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BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillMc2(Photo: EcoWatch)This letter to the future by Bill McKibben is part of the Letters to the Future campaign, a national effort to encourage people from all walks of life to write six generations into the future about climate change. The campaign puts a spotlight on the importance of world leaders agreeing to a global climate treaty at COP21 in Paris.

Dear Descendants,

The first thing to say is, sorry. We were the last generation to know the world before full-on climate change made it a treacherous place. That we didn’t get sooner to work slowing it down is our great shame, and you live with the unavoidable consequences.

That said, I hope that we made at least some difference. There were many milestones in the fight—Rio, Kyoto, the debacle at Copenhagen. By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.

And our cynicism was well-taken. The delegates to that convention, representing governments that were still unwilling to take more than baby steps, didn’t really grasp the nettle. They looked for easy, around-the-edges fixes, ones that wouldn’t unduly alarm their patrons in the fossil fuel industry.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCuffsBerk(Photo: Klaus with K)This is a story about the ginned-up "superpredator" scare of the 1990s, the imprisonment of tens of thousands of black youth, and the survival of Reginald Dwayne Betts.

In the early 1990s, John Dilulio, a Princeton political scientist, coined the term "superpredator" to call attention to "stone-cold predators," "kids that have absolutely no respect for human life and no sense of the future." DiIulio and co-authors described these young people as "fatherless, Godless, and jobless" and as "radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more teenage boys, who murder, assault, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs, and create serious [linked] disorders." Criminologist James A. Fox warned of a juvenile "crime wave storm" and an impending "bloodbath" of teen violence.

Reginald Dwayne Betts was one of the teens caught up in the wave of imprisonment that resulted from these myths. Now, after a long, and sometimes tortuous journey that included eight and a half years in prison, he is now a poet, teacher and law student. He was born months before Ronald Reagan won the White House, and came of age during the Reagan/George H.W. Bush/Bill Clinton administrations, when crack cocaine saturated inner-city streets, fear reigned supreme, the criminalization of young black people became the order of the day, and "lock 'em up and throw away the key" was the criminal legal system's mantra.

Last year, The New York Times' "Retro Report" pointed out that the "superpredator jeremiads ... proved to be nonsense. They were based on a notion that there would be hordes upon hordes of depraved teenagers resorting to unspeakable brutality, not tethered by conscience ... Chaos was upon us, DiIulio proclaimed back then in scholarly articles and television interviews. The demographics, he said, were inexorable. Politicians from both major parties, though more so on the right, picked up the cry. Many news organizations pounced on these sensational predictions and ran with them like a punt returner finding daylight."

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIceTurner(Photo: Doc Searls)Many young people, such as 13-year-old Hallie Turner, are worried that their generation will have to deal with the most intense consequences of unchecked climate change. That’s why Turner, an eighth-grader in North Carolina, is one of a number of young people across the country who is suing her state over its failure to address climate change.

Turner’s case is being brought forth by the help of Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based climate change nonprofit that has helped youth around the country file lawsuits at the state level and is also helping 21 young people sue President Obama and the federal government for violating the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by not addressing climate change. Attorneys from Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and Gayle Tuch, a Forsyth County lawyer, are also representing Turner.

“It’s important to me because I feel like this is an issue that impacts everyone,” Turner told The News Tribune. “And it’s an issue, it’s not only affecting me, but it’s affecting future generations.”

She’s challenging a decision made last year by the state’s Environmental Management Commission and pushing for the state to mandate that North Carolina reduce its carbon emissions by at least four percent each year. “Hallie’s not asking for more than what’s considered best available science,” said attorney Tuch.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCopViolence(Photo: Colocho)So South Carolina has a special crime category called “disturbing schools,” which seems to be creating just that: disturbing schools. Very disturbing schools.

Not that I need to single out South Carolina. In my brief stint teaching writing as an outside consultant in several Chicago high schools, some 20 years ago, I was smacked broadside with the observation that the city’s educational system exhibited the behavior of an occupying army, at least in its low-income neighborhoods. Education was something imposed from above and force-fed to the students like bad-tasting medicine. It didn’t honor the students’ own culture.

What the kids needed was a generosity of understanding that the education system had no interest in giving them, preferring to help them along on their journey to adulthood with zero tolerance and metal detectors.

What has happened to our national intelligence, not to mention our national values? In the era of cellphone accountability, our lack thereof has a new poster boy: Officer Slam. Throw the insolent kid across the floor, break her arm if necessary, slap her in cuffs.

This is how we teach respect. This is how we teach math.

“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f, is this really happening?’” These are the words of Niya Kenny, the brave young woman who stood up to Officer Ben Fields as he manhandled her classmate this past Monday at Spring Valley High School, in Columbia, S.C. “I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackQuakes(Photo: EcoWatch)Just like in Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing a shocking uptick in earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.

The Washington Post reports that Kansas has recorded more earthquakes in the past two weeks alone than there have been in the years between 1990 and 2013. According to the Kansas Geological Survey, between Oct. 15-26, there were 52 quakes, most with a magnitude between 2.0 or 3.0. That’s a huge increase from the 19 earthquakes recorded in the state between 1990 and 2010.

In all, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, the Post reported.

In recent years, Kansas has seen an energy boom-and-bust due to technological advancements in fracking and horizontal drilling. However, this quest for oil and gas has produced mixed results, from harmful waste spills to an increase in seismic activity.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, decided to limit the underground injection disposal of saltwater from oil wells mainly in Harper and Sumner Counties. The decision reportedly tamped down on the number of earthquakes in the area, according The Wichita Eagle.

However, one can only wonder if the recent spate of tremors in the state has anything to do with the commission’s regulations expiring Sept. 13.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPPFA(Photo: S. MiRK)Singing a few lines from "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" -- a song from the Disney 1946 live action and animated movie Song of the South, sung by James Baskett – and sporting a jaunty bounce in his step, Speaker of the House John Boehner stepped up to the podium and announced he was giving up his speakership and leaving Congress. Two years ago, Boehner wasn't nearly as playful after he gave in to demands to shut down the government over a fight over Obamacare. This time around, Boehner, and his Senate partner Mitch McConnell, were determined not to shut down the government despite pressure from his far right conservative brethren to shut-it-down if necessary in the battle over defunding Planned Parenthood.

However, he did give his right flank a gift; a new "select" committee to investigate Planned Parenthood. "Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don't have the full truth," Boehner said last week.

He topped off his gift by appointing Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn to head the committee, which will include seven other GOP representatives (four of whom will be women), and, I presume -- should they choose to participate – several congressional Democrats. The Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee characterized Blackburn as "a partisan so far to the right that she earlier this year told BBC Radio that she doesn't accept the theory of evolution."

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJonStewartAnimals(Photo: David Shankbone)The rumors are true. Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey are turning their 12-acre farm in Middelton, New Jersey into an animal sanctuary affiliated with Farm Sanctuary. The organization has been working for the last three decades to end inhumane farm practices and create better lives for animals. Tracey revealed the news on Saturday night at Farm Sanctuary’s annual gala at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

“We bought a farm in New Jersey, with the intention of starting a farm sanctuary of our own,” she said at the gala, where she and Jon were honored with an award. “We’re getting married. Farm Sanctuary and us, we’re getting married.”

It will be the fourth such Farm Sanctuary site with the original in upstate New York and two in California, according to Farm Sanctuary’s website.

The Stewart’s farm is called Bufflehead, and it’s currently home to four rescue pigs. Future inhabitants, the New York Times reports, will likely include more pigs, as well as cows, sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPoletoparis2(Photo: EcoWatch)You might have heard of Yeb Sano, the former climate change negotiator who became a climate activist after he got fed up with the slow progress of the UN climate conferences. His latest action involves walking from Rome to Paris ahead of the UN talks in Paris, COP21, to draw attention for the need to act on climate change.

Now, another group of people are kicking it up a notch and have decided to run and bike from the North and South Poles to Paris.

The group writes on its blog:

The 12,000 km [about 7,500 miles] long Southern Cycle follows Dr. Daniel Price, specialist in Antarctic climate, on his way from New Zealand to Paris. From the North, Dr. Erlend Moster Knudsen, specialist in Arctic climate, takes on the lead of the 3,000 km [1,800 miles] long Northern Run. Their team members Beth Ward and Oria Jamar de Bolsée join in the run throughout the UK, Belgium and France. They bring with them flags from the two Polar Regions—the regions where the fastest signs of climate change are now observed.

The team from the North started running from the tip of Norway a few weeks ago and crossed the Scottish border yesterday.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDalaiLama(Photo: Rédacteur Tibet)The Dalai Lama urged strong climate action today “to limit global warming and to protect fragile environments, including the Himalayan glaciers and Tibetan plateau,” reports the AP. As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris for the COP21 UN Climate Change Summit, the Dalai Lama created a video message for the world.

“This is not a question of one nation or two nations. This is a question of humanity. Our world is our home,” the Dalai Lama told AP. “There’s no other planet where we may move or shift.”

“Temperatures for Tibet’s high-altitude plateau—referred to as the Roof of the World—are rising about three times faster than the global average, and are 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than they were 50 years ago,” reports AP. The Tibetan plateau is also referred to as the Third Pole because it has the largest store of ice outside of the North and South poles, according to Reuters.

The importance of the Tibetan plateau cannot be understated, “with some 40 percent of the world’s freshwater locked into the frozen Himalayan glaciers and feeding seven major rivers that run through China, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” says AP. The Dalai Lama told Reuters that “two-thirds of the glaciers in their mountain homeland may disappear by 2050.”

Published in Guest Commentary

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBrain(Photo: A pyramidal neuron in the brain)OK, listen ... and please bear with me because I am quite literally writing this with two fingers because my hands hurt. No worries. I'm drunk on cool water and old memories. I'm too old for any of that other nonsense.

I am here to make a simple point. You - yes, you, even the teenagers I know are reading this because I am blessed with a broad spectrum of readers, which is the whole point of the enterprise - will reach a day, who knows when, but it it's out there lurking like a leopard, you will reach a day - and mark my words, this is gospel truth - when you know, not suspect, not fear, not wonder about, not imagine in the dark of your own personal night, I mean know - KNOW, in the horror of flat no-BS truth that there are more years behind you than ahead of you, and lost time is a roar in your ears, and you wince within the fiber of your being again, because you are a jerk, because you didn't appreciate all that this life gave you to the hilt, to the sinew and bone.

To the bone, friends.

I have the gift of photographic memory. My first and oldest friend can attest to this. I have said that one of the prizes you win as an only child is that you get to choose your brothers and sisters. He was my first brother, his family raised me as if I was one of their own, and I remember everything.

On the sadly rare occasions we meet up again, I unspool detailed stories about dark nights in very strange places. He always says the same thing - "How the (expletive) do you remember all that (expletive)?" - whenever I uncork a memory from the maintenance shed where his family rode out their winters, or the night I comforted him when I found him just before dawn weeping silently in the bathroom because he was the youngest of six, and was worried his aging parents were going to die. I held him that night, my dear brother, sitting on the toilet seat in a building that ceased to exist 30 years ago, and we went to his parents' funerals together in the fullness of time, but not before I stood Best Man at his wedding.

... and when he or any of the others I have chosen to call my brothers and sisters ask how I remember all this mundane, lost, minuscule stuff, I always give the same reply: They matter. They are what makes the DNA of a life. They're weird. Best of all, they're absolutely true ... and I remember everything. It is my blessing. It is my curse. It Is.

Published in Guest Commentary
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