What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Six – The Environment)

The promises broken by the Trump White House far outnumber those kept. One of the most notable is Trump’s promise that he would make our air and water cleaner than ever: “Nobody cares more about clean air and water than I do.” Following are just some of the many ways he’s broken that promise:

Clean Water Act: Trump repealed the Obama-era rule regulating fracking under the 1972 Clean Water Act s, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

National Monuments: Trump’s administration has shrunk several national monuments and began auctioning off oil and mineral leases on the land, some of which is sacred to Native Americans and contains priceless archeological treasures.

Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards: Trump ordered the EPA to reopen a mid-term review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that would require the industry to deliver a fleet average of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025 claiming that it would save jobs. Nevertheless, California and other states voted to maintain the standards. And at least four major manufacturers signed a deal with California to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles through 2026. The deal roughly matches the Obama-era plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 percent each year through 2026.
Renewable Fuels: Trump has removed many of the incentives to convert from fossil fuels to renewables. He falsely claims that solar is a scam, because the sun doesn’t always shine. And he makes ridiculous claims about wind generation, saying it causes cancer and kills thousands of birds.

Forests: The Trump administration has not only proposed clear-cutting as a way to prevent wildfires. It has even proposed clear-cutting portions of the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest, which is critical habitat for a large variety of wildlife and a key element to heading off the worst aspects of climate change.

ANWR: Despite having witnessed the catastrophic damage done by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Trump administration has proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ANWR is home to a rich, indigenous culture and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Oil drilling in this unique wilderness could be especially devastating in this region since clean up technology is inadequate to clean up an oil spill in such a harsh environment.

Offshore Drilling: The Trump administration has not only rolled back safety measures for offshore oil drilling. It intends to expand offshore drilling off both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska. If successful, we’re almost certain to see another Deepwater Horizon-like disaster.

Coal Ash & Coal Plants: Trump not only rolled back limits on carbon emissions from coal generating plants. He relaxed the rules for disposal of toxic coal ash which could, once again, end up in streams and drinking water.

Mining: The Trump administration has streamlined the process of obtaining mining leases for public lands. It’s even considering a proposal to again permit uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which once polluted the canyon with radioactive waste.

Wildlife: The Trump administration weakened the Endangered Species Act – the law that brought many species, including the Bald Eagle, back from extinction. The new rules will reduce the amount of critical habitat and remove some of the tools needed to protect endangered species.

Climate Change: Trump promised he’d negotiate a far better deal for the environment than the Paris Climate Accord. But after pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, he has done nothing to address the climate crisis. Indeed, he claims climate change is a con, a hoax created by China and Democrats. He even refused to accept a report created by his own government on the devastating effects of climate change.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Understanding The Threat Of Trump: A Holiday Reading List.

If you have a few moments to relax from your busy holiday schedule, here is a list of books that will help you better understand the political landscape of America. With the upcoming elections in 2020, nothing…I emphasize NOTHING…could be more important. The very future of democracy and our nation are at stake!

The Constitution of the United States of America
For anyone who wants to debate politics, this is the place to start. It’s one of the most powerful documents ever written. If you haven’t read it, or if you haven’t read it since grade school, I recommend you take the time to read it and understand it.

That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing by Michael Austin
The definitive guide to the thinking of our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution. It’s essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today’s political debates.

CIVICS TODAY: Citizenship, Economics, & You
All naturalized US citizens are tested on the workings of our government. Yet few natural born US citizens have even read a civics book. Here’s your chance to know as much about the workings of our government as most recent immigrants.

Testing Theories of American Politics, Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
An academic study that proves the US has become an oligarchy in which the very wealthy, the powerful and the connected control our institutions of government, often in direct contradiction of the wishes of ordinary Americans.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America And The Election Of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the US election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency written by two of our generation’s best investigative reporters.

House Of Trump House Of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger
This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House as the most powerful man on earth.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston
A great book by an exceptional journalist that describes the rise of Donald Trump in great detail. It goes on to examine how the Trump administration is gleefully destroying the US from within.

The Mueller Report
The report by Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III and his team who were tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on our democracy and the Trump campaign. Contrary to statements by Trump and William Barr, the report details the extensive connections between Russian operatives and the campaign, including Trump himself and his family. It also outlines at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed justice and attempted to suborn perjury.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance
A 20-year Navy veteran, Nance is an expert in intelligence and counterterrorism. In this book, he details how Trump, with the help of Putin and Russian intelligence, cheated his way into the Oval Office. He not only explains how Trump succeeded. He explains why.

Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew
Belew details how the white nationalist movement grew out of our nation’s wars. As veterans returned home, they brought military strategies with them making the movement more dangerous. As evidenced by the reaction to America’s first black president and the White House reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, the movement now has supporters at the highest levels of government.

Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America by Nancy MacLean – Based on her access to a treasure trove of documents from the estate of James McGill Buchannan, MacLean reveals the playbook of the GOP, rightwing billionaires and the new conservative movement in the US.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Although you may have trouble remembering his name, Giridharadas offers a clear-eyed examination of the state of our nation by taking us into the inner sanctums of the new gilded age in which the rich and powerful threaten our social order.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, And The Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth by Rachel Maddow
An unapologetic liberal, five days each week Maddow helps her viewers understand the political developments that affect us all. In this, her second book, she explores how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted our government, led us into war and is on the verge of destroying our planet.

UN Global Outlook Report 2019
The latest UN report on climate change warns that countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. Without urgent and dramatic changes, the future is bleak, according to the report.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

The Constitutional Crisis That Is Donald Trump.

Russian meddling in the 2016 election has created a crisis the Founders never could have imagined – a greedy, narcissistic con man holding the highest office in the land supported by a sympathetic Congress that likely, too, was elected with the help and interference of a foreign enemy.

The Founding Fathers did put into place a system that provided for the removal of a president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which certainly would apply to a man who conspired with an enemy to attain office, defied the Constitution’s emolument clause to enrich himself and his family, and appointed Cabinet members with the sole purpose of deconstructing the agencies they head – all the while ignoring every established norm of presidential behavior.

What the Founders failed to anticipate was a Congress simultaneously controlled by a party that is equally corrupt – a Congress comprised of members who, themselves, may have been elected with the help of the same foreign enemy and foreign money illegally funneled through the NRA. As a result, the Constitution has no provision for nullifying the results of elections illegally decided by external forces; no way to erase widespread electoral mistakes.

So what happens if (more likely, when) Special Counsel Mueller proves that the president, his campaign, and numerous members of his staff conspired with Russia in order to steal the election? What then? Certainly, the president could be impeached if Republicans finally agree to place country above party. Certainly, those involved could be charged with crimes and brought to trial. But what about the members of the president’s party in Congress who also benefited from the conspiracy? Can they, too, be removed? And what of the many decisions that have been made since January 20, 2017?

If the president was, indeed, put into office as the result of a conspiracy, will his many appointments to the judiciary be allowed to stand? These are appointments that could impact judicial decisions for generations.

If Republicans were found to have gained control of Congress as the result of unconstitutional gerrymandering, voter suppression, illegal campaign contributions, and foreign interference, will the bills they passed without input from the opposition party be allowed to stand? What of the deficit-ballooning corporate tax cuts? What of the changes to the Affordable Care Act? What of the stolen seat on the Supreme Court?

And what of the decisions made by the president’s appointees? What of the deregulation of the nation’s greatest polluters? What of the damage done to our public school system? What of the money squandered on private jets and $31,000 dining sets?

Worst of all, what of the damage done internationally – to our trade agreements, to our strategic defense pacts, to our standing with allies?

If the decisions made by illegally and unconstitutionally elected officials are allowed to stand, what’s to prevent it from happening again? What’s to prevent unscrupulous individuals from a party – either party – from scamming the system to win and, in doing so, ensure that it can ideologically remake America in its image for decades to come?

We need a constitutional amendment to nullify election results – all of the results – if it can be unequivocally proven that an election was stolen.

Overheating Our Planet, Draining Our Aquifers And Poisoning Our Future.

It has been well-established that climate scientists are almost unanimous in their warnings of the consequences of climate change as the result of burning fossil fuels. Certainly, man-made global warming is one of the biggest threats of our time. But, unfortunately, it is not the only serious threat to the future of the planet.

There’s the threat of pollution caused by extractive industries as evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic water spill from Colorado’s Gold King mine, and the pollution of Appalachian streams by the mountaintop removal form of coal mining. There’s the overuse of agricultural chemicals as evidenced by the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s the destruction of carbon-absorbing forests by the agriculture, lumber and palm oil industries. There’s the destruction of marshes by oil drilling companies, pipeline companies and refineries. There’s the destruction of coral reefs by cruise line operators. There’s the consequences of overfishing our oceans by large, commercial fish factories. There’s the destruction of endangered species by poachers and big game hunters.

And we’re just getting started.

We also know that the agrichemical industry is poisoning our land and our bodies with pesticides. At the same time, these pesticides are causing a mass die-off of pollinators such as honey bees and bumblebees. Herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Round-Up and Syngenta’s Atrazine, are not only killing native plants. The elimination of those plants is jeopardizing the future of entire species, such as Monarch butterflies and amphibians. The herbicides have also been linked to cancer in humans. In addition, genetically-modified crops, which rely on the use of herbicides and pesticides, have destroyed the diversity of our crop species making it more likely than ever that a disease or blight could lead to famine.

Arsenic added to animal feeds to make animals grow faster ends up in our water, our food and our bodies. Poultry manure, poultry feathers and bedding which are fed to cows can poison our food and lead to mad cow disease. Manure run-off from feedlots poison our streams and the methane from cows adds to greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Antibiotics added to animal feeds accounts for 80 percent of all antibiotic use leading to a surge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And the methods of large factory-style livestock farms are not only inhumane. They lead to injuries and animal stress which lead to hormonal changes in the meat which, in turn, impacts humans.

Not to be overlooked is what we’re doing to our aquifers. These underground rivers and pools represent the accumulation of water which has filtered through soil and rock over a period of thousands of years – water that is as pure as any on our planet. Yet, instead of reserving this water for human consumption, we are using it to irrigate crops otherwise unsuited for places such as California, Colorado and western Nebraska. We are also polluting the aquifers by fracking and mining. Even our attempts to “restore” aquifers are misguided. We are pumping them full of treated effluent – effluent still filled with pharmaceuticals and hormones. And, incredibly, in much of America we are using the water from aquifers to flush our toilets!

All of these ecological problems are caused by our unsustainable lifestyle – a lifestyle dictated and fueled by the greed of large corporations. Reversing these problems will require regulations, investments, education, new technologies, and, most important of all, a change in politics. The very future of our species depends on it.

The Eleventh Hour For Earth.

Half of all the species on Earth have disappeared in the last 40 years. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa and Brazil, the destruction of rain forests continues almost unabated endangering thousands more species of plants and animals while belching tons of carbon and methane into the atmosphere. The resulting increase in world temperatures from deforestation, gas and diesel-powered cars, and coal-fired power plants is causing the Greenland glaciers to lose 17 feet of elevation every year. Likewise, the Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers are melting at alarming rates. In addition, the Arctic sea ice is disappearing putting the future of Polar Bears, even indigenous people in jeopardy.

Greed has led to the near extinction of Northern White Rhinos with only 5 now left on the entire planet, and they’re only alive because they’re guarded 24/7 to protect them from poachers. Ivory poachers are killing African elephants at the rate of more than 33,000 per year. If that continues, wild African elephants will become extinct within 12 years! Tigers and many other species are also nearing extinction in the wild. Even bees and butterflies are endangered by our overuse of pesticides.

We have destroyed most of our great ocean reefs and we continue to dump oil, agrichemicals and trash into the oceans creating large dead zones and “islands” of plastic. Hundreds of large factory ships scoop up anything that swims into nets 24 hours a day, keeping those species that are valuable for sale and killing the rest.

Factory farming of cattle, pigs and poultry has led to the overuse of antibiotics that pollute our bodies and make bacteria increasingly immune to medicines. Dairy cows are treated like milk factories, fed a steady diet of hormones intended to cause them to give more milk. And most of the animals are confined in pens with little room to turn around. Moreover, the waste from these meat and milk factories pollutes our ground water and the animals create enormous amounts of methane released into the atmosphere to add to the greenhouse gases. At the same time, corporate farming of grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts have incorporated more herbicides and pesticides while stripping the flavor and nutrition from our food supply.

Oil companies, subsidized by US taxpayers, are searching farther and deeper for oil and gas while polluting the land and water wherever they go. Not only are they responsible for massive spills in our oceans. They are pumping millions of gallons of benzene and other chemicals into the ground which pollutes our ancient underground aquifers. Coal companies are removing entire mountaintops in Appalachia while destroying forests and streams. Manufacturers and refineries quietly dump their toxic waste into our streams or, if it is so toxic that it might raise alarms in the US, they ship it to third world nations for disposal.

At the same time we are destroying the planet with our greed, holy wars are being waged around the globe displacing millions of people in the name of God and Allah. The destruction is spurred on by military contractors who pump out weapons by the millions then traffic them globally in the name of “defense.”

Given all of these crises, you might expect that Congress is working overtime to find ways to end the destruction. But you’d be wrong. While the planet is quite literally melting down, our crack politicians are playing golf with the polluters; vacationing with the weapons manufacturers; sucking up to billionaire campaign donors; doling out subsidies to corporate farmers. And, instead of addressing the real issues, the GOP and its propaganda arms (Fox News Channel and talk radio) have voters in a tizzy over such issues as the religious freedom to discriminate against others, the imaginary “war on Christians” and the false narrative that “tree huggers” are standing in the way of job creation and higher wages.

And when GOP leaders are asked about climate change, they begin their denial with “I’m not a scientist” or “climate change is unproven.” Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But I have eyes and ears. I can see the effects of pollution. I can see films of rampant deforestation. I can read reports from climate scientists and environmental scientists. And I can listen to experts who flatly state that 2015 may be our last chance to begin the necessary changes to head off the cascading effects and downward spiral of climate change.

So what is the downside of committing to policies that will slow and eventually reverse the destruction of our planet?

There is none. Certainly, some industries and jobs will be negatively impacted. But far more will be created. Making positive changes such as reducing our consumption, changing to a more plant-based diet, and switching from carbon fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biofuels should not be difficult. And the new industries these changes create will be the economic engines that drive our future…if we are to have a future on this planet.

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.