Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
June 1, 2012
Mr. President: This week in Bonn there was a meeting on climate change -- arguably
more important than NATO in Chicago the previous week, yet receiving much less
attention. As all such meetings lately, it was a disappointment. It could establish a
consensus only on a partial agenda for the next meeting. In fact some of the
participants attempted to backtrack from the December Durban agreement to work on
the new treaty commencing 2020.
The major roadblocks are India and China: their reservations hinging on the issue of
aid by rich countries to ease the burden of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Europe is taking the lead in this effort but economic woes have dampened its ardor.
Even more urgent, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is to expire this year. It is currently the
only treaty imposing legally binding emission cuts -- except on us of course, because
we are not signatories. Canada with its new conservative government, and Japan
suffering economic woes are now dropping out of Kyoto, leaving only Europe among
the rich countries.
These are no-win issues in an election year, and one can understand the low profile
maintained by the White House. However, the extension to Kyoto is to be finalized in
Qatar this November. Why can we not consider joining the agreement post-election?
It will be a tough battle but as things stand now, we seem to rely solely on converting
from coal to cheaper gas for any reduction in emissions.
In the recent May issue of Harper's are excerpts of interviews (p.19) by U.S.
Geological Survey researchers conducted with Yup'ik hunters and elders in the
Alaskan villages of St. Mary's and Pitka's Point, as part of a study of indigenous
people's experiences with climate change. They report much less snow, the ice
formed now is about three feet thick when it used to be double that fifty years ago. In
spring during breakup, ice jams would form on the Yukon, and light planes would be
sent to bomb the jams -- not needed any more. Ptarmigan have disappeared, as has
the northwest Arctic herd of caribou they hunted.
We are spending trillions of dollars fighting a small band of terrorists, but their
activities will seem like flea bites in comparison with the virulent environmental
smallpox awaiting us in fifty years if steps are not undertaken now.
As I drive up to the picturesque Upper Peninsula, after an absence of nearly three
decades, the first bumpy difference is the severely deteriorated road surface. There
is a desperate need for infrastructure improvement and modernization.
Complementing this is the dearth of jobs confirmed yet again by today's
unemployment and jobs figures. The disappointment lies in this administration's
manifest failure to adequately marry these needs.