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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Trust Me

an updated 1991 op-ed by George Erickson
These two, simple words can oil troubled waters or ring bells of alarm. Sometimes they warn of Barnum's observation: "There's a sucker born every minute." Again and again, the proselytizers, the used car salesmen and the telephone solicitors strain our credulity. And when all else fails, the universal plea emerges - "Trust me."

When industry, politicians and governments make the same request, we often acquiesce. For decades, and especially during the 80s, those sirens sweet talked us with lyrics from Jesus Christ, Superstar: "Everything's alright, everything's fine... and you want to sleep well tonight...close your eyes, just relax, think of nothing tonigghhhhttttt..."

We trusted them; we went along. Led by the Reagan/Bush I and II trio, we restricted abortion and family planning both here and abroad. We reduced per capita spending on education, gutted OSHA, ignored environmental issues, and cut the taxes of the rich.

Allied with the Catholic Church, the Fundamentalists and the conservative "corps for consumption," too many administrations have endorsed a policy of "buy and breed." For a while we had a serious environmentalist Vice President, and now that environmental issues finally seem substantive, millions had finally awakened to the need. What these millions must also realize is that we will not solve our environmental problems until we address their causes, and the largest is overpopulation.

We were warned. There was Malthus, accompanied by a host of detractors. And though science has delayed his predicted crisis, we are still riding the rails he foresaw, heading towards the same destination, though on an accelerating timetable.

George Perkins, one of our first environmentalists, warned us a century ago that "by our tree cutting and swamp drainage we are breaking up the floor... and window frames of our dwelling for fuel to warm our bodies." Later came Paul Ehrlich and "The Population Bomb," the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" and the work of ZPG.

Then William McKibben wrote a very grim book titled, The End of Nature, and as the title implies, unless we change our ways, and change them soon, the "end of nature" is waiting in the wings.

"Nature," says McKibben, "takes forever." With eternity on its side, it has had all the ages past, and more to come. For eons, it has experimented, revised and remodeled at a patient, sub‑glacial pace. Things proceeded slowly – until the arrival of man.

Unlike the Bristlecone pines and the lichens that cling to outcroppings of frost shattered rocks, we live but a speck of time. But in the 2000 year life span of a single sequoia, man creates one hundred generations, making tiny steps along the path of evolution. Because we are curious folks and can leave nothing alone, science develops, and with it, technology.

However, knowledge grows faster than wisdom, so we switched from adapting to nature to shaping nature to suit our "needs." We turn the earth inside out in search of wealth, spreading tailings and dross over meadows and stream. We clear cut rain forests that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. In just thirty years we have raised atmospheric CO2 levels by 10%. Every year, our cars pump their own weight of carbon into the atmosphere – and millions of Chinese, Indians and Russians are waiting - eager to hit the road. To quote Mr. McKibben, what we are doing is like "taking a one week fling, and in the process, contracting a horrible disease."

As a greenhouse gas, methane is twenty times more harmful than CO2. Our stockyards, the termites that thrive in the debris of trashed rain-forests, and the rice paddies of the world all generate methane - but they make a "light" methane. An even greater threat is the "heavy" methane that lies locked in the frozen tundra and in the mud of the continental shelves. And here, says McKibben, "the story begins to get a little scary."

Let me put it simply. The greenhouse effect, which is already intensifying, warms air, land and sea, releasing heavy methane, which accelerates the greenhouse effect. As temperatures rise, the air absorbs more water vapor, itself a potent greenhouse gas. Nature, our patient, resilient benefactor is facing an assault like none before, though it will certainly survive in altered form, although we may not. But forget, for the moment, the greenhouse gases, and consider the forests that we water with acid rain.

As temperatures rise, the tree zones (and deserts) will move north forty miles for every added degree. Whole forests will die, for our northern soils are far less fertile than southern loams. Their oxygen production and their carbon dioxide consumption will stop. When NASA's James Hansen attempted to warn Congress of the "definite dangers of future drought," the Bush White House tried to change his testimony – and the Reagan administration's response to changes in the ozone layer was to recommend that we "wear caps and sunglasses."

George Will chided Senator Gore for being concerned about environmental issues "that are, in the eyes of the electorate, not even peripheral." People devoted to profit motive have laughed at those with a planet motive, and they would continue to prod nature further from its formerly providential role.

Where shall we house the displaced millions when the ice caps melt and the oceans rise? In your house? In mine? Or in the homes of those whose religions, greed and politics have pushed populations and pollution so high? Twenty percent of Bangladesh will disappear. The Nile delta, where most Egyptians reside, will submerge. Consider the Netherlands, our Gulf States and the near certainty that a hotter atmosphere and warmer oceans will produce storms that will make Hurricane Katrina routine.

Inland, as the dry Southwest expands north and east, the already endangered Ogallala aquifer, unreplenished by dwindling rains, will be sucked dry. The flow of the Colorado River, already a trickle where it enters Mexico, will drop by one third. The Great Lakes will slowly warm and green with oxygen-depleting algae. Fish will die. There are those who argue that increased rainfall near the poles will stop the warming, ushering in an early ice‑age instead. What a marvelous alternative! Crop losses would still be extreme, and their alternative scenario only emphasizes the need to adopt sensible environmental and population policies now!

Consider the ozone layer that filters out excessive ultra‑violet radiation, the layer George Bush Sr. trivialized by calling Senator Gore Mr. Ozone. Studies show that the resultant increase in UV radiation limits leaf growth, cuts crop yields and even reduces plankton, the basis of the ocean's great food chain. As plankton decrease, so do the tiny shrimp (krill) and all the higher forms: the tuna, the mackerel, the sardines, cod and whales. At this moment, about half of the world's protein needs are filled from the ocean. How shall we manage with more people and fewer fish? A miracle, perhaps?

Worse yet, a decrease in CO2-consuming plankton will accelerate the greenhouse effect. Then, in the words of George Bush's senior science advisor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, it will be "Hasta la vista, baby!" Some will claim that god will provide, that science will save us, or that more people will mean more minds to find a solution. Others take the Gaia hypothesis to the extreme, claiming that the planet is a living entity, capable of healing itself and providing for life. However, how do we know that nature will react in a way that will suit our needs. We must choose between those who urge a change in course, and those who love – and profit from - the status quo.

For me, it's a simple choice. I prefer cod and crustaceans to 400 hp Corvettes. I prefer contraception to Calcutta. I would dim Las Vegas' lights and mandate a change to energy efficient bulbs. I would restrict immigration to levels that balance emigration. I would limit free trade to countries with a stable population and comparable, ENFORCED environmental laws, and I would legislate trade barriers against those without.

Consider the environmental and population changes that have already degraded our earth and the lives of so many. Isn't our planet precious enough to safeguard with TOOTHY legislation? Will we act soon and sensibly or will we heed those who would have us cancel the Sobercab. “Party on,” they say, with music intended to soothe: "Don't worry... Be happy... " TRUST ME! www.tundracub.com
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Upcoming Speaker

On Sunday August 1, George Erickson, LSF newsletter editor, former MN Humanist President and former American Humanist Assoc. VP will present A Matter of Degrees: Global Warming is REAL, which is based on his 38 summers in the rapidly warming arctic.

George will also speak briefly about his latest book, Eyes Wide Open: Living, Laughing, Loving and Learning in a Religion-troubled World. Published by the American Humanist Association, Eyes Wide Open contains approx. one hundred 1-10 page essays, articles, stories, op-eds and poems about life from a freethinkers point of view.



George Erickson has written a real gem: a serious book in which he doesn’t take himself too seriously, a humorous book with important progressive messages. No one who reads Eyes Wide Open will be able to maintain the fiction that atheists have no sense of humor. Had Moses emerged from Mt. Sinai with “St. George’s 13 Commandments,” what a wonderful past couple of millennia this would have been. -Herb Silverman, Secular Coalition for America, President


An up front warning in Eyes Wide Open reads:

If you are a fundamentalist or a neocon who cannot abide dissent
Or if you are a conservative Catholic with a pope who's heaven sent
Don't buy this book!

COMPARISON SHOPPING

by Bill van Druten
A recent news item reported that almost all Americans are sure they are going to heaven. I have talked to some of them and I discovered that they will be flying on separate planes. You get your ticket from whatever cult you have selected but each one has its own airline.

They were all shocked that I wasn’t scheduled and each one pressed me to join his/her sect. They told me that eternity is a good long time and the flight is not so short either. I should get good seats right away.

I went to the nearby pastor and said I wanted to book some reservations. He put his arm abound my shoulder and led me to his sanctuary. Bill, if you put in with us it is a sure bet you’ll be in first class seating for your trip to the big fluffy cloud at Foreverland. All you have to do is get faith and I can supply that for you if you join up.

I thanked him but wanted to shop around. There was a more impressive church across the street and I poked in there. I got a warm welcome, a firm handshake and a reassuring smile. But the conversation left me unsettled. The minister said that the pastor across the street was a fool and sure to roast in hell. No, Bill, faith without good work is useless and at our place you contribute some money and we hire folks to do the good work for you. I said I needed to think it over and he said that was fine but I should hurry as a fiery doom hung over me.

So I went to the church on the other corner and asked the pastor if I signed on with him would I go to heaven. He got right to the point. Look Bill the decision has already been made. We are each predestined for the heavenly choir or the hot place; there is nothing we can do about it. Your minister and your pastor are just whistling Dixie. Nice tune but won’t get you squat upstairs. But if you are a tenor I can get you predestined and you are on your way with Calvin AIR Express.

Air Islam office was on the same block so I checked in. The owner had just stepped out of the shower and had his head wrapped in a towel. Oh, yes, we have an immediate seating plan. And you fly with some really nice virgins too. We can get you reservations. You only need to blow up yourself and a load of infidels and a building, that’s thirty-six virgins. But two buildings, you get seventy two virgins.’ The virgin part was tempting but the blow up part was less inviting.

The last option on that block was a cathedral. The priest made me sit in a little ticket booth where he explained it all to me through a grill, Oh, those cults, ignore them! Just get to a priest for a confession before you croak and all is well. You roll the beads and do some Bloody Marys, a nice donation is good and you’re in. It even works for our guys that diddle the little boys and girls. They are all up there you know. First class tickets and no waiting for check in.

You can be sure that I was plenty confused. Five confirmed tickets to heaven but each had a different flight plan. And here is the hard part. Each cult was absolutely certain that the others were false superstitions. I thought and thought. I figured that some of them must be wrong, but which ones. I thought some more until I saw the light. They all were frauds! I decided I would just die and be done with it. I didn’t want to be anywhere with those liars.

Obama to Nominate Jesus Christ to Supreme Court

By Rick Chertoff, Reader Supported News President
Barack Obama is expected to nominate Jesus Christ, an immigrant originally born to a virgin mother in Bethlehem, to fill the new vacancy on the Supreme Court. Although Mr. Christ is over 2,000 years old, He is immortal, so Democrats and Republicans expect that He will serve on the high court forever or until He decides to start the End Times. Republicans are expected to fight the nomination on the grounds that Mr. Christ would radically move the Court to the left.

The GOP is also concerned that, despite decades of controversy and speculation, Mr. Christ has never revealed his position on abortion. Mr. Christ, according to many authorities, is expected to oppose the death penalty in all forms. Michael Steele, the head of the GOP national committee, issued a statement: "Christ is a complete mystery to us. He won't reveal His physical appearance and many of His positions are unknown or the subject of speculation. He is a stealth candidate. Why won't He reveal himself? Who does He think He is?"

Republicans are reportedly outraged that Mr. Obama even considered Mr. Christ, who has been widely quoted for his sentiments supporting the poor over the wealthy. In a Facebook post, former half-term Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin called for an investigation into the Bethlehem chapter of ACORN because of what she termed the "highly suspicious" coincidence that both President Obama and Mr. Christ had each spent three years as community organizers. In her post, Palin also wrote that "More and more of good God-fearing smalltime Americans from hardworking smalltime towns from great parts of this real America, West, South, East, North, are seeing more and more every day that Christ is a community organizer. We don't need another community organizer in the White House!"

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) asked, "We're not even sure where He was born. Why is He afraid to show us his birth certificate?" Bachmann also announced that she would vote "no" when the Christ nomination came before the House of Representatives. Later, her congressional staff released a statement saying that the Congresswoman had forgotten that the House does not vote on judicial nominations.

According to Rush Limbaugh, "Christ doesn't know anything about free enterprise. This is part of the Obama conspiracy to drag us to socialism. If this guy is approved, I'm moving to Costa Rica." Sobbing, Glenn Beck attacked Christ's support for the separation of church and state, telling his audience "You know who else wanted a separation of church and state? Hitler."

Several priests were contacted for comment but refused to discuss the issue, and, even though they weren't asked, all empathetically denied that they had personally molested any children.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances of shoving Mr. Christ down the throats of Americans using normal constitutional and parliamentary procedures. Many Democrats are hopeful that Mr. Christ's past associations with prostitutes will earn him at least one Republican vote, that of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

If confirmed, Christ will be the first Supreme Court Justice who has at least one American city named after him: Corpus Christi, Texas.

Cardinal hailed bishop for hiding predator priest

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor - > VATICAN CITY (Reuters)
A Vatican cardinal in charge of clergy around the world congratulated a French bishop in a 2001 letter for not denouncing a sexually abusive priest to the police, according to a French website on Thursday.

The letter posted by Golias, a critical lay Roman Catholic magazine based in Lyon, is the most explicit of a wave of recently published internal church documents in showing past Vatican encouragement tocover up sexual abuse by priests.

In the letter dated Sept 8, 2001, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos backed French Bishop Pierre Pican's decision not to denounce a priest who was later sentenced to 18 years in jail for repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on 10 others. Under fire in recent weeks for its secretive handling of abuse cases, the Vatican has insisted the fact that other published documents did not explicitly instruct bishops to inform police of abuse did not prove it told them to hide it.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi did not dispute the letter's content but said it confirmed "how opportune it was to centralize treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, instructed Catholic bishops around the world on May 18, 2001 to report all case of clerical sexual abuse of minors to the Congregation, the top Vatican doctrinal office that he headed.

Pican, who received a suspended three-month jail sentence for not denouncing sexual abuse of minors, admitted in court he had kept Rev. Rene Bissey in parish work despite the fact the priest had privately admitted committing pedophile acts.

The case shocked France and prompted its bishops to declare that all abuse cases must be reported to civil authorities.

"I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration," Castrillon Hoyos said. "You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."

BISHOPS NOT REQUIRED TO INFORM POLICE In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had "very special links of spiritual paternity." Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against "a direct relative," he stated. The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.

"To encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate domain, this Congregation will send copies of this letter to all bishops' conferences," Castrillon Hoyos wrote.

A staunch conservative from Colombia, the cardinal headed the Vatican department for priests from 1996 to 2006. From 2000 to 2009, he also ran a commission dealing with traditionalist rebels who broke from Rome in 1988 and were excommunicated.

He conducted the talks that led to the January 2009 decision to readmit the four banned bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X to the Church, which caused an uproar when it emerged that one of them, Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust.

The controversy was highly embarrassing to Pope Benedict, who said he did not know about Williamson's views, even though they could easily be found on the internet.

Two months after the incident, Benedict folded Castrillon Hoyos's commission into the Congregation and the cardinal retired. On Thursday the pope said the church had to do penance for its sins, in a rare public reference to the pedophilia scandal.