Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2

  "The earth has been given to the children of men." Psalm 115:16

"Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will provide a sustainable future, eliminate pollution, poverty and violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster peaceful progress in the human adventure."-John McConnell

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” -Gaylord Nelson

Picture Legend

1. Earth Day Flag
2. Smog in Beijing
3. What it’s like to walk around in the Chinese capital
4. View to the east
5. Getting ready for the 2014 Olympics
6. The marathon
7. Going to school
8. Koala
9. Sean Penn
10. Lazy, shiftless, drug addled assholes
11. Enabler
12. Intelligentsia sex symbol, Naomi Klein  
13. Global distribution of wealth
14. World military expenditures
15. War graph
16. John McConnell
17. Star of Hope
18. Inspiration
19. John and wife Anne with the first Earth Flag in 1969
20. With revised flag in 2004
21. Gaylord Nelson
22. Global Poverty Project/Earth Day concert on Washington Mall

   And I thought LA was bad. 
   I remember Bob Hope, who lived in Los Angeles, joking, “I don't trust air I can't chew.”
   During the Olympics in Beijing last year many of the runners wore face or gas marks to try and protect themselves from the effects of the abysmal air quality. Some refused to run. Some quit after trying and seeing their face masks turn black.
   PM2.5, or particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less, teenie tiny little pieces of crap that can embed themselves deep in the lungs and which can lead to diseases such as asthma, had been detected at levels of 400 micrograms per cubic meter as the runners lined up to begin the race in Tiananmen Square. 
   The recommended daily average maximum level of exposure as prescribed by the World Health Organization is 25 micrograms.
   Some say, certainly not me (quite frankly, I think it’s Godzilla) the poor air quality is caused by the heavy use of coal in electricity and power generation and emissions from the growing number of those new fangled motor vehicles the Chinese middle class are now enjoying.
   Just to spice things up, the air, if you can call it that, also contains quantities of ozone (damages mucous and respiratory tissues in animals (humans are animals, a mammal, just like cuddly koalas ... sorry Bible people), and also tissues in plants, above concentrations of about 100 parts per billion (ppb), sulphur dioxide (a precursor to acid rain (rain that has acid in it), also associated with increased respiratory symptoms, uncontrollable flatulence, difficulty in breathing, and premature death... in the dying sense of the word), mercury (causes sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation, lack of coordination... death), and cadmium as well (can cause flu like symptoms including chills, fever, and muscle ache sometimes referred to as "the cadmium blues," tracheo-bronchitis, pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, and suspension of all bodily functions). 
   The severity of atmospheric pollution levels of cities such as LA, Beijing, Delhi, Mexico City and others, are increased by atmospheric inversion layers that traps pollution close to the ground. 
   Cancer has become the leading cause of death in Beijing and throughout the country.
   China’s government also estimates that air pollution prematurely kills from 350,000 to 500,000 residents every year. Water and soil pollution are also severe throughout the country. 
   According to Bloomberg News, Beijing’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that, although life expectancy doubled from 1949 to 2011, “the average 18-year-old Beijinger today should prepare to spend as much as 40 percent of those remaining, long years in less than full health, suffering from cancer, cardiovascular disease and arthritis, among other ailments.”
   There’s nothing peculiar to Chinese smog... smog is smog as they say. And it’s everywhere. You, me, penguins, are inhaling the stuff right now. 
   Still politicians of one particular party back here in the good ol’ United States fanatically fight to block pollution control regulations, and even remove the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or shut it down completely! We don’t need no stinking EPA, they say! 
   Perhaps they don’t, but you, me and the penguins sure do. 
   The new documentary film, “The Human Experiment,” narrated by happy-go-lucky Sean Penn, points out that back in 1974, the devil spawned agricultural multinational conglomerate  Monsanto, developed a class of herbicides using glyphosate as their key ingredient. By the 1990s, the company had created corn, soy and cotton seeds that were genetically altered to resist glyphosate herbicides, allowing farmers to kill weeds without fearing for the health of their crops. 
   Monsanto’s Roundup is the most widely used weed-killer in the world.
   But we’ve discovered that glyphosate is carcinogenic to animals (remember, humans... men, women, boys, and girls, are animals). In a report released last month real scientists affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO) definitively linked glyphosate to increased risks for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals (remember...).
   And guess what?! Roundup is only one of tens of thousands of chemicals we encounter every day in our food, clothing (including bikinis), furniture, electronics and cosmetics. According to that EPA the republicans say we don’t need, over 84,000 chemicals are used in the United States  commerce, most of which have never been tested for potentially toxic effects on human and wildlife health and the environment!
   “The Human Experiment,” investigates the health risks perpetuated by the chemical industry, and demonstrates how in their eyes we’re all just guinea pigs available for testing. 
   You should go see it!
   The two examples above are considered forms of pollution. There are others. 
   The United Nation’s World Bank estimated in 2008 that 1.29 billion people were living in absolute poverty (defined as "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services."-UN. Currently, absolute poverty refers to earning below the international poverty line of a $1.25/day (in 2005 prices), set by the World Bank), as opposed to relative poverty (defined as how economic inequality distributed among people in a particular group, or groups in a population, or between nations). 
   The Earth’s population in 2008 (the World Bank’s been kinda busy lately, so we don’t have more recent and accurate data) was about 6.7 billion (I do know that the current population of the world stands at 7.3 billion... and counting), so we’re talking about a little less than an entire sixth of the total population of the planet living in absolute poverty. That’s one sixth of the planet who are probably lazy, shiftless, drug addled assholes, that can’t pick themselves up by their own bootstraps, and are looking for a government handout... according to some people. 
   You’ve probably seen those late night commercials for ChildFund, where the nice white haired spokesperson Alan Sader tries to make you feel guilty for all of the forlorn, sickly children who didn’t have the good sense to be born in affluent countries. Those are the folks some people are talking about. If you buy in to the ChildFund hype and sponsor these kids you’re actually just enabling the little bastards, and thus actually hurting them by putting off the time they will have to buckle up and start a paper route or something, becoming self sufficient in the process. 
   I had a paper route for severals years and look at how I turned out... oh, wait....
   However, I am categorically opposed to the suggestion that rather than sending monetary donations to these groveling tots and their families, leaflets of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” be distributed in their stead.
   On the other side of the coin, those hard working individuals, who did pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to make something of themselves, like the Waltons and Koch families, are doing just fine, and rightfully enjoying the fruits of their labors. 
   Even those who inherited a few bucks are contributing to society by being job creators, and pissing down some of their largess so the rest of us may have a chance to reach their lofty positions. 
   As a matter of fact the wealthiest one percent hold about thirty eight percent of all of the privately held wealth in the United States of America, as they should, while the losers in the bottom ninety percent hold seventy three percent of all of the debt.  According to the New York Times, the "richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent."
   Obviously the bottom 90% need to quit whining, straighten up, and get their act together. 
   Last year those clever folks at Oxfam International released a report called, “Working for the Few,” that contain some statistics on what some call the “growing tide of inequality.”
   The report states “that almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
   The wealth of the one percent of the richest people in the world amounts to about $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
   The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
   Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
   The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which they  had data between 1980 and 2012.
   In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.”
   The U.K. based Tax Justice Network estimates that in 2010, the private financial wealth of individuals stowed unreported in tax havens around the world was somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion, tucked away for a rainy day.
   The brilliant Canadian journalist, and author of one of my favorite books, “The Shock Doctrine,” Naomi Klein, in addressing sources of revenue that will be needed to change from a global fossil fuel based economy, to one that utilizes renewable energy sources, without causing a worldwide economic maelstrom, and before the climate blows up, suggests that if that $21 to $32 trillion were brought to light and it’s earnings taxed at a 30% rate, it would bring in at least $190 billion in income tax annually (she suggests other sources of revenue as well. I highly recommend her latest book, “This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs the Climate.” It’s well worth the cover price).
   How much total wealth is there in the world to go around? Well, if you add up precious metals,  checking accounts, CDs, jewels, couch money... it comes out to around $241 trillion, so rich people control or own a large chunk of that.
   It’s good to be in the one percent. 
   Speaking about climate change, that’s something certainly worth worrying about. It’s probably the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced. I mean it’s actually a real problem but the world’s governments are acting like school children and pretending it doesn’t exist, or acknowledge that it exists, state that they are working real hard to lower global greenhouse emissions and switch to a clean energy economy, then do absolutely nothing that will produce a discernable effect on the problem, kowtowing to political considerations and monied interests. 
   The problem is there (98 percent of the scientific community, those that don’t actually work for the fossil fuel industry, agree that global warming is real). It is getting worse every single minute. It affects everyone, but future generations will have to cope with the decisions that we make now in the present for their entire future, still we do little about it, despite having Naomi going to all of the trouble of letting us know how to pay for substantially addressing the issue.
   Sounds like someone is in denial.   
   Conservatives certainly are. Almost all republican politicians are. The fossil fuel industry either is in denial that global warming exists, or knows that it does exist and just doesn’t care, which seems a bit psychopathic to me.
   Ms Klein attended a conference at the Heartland Institute in Chicago where they were making fun of all of the foolish naive idiots that were taking climate change seriously. The following is what she wrote about it in her book:
   “But denier’s relative economic and social privilege doesn’t just give them more to lose from deep social and economic change; it gives them reason to be more sanguine about the risks of climate change should their contrarain views turn out to be false. This occurred to me as I listened to another speaker at the Heartland conference display what can only be described as an utter lack of empathy for the victims of climate change. Larry Bell (the space architect) drew plenty of laughs when he told the crowd  that a little heat isn’t so bad: “I moved to Houston intentionally!” (Houston was, at that time, in the midst in what would turn out to be Texas’s worst single-year drought on record.) Australian geologist Bob Carter offered that “the world actually does better from our human perspective in warmer times.” And Patrick Michaels said that people worried about climate change should do what the French did after the devastating 2003 heat wave across Europe killed nearly fifteen thousand people in France alone: “they discovered Walmart and air-conditioning.”
   I listened to these zingers as an estimated thirteen million people in the Horn of Africa faced starvation on parched land. What makes this callousness among deniers possible is their firm belief that if they’re wrong about climate science, a few degrees of warming isn’t something wealthy people in industrialized countries have to worry about* (When it rains, we find shelter, when it’s hot, we find shade,” Texas congressman Joe Barton explained at am energy and environment subcommittee hearing.)  
   As for anyone else, well, they should stop looking for handouts and get busy making money. (Never mind the World Bank warned in a 2012 that for poor countries, the increased cost of storms, droughts, and flooding is already so high that it “threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.”) When I asked Patrick Michaels whether rich countries have a responsibility to help poor ones pay for costly adaptions to a warmer climate, he scoffed: There is no reason to give resources to countries “because, for some reason, their political system is incapable of adapting. The real solution, he claimed, was more free trade.”
   *Much of this confidence is based on fantasy. Though the ultra rich may be able to buy a measure of protection for a while, even the wealthiest nation on the planet can fall apart in the face of a major shock (as Hurricane Katrina showed). And no society, no matter how well financed or managed, can truly adapt to massive natural disasters when one comes fast and furious on the heels of the last.” 
   My, my.
   Let’s move on.
   The United States is  not at war at present...  technically, although it maintains military forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently operating an aerial campaign in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIl. 
   The United States maintains the largest active military in the world. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, using current market exchange rates, the United States spent 610 billion on defense last year. The country with the next highest expenditure was China with 216 billion. Russia 84.5 billion. Saudi Arabia 80.8 billion. France 62.3. Great Britain 60.5. India 50, Germany 46.5, Japan 45.8, South Korea 36.7, Brazil 31.7, Italy 30.9, Australia 25.4, United Arab Emirates 22.8, Turkey 22.6, and Liechtenstein 21.7, for a total of $1,797.7 trillion devoted to killing each other (Ms Klein further suggests that slashing the military budgets of the top ten spenders on this list would give us another $325 billion per year that would go towards our climate problem). Most of these countries use their military forces for purely defense purposes. Others, like the United States and Russia, are more... proactive. 
   There are currently 53 armed conflicts being waged throughout the world that have resulted in the deaths of 100 to 10,000 in 2014 or 2015. 
   The United States has been involved in one armed conflict or another for 214 out of it’s 235 calendar year existence since it was founded in 1776, or 93% of the time. Is it really any wonder that the U.S. is considered the greatest threat to world peace? I mean really. Why have that big old military if you’re not going to use it?
   Have we really benefited by being a nation of war? Did it prevent 9/11? 
   The answer is no, it did not prevent 9/11. Have we benefitted? Sometimes. Off the top of my head the only wars the United States has actually benefited from were the Revolutionary War, the Mexican–American War, the Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War II. 
   Some would make a case for all of the other wars the U.S. has been involved with, such as the many conflicts with the indigenous people of North America, but then one would have to concede that the United States benefited by committing, all combined, one of the greatest and prolonged acts of genocide the world has ever known. 
   Or World War I, to stop European aggression. But did we really have to be involved? 
   In any case it appears we really like to be at war, and I think that those who benefit the most are those who provide the tools for war. The weapons manufacturers, the ship builders, those who supply the military. 
   Obviously we don’t need to have or maintain such a huge armed force. But like our aging,  decrepid, and obsolete nuclear arsenal (the United States plans to spend at least $355 billion to maintain and rebuild its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Why? We planning to start a nuclear war in the near future?) once you’ve got it it’s hard to get rid of it even if you don’t need it or don’t want it anymore, so politicians keep clamoring to increase the budget for the Department of Defense.    
   As Naomi Klein asks most plaintively in “This Changes Everything,” what is wrong with us?
   Son of a traveling independent Pentecostal evangelist (wasn’t part of a franchise), John McConnell was born in Davis City, Iowa on March 22, 1915. 
   When he was 24 years old John met Albert Nobell (not Alfred Nobel, the dynamite guy. He died in 1896), a chemist (alright, alright... Alfred was a chemist as well. I know that. But he was dead, deceased, parted this mortal coil by 1939 when John and Albert met). They founded the Nobell Research Foundation right here in Los Angeles, where John worked as Vice-President and business manager. 
   The foundation was in the business of making thermosetting plastic, which is a plastic that  irreversibly cures, and can be molded into various shapes, the first manufacturing facility for plastic on the west coast.  
   McConnell realized plastic’s capacity to pollute the environment, and thus his concern for ecology grew, way before it was fashionable to be an environmentalist. Due to his concern, he and Albert developed a plastic utilizing walnut shells, which until that time had only been used as an abrasive. They also sought alternate uses for various waste products. 
   During the Second World War John worked as a seaman on Merchant Marine vessels, where he  took the position that prayer and love could be more powerful than bombs, and he conducted semi-religious services for his fellow sailors. 
   After World War ll, and following an educational missionary effort in Honduras, John worked briefly as Registrar at the Lincoln Law School in  San Jose, California, where I was born several years ago. He also worked as a representative of the American Correspondence School, the precursor to the University of Phoenix. 
   John and a man named Erling Toness, a newspaper editor, published the Toe Valley View in Bakersville, North Carolina. Life Magazine carried a feature story, "Trouble in the Toe Valley," about the two’s efforts against local violence and corruption. 
   On Halloween, 1957, inspired by the Soviet Union’s successful launch of the Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik One, John wrote an editorial entitled, "Make Our Satellite A Symbol Of Hope," calling for peaceful cooperation in the exploration of Space with a "Star of Hope" satellite, a visible beacon orbiting the planet.
   The editorial was picked up by the wire services and reprinted in hundreds of newspapers. John  appeared on the Arline Francis Show, the Today Show and other TV Network programs. He became a media star, which led him to found a Star of Hope organization in with the goal of fostering international cooperation in outer space. 
   In pursuit of that goal, Mr. McConnell obtained support in Geneva of the President of the Atoms for Peace Conference and other leaders, including Dr. Glen Seaborg of the United States and Professor A. P. Alexandrov of the U.S.S.R..
   In 1959 John moved back to California with Erling, where they founded a weekly paper, the “Mountain View.” On April 19th, 1961 he published an editorial urging a joint venture in space with American Astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts. The idea was presented to the White House, and given to Soviet officials. President Kennedy supported the idea, and later President Nixon obtained agreement for a joint venture, which resulted 1975‘s Apollo–Soyuz Test Project. 
   In 1962, John worked as the Northern California Director of "Meals for Millions," and organized a successful campaign in San Francisco to feed thousands of Hong Kong refugees.
   Mr McConnell worked again with national media outlets in 1963 to broadcast his idea for a “Minute of Peace,” sixty seconds of media silence during which listeners were encouraged to contemplate peace. 
   It’s a good thing he did that back in the sixties as I don’t see the idea gaining much traction in today’s profit seeking environment. 
   “Minute for Peace” messages were broadcast worldwide through the United Nations in 1965. The practice is still evident, without credit to McConnell, at the UN and religious and political venues. 
   As a Christian, John believed mankind had an obligation to take care of the earth, and to share its resources equally, based on such passages as Psalm 115:16, "The earth has been given to the children of men."
   In 1969 John was inspired by photographs of the Earth taken from outer space by Apollo 8, and used that image to create the original Earth Flag, which has since been flown in most countries of the world, the North Pole, the South Pole and aboard the space station Mir. 
   He conceived Earth Day, a global holiday, a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to be celebrated on the spring equinox (March 20th or 21st).
   His quote at the top of this post lists just three of the problems, pollution, poverty, and violence, that he was concerned with, and for which I have presented several examples, and which sadly still plague mankind. 
   Womankind too!
   We’ve discussed Earth Day briefly a few years ago, here.
   McConnell announced the idea at a United Nations conference in San Francisco in November of 1969. The city of San Francisco and other communities in California, Colorado, and the East Coast adopted the idea, and the first Earth Day occurred on March 21st, 1970. 
   Unfortunately, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) was there and listening in. 
   The senator had attended college in San Jose, where I was born, and where John McConnell once worked. So I believe all three of us are some how deeply connected.
   At the time the senator was promoting an Environmental Teach-In, patterned after Vietnam War protests, to be held on college campuses on April 22nd. 
   His organizers, how shall I put this... stole... the Earth Day brand, and because of their greater influence with the media  April 22 has become more well-known, in the United States as "Earth Day." 
   The original equinox Earth Day, March 21st, however, is still celebrated at the United Nations and in most countries of the world.
   The future senator had served in the the Okinawa campaign during World War II,  which included the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific during the war.
   I myself drove an amphibious assault landing craft when I served in the navy, although as far as I know no one ever shot at me while I was doing it.
   After the war Nelson was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, serving until 1958, when he ran and was elected governor, serving two terms. 
   He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1962, and was re-elected in 1968 and 1974. 
   Senator Nelson was a champion for women’s health and reproductive rights. In 1970, he called for Congressional hearings on the safety of combined oral contraceptive pills (the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth control pill or colloquially as "the pill," is a birth control method that includes a combination of an estrogen (estradiol) and a progestogen (progestin)) which were famously called "The Nelson Pill Hearings." As a result of the hearings, side-effect disclosure was required for the pill in patient inserts for the first time... the first time for any pharmaceutical drug for that matter.
   The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities across the country, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities. “20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.” -Earth Day Network
   It "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform,” author Jack Lewis noted.    
   The first Earth Day led to the creation of the EPA, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts (all of which the republicans are currently attempting to gut). 
   "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked."
    Earth Day was not celebrated again until 1990. This time the celebration escaped the boarders of the U.S. and went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries, and focusing on environmental issues. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
   For his role as Earth Day founder President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States. 
   John McConnell received a firm handshake. 
   Earth Day is now celebrated annually, and observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.
   Last Saturday Earth Day celebrants jumped the gun and held a free Global Poverty Project/Earth Day concert on the Washington Mall, featuring musical guests Usher, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Common, Fall Out Boy and Train.
   I know one of those acts whose picture is above. 
   It is said 250,000 to 300,000 were in attendance, with a billion others around the globe, acknowledging the need for a clean, sustainable, and equitable planet Earth, our only home.

   Gaylord Nelson died of cardiovascular failure at age 89 on July 3rd, 2005.

   John McConnell passed from this life in the presence of his devoted wife, Anna, and a few friends in Denver, Colorado, on October 20th, 2012, at the age of 97. 

Addendum: 4-23-15: 30 tips
Addendum: 4-23-15: Hyjacked?
Addendum: 4-23-15: Earth Day should be...
Addendum: 7-24-15: Common chemicals may work together to cause cancer

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