Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Peace and Climate

Being the observant sort, I noticed that the People's Climate March and the International Day of Peace happen to fall on the same day, Sunday, September 21. Both are extremely significant, deserving close attention. Which one should I promote and support? It's not that I won't continue to give attention to both, but I can't be in two places at once. It seems as though I need to focus on one event or the other, but in truth the two causes are closely related, even though the specific events may not be.

Climate Change and Conflict

  • Eric Holthaus
    • Climate change (especially drought) is already destabilizing nations and leading to wars.
    • Climate change has been discussed as a "threat multiplier" for recent and future conflicts.
    • Climate change worsens the divide between haves and have-nots, hitting the poor the hardest.
  • David Biello
    • The genocide in Darfur was sparked, at least in part, by a decline in rainfall over the past 30 years just as the region's population doubled.
    • One degree Celsius warmer temperatures are associated with a 50 percent higher likelihood of civil war.
    • Temperature change offered a better prediction of impending conflict than even changes in rainfall.

Militarism and Climate Change

  • Alan Maki
    • The U.S. military-industrial complex leaves the largest carbon footprint of any industry.
    • What kind of carbon footprint is created in preparation for wars, by wars and rebuilding in the aftermath of wars?
    • The most effective way to fight global warming and climate change is to fight for peace by "beating swords into plowshares."
  • Barry Sanders
    • Until we address the attack that the US military is waging on the global environment, the things we do at home won't change a thing.
    • Military activity is the single-greatest contributor to the worldwide environmental crisis:
      • fuel emissions
      • radioactive waste
      • defoliation campaigns
  • H. Patricia Hynes
    • Militarism is the most oil-exhaustive activity on the planet, and growing more so.
    • The US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.
    • The opportunity costs involved in fighting a war, rather than investing in clean technology, mean forfeiting future global health for militarism.

Please join the conversation at Friend to Friend on Climate

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why March?

September 20-21 is not exactly a good time for me to be out of town, but I am nevertheless making plans to join the People's Climate March in New York City that weekend. Why am I considering this action?

Is global cooperation to curb greenhouse gas emissions important?

In a word, yes, extremely so. This is not the place to explain in detail why this issue tops my list of many crucial issues facing our planet and civilization, but briefly:

  1. The solid consensus among climate scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming.
  2. Every national or international scientific society has endorsed the position that climate change is caused by human action.
  3. Recent publications (IPCC 5th Assessment Report and NOAA Global Analysis June 2014, for example) indicate that the climate change situation is even more dire than previous predictions.
  4. The destructive effects of climate change disproportionately affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Climate change is a moral issue.
  5. Carbon pollution is regularly linked to other forms of pollution, exploitation, and oppression world-wide. Climate change is a moral issue.

Can the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) make a difference?

There is reason for skepticism, but despite disappointments this body has produced some significant milestones. It represents the best forum for global cooperation in tackling climate change. Many leaders also acknowledge the need for unilateral steps by individual nations outside of agreements reached together.

  1. The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 and later ratified by 195 Parties.
  2. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 to implement the UNFCCC and entered into force in 2005.
  3. The Copenhagen Accord of 2009 essentially collapsed by all accounts, but it did set some critical guidelines.
  4. In 2011, the Parties affirmed their will to conclude a new climate agreement in 2015, with entry into force planned for 2020.
  5. World-wide there is now a greater sense of commitment and urgency than ever before.

Will the UN Climate Summit 2014 on September 23 make a difference?

  1. The Climate Summit immediately precedes the October 2014 negotiating session in Bonn, Germany.
  2. Both of which precede the December 2014 Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.
  3. All of these conferences are in preparation for the December 2015 COP 21 in Paris, France.
  4. Leaders from around the world will be present in September, including U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  5. There is a sense that change is in the air. "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action."

Will the People's Climate March on September 21 make a difference?

There is no way to know for sure ahead of time, and we may never know the full impact. The outcome depends on so many intangibles and factors beyond our control. But still:

  1. Mass mobilization is one of the best ways known to shock the entire system into action.
  2. Mass marches don't always work, but they sometimes succeed in historic ways. The People's Climate March is an invitation to change everything.
  3. As of July 20, there are over 550 local, national, and international organizations participating in the event.
  4. Many of the participating organizations have long histories of successful marches and non-violent actions.
  5. The influence of the march may extend well beyond the UN Climate Summit.

Will my presence (or absence) in the Climate March make any difference?

Interesting question. If a thousand people come, my additional presence won't make the crowd appear any more meaningful. If ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or half a million show up, one more person or one less won't be noticed anyway. So why should I bother?

  1. I have done a lot of talking (and writing) about climate change. It's time for my feet (and the rest of my body) to get involved.
  2. My preparation and commitment to participate may encourage others to march as well. Every individual counts.
  3. This is about more than just the Climate Summit. It is about "people who are standing up in our communities, to organize, to build power, and to shift power to a just, safe, peaceful world."
  4. What a great way to meet others who share my concern for the Earth and its inhabitants, all of them.
  5. There will be so much I can report back to my community if I join the march.
  6. (And in a few years I want to be able to tell my grandson, "I was there".)

Please join the conversation at Face to Face on Climate.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do You Support Peace?

Dear friend, I support peace. I have no doubt you do too, but how do we support peace in the Middle East? I am no expert, but I am willing to dig deeper and spend some of my time helping you do the same, even if (y)our time is limited. I begin with two short, recent videos that attempt to explain succinctly and clearly but from opposite (or at least differing) sides the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Then I examine an older and much longer documentary that exposes the deficiencies in American media coverage of the struggle. While this production may not present all sides equally, it does demonstrate why we in America tend to have a skewed view. Then I quote from a number of organizations that are working for peace in the region, and end with an article with excellent advice about posting on social media. I am posting this in advance of the National Day of Action for Gaza 7/24.

Two current video summaries

Regardless of your current views of the situation, I predict you will be disturbed by these videos. You may be troubled by the injustice on one side or the other, or both. You may be angered by armed violence perpetrated by the extremists or by cruel discrimination by the oppressors. You may be ashamed of U.S. complicity or proud of its firm support of Israel and efforts to broker peace. So as you watch these short videos, I invite you to watch your feelings as well. Just observe them without judging yourself or others. Then find a peaceful place within you from which to dig deeper.

Update (7/23 18:00 CDT): Several FB readers were confused by my bringing these two videos together. My purpose was to contrast the two messages. You can draw your own conclusions, but my opinion is that the first is a perfect example of the misleading PR strategy outlined in the documentary below them. YMMV.

The Israel-Arab conflict - on one foot (5:39) by Dennis Prager, Prager University and The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation

It is probably the easiest conflict in the world to explain. It may be the hardest to solve, but it is the easiest to explain. It a nutshell it's this: one side wants the other side dead. Israel wants to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace. Israel also recognizes the right of Palestinians to have their own state and to live in peace. The problem, however, is that most Palestinians and many other Muslims and Arabs do not recognize the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist. This has been true since 1947 when the United Nations voted to divide the land called Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the United Nations partition, but no Arab or any other Muslim country accepted it.

If tomorrow Israel laid down its arms and announced, "We will fight no more," what would happen? And if the Arab countries around Israel laid down their arms and announced "We will fight no more," what would happen? In the first case, there would be an immediate destruction of the state of Israel and mass murder of its Jewish population. In the second case, there would be peace the next day.

Israel and Palestine, an animated introduction (6:27) by Jewish Voice for Peace

What would happen if you built a refuge for a persecuted people in a place where another people aready lived? In the next few minutes you'll learn why this moral quandry is at the root of the struggle between Israeli's and Palestinians, and what you can do to help achieve a just peace for everyone in the region. First, there are a couple of things it's helpful to understand.

  1. One group of refugees found a much needed home, but in the process a new group of refugees was created.
  2. Israel was founded as a Jewish state, but now ask yourself, "What exactly does that mean?" What was created in practice was institutional discrimination against non-Jews.

So now what? The current world superpower, the United States, has been a terrible friend, enabling Israel's destructive and self-destructive expansion onto Palestinian land by funding the Israeli military, the biggest recipient of foreign aid in the world.

But there's another superpower that can make the difference, YOU. There's a movement with hundreds of thousands of people just like you across the world including Palestinians and Israelis protesting, educating, divesting, and boycotting all to bring nonviolent international pressure on Israel to stop violating human rights of Palestinians. Throughout history where governments have failed to push for justice, people just like you, like us, have taken the lead and won. Now it's the Palestinians turn for freedom and justice. We can pressure Israel to end the occupation and the discrimination. We want all people, Jews and Palestinians to have equality, human rights, and democracy. We can change history. Join us.

An older documentary

Because this documentary is now ten years old and nearly eighty minutes long, most of you will choose not to watch it in its entirety, which is fine. It strikes me, however, that the film is all the more prescient because the issues have not changed appreciably in a decade. If anything, they have only become more stark. If you can't find time to watch the video, please take a look at the study guide (link below). And for those who need something briefer, here is my summary of the guide. In fairness, I also want say that while I find the film's argument to be bold and detailed, it is not entirely unbiased. It ignores, for example, or at least downplays the inconsistent and self-destructive agendas of the Palestinian leadership. Nonetheless, I believe this documentary to be fair and accurate, if somewhat incomplete.

Peace, Propaganda, & the Promised Land (2004) (79:11) by Bathsheba Ratzkoff and Sut Jhally, Media Education Foundation

Study Guide: The video discusses the historical and political reasons for the pro-Israeli slant of American policy, and argues that unless American foreign policy changes, the media will not dare challenge it. And the only way for that to happen is if the public wakes up to the reality of what is happening in their name, and opposes it. — Life is unlivable for the Palestinian population under the longest military occupation in modern history. — The unemployment rate is over 60 percent, land and homes are bulldozed every day, and Israeli check-points prevent Palestinians from moving freely and are a constant source of harassment. — But Americans do not see this suffering at all. The absence of any such reporting in the media is such that people don't know there is an occupation going on.

  • PR Strategy 01: Hidden Occupation
  • PR Strategy 02: Invisible Colonization
  • PR Strategy 03: Violence in a Vacuum
  • PR Strategy 04: Defining Who is Newsworthy
  • PR Strategy 05: American Neutrality
  • PR Strategy 06: Generous Offer
  • PR Strategy 07: Marginalized Voices
  • Is Peace Possible?
    • The struggle for peace in the Middle East has to be waged in the U.S.
    • There is nothing anti-Semitic about condemning U.S. policy in the region.
    • Americans need to wake up to what is happening in their name.
    • Once people know the truth of the occupation, it is unlikely they will not react.
    • Public opinion in the U.S. is the starting point for change in the Middle East.

Organizations working for peace in the Middle East

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but here are a few organizations that seem to be doing excellent work. These are not radicals or extremists. These are people who believe peace is possible for all.

Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals. JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.

The organization endeavors to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population's everyday life.

Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases.

Our testimonies portray a different, and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that which happens in its name. Discharged soldiers who return to civilian life discover the gap between the reality which they encountered in the Territories, and the silence which they encounter at home.

In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done.

Breaking the Silence voices the experiences of these soldiers, forcing Israeli society to address the reality which it has helped to create.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) is a human rights and peace organization established in 1997 to end Israel's Occupation over the Palestinians. ICAHD takes as its main focus, as its vehicle for resistance, Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and within Israel proper. ICAHD was awarded UN Economic and Social Council Special Consultative Status in 2010.

J Street gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their progressive and Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel's survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street's mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.

Just Foreign Policy is an independent and non-partisan membership organization dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy by mobilizing and organizing the broad majority of Americans who want a foreign policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation. Although Just Foreign Policy will focus exclusively on foreign policy, we appeal directly to Americans for whom foreign policy is not a primary concern.

Combatants for Peace. We believe that only by joining forces, will we be able to end the cycle of violence, the bloodshed and the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. We no longer believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict between the two peoples through violent means; therefore we declare that we refuse to take part in the mutual bloodletting any more. We will act only by non-violent means.

CODEPINK: Women for Peace is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. The name CODEPINK satirized the Bush Administration's color-coded, fear-mongering "security" alert system that has since been phased out. CODEPINK is a lively call for the people of the world to "wage peace." (Sign here.)

AVAAZ. As a new round of violence kicks off in Israel-Palestine and more children are killed, it's time to take definitive non-violent action to end this nightmare. Our governments and companies have continued to aid, trade and invest in the violence, but we can help stop it if we call on key banks, pension funds and businesses to pull out their investments — add your voice now. (Sign here.)

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a diverse coalition of more than 400 organizations nationwide working for freedom from occupation and equal rights for all, by challenging US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Campaign is based on human rights and international law. Its strategy is to inform, educate, and mobilize the public, so as to change the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to support peace, justice, human rights, and international law.

Social Media

5 ways to turn down the social media flame by Jay Michaelson. Five questions to ask yourself before posting.

  1. What is the likely effect of my post?
  2. Am I angry?
  3. Is the meaning of my post,"The other side is evil"?
  4. Am I replaying spin?
  5. Why post at all?