Weekly Letter to the President
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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
September 6, 2019 (posted September 9)
Mr. President: When the Duke of Windsor, the former Edward VIII, was made
governor of the Bahamas in 1940, he and his wife Wallis Simpson arrived to peaceful
islands favored by a benign climate, away from the violent upheavals of a war-torn
Whatever the reasons -- and many point to rising sea temperatures from climate
change -- the climate in the Caribbean is a little less benign as the unfortunate
residents of Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico among others have noticed in the last few
And now hurricane Dorian, a category 5 monster when it made landfall on the
northern island of Abaco and Grand Bahama on Sunday. The strongest storm on
record to hit the islands with winds reaching 185 mph, it left not a single roof
untouched in Abaco, some areas being completely obliterated as if nothing had ever
How many dead? Nobody knows yet. Shelters designed to accommodate a few
dozen are crammed with a thousand and more. Sarah St. George, the chairman of
the Grand Bahama Port Authority experienced it first hand. "Grand Bahama is not in
good shape at all because 70 percent of it is under water." If water is up to the
second floor, then people have lost everything. Recovery will be long and arduous.
The islands need help and is owed it. Mia Mottley the prime minister of Barbados put
it bluntly: "We are on the front line of the consequences of climate change and we
don't cause it." Climate experts predict worse and more frequent storms in the
future. Dorian, for example, formed in August, earlier than normal. Global warming is
playing havoc with weather and warmer seas fuel more moisture-laden, powerful
Sea levels are rising from higher temperature expansion and greater ice melt,
increasing the danger to coastal communities. In Greenland, the melting ice caps and
sheets by a record amount have surprised researchers, who say this summer's melt
has been enough to raise global sea levels by one millimeter. The ice sheet is 2-3 km
thick and covers an area six times the size of Germany. If all that ice melted, it would
raise sea levels worldwide by 7 meters or almost 23 feet.
When greenhouse gases are causing global warming, responsibility lies with the
largest producers/polluters. Would an international court find them liable to the small
island nations suffering the consequences? But then, if it does, who is going to
persuade them to pay up?
It is in everyone's interest to reduce global warming and since the powers that be do
not listen to us, 16-year old Greta Thunberg is doing something about it. To prove
her point on greenhouse gases she refused to take a transatlantic flight, crossing on
a sailboat instead to attend the United Nations climate summit later this month. While
she gears up for it, she is also preparing for the global strike on Friday September
20th preceding the climate summit on the Monday following. She chose Friday, a
workday, because she is asking adults to join the action and stay away from their jobs.
Of course UN climate summit reports try to achieve consensus and in doing so have
to appease fossil fuel producers. If caveats are multiplied and uncertainties
magnified, it is all part of the game.
Then there are the unexpected consequences. As electric cars multiply and the
demand for copper escalates, new sources must be developed. Thus a new copper
mine is being dug in the pristine wilderness of northern Norway, north of the Arctic
Circle. How well will reindeer and their Sami herders coexist with copper mining in the
sparse wilderness is an open question.