Half a dozen heroes to think about

My wife and I watched the movie “Harriet” on Friday about the American hero Harriet Tubman. She helped over 300 slaves find their way to freedom. Her courage, tenacity, faith and smarts are highly commendable. The movie is excellent and quite moving.

It got me thiking about a few other heroes. Let me mention three more historical heroes who need more notoriety, before I close with two current ones who deserve the shout out.

I have written before about Alan Turing, the father of modern day computing. He led a team that cracked the Nazi Enigma code used in secret transmissions. Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower said Turing and his team helped shorten the war by two years and save 750,000 lives. Sadly, Turing had to hide the fact he was gay and was later imprisoned after his sexual preferences were discovered. What if they had discovered he was gay in 1940 rather than 1950? Would those 750,000 people have died?

Two men who should get more acclaim are Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. What did they do? In October, 1973, they refused in succession to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox at the direction of President Richard Nixon and were themselves fired. This was the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon called the Watergate investigation a “witch hunt” and said repeatedly “I am not a crook.” He was wrong on both counts. It wasn’t and he was.

A current hero is only sixteen years old, Greta Thunberg, the climate change activist from Sweden. She has inspired tens of millions kids, teens and adults in urging the need for more climate change action. I find her candor and can-do attitude refreshing. She has gotten the attention of legislators, but they need to act. We are behind where we need to be.

The other current hero is former US ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Yovanovitch. She was the first to testify to the House impeachment committees. Her political courage and respect for the US constitution is enviable. Her testimony led others to also brave testimony, especially in light of a vindictive president who they reiterated abused his powers. I cannot emphasize their courage enough, as more than a few Republican legislators feel the same but are not as courageous and fear the wrath of the president and his base.

Going against the grain in the face of adversity should be valued. Tubman freed herself and traversed over one hundred miles alone. Then she went back at great personal risk and freed more people. I applaud her and these other five people. We all should.

You can’t comb over climate change

“You can’t comb over climate change,” the sign read at the Climate Change strike yesterday. This metaphor speaks volumes about a huge problem that a certain person in leadership continues to hide like thinning hair.

The kids get it. Their passion and acknowledgement of the existential threat to our present and future is even applauded in halls of government. Yet, it shames these legislators who still do not act because their funders tell them not to.

I am both a tree-hugger and a capitalist. I have actually said this to legislators in open forum, which usually draws a chuckle. Yet, i am more than gesting. I left the Republican Party a dozen years ago in large part due to their ostrich-head-in-the-sand stance on climate change. My thesis is I could not be a member of a party that is ignoring the greatest threat facing our planet. There is no Planet B.

The cost of failing to act now will dwarf the cost of action. But, the economics go deeper. The cost of renewable energy is more on par with fossil fuel costs from a production standpoint. When all costs are factored in – acquisition, environmental degradation, transportation, burning, maintenance, health, litigation – the cost of renewables is actually much cheaper than coal and cheaper than natural gas. The dropping costs of renewables continues to drive the increase in their use. Iowa actually gets over 35% of its electricity from wind energy, eg. Even Texas gets over 16% of its electricity from wind.

Being a capitalist, the place for investment is in growth industries, not retrenching ones. Coal has been in demise for the entire decade. Solar jobs are 5X more than coal jobs. And, per the recently passed oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, natural gas was needed to buy time before wind and solar decreased in cost. He said this in the first half of this decade.

So, the future financials favor renewables. Yet, then we must add in that climate change thing. We must address the heating planet being worsened by humans. If we don’t, it is more than just our kids we need to worry about. We need to worry about us.

The kids get it. Adults, are you paying attention?

I am a Conservative Republican. Climate change is real

An article appeared earlier this week in Poltico written by Republican Congressman Francis Rooney from Florida. Rather than speak for him, the following are his opening paragraphs.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I believe climate change is real. It’s time for my fellow Republicans in Congress to stop treating this environmental threat as something abstract and political and recognize that it’s already affecting their constituents in their daily lives.

If we don’t change our party’s position soon, our voters will punish us.

It is well past time for Republicans to recognize the increasing costs and dangers associated with a changing climate. Scientific data empirically substantiates rises in sea and land temperatures which have materially increased over the past 20 years, increased acid in our air and seas, and rising sea levels, which have also increased velocity over the past 25 years.

In the past few years, the U.S. alone has experienced record-breaking tornadoes and flooding, devastating hurricanes, and expansive wildfires. The doubling of the deep ocean heat content in the past 20 years portends significantly more severe storms and hurricanes in the future, creating more and more calls for ‘disaster relief.’

I’m from a coastal district that is directly affected by these issues every day. In fact, my home state of Florida is ground zero for the adverse effects of climate change.”

The article continues, but you get the gist of his theme. More Republicans are speaking out on climate change than before. The reason for the lingering dissent is traceable to the purse strings of the fossil fuel industry which still have a lot of clout, especially in the White House.

Yet, we can no longer wait on other Republicans, including the president. Tangible measures have been happening in the US led by solar and wind energy development and cities looking to improve building and transportation conservation initiatives. Other measures are happening, as well, but the declining cost of solar and wind have led to their proliferation.

We should celebrate the arrival of sixteen year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden who will be speaking to the United Nations  later this month. She understands what the US president refuses to acknowledge. Her candor and advocacy are refreshing.

I also want to give a shout out to oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who died earlier this week. Pickens had been a staunch supporter of wind energy dating back to the first part of the decade. Appearing on “60 Minutes,” Pickens noted back then the significant wind patterns that blow across rhe plain states. Now, Iowa gets over 1/3 of its electricity from wind energy with Texas leading volume with over 1/6 of its larger electric needs met by winds.

Rooney is dead on accurate in my view. I encourage all voters to ask what candidates plan to do about climate change and the environment. If they fail to answer the question or answer poorly, do not vote for them. We can no longer wait.

And the band played on

“And the band played on” comes from a powerful protest song called “Ball of Confusion” sung by The Temptations in the late 1960s and written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. It was also the movie title for a 1993 movie about the slow action to address AIDs during the 1980s..

“And the band played on” is a metaphor pulled from the band continuing to play as the Titanic sank. It is used unflatteringly to address inaction by leadership to address major problems. The Temptations pleaded for action to address inequality, maltreatment of Blacks, the Vietnam War and so on. The movie noted how little the White House cared until they realized that heterosexual people could get AIDs as well.

As of this writing, a sixteen year old girl named Greta Thunberg is stepping onto our shores to address climate change. This young hero began her quest for action last year and became a catalyst for student strikes pleading for action. When her critics encouraged her to be a kid, she said she would love to, but the adults are not addressing this issue, so she said she had to do so, since, her generation will be left with the unsolved problems.

Yet, while she is here to address these issues to the United Nations and those in Washington, the US president is rolling back restrictions on methane and carbon release, which was announced yesterday. Further, the president blew off a G7 meeting to discuss climate change and the burning forests in the Amazon.

This type of action from the US president is what I feared most from his winning the 2016 election. I feared reversal of action on climate change from the federal level and the environment becoming second fiddle. Yet, I must confess the environmental degradation caused by this president and the EPA under the watch of fossil fuel lobbyists Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler has been worse than I expected.

Inaction by this White House would actually be an improvement. On top of announcing the US’ departure from the Paris Climate Change Accord, the rolling back of Obama’s climate plan requirements, deletion  of climate change data from the EPA websites and the forcing out or redeployment of climate change scientists is harmful to our planet and country. We are behind on acting because of similar actions when the second Bush White House was filled with fossil fuel people like Vice President Dick Cheney, including Cheney making sure fracking companies were not exposed to the requirements of the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts (please Google the 2005 Energy Act and Dick Cheney or the Halliburton Loophole).

Fortunately, there are some good things happening in America in spite of this president. Five automakers are ignoring the rollback of increasing MPG requirements under Trump and siding with California’s new requirements. Their thesis is we want younger people to buy our cars, so we better care about the environment because they do. It should be noted that it was announced today that 67% off Republicans between the ages of 18 – 34 believe we must act on climate change. Their leadership can no longer hide on this issue due to fossil fuel funding of their campaigns.

And, other states, cities and companies are addressing climate change with efforts to remove carbon from the air and put less of it there. Wind and solar energy have taken off as costs have declined and other measures like tidal energy, battery storage,  are under way. I wrote recently about these efforts based on the documentary “Ice on Fire.”

The younger generation gets this. And, to be frank, if the Republican Party does not change its paradigm, they may become obsolete. The band can no longer play on. The Titanic is sinking and we must act. I hear criticism about AOC and the Green New Deal. I recognize it is imperfect, but as I tell people, at least it is a plan. We must come together and figure it out. This is far more urgent than politicians are letting on. Please ask them what they plan to do and if they do not answer satisfactorily, do not vote for them. And, please join voices with the young Ms.Thunberg. She should be heeded.

The young folks see the need to act now

“I am growing up in a world whose life systems are unraveling”

Jamie Margolin

The young Mr. Margolin is an attendee at the second annual International Congress of Youth in San Juan, Puerto Rico. People like him and Greta Thunberg recognize the need to act.

Unfortunately, too many of the adults in legislative positions are too beholden to funders to do the right thing. Whether it is not acting on climate change, allowing companies to pollute, or perpetuating profit margins for industries that prey on consumers off fear or some form of pacifier, the legislators are obsequient to their cash cows. And, why do these funders give them money? The Return On Investment (ROI) is huge. The fossil fuel industry has benefitted from multi-trillion dollars of government welfare.

But, these young people look at what is happening and clearly realize what the beholden legislators cannot – WE ARE SCREWED, unless we act. What makes their battles so uphill, is the funders are spending an awful lot of money to keep their ROI going.

The money being spent to convince people climate change is a hoax, not too bad, a natural evolution, etc, dwarfs those trying to get scientific peer reviewed information. As an example, there are about 700 peer reviewed websites discussing the realities of climate change, but there are 30,000 plus faux science sites. And, the current US president’s cabinets are busy burying peer reviewed reports on climate change, deleting data and reports and repositioning or running off climate scientists. Yet, one more climate scientist left the Dept. of Agriculture last week, as his warnings on rice harvests were being buried. “Why?” is an excellent question.

Climate change is not just causing rising sea levels, but that is a huge problem for coastal cities like Miami, the most at risk large city in the world. We are seeing stallled weather systems consistently flood areas. We are seeing drought areas experience worse droughts. We are seeing larger forest fires. And, we are seeing more tick and misquito borne illnesses with more standing water and higher average heat.

Action is occurring due to innovators, cities and states. We need the US federal government to leverage these efforts and not block them or mask the problem. The kids get it. They will also live with the world we are leaving. So, what kind of world do we want to leave them?