Sinking Our Economy, Cementing Our Destiny

I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.

After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.

On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.

In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd.  What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.

My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:

If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.

Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.

Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.

If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.

We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.

If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.

Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.

(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)

How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.

Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?

How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.

Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.

Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.

Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.

Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?

If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)

As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.

As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!

At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…

  • We want to balance the budget!
  • We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!

The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.

A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.

And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/in-deficit-town-meetings_b_627030.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/its-the-jobs-stupid_b_627141.html

It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.

We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.

To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

NTM Budget & Economy pg1

NTM Budget & Economy pg2

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NTM Budget & Economy pg4

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Give Our Government A Backbone!

Our friends over at Post Carbon Institute recently wrote a blog entitled “What’s it Going to TaketoBeat BIG OIL? 537 Spines.” In the post, they write, ”Clearly our nation’s leaders haven’t found the backbone to stand up to Big Oil and break our addiction to fossil fuels, so we’re asking you to lend them yours.” And they mean it, literally!

They also need your help. If you want to have your voice heard, click on the link below and participate. Along with sending a toy spine in your name to your government officials, they, ”will also include an optional statement from you, to our leaders, about what you are doing in your life to kick the fossil fuel habit. We’lll be documenting our backbone shipments in pictures and videos that will be uploaded to the PCI Facebook page, so keep an eye out on this campaign’s progress.”

Please help by giving our government a backbone!

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Sustainability Heroes: Helena Norberg-Hodge, A Case for Localization

Ladakh isn’t what it used to be.

When Helena Norberg-Hodge first traveled in 1975 to Ladakh, part of India but known asLittle Tibet due to its location on the Tibetan plateau and cultural commonalities with the country, the people were happy, the air was clean, children and the elderly alike were valued, and money wasn’t a concern, as everyone, in essence, lived off the land.

But at the time, Ladakh had recently been opened to tourism and development, and everything changed. Becoming part of the international economy wiped out subsistence farming. Houses once made of mud were now built of cement, the land became more crowded, and the skills the Ladakhis had developed that had served them so well all of those years started to fade into obscurity.

Today, Ladakh shares the problems of many places around the world — the air is dirty, the streams are polluted, unemployment abounds, and people of different religions who once got along peacefully no longer always do. Norberg-Hodge is determined to change that, in Ladakh and elsewhere. The pioneer of localization is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology & Culture (ISEC), a nonprofit that aims to protect biological and cultural diversity.

Norberg-Hodge has earned her credentials, becoming fluent in seven languages (including the difficult local dialect in Ladakh); studying in England, the U.S., Sweden, Germany, and Austria; and working with famed linguist Noam Chomsky.

Based on her time in the northwest Indian community of Ladakh, she wrote a book called Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh that chronicles what she saw when she first arrived, as well as what happened in subsequent years. She writes:

“When I first arrived in Leh, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, cows were the most likely cause of congestion and the air was crystal clear. Within five minutes’ walk in any direction from the town center were barley fields, dotted with large farmhouses. For the next 20 years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. ‘Housing colonies’ of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people. The increased economic pressures led to unemployment and competition. Within a few years, friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years.”

Today, ISEC works to lessen the dependence on the global economy with programs that promote decentralizing and diversifying economic structures. Through books, presentations, lectures, seminars, reports, articles, videos, and more, the organization educates people on the benefits of acting in an ecological, sustainable way. Just one example of an ISEC program, the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh was formed in 1994 to raise the status of rural women and strengthen local culture and agriculture. There are about 6,000 women from 100 different villages involved in the Alliance today, which facilitates annual festivals celebrating local knowledge and skills, including traditional spinning, weaving, and the preparation of indigenous food; regular clean-up campaigns to encourage community responsibility for the environment; and programs aimed at resisting some of the more detrimental elements of non-Ladakhi culture that have seeped in.

The world is changing and Ladakh will change with it, but if Norberg-Hodge has anything to say about it, the place she’s come to know and love so well will retain those qualities that made it special in the first place — and she continues to work to make that true everywhere.

To learn more about ISEC and Norberg-Hodge’s work, click here.

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Sustainability Heroes: John Perkins, Economic Hit Man Turned Eco Do-Gooder

Through Tom Kemper’s years of walking his own journey to sustainability, he has discovered, and counts among his many “sustainability heroes”, the present-day leaders doing great good for our planet and its occupants. The first hero which we’ll introduce is John Perkins. Others will soon follow.

“When you look at the world we humans have created, you may conclude that it was created by sleeping people, because awake, aware, conscious people would manifest a very different world. We have entered one of the most important periods in human history. … We have the opportunity to lift ourselves to new levels of consciousness.” –John Perkins

Many people’s lives changed on September 11, 2001. John Perkins’ was one of them.

He had spent years as an economic hit man, someone who convinced poor countries to accepthuge loans for infrastructure projects they couldn’t afford, then guaranteed that those projects were contracted to U.S. corporations. Once the Third World countries were overburdened by debt from loans that were much too large to begin with, the U.S. government and those aid agencies allied with it could control the countries’ economies and resources in ways that served their own good.

But after the terrorist attacks on that fateful day, Perkins decided enough was enough and ended his vow of silence about his life as an economic hit man. Pushing away the threats and bribes, he penned Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, spilling his insider knowledge on the way this system operates. His work is not without detractors, some of whom claim his story is implausible, far too conspiratorial. Perkins remains steadfast in his claims, and has followed up Confessions with The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption, which offers further evidence of the negative impact global corporations have on these disadvantaged Third World nations, and Hoodwinked, which takes a look at how we got into the financial mess we’re in today (hint: it has to do with the fact that economic hit men even exist).

Being an economic hit man, however, is far from the only thing Perkins has done in his career — he’s also run a successful alternative energy company; become an expert on shamanism; and written eight books, including The Stress-Free Habit: Powerful Techniques for Health and Longevity from the Andes, Yucatan, and Far East and Shapeshifting: Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation.

Perkins became a champion for indigenous rights and environmental movements beginning in the 1990s; of significant interest was working with Amazon tribes to help preserve their rain forests. Using money he’d earned as an economic hit man and applying it toward nonprofit ventures, he was able to assuage a bit of the guilt that came from his past life.

Today, Perkins works with nonprofits worldwide and his own organization, Dream Change, which aims to help people better their own lives while keeping the sustainability of their communities and the planet in mind.

These days, Perkins doesn’t travel all over, sweet-talking and cajoling the leaders of poor countries into building airports and dams their taxpayers can’t finance. Instead, he has a goal of a different sort. On his website, he sums it up as this: “My mission is to do everything I possibly can to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world for my grandson, Grant. To accomplish that requires the creation of such a world for every child born on every inch of this planet. For the first time in history, we are all interconnected. We share the same crises, including climate change, overpopulation, species extinctions, diminishing resources, and rising prices for the things that are essential to our lives. And we all understand this; we are all communicating with each other, through cell phones and over the Internet. We know that there will be no homeland security until we recognize that the entire world is our homeland.”

To learn more about Perkins, visit www.johnperkins.org.

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Spamming Their Way to Disaster

Pseudo-scientific disinformation is continually floated around the Internet. Such disinformation is often accompanied by untrue, scurrilous attacks by notorious polluters against environmental organizations and against champions for the environment (e.g.,  Al Gore).

The same group of people who swift-boated John Kerry also work for corporations whose only goal seems to be to make more money — the truth be damned, the environment be damned, human rights be damned, future generations be damned.

I recently received a bogus (spam) email from someone whom I know, and, that someone should have done a bit of diligence in checking out what they emailed me, which follows…

The message I received remains unchanged (with the exception that the original author sent the message in very large text and included one of those sappy smiley faces):

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Message sent to me:

Tom, you have probably seen this, so why did it remind me of you? How is the speaking coming along?  (signed by sender – name withheld by me)

For all of you out there in America and across the globe who have fought so hard to tackle the hideous enemy of our planet, namely carbon emissions, that bogus god you worship named “Climate Change” or “Global Warming”,  there is some really bad news that will be very painful for you to process. But it is my duty to pass it on to you anyway.

Are you sitting down?

Okay, here’s the bombshell. The current volcanic eruption going on in Iceland, since it first started spewing volcanic ash a week ago, has, to this point, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet.  Not only that, this single act of God has added emissions to the earth estimated to be 42 times more than can be corrected by the extreme human regulations proposed for annual reductions.

I know, I know…. (have a group hug)…it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up til midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, going on vacation to a city park instead of Yosemite, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your $1 light bulbs with $10 light bulbs …well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just the past week.

The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in the past week has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon.  And, those hundreds of thousands of American jobs you helped move to Asia with expensive emissions demands on businesses… you know, the ones that are creating even more emissions than when they were creating American jobs, well that must seem really worthwhile now.

I’m so sorry. And I do wish that there was some kind of a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the brush fire season across the western U.S.A. will start in about two months and those fires will negate your efforts to reduce carbon emissions in our world for the next two years.

So, grab a Coke, give the world a hug, and have a nice day!

Especially you Al Gore,  you dip shit !

My reply to sender…

I don’t know you well enough to understand the intention behind your forwarding this to me. Out of respect to you

and your intelligence, I am reserving judgment on your intention.

It is written by someone who is quite antagonistic and probably equally as uneducated as that person is antagonistic.

It is fraught with lame argument and mistruths.

Please explain to me whether you find yourself supporting the message this writer (or writers) communicates or

whether you find it as asinine as I do.

The public speaking is going well.

Tom

To which SENDER replied…

Have no idea who wrote it or its alleged truthfulness. Just thought you would find it humorous. More interested in how you are doing so glad to hear it is going well. Oh and if you have some real data to refute the volcano stuff then send it and I’ll send it to where I got it.

Best, Sender

To which I again replied…

Dear Sender

I’m forwarding to you several web references to support the position that the volcanic plume may actually cause a cooling effect. As well, the grounding of European flights has reduced CO2 emissions significantly below the increased emissions effect caused by the volcanic eruption. I don’t have the science background or knowledge to jump on that bandwagon, and will let the science community establish that position. They are much more capable in that regard than I.

What I do know is this:

At 6+ billion population and growing, human activity and over-consumption is burdening our planet’s ability to sustain itself for human existence. Volcanoes and other natural processes will occur. We must do all we can to sustain the planet for future generations. It is the right thing, and the responsible thing to do for our progeny.

At the bottom of the “update” message you sent me originally, the message carried this paragraph:

“This message from BLANK COMPANY, and any attached files may contain information that is confidential and/or subject of legal privilege intended only for the use by the intended recipient(s). If you are not an intended recipient or a person responsible for delivering the message to an intended recipient, be advised that you have received this message in error and that any dissemination, copying or use of this message or attachment is strictly forbidden, as is the disclosure of the information therein. If you have received this message in error please notify the sender immediately and delete the message.”

I asked one of my support staff to search the website of the BLANK Company. I notice one of their clients is a rather large oil company. That company is one of those great naysayers that is constantly discrediting the community that supports the idea that global warming is a reality. Might this be a stretch to assume said oil company is behind the sending of the message? Maybe.

Also, the volcano image that was part of the message showed a source which we checked out. At http://www.scamwarners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6633 that email address is listed as part of a scam warning.

Please be careful in forwarding these emails. You have a highly respected reputation and your good credibility isn’t worth risking in this manner.

Tom

Helpful links referencing a possible cooling effect from the Icelandic volcano eruption:

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2010/04/could-icelands-volcano-slow-global-warming/39066/

http://magblog.audubon.org/icelandic-volcano%E2%80%99s-impact-global-warming-green-transportation-bird-watching-and-more

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/technology/Volcano%20unlikely%20slow%20global%20warming/2914585/story.html

http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/volcano-not-likely-slow-global-warming-3469098

http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/Home/31064

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/04/20/the-ash-cloud-s-silver-lining.html

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2010/04/16//2874939.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/apr/19/eyjafjallajokull-volcano-climate-carbon-emissions

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When this type of communication is sent so freely and irresponsibly, it harms all of us.

That harm manifests itself in the following ways…

Many recipients of this type communication come away more confused, and rather than taking positive, sustainable actions, do nothing.

  • It encourages those who are uneducated and reactionary about our planet’s current un-sustainable condition, to be even more irresponsible in their daily actions.
  • It allows abusive, irresponsible corporations to continue their abusive, irresponsible practices.
  • It feeds those who are likely to do nothing about our planet’s current state of un-sustainability, and, even worse, continue doing harm that only degrades Mother Earth’s condition further.

When you receive messages such as the message that prompted my response and this blog, do your research, and let the sender know they are only contributing to the harm we are causing our planet and the future our children and their children will inherit.

The evidence is clear. We are burdening our planet, our garden, beyond her capacity to heal herself for our continued healthy and whole existence.

I’m currently reading Michael C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Pick up a copy for yourself and share the knowledge with others you know.

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