Welcome to The Oxford Humanist Educational Association Website
On this page we post critical ideas about how rational, critical thinking can improve the human condition, one of the goals of all Humanists.
Some Major Thoughts Below for Rational People
How is Human Progress Coming Along?
This web site has a large section entitled: Is Human Progress a Myth? We believe the answer is split, that is, some aspects of humanity advance and others decline. Pretty simple. But we occasionally update that thought and attempt it again here.
There has been some fantastic progress recently in science and we hope you have seen one particular event that is astounding (we will review it below).
And of course, one can always find failure in human progress in areas of human security, health, politics, international cooperation, poverty and environmental protection, to name a few. Certainly you would add other areas where humanity fails.
We tend toward the hypothesis that this reflects where progress normally occurs with Homo Sapiens; the species gains knowledge and advances in science and its application in certain areas but fails in many areas of human interactions, environmental protections and in understanding massive problems of overpopulation, climate change and the potential for nuclear war. Our animal nature evolved over millions of years and tends toward greed, xenophobia, ego-focus and of course anthropomorphism. But evolution also gave us our curiosity and ingenuity in applying rational thought to problem solving which gives us science. Philosophers are always considering where our species will “end up” with this mixture of traits and if we can decide and control our final place in the universe.
Let’s review some of this recent progress and absence of it below. Check some out on your own time for mental advancement.
- Welcome to the Class War
- 15,000 Scientists Give Us a Second Warning – November 2017. Twenty-five years after their first warning, this large group of scientists give us their second one.
- CRISPR (Clustered, Regularly interspaced, Short, Palindromic, Repeats). A horrendous research step forward.
- Eylea (An effective eye disease drug brought about through decades of molecular genetics science.). Patients need monthly eye injections at very high prices –about $2000 wholesale but hospitals can mark it up to $11,000! for each shot! And regular shots are often needed. Is that a forward step? The drug cost problem. Isn’t this where “big government” could help out with research and medical advancement?
- United States as Sick Man of the Developed World. Death rate increases, wages go down, labor force participation down, healthcare coverage down, health care performance indicators very low, math scores down, BS degrees down, wealth disparity widens, congressional gridlock and ratings down, corruption of money in politics grows, media very weak in educating the public, etc.
- United States death rate rise surprises experts.
- United States Health Care system Performance indicators low compared to eleven other countries.
Are We Making America Great Again?
What is the Rank of the United States in the 2016 International Environmental Performance Index?
The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University have a profound project whereby they study all major countries of the world and rank them in terms of environmental performance. They measure a countries critical performance in protecting human health from harm and the vitality of its ecosystems. There are nine issues in those two categories including air quality, biodiversity and habitat, climate and energy policy, health of forests & fisheries, health impacts, water resources and water and sanitation. The icons for those nine issues are below from the Yale Center site.
There are 180 countries ranked with these criteria and the top 20, (the best), in order, are:
Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, Malta, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Croatia, Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Ireland and Luxembourg.
Don’t see your favorite country in that list? Measurement Matters. Your health and your ecosystems matter. Check it out at the link above.
Counties in North Carolina Eagerly Installing the words “In God we Trust” on their public Buildings
We are surprised to learn that some NC people are having THEIR religious beliefs installed in shinny, metal words on their county courthouses and admin buildings. The pretense used by the courts in allowing this (up to this point) is the false argument of the history of those words, which are argued as being a “U.S. Motto!” The mistakes in logical thinking being used for this “motto” concept are astounding and we shall show you why. Of course this won’t change a thing in regard to mythical/delusional concepts and reality.
Not wanting to waste too much time on the pretense of the “motto origins,” of this new signage, this quote will clearly demonstrate that the origin is clearly religious:
The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. At least part of the motivation was to declare that God was on the Union side of the Civil War. Wikipedia
Question: What is the origin of the insecurity of those persons who demand their religious beliefs be stuck up on pubic buildings? Answer: It is the decline of religious belief in the Country. So what is the cause of that?
The Western World is in a secular transition which is a typical change with time as all countries grow and undergo modernization. Modernization of course has different speeds in different parts of our Country. Older, rural agricultural areas are slower.
Plenty of data has been collected on this topic and can be seen summarized here. This secular transition away from religion works by generational replacement and there is “no way back.”
An interesting correlation is that countries with a high Human Development Index (high life expectancy, high educational levels, high per capital income, etc.) are the least religious. You can imagine how factors associated with a high Human Development Index (HDI) could cause a drop in religious belief and activity as generations proceed.
Of Interest, the “top ten” countries with the highest HDI, in order, are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Singapore, Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland and Canada.
No one can stop this transition; the United States is in this transition now and it causes this anxiety and insecurity among many persons. Politicians can not stop it with their shinny new letters placed on public buildings as they pander to their constituents who are in denial. We wish them all the best of luck in adjusting to this large-scale secular transition.
But a note to local politicians in North Carolina: remember you insult thousands of your constituents who are not religious or not sure if their god is included in the message of these signs. A very bad decision. It causes hate between different religious beliefs when one religion has its ideas promoted by government. Tolerance drops, heated rhetoric increases, distrust and hatred increase. A very bad decision. To compensate for this travesty, many secular groups will now promote their ideas to influence society, the children of theists will thus be exposed to different religious ideas and they, the theists, will be filled with more hate. A vicious cycle. A very bad decision.
Secular Humanism teaches us that it is immoral to wait for a god to act for us. If one cannot “trust” in oneself and the society that you help create as a citizen, then humanity has failed. There is not a shred of evidence that anyone can “trust” in a god and in fact that statement must be classed as a very irrational one. A delusional one. In fact, which god does the sign refer to? Just yours? There are a number of different gods in the different major world religions and we certainly shouldn’t discriminate nor put religious signs on government buildings.
Here are three quotes on this topic for rational people to read for further thought.
“There is no delusional idea held by the mentally ill which cannot be exceeded in its absurdity by the conviction of fanatics, either individually or en masse” Alfred Hoche
“The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends in part on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear or reasonable contradictory evidence regarding its veracity.” From Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. (the manual published by the American Psychiatric Association which lists all classifications of mental disorders)
The gap between delusion and our everyday beliefs is narrow, say psychiatrists and philosophers of neuroscience; from Skeptic Meditations.
National Day of Reason — May 4th, 2017
Humanists are very, very fond of the National Day of reason because we build our lives on and around reason. We do this because it works, it provides a framework for living and for establishing and maintaining a Democracy. As you can see at the top of this page, the Oxford Humanists promote “Critical Thinking” which is simply applying logic’s rules and some skepticism to our thought processes.
The Day of Reason is celebrated on the same day as the American National Day of Prayer, because we believe the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. It is unconstitutional because this day of prayer was established by the United States Government and prayer is obviously an attempt to communicate with gods. The separation of religion and the state is a basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution. Our brightest founding fathers knew religion had to be kept out of government, for all the historical reasons. They knew religion was mythical and your religion, and your particular god, is a function of where you are born and hence has no real meaning. Most religious cannons state that their religion is the “one true religion” and one must kill those not accepting it; millions are therefore “wrong.” Of course all are wrong. These delusional viewpoints will need to fade with time if our species is to survive.
As this is written, another young Muslim man has killed over 20 persons in Manchester, England as a suicide bomber. A sad, lonely, isolated young man believing the above intolerant, hateful, murderous myths.
Please consider how you might help cause these delusional, dangerous views to fade into history!
And, by-the-way, in the sense of the National Day of Prayer, there is not a shred of evidence that any prayer has ever been answered; occasional “results” indicate nothing beyond chance events.
The above is all very obvious so we shall not dwell here. We need to demonstrate how truth is uncovered by reason and we need to review that concept.
Using Reason basically means using logic, the scientific method, and hence providing evidence for making conclusions. One also has to be careful that ones mind does not trick itself, because ego and self-preservation have been selected during the evolution of human self-awareness in order to maintain assurance and confidence in ourselves. But self-deceit is part of that process and we need to guard constantly against that event.
Using logic does not mean science or humanists have a complete understanding of absolute truth (not yet anyway), but the aforementioned techniques are very, very workable and have given mankind great understanding of the universe — and we have only just begun on this journey. We’ve been on the planet for about two hundred thousand years; not a large number in geological time. But of course the scientific revolution is very recent.
Great feelings of grandeur and joy can be experienced by those studying science and logic. The beauty and majesty seen in the complexity of life, the immensity and mystery of the universe and the very existence of human consciousness are sublime to any thinking person.
Someday science may remove the “mysteries” but that will not change the sublimity of existence. Humanists immerse themselves in the grandeur of existence and always make outward educational attempts in this regard. We work to improve the condition described by James Baldwin that Americans were “afflicted by the world’s highest standard of living and what is probably the world’s most bewilderingly empty way of life.”
And reason and the Arts and Sciences can improve that condition.
So how to understand and spread the use of reason? One can finds lists of false logic or incorrect arguments of logic in many places and we hear these false arguments daily in our communications with others. Of course these false arguments are often presented in advertisements and by politicians and others trying to “sell us something.” And remember, as above, that our own brain is often promoting false thoughts to sustain illusions for our mental well-being. This may allow strange and untruthful words to come out of our mouths. Five minutes of watching politicians speak on television and we will hear the most outrageous violations of logic and often just random non-sequitur thoughts.
Media persons interviewing politicians, or anyone for that matter, MUST ask for evidence anytime anyone makes a claim that is not a fact but is put forward as one. They must constantly do this if we are to have improvement in our government and Democracy in general. “What is your evidence for that statement,” must be at the tip of their tongue and brain.
We could review the hundreds of listed false arguments but you can do that yourself with simple Googling for those lists. Some excellent books are also available. An intelligent, honest person familiarizes himself/herself with the most common of those arguments. You may be surprised to learn how many we all violate regularly and thus end up with muddled ideas and thoughts.
To remind you how reason works, let’s look at some examples of “poor thinking,” numbered 1 through 5 below
1. “Common sense” versus evidence
This editor, when his two daughters were age 6 and 10, I asked them to wait by the front of the garage while I went to the back of it and climbed on the roof. I brought with me to the roof, a heavy brick and a much lighter golf ball. When on the top, I yelled down to them and asked them to step back a safe distance and said: “I let you hold the brick and the ball before I came up, so you could feel their weight. I’m now going to drop them at the same time to the ground. Which one should get to the ground first?” Of course they yelled loudly, “THE BRICK.” I carefully dropped them at the same time and they appeared to hit the ground at the same time. They were confused and ask me to do it again. Good for them. Of course the same thing happened. I tried the brick also with a pencil and other objects. The pairs of objects all appeared to reach the ground at the same time.
I made them skeptics. They both are now grown, married with their own children and they ask many questions, an indicator of a thoughtful person. Educated, thoughtful and self-trained persons do not know everything but they know what questions to ask to solve a problem. One can obtain a formal education or one can educate oneself; libraries are free as is the internet. Careful with that last one; anyone can drop nonsense into it.
Of course later I explained the law of motion to my children that applied in that situation; that all objects fall at the same rate, with the rate of fall not being based on their weight (mass). It’s the “elephant and feather” story. Those two organic objects (feather and elephant) would also fall at the same rate and land at the same time if there was no air resistance to the feather. One can do this with feathers and objects in a vacuum chamber with all the air removed. That is EVIDENCE! And science lives by it. All objects (regardless of their mass) experience the same acceleration when in a state of free fall. Evidence demonstrates this but the mind cannot believe it until one studies the situation, collects the evidence and thinks through the logic and puts it all together (the scientific method).
From and article in a good newspaper:
“………social consensus. This is the idea that if lots of people believe something it is likely to be true. People, it turns out, have been shown to be more confident in their beliefs if others share them. Social consensus turns on the question, ‘Do other people believe the claim?'”
Moral of the story: Like social consensus, which is unscientific, guesswork and often useless, Common Sense often does not work in the many circumstances that are not “concrete,” everyday situations. So don’t be tricked into using common sense in those situations. See a video on this topic.
2. Your Left Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve.
Your left recurrent laryngeal nerve is a nerve running out of our brain to the “voice box,” the larynx. It strangely runs from the brain down passed the larynx and around the aortic arch of the heart and back up to the larynx — considerably extra and unnecessary inches having no function. It is foundin all tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals), having evolved from fish. In the case of giraffes, the extreme detour of the recurrent laryngeal nerves is about 15 feet and is often cited as evidence of evolution. The nerve’s route would have been direct in the fish-like ancestors of modern tetrapods, traveling from the brain, past the heart, to the gills (as it does in modern fish). Over the course of evolution, as the neck extended and the heart became lower in the body, the left laryngeal nerve was caught on the wrong side of the aortic arch, the large common artery which runs out of the heart. Natural selection gradually lengthened the nerve over millions of years to accommodate the problem, resulting in the circuitous route now observed. In other words, evolution works with what “model” is in existence and, speaking anthropomorphically, “does the best it can do with what it has to work with.” A conscious designer, creating a new species, would not have made such costly and obvious mistakes.
Moral of this nerve anatomy: Any attempt to explain this in other terms fails. Rational thinking prevails and demonstrates an example of logic and good reasoning and is strong evidence supporting evolution, which is considered a fact.
Evidence for evolution is scattered everywhere on earth, in the fossil layers, in our anatomy and physiology as above, in our genes, and in phylogeny (the evolutionary history of a species). Just like the facts of the “round” earth and it revolution around the sun, so is evolution a fact. See more here on evolution.
3. The Existence of Unicorns, Orbiting Teapots, Spaghetti Monsters, Gods, etc.
If unicorns do not exist how could we find evidence for or against them? This is the classic “unfalsifiability” or “untestibility” logical fallacy. Bo Bennett, in his book on Logical Fallacies defines this Fallacy this way: “Confidently asserting that a theory or hypothesis is true or false even though the theory or hypothesis cannot possibly be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of any physical experiment, usually without strong evidence or good reasons.” Hence, one can’t prove a negative or that it is false! There are thirty-six common arguments for the existence of “god” but those thirty-six arguments are easy to prove false. So all unfalsifiable claims are not fallacious they are just unfalsifiable. As the late Christoper Hitchens stated, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” The key word in that sentence is “dismissed.”
Moral of the Unicorns: Don’t make any claims unless you have some good evidence and remember; Outrageous claims require outrageous evidence.
4. The Limits to Growth and our Failure to Understand the Exponential Function
As this is being written on May 1st, 2017, the world population is 7.5 billion. Study this table; one can see many fascinating and scary trends. Can you see the exponential growth of the world population in this table? Hint: the addition of each additional billion persons, occurs in fewer and years. Below this table, a graph plots this type of exponential growth data in general form, with time on the X axis and numbers on the Y axis.
Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of the value of a mathematical function is proportional to the function’s current value, resulting in its growth with time being an exponential function, i.e., a function in which the time value is the exponent. This graph compares exponential growth with linear and cubic growth:
(Graph By Exponential.png: Lunkwill derivative work: McSush (Exponential.png) via Wikimedia Commons)
One sees more and more reports lately which can be attributed to the overpopulation of the world by exponential growth and the exponential use of its resources.
“I promise you that Trump will spend the rest of his presidency dealing with the disruptions caused by this cocktail of population explosion and climate/environmental degradation — and his generals know it. But in today’s politics, bombing is considered presidential and ignoring science and defunding family planning, when populations are exploding and droughts expanding, are ho-hum back-page news.” T. Friedman, NYTimes, 4/19/17./Coal Museum sees the future, Trump doesn’t
“China’s appetite pushes fisheries to the brink. Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.
Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s
fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea
to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable
fishing practices threaten the wellbeing of millions of people in the developing
world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say.” Andrew Jacobs, NYTimes, APRIL 30, 2017.
“Along parts of the East Coast, the entire system of insuring coastal property is beginning to break down.
Melting ice and warming water are raising sea levels everywhere. But because the land in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (which includes Norfolk) is also sinking, relative sea levels there are rising faster than anywhere on the Atlantic coast. Water levels are already as much as 18 inches higher than they were when the developers created Larchmont-Edgewater a century ago, and they are still rising.
Calamity can come for us all, but by bundling enough separate peril together we manage to form a general stability, a collective hedge against helplessness. Insurance serves as a bulwark, both financial and mental, against the fact that we live in a fundamentally uncertain and dangerous world. As climate insecurity mounts, though, that math will get harder.
Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, put it in more direct terms: “Constant risk — that’s not what insurance is about.” Private insurers have long declined to cover flooding, the most common, and most expensive natural disaster in the United States.” NYTimes/When Rising Seas Transform Risk Into Certainty/Brooke Jarvis/April 18, 2017
In 2100, our planet is expected to be home to 11.2 billion people. That’s a more than 50% increase on today’s 7.3 billion. This expansion of humanity is likely to be spread unevenly across the world. In the most developed regions, we expect declines (such as in Europe and east Asia) or little further growth (as in the Americas). Substantial further growth is anticipated in the least developed regions of south and west Asia (including in India and Pakistan) and north Africa (for example, in Egypt). By far the largest increase is projected in sub-Saharan Africa with a quadrupling of population — from just shy of 1 billion currently to 3.9 billion.
This potential addition of 4 billion people to the poorest regions of the globe is an obstacle to development that makes it difficult to be optimistic about their futures. Rapid population growth, with attendant consumption and waste, has pervasive adverse effects on societies and the world’s ecosystems.
Population rise takes its toll by (1) Environmental degradation; (2) Economic Stagnation: (3) Maternal Mortality and (4) Political Unrest.
Unprecedented global threats such as climate change and decreasing biodiversity have been building and will become more severe as populations, economies and consumption grow. Crucial local environmental problems — including shortages of fresh water and arable land, mounting waste, and air, water and soil pollution — adversely affect health and threaten the expansion of food production required to feed more people a better diet.
What can be done?” John Bongaarts/Nature/24 February, 2016
“The Definition of Sustainability: We must be clear on the meaning of the word sustainability. A very commonly used definition of sustainability is implied in the following definition of sustainable development which is found in the report of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We must note two important things. First, “future generations” (plural) implies “for a very long time,” where long means long compared to a human lifetime.” Second, the arithmetic of steady growth shows that steady growth of populations or of rates of resource consumption for modest periods of time leads to sizes of these quantities that become so large as to be impossible.
The combination of these two observations leads us to the First Law of Sustainability: Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained. The First Law is based on arithmetic so it is absolute. Science is not democratic, so the First Law of Sustainability is not debatable; it can not be modified or repealed by professional societies, by congresses or by parliaments. The First Law implies that the term “Sustainable Growth” is an oxymoron. This is true when this term is used by an untutored person on the street, by an economics professor, or by the President of the United States.
Today we face two major global threats to our way of life: the two threats are related and both are predictable consequences of a single cause; overpopulation. The first threat is the peaking of the production (tons per year) of fossil fuels, particularly petroleum. The second threat is the rapidly developing global climate change. As these threats develop, each will have a profound effect on life as we know it. To understand the first threat we need to know about the Hubbert Curve.”Albert Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2012.
If you need another example of exponential grow see the classic chessboard and the grains of rice
Moral of the story: In terms of a National Day of Reason, we cannot think of a better topic to discuss on May 4th or on any day of the year, than the need to comprehend the exponential function in terms of human population growth and human use of the resources of the planet.
“Exponentials can’t go on forever, because they will gobble up everything.” Carl Sagan
“Exponential growth never can go on very long in a finite space with finite resources.” The Limits to Growth by Meadows, Meadows and Randers.
5. Belief and opinion versus fact: This is a major problem of our day.
Facts have evidence to back them up. We all know that the existence of elephants is a fact; we can see them and touch them. The Earth revolves around the sun; we can’t see that fact but people accept what science tells them in that regard and the scientists could give us a lecture and prove it. Scientists do this with global warming, studying it for over 100 years and constantly improving data collection, models, math and projections. Any climate scientist with credibility can publish new data in peer review journals. Climate Skeptics fail to point that out. Science continues and the planet gets warmer.
Perhaps we all think we know what a belief is but many people present them as facts. Intelligent people try not to do that and understand the problem therein. President Trump said this week, May 5th, 2017, that our “freedom is not a gift from government, but a gift from god.” Obviously, he can believe anything he wants and speak about it, but he certainly has no proof. One could also easily demonstrate that “freedom” does not come from government; it comes from our instinctive desires and the government should protect it. For any argument, one would need to define the terms and start from there. And then a strange thing happens as stated by Sam Harris: :”Every chain of explanation must end somewhere—generally with a brute fact that neglects to explain itself.”
Many people believe the bible is the inspired word of god and hence must certainly be true, but not a shred of evidence exists for that idea. These are the simple examples of fact and belief and should be obvious. It should be noted that most persons who have finished K-12 schooling in america accept the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the reverse. But ask any of them to explain this with evidence built up historically over many years and few can do it. Most persons accept what scientists say about this revolution. Why do many not do it for climate science?
Another area of false thinking involves “politically correct” pressure to deny examination of areas of human nature, culture and abilities. Human religious belief is one such area. The “polite world” and mass media are fearful of examining beliefs in gods and claims of their interference and control in human activity and they are under pressure not to do so.
This is absurd particularly because religion has monstrous impact on politics, human interactions and many persons build their entire life around such beliefs. We can challenge any such beliefs if there is no scientific evidence for them. We do not need to respect religious beliefs, only the right to hold such beliefs, speak of such beliefs and worship as one pleases, etc.
However, politely pointing out the lack of evidence for all such beliefs is free discussion and necessary for a myth-free, rational society. Of course we cannot tolerate any interference in the separation of church and state. Tolerance for unsupported conclusions is absurd.
Another example where pressure is rudely brought to bear for ignoring ideas is the the area of Human intelligence. A famous book published in 1994, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American life,” by Herrnstein and Murray is an example. The book demonstrated that intelligence is a cognitive ability we can measure, is rather stable through our life and is measured by IQ tests. They also showed that the IQ tests are not biased against social, economic, ethnic or racial groups and presented evidence that Intelligence is heritable, which means that much of the the variation seen for this trait in human populations is due to genetic variation in those populations. Their methods were scientific and solid and their conclusions backed up with sold data and math .
The authors also argued that due to increasing rewards to cognitive ability (IQ), an economic elite is being formed in America. This elite is getting richer and progressively more segregated from the rest of society. Herrnstein and Murray were interested in solving this social/ethical problem, having no interest in “proving” any racial prejudice or profiling, but interested in equal opportunity, and not in favor of discrimination. They had no other agenda than excellent study and scholarship regarding the topic of intelligence. They also stated that skin color of an individual tells you nothing about that individual and his/her intelligence and should not be used for any prejudicial or biased thoughts or actions.
Can you imagine a main-stream media company having a program which freely examines ALL religious ideas or discusses IQ Tests and their meaning? As above? We can’t and don’t. Very unfortunate. That is not a society intellectually free; that is a highly biased society frozen in time and fearful of different ideas.
You can no doubt think of other areas where there is fear of free discussion. But they must be discussed and analyzed.
Conclusion on thoughts for the Day of Reason
You certainly can have, cherish and preserve any belief you hold. If you are in a democracy you are fortunate and can speak about any of your thoughts.
But if you have no evidence for your belief, solid rational evidence, please be aware it is not yet a fact and may not even be a rational hypothesis. Don’t fool yourself. Doing so limits the growth of your mind and you will live and die in a fantasy world. That is a waste of a mind. Stay open for evidence.
Some very smart persons believe that only logical thinking and science will lead us to good, functional values and ethics for living. Science can answer moral questions.
Buddhism believes that Transformation of the Mind is a highly valid goal of life and existence; perhaps the only justifiable goal. Most of you have discovered your own reason for existence or are in that process. Modern cognitive psychology, neuroscience and studies of consciousness add to this idea that everything depends on the mind.
Transformation of the Mind must include logical thought and science and the National Day of Reason attempts to celebrate this idea.
We leave you with two thoughts:
The Buddha has said that the mind is the source of all mental states, that all mental states are fashioned by the mind. It is also said that the mind is the source of all virtues, of all qualities. In order to attain these virtues, one must discipline the mind. Mind is the key to changing the nature of our experience.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius
See the Latest on the North Carolina Fiasco regarding Bathrooms and Transsexuals – March 30, 2017
Assessing the Global Climate for 2016
2016 was Earth’s warmest year, culminating in a remarkable three-year streak of record warm years for the globe
With eight consecutive record warm months from January to August, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2016 was the highest since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA scientists. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature departure from average was the third highest on record for any month in the 137-year record.
This summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.
For extended analysis of global temperature and precipitation patterns, as well as extreme events, please see our full report.
Darwin Day Celebrations: Sunday, February 12, 2017
Let’s Wish Mr. Darwin a Happy 208th Birthday!
Darwin Day is a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, born on February 12, 1809. The day is used to highlight Darwin’s contributions to science and to promote science in general. Darwin Day is celebrated around the world.
Darwin was a most brilliant man. Just as Copernicus, Sir Issac Newton, , Galileo, and Einstein startled the world with transformative ideas, Darwin did the same for our worldviews of life on earth and our own origins. In 1859, his famous book, “The Origin of Species by Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life,” outlined his entire thinking on the subject of the evolution of species. The book title is usually abbreviated to “The Origin of Species.”
He formally started this great intellectual and historical venture when a young man of 22, traveling around the world for almost five years on the famous sailing vessel, the “HMS Beagle,” a 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, Twenty-three years later, in 1859, after much study and analysis, he published his famous book on his ideas of how species change.
After 1859, his hypothesis of Natural Selection motivated thousands of scientists to continue collecting data to support this idea which then became a theory.
With more and more data, confirmation and study including modern investigative methods, we no longer use the term Darwin’s “Theory;” it is now a fact or law of evolution.
Darwin was also a major contributor to ecology and botany. His work has had a tremendous impact on human investigations in psychology, biology, and other scientific fields of study. His personal life included marrying his cousin Emma and having ten children. Three children died young and several went on into scientific work and made major contributions to society.
As noted, Darwin was the naturalist on the five year HMS Beagle journey; that trip was from 1831- to 1836. The vessel traveled, in brief, from England to the Canary Islands, down the eastern coast of South America, to the “tip” of that continent and then north up its western coast to the Galapagos Islands and then west to New Zealand, and Australia. Travel continued west to certain Pacific Islands, Cape Town Africa, back to the east coast of South America and north to the Azores Islands and home.
He made extensive observations and notes and collected numerous specimens of plants, animals, rocks, and fossils whenever the vessel stopped in an island or continental port. As an astute observer, naturalist and scientist, his observations had a profound effect on how he viewed the structure and habits of different species of plants and animals. Most educated persons of that time thought that species had been individually created by a god, all together, at one point in time and that these species were “immutable” this is “fixed and unchanging” in anatomy, physiology and behavior.
From Charles Darwin/Origin of Species-Introduction/1859:
“After the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgement of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained — namely, that each species has been independently created — is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main means of modification.”
Continue reading here for: (1) a brief synopsis of the evolutionary process; (2) many statements from Darwin in this regard; (3) why we no longer call his work a theory; (4) the religious views of Darwin; and (5) Fifteen common myths and misunderstandings about evolution.
How are American K-12 Children Doing in Math, Science and Reading Compared with Other Countries? Take a Guess! We’ll Look at the Newest International Comparative Tests — The 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.
After reading about the PISA test, you might ask if we need to pay our teachers more, take away the American Children’s cell phones to stop them wasting time texting and tweeting and wasting too much time with TV and …………………………(you name it).
Below is an important summary table from the PISA study website: (you’ll need to enlarge it)
Fossil fuel divestment funds double to $5 trillion in a year
Fossil fuel companies must maintain a proven reserve of owned or leased deposits of oil and gas for future drilling. If they do not, it seriously affects how their financial position is analyzed by investors.
Investopedia states that “a fossil fuel company’s reserve replacement ratio must be at least 100% of currently owned or leased deposits for the company to stay in business long-term; otherwise, it will eventually run out of oil.”
Investors watch this ratio carefully to judge where to invest. Company stock prices and values are also sensitive to the market concepts of “stranded assets” which would occur if the industry comes under control of mechanisms needed to limit or stop climate change. What is needed to control climate change is that most of the current fossil fuel in the ground must remain there and hence company owned reserves would become “stranded.” Many investment companies are already divesting themselves out of fossil fuel stocks for this reason as well as to help promote the concept of climate change control.
WOW! Think about this for a minute! No wonder fossil fuel company’s and those invested in them tend toward being climate change deniers!
See the Guardian for summary of this new 5 Trillion Dollar level and here for a review of their examination of the entire concept of divestment for political/social reasons.
Relative to this entire concept, the photograph below is perhaps a bit ironic?
Breitbart “News” Continues Fake stories: Climate scientists condemn article in Breitbart claiming global temperatures are falling
Breitbart News, a far right, white nationalistic, radical organization, continues its anti-scientific and sensationalistic propaganda. Breitbart has been associated with white supremacism, Islamophobia, antifeminism, homophobia, antisemitism, ethno-nationalism, right-wing populism, nativism, traditionalism, and the neoreactionary movement. The term “alt-right” has been used to describe some or all of these “isms.”
See details here in the Guardian on the specific climate change “fake story” noted.
All we can say about Breitbart News is that they are not wise and “do not call things by their proper names.” Or to go to the original source on that piece of wisdom:
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be conducted successfully. When affairs cannot be conducted successfully, propriety will not flourish. When propriety does not flourish, punishments will not be properly meted out. When punishments are not properly meted out, the people will not know how to conduct themselves.
We will add two notes to the quote above. When punishments are not properly meted out, the people will not know how to conduct themselves and the quality of life will drop precipitously and chaos, death and destruction will reign.
Former Breitbart executive chairman Steven K. Bannon has been named chief strategist and Senior Counselor for the Presidency of Donald Trump. Bannon declared that the Breitbart organization is “the platform for the alt-right” in 2016. The New York Times describes Breitbart News as an organization with “ideologically driven journalists”, that is a source of controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist”.
We thus see that Breitbart and apparently Mr. Bannon are anti-science and climate denialists. President Trump has also place himself in that camp. Humanists are particularly fond of science and here at Oxford Humanists, we are fans of Albert Einstein, and we finish with two of his quotes relative to the above discussion:
One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike—-and yet it is the most precious thing we have. Albert Einstein
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein
What grade Did Your Federal House of Representative Receive on His/Her Votes on These Critical Issues of Civil Rights, Woman’s Reproductive Issues, LGBTQ Issues and Modern Scientific Thought?
(posted October 27, 2016)
See the chart below for the House Representatives from the state of North Carolina wherein each representative receives an overall grade score on their votes on ten bills and co-sponsorships. These votes indicate their degree of critical and rational thinking ability, their viewpoints on Science and Reason, their level of recognition of change and pluralism in America and the degree to which they promote inclusiveness, modernism and open-mindedness.
This is an excellent study by the Center for Freethought Equality, a sister organization of the American Humanists Association.
Find your Federal House Representatives votes here and the grade they received (and see more detail on the actual description of the bills and co-sponsorships).
The ten bills, resolutions and amendments and cosponsorships at the top of the chart, from left to right, are described below and in more detail at the web site link above.
H.R. 4909: would allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans while receiving taxpayer funding; a no vote is the rational, moral vote.
H.R. 4974: is against an amendment which prevents the granting of religious exemptions to federal contractors from anti—LGBTQ discrimination executive orders; a yes vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights.
H.R. 5055; amendment 1130: This amendment that if passed, would have exempted federal contractors from executive orders prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. A no vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights.
H.R. 5055; amendment 1128: This amendment would have prohibited the use of funds for government contractors who discriminate against LGBTQ employees. A yes vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights.
H.R. 5485: This is an appropriations bill which had an anti-contraception amendment. A no vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights including women’s reproductive rights in the District of Columbia.
H.J. Res 43: This is a Resolution of Disapproval of a Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act. That act prohibits discrimination against employees and their dependents based on their reproductive choices – including their decision to use birth control. A no vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights including women’s reproductive rights.
S. 304: This Act had another name in the Senate but became the Conscience Protection Act in the House. It would allow employers, insurance companies and hospital to discriminate against women seeking reproductive health care and jeopardize their ability to obtain safe, legal abortion care. A no vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights including women’s reproductive rights.
H.R. 2802: This Bill promotes only heterosexual marriage and restricts sexual activity only to marriage. It discriminates against LGBTQ Americans, unmarried parents and others who fall outside of narrow religious precepts. It would protect tax and other benefits that religious institutions and affiliated organizations receive while allowing them to discriminate. A no vote is the rational, moral vote protecting civil rights.
Res 548: Darwin Day Resolution. Gives recognition for all that Charles Darwin and other scientists do for humanity including the advancement of knowledge and research that provides medical and other health, social, and intellectual benefits. As the Center for Freethought Equality states: “The resolution also states that evolution provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, claims that the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States’ education systems, and decries those who oppose the scientific findings regarding climate change.” A yes vote supports this Resolution.
Res 670: National Day of Reason Resolution. The National Day of Reason (NDOR) is the inclusive alternative to the National Day of Prayer (NDOP). The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May and was created by a congressional resolution approved by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. The resolution calls on the president to issue a proclamation every year to encourage Americans to pray in thanks for America’s freedom and other values, and to establish that year’s National Day of Prayer through government recognition. Since the NDOP excludes nontheist Americans, the Center for Freethought Equality and American Humanist Association began advocating for a National Day of Reason as an inclusive alternative worthy of government recognition. The NDOP clearly supports the idea of prayer, an obvious religious concept but our Constitution clearly demands the separation of church and state and the mixing of a pure religious view with government institutions. A National Day of Reason resolution is therefore introduced every year to celebrate reason and to promote public policy that is based on reason and logic rather than dogma from religious and ideological beliefs. A yes vote supports recognition of the National Day of Reason.
For the last three bills scored on the scorecard (H.R. 2802, H.Res. 548, and H.Res. 670) co-sponsorships are being evaluated instead of votes. Those who chose to co-sponsor H.R. 2802 were penalized for doing so, while those who chose not to co-sponsor received a positive grade. For the last two bills, H. Res. 548 and H. Res. 670, those who co-sponsored the bills were given half a letter grade of extra credit for each bill co-sponsored.
Another Vital Agreement for our Planet
(posted October 15, 2016)
Landmark Deal Made by World Nations on a Dangerous Group of Chemicals that Warms Planet: Hydrofluorocarbons — more potent than CO2
Blockquote below from the New York Times – see the complete story here.
KIGALI, Rwanda — Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.
President Obama called the deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to fellow negotiators in Kigali, said, “It is likely the single most important step we could take at this moment to limit the warming of our planet and limit the warming for generations to come.”
“It is,” Mr. Kerry added, “the biggest thing we can do in one giant swoop.”
While the Paris agreement included pledges by nearly every country to cut emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the fossil fuels that power vehicles, electric plants and factories, the new Kigali deal has a single target: chemical coolants called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used in air-conditioners and refrigerators.
HFCs are just a small percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but they function as a sort of supercharged greenhouse gas, with 1,000 times the heat-trapping potency of carbon dioxide.
This agreement is actually an amendment to the already existing Montreal Protocol and hence does not need further approval by individual governments, a politically useful and powerful situation.
Paris Climate Agreement Went into Force On November 4th, 2016
The Paris Climate Agreement Reached the Critical Number of Countries Signing and Authorizing it and Thus it Went into Force on Nov. 4, 2016:
(posted October 4, 2016)
Blockquote below from ABC News–read more here.
President Barack Obama hailed the news as “a turning point for our planet,” and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the agreement’s strong international support a “testament for the urgency of action.” Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech, called it: “A moment of bright hope in the increasingly discouraging landscape of climate science.”
U.N. Spokesman Farhan Haq said the EU, Canada and Nepal would deposit their instruments of ratification Wednesday, edging the percentage of emissions by ratifying countries past the 55 percent threshold needed for the treaty to take effect.
“I am delighted to announce that today the Paris Agreement will cross the second and final threshold needed for entry into force, and will enter into force on 4 November 2016,” Ban said in a statement issued from Europe. “Global momentum for the Paris Agreement to enter into force in 2016 has been remarkable. What once seemed unthinkable is now unstoppable. “
The deal takes effect 30 days after 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions, have adopted it. Sixty-two countries had done so as of Tuesday but they accounted only for about 52 percent of emissions.
A U.N. website said that as of Wednesday afternoon 73 of the 197 parties to the treaty, accounting for 56.87 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification.
Obama welcomed the news with a special address in the Rose Garden.
The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases, emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
The photograph at the top was taken in April of 2016 and was a very important event; many countries signed the Agreement on this day. Signing indicates a country agrees to the text of the Agreement. But the Agreement was structured such that the Agreement would not go into effect (the official term is “entered into force”) until a specific number of countries having a specific total of carbon emissions, officially join the Agreement by domestic approval in their own countries. This requires an official legal instrument like a “ratification, acceptance or approval” document from the country; in the United States this apparently can also be done by Presidential Executive Authority. The method of domestic approval depends on the laws, government and constitution of the given country.
Thus, as noted above, we have reached these critical numbers for the Agreement to go into force in November 2016.
Compare the Clinton and Trump positions on Climate change. Still a valuable item.
2016 January through November world temperatures versus previous years
This graphic below compares the year-to-date temperature anomalies for 2016 (black line) to what were ultimately the seven warmest years on record: 2015, 2014, 2010, 2013, 2005, 2009, and 1998. Each month along each trace represents the year-to-date average temperature anomaly. In other words, the January value is the January average temperature anomaly, the February value is the average anomaly of both January and February, and so on. The average global land and ocean surface temperature for January–November 2016 was 0.94°C (1.69°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.2°F)—the highest global land and ocean temperature for January–November in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2015 by 0.06°C (0.11°F).
The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history. The graph includes several end-of-year results based on the following two scenarios:
If December matches the 1998 monthly values (represented by the black triangle): 2016 would tie with 2015 as the warmest year on record.If December matches the 21st century monthly average (represented by the black circle): 2016 would become the warmest year on record, surpassing 2015 by 0.02°C (0.04°F).
As of September, 2016, the US has already suffered 12 billion-dollar disaster events for the year. See Below. These events included 4 flooding events and 8 severe storm events. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 68 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2015 annual average is 5.2 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2011–2015) is 10.8 events (CPI-adjusted).
Four new billion-dollar disaster events have been added during the 3rd quarter, bringing the 2016 event total to 12. This represents the 2nd highest total number of events surpassing the 11 events observed in 2012. The record number of events in one year (since 1980) is 16, as observed in 2011.
The U.S. has also experienced 4 billion-dollar inland flood events during 2016, doubling the previous record, as no more than 2 inland flood events have occurred in a year since 1980. This is a notable record, further highlighted by the numerous other record flooding events that have impacted the U.S. in 2016. This data and map are from the NOAA web site link above.
Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies made this statement to The Guardian which they reported on August 30th, 2016.
“In the last 30 years we’ve really moved into exceptional territory,” said Schmidt, . “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination (of temperatures).”
“Maintaining temperatures below the 1.5C guardrail requires significant and very rapid cuts in carbon dioxide emissions or co-ordinated geo-engineering. That is very unlikely. We are not even yet making emissions cuts commensurate with keeping warming below 2C.”
Schmidt repeated his previous prediction that there is a 99% chance that 2016 will be the warmest year on record, with around 20% of the heat attributed to a strong El Niño climatic event. Last year is currently the warmest year on record, itself beating a landmark set in 2014.
Even with all the data above many in the United States Congress continue their climate change denial and do nothing to promote solutions for this problem. Why do you think their inaction and denial continue? See the answer to that question here.
Trans-Pacific Partnership – update
Due to the discussion of TPP during the recent United States election, with its detrimental effects being clearly discussed, It now appears that the TPP is politically deceased for an unknown period!
This global treaty is another standard menu item of the “free-trade” global economy philosophy which creates treaties loaded with secret arrangements benefiting a narrow group of corporation and elite investors, outsources jobs from USA to poorer, low wage countries and sets up numerous legal arrangements which allow laws suits against countries trying to protect their environment. It also is seen as seriously hindering control of climate change. See details here. You will see in those details that many persons concerned with the American economy, its manufacturing jobs, controlling climate change and protecting the environment are wisely arguing against this treaty. Some are well-known economists and progressive thinkers including some Nobel Laureates.
But now the Democratic Party Convention Plank Committe has placed a plank into their Party Platform which is evasive and vague on the TPP. Hillary Clinton was for this Treaty before she was against it. The Party Platform would seem to be at odds with her current “against TPP” statements. From what was said above, why wouldn’t the Democratic Party be against this Treaty? Her pick for Vice President, Tim Kaine, supports TPP and deregulation of wall street and banks. We can think of some reasons for this tight-rope walk, this vagueness on TPP, can you? The TPP is not designed for the benefit of the average American person. Bernie Saunders asked that the TPP not be accepted by the Party and he sees its dangers; but he lost that argument with the Democratic Party elite. How rational is all this? How educated is the public on all this? What can we do about this?
Fossil fuel divestment funds double to $5 trillion in a year
Fossil fuel companies must maintain a proven reserve of owned or leased deposits of oil and gas for future drilling. This seriously affects their financial position in the market.
Investopedia states that “a fossil fuel company’s reserve replacement ratio must be at least 100% of currently owned or leased deposits for the company to stay in business long-term; otherwise, it will eventually run out of oil.” Investors watch this ratio carefully to judge where to invest. Stocks and value of fossil fuel companies are also sensitive to market signals such as “stranded assets” which would occur if the industry adheres to what is needed and might occur to control climate change. What is needed is that most of the current fossil fuel in the ground must remain there. Many investment companies are already divesting themselves out of fossil fuel company stocks. These assets are then “stranded” and worthless, causing fossil fuel company failures.
WOW! Think about this for a minute! No wonder fossil fuel company’s and those invested in them tend toward being climate change deniers!
- Find our how your U.S. House of Representative Scored on a Tally of Their Votes on Your Freedom, Rational Thinking and where they stand of key issues such as church/state separation, LGBTQ rights and reproductive choices.
- USA announces grants totaling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change,
- The Bravest United States Senator Ever; now looking for the bravest woman senator and then the NEXT bravest male senator and on and on…………
- North Carolina Discriminates Against Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals, Veterans and just about everyone else! All OF US!
- The Myth of Natural Gas as our Climate Change Savior
- Coal is Going, Going, Gone (almost)
- The Boeing Federal Bank: your money used as corporate welfare! Astounding!
- 2015 Averaged Global Temperature is Hottest Ever Recorded
- Update on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
- Has the End of Capitalism Begun?
- Death Rates for Whites in United States Now Seen to Rise FOR ALL AGE GROUPS
- Health and Climate Change Policy: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health
- Crises in the United States , The Media, Misinformation and the Propagandized People
- Wind, solar power soaring in spite of bargain prices for fossil fuels-January 1, 2016
- The Most Important Event of 2015
- NOAA Announces 2015, January to November, is Hottest Global Temperature on Record
- Gun Control in the United States
- Are You Aware of the Huge Subsidies that are Paid to Fossil Fuel Companies?
- House and Senate Republicans Vote Against Climate Action
- After Paris: Can we Then Get Serious About Controlling Climate Change?
- Putting Paris “Terrorist” Murders in Perspective
- Is There Any Reason For Hope on Climate Change?
- Constitution of the United States: It Protects All Religious Beliefs
- OHEA President Dan Winslow Expands His Corner
- Humanist versus Islamic Perspectives on Science and the Modern World
- Study Finds Religious Children are meaner, more punitive and less altruistic
- Exxon Mobil Subpoenaed for Documents on Possible Lying to Investors About Climate Change
- 2015 Thought to be Headed Toward Hottest Year on Record (update – yes it was)
- Paris Climate Change Meeting; The Pope and Climate Change; China & Shell Oil and Climate Change. And a Critically Important Woman Trying to Save the World
- Map of Extremes of Heat Projected for United States
- Humanism, The Pope and Climate Change
- Is President Obama a Hypocrite of the Worst Kind? You Decide
- Obama Presents New Power Plant Emission Rules – Stronger Than Earlier Drafts
- International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency? Will they affect you?
- Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
- Pope Francis’ Message on Climate Change-another view
- NOAA Announces May 2015 Record Temperatures for our Planet
- The Guardian — Starts Critical, Brave Assault on Global Climate Change
- United States Senate Votes Against Action on Climate Change: See How Your Senators Voted!
- APPLE — A Leader in Climate Change Action?
- “Inclusive Capitalism:” A Movement? An Oxymoron?
- Is Climate Disaster Inevitable?
- 2014 — Warmest Year on Record on Earth
- This Zombie Ideology
- Voting Time — How Real Is Our Democracy?
- Goodbye New York City?
- Ebola Virus — All About It!
- Dan’s Corner – OHEA President Sets up his Corner
- We Are in the New Sixth Extinction!
- Global Climate Change – Then-Now-Future
- What Do Humanists Stand For?
- Morgan Freeman
- Founding Fathers: Two Myths
- Is Human Progress another Myth?
- Supreme Court Allows Prayer at Public Meetings? Politicians in Fancy Robes?
In January, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants totaling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, by building stronger levees, dams and drainage systems.
One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees.
North Carolina Discriminates Against Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Everyone Else. It Also Seriously Restricts what County and Municipality Governments Can Do in Areas of Employee Compensation and Benefits
UPdate: March 30, 2017
Today this moral, legal and political disaster was enlarged by the politicians of North Carolina when they feared losing money from athletic and other business entities who stayed away from NC in protest. The politicians pretended to “fix” the Discrimination today against the LGBT community and EVERYONE IN THE STATE. But even NC Governor Cooper, a newly elected Democrat, said this “fix” is not a compromise, and not a great one.
It is in fact a very poor compromise; a sham, a phony move, political garbage:
They repealed the law in name but not in substance, hoping to assuage organizations and employers that have boycotted the state to protest its discriminatory law. The National Collegiate Athletic Association had given state politicians until Thursday to get rid of the law before it would resume holding championship games in the state.
All those who have taken a principled stance against the law, known as H.B. 2, should stand firm. The law’s revision would deprive North Carolinians of protection from discrimination for years, and retains the odious notion that transgender people are inherently dangerous.
“We can never compromise on fundamental civil rights,” William Barber II, the president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a call with journalists Thursday morning. “It was never just a bathroom bill. It’s a bill that discriminates against so many people in so many ways.” (New York Times, 3/30/17)
Below is the original 2016 post for the HB2 Bill:
On March 23, 2016, North Carolina signed a sweeping law eliminating anti-discrimination protections severely for the entire LGBT Community as well as for everyone. An example of “EVERY ONE ELSE,” is a part of the law that limits how people pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap in state courts. It also prohibits local governments from setting minimum wages above the state level, pre-empts local ordinances on employee benefits, protections and leave policies and strips veterans of anti-discrimination protections which existed in several jurisdictions.
(update: May 4, 2016; see an update whereby the Obama Administration say HB2 violates Federal Civil Rights Laws. See the letter sent to Governor McCrory from the Federal Government in regard to this development)
Details on how HB2 affects all of us: From Turnoutnc.org:
This bill takes away the right FOR ANYONE to sue in state court for employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and other categories that are protected by state law.
- The law preempts local employment regulations relating to compensation or employee benefits. A local government cannot, for example, enact a city-wide minimum wage that is higher than the state’s, or require that employers in a certain locality provide other employee benefits not guaranteed by state or federal law, such as access to a minimum number of paid sick days.
- The law eliminates the ability of those who have been wrongfully terminated in violation of the state’s existing policy against discrimination to file a claim in state court, by expressly stating that there is no right of action based upon the nondiscrimination policy of the state. Although people can still file claims in federal court, the timeline for filing in federal court versus state is much shorter, and is potentially much more expensive. This change makes North Carolina one of only two states—the other being Mississippi—that does not provide its residents with the option of filing a wrongful termination discrimination claim in state court.
Consider all the ludicrous, irrational ideas associated with the transsexual part of this law which requires transsexual persons to use the bathroom of their genetic sex:
- Enforcement persons wonder if they will have to start checking persons genitals at the bathroom door. Their birth certificates? How absurd!
- Male transsexual persons remind the Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, that they will now, by law, have to use the bathrooms that his wife uses!
- It assumes that transsexual persons are all rapists, murderers and child molesters!
- It implies massive ignorance of why a transsexual person has made their choice of gender change.
- It shows massive ignorance in assuming this is a casual choice made by a person to change gender and they usually falsely imply that transsexuals are men pretending to be women and vice versa.
- And you can add ten or more horrendous errors of thought here regarding these laws.
Here is a wonderful comment by a person in a recent newspaper article on this North Carolina horror story:
“The process of transitioning from one sex to another must be one of the most agonizing and painful of experiences. Think about it. Doing so is the realization of the very essence of one’s identity as a person. What could be more fundamental to ones identity than am I male or female? Thankfully, medical science has made it possible for people to live as they truly are. No one chooses to be transgender. They are born that way. It’s a medically correctable condition. After experiencing all the pain, confusion, self-doubt and turmoil, the last thing any trans person needs is to be singled out and discriminated against. Doing so is unbelievably cruel. Should we make them wear stars like the Jews had to do in Nazi Germany? When a person changes gender, they become that gender. They aren’t men pretending to be women and vice versa. They are what they are. As legitimate, whole people, they are due all the rights and privileges the law guarantees everyone. Anything less is legalized persecution. These anti-government people just created the need for the skirt police. No one needs to be protected from a transgender person. They are no threats to anyone. They should be embraced and allowed to thrive. Fascism can be expressed in many forms. This is one of them. The supporters of these anti-trans bills have moved past ignorance and fear. They have moved all the way to fascism.” Bruce Rozenblit.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist;Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew; Then they came for the gays and transsexuals, and I did not speak out—because I was not gay or transsexual; Then they came for me, —and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) – Protester of Adolf Hitler who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
And if you really want to see how effective parody can be we highly recommend this site! It’s for adults only!
Please take a look at the graphs below — We hope you are curious as to their meaning. You will find a link to their meaning also below.
From the New York Times: (3/21/16):
America’s coal ……. there are few financiers willing to save it.
JP Morgan Chase Bank, announced two weeks ago that it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States or other wealthy nations. The retreat follows similar announcements by Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley that they are, in one way or another, backing away from coal.
“There are always going to be periods of boom and bust,” said Chiza Vitta, a metals and mining analyst with the credit rating firm Standard & Poor’s. “But what is happening in coal is a downward shift that is permanent.”
On Wednesday the world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy, said that it might have to file for bankruptcy protection, following a path already taken by three of the nation’s other large coal companies. (update: It did file for Bankruptcy on April 13, 2016)
COAL PRODUCES SOME OF THE MOST HORRENDOUS WASTE PRODUCTS ON EARTH AND OF COURSE THIS INCLUDES CARBON DIOXIDE CAUSING CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR POLLUTION CAUSING HUMAN PREMATURE DEATHS. AND IT PRODUCES ONE OF THE LARGEST TOXIC WASTE STREAMS IN THE UNITED STATES—COAL ASH!
A rather boring sounding story, wherein, you as a citizen of the United States are giving “corporate welfare” to Boeing Aircraft Co., General Electric, Bechtel, Caterpillar and other large corporations! You may have recently heard some presidential candidates discussing this topic, which they should do repeatedly.
You give this corporate welfare through a federal bank, sometimes called the Boeing Bank, which loans YOUR MONEY to foreign companies or countries that want to buy something from an American Company such as an aircraft from Boeing but the foreign companies are such high credit risks that NO OTHER BANK IN THE WORLD will loan them money to do so!
So YOU loan the foreign company money so Boeing can sell them an airplane or two! You and your tax money take the chance and high risk supporting Boeing, a multi-billion dollar company. WE REPEAT: this Federal Bank uses your hard earned money for very economically dangerous loans and guarantees.
Here is the first chart to show you the American companies to which you give most of the welfare money . The bank is officially called the Federal Export-Import Bank and you will see below why it is sometimes called the Boeing Bank!
To say the least, this is controversial! Don’t you think it should be!
The Criticism is endless. Below is from Wikipedia where you can read more and see their references.
The cost and effectiveness of the bank are controversial. While the Ex-Im Bank projects to save the US government $14 billion over 10 years, an alternative analysis from the Congressional Budget Office found that the program would lose about $2 billion over the same period, partly due to discrepancies how credit risk is accounted for. Both conservative and liberal groups have been critical of the bank, and some continue to call for its closure. Obama was critical of the bank during his presidential candidacy.
The Bank has come under criticism for favoring special interests ahead of those of the U.S. taxpayer. These interests have included corporations such as Boeing or Enronas well as foreign governments and nationals, such as a 1996 $120 million low-interest loan to the China National Nuclear Power Corporation (CNNP). 65% of loan guarantees over 2007 and 2008 went to companies purchasing Boeing aircraft. In 2012, the Bank’s loan guarantees became even more skewed, with 82 percent of them going to Boeing customers. There are many unseen costs created by the Export-Import Bank’s subsidies, including artificially raising the price of new airplanes and potentially adding $2 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
Forbes contributor Doug Bandow wrote in 2014, “The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace. The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.”[ If the normal principles of economics or finance are applied, then it is unlikely that the bank has profited and most unlikely that it makes the annual profit that it has stated, because the bank’s calculations of profit fail to make proper adjustment for risk. Best practice in finance and economics, as well as in banking, is to adjust the cost of capital or discount rate to reflect risk, or, equivalently, to use a fair-value estimate. On this basis the criticism is that “This simple approach—which is based on a method outlined in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Debbie Lucas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—suggests that the Ex-Im bank’s long-term loan guarantee program actually provides guarantees at a loss for taxpayers, not a profit. Moreover, this analysis reveals that the Ex-Im bank’s loan guarantees are made at sufficiently generous terms that borrowers receive subsidies of about 1% of the amount borrowed. That translates into a $200 million cost for taxpayers on the $21 billion in loans that the bank will make in 2012.”
Do we not constantly hear from many in the corporate world that we (1) “MUST HAVE OPEN AND FREE MARKETS, AND A FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM IN AMERICAN WHERE MARKET COMPETITION DRIVES OUR ECONOMY? WHERE COMPETITION BETWEEN CORPORATIONS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO?” That (2) “Capitalism is an economic system that is characterized by private property, freedom of economic exchange, competitive markets and limited government intervention.” That (3) “While the government doesn’t set prices in a free market, the market does through the law of supply and demand?”
From Investopedia: (sort of the Ayn Rand site for Corporations)
A free market is a market economy based on supply and demand with little or no government control. A completely free market is an idealized form of a market economy where buyers and sellers are allowed to transact freely (i.e. buy/sell/trade) based on a mutual agreement on price without state intervention in the form of taxes, subsidies or regulation.
It seems this general “free market, small government” philosophy is promoted except when government intervention can assist billion dollar corporations in making more billions of dollars. So the screams of “get rid of big government, get rid of big government” is apparently just “Opportunistic Malarkey? You might enjoy our Editorial on “Free” Trade Agreements.
And thus, you and I are supporting some of our largest corporations and foreign companies with our tax money. The capitalist, corporate hero Ayn Rand would be………….(you finish the sentence).
We hope we have given you the general idea of this type of corporate welfare. Do not believe that this program is for “small businesses” although they get some small sums. You can certainly see who gets the bulk of the cash — with you and I taking all the risk.
We leave you with several other charts.
For more detail, see the 2015 Annual Report of the Boeing Bank. Look on page 24 of that report where the American Companies that you subsidized that year are listed. There you will see their claim that in 2015 they spent or put $8.7 billion of your dollars at risk and created 109,000 jobs. They did not do the math but that is $80,000 per job! Quite a large sum for each job! It might have been better if they had just given 109,000 persons $80 thousand apiece and forgotten about all their overhead costs for being in existence!
By the way, Congress passed a bill and the President signed it, in December, 2015 renewing the Boeing Bank till 2019. We wonder why they did that?
Global Temperatures — 2015 is Earth’s warmest year by widest margin on record;
The State of the Climate November 2015 report noted that in order for 2015 to not become the warmest year in the 136-year period of record, the December global temperature would have to be at least 0.81°C (1.46°F) below the 20th century average—or 0.24°C (0.43°F) colder than the current record low December temperature of 1916. In fact, December 2015 was the warmest month of any month in the period of record, at 1.11°C (2.00°F) higher than the monthly average, breaking the previous all-time record set just two months ago in October 2015 by 0.12°C (0.21°F). This is the first time in the NOAA record that a monthly temperature departure from average exceeded 1°C or reached 2°F and the second widest margin by which an all-time monthly global temperature record has been broken. (February 1998 broke the previous record of March 1990 by 0.13°C / 0.23°F.)
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136-year record.
During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 136 years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C) and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century. This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken. Ten months had record high temperatures for their respective months during the year. The five highest monthly departures from average for any month on record all occurred during 2015.
Record warmth was broadly spread around the world, including Central America, the northern half of South America, parts of northern, southern, and eastern Europe stretching into western Asia, a large section of east central Siberia, regions of eastern and southern Africa, large parts of the northeastern and equatorial Pacific, a large swath of the western North Atlantic, most of the Indian Ocean, and parts of the Arctic Ocean.
During 2015, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.39°F (1.33°C) above the 20thcentury average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.45°F (0.25°C). This is the largest margin by which the annual global land temperature has been broken.
During 2015, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.33°F (0.74°C) above the 20thcentury average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of last year by 0.20°F (0.11°C).
A common misunderstanding of global temperature rise centers around the fact that small increases in temperature, such as 0.14° C, 1.57° F, or even 2° C, does not sound problematic in the sense of ordinary weather temperature measurements. But an average increase of one degree, ON AVERAGE, across the entire surface of the globe means huge changes in climatic extremes. Scientists now highly recommend, and the Paris Climate Accord agreed in December 2015, that that nations of the world work together to try to keep the world temperature from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and if possible keep this rise down to 1.5° C. This benchmark temperature has already risen almost 1° C (1.8°F). This common misunderstanding of the meaning of the small amounts of rise in degrees is partially responsible for climate change denial; people have problems comprehending the concept of the large effects of small changes in temperature rise. Read here for more explanation.
(posted January 28, 2016)
One article you do not want to miss. Written by an expert with excellent, logical data presented.
Extracts from the article:
My experience working in the Obama administration on the auto rescue seared into me the sense that intermingled among the many winners from globalization were a substantial number of losers.
Ross Perot had a point when he campaigned in 1992 against the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, saying that it would result in a “giant sucking sound” of jobs headed south to Mexico.
Last year, according to the recent figures, our nation added 2.65 million new jobs. Just 30,000 of them were in manufacturing. So much for the widely trumpeted renaissance of Made in America. At first glance, the automobile industry looks to be in better shape. From the depths of the crisis in 2009 through 2013, employment in the auto manufacturing sector in the United States rose by 23 percent, to 690,000 from 560,000.
That sounds pretty good except that employment in the Mexican auto sector rose to 589,000 from 368,000 during the same period, an increase of 60 percent. I’m happy that 221,000 more Mexicans got jobs, but let’s be honest: Absent open borders, many of those jobs would have been in America.
The wage picture looks even worse. Since January 2009, inflation-adjusted private sector wages across the economy have risen by 2.5 percent. In the fields of education, health and information, they are up by more than 3 percent. Meanwhile, in manufacturing, pay has fallen by 0.8 percent, and in the auto sector, by 12.7 percent.
Average manufacturing compensation costs (includes wages and benefits) in the United States in 2012 were $35.67 per hour; in Mexico, they were $6.36 per hour. And American auto executives will tell you that the productivity they get in Mexico is at least as good as what they get in the United States.
It’s not only morally wrong to fail to help those on the losing end of globalization, but it will also end badly politically.
What’s Our Duty to the People Globalization Leaves Behind? Steven Rattner; JAN. 26, 2016, New York Times
Steven Rattner is a Wall Street executive and a contributing opinion writer in the NYTimes.
Excerpt From The Guardian:
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian. As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started.
by Paul Mason, July 17, 2015, The Guardian
A Highly recommended review of some political-social history and the impact of information technology on economics, social life, and your time, work, and happiness. And most of all — the impact on the transformation of your mind.
Does this article below support the idea above?
The Economy in 2016: On the Edge of Recession
Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good, but I’ll hazard a guess. I expect the U.S. economy to sputter in 2016. That’s because the economy faces a deep structural problem: not enough demand for all the goods and services it’s capable of producing.
American consumers account for almost 70 percent of economic activity, but they won’t have enough purchasing power in 2016 to keep the economy going on more than two cylinders. Blame widening inequality.
Consider: The median wage is 4 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The median wage of young people, even those with college degrees, is also dropping, adjusted for inflation. That means a continued slowdown in the rate of family formation—more young people living at home and deferring marriage and children – and less demand for goods and services.
At the same time, the labor participation rate—the percentage of Americans of working age who have jobs—remains near a 40-year low.
The giant boomer generation won’t and can’t take up the slack. Boomers haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement, so they’re being forced to cut back expenditures.
Exports won’t make up for this deficiency in demand. To the contrary, Europe remains in or close to recession, China’s growth is slowing dramatically, Japan is still on its back, and most developing countries are in the doldrums.
Business investment won’t save the day, either. Without enough customers, businesses won’t step up investment. Add in uncertainties about the future—including who will become president, the makeup of the next Congress, the Middle East, and even the possibilities of domestic terrorism—and I wouldn’t be surprised if business investment declined in 2016.
I’d feel more optimistic if I thought government was ready to spring into action to stimulate demand, but the opposite is true. The Federal Reserve has started to raise interest rates—spooked by an inflationary ghost that shows no sign of appearing. And Congress, notwithstanding its end-of-year tax-cutting binge, is still in the thralls of austerity economics.
Chances are, therefore, the next president will inherit an economy teetering on the edge of recession.
(posted January 17, 2016)
A rather profound study just out. Will our politicians discuss this? Will our Presidential Candidates discuss this?
Excerpts from this Study:
The Times analyzed nearly 60 million death certificates collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1990 to 2014. It found death rates for non-Hispanic whites either rising or flattening for all the adult age groups under 65 — a trend that was particularly pronounced in women — even as medical advances sharply reduce deaths from traditional killers like heart disease. Death rates for blacks and most Hispanic groups continued to fall.
The analysis shows that the rise in white mortality extends well beyond the 45- to 54-year-old age group documented by a pair of Princeton economists in a research paper that startled policy makers and politicians two months ago.
While the death rate among young whites rose for every age group over the five years before 2014, it rose faster by any measure for the less educated, by 23 percent for those without a high school education, compared with only 4 percent for those with a college degree or more.
The drug overdose numbers were stark. In 2014, the overdose death rate for whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999, and the rate for 35- to 44-year-old whites tripled during that period. The numbers cover both illegal and prescription drugs.
from the Lancet (article free when you register)
The Lancet Commissions: November 7, 2015/Lancet 2015; 386: 1861–914
The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has been formed to map out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide. This Commission is multidisciplinary and international in nature, with strong collaboration between academic centres in Europe and China. The central finding from the Commission’s work is that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. The key messages from the Commission are summarised below, accompanied by ten underlying recommendations to accelerate action in the next 5 years.
The effects of climate change are being felt today, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health. The implications of climate change for a global population of 9 billion people threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health. The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms, with the indirect threatening population health through adverse changes in air pollution, the spread of disease vectors, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill health.
Keeping the global average temperature rise to less than 2°C to avoid the risk of potentially catastrophic climate change impacts requires total anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to be kept below 2900 billion tonnes (GtCO2) by the end of the century. As of 2011, total emissions since 1870 were a little over half of this, with current trends expected to exceed 2900 GtCO2 in the next 15 to 30 years. High-end emissions projection scenarios show global average warming of 2.6 to 4.8°C by the end of the century, with all their regional amplification and attendant impacts.
Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. Given the potential of climate change to reverse the health gains from economic development, and the health co-benefits that accrue from actions for a sustainable economy, tackling climate change could be the greatest the end of the century, with all their regional amplification and attendant impacts. global health opportunity of this century. Many mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change are “no-regret” options, which lead to direct reductions in the burden of ill-health, enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty, and address global inequity. Benefits are realised by ensuring that countries are unconstrained by climate change, enabling them to achieve better health and well being for their populations. These strategies will also reduce pressures on national health budgets, delivering potentially large cost savings, and enable investments in stronger, more resilient health systems.
The article has many more ideas and we recommend it. Obtain it from the Lancet (article free when you register)
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals, and has been described as one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world.
NOAA Announces that 2015, January through November Period, is Hottest Global Temperature on Record for that Period
(And full year of 2015 was second hottest ever in United States, see below. Global data for 2015 will be released on January 20, 2016)
(posted December 25, 2015)
The first 11 months of 2015 were the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.0°C (57.2°F), surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.14°C (0.25°F). Nine of the first eleven months in 2015 have been record warm for their respective months, with January second warmest for January and April third warmest. The December global temperature would have to be at least 0.81°C (1.46°F) below average—or 0.24°C (0.43°F) colder than the current record low December temperature of 1916—for 2015 to not become the warmest year in the 136-year period of record. (NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Record December boosted 2015 to 2nd warmest year for Contiguous US
Ten weather, climate disasters exceeding $1 billion impacted the nation
The 2015 annual average U.S. temperature was 54.4°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average, the second warmest year on record. Only 2012 was warmer for the U.S. with an average temperature of 55.3°F. This is the 19th consecutive year the annual average temperature exceeded the 20th century average. The first part of the year was marked by extreme warmth in the West and cold in the East, but by the end of 2015, record warmth spanned the East with near-average temperatures across the West. This temperature pattern resulted in every state having an above-average annual temperature.
The average contiguous U.S. precipitation was 34.47 inches, 4.53 inches above average, and ranked as the third wettest year in the 121-year period of record. Only 1973 and 1983 were wetter. The central and southeastern U.S. was much wetter than average, while parts of the West and Northeast were drier than average. The national drought footprint shrank about 10 percent during the course of the year.
In 2015, there were 10 weather and climate disaster events, each with losses exceeding $1 billion. These events included a drought, two floods, five severe storms, a wildfire event and a winter storm. Overall, these resulted in the deaths of 155 people and had significant economic effects. Further cost figures on individual events in 2015 will be updated when data are finalized later this year.
A common misunderstanding of global temperature rise centers around the fact that small increases in temperature, such as 0.14° C, 1.57° F, or even 2° C, does not sound problematic in the sense of ordinary weather temperature measurements. But an average increase of one degree, ON AVERAGE, across the entire surface of the globe means huge changes in climatic extremes. Scientists now highly recommend, and the Paris Climate Accord agreed in December 2015, that that nations of the world work together to try to keep the world temperature from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and if possible keep this rise down to 1.5° C. This benchmark temperature has already risen almost 1° C (1.8°F). This common misunderstanding is partially responsible for climate change denial; people have problems comprehending the concept of the effect of small changes in temperature rise. Read here for more explanation.
Our Earth is warming. Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.
It is highly likely that we shall soon hear from the scientific community that 2015 was the hottest global temperature ever recorded in human history. This global information will be released on January 20, 2016 by NOAA and NASA. (update: this announcement was made on January 29 as expected)
Mass shootings are only a small part of the total gun murder problem in America. See this excellent review of that data.
But we examine mass murders below, because it is currently under discussion and in the news. But please read the link in the previous paragraph which takes you to a Guardian article. You could probably not find that kind of article in an American newspaper.
(June 20th, 2016: Below are updates on USA Senate vote today on four gun control issues including how your senators voted. These votes require 60 Yeas to pass; cloture votes are a nightmare to explain. Check out the explanation.) A very complex vote with amendments to amendments and the strange cloture concept thrown in to confuse. Votes pretty much along party lines.
On the Cloture Motion S.Amdt. 4751: Motion to Invoke Cloture on Amdt. No. 4751; To address gun violence and improve the availability of records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Rejected: 53 Yeas/47 Nays. A Republican amendment seen as inadequate and unworkable by Democrats. A Nay vote is to reject this amendment. See how your senators voted.
On the Cloture Motion S.Amdt. 4749: Motion to Invoke Cloture on Amdt. No. 4749; To Secure our Homeland from radical Islamists by Enhancing Law enforcement Detection (“SHIELD”). Rejected: 53 yeas/47 nays. A Republican amendment seen as inadequate and unworkable by Democrats. A Nay vote is to reject this amendment. See how your senators voted.
On the Cloture Motion S.Amdt. 4720: Motion to Invoke Cloture on Amdt. No. 4720; To authorize the Attorney General to deny requests to transfer a firearm to known or suspected terrorists. Rejected: 47 yeas/53 nays. A Democrat amendment seen by them as solid and meaningful and would represent some good gun control. A Yea vote accepts this amendment. See how your senators voted.
On the Cloture Motion (S.Amdt. 4750): Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Commit H.R. 2578 with instructions; To ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale. 06/20/2016 SA 4750 fell when the the motion to table the motion to commit the bill (H.R. 2578) to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary with instructions to report back forthwith with the following amendment (SA 4750) agreed to. Rejected: 44 yeas/56 nays. A Democrat amendment seen by them as solid and meaningful and would represent some good gun control. A Yea vote accepts the 4750 amendment. See how your senators voted.
Smith & Wesson, Military and Police Assault Rifle. It is one of the types of the general AR-15 category used in the San Bernardino mass murders on December 2nd, 2015.
“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. So what are you waiting for?” – – a statement by an Al Qaeda spokesman, the American-born Adam Yahiye Gadahn.
Below quote from the Daily News: (December, 4, 2015)
The Senate voted against barring suspected terrorists, felons and the mentally ill from getting guns on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3rd, 2015), parroting National Rifle Association arguments that doing so would strip some innocent people of their constitutional rights to gun access just a day after yet another massacre on U.S. soil.
A pair of measures – one to close background check loopholes to make it harder for felons and the mentally ill from buying guns, another to ban those on the terror watch list from buying guns – both went down in flames.
Senate Amendment 2908 to House Resolution 3762: “To protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.” It failed, 48 Yeas to 50 Nays.
Senate Amendment 2910 to S. Amdt. 2874 to H.R. 3762: “To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.” It failed, 45 yeas to 54 nays.
See an opinion of the irrational votes by the senators and you decide if it is rational or not. Is it critical thinking?
By themselves, the two votes described above might not have prevented the San Bernardino murders but that is not the argument; they might have, at minimum, raised the probability of prevention for that incident and in the long run reduced the rate of mass murders. The FBI is now treating the San Bernardino murders as a terrorist case due to statements by the perpetrators on Facebook. Better “terrorist” information (however that needs to be collected) and the background checks described in the Amendments certainly could help. We do not want those on the “Terrorist Watch List” to be able to buy guns! If they are considered “ok” to buy guns, what are they then doing on the Terrorist Watch List! What if assault rifles could not be sold to the general public as was the case until 2004? Certainly the mental health problems need to be addressed? Many thoughts for discussion.
From Wikipedia – – This may be an obvious place to start:
Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) — officially, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act — is a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms it defined as assault weapons, as well as certain ammunition magazines it defined as “large capacity.”
The ten-year ban was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 13, 1994, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton the same day. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban’s enactment, and it expired on September 13, 2004, in accordance with its sunset provision.
Our government had no concrete intelligence warning of the assault this month that killed 14 people in California. What is the meaning of that? The murders were heavily armed, heavily stocked with ammunition and were obviously radical, dangerous, and deranged people. Some heavy thinking is needed on this dilemma — more resources need to go somewhere to solve that problem. See link below for other ideas from other countries and thinkers.
This problem raises lots of emotion but certainly there is much that can be done. The United states is the only country in the world with this kind of mass murder rate. Second amendment worship has obliterated rational public policy. The cries of gun owners of “limiting my freedom” are becoming childish. Arguments used by the NRA have always been absurdly irrational and trite and they are becoming more so. The world for some time will be threatened by ISIS type groups; we will need more caution, control and regulation on guns. We need some serious thought AND ACTION! What are you afraid of if you are a responsible gun owner but do not want more control? Is it due process of law if your name accidentally gets on a no buy/no fly list? We can fix that if in fact it does or might occur. We can fix your fears; please help us think through this!
(UPDATE: Quote from NYTimes on December 7, 2015: “WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a Second Amendment challenge to an Illinois ordinance that banned semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. As is their custom, the justices gave no reason for turning down the appeal in the case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, No. 15-133, which comes at a time when the national debate on gun control has been reignited by terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.”
NOTE: The supreme court did the same thing on June 20, 2016 relative to a Connecticut law banning assault rifles.
See a review of what other countries do for gun control and a discussion of irrational NRA arguments.
President Obama is in Paris at the Climate Conference and of course he is promoting what needs to be done on climate change policy.
Mr. Obama made his remarks [at the Paris Climate Conference] hours before Congress was to reconvene, and the Republican majority in the House was expected to send a signal to negotiators from the nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris that it did not support the president’s climate-change policies.
The House was expected to pass two bills blocking Mr. Obama’s major initiatives on climate change, a set of Environmental Protection Agency rules to push energy providers away from coal-fired power plants
The House did pass these two bills. See how your Federal House representatives voted on December 1st and how your Senators voted on the same bills in November: Votes were along almost exact party lines as expected:
Senate Joint. Resolution 23: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units”.
A Yea vote is a vote for disapproval of the EPA Rule.
Senate Joint Resolution 24: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units”
A Yea vote is a vote for disapproval of the EPA Rule.
The conclusion, of course, is that our Senators and Representatives have been democratically elected by a majority of citizens. As simple as that. This is apparently what the majority of people in the United States want to see happen regarding climate change issues. So does one argue that it has little to do with politicians, but with the minds of citizens? You may have your own argument on this.
These bills “disapprove” of EPA Rules which would lead to cleaner air and the phase out of coal use. They could stop the rules from going into effect and will now go to the President who will of course veto them; the vetoes look like they cannot be overridden in Congress. See five ways the EPA’s Climate Rules could be stopped.
Here are the EPA summaries of the two Rules from their website:
Relative to Senate Joint Resolution 23: “On August 3, 2015, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change. Shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement, the final Clean Power Plan is fair, flexible and designed to strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change.” Reference
Relative to Senate Joint Resolution 24: “Power plants are the largest stationary source of carbon pollution in the United States ‐‐ about one‐ third of all greenhouse gas pollution comes from the generation of electricity by power plants. On August 3, 2015, EPA set standards to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed power plants. Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) provides authority to address emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed, and existing power plants, recognizing different approaches that are available at different stages of construction. This is one of three separate but related actions to address carbon pollution from power plants. They are: (1) The final Carbon Pollution Standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants, set under the authority of Clean Air Act section 111(b); (2) The final Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, set under the authority of section 111(d); and (3) A proposed federal plan associated with the final Clean Power Plan.” Reference
And that is that renewable energies like wind and solar are not yet realistically “ready” to keep our emissions down to the limits needed within the next critical 35 years for all the reasons of cost, technical effectiveness, and the distributive nature of those energies (i.e., they are spread out over the earth and must be “collected” and distributed (the grid) by complex, inefficient methods wherein the energy is degraded by the laws of physics). Our grid is very old, made up of non-standardized area systems and could not currently handle a vast input of solar energy generated electricity. Throw in a lack of political/psychological will, ignorance and opposing influences from the fossil fuel industry and we have huge problems. We do not see the type of “war effort” needed for getting climate change under control.
There are no magic technological solutions awaiting us, no one working “in a garage to give us some magical solution. Thus the prospect of using ONLY renewable energies, which we dreamed could simply be “plugged into” our homes does not appear to be a near term.
Ask yourself, do you or your neighbors live in a part of the country which provides adequate solar input for significant use of residential roof solar panels? If you do, could you and your neighbors afford the cost running between $15,000 and $40,000 for purchase and installation of panels? How long would it take you to have “payback” on that investment? Could you store electricity for nighttime use? Battery storage technology is not very efficient. Could you get enough solar power in winter? Is your home facing the right direction for solar input to your roof or is your land area sufficient for ground panels?
Residential solar systems are typically sized from 3 to 8kW and end up costing between $15,000 and $40,000. The cost per watt (price inclusive of parts, labor, permitting fees, overhead, and profit) has decreased significantly over the last decade and is now between 6 and 8 ($/W) in many parts of the U.S. Generally, the bigger the system, the lower the cost per watt.
From these figures take a middle kilowatt (kW) figure of 5 and the middle cost figure of $7 per watt and one gets an average system price of $35,000; not easy for the average American to buy into.
These points of discussion help explain why solar energy was such a tiny portion, 0.43%, of our total energy use in (2014) in the United States. Wind energy is ahead, providing close to 2% of U.S. total energy use and 5% of electricity use. If we consider electricity production alone for 2014, the fuel sources for that production were fossil fuels 67.9%, nuclear 19%, solar 0.4% and wind, biomass, geothermal 6.5%.
We hear of great technological advancement for solar energy panel efficiency and that is extremely encouraging but we need to promote solar and wind more effectively.
So what else is holding up the growth of solar and wind?
Yan Qin, a senior modelling analyst at Thompson Reuters Point Carbon, told the Guardian a few dips still lie ahead for solar. The main is grid infrastructure, which was built to carry fairly consistent levels of generation and will struggle to cope with the variability of solar and wind energy.
National grids are adapting, but the infrastructure investments are huge and the work slow. In Europe, a plan to build a massive solar farm in the Sahara desert that would provide 15% of Europe’s power by 2050, collapsed because the costs involved in transmission of solar power have not fallen as fast as the costs to build panels. Gielen said this variability was a limit to growth.
Like other renewables that rely on weather, solar is held back by its “capacity factor”, essentially how often it is producing electricity. A coal power station runs at 70-80% capacity. In northern Europe, solar panel capacity factor is just 15%. This reduces its competitiveness significantly.
And another reason: Economic Uncertainties
By any measure, the world economy has a long way to go to break away from the use of coal and oil that fueled progress since the Industrial Revolution. Globally, renewable energy sources are growing fast but they still account for about only 10 percent of total energy supply, with most of that coming from hydroelectric power, according to a new report from the research firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. Solar and wind account for 1.6 percent of total energy.
Some energy experts said that without a multinational carbon tax or other pricing of carbon, which was not specified in the Paris agreement, the hopes of environmentalists for a true sea change that will curb climate change remain challenged.
In June, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total called for a tax on carbon emissions, saying it would reduce uncertainty and help oil and gas companies figure out the future.
A recent New York Times survey indicates U.S. Citizens are becoming more understanding and educated on some aspects of climate change and they are coming to realize that policies must be established for controlling it. BUT THE KEY POINT IS THAT WHEN IT COMES TO ACTUALLY SACRIFICING TO SOLVE THIS EXISTENTIAL PROBLEM, they have little interest! For example, asked if they would pay more for renewable energy in their electric bill, the YES response has dropped from 75% yes in a 2007 survey to 55% yes in the 2015 survey. IT CAN’T BE DONE WITHOUT SOME SERIOUS PERSONAL CHANGES AND DISCOMFORT — or at least less extravagance. THERE IS NOT MUCH INTEREST FOR THAT.
And when it comes to private donation efforts by billionaires, e.g. Bill Gates, to fund research on renewable fuels, not much weight or hope can be predicted. Naomi Klein, in her book, This Changes Everything, reviews a similar plan by other millionaires which did not materialize. Bill Gates has invested one billion of his own money in areas such as new kinds of batteries and nuclear reactors which should be valuable — but a massive world problem and we rely on the generosity of the wealthy? There is also no guarantee that we can, “on demand,” understand the physics and convert it to workable engineering for solar energy or for any other “magical” technologies which are currently little advanced (e.g. nuclear fusion).
The Times article reports on a project called the Decarbonization Pathways Project. Compared to much of the media blather about climate change policies and over-simplified statements about renewables, the article is very realistic and reports on some serious thinking and planning by a very sharp group of people. We will need nuclear power (nuclear fission), a very unpopular energy source which is sadly much misunderstood and viewed with false fear. We recommend you read the article and follow up on some of its links.
Here are some summary statements from the New York Times article:
The Decarbonization Pathways Project is based in Paris and New York. Over the past couple of years, the effort enlisted teams from 16 countries, which account for the large majority of global emissions, to devise such plans. The experts focused on a specific question: Can emissions be cut enough from now to 2050 to meet an international target designed to head off the worst effects of climate change?
Perhaps the single most crucial finding of the project is that the technologies available today, while good enough to get a running start on the transition, are probably not good enough to finish it. That means experts who have long argued for a more intensive research program on clean energy have a point. The 16-country analysis suggests that many technologies, like electric cars and offshore wind turbines, have to become cheaper and better.
Mark Z. Jacobson, an engineer at Stanford University, has drawn attention with a finding that the entire world could operate on 100 percent renewable power by 2050. “We think it’s technically and economically feasible,” Dr. Jacobson said. “It ultimately does come down to political will. If people don’t want to do it, it’s not going to happen by itself.”
The research found that nuclear power would be essential for staying within a strict emissions budget. Mr. Jenkins said that new nuclear plants would also be needed in some American states that had few other options.
There is no “magic” solution awaiting us. we must use and perfect the existing renewable technologies, governments must promote research and perhaps continue to subsidize residential solar installations with incentives, etc. We must educate the public to demand progress from their politicians, who are only inclined to react to that pressure. And we must reinvigorate energy systems, like nuclear, to be part of the mix in the new energy policies.
And we know the American emotions surrounding nuclear energy but education is needed in that area. This is worth summarizing here because of the educational need.
Making electricity from nuclear power turns out to be far less damaging to human health than making it from coal, oil or even clean-burning natural gas, according to numerous analyses. That’s even more true if the predicted effects of climate change are thrown in.
Compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe.
There were no deaths from the famous Three Mile accident of 1979 in the United States nor from the plant flooding incident in the 2011 Fukushima, Japan accident. The famous Chernobyl accident of 1986 in Ukraine, the worst nuclear accident ever, did see deaths and had projected cancer deaths.
On the death toll of the [Chernobyl] accident, the report states that twenty-eight emergency workers (“liquidators”) died from acute radiation syndrome including beta burns and 15 patients died from thyroid cancer in the following years, and it roughly estimated that cancer deaths caused by Chernobyl may reach a total of about 4000 among the 5 million persons residing in the contaminated areas, the report projected cancer mortality “increases of less than one per cent” (~0.3%) on a time span of 80 years, cautioning that this estimate was “speculative” since at this time only a few cancer deaths are linked to the Chernobyl disaster. The report says it is impossible to reliably predict the number of fatal cancers arising from the incident as small differences in assumptions can result in large differences in the estimated health costs. The report says it represents the consensus view of the eight UN organisations.
Chernobyl was certainly a major disaster, no doubt about that fact. The causes of this accident need to be studied in the Wikipedia reference above to get the full understanding and comparison with modern nuclear plants and nuclear safety regulations in the United States. The point, as summarized above, is that there is much emotion and misunderstanding surrounding nuclear energy; the psychology of those myths and fears can easily be understood from the psychology of “The Bomb.” But up to 200,000 thousand deaths occur in the united states (13,000 from coal burning alone) yearly from burning fossil fuels and there is no serious comparison to nuclear energy.
Hence the argument of “no nuclear” in our future energy policies is irrational; perhaps some day we can generate all world energy with only solar and wind. But as you saw above, many experts believe the only real solution is a combination of renewable and nuclear and that anything else is a fairy tale.
We have a time factor that now is becoming very narrow — lots of education on this issue is still needed. Can Democracy function in this regard?
Obama’s comments on the Paris climate talks, posted on Facebook two hours ago:
I’m heading to Paris today to join nearly 200 countries for a global conference on climate change. It’s an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our oldest ally, just two weeks removed from the barbaric attacks there,and reaffirm our commitment to protect our people and our way of life from terrorist threats. It’s also an opportunity for the world to stand as one and show that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.
What makes this gathering different is that more than 180 nations have already submitted plans to reduce the harmful emissions that help cause climate change. And America’s leadership is helping to drive this progress. In fact, our businesses and workers have shown that it’s possible to make progress towards a low-carbon future while creating new jobs and growing the economy. Our economic output is at all-time highs, but our greenhouse gas emissions are down towards 20-year lows.
So what we’re trying to do in Paris is put in place a long-term framework for further emissions reductions – targets set by each nation, but transparent enough to be verified by other nations. And we’ll work to mobilize support to help the most vulnerable countries expand clean energy and adapt to the effects of climate change we can no longer avoid.
I’m optimistic about what we can achieve – because I’ve already seen America take incredible strides these past seven years. And with that – I’ll see you in Paris.”
From the New York Times: December 1, 2015
Mr. Obama made his remarks [at the Paris Climate Conference] hours before Congress was to reconvene, and it was expected to send a signal to negotiators from the nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris that it did not support the president’s climate-change policies.
The House was expected to pass two bills blocking Mr. Obama’s major initiatives on climate change, a set of Environmental Protection Agency rules to push energy providers away from coal-fired power plants
Quote below from the New York Times: See full article here.
Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal that is likely to be reached in Paris in December will commit nearly every country to some kind of action. Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
Still have a question about climate change? You can submit one here.“
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is pleased that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is permitting a Pastafarian woman to wear a colander in her driver’s license photo, a development that occurred after the group’s attorneys were enlisted to assist with the applicant’s appeal.
Lindsay Miller identifies as a Pastafarian, also known as members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a secular religion that views the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster to be just as probable as the existence of the Christian God. As a Pastafarian, Ms. Miller wished to wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license photo, as an expression of her Pastafarian identity. However, she was denied this request by the Massachusetts RMV.
Miller said, “As a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I feel delighted that my Pastafarianism has been respected by the Massachusetts RMV. While I don’t think the government can involve itself in matters of religion, I do hope this decision encourages my fellow Pastafarian Atheists to come out and express themselves as I have.”
See full writeup at the humanist.com)
(posted November 11, 2015: from The Guardian)
Two important figures came head-to-head at Conway Hall, to discuss Islamic versus Humanist perspectives on science and the modern world. Jim Al-Khalilimade the final public appearance of his term as president of the British Humanist Association during this stimulating, and at times provoking, debate with Ziauddin Sardar, chair of the Muslim Institute.
Al-Khalili advocated the values of the European Enlightenment, arguing that ever since the “Age of Reason” took hold during the 18th century, Humanists have looked to science instead of religion to explore and comprehend the world. Sardar upheld the view that it is the combination of faith and reason that offers a fuller understanding of the world, maintaining that it was this worldview that enabled the development of science in the Islamic golden Age.
Jim Al-Khalili agreed that ascribing literal meanings to religious texts can be perilous and that these verses should be interpreted more metaphorically. Likewise, when Einstein famously said “God does not play dice” he was using a figure of speech to acknowledge that there are things we don’t yet understand but this shouldn’t stop us from trying to find out more.
Whilst Al-Khalili is a staunch atheist, he adopts what he describes as an “accommodationist” approach in his interactions with people of religious faith: “I don’t think people who believe in God are irrational, I just don’t see a need to believe there is a purpose for why things are the way they are.”
(posted November 7, 2015)
Excerpts from a Study Reported in The Guardian:
Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.
They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.
“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.
“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.”
The findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households.
Humanists do not believe religion is necessary for moral or other empathetic development. Agnostics, atheists, and “non-religious” persons can of course be highly moral, compassionate, altruistic and socially successful persons, making large contributions to society. And they usually raise their children to have the same orientation. Humanists also point out that it is often obvious that many religious, “fundamentalists” persons can be highly intolerant and bigoted in their views of others who have different “cosmic” views than they do.
A Sweeping New Legal Front in the Battle Over Climate Change? The New York State Attorney General Has Begun an Intense Investigation of ExxonMobil on Possible Lying to Investors About Climate Change
(posted November 5, 2015)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday, November 4th demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents from Exxon Mobil. See details. And for another review of Exxon Mobil seeding climate change doubt over decades see a piece by another Pulitzer Prize Winning group,
It is well known that the powerful corporations who fear climate change action support groups attempting to distort the science of climate as well as to distort the public view of it.
The deniers are doing more than protecting their personal worldviews — they are protecting powerful political and economic interests………The ties between the deniers and those interests are well known and documented. Heartland [one of the main “think tank” groups promoting denial] has received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil together with foundations linked to the Koch brothers and the late conservative funder Richard Mellon Scaife. One of Heartland’s largest donors is anonymous — a shadowy individual who has given more than $8.6 million, specifically to support the think tank’s attacks on climate science.
These sums of money ExxonMobil gives promoting climate change denial appear to be the major emphasis of the investigation. The tobacco companies and other industries tried this approach some years ago, attempting to obfuscate and deny the dangers of cigarette smoking or large scale environmental problems by massive financing of companies and individuals doing the falsification outreach to the public. They lost, big time. Exxon-Mobil has obviously been doing the same thing. This could be the beginning of something big; minimally, it will awaken much of the public from what has been going on for decades.
It’s the Merchants of Doubt concept that is apparently on the mind of the NY Attorney General and he will use the illegal nature of lying to investors as his lever.
Toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its climate research and was a leader in climate denial. In 1989, Exxon helped found and lead the Global Climate Coalition. Lee Raymond, Exxon and ExxonMobil chief executive officer from 1993 to 2006, was one of the most outspoken executives in the United States against regulation to curtail global warming.
ExxonMobil has drawn criticism from scientists, science organizations and the environmental lobby for funding organizations critical of the Kyoto Protocol and seeking to undermine public opinion about the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. According to Mother Jones Magazine, the company channeled at least $8,678,450 between the years 2000-2003 to forty different organizations that have employed disinformation campaigns including “skeptic propaganda masquerading as journalism” to influence opinion of the public and of political leaders about global warming and that the company was a member of one of the first such groups, the Global Climate Coalition, founded in 1989.
According to The Guardian, ExxonMobil has funded, among other groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, Congress on Racial Equality, TechCentralStation.com, and International Policy Network. ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations has drawn criticism from the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom. A survey carried out by the UK’s Royal Society found that in 2005 ExxonMobil distributed $2.9m to 39 groups that the society said “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence”. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2007 accusing ExxonMobil of spending $16 million, between 1998 and 2005, towards 43 advocacy organizations which dispute the impact of global warming. The report argued that ExxonMobil used disinformation tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry in its denials of the link between lung cancer and smoking, saying that the company used “many of the same organizations and personnel to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue.” These charges are consistent with a purported 1998 internal ExxonMobil strategy memo, posted by the environmental group Environmental Defense, stating: ‘Victory will be achieved when
- Average citizens [and the media] ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom’ …
- Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy
- Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear out of touch with reality.‘
Could this be the beginning of some serious discussion on climate science denial? On the massive blockage in our political system preventing action on the dangers of climate change ? On those doing their laughable denial game? Can we get some serious examination of the extra-ordinary powers held by energy companies?
The Vice President for Public Affairs at ExxonMobil said they are still deciding how to respond to the subpoena from NY State Attorney General. This decision will be interesting to hear.
September 2015 Was Hottest September on Record for World
(posted October 22, 2015)
“The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. The September temperature is currently increasing at an average rate of 0.06°C (0.11°F) per decade.”
“Select national information is highlighted below. (Please note that different countries report anomalies with respect to different base periods. The information provided here is based directly upon these data):
- In Canada, Ontario had a record warm September. Temperatures were above average by up to 5°C (9°F) across the province.
- The United States had its second warmest September on record, with a temperature 2.1°C (3.7°F) above the 20th century average. Record and near-record warmth spanned most of the country, with nine states in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southwest record warm.
- The September temperature for Norway was 2.2°C (4.0°F) higher than the 1961–1990 average. This marks the sixth warmest September for the country since national records began in 1900. Parts of northern Norway and Trøndelag were 3–4°C (5–7°F) warmer than average.
- It was the coldest September in Spain since 1996, at 0.8°C (1.4°F) below the 1981–2010 national average. Some areas of northern Spain were 1.5‐2.5°C (2.7–4.5°F) cooler than their monthly averages.
- The United Kingdom also had a September temperature that was 0.8°C below the 1981–2010 average. England and Wales each observed their coolest September since 1994.”
Another graphic from NOAA for September 2015:
Read about this in a New York Times article. They believe it foreshadows 2015 being the hottest year on record, a very reasonable conclusion.
Paris and the Global Climate Meeting; The Pope and Global Warming, China & Shell Oil and Global Warming. And Probably the Most Important Woman Involved in Trying to Slow Global Warming
(posted October 3, 2015)
Fortunately there is increased discussion recently on global climate change (GCC). Some of this is due to the building U.S. presidential election, some to the visit of the Pope who has been promoting environmental sustainability and some to the approaching and critical Paris meeting on climate. Add in news on statements by China and India for their plans on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (usually associated with the Paris meeting) and we see a serious uptick in discussion of the topic. Whether it is meaningful and educational relative to critical thinking and progress, only time will tell. Let’s look at four issues pertaining to Global Climate Change.
1. The Pope and Global warming:
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, according to Vatican figures. Most of them, 80%, are in Latin America, Europe and Africa. Hence we can ask if it is valuable for the leader of these more than one billion people to created encyclicals and expound on and promote solutions to a dangerously warming Earth, one of mankind’s most pressing issues. Of course the answer is minimally “yes, how could it hurt the educational process” and we have that answer already expressed on this website.
But this is a website dedicated to critical thinking and Humanism, so we also have the ungracious post pointing out the contradictions in the overall cosmic and world view of the Pope and Catholicism. Why does the Pope become scientific on one issue but remain in the stone age/bronze age on all others. (the Church does not accept evolution in any scientific sense but pretends it does). The church promotes the subjugation of women by promoting the “sin of birth control” a very large cause of poverty, disease, overpopulation and warming of the planet. Emerging nations now crave a life style seen often as only available to them by using fossil fuels for their major energy source.
It is thus a painful dilemma for Oxford Humanists to comfortably accept the Pope’s promotion of an “ecologically sustainable worldview” and his promotion of the contradictory and primitive views.
2. Shell Oil, China and Global Warming: We were all happy to hear that Shell Oil, recently given an unprecedented lease to drill in the Arctic, has given up on that venture. In September of this year, after only a short time attempting some drilling activity in the Arctic, Royal Dutch Shell ended its expensive and fruitless nine-year effort to explore for oil in the Alaskan Arctic — a $7 billion investment. In August of this year the Obama administration gave them final approval to begin drilling there for oil and gas in untouched waters of the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast, a most disturbing decision. Of course thinking people wanted fossil fuels located there to remain there and environmental studies indicated that the arctic was a most unwise, last place from which to take them.
3. Paris Climate Change Meeting in December: The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris, from November 30 to December 11. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the eleventh Meeting of the Parties (MOP11). MOP was created at the third COP which produced the Kyoto Protocol, another international treaty which extended the 1992 UNFCCC treaty.
The UNFCCC is a treaty which is not legally binding as it does not set mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and doesn’t contain any enforcement mechanisms which commits nations who have ratified it to reduce carbon emissions. It has now been ratified by a hundred and ninety-five countries, essentially all the countries in the world. See those countries and the dates signed here. Minimally, it shows near universal agreement that there is a problem and that action is required against climate change. It also states that the “Parties” shall hold an annual meeting; the “Conference Of the Parties (COP).” 2015 will be COP21.
The Kyoto Protocol, a treaty which has had a long, tortuous, painful, political journey, has 192 signatories. Signing is a symbolic, token gesture with little meaning. The meaningful step is for a country to ratify the document; this constitutes a contractual agreement with legal obligations. The United States is a signatory and one of two signatory countries which have not ratified it and has indicated it will not do so. See the list of Kyoto Protocol member countries and their status and dates of signing and ratification at the UNFCCC website. That list shows that only the United States and Canada have not ratified it (Canada ratified it at one point but then withdrew).
We recommend an article which reviews the UNFCCC and Kyoto and its history. Here is an excerpt regarding Kyoto:
Kyoto imposed specific targets on roughly forty countries of the global North (not all of which, of course are actually in the North. The targets varied from country to country; the nations of the European Union, for instance, were, collectively, supposed to cut their emissions by eight per cent, while the United States was supposed to cut them by seven per cent. (This was against a baseline of 1990.) Canada was expected to reduce its emissions by six per cent. Australia’s target allowed its emissions to grow, but not beyond eight per cent.
Countries in the global South were not given targets, on the theory that it would be unfair to ask them to reduce their already relatively small output. (Saudi Arabia, part of this second group, tried to scuttle the agreement in advance, by demanding that the text be circulated six months before the final negotiating session.) It was the United States that helped rescue the protocol—Vice-President Al Gore flew to Kyoto when the talks appeared to be foundering—and it was also the U.S. that very nearly killed it. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty, and shortly after George W. Bush entered the White House, in 2001, he announced that his Administration would not abide by its terms.
“Kyoto is dead” is how Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national-security adviser, put it. In fact, the treaty survived, but in a zombielike state. The U.S. ignored it. The Canadians blew past their target and, midway through the period covered by Kyoto, withdrew from the agreement. Only the Europeans really took their goal seriously, not only meeting it but exceeding it
Some Kyoto Treaty details here on obligations, commitment periods, etc. (from Wikipedia; see it for some maps)
The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: it puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community (the European Union-15, made up of 15 states at the time of the Kyoto negotiations) commit themselves to binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions emissions. The targets apply to the four greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), and two groups of gases,hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). The six GHG are translated into CO2 equivalents in determining reductions in emissions. These reduction targets are in addition to the industrial gases, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are dealt with under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Under the Protocol, only certain Parties, the Annex I Parties, have committed themselves to national or joint reduction targets (formally called “quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives” (QELRO) – Article 4.1). Parties to the Kyoto Protocol not listed in Annex I of the Convention (the non-Annex I Parties) are mostly low-income developing countries and may participate in the Kyoto Protocol through the Clean Development Mechanism (explained below).
The emissions limitations of Annex I Parties varies between different Parties. Some Parties have emissions limitations reduce below the base year level, some have limitations at the base year level (i.e., no permitted increase above the base year level), while others have limitations above the base year level.
The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. A second commitment period was agreed on in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment (2013 to 2020) to the protocol, in which 37 countries have binding targets: Australia, the European Union (and its 28 member states), Belarus, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have stated that they may withdraw from the Protocol or not put into legal force the Amendment with second round targets. Japan, New Zealand and Russia have participated in Kyoto’s first-round but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period. Other developed countries without second-round targets are Canada (which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012) and the United States (which has not ratified the Protocol). As of July 2015, 36 states have accepted the Doha Amendment, while entry into force requires the acceptances of 144 states. (OHEA Editor’s update: as of October 5th, 2015, 49 countries have accepted this Amendment)
Negotiations were held in Lima in 2014 to agree on a post-Kyoto legal framework that would obligate all major polluters to pay for CO2 emissions. China, India, and the United States have all signaled that they will not ratify any treaty that will commit them legally to reduce CO2 emissions.
The November-December 2015 conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. The primary goal of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. According to the organizing committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world.
In the lead-up to Paris, as noted above, countries have been asked to publicly declare what actions they intend to take under a new global agreement and formally submit it; this was requested to be submitted by March 2015. All countries, regardless of their Kyoto legal status with UNFCC, may submit a plan outlining how, by how much, what form, and with what reference points it will reduce its carbon output.
There are now (October 16th) 123 submissions which are public and may be viewed and read here; (you can order them by country or date of submission.) It will hopefully be updated with new INDCs regularly but the time is now late for submissions. Through their form and strength, these submissions indicate what shape any 2015 agreement might take. India, for example, submitted its INDC on October 1st and 18 other countries have also done so this month (October).
On March 31st the US made a big step towards achieving a global climate deal by submitting its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UN. The proposal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025. This reduction effort would put the US on track to potentially reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. The submitted INDC demonstrates the US’ commitment to the upcoming climate agreement which is expected to come about from the Conference of the Parties in Paris later this year, and comes on the heels of the EU’s INDC which ASP has discussed.
While this INDC proposal is momentous, its actual value to a climate agreement may not be very significant. The US has already made this commitment through a bilateral agreement with China, so the US has not in fact offered anything new with its INDC. From an even more cynical position, the US has essentially guaranteed that it will not be able to use its INDC for leverage in the upcoming negotiations. While other countries will be able to threaten to withhold their commitments in what could be a standoff with each party threatening to back out unless the others up their commitments, the US has relieved itself of this ability. Threatening to withdraw our INDC is the same as threatening to back out of our bilateral climate agreement with China.
The US’ climate deal with China was meant to be a tradeoff of INDCs, and while the involvement of both the US and China have been the biggest barriers to a successful climate deal in the past (together they make up over 40% of global emissions), it also means that the US has essentially already spent all of its bargaining power in order to bring China to the table. Perhaps if the US’ bilateral commitment with China had been more modest, such as a 15% reduction, it could have used its INDC as a bargaining chip in Paris, but that avenue is closed off now.
A quote from media: “On Friday in the Rose Garden, the story of how Washington and Beijing will fight climate change took a stunning turn as President Xi Jinping of China stood with Mr. Obama and announced that China would put in place its own national cap-and-trade system in 2017. Environmentalists hailed the announcement as historic and said that China’s move should effectively end Republicans’ main objection to enacting a domestic climate change policy.” (NYTimes -September 25th, 2015)
Another quote from media: In Washington, Republican leaders are working to block U.S action on climate change. “The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has begun reaching out to other countries to tell them that he is doing all he can to halt Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, and thus prevent the United States from meeting its United Nations obligation.”
The European Union has submitted its climate action plan in the form of quantifiable INDCs, in line with objectives to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, using the year 1990 as the baseline year with which emission reductions are compared. However, aviation is not explicitly mentioned in the INDCs. Since then, the EU has been criticized by members of civil society claiming that its 40% emission reduction target is not ambitious enough.
India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the UNFCCC in October 2015, committing to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels. On its submission, India wrote that it needs “at least USD 2.5 trillion” to achieve its 2015-2030 goals, and that its “international climate finance needs” will be the difference over “what can be made available from domestic sources.”
All of the above should give you more than you need to get started understanding these complex negotiations; at least you can gather the big picture of the complexity, the hopes and critical nature of the struggle leading up to the November-December 2015 UN Paris Conference.
The UNFCCC is run and facilitated by a Secretariat, now headed by its Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, a critical person who is working vigorously and intensely to solve the horrendous, existential crisis under discussion.
4. UNFCCC Secretariat Christiana Figueres: A Hero for this Century? Or an Impossible job?
Ms. Figueres is head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, the United Nations organization responsible for overseeing the activities of the treaty with the same name.
Relative to all that was described above in terms of climate change treaties, Ms. Figueres is in charge. Her duties include planning the upcoming critical meetings of nations that occur this year as well as organizing and promoting the highly watched emission control pledges being made by nations of the world.
If countries do not, cannot or will not reduce their carbon emissions such that the cumulative, aggregate amount keeps the world temperature from rising above 2 degrees Centigrade, and shoots up to some of the high predictions which are scientifically demonstrated possibilities, within the next few decades the world will continue heading toward uncontrollable environmental catastrophe.
So obviously Ms. Figueres has her “hands full” with some rather serious responsibilities. She has been spending most of her time talking with heads of state, capitalist, investors, and other prominent and famous people to convince countries of the urgency for political, economic and educational movements and decisions on climate change.
Imagine, each country, independent from all others and having no other governing authority other than its own, being asked to make tough decisions on economic/industrial/political reform. Reform which will have serious effects on its future growth, needs and stability! And whether democratic or not, each country is likely to perceive that there is little incentive to make such profound decisions particularly if it has little certainty that other countries will do so. WHO CAN BE ALLOWED TO SPEW OUT THE LAST GIGATONS OF CO2 PROPOSED BY THE 2°C RESTRICTION GOAL?
We recommend an article by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker who spent time with Ms. Figueres this past year and had some rather serious intellectual, emotional and profound discussions in regard to the Secretariat’s horrendous responsibilities. A quote from that article which is appropriately called the”The Weight of the World:”
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none).
The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea.
We all need to wish Ms. Figueres well and support her efforts either emotionally, politically or in whatever manner possible.
It would seem that Ms. Figueres has one fear on which her entire mind, time and effort is focused. And that is the INDCs noted above; the pledges from world countries as to their proposed efforts toward emission reductions. Bloomberg news reported this recently:
Carbon emissions cuts [by countries] now on the table ahead of the end-of-year Paris climate summit provide only about one-third of what would be needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius in the decades ahead, the top UN climate official said Sept. 16.
Pledges from some 60 parties—including top emitters such as the U.S., the European Union and China—will trim a total of 5 gigatons “from where we would have been without them” by 2030, a “marked improvement” from a business-as-usual trajectory without any action, said Christiana Figueres, who oversees the talks as executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“But we have to be very clear that if we want to be on a 2-degree pathway by 2030, we would have to reduce emissions by 15 gigatons,” Figueres said on a press call held by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Ms. Figueres tries to be optimistic but recently appears to be lowering her expectations for Paris. From a recent CBS report:
Despite all this positive momentum, Figueres knows a lot can go wrong. Even if a deal is reached in Paris this December, she insists there won’t be much to celebrate, since a lot will depend on countries honoring their pledges in the coming years and decades.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t pop the champagne bottle because we have really pushed this. We have pushed this beyond what is safe,” she said. “An agreement in Paris, I think, would tell us that we are finally, finally stepping up to the responsibility that we all share. I wouldn’t use it as a huge celebration. I would be actually be humble about it and say, ‘OK wonderful, we have finally stood up to our responsibility,’ and then we have to start the hard task of actually getting on the ground everything we intend.”
One can hope that in the words of Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth” but the other version of that by Charlie Brown is — “it always gets darkest just before it gets totally black.” You decide with your current wisdom and knowledge of human nature, world politics and the current state of the world as to whether you pick the optimistic or pessimistic view on the challenges faced by Ms. Figueres. (p.s. To be critically thinking Humanists, we must give a correction: It is darkest at midnight, not just before dawn)
(posted September 5, 2015)
This extract from International Science Grid This Week — see it for details:
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the City University of New York (CUNY) warn a warming climate and fast-growing population point to a six-fold increase in exposure to extreme heat.
Their new study, published 18 May, 2015 in Nature Climate Change, finds that the overall exposure of Americans to these future heat waves would be vastly underestimated if the role of population changes was ignored. The research was funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Energy (DOE).
Total exposure is measured in ‘person-days,’ calculated by multiplying the number of days when the temperature is expected to reach 95˚ (35˚ C) by the number of people projected to live in areas where extreme heat is occurring.
“Both population change and climate change matter,” says NCAR scientist Brian O’Neill, one of the study’s co-authors. “If you want to know how heat waves will affect health in the future, you have to consider both.”
Extreme heat kills more people in the US than any other weather-related event. Exposure is expected to increase the most for residents in cities across the country’s southern reaches.
(posted September 4, 2015)
We can look on the lighter side of the climate crisis, when recently, many have become excited that the leader of the Catholic Church has been expounding on the absolute truth that we need to move rapidly on stopping and reversing global climate change.
The Pope is absolutely correct to point out that need, but is indeed a very strange and doubtful source of science, logic and critical thinking. And a critical thinker has discussed how that papal expounding could be viewed in various shades of history, Catholic doctrine and ancient beliefs.
Here is an excerpt from a Humanist, Matt Cerami writing in The Humanist:
In the wake of the encyclical officially released last Thursday—an apparently profound document that has conservatives frothing at the mouth and liberals swooning with anime-hearts in their eyes—we should ask ourselves, why do we care? Why does anybody care what the pope has to say about anything? And more specifically, why do humanists, progressives, and secularists care what the pope has to say about science?
As you well know the Vatican didn’t apologize to Galileo until 1992—and to that point, I believe that any praise given to the pope’s scientific declarations does a grave disservice both to the scientific method and to those who genuinely employ it. In other words, Francis, that’s not how this works; you don’t get to cherry-pick scientific consensus when it suits your ideological agenda; you don’t get to uphold the veracity of scientific discoveries while still believing in virgin births and demonic possessions; you don’t get to refer to the data to prove one point while ignoring the data that proves others—say, like, that homosexuality is natural and harmless, or that birth control provides extraordinary benefits to the women of the poor—a community of people that this religious royalty, it seems, is only really concerned with as his rhetorical tool of choice.
Above all, Francis, you don’t get a pat on the back for finally observing and acknowledging something that rational people have already known about for decades; a lag in information that is especially embarrassing considering the pontifical claims about direct communication with the creator of the universe.
What, exactly, has Pope Francis said that hasn’t been said better, before and elsewhere? Which phrase caused this sudden liberal amnesia in regards to the Vatican’s 2000-year history of getting everything wrong in the worst possible ways? Which word was it that has somehow legitimized, in the eyes of a previously critical audience, the musings of out-of-touch old men clinging to even more irrelevant old books?
Read More of the original article.
See another view on how to consider the Pope’s climate change encyclical (you might prefer one view over the other but both can be rationalized — your identity will be a big factor in that decision)
(posted August 31, 2015)
President Obama visited Alaska today to educate Americans about the dangers of global climate change that is causing many of Alaskan coastal villages to disappear into the sea, be engulfed by rivers and to have their permafrost land melt and disappear before their eyes. Residents of entire villages have become refugees and had to leave their life-long homes and resettle elsewhere. Some of the northern parts of Alaska are losing more than a football field a day of land because of coastal erosion and rising seas.
According to one newspaper, “he is visiting Alaska to call for urgent and aggressive action to tackle climate change, capitalizing on a poignant tableau of melting glaciers, crumbling permafrost and rising sea levels to illustrate the immediacy of an issue he hopes to make a central element of his legacy.”
The President has said this about global climate change in the past or in Alaska this week:
“And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. If we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it. Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore.”
“The effects of global warming that have hit the Arctic the hardest will soon engulf the world — submerging entire countries, annihilating cities and leaving fields barren — unless more is done to reduce emissions. We’re not acting fast enough”
Four times in his 24-minute Alaska speech, he repeated his assertion that “we’re not acting fast enough.”
So what might be strange about the president visiting Alaska to educate Americans and the world in this regard causing many to call him a HYPOCRITE?
The answer is this: The Obama administration gave Shell Oil Company final approval two weeks ago to begin drilling for oil and gas in untouched waters of the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Shell paid 2 billion dollars for this lease which was originally negotiated by the last Bush administration. Please do not tell us that the United States of America could not have cancelled, stalled and killed or otherwise have obliterated that lease. Please don’t tell us that. That would be absurd. In the United States, the federal government has sovereign immunity and may not be sued unless it has waived its immunity or consented to suit. The United States as a sovereign is immune from suit unless it unequivocally consents to being sued.
In January 2015, researchers at the University College London (UCL), Institute for Sustainable Resources published a paper that analyzed the percent of fossil fuels that must be left in the ground to allow a fifty percent chance of the safety measure of keeping the earth’s temperature rise to 2 degrees Centigrade (3.6°F) and WHERE those fuels are located. You can see the types, amounts and locations of those fuels here: And for the Arctic, the amount of fossil fuels that can be extracted is ZERO for all forms of that fuel!
(Update: Shell Oil pulls out of Alaska! see news article on this)
Without critical movement on progress in controlling climate change, the average U.S. temperature is projected to increase by catastrophic amounts by the end of this century! The projection is in a horrendous range of about 3°F to 12°F (1.65° C to 6.6°C), depending on emissions scenario and climate model. See the Environmental Protection Agency reference here.
A common misunderstanding of global temperature rise centers around the psychology that small increases in temperature, such as 0.14° C, 1.57° F, or even 2° C, does not sound problematic in the sense of ordinary weather temperature measurements. But an average increase of one degree, ON AVERAGE, across the entire surface of the globe means huge changes in climatic extremes. The generalization is that small changes in WORLD TEMPERATURE can have very large changes in local weather conditions as described in several places on this website. Scientists now highly recommend, and the Paris Accord agreed upon in December 2015, states that that nations of the world will work together to try to keep the world temperature from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and if possible keep that rise down to 1.5° C; it has already risen almost 1° C (1.8°F). This is partially responsible for climate change denial; people have problems understanding the concept. Read here for more explanation.
Dr. John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, accompanied the President to Alaska and stated to news persons that the global average temperature could rise as much as 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. He obtained those figures from a report of the International-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That report was by a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced a United States Government report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The Report is called the National Climate Assessment. See a full summary of that report here and the actual report here. We took one of their key graphs and placed it on a separate page on this site. Dr. Holdren presented that data in 2014 in a formal report on climate change to the U.S. House of Representatives and that report can be found here.
An eleven degree Fahrenheit rise in the average global temperature would be cataclysmic and produce a nightmarish, unimaginable world. The World Bank has stated that “it is not clear that adaptation to a 4 degrees Centigrade world rise in temperature is possible.” (a 4° Centigrade rise is equal to a 7.2° F rise)
If the President’s statements above in regard to the dangers of global climate change are truly felt and sincere, how can one possibly justify more and more drilling for the dirty fossil fuels that are causing the problem! The president and his advisers have one main cognitive dissonance answer which comes in different versions but centers around the absurd concept of petroleum as A CURRENT NECESSITY and a TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE FUELS!
It is a “necessity” because decade after decade we keep saying that it is a necessity and hence it becomes one. Saying it is a “bridge” to renewables gives oil companies an excuse to make little progress in allowing it NOT to be a necessity.
So we keep it as a so called “bridge fuel” and CO2 emissions continue! A self-fulfilling prophecy.
The “BRIDGE” concept is absurd because it provides no motivation for movement toward renewable fuels and also provides energy companies “cover” for their existence and it allows them to keep pressure on congress to do little. That is to say, it provides the industry with more controlling power.
Oil companies must report their oil and gas reserves – the quantity of oil and gas they own/lease that is still in reservoirs in the ground -on financial reports and these reserves are often used to value these companies and make predictions for their revenue and earnings. If they are not seen to have PROVEN reserves close to 100% of their current production rates, they may be seen as very unhealthy investments. As noted above, Shell Oil paid 2 billions dollars to lease the Alaskan Sea drilling area (Chuckchi Sea). So you can see the vicious cycle wherein oil companies must constantly be searching and leasing at the same time Obama is saying “we are not acting fast enough and he is approving the leases! YOU CAN NOT SOLVE THE EXISTENTIAL PROBLEM WHEN WE HAVE THESE TWO CONTRADICTORY GOALS! THERE IS AN OBVIOUS NEED FOR A REVOLUTION IN THINKING! Compartmentalizing in this fashion is madness!
Keep in mind what Naomi Klein has summarized for us in “This Changes Everything” where she reviews some ideas of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change:
Because of our stalling on climate change for decades, “We now face emission cuts of huge amounts causing greater problems in convincing leaders and politicians. We now need 8 to 10% a year cuts in emissions by wealthy nations to have a 50/50 chance of keeping the earth’s warming to a 2 degree Centigrade rise goal. So we must start now. Cuts above 1%/year are associated with recessions and economic upheavals. The Soviet collapse, the wall street 2008 crash were all lower than 8-10% (wall street 2008 was one year at these levels, not more).”
“Only the US 1929 crash had these levels of 8-10% for years. So to avoid these huge crashes the Tyndall Center feels we can avoid catastrophic warming but will need radical & immediate de-growth strategies in wealthy nations. Not apocalyptic with mass suffering but within new rules with basic values (not extreme luxury).”
The President would seem to understand the time crunch on this dilemma, having said four times in his Alaska speech above, “We are not moving fast enough.” BUT HE HAS OKED DRILLING TO ADVANCE IN THE ARCTIC OCEAN AND APPEARS OFTEN TO SUPPORT MORE DRILLING, MORE FRACKING AND MORE EXPLORATION OF FOSSIL FUELS? HYPOCRITICAL or POLITICAL? SOME LACK OF UNDERSTANDING? An actual well-thought out strategy toward some goal?
A massive, existential, human dilemma.
Is this Presidential thinking a planned strategy of some sort to somehow educate and yet admit to being trapped in a profound policy dilemma? Or is it simple bending under the tremendous power of the fossil fuel companies and AGAIN showing how we make weak progress with ideas such as fossil fuels as a “necessity” and “bridge to the future.” You decide. The data above must certainly convince you that humanity has a profound need to begin serious discussion and action. Politicians in democracies will only act on controversial policies if they receive large scale pressure from their constituents; so simple yet so critical. Also, politicians tend to respond to symptoms and not basic causes.
See the President’s speech in Alaska on September 1st during this trip.
Some excellent thinkers believe there are now no non-radical solutions left to address climate change; we have waited too long to act. See one of those discussions here.
If you like it put in more emotional tones read this:
But what all these climate numbers* see below make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”
According to the Carbon Tracker report, if Exxon burns its current reserves, it would use up more than seven percent of the available atmospheric space between us and the risk of two degrees. BP is just behind, followed by the Russian firm Gazprom, then Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell, each of which would fill between three and four percent. Taken together, just these six firms, of the 200 listed in the Carbon Tracker report, would use up more than a quarter of the remaining two-degree budget. Severstal, the Russian mining giant, leads the list of coal companies, followed by firms like BHP Billiton and Peabody. The numbers are simply staggering – this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they’re planning to use it.
If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends. (565 is the gigatons that we can put into the atmosphere by mid century and not go over a global temperature rise of 2°C. see paragraphs immediately below).
from Rolling Stone, August 2012, by Bill McKibben: Read more:
*The 2 degrees world temperature increase decided on by scientists as a “safety” maximum for humans to reach; the roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees; and the 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide which describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies and generally now left in the ground. Meaning of course we must leave 80% of the fossil fuel in the ground to make it through the bottleneck of survivability.
(OHEA Editor’s note: To change a fixed number of degrees from C to F, one multiples by 1.8 because the F/C degree size ratio is 180/100 with F degrees “smaller in size” (they must fit 180 units into the same space – freezing of water to boiling of water) as the larger sized 100 C degree units.) And the reverse process, F to C is to multiply by .55 because that ratio is of course 100/180. This arithmetic is not used to convert a degree reading on one thermometer type to the other, only for changing the number of fixed degrees on one scale to the other)
(posted August 2nd, 2015)
In unusual timing and with a video posted on the White House Facebook page at midnight August 1st, 2015, the President proposes new rules for power plants that will cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030. There will be a ceremony for signing these proposed rules at the White House on Monday, August 3rd.
posted July 22, 2015
International Energy Agency or International Renewable Energy Agency?
Which Organization is the Best Critical Thinker and Advocate for Global Climate Change Action. How Effective Are They in That Regard?
And The Closely Related Question Relative to These Two Organizations: Why Might Progressive Advocates For Control of Global Climate Change Have to Become More Radical and What does That Look Like?
(We will bring you up to date soon on these two critically large scale international organizations that claim to be interested in controlling climate change. Who are they and what are they up to? Who are their critics, what are their values and why should we care? What does it mean for you and future generations? Why is one of these organizations not optimistic on reaching global climate change goals in their new report? And Why, after looking at these organizations, might critically thinking people need to become more radical in regard to moving leaders toward climate change control.
(posted 6-22-15–and updated regularly; see some updates at bottom of post)
January 23rd, 2017 — UPDATE: Today President Donald Trump formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday, pulling away from Asia and scrapping his predecessor’s most significant trade deal on his first full weekday in office, administration officials said.
Mr. Trump sharply criticized the partnership agreement during last year’s campaign, calling it a bad deal for American workers. Although the deal had not been approved by Congress, the decision to withdraw the American signature at the start of Mr. Trump’s administration is a signal that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors.
Maybe you have heard of it; maybe not. The TPP is a massive, controversial “free trade” agreement currently being pushed by big corporations and negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Many politicians have been promoting TPP as have corporations, Wall Street and the upper 10% of wealthy persons in the world. Others and the average “working class” person are against it and it has failed its first vote in Congress but the push is currently on by corporations to run it through again. Those against it argue that by definition trade agreements are associated with globalization and the movement of jobs to countries paying the lowest wages. That has been the largest factor in the deindustrialization of America and the related lost jobs and closing of factories.
TPP could be a serious impediment for progress on global climate change action.
All critically thinking persons must argue against this horrendous trade deal because it is more corporate power grabbing, continued de-industrialization of America and an American job loss generator. Politicians, incumbent and particularly those running for the presidency, will need to be careful how they respond to TPP. Approaching it with a moderate, centrist, compromise approach may hurt them badly. The “centrist” position is a losing one relative to the beliefs of the large blocks of voters just described. The “centrist, moderate” political positions are very, very often phony positions promoted and arbitrated by oligarchs and have been leading the United States and the world down some very scary pathways. Think of the current, angry attitudes of many, many Americans as we venture through the 2016 political election cycle.
Here are some quotes to explain why politicians and all of us must argue against the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
- “The Worst Trade Deal You Never Heard Of
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, now headed to Congress, is a product of big corporations and Wall Street, seeking to circumvent regulations protecting workers, consumers, and the environment. It is a bad deal for the vast majority of Americans. If it’s enacted, American workers and consumers will be made even worse off because of another provision that allows global corporations to sue countries whose health, safety, labor, or environmental regulations crimp their corporate profits. It establishes a tribunal outside any nation’s legal system that can force a nation to reimburse global corporations for any such “losses.” Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton; from his YouTube video and also another view of TPP in a post on his website.
- “These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions. Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection.
The real intent of these provisions is to impede health, environmental, safety, and, yes, even financial regulations meant to protect America’s own economy and citizens. Companies can sue governments for full compensation for any reduction in their future expected profits resulting from regulatory changes.
This is not just a theoretical possibility. Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia for requiring warning labels on cigarettes. Admittedly, both countries went a little further than the US, mandating the inclusion of graphic images showing the consequences of cigarette smoking. The labeling is working. It is discouraging smoking. So now Philip Morris is demanding to be compensated for lost profits.
In the future, if we discover that some other product causes health problems (think of asbestos), rather than facing lawsuits for the costs imposed on us, the manufacturer could sue governments for restraining them from killing more people. The same thing could happen if our governments impose more stringent regulations to protect us from the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions.” Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics. From his Article; The Secret Corporate Takeover.[editors note: It should be noted that during research on this topic numerous examples of current lawsuits of the type noted above are currently being pursued through the World Trade Organization and other courts]
- “The selling of the 12 nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job. Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; They’ve belittled and dismissed the critics and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.” Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate in Economics. From his article Trade and Trust.
- “TPP would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.” Yves Smith, From her article in Naked Capitalism
- “Trade agreements continue to override climate change. A habit of willfully erasing the climate crisis from trade agreements continues to this day. In 2014, American negotiators removed climate change protections from the Trans Pacific Partnership which is a very, very secret deal and had to be exposed through Wikileaks. The current elitist model of globalization through trade agreements has put us in climate crisis. It has led to the climate nightmare of low wages correlated with high emissions of carbon dioxide and is the cost of deregulated, global capitalism and the related world trade agreements. The victims are numerous: lost jobs, degraded jobs, lax safety codes, hundreds killed, toddlers with lead toys, Walmart employee problems, the deindustrialization of U.S. and coal plant pollution in china and a 30 year trend of growing corporate power. To allow arcane trade law, negotiated with scant public scrutiny, to have this kind of power over an issue so critical to humanity’s future is a special kind of madness.” Naomi Klein in her book, “This Changes Everything.” Please read her book; your mind will grow by leaps and bounds.
- “Climate change has gone missing in trade talks between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries.
Top U.S. trade negotiators appear to be trying to steer their counterparts away from even using the phrase in the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, a leaked summary of the the U.S.’s most recent proposal seems to show. The document indicates that the White House’s rewrite would replace “trade and climate change” as the title of a section with “transition to a low-emissions economy.”
That’s not all. The United States also wants to nix references to a United Nations climate change agreement and drop references to “adaptation,” meaning the anticipation of adverse effects of global warming and attempts to minimize the harm ahead of time, according to the summary, which was published by the Peruvian human rights group RedGE.
In a section on biodiversity, the United States’ proposal would expunge language that guarantees the countries’ rights to determine access to their natural and “genetic resources,” a change that would seem to enhance corporate access to those materials, environmental advocates said.
The U.S. proposal is incredibly disappointing,’ said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.
‘The United States is weakening an already weak text. The proposal should be strongly opposed by other governments, and has to be strengthened,’ Solomon said.” Eric Bradner, Politico
- “19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Make You Weep.
The United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing.” Michael Snyder, Business Insider. From his article entitled 19 Facts About The Deindustrialization of America That Will Make You Weep.
- “As the Obama administration praises the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backlash continues to grow against the deal. WikiLeaks has just published another section of the secret text — this one about public healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. Newly revealed details of the draft show the TPP would give major pharmaceutical companies more power over public access to medicine and weaken public healthcare programs. The leaked draft also suggests the TPP would prevent Congress from passing reforms to lower drug costs. One of the practices that would be allowed is known as “evergreening.” It lets drug companies extend the life of a patent by slightly modifying their product and then getting a new patent.” Democracy Now. From their article: Backlash Against TPP Grows as Leaked Text Reveals Increased Corporate Control of Public Health.
- “Well, you can read parts of it [TPP] on WikiLeaks, but you can’t read the real current documents, except if WikiLeaks gets its hands on them. This is extraordinarily secretive. And for that reason alone, in my view, the trade promotion should have been defeated, as it has at least provisionally been. Why are we agreeing to fast-track something that the American people have not seen and debated? And when President Obama said that it’s not true, it’s not secret, he’s not really leveling, because he says, “Well, the American people will get to review it,” but that’s only after it’s complete and subject only to an up-or-down vote, if fast track were to prevail. Democracy Now. An interview with Jeffrey Sachs, a leading economist, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of “The Age of Sustainable Development.
- “In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could: (1) Offshore American Jobs and increase income inequality; (2) Jack up the cost of medicines; (3) Sneak in SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) -like jobs and increase income inequality; (4) Empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards; (5) Expose the U.S. to unsafe food and products; (6) Roll back Wall Street reforms and (7) Ban Buy American Policies needed to create green jobs.” Public Citizen. From their post entitled: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Job Loss, Lower Wages and Higher Drug Prices where you can get details on each of their numbered items above.
- “The Chinese success, helped by American investment, is perhaps not astonishing after all; it has coincided with a large number of Americans’ being put out of work and plunged into poverty.”
- The TPP would harm our environment, jeopardize the health of our families and set us back instead of tackling the climate crisis head on. Congress should oppose this toxic deal.
Among our many concerns is the investor-state dispute settlement system included in the pact which would empower some of the world’s biggest polluters to challenge environmental protections in private trade tribunals. Similar rules in existing pacts have enabled corporations like ExxonMobil and Chevron to bring more than 600 investor-state cases against more than 100 governments. The TPP would expand this system of corporate privilege to thousands of corporations, including major polluters like BHP Billiton. The TPP would also require the Department of Energy to automatically approve all exports of natural gas to countries in the agreement, including Japan, the world’s biggest natural gas importer. Expediting those exports could open the floodgates to more fracking and dangerous climate emissions. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, The New York Times
- “The simple case against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We’ve seen this movie before. Trade deals have been advertised as increasing the size of the economic pie, but the benefits accrue mostly to big companies and their shareholders, while working-class Americans see job losses and income reductions as more of the work they once did moves overseas. Even if estimates of higher economic growth in the event of a deal are correct, many ordinary workers would end up worse off. The diplomatic arguments the president makes are a fuzzy, non economic rationale that is hard to prove or disprove, which is a shaky basis on which to enter a trade deal.” Neil Erwin, The New York Times
- “I wish I could tell the people in my audiences exactly who will benefit most from T.P.P. But anything this secretive, and this marked by corporate influence, leaves little room for doubt: It will not be America’s factory workers. I’ve reported on this in my paperback ‘Factory Man,‘ my book about what happened when 300,000 American furniture-making jobs were offshored to Asia.
Unfettered free trade has not only put the Henry County region near the top of Virginia’s unemployment rankings for more than a decade, but it has also ushered in an era of soaring food insecurity and Social Security disability claims.
Unlike most of the lawmakers deciding the fate of America’s role in international trade, I have spent much of the past three years talking to dislocated workers still living in former factory towns. Most believe that T.P.P. is simply the North American Free Trade Agreement ‘on steroids,’ a done deal driven by corporate greed-heads and the lobbyists they employ.” Beth Macy, Author, in a NYTimes article“
Check out these three excellent summaries of how international trade agreements like TPP or NAFTA can have other horrendous control of our ability to implement needed environmental rules and regulations:
If you enjoy Bernie Sanders, you will enjoy his summary of TPP. (July 7th, 2016)
Do you see who wins and who loses with the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Do you see the strong likelihood for our Country to lose control over many aspects of environmental protection and enforcement, our health system and related costs, our laws, the safety of our food and products? And the loss of our Democracy with TTP and its legally binding stipulations preventing and perverting our democratic institutions from functioning?
UPdate — June 24: Congress gave the President so called “fast-track” authority today which allows him to make trade treaties that cannot be changed or filibustered by Congress allowing them only an up or down vote. The Senate then also approved a bill that provides assistance to workers displaced by international trade accords, attaching it to a popular African trade measure that will go to the House for a final vote that will probably pass. (that they need to have such a bill for displacement of workers of course clearly indicates they expect such displacement!) These events keep the Trans Pacific Partnership alive and moving; corporations and the President continue to fight for it. But it still can be stopped! Call your representatives in Congress!
Update — July 31, 2015: Environmental protections still in jeopardy on this trade deal; It lacks the binding environmental enforcement measures that the Obama administration promised! But now, also, the deal is fortunately stalled over protections for pharmaceutical companies and access to agriculture markets on both sides of the Pacific.
Update — August 1, 2015: from New York Times: “LAHAINA, Hawaii — Pacific trade talks are unlikely to end in a deal due to an impasse over trade in autos and dairy goods and monopoly periods for biologic drugs, sources close to the negotiations said on Friday. Three sources involved in the talks said although ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership were due to meet again shortly, a deal was improbable. ‘It would be very difficult to arrive at a deal,’ one of the officials said, requesting anonymity because discussions were ongoing. (Reporting by Krista Hughes and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by Ken Wills)”
Update — October 1, 2015: TPP talks have begun again this week in Atlanta, GA.
Update — October 5, 2015: ATLANTA — The United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday reached final agreement on the largest regional trade accord in history, teeing up what could be the toughest fight President Obama will face in his final year in office: securing approval from Congress.
So those famous last words: “Write your congressperson.”
Update — June 30, 2016:
While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton supported the TransPacific Partnership but during her 2016 Presidential Campaign she turned her position against it. Now, the Democratic Party, in recent meetings of its 2016 Platform Committee, appears to be having debates, some supporting TPP! We wonder why they are doing that? Are those Democrats supporting TPP surrogates for Secretary Clinton? What would be Hillary’s advantage for changing her mind again? The refrain that Mrs. Clinton is calculating and inauthentic has recurred throughout her political career. Is it because she is seen as changing her mind simply to get power? With no real underlying philosophy, sincerity and honesty? We bet you will have some thoughts and answers for those questions.
Abandoned Factory by Julia Kamp
By Robert Reich (from Robert Reich’s Facebook Page)
(posted June 28, 2015)
“Pope Frances’s message this week on global climate change is extraordinarily important (that it comes out the same week Donald Trump declared his candidacy exposes a human continuum extending from bombast and narcissism to grace and humility). The Pope finds morally deficient an economic system that degrades the environment and worsens inequality; links environmental decline to poverty; attributes it to the growing concentration of greenhouse gases brought on human activity; and rejects the idea that economic growth alone can solve the problem. No Pope in living memory has so poignantly and powerfully cast the problems of inequality and the environment in moral terms that everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic, can understand.
But I wish the Pope hadn’t rejected an important means of reducing carbon in the atmosphere: putting a price on it. (See my video on this subject). By broadly condemning “market forces” the Pope suggests the answer is to give up on the market rather than reorganize it to meet human needs. In this respect he plays into the hands of those who see the fundamental choice as between the “market” and the people, when the real choice is between a market system organized for all people or one organized primarily for the rich.”
EDITORS NOTE: James Hansen, the well-known climate scientist also believes strongly in the carbon tax policy. See it here along with his main physical policy schemes to solve climate change. We need to note that a carbon tax policy is far from being “decided” as the best policy for fighting climate change. We will be discussing this idea soon on these pages. See one criticism here.
NOAA Announces record Global Temperatures for the January to May 2015 period as well as May 2015 Itself and Presents Graphic on May 2015 World Climate Abnormalities
The first five months of 2015 were the warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, at 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Consequently, 2010 was the last year with El Niño conditions; however El Niño was ending at this point in 2010, while it appears to be maturing at the same point in 2015.
The average global sea surface temperature for the year-to-date was the highest for January–May in the 136-year period of record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.01°C (0.02°F). while the average land surface temperature was also record high, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.05°C (0.09°F). Record warmth was most notable over the oceans, particularly the northeastern and equatorial Pacific Ocean, parts of the western North Atlantic, and the Barents Sea north of Scandinavia (from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for May 2015 was the highest for May in the 136-year period of record, at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F), surpassing the previous record set just one year ago by 0.08°C (0.14°F). The two highest monthly departures from average occurred earlier this year in February and March, both at 0.89°C (1.60°F) above the 20th century average for their respective months. (from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
British Newspaper, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, — The Guardian — Starts Critical, Brave Assault on Global Climate Change
The well known newspaper, The Guardian, has announced a large scale plan to educate the public on the critical issue of Global Climate Change. The current editor, Alan Rusbridger is stepping down after 20 years and is making a profound commitment on this issue; one can see he is convinced, as is President Barack Obama, that global climate change is perhaps mankind’s most challenging and threatening issue.
In his words:
For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming. We will leave the skeptics and deniers to waste their time challenging the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and economics.
The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C [two degrees Centigrade] by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground.
- There is overwhelming agreement – from governments, corporations, NGOs, banks, scientists, you name it – that a rise in temperatures of more than 2C by the end of the century would lead to disastrous consequences for any kind of recognised global order.
- 565 gigatons: “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have some reasonable hope of staying below 2C,” is how McKibben crisply puts it. Few dispute that this idea of a global “carbon budget” is broadly right.
- 2,795 gigatons: This is the amount of carbon contained in the proven coal, oil and gas reserves of fossil fuel companies and states – ie the fuel we are planning to extract and burn.
You do not need much of a grasp of maths to work out the implications. There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels currently underground which, for our safety, simply cannot be extracted and burned. All else is up for debate: that much is not.
We need to keep it in the ground.
He reviews the issues, the dangers and possible solutions and just as importantly, he is providing a forum for authorities to present their writings on the subject in his Newspaper. The first of those authors will be Naomi Klein, who will present large segments from her critical and acclaimed book, This Changes Everything, the first installment of which, is now available in The Guardian.
Climate change is a divisive topic in Washington D.C. A recent vote in the U.S. Senate on human greenhouse gas emissions as the main cause of climate change and that action should be taken on the problem, FAILED 56 to 42. It was the fourth amendment on global climate change attached to a bill on the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Only the simplest and insignificant amendment passed.
This fourth amendment was a broad vote on basic scientific realities and truths as to whether senators accepted the facts that “(1) climate change is real; (2) climate change is caused by human activities; (3) climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the World; (4) a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and (5) it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible.” All scientifically accepted facts, projections and analyses. It failed because 60 votes were needed according to Senate Rules.
Three earlier amendments on global climate change were presented. The first passed because it was very general and vague; it stated “that global warming was real and not a hoax.” Easy -to swallow even for a politician– it passed, 98 to 1.
But the second amendment was “To express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Too much truth — it failed with 50 Yeas and 49 Nays. MANY SEEM UNABLE TO ABSORB or ACCEPT THE FINAL SCIENTIFIC TRUTHS. Or if the truths are in their minds, they cannot admit to them.
A third amendment was stated that “climate change is real and humans contributed to it.” It also had some tidbits about rejecting policies that cause job cuts and that the Keystone Pipeline wouldn’t harm the environment. It also failed with 59 yeas and picked up a few more Senators due to its “moderation.”
The final fourth amendment noted above also failed. It contained the five scientific points noted above and was a “vote to table” and effectively kill the amendment. A Yea vote was to table and kill the amendment and a Nay vote was to pass the amendment and support action on global climate change.
SEE HOW YOUR SENATORS VOTED on this final critical amendment.! Remember, a Nay vote is to accept the amendment and not to table the amendment.
Votes on this topic are usually along strong party lines as were all of the last three amendment votes just described.
“And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.
The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
from President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address
See our detailed section on this website on Global Climate Change including why many persons cannot accept the concept of Global Climate Change
Apple, a Leader in Climate Change Action, Does a “Big Deal” in Solar Energy
Yes, Apple produces its iPhones overseas a business decision seen in many, many American companies. They do it for all the reasons embedded in the dangerous and tragic history of global trade agreements, corporate greed and deregulation and of course the connected philosophy of unrelenting mastery of global operations.
But that is another serious problem for another serious discussion and post. See Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” for a great review of those problems.
But this quote from Apple CEO Tim Cook is a philosophy from a major company that may have significant hints of a movement:
“When I think about human rights, I don’t think about a bloody ROI, (return on investment) and by the same token, I don’t think about helping our environment from an ROI point of view.”
This term, “inclusive Capitalism” has been growing in recent months. President Obama apparently called it “Middle Class Economics” in his 2015 “State of the Union Address.” Does it portend a real and potentially valuable mini revolution to start a correction of the economic stratification of world societies? The idea has been reviewed in several major major articles within the last year; see those links below. There are some indications of an apparent strength to the movement.
Statements from attendees at the May 2014 London Conference on Inclusive Capitalism included some by powerful, wealthy and famous people including Bill Clinton, the Prince of Wales, Larry Summers and many others.
A sample of some statements from that Conference:
“The primary purpose of capitalism should surely be to serve the wider, longer term interests and concerns of humanity, rather than the other way around.” Prince Charles
“Capitalism has often proved dysfunctional in important ways. It often encourages shortsightedness, contributes to wide disparities between the rich and the poor, and tolerates the reckless treatment of environmental capital. If these costs cannot be controlled, support for capitalism may disappear.” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever Corporation and Lynn Forester Lady de Rothschild, CEO of E.L. Rothschild
“Capitalism needs to be for all, not just the gilded few.” Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of London
Quoting Pope Francis: “Increasing inequality is the root of all evil” and Karl Marx: “Capitalism carries the seeds of its own destruction” and providing her own statement: “The problem, is that opportunity can never be equal in a deeply unequal society.” Cristine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
“Just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.” Within societies, virtually without exception, inequality of outcomes both within and across generations has demonstrably increased.” Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England
Links to articles on the above:
See a fabulous TED TALK by Nick Hanauer, a wealthy plutocrat who states: “Beware Fellow Plutocrats; the pitchforks are coming.”
“From climate change to resource depletion, our evolution into a globe-spanning industrial culture is forcing us through the narrow bottleneck of a sustainability crisis.
OUR galaxy, the Milky Way, is home to almost 300 billion stars, and over the last decade, astronomers have made a startling discovery — almost all those stars have planets.
Where is everybody?
Maybe we’re not the only ones to hit a sustainability bottleneck. Maybe not everyone — maybe no one — makes it to the other side.
Depending on initial conditions and choices made by the species (such as the mode of energy harvesting), some trajectories will lead to an unrecoverable sustainability crisis and eventual population collapse. Others, however, may lead to long-lived, sustainable civilizations.
Ten thousand years from now the Democrats and the Republicans and their squabbles over climate change will be long gone. But the laws of planets and life we’re now revealing won’t have changed. Not on this world or any other.” Adam Frank/New York Times/Jan 17, 2015
“Last year was the hottest in earth’s recorded history, scientists reported on January 9th, 2015 underscoring scientific warnings about the risks of runaway emissions and undermining claims by climate-change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.” New York Times January 16, 2015
Statements from NOAA regarding 2014 Temperature Record:
During 2014, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 135 years in the 1880–2014 record, surpassing the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.07°F (0.04°C).
Record warmth was spread around the world, including Far East Russia into western Alaska, the western United States, parts of interior South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia, much of the northeastern Pacific around the Gulf of Alaska, the central to western equatorial Pacific, large swaths of northwestern and southeastern Atlantic, most of the Norwegian Sea, and parts of the central to southern Indian Ocean.
During 2014, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 1.80°F (1.00°C) above the 20th century average. This was the fourth highest among all years in the 1880–2014 record.
During 2014, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.03°F (0.57°C) above the 20thcentury average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2014 record, surpassing the previous records of 1998 and 2003 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).
(Some persons misinterpret this kind of data. NOAA does not compare one year with another because the change in temperature between two consecutive years may be small and not statistically significant. The point is that the climate is absolutely warming over time and certainly becomes significant and dangerous over periods of years. Understanding global temperature rise centers around the well-established fact that small increases in temperature, such as 0.14° C, 1.57° F, or even 2° C, does not sound problematic in the sense of ordinary weather temperature measurements.
But an AVERAGE INCREASE of one degree across the entire surface of the globe means huge changes in climatic extremes. The generalization is that small changes in WORLD TEMPERATURE can have very large changes in local weather conditions as described in several places on this website. Scientists now strongly recommend, and the Paris Climate Accord agreed to in December 2015, that that nations of the world will work together to try to keep the world temperature from rising more than 2°C (3.6°F) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and if possible keep that rise down to 1.5° C; it has already risen almost 1° C (1.8°F). This common misunderstanding of temperature change is partially responsible for climate change denial; people have problems comprehending the concept. Read here for more explanation.
See fantastic video from NASA below: This shows changes in long term global warming; full screen is recommended
(when finished you can re-run it or choose other videos on global warming including misconceptions about global warming.)
From NASA: description of video:
The year 2014 now ranks as the warmest on record since 1880, according to an analysis by NASA scientists.
This video shows a time series of five-year global temperature averages, mapped from 1880 to 2014, as estimated by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
While scientists expect temperatures to fluctuate from year to year, the average temperature of the planet as a whole has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since 1880. This trend is largely driven by increasing human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The GISS analysis incorporates temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based ocean temperature readings and data from Antarctic research stations. These measurements are plugged into an algorithm that then estimates average global temperature. The computer code for this process is freely available for download from the GISS web site.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs. the Climate
“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable. Klein’s fans will recognize her method from her prior books, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies” (1999) and “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” (2007), which, with her latest, form an antiglobalization trilogy. Her strategy is to take a scourge — brand-driven hyperconsumption, corporate exploitation of disaster-struck communities, or “the fiction of perpetual growth on a finite planet” — trace its origins, then chart a course of liberation. In each book she arrives at some semihopeful place, where activists are reaffirming embattled civic values.
To call “This Changes Everything” environmental is to limit Klein’s considerable agenda. “There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming,” she contends, “but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which is surely the best argument there has ever been for changing those rules.” On the green left, many share Klein’s sentiments. George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, recently lamented that even though “the claims of market fundamentalism have been disproven as dramatically as those of state communism, somehow this zombie ideology staggers on.” Klein, Monbiot and Bill McKibben all insist that we cannot avert the ecological disaster that confronts us without loosening the grip of that superannuated zombie ideology.
That philosophy — neoliberalism — promotes a high-consumption, carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hypermobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, “more money last year than any company in the history of money.” Their outsize power mangles the democratic process. Yet the carbon giants continue to reap $600 billion in annual subsidies from public coffers, not to speak of a greater subsidy: the right, in Klein’s words, to treat the atmosphere as a “waste dump.”
This OHEA editor (F. McKay) believes this book will probably fulfill the publishers statement and become the symbolic “Silent Spring” of the current crisis of Global Climate Change. Silent Spring, for the information of younger readers, was the stunning book by Rachael Carson in 1962 which reviewed her fears that synthetic pesticides were a horrendous danger to species in ecosystems and which became a powerful tool for politically and scientifically examining those problems. One could easily argue that Global Climate Change is in fact the largest problem facing mankind. President Obama, in his 2015 State of the Union Address, stated: “And no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” And he is a person with a broad view of world problems and the ability to put them into perspective.
Voting Time: November 4th, 2014 — Thoughts on Democracy; How “Real” and Meaningful is our Democracy?
- FACT: The median net worth in 2012 for all current members of Congress in office and for which data was available, was for 530 of 535 lawmakers and was $1,008,767. Hence half the members are millionaires. Can they represent the average person?
- BELIEF: Negotiations at the federal level result in more conservative economic policies, and more liberal social policies [compared with the actual beliefs of Americans]. That’s because negotiations involve one set of highly educated, wealthy representatives negotiating with another, and the policies that result reflect their own core interests. (see details)
- FACT: Tuesday’s elections are projected to be the most expensive midterms in history – costing almost $4 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks money in politics. (see details). And where does that money come from? Of course we often don’t know until months after the election, if ever. One billion dollars is from “outside groups” not formally connected to candidates; the “dark money” groups. And the 2014 midterm election was nonsense in terms of serious discussion.
So what would “Critical Thinking” suggest we do to correct problems suggested above?
And the nonsense 2014 midterm Election? Was anything important discussed leading up to the election ? Ask Tom Friedman writing in the New York Times:
“We’ve just had a nonsense midterm election. Never has more money been spent to think so little about a future so in flux. What would we have discussed if we’d had a serious election? How about the biggest challenge we’re facing today: The resilience of our workers, environment and institutions.
Why is that the biggest challenge? Because: The world is fast. The three biggest forces on the planet — the market, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law — are all surging, really fast, at the same time. The market, i.e., globalization, is tying economies more tightly together than ever before, making our workers, investors and markets much more interdependent and exposed to global trends, without walls to protect them.
Moore’s Law, the theory that the speed and power of microchips will double every two years, is, as Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson posit in their book, “The Second Machine Age,” so relentlessly increasing the power of software, computers and robots that they’re now replacing many more traditional white- and blue-collar jobs, while spinning off new ones — all of which require more skills.
And the rapid growth of carbon in our atmosphere and environmental degradation and deforestation because of population growth on earth — the only home we have — are destabilizing Mother Nature’s ecosystems.
The only fix involves big, hard things that can only be built together over time: resilient infrastructure, affordable health care, more start-ups and lifelong learning opportunities for new jobs, immigration policies that attract talent, sustainable environments, manageable debt and governing institutions adapted to the new speed.”
We strongly recommend his article. It is a presented with critical thinking.
And we recommend an article from his colleague Frank Bruni: A quote from him published on November 5th, 2014:
“Just days before the 2014 midterm elections, we got the latest alarm: The globe is heating up like a griddle, and we’re just lolling here like eggs.
This happened on the Sunday before the election, when a United Nations panel issued what The Times called its “starkest warning yet.” But while the report made headlines, it didn’t make the campaign. Like other big issues being shelved for some later, scarier day, climate change wasn’t high on the agenda.
A Newspaper Article excerpt:
“In the next four decades, scholars say, sea levels are expected to rise by as much as 30 inches, and if the worst projections come to pass, about 800,000 New York City residents could find themselves living with the threat of being swamped. According to an insurance report commissioned by the city, if New York suffers another storm like Sandy in the early 2050s, when ocean levels and the population are likely to be higher, it could cause $90 billion in damage — almost five times the cost of the initial storm.”
Ebola Virus—What is it; What parts of your body does it attack; What is its Genetics? Why is there a modern increase in emerging viral diseases and why are most of those RNA viruses like Ebola?
- Are they living creatures or non-living particles?
- Can we call them microbes? Thus the questions: How do they replicate themselves?
- Do they have genes? Can they mutate?
- How can we imagine their size?
- How do they damage your body?
- Into which taxonomic group of virises in Ebola placed?
- Is there only one species (no, there are five)?
- How is Ebola involved with bats and monkeys?
- Is there a vaccine that can protect us against these particles?
- What is the etymology of the name “Ebola?”
- The common flu infection causes thousands of deaths each year in the United States (it has gone as high as 49,000 in one year); does that help put Ebola into perspective or not?
Alive or Not?
Think of our usual mental image of an organism, plant or animal. We could hope for a sharp definition which distinguishes being “alive” from inanimate objects. Is that possible? Buddhists would warn us to be careful in doing this kind of conceptualization and they teach us some profound lessons in this regard.
Living “things” are usually thought of as having these structures and functions:
- A cellular structure, usually with a “lipid bilayer” membrane for exchanging molecules with the environment; the cell or cells of the organism have a complex internal structure for handling the functions in the next three bullets;
- An energy system for capturing energy directly (most plants) or a system for extracting energy from existing molecules in the environment involving finding, eating, digesting and extracting food molecules which are then run through a chemical energy extraction and storage complex; (most animals)
- A Reproductive System to duplicate themselves;
- An Information Storage system which contains the codes for building and operating the above systems (this is the genetic material, passed on during reproduction and also functioning for producing proteins for normal cell functions).
The four bullets above could be the entire syllabus for a good college course in Biology and in fact has been used by this editor/writer for that purpose.
The diagram to the left (click to enlarge) is a generalized diagram of an Ebola virion (a single virus particle). This particle consists of an outer viral envelope often called the “lipid bi-layer” membrane but it has been “stolen” from the host cell which the virus must infect to “exist” and replicate. Below that layer is a protein “coat” for which they have their own gene for production.The internal structure of the virion is extremely simple but does contain genetic material. Hence their cell structure is certainly not typical of a “live” organism and they do not have their own energy system. Because the virus must enter an animal, plant, bacterial or archaeon cell where they commandeer the entire energy and genetic systems of the host cell, we are rapidly moving away from our definition of “alive” given above. Viruses seem more like particles of protein and nucleic acid; “just” a few molecules with no energy system of their own preventing them from being able to survive without being in the cell of another organism. This suggests some ideas, to be discussed, for hypotheses of the origin of viruses.
Shall we call this entity alive? Some would say they are “on the border” of being alive or are alive because they have genetic material. Some persons argue to include them in the “tree of life” due to the discovery of unusually large and complex viruses, such as Mimivirus, that possess typical cellular genes.
Key questions might be: “Is this virus selected by Natural Selection, the major process of evolution?” And “Is this Selection similar to the general process we see acting on other ‘higher’ species and which through time better adapts populations of the ‘entity’ to its environment by changing the gene frequencies in the populations of the entity?” If the answer is “yes” to these questions, many biologists would accept the “alive” definition. Because “change in gene frequencies of a species populations” is the definition of evolution, by default, they could be defined as living things. Rocks do not evolve! Think about it and you decide; your brain will be transformed and be enlightened in so doing and this is a major goal of Humanism.
(Continue reading more answers to the questions above; We consider the genetics of Ebola and discuss some fascinating facts. For example, humans have about 20,500 different kinds of genes and with two sets of those genes we thus have about 41,000 genes in most cells. Ebola has only seven genes in its entire genetic system (genome) and what it can do with those is a bit amazing. You will see several diagrams of the virus structure, what its seven genes produce and answers to the other questions posed above.)
See OHEA President Dan Winslow’s New Page, “Dan’s Corner,” on this Web Site
Previously, biologists have listed five large scale extinctions of species on Earth:
- Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction (500-410 Million Years Ago
- Late Devonian mass extinction (370 Million Years Ago)
- Permian mass extinction (290-240 Million Years Ago)
- Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction (240-138 Million Years Ago)
- Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction (138-1.6 Million Years Ago)
Congratulations, you are now living in the Sixth Great Extinction Event! And it is called the Anthropocene Event. Here are the first few paragraphs of an article on that topic;
WE are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.
As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat, or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.
(Posted September 21, 2014)
Last week, meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that this summer was a record for the hottest on record for the globe and that 2014 was likely to break the record for the hottest year, set in 2010. (update: It was the hottest year ever and May 2015 was the hottest May ever)
A climate summit at the United Nations will be held this coming Tuesday, September 23rd, which will be attended by President Obama. The meeting is expected to create a framework for a potential global agreement on emissions late next year in Paris.
Photo below, September 21st, 2014 from the New York Times, shows climate change protesters preparing for a march through Manhattan to argue for more action on climate change.
Not the Pledge of Allegiance! Sometimes comedians joke that Humanists will never get anything accomplished because they talk a lot but don’t do anything; they’re not seen as fighting for their cause or at least are ineffective in doing so. Well now Humanists have an active plan to do something–and that is to sit down—during the Pledge of Allegiance. Humanists love their Country just as much as anyone but feel strongly that Church and State should never mix. A new study reveals 34 percent of Americans support removing the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Here is a recent Press Release from the American Humanist Association:
Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association launched a national campaign to encourage people to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance until the phrase “under God” is removed from it.
The campaign includes YouTube video ads, as well as bus stop advertisements placed in New York City and Washington, D.C. Ads will direct viewers to a website, DontSaythePledge.com, which provides information about the history of the Pledge, including that “under God” was not added until 1954, during the McCarthy era, and that a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia v. Barnette gives students the right to opt out of saying the Pledge. The website also provides resources for parents to discuss the Pledge with their children, as well as a way for students to report harassment or bullying they might have experienced for exercising their right to remain seated during the Pledge. “We want everyone to know that the current wording of the Pledge discriminates against atheists and others who are good without a god, and we want them to stand up for fairness by sitting down until the Pledge is restored to its original, unifying form,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
As noted above, in 1943 the Supreme Court decided that students were not required to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The Encyclopedia Britannica sums up that case:
The majority opinion was written by Justice Robert H. Jackson. While the earlier decision had focused primarily on claims of freedom of religion protections in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the Barnette ruling invoked both freedom of religion and an individual’s freedom of speech—and that freedom of speech included the right not to be forced to speak against one’s will. Jackson’s opinion underscored the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” And, attempting to capture the essence of the Bill of Rights protections, Jackson wrote: “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
Humanists fight for tolerance of all religious views as long as those views are also tolerant. Placing a religious belief statement in the Pledge is a serious violation of Civil Rights; it implies one cannot be patriotic unless one adheres to certain religious beliefs. “Sitting” will separate the Humanist Men and Woman from the boys and girls; it takes a lot of control, conviction and confidence in your beliefs to stay seated during the Pledge. More importantly, it will separate those who want inclusiveness—the tolerant, reasonable, thinking believers—from the bigots. Humanists will have to plan how to explain how they love their Country but also why they are sitting. This should be an educational experience for everyone.
The American Humanist Association, in their September/October magazine, The Humanist, presents a profile on the famous actor Morgan Freeman. They provide this quote from him:
The highest power is the human mind. That’s where God came from, and my belief in God is my belief in myself
As you will see in the Supreme Court post below, there are many myths regarding the United States Founding Fathers and their religious beliefs. Some Founders were no doubt religious but many of those well known men were not; they were agnostics, deists, or atheists. Of course it was difficult in their time, just as today, for a United States politician to admit to any spiritual belief other than those coming out of the most common religion of the day.
Thomas Jefferson is well known for “his” bible” wherein he cut sections out of the New Testament and placed them into his “Jefferson Bible.” See Wikipedia for details; excerpts from there:
Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus, most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages indicating Jesus was divine. (Wikipedia statement)
Jefferson wrote “Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God.” He called the writers of the New Testament “ignorant, unlettered men” who produced “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.” He called the Apostle Paul the “first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” He dismissed the concept of the Trinity as “mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” He believed that the clergy used religion as a “mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves” and that “in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” And he wrote in a letter to John Adams that “the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” (entire paragraph from Wikipedia)
“In extracting the pure principles which he [Jesus] taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves.” (Jefferson quote)
“There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.” (Jefferson quote)
Obviously, to put it politely, Jefferson was not a true Christian; he apparently saw Christ as a human with a beautiful and hopeful message but this third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, discarded the divinity.
Another Founding Father myth is that the Founders started each session of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 with prayer. A letter to the editor of a Florida newspaper, with the pertinent facts, put that myth to rest. Here in its entirety:
The Daily Commercial editorial on Sunday November 13, 2013 contained one of the most repeated misconceptions about our founding fathers and prayer at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
In defending prayer at public meetings the editorial writer said, “This is not what the Founding Fathers intended, nor meant when they wrote the Constitution [referencing the idea of separation of church and state.] They prayed before every meeting.”
In the four months the convention met, not one meeting was opened with a prayer. On Thursday, June 28, 1787 on the 29th day of the convention, Ben Franklin made a passionate plea for a daily prayer. He felt the convention was deadlocked on a number of issues and should look to a higher power for help in solving the complex problem confronting the delegates. His plea included the following quotes: “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” and “And have we forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we no longer need his assistance?” Franklin, concluded with this motion: “I therefore beg to leave to move–that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in this service.”
Roger Sherman of Connecticut, seconded the motion. Edmond Randolph of Virginia, amended the motion to start on July 4, for obvious reasons. Alexander Hamilton argued that is was too late in the proceedings (fifth week) to start having a daily prayer and it would send the wrong message about dissension at the convention. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina said the real reason it was not supported was that they did not have the funding to hire a clergyman.
The motion by Franklin never received a floor vote and died when the convention adjourned, without taking any action. The convention remained in session until September 17, 1787, opened every day without a prayer, and the question of a daily prayer was not considered again. Marvin Jacobson – Clermont, Florida
These are thoughts coming out of a recent OHEA meeting examining critical world problems such as global climate change, energy policy inaction of governments, overpopulation, etc. How can Humanists assist in promoting solutions? Do Humanists need to change the focus of their activities more toward education regarding these problems?
A discussion of these world problems will be seen on the new page entitled “Is Human Progress a Myth?” accessed from the Top Menu. See the first installment on Global Climate Change.
Supreme Court Allows Prayers at Town Meetings: A horrendous, near fascist decision by the court and bad logic by Justice Stevens who wrote for the 5-4 majority. He states:
“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”
Of course any rational American does not want the government to have any authority to alter or define his or her understanding of their existence, that is the whole point!! With this decision, the Government is telling you, that at Government Meetings you must listen to other people explain their understanding of their existence!
That is exactly what prayer in government meetings does! Most persons do not go to a public government meeting to hear prayer.
The entire decision seems to be saying that one can’t participate in government unless one is forced to listen to the religious beliefs of others. The “invocations” are all Christian! Why in general, should we all be explaining our “understanding of our existence” to each other in the first place; these are government meetings conducting government business! And it says “many” Americans; just how many must we have before they can force the rest of us to listen to their “understanding of their existence?” Are government meetings a class in philosophy? Unbelievably, Kennedy continues quoting from another court case:
“Should nonbelievers choose to exit the room during a prayer they find distasteful, their absence will not stand out as disrespectful or even noteworthy. And should they remain, their quiet acquiescence will not, in light of our traditions, be interpreted as an agreement with the words or ideas expressed. Neither choice represents an unconstitutional imposition as to mature adults, who ‘presumably are not readily susceptible to religious indoctrination or peer pressure.’”
YIKES! So Kennedy believes humanists should leave the room or just stay and put up with a rude insult to our own beliefs. This is clearly favoring one religious idea over another at a public meeting run by a government—or stated another way,— a form of radical authoritarian nationalism–which is the definition of fascism. Government should never, ever be wed with religion. What is the meaning of all five members of the majority opinion being Roman Catholic? Does that sound like a group of persons thinking independently, thinking rationally without bias and having full grasp of the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and the rights of ALL OF the countries citizens? Politicians clad in fine robs? And the absurd, irrational, illogical arguments used to justify the majority opinion:
“….and this accords with history and traditions of the Founding Fathers; …… within the tradition long followed in Congress and the state legislatures; …….because the Nation’s history and tradition have shown that;…..because history supported the conclusion that the specific practice was permitted;………..deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.”
Let’s not have such trivial, sophomoric attempts at logic from our high court! These statements using “tradition” and “custom” to justify an action are quite absurd. This is a classic error of logic: Appeal to Tradition! So famous that it is in all lists of common errors of logic and is known in latin as “argumentum ad antiquitatem.” In other words, “this is correct because we have always done it this way.” And this trite argument from a Supreme Court Justice!
In the United States, slavery was once considered a fine custom and a fine tradition as were voting rights only for men and men owning property. And until recently, marriage only for heterosexual couples was considered another fine tradition and custom. Bad practices should be abandoned and that includes listening to other persons religious beliefs at government meetings! Richard A. Posner, a United States federal appeals court judge, wisely noted this regarding court decisions and state statutes against same sex marriage:
“Traditions are not invariably or reliably good. They can sometimes be bad (“cannibalism, foot-binding, and suttee”) or sometimes neither good nor bad (“trick-or-treating on Halloween.”). Tradition per se therefore, cannot be a lawful ground for discrimination.”