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
November 29, 2013
Mr. President: One day late but a happy Thanksgiving holiday to you and your family;
plus a long and happy life to the turkey traditionally pardoned.
While the news has centered on the Iran deal, a more significant event was another
failure at the 'climate change' talks in Warsaw, Poland that ended November 23rd.
India and China and developing countries want exceptional treatment because the
problem they remind us has been caused by industrialized countries -- hardly a
reason to make it worse. The environmentalist groups led by Greenpeace, World
Wildlife Fund, Oxfam and others (almost 800 representatives) walked out because
Warsaw delivered nothing concrete towards a sustainable future. Arguments and
accusations continue to fly back and forth; meanwhile, the earth is warming. We all
know sea temperatures are rising. The storms are more and more severe: the latest,
typhoon Haiyan, reportedly the worst to ever hit the Philippines with winds reaching
the highest speed recorded.
The conflict between economic growth and a finite planet continues: the world
remains a slave to GDP growth to improve living conditions and accommodate
growing populations. The model is clearly not sustainable, yet no realistic alternatives
on the horizon and nothing is ever enough. In wealthier suburbia, single-story houses
are being torn down and replaced by huge two-and three story mansions while family
size has not changed. 'To hell with the carbon footprint' seems to be the motto.
One in three in India live on less than $1.25 per day. That is 400 million people. A
similar number have no access to the power grid. In the villages, people use wood or
dried cakes of dung mixed with straw for cooking and heating. Given India's
notoriously polluting coal-fired generating plants, one can imagine the effect of
adding the population equivalent of Europe to the grid. Thus, the need for new
technology, the development of local generation, the need for simple solar panels,
radiant heat, solar cookers and so on.
But surely, it is best to teach by example. So why not solar panels on roofs in this
country? Imagine the reduction in carbon footprint if each household self-generated
half its annual energy needs. If they drove an electric car to boot, the U.S. would far
surpass any carbon emission reduction commitments.
Thanksgiving this year fell in the same day as Hanukkah. Someone with more spare
time than most has calculated it will not happen again for 70,000 years. In the old
days, such an event might be auspicious enough, but then if we add the comet Ison,
which nips behind the sun in perihelion on the same day, and the Merlins of old would
be busy studying portents. Will the sun destroy it or will it emerge burning leaving a
blazing trail and what does that signify for our future? At one time in human history
such events were viewed with a mixture of fear and awe. Not much anymore as we
raise ourselves above superstitions, although not quite entirely.
A second volume of Mark Twain's "Autobiography" is being published as he intended
-- not earlier than a hundred years after his death (1910). From gods to Anglo Saxon
expansionism, his comments are withering and revealing in the inability of humanity to
live together in peace despite the "millions of gods [the human] race has been
manufacturing since it nearly ceased to be monkeys". Or the arms race madness, as
he saw it a hundred years ago, of countries seeking to advantage themselves by
going "one battleship better". On expansionism he notes: "The English and the
Americans are thieves, highwaymen, pirates, and we are proud to be of the
combination." If so little has changed, what hope for rational sacrifices in the cause of