Tag Archives: climate change

Governor’s hypothetical speech to the oil & gas tycoons

Is this an example of cognitive dissonance?

While New Mexico teens are urging the Governor to declare a climate emergency and to  set aside state income from the oil and gas industries to pay for the transition to an economy without greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham is meeting with oil & gas tycoons to deliver a message of collaboration. Not a word about climate disruption.

Cognitive dissonance or shrewd political calculation? In either case, it’s a deadly mistake.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham

If I was the Governor’s speechwriter, here’s what I would have given her for that audience.   (Her actual speech is reprinted at the end of this blog post.)

“Thank you for inviting me. This is an important gathering and I value the opportunity to speak with you about the serious challenges facing our state, and how we can work together to address them. In this hyper-polarized environment that we find ourselves in this country today, I want to reassure you that my door is always open to you.

I know you want to hear the bottom line from me, what I’m concerned about and what I plan to do, not political posturing to win your vote. 

I know your bottom line is making a profit for your shareholders, making a good living for those engaged in your industry, and providing a sustainable future for the industry.

My bottom line is being a responsible steward of our resources for future generations, my shareholders, and setting us on a path towards a sustainable future for my family and yours.

Our state is at a critical crossroads, and I’m either lucky or jinxed to be the Governor at this point in time.  There’s no denying the fact that climate disruption is bearing down upon us, and the window of opportunity to address this freight train is rapidly closing.

The scientists have been warning us for fifty years or more about the rising carbon dioxide levels, but we had time back then for further research and study. The timeline of our actions and inaction over the past half century to address the rising CO2 levels is brutally honest. It hasn’t been convenient to find solutions or make serious changes when, in hindsight, it certainly would have been easier and cheaper to do so.

I’m pleased that national leaders in your field (oil, coal and gas) recognize the urgency of addressing the impacts of climate disruption. They recognize that climate change is occurring, and that human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

New Mexico is blessed with the brains and the scientific labs that have been studying climate change for decades.  I’m thankful the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories are at the forefront of studying climate impacts, and potential adaptation and mitigation measures. They are designing new technology which has the potential to make a profound difference in the livability of our planet for future generations. New Mexico needs to reap the benefits of transitioning this research from the laboratory to the factory and create hundreds, maybe thousands of new jobs for New Mexicans.

I’m a straight shooter.  There’s no arguing with science, and no alternative exists but to transition away from business as usual and away from our reliance on fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy.

But before you blow a gasket — hear me out.

This transition must happen quickly and I know it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the industry. It’s going to hurt the state budget. It’s going to hurt every New Mexican. I acknowledge that with great trepidation.

If we had owned up to this reality 20 years ago, I suspect the hurt might not be so great.  Sadly, we did not. And if we don’t own up to our responsibility at this critical moment now, I’m convinced that we’re condemning our children to a very difficult life, and their children to an uninhabitable planet in the future.

The symbiotic relationship between the state and your industry has grown very tight over the years. We’ve worked together, and I hope we will continue to work together to ease the transition for both of us.

Here are some ideas to think about:

I want your families and employees who are currently working in the oil & gas industry to be at the front of the line when opportunities for retraining open up in renewable technologies.  And I want them to fill those new jobs when they come online.

I want you to be role models for the industry and show the rest of the country and the world how we can plan for this transition thoughtfully, without rhetoric or recrimination. Working together, we can forge a creative alliance that reaps untold benefits for all of us —- a win, win, win.  I need your experience and advice at the table.

I plan to enact a moratorium on fracking on lands within the jurisdiction of the state. I’m well aware of both the benefits and costs of fracking, but the health and environmental impacts of fracking concern me.  This moratorium will allow time for reasonable and informed debate at the Legislature about whether a permanent ban is warranted or what type of regulations might be appropriate to mitigate the impacts of fracking. I want the industry, the scientists, and the general public engaged in that discussion.

My bottom line — New Mexico’s future generations require that we act now. I can’t kick this ball down the road. NIMTOO — Not In My Term of Office — is no longer an option.

Thank you.

 

Governor Lujan-Grisham’s speech to the NM Oil & Gas Association in Santa Fe on October 8, 2019.

Opening joke. Good morning and hello again. I see a lot familiar faces from my talk the other week in Carlsbad, at Mayor Janway’s summit. If we keep seeing each other this often, you guys might even start to like me. So be careful. I’ll charm you. Ask the mayor.
Introduce primary theme: Collaboration. When I came down to the southeast the other week, I made a little joke about getting out of Santa Fe and spending time where the money is made, not just where it’s spent — at that old circular building up the street. But jokes aside: Thank you for coming here. It’s important to remember we are one state; we’re united. The differing viewpoints in different regions all across New Mexico, the different benefits each region brings to the table, the different livings hard-working New Mexicans make in different parts of the state — this diversity makes us stronger. I truly believe that. I think it’s true nationally, too, but with the conversations coming out of Washington, D.C., at the moment, it’s easy to lose sight of that. I think we’re a great example — meaning you all, myself, our administration, your industry. New Mexico contains multitudes, and the dialogue we’ve undertaken together this year underscores how we can always find areas of overlap. When we recognize our differences as opportunities to come together and talk, not as excuses to remain in our own separate silos, we are being good neighbors. We’re proactively doing the work to partner up, move forward together. We’re being good stewards of the New Mexican ideal of listening first, speaking second. We put ourselves in a position to develop the right kind of policies for everyone — I give a little, you give a little, and New Mexicans come first. Collaboration, so often a mere buzzword, is put into action.
We’re making progress together. But let’s talk about your progress first. A 400% increase in production over the last few years. (Not bad, huh? Not bad at all.) As I said in Carlsbad, and it’s worth repeating: This industry is the reason New Mexico educators got raises this year. It’s the reason students across New Mexico have new programs, new school supplies; it’s the reason we were able to boost our state investments in small business, rural economic development; it’s the reason we’re able to begin rebuilding behavioral health services in this state, providing care to the most vulnerable families and kids in every corner of New Mexico. These are not talking points: These are the lives of New Mexicans, the everyday struggles and needs and hopes and dreams that we as a state can provide for and meet and exceed. We have a lot of work to do to make sure our state finances — meaning the investments in our kids and our families that we have made and still need to make — have solid back-up. Reserves, rainy day funds, strategic savings — I’m not pollyanna about the way prices fluctuate, the way the winds blow. It’s our duty, in building out the economy of this state, to make the foundation as broad and sturdy as it can be. I don’t believe in luck, but we are fortunate, as a state, to have this opportunity right now to reinvest in our families, in our workforce, in our economy. And the oil and gas industry is the reason, point blank, that we have this incredible head start. That New Mexico families have greater access to high-quality services. So, once again, thank you.
With opportunity comes responsibility. I want to thank you for recognizing the responsibility that comes with the opportunity of this surge in production. The Permian Basin right now is a rock star. I want to make sure — and I know you share this goal — that this rock star doesn’t burn out, doesn’t go too far too fast. We need to work together to keep this thing rocking and rolling. And as an industry, I would say unequivocally: You have stepped up and volunteered to contribute to that effort at most every chance. Again, thank you.
An example of the industry stepping up (in a relatively small way, but symbolically): Chevron (California-based) just announced last week they’re going to donate $1 to local school projects for every tank of gasoline purchased … they’re making $75,000 available to three N.M. school districts. I’d like to see more. I’d like to encourage more of that. Help us continue to make direct investments. [They said they would make up to $5 million available to support school initiatives across the country.]
Necessity is the mother of invention. Your industry and my administration understand this concept and – together were solving problems and creating opportunities around methane and produced water. Because of our collaboration around these two topics – the world is watching, and we will deliver. Your shareholders, as well as mine, are demanding more responsible management of methane. And while We’re clear about methane: We recognize one size does not fit all . So many producers operators and investors are stepping up to work with have stepped up in this arena when our Environment Department and EMNRD set to work. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Methane mitigation is a win-win-win. I want to rack up as many of those collective W’s as we possibly can.
Flares to fuel cells. As your industry pursues e-Frac and solar powered compressor stations, we are pursuing technological advancements like Fuel cells for flares. When we put innovation to work, when we explore how we can find the best solution for as many producers and our environment as can be found, the result will be a reduction of waste methane and an increase in revenue and opportunity. Flares can become fuel cells — we’ve got the labs, we’ve got the top scientists, we have smart and dedicated Cabinet Secretaries, and you have my commitment to  in our administration, all committed to making this transition. We can turn waste into electricity. Why wouldn’t we want to lead the world in that kind of innovative problem-solving? And, let’s make those fuel cells right here in New Mexico – employing our people in the manufacturing of technologies that are deployed all over the U.S. and the world.
I know you’re on board. And if you’re not, my administration will keep working with you until you are. (You might not have my re-election bumper sticker on your car yet but we’ll get some of you there — I’m gonna work on that.) Since we launched our public input strategy around methane, this industry has been coming to us, offering to be and asking to be part of the solution. You guys recognize the responsibility that comes with growth, and that means you’re asking to have a voice as we craft regulations that are realistic, enforceable and adaptable. Senate Bill 553 was a perfect example: That bill, boosting our Oil Conservation Division, had industry support. Thank you for that. With that law now in place, we’re modernizing our systems so we can be more efficient and meet your needs. Our framework has to match your growth. For years, we were behind you. I think we’re closer to being on the same footing now — and it shows. Moving forward together is the only way.
The collaboration and innovation around produced water is just as exciting as methane. I signed into law HB 546 to protect our fresh water and incent scientific and technological advancements. The Environment Department and New Mexico State University entered into an MOU to facilitate fill the data gaps so we can write science-based regulations related to treating produced water. And, NGL Midstream pledged $1M to this effort. Thank you, NGL. Investments in the consortium created under the MOU will advance scientific and technical solutions related to the treatment and ruse of produced water generated by the industry. What’s interesting is NGL is doesn’t make a single barrel of produced water – so for all the operators in the room who are made the 1.3 billion barrels of produced water in 2018 – where’s your contribution? [Pause] Let’s see it. Let’s fund this effort and protect and sustain our fresh water supplies, expand economic development opportunities and continue to stack up the wins.
At the end of the day, when we talk about working together on produced water innovation, we’re talking about leading with science, leading with innovation: We’re going to ensure sustainable management, protection of water resources and opportunities for economic development. Another win-win-win. (Those are starting to add up…)
The same as I recognize your incredible contributions to our state, I hope you recognize my commitment to working together. I’ve talked about it a lot. You’ve heard me say it. I’ll keep saying it. I’m more than talking about it, I’m doing it because when we’re pulling together, when we avoid — as best we can — working at cross purposes. We can identify common goals and protect your investments and support expanding growth industries and protect our water and air, on and on.
So thank you for your time, thank you for having me, thank you for your willingness to listen and partner with us as we identify reach our climate and environmental goals, as we work to build fair and enforceable frameworks for the industry, as we move forward for all New Mexicans.

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My Coddiwomple

Coddiwomple – to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

Kabir (a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings, according to some scholars, influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement) — “I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days.”

My journey began in Malaysia and ended in Dubai, with visits to London, Langholm, Edinburgh, Stirling, Cambridge, Brussels, Leuven, Tilburg, Paris, Lyon, Geneva, Milan, Como, Venice, Cairo and finally to the United Arab Emirates. Despite all the miles, I failed to reach my destination: Gaza, Palestine. [That’s another story.]

My itinerary was clearly not of my own making. My path appeared as the opportunities opened up. I simply kept my eyes and heart open to the possibilities.

Living out of my suitcase for nearly nine months was easy; traveling light is my forte. Staying connected with family and friends was easy too, thanks to WhatsApp and social media. My online SCRABBLE friends will never know how much they kept this traveler tethered to home.

SNAPSHOTS OF MY JOURNEY

MALAYSIA: The invitation to attend the Freedom Film Festival in Kuala Lumpur jump-started my adventure.  (I wrote about it here.)  A month in Malaysia included a radio interview about Gaza, a wedding attended by the new (old) Prime Minister and his wife, a press conference in Penang about an ill-advised and poorly planned highway project, and ended with a visit to a remote village in the Kelabit Highlands where I spoke with a classroom of middle school students, and received a simple request through a translator from an old woman sitting next to me in the village church. “Pray for me. My husband just died and I’m lonely.”

The Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak, Malaysia

I learned an important lesson in Malaysia. I’m never traveling alone despite the fact that I’m a solo traveler, an elderly American woman who can’t speak any language but my mother tongue, and without resources to squander on hotels.  My new Malaysian friends opened their homes to me in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, guided me through their country, shared their time and experience with me, and opened up new possibilities (from tasting the durian fruit in Penang to learning about stingless bees and honey at the agricultural expo in Kuching). When I left Malaysia, I had a new appreciation and confidence about traveling. It’s important to be cautious and smart about my surroundings, but I don’t need to fear the unknown.

EGYPT:  In November, I flew to Cairo and returned to my Egyptian family at Pension Roma. My goal was to finish a writing project (which I did) and get permission from the Egyptian authorities to travel to Gaza (which I didn’t).  Pension Roma has been my home away from home since my first visit in 2011, where I’ve met the most interesting people. This time, Elizabeth from the UK, Mona from Paris, Andre from Canada, and Belal from Gaza were my new friends. We traveled to new and old places in Cairo; Mona and Andre and I took the train one day to Alexandria; and Mona and I traveled to an Ecolodge in the Fayoum Oasis where we met Evelyne Porret, a potter from Switzerland, who transported the art and commerce of pottery to the village of Tunis in the 1980s.

Mona and I rode on a Felucca on Qarun Lake, visited the Wadi el Rayan protected area, explored the Meidum Pyramid that hasn’t been open to tourists for years, and dodged the Egyptian security detail following us. On my 65th birthday, my friends surprised me with a cake and a serenade at Filfila, one of my favorite restaurants in Cairo Jimmy Carter visited many years ago. I made a birthday resolution to walk 10,000 steps each day, a reasonable goal since I love to walk so much.

A casual remark from an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that the U.S. and Egyptian governments are working together to keep Americans out of Gaza. I was very disheartened and not sure about my next step until an American friend in London invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with him. With my writing project completed and no plans on my horizon, I jumped on a plane to London.

LONDON AND NORTH TO SCOTLAND:

I’ve never been to London, and seeing the city for the first time with Maurice was a wonderful reintroduction to the West following my adventures in Malaysia and Egypt.  In addition to the famous tourist spots, we walked and walked and walked . . . 3 dogs to be exact. Maurice and I decided to accept a house-sitting, dog-sitting assignment in the East End for nearly 3 weeks which allowed me to experience London at the granular level (sidewalk by sidewalk).

One day I met the author of Shy Radicals, another day I met a Facebook friend who shares my passionate advocacy on Gaza and also loves live theater. I joined a protest against the maltreatment of refugees. Amid everything new and exciting, I learned something important about myself. I’m stubborn, judgmental and have little patience when things aren’t going MY WAY.

Maurice and I decided to accept another dog-sitting assignment —- but he headed south and I took the bus north to Langholm where I was suppose to meet up with a retired Buddhist nun. Maurice and I had talked with her on the phone a couple of times from London; Maurice thought she might have a screw loose but I thought she sounded OK. Maurice’s instincts turned out to be accurate. She lived alone in squalid conditions with a little dog. It looked like the kitchen sink held dirty dishes that had piled up for several weeks, and she was a hoarder. I spent the night on her couch and extracted myself at dawn with a quiet “goodbye”.  I would have sought out protective services to assist her but she told me her adult son was visiting later that day, and I told her neighbor that I was leaving.

Without any alternative plans, where should I go? What should I do? I decided to check out the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery up the road from Langholm, the nun’s spiritual home. I found a quiet retreat center at the monastery and was assigned a bunk bed in a room for six people but I was alone. January is a quiet time in northern England.

Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s quiet serenity included peaceful walks around the large estate, simple but delicious meals, nightly prayers in the temple, reading a very good book set in Scotland (Outlander) and lots of sleep. I arrived with a persistent cough that wasn’t getting better. The monk leading the prayers each night read off a list of names — people we were praying for — and I added my family to the list. Someone added my name to the list as well. One evening I was so tired, I skipped dinner and slept. When I awoke, I found a note next to my bed with a piece of bread and jam. “In case you’re hungry when you wake up.” Another evening the night watchman brought me a special medicinal tea bag that he said might help.

A monk recommended I visit with a doctor in town, and so I caught the bus for the 30 minute ride back into Langholm and the small clinic. A nurse practitioner saw me without an appointment. After many questions, taking my vitals and listening to my chest, she prescribed Amoxicillin and told me to return in a week if I didn’t feel better. Neither the clinic nor the pharmacy wanted a penny from me!

Within a week I was feeling much better and able to sit through the evening prayer in the temple without coughing. I may never know whether the prayers, the Amoxicillin, the medicinal tea, or simply the extended bed rest were responsible for my healing, but I learned an important lesson at Samye Ling. 

There are angels all around us, some we see and many we don’t. Speaking to them through prayer is a powerful way to connect with each other and the universe.  I learned how to pray at Samye Ling.

EDINBURGH: 

Scotland in January is cold, damp and gray but I didn’t know if I’d ever return and so at the end of the month I caught a bus to Edinburgh. I was hooked on getting to know Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in her Outlander series better.

I walked and walked and walked, but noticed I was walking with more difficulty. Old Edinburgh is a three-dimensional city with steps everywhere. I spent part of every day in the Central Library Reading Room working on another writing assignment. Then I went exploring the city when it wasn’t raining, and sitting in Starbucks reading when it was.

Friends suggested I taste the Scotch. One evening I went up to the bar to ask for a recommendation. The bartender served me and the young man next to me paid for it. He could have been my grandson. I thanked him and asked him why? He said he was paying it forward, and suggested I do the same. The next day I discovered Social Bite where I bought lunch and paid it forward.

In Edinburgh I observed a heated debate about homelessness in Parliament, and watched the Advocates make their oral arguments in court wearing their robes and white wigs. I walked past protesters demanding a vote on whether or not to leave the UK following the ill-conceived Brexit move which a majority in Scotland didn’t support. I found myself caught in the middle of the Irish rugby fans waiting in front of Balmoral Hotel for their team to depart, walked through the Palace of HolyRoodhouse, and felt immersed in history everywhere.  The high points of my visit were the people I connected with — including a friend from Samye Ling, a friend from Gaza, and new friends from South Korea and Italy.  I finished my writing project and reserved a train to London.

I learned an important lesson in Edinburgh.  As much as I love to explore places and cities (I’m a city planner after all), it’s meeting people (old and new) that give my life meaning. The places and cities shape our understanding of the world and each other, but people provide the glue that makes the world turn.

LONDON REDUX:

In February, Maurice and I reconnected in London. This visit involved less tourism and more activism as I stood with the Women in Black at the Edith Cavell memorial, observed a discussion about Palestine in the House of Commons, attended Emma Sky‘s book reading at the Frontline Club, listened to Professor Ilan Pappe speak about colonization versus occupation in Palestine, and joined thousands of students protesting our inaction on the climate crisis.  I was keeping my pace at 10,000 steps or more each day but with difficulty. The pain in my left leg wasn’t going away. Maybe I should visit the doctor when I return to the US.

BRUSSELS, LEUVEN, and TILBURG:

I boarded a train on February 28 to Brussels and must have looked bedraggled when I arrived at the hostel. The receptionist asked me if I knew it was a hostel? Yes. “A youth hostel.” Yes. “We have an age limit of 35.” I didn’t notice any age limits on the website when I booked the reservation. She made an exception for me. Although I was clearly the oldest guest, young people from many countries struck up conversations with me and I felt right at home.

Brussels YOUTH hostel

Lora at a YOUTH hostel in Brussels

The museums, churches and the European Parliament filled my days, as well as a massive march opposing the Death Penalty.  One day I caught the train to Tilburg to visit an Egyptian friend pursuing his graduate studies there. Another day I took the train to Leuven to attend the Women in Black international conference. We stood outside city hall holding our signs in our vigil for peace and the end of war. When the organist in the church across the plaza played John Lennon’s IMAGINE, many of us had tears. It was the most meaningful vigil I’ve ever participated in.

PARIS, LYON and GENEVA:

A train to Paris (3 days), on to Lyon (7 days), and then a bus to Geneva (7 days) connected me to Mona, Naki, Eva and a new friend – Claire Elise. This was my second visit to Paris. I wasn’t interested in seeing the typical tourist sites. Instead, I spent one day walking around the Marais neighborhood only a few steps from my hostel. This is the Jewish quarter with very different architecture and history than most other districts in Paris. The Shoah Memorial and the Museum of Jewish Art and History captured my attention; a beautiful piano recital at the oldest church in Paris where Herbert du Plessis performed Chopin and Liszt soothed my restless soul; and a tour inside Notre Dame Cathedral and the Crypt under the plaza in front turned out to be prescient. Five weeks later, Notre Dame was engulfed in flames.

On March 10, I headed to Lyon on the train (the European Union has wonderful trains) and again I spent the days walking, walking, walking. The stairs up Fourvière Hill, the historical site of Lyon, almost did me in. The effort was worth it to see the whole city of Lyon below and the Basilique de Fourvière.

I joined students protesting climate inaction on Friday, and thousands of people marching and demanding climate action on Saturday. But I was questioning my next steps. Should I return to the US? Then I received a WhatsApp message — my name had been included in a medical convoy traveling to Gaza in a month!

Suddenly, my focus shifted to fundraising for the medical convoy. I consulted with a seasoned fundraiser and decided to record short videos about my campaign. Before returning to Cairo to join the convoy, I decided to meet a friend in Geneva.

Lora and NakiThere are people who touch your heart unlike any other. I hadn’t seen Naki since our days together in Cairo at Pension Roma seven years ago. When we reconnected in Geneva, and I met her husband, I felt the time melting away. We’re bonded together whether we share any physical space or not. I can’t explain it. 

We visited the International Committee of the Red Cross and I dreamed of a career my alter ego could have/should have had. My own career trajectory seemed so pitiful in comparison. Regrets and more regrets.

One day I walked past a well-organized Zionist demonstration in front of the United Nations Building. They were condemning the UN Human Rights Council meeting which had just wrapped up a discussion about Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. Back at the hostel, a young man overheard me talking with someone about the demonstration. He was from Brussels and had traveled to Geneva to be part of it but had questions after Googling information about some of the people who had spoken. He supported Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism, but the information he found indicated the speakers at the demonstration were Far Right reactionaries. He was questioning what the “other side of the story” might be. We had a good engaging conversation, listening to each other, and both agreeing to disagree respectfully. We agreed on the most important thing —- that it’s important to build bridges across the great divides in our society.

I learned something important in Geneva. It takes courage to walk across the divide and speak with the opposition (whether Israel-Palestine, pro-choice and pro-life, etc). That young man showed me how to do it, with respect and an open mind and heart. I hope I can emulate him in future conversations I have, and take the initiative to reach out across the divide.

MILAN, COMO and VENICE:

My three weeks in Italy (March 23 – April 11) was an adventure of pure convenience. I didn’t know anyone there, but it was so close. I didn’t want to pass up a chance to see a part of Italy I’d never visited. I also didn’t want to pass up the chance to take a bus through the Swiss Alps!

I was still managing 10,000 steps in Milan but not every day, and my gait was much slower. My posture must have given me away. Clerks were routinely asking me if I needed assistance and offering me special consideration to get to the front of the line. My head felt young and inquisitive, but my body was feeling its age. I thought about attending a performance at the Teatro alla Scala but I was too tired to stay out late.

Throughout my journey, I’d been reading history books about the places I visited. For the very first time, my high school history lessons were beginning to make sense. This was especially true in Milan and Venice.

Milan will always stick in my mind as a high-fashion center of clothes and design with very good public transportation, and some of the most magnificent buildings I’ve ever seen. I felt like a country bumpkin wearing the same things I’d been wearing for the past 6 months, but there was no one to complain, and I took a shower every other day. Ha!

A guest at the hostel raved about his visit to Lake Como, so I decided to take the train there the next day. The natural beauty + the town’s charm = a very special spot to return and settle down for a spell to write. I rode the funicular up the mountain. Just imagine — it’s been in operation since 1894.

Then I boarded a train to Venice (March 27 – April 11). Train travel everywhere was easy, inexpensive, and a joy. When will the U.S. emulate Europe’s leadership in public transportation?

Arriving at the Santa Lucia Train Station, I had directions to my hostel on Giudecca and knew I had to get a vaporetto (water taxi).  I knew exactly which one too.

I asked the first man who approached me for directions. He was slick and firm with his response. He could take me to my hostel on his private water taxi for a princely sum. I insisted I was looking for the public taxi, and he finally caved and pointed me in the right direction. As I walked off pulling my suitcase behind me, a young man said “Good job!” I asked “What?” And he told me I handled the pesky taxi sales person very well. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest level of confidence, I think my confidence traveling alone has shot up to 8 or 9 since I started this journey in Malaysia six months ago.

venice-sestieri

I loved Venice so much, and the people were so welcoming, I decided to stay two weeks and really explore. Venice is definitely the city to walk. I walked everywhere, every day, but now slightly limping on my left leg. I explored nooks and crannies that I suspect the first time tourist never sees, but I also visited all of the tourist sites. I purchased Jan Morris’ book “Venice” at the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and took it everywhere I went. The weekly transit pass for the vaporetto was 60 Euros and well worth it. I jumped on and off several times each day, along with Venetians and their pet dogs. Venetians love their dogs.

The Vivaldi concert at Chiesa San Vidal was excellent. The food everywhere was delicious but expensive. Along with the calories, I was counting my Euros carefully.

Naila and the Uprising 3Every day I was fundraising for the medical convoy to Gaza, and slowly making progress. Asking people for money is difficult but I have overcome my reticence because I know the need is so great. One evening I decided to go to the mainland to see “Naila and the Uprising” — the same film that I’d seen at the film festival in Malaysia. I was curious to see how many people might show up. Are the Italians good solidarity activists for Palestine? I was pleased to see a roomful of people (probably 75-100) of all ages. My biggest surprise was seeing Naila herself, the central protagonist of the film, at the event with her husband. They answered questions after the film through an interpreter.

Throughout my travels, I found tremendous support for Palestine, much more so than I’ve seen in the U.S.  Maybe my solidarity work should focus on Americans in my own back yard.

Before I left Venice, I had to know whether there were any plans or actions addressing the inevitable sea rise and impacts of climate change. One evening Piazza San Marco was flooded when there was a convergence of high tides, full moon and lots of rain. It seemed to me the entire city would be under water with rising sea levels.

I asked to meet with the city’s planning director and was pleased that an appointment could be arranged before I traveled. I sat with Vincenzo de Nitto and his colleague, Marco Bordin, and our conversation ranged from the impact of tourism on the historic center of Venice to the inevitable rising sea level. They showed me the MOSE project which should be completed very soon, a series of steel gates at the inlets which will be raised whenever the sea level is expected to rise, and lowered when the water recedes. A technological fix to a new reality, but I wonder if it will work. Many planners and scientists laud Venice as a leader in addressing climate change.

On April 11, I boarded my flight to Cairo to connect up with the medical convoy going to Gaza.  That’s for another story.Coddiwomple

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) — “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

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Three in one: the human mind

Yesterday a friend from Germany acknowledged with approval that I have an open mind.  He was referring to my willingness to rethink my opinion about Antifa after I finished reading a book by the same name.  (For those who may not know, Antifa refers to anti-fascists who oppose fascists using many different tactics, including violence.)

On the very same day, another friend in the U.S. expressed disappointment with my closed mind after I refused to entertain arguments from a climate denier that my friend thought might have some merit. I flatly rejected his invitation to engage in an intellectual exercise to disprove this climate denier’s “facts.”

Of course, I felt validated by my first friend’s pat on the back and irritated by my second friend’s jab when he implied that I couldn’t think for myself but was simply following dogma. He equated my refusal to engage in his intellectual tit for tat as a personal weakness or failure.

Brain

Scanning of a human brain by X-rays

Well, on further reflection, the open mind / closed mind dichotomy are merely two sides of the same coin.

The open mind questions, rethinks, and re-evaluates all information coming in because new information might change one’s opinion. The open mind knows that no one is God and all-knowing. The open mind is a humble mind. Each of us is a fallible human being on a path of constant learning.

On the flip side, the closed mind rejects inquiry or further reflection because the closed mind has a profound certainty that it knows all — at least all about the given issue at hand. The closed mind sees the world as white and black, right and wrong, truth and lies. What beautiful comfort to live in such a world, and what arrogance!

Both sides of this mind have an important role to play, and neither should be rejected outright.

If we didn’t take some facts in our world to be settled, we’d be incapable of decision-making and taking action. “The Earth is round and gravity keeps us firmly planted.” Thank goodness I don’t need to re-evaluate that proposition every day. A closed mind comes in handy sometimes.

If we never questioned the commonly-held beliefs, humanity would never progress. “The Earth is flat.”  Thank goodness someone questioned that “truth”. An open mind charts the path for humanity’s future.

The open / closed mind has particular relevance in the Israel / Palestine “conflict”.

The extremists on both sides have closed their minds to any opinions or facts that might disprove or cast some doubt on their cherished position (whatever that position might be). I wish everyone had an open mind about Israel/Palestine rather than spewing “terrorist” and other dehumanizing venom at each other. Few are willing to entertain any information that might recast Hamas from a terrorist group to a political party duly elected on a platform of resistance to the occupation. Few are willing to have an open mind about the future of the state of Israel apart from their firmly held convictions.

Between the two sides of the same coin — the “open mind” and the “closed mind” — is the rational mind, where “rational” means a mind based on reason or logic., a mind capable of discernment, a mind actively engaged rather than just spouting firmly held beliefs.

I suspect (and I have no studies or reports to support my suspicion) that most humans divide their minds in the following way — 75% closed, 5% open and 20% rational.  Or perhaps that division is too generous to the rational mind.

It’s important to recognize that each of us is operating with all three running simultaneously — our closed mind, open mind and rational mind.

Which mind was I using when I read Antifa?  Just by picking up the book, I was willing to rethink my preconceived notions about Antifa. I chose to read the book not to confirm my previous notions that anti-fascists are hoodlums hyped up on testosterone that prefer violence over nonviolence. I wanted to learn about the arguments and the strength of those arguments presented by an author who was clearly pro-Antifa.

I learned a lot that I didn’t know about Antifa — about the long history of anti-fascists’ movements (primarily in Germany, Italy and Spain … and more recently in the US). I learned about their activities and motivations from the author’s research as well as his personal interviews with anti-fascists. I learned how Antifa responds to the typical arguments against its tactics — some of which I agree with and others I don’t. Finally, I weighed the Antifa tactics in the political climate which permeates much of the world today. I concluded that Antifa has a legitimate role to play and shouldn’t be discounted outright, although I worry about violence that perpetrates more violence.

I was using my open mind and concluded that I needed to revise my perceptions about Antifa.

Which mind was I using when I rejected my friend’s invitation to engage in an intellectual exercise about climate change?

A closed mind reflexively refuses to entertain contrary evidence. My friend called my refusal to engage an example of my closed mind.

A rational mind discerns the utility of engaging, weighs the pros and cons, the likelihood of making an impact or learning something new.

  • I reject climate change deniers and question their motivation.
  • I believe the anthropomorphic impacts on the earth systems are indisputable based on the reports of a vast majority of scientists over many decades, and the IPCC reports and articles by James Hansen and others whom I respect.
  • I know that the fossil fuel industry has been engaged in deceptive tactics to misinform the public for many years, just as the tobacco industry was in prior years.
  • I’m aware that the vast majority of the scientists believe the window is rapidly closing on our ability to turn this ship around. Should we spend our time debating the reality of climate change or debating about what actions we must take very quickly? I’ve made my choice.
  • Finally, a rational mind asks itself “what’s the downside of being wrong?” In other words, what if the majority of scientists are wrong about climate change, and calls for action are overblown or unwarranted? What’s the impact if Lora Lucero remains ignorant? In my assessment, the world will benefit by getting off fossil fuels and moving towards local economies, public transportation and all the rest of it …. regardless of whether climate change is real or not.  The potential harm of not acting is catastrophic.

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We only have one journey on this Planet, and none of us knows the future. Let’s fully engage our minds — all three minds — in a respectful way.

 

 

 

 

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Signs of the Times

One day in the future, will we look back at the events in 2017 with a sigh of relief or a gasp of horror? We knew and we acted? Or we knew and failed?

This video was put together by organizers of the #PeoplesClimateMarch. The photos below are mine. Read about the March here.

 

Monarch message

moms clearn air force 2

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In Science We Trust

Crowd in front of white house

Librarian

No Sides again

Scott Pruitt

 

 

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I think we can, I think we can!

little red caboose

When I was a young child (1950s-1960s) there were no seatbelts. We rode around in the back seat without a care in the world, listening to my grandfather behind the wheel intoning “I think we can!  I think we can!” in the spirit of the Little Red Caboose as he chauffeured my sister and I up the hill to their house every Sunday afternoon.

We always made it up the hill.

When my children were young, cars routinely had seatbelts but there was no law requiring people to wear them until 1983. We could still get away without wearing them in the back seat until 1989.

Fast forward, thirty years later, and now it’s second nature for most everyone who jumps into a car to put on their seatbelts.

Science Keeping RBG alive

Can we do the same behavior modification to save our planet?

On Earth Day 2017, I worry whether Americans will be able to put on the proverbial seatbelt to curtail our profligate overconsumption and learn to live within the Earth’s finite limits.

youth

First, we don’t see the connection between our personal consumption patterns and the larger, scarier reality that we are directly contributing to the inevitable planetary wreakage.

Second, if we do see the connection, we probably don’t feel our solitary actions will make much of a difference.  So, why change?

Third, many of us believe our quality of life will suffer and the “sacrifices” will be too great.

Fourth, there surely must be a technological fix hiding somewhere given all of the creative geniuses populating Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

The short answer: It’s up to me, you and anyone else reading this blog, to change our consumption habits just as we changed our driving habits. Now, today. In every way. Lets put on our seatbelts!

“I think we can, I think we can” said the little Red Caboose. I think we can change our consumption habits and conserve, reduce, recycle, simplify, live with less, share more, and build a world where every child will make it up that hill.

 

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IMCL conference day #1

Rome is an excellent location for an international conference about making cities livable. If my first impressions are any clue, this city has a mixture of both what works and what doesn’t (yet) work as a livable city.

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Rome, Italy

On the positive side, I count the historical buildings, monuments and architecture, along with the great public transportation, delicious food, and very kind people. On the other hand, the graffiti is a big distraction (it’s on every surface visible to spray paint). The homeless sleeping under the bridges, and the urban poor are clear reminders of the inequities that exist. I rode a city bus to the end of the line on the far west side of Rome and saw poor neighborhoods that most tourists won’t see.

An Italian architect who helped make the local arrangements for this conference lamented that his colleagues didn’t even bother to show up. “They could learn so much from IMCL speakers,” he said, “but instead we [architects] are making life worse and worse in our cities.”

The four days are jam-packed with presentations. Participants (I’m guessing 100+) are a mix of architects, urban designers, planners, policy folks and elected officials from around the world, and the venue (Pontificia Universita Urbaniana, Vatican City) is well-equipped for the program.

I presented a paper about Gaza on the first day (more in a future blog post) but my two colleagues from Gaza are not here. Israel wouldn’t allow Yaser to leave the Gaza Strip, and Italy wouldn’t give Eman a Visa to enter the country. (More here about the travel restrictions.)IMG_4555

Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard, IMCL Co-Founder and Director, opened the conference with words that easily resonated with me about what’s wrong with our city-building today. There are two competing value systems at work, she said. The first is based on GDP, where the city is seen as an economic engine, and its function is to fuel growth and raise the standard of living; while the second is based on the Quality of Life. In this model, the function of the city is the “care and culture” (Lewis Mumford) of people and of the earth.

Some of the highlights from her presentation:  Extreme capitalism creates a consumer society where we find hundreds of ghost cities in China; vertical sprawl in cities like Hong Kong (the least affordable housing in the world); and New York City with its “safe deposit boxes in the sky” (investors are stashing their $$ in high-rises, seen as good investments). In Tokyo’s housing, there are high levels of hikikomori — people who suffer from severe social withdrawal. Some estimate there are more than 700,000 hikikomori in Japan. Teenagers will not leave their bedrooms for days, weeks, even months at a time while their meals are left on trays outside their door. High-rise living can be detrimental to physical and mental health, and we see higher rates of obesity and related chronic diseases. Paris has a population of 20,000 people per square kilometer in 6 stories, but now is considering adding high-rises to its skyline.

Suzanne summarized the IMCL Principles of TRUE URBANISM: (as opposed to new urbanism?)

  1. Facilitate community social life. Key to achieving a high quality of life for all is the way we treat the public realm. The most essential task is to make it possible for people to come together, to form friendships and face-to-face social networks, and to develop social capital and community, but we seem focused on over-investment in private property and under-investment in the public realm.
  2. Facilitate contact with nature, including nature everywhere in our cities, and make nature accessible to children. My ears perked up when Suzanne mentioned community gardens. I wish my defunct community garden in Albuquerque was growing and active.
  3. Facilitate independent mobility. We must focus on balanced transportation planning that first prioritizes walking, second on biking, third on public transit, and lastly on the car. Living streets (“Wohnstrasse” designated by the international blue sign) have been traffic calmed and are safe for children and elders.
  4. A hospitable built environment that frames social life. Human-scale and mixed use environment instead of the mono-culture zoning districts in the U.S. which divide uses.

“Profit is privatized

Loss is socialized”

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Richard Jackson (r) and Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard (l)

 

Richard Jackson, a physician and professor of environmental sciences at UCLA, shared some provocative thoughts when he asked “will we merit gratitude from our grandchildren?” Dr. Jackson says the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has been right about everything it has projected for the past 20 years with the exception of one thing.  The pace of change is occurring much faster than the IPCC experts thought it would. He used many of the same climate change slides that I have used when I talk about climate change —- but one stood out for me.  The IMF tells us that the fossil fuels industry is subsidized to the tune of $10 million/minute!! Estimate of $5.3 TRILLION for fossil fuels, much greater than our total expenditures for healthcare.  (At that point, my blood pressure was rising.)  He said there are 20 Attorney Generals in the U.S. filing a lawsuit against Exxon, similar to the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.

Are we guilty of child abuse?  Maybe, but certainly we are guilty of child neglect by our acts of omission — our failure to protect our children and grandchildren from the ravages of climate change, and subjecting them to a life of inactivity, in large part by the way we’ve built our cities.  There’s a lot of research out about the impacts of the built environment on our children’s health. I’m going to look for the May 2016 JAMA issue when I return home. Finally, Dr. Jackson mentioned British Columbia’s carbon tax which has dropped carbon use by 16%.  It’s working and others should follow their example.

Father Alejandro Crosthwaite, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontificia Universita San Tommaso, Vatican City, addressed how the Pope’s Laudato Si relates to city planning.  I read the Laudato Si last summer when it was released, see here. Father Crosthwaite said The Holy See was shocked with the impact of the Laudato Si, especially among non-Christians. A number of good questions followed his presentation. Someone observed that the church hierarchy has been slow to teach and speak about the Laudato Si, another thought the Vatican needs a good marketing campaign to spread the word. Father Crosthwaite acknowledged that a lot more needs to be done and applauded the laity for taking the leadership around the world. The “structures of sin” didn’t come from outer space, they came from each of us as individuals, and so we need to do this both as a community and as individuals. Key for the Pope is “dialogue.” The Vatican city-state is now carbon neutral. They bought a forest to offset the carbon use within the Vatican as well as transitioning to solar energy. The Vatican also works closely with the United Nations, influences the meetings and discussions about climate change.

Richard Economakis, architect and professor at the School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, shared a presentation entitled “Streets of Hope: Outlining an Urban, Environmentally Responsible Approach to Housing EU Asylum-Seekers”. I want to visit some of the refugee camps on the Greek Islands and was keenly interested in how Richard proposed to meet the challenges presented by this “migration of biblical proportions”. He mentioned that IKEA is producing housing for refugees using PVC components, non-degradable materials and designed to last 2 years. The Swiss government rejected IKEA’s housing as a fire safety hazard.

Professor Economakis stressed the “principle of repurposability” – meaning that designing and building human settlements for the refugees should consider the future reuse or repurpose of the structures once the refugees have moved on. Richard and eight of his graduate students prepared a Master Plan for the creation of temporary Refugee Villages to serve as processing centers for the refugees seeking asylum in the EU. He was kind enough to give me a copy. I hope I can find a way to send it to my colleagues in Gaza.

Statement of Intent

Let us build modest homes to serve as temporary shelters for the dispossessed in those ports and towns of their arrival. We must do so responsibly, using natural materials which have no carbon footprint, and in such a way that buildings can easily be torn down when they cease to be useful, without significantly impacting the environment – or else they should be able to stand for generations. Let us arrange the houses to form real communities of hope, villages that dignify the waves of tired men, women and children while they wait for their asylum requests to be processed. When the crisis abates and the refuges have moved on to new places and new lives, these towns may serve the hosting nations by being converted into affordable neighborhoods, academic villages or resorts.

Are there ideas here that might be applicable to the Gaza Strip?  I think so.

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Singing for the future in Gaza

My heart sings when I hear these young people. They are the hope for the future.

 

 

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Beyond COP21

cop21Everyone is celebrating the COP21 agreement — the world’s collective response to climate change. Read the agreement here.

President Obama said: “We’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change,” he declared. “We came together around the strong agreement the world needed. We met the moment.”

The Palestinians say they will submit to the U.N. secretary-general their instruments of accession to the global climate change convention.

The Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, says “we are so proud of this moment.” He says the Palestinians will become the 196th state party to the convention. It is currently an observer state.

Pope Francis on Sunday hailed the UN climate accord reached in Paris but warned the key now lay in its implementation, especially in help for the poor.

If the goal was to reach an agreement — any sort of agreement — then the applause is understandable. One word nearly killed the deal on the very last day.

I wasn’t in Paris and wasn’t part of the effort to reach an agreement, but one participant in the negotiations shared:

The intense work of civil society advocates in lobbying various delegates, in strategizing, in sharing ideas, in reaching consensus was impressive to observe and participate in.

I fully recognize that the COP21 agreement represents a major shift in the global consciousness about climate change.  This NY Times story is a must-read for understanding and appreciating the context and history leading up to the Paris meeting.

but

If the goal of the COP21 agreement was (is?) to shift the planet away from its current destructive path, then we failed.  (See here and here and here for descriptions of our current path and projections for the future.) 538184_10150847367692709_547417736_n

Why is the COP21 agreement a failure?

  • Even if the parties completely fulfill their aspirational goals to reduce CO2 emissions, we will see an increase of 3 to 5 degrees C in global temperatures by the end of 2100. The media focuses on the discussion in Paris about 1.5 or 2 degrees but that is inconsistent with the specific commitments made by the parties in the agreement.
  • If history is to be our guide, then we know that countries will not meet their aspirational goals. And there’s nothing in the COP21 to hold any country’s feet to the fire. There’s no legally binding enforcement mechanism in COP21. So the planet is more likely to witness global temperatures rising much higher than 3 to 5 degrees C.
  • The bottom line, Earth will not be capable of sustaining life as we know it by the end of this Century with or without the COP21 agreement.

That’s a “take-away” message that the majority of us either can’t comprehend, refuse to believe, or just plainly reject.

"Instead of embracing these grassroots alternatives," writes Munic, "politicians have fallen under the spell of corporations pushing false solutions to climate change." (Photo: Ronnie Hall/Friends of the Earth International)

“Instead of embracing these grassroots alternatives,” writes Munic, “politicians have fallen under the spell of corporations pushing false solutions to climate change.” (Photo: Ronnie Hall/Friends of the Earth International)

So while the mainstream media and some climate negotiators are sharing congratulatory praise for the COP21 success, I want my family and friends to focus on what we must do very quickly to change the path we’re traveling on together.

We need to inform ourselves. We need to act. We need to upset the BAU applecart (“Business-As-Usual”) and do anything it takes to destroy our current fossil fuel economy while rebuilding our local, livable, sustainable communities.

Bill McKibben says:  You’ve got to stop fracking right away (in fact, that may be the greatest imperative of all, since methane gas does its climate damage so fast). You have to start installing solar panels and windmills at a breakneck pace – and all over the world. The huge subsidies doled out to fossil fuel have to end yesterday, and the huge subsidies to renewable energy had better begin tomorrow. You have to raise the price of carbon steeply and quickly, so everyone gets a clear signal to get off of it.

We know what needs to be done, there are no excuses for our failure to act. 522340_535769796438370_364932514_n

Begin by reading or watching This Changes Everything. Then reduce your consumption (power, “stuff” and meat and dairy). Thanks to Chuck McCune for this energy calculator. Get plugged in with others working to set us on the right path such as 350.org, Climate Action Network, Citizens Climate Lobby, and many more.

Then  ACT ….. and continue until you draw your last breath. This is our responsibility to those yet unborn in 2050 and beyond.

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In Albuquerque with friend Nancy Galloway

November 2011 in front of the White House

(November 2011) In front of the White House

Loaded into the paddy wagon in front of the White House (August 2011)

Mohammed and Lora in Gaza on Earth Day 2013

Mohammed and Lora in Gaza on Earth Day 2013

 

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The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

My twin passions — climate change and Gaza — are puzzling to some of my friends. “What’s the connection?”

Justice and Life – pure and simple. 

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Mohammed and Lora in Gaza on Earth Day 2013

The occupation of Palestine, and the destruction of our planet, are each the result of human avarice and a destructive sense of superiority over others.

Humans think we have things under control on this fragile planet. We treat all life-forms as garbage, but with a little tinkering here or there, we believe we can restore the necessary balance to maintain our dominance. Wrong!  It requires a whole new radical rethinking about our rightful place among all life-forms on this planet.

Zionists think they have the Occupation of Palestine under control. With a little Hasbara and military support from its best friend, the USA, Zionists have a destructive sense of security believing they can maintain their State of Israel as a home for Jews only, while treating Palestinians as garbage. Wrong! It requires a whole new radical rethinking about each other’s humanity and their rightful place living as neighbors.

The planet and the Palestinians are not garbage!

I’m mourning these injustices, and I’m mourning the willful blindness that plagues so many (the majority?) of Americans.

We can all do better. I know it. I can see it in my “mind’s eye” but it’s difficult to have hope as the COP21 comes to a close in Paris this week and as Israel’s security forces have killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank so far THIS MONTH.

Pope Francis released his Encyclical on the Environment and Human Ecology earlier this year.

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In August, Muslims issued the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. The full text is here. I’m not surprised that religious leaders from these two great faith traditions agree: (1) climate change is real, (2) catastrophic climate change is human-caused, (3) human greed and over-consumption are big factors, and (4) God/Allah will not save us from our folly. He/she expects us to wake-up and restore the balance in the creation God/Allah gave us.

Some excerpts from the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change follow:

The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature. The epoch in which we live has increasingly been described in geological terms as the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans”. Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet.

An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for. Humankind cannot afford the slow progress we have seen in all the COP (Conference of Parties – climate change negotiations) processes since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was published in 2005, or the present deadlock.

We affirm that –

God created the Earth in perfect equilibrium (mīzān);

By His immense mercy we have been given fertile land, fresh air, clean water and all the good things on Earth that makes our lives here viable and delightful;

The Earth functions in natural seasonal rhythms and cycles: a climate in which living beings – including humans – thrive;

The present climate change catastrophe is a result of the human disruption of this balance –

وَالسَّمَاء رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ

أَلاَّ تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ

وَأَقِيمُوا الْوَزْنَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلا تُخْسِرُوا الْمِيزَانَ

وَالأَرْضَ وَضَعَهَا لِلْأَنَامِ

2.5 We recognize the corruption (fasād) that humans have caused on the Earth due to our relentless pursuit of economic growth and consumption. Its consequences have been –

Global climate change, which is our present concern, in addition to:

Contamination and befoulment of the atmosphere, land, inland water systems, and seas;

Soil erosion, deforestation and desertification;

Damage to human health, including a host of modern-day diseases.

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

WE CALL

3.1 We call upon the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol taking place in Paris this December, 2015 to bring their discussions to an equitable and binding conclusion, bearing in mind –

The scientific consensus on climate change, which is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems;

The need to set clear targets and monitoring systems;

The dire consequences to planet earth if we do not do so;

The enormous responsibility the COP shoulders on behalf of the rest of humanity, including leading the rest of us to a new way of relating to God’s Earth.

3.2 We particularly call on the well-off nations and oil-producing states to

Lead the way in phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century;

Provide generous financial and technical support to the less well-off to achieve a phase-out of greenhouse gases as early as possible;

Recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources;

Stay within the ‘2 degree’ limit, or, preferably, within the ‘1.5 degree’ limit, bearing in mind that two-thirds of the earth’s proven fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground;

Re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.

Invest in the creation of a green economy.

3.3 We call on the people of all nations and their leaders to –

Aim to phase out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere;

Commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible, to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities;

Invest in decentralized renewable energy, which is the best way to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development;

Realize that to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway and expected to continue for many years to come.

Set in motion a fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which depletes resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.

Prioritise adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt. And to vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples, women and children.

3.4 We call upon corporations, finance, and the business sector to –

Shoulder the consequences of their profit-making activities, and take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint and other forms of impact upon the natural environment;

In order to mitigate the environmental impact of their activities, commit themselves to 100 % renewable energy and/or a zero emissions strategy as early as possible and shift investments into renewable energy;

Change from the current business model which is based on an unsustainable escalating economy, and to adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable;

Pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, particularly to the extent that they extract and utilize scarce resources;

Assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy and the scaling up of renewable energy and other ecological alternatives.

3.5 We call on all groups to join us in collaboration, co-operation and friendly competition in this endeavour and we welcome the significant contributions taken by other faiths, as we can all be winners in this race

وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ

He (God) wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good deeds.

Qur’an 5: 48

If we each offer the best of our respective traditions, we may yet see a way through our difficulties.

3.6 Finally, we call on all Muslims wherever they may be –

Heads of state

Political leaders

Business community

UNFCCC delegates

Religious leaders and scholars

Mosque congregations

Islamic endowments (awqaf)

Educators and educational institutions

Community leaders

Civil society activists

Non-governmental organisations

Communications and media

وَلاَ تَمْشِ فِي الأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّكَ لَن تَخْرِقَ الأَرْضَ وَلَن تَبْلُغَ الْجِبَالَ طُولاً

Do not strut arrogantly on the earth.

You will never split the earth apart

nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature.

Qur’an 17: 37

We bear in mind the words of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves

Hadīth related by Muslim from Abu Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī)

Some friends and colleagues are totally engaged in climate change, but reject any criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. While other “activists” are thoroughly absorbed with Palestine, believing “others will solve climate change.”   We must help each other recognize that our souls cannot be divided.  Life and justice requires our attention and action on both.

 

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On Poverty and Climate Change

(This article was written by Gerard O’Connell, special correspondent in Rome, and originally published in America 4-29-15, and then reprinted in the Saint Ignatius Catholic church bulletin on May 17, 2015.)

“We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, told this to a conference of 60 scientists and academicians, political leaders (including the Presidents of Italy and Ecuador), business experts and representatives of the world’s major religions, at a summit in the Vatican on April 28.

Pope Francis gives his thumb up as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Pope Francis gives his thumb up as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

He addressed the high-powered gathering after “a fruitful and wide-ranging conversation” with Pope Francis, during which the pontiff confirmed that his encyclical on protecting the environment is finished and being translated, and expected to be published in June.

“I am very much looking forward to the upcoming encyclical,” the UN chief said; “it will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience.”

Indeed, he noted, “eradicating extreme poverty, ending social exclusion of the weak and marginalized, and protecting the environment are values that are fully consistent with the teachings of the great religions.” Listening to him were representatives from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the World Council of Churches, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, all of whom expressed full support of the call for action.

The Korean-born UN leader commended Pope Francis, and the faith and scientific leaders present, “for raising awareness of the urgent need to promote sustainable development and address climate change.” He identified climate change as “the defining issue of our time” and emphasized that on this subject ”there is no divide whatsoever between religion and science.” He believes the leaders of the world’s major religions now have a key role to play in the quest to get the community of nations to truly embrace sustainable development and reach a global agreement to address climate change.

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

“2015 will be a defining year” in this regard, Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the conference. In a wide-ranging talk he recalled “the great achievements of the last two centuries,” marked by remarkable scientific, technological and economic progress that has led to “significant numbers enjoying lifespans, livelihoods and lifestyles unimaginable for our ancestors”; a progress “that has lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty” and transformed transport and communications.

This progress, however, has come with “unacceptable costs” and “starkly rising disparities,” the cardinal stated. It has left “vast numbers of people excluded and discarded, their dignity trampled upon,” in what the Pope has branded as “the throwaway culture.” As a result of this, “at least three billion of the seven billion inhabitants of the planet are mired in poverty, a third of them in extreme poverty, while privileged global elite of about one billion people control the bulk of the wealth and consumes the bulk of the resources.” He recalled how “the world produces more than enough food to feed its 7.3 billion inhabitants, but over 800 million (over 11%) go hungry,” while each year “one third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted.”

“We have treated the natural world with the same indifference, abusive treatment and throwaway approach,” the cardinal stated. Thus today, “the ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth’s delicate ecological balance on almost-unfathomable scale.”

“In our recklessness – he said – we are traversing some of the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries. And the lesson from the Garden of Eden still rings true today – pride, hubris, self-centeredness are always perilous, indeed destructive. The very technology that has brought great reward is now poised to bring great ruin.” He mentioned the disasters that have happened already in the Philippines and elsewhere.

The Vatican cardinal concurred with the UN Secretary-General and the renowned scientists present including Nobel Laureates such as Paul Crutzen, as well as representatives of the major world religions, and leading authorities in the field like Jeffrey Sachs, that climate-related disasters are a reality both for poor countries on the margins of the modern economy and for those at its heart.”

Speakers concurred that all the evidence leads to one conclusion: “We must fundamentally change our ways” (Ban Ki-Moon); “We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people” (Turkson). Participants later gave voice to this in a joint statement at the end of the day-long conference, which was held in the Vatican at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Science, whose president, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chaired the meeting.

Both the UN chief and the cardinal explained that crucial agreements to ensure a safer future for the whole of humanity and greater social justice are within reach at the high-level international conferences that will be held in 2015, if there is the political will. In July, the third International Conference on Finance for Development will be held in Addis Ababa. In September, the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development (and the goals to achieve this) will be held in New York, at which Pope Francis will give the opening address. Finally, government leaders will gather in Paris from 30 November to December 11 to forge a meaningful agreement on climate change.

An essential goal for a meaningful agreement on climate change requires states to sign onto an accord to prevent global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. But Ban Ki-Moon warned that this is imperative because “we are currently on course for a rise of 4-5 degrees Celsius, and this would alter life on earth as we know it.” To keep within the 2 degrees limit means moving to a low-carbon pathway and investing in clean energy that can power truly sustainable development.

Jeffrey Sachs

The technology exists to effect such a change, at a relatively low cost in global terms. Professor Jeffrey Sachs told the conference. “To stay below the 2 degrees Celsius limit we have to decarbonize the world’s energy system. It requires us to move to a very low-carbon electricity through the use of solar, geo-thermal and hydro-powers. This requires putting a price on carbon to create proper economic incentives so that utilities move to a clean system and away from fossil fuels.”

He explained later in interviews that “this means leaving ‘stranded assets’ such as oil, gas, coal, underground” but here, he noted, “the largest oil-producing countries and the major oil-companies are the ones that are most resistant to the changes that are needed to make the world safer.”

Asked about the minority who deny the scientific evidence that climate change is due to man and are against such a move to decarbonize the world’s energy system, Sachs said they ignore the fact that climatology is an established science for over a hundred years, and that the scientific evidence “is overwhelming.”

Professor Sachs said these people persist in a libertarian ideology that wants to operate freely without government interferences, whatever the cost. He said misinformation about climate change is disseminated by a smaller group that has a lot of political power in the USA right now: the very rich, the power of the oil and coal industries, and they pay politicians. Such misinformation is spread by the media linked to the fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – industries, such as that of the Koch brothers. That same propaganda is also very strong in Robert Murdoch’s media. Nevertheless, Sachs believes that about two-thirds of Americans understand the issue properly; they know that it’s dry in California and there are big storms, and they know things are changing.

He’s calmly optimistic that agreement on climate change can be reached in Paris. The signs are good as many leaders in the oil industry are taking personal responsibility and reflecting on the risks to the world, and saying we need to do something. But he’s waiting to see if, for example, Exxon-Mobil in the United States will come on board and take a moral stance too.

He noted with joy that shareholders around the world are saying we will not invest in irresponsible practices; they are calling for shareholder resolutions and divestment protests. Many universities and foundations have now divested and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Norway, which is the world’s largest wealth fund at almost a trillion dollars, is going to scrutinize its investments through a moral framework.

Sachs said the call from scientists and religious leaders is very important in helping people understand the urgent need for change, and he believes that Pope Francis’ encyclical will have a big impact in supporting the dynamic for change at “this historical moment.”

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