Storm Report

It’s Friday for Future, and the View from the Side turns to the environment. Whatever is passing today for fun and games and partying combat in the two-party circus will itself pass and be forgotten in tomorrow’s spin of the news cycle. But we all share the weather.

And extinction is forever.

Most folks I know are aware of climate change and are worried about it in a vague way. They think of climate change as a concern but not a crisis, an issue but not an emergency. But, in making myself familiar with the newest climate science, I have found that the scientists use a different set of adjectives. Words that seem uncharacteristic for scientists. Words like “catastrophic” and “irreversible”. Words like “abrupt” and “near-term”. Words like “existential”. Words like “biblical” and “apocalyptic.” Words like “extinction-level.”

One of my main purposes in writing this column is to raise awareness and to offer information for those wanting to learn more about the environmental emergency. I have come to believe that we are in a life-or-death battle for the future of the earth, in real-time, right now. And one of the main goals of the View from the Side is to convince you to join me in this work. I want you to join me in being a Climate Voter for 2020.

Most people think that climate change is a problem for the future. That belief dampens motivation to change. I’m an amazing procrastinator, and so I understand this attitude well. I even shared it until a few months ago.

But climate change is upon us now. One of the most apparent manifestations is in the increase of extreme weather world-wide. Adding more energy to a complex system increases its peaks and valleys of activity. The data seems to support this obvious idea.

View from the Side Storm Report

Tornadoes are not an oddity this time of year. But there have been a lot this year so far.

Flooding events are on the rise everywhere. (literary aside— there must be a figure of speech for using a metaphor based on the same thing one is comparing to…) This week it’s a 100 year event on the Mississippi.

And a “storm of the century” hits India.

Not just flooding, but drought is also being increased by climate change.

Last but not least, a View From the Dire Side

Climate refugees are becoming one of the most tragic and visible signs of the environmental catastrophe. This documentary is pretty harsh.

But despite all of the evidence of science and our own senses, the Climate-Denier-In-Chief is easing regulations on off-shore drilling.

So what can we do? There are no end of ways to get involved in saving the world. Being a Climate Voter is one. Impeaching Trump another.

Here are some thoughts from author-turned-activist Bill McKibben about Extinction Rebellion and climate activism in the New Yorker.

Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee has a plan of action. He’s someone a climate voter could support. A donation to Inslee will help make climate change a debate issue in the campaign. (

Back to the Circus

But even on Fridays for Future (I love the slightly ungrammatical name of this European student movement!) the Red and Blue clowns are busy at their pratfalls and circus stunts, keeping us all entertained— slightly. But we should be afraid, rather than amused.

The current constitutional stalemate reflects on one of the great flaws of our two-party system. If the party in power, even by a narrow majority, unifies around a dictator, our system has no real brakes to stop it. In a multi-party system it might be possible to create coalitions, and no single party could hold so much power.

And if the voting system is broken, as the Mueller report suggests, then the show is over.

I have been dismayed and saddened at the silence of my Oregon Representatives and Senators in the heat of this constitutional crisis. But kudos to Ron Wyden, who has weighed in to the Barr fight. Wyden calls strongly today for Barr’s resignation. Why he hasn’t called for Trump’s impeachment is still a mystery to me. Wyden’s role on the intelligence committee gives him a key insight into one of the reasons a corrupt Attorney General and President are so dangerous to our democracy. Wyden brings up the fact that Barr oversees the massive spying (Barr’s word, not Wyden’s) on Americans by its own government.

Speaking about William Barr, Wyden says:

“His lack of credibility, his partisan double standards, and his contempt for the rule of law make him unsuitable for every aspect of the job, but perhaps most especially his oversight of massive surveillance programs that scoop up vast amounts of Americans’ communications.  
“William Barr’s shocking behavior in office further undermines the American people’s faith that the government can operate these surveillance programs within the bounds of the Constitution, and should weigh heavily on lawmakers considering renewing surveillance authorities,” Wyden concluded.

Wyden, of course, is soft-pedaling here. Why? We already know the surveillance programs he refers to cannot be operated within the bounds of the Constitution. Those programs are, by definition (i.e. the 4th Amendment), outside the bounds of the constitution. The massive surveillance programs Wyden knows so much about cannot be operated by any administration legally. Much less an inherently criminal regime like Trump’s.

Better to say that William Barr, and even more so Trump himself, make it clear why this kind of surveillance should be ended immediately. Wyden, in his usual careful way, is hinting at something even more serious.

What happens if a criminal with dictatorial intent consolidates power? How will he use these “surveillance authorities” to maintain and extend that power? Wyden, from his long work on the intelligence committee, knows better than most of us the powerful system of secret observation America has established in the last 20 years. He knows Big Brother personally. And he knows how badly that system can be misused, when the Big Brother seat is held by Big Criminal.

I don’t want to leave the media out of the circus, though. We find major media outlets caught up in the two-party circus, deeply embedded (as the Iraq war reporters were) with the Red clowns or the Blue Clowns and reporting only what they see from their narrow vantage. Here we see Red Fox blasting Blue Post for blasting Red Barr for being a stonewalling criminal. Credit where credit is due; the Fox story, actually, stays pretty free of editorial slant. They know exactly how their readers will take the story.

So, reading this, how do you react? Are you a Red or a Blue? Or, like me, do you stand on the side, wondering how, in a Red and Blue world, we can possibly see the many-colored truth?

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