Weekly Letter to the President
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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 23, 2018
Mr. President: Happy Thanksgiving! It is quite a holiday. In one day, we manage to
eat and enjoy 44 million turkeys, twice the number consumed at Christmas. Yes,
vegetarians may live longer and vegans even more so, but the smell of a roasting
turkey in the kitchen lingering in the nostrils, titillating appetites as friends and
relations gather, is synonymous with Thanksgiving -- a meal where it is politic to keep
politics away from the table.
Yet the news about our world cannot cease. The annual greenhouse gas bulletin
issued by the World Meteorological Organization reports a new high in CO2 levels of
405.5 parts per million reached in 2017; it is 46 percent higher than preindustrial
levels. The rising trend continues for on May 14, 2018, another high of 412.60 ppm
The enthusiastic consumption of meat in industrialized countries is one cause. The
worst culprits are lamb, mutton and beef because sheep, goats and cattle are
ruminants and their digestive systems release methane mostly through belching
rather than the other end. Cattle emit so much greenhouse gas that if they were a
country they "would be the planet's third largest greenhouse gas emitter." They
produce an astounding 270,000 tonnes of emissions over their agricultural life cycle
per tonne of protein, multiple times more than pork or poultry or eggs. Transferring
our carnivorous instincts from beef to poultry reduces so much emissions as to be
near as good as being vegetarian although not quite.
Another way of imagining the effect is to translate a kilo of food sources into the
number of car miles driven to produce the same emissions. A kilo of beef equates to
63 miles. Eating chicken reduces this by 47 miles, rice by another 10, lentils by 4
When people ask, 'but what can I do about climate change?' we have an answer, 'eat
less beef.' We can drive less by cutting unnecessary trips -- for example, grocery
shopping only once a week. Turning down the thermostat in winter and up in summer
to reduce energy consumption (and lower gas and electricity bills), walking or
bicycling instead of driving short distances for better health and for our environment
are suggestions we have heard before. It is time we complied.
COP24 or to give it its official name the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is upon us (December 3rd to 14th
in Katowice, Poland). Its purpose is to develop an international agreement compelling
all countries to implement the Paris accord on climate change; it limits global mean
temperature rise to 2 degrees C.
Meanwhile the IPCC was charged with comparing the 2C rise with a 1.5C rise and the
risks to the world of both. The IPCC report unveiled to the world on October 8, 2018
was far from sanguine. There the matter rests as we await COP24.
The U.S. government's Fourth Climate Assessment was released Friday afternoon. A
massive undertaking involving 13 Federal Agencies and 300 scientists it portrays a
somber reality of hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses, damage to health
and a compromised quality of life. It warns of crop failures, altered coastlines,
expanding wild fires and severe weather events.
The young have an answer to the tardiness of the U.S. government officialdom to act
on these reports. In Eugene, Oregon, they have gone to the courts. They accuse
the government of endangering their future by failing to alleviate the effects of climate
change and promoting antithetical policies. Lawyers from the current and previous
administrations have tried to have the case dismissed; they have requested stays all
the way the Supreme Court where they were denied, and now are on a temporary
stay ordered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow trial preparation. The
District Judge has promised to issue a trial date once the Appeals Court lifts the
The president does not believe his own government's climate assessment -- he also
does not accept the CIA's conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
ordered the Jamal Khashoggi killing. Donald Trump's perverse hostility to the organs
of government is being played out not only in the embarrassing possible presence of
the Crown Prince at the coming G-20 meeting but worse still in the mounting damage
to the environment, in the worsening of greenhouse gasses instead of abatement,
and in the decline of U.S. preeminence and influence as observed during the WWI
memorial ceremonies in Paris recently.
For now let's cheer for the kids in Eugene, Oregon ... even if countries other than the
U.S. produce about 88 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This country can lead