Categories
Sustainability

Deteriorating Trust on Hiroshima Day

Summer flowers by the front door – August 2019

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “trust but verify,” about the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), quoting a Russian proverb.

The Trump administration believes Russia can’t be trusted, was in violation of the treaty, and formally withdrew last week. The Russian Federation accused the United States of being in violation and declared it was open to dialogue to resolve differences. It’s over now.

A background article on the INF by Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association is here. Reif explains what our country has been doing to prepare for exiting the treaty, including exploration of options regarding new intermediate-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs.

We knew we were in for the worst regarding foreign policy when Donald Trump won the 2016 general election. Our knowledge didn’t help us through the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor, described as a malign influence on U.S. arms control and international security objectives. With Trump we entered a new arms race.

Last year, President Trump told reporters he wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control,” according to Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. This seems all talk. Trump may be the first president since John F. Kennedy to fail to conclude any form of agreement with Russia regarding nuclear weapons. Without treaties, the door is open to a new and dangerous arms race, Kimball said.

In a time of America first, the administration has little appetite for elimination of nuclear weapons and wants more of them. They seem likely to let the New START Treaty expire and in so doing would create an arms control regime with no legally binding, verifiable limits on the U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time in nearly half a century. Both countries are required to eliminate nuclear weapons by Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by 188 nations, the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

Dr. Maureen McCue, coordinator of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, emailed a group of Iowans favoring nuclear abolition and her colleagues around the country this disheartening report:

At our booth at the county fair we spoke to almost 3,000 individuals and found that of all the issues and concerns out there, concern about nuclear weapons their costs, and risks was just not on the minds of very many.  On a list of seven concerns, it came in far to the bottom, dead last — even given the dangerous moves of this administration to increase spending on nuclear weapons updates and delivery systems… We live in dangerous times, but the opportunities to engage and educate a new generation are sorry lacking.

We must prevent what we cannot cure and eliminate nuclear weapons. The Trump administration seems intent on doing the opposite, opening the door to a new nuclear arms race. With every new nuclear weapon developed our likelihood of using them by intent or by accident increases. This is no kind of world to leave our children and grandchildren.

Aug. 6 is the 74th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Who will notice what we should never forget?

Categories
Sustainability

Iran Deal Update

Photo Credit: Des Moines Register

Except for the president and members of his administration, the world supports the Iran Deal negotiated by the Obama administration with key allies and Iran.

On June 28, Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, which are not party to the agreement, issued a statement supporting the Iran Deal:

“(We) attach the utmost importance to the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by Iran and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, as a key instrument for the non-proliferation regime and a major contribution to stability in the region.”

The purpose of the agreement was to restrict Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon. The United States, under President Donald Trump, chose to violate the JCPOA because the chief executive thought it was a “bad deal.”

Last week the president authorized new sanctions against Iran, but they already felt economic pain from previous ones. What this round of sanctions tells Iran and the rest of the world is the U.S. is running out of options, according to Jarrett Blanc at Politico,

With Iranian oil sales down to 300,000 barrels per day (from 2.5 million before sanctions were reapplied) and Iran’s economy suffering, the United States has effectively cut Iran out of international commerce already. The real signal Iran will take from the new sanctions is that the Trump administration either does not understand this reality or cannot come up with a more effective option to improve upon it.

Iran recently announced it would exceed the 300-kilogram limit on low-enriched uranium required by the Iran Deal. They did exceed it, which was widely reported on Monday. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association made this June 27 press release with Kelsey Davenport, ACA director for nonproliferation policy, which summarizes where we stand regarding the Iran Deal (emphasis mine):

(Washington, DC)—Iran’s announcement that it may soon breach the 300-kilogram limit on low-enriched uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal is an expected but troubling response to the Trump administration’s reckless and ill-conceived pressure campaign to kill the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

It is critical that President Donald Trump does not overreact to this breach and further escalate tensions.

Any violation of the deal is a serious concern but, in and of itself, an increase in Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile above the 300-kilogram limit of 3.67 percent enriched uranium does not pose a near-term proliferation risk.

Iran would need to produce roughly 1,050 kilograms of uranium enriched at that level, further enrich it to weapons grade (greater than 90 percent uranium-235), and then weaponize it. Intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections would provide early warning of any further moves by Iran to violate the deal.

Tehran is not racing toward the bomb but rather, Iran’s leaders are seeking leverage to counter the U.S. pressure campaign, which has systematically denied Iran any benefits of complying with the deal. Despite Iran’s understandable frustration with the U.S. re-imposition of sanctions, it remains in Tehran’s interest to fully comply with the agreement’s limits and refrain from further actions that violate the accord.

If Iran follows through on its threat to resume higher levels of enrichment July 7, that would pose a more serious proliferation risk. Stockpiling uranium enriched to a higher level would shorten the time it would take Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a bomb–a timeline that currently stands at 12 months as a result of the nuclear deal’s restrictions.

The Trump administration’s failed Iran policy is on the brink of manufacturing a new nuclear crisis, but there is still a window to salvage the deal and deescalate tensions.

The Joint Commission, which is comprised of the parties to the deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Iran) and oversees implementation of JCPOA, will meet June 28. The meeting is a critical opportunity for the state parties to press Iran to fully comply with the nuclear deal and commit to redouble efforts to deliver on sanctions-relief obligations.

For its part, the White House needs to avoid steps that further escalate tensions with Iran. Trump must cease making vague military threats and refrain from taking actions such as revoking waivers for key nuclear cooperation projects that actually benefit U.S. nonproliferation priorities.

If Trump does not change course, he risks collapsing the nuclear deal and igniting a conflict in the region.

If interested in following the progress of the Iran Deal, discussions with North Korea, and potential extension of the New START Treaty between Russia and the United States, follow Daryl Kimball on twitter @DarylGKimball.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa. Paul Deaton is, among other things, a member of the Arms Control Association.

Categories
Environment

Doubt No More

Earthrise by Bill Anders, Dec. 24, 1968

With recent moves to reduce the number of government advisory panels, overturn the Obama administration’s clean power plan, and increase the speed with which logging permits are approved in national forests, the Trump administration plows the field of deregulation in a way libertarians and conservatives could previously only dream about.

They have gone too far.

Even with regard to mitigating the impact of the climate crisis, the fossil fuel industry indicated the world is proceeding on an unsustainable path. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019.

There is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress, with energy demand and carbon emissions growing at their fastest rate for years. The world is on an unsustainable path.

In a special message to the Congress on Feb. 8, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said,

Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

A group of scientists explained to Johnson that burning fossil fuels could cause climate change, according to Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt. “Most thought that changes were far off in the future,” they wrote.

In 2019 we see the effects of climate change in real time. We are living them.

Johnson signed hundreds of conservation and environmental measures during his tenure, developing the strongest record for the environment of any president. In so doing, he laid the legal foundations for how we protect the nation’s land, water and air.

Given time I believe Republicans will destroy the Johnson era legal foundation while their leader is lying to the American people about the quality of our air and water in a way that conflicts with our personal experience.

“We have among the cleanest and sharpest — crystal clean, you’ve heard me say, I want crystal clean — air and water anywhere on Earth,” President Trump said at a June 18 campaign rally in Florida. “Our air and water are the cleanest they’ve ever been by far.”

The science of climate change — that carbon dioxide and other gaseous emissions warm the atmosphere creating the greenhouse effect that enables life on Earth — has never been in doubt. It’s science and as Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, “When you have an established scientific emergent truth it is true whether or not you believe in it.”

When Trump lies and repeats his lies over and over again, believers and followers will set aside what is in their best interests, what is plainly visible in objective reality, and parrot his words. It creates turbulence in society, an argument about things which there is no arguing, and delays political action that should have been taken years ago. It creates doubt.

Now we have a climate crisis.

Environmental advocates don’t agree on the path to resolving the climate crisis, in fact there are broad divisions. Some favor a carbon fee and dividend as a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Others want geoengineering, a deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems, to counteract climate change. Others want to keep fossil fuels in the ground and convert our electrical grid to sustainable, renewable electricity generation. Others favor implementing nuclear power as a way to get to zero emissions with electricity generation. There is no agreement about specific strategies and tactics to use.

What remains from the divisions is an elemental truth, we have to do something to mitigate the effects of climate change. While assertions like those of our president and his administration create doubt about the use of political action regarding climate change, doubt no more. We have to do something and soon.

If you’d like to learn more about the climate crisis I recommend David Wallace-Wells recent book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. It is a comprehensive look at the diversity of the climate crisis. My advice is read his book then get involved with climate action.

Categories
Sustainability

Prevent What We Cannot Cure

Hiroshima, Japan after U.S. Nuclear Attack. Photo Credit: The Telegraph

I’m mad about nuclear weapons spending.

The Trump administration plans to spend far more than President Obama on the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Depending on time frame, the administration will see Obama’s trillion dollars and raise it another half trillion.

Why do we continue to spend money at all on a weapons system we are required by treaty to eliminate? Why do we spend money on weapons that should never be used?

I’m mad and that’s not the half of it.

I’m mad at President Harry Truman for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. I read Truman’s explanation in his memoir, Year of Decisions, and understand he thought it was a good idea. However, after Hiroshima, when our government understood the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, dropping a second on Nagasaki was criminal.

I’m mad at the greatest generation for failure to comply with Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which was signed in 1968 and went into effect two years later. By now, we should be finished with nuclear weapons. The treaty binds us as follows:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

The United States and Russia continue to hold the largest number of nuclear weapons even though reductions were made through treaty negotiations. Treaties are being dismantled by the current administration. If nuclear states had disarmed as the Non-Proliferation Treaty compels us, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

I’m mad at my generation of baby boomers. As the torch of nuclear non-proliferation was passed to us, my cohort chose to focus instead on personal liberation and financial well-being.

There was a resurgence of interest in non-proliferation during the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980s. This global advocacy contributed to negotiation of the INF Treaty between the United States and Soviet Union on the elimination of their intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. It was signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev on Dec. 8, 1987. The current administration announced plans to abandon the INF Treaty.

Why am I so mad? The problem of the existence of nuclear weapons should have been solved soon after society found their destructive capacity. I don’t want to pass that problem along to our daughter and her generation.

Our community has outgrown our fire station and tax levies aren’t sufficient to build a new one. Fire fighters are determined to raise the funds and implore us to “fill the boot” they leave at local businesses. If we had eliminated nuclear weapons, we might have enough money to build thousands of fire stations. Where are our priorities?

As a society we must create a nuclear weapons free world. There is no cure for a nuclear war. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

~Published on May 5, 2019 as a guest opinion to the Cedar Rapids Gazette

Categories
Sustainability

No First Use

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

On Jan. 30, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced companion bills in the 116th Congress to establish the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.

That’s the bill, 14 words, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

Sounds like a no-brainer for rational people. Nuclear weapons should never be used. Under what circumstances would our country ever consider using them first? No rational person could come up with a scenario to do so that would stand the light of public scrutiny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. He acknowledged the global catastrophe that would result from a nuclear war. “We can’t be those who initiated it,” Putin said.

H.R. 921 has 25 house co-sponsors, all Democrats. S-272 has six co-sponsors including five Democrats and one Independent. None of the six members of the Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress has signed on as a co-sponsor. That is unfortunate.

The reason Iowa’s lack of co-sponsors on this no first use policy is unfortunate includes:

Iowa’s agricultural industry would be particularly hard hit in the aftermath of a limited nuclear war elsewhere in the world. Smoke and debris thrown into the upper atmosphere would disrupt the growing season. Crop yields in Iowa and other Midwestern states, as well as in other parts of the world, would plummet according to a 2012 study, due to declines in precipitation, solar radiation, growing season length, and average monthly temperature. As many as two billion people would be at risk of food insecurity.

There is no adequate medical response to a limited nuclear war. “We know from the International Committee of the Red Cross’s first-hand experience in Hiroshima in 1945 that the use of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons would cause death, injury and destruction on a massive scale, that there would be no effective means of providing aid to the dying and wounded, and that those exposed to radiation would suffer life-long and fatal consequences to their health,” Kathleen Lawand, head of ICRC arms unit said.

Preparing for a limited nuclear war, one which should never be fought, is costly. The Trump administration is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including improved weapons, delivery systems and labs. They are even considering development of so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons which were phased out at the end of the Cold War. Those funds could be better used elsewhere or could even pay for tax cuts.

My ask is modest. The Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress should sign on as co-sponsors to the no first use bills. It is a rational first step in reducing global tensions surrounding the use of nuclear weapons. Those of us in the nuclear abolition community would ask for a lot more, but a no first use policy is something upon which people could agree without even considering more controversial aspects of a ban on nuclear weapons.

There is no cure for a nuclear war. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

Categories
Sustainability

Does Nuclear Weapons Spending Make Sense?

Garage Sign

Does it make sense for our federal government to spend almost one and a half trillion dollars on a nuclear weapons system that should never be used?

No.

The Trump administration plan is to rebuild the entire American nuclear arsenal, including development of new, so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons. During military training we prepared for deployment of such “tactical” weapons.

After spotting the signature flash or mushroom cloud of a nuclear detonation, while maneuvering among people’s farms, towns and businesses, we were to avert our eyes, find a low spot on the ground and cover ourselves as best we could with our poncho to prevent radioactive fallout from touching our skin and clothing. If we survived, we could go on fighting.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, and elimination of tactical nuclear weapons, developing them again sounds crazy. We could build thousands of new community fire houses with that kind of money.

As Iowa ramps up for the first in the nation caucuses, we should ask presidential candidates, “Will you oppose current plans to spend upwards of one and a half trillion dollars on a plan to rebuild the entire American nuclear arsenal?”

Voters will likely welcome the responses.

~ Published in the Solon Economist on April 11, 2019.

Categories
Sustainability

Will Lady Conductors Sing Karaoke for Kim Jong Un?

On June 14, 2018 PSR Board member Ira Helfand, MD met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon in Seoul, urging South Korea to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The main nuclear weapons threat on earth is increasing tension between the United States and Russia over Syria, Ukraine, Crimea and other issues. Not far behind is the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Either conflict, if escalated to nuclear war, could end life as we know it.

So what the hell was the Hanoi Summit between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un?

As a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army often described our duty performance when it did not meet his refined standards, it was a “goat screw.”

We don’t know what preparations the North Korean dictator made, in fact we know little about his country except what we might read in books like Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. He presumably prepared for the summit, and had a 60-hour train trip from Pyongyang, North Korea to Đồng Đăng, Vietnam, in case last minute changes and consultations were required. Kim traveled by rail for security considerations according to Associated Press.

Air Force One’s 20-hour trip to Hanoi, with two refueling stops, was also very long. We don’t know what preparations the U.S. President made either, but it was clear from the news coverage it wasn’t much. Here’s CBS News reporter Mark Knoller:

Couldn’t this have been discovered and vetted long before the actual, expensive in person meet up? Isn’t that why we have diplomats? Why elevate this meeting to a “summit” if we didn’t know the basis for an agreement beforehand?

While Air Force One was enroute home, North Koreans disputed this characterization of the summit. Why cut the meeting short before agreeing what happened and would be said to the press? Seems like basic diplomacy is missing from this administration.

What a bunch of knuckleheads. I’m not referring to the North Korean dictator and his staff. Why would the U.S. elevate this guy to this level of prominence on the world stage? Importantly, it was a staged distraction from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s dismantling of the U.S. – Russia arms control protocol. There is other stuff going on the the country to be distracted from as well. The tail is wagging the dog.

We don’t know but Kim must have been feeling good on the long trip home to Pyongyang after the president failed to find common ground for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We do know something about his green, bullet-proof train with yellow trim on the cars.

“Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying and traveled by train on several trips to China,” Eric Talmadge and Adam Schreck of AP wrote. “He is said to have fitted his train out to accommodate lavish parties and karaoke sessions.”

His father is also said to have kept four female singers on the train when he traveled, referring to them as “lady conductors.” Will lady conductors sing karaoke for Kim Jong Un on the trip home? Since the U.S. president won’t hold him to account, there may be something for a dictator to celebrate.

Categories
Living in Society

Stability Should Matter

Snowfall in Big Grove

Between three and four inches of snow fell overnight. It’s still coming down. I have 80 feet of driveway and a shovel to deal with when the sun comes up. The first buckets of salt and sand were emptied yesterday — there is plenty in reserve.

It’s not our first winter in Big Grove.

I filled the bird feeder for the first time this year and expect birds to find it this morning. Deer, used to the cultural resonance of last year’s seeds, have been stopping by to check the feeder since hunting season began.

Despite the unbroken crystalline sheet of snow it’s not a blanket, that clichéd word. We need a new vocabulary. Neighborhood sounds are muffled in pre-dawn hours yet we know global tensions have increased rendering nothing comforting about newly fallen snow this January.

President Trump’s “America first” slogan and the actions behind it are unraveling what global order existed before his rise to power. We all know it and the dissonant, unwelcome noise of his administration conditions us with its absurdity. Columnist George Will characterized the effect in the Washington Post,

Half or a quarter of the way through this interesting experiment with an incessantly splenetic presidency, much of the nation has become accustomed to daily mortifications. Or has lost its capacity for embarrassment, which is even worse.

I’m interested in U.S. foreign affairs. The last two years have been exhausting.

Step-by-step, we withdrew our leadership from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There’s talk about withdrawal from the INF treaty, the New START treaty, and even from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which our country helped found.

Trump’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un was a head scratcher. After decades of unsuccessful negotiations regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambition, the president held a brief meeting in Singapore then declared in social media, “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

It is hard to describe the instability we created in the Middle East where we’ve engaged third string envoys like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton to do our work, in Pomeo’s case, only until the Rapture.

Last week the president introduced his Missile Defense Review which is certain to destabilize relationships with China and Russia, potentially fueling a new nuclear arms race.

By these actions and more, the United States under Trump created a vacuum of leadership which China in particular, but Russia as well, are ready to fill. What is lost in “America first” is the American people benefit from international stability. This president and Republicans who back him apparently could care less.

We understand there will be a 46th president. The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to check this one. The only question is when he will exit the office. In the meanwhile, it is time to clear snow from the driveway and get out in society, to sustain our lives while the absurdity continues.

I don’t like the national disgrace under which we currently live and the instability this president created. Few I know do. Time and good work will cure some of it. At least that’s what I hope now that we’re getting into winter.

Categories
Sustainability

Nuclear Disarmament in Trump World

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

Elimination of nuclear weapons remains a priority for many of us who followed disarmament progress through the years. Our work hasn’t ended. What should be our priorities in Trump World?

To a large extent, society answered that question in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which the United States is a party. Article VI has been and remains a sticking point in meeting treaty obligations. Here’s the text,

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Nuclear states have taken inadequate steps toward compliance with Article VI. U.S. backpedaling on disarmament treaties began when in 2002 President George W. Bush removed the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Under Donald Trump, the United States is expected to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), and negotiations for renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) have yet to commence. The Trump administration is heading the opposite direction of good faith negotiations to end the arms race. It is creating a political environment for a new arms race, a complete refurbishment of the U.S. nuclear triad, and development of new nuclear weapons.

Where should disarmament advocates focus their efforts? Here’s my list.

As the two largest nuclear states, the U.S. and Russia should de-escalate nuclear competition and establish a regular dialogue on strategic stability. At a minimum, we should make a mutual decision to extend the New START Treaty before it expires in 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly Russia would not make first use of nuclear weapons. The United States should adopt a no first use policy regardless of what Russia says or does.

During negotiations for U.S. Senate ratification of New START, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl negotiated a refurbishment of the nuclear weapons complex. Under President Trump, this budget has grown to over a trillion dollars. We should encourage the new U.S. House of Representatives leadership to cut back on the administration’s plan to upgrade the nuclear complex.

There has been talk of developing new types of more usable nuclear weapons. We should advocate to block administration plans to develop such weapons.

As President Trump withdraws from the Iran Nuclear Deal we should encourage and support our international partners to implement it without us.

Now is the time to implement realistic, action-for-action steps toward disarmament with North Korea. Any dialogue with North Korea should proceed with that goal as the basis for talks.

Finally, advocates should promote compliance with Article VI in the run up to the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

A nuclear weapons-free world remains possible. In Trump World making progress toward that goal will continue to be challenging. Like most citizens we have limited resources and a large number of issues wanting our attention. This list serves to focus on what’s most important politically, and look for opportunities to advance each item as they present themselves.

To learn more about nuclear disarmament efforts in the U.S., check out the Arms Control Association website by clicking here.

Categories
Environment Living in Society Sustainability

Politics in Desperate Times

Atherton Wetland. Ely, Iowa.

“January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”~ President Donald Trump inaugural address

It would be one thing if we had entered a new era of Jacksonian Democracy where the common man raised into prominence. Plain folk like me would apply common sense to problems with a focus on results.

When elites and moneyed interests control almost everything in our government, the way the aristocracy did in Andrew Jackson’s time, to invoke Jackson now as something positive is a cruel joke. Like Jackson, Trump exaggerated the size of the crowd at his inauguration and motivated mob scenes.

Under Republican hegemony I have less say than ever in government.

That said, there is a lot we can do. The perils of our times are obvious and beg solutions, beginning with electing people who more closely represent our values. During the next 14 days I’ll continue to contribute my part to electing such people. If anything, one effect of the Trump administration and Republican hegemony in Iowa has been to recognize and bolster my Democratic roots.

14 days will come and go quickly. What then? As I suggested in my recent letter to the editor, climate change and proliferation of nuclear weapons pose existential threats to society as we know it. We must embrace change and adapt as we can. We must also work to mitigate these threats for ourselves and future generations. There is a life’s work in that, especially as my personal bandwidth decreases with advancing age. The challenge is to make every effort meaningful, thoughtful and aimed at impactful targets.

I hope to elect more Democrats to the Iowa legislature and the U.S. Congress and in doing so gain a voice where what we’ve been saying has been muted in recent years. Even if we fail in this effort we must re-assert our voices. I’m optimistic things can get done.

Climate change is already negatively impacting agriculture, the mainstay of our state. If we seek to grow nutritious food in the corn belt there needs be a focus on soil health and water management. Today the focus is on yield and market prices and that tail is wagging the dog. Something has to give over the near term. Farmers’ attitudes toward cover crops, buffers, and soil and water management must be encouraged by government to change. Sending our topsoil to Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico at a rate exceeding the land’s ability to regenerate it is unsustainable and farmers know it. It is made worse by precipitation patterns that combine heavy rainfalls, long periods of drought, and warmer, more humid nights. The impact of climate change on agriculture is significant and can no longer be denied.

A primary role of our federal government is national defense. With or without nuclear weapons, the United States remains the most powerful nation on Earth. It is a simple question begging an answer: why impose the risks of nuclear weapons on society if they are no longer needed for national defense?

The nuclear non-proliferation movement has ebbed and flowed during my lifetime. Whenever there is a broadly organized plan of action to do something about the Trump administration’s change to nuclear proliferation policy, I’m ready to join. Right now, there’s too few of us in Iowa and no fulcrum for action. I continue to follow groups like the Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World, Friends Committee on National Legislation and Physicians for Social Responsibility in Washington, D.C. to stay informed.

While I am hopeful of positive advances mitigating these two threats, my optimism is tempered with realism gained through a few successes and many failed attempts to move the needle on them since the 1970s. Today is no time to give up.