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Climate, jobs, free press: Techies wanted for a revolution

Monday night I stayed up late to watch Cspan as Senators talked about climate change. It’s about time — well, actually, it’s way past time to start talking and almost too late to fix things, but I keep hoping the powers that be will start behaving responsibly. And that we of little power will find ways to make all of us and them act responsibly together.

Meanwhile, the greediest among us still deny that anything we’ve done has caused the deep ocean warming that’s bringing us rising waters, increasingly strong hurricanes & other storms, unstoppable forest fires, widening droughts, & the extinction of more & more plant & animal species all over the planet. Worse, they deny that anything bad is happening and won’t let us do anything about it. Their denial is crazy and dangerous enough to qualify them for permanent commitment in a mental health facility for the criminally insane.

But they are so intent on preserving fossil fuel income, they can’t see (or won’t admit) how much more profit would come from giving up fossil fuels and going all-out to reverse ocean warming now.

Yes, deniers, there IS money in solar & wind power & retrofitting to ensure conservation. U.S. money & U.S. jobs. And there is profit in clean water and air, and health benefits. And profit in huge savings from avoiding the effects of rising oceans & catastrophic weather events. And the greatest benefit of all: continued human life on this planet.

The deniers can’t — or won’t — see that human life is what’s at risk here. ALL human life. Not just small life, like the salt flat beetles sacrificed for ugly development along N. 27th St in Lincoln, NE. Not just a polluted coral reef here or there. Not just the prairie mammals & birds almost totally extinct today. And it’s not just the QUALITY of life that’s at stake. It’s the FACT of human life.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t worried about our mistreatment of the environment — of all life. I grew up in Florida near the Gulf, so I saw the goose ponds & their wondrous waterfowl & grasses disappear for the sake of strip malls & parking lots.

It was not good.

As a young adult, I moved to Nebraska and every year have seen fewer & fewer birds of all species at all times of the year, because they are dying off by the thousands. No one around me remarks on this. When I do, they eye me suspiciously.

No one seems to remember that only 16 years ago, small birds regularly rested everywhere along the rural power lines in long double and triple rows, and birds of all sizes regularly flew overhead in town and over farmland, while hawks rode the thermals in groups of 4 here, 6 there, 5 more a ways off, and the swallows flew in thick clouds in summer twilight. Now you have to stand and watch and wait to spot the lone bird or, if lucky, two or three.

It is not good.

Humans have not inhabited earth forever, and our appearance has not been a blessing to the life that came before us and makes it possible for us to continue. For a while we have at times been a blessing to each other, but we too often take the easy way, for immediate comfort with no thought about consequences. As the rabbis say, we rush to do evil. It is our undoing as individuals. As peoples. Soon, perhaps, as a species.

After all, our fisheries are dying. The oceans are acidifying. And most of our oxygen comes from ocean plant life, which cannot survive continued acidification.

Our Nebraska Governor & legislators want us to keep rushing headlong toward poisoned water & land. They deny the danger of pushing poisonous tar sands sludge by the thousands of gallons through pipes over the biggest, most important aquifer in the plains States. Without that good, clean water, farmers & ranchers in these States cannot supply food to the rest of the country or overseas. All human & animal life here depends on it. No jobs & no profit are worth risking it.

All pipelines leak, sooner or later. It is not good.

We do NOT have to choose between the KXL pipeline risk and the risks of carrying tar sands poisons by rail. Sane people would not have chosen to create acres of poisonous ponds to hold the by-products of taking it from the ground. Only insane greed chooses to create ponds so poisonous we must frighten off the waterfowl to keep them from landing in certain death. Sane people will choose to leave tar sands oil in the ground.

Big oil & gas interests, including state and national legislators, also want us to ignore the insanity of fracturing the earth for the short-term profits of natural gas. We are to ignore the dangers of increasing earthquakes in Oklahoma & Texas — under & around pipelines already carrying oil & often leaking & spilling onto our yards and into our rivers & streams. We are not to ask about the billions of gallons of water they use and pollute to do the fracking. We are not to ask about the poisons they pump in with the water. Or the methane they release into the air. Or the ground water they pollute.

We are to shut up about such things. They are spending millions to shut us up and drown us out with denials and lies.

It is not good.

Shutting up is NOT the answer.

I am not eager to chain myself to a bulldozer or the White House fence in protest, but I am tired of writing letter after letter, and signing petition after petition, and getting excuses for willful ignorance and greed and downright evil from my Senators & Congressmen & Governor & state legislators & corporate officers. Don’t these people have children & grandchildren & greatgrandchildren? Do they actually think their descendents will exist if we don’t stop our rush toward extinction?

But I also will not shut up. Tiredness is no excuse. Nor age, and, yes, I am getting old and I am not a person of means or able to travel far from my community. But I will not shut up.

Divine intervention is not going to save us. Benign intervention from outer space is not going to save us. Hope is not going to save us. Only WE can save us and we have to ACT and make everyone else ACT to save us. Including the greedy evil SOBs spending megamillions to keep us from saving us.

I’ll keep calling & writing & campaigning & voting & may soon be chaining myself to bullfozers & fences to make change happen. But I am not enough by myself or even as a member or supporter of one or more of the many envronmental organizations out there, like 350.org, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, NRDC, EDF, WWF — it’s a long list. We need a really big national movement with thousands of us in the streets everywhere, so that we can keep ALL our legislators up all night, not just talking but legislating and forcing corrective actions NOW.

We need to be able to act together, as individuals & as organizations. And we need better internet tools (or better ways to use them) to make this happen — not new organizations but an easy way to connect existing ones, so that even those of us without means, who cannot travel from our communities, can make our voices heard as one huge LOUD voice.

I hope some of you Techies who read this will help create such tools — I know you’re out there with the know-how to make it happen or the means to help.

For example:

What if we had a website that could track and MAP things in real time by crowd-sourcing — a website we could use to stay informed & up-to-date as advocates, and to recruit more advocates & to persuade legislators & pressure corporations? A website that existing environmental groups could use to coordinate with each other and extend their reach? To plan & coordinate actions of all sorts?

Ushahadi.com open source software could help make it happen — if folks with the know-how are willing to make it work.

Such a website could keep us informed by mapping such things as:

  • Existing & proposed pipelines
  • Natural gas wells, fracking sites, polluted wells (& known pollutants & effects)
  • Polluted land, creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes
  • Leaks & spills (crowd-sourcing could pinpoint new problems as they arise & help keep info up-to-date)
  • Pollution details such as start date, company responsible, remedial efforts & progress & costs
  • Reactions from responsible gas or oil or pipeline or transport companies — & their contact info
  • Reactions from/environmental positions of local/state/national representatives — & their contact info
  • Advocacy actions & events, from mass efforts at long-distance lobbying to coordinated marches on state houses and occupations of corporate offices.

Every new posting could automatically go out to Facebook & Twitter & subscribing blogs & individuals & wherever else becomes possible.

So this is a shout-out to Techies who care: The world needs you to organize a revolution. Please help.