Climate Strike!

The day after I wrote this post lamenting the lack of a local climate strike action, I got an email from a local climate champion saying that there would be an event in Binghamton on Friday, the day that millions of people took part in thousands of actions around the world.

We met in front of the building that houses Senator Schumer’s office. As Senate minority leader, he is our most influential representative in Washington. In keeping with the youth leadership of climate strikes, this was organized by local university students, with lots of energy coming from the students who gathered. There were also a number of allies, many of whom were veterans of the fight against fracking in New York State.

I was pleased to be able to attend and lend support and happy to be part of three generations in my family there. Daughters E and T were both there; granddaughter ABC, at two years old, was the youngest attendee. Several people commented that we were gathered there for climate action for her and her generation, so that they will have a livable planet.

Our climate strike event on Friday was very grassroots, with the co-organizers speaking and then offering the mike to anyone that wanted to speak. Next Friday, September 27th, will be a larger and more formal event with several local organizations as sponsors, featuring speakers, music, tabling, and food. I hope to be able to attend that, too.

There is a lot of work to do in order to keep global temperature rise in check, so much that it often seems impossible, but I am more hopeful than I have been for a while. With young people around the world rallying and demanding action, maybe national leaders will finally find the political will to make a rapid and just transition to a sustainable, though still damaged, world.

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One-Liner Wednesday: saving the world

“If we can save the banks, we can save the world.”
~~~ Greta Thunberg
*****
Please join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/09/18/one-liner-wednesday-same-thing/

 

 

Sixth Blogiversary!

(I enjoy the way spellcheck corrects my spelling of blogiversary, as though it were a real word.)

WordPress helpfully reminded me that I started Top of JC’s Mind six years ago today.

Six years ago feels like a different world, in ways both small- and large-scale.

Six years ago, B and I both still had our moms.

L and daughter E were in Hawai’i, still in their first year of marriage, never dreaming that the first two years of their daughter’s life would be spent at our home in upstate New York while L worked in London toward getting a spousal visa for E. The visa should be arriving soon. B and I will have an eerily quiet home when E and ABC leave at whatever point in the coming weeks…

During the last six years, daughter T has completed a master’s in conservation biology of plants – and has faced an administration that has ignored her field of study at a time when it is most needed.

Six years ago, Barack Obama was president of the United States. Even though the Republicans in Congress blocked a lot of things that would have been helpful for the country, we, at least, had a sense of pride in our nation on the world stage and an absence of scandal. With Donald Trump as president, there is a general sense of fear and apprehension and the United States has lost its leadership position; there seem to be multiple scandals every week.

Six years ago, we were fighting in New York for a ban on shale fracking. Amazingly enough, New York instituted a regulatory ban, which is still holding. Given that New York has just recently enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it would fly in the face of our climate goals to begin fracking, even under a future governor.

Meanwhile, the global climate situation is becoming more and more dire. While I was encouraged by the Paris climate accord, the time since has been difficult, with DT ready to pull the US out of the accord in November, 2020. Many states, cities, companies, and individuals have stepped up to continue working toward net zero carbon goals. Our family is doing its part by changing to LED lighting, increasing our insulation, buying panels in a community solar installation, and driving a fully electric Chevy Bolt and a plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica.

Some things have stayed constant over these six years, though. I am grateful for my loving family and safe home, for a faith that remains despite challenges, for music and poetry, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

My hope is that I will be able to continue writing – and that, at least, a few of you will continue to visit me here at Top of JC’s Mind.

a royal rescue?

As many of you know, my daughter E and granddaughter ABC will soon be relocating from our home in the US to the UK, when E’s spousal visa comes through. Unfortunately, the UK government, like the US, is mired in dysfunction.

It is difficult to project what will be happening regarding Brexit, the prime minister, Parliament, and the EU. Even seasoned political analysts can’t guess what will happen. There are fears of shortages of fresh foods and medications if/when the UK leaves the EU. With so much uncertainty, this is not an optimal time for E and ABC to move, but there is only a small travel window once the visa arrives.

Lately, I have been fantasizing that the queen will come to the rescue! Britain’s monarch has little power, but, can still dissolve Parliament and call for new elections. She can also accept or reject the choice of prime minister. The prime minister is supposed to “command the confidence of the House of Commons.” [source:  https://www.royal.uk/queen-and-government] Given that PM Johnson has been pretty spectacular in his inability to get bills he favors passed, and that a number of members of his party have left, giving him less than majority support, one could reasonably argue that he does not command confidence.

The monarch is not supposed to be political but she has a duty to “encourage and warn” the government ministers. She is supposed to be a source of national unity. I realize it would be unprecedented, but I think she should point out that leaving the EU will likely cause Scotland, and perhaps Northern Ireland, to leave the United Kingdom. She could also point out that in a constitutional monarchy, issues are decided by her government, not by popular vote. The vote itself may not even represent the true will of the people, given that it was subject to Russian influence and much fear-mongering and lying from the domestic proponents of leaving the European Union. If she made these remarks publicly, perhaps in an address to Parliament, it would cause a stir, but it seems that she would be protecting her subjects and seeking to keep the United Kingdom intact.

Of course, none of this is likely to happen. I am dreaming, though, of a stable place for my daughter and her family to live and thrive.

A place less contentious and divided than the United States would be nice.

 

Whose labor?

Today, the United States observes Labor Day, which celebrates workers, especially those who are members of unions.

I heard a discussion on the radio today about jobs that have been replaced by technology and another about the rights of workers who are considered independent contractors instead of employees, which generally means they get no benefits. These discussions also touched on the nature of work and what it means for human dignity and living standards.

One caller touched on a subject that is close to my heart, that people who act as unpaid caregivers are not considered part of the economy at all, despite their value to their families and communities. Most of the tasks that I have done over the years can be paid work, too, such as child care, elder care, driver, cook, laundry worker, and now even grocery shopper. Of course, these occupations are usually low-paying, reflecting the devaluation of caregiving in the United States. Granted, most people with paid employment also have to take care of homes and/or family members, but many of them pay someone to do some of that work.

Caregiving is work and those that do it should be respected and recognized as part of the economy. This dynamic is part of the movement for a universal basic income, most publicly articulated at the moment by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Having spent most of my life in volunteering and family caregiving, I know that my labor has made valuable contributions to society. It would be nice to have meaningful national recognition of that.

Fire in the Amazon

Large swaths of the Amazon rainforest are on fire. Media tends to call these wildfires, but the vast majority of them are intentionally set. I think of wildfires as being caused by lightning strike or an accidental spark. When fires are set intentionally, they should be called arson.

While the current scale of the fires is new, the problem is not. For years, farmers and ranchers have burned parts of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for themselves. They have been opposed by indigenous people and their allies, some of whom have been killed trying to defend the forest.

The fires are devastating for the plants, animals, and people who live there, but the scale of the destruction now threatens the very mechanism that makes the rainforest possible. The vegetation, especially the large, tall trees, transpire large quantities of water, which form clouds and help to keep the rainforest green. If too much land is burned, the amount of rainfall will decrease so much that it would be impossible to sustain a rainforest ecosystem.

Plants also take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It is estimated that 20% of the world’s atmospheric oxygen is produced in the Amazon. As more and more of the rainforest is destroyed, the level of oxygen in the air that all people and animals need to breathe could diminish, while the level of carbon dioxide, already at record highs, could become even higher, accelerating global warming and increasing drought, which diminishes plant growth and causes a downward spiral.

The government of Brazil is making only half-hearted measures to control the fires and has refused the assistance of other nations. President Bolsonaro is a climate change denier, who sees this issue as being solely about the economic development of Brazil. His short-sighted actions may cause world-wide suffering for decades.

It highlights to me how interconnected we are as a planet. At this point in human history, we can’t afford countries being isolationist and concerned only with making their rich citizens even richer.

Money can’t buy oxygen or make more rainfall or change the temperature.

more on guns

Being in the United States gives me many more opportunities than I would like to write about guns.

This morning, I have already heard at least three stories involving guns.

First, the New York red flag law finally went into effect over the weekend. This allows for family or other people with knowledge of the situation to go to court to temporarily take away firearm access and block the sale of guns to a person who is a risk to themselves or others. It’s good that this law is finally in operation. When there was a mass shooting in my county in ten years ago, the father of the gunman, knowing his son was unstable, had tried to prevent him from getting a gun license, but there was no mechanism at the time to do it. While New York had passed other gun laws, in particular after the Newtown CT shooting, it didn’t pass a red flag law until this year, which is disappointing in that it might have prevented the shooting here, had it been in effect.

Second, a friend’s birthday is today and she is doing a Facebook fundraiser for Everytown for Gun Safety. This organization works to combat gun violence of all kinds. While mass shootings get the most headlines, many more people in the United States are killed in individual circumstances. Sadly, the largest group of gun deaths is suicides. (The suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at any time at 1-800-273-8255; the website link also offers online chat and other information.)

Third, on CBS This Morning, they are starting an interview series with surviving family members of those killed in mass shootings.  One of the comments made was that life in those cities will never be the same, which may be true for Newfield and Charleston and El Paso. I haven’t found that to be the case for Binghamton, which, other than a memorial near the site of the American Civic Association, seems to be carrying on as before.

I think there are a number of reasons for this. The shooting happened ten years ago, when there was media coverage, but not the weeks of reporting that we see now. Even though it was, at the time, one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States, it was before presidential visits and massive memorial vigils and services were as common as they are now. Lastly, as I have written about before, most of those who died were immigrants or foreign visitors who had come to a class to improve their English skills, when a deranged immigrant, who was now a US citizen, opened fire. In other mass shootings, the public tends to think that it could have been them at that store or church or movie theater, it could have been their children at that school, but their sense of public safety was not shaken as much by a shooting of mostly immigrants in a private non-profit’s building.

I do think that more and more people in the United States are appalled by the level of gun violence and want to enact more laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who kill or wound others. Congress will be back in session soon. Let your representatives know how you feel about this issue.