Month: April 2017

2017 Climate March

Below is a compilation of science-based signs that the Sanders Institute team put together for the Climate March. We also sought out signs from other marchers with scientific facts.

We have included links along with each image to the science behind each of the facts or more information about the topic of the non-Sanders Institute signs.

Facts:

  • According to NASA, 2017 saw the lowest winter sea ice coverage on record.
  • The EPA estimates that the average car emits 4.7  metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year.
  • According to NASA, 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have been since 2001.

 

 

Facts:

  • To read more on the impact of eating vegetarian, see this article from IOP science.
  • Solar Nation helpfully gives facts and quotes for switching to solar power.
  • To read more about recycling in the United States see this EPA fact sheet.
  • According to NASA, the three hottest years on record have been the past three years.

 

 

Facts:

 

 

Facts:

  • According to NASA: “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

 

 

Facts:

  • To read more about climate predictions that have come true or underestimated the rate and severity of climate change, see these articles from Scientific American.

 

 

Facts:

 

And finally…

 

How Sanctuary Cities Actually Work

This video from Vox explains what sanctuary cities are. Sanctuary cities are: “Cities and counties in the US that limit their  cooperation with immigration enforcement.” But what does that mean?

It explains that there are a number of different policies in cities that make them “sanctuary cities” but to truly understand the situation, you must look at the choices that a local police officer must make when handling an undocumented immigrant that he has already arrested for some other reason.

 

 

Local police officers have the choice to either 1. Honor requests from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to hold the undocumented immigrant so that ICE can pick the immigrant up and begin the deportation process, or 2. Let the immigrant go.

Both choices come with consequences. If local police assist ICE in deportation “word gets out in the immigrant community and immigrants become scared to interact with the police if they are a victim of crime or a witness to it.” In contrast, if local police do not assist ICE “The state can also step in and take away the funding streams from the local police.” President Trump has also recently signed an executive order “that opens the door to withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities.”

Ultimately, this situation “puts local law enforcement in a lose-lose situation. For them it could be between choosing financial security on one hand and public safety on the other.”

School Choice Fact Sheet

School Choice is the term given to a set of government programs that provide families with alternative school options other than those that are publicly provided, to which students are generally as signed by their family’s location of residence. Funding that would traditionally go to the local public schools allocated to the school of the parents’ choice.

 

Climate Change Fact Sheet

This fact sheet on Climate Change presented by The Sanders Institute answers crucial questions like what are climate change and global warming, what causes climate change and global warming, as well as the basic scientific proof of climate change.

 

The Big Picture: Strengthen Unions

Inequality has skyrocketed as unions have weakened. That is no accident and it’s why we have to strengthen unions now! 50 years ago, unions were the countervailing power to business. They were successful in raising wages, improving working conditions and supported legal protections like the 40 hour work week and worker safety.

 

How Much Can This Planet Stand?

President Trump’s environmental onslaught will have immediate, dangerous effects. He has vowed to reopen coal mines and moved to keep the dirtiest power plants open for many years into the future. Dirty air, the kind you get around coal-fired power plants, kills people.

It’s much the same as his policies on health care or refugees: Real people (the poorest and most vulnerable people) will be hurt in real time. That’s why the resistance has been so fierce.

But there’s an extra dimension to the environmental damage. What Mr. Trump is trying to do to the planet’s climate will play out over geologic time as well. In fact, it’s time itself that he’s stealing from us.

What I mean is, we have only a short window to deal with the climate crisis or else we forever lose the chance to thwart truly catastrophic heating.

In Paris in 2015, the world’s nations pledged to do all they could to hold the rise of the planet’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It was a good idea since, though we’re still half a degree short of that number, we’re already seeing disastrous ice melt at the poles, the loss of coral reefs and the inexorable rise of the oceans. But at current rates of burning coal, gas and oil, we could put enough carbon in the atmosphere in the next four years to eventually push us past that temperature limit.

The planet’s hope, coming out of those Paris talks, was that we’d see such growth in renewable energy that we’d begin to close the gap between what physics demands and what our political systems have so far allowed in terms of action.

But everything Mr. Trump is doing should slow that momentum. He’s trying to give gas-guzzlers new life and slashing the money to help poor nations move toward clean energy; he and his advisers are even talking about pulling out of the Paris accords. He won’t be able to stop solar and wind power in their tracks, but his policies will slow the pace at which they would otherwise grow. Other presidents and other nations will have spewed more carbon into the atmosphere, but none will have insured, at such a critical moment, that carbon’s reign is extended.

The effects will be felt not immediately but over decades and centuries and millenniums. More ice will melt, and that will cut the planet’s reflectivity, amplifying the warming; more permafrost will thaw, and that will push more methane into the atmosphere, trapping yet more heat. The species that go extinct as a result of the warming won’t mostly die in the next four years, but they will die. The nations that will be submerged won’t sink beneath the waves on his watch, but they will sink. No president will be able to claw back this time — crucial time, since we’re right now breaking the back of the climate system.

We can hope other world leaders will pick up some of the slack. And we can protest. But even when we vote him out of office, Trumpism will persist, a dark stratum in the planet’s geological history. In some awful sense, his term could last forever.

Will Economic Illiteracy Trigger A Trade War?

Nearly 100 days after US President Donald Trump took office, he and his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, continue to commit an economic fallacy that first-year economics students learn to avoid. They claim that America’s current-account deficit (or trade deficit), which is in fact the result of America’s low and falling saving rate, is an indicator of unfair trade practices by Germany and China, two current-account surplus countries. Their embrace of economic ignorance could lead to disaster.

The current-account balance, measuring the balance of trade in goods, services, net factor income, and transfer payments from abroad, is equal to national saving minus domestic investment. That’s not a theory. It’s an identity, save for any statistical discrepancy between gross national product (GDP) and gross national income (GNI). It’s true whether you are liberal or conservative, populist or mainstream, a Keynesian or a supply-sider. Even Trump and all his deal making can’t change that. Yet he is threatening a trade war because of deficits that reflect America’s own saving-investment imbalance.

A country runs a current-account deficit if investment exceeds national saving, and runs a surplus when investment is less than national saving. For a country with a balanced current account, a deficit can arise if its investment rate rises, its saving rate falls, or some combination of the two occurs.

Suppose that the US is trading with foreign countries that maintain protectionist policies. If these countries liberalize their trade regimes, they will tend to import more US goods that compete with their own industries. The size of the import-competing sectors will then shrink, freeing up workers and capital to increase output in export sectors. As exports rise, so will the foreign-exchange earnings that pay for the higher import bill.

Suppose, conversely, that the US imposes new import barriers in response to its current-account deficit. These import barriers would pull workers and capital into import-competing sectors and away from export sectors, roughly leaving the US trade balance unchanged while lowering national income and average living standards. The trade deficit could fall if the import barriers were in the form of trade taxes that lowered the budget deficit (thereby raising government saving) but that effect would work through the budget, not through trade policy per se.

There is no particular reason why a reduction of foreign trade barriers or an increase in US trade barriers would have any first-order effects on the US saving and investment rates, and therefore on the US current-account balance. To reduce its current-account deficit, the US must either save more or invest less in its economy.

It’s not hard to see why the US runs chronic current-account deficits. The US national saving rate – the sum of private saving plus government saving, measured as a share of GNI – has declined markedly during the past 30 years. Most of the decline in the US saving rate is due to a decline in the government saving rate.

Government in the US (federal, state, and local) is a net dis-saver, meaning that current outlays (for consumption, interest payments on the public debt, and transfers) exceed revenues, currently by around 2% of GNI. This is not surprising. The lion’s share of the problem is at the federal level. Every president since Ronald Reagan has promised “middle-class tax cuts” and other tax breaks, undermining revenues and leaving the federal budget in chronic deficit. Democratic presidents favor the supposed Keynesian “stimulus” of tax cuts, while Republicans champion their alleged “supply-side” effects.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are practitioners of populism, American-style: they repeatedly cut taxes, increase the public debt (which doubled from 35% of GDP in 2007 to 74% of GDP at the end of 2015), and generally blame somebody else for the slow US growth that arises from low saving and investment rates. Now it’s the turn of China and Germany to be in US leaders’ crosshairs.

America’s trade and budget imbalances could soon get a lot worse if Trump and congressional Republicans get their way in cutting federal taxes still further. This would be a ruinous fiscal policy, yet perhaps a popular one in the short term – before the economic bills start coming due. With a larger budget deficit, America’s current-account deficit would soar as well, just as it did when Reagan’s tax cuts expanded the federal budget deficit sharply in the early 1980s. One can imagine that the rising trade deficit would then lead to even more outlandish claims by Trump and his officials about alleged Chinese and German trade perfidy.

Americans should not allow themselves to be fooled. The emperor has no clothes, imported or domestic; and, apparently, he has no competent economic advisers, either.

Tohono O’odham Nation Opposes Border Wall

Building a wall between The United States of America and Mexico was a significant element of the Trump campaign in 2016. While there are many political arguments for and against the wall, it is important to look at the individuals whose day to day lives will be affected by the wall.

This video specifically looks at the Native American nation, Tohono O’odham. It is located at the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona with elements on both sides of the wall. In the video, individuals from the tribe describe their living situation, and why a wall along the border would change their lives. Ultimately,  they fear that the proposed President Trump border wall would not only sever their land, but also slice through their community and culture.

 

 

Background

Historically, the O’odham inhabited an enormous area of land in the southwest, extending South to Sonora, Mexico, north to Central Arizona (just north of Phoenix, Arizona), west to the Gulf of California, and east to the San Pedro River. This land base was known as the Papagueria and it had been home to the O’odham for thousands of years.

From the early 18th Century through to the present, the O’odham land was occupied by foreign governments. With the independence of Republic of Mexico, O’odham fell under Mexican rule. Then, in 1853, through the Gadsden Purchase or Treaty of La Mesilla, O’odham land was divided almost in half, between the United States of America and Mexico.

According to the terms of the Gadsden Purchase, the United States agreed to honor all land rights of the area held by Mexican citizens, which included the O’odham, and O’odham would have the same constitutional rights as any other United States citizen. However, the demand for land for settlement escalated with the development of mining and the transcontinental railroad. That demand resulted in the loss of O’odham land on both sides of the border.

Following the Plan de Iguala, O’odham lands in Mexico continued to decrease at a rapid rate. In 1927, reserves of lands for indigenous peoples, were established by Mexico. Today, approximately nine O’odham communities in Mexico lie proximate to the southern edge of the Tohono O’odham Nation, a number of which are separated only by the United States/Mexico border.

On the U.S. side of the border, the Gadsden Purchase had little effect on the O’odham initially because they were not informed that a purchase of their land had been made, and the new border between the United States and Mexico was not strictly enforced. In recent years, however, the border has come to affect the O’odham in many ways, because immigration laws prevent the O’odham from crossing it freely. In fact, the U.S.-Mexico border has become “an artificial barrier to the freedom of the Tohono O’odham. . . to traverse their lands, impairing their ability to collect foods and materials needed to sustain their culture and to visit family members and traditional sacred sites.” O’odham members must produce passports and border identification cards to enter into the United States.

 

On countless occasions, the U.S. Border Patrol has detained and deported members of the Tohono O’odham Nation who were simply traveling through their own traditional lands, practicing migratory traditions essential to their religion, economy and culture.

 

Similarly, on many occasions U.S. Customs have prevented Tohono O’odham from transporting raw materials and goods essential for their spirituality, economy and traditional culture. Border officials are also reported to have confiscated cultural and religious items, such as feathers of common birds, pine leaves or sweet grass.

The division of O’odham lands has resulted in an artificial division of O’odham society. O’odham bands are now broken up into 4 federally recognized tribes: the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Salt River (Pima Maricopa) Indian community. Each band is now politically and geographically distinct and separate. The remaining band, the Hia-C’ed O’odham, are not federally recognized, but reside throughout southwestern Arizona. All of the groups still speak the O’odham language, which derives from the Uto-Aztecan language group, although each group has varying dialects.

The Border Wall

As the Tohono O’odham reservation straddles the US-Mexican border, some of their communities sit squarely in the path of President Trump’s proposed border wall. There are about 10,000 people living on the U.S. side, where there are schools and other services, and another 2,000 living in Mexico. Along the border fence, there are gates that allow individuals from both sides to travel back and forth as needed. About 62 miles of Tohono O’odham land would be affected by the wall.

“And so the impact of a wall would not allow us to do those things on a regular basis. Let me ask you, how would you feel if you were forbidden to go see your relatives whether alive or dead?” -Verlon Jose, Vice Chairman of Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Tohono O’odham leadership says they’re not ruling out a high-profile protest against the wall.

The Interior Department has indicated that there may be room for compromise for groups like the Tohono O’odham, who are directly impacted by the wall.

There’s No Strategy Behind Trump’s Wars – Only Brute Force

These are awesome days for headline writers. So many global settings, such an abundance of weapons, such a wealth of choices!

On the morning of April 14, the New York Times led with “A Giant U.S. Bomb Strikes ISIS Caves in Afghanistan,” matched by CNN’s “US Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs.’” The Washington Post chose Syria, where “Errant U.S. Strike Kills 18: Victims in Syria Were Allied Forces.” By mid-afternoon that same day, the Associated Press had shifted to the horn of Africa, where the “U.S. Sends Dozens of Troops to Somalia, 1st Time in Decades.”

And as the Friday rush hour began in Washington, Fox News opted to head to the north Pacific, leading with an aircraft carrier: “The ‘Powerful’ USS Carl Vinson Steams Towards North Korea.”

A few days earlier the most popular choices were various versions of CNN’s “U.S. Launches Military Strike Against Syria.” (That headline described something new only because the strike officially targeted a Syrian government military site, while ignoring the not-so-new reality that the U.S. has been attacking alleged ISIS targets in Syria with drones, bombing raids, and special forces for almost three years.)

A couple of weeks before that, coverage of the Trump wars focused on a devastating U.S. airstrike on Mosul, which a Los Angeles Times headline described as “One of the Deadliest Attacks on Civilians in Recent Memory.” And just before that, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism highlighted “Nine Young Children Killed: The Full Details of Botched U.S. Raid in Yemen.” (No headlines, however, told the full story of the U.S. role in Yemen. That one might’ve read “U.S.-Backed Saudi Bombing Has Killed Thousands, Worsened Famine Facing Millions in Yemen.”)

Around the globe, as these headlines testify, Donald Trump has been cavalierly deploying troops and weapons, claiming such military actions are designed to send political messages.

He’s threatened a preemptive strike against North Korea, considered a major escalation in Yemen, and turned loose his military commanders to bomb wherever, however, and with whatever they choose, weakening even further the already insufficient restrictions Obama had put in place to try to minimize civilian casualties. Deaths of civilians under both U.S. drones and conventional airstrikes have escalated.

For those who thought that military restraint was part of Trumpian isolationism, think again.

Raw Power

Not one of these actions was necessary. Not one will make people in this country — let alone the Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Somalis, or others — any safer. Neither was any of these actions sanctioned by Congress: All violated the War Powers Act, and indeed the Constitution itself, which puts the power to declare war in the hands of the people’s representatives.

Furthermore, not one of them fulfilled the minimal United Nations Charter requirements for the legal use of military force — either Security Council authorization or immediate self-defense. Thus they all violated international law.

And even beyond the illegality, not one could claim a strategic, legitimate, or moral justification.

Of course, the U.S. has been at war in various combinations of Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya and Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond since George W. Bush declared the global war on terror just after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. In some of these countries, the U.S. was at war even before that. But Trump’s actions represent major escalations in every one of those devastated nations. According to the British human rights monitor AirWars, well over 1,000 civilians may have been killed by U.S.-led forces just in Iraq and Syria in March alone, the highest monthly total they’ve ever tracked.

What we see in these attacks is not a strategy, but a new way of communicating raw power.

How does it work? Instead of sending diplomats to help get all warring parties involved in negotiations, you drop the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on one of the world’s poorest countries. Instead of supporting UN efforts to create incremental ceasefires, you send special forces. Instead of investing money, time, and high-level attention to help shift regional conflicts from the battlefield to the negotiating table, you send armed drones to drop more bombs.

And, of course, instead of increasing funding for diplomacy, you strip 29 percent of the State Department budget, and nearly zero out humanitarian aid, and hand it all over to the Pentagon as part of a $54 billion increase in military spending.

None of this is in service of any actual policy, just a unifying theme: War trumps diplomacy. Bullies rule. It’s a shock-and-awe attack — many shock-and-awe attacks, actually — to drive home a message aimed not only at troops on the ground or militants holed up in a cave, but also at the populations as a whole, across Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, and beyond. The goal seems to be ensuring that no question remains as to where and with whom the ultimate power resides.

It’s also a message to a domestic audience here in the United States, designed to shock if not surprise: The bully in the White House is calling the shots.

Invigorating the Peace Movement

The question now isn’t what Trump — or the generals and billionaires filling his cabinet — will do next. It’s what will we do next, as opponents of these wars?

In short, we need to integrate opposition to these wars into the very core of the movements already rising so powerfully against racism, for women’s and LGBTQ rights, for climate and economic justice, for Native rights, for immigrant rights and refugee protections, for Palestinian rights, and much more.

We know that some approaches from earlier efforts are needed once again. Building ties with and privileging the voices of people facing the consequences of U.S. actions, dying under the bombs or reeling under brutal sanctions, remain crucial. Lifting up anti-war veterans provides entre to important new audiences. Reminding people of how U.S. wars are too often fought for resources — as well as for the expansion of power, for military bases, for regional and global domination, and how racism informs all of Washington’s wars — are all key to popular education.

What we do know is that everyone — from Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis, and Yemenis to those of us in this country — needs diplomacy to win out over war. We’ve faced wars for decades now, but we’ve also had some victories where negotiations triumphed over force — in Cuba, in Paris at the climate talks, and most especially in the Iran nuclear deal.

We know what diplomacy looks like, and we know how to fight for it.

We’ll need new strategies, new tactics — but we continue to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Our country is waging war against peoples across the globe, indeed waging war against the earth itself. But we are still here, challenging those wars alongside those who guard the earth, who protect the water, who defend the rights of those most at risk.

The great historian Howard Zinn reminds us of it all: Our country’s history began in the genocide of indigenous nations and the enslavement of Africans brought here in chains. But from that beginning it also became a country of people’s movements against genocide and slavery, against racism and misogyny and Islamophobia, of movements for justice, for internationalism, and yes, for peace.

Speech On Climate Change: The Biggest Thing Human Beings Have Ever Done

The list of huge impacts of climate change that we are seeing with that one degree rise is pretty much coincident with the list of major physical features that we have on the planet. All of them are, now, in pretty violent flux.

The world’s oceans are about 30% more acidic than they were 40 years ago, that’s a very large change in a very short period of time. Especially on what is after all an ocean planet.

I was in the South Pacific at this point last year working with our crews down there. I happened to be there when this great wave of hot water came across the Indian and Pacific Oceans doing just unbelievable damage to the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef got most of the attention because there are reporters and TV stations and stuff in the neighborhood. But pretty much every coral reef across all of the atolls and all the small islands in a matter of weeks, decimated. You talk to coral reef experts who would say I can’t really go down to my plot because I just start crying into my mask and that just doesn’t work.

There was a story last week on the second round of bleaching underway this year at the Great Barrier Reef. One of those scientists said we have given our lives to this project and we have now given up. That is not something that any scientist or anyone says easily ever and it’s obviously hard to read.

I was in the arctic a few weeks ago at the University of the Arctic, well above the Arctic circle. It was the middle of February and it was pouring rain. That day, the temperature at the North Pole was about 50 degrees above average Fahrenheit above average. That’s Sami country up there where people have reindeer herding culture has lasted about ten thousand years but it is in crisis now when it rains like that and then freezes again there is no way for the reindeer to get down to the grass beneath the snow. And if you are a reindeer herder you need to be able to count on the fact that rivers freeze solidly in the winter and when they don’t you fall through them and drown, and people increasingly do.

Maybe the biggest changes so far are to the planet’s hydrological cycle – to the way the planet’s water moves around the earth. The most important fact for the 21st century is probably simply that warm air holds more water vapor than cold. That means that in arid areas we see lots of drought and we see it in horrific form increasingly.

The story on the front page of the Times two weeks ago said that the drought now unfolding across Somalia and environs may be, they have said, the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. Millions upon millions of people at the risk of starvation because, as the article also said, more than anything else, the weather patterns, the drought that is there is just unprecedented.

Just like in Syria in the last decade that was clearly now, scientists tell us, one of the key triggers for what turned into to the gruesome civil war there. There were others, our ill advised adventures in Iraq one of them. But the deepest drought in what we call the Fertile Crescent drove a million farmers off of their land into the cities in the course of two years. And it was just more than an already shaky system could even begin to cope with and we now see the result as violence spreads and people fan out across the planet it is unlikely that this is a problem that will be dealt with with tomahawk missiles in any long term way.

There was a picture on the cover of time a year ago – a picture of people dying on the beaches in Greece and Italy and it said, “Are these people climate refugees?” And the answer was in some measure, yes. And obviously they are the harbinger of many, many, millions more as this century goes on.

Its not just drought, once that water is up in the atmosphere, a water molecule stays in the air on average for about seven days and then comes down. And that means that much of the time now more in the flooding crazy rainstorms that are of no use to anybody – that wash away farms instead of nurture them.

In our part of the world we can really feel this. There has been about a 71% increase in that kind of gully-washing storm in the Northeastern United States over the last decades. That is an enormous change. We certainly felt it in the Adirondacks in Vermont when Hurricane Irene came through in 2011 and forever changed the geography of those small steep-sided valleys that simply can’t absorb that kind of water because its the kind of water that they have never had to deal with before.

All of this is with one degree increase Celsius in global temperature. It is entirely clear that we are looking on current trends (even if we implemented all of the things that people promised to implement in Paris) an increase in about three and a half degrees Celsius in global average temperature. About seven, six-seven degrees Fahrenheit. There is no way that we can do that and continue to have civilizations like the ones we are used to.

Already the estimates of how far the sea levels would rise in this century, which a few years ago were on the order of a foot or two, are now on the order of a couple meters and they continue to rise. That puts every coastal city on earth, which is most of the world’s important cities, at deep risk.

This is by far the biggest thing that human beings have ever done. By far. And so far, we are doing very little to try to cope with it.