Climate Change

...now browsing by category

 

Houston at Day Four; and an unrelated “heads up” for Ecumenical Christians….

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Nephew Sean sent a couple of photos taken on his Houston street today. You can view them here. At the end of that post he answers a question of mine, “how can we help?”. (More on that below the graphic.)

The two photos in Sean’s neighborhood suggest a normalcy that isn’t…. That neighborhood, Houston and area, east Texas, the Gulf Coast, all are a long, long way from recovery. It is easy to let up, and move on to the next crisis of the day, and pretty soon Houston will be old news (it has made the front page four days in a row up here; that’s pretty much saturation. Something else will take its place.)

from Sean 5:41 p.m. Aug 30: “We got power back quick and everyone has running water. It won’t be normal here for a while. At least forty of the fifty houses around me need to be completely gutted or torn down. The streets will be lonely. My house is truly an anomaly in the area and thankful for it.”

I sent to Sean and his Mom an old graphic that has always made sense to me, even though it dates back to the early 1970s. I’ve used it on this page several times, most recently 2013, but it is timeless and pretty straight forward. Sean worked in NYC at the time of 9-11-01, and lost a number of colleagues and friends in the Twin Towers, I think, so he’s seen crises up close and personal.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

I wish everyone the very, very best. I really like Sean’s suggestion, yesterday: “So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now.

*

NOW, a quick pivot to Religion, especially for those in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, at Basilica of St. Mary, a handout caught my attention. It is two pages, and you can read it here: Reformation001

Gracing the front of the handout was a familiar face, though not in a Roman Catholic Church:

(click to enlarge)

If your interest is even a little peaked, take a look.

I come from the olden days where Lutherans wouldn’t darken a Catholics door, and vice versa.

Things change, and I’m delighted they have.

And I expect I’ll be attending more than one of these programs.

Dick Bernard – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Minneapolis-St. Paul area: Here are the film showtimes for Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

*

We went to see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power on Wednesday afternoon. Climate change is a topic that has long been of concern to me, and I have written about it before, here, and followed it quite actively since we saw Al Gore in person in St. Paul in 2005, and then saw the original An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning in 2006.

What a difference ten years make; what a difference ten years has made….

First, the bad news: Out of the gate, the film as measured by box office, as Fox News proclaimed, “bombs at the box office”.

But there are other opinions “headlined” on the internet search I did on Thursday: here, and here. And if you take the time to view the Fox News piece above, it is a ten minute segment featuring Al Gore on Fox News just days ago.

What difference does ten years make? While acknowledging his own dark times, Mr. Gore points out the huge successes, not the least of which is the COP21 in Paris, where 193 nations signed on.

“Don’t judge the book by its cover”.

Wednesday, there was only a single theater in the Twin Cities showing the film – the Uptown at 28th and Hennepin. It is an “inconvenient” place to see a movie. We were going to see the film Sunday, but streets were blocked by the annual Uptown Art Fair which basically surrounds the theater. Even in the middle of a rainy day, parking was an issue. I was actually surprised that there were perhaps 50 of us in the Theater for the 2 p.m. show.

On the other hand…Inconvenient Sequel is a film of substance. If you care at all about the future in environmental terms, the film is much more than worth the time. See it in person if you can. My high spots: the story of Discovr (not misspelled); and crucial parts of the ‘back story’ about the Climate triumph at COP21 in Paris in 2015. Mr. Trump may feel he’s dissing President Obama when he refused to sign for the U.S. as the pact continues. Rather, I think, he is dissing us all, including American business.

While there is a long, long, long ways to go, the movement to build awareness of the climate change issue is very much alive and well, and change is possible.

Inconvenient Sequel, more than anything, gives a sense of empowerment to “we, the people”, going forward. The future rests with us.

Take the time to see the film, and spread the word.

POSTNOTE:

In 2006, I purchased ten copies of the DVD, An Inconvenient Truth. I still retain one. As I have related before, we saw Mr. Gore in person in St. Paul a year before the film came out, and we were in the front row of a packed Woodbury theatre a year later to see the first run, and my wife almost yelled, “that’s me!” when she saw herself on the big screen, going up to shake Al Gore’s hand. It’s still there, less than five minutes into the film.

(click to enlarge)

As I was scanning the cover jacket above, I noticed for the first time the quote at the bottom of the illustration, by Roger Friedman, FOXNEWS.com. In the above segment with Chris Wallace on Fox News a few days ago, Wallace says that it is the first time in 17 years that he’s interviewed Gore. He says in the recent interview, let’s not wait 17 years for the next visit….

There is possibility out there. Go for it!

#1275 – Dick Bernard: Upcoming “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Mean weather coming through. Woodbury MN, about 9 a.m. June 11, 2017

Two weeks from today, July 28, is the opening, in selected cities nationwide, of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the followup to the 2006 film by Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth.

The general opening nationwide is August 3, 2017.

Whenever the Twin Cities is one of those places that plays “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, we’ll be in the audience.

Details on show times and places will be available here.

Of course, I have not seen the 2017 film – it is not yet released. Someone who has both seen the new film, and heard Al Gore talk about it, is this person, Hani Nam, from Los Angeles, May 2017.

My wife and I saw Al Gore speak about the issue of climate change in person in 2005 – a dozen years ago! – then saw the film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, at the time of its release one year later, in June, 2006. Here is what I wrote then: Inconvenient Truth 2005, 2006001.

June 16, 2011, five years after the release of An Inconvenient Truth, I attended a talk by a respected local authority on Climate Change, Prof. John Abraham. In the q&a session following the talk, I asked the Professor for his perceptions of the accuracy of the film. You can read his answer at the post I did then, here. Prof. Abrahams comments speak for themselves.

Dec. 14, 2015, I applauded the COP agreements on Climate Change in Paris, here.

It is hardly a secret where we are at this moment in history…indeed, the preview clip of An Inconvenient Sequel hi-lites the problem going forward.

When an “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” plays in your area, make a point to not only attend, but to get active.

The solution – the Power – is in every single one of us.

PERSONAL POSTNOTE:

As a society, we seem to have become addicted to denial of reality, because we can to a certain extent deny reality. Most of us have the money to turn up the air conditioning, or turn up the heat, or in other ways to avoid the natural realities of bad weather, as I was able to avoid the bad weather coming through on June 11 (the photo which leads this post). I was in my car, and could turn around when it appeared it was foolish to continue into the rapidly approaching storm. I am also aware, however, that my personal environment, in a heavily populated city, is always potentially at risk. Cynically, best the tree fall on somebody elses house, or someone else lose power for an entire day (as happened about 24 hours ago in other suburbs of my metropolitan area.)

But everyone of us, everywhere, is in the same kettle, it is called earth. We have the same home….

There is one simple distinction which we all need to learn, and that is the distinction between WEATHER and CLIMATE, here provided by the National Weather Service: “Weather – The state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc. Weather refers to these conditions at a given point in time (e.g., today’s high temperature), whereas Climate refers to the “average” weather conditions for an area over a long period of time (e.g., the average high temperature for today’s date).”

Weather is that nasty cloud which leads this post. Climate is the much broader and longer term patterns of weather which do not respect human borders, and are the focus of the science of climate change.

In my opinion, an unfortunate semantic mistake was made early on when the conversation focused on the term “global warming”, true in a climate sense, but easily ridiculed by reference to oddities of daily weather. Ridicule does not change reality…it does make conversation and resolution more difficult.

Humans with adequate financial resources can basically and temporarily deny the impacts of climate change. For everyone else, including plants and animals, who live within the reality of heat, cold, wet, dry, the potential for surviving change is less certain.

We advanced humans are effectively cooking our childrens future, and that of other living things as well.

One of the best presentations I personally witnessed was this eight minute presentation by a climate scientist to children at the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College in 2009. Prof Alley and his colleague scientists were co winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Here are two websites: IPCC and NOAA

“Before the Flood” with Leonardo di Caprio

Monday, October 31st, 2016

I watched this powerful film on Climate Change last night. You can watch on-line (the National Geographic Channel) here.

This film is a new release, one hour, 41 minutes, gripping and compelling.

I’ll say no more.

Take the time….

More information on other ways to watch this video are here.

#1125 – Dick Bernard: Positive Developments on Climate Change.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

April 22, Earth Day, 170 Nations, including the U.S., represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, met at the UN to sign the Paris Accords reached in November 2015.

April 15, a judge recommended that Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission use the federal social cost of carbon as a binding criteria for electric utility decision making. The decision was viewed as very positive by Fresh-Energy .

These are some of the positive signs that climate change initiatives are showing results.

A case can be made for hope.

Sunday, May 1, J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director of Fresh-Energy, will speak at the Fourth Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium World Peace Through Law in Minneapolis. J. will present a well informed perspective on what is happening today, and her perspectives on the outlook for a more positive future.

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015.  J. Drake Hamilton at right. Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015. J. Drake Hamilton at right.
Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Below is the invitation to the event. DEADLINE FOR RESERVATIONS IS APRIL 26, 2016. Limited seating is still available.

(click to enlarge)

World Law Invite May 1, 2016

World Law Invite May 1, 2016

#1104 – Dick Bernard: Revisiting “The Bones of Plenty”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s Reflective Testimony to Ourselves and Coming Generations: “Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now”.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

UPDATE May 1, 2016: The official Lois Phillips Hudson website is here.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2016: Six pages from North Dakota State University (Fargo) Archives, Feb. 23, 2016. Hudson NDSU Arch001Mrs. Hudson taught at NDSU 1967-69.
*
In 1962, Lois Phillips Hudson published “The Bones of Plenty”.

A New York Times Book Review commentary said this about the book: “It is possible…that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”

While I grew up a North Dakotan, I missed the book at the time of publication.

In early Jan. 1962, freshly graduated from college (Valley City (ND) State Teachers College), I entered the United States Army, spending two years playing war in the rattle-snake infested foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Ft. Carson, Colorado and other places, like Hanford Firing Range, Washington.

After the Army, life interfered with things like recreational reading; I don’t recall ever hearing about “The Bones of Plenty”.

In fact, it wasn’t until my friend, Nancy Erickson, told me about the The Bones of Plenty a few years ago, that I took the time to read it, and it spoke to me, very personally. It was my people she was talking about: rural North Dakotans who had lived through and survived the awful years of the 1930s, “The Great Depression”.

The “Bones of Plenty” is set in rural Stutsman County North Dakota in 1934, set primarily in Jamestown and rural Cleveland ND (photos which follow are of Cleveland ND* taken January 27, 2016).

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the  main street.

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the main street.

At the time I was introduced to “The Bones of Plenty” by Nancy, I was spending more and more time with my Uncle Vincent and Aunt Edithe in LaMoure, a town little more than an hours drive from Cleveland.

When I’d ask Vincent, a lifelong rural Berlin ND farmer, about the Depression, he would always reply that 1934, the year he was nine, was the worst. (He was 2 1/2 years older than Lois Phillips, then living on the rural Cleveland ND tenant farm, not far away).

I can attest, having shouldered the task of closing down the 110 year old farm, that the family never recovered from the trauma of the 30s.

And they weren’t unusual: being trapped in years of uncertainty has its impact. “The folks”, their siblings and many others lived in the shadow of the 30s their whole lives. “The Bones of Plenty” put “meat” on those bones for me. It helped me understand why they lived as carefully as they did.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016. Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

Jan. 27, 2016. Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

*

Fast forward.

January 6, 2016, one of those occasional unusual e-mails came to my e-screen.

A person named Cynthia Anthony introduced herself: “I’m seeking permission to post links to your posts, numbers 490**, 499**, and 565**, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson. I am the director of the Lois Phillips Hudson Project, and run a website dedicated to preserving her legacy – you can view [the site] here.”

As we began our chat, I found that Cynthia lives in western New York state, I am in Minnesota (but North Dakotan to the core). She had come to be custodian of Ms Hudson’s boxes of archival material after Ms Hudson’s death in 2010, in part, I gathered, because of her involvement in something called the Rural Lit Rally. She said the boxes had yielded little about Lois’ 8 years in ND, nor about her parents and their kin. She knew a lot about most of the rest of Lois’ life, beginning about 1937, mostly in Washington State, most around Redmond.

Redmond, among other things, is the headquarters of Microsoft.

I agreed to help Cynthia sort out the North Dakota connection of Ms Phillips Hudson (and invite the reader of this blog to do the same. Here is the portal for submitting comments, etc., to her.)

Included in the many boxes was a manuscript of a nearly completed book, Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now (click on the title for ordering information). Ms Hudson had apparently been working on the book from about 2000 till near her death; roughly the decade of her 70s.

On careful review, a decision was finally made to publish the 390 page book as it had been left by Ms Hudson, including occasional typos and notations about incomplete verification of sources.

*

I have read Unrestorable Habitat, and I recommend it without any qualification whatsoever. It is powerful, and it is uncomfortable.

In many ways “Unrestorable Habitat…” is autobiographical and about the world of Lois Phillips Hudson, from youth forward. It weaves personal recollections and direct observations of contemporary life, as seen by a young girl, then by a woman who ultimately retired as a college professor in 1992, about the desperately poor rural North Dakota of the 1930s, and country village, thence city of Redmond, Washington, from the 1930s to the end of her life.

The book offers the reader a great deal of food for thought about our present technological age.

No reader who cares about the future of our planet will be comfortable reading Ms Hudsons observations. We are all complicit in the deteriorating state of our planet. Start with myself, writing this post on a computer in a comfortable room, soon to be transmitted to who-knows-where by internet….

As I read Unrestorable Habitat, I have to ask myself, how do I fit into this narrative of squandering our future for the comfort of today? What can I, as an individual, do to make the future hospitable or at least survivable for the generations which follow, as well as for other living species?

The problem to solve is not someone elses: it is mine, and all of ours.

This book would be a great one for book clubs. I recommend it highly.

* – In 1920, the first census of Cleveland showed a population of 341; in 1930, 273; 1940, 246; 1950, 181…the current population is estimated as 82.

** – The references to The Bones of Plenty in previous blogs are found in #490; 499 and #565

Jan. 27, 2016.  The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment.  Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

Jan. 27, 2016. The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment. Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

COMMENTS
from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing information on Lois Phillips Hudson book “The Bones of Plenty”. There are two books about the dust storms of the Great Plains and depression of the late twenties and early 1930 that I really like. They are The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, The Great Plains by Ian Frazier and Pioneer Woman of the West, by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson. I just finished my book “Memories of a Grateful Past” Stories of Family and Friends from the Heart 1830-1985. The book has 470 pages of stories about family, friends, and my work as a teacher and eighteen years of working with the Wisconsin Education Association (1968-1985). The book also includes family stories from South Dakota during the depression and drought. It has gotten wonderful reviews, so I’m pretty excited about it. The books will be printed and sent to me by April 1.

from Curtis: As a history guy is it just on ND? Just finished Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. Story of a survivor of the death camps of WWII. After the war her mother married Otto Frank. Tough read about what humans did to other humans.

Response to Curtis: Bones of Plenty is 100% about Stutsman County ND, basically rural Cleveland and Jamestown in 1934. Unrestorable Habitat is mostly about Redmond (suburban Seattle) in the 2000s, but includes lots of autobiographical flashbacks to Hudson’s growing up on the ND farm.

from Lynn: Thanks Dick, This reminds me that when I worked for the North Dakota Farmers Union we were privileged to have Lois speak to a youth group, I think in 1968. Very memorable experience!

from JoAnn: Thanks for all your interesting discussions. I can remember receiving a copy of “Bones of Plenty”, I believe from my mother. My brother and I enjoyed the incongruity of the lovely title. I totally enjoyed the book. I was not old enough to participate in the actual worst periods of those times, but i certainly lived through the after effects of those years. My grand father lost his bank in Wheatland in spite of my mother donating her $5000 inheritance from an uncle in the vain attempt at saving the bank. (Quite a chunk in those days.) I can remember many conversations (this would have to be early 40s as I was born in late 39) in which my father would end with the phrase, “Well, we can always move to the Ozarks.” I guess that was his escape plan if we couldn’t stick. My husband and I have recently moved and while unloading and sorting and selecting books to keep, I actually handled BONES OF PLENTY today. I acquired along the way somewhere, a book entitled, REAPERS OF THE DUST, a prairie chronicle also by Hudson. More recently I found THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan, which, as my brother would say,”Another miserable book”. This I took to mean another book about a miserable time. Egan’s book is not about our local area but covers the horror of the dust that covered the earth of the high plains during those “dirty thirties.” The descriptions were unbelievable. Perhaps you’ve read this book already. Anyway, thanks for directing my thoughts back to those memories. You do great work with your blog. Cheers!

from Emily: Great article! Thank you for sharing! I hope you are well.

from Debbie: Thanks for this info, Dick. I love reading books about Dakota. I do believe I read Bone of Plenty way back when. Will look for the other.

from Christina: I googled for some information on those two books. I think they both might be very interesting especially “Unrestorable Habitat.” I like John Grisham’s books. I am now reading Gray Mountain. I know it’s fiction but based on true situations. This one is about the coal companies strip mining the mountains, miners with black lung diseases,the water being polluted from the coal slush & waste being dumped into the valleys etc. The coal companies have the lawyers pretty well sewed up . I am thankful how Gov. Link got that reclamation project passed. Many object to the EPA but thankfully some one is watching out for our environment. Thanks for the book recommendations.

from Kathleen: Thanks very much. Our library system has it. I look forward to reading it when I return from CA.

#1100 – Dick Bernard: Global Climate Change

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

Whatever your particular opinion about the issue of Climate Change, I’d urge you to take the 2 minutes and 20 seconds necessary to watch this video, prepared by the Fellows in the 2015-2016 Hubert M. Humphrey Fellowship Program (The International Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State).

This video is brand new, and it would be good to see it given a broad viewership.

Last night myself and others were privileged to hear J. Drake Hamilton of the Minnesota Group Fresh Energy talk about Climate Change, and the recently concluded Paris talks which she attended in its entirety. Her at-the time reports can be viewed here.

Prior to the Paris conclave, in August, Ms Hamilton was honored to be one of a dozen leaders invited to a briefing by President Obama relating to his administration plans on the issue of Climate Change.

(click to enlarge)

J. Drake-Hamilton (in red) at the White House, August, 2015.  From the booklet Global Warming 101 produced by Fresh Energy.

J. Drake-Hamilton (in red) at the White House, August, 2015. From the booklet Global Warming 101 produced by Fresh Energy.

Following Ms Hamilton’s remarks, three Humphrey Fellows responded from their own perspectives. Ahmed Tholal (Maldives); Abosede Oyeleye (Nigeria) and Hamze Haidar Ahmad (Lebanon), representing the views of MENA (Middle East North Africa).

All gave riveting presentations. In particular, I was gripped by Mr. Tholal’s comments, including a very powerful poem. His country, the Maldives, may become the first country in the world to be extinguished by the impact of human caused global warming.

I think I can fairly say that the cumulative impact of the two powerful hours on me was to reinforce my deep concerns about this very real crisis, but I left the meeting hopeful….

The Paris talks and resulting accords were substantive and the worlds power actors from all sectors are getting on board. Action is long overdue, but climate change will not be ignored.

We all had opportunity to take a booklet prepared by Fresh Energy entitled Global Warming 101. A pdf copy of the eight page booklet is available here. The data is clearly presented. On page three of the booklet, it was said that 2014 was first on the list of “The World’s 15 Hottest Years on Record”. Of course, within the last few days, it has been announced that 2015 has replaced 2014 as the hottest year on record….

What can the ordinary citizen do? There is a tendency to be defeatist, as I overheard two airplane friends talking as we deplaning in San Francisco in mid-December: “we’ve really had nice weather in Minneapolis” one said; this led to worried comments about global warming from both; but the conclusion was troubling “I just don’t think there’s anything we can do about it. It’s too late.”

This is a bit like saying one has been inflicted with a serious disease, but there’s no point in changing behavior, seeking treatment, or otherwise attempting to cure the ailment.

In this case, survival of life on the planet is at risk.

If, collectively, we adopt a defeatist attitude, we are certainly inviting the worst outcome.

Climate change is not a leaders problem (though who who we choose to lead us makes a huge difference), nor Fresh Energy’s, nor Hamilton’s or the three outstanding representatives of their countries.

This is our problem for us to deal with individually wherever we are, and do whatever we can do (which is far more than we probably think.

#1092 – Dick Bernard: The Paris Climate Talks Conclude…and Continue, and Begin….

Monday, December 14th, 2015

My summary: We demand leadership from the top (someone else); and thoughtful leaders who value consensus building amidst differences are crucial.

But we really need to expect leadership from ourselves. As Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Each of us have our own “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens.” And we can “change the world”, for better, worse, or not at all.

(click all photos to enlarge them)

Christine Loys at left with Fabián Antúnez Camacho comunidad Yanesha de Tsachopena en Perú

Christine Loys at left with Fabián Antúnez Camacho
comunidad Yanesha de Tsachopena en Perú

Overnite Saturday came an e-mail from my friend, Christine Loys, who has been a volunteer interpreter at the Paris Climate talks (photo above). She had written to J. Drake Hamilton, of Fresh Energy, who has been in Paris for all of the talks.

The two women had met by e-mail because of their respective roles at the talks. “I am so relieved that an agreement was reached” Christine said. “When I say “all is done”, I mean the negotiations because we all know that it is only a new area starting after that agreement!!!”

An e-mail immediately prior to the above came from friend Maria, in New Jersey, very simple: “!!!!!!“.

Maria included a link to a network she belongs to, accessible here.

What impressed me the most about these talks was that every single world nation – over 190 – has now mutually endorsed the same essential piece of a proposed climate change solution.

There were no dissenters.

None.

The negotiations in Paris accomplished something most groups have trouble doing, even within the tiniest “birds of a feather” groups. Negotiations, by definition, require compromise and good faith; individual demands subordinate to group consensus, however imperfect. “What can we agree on?”

Even more important, concluded negotiations are commitments to action. They connote relationships.

Of course, those opposed, and those in favor, of the result of this negotiations are already saying “too much”, “too little”…. This is always a given after any negotiations. Still, though, every world nation has signed on. The trick is to continue working towards common ground, rather than getting stuck in one or another absolute demand. I think a critical mass now exists to accomplish important things for the world’s future.

In my mind at this significant time is a quote shared by my friend, Jim Nelson, a climate activist, one of whose early mentors was business executive and UN advocate York Langton. “I always remember York Langton’s compelling United Nations invocation: “When the People lead, Leaders will follow.” Jim and his associates chose to pass on going to Paris, figuring they could do their best work at home. (Photo at end of this post.)

The way to success is to build on this success in Paris (which, lest we forget, was thought to be threatened with cancellation due to the events of Nov. 13 in Paris) is indeed back here at home, citizen by citizen, action by action.

March on. Build. We are the solution.

Rather than carping about what isn’t, best for advocates to celebrate what is, and to build upon this huge success.

J. Drake Hamilton will soon be back in Minnesota, back to work. On Thursday evening January 21, 2016, she will speak at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis for Citizens for Global Solutions MN “Third Thursday”, (Jackman Room, 6:45 p.m.) Put this on your calendar. You’ll be glad you did.

There are many credible advocates dealing with the issue of Climate Change. Find one and get actively involved.

Donna Krisch, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, has volunteered to lead a group dedicated to protection of the environment; in this case, implementing a recycling program for their very large church.  Photo, May, 2015.

Donna Krisch, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, has volunteered to lead a group dedicated to protection of the environment; in this case, implementing a recycling program for their very large church. Photo, May, 2015.

Donna, above, is one of millions of critical links for progress on any initiative. She’s a local leader, dealing with the disappointments and frustrations that often accompany local initiatives. She represents us all, a heroic example working for the small changes that are required to make big adaptations.

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015.  J. Drake Hamilton at right. Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only.

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015. J. Drake Hamilton at right.
Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only.

Ms Drake-Hamilton was among many representatives of organizations at this major meeting in Washington D.C.

Jim Nelson and York Langton, Minneapolis, in the 1960s.  Mr. Langton, a business executive, had for many years been a leader for cooperation among the world's nations.  Mr. Nelson had become very active in groups like the World Federalists.

Jim Nelson and York Langton, Minneapolis, in the 1960s. Mr. Langton, a business executive, had for many years been a leader for cooperation among the world’s nations. Mr. Nelson had become very active in groups like the World Federalists.

#1065 – Dick Bernard: Creating a Workable World: Transforming the United Nations System

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Friday evening and Saturday,October 9&10, at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Dr. Joe Schwartzberg’s book, Transforming the United Nations System, will help focus attention on transformation of the United Nations, this year celebrating its 70th birthday. All details about this “Creating a Workable World” conference, including about conference convenor Joe Schwartzberg, can be seen here.

Schwartzberg book001

The conference promises to be a very interesting exchange of ideas about making the UN better.

There is no shortage of opinions about “the UN”. Far too many of these opinions, unfortunately, are ill- or un-informed.

Powerful people with their own agenda, who hate even the concept of the UN system, want it gone. Most of us have little or no knowledge of how the UN or its broad network (as World Health Organization et al) works. The UN is a complex system, a global community, which is often called upon to deal with impossible situations: hunger, refugees, atrocities, on and on.

One might call the UN a global mechanic, on call to take care of wrecks.

The UN was created out of the horrors of WWII, officially founded October 24, 1945, and during its entire history it has been called to help order chaos in an extraordinarily complex and imperfect world.

70 years after emerging from the ashes of WWII, it is still dominated by the five winning countries of that war: the United States, Russia (formerly Soviet Union), France, United Kingdom and China.

The most populous of its over 190 countries, China, outnumbers the smallest, Nauru, by a factor of 145,000 to one. Its power actors represent competing ideologies, only slightly dimmed by the end of the Cold War.

Dr. Schwartzberg’s academic work describes the UN system in understandable terms, and furthermore proposes a framework of solutions for the future. This major conference will be a unique opportunity to learn more, and engage in conversation, about the UN and its future role in the world.

I’ve read the book, and been part of a discussion group which talked about every chapter. It was a rich learning experience, a framework of reference.

*

What is the world that is the United Nations? There are endless examples….

A week ago I attended a talk by Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota which added greatly to my knowledge of how complex this world is.

Dr. Broadbent’s topic was very simple: watching how newspapers in 18 countries treated the topic of global climate change, thus assessing national attitudes. (His website can be accessed here.)

His powerpoint was simple and very complex. Here’s a photo of one slide:

(click to enlarge)

A schematic representation of newspaper reporting on climate change....Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent

A schematic representation of newspaper reporting on climate change….Dr. Jeffrey Broadbent

This slide shows two foci; a later slide introduced a third, called Mitigation, as an approach to climate change. It was all very complex, but at the same time understandable.

Near the end of the program, a black man, a native Oromo of Ethiopia, rose to powerfully observe that none of the data presented appears to represent Africa.

Indeed, that was true, because Africa does not have dominant newspapers from which to glean the data Dr. Broadbent seeks.

But the point was nonetheless made: Africa is already, and will doubtless increasingly be, bearing the brunt of the failures of the more developed world, with consequences for us all.

Making a point with Dr. Broadbent, Sep. 16, 2015

Making a point with Dr. Broadbent, Sep. 16, 2015

(Similarly, alternative media like Facebook, now dominant over print media in many quarters, are not yet part of the analysis. The research is still a work in progress.)

Whatever your knowledge, or your feelings, about the United Nations, the October 9 & 10 Workable World Conference will be worth your time. Check it out.

The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

The United Nations Building, snapshot, June 30, 1971, Dick Bernard

More on the general topic of the UN at 70 here.
The matter of the removal of the United Nations Flag at Hennepin County (MN) Plaza here.

#867 – Dick Bernard: The Tar Sands Pipeline and other matters of the environment

Friday, April 4th, 2014

A relevant and current addendum to this post is the 2014 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accessible here.

Last Sunday after church I stopped by a table staffed by two members of the environmental organization MN350.

This day they were encouraging action against a proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline of Enbridge Energy, a Canadian Corporation. The planned demonstration was Thursday April 3 in St. Paul. The essential information about the contested project is here: Stop Alberta Clipper001.

I was interested in this issue, and Thursday afternoon came, with icy rain preliminary to a predicted 6-10 inches of snow overnight.

After some hemming and hawing, I arrived late at the demo, walked a few blocks in the march and came home.

I was glad I went. There was a good attendance, especially given the weather. My two favorite photos are these.

(click to enlarge photos)

April 3 Tar Sands Pipeline demo St. Paul MN

April 3 Tar Sands Pipeline demo St. Paul MN

April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014

Often I wonder if the whole climate change situation is hopeless. Are the people who walked in this demonstration wasting their time? As friends in the peace and justice movement know, I am no particular fan of protests simply for the sake of protesting.

But every now and then, there is encouragement, and Thursday was such a day, coming from an unusual direction. I picked up a little hope that the quiet majority is generally getting it – that there is a problem, despite the scoffers at ” the very words Global Warming”.

Before driving into St. Paul I had stopped at the Post Office to mail some items, and while I was affixing stamps a guy in my age range started to chat.

Of course, the threatening weather came up.

He said, “guess I’ll have to go and talk to God about it”. I answered, “I’ll check what happens and see what God had to say about your talk”.

We both chuckled.

We compared notes a bit, in the way that strangers do, dancing into uncharted waters. The deadly mudslide in Washington came up; the drought in California; less predictable and more severe weather generally….

The guy said, “maybe Al Gore knew something back then. Even my wife is starting to think so.”

The demonstrators probably won’t stop the pipeline but maybe they’ll encourage one or two more conversations like the one this fellow and I were having.

Games like this – making change – are played by the inch, not the mile. Dramatic change happens so slowly as to not even be noticed.

I’m thankful those two women caught my eye on Sunday, and that I picked up their literature.

Enroute home I got to thinking about two years ago at almost exactly this date in my town: the temperature was in the low 70s, and the trees were budding….

There was a frost that messed up the budding a few days later, but the difference between two years ago and now was indeed dramatic.

April 2, 2012, Woodbury (suburban St. Paul) MN

April 2, 2012, Woodbury (suburban St. Paul) MN

Native Americans from Red Lake MN used their banner as a windshield in downtown St. Paul April 3, 2014

Native Americans from Red Lake MN used their banner as a windshield in downtown St. Paul April 3, 2014