Waiting On Climate Action

While in Europe, Pope Francis and the G7 leaders bent President Trump’s ears about climate change.

The Pope presented a copy of Laudato Sí: On Care For Our Common Home, his encyclical on consumerism, irresponsible development, environmental degradation and global warming to the U.S. president. He told Pope Francis he would read it.

Reports indicate the six other G7 leaders presented arguments for the United States to stay in the 2015 Paris Agreement on mitigating the effects of climate change. Trump would not commit to doing so by the time he boarded Air Force One for the trip home.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

That Trump failed to be part of the G7 consensus on climate may or may not be a sign of his intent. One never can tell with this president.

“I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!” Trump tweeted.

That Trump was willing to listen to his European peers and the Pope indicates he may have an open mind about the accord. However, late yesterday, Jonathan Swan and Amy Harder of Axios reported, “President Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change.”

Despite the advocacy workshop for exiting the agreement EPA has become, the result of the president’s decision-making process may be more complicated than making a simple announcement.

Exiting the Paris Agreement would take at least four years. The agreement does not permit states to exit until three years after entry into force (Nov. 4, 2019). It would then take at least a year to finish the process.  In that time, Trump could change his mind.

If Trump decides to exit, he would be “willfully, nonchalantly vacating leadership of the world,” former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said. Another country will step in to fill the leadership vacuum, presumably China with the world’s second largest economy.

A bone of contention with Pruitt and advocates in the hydrocarbon business is the existence of the Clean Power Plan first published by the EPA in the Federal Register Oct. 23, 2015. On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order mandating EPA review the plan. Unraveling the Clean Power Plan is not as simple as signing an executive order. Whether or not the U.S. exits the Paris Agreement, the regulation may stand.

It is significant the first nation Trump visited in his presidency was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has almost one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves and ranks as the largest producer and exporter of oil in the world. Despite concerns about human rights and the treatment of women in the kingdom, Trump seemed elated about the arms deal he made during his visit. His rhetoric isolating Iran may be no more complicated than wanting to take their oil. Iran ranks fourth in proven oil reserves behind Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

That 195 states could enter the Paris Agreement was remarkable. Whether it will hold if the U.S. exits is uncertain. Regardless of politics the science on global warming has been identified since the 19th century.

On the morning after the 45th President’s first foreign trip the direction of his administration on climate change is obvious. Government climate change web sites and regulations are officially “under review” in multiple agencies. At the same time the hydrocarbon business is moving to roll back regulations that seek to reduce carbon emissions. The idea of leaving fossil fuels in the ground is not embraced in this White House.

“I think there is a better than 50/50 chance that the Trump administration will stay in the Paris agreement,” Nobel Prize winner Al Gore said. “I think odds are they will stay in.”

Time will tell.

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A Grand Tour

Photo Credit – Getty Images

The 45th President ends his first overseas trip today with G7 meetings in Sicily. He became exhausted due to his busy schedule according to reports.

I enjoyed his time away although the trip has been an unmitigated disaster.

The German newspaper Der Spiegel’s headline conveys the sentiment: “Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse.”

What remained unsaid in the news coverage is Trump’s embrace of the Saudis — a nation that beheads people as a form of capital punishment and ranks low on indices that measure the treatment of women — because of their oil reserves. Our president is all about petroleum.

Trump criticized the German trade deficit with the United States, saying, “(Germany is) very bad on trade,” according to Gary Cohn, his top economic advisor. Is there a country he didn’t criticize? I don’t like Trump representing my interests abroad because what he said and is saying is as disconnected from my life and interests as a zebra in a zoo is from the wild.

While he’s been away, the media churn about Russia continued with some new revelations. There is plenty of information available, and the narrative changes frequently. Could Russian operatives have influenced the 2016 election to the tune of a couple hundred thousand votes in several states? Of course. Is the Trump administration trying to derail, divert attention from, and bury the Russia investigation? Yes. Until a small number of paid reporters ferret out the story, there is little to do but wait and work on electing new candidates in the 2018 midterm and 2020 general elections.

The president plans a rally in nearby Cedar Rapids to send Ambassador Terry Branstad to China. I won’t be adding my presence to the spectacle. It is a diversion from what most needs doing.

U.S. citizens are vulnerable to the whims of the current Republican ruling elite. Because of long libertarian investment in politics, it will be challenging to unseat them. Doing so seems unlikely in one or two election cycles. What’s needed is community organizing where we live: seeking common ground with neighbors and defining our connection to the broader world in a way that short circuit’s the presidents uninformed approach. That is Democracy at work, something we must nurture. It protects us from vulnerability.

My plan for today is to forget about the grand tour, get out of the house and take in sunlight. We gain strength by shining light on our lives.

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Community Organizing

Woman Writing Letter

Fellow members,

I’m putting together a spring newsletter for inclusion in the June billing.

Less than half the people who live in our association participate in the Facebook or Google Groups, so a newsletter is our chance to reach out to almost everyone.

There are some things that bear repeating each year, and I’ll include them. I also want to try something different this month.

If you have a short bit of news to report related to what’s going on in the association, please forward it to me by Monday afternoon. If you have a question about the association, and it has broader relevance, I’ll include your question (with your name), and address it. Any tidbits of local history would be welcome. I’m looking to post things specific to our subdivision in which everyone would be interested or could learn from. To keep the budget low, I’m planning on a single, one-sided sheet, so let’s fill it up with useful and interesting info.

The reason for the holiday is to honor the men and women who died in military service for our country.

I hope you and yours have a safe and peaceful Memorial Day Weekend.

Regards, Paul

~ Email to our home owners association Google Group sent May 25, 2017

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Storm Recovery

Brush Pile In Predawn light

Over the weekend a storm broke off a branch in one of the maple trees. The branch wedged between two others 20 feet above the ground. I couldn’t remove it myself.

The tree service came yesterday with chain saws, ladders and loppers to bring the branches safely down. After work at the home, farm and auto supply store I cleaned up the site and built a brush pile next to the garden. I’ve been thinking of adding two more plots, so maybe, after I burn the pile, this is the time.

Not knowing better in 1993, we planted the maple too close to the house. It needs taking down according to my arborist and climber.

Seedling Cart

I’ve been working in the garden center at the home, farm and auto supply store. Foot traffic has been brisk with customers picking up flats of seedlings for flower and vegetable gardens. Working outdoor provided an opportunity to talk about gardening. I felt in my element.

At home, the lawn is overgrown and our garden is two-thirds planted. The seedlings are ready so I’m waiting for the intersection of dry-enough ground, time at home, and clear skies. As soon as that happens I’ll get more planted.

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It’s Not Memorial Day

It’s Not Memorial Day

We can end the witch hunt because it’s been found in the person of Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer.

I had hoped our first female speaker would be different from other politicians. Those hopes were dashed as she proved herself otherwise in pandering to the sizable Iowa veteran population.

In her May 19 legislative newsletter she wrote as if it were for FOX News,

With Memorial Day right around the corner, I encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifices that our veterans and active duty members of the military make each and every day.  Please also take some time to recognize those that protected us and kept us safe who are no longer with us.  It truly takes a special kind of person to put their country and others above themselves and for that we thank each and every member of our armed services, past and present.  Thank you for your service and I wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Nuts to her. It’s not Memorial Day.

Had Upmeyer made her statement in support of Armed Forces Day, which was the next day, it wouldn’t have caught my attention. President Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. In that context, Upmeyer’s statement may have been appropriate. Instead she politicized military service.

I take offense to Upmeyer’s thoughtless muddle because it casts a polite if patriotic fog over the fact of increasing militarism under President Trump. Not only is our country considering ramping up our 15-year war in Afghanistan, fighting a proxy war in Yemen through Saudi Arabia, and working to isolate Iran, we have forgotten the fact that real people serve in the military and put their lives at risk for this failing foreign policy. Under the 45th president there will be more war dead.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It’s not to thank veterans for their service. It’s not to thank currently serving military staff. It’s not to reflect personally about highway safety or being happy. Those are political calculations. Memorial Day is to participate as part of a community in honoring our war dead.

One hopes that is something most Americans can agree upon.

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Harvest Saturday

First Kale

Four of six garden plots have been planted and are doing well.

Weeds are also doing well.

I’m waiting for a break in the weather to coincide with my work schedule to finish the planting and mulching. This annual conflict was complicated by feeling under the weather on Sunday. I called off work at both farms and stayed indoors recovering. It felt like a lost day.

Saturday I harvested radishes, the last of spring spinach, some turnip greens for salads, and a tub of kale. We officially have more greens than can fit in the ice box.

Spring Vegetable Broth

To use up some greens I made a batch of vegetable broth and canned it. During the next six weeks I hope to can 36 quarts for use throughout the year. There should be plenty of raw material, although carrots are last year’s crop and almost gone, Vidalia onions are from Georgia, and celery is from Earthbound Farms in California.

I’m not an extreme locavore and feel no guilt using a few imported items for a dish. My cooking style is derived from a local food culture which includes my garden and the farms where I work. Above all else, it is about using what is on hand in the ice box and pantry — a lesson learned from some of the best cooks I’ve met. If some non-local ingredients are needed and on hand to supplement a recipe, I’m okay with that. Besides, there aren’t Iowa carrots or celery to be had this time of year.

What to do with all the kale?

I reached out via email to find a home for some kale while it is still fresh. The rest will be preserved if I can make time after work.

I use three methods of preservation: freezing, canning and dehydrating. Until we get a separate freezer our capacity for freezing is minimal and saved for other favorites like broccoli, corn and bell peppers. I haven’t tried canning kale before, and the best use of canned kale seems to be soups and stews. I dehydrated in the past, then flaked it in a food processor or blender and stored it on the pantry shelf. Kale flakes are for soup.

A tentative plan is to take the kale remaining after the give-away and can a dozen pints to use in soups as an experiment. The rest will go into the dehydrator in batches. There is an urgency to getting this done as I planted enough kale to harvest a tub every week from now until late October. Keeping up with processing the crop will be a key dynamic in our kitchen-garden.

The 15-day forecast is for rain next weekend, so hope of getting the garden in before Memorial Day doesn’t seem realistic. Will have to find bits and pieces of time during the week to start turning soil in the last plots, and replanting where the early crops are finishing.

Importantly, I’m not freaking out over the amount of work in front of me. A person can plant only one plot at a time. Sanity comes from focusing on the gardening task at hand and executing it as well as we know how. We need sanity in this sometimes insane world.

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Joy Corning

Joy Corning – Photo Credit: Iowa General Assembly

Joy Corning was on our target list to become an advocate for U.S. Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Heady with Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, and confident Senate ratification of the New START Treaty would be a slam dunk, a nationwide coalition was formed to advocate for CTBT ratification after the 1999 failed attempt during the Bill Clinton administration.

Corning was on a short list of Republicans we wanted to contact Senator Chuck Grassley about the treaty. As things go in an advocacy coalition, I wasn’t the one to contact her. Someone in Des Moines phoned her and she called back.

“(Corning) had to decline our request that she make an appeal to Senator Grassley,” he wrote. “She said she needs to contact him on so many things, and she needs to have only a few top priorities and couldn’t add this.  She said she is working hard to bring her Republican Party back toward the center.”

Joy Corning died yesterday.

As it turned out, ratification of the New START Treaty was not a slam dunk and we adjusted our focus. Nonetheless, our contacts with Corning taught some lessons to those willing and able to hear them.

Always return phone calls. People who get things done in society almost always do.

Know who you are. While she couldn’t sign on to our cause the way we wanted, her efforts to “bring her Republican Party back toward the center” seem ennobling in the era of FOX News and right-wing talk radio. She fought that fight against steep odds and never gave up.

Focus on what’s most important. There is never unlimited time to advocate with an elected official. One must always be brief, be brilliant and be gone, lest our cause fade into obscurity.

Set the example. Corning’s daughters added the following to her online obituary, “Mother’s life was a model of class and grace, kindness and cooperation, service and civility. She led by example and always saw the good in everyone. She was active until the very end on efforts that supported human rights and justice for all.”

A person should embrace these qualities. That is Joy Corning’s legacy.

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