Autumn in America


Autumn in America

I woke up this morning in a new America.  One in which a misogynistic, Islamaphobic, anti-Semitic, ill informed, petulant,  no nothing candidate is now the President elect. My first thought as I read the news and the commentary was, “is this how Fascism comes to America?”

Then I looked out my kitchen window and the landscape hasn’t changed. It is still Fall in the mountains, our meadow in the rain has a muted beauty, and my companion of decades is next to me. My love for  and devotion to  my family and friends hasn’t changed.  My anxiety was still there this morning but so were the beginnings of resolve.  I am an old man who has spent his adult life in quixotic endeavors with mostly positive outcomes.  Now I must find a path forward that protects my grandchildren who will be growing up in a world of unknown menace.

A dystopian future that just yesterday seemed quaintly remote – giving us time to begin to build a locally based economy and support system is a clock that has just been reset.

A new economy, new inclusion, a different kind of franchise, cooperative food systems, local currency, local power, cooperative enterprises, renewed and stronger networks of like minded people,  have become urgent endeavors.   Despite what will be strong resistance by a significant portion of our population that will look at these ideas unsympathetically, we cannot be deterred.

The five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are supposedly a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what has been lost. I am still in denial bordering on anger.  Bargaining seems useless, depression is not an option, and I cannot accept this outcome without raging against it. I thought I was done with my life’s work, and was at the stage where I should be passing on my knowledge and experience to a new generation, but instead I must  be prepared to participate in the revolution that will be needed to create and implement an alternative to what I fear is our future.


The Climate Speech President Obama Must Make


The Moral Dilemma of Continued Fossil Fuel Use in an Age of Climate Change

Over the past decade we have seen horrific drought in California and Texas, India and Africa; record floods on the Mississippi and Missouri, in Britain, and Pakistan; the worst wildfires in history in the American West, Australia and Russia. Everywhere around the globe, climate change is bringing an unprecedented escalation in human suffering and economic harm.

And yet, the global average temperature has risen by a mere degree. Scientists tell us that if we do nothing, we could easily see twice as much, or 4 to 5 times more warming, by century’s end, fueling disastrous weather never before seen by civilization. Rapidly melting ice caps; rising sea levels; intensifying heat waves, super storms and mega droughts; acidifying oceans and dying coral reefs, collapsing water supplies, declining crop harvests, teeming eco-refugees and escalating global conflict are happening now, and going to get much worse, says the newest Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change report. The climate disasters endured so far, and dire events to come, threaten an unparalleled wave of human suffering — making climate change the dominant moral issue of the 21st century.

Our fossil fuel addiction, if unabated, endangers our children and their children — civilization itself. If President Obama is to respond to this crisis, he must do so now with the same moral courage and frankness with which Franklin Roosevelt faced the Great Depression and the fascists in World War II, and with which Lincoln dealt with the pro-slavery South.

President Obama’s legacy will clearly be judged on his ability to emancipate us from the economic and corporate tyranny of fossil fuels. This requires his directly challenging the lies of the climate deniers who have put us on the path to planetary ecocide — the “Oil Eight,” the Koch Brothers, and an uninformed or completely out of touch media, that is ruining our democracy with Citizen’s United and other political outrages, and wrecking our ecosystems and economy with fracking, the ta rsands Keystone XL pipeline, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and other offenses against humanity and nature.

As worldwide human suffering and the economic crisis brought by climate change deepens, the President must lead. He must decide whether our fossil fuel addiction is “right” or “wrong.” He must base the rightness and wrongness of this addiction not only on science or economics but on the principles of human justice. It is time for the President to direct moral outrage at the treacherous obfuscations of the fossil fuel industry and its calculated attack on our environment, our democracy, and on governments and habitat worldwide.

The President will not likely come to this decision or this declaration on his own. As with Roosevelt and Lincoln, Obama must be brought to the decision by the people. Activist Bill McKibben of argues convincingly that, “The fossil fuel industry is a rogue industry.” He declares that if these rogue corporations continue to have their way, “We stand to emit five times as much CO2 as even the most conservative government says is safe,” damning the civilized world. “The fuel will definitely be burned unless we change the story line.”

Only we, the American people, can change this story line. The new narrative we create must include the voices of farmers and farmworkers losing their crops and livelihoods to California’s drought; the ranchers who lost their herds to searing heat in Texas and Oklahoma; the Coloradans who lost their homes to record flood and fire; the citizens of Tuscaloosa and Joplin who lost their towns to tornadoes; the people of Far Rockaway, New York, and New Orleans who lost their communities to hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

This new narrative, directly connecting unprecedented human suffering to climate change, will not arise out of international conferences or on the floor of Congress. Instead it will push up from the bottom. This new story line must come from the heart, be as unyielding in its principles, and as unflinching in its sense of moral indignation as was William Lloyd Garrison when he demanded slavery’s abolition in 1831. Garrison wrote in the Liberator:

“I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm: tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — and I will be heard.”.

The future of our children is in the balance. Life on this earth is at risk. As our world teeters on the edge of catastrophic climate change, we must demand that President Obama lead. He must oppose the morally corrupt fossil fuel industry with the courage of one who carries forward the flag in a just cause, serving all humankind. The President must commit us to building America’s future and the world’s future on a new, sane, sustainable economic footing. This is what he should say:

Emancipation from Fossil Fuels: A New Birth of Freedom

Most of the links in blue indicate that the entire paragraph is a  quote from the President or other world leaders

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens: Good evening, I come before the Congress and the People of the United States tonight because no country can hide from the horrific harm of carbon pollution, the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel industry, their paid denier minions, or the reality of the great danger we face as a nation.  Continue reading

Responsible Rebuilding After Sandy, New Jersey Needs Climate Change Leadership

Responsible Rebuilding After Sandy

Taking Climate Change Seriously, The South Jersey Journal, and have published this as an oped and open letter to Governor Christie.  The Star Ledger published the OPED as well

Four Walls and a Roof quoted from the OPED “many New Jerseyans- among other concerned parties- are urging the New Jersey Coastal Commission and various state and local authorities to take a more proactive stance. In particular, Andrew Willner, past NY/NJ Baykeeper former scholar at Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute has called on Governor Christie and the  Commission to “make the hard choices…to retreat from the coast when necessary.”

NJ needs climate change leadership

NJ needs climate change leadership

The following link is the letter sent to Governor Christie Sandy Memo to Christie


The people of New Jersey have come through a hard time; Hurricane Sandy devastated Sandy NJour communities, businesses and homes. I want to thank the Governor for his strong leadership through it all. His swift action in ordering a mandatory evacuation saved lives, and his bipartisanship resulted in a comprehensive, coordinated state and federal response.

However, I am disappointed in the Governor’s failure, so far, to lead us in preparing for the dangers ahead. The Atlantic Ocean continues to rise and warm, making hurricanes stronger and every storm surge more harmful. Irene and Sandy were back-to-back warnings. Now is the time to prepare for the fiercer weather of the very near future.

Now is the time to launch an innovative N.J. Coastal Commission to address climate change and oversee the rebuilding effort. This body would assure the future safety of our communities, and the protection of our coasts against intensifying storms.

The N.J. Coastal Commission would use the best science and technical knowledge to implement climate change adaptation strategies. It would help us rebuild smarter, strengthening building codes, and generating strategies for flood-proofing homes, towns, and vital but vulnerable buildings, such as hospitals, police and fire stations.

The Commission would make sure our nuclear plants and other energy infrastructure; harbors, roads, railways, and airports; drinking water supplies; and wastewater treatment plants were built to withstand more violent storms.

It would oversee the re-mapping of our coasts to anticipate new trouble spots, suggesting
images “hard infrastructure,” such as sea walls, and “soft infrastructure,” like expanded coastal Islands, oyster reefs, dunes and greenbelts to reduce storm surges. It would help us to make the hard choices, retreating from the coast where necessary.

The N.J. Coastal Commission would create coastal resiliency and establish thorough storm emergency preparedness measures, anticipating and preventing future harm.

I also encourage the Governor to re-engage with other Northeastern state governors in
the Regional Green House Gas Initiative to address Irene, Sandy and the “new normal” which threatens us with more extreme storms. It is high time that our state took responsibility for our carbon contribution to climate change and made efforts to curb it.

We live in dangerous time, when “business as usual” will not suffice.That way leads to certain pain, peril and economic ruin. The more visionary path, to A Bright Green Future for our state is far more challenging. It is a road we must build as we walk it.

The most recent storms to impact New Jersey harshly pointed out flaws in our current development patterns. Hurricane Sandy, for all its devastation, was just a Category 1 storm, while last year’s Hurricane Irene was “only” a tropical storm. The landfall of far more ferocious, future storms is not only possible, but likely.

The unprecedented destruction from Hurricane Sandy and the public policy challenges of Wetlandsits aftermath make this a critically important transformative period in New Jersey history, and a singular moment to demonstrate leadership. I urge Governor Christie to seize this opportunity to initiate bold action resulting in lasting protections for New Jersey’s economy, environment, energy, and equity.

As the NY/NJ Baykeeper, I learned to see the New Jersey/New York Bioregion not as a collection of states or towns, competing industries or interests, but as a unified place. When seen from space our Bioregion is without seams. Its green mountains and hills feed thousands of tributaries, flowing into our magnificent estuary and the sea. Ours is a vulnerable state worth protecting, but protection now will take courageous leadership.