Posts Tagged 'politics'

Jeff Merkley For U.S. Senate

Jeff MerkleyJeff Merkley, of my home state of Oregon, is now one of the top hopes in the nation for the Democrats to take leadership of the U.S. Senate. Yesterday’s election results mean that he’ll be running against Republican incumbent Senator Gordon Smith in the November election. I want him to win!

I’ll be supporting Jeff with dollars and time, and so will my husband Thor. We got to meet him last summer at a big house party in the country. (A great thing about a state the population-size of Oregon is that elected officials and candidates are truly accessible to you.) When I shook his hand and spoke with him I was struck by his kind, sincere, soft-spoken manner. Jeff is not slick, not full of himself, not drunk with dreams of power. And his leadership as Speaker of the Oregon House has been excellent.

In theory, I favor bipartisan politics and avoiding the polarization that our two-party system creates. That’s one reason I support Barack Obama: he is inclusive and not entrenched in ideology. But it’s impossible to ignore that Democrats get global warming, and the urgency of acting on it NOW, while Republicans do not. While I could say the same thing about universal health care, and corporate responsibility, and ending the Iraq war etc., global warming trumps all those issues. Global warming threatens civilization itself, and dealing with it means retooling ourselves into low-carbon lifestyles. It’s doable.

photo courtesy of Thomas Le Ngo

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John Edwards: More Grit Than Gloss

I’m sad that John Edwards has exited the presidential race. Why? I saw his as the most honest and courageous voice on the national stage, between his populist stand against poverty, naming corporate greed for what it is, and . . . imagine this . . . promoting that Americans should be willing to sacrifice as we address global warming.

I heard Mr. Edwards use those words when I was ten feet away from him at a Portland Business Alliance dinner in 2007 at the Oregon Convention Center. I have heard many speakers and been around many politicians. Yet I was deeply impressed. He was more gritty than glossy, almost in contrast to his good looks.

Mr. Edwards has called Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with the news of his exit, specifically asking them to commit to addressing poverty more in their campaigns. I find it ironic that the populist candidate who stood most firmly for the common man ended up sacrificing his popularity in the process.

What almost nobody is talking about is the fact that poor people will suffer the most as global warming advances, and already are in the low-lying coastal areas of the world.

Get The Candidates On Topic, Please!

As I’m following the primaries, two things keep coming to mind: why isn’t global warming central to the problems the candidates are addressing? And why aren’t we and the media expecting more courage and leadership from them on such an obvious problem?

Newspapers nattering about likability reminds me of the guys rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic was sinking. The largest scientific consensus that the world has ever seen (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is clear that polar icecaps are melting and inundated coastlines will create millions of refugees. On the solution side, there is huge opportunity in the economic transformation needed to move out of fossil fuel dependency. But the candidates give this the tiniest lip service, if that.

Whichever candidates we like or dislike, we citizens and the media should be pressing all the candidates on aggressive responses to climate change. Scratch that: we should be pressing everyone currently in office to make it a top priority.

The last time I was in a public forum with one of my senators from Oregon, I locked eyes with him and said, “Senator Smith, what is your plan for dealing with global warming?”

His answer came down to a dissembling minimization of the problem and a fear that if other countries in effect don’t go first, the U.S. will lose economically. It wasn’t a debate forum so I didn’t argue, but my hard eyes may have indicated I wasn’t buying it.

Later, a governmental affairs officer from a major Oregon company told me I had kicked Senator Smith’s butt. That such a mild confrontation would be seen as a strong one speaks worlds to what minimal courage we are mustering thus far from both our politicians and ourselves on dealing with the hardest problem in our world.

Greed and Good In the Face of Climate Change

Today I need to transfer $1,000 from Thor’s and my checking account into a savings account for taxes. Oh the joy. I’m doing a contracted project for Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center here in Oregon (joyful work, no joke) and of course as a contractor I’m responsible for my own taxes. Hence the need to save for them.

There is a greedy one inside of me that could resent taxes if I go down that mental trail. I don’t go down it because I know taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society featuring common-good things like roads and schools. Still, I think there is a greedy one inside each of us. I’d say human greed is a major player in our culture’s health care crisis, unsustainable use of resources, and so on.

But there’s much more to our nation than greed. For instance: seventy-five percent of people in the U.S. give to charity. Most of them aren’t even in a bracket to use those contributions as tax deductions. And low to middle income people give proportionately more of their income than more affluent people. Too, millions volunteer their time in any given year to ease suffering. I’d say humans are both greedy AND altruistic.

So what? So this: we’re at a pivotal point in global history where the consequences of undisciplined consumption and greed — that would be climate change — are forcing us to make a jump in our evolution away from greed. The common good now is a bigger animal than roads and schools; it is slowing climate change by using less fossil fuels. Altruistic in some cases, economically beneficial in other cases.

And the willingness to lower our national carbon footprint has to come from us, the citizenry, because governmental regulations in the end will reflect only our level of willingness, and no more. I know many disagree on that, so I welcome your comments.