The Age Of Disruption.

It has become fashionable for entrepreneurs and businesses to seek disruption; to seek opportunities so significant they can disrupt and change entire sectors of the economy in the same way Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have disrupted the traditional media business; in the same way Uber and Lyft have disrupted traditional taxicab companies; in the same way AirBnB is disrupting the hotel business.

While these examples have been disruptive, for the most part they have created as many job opportunities as those they have displaced.

However, there are two impending disruptions that promise to be far more damaging: Climate change and Artificial Intelligence. Yet few are talking about them. Few have any idea of the large-scale impact of these issues. And our political leaders are either in denial or clueless.

Let’s begin with the effects of climate change. Scientists, NOAA, NASA, the EPA, the Department of Defense, POTUS, the UN, even world religious leaders have warned of the impending consequences of failing to deal with climate change. We know that the world’s coastlines and many of the world’s largest cities are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels. We know that climate change is increasing the number and violence of weather systems. And we know that thousands of the world’s species of plants and animals are threatened by changing temperatures. Yet politicians – specifically those in the Republican Party – continue to call climate change a hoax. And they have blocked every attempt to head off a crisis. But the rules of science are unbound by the beliefs of politicians.

Climate change is happening on a massive scale. And, unless we view it as a serious threat, as well as an economic opportunity for creating new industries to replace carbon fuels, climate change is likely to cause unprecedented migration and disruption. In the most extreme circumstances, perhaps it will render our planet uninhabitable for humans. Yet, in the first presidential debate, the subject of climate change was not seriously addressed by either candidate.

The other impending disruption is Artificial Intelligence (AI) – computers and robots that can learn by absorbing massive amounts of data and use logic to perform tasks that we take for granted as being exclusive to humans. We have already seen robots replace thousands of workers in manufacturing plants. In fact, more American manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots than have been shipped to China. Indeed, in recent years, many manufacturing plants have been moved back to the US, but much of their work is being done by robots.

Today’s automotive manufacturing plants employee far fewer people than ever before. The automotive frames and bodies are welded together by robots to precise tolerances that cannot be matched by humans. The engine blocks and other parts are cast, drilled and partially assembled by robots. So all of the tough talk about making US corporations bring back jobs through tariffs and other trade deals is just that…talk.

And manufacturing robots are just the beginning.

For example, within the next ten years, we will see the widespread use of self-driving cars and trucks. One of the positive consequences of such vehicles is that they will be able to reduce and virtually eliminate traffic accidents. On the other hand, they will eliminate the jobs of long haul truckers and taxicab drivers, even Lyft and Uber drivers. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million semi-truck drivers in the US alone.

What will these people do?

In the future, AI will permeate every aspect of our lives. AI computers will be able to access online legal libraries, make decisions and file legal documents on our behalf without need of a lawyer. They will be able to perform medical surgeries with more precision than the world’s best surgeons. They will replace military personnel. They will replace airline pilots and ship captains. They will act as highly-skilled and highly-trained servants to perform most of our daily tasks. They will search the Web for the best products at the best value and make recommendations to us. They will make purchases, make reservations and pay bills for us.

Such capabilities are not somewhere far off in the future. Computers are doing similar things now.

If the development of AI continues at the current pace (in all likelihood it will accelerate), more and more humans will be looking for and competing for jobs only humans can do. The disruption will be dramatic!

So while our politicians argue about national deficits and debt; while they dither over the reality of climate change; while they create fear over the influx of immigrants; while they divide us with ideologies; while they fiddle with the mundane, Rome and the rest of the world, including the US is only awaiting the match that will set fire to everything we know, even what we think we know.

On Earth Day, An Assessment.

Each year, we celebrate our planet for a single day. On that day, there are a variety of gatherings, speeches and warnings. It’s not enough. Not nearly enough. The remainder of the year, most of us continue to trash the planet. Some liken our actions to filling our living rooms with garbage. But it’s worse than that. What we’re really doing is fouling our air, our water, our climate, even the food we eat.

So, on this Earth Day, let’s forgo the platitudes and the entertainment and focus on the status of our planet.

– 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001 and 2016 is likely to set another record.
– 2015 was the first year that global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius above the 1880-1889 average (the start of the industrial revolution).
– Atmospheric CO2 is now 401.58 parts per million (ppm) and rising. (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point.)
– Arctic sea ice has declined 13.3 percent per decade.
– As the Arctic ice melts, the underlying tundra is exposed, releasing methane, which is 25 times worse than CO2.
– The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing 8,000 tons of ice per second 24/7.
– Antarctic ice is melting far faster than even the most alarming scientific predictions.
– Scientists have discovered that 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been damaged by coral bleaching (in other words, it is dying).
– Global warming and overfishing have pushed the world’s oceans to the brink of extinction, reducing some species by more than 90 percent.
– Dozens of animal species are endangered and many more are vulnerable, including such iconic species as Rhinos, Elephants, Lions and Tigers.
– Deforestation is occurring on a massive scale with more than 18 million acres lost each and every year, much of it the result of corporate greed.
– Global sea levels are rising at the rate of 3.24 mm per year, and the rise is accelerating.
– Our oceans are warming, resulting in changes in ocean currents. In turn, that results in new, and more extreme, weather patterns.
– The ice melt and degradation of our aquifers have led to the shifting or the Earth’s axis by nearly 17 centimeters per year.

As bad as all of that is, we can stop the destruction and even begin to reverse it. But it will take a concerted effort by all of the planet’s residents. Today’s signing of the Paris climate agreement by 170 nations is a start. But only a start. We can’t rely on governments alone to save the planet. We all have to do our part.

For example, we can all try to make better choices. We can drive less to burn less fuel or, better yet, take public transportation. We can better insulating our homes to reduce the fuel needed to heat and cool them. We can demand that our representatives vote to keep fossil fuels in the ground and focus on increasing renewable energy. We can purchase or lease solar panels for our homes and can purchase hybrid and electric cars. We can replace traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. We can end our throwaway mentality, cut waste and recycle. We can eliminate or reduce consumption of meat – especially beef – which is carbon-intensive. We can buy locally-grown produce to cut transportation-cause carbon emissions. We can reduce water consumption. We can plant carbon-absorbing trees. And, most important, we can elect candidates that will work to stop the destruction of our environment. The list of things we can each do is long, and every little bit helps.

Of course, the most important thing we can do is to think about our planet every day…to make every day Earth Day. We have only one chance to get things right. There will be no do-overs

Rick Perry Reveals The Right Wing Agenda.

It would seem that 2012’s “Ooops” candidate has had another “Ooops” moment. In launching his 2016 presidential bid, he finally remembered the 3 federal departments he would eliminate: the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy. And that’s not all. He would also eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and, of course, Obamacare.

He’s also not very keen on the Department of the Interior and the legal system, saying “It’s [America] in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.”

That’s the ticket.

Perry believes that we don’t have to worry about the state of our crumbling infrastructure, our militarized police departments, our over-stressed environment, our large corporate polluters, global warming, growing inequality, rampant racism, debilitating poverty, political polarization, and our for-hire Congress.

All we have to do is let God run the country. Oh, wait. How, exactly, can he do that? Since He doesn’t talk to all (many) of us, who will be his interpreter? Who will carry out His orders? Why Teapublicans, of course! According to the right, only they are the true patriots; only they have a close relationship with God; only they know what God wants.

Is that what you believe? That Teapublicans are the only moral, God-fearing politicians? If so, then how do you explain the pedophilia of Dennis Hastert? How do you explain the adultery of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston and so many other Teapublicans? How do you explain the war-mongering of John McCain and Lindsey Graham? How do you explain the GOP’s uncaring attitude toward the poor? How do you explain the GOP’s embrace of the rich and powerful? How do you explain the GOP’s lack of interest in preserving the environment and all of God’s creatures?

You can’t…because it simply defies explanation.

The real problem for the GOP is that Perry was, in a manner of speaking, speaking out of school. You see, his beliefs are the same as those of most – if not all – of the declared GOP candidates. And the GOP would rather not have you know about them. They don’t want seniors to know that they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare as “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they consider public education “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they are against worker’s rights and any form of collective bargaining. They don’t want you to know that they are deep in the pockets of the oil companies and are paid to do their bidding. They don’t want you to know that they simply don’t care about the poor.

Don’t believe it?

Then take a close look at what’s happening in Teapublican-controlled states like Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin. In those and other red states, the GOP has cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy and balanced the budgets on the backs of the poor, as well as the teachers and students. The results have been disastrous, yet they don’t seem to care.

Instead of admitting their mistake and addressing the problems, the GOP is doubling down. They want to expand the misery to the entire country.

State Of The World.

On the day following President Obama’s inspiring State of the Union address, I think it appropriate to wonder, if a world leader were to make a State of the World address, what would it be? What would be the calls to action? What accomplishments would it tout? What dire warnings would it contain?

If I was that world leader, my address would include the following:

Accomplishments? There are very few. Charities and non-governmental organizations have nibbled at the edges of some problems, such as access to clean water, housing and food. But most of these are mere symptoms of larger issues. For example, many nations have contributed to refugee camps while ignoring, or even exacerbating the conflicts that created the refugees in the first place. We have killed terrorists while creating others as a result of those very same killings, all the while ignoring the causes that led to much of that terrorism in the first place. And though we have discussed environmental problems, we have solved few. Sometimes, these two larger issues overlap. For example, at the current rate of killings (an elephant is killed every 15 minutes), African elephants could disappear from the wild in just 11 years. The reason for the slaughter? Ivory is expensive and highly sought after for jewelry, so terrorists are killing the elephants to claim the ivory in order to fund their terrorist activities.

According to a new scientific study, the world’s oceans are on the precipice of mass extinctions. The oceans are being overfished and horribly polluted. Coral reefs are being destroyed by cruise ships and, most especially, container ships in order for large corporations to increase manufacturing profits by exploiting low labor costs in underdeveloped countries. There are large “islands” of trash and plastics floating in our oceans. BP and other oil companies have polluted our waters with oil spills consisting of millions of barrels of crude oil. Fracking is pumping benzenes and other toxic chemicals into our aquifers and polluting our drinking water, even causing earthquakes. Chemical companies and large corporate farms are responsible for toxic runoff from farmlands that have created “dead zones” in our oceans at the mouths of rivers. Those same chemical companies have contributed to the near catastrophic collapse of bee colonies needed to pollinate our food plants. As a result of the tsunami at Fukishima, radioactive water is pouring into the ocean unabated. And the effects of that mess are, as yet, unknown.

Back on land, white rhinos are now extinct in the wild and virtually non-existent in zoos. Black rhinos are greatly endangered. Amur Tigers are virtually extinct and all large cats are endangered. Pandas, which have long been on the edge of extinction, are now even more threatened by climate change. Mountain and Lowland Gorillas are endangered, in addition to Orangutans – both as the result of wars and habitat loss. Rain forests are being denuded in order to exploit them for exotic hardwoods and palm oil. Some forests are being cleared under the mistaken belief that the land can be used for agriculture.

Polar ice sheets and glaciers are melting at phenomenal rates inevitably leading to rising seas that will displace millions and millions of people. And the cost of relocating many of the world’s largest cities will run into the hundreds of billions, likely trillions, of dollars. The loss of ice pack in the Arctic is also threatening the existence of Polar Bears and other species. Of course, it has been well-established that ice melt is the result of our love affair with fossil fuels, but only a few nations are taking the problem seriously. As a result, 2014 was the warmest year on record. Global warming is leading to larger, more violent and more numerous storms. To make matters worse, the Koch-bought US Congress is intent on passing laws that will defund the Environmental Protection Agency, cut environmental regulations for large corporations and maintain tax breaks for the world’s largest polluters, all the while denying their impact on climate change.

Economic inequality and religious extremism have led to an explosion of wars and terrorism worldwide, resulting in the deaths of millions and the displacement of millions more. The immigration of those fleeing violence and economic oppression has led to the rise of hate, racism and right wing extremism in the refugees’ host nations. Meanwhile, economic inequality continues to get worse. It is estimated that, by 2016, 1 percent of the world’s population will own more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth! Yet conservative politicians in the US, Europe and elsewhere continue to vote to cut taxes for large corporations and the wealthy. The beneficiaries then contribute to political campaigns to help elect those who will do their bidding, and the cycle repeats. (Actually, it’s less of a cycle than a death spiral.)

Such is the sad state of the world today. And, thanks to conservative politics, things are only getting worse.

Time For U.S. To Show Leadership.

Actually, it’s long past time. Had the United States shown leadership when scientists first explained the consequences of climate change, when Al Gore released his Inconvenient Truth, we might have already recreated our economy, inspired other nations and generated millions of jobs. Instead, conservatives chose to politicize the issue to protect Bush/Cheney’s interests in Big Oil.

As a result, we’ve seen more than a decade of increased oil exploration; more than a decade of drilling, fracking, and tar sands mining; more than a decade of mountaintop removal to more cheaply mine coal; more than a decade of ice melt releasing methane; more than a decade of increasing corporate farming with its reliance on chemicals and animal confinement generating even more methane; and more than a decade of obstructing alternative fuel industries.

We’ve heard conservatives ridicule solar energy while China and Europe have captured the manufacture of photovoltaic cells. We’ve heard conservatives ridicule Cap and Trade legislation intended to reduce carbon emissions. Worse, we’ve heard conservatives throw tantrums over the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline which environmental scientists fear will amount to “game over” with regard to climate change.

Meanwhile, President Obama has been understandably quiet with regard to the issue. With Cap and Trade blocked in Congress, his administration has quietly gone about raising fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks. The administration had created incentives and offered loans to help jumpstart alternative energy sources. And the EPA has created new standards for electric generation, causing many power plants to switch from coal to natural gas. All of these measures have reduced US carbon emissions 10 percent since 2005.

That’s good, but not nearly good enough!

With climate change accelerating at an astounding pace, it’s time for the US to invest heavily in measures that can halt and reverse global warming. With the world’s largest economy, we’re in a unique position to show leadership. Not only will this head off an increasing number of calamities, including wars, floods, starvation and other human tragedies. It will transform our economy, create jobs and reverse our decline in exports.

Imagine if, instead of increasing investments in our war machine designed to protect sources of cheap oil, we could use that money to help emerging countries gain access to clean water and cheap electricity. And what if we could do so by helping them leapfrog existing, dirty technology by selling them new carbon-free, sustainable energy? We would be helping them build their economies as we build our own. In addition, we would be building friendships that would last generations.

Imagine if by developing new technologies that would create inexpensive forms of carbon-free energy, we could, once again, export products to China that are made in the US. It’s possible. But it will take unified leadership from both President Obama and Congress.

Well, I can dream.  Can’t I?

Conservative Death Wish?

For nearly two decades, conservatives have denied…no, scoffed at…climate change. The Koch brothers paid scientists to create reports showing that climate change was a fraud. Republicans first created, then voted against, the idea of Cap and Trade. The Tea Party pushed the Agenda 21 conspiracy saying that a UN plan for global sustainability was a blatant attempt to create a one-world government. As a result, climate change is not only continuing. It’s accelerating at a pace faster than the worst case scenario climate scientists predicted some 20 years ago.

The glaciers on Greenland are melting at the rate of more than 27 feet every year. The Arctic ice pack is melting. Even the ice shelves and glaciers on Antarctica are melting, prompting climate scientists to predict truly catastrophic results.

It’s estimated that just the melting of Greenland’s glaciers alone will result in a sea level rise of roughly 21 feet, flooding 80 of the world’s 100 largest cities! Such a rise will displace approximately one-third of the world’s population and flood many of America’s largest cities, including Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and more. And that’s just from the ice on Greenland!

Far from being frightened by that prospect, many conservative Christians actually welcome the news. They view the crisis as Armageddon…the return of Christ. They even hope to speed the event and the resulting “rapture.” Traditional Republicans fail to recognize the crisis because they believe that acting to prevent climate change would cause harm to the economy and the large, multinational corporations that contribute to their campaigns. More extreme Republicans can’t accept the possibility that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was an undeniable truth. Tea Party Parasites simply don’t believe in science. And far too many others simply don’t know and don’t care.

All of this might be humorous if the consequences of climate change weren’t so severe.

Addressing the problem would not only stave off disaster. It could re-energize our economy. In order to decrease the burning of fossil fuels, we could be building a robust alternative energy industry that would create tens of thousands of US jobs and lead to the export of goods and technology overseas. Restructuring our cities to replace automobile traffic with modern, efficient mass transit would make our cities cleaner, more liveable and create additional jobs. Rebuilding our cross-country rail system to replace long distance trucking would lower transportation costs, reduce traffic on our highways and reduce pollutants in our air. Re-fitting diesel trucks to burn cleaner LP gas would not only reduce CO2 emissions, it would help reduce chronic diseases such as asthma. Certainly, some industries will suffer. But those industries would eventually fail anyway and they’ll be replaced by new, more sustainabile industries.

The cost to do all of this will be many, many times less than the cost of moving or rebuilding just one of our major cities faced with rising sea levels. In all likelihood, the cost could be offset by a single catastrophic hurricane caused by climate change and a couple of seasons of fighting the growing number of wildfires caused by global warming.

We can do this! We can actually fight climate change and profit at the same time. Just because conservatives have a death wish, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to go along with them.

Environmental Suicide.

Many years ago, a scientist named Paul Ehrlich convinced me of the dangers of uncontrolled population growth. He helped create an organization named Zero Population Growth (ZPG) which called for couples to have no more than two children – the number needed to replace the parents while maintaining the existing population. At the time, the world’s population stood at approximately 3.6 billion.

In 2011, the world population exceeded 7 billion!

Even today, few of the world’s governments have taken serious action to limit population growth. Discounting the effects of our never-ending wars, the exception is the one baby policy instituted by China and Indonesia. By enforcing a policy of one baby per couple, the governments hoped to improve economic conditions for their people while preserving dwindling resources. Although the populations of China and Indonesia have continued to grow, by most accounts, the policy has worked. China claims that 400,000 births have been averted. As a result, it recently announced that it will begin to relax the policy.

It seems that one of the biggest obstacles to population control is the lack of access to contraception. Population Action International estimates that as many as 215 million women around the world who want to prevent pregnancy need contraception. Many of these women are denied access to education and contraceptives by religion. This is even a problem in the Americas, especially Latin America.

That’s because the Vatican and other religious leaders have called for a ban on contraceptives and family planning. (It seems they believe that only God can decide the number of children to be born.) These religions often consider science the enemy of faith. Further, many of the same religions tell us that we have nothing to fear from over-population; that if the Earth is destroyed, the faithful will all end up in heaven. Indeed, some religious leaders are anxiously awaiting the “Rapture.”

The attitudes of politicians and corporations are nearly as bad.

In the US, some conservative politicians are trying to ban access to both contraception and abortion. In addition, many corporations see population control and environmental regulations as threats to sales growth. Any real effort to stop global warming would curb the sales of the oiligarchy. And how would corporations continue the escalation of their share prices if they couldn’t clear-cut forests, extract minerals, pillage our oceans, and create sprawling subdivisions?

Large profits require large populations.

Meanwhile, scientists the world over are screaming about the effects of over-population and the increased burning of fossil fuels. They point to alarming evidence that our environment may soon reach a tipping point. They cite statistics of rising temperatures, rising sea levels and shrinking ice shelves. They warn that lost species are like canaries in the coal mine; that the extinction of such species is a precursor to the extinction of our own.

If none of that alarms you, maybe this video will. The scientist in the video makes one of the most compelling (and frightening) arguments yet.