“No More Baby Parts”

OK, Forced Birthers, you got your wish. Another unbalanced gun nut showed up at a PP clinic and shot a bunch of people. But he was doing the right thing, right?, because they murder babies.

What did you expect?

It reminds me of the murder of Thomas Becket. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, king Henry made his friend Becket archbishop. But when Becket took the side of the church, Henry ranted and raved, and wondered aloud who would remove Becket. Much to his surprise (!), the king’s men murdered the archbishop, after which Henry cursed the foul deed and called for justice.

Sound familiar? What did you expect?

You Forced Birthers try to ignore the gathered crows on the back fence, and remain stone silent about the murder you promoted. You don’t have to say anything to distance yourself, because there are plenty of fools frothing at the mouth and shouting that the dead and wounded got what they deserved to take attention away from you.

There will be more murders. There have already been several cases of murder, arson, and bombs at PP clinics. But you’re not responsible, right?

What did you expect?

Filmmaker James O’Keefe and others make it a practice to release heavily edited attacks. Basically, O’Keefe is a liar who rearranges his videos to suit the agenda of the Forced Birthers, facts be damned. The most recent was a July release of a PP official talking about tissue that is donated for medical research. But what they were discussing and what was shown was a stillbirth, not an abortion. It was an infant, all right, but one that didn’t survive. And such tissue, as well as aborted tissue has, and will, contribute a lot toward conquering diseases that affect us all. But that’s not what O’Keefe wants. He wants to make it look like full-term infants are killed for “baby parts”. People who are challenged by realism sometimes take him at face value, and decide to do something about it.

Were you surprised? I wasn’t.

What did you expect?

Apparently, none of you has any clue about what Planned Parenthood actually does. They serve millions of women who otherwise couldn’t afford health services. They offer a full range of services for women’s health, including counseling for expecting parents, sonograms of fetal development, sex education, nutritional advice, STD testing, cancer screening, birth control, and various other services benefiting women. These use federal funds.

Oh, three percent of their services are for abortions, funded privately. No government funds are used for abortions. No fetal tissue is sold. There are no “baby parts”.

What did you expect?

Here’s an irony you, and most of the Republican party, which has proposed and passed hundreds of laws designed to punish women, don’t seem to recognize: your stance against birth control actually creates abortions you rail against. Poor women who can’t get birth control are much more likely to become pregnant with a baby they can’t afford. But you don’t want them to have birth control. You want to force them to have the baby they can’t afford, thus compounding the problems they already have, which then become society’s problems.

What did you expect?

Why don’t you mark your calendars so you can measure the time to the next murder, bombing, or arson. Or maybe just to record how many such crimes it takes before Planned Parenthood is forced by an ignorant Congress to close its doors, thus cutting millions of poor women off from medical care, causing hundreds of thousands of additional pregnancies, and a sharp rise of dangerous illegal abortions by unlicensed quacks.

Isn’t this what you want?

The Bitter End of 2015

We face very serious challenges, one of them unlike any in history, as 2016 arrives. By far, the most serious is climate change, because within the century there is a real chance that it could end all animal life on Earth. Less serious, but more immediate, and largely unrecognized so far, is a sea-change in our understanding of “growth”. Then there is the violence of the Daesh, and in the US, the out-of-control police.

Climate change will become the only thing that really matters.

The reason this is so is that the time when we could have averted the danger is decades behind us, and now the inevitable climate changes could in time end all animal life on the planet. Our efforts have so far been utterly inadequate, and almost completely blocked by the irrational blindness of greed and political ideology.

The daily evidence has become obvious. The normal cold season failed to arrive this year, and winter wear was still mostly unnecessary even in late November, as people went about in short sleeves, eating their lunches on park benches. The Pacific Ocean in historic El Niño areas is up to ten degrees hotter than normal, which will make the 2016 storms real doozies. There have been unusual gatherings of whales and other creatures, and huge die-offs of several kinds of sea life. The Pacific crab season has been cancelled because of toxic algae, and Atlantic fish stocks have largely vanished. On my own deck several plants behaved as if spring had arrived. Californians are fearful that this fifth year of severe drought marks the return to the historic arid norm of the previous thousand years.

About once a month climate scientists release a new world report, and each one is worse than the last. The precise details of sea-level rise are notoriously difficult to predict, but every estimate is worse than the last. The Greenland ice cap would take centuries to melt completely, which would raise sea levels by some 200 feet, but melting it is, much faster than previously known. The surface shows a crowded lattice of blue rivers that vanish into the ice, bound for the ocean, and will in time cause the edges of the ice cap to collapse into the sea.

Every year has been hotter than the last for nearly a decade, each year a new record. October was the hottest month ever, registering a shocking increase. All of it means more ice melt and deeper oceans. High tides have already become a problem, even in the Bay Area, but more so in cities that will inevitably drown, cities like Miami, New Orleans and many others. A third of Bangladesh will vanish, as will the Maldives and other low lying island nations. Venice and London will drown.

And yet, even though they are figuratively and sometimes literally wet to the ankles, there are still True Believers who deny these bald facts of climate change. Republicans all, these are the people who have for decades prevented us from doing anything at all to manage the growing crisis, all in the service of profit from fossil fuels and the free market. Unfortunately, great wealth will be meaningless in the face of climate armageddon.

“Growth” itself must yield to new realities.

The world has accepted as the measure of economic health the rate of “growth”, defined as the increase of goods and services per person over a given period, usually a year. The concept that greater growth is always better faces the wall of finiteness. We cannot forever increase goods and services, any more than we can increase atmospheric CO2 or population forever. It’s a finite world.

Our population is nearly 7.3 billion. It is expected to hit ten billion by 2060 or so, and continue from there with gradual flattening out at about twelve billion. But by some calculations the Earth can sustain a population of one billion. Other estimates may be more optimistic, but the basic fact remains: infinite growth of either population or economics is like a cancer that kills its host, which is us.

We have always had difficulty accepting that economic growth cannot be infinite in a finite world, but a strange thing is happening. All over the world we are finding that economic “growth” is inexplicably low. In fact, it is zero in Japan, and shows no signs of resuming its old rate anywhere. I believe this is one indication of how economics will function in the new era.

There is a basic change in how goods and services are provided. In advanced societies, robots (mostly software) have already taken over much of the work that previously required human labor. This is true from the lowest level of simple labor to the very top management and tech levels and everywhere in between. The result is that if computers do a lot of the work there simply will not be enough work for everyone to earn a living, especially by working 40 hours a week.

The obvious difficulty relates to pay. How can we provide for everyone if we are all working “half time”? A major part of the answer concerns the owners of the robots. In essence, owning one of these robotic devices or algorithms is a perfect monopoly in the strictest definition of the term: 100% of the profit goes to one person. But their great wealth has created enormous inequality, which can only worsen if radical changes aren’t made.

We cannot simply take away their toys, because creators deserve the fruits of their genius, after all. But they don’t deserve it in perpetuity, nor necessarily all of it, in an era where even pennies per use results in billions of profit. It will take a lot of creativity to find a fair solution.

We must make world violence continue to fall.

It seems hard to believe, when daily headlines shout about bombings and shootings, but the overall level of violence is at a historical low. Even so, we have to pay attention. At the top of the list at present are the offshoots of al Qaida largely created by the two ill-advised wars of the Bush administration, and at home there is the virtually uncontrolled violence of the nation’s police, particularly against African-Americans.

The Daesh, as the Islamic State terrorists prefer not to be called, and their offshoots, particularly the African group Boko Haram, are monsters of the worst sort, murdering hundreds of innocents without mercy. Even so, they are closer to a minor problem than to the world conquerers they want us to believe they are. They are masters at publicity, making use of the latest technology to exaggerate their claims. However, they will be defanged just like terrorist groups of past decades.

But for now they have been very successful at teaching Westerners that all Muslims are terrorists. They especially endear themselves by referring to us as “filthy”, we who somehow don’t buy into the idea of following an antique book filled with machismo and barbarity.

There has always been anti-immigrant hatred, and in the US at exactly the wrong time the Republican party has bought into it hook, line, and sinker, apparently threatened by five-year-old refugee children and 75-year-old widows alike, people whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed, family members often killed by the Daesh. Such dangerous terrorists arrive destitute, and are met by Republicans who think they were personally responsible for 9/11. Republicans are always looking for new ways to hurt people they don’t know, and to deny them the compassion Christians are supposed to have.

The irony is that all refugees undergo strict screening lasting some two years before they are allowed to enter the US, but for the GOP that apparently doesn’t count. It is hard to see any difference between them and those in the 1930s who refused entry to European Jews, thus condemning them to a hideous death in Hitler’s gas chambers. In fact, many of the crowd of GOP presidential candidates want to completely seal off our borders, allowing absolutely no one into the country, which is surely the supreme irony for a country composed almost entirely of refugee immigrants. Some of them want to build a literal wall all across the southern border, which I call the Maginot Wall.

It was news to most of us white folk that the US is a nation of police violence and murder, but not to African-Americans, who have known nothing but abusive treatment since their ancestors arrived as slaves. Most police behave properly, of course, but how many murders does it take before we see them all as violent criminals? That’s how virtually all black Americans view them. There is a bit more transparency these days, but little indication of improvement so far, even with movements like “Black Lives Matter”.

Too many police are simply out of control, and not held accountable for obvious crimes that officials compound by failing to prosecute. This must stop if we want to be known as a nation with any sort of meaningful justice. Perhaps citizen video, police cameras, and security video, coupled with better press reportage, will finally end the impunity, but real progress will not be made until the legal apparatus itself prosecutes police murder.

It is not an optimistic time.

Uneasy Affliction

An interviewer said to James Baldwin, in one of those “in conversation with…” things, “Now, when you were starting out as a writer, you were black, impoverished, homosexual. You must have said to yourself, ‘Gee, how disadvantaged can I get?’” Baldwin looks at him with his bulging eyes and says, “No, I thought I’d hit the jackpot!” The audience roars. He meant that as a writer devoid of an easy life and easy answers, he could tell the terrible truth and nobody could deny him.

Seen in that light, why would someone so “oppressed” as I—old, white, privileged, never having had to suffer real hardship—why would I waste so much time these past years trying to “afflict the comfortable” by telling people who don’t want to hear it, the ways they have failed to live up to the great promise of their country? Don’t you have to suffer in order to tell others what it’s like? Isn’t raging against the machine a doomed enterprise unless you are afflicted?

You must be aware of the recent drive to warn our precious children about “graphic content”, the “triggers” that might upset their delicate systems. Books that you and I read unabridged, with all their raw language and shocking acts, must now be prefaced with warnings that they might be upsetting, requiring smelling salts when our darlings suffer from the vapors.

What nonsense. We should promote the exact opposite. Violence, war, and sex are in the daily news, and even grade school playgrounds ring with sexual insults. Our precious children, even those who are now young adults, must have their equilibrium disturbed, their balance upset. They should be taught about the injustice and inequality that characterizes our country, and how the promise that it would be otherwise was sold to the highest bidder, about sexual slavery right in our own cities, about our ongoing amoral violence in other countries. The most sheltered must see the Holocaust Museum, and learn to weep outright, to counteract the cheapening of the Nazi horror that comes from calling our own president a Hitler.

I was born at the leading edge of WWII, which was whispered about, but never discussed in the presence of children. When I was 12 I discovered and read Viktor Frankl’s The Theory and Practice of Hell. The author was an eye witness who survived the unbelievable horrors of Nazi death camps, and described it in merciless detail, lest we ever forget. The shock has never left me, but it also lit a fire in me that doesn’t allow complacency about any victims of injustice. That includes those in my own country, where their suffering is often discounted, or smothered by faux-patriotic cries of “We’re Number One”, belying our real position at #27 by any real criteria.

Not enough anger can ever be expressed about the multi-millionaires who characterize half the population—150 million people, the combined populations of South Africa and Spain—as freeloading “takers”, basking in the velvet cushioned luxury of welfare that leaves them unwilling to get a job. These same smug millionaires in their chauffeured limos and custom jets want us to believe that people who work long hours and may have several jobs don’t deserve to be paid fairly. They see no reason to have a minimum wage at all. They want those 60-hour-a-week slackers to receive their just desserts for their laziness, and are indifferent to the danger that results from not being able to buy medical care, leaving them just a couple of paychecks away from destitution.

But the frustration I feel is not because of the kind of people who would read these past 600 or so postings. My frustration comes from the people who should read them, and explain to me exactly why I’m wrong, but don’t. The thing is, they can’t explain why, because the numbers aren’t on their side.

The hardcore conservatives who think Donald Trump, super-egotist, racist, and isolationist billionaire with his own 747, would be a good president, because as he has explained to us, he has a superior intellect. The True Believer Republicans who are certain that giving our money to the richest will dribble down and make us all affluent, in spite of the complete absence of evidence that it’s even remotely true. The fundamentalists who accept the preposterous claims of the Elmer Gantry heirs in their megachurches, and amoral mega-liar politicians alike. Those who vote against their own interests again and again, never figuring out that the injustice and poverty that afflicts them comes compliments of the very people whose lies they believe.

And yet, even though I preach to the choir, perhaps some of what I say is a new way of thinking about a topic, with logic enough that a few people will be better equipped to understand an issue, better able to defeat shoddy thinking. Who knows, maybe someone who needs it will accidentally stumble on one of these posts and be afflicted enough to think a bit more.

Where Gays Come From

If you do a bit of online searching about whether homosexuals choose to be gay, you will find quite a few people who are certain that they do. Not one of such respondents is himself gay. And not one of their answers is based on reality, science, or logical reasoning. Most are simply assertions of inherited opinion, often bolstered by religious dogma. Some claim an affirmative answer because science hasn’t found a “gay gene”, therefore it must be a choice. But nothing says the presence of gay people requires a gay gene. Of identical twins, who share a genome, one may be gay, the other not. Also, the parents of gay people are straight, so where would a “gay gene” come from?

If you want to find the answer about whether it’s possible to choose sexuality, this is how you do it:

Select a large number of adults who identify themselves as unquestionably heterosexual. Ask each of them, “Could you decide right now to be homosexual? Y/N” Not one will answer yes.

You can’t ask this question of people whose sexuality is fluid or questionable. You have to ask adults who identify as solidly straight. One reason for this requirement is that such people are the ones who assert that gays choose to be gay.

The more important reason is that if any sexuality can actually be chosen, the choice must be possible for all people. If gays chose to be gay, it must mean that all who call themselves unquestionably straight could have chosen to be gay, but instead chose to be straight. If straights could never have chosen to be gay, then gays could not have originally been straight, but then chose to be gay. The only possibility is that they were already gay, and their sexuality was not chosen.

Literally no straight people claim to have rejected the choice of homosexuality and decided instead on heterosexuality. If they chose to be straight, they must have been able at some point to choose to be gay, an argument rejected by all who identify as solidly straight. Answers to the above question will make it clear that not one of them ever made a choice about their heterosexuality. The logical conclusion must be that if a choice wasn’t available to them, neither could it be available to gays. If the choice isn’t open to everyone to chose their own sexuality it must mean that nobody can chose to be gay or straight.

To the best of my knowledge nobody has asked the question this way, let alone in a rigorously scientific study, but I predict that not a single one of those who call themselves solidly straight will say that they themselves could choose to be gay, either at present or at any time in the past. I myself am in that category. I have a relatively large number of friends who are gay, but I am, and have always been, decidedly heterosexual. There’s not a chance in the world that I could decide to be gay. Being straight is just who I am.

And that’s the same reason people are gay. It’s just who they are. Ask any one of them.

Now, that does not say they were always aware of their orientation from a tender age. Some are, while their age is still in single digits even. But others may well live into adult years accepting society’s expectation that they must be straight. They may marry, and even have children, realizing only in middle years that in reality they were always attracted to the same sex. We read about such people all the time. But when you ask them, they will tell you in no uncertain terms that they did not choose the sexual orientation that only became apparent later in their lives. Who would purposely chose such a course so fraught with problems?

Sexuality will always be rather mysterious, and there are many differing expressions of it at the margins. Consider, for example, the current surge in people who want to transition to the other sex with surgery, or the debate about whether there really is true bisexuality. Yet the apparently complete lack of people who choose their sexuality (sex-change surgery is not the same thing) is clear.

In a way the above discussion is irrelevant. Despite the denial of a lot of people, often put forth with faulty argument, every gay person I ever heard about says unequivocally that they did not choose to be homosexual. And heterosexuals state unequivocally they did not choose to be straight; in fact, the possibility of a choice never occurs to them, although they never waver from their belief that others simply chose to be gay. Why on Earth would anyone make such a decision anyway, one that is guaranteed to bring all sorts of difficulties and complications into one’s life?

Why is this important?

The answer to the question of chosen sexuality is not just important, it’s a matter of life and death. Homosexuality is punishable by death in many parts of the world even today. All the major religions reject homosexuality as against the dictates of God, an abomination, and holy books universally prescribe the death penalty. This is the reason the question must at last be answered unequivocally. I believe that an unequivocal answer is possible, albeit difficult.

Incidentally, it’s not possible to wipe out homosexuality. If every one of the 250M gay people were killed, it would only be a matter of time before the gay population was completely restored, because the entire 5% gay population comes from the straight population.

The major religions bear the greatest moral responsibility for the suffering and death of homosexuals by not answering the question of choice. Therefore, they have a moral imperative to seek an answer.

It seems unlikely that Islamic scientists (if that’s not an oxymoron today) will address the issue. I don’t know about Jewish authorities. I believe that Christians must be the ones to study it, Catholics in particular, for two reasons. First, the Catholic religious dogma demonizes homosexuals, somehow forgetting that they are still human and forgivable, with all the faults and frailties of others. The second reason is that the current pope, Francis, has shown himself to be the most open-minded and reasonable pope in at least a century. He will not be a pushover to change, but could be swayed by solid scientific evidence—which we don’t yet have.

If the Catholic church could be persuaded by solid evidence to alter its official stance, it could eventually lead to a universal liberalization that would remove all the oppression and terror that have been the fate of so many gay people for thousands of years. Few things are as important.

What Personal Independence Really Means

The Europeans who came to the New World were a hardy and ingenious lot. For centuries there were no stores where they settled. If you wanted something you had to either make it from raw materials or grow it. We even had to build our own houses. The few manufactured things came from the Old Country, and tended toward the very practical. Axes. Calico. Hunting guns. This is where the ideal of the strong and independent American came from.

Half a millennium has passed, and everything we could conceive of wanting has become available to us without having to chop down a tree or plow a furrow to get it. Most likely it came from China, or some other place in the poorly-paid world. But as this sea change occurred we lost much of our ability to survive on our own.

Most of us don’t know how to roof a garage, rewire a lamp, or grow and can tomatoes. Many of us couldn’t change the oil, poach a fish, install a new pane of glass, or make beer. Instead of fixing something easily repaired, we buy a new one, which is possible because so many consumer goods are inexpensive on the global market, where fair pay is rare.

Independence is the Republican ideal, one they take pride in and wrongly presume nobody else does. The Republican belief in the centrality of the nuclear family is supposedly based on the Bible, with a dominant father who makes all the decisions, a supportive and submissive wife, and obedient children. There are things to recommend this scenario. But most of those that are commendable are not specifically Republican. They are just common sense. You may never need to change a tire, but if you are stuck in a wild place with a blizzard coming on, you want to know how to do it. Politics has nothing to do with it.

Times have changed since biblical days. For one thing, the modern world knows that women are not inferior help-meets, but their abilities are fully equal to men’s in almost every way. Women have become a powerful strength for the modern world, one that spells the difference between modern and antiquated. Only in the conservative Muslim world are women viewed as worth some fraction of a man’s value. And among simplistically minded Republicans.

The more extreme conservatives imagine a world in which government is minimized to the point that almost nothing is supported by taxes except a powerful military. We the people are required to be independent and strong, as our pioneer ancestors were. And it’s true that we could certainly as a nation cultivate more of that can-do independent attitude. After all, even if our parents didn’t teach us how to install a new toilet or how to dry fruits for winter, we can easily get books and DVDs that tell us how.

But when we get really sick, being independent may not help. Only professional medical care may be enough. And where do we get that, if our job doesn’t give us enough income to pay for health insurance, and the bill is going to come to $100,000? And what will happen to us when we can no longer work, if our income barely covered common expenses our whole life, and we simply couldn’t save enough for retirement?

The value of independence comes to an abrupt end there. Your neighbors and your community may help, but only the concerted effort of everyone acting for the common good will be enough. That is, as a nation. The classic need, of course, is medical, but there are many other reasons that only community action, state action, or national action is the only reasonable course. What does government give us for our taxes? Thousands of things. The very thought of each family being responsible, for example, for the street, sewer, and water supply in front of our house is ridiculous. Imagine yourself digging in the street with a pickaxe to repair a water line.

The essential reason that we cannot rely on ourselves individually for all these things is that to do so is not economically efficient. It is far less expensive and far more practical to pay for street services from a tax-supported work crew that uses city-owned machinery. This is true for thousands of services that only the government can supply efficiently. That goes literally double for health care.

We pay double what good national medical care programs cost, and for the same reason: our health care is private, non-efficient, and for-profit. There is efficiency in size, and national plans provide the largest possible funding base. National plans also have the power to regulate and control costs. They also simply do away with most insurance costs, which presently consume one out of every three dollars we spend on health care without providing any benefit at all.

Being strong and independent is a good idea, and something we have lost too much of. But the value of personal independence ends with the many things that require expertise and cooperative effort. There are many such things, virtually all of which are most efficiently paid for with taxes. The most important of these, the one that costs us double, the one we don’t currently pay for with taxes, is medical care. National health care would save us many billions, and save many lives that are presently lost because of unaffordable cost. Even more, the loss of any American to an untreated medical condition costs us more in social costs than it would have cost to save her.

We remain the only nation in the advanced world that lacks affordable medical care for everybody because we have no national plan. This is a national tragedy that is completely unnecessary.

Will Exxon Be Responsible for the Demise of All Life?

Doomsday articles like this one are rightly taken with a grain of salt. The demise of all life, after all, is heavy stuff. But it’s not my life I’m talking about. I’ll be long gone before “the demise” happens. But the scientists are scared shitless, so there just might be something to it.

Way back in the seventies Exxon took leave of their senses and did some actual science. They took a long look at the future, and what it would be like if things continued just as they were. What they found startled the scientists, because it came to light that without major changes, Exxon and everyone else would bring about warming of the entire planet, with dire consequences.

By their calculations this would mean that the oceans would become way deeper, and the longer we went along without major changes in the way we did things, the worse it would be. Radical changes were needed at least by 1980.

So the scientists told management what they had found. At first it seemed like Exxon would do the right thing, but soon their primary motivation, profit, took over. The scientific findings were deep-sixed into the long-term storage vault rumored to be somewhere under the Hudson River.

The executive officers of Exxon, with a chance to literally save the world, decided that profit was more important than survival of all life. It was only in recent years that the story was told, which is why I nominate every top management officer who knew about these studies to receive the worst we can devise.

But maybe Exxon shouldn’t be the winner after all.

Maybe the winner should be Senator James Inhofe, whose book The Greatest Hoax, claims planetary warming is something cooked up by conspiring scientists to get more grant money. Of course he doesn’t attempt to explain how tens of thousands of scientists in different specialties all over Earth could have managed to conspire without the rest of us finding out about it, or how tens of thousands of scientific papers in dozens of languages could have all reached the same conclusion. In fact, his greatest “proof” of the hoax occurred one February day in 2012 (I believe it was winter) when he brought a snowball onto the Senate floor.

Now, some other idiot senator might simply be dismissed along with the rest of the herd, but Inhofe is head of the agency— the Environment and Public Works Committee—most directly in charge of the national response to global warming. That’s why he has been the one person in the world most responsible for our failure to act, because he refuses to do anything at all. Because the US was the world’s greatest polluter until China slipped into first place a few months ago, if the US does nothing, why should anyone else?

Then there’s Congressman Lamar Smith, also placed by wise Republicans as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who has received over $600,000 in campaign donations from Big Oil. Much of his time is spent trying to force a halt to independent climate research because they don’t support his ideological beliefs. Oh Lordy.

These guys never change their minds, and they never base their opinions on the findings of science. They don’t have to. They are Republicans.

Here is why the award should go to Exxon or Inhofe. Or Smith. Exxon had a golden opportunity to quite literally save the world. But the geniuses in the corner offices knew that profit was more important than survival of all life. Inhofe also had a golden opportunity, a golden opportunity to study the evidence and actually think about it. But his mind was already made up, and he wasn’t interested in facts, especially 10,000 scientific papers. Too much thinking.

Oh come on, Pennington. You sound like one of those guys in cartoons carrying a sign that says “THE END IS NIGH.” Or one of those Rapture guys who keep getting the date wrong. I wish, but unfortunately it really looks as bad as science tells us.

A recent conclusion of climate scientists was that a global temperature rise of a mere 1.5ºC will put the planet on a warming course that will continue for hundreds of years, possibly thousands. We are very, very close to crossing that Rubicon, from which there can be no return.

It’s not just that the oceans might increase their depth by well over a hundred feet, drastically transforming the remaining land, and making it impossible for all of the expected population of twelve billion or more to survive. In fact, no one can survive when the temperature reaches 125ºF. This is the temperature at which we cannot cool our bodies enough by sweating to avoid heat stroke and death. Those who paid attention over the past two years noted that parts of Pakistan, India, and elsewhere came dangerously close to those conditions, and many thousands died. It is so hot during the Hajj that Saudi Arabia had streets that sprayed water on pilgrims. Recently, scientists warned that the entire region may be too hot to support human life by the end of the century. It’s hard to see how India, Southeast Asia, and equatorial Africa will be any better.

Think about this. Europe is having difficulty absorbing those fleeing war in Syria, total population 23M. Saudi Arabia total population 29M; Pakistan 182M; India 1.2 billion… Where will these people go?

We some time ago exceeded the level of carbon dioxide considered the maximum treatable, 350 ppm. The level now is in the neighborhood of 420 ppm, and that will continue to increase even if we suddenly stop producing it, because CO2 takes several years to make its presence known in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we continue to increase the release of CO2.

So who gets the award, the Exxon bosses or James Inhofe?

Climate change won’t kill me, because I’m already old. But if you are very young you or your children could be the last generation of the genus Homo.


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