Friday, June 20, 2008

Tipping Points

Tipping point is an easy concept to mis-understand. The term itself is used so frequently that its real meaning is lost without some life experience to drive home the idea. Maybe this will do it.

I had a large rock in my yard. I discovered it's existence in an effort to plant a flowering, fruiting shrub called a pineapple guava or, more rightfully, feijoa. This rock weighed much more than I could lift, so I used the old Archimedian lever and finally got it up on end. Once I did, it decided to go to the other side, somewhat down a slope and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Thankfully, I was standing on the up hill side.

Now, apply this to our climate. We are approaching such a tipping point where the earth systems will go where they will go and, like the rock rolling down slope, there will be absolutely nothing we can do to stop it.

On ABC's World News last night, Charlie Gibson allowed NASA Scientist James Hansen to have the last word.
"The next President and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation."
Even more unusual was the fact that they did not see the necessity to give any time to one of the usual list of naysayers on global warming. Yet, there is a large segment of the general public that is totally convinced that the actions of man are so puny that it can have no bearing on climate. For instance, the following posted by Jim_Dutton following this story.
This is an extreme example of totally irresponsible reporting...."Climate Change" is a natural phenomenon....has been for the entire history of the Earth. There is absolutely no credible evidence that MAN is the a matter of fact....the evidence is mounting day by day that shows this is part of a pattern that repeats itself every 30 years or so. It's called Pacific Decadal Oscillation.....the Northern Pacific Ocean has turned cold....called "La Nina"....and this winter and Spring is classic La Nina weather in the Midwest. It's also strongly affected by Solar intensity, which is decreasing. This is why for the past 10 years....the average temperature of the Earth has been DECREASING...but you won't hear that on the news, because it will make a lot of VIPs look stupid.People need to research this issue for themselves, and not believe the brainless reporting that the mainstream media regurgitates because they are too lazy to report both sides, or intentionally distort because a crisis is good for sales.If you're not a mindless drone to the media....go to and read the hard evidence from the world's leading scientists who aren't corrupted by the viscous cycle of political funding.
Of course, this Jim_Dutton does not identify himself as a climatologist, or a meteorologist, or provide any other credentials. He just repeats the mantra of every petro industry sponsored pseduo-research the look for plausible theories to make themselves feel comfortable with non-action.

So, what does this have to do with the Green Party and GPCA?

For starters, we are about to go into a presidential nominating convention where the front runner, Cynthia McKinney, says little or nothing about this issue. With all of the focus on arousing righteous anger over the actions of Bush and Chaney, demanding his impeachment, a major opportunity for the Green Party to demonstrate leadership on a sinking ship will have gone by the wayside.

Here is a clue, Cynthia. The only people who will cast a vote for you on the basis of the impeachment issue are going to vote for you anyway. If you really want to grow this movement, you have to address those issues that are going to affect people and their daily lives. Impeachment does not make the list.

  • The price of gasoline does.
  • The disappearance of the middle class with falling home values, rising costs for necessities and stagnant wages makes the list.
  • The failures our national infrastructure that puts lives at risk every day makes the list.
  • LBJ fought two wars. A military conflict in Vietnam and the economic War on Poverty here at home. We ended up losing both.
In the June 13 edition of his Journal, Bill Moyers said "Truth is, there's been a class war waged in America for thirty years now from the top down, and the rich have won." One of his guests, author Holly Sklar put it in perspective.
Our wages now adjusting for inflation, average wages are lower than they were in the 1970s. Our minimum wage, adjusting for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1950s, and why is it? One of the things going on is that income and wealth inequality have gone back to the 1920s. We are back at levels that we saw right before the Great Depression.
Now, if global warming is not enough to scare you, Sklar's comments should.

Problems with the Green Party, and especially with the GPCA, stem from the battles we seek to fight. They are battles that consume many people, much as did the trench warfare of WW I. Many died, on both sides, but the battle lines did not move very much.

Where are the leaders who are willing to tell us the truth that energy prices will never return to their past levels.? Where are the leaders who have the guts to tell us what we don't want to hear and the to convince us that we can get ourselves out of this predicament... after all we got ourselves into it, didn't we?

I read long and interesting comment from Chuck Geise today at the DissidentVoice blog. It was all about Nader and McKinney and putting the blame on Greens for the manipulation of presidential politics.
The Green Party faces a problem — democracy. More specifically, how do you treat each person’s vote equally in a country where the two parties do their best to undermine participation of new parties?
If that were the major problem that we have as Greens, then we would be so very, very lucky. It is especially true when what you are arguing for would provide no protection from Mill's tyranny of the majority. Just maybe those small states who you would relegate to a rounding error in your political calculus understand that large, urban populations (where most of our Greens live) do not understand what it is like to live in rural America.

I took a trip through SE Oregon not too many years ago. We drove from Burns, OR to Winnemucca, NV.
View Larger Map
Don't tell the people here that bicycles are the answer to transportation, where the round trip from home to high school is often 150 miles. It is the rural poor who suffer most from the rising cost of gasoline, not the city dwellers. Maybe that is why the Green Party, for all it's urban activists, are silent on this issue.

The real problem with Greens is that too many activists, like Geise, are spending too much time and energy on the wrong things, re-arranging the deck chairs while the ship is sinking.

This is not a time for anger over the past, such also is a wast of energy. This country, and therefore this party, need candidates marching forward with new ideas and a vision of the world we could build, if only we would.

3 comments: said...

Green Party Presidential Debate from today at

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, Wes! Your posts are always good, but this is one of my favorites. Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

I may live in a city now, but I have driven across the country several times, grew up in Florida in a fairly small town and am familiar with rural Florida life.

Most people I meet in Los Angeles are from some place else, some smaller town, so don't assume city GP activists are oblivious to rural life.

We need different solutions for different things. Biking works in certain cities, so great, go for it there.

And a bunch of people I know in LA, even those that try to ride bikes as often as possible, are hit by high gas prices because they have to use their car for work, and many still have long commutes and own older cars that don't get great gas mileage.

As a GP activist i try to focus on local issues where I can see some success: Ballona Wetlands, South Central Farm, getting IRV on the LA ballot, etc. too many issues, too little time!

What would you have city GP activists do about gas prices for rural folks, and everyone?