CLIMATE CHANGE, YET AGAIN? BUT, IN THE END, WHAT COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT?

By Paul

Some part of me almost feels as though I ought to apologize to readers for writing yet again on the subject of climate change.  After all, how many times have I, or my blog-partner, Kevin, written on this topic?  Ad nauseam, no doubt.  But still, given the stakes at hand, I feel as though I cannot remain silent.

What brings the topic to the fore this time is the latest U. N. report, issued just a few days ago by a group with the bureaucratic, if official sounding, name of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  This is an organization made up of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists, and so what they have to say is not mere hearsay.  It’s not the just opinion of the guy in the chair next to you at the barbershop, or of your strange uncle, Charlie, who fancies himself an expert because he has an interest in things weather related.  These are recognized experts from many countries, who have impeccable academic and real-world credentials, and who have been studying global weather patterns for decades.  They have no overt political agenda, but they do know what they are talking about.  And the news they have to share is not good.

Not that anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past couple of decades should expect it to be otherwise.  But scientists are people who deal in numbers, and the latest figures are sobering indeed.  These experts have proposed something called a “carbon budget,” which it behooves all of us to pay attention to.  What it refers to is an upper limit on the amount of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide specifically, in the earth’s atmosphere.  That upper limit is one trillion metric tons, if planetary warming is to be limited to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius).  Once that trillion ton number is exceeded, then the most dangerous effects known to be associated with global warming begin to occur.  One such probable consequence would be the dramatic rising of sea levels which, if we continue burning fossil fuels the way we have been, will increase by at least 3 feet, and possibly by as much as 5 feet, by the end of this century.

Scientists, by and large, are uncomfortable making exact predictions.  That is because there are so many variables in any natural system, making it difficult to say specifically that such and such will definitely happen by this date or that.  Instead, they tend to give ranges of possibilities.  But even given this tendency toward caution and circumspection, the range they now give related to planetary warming is beginning to look astounding.  If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere double to the 1 trillion ton level, which they are predicted to do by 2040 – and let us remember that another 3 trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground, as yet unused – the new range of probable planetary warming will be between 2.7 and 8.1 degrees.  These numbers are extremely troubling, especially if we eventually reach the upper limits of the probable range.  Can any of us really imagine what will happen to us, to this planet, and to life on it, if overall temperatures were to increase by as much as 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit?  And here we are not talking just about rising sea levels.  We’re also looking at the loss of most, if not all, of the ice in the arctic regions, at extreme desertification in some areas, and hitherto unknown intensity of storms and levels of flooding in others.  And what will all this do to global food production?  How will we feed ourselves?  Where will we get clean drinking water from?  Where will millions of people go who currently live near these rising oceans?  And who will be fighting whom, given out-of-control population growth and dramatically shrinking resources?  These are not the wild predictions of a science fiction writer whose imagination has run amok.  They are, instead, what our future, and that of our children and our grandchildren, could very well look like, if something is not done now to prevent it.

And anyone who still holds to the old bromide that all this dramatic warming of the planet has nothing to do with human activity is sadly kidding himself.  The IPCC has actually come out and said in its report that “it is EXTREMELY LIKELY (the capitals are mine) that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-twentieth century.”  And remember what we said earlier about how conservative scientists tend to be when it comes to making predictions and sweeping generalizations.  So, for this prestigious group to use an expression like “extremely likely” is as if the rest of us were to say that there can absolutely no longer be any doubt in anyone’s mind.  Indeed, they have put numbers to this likelihood: the report finds a 95 to 100 percent chance that global warming is human caused.

And yet, what are we doing about it?  Amazingly, some even still continue to deny the reality of what is happening.  The conservative Heartland Institute, for example, came out just last week with a statement to the effect that additional global warming would likely be limited to a few tenths of a degree, and that this would not “constitute a crisis.”  The good news, on the other hand, is that the numbers of Americans who say they “believe in global warming” are on the rise.  According to a poll taken last December, 62 percent said they thought the Earth is getting warmer, up from 55 percent a year earlier.  Of course, opinions are still politically driven.  The breakdown of the number of believers in global warming is as follows:  78 percent Democrats, 55 percent Independents, but only 47 percent of Republicans.  Still, another heartening bit of news is that 3 out of 4 Americans now say that they “trust climate scientists as a source of information about global warming.”  Why it has taken this long for us to begin to believe in science is perhaps a topic for another essay.

California, I am happy to say, is taking the lead nationwide in listening to people and in taking the threat seriously.  The most populous state in the Union has set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Even so, it is perhaps a sad indication of how slowly we are moving that even the leader in the country in terms of greenhouse gas remission is giving itself 37 years into the future to bring numbers back to more sustainable levels.

There is no doubt that there are things we can all do to help.  Each of us can do his or her part when it comes to recycling, overall conservation of energy, gas and electricity in particular, smarter usage of water, patronage of mass transportation, locally grown foods etc.  And these are all good.  The California Climate Change website (www.climatechange.ca.gov/)‎ has other ideas when it comes not only to conservation, but to adaptation as well.  As it somberly notes: “no matter how quickly we cut our climate polluting emissions, climate impacts will still occur.”

Which leads to the last, and perhaps most important question:  where is the federal government in all this?  The answer appears to be that they are dithering.  We are talking after all about the wellbeing of the planet, and of those who inhabit it, namely, all of us.  And what do we see in Washington these last few days?  Concern about our future?  No!  We witness instead a complete paralysis of action on something as seemingly simple as providing decent levels of healthcare for everyone in the country.

If we cannot even get this right, how will we tackle the much larger and more complex question of what to do to prevent the world from warming to the point where life itself may be threatened?  That is a good question.  Unfortunately, so far there seems to be no good answer.  Let us hope, and if you believe in prayer, let us pray, and at very least let us badger our representatives, so that at some point politicians in our federal capital – and let us be honest, Republicans in particular — will stop their dithering, and make the right choices for the most important healthcare system of all, namely, the long-term health and wholeness of the planet we call home.

NUDITY IN ART: Beauty, Eroticism, or Pornography?

by Kevin

I drew this self-portrait with a ballpoint pen in my sketchbook, in the Fall of 1969, shortly after arriving in Aix-en-Provence, France, to begin my art studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and other courses at the Institut des Etudes Francaises pour les Etudiants Etrangers.

I drew this self-portrait with a ballpoint pen in my sketchbook, in the Fall of 1969, shortly after arriving in Aix-en-Provence, France, to begin my art studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and other courses at the Institut des Etudes Francaises pour les Etudiants Etrangers.

In central Kansas an English teacher at my high school was fired in 1967 and run out of town for inviting me to bring one of my paintings of stylized nudes into his class to initiate a conversation about creativity. I wish I could show you the painting, but I don’t have it any longer. It was a pretty tame surrealistic adolescent composition – nothing too shocking. But a student complained to his mother. The painting was confiscated by the school board, and the poor teacher lost his job. He and his wife had to find a new job and a new place to live. I learned the hard way early in my career that nudity in art CAN hurt you. 

In 1972 I finished this pen and ink drawing, "Fallen World," for an anthology of readings entitled "Man and Mystery," published by Manchester College.

In 1972 I finished this pen and ink drawing, “Fallen World,” for an anthology of readings entitled “Man and Mystery,” published by Manchester College.

Nevertheless, America was generally more tolerant about nudity in art during that time than now. When I was about to graduate from college in 1971, the Humanities Department asked me to produce three pen and ink book covers for three anthologies of readings entitled “Man and Mystery,” and “Life and Death,” and “Beauty and Ugliness.” For the first two book covers I produced compositions including nudes. The covers were accepted and published without question by ManchesterCollege, boasting 1,400 students, all of whom carried these books around campus. Today I am quite certain that almost no college in America would publish such covers. Times have changed. Attitudes about nudity in art and everything else have moved significantly to the right.

 

In 1971 I produced this pen and ink cover, "Magna Mater," for an anthology of readings entitled, "Life and Death," published by Manchester College.

In 1971 I produced this pen and ink cover, “Magna Mater,” for an anthology of readings entitled, “Life and Death,” published by Manchester College.

 About a year ago before Robert and I closed our big art gallery downtown, a woman visited and commented on my 6 ft x 8 ft canvas of cubistically stylized nudes entitled “Fallen Angels.” She said, “Thank you for covering up the private parts.” I asked her if full nudity in such a painting would have offended her and she admitted that it would, because then it would be pornography. To her credit the woman stayed for a 10-minute discussion with me about nudity in art. I explained that we artists rarely ever see nudity in art as being pornographic, partly because it is so very difficult to do well. A perfectly painted hand or face or foot represents the greatest artistic challenge any artist can undertake. It is such a daunting task to paint or sculpt the entire nude form in an accurate and harmoniously balanced manner that many artists would not feel adequate to attempt it, even if nudity in art were embraced by today’s public.

This photo of me participating in a seminar this year called "Healing Earth Pain through the Arts," shows my 6 x 8 ft acrylic painting, "Fallen Angels," which has been "in progress" for 30 years. I may continue developing it until I can no longer do so. There is something comforting about having a very long term project.

This photo of me participating in a seminar this year called “Healing Earth Pain through the Arts,” shows my 6 x 8 ft acrylic painting, “Fallen Angels,” which has been “in progress” for 30 years. I may continue developing it until I can no longer do so. There is something comforting about having a very long term project.

After many months of arduous scientistic research and aesthetic effort, the last thing on an artist’s mind is any form of prurient thought generally. So, even if the work is deemed to be pornography, I assured my visitor, it is also very hard work. She thanked me for our discussion, but I could tell she was still glad for the lack of visible “private parts” on my big painting. What I did not tell her was that I have painted this canvas over a period of 30 years. In fact, it isn’t finished yet, and I may continue working on it forever. It has been in development through many changes in social attitudes toward nudity in art, and it has morphed accordingly. Two of the life-size figures have undergone sex change operations, and several sets of genitalia and nipples have been hidden by changing the positions of limbs and configurations of hair. I hope the painting has not lost its power because of this evolving modesty over the decades in response to the increasingly conservative values of the U.S.

In 1987 Lyle Stuart Inc, published Arlyn Hackett's cookbook, "The Slim Chef," with one of my illustrations on virtually every page. We were told later that the Book of the Month Club seriously considered making our cookbook one of their selections for that year, but decided against it because of my illustration for the chapter entitled "Sweetheart Supper for Two."

In 1987 Lyle Stuart Inc, published Arlyn Hackett’s cookbook, “The Slim Chef,” with one of my illustrations on virtually every page. We were told later that the Book of the Month Club seriously considered making our cookbook one of their selections for that year, but decided against it because of my illustration for the chapter entitled “Sweetheart Supper for Two.”

 Some people say they can easily tell the difference between pornography and art. I can’t. They say that pornography is sexually charged and titillating whereas art is not. I simply cannot agree. What about all of the very fine erotic art that has been produced throughout human history? Some of it is certainly beautiful and artful. And quite frankly most of the pornography I have seen is neither sexually charged nor titillating. It is mostly just boring. Then there are some very exciting works of art by very accomplished and talented fine artists who have taken on the thankless task of making fine art in the manner of pornography, but with an ironic, removed, humorous, or expanded sensibility. Of course, they usually get both praised and condemned for it, but always accused of doing it just for publicity or notoriety.

This Suncho woodcut print, circa 1790, is undeniably erotic, but also a beautiful example of classical Japanese fine wood block prints.

This Suncho woodcut print, circa 1790, is undeniably erotic, but also a beautiful example of classical Japanese fine wood block prints.

Jeff Koons undertook a pornographic fine art project, in the late 1980s. “Made in Heaven” is a series of very large oil-ink silk-screens on canvas, life-size ceramic sculptures, and a Murano Glassworks sculpture of Jeff Koons and his bride-to-be (now ex-wife) Italian porn star Ilona Staller, aka “La Cicciolina,” entangled in very explicit and literally graphic sexual activity. http://www.theworldsbestever.com/2010/10/14/installation-view-jeff-koons-made-in-heaven-series-major-paintings/ . There has been a raging debate ever since the series debut in 1990 at the Venice Biennale about whether these huge works are art or porn. Is a funny dirty joke, well-told by a world-class comedian, humor or smut? Is a steamy nude love scene in a great movie or book cinematic art or literature… or just pornography?

Pablo Picasso's revolutionary 1907 canvas, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was a paradigm-buster of the highest magnitude. It is still shaking and shaping the art world today.

Pablo Picasso’s revolutionary 1907 canvas, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” was a paradigm-buster of the highest magnitude. It is still shaking and shaping the art world today.

These kinds of questions and controversies were raised by Picasso’s revolutionary cubist canvas “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” when it was shown in 1907. Both the cubist style and the subject of his painting were shocking to society at that time. It was inconceivable in 1907 that any reputable artist would make fine art depicting a group of prostitutes whom he knew personally from his experiences at a local Barcelona brothel. Stylistically, Picasso’s canvas was so radically ahead of its time that most of the world still has not caught up to it 106 years later. Nevertheless, the revolutionary canvas is considered by art connoisseurs, teachers, critics, and artists everywhere to be one of the greatest single accomplishments by any artist in the history of art.

The nudity in Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" so offended the religious authorities of his time that shortly after his death a "fig leaf campaign" was carried out to paint modesty drapes  in strategic locations throughout the master's fresco. Half of that damage was recently restored.

The nudity in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” so offended the religious authorities of his time that shortly after his death a “fig leaf campaign” was carried out to paint modesty drapes in strategic locations throughout the master’s fresco. Half of that damage was recently restored.

Michelangelo was no less a topic of controversy 500 years ago for his “Last Judgment” wall completed behind the Sistine Chapel alter in 1541, 20 years after the great master painted his magnificent frescos in the vault above. After Michelangelo died, the genitalia in “The Last Judgment” were painted over with drapery by the Mannerist artist Daniele da Volterra, when the Council of Trent condemned nudity in religious art. The Pope’s own Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena said of The Last Judgment, “It is mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all these nude figures exposing themselves so shamefully.” From 1980 to 1994 about half of the “Fig Leaf Campaign” censorship was removed and Michelangelo’s great wall was partly restored by Frabrizio Mancinelli. Apparently half of it was still considered to be shameful.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 - 1905) was a highly successful artist in his time, even though the impressionists made fun of him and despised his style. "Nymphs and Satyr," painted in 1873, is a prime example of the French academic painter's fondness for mythological themes and classical subjects, painted with polished neo-classical expertise.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905) was a highly successful artist in his time, even though the impressionists made fun of him and despised his style. “Nymphs and Satyr,” painted in 1873, is a prime example of the French academic painter’s fondness for mythological themes and classical subjects, painted with polished neo-classical expertise.

 Some artists like William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905) and Maxfield Parrish (1870 – 1966) lived during permissive enough times and worked in socially acceptable enough neo-classical styles that they were able to produce many beautiful nudes without much complaint or condemnation, and in fact managed to earn very respectable incomes and public acclaim during their lifetimes.

"Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish (1870 - 1966) is one of the American painter and illustrator's most famous neo-classical images. During his lifetime nudes in art were even used in advertisements for mainstream products.

“Daybreak” by Maxfield Parrish (1870 – 1966) is one of the American painter and illustrator’s most famous neo-classical images. During his lifetime nudes in art were even used in advertisements for mainstream products.

So then… what IS the difference between art and pornography? Like so many other questions about art, the answers have a great deal to do with the intentions of the artist, although the final judgments are made by the public. If the artist approaches an erotic or pornographic subject or certainly just nudity with the intention of making an object that is more than simply sexual, then in my book it is art. If the vision of the artist peers through a lens of irony, humor, idealism, heightened or altered reality, social commentary, formal abstraction or other clearly artistic sensibilities, then the art cannot be merely pornographic. It must be more. It is art.

The German-born British painter Lucian Freud (1922 - 2011) painted a series of very powerful nude portraits of the notoriously shocking performance artist Leigh Bowery (1961 - 1994,) of which this is perhaps the most benign.

The German-born British painter Lucian Freud (1922 – 2011) painted a series of very powerful nude portraits of the notoriously shocking performance artist Leigh Bowery (1961 – 1994,) of which this is perhaps the most benign.

Let us consider the rather extreme example of transvestite performance artist Leigh Bowery who used his own body as the medium for his shocking performance art about radical change. Sometimes he was entirely covered from head to toe in very elaborate and fascinating vestments with masks, stilts and props. At other times he was almost completely nude except for some bindings, clothespins, ropes and boots. His work was always jarring and disturbing. In one performance piece he was hung upside-down wearing only some boots and bindings on his genitalia. He was swung back and forth until he crashed through a plate glass window. The very great artist Lucian Freud painted many spectacular portraits of Leigh Bowery, completely nude and without any adornment of any kind. The canvases of Bowery’s large, corpulent, soft body are very powerful and revolutionary in their own right. No one could call them pornography. They are aesthetic explorations of profound sensitivity, insight and undeniable beauty. 
 
On the other hand, When the darling of American kitsch, entrepreneurial art phenom Thomas Kinkade (1958 – 2012,) may he rest in peace, mass produced prints of his cloyingly saccharine paintings of cottages with heart-shaped windows in floral woodlands and told the world it was “art,” I personally found his contribution to art history to be much more pornographic than those of Jeff Koons, Michelangelo, Bowery, or Freud. Kinkade was so successful at mass marketing his printed reproductions and other licensed products through The Thomas Kinkade Company, that it is estimated that one in 20 American households owns a Kinkade product.

My apologies to 5% of the American public, including well-meaning, dear friends who adore Thomas Kinkade and collect his work, but I shall now have to confess that I think they are displaying pornography on their tidy livingroom walls. It is pornographic because it commercially monetizes the world’s prurient addiction to the lowest forms of materialism for pure financial gain, in the same way that pornography commercially monetizes the lowest forms of sex for the purpose of making mountains of money. Both strategies succeed wildly because both appeal to the lowest common denominator in human consciousness and culture and can be mass marketed. I do not wish to eradicate bad art or pornography. They have their places and uses in the world. I only ask that those who enjoy these lower forms stop censoring and vilifying fine art.

"The Flood," is a 52" x 52" oil on canvas about impending apocalypse due to global climate change. The hours of research and daily concentration on this image filled me with joy for six weeks this past winter. The only way I can combat profound depression about climate change is to paint and write and speak about it.

“The Flood,” is a 52″ x 52″ oil on canvas about impending apocalypse due to global climate change. The hours of research and daily concentration on this image filled me with joy for six weeks this past winter. The only way I can combat profound depression about climate change is to paint and write and speak about it.

 How does one develop the discrimination to recognize the distinctions among the definitions for art, eroticism and pornography? Education. Look at lots and lots of different kinds of art, erotic art, and pornography if you wish, with an open mind and an increasing understanding of the differences, no matter how subtle. Read about it. Watch documentaries. Talk with artists. Take seminars and courses. Art is just as rigorous and disciplined a field of endeavor as mathematics, agriculture, or music theory. It would be entirely presumptuous and impossible for most of us to comment upon a complicated new mathematical theory. Yet we often behave as if we were all born with advanced degrees in art and the God-given right to pass judgment on every object made by artists, without having the slightest idea of the intentions, research, and techniques involved, let alone the historic antecedents and cultural references represented in the work. Understanding of the complexities and motivations of any field of human endeavor begins with the humility to admit ignorance, and the willingness to suspend disbelief and revulsion until we know a great deal more. In fact, I have found that if the work of a particular artist really bothers me, it is a good idea to pay extra attention to understanding that body of work, because I usually discover eventually that there is something important there for my own personal growth. That’s why it bothered me. I guess I’d better take another look at Kinkade…

This is a detail of the lower left quadrant of my 52" x 52" oil painting "The Flood," completed in March of 2013. Nudity can be used to express everything from pure power to vulnerability in any given composition. In this case, because of the apocalyptic theme of the canvas, I felt that the figures really had to be nude in order to emphasize how fragile humanity is, and how easily swept away.

This is a detail of the lower left quadrant of my 52″ x 52″ oil painting “The Flood,” completed in March of 2013. Nudity can be used to express everything from pure power to vulnerability in any given composition. In this case, because of the apocalyptic theme of the canvas, I felt that the figures really had to be nude in order to emphasize how fragile humanity is, and how easily swept away.

When it comes to questions about nudity, eroticism and pornography in art, I will have to defer to one of the greatest masters who ever lived. Michelangelo wrote, “What spirit is so empty and blind that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?” The answer to Michelangelo’s question is unfortunately that there are, in fact, too many spirits who are so empty these days that they cannot recognize the pure beauty of the human form in its original nakedness. Now might be a good time to focus on the honest truth of our nakedness — our ultimate vulnerability and dependency on a narrow band of survivable life sustaining conditions. It fundamentally behooves all of us to broaden our perspectives and learn to appreciate the exquisitely glorious beauty of the human life form as God created it, whether that form is young, perfect and desirable, or old fat and bald. Spirit is not pleased to be criticized and condemned when it dons any of its forms.

 

 

“SAVING THE WORLD” — Confessions of a Reluctant Climate Change “Activist”

by Kevin 

"Utopia," 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

“Utopia,” 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

When people ask me what I am doing these days, I say as casually as possible, “Oh… I’m saving the world.” It’s meant to be a joke, of course… as if I could save an anthill!… But at heart it’s also a serious response to the question. I know I’m tilting at windmills (or perhaps oil rigs,) but I don’t think I have a choice. It feels like a moral duty to do anything I can to call attention to our potential mass extinction due to climate change, work with others to invent and push solutions for avoiding apocalypse, and then pray for a miracle. I just have to.

We do still have the actual wherewithal to save ourselves if we can find the courage. In other words, we have already developed the clean renewable energy technologies that can wean us off of carbon-based energy and give fossil fuel companies another way to get rich. All we need is the social and political will to implement these solutions and changes. If we human beings want to think of ourselves as a life form with “higher intelligence,” then let us prove that we can hold in our minds at the same time, the scientifically proven threat of apocalypse due to climate change, AND the vision of utopia built on our existing skills, technologies and creativity. This is very hard, but we can and must do it. The cognitive dissonance brought on by holding two powerful and opposite ideas in our heads at once will sometimes make us laugh and then suddenly weep and wail. That is natural and necessary. In order to fix this disaster, we must be willing to face and feel “eco-anxiety.”

"Global Warming Apocalypse," 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

“Global Warming Apocalypse,” 2013 digital illustration by Kevin

On April 19, 2013, exactly one year after Rolling Stone published Bill McKibben’s climate change bomb that went viral, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Anna Fahey spoke at the Whidbey Institute Climate Conference and offered a roadmap for future hope and action. See http://insidepassages.com/2013/05/03/tappimg-into-dark-optimism-whidbey-institute-climate-conference/  Anna said, “Dark Optimism” is our capacity to face dark truths, while believing unwaveringly in our human potential, and I think we can harness that.” This is required reading for anyone who is concerned about Global Climate Change, especially if it overwhelms you and makes you feel powerless. Ms. Fahey points out that research shows that 10 – 20% of the population can sway the direction of history. This is truly possible. It is happening with marriage equality. Robert and I never expected to see legalized same sex marriage in our lifetime. It can happen for the survival of all life, too.

"Captain Agape," 4 x 6 ft actylic on canvas, by Kevin, in progress

“Captain Agape,” 4 x 6 ft acrylic on canvas, by Kevin, in progress

Robert and I live deep enough in the woods that we seldom hear anything but the wind, weather, and calls of the birds and other animals, including our own five dogs and a dozen parrots and cockateils. The 100 big koi in our half-acre pond only make noise when they breach the surface of the pure spring water and slap it with their tails – magnificent entertainment viewed from our deck on Buddha Hill. Even better with a glass of wine.

We love it here, more with every day of the past seven years. We feel so grateful and fortunate to have this golden time living in peace and love, surrounded by Nature. It is tempting to withdraw completely from the world into meditation, art and gardening. What could be better? But I can’t quite let myself do that… not yet at least. There may come a time when the tipping point has been so completely passed and the chain reaction toward devastation and mass extinction is so clearly underway, that I will feel justified in retiring to the woods to make my final peace with Spirit and prepare for the end. Just lately I have begun to suspect that such a time may be closer at hand than any of us had thought, because of the tragic news that the vast frozen arctic methane beds are releasing their store of gas that is 20 times stronger than CO2 in its greenhouse warming effect.

I am so grateful to Paul for his wonderful post, just prior to this one, entitled “What’s Important in the News?” in which he elucidated five worthy subjects in the following order:

  1. The Survival of the Earth
  2. Equality vs Inequality
  3. Help Those in Need
  4. Do No Harm
  5. Freedom (to Act Responsibly)

I especially appreciate the fact that Paul placed the Earth and survival of all life at the top of his list of priorities, where it belongs. After all, if we do not arrest climate change and prevent a catastrophic chain reaction from rapidly degrading the climate and our home environment, there will be a mass extinction event. If that happens we will not have the luxury of addressing any of the other long-term issues confronting humanity and the world. We will be done for a long time, until evolution brings us back again in a few million years. There is one final shred of hope, if all else fails – perhaps geo-engineers can succeed in the highest stakes science experiment in history, using the Earth as their test tube while all of life hangs in the balance. It would be so much better to reverse course now!

Using his paintings as illustrations, Kevin discusses Global Climate Change with a group of participants in "Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts" at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, April 20, 2013

Using his paintings as illustrations, Kevin discusses Global Climate Change with a group of participants in “Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts” at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, April 20, 2013

The upshot of all this for me personally, is that I accept speaking, facilitation, and performance gigs from groups that ask me to bring my large climate change paintings and talk about their apocalyptic and utopian themes, in combination with facilitating an ideation session, or presenting concerts with poets, musicians, performance artists and others. When I have complained to Paul that I would much rather stay home to make art and tend my garden, he generously says that he is glad I am willing to go out into the world and make these statements. When I ask, “Why me?” he points out that perhaps it is my karma. Maybe it is time to pay the world back for the money I made serving corporate America and Fortune 500 companies for nearly a quarter century, lending my art and facilitation skills to their efforts to invent new products and strategies. Paul is right, although sometimes continuing public involvement feels more like atonement for sins than fulfillment of karma. But that may be a distinction without a difference.

The other night I dreamt I was a student at university awaiting the results of my final project. I thought I had submitted a symphony, but when the pretty young professor returned my manuscript, I saw that it was a 50-page photo essay. It began with the words, “I have the right to be a nice guy. A rock in the stream has the right to enjoy the water passing over it…” Then there was a series of beautiful photos of a colorful rock just under the rushing stream water. The words of the essay melted into the colors of the rock and disappeared altogether. It became a wordless essay, but none of the meaning was lost.

I was sweeping the sidewalk when Professor Pretty surprised me by saying, “The judges have awarded your final project an ‘E’ – the highest evaluation given to any project in the last 50 years. You must prepare yourself for a strong reaction from the media and the public when we release this news.” I realized that to avoid the crowd, I could wade into the river, but there were already people standing waist deep in the water, waiting for me. So I waded past them into deeper water and allowed the river to wash me downstream, where I was once again alone in Nature. I was happy and everything was fine.

I don’t like having to bother people with bad news. I have the right to be a nice guy… So I spend as much time as the world will allow, enjoying life as a hermit artist in the woods, where words dissolve into colors, but the meaning remains evident. I would much rather sweep my walkway than face a crowd or the media. But I’ve learned that if I am willing to wade into the deep water, the river will wash me downstream and everything will be fine.

"Celebration of Life," 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas by Kevin, 2007

“Celebration of Life,” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas by Kevin, 2007

I shall willingly produce the next event at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg on June 12, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30, starting with “Theatre of the Arts,” then expert panelists will present, and finally I will facilitate audience interaction/ Q&A with the panel. Everything will be fine. I will do it for my unborn great-niece Samantha, who is expected to arrive into this world at any minute. I gave her the painting above, entitled “A Celebration of Life,” at her baby shower recently, hoping that she will live and thrive to enjoy the painting and her life.

I am an old man now – older than my 64 years. I have lived a long, fulfilling life. I have known true and enduring love, enjoyed fascinating adventures into the history of human art and thought and culture, created a significant body of art, communed with Spirit, and spent a very peaceful time in Nature. I am satisfied. But what can we say to the children and the grandchildren now? They will soon begin to ask us “Why did you not take care of the Earth? Did you forget that this planet is our home and we cannot live without it? What did you do to save our home after you set it on fire? What are you doing now?”  I wade into the deep water of the river because I want to be able to say to the children, “I am sorry that we were so greedy and careless and damaged your home. I am doing what I can to save it.”

 

WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN THE NEWS?

By Paul

With the ever-increasing use of the Internet and all manner of social media, it seems to me of late that we have become inundated with news bits of every description, and in fact that we are in danger of becoming so overwhelmed as to find it difficult to distinguish between what actually may be important and what is not.

In an attempt to filter and to prioritize for myself, I have come up with five categories that assist me in (informally) deciding between those things that seem to be of vital importance and, by the process of exclusion I suppose, those things which appear to be less so.

Here, for your perusal, are the categories I have come up with, and a few words about each

  • The Survival of the Earth

What in fact could be more important than this category?  I virtually always read or listen to what is reported on this topic.  Upon it quite literally depends all else, because without a physical home we have nothing to act from, as it were.  Just recently, for example, my friend and fellow blogger Kevin sent me an article entitled “Methane Outbreak Alert!” by Robert Hunziker, published in an on-line magazine called “Dissident Voice” (see http://dissidentvoice.org).  The purport of the article has to do with newly identified methane emissions coming from deep in the Arctic Ocean, and on the devastating effects methane has on the climate.  According to scientists quoted in the article, if we have not yet reached the tipping point, we soon will do so, unless stringent action is taken immediately.  Methane in the atmosphere, as they describe it, is far more harmful even than carbon dioxide.  And there are vast reservoirs of methane gas in the arctic region, both undersea and beneath the tundra.  The rapid warming of the planet in the last 100 years, but even more so in the past 20 to 30 years, is releasing more and more of the methane that had been trapped for millennia beneath the water and the land.  The more methane released, the more it affects the atmosphere, and the more it affects the atmosphere, the more methane is released, creating a vicious cycle that will soon cause the complete meltdown of the arctic region.  The result will be a total disruption of global weather patterns, which itself will engender either devastating drought or catastrophic flooding, and the consequent disruption of world agriculture.  The article goes on to describe what it refers to as a potential “mass extinction event,” otherwise known as “The Great Dying.” These are not pleasant things to read about, it goes without saying, but I believe it is necessary to consider them as real possibilities, given our recalcitrance and inaction in the face of the continual warming of the globe.  Perhaps scientists can save us from ourselves by coming up with ideas to geo-engineer a cooling of the planet.  One such concept that has already been proposed is the injection of large amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, essentially mimicking vocalic blasts, which in the past have had a cooling effect on temperatures.  Let us hope that this is not what we will be reduced to, but we shall see.  Who knows what unintended consequences could come about as a result of such deliberate massive human intervention into world weather patterns, even if we could get the nations of the world to agree to it?

  • Equality vs. Inequality

I suppose inequality has ever been with us pretty much from the beginning, when one group of hunter-gatherers got the jump on another and was more successful in feeding and clothing itself than its rivals.  In that sense, it could be argued, we aren’t doing anything that our ancestors didn’t do when we live in our current world where the “haves” possess so much more than the “have nots.”  But lamenting that it has always been so does not mean that it always should be.  The question, I suppose, really is what can anyone do about it?  One thing, as is always the case, is to keep ourselves informed.  And there is plenty to be informed about, everything (in the recent news) from the terrible collapse of the garment factory building in Bangladesh, to issues of homelessness, lack of jobs, problems with the minimum wage, inequality in pay between women and men in the workplace, racism, sexism of every stripe, scurrilous and scandalous language about the LBGT community on the part of certain politico-religious leaders (not just Christian, but Muslim and Orthodox Jewish, as well), the right to marry whom you please, and on and on.  Not a single day goes by when at very least one, and more frequently several, of the above topics is not discussed in some respected news source.

  • Help Those In Need

Just taking a look at the front page of the Los Angeles Times for Thursday, May 2, 2013, we see articles on both the “nasty side effects” of the new health care laws coming into being, and one entitled “Misery in the Sinai,” having to do with a man from Eritrea who had gone to the Sudan to look for work and who was subsequently kidnapped and held for ransom.  It could hardly be clearer that both have to do with people in grave need, in the former case, all those who want to work for themselves and their families, and who are then limited to just under the cut-off point in terms of hours before getting mandated health insurance.  One example given is the city of Long Beach, CA., where I happen to live, which limits part-timers to 27 hours a week, specifically so as to avoid providing health care insurance for them.  As one employee said, “It’s ridiculous that the city is skirting the law,” and who could disagree with her?  In the case of the kidnapped Eritrean migrant worker, his captors are demanding $33,000 in ransom money from his family.  As the man’s father said, “That amount is bigger than our dreams.”  And should it not be the dream of all of us to help such people in need?

  • Do No Harm

This is truly a motto for the ages.  Westerners probably first heard of it in the Hippocratic Oath.  Doctors are enjoined, first of all, not to harm patients, and then after that to do what they can to heal them.  “Primum non nocere”(first, do no harm), as they say.  We also know of it from Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy and his insistence on non-violence, from the great Mohandas Gandhi in attempting to rid India of British rule, and from Martin Luther King, in all of his efforts to bring justice and equality to a people who have been discriminated against for centuries.  But “ahimsa,” as it is called in India, where it is practiced not only by some Hindus, but also by Buddhists and Jains, is not only a relic of the past.  Can we not see its effects in almost any news story current today?  All we have to do is take a look at what terrorists have done the world over (and only recently in Boston) in the name of ideology, or what is happening in Guantanamo Bay, or the bullying of gay children in the school yards of our own nation, or the death of over 130,000 young children in Somalia because Islamist rebels banned the delivery of food, or the devastating harm done to the earth itself in the terrible practice of so-called fracking, to remember all of the harm that is being done these days both on and to the earth.  Let us, therefore, as much as possible not participate, and let us inform ourselves of instances of it and do what we can to prevent it.

  • Freedom (to Act Responsibly)

We Americans frequently pat ourselves on the back, and rightly so, for all of the freedoms we enjoy.  Surely, in spite of all of our problems and, yes, even our defects, it is a great privilege to live in a democracy, and a thing for which we all ought to be enormously grateful.  But let us also remember that not everyone enjoys the same rights and privileges.  There are dictatorships abroad, for example, some of which we have at times lamentably propped up for our own gain.  There are horrendous civil wars, such as the one currently raging in Syria, where tens of thousands of innocents have been killed by a brutal dictator.  Kim Jong Un crushes his own people practically on a daily basis, and threatens the world with nuclear warheads, and no one seems willing or able to do much about it.  Closer to home, millions of immigrants, whose only crime is having entered the country without proper papers, live a marginalized and frightened existence.  We are subject to the most vile and disgusting hate speech by religious extremists of every stripe.  The Westboro Baptist Church, for example, proclaims at every funeral they can manage to picket that “God hates Fags!”  Only slightly less hatefilled speech comes from groups such as the National Organization for Marriage, or from the former, now emeritus, pope who is on record as having said that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” and that gay marriage is contrary to God’s plan and “objectively sinful.”  Millions of Americans own guns in the erroneous belief that more guns will make them safer, and Congress itself does not have the backbone to pass the meagerest of gun-control legislation.

These, then, are five of the general categories that I use in order to distill the onslaught of information that comes at each of us everyday from every direction.  Not everything is important, and some topics rise, or ought to rise, to the top, lest we become quickly overwhelmed and buried in data.

It’s not that such items as “Funds for Raises in Mayor’s budget,” Tech Tackles Cheating,” “Measure Would Go After Bad Doctors,” or “Depression Era Film Starlet Dies” are not interesting or even important to some in their own right (all, by the way, can be found in the Thursday, May 2, 2013 edition of the LA Times).  It’s just that no one has unlimited time.  And so, in the end, all of us are obliged in one way or another to sift through and strain out what we cannot, are not willing to, or choose not to handle.

“HEALING EARTH PAIN THROUGH THE ARTS” – an interactive creativity workshop

Earth Day Weekend, Saturday, April 20, 2013 – 10 am to 12:30 in the sanctuary (Coffee downstairs at 9:30 am)

 Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St. Lancaster, PA 17603 (This event is sponsored by HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity — See our Facebook page)

FREE – Bring an object of nature (leaf, feather, bone, flower, etc.) to use during the event.

Miller The Flood finished full canvas March 10 2013 photos 006[1]

“The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, 52” x 52” oil on canvas will be shown for the first time in public

  •  Jerry Lee Miller will emcee and speak.
  • Kevin Miller will show “The Flood” and 8 to 12 other large works of art. There will be a discussion about healing and transformation through creative action and the arts.
  • Streetbeets will perform, including Paul Montigny, Tom Tucker, Kati “Kanga” Gruber, and Jerry Lee Miller.
  • Christi Hoover Seidel will read her poetry.
  • Kesse Humphreys will offer a performance art piece.
  • There will be opportunities for silent reflection, singing, moving, writing, and group participation and discussion.

Miller The Flood finished photos March 8 2013 022 check cropped

Detail from the lower left corner of “The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, oil on canvas, 2013

Some of the topics covered in the workshop may include:

Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math

  • 2 degrees Celsius is the maximum warming the Earth can sustain. We’re nearly halfway there including inertial rise.
  • 565 Gigatons of CO2 release is the maximum the Earth can handle from 2012 to 2050.  We will reach that level in 15 years by 2028 at our current rates of carbon extraction and use.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of CO2 are in the process of being released from proven oil, gas, and coal reserves that fossil fuel companies and fuel-rich countries have already promised to develop.

Allen Miller Deep Woods 3x4ft March 12 2011 IMGP3146

“Deep Woods” Kevin Miller & Robert Allen, 3 x 4 ft acrylic on canvas (signed “Allen Miller”) 

How Will Climate Change Affect Planet Earth? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • CO2 Increase:  Current CO2 levels are higher than at any time in the past 15 million years and rising rapidly. 
  • Global Warming: At a time when the Earth should naturally be cooling, it is warming faster than at any time since the last ice age. 
  • Ocean Acidification: As CO2 dissolves in the oceans, acidification adversely affects marine life and coral reefs.
  • Sea Levels Rise: Even if warming is below 2 degrees C, sea levels will rise 1.5 – 4 meters by 2300 causing coastal inundation and loss around the world. 
  • Wetter Atmosphere: Earth’s atmosphere is holding much more moisture now, causing more severe storms. 
  • Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Super-storms: Extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy are becoming more common. 
  • Fire Transforms the Ecosystem: We have already seen massive fires in the U.S. Southwest. In Amazonia, forest fires could double by 2050 with current warming trends. 
  • Sudden Changes: Antarctic ice sheet disintegration would lead to rapid sea level rise. Rapid Amazon forest dieback would lead to drastic wider ecosystem damage. 
  • Cascade Effects: Key failures would lead to disastrous regional events.

Miller Woodland Spirits 4x4ft Sept 9 2010 IMGP2225

“Woodland Spirits,” Kevin L. Miller, acrylic on canvas, 2010 

How Will Climate Change Affect People and Animals? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • Extreme Heat: There is a ten-fold increase in areas with extreme heat since the 1950s. The 2010 Russian heat wave left 55,000 dead, 25% crop failure, and a hundred million acres burned. 
  • Risks to Human Support Systems: The Potsdam Report “identifies a number of extremely severe risks for vital human support systems,” including water scarcity, flooding, drought, wildfires, transformed ecosystems, forest dieback, and “large-scale loss of biodiversity.” 
  • Adverse Health Effects: Extreme weather events will cause injuries and deaths. Epidemic diseases and allergies are expected, as well as respiratory, heart and blood disorders caused by heat-amplified smog levels.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

“The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” Kevin’s digital illustration for TwoOldLiberals.com

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Food Production and Supply? 

  • Agricultural Food Security Disruption: As temperatures approach and surpass 2 degrees C, food security will be undermined by extreme heat, drought, floods, invading insects, diseases and sea-level rise in low-lying delta areas (Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, Africa, etc.) Agricultural disruption will lead to nutritional deficits. 
  • US Agricultural Disruption: The 2012 US drought has already caused widespread crop failure throughout the Midwest.

HIVE photo Eco Anxiety poster

“Eco-Anxiety” rapid image poster by Kevin L. Miller for HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity 

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Psychological and Spiritual Health? 

Most of us experience some or all of these Seven Stages of “Eco-Anxiety” in our efforts to cope with Earth Pain. They occur in no particular order and are often repeated: 

  • Denial: Many people experience at least some period of denial, even if it is only a failure to hear current realities. 
  • Fear: You are not paranoid. Climate change is happening, and it is truly frightening. You are not imagining it. How can we face our fears and move on constructively? 
  • Depression: It would be unnatural NOT to experience some despondency after realizing that the Earth and all life are in serious peril. How can we continually process our depression and remain productive? 
  • Guilt: We are all complicit in the human activities that  have caused climate change, and many of us feel guilt. How can we forgive ourselves and save the world? 
  • Anger: What could be more natural than feeling rage when we truly realize that all life on Earth could end? How can we harness our anger for constructive action? 
  • Grief: Periods of weeping and wailing on the floor or on our knees may be appropriate and necessary. How can we transform our grief into creative action? 
  • Action: We can transform the six states above into joy, hope and fulfillment when we take creative action on behalf of the Earth based on our ability, interest, and willingness.

Miller Global Warming Apocalypse March 2012 color art final

“Global Warming Apocalypse,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013 

Four Questions That Help Us Move Toward Creative Action 

  1. What CAN I do? – We can all list a lot of things that might be possible for us to do to arrest and reverse climate change and to raise awareness about it. 
  2. How the HELL should I know? – If we are to approach this monumental task with some degree of good humor and humility, it would be advisable to start by admitting that we don’t know what to do. We are making it up as we go along. 
  3. What am I WILLING to do? – There may be many things that we could do, but we will be most effective pursuing those things that we are so willing to do that we actually feel real motivation and passion to act. 
  4. What am I QUALIFIED to do? – On the short list of things that we can do and are willing to do, which ones are we most qualified to do? Do we have some training or background in certain kinds of skills that could be useful in helping to save the world? Can you build an electric car? Are you a good letter-writer? Are you an experienced public speaker? Do you know how to plant trees?

2OL Utopia with Stinky and Squeak March 2013

“Stinky and Squeak in Utopia,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013

Uniting People of Diverse Perspectives for Creative Solutions and Action 

Earth’s climate is warming rapidly and approaching the point of no return. Now is the time for people of diverse perspectives from every point on the political, socio-economic, and religious-cultural spectrums to unite for the purpose of innovation and action on creative solutions to preserve Earth as a habitable planet for future generations. In order to do this, we will all need to be willing to venture outside of our comfort zones to work with people we do not usually associate with, and to tolerate and even respect their points of view. 

Pope Francis expressed it eloquently during his inauguration homily on March 19, 2013, when he talked about the true meaning of the Christian vocation: 

“… It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the world… It means protecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live…” 

“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” 

Jerry Lee Miller and the other artists and I hope you can join us for “Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts” on April 20, 2013, 10 am to 12:30 (9:30 for coffee) at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St., Lancaster, PA 17603. Yours, – Kevin

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry — 1st Letter from Kevin

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

I have voted for both of you collectively three times for the Presidency, and I thank you for your steadfast service to our country in a time of peril. I also attended the Feb 17, 2013 “Forward on Climate” Washington D.C. rally with 40,000 concerned citizens, sponsored by the Sierra Club and 350.org, to ask you not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The world is now in a state of severe climate change crisis caused by human activity. We need your leadership to preserve the Earth as a habitable home for future generations of all life.

Some have said that Canada will exploit the double-carbon, bitumen-saturated tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.” That may be true, but is it moral and ethical for the U.S. to be complicit in this tar sands crime against the Earth and future generations? Famed NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, “If Canada proceeds and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” When he was asked to articulate three reasons why you, Mr. President, should reject the tar sands Keystone XL Pipeline, he replied, “Our children, our grandchildren; the other species on the planet; and Creation.”

Scientists all over the world and your own supporters are asking you to do everything in your power to stop the KXL Pipeline. Read the Potsdam Report commissioned by the World Bank. Time Magazine on March 3, 2013 said, “There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone XL isn’t one of them. It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet.” As 350.org founder Bill McKibben says, authorizing the KXL would be like approving an 800,000 barrel/day fuse to one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs. Please come down on the right side of history and stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

Here’s my own art for one of my many blog articles about what is happening to the Earth, “The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” – July 23, 2012 at http://TwoOldLiberals.com . Read it at http://TwoOldLiberals.WordPress.com/2012/07/23/the-corn-is-dead-whats-next-4/

Your supporter and deeply concerned citizen,
Kevin
co-founder, “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity,” Lancaster, PA. See our FaceBook page.

 

“Forward on Climate” 40,000 Rally in D.C. Feb 17, 2013 — Photos from Kevin

Kevin (left) and Robert (right) bought new silk long underwear, found their warmest hats and attended one of the hottest events of the year -- "Forward on Climate," on the mall in Washington D.C. Four buses carried 150+ concerned citizens from York and Lancaster, PA to the Washington Monument, under the very able guidance of the Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, Founder of "HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity" -- See our page on FaceBook.

Kevin (left) and Robert (right) bought new silk long underwear, found their warmest hats and attended one of the hottest events of the year — “Forward on Climate,” on the mall in Washington D.C. Four buses carried 150+ concerned citizens from York and Lancaster, PA to the Washington Monument, under the very able guidance of the Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, Founder of “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” — See our page on FaceBook.

 

Jacques Cousteau was right. A situation has indeed arisen on Planet Earth, causing all of us to join forces and demand action on climate change. Our great cities and coasts are begin torn apart by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Massive wilfires are burning the U.S. Southwest. A devastating drought decimated American Midwest crops in 2012. The Earth's atmosphere is 5% wetter and the oceans are much more acidic. Half of the arctic ice mass is gone in the summer, and an area larger than the U.S. melted in 2012. Chunks of Greenland are breaking off and floating away as flash melting and seismic activity increase. Mother Earth is crying out for our protection. It is our moral duty to stop these atacks against Her by ceasing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and switching to clean renewable energy so that future generations will inherit a planet that can support life. That is why 40,000 of us gathered by the Washington Monument and marched around the White House on a very cold, windy winter day. We joined forces to ask the whole world to come along with us in changing course for the benefit of all life on Earth.

Jacques Cousteau was right. A situation has indeed arisen on Planet Earth, causing all of us to join forces and demand action on climate change. Our great cities and coasts are being torn apart by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy. Massive wilfires are burning the U.S. Southwest. A devastating drought decimated American Midwest crops in 2012. The Earth’s atmosphere is 5% wetter and the oceans are much more acidic. Half of the arctic ice mass is gone in the summer, and an area larger than the U.S. melted in 2012. Big chunks of Greenland are breaking off and floating away as flash melting and seismic activity increase. Island nations are sinking as the oceans rise. Mother Earth is crying out for our protection. It is our moral duty to stop these atacks against Her by ceasing the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and switching to clean renewable energy so that future generations will inherit a planet that can support life. That is why 40,000 of us gathered by the Washington Monument and marched around the White House on a very cold, windy winter day. We joined forces to ask the whole world to come along with us in changing course to halt global climate change for the benefit of all life on Earth.

 

All 40,000 of us were entertained by live music and inspiring speakers. Robert Allen gave Jerry Lee Miller a bird hat, which he is wearing in this photo as he greets trombonist Soul Furnace, who played with his band on the streets around the White House for all of us to enjoy.

All 40,000 of us were entertained by live music and inspiring speakers. Robert Allen gave Jerry Lee Miller a bird hat, which he is wearing in this photo as he greets trombonist Soul Furnace, who played with his band on the streets around the White House for all of us to enjoy.

The most popular messages seen and heard at the "Forward on Climate" rally were "Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline," and "Switch from Fossil Fuels to Clean Renewable Energy" and "No More Fracking." It was and is all about ceasing the extraction and burning of carbon that is warming the planet and making it unsuitable as a habitat for life.

The most popular messages seen and heard at the “Forward on Climate” rally were “Stop the XL Keystone Pipeline,” and “Switch from Fossil Fuels to Clean Renewable Energy” and “No More Fracking.” It was and is all about ceasing the extraction and burning of carbon that is warming the planet and making it unsuitable as a habitat for life.

It was poignant to see so many compelling signs juxtaposed against the Washington Monument and the cloudy sky.

It was poignant to see so many compelling signs juxtaposed against the Washington Monument and the cloudy sky.

There were many handmade signs carried by the 40,000 concerned citizens who marched around the White House to demand action on climate change, including stopping the XL Keystone Pipeline and fracking. This tragic and beautiful original collage-painting was the best art we saw all day.

There were many handmade signs carried by the 40,000 concerned citizens who marched around the White House to demand action on climate change, including stopping the XL Keystone Pipeline and fracking. This tragic and beautiful original collage-painting was the best art we saw all day.

As the crowd grew from 30,000 to an estimated 50,000 for the march to the White House, we listened to inspiring talks like this one from Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, which co-sponsored the rally along with the Sierra Club and 150 other environmental organizations.

As the crowd grew from 30,000 to an estimated 50,000 for the march to the White House, we listened to inspiring talks like this one from Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, which co-sponsored the rally along with the Sierra Club and 150 other environmental organizations.

Rev. Jerry Lee Miller (left) and Susan Finn Miller (right) at the "Forward on Climate" rally in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2013. Jerry donated all of his time for well over a month to recruit and organize over 150 concerned citizens from Lancaster and York PA to fill four big buses for the rally. Jerry is the Founder of "HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity." See their page on FaceBook.

Rev. Jerry Lee Miller (left) and Susan Finn Miller (right) at the “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2013. Jerry donated all of his time for well over a month to recruit and organize over 150 concerned citizens from Lancaster and York PA to fill four big buses for the rally. Jerry is the Founder of “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity.” See their page on FaceBook.

NOW WHAT CAN WE DO?

Here are several concrete steps we can all take to demand that government and fossil fuel companies stop extracting and burning carbon and switch to clean renewable energy:

1. We can write to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry and our Senators and Congressional representatives asking them to halt the XL Keystone Pipeline, which NASA climatologist James Hansen said would mean “Game over” for the climate and our planet if this dirty carbon pipeline goes through.

2. We can write and call our state representatives and newspapers demanding a cessation of fracking and asking them for aggressive programs to promote switching to clean renewable energy sources like solar and wind and geothermal.

3. We can lobby our national church organizations and colleges and universities and other institutions to eliminate fossil fuel from their investment portfolios. Divestment worked to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. It can work again to save the planet as a habitat that will support life in the future.

4. We can all join a sensible science-based environmental organization like Bill McKibben’s 350.org or the Sierra Club nationally, and a local group like “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” in York and Lancaster, PA (See our FaceBook page) to promote visible, audible, creative action to halt climate change. If you can’t find a local group, start one. Write to me and I will tell you how.

5. If we know how to pray, now would be a good time to do that. Our planet is right on the edge of the amount of heating it can absorb (2 degrees Celsius) before truly catastrophic and extreme events begin to make Katrina and Sandy look like child’s play.

Ask youself three questions: A) What can I do? B) What am I willing to do? and C) What am I qualified to do? Think long and hard and make a list under each of those questions. If anything at all shows up on all three lists then DO THOSE THINGS. Now is the time, because time is running out. There is certainly no time to waste. Thank you for anything you can do, are willing to do and are qualified to do to help save Planet Earth as a habitable home for future generations of human beings and for all life supported  by our beautiful Mother Earth.

"Forward on Climate" rally and march in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2012
“Forward on Climate” rally and march in Washington D.C. Feb 17, 2012

Forward on Climate! Join us.

Yours, -Kevin