to adhere to traditional gender roles is just wrong.

But here’s what amuses me: The official line of anti-choicers is that they’re not interested in enforcing traditional gender roles, but that their interest in banning abortion is about “life”. (How that explains their hostility to contraception, however, is something they dodge and dodge and refuse to explain.) I think that argument is in bad faith, of course. But let’s imagine, for a moment, that the “life” argument is made in good faith. If so, then my declaration of non-interest in having a baby should be utterly and completely irrelevant to you. It’s already established that I’m pro-choice and that I don’t think that an embryo is the same thing as a conscious being like a baby. That would be, if you were just interested in “life”, all you need to know. If you are utterly and completely disinterested in enforcing traditional gender roles, then your reaction to my elaboration should be, “So what? It’s not like the why of abortion matters, and we already know she thinks that abortion is not killing a person.”

Well, some right winger tweeted out my piece, and so I got slammed, naturally on Twitter, even though, from the “life” perspective, there was no new information and therefore the only reason to get agitated is because I don’t want children. And, of course, there was all sorts of gender policing in the tweets, from people trying to “diagnose” me and doing the “pray for you” bit (because they believe that it’s impossible for a normal, healthy woman to not want children) to people trotting out tired misogynist stereotypes to people threatening me with the usual threats—loneliness, misery—aimed at women who reject strict gender roles. I collected them for you!

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/19/anti-choicers-really-upset-some-reason-that-random-feminist-lady-doesnt-want-babies/

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The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/80522686347

Robert Reich
Sunday, March 23, 2014

We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The the same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics.

Before the rise of the nation-state, between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, the world was mostly tribal. Tribes were united by language, religion, blood, and belief. They feared other tribes and often warred against them. Kings and emperors imposed temporary truces, at most.

But in the past three hundred years the idea of nationhood took root in most of the world. Members of tribes started to become citizens, viewing themselves as a single people with patriotic sentiments and duties toward their homeland. Although nationalism never fully supplanted tribalism in some former colonial territories, the transition from tribe to nation was mostly completed by the mid twentieth century.

Over the last several decades, though, technology has whittled away the underpinnings of the nation state. National economies have become so intertwined that economic security depends less on national armies than on financial transactions around the world. Global corporations play nations off against each other to get the best deals on taxes and regulations.

News and images move so easily across borders that attitudes and aspirations are no longer especially national. Cyber-weapons, no longer the exclusive province of national governments, can originate in a hacker’s garage.

Nations are becoming less relevant in a world where everyone and everything is interconnected. The connections that matter most are again becoming more personal. Religious beliefs and affiliations, the nuances of one’s own language and culture, the daily realities of class, and the extensions of one’s family and its values – all are providing people with ever greater senses of identity.

The nation state, meanwhile, is coming apart. A single Europe – which seemed within reach a few years ago – is now succumbing to the centrifugal forces of its different languages and cultures. The Soviet Union is gone, replaced by nations split along tribal lines. Vladimir Putin can’t easily annex the whole of Ukraine, only the Russian-speaking part. The Balkans have been Balkanized.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/80522686347

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