Tom deMers

We occupy. We hope you will, too.

Nothing in nature takes more than its share.” “I Am,” Tom Shadyac, director.

Every weekday morning most Americans walk into the jaws of a beast that is consuming our world. They do it willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, helpless not to contribute to an economic engine that drives without a brake. Like cancer it has an endless appetite for growth and like cancer it masquerades as healthy behavior.

To those around it, it seems normal, as normal as earning a living. Its grasping energy fixes our attention on money as a scarce and essential commodity and ensures our participation through the mechanism of debt. We occupy Wall Street and elsewhere to illuminate a diseased condition. This beast of endless consumption is not who we are even though its life is fed by our lives and its appetite by our own.

This relentless cycle is in fact a Ponzi scheme that will destroy our world in an endgame of extinction.

We occupy to assert our inalienable right as human persons to enjoy a future for ourselves and our children and their children to an untold generation. We occupy to free ourselves from the infection the beast has spawned within us. We occupy to free future generations from indenture to the beast. We occupy in the faith that the human spirit will not rest until freedom and a peace based on justice govern human affairs, will not rest until our world is encircled by a vibrant nature.

Spring is coming; we hope at some point you will join us.

A perfect storm for climate change

Photo courtesy of UCAR

As the good ship Copenhagen leaves port this week, it appears to be heading for a perfect storm. Public opinion in the U.S. has shifted. Hit by a tsunami of climate change denial, many Americans do not believe that atmospheric CO2 warms our planet. A recent Harris Poll finds that barely half the people surveyed accept that conclusion, although it’s a view held by a great majority of the world’s climate scientists. In a poll by the Pew Research Center, “climate comes in dead last, number 20 of the 20 big issues of concern to America,” Richard Harris writes in an NPR report (12/7/09). The reason for this change, he writes, is “a relatively small but active group of people who have decided that climate change is a phony issue.”

Enter U.S. Rep. John Linder (R-GA), “There is no need for any climate treaty at Copenhagen. It is time to disband the UN’s self-serving and serially dishonest climate panel. Officially sponsored environmental extremism is a danger to our national security.”

Linder’s statement was published on Speak Out for America, a climate skeptic’s blog started by geologist Steward Leighton. Leighton started Speak Out to question the science behind global warming claims. It opposes the once standard view that CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat close to the earth, creating the higher temperatures responsible for rapidly melting ice caps and glaciers around the world. Leighton himself calls CO2 an atmospheric benefit, responsible for a 12 percent increase in agricultural productivity worldwide. He argues that CO2 reductions could damage the food supply.

There is clearly some disagreement among scientists, but the real drumbeat shaping U.S. opinion has come from commentators on Fox News and its affiliates. They pound on the theme that there is no climate crisis, that this is a conspiracy of bad science and the Democrats who want to destroy capitalism and the Constitution and turn America into another East Germany. Rush Limbaugh openly says President Obama is a Marxist who hates America. Glenn Beck says Obama hates white people. Among these commentators,  facts are an endangered species, a train of thought hard to catch. Much like old time preachers, they entertain through the power of fear: how terrible are the policies of this president, how sinful is socialism and how fully it will enslave us. In this world President Obama is a kind of thug. Clearly, conservatives fear the president’s popularity and are willing to smear him on any issue and deny him any success. Truth has been sacrificed to partisan politics, damn the consequences.

One consequence is widespread homelessness caused by flooding. Rising sea levels will cause the most serious dislocation of human populations, but high mountain communities are threatened as well. Quickly melting glaciers can flood lakes and rupture dams. Called “silent tsunamis,” these outburst floods are growing threats to communities downstream. Then, as the glaciers disappear, the opposite conditions prevail. High mountain ice no longer provides summer stream flows; downstream populations are threatened with drought. This danger is growing in countries surrounding the Andes Mountains like Bolivia and Peru; also in countries dependent on ice melt from the Himalayas. “Although we are not responsible for climate change, we are greatly affected by it,” says Nepal’s Minister for the Environment Thakur Sharma.

Homelessness would increase by an order of magnitude along many coastlines. Dipu Moni, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, has said a one-meter increase in sea level would inundate 30 percent of his country. By 2050 he estimates that 20 million people might have to be relocated. Climatologist Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado estimates that 160 million people in Bangladesh could be homeless by the turn of the century if sea levels continue to rise at current rates.

Many countries including the Netherlands, Vietnam and parts of the U.S. such as South Florida would be heavily impacted. Where would these people go? Who would give them land? How would they support themselves on that land? The Palestinian refugees have been essentially homeless since 1946. Conflict would be inevitable.

The canary in the global warming coalmine is the coral atoll. Tiny nations that rise only a few meters above sea level in some places, they are already taking a hit. Tuvalu, a “paradise” of 12,000 in the south Pacific, has lost one meter of land around the largest of its nine atolls. Kiribati has seen intruding seawater destroy villages and crops. Drinking water has been contaminated. In the Carteret Islands close to Papua New Guinea, retired schoolteacher Rufina Moi says the ocean invades her village at least once a week. Banana and sugar cane crops have been devastated. Clan Chief Bernard Tunim says the pace of erosion will force thousands to flee by 2015. However, as he and others look, they can find no place on the mainland to resettle. In fact, Tunim finds no welcome anywhere. “Who will take us?” asks Rufina Moi, who thinks her only option may be to stay put and watch the waters rise. (source: “Eleven Nations Under Threat,” website of London Telegraph, 12/7/09)

Climate change deniers meet reports like these with skepticism, even cynicism. “Since so many countries are happy to blame the U.S. for the vast majority of what they amusingly claim is a catastrophic slide into global devastation,” Linders writes, “I am sure that a new UN Climate Government will be all too eager to call on the American taxpayer to foot the bill.”

Since 1993 scientist Konrad Steffen has watched average winter temperature rise by 9 ° farenheit at his ice camp in Greenland. He has documented the speeding loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica for 30 years. Not given to rash predictions, Steffen sees a sea level rise and a warmer planet as inevitable. If we want to know what Mother Earth is up to, I believe we should trust the man with boots on the ice, not the one with lips to a microphone.

Marking a new decade on The Denver Voice

Bad Ass Beck

It’s kind of fun to watch Glenn Beck paint himself into a corner with his craziness. From his pulpit on Fox News, Beck has attacked churches that preach a gospel of social and economic justice. According to him, social justice is the one idea Nazis and Communists hold in common; therefore, anyone who advocates housing the homeless, feeding the poor or leveling the playing field for the disadvantaged is falling into the demon snare of socialism.

Well, it’s one thing to pin that on Obama and Pelosi; Fox News commentators have coupled them with Hugo Chavez for a year. But Beck stepped into a hornets’ nest when he advised Christians to “run as fast as you can” if they hear social justice advocated from their church pulpits. Outrageous things like racial and gender equality and full citizenship rights for gays and lesbians.

And what pulpit would they run toward? Presumably one built on the moral high ground from which Glenn preaches, the church of wealth and power. One Sunday you might hear, “Them with the gold makes the rules.”  The next, “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

The gospel according to Glenn.

People of all faiths confronted Beck’s idiocy. On his blog activist writer Jim Wallis said it was Beck himself that people ought to run from. He accused Beck of attacking the heart and soul of Christian faith. Of course you would expect that from a preacher who lives among the poor in inner city Washington, D.C. and advocates for them every day. No better than that other guy, Martin Luther King. He preached a social gospel and look where it has led: To a socialist African American president with a funny name.

Makes you wonder if Beck spends his weekends under one of those white hoods.

You see, Beck believes in a strict separation of church and state: Jesus and prayer on Sunday, trading credit default swaps the rest of the week. Please don’t let Sunday cross the line and undermine profitability. Might cause a recession.

No, Glenn, Jesus did not work on Wall Street. You wish.

Jesus hung out with the poor and healed the sick. When a rich man asked him what “good thing” he might do to gain “eternal life,” Jesus told him to “sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Maybe Glenn hasn’t gotten to the New Testament yet, where that same rich man is sad because he doesn’t want to sell his BMW and his house on Maui, causing Jesus to remark to his disciples that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can enter the “kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23) Maybe Glenn has run from that pulpit.

Wait a minute. It’s too easy to beat Beck with the Bible.

Whack, whack, game over.

I smell a rat.

He may be a rodeo clown and political entertainer, but Beck is too smart to be that stupid. Smart enough to know that in our media universe all publicity is good publicity. Smart enough to know a lot of gullible types will follow his drumbeat wherever it leads, especially to the ballot box. Smart enough to know these supporters celebrate when the so-called “liberal elites” raise their voices against him.

Beck is their bad boy. Jesse James aiding the rich in their war against IRS oppression.

Beck’s in his pulpit, all’s white with the world.

But while we laugh at his apparent foolishness, there is a strategy at work here. Beck may be Karl Rove’s most apt pupil. His gutter balls hijack the conversation as they distort the truth and replace it with spectacle. “ Politics and football, they’re not that different,” said a woman’s voice on Fox radio last fall. What happens when it’s all about winning? When the sound bite replaces accurate information, what happens to free speech? When it’s all about winning, is truth the loser? Without truth, where is the informed electorate? Is democracy possible?

Consider this: according to a recent Harris poll, 22% of registered Republicans believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. Huh?

The clown has a very dark side.