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Guest Commentary (4364)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015 00:00

Mark Ruffalo: The Renewable Energy Race Is On

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParisCOP21(Photo: "A message of freedom and 100% renewable energy from Paris. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q")The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.

World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close and the age of renewable energy is dawning.

In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.

This is true for all segments of society—from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.

The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100 percent renewable, too.

ERIN BROCKOVICH OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPorterleak750(Photo: An infrared, time-lapse video of the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California. Photo credit: MSNBC / YouTube screenshot)Since October, residents of Porter Ranch, California, have been exposed to dangerous contaminants from a massive natural gas leak that continues to seep into the air, causing a catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen since the 2010 BP oil spill.

After only a week of visiting families in Porter Ranch, I am already experiencing the headaches, nausea and congestion that have plagued this community living at the center of one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent history.

Southern California Gas Co. or SoCalGas, has essentially ignored the impact to victims and its actions have instead added to their suffering. The company has refused to release air quality data that could be used to protect its residents, it has made relocation very difficult and it has forged ahead with plans to expand its facility before the leak has even been contained.

The enormity of the Aliso Canyon gas leak cannot be overstated. Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground and it shows no sign of stopping. As the pressure from weight on top of the pipe causes the gas to diffuse, it only continues to dissipate across a wider and wider area. According to tests conducted in November by the California Air Resources Board, the leak is spewing 50,000 kilograms of gas per hour—the equivalent to the strength of a volcanic eruption.

At this rate, in just one month, the leak will have accounted for one-quarter of the total estimated methane emissions in the state of California.

2015.21.12 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Frank Gaffney has been around conservative politics longer than the Star Wars franchise. In fact, before the premier of the first Star Wars movie, Gaffney was already working as an aide under Richard Perle -- who later earned the nickname "The Prince of Darkness” -- in the office of the hawkish Democratic Senator Henry M. Jackson. These days he’s spewing anti-Muslim stories, selling fear, attacking comrades, and opponents’ alike, and promoting conspiracy theories galore. And, according to excellent reporting by veteran journalist David Neiwert, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy “has been riding high on the tidal wave of Islamophobia he and similar anti-Muslim organizations have created, with the help of right-wing political candidates who have legitimized their dubious and often outrageous claims.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded Gaffney -- who served in the Reagan administration, is a radio talk show host and contributor to the Washington Times -- “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Too hot to handle even for some conservatives, in recent years Gaffney has found himself banned from affairs organized by the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).

Being banished by conservative comrades didn’t stop Gaffney from organizing such conferences as “Homeland Threats” -- co-sponsored by Brietbart News -- and another Brietbart co-sponsored event called “Uninvited,” which featured panels with a number of well-known anti-Muslim talking heads including Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Gaffney himself.  

2015.21.12 BF BUCHHEIT(Photo: Ano Lobb)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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No one form of government can solve all our problems, especially with a contrarian and confrontational Congress. But greed, poverty, and inequality are some of the main targets of a socialist platform, and the matter of terrorism is put in better perspective by a people committed to social responsibility.

Here are some of the numbers that should shock us into rejecting non-socialist candidates:

1. Terrorism: You're About as Likely to be Killed by a Toddler as a Terrorist

The candidates and the news outlets have driven us into a frenzy of fear, even though the number of Americans killed by toddlers is about the same per year as the number of violent jihadist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. There are more terrorist attacks if the actions of white supremacists and non-Muslim extremists are included. But there are also more toddler killings that go unreported.

Bernie Sanders noted that "the disastrous invasion of Iraq...has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS." And that the United States should be "trying to use diplomacy before war."

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPrisoners2(Photo: Bart Everson)“The question now is how to change our institutions so that they promote human values rather than destroy them.”

Philip Zimbardo, who posed this question in the wake of the famous — or infamous — Stanford Prison Experiment 44 years ago, might have added: If we fail to do so, we guarantee our own social collapse.

The collapse is underway, one broken soul at a time:

“But the basic story the men told was the same: (Leonard) Strickland was pushed down a flight of stairs, and then beaten nearly to death by a large group of guards.”

This is from a recent New York Times investigative piece about inmate abuse at Clinton Correctional Facility, in upstate New York — a particularly boiling cauldron of racism in America’s prison-industrial complex. Almost all of the nearly 1,000 guards who work at the rural prison are white; the inmates, mostly from New York City, are black. Not surprisingly, the prisoners say “they face a constant barrage of racial slurs.”

And racial slurs have a way of escalating, especially under conditions in which one group of people has enormous, unchecked power over another group. Zimbardo called it the Lucifer Effect: the transformation of ordinary, decent people into . . . well, monsters. His 1971 study, in which two dozen college-student volunteers were randomly designated either guards or prisoners in a makeshift “penitentiary” in the basement of Stanford’s psych department, was meant to last two weeks but was called off after six days because the situation had gotten out of control.

Zimbardo said that he came to his senses after an outside observer, who was brought in to conduct interviews, reacted with utter shock “when she saw our prisoners being marched on a toilet run, bags over their heads, legs chained together, hands on each other’s shoulders. Filled with outrage, she said, ‘It’s terrible what you are doing to these boys!’”

2015.17.12 bf marcus(Photo: - POD -)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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$4.4 Trillion Dollars on Middle East Oil Wars

I listened to John Kerry’s optimistic speech at the COP21 Paris climate talks about how the United States is allegedly stepping up to the financial challenge to help poor countries that are or will be facing life-threatening consequences from catastrophic climate change disasters with a sense cynicism.

Some might argue that it is possible that President Obama and John Kerry are trying, but their powers are limited for the reason that they owe their allegiance to the petroleum and weapon industries.

But why then would the US government spend trillions of dollars on missiles, drones, fighter jets, and an infinite supply of bombs to gain oil control in the Middle East if the White House and Congress cared about transitioning from fossil fuels?

2015.17.12 BF berkowitz(Photo: DonkeyHotey)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Donald Trump who sat out the Vietnam War, is ready to “bomb the s**t out of ISIS.” Senator Ted Cruz, who never served in the military, has said several times that he wants to “carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion,” joking that we’ll find out if “sand can glow in the dark.” And, a new poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics, found that in the wake of the Paris attacks, 60 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds polled say they support committing U.S. combat troops to fight ISIS. 62 percent say it ain't gonna be them. Chickenhawkdom is alive and well in America.

In the Tuesday night’s Republican Party debate in Las Vegas, Donald Trump basically advocated a bombing campaign of ISIS that would kill thousands of civilians, including women and children. Responding to a question by moderator Hugh Hewitt, Trump said: “I would be very, very firm with families. They might not care very much about their lives but they do care about their families’ lives.” 

In his stump speeches, Trump has regularly bashed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, calling for his execution. In a campaign stop in Massachusetts, Trump asked, after calling the soldier a “dirty, rotten traitor”: “What do we do with Sergeant Bergdahl, 50 years ago?” Trump shaped his hand like a pistol. “That’s right,” he said. “Boom. Boom!… Boom, he’s gone. He’s gone!” According to the Washington Post, “On at least one occasion, Trump also has also suggested dropping Bergdahl off in Afghanistan, which he said would save the United States a bullet.” (The U.S. Army recently announced that Bergdahl will face a military court on charges of desertion and endangering fellow soldiers.)

Earlier this year, Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, calling him a loser for having his plane shot down. According to Talk2Action’s wilkyjr, “A New York Times writer did research on Trump after his criticism of Senator McCain …. The research by the writer stated that while McCain was suffering incarceration in Southeast Asia, Donald was club hopping in down town New York equipped with a draft deferment, wealth from his father, and personal privileges few enjoyed.”

Senator Ted Cruz, like most of the GOP’s presidential candidates – with the exception of Senator Lindsey Graham – has never served in the military. On Tuesday night in Vegas, after Cruz said he would aggressively bomb ISIS, he was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?” Cruz replied, “What it means is using overwhelming airpower to utterly and completely destroy ISIS.”

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArenewables(Photo: EcoWatch)Nassau, New York, a town of 5,000 people just outside of Albany, New York, plans to disconnect from the electrical grid. Last week, the town board voted to get 100 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. The town is making the move both as a way to “increase its reliance on renewable sources of energy and to gain some energy independence,” Politico New York reported.

“If all goes as planned, within the next four years, all six of the town buildings will be disconnected from the grid,” said Nassau Supervisor Dave Fleming. The rest of the town is developing a plan to get all of its power from renewable sources in the next four years.

“It’s not the be-all to end-all for what we should be doing as a state and a nation, but it’s a good first step,” he said. “From a practical perspective, it’s possible,” he added. “We have a lot of ‘people resources’ in our community.”

The town plans to use a combination of rooftop and ground-mounted solar, wind turbines and methane-capture from the landfill to generate its energy.

Though the tiny town’s transition to renewables may not have the impact of, say, New York City going fossil-fuel-free (Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged for municipal operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy before 2050), it’s just one of many cities and towns around the world making the transition.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaRaindrop(Photo: Acagastya)There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we've made: "Looks Like Rain Again. And Again"; "Alaska Will Keep Melting"; "Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too"; "Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come."

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world's atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

"There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," wrote James Black in 1978.

"Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged," said Roger Cohen in September 1982. "There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth's climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere."

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the '80s the corporation's research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the "greenhouse effect," as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA's renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth's atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. "Global warming has begun," Hanson concluded.

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBullyingNo(Photo: Andrevruas)Bullies love fear. And once they sniff its smoke, the real pros know how to fuel and exploit it. Always claiming to represent the greater good, when what they specialize in is looking out for #1. And flinging loads of #2 at the rest of us. Consequently, the people most susceptible to their reviled reveille are the weak, the ignorant, the powerless, other bullies and folks with neck tattoos.

Hitler, Stalin and Joe McCarthy all secured status in the Big Time Bully Hall of Fame by railing against imaginary enemies. Creating an "us versus them" story line where anybody who doesn't look like us, is a THEM. Which can lead to an incestuous behavior typically endowing royal families with weak chins.

Quickly tiring of having sand kicked in their face by a series of invading hordes, Russia turned to bullies for self- preservation. One of the reasons the Russian people never really warmed up to Mikhail Gorbachev even though we thought he was the bees' knees. Or the bear's hair. Or kittens' mittens. Whatever. We liked him. They didn't.

The architect of Perestroika didn't want to bury the West, he wanted to partner with it, to give his people Madonna CDs and Happy Meals. Bars of soap without splinters of bone in them. Can't we all get along? But after the Soviet Union dissolved, they kicked him out. So, apparently, the answer is nyet, we can't.

Vladimir Putin has since run his country by parading around as the guy you don't want to mess with, compared to Obama, who is the guy you don't want to play backgammon with. Putin is a dangerous bully and wants you to know it. That's why he's always pulling stunts like riding wolves bareback shirtless. Wrestling sharks. For crum's sake, the guy is 5' 7". Barely taller than Tom Cruise. Maybe he should play Jack Reacher in the sequel.

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