This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein ($22.49 hb, $14.99 Kndl)

KleinAmazon:  The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change.


Ongoing drought in Texas

Rice farmers that depend on water in from the Colorado are entering their third year of drought, according to the Houston Chronicle today.

A year ago, Dick Ottis prayed and prayed for rain, but it did not come before Colorado River managers had decided for the first time to withhold irrigation water from many of the rice farmers whose crops fill his warehouses.

He continued to pray as the drought extended into a second year, knowing it would take a biblical-like storm to fill the Highland Lakes near Austin with enough water by Friday to trigger releases for downstream growers. The rain didn’t come, so most farmers will go without water. Again.

“I did not think it would happen again,” said Ottis, president of Rice Belt Warehouse Inc., based in El Campo, about 80 miles southwest of Houston. “It is gut-wrenching.”

The state is in danger of losing its rice industry as the drought continues.  Indeed  its agricultural and ranching base has been severely compromised already as farmers losses have mounted, ranchers have reduced or sold off their herds, and other businesses depending on the states agriculture industry have been affected.  Two years into the drought, and there is fear that the losses could become permanent.

“It is not a pleasant long-term picture,” said Ronald Kaiser, a professor of water law and policy at Texas A&M University. “A lot of these folks have a year left, maybe two. Once these allied businesses disappear, they won’t be back. The producers need them.”

There is no mention of climate change in the article.  Many of us here in Texas do not believe in, or are at least skeptical, of the notion that the climate is changing, or that if it is that humans have anything to do with it.  And if there are one or two Republican politicians in the State government or in our congressional delegation who will admit to the fact of anthropogenic climate change, I am unaware of who they are.

Yet the facts are these: Besides the fact that average temperatures are increasing, temperatures in the polar regions are increasing particularly rapidly. Oil industry people in Texas are aware of this because of their presence in Alaska and on the North Slope, where the sea has been taking Inuit villages, the permafrost has been melting, cutting short the season when drilling can occur.  This in accord with the predictions of the physics of climate science, which says that as the globe warms due to an enhanced greenhouse effect, the temperature increase will not be uniform, but that the polar regions will warm more rapidly than the temperate zones.

The weather patterns in the temperate zones where most of us live are driven by the temperature difference between the tropics and the polar regions.  As the temperature difference decreases there are at least two major effects.  For one, the Hadley cell is affected.  This refers to the fact that in the tropics, warm moisture laden air rises.  As it does so it moves north, cools, drops its moisture, and eventually returns to earth at higher latitudes.  This downdraft of dry air is a major cause of the desert regions of North America, Africa and Asia.  A lower polar to tropic temperature difference moves the cell north, extending these arid regions into presently non-arid areas, in all likelihood.

Secondly warm and cool fronts are associated with atmospheric waves which generally move from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere.  As the temperature difference decreases, these waves do not move as easily as before, and can get locked in place for extended periods of time.  The extended drought of 2011 was associated with such a wave that stabilized over the western portion of the country.

The drought of the last couple of years has been historic, a once in a half century event, at least in the experience of living persons.  However, if climate science is correct, then we can expect more frequent droughts, more severe droughts, because we have affected the weather patterns.  Before such an event was a fluke, always a possibility, but one that was rare.  Now the probabilities may have changed and we will see a different normal.  Of course we will have to wait for years for this to be verified by experience, but this is what the science is telling us.

On the other side of the ledger, we have mostly politization of the issue, along with an intense desire for it not to be so.  This probably means that if Texas has anything to say about it, we will continue to do nothing differently for several more years, at least.

On classroom size and classroom management

In a conversation today with my spousal unit, a teacher, we agreed that what needs to happen is that teachers should (all together now) start sending incorrigibly disruptive kids to the principal.  Seriously lower the tolerance level for disruptive behavior. Two strikes and you’re out; when you come back you get one strike.  If this were done, the principals would be flooded with these students.  But as long as this doesn’t happen, as long as the teachers try to soldier on and put up with the disruption, the problem is out of sight out of mind for the administrators.  They need to feel the pain.  Teachers should find their inner Republican and just shut the system down.

A review of “Why are Jews Liberals?”

Norman Podhoretz, “conservative” neocon Jew, has a new book which I am very unlikely to read, but which I’ve been following in discussions on the internet tubes.

Leon Wieseltier reviews it in the NY Times, and as before when I’ve read him, I thought what he wrote was great.  His last couple of paragraphs:

Podhoretz’s book was conceived as the solution to the puzzle that Milton Himmel farb wittily formulated many years ago: “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” I have never understood the reputation of this joke. Why should Jews vote like Episcopalians? We are not Episcopalians. The implication of the joke is that political affiliation should be determined by social position, by levels of affluence. In living rich but voting poor, the Jews of America have failed to demonstrate class solidarity. Never mind that parties of the right in many Western countries have always counted on the poor to make the same betrayal, and support causes and candidates that will do nothing to relieve their economic hardship but will exhilarate them culturally or religiously or nationally.

It is not a delusion, not a treason, to vote against your own economic interest. It is a recognition of the multiplicity of interests, the many purposes, that make up a citizen’s life. When, in the Torah of Judaism, Moses commands the Jews to perform acts of social welfare, he sometimes adds the admonition that they were themselves strangers and slaves. The purpose of this refreshment of their memory is plain. The fact that we are no longer stran gers and slaves is not all we need to know. We may not regard the world solely from the standpoint of our own prosperity, our own safety, our own contentment. We are proven by the other, not by the same. The question of whether liberalism or conservatism does more for the helpless and the downtrodden, for the ones who are not like us, will be endlessly debated, and it is not a Jewish debate; but if the answer is liberalism, then the political history of American Jewry is neither a mystery nor a scandal.

Obama’s health care address to joint session

Personally I’m disgusted.  It will be interesting to see if there is any call for something vaguely approaching civility from the right — like how far can you go, really? Do you just shout louder and louder and look more and more like an ass.  Will they moon him the next time he talks?  I remember being told during the last decade that you don’t have to respect the man, but you should respect the office.  Now I wonder what that is supposed to mean?

The author of the paragraphs below has been, in my opinion, a tepid, try-to-please-as-many-as-you-can, centrist journalist who has drifted somewhat to the right under the prevailing winds of the last decade.  — rls

Some of the same ugly feeling was present in the House chamber Wednesday night. The lack of respect shown the president of the United States was both appalling and shocking. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled “You lie,” when Obama said that his health care proposal would not cover illegal aliens. Other Republicans held up placards saying “What Plan?” or “What Bill?” as Obama was speaking. The Party of Rudeness had outdone itself.

All presidents get vilified. It’s part of the job. White House aide Van Jones stepped down last week amid controversy over the fact that, among other things, he once signed a petition declaring that the administration of George W. Bush “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” Bill Clinton was accused of running drugs through Arkansas’s obscure Mena Airport, among many, many other things.

But when the fringe starts pushing into the center, then attention must be paid. In general, the Republicans in the House treated Obama disrespectfully, and some of them treated him with contempt. When opposition to a piece of legislation turns swiftly into disdain for the man — when policy becomes personal — a columnist is permitted to wonder why. He is permitted, furthermore, to wonder if some of Obama’s more hateful critics are not expressing a repressed bigotry — the feeling that the man up on the dais cannot really be the president of the United States. After all, he does not look like one.

It would be an awful thing if genuine criticism was labeled racist and therefore muffled. But the disrespect shown Obama seems so disproportionate to the issue — health-care reform — that I just have to wonder. Wilson later apologized for his outburst, but he cannot take it back. It was, as has been said of another incident, a teachable moment. I hope he and other Republicans learn from it.

This of course has NOTHING to do with Global Warming

From Jeff Masters’ Wunder Blog (highlights are mine):

Hurricane Fred put on an impressive burst of intensification overnight, and is now a major Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. However, Fred is not a threat to any land areas for at least the next week. Satellite imagery of Fred shows the spectacular signature of a classic Cape-Verdes type major hurricane, with a prominent eye, well-developed low-level spiral bands, and high cirrus clouds denoting excellent upper-level outflow on three sides. It is quite unusual to have such a powerful system so far east in the Atlantic, and Fred is only the third major hurricane to exist east of 35W. Fred is also the strongest hurricane so far south and east in our data record. However, this type of system would have been difficult to document before satellite pictures began in the 1960s.

Nobelists send a letter to Obama

There is a letter to Obama at the Federation of American Scientists website, from 34 winners of the Nobel prize, telling him to get cracking on global warming. …

Well, techically they aren’t exactly saying that.   They are telling him he’s already falling short on his commitment to research on clean energy if the United States is to achieve its goals on “reducing greenhouse gases at an affordable cost”.   So by inference these guys all “believe in” global warming.  Or else they are in on the “scam”.*

There is this list out there of scientists (I believe the number is 14,000) who say global warming ain’t happening.  I know there are at least a couple of real scientists on the list, along with a number of TV weathermen and dentists.  I’m wondering if out of the thousands who have signed, there are as many as 34 Nobelists, much less 25 prize winners in physics and six in chemistry (presumably people in these fields are more qualified to evaluate the fraudulence of global warming, than, say, your local dentist).

*  “Global warming is a fraud.” — Comment an acqaintance made recently.

to achieve their goals in reducing greenhouse gases at an
affordable co