The Coming Crises.

As we understandably worry about the constitutional crisis posed by Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our democracy, there are several other crises that should be getting our full attention. Indeed, each of them poses a tremendous threat to the future of the United States and our planet.

National Debt – As of today, our national debt stands at $23.16 trillion. Worse, we will add at least $1.1 trillion to it in FY 2020. Supposedly, the economy fueled tax cuts were intended to offset the growth in spending. Instead, the cuts merely reduced revenue. And the trade wars caused by Trump’s ill-conceived tariffs have only added to the problem by increasing the cost of goods for consumers and many manufacturers. That has resulted in less real income for workers and layoffs by manufacturers. If the trend continues, how will we pay to repair our aging infrastructure? How will we be able to continue to afford our bloated defense budget? How will we be able to afford reasonable safety nets? How will the US maintain its world leadership?

Automation – Technology experts say we are now in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. We are losing jobs to automation at an alarming rate. And the revolution has only just begun. Recent studies predict that the US will lose 30 to 50 percent of existing jobs within the next few decades. For example, in the next few years, 2 to 3 million truck drivers are expected to lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. In addition, that will lead to a loss of jobs related to truckers – at truck stops, motels, cafes, etc. – mostly in small towns and rural areas. And that’s only the start. In addition to truck drivers, there are another 7-8 million professional drivers for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, UPS, FedEx, etc. who will lose their jobs.

Others who work in labor intensive and repetitive jobs will be replaced by automation. Even the so-called white collar workers will lose their jobs to automation. Paralegals, lawyers, medical technologists, even lawyers and film editors could soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The question is: What will the displaced workers do for income? Still think presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposed guaranteed annual income is a radical idea?

Overpopulation – Current world population is 7.7 billion and we added 81 million in 2019. The population is growing at more than 1 percent per year. At this rate, the population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Given the onset of automation, how will they sustain themselves? How will we feed them?

Environment – For decades, corporations have used our streams and oceans as landfills. They have spilled millions of barrels of oil into the seas. They have used factory fishing trawlers to deplete our oceans of fish. They have used our forests and our lands as a sort of supermarket of resources. They have poured toxic chemicals onto our farmlands – their runoff creating dead zones in our oceans. They have filled our atmosphere with carbon from the burning of fossil fuels and with methane from our insatiable appetite for beef. They have created inhumane factory farms that drown our lands in excrement. And they have polluted aquifers through fracking and mining.

Despite all of this, the Trump administration has relaxed most of our environmental regulations and encouraged even more of this destructive behavior from corporations. At the same time, the administration has cut their taxes – revenue that could be used to help clean up their messes.

Species Extinction – Over human history, the normal extinction rate for other species has averaged 1 to 5 species per year. However, scientists say that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times normal. We are now losing dozens of species per day! At this rate, we will lose 30 to 50 percent of all species by mid-century. In other words, we are now in the midst of the 6th mass extinction mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife habitat and human-caused pollution.

Climate Crisis – Last, but certainly not least, is the climate crisis caused almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels. As I write this, virtually the entire continent of Australia is on fire resulting in the loss of millions of animals and thousands of homes. California, too, has faced disastrous wildfires, albeit on a smaller scale. Each year, we see more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones and tornados. The damage from these climate-related disasters for 2019 was estimated at more than $140 billion BEFORE the wildfires in Australia. And scientists tell us that the crisis is only going to get worse.

Each year, the reports of melting glaciers and ice caps exceed previous predictions. Though the situation is dire, most Americans have yet to recognize the effects of climate change. But they have been affected nonetheless. Taxes that could be used to rebuild our infrastructure or to reduce the cost of health care are used to fight wildfires or to repair the damage following hurricanes. Moreover, many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence and starvation, much of it caused by drought.

And, in the future, it’s predicted that we will see much more climate-caused migration from droughts and rising sea levels.

Of course, none of this is good news. Contrary to the tradition of looking forward to the new year, if we don’t address these crises soon, we may well greet each new year with fear and trepidation of the events to come. Nevertheless, I wish you all a very happy New Year celebration! Enjoy it while you can.

Why We Must Have A Green New Deal Now!

The courageous and determined teenager, Greta Thunberg, is only the latest and most visible advocate for combating climate change. Then-President George H.W. Bush spoke out about the need to address global warming as early as 1988. Al Gore championed the issue following his defeat in the 2000 election. And many other US politicians of both parties have called for addressing the growing threat in years since. The most recent and most visible is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Unfortunately, many Republican politicians financed by the oily Koch brothers pilloried her. So, too, have conservative pundits. They ridiculed her Green New Deal as “taking away our meat, ending air travel, and forcing us to give up cars.”

Meanwhile, the scientific evidence of a real and present danger keeps mounting. The world’s scientists are nearly unanimous that the consequences of inaction are increasingly dire. They tell us that more than a million species will be forced into extinction, that sea levels could rise as much as 23 feet displacing tens of millions of the world’s population and drowning many of the world’s largest cities. They warn of increasingly more intense and deadly storms. They tell us that, as the ice melts and the permafrost thaws, the effects of climate change will accelerate. They tell us that our oceans could soon be fished clean of species and turned into a worldwide dead zone, that much of our most productive farmland will be devastated by droughts.

If none of that matters to you, consider this: They tell us that, If we don’t act fast, the cost to taxpayers will climb into the tens of trillions of dollars!

Science tells us that this is no longer a distant threat we can ignore. We have now passed the point where ending deforestation and replanting trees can absorb enough CO2 to head off the damage. We must take more drastic action. We must drastically change our collective lifestyles. And we have a very short time to do it. The most recent estimate is that we have about 11 years to prevent a complete disaster!

But, if we act now and we make significant changes, there is reason to hope.

Dealing with climate change will not only positively affect the climate. By changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we can reduce many chronic diseases such as asthma. Such a change will also boost the economy, create high-paying jobs, improve infrastructure and cut energy costs. By reducing our reliance on oil, it will cut funding to some of the world’s worst tyrants and corporations. And, since most recent wars have been fought over oil, it could reduce international conflicts.

Addressing the climate crisis with urgency and in a serious way is not just a win-win. It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win!

Destruction Of The US. (Part One – The Climate Crisis)

There are those who say that the US can withstand the damage done by Trump; that the Constitution will prevail; that people will come to their senses. I wish I could be that certain. In the coming weeks, I will be examining the damage done to our nation and our planet by this rogue presidency beginning with what is arguably our greatest threat: The Climate Crisis.

You may remember some of the progress made during the Obama administration: It embraced the UN’s Agenda 21 – a non-binding plan that emerged from the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 that set goals for combating poverty, promoting human health, promoting sustainable development, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, managing fragile ecosystems, conserving biological diversity and more. It created incentives for the manufacture and use of sustainable energy alternatives. It created more stringent standards for coal-fired generating plants. It protected sensitive lands and endangered species from oil exploration and mining interests. It pushed to end factory fishing and created a national monument to protect a sensitive coral reef.

Under the Obama administration, the Navy began to plan for the sea level rise predicted by most of the world’s climate scientists. And the military began to power some of its installations with sustainable energy.

Most importantly, the Obama administration not only signed the Paris Climate Accords. It helped to create the agreement. Indeed, President Obama called it “the best chance to save the planet.”

Then along came Trump.

The racist, anti-Obama chief executive quickly withdrew our nation from the Paris agreement making the US now the only nation on the planet that is not a signatory. (Even Syria signed the pact.) He ordered his administration to relax standards for carbon emissions, in addition to deregulating some of the worst polluters. He ordered government agencies such as the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and others to remove any mention of climate change and its effects. He appointed political hacks and climate change deniers to cabinet positions and numerous other positions of power. He eliminated many regulations on coal mining and oil drilling to encourage further development of climate-changing fossil fuels. And his Interior Department began selling mineral rights on federal lands to the highest bidders. His administration even cut the Bears Ears National Monument – a place of great spiritual significance to Native Americans and of archeological importance – in half in order to make its mineral rights available.

In addition, the Trump administration plans to open the Arctic – a region already suffering from the severe impact of the climate crisis – to more oil exploration.

Worst of all, Trump has cut incentives for the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines thereby ceding their manufacture to foreign companies. He has proposed rolling back emission standards for American-made vehicles. He has cut incentives for the purchase of solar panels and electric-powered cars. And he has abandoned virtually all government research into ways to mitigate the climate crisis.

Do Trump and his supporters not live on the same planet we do? Have they not read the mounting evidence of a true global catastrophe? Have they not heard the warnings of extreme temperatures and rising sea levels? Have they not read reports of dying coral reefs and the extinction of species? Have they not experienced the anguish of watching another community torn apart by an extraordinary storm fueled by extreme temperatures? Do they not understand that one reason for the immigration crisis at our border is climate change? And that mass migration from climate change will only grow?

The world’s climate scientists say that we only have a decade or less to act in order to head off the worst effects of the climate crisis. And every few months, they announce that the climate is spiraling out of control even more quickly than their worst-case scenarios. The climate crisis is not a hoax! In fact, it is all too real. Indeed, the only questions left are: Will we act in time? Will our actions be enough? Will Trump be re-elected.

If the latter happens, it will almost certainly be game over.