Climate Change is Really Political

2012 Drought Conference

2012 Drought Conference

If one didn’t think the U.S. discussion of climate change was political, think again. U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia), added an amendment to a House appropriations bill to fund the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would prohibit the two agencies from using funds that would “design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

Another way to put it, from McKinley’s perspective, is if you don’t like science, ban it.

House Republicans took exception to the Department of Defense addressing the recommendations of the National Climate Assessment, and have added two agencies whose work is directly related to mitigating the effects of extreme weather to their list.

The floor debate captured the essence of the politics of climate change:

“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.”

Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said it disregards the research of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.

“The Republicans, in general, don’t seem to trust the scientists,” Kaptur said. “This amendment requires the Department of Energy to assume that carbon pollution isn’t harmful and that climate change won’t cost a thing. That’s nothing but a fantasy.”

What next? Click here to read the rest of David Gutman’s coverage of this story in the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette.

And consider that June 2014 was the hottest month on record since records have been collected. Politicians like McKinley would deny the reality of human contributions toward global warming at the same time climate data released from the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that the worldwide average temperature over land and sea in June 2014 was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees. That is reality.

People seeking scientific proof of anthropogenic global climate change are barking up the wrong tree. The goal of science, if unlike McKinley, we accept science, is not to prove, but to explain aspects of the natural world.

Around 1850, physicist John Tyndall discovered that carbon dioxide traps heat in our atmosphere, producing the greenhouse effect, which enables all of creation as we know it to live on Earth.

Carbon dioxide increased as a percentage of our atmosphere since Tyndall’s time at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, Earth’s average temperature increased by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The disturbance of the global carbon cycle and related increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is identifiably anthropogenic because of the isotope signature of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

We can also observe the effects of global warming in worldwide glacier retreat, declining Arctic ice sheets, sea level rise, warming oceans, ocean acidification, and increased intensity of weather events.

It is no wonder almost all of climate scientists and all of the national academies of science in the world agree climate change is real, it is happening now, it’s caused by humans, and is cause for immediate action before it is too late.

Politicians like McKinley don’t get it, and advocate against reality. That’s nothing new for some members of the Republican Party.

~ Written for The Climate Reality Project

Dry Weather Returns

30 Pounds of Broccoli

30 Pounds of Broccoli

LAKE MACBRIDE— When the ditch in front of our house dried enough to run the lawn tractor through, it was a sign that dry conditions were returning to Big Grove. 140th Street remains flooded, but most of the other roads in the county are passable. After an exceptionally wet and pleasant spring and early summer, the hot, humid weather has returned and we need rain.

Forcing myself outside, away from kitchen work, I pulled weeds from very dry soil before the day got too hot. I watered the vegetables, hoping dew and rain later in the week will nourish them— will be watering again before nightfall.

Broccoli Closeup

Broccoli Closeup

The last 24 hours has been what local food enthusiasts live for— securing broccoli for the winter, blanching and freezing it. It is work, with these outcomes: the best heads were kept fresh to cook later in the week; some of the best looking florets ever are processed and freezing; stems will be converted to soup, which then will be canned for later use; the freezer is getting a thorough cleaning of last year’s produce to make room, some of them going into the aforementioned soup; frozen rhubarb will be converted to sauce and canned; blueberries? Who knew?; and finally, vegetables that were frozen and are now coming in fresh will be composted.

Last night and today’s work is positive in so many ways.

That said, would it be better to buy frozen broccoli from the store during winter? When one lives close to the means of production, the answer is an emphatic no.

Iowa’s Summer Campaign Has Begun

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

A small group of local, long-time political activists met last week with one of the 80 or so paid organizers for the Coordinated Campaign of the Iowa Democratic Party. Electing Bruce Braley as Iowa’s next U.S. Senator was at the top of our to-do list.

We don’t see each other often, but share the experience of working on election campaigns over many cycles. We know what it would mean if power in the U.S. Senate switched from Democratic to Republican leadership. If it’s up to us, that won’t happen, and each person at the meeting was willing to invest resources of time, money and thoughtful participation toward electing Braley to the U.S. Senate.

What does that mean in 2014?

It means participating in canvasses organized by paid staff, attending candidate and party-sponsored events when our schedule permits, and writing checks to campaigns when we have resources. That’s only part of the picture. Increasingly, it’s a small part.

More than anything, modern political campaigns require each of us be engaged in a community, without regard for political affiliation, and do things that make sense to advance our views. In rural communities especially, the human landscape of society doesn’t change enough from one election cycle to the next to pretend neighbors and friends don’t remember what was said in a letter to the editor, or at an event the last cycle. This persistence of memory can be a blessing and a curse in political campaigns.

Campaigns send a lot of requests for political donations, almost none of which get acted upon. The rationale is a variation on a theme that the numbers justify them. That is, if a request is sent to 10,000 people, there will be a financial return. This cycle, I am hearing more about Charles and David Koch, The Heritage Foundation and political action committees than ever. Campaigns keep sending the messages reinforcing a negativity that is hard to ignore.

At the grassroots, people understand the difference between a political action committee and a candidate, and at the end of the day, when there is an extra $25 in the checking account, a donation will go to a candidate, not a third party. Plenty of folks feel that way.

The summer’s string of parades, picnics, car races, music concerts, annual gatherings and county fairs is only just beginning, and political candidates are attending. We don’t put a lot of stock in what a particular candidate may say at an event, but there is an unspoken expectation they will show up in person from time to time, and that through these and other presences in person and in media, we will get to know them.

The weather has been exceptionally good for outdoors gatherings, and 2014 will be a summer to remember if for no other reason than that. Politics affects our lives, but we go on living.

Summer is the time to get involved with a political campaign, so start by checking out the Iowa Democratic Party. In case you missed it, Bruce Braley could use your help as well.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Friday at the Town Festival

Hay Bale Toss

Hay Bale Toss

SOLON— The hay bale rises above the crowd to clear the bar. Main Street is packed for the hay bay toss— a farm-related activity in a festival put on where traditional farming, matters.

Bingo has begun, a band with a local lead singer is covering The Band Perry, and the beef and pork sandwiches are sold as quickly as the crew can make them.

The restaurants on Main Street offer specials during Beef Days, local beef, food, drinks and music, but the Cattleman’s Association is in the spotlight as the sun sets and we forget about our troubles for a while.

After the Crash

Last Breakfast Before the Crash

Last Breakfast Before the Crash

LAKE MACBRIDE— When I returned to my computer after breakfast yesterday it crashed, disrupting the balance of the day.

It was a good, not great breakfast, and a familiar, but unwanted technical glitch in a life on the prairie.

Breakfast was in four layers: a mixture of cooked summer squash, onions, garlic scapes, salt and pepper on the bottom. Next, kale cooked after deglazing the pan with the juice of a lime, followed by scrambled eggs, and topped with grated cheddar cheese and chopped Italian parsley. It wasn’t my best work, but it served. I write about breakfast to avoid thinking about the work ahead today.

Luckily, I backed up in the early morning of July 8, my email resides in the cloud, and my photos and sound recordings are on my devices. There is about one week’s work on documents and spreadsheets that will have to be reconstructed. It could be worse.

After a shift at the warehouse, I stopped at our local technology store and sent the laptop off to be serviced. The prognosis is not good, with talk about the motherboard. I turned from the counter, walked over a few rows, and bought a new desktop CPU for $370.

Laptops seem to last about two years, and each of the last three of them was convenient to have, but crashed at an inconvenient time. Since 2012, when we got smartphones, having a laptop no longer seems necessary as I can check email and news stories on the go without one.

Like it or not, today will be struggling to get paying work done on the computer, and re-engineering this technology dependent life on the Iowa prairie. Having been through this twice previously, I know, but hate the drill.

Garlic Harvest

Garlic Harvest

Garlic Harvest

RURAL CEDAR TOWNSHIP— This week’s work at the CSA was helping with the garlic harvest. Now is the time to get it out of the field, even as a few garlic scapes linger in the ice box.

It was all hands on deck yesterday, and I did my share— in some cases picking the garlic I remember planting last fall. The crew size varied during my shift with as many as 16 workers at a time busy digging, cleaning, racking and carrying. It has now been a complete year since we had to buy garlic for our household.

Fresh Garlic

Fresh Garlic

The work was not demanding, but at the end of the day, my hands were cramping uncontrollably for a while. The trouble dissipated with deep sleep, and today I feel as normal as a 60 something ever does.

It felt good to be a part of this year’s garlic harvest.

Monday Morning Planning

Lodi Apples

Rainfall on Lodi Apples

LAKE MACBRIDE— Monday morning is my time.

The weekly planning session from waking until 6 a.m. is critical for generating enough income to pay bills. At the same time, it enables dispersion of mental troubles— the same way night vapors become dew, and are burned off by sunlight. It would be an insane world without a plan.

 That said, even the best planning fails to accommodate everything we need and want to do. Wants give way to needs, and only those needs critical to social and economic survival get a time slot on the Google calendar. While a popular belief is that we have leisure time and hobbies, in the work-a-day world of low wage labor, such things are best left to what Thorstein Veblen called the “leisure class.”

After breakfast of a three-egg omelet of local farm eggs and sharp cheddar cheese imported from England, a glass of Florida orange juice, and black coffee, it’s time to get after the week’s work.