If Exxon had told the truth

SUBHEAD: Imagine if thirty years ago Exxon had shared its scientific research on Climate Change.

By Bill McKibbon on 29 October 2015 for EcoWatch -

Image above: A fork in the road for Exxon in 1981. From (http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-10-30/imagine-if-exxon-had-told-the-truth-on-climate-change).

Like all proper scandals, the #Exxonknew revelations have begun to spin off new dramas and lines of inquiry. Presidential candidates have begun to call for Department of Justice investigations, and company spokesmen have begun to dig themselves deeper into the inevitable holes as they try to excuse the inexcusable.

(Worst idea: attack Pulitzer prize-winning reporters as “anti-oil and gas activists”)

As the latest expose installment from those hopeless radicals at the Los Angeles Times clearly shows, Exxon made a conscious decision to adopt what a company public affairs officer called “the Exxon position.” It was simple: “Emphasize the uncertainty.” Even though they knew there was none.

Someone else will have to decide if that deceit was technically illegal. Perhaps the rich and powerful have been drafting the laws for so long that Exxon will skate; I confess my confidence that the richest company in American history can be brought to justice is slight.

But quite aside from those questions about the future, let’s take a moment and just think about the past. About what might have happened differently if, in August of 1988, the “Exxon position” had been “tell the truth.”

That was a few months after Nasa scientist James Hansen had told Congress the planet was heating and humans were the cause; it was amid the hottest American summer recorded to that point, with the Mississippi running so low that barges were stranded and the heat so bad that corn was withering in the fields.

Imagine, amid all that, Exxon scientists had simply said: “Everything we know says Hansen is right; the planet’s in serious trouble.”

No one would, at that point, have blamed Exxon for causing the trouble—instead it would have been hailed for its forthrightness.

It could have begun the task of finding alternatives to hydrocarbons, and the world could have done the same thing. This would not have been an easy job: the world was utterly dependent on coal, gas and oil.

But it would have become our planet’s single-minded job. With Exxon—largest company on Earth, heir to the original oil baron, with tentacles reaching around the world—vouching for the science, there is no way we would have wasted 25 years in fruitless argument.

There’s no way, for instance, that Tim DeChristopher would have had to spend two years in jail, because it would have been obvious by the mid-2000s that the oil and gas leases he was blocking were absurd.

Crystal Lameman and Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Clayton Thomas-Muller would not have had to spend their whole lives fighting tar sands mining in Alberta because no one would seriously have proposed digging up the dirtiest oil on the North American continent.

Students would not have—as we speak—to be occupying administration buildings from Tasmania to Cambridge, because the fossil fuel companies would long since have become energy companies, and divesting from them would not be necessary.

More urgently, rapid development of renewables might well have kept half of Delhi’s children—2.5 million children—from developing irreversible lung damage.

The rapid spread of decentralised renewable technology might have kept oil and gas barons like the Koch Brothers from becoming, taken together, the richest man on Earth, and purchasing America’s democracy.

The Earth’s oceans would be measurably less acidic—and we are, after all, an ocean planet.

Some climate change was unavoidable even by 1988—that’s about the moment when we were passing what now seems the critical 350 parts per million threshold for atmospheric CO2. And with the best will in the world it would have taken time to slow that trajectory; there’s never been an overnight fix.

So we can’t say which of the various droughts and floods and famines might have been avoided.

But because we wasted those critical decades, we’re now committed to far more warming than we needed to be—as one scientist after another has shown recently, our momentum has carried to us the point where stopping warming at even the disastrous 2C level may at this point be barely manageable if it’s manageable at all.

Of all the lies that Exxon leaders told about climate change, none may quite top the 1997 insistence that “it is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

Exxon scientists knew that was wrong, and so did pretty much everyone else. If you could poll all the experts about to descend on Paris for UN climate talks and ask them what technology would be most useful in the fight against climate change, I’m pretty sure they’d say: a time machine that could take us back 20 years and give us those wasted decades.

And if you think it’s just scientists and environmentalists thinking this way, it’s actually almost anyone with a conscience.

 Here’s how the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News—Exxon’s hometown paper, the morning read of the oil patch— put it in an editorial last week:

“With profits to protect, Exxon provided climate-change doubters a bully pulpit they didn’t deserve and gave lawmakers the political cover to delay global action until long after the environmental damage had reached severe levels. That’s the inconvenient truth as we see it.”
Those years weren’t inconvenient for Exxon, of course. Year after year throughout the last two decades they’ve made more money than any company in the history of money.

But poor people around the world are already paying for those profits, and every generation that follows us now will pay as well, because the “Exxon position” has helped take us over one tipping point after another.

Their sins of emission, like so many other firms and individuals, are bad. But their sins of omission are truly inexcusable.


The Patience of the Sea

SUBHEAD:  It has outlived countless species and will outlive countless more, ours among them.

By John Michael Greer on 28 October 2015 for the Archdruid Rpeort -

Image above: The Hawaiian Island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. From (https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~ross20a/classweb/ancient.html).

I've commented here more than once that these essays draw their inspiration from quite a variety of sources.

This week’s post is no exception to that rule. What kickstarted the train of thought that brought it into being was a walk along the seashore last weekend at Ocean City, Maryland, watching the waves roll in and thinking about the imminent death of a good friend.

East coast ocean resorts aren’t exactly a common destination for vacations in October, but then I wasn’t there for a vacation. I think most of my readers are aware that I’m a Freemason; it so happens that three organizations that supervise certain of the higher degrees of Masonry in Maryland took advantage of cheap off-season hotel rates to hold their annual meetings in Ocean City last weekend.

Those readers who like to think of Masonry as a vast conspiracy of devil-worshipping space lizards, or whatever the Masonophobic paranoia du jour happens to be these days, would have been heartily disappointed by the weekend’s proceedings: a few dozen guys in off-the-rack business suits or cheap tuxedos, most of them small businessmen, skilled tradesmen, or retirees, donning the ornate regalia of an earlier time and discussing such exotic and conspiratorial topics as liability insurance for local lodges.

That said, a very modest sort of history was made at this year’s session of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of Maryland—as the name suggests, that’s the outfit that supervises the local bodies that confer the degrees of Royal Master and Select Master on qualified Master Masons in this state. More precisely, it’s one of two such bodies in Maryland.

Back in the eighteenth century, Masonry in the United States split into two segregated branches, one for white and Native American Masons, the other for African-American Masons.

Late in the twentieth century, as most other segregated institutions in American life dropped the color bar, the two branches of Masonry began a rapprochement as well.

Merger was never an option, and not for the reason you’re thinking.

 Both branches of Masonry in the US are proud organizations with their own traditions and customs, not to mention a deeply ingrained habit of prickly independence, and neither was interested in surrendering its own heritage, identity, and autonomy in a merger.

Thus what happened was simply that both sides opened their doors to men of any skin color or ethnic background, formally recognized each other’s validity, and worked out the details involved in welcoming each other’s initiates as visiting brethren. Masonry being what it is, all this proceeded at a glacial pace, and since each state Grand Lodge makes its own rules, the glaciers moved at different speeds in different parts of the country.

A couple of years ago, the first time I was qualified to attend the state sessions of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters, I voted on the final stage in the movement of one particular glacierette, the establishment of full recognition and visitation between the two Maryland Grand Councils.

My vote didn’t greatly matter, all things considered—the resolution was approved unanimously—but I was still happy to be able to cast it.

I was equally happy, at this year’s grand sessions, to see the Most Illustrious Grand Master of the historically African-American Grand Council welcomed to the other Grand Council’s meeting with the traditional honors, invited to the East to address the brethren, and given a standing ovation at the end of his talk. Of such small steps is history composed.

When somebody gets around to writing the definitive account of how the two branches of US Masonry healed the old division, this weekend’s session will merit something between a footnote and a sentence if it gets mentioned at all.

I seriously doubt the historian will even notice that one of the attendees came a day early, stayed a day late, enjoyed the quiet pleasures that an uncluttered seashore and a half-empty resort town have to offer, and figured out a detail or two about the trajectory of industrial civilization while walking along the beach on a cloudy afternoon, as a stiff breeze blew spray off the long gray rollers coming in from the North Atlantic.

All in all, it was a propitious place for such reflections.

America just now, after all, has more than a little in common with an October day in Ocean City. Look around at the gaudy attractions that used to attract so much attention from adoring crowds, and you’ll see many of the same things I saw along the boardwalk that day.

The space program? It’s boarded up for the duration like any other amusement park in the off season, though the plywood’s plastered with equally garish posters announcing coming attractions off somewhere in the indefinite future.

The American Dream? The lights are shining on the upper floors and big flashing neon signs say “OPEN FOR BUSINESS,” but all the ground floor entrances are padlocked shut and nobody can get in.

The consumer products that fill the same pacifying function in American society as cheap trinkets for the kids at a seaside resort are still for sale here and there, though many of the shops are already closed and shuttered.

The shelves of those that are still open are looking decidedly bare, and what’s left has that oddly mournful quality that shoddy plastic gewgaws always get when they’ve been left on display too long.

The one difference that stands out is that Ocean City in late October is mostly deserted, while the crowds are still here in today’s America, milling around aimlessly in front of locked doors and lightless windows, while the sky darkens with oncoming weather and the sea murmurs and waits.

But that wasn’t the thing that sparked this week’s reflections.

The thing that sparked this week’s reflections was a stray question that came to mind when I abandoned the boardwalk to the handful of visitors who were strolling along it, and crossed the sand to the edge of the surf, thinking as I walked about the friend I mentioned earlier, who was lying in a hospital bed on the other side of the continent while his body slowly and implacably shut down.

The boardwalk, the tourist attractions, and the hulking Babylonian glass-and-concrete masses of big hotels and condominiums stood on one side of me, while on the other, the cold gray sea surged and splashed and the terns danced past on the wind.

The question in my mind was this: in a thousand years, which of these things will still be around?

That’s a surprisingly edgy question these days, and to make sense of that, I’d like to jump to the seemingly unrelated subject of an article that appeared a little while ago in the glossy environmental magazine Orion.

The article was titled “Peak Oil Fantasy,” and it was written by Charles Mann, who made a modest splash a little while back with a couple of mildly controversial popular histories of the New World before and after Europeans got there.

Those of my readers who have been keeping track of the mainstream media’s ongoing denunciations of peak oil will find it wearily familiar.

It brandished the usual set of carefully cherrypicked predictions about the future of petroleum production that didn’t happen to pan out, claimed on that basis that peak oil can’t happen at all because it hasn’t happened yet, leapt from there to the insistence that our very finite planet must somehow contain a limitless amount of petroleum, and wound up blustering that everybody ought to get with the program, “cast away the narrative of scarcity,” and just shut up about peak oil.

Mann’s article was a little more disingenuous than the run of the mill anti-peak-oil rant—it takes a certain amount of nerve to talk at length about M. King Hubbert, for example, without once mentioning the fact that he successfully predicted the peaking of US petroleum production in 1970, using the same equations that successfully predicted the peaking of world conventional petroleum production in 2005 and are being used to track the rise and fall of shale oil and other unconventional oil sources right now.

Other than that, there’s nothing novel about “Peak Oil Fantasy,” as all but identical articles using the same talking points and rhetoric have appeared regularly for years now in The Wall Street Journal and other pro-industry, pave-the-planet publications. The only oddity is that a screed of this overfamiliar kind found its way into a magazine that claims to be all about environmental protection.

Even that isn’t as novel as I would wish.

Ever since The Archdruid Report began publication, just short of a decade ago, I’ve been fielding emails and letters, by turns spluttering, coaxing, and patronizing, urging me to stop talking about peak oil, the limits to growth, and the ongoing decline and approaching fall of industrial society, and start talking instead about climate change, overpopulation, capitalism, or what have you.

No few of these have come from people who call themselves environmentalists, and tolerably often they reference this or that environmental issue in trying to make their case.

The interesting thing about this ongoing stream of commentary is that I’ve actually discussed climate change, overpopulation, and capitalism at some length in these essays. When I point this out, I tend to get either a great deal of hemming and hawing, or the kind of sudden silence that lets you hear the surf from miles away.

Clearly what I have to say about climate change, overpopulation, and capitalism isn’t what these readers are looking for, and just as clearly they’re not comfortable talking about the reasons why what I have to say isn’t what they’re looking for.

What interests me is that in the case of climate change, at least, there are aspects of that phenomenon that get the same response.

If you ever want to reduce a room full of affluent liberal climate change activists to uncomfortable silence, for example, mention that the southern half of the state of Florida is going to turn into uninhabitable salt marsh in the next few decades no matter what anybody does.

You can get the same response if you mention that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is so far advanced at this point that no human action can stop the drowning of every coastal city on the planet—and don’t you dare mention the extensive and growing body of research that shows that the collapse of major ice sheets doesn’t happen at a rate of a few inches of sea level rise per century, but includes sudden “marine transgressions” of many feet at a time instead.

This discomfort is all the more interesting because these same things were being loudly predicted not much more than a decade ago by affluent liberal climate change activists.

As long as they were threats located off somewhere in the indefinite future, they were eagerly used as verbal ammunition, but each of them vanished from the rhetoric as soon as it stopped being a threat and turned into a reality.

I noted in an essay some years back the way that methane boiling out of the Arctic Ocean, which was described in ghoulish detail over and over again as the climate change über-threat, suddenly got dropped like a anthropogenically heated rock by climate change activists the moment it began to happen.

It’s still happening. As Arctic temperatures soar, rivers of meltwater are sluicing across the Greenland ice cap and cascading into the surrounding oceans, and the ice cap itself, in the words of one climate scientist cited in the article just linked, is as full of holes as Swiss cheese due to meltwater streaming through its innards.

While climate change activists insist ever more loudly that we can still fix everything if only the right things happen in the next five years—okay, ten—well, make that fifteen—the cold gray seas off Greenland aren’t listening.

The only voices that matter to them come from the roar of waterfalls off the waning ice cap, the hiss of methane bubbles rising from the shallows, and the hushed whispers of temperature and salinity in the dark waters below.

Glaciologists and marine hydrologists know this, and so do a significant number of climate scientists. It’s the would-be mass movement around climate change that has done its level best to pretend that the only irreversible tipping points are still somewhere in the future.

They’re not alone in that; for a good many decades now, the entire environmental movement has been stuck in a broken-record rut, saying over and over again that we still have five years to fix the biosphere.

Those of my readers who doubt this might want to pick up the twenty-year and thirty-year updates to The Limits to Growth and compare what they have to say about how long the world has to stave off catastrophe.

That is to say, the environmental movement these days has become a prisoner of the same delusion of human omnipotence that shapes so much of contemporary culture.

That’s the context in which Charles Mann’s denunciation of the peak oil heresy needs to be taken. To be acceptable in today’s mainstream environmental scene, a cause has to be stated in terms that feed the fantasy just named.

Climate change is a perfect fit, since it starts from an affirmation of human power—“Look at us! We’re so almighty that we can wreck the climate of the whole planet!” —and goes on to insist that all we have to do is turn our limitless might to fixing the climate instead.

The campaigns to save this or that species of big cute animal draw their force from the same emotions—“We’re so powerful that we can wipe out the elephants, but let’s keep some around for our own greater glory!” Here again, though, once some bit of ecological damagecan no longer be fixed, everyone finds something else to talk about, because that data point doesn’t feed the same fantasy.

Peak oil is unacceptable to the environmental establishment, in turn, because there’s no way to spin it as a story of human omnipotence.

If you understand what the peak oil narrative is saying, you realize that the power we human beings currently claim to have isn’t actually ours; we simply stole the carbon the planet had stashed in its underground cookie jar and used it to go on a three-century-long joyride, which is almost over.

The “narrative of scarcity” Mann denounced so heatedly is, after all, the simple reality of life on a finite planet. We had the leisure to pretend otherwise for a very brief interval, and now that interval is coming to an end.

There’s no melodrama in that, no opportunity for striking grand poses on which our own admiring gaze can rest, just the awkward reality of coming to terms with the fact that we’ve made many stupid decisions and now have to deal with the consequences thereof.

This is why the one alternative to saving the world that everyone in the mainstream environmental scene is willing to talk about is the prospect of imminent universal dieoff.

 Near-term human extinction, the apocalypse du jour ever since December 21, 2012 passed by without incident, takes its popularity from the same fantasy of omnipotence—if we human beings are the biggest and baddest thing in the cosmos, after all, what’s the ultimate display of our power? Why, destroying ourselves, of course!

There’s a bubbling cauldron of unspoken motives behind the widespread popularity of this delusion of omnipotence, but I suspect that a large part of it comes from an unsuspected source.

The generations that came of age after the Second World War faced, from their earliest days, a profoundly unsettling experience that very few of their elders ever had, and then usually in adulthood.

In place of comfortable religious narratives that placed the origin of the universe a short time in the past, and its end an even shorter time in the future, they grew up with what paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould usefully termed “deep time”—the vision of a past and a future on time scales the human mind has never evolved the capacity to grasp, in which all of human history is less than an eyeblink, and you and I, dear reader, no matter what we do, won’t even merit the smallest of footnotes in the story of life on this planet.

Growing up on the heels of the baby boom, I experienced all this myself. I read the Life Nature Library about as soon as I could read anything at all; by age six or so I had my favorite dinosaurs, and a little later on succumbed to the beauty of trilobites and the vast slow dances of geology.

By some blend of dumb luck and happenstance, though, I missed out on the sense of entitlement so pervasive among those born when the United States was at the zenith of its prosperity and power.

The gospel of “you can have whatever you desire” that Barbara Ehrenreich anatomized so pitilessly in her book Bright-Sided found no answering chord in my psyche, and so it never bothered me in the least to think that a hundred million years from now, some intelligent critter of a species not yet spawned might gaze in delight at my fossilized skull, and rub its mandibles together to produce some equivalent of “Ooh, look at that!”

I’m far from the only one these days who sees the unhuman vastness of nature as something to celebrate, rather than something to fear and, at least in imagination, to try to overcome through overblown fantasies of human importance.

Still, it’s a minority view as yet, and to judge by the points made earlier in this essay, it seems underrepresented in the mainstream of today’s environmental movement.

The fixation on narratives that assign the sole active role to humanity and a purely passive role to nature is, I’ve come to think, a reaction to the collision between two potent cultural forces in contemporary life—the widely promulgated fantasy of infinite entitlement, on the one hand, and on the other, the dawning recognition of our species’ really quite modest, and very sharply limited, place in the scheme of things.

The conflict between these factors is becoming increasingly hard to avoid, and drives increasingly erratic behaviors, as the years pass. The first and largest generation to follow the Second World War in the developed world is nearing the one limit that affects each of us most personally.

Thus it’s probably not an accident that 2030—the currently fashionable date by which humans are all supposed to be extinct—is right around the date when the average baby boomer’s statistical lifespan will run out.

To my mind, the attempt to avoid that face-first encounter with limits does a lot to explain why so many boomers bailed into evangelical Protestant fundamentalism in the 1980s, with its promise that Christ would show up any day now and spare them the necessity of dying. It explains equally well why the 2012 hysteria, which made similar claims, attracted so much wasted breath in its day—and why so few people these days are able to come to terms with the reality of scarcity, of limits, and of the end of the industrial age and all its wildly overblown fantasies of self-importance.

The friend of mine who was dying as I walked the Ocean City beach last weekend was born in 1949, in the midst of the baby boom, but somehow he managed to avoid those antics and the obsessions that drove them.

As a Druid among other things—he was one of the very few people I’ve known well who received more initiations than I have—he understood that death is not the opposite of life but the completion of it.

When he collapsed at work a few weeks ago and was rushed to the hospital, his friends and fellow initiates in the Puget Sound area took up a steady vigil at his bedside, and kept those of us out of the region informed.

The appropriate ceremonies prepared him for his passing, and another set of ceremonies are helping the living cope with his departure.

A thousand years from now, in all probability, nobody will remember how Corby Ingold lived and died, any more than they will remember the 2015 annual sessions of the Maryland Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters, or this blog, or its author.

A thousand years from now, for that matter, fossil fuels will be a dim memory, and so will the Greenland ice cap, the Florida peninsula, and a great deal more. It’s just possible, though very unlikely, that human beings will be among those dim memories—we rank with cockroaches and rats among Nature’s supreme generalists, and like them are remarkably hard to exterminate.

Whether or not human beings are there to witness it, though, waves like the ones that rolled onto the beach at Ocean City will be rolling over the sunken ruins of Ocean City hotels, just as they rolled above the mudflats where trilobites scurried six hundred million years ago, and as they will roll onto whatever shores rise up when the continents we now inhabit have long since vanished forever.

The sea is patient. It has outlived countless species and will outlive countless more, ours among them.

Among the things it might be able to teach us, on the off chance that we’re willing to learn, is that the life of a species, like that of an individual, is completed by death, not erased by it, and that its value is measured by the beauty and wisdom it experiences and creates, not by the crasser measurements of brute force and brute endurance.


Okinawa an American Protectorate

SOURCE: Dr. Katherine Muzik (kmuzik@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Vowing to stop US military base construction, Okinawa elders dragged away by riot police.

By Sarah Lazare on 29 October 2015 for Common Dreams  -

Image above: Protesters attempt to block work on a U.S. air base by protesting at the gate of the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in October 29, 2015. Photo by Kyodo-Reuters. From original article.

Elders were dragged away by riot police on Thursday after linking arms, lying on the ground, and blocking vehicles in a bid to physically prevent the construction of a widely-opposed U.S. military base in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan.

Hundreds joined in the demonstration in front of Camp Schwab with the aim of stopping vehicles from transporting materials to build the American installation. "Don't lend a hand in the construction of the military base!" the crowd chanted.

"Don't the people of Okinawa have sovereignty?" 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, an Okinawa prefectural assembly member, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun. "This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible."

Okinawa is home to over half of the 50,000 U.S. military service members in Japan, and over two-thirds of U.S. military bases in the country.

For nearly 20 years, the U.S. has sought to transfer the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Okinawa base from the city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, further to the north.

This plan is overwhelmingly opposed by the people of Okinawa and has been met with protests by tens of thousands of residents, who warn of the hazards of proximity to the U.S. military presence, including sexual assaults by service members, violence, and the environmental threat to the area's ecosystems.

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, elected on an anti-base pledge, two weeks ago revoked the permit for the U.S. miltiary installation. But Japan's land ministry announced this week that it is overriding Onaga's blockage and permitting the defense ministry to resume work on the controversial base.

"The fact that they forcibly executed this construction, there is nothing but anger," Takashi Kishimoto from the Okinawa Peace Movement Center told NBC News. "We are outraged at these political tactics which ignore will of the people."

The Okinawa protests follow nationwide mass mobilizations against the militarization of Japanese society, including the recent passage of a series of widely unpopular that would allow the country's soldiers to participate in the foreign wars of the United States and other allies.


Plan to Save the World

SUBHEAD: Global leaders don't have to convince us that renewable energy is the future. They just need to hasten it.

By Rebecca Leber on 27 October 2015 for the New Republic -

Image above: Areal view of part of the solar powered110 megawatt molten salt thermal energy storage system at Crescent Dunes in Tonopa, Nevada. From (http://www.solarpanelsmelbournevictoria.com.au/solar-power/).

TRight now, we're in a car, hanging on for dear life as we hurtle around a mountain bend. If we don't hit the brakes soon, we're going to lose control, crash through the guardrail, and careen into the abyss. We've been fully warned about the danger ahead, but now here we are, testing our fate.

Already, the effects of climate change are clear and significant. Last year was the hottest in recorded history, and it's all but certain that 2015 will set a new record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wildfires in the West this year have consumed a massive eight million acres of land and counting, while superstorms like Katrina and Sandy are becoming stronger and more frequent. But that's just the beginning.

By the end of the century, the planet will become unrecognizable. The western United States will face Dust Bowl-like conditions that will persist for more than 30 years. As the oceans rise, island nations like the Maldives could disappear completely, while millions of people in Miami, New York, and Bangladesh will be forced from their homes.

Looking further out, over the next several hundred years, the melting ice caps could cause sea levels to surge up to 200 feet, high enough to sink a ten-story building.

These are not fantasies dreamed up by some Hollywood studio. They're ripped from the pages of sober scientific journals and official reports.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations, foresees environmental impacts that are "severe, pervasive, and irreversible." The World Bank has warned that humanity may not be able to adapt to this warmer world.

By certain measures, it's already too late. Politicians, climatologists, and environmental activists have long rallied around 2 degrees Celsius of warming as a decisive point, after which we can no longer stave off disaster.

Today, however, we're already at 0.9 degrees of warming above preindustrial averages, and we're on track to blow past 2 degrees by the middle of the century and well over 4 degrees by the end of it. At the rate we're going, just limiting global warming to 2 degrees is a pipe dream.

That doesn't mean the planet is doomed, however. We can still prevent the most devastating effects of climate change if we take action now. The 2-degree target isn't a hard and fast cut-off, says NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt.

Instead, it's more like a speed limit. "The faster you're going around that curve, the more dangerous it is going to be," he told me. We may end up scraping the guardrail on our way around the mountain bend, but it's still possible to keep the car on the road.

At a basic level, in order to ensure our survival, we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute, said that in order for the Paris talks to be counted as a success, they must at least agree on this central point: "There's just one direction of emissions, and that is going down."

Charting that course is what world leaders must do this fall when they meet for two weeks in Paris for the twenty-first United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Past international attempts have failed to reach a consensus on even that basic point. But we know that if we do nothing, we risk calamity for the most vulnerable people in the world. And we know with the same clarity what needs to happen in Paris in order for the world to avert the worst-possible scenarios of global warming.

Paris is not shaping up to be a repeat of Kyoto in 1997 or Copenhagen in 2009 or other conferences that resulted in little more than artificial promises. The long history of failed efforts to address climate change on the international stage has left many environmentalists disillusioned and skeptical that progress can be made.

For decades we've waited for some grand wake-up call. But there is reason to believe that 2015 will represent a real turning point, the moment we finally got serious about saving the planet.

To succeed, the Paris conference must produce an agreement in which industrialized nations pledge to cut carbon emissions significantly by 2030. It should also lay out a longer-term roadmap to midcentury, when developing nations will hopefully make similar leaps.

Given current political realities, any agreement forged in Paris won't be a binding treaty. Yet even a nonbinding agreement will be a positive outcome if it requires nations to be transparent about their progress and sets up a system for financing the costs associated with adapting to climate change.
More importantly, though, Paris must be viewed as the beginning of a long process of reviews and revisions.

Countries should agree to return to the table every few years with new plans that are more ambitious than whatever they commit to in Paris this fall. This isn't an excuse to kick the can down the road, as we have done for far too long, but an acknowledgment that climate change can be solved only in a series of steps, not one fell swoop. Paris is that starting point.
Indeed, officials acknowledge that meeting the 2-degree limit is all but impossible. The proposals currently on the table "do not take us to 2 degrees," the U.N.'s Christiana Figueres, the chair of the Paris talks, told The New Yorker in August. Environmental groups have expressed their displeasure that Paris is already, by that measure, an empty promise.

Ben Schreiber, climate and energy program director of the U.S. branch of Friends of the Earth, criticized world leaders for failing to take the steps necessary to reach the 2-degree goal. Paris "is not taking us down a pathway for a just climate agreement," he said.
But a new consensus is emerging that limiting warming to 2 degrees in a single conference shouldn't be the only criteria for success. Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, sees 2 degrees as an aspirational target that's "really not achievable."

If we remain wedded to that goal, he said, we risk falling into despair and apathy. "The most ambitious target that can be isn't necessarily the best one that can be done. It is the most realistic one," Stavins said.
"Paris is incredibly important in that it shaves off 1 degree Celsius," said Andrew Jones, the co-director of Climate Interactive, an MIT-affiliated climate policy group. "It is a much better world, and it sets off the framework for ratcheting up ambitions in the future."
In the run-up to the talks, countries have drafted individual proposals—formally called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—to make progress toward that goal. The United States has offered to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The European Union has set a target of a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030. Canada has proposed a 30 percent cut from 2005 levels by 2030.
For the first time, too, developing nations have offered plans as well—that they are finally factoring pollution into their economic thinking is monumental progress compared to previous climate conferences. China has zeroed in on 2030 as roughly the year by which it hopes to achieve peak levels of carbon dioxide emissions. India offered its plan in October, the last major economy to do so.

As expected, India's plan is a mixed proposal that gives no deadline for when its emissions will come down. Instead, India wants rapid economic growth at a lower intensity of emissions, combined with aggressive renewable development.
These proposals are both the summit's brightest point of optimism as well as a looming disappointment. Together, the INDCs would slow the growth of 90 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

These plans aren't ambitious enough to stave off the worst effects of climate change, though, and many of the richest nations, including EU countries, the United States, and Canada, could still do more.

According to an analysis in September by researchers at Climate Interactive, taken together the proposals would put the planet on track for 3.5 degrees of warming, assuming countries take no further action after their pledges run through 2030.

That's better than the 4 degrees or more that we're currently facing, but still too high for comfort. "If action stopped after the pledge period, if all we followed were the INDCs, we would create a world that we would not be able to adapt to," Jones said.

Climate Action Tracker, a Germany-based group that has assessed INDCs, is more optimistic that countries will continue to cut emissions post-2030. By that hypothesis, we're still only on track to limit warming to around 2.7 degrees. Still, all progress is good progress.
The United States is keenly aware that the focus on establishing ambitious, binding targets for cutting emissions has doomed previous climate negotiations, and it has been working to ensure that expectations for a quick fix in Paris do not get out of hand. "We will not know in 2015," whether Paris is a success, U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern told The Guardian earlier this year. "The rush to judgment, that this does not do enough, is not the way to think about this."
Instead, the White House's position is that success cannot be measured in degrees or percentages, but rather in momentum—a shared understanding that the situation is serious and that progress must be made. "I'm less concerned about the precise number, because let's stipulate right now, whatever various country targets are, it's still going to fall short of what the science requires.

So a percent here 
or a percent there coming from various countries is not going to be a deal-breaker," President Barack Obama told Rolling Stone this summer. "The key for Paris is just to make sure that everybody is locked in, saying, 'We're going to do this.'"
But momentum means more than speeches and modest national pledges tied up in a bow. How far countries go in creating momentum rather than following existing trends will be what separates Paris from the conferences that came before it.
In fact, the United States sees Paris as just the first of many such meetings in the years ahead. The Obama administration wants to come away from Paris with an agreement that countries will reconvene every five years with ever-more ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions. Countries that have mediocre proposals today could turn them into stronger plans in a few years, especially if economic circumstances change faster than expected. China, for example, may find that by 2020, the rising cost of coal and cheapening clean energy technologies mean it can start limiting its emissions earlier than 2030, as currently anticipated, especially if its newly devised national cap-and-trade plan is effective. In this view, Paris will establish a floor for emission cuts upon which countries can build.
In many ways, too, the most important goal at the Paris conference is not the targets for emission cuts themselves, but rather a consensus on some of the key questions that have plagued these conferences from the beginning: Who bears responsibility for climate change, and who will ultimately shoulder the cost of addressing it? Success at the conference will depend on how thoroughly these questions are addressed.
A lack of agreement on these points has doomed previous climate talks. Rapidly growing countries, like China, India, and Brazil, have been loath to curb their own emissions, since the United States and Europe are far and away the largest historical polluters. And industrialized nations, in turn, have used the reluctance of developing nations to disavow that development path as an excuse not to act.
However, the easiest and cheapest ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions actually start with developing nations, where there is more opportunity to improve energy efficiency and land use and to scale up clean energy.

Since these countries lack the type of fossil fuel-centered infrastructure that is common in the West, millions can gain access to electricity through clean energy instead. India is doing just that, for example, by pledging to add solar panels to millions of rooftops, a departure from the centralized power grid in the United States. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to expand solar capacity fivefold to 100 gigawatts by 2022.
India needs help to fund the project, which is expected to reach $100 billion. "That would be transformational in India, but it's clear they can't do it on their own," said Alden Meyer, the director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has followed international climate talks since the early '90s.

Because the entire world will benefit from cutting carbon emissions and supporting clean energy, it's fair to expect the entire world to share the cost of such programs.
One of the few successes of the last major climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 was the call to create the Green Climate Fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change. So far, countries have pledged just over $10 billion, which is on track to be distributed this fall.

But the goal is to reach $100 billion annually by 2020. Meyer counts these financial commitments as necessary to help nations like India "leapfrog over the centralized power grid" that's defined economic growth for industrialized nations. Paris will need to establish a framework for these payments and a system to ensure the money isn't wasted.

Even with these recalibrated expectations, however, the Paris talks could still fall apart. Though negotiators have been meeting throughout the year to hammer out differences before they get to Paris, progress has been slow.

Most of the potential disagreements in Paris are likely to fall along familiar fault lines: whether targets for cutting emissions should be binding, and which countries should bear the most responsibility. The EU, for example, has pushed for a treaty with legally binding targets.

But for other nations, including the United States and India, such a requirement is a nonstarter. Their reasons differ: For the United States, the Obama administration is politically constrained by a Republican-controlled Senate that will not ratify any such treaty, while India is afraid to harm a growing economy.

In theory, an agreement could have some legally binding element that requires countries to implement or ratchet up future ambitions, but there's little consensus on what exactly should meet strict expectations.
So if there will be any teeth to the agreement at all, it's likely to be focused on reporting requirements and transparency, so that countries are required to show that they are implementing their own proposals.

Even in a largely nonbinding symbolic document, there still needs to be some way to measure progress so countries follow through on their pledges.

Finally, there's the issue of whether and how the agreement expresses a long-term goal to limit fossil fuel development—a rethinking of the 2-degree target. That would put into words a new target that gets nations thinking more about the medium term, an agreed-upon goal like decarbonizing the economy, phasing out fossil fuels, or achieving a certain level of cuts globally by midcentury.

The hope is that assigning a deadline will strengthen countries' commitments to limit out-of-control warming, since the energy infrastructure built in the next few years can lock in emissions for decades to come.
With this much left unresolved, the only outcome that is certain is that there will be the usual cramming sessions, running up to the last hour in the middle of the night, before world leaders head home with an agreement in hand—or nothing at all.
But the Obama administration has learned from the mistakes of previous climate change conferences and laid the groundwork for Paris well. Obama has traveled the country rallying the American people to support climate action, including the first presidential trip to the Alaskan Arctic
 in August. "This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized," he told a conference of Arctic nations in Anchorage. "On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late."
And he's backed up his rhetoric with action. In his second term, the president has established the first-ever limits on U.S. coal pollution in the power sector. He's offered $3 billion in climate financing to poorer nations (though the money could be tied up indefinitely by an uncooperative Congress).

And he's forged a series of bilateral climate agreements with China, India, Brazil, and Mexico that have smoothed the road to Paris. His critics charge he could have done more, but this is more progress than any other U.S. president has made.
Obama may not be backed by Congress, but he's backed by public opinion. Polls show that a majority of Americans accept climate change as a reality and are concerned about it. In a Pew poll this summer, 69 percent of Americans identified climate change as a "serious" problem, up from 63 percent in 2010. Gallup polling puts concern about climate change somewhat lower, but still hovering at 55 percent.

Obama's efforts may get another boost from Catholics who followed Pope Francis's first visit to the United States this fall. The Pope has used the weight of the church to rally the world's one billion Catholics behind environmental justice.
The U.S.-China deal in particular, first announced in the fall of 2014 and strengthened in September of this year, was a breakout moment in the run-up to the Paris talks, since it signaled to the world that the longtime opponents at previous conferences were finally ready and able to make a deal.
Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute was with the South African negotiating delegation when news of the U.S-China deal broke. She described the sense of relief at seeing that both countries were "in" for cooperation. The reaction in the room, she said, was, "Oh, they're serious."

The most optimistic feature of Paris is that negotiations no longer exist in a vacuum. Indeed, the economic landscape has shifted since the 2009 Copenhagen conference, when the hope of addressing climate change appeared to be lost.

Global investment in clean energy has jumped from $45 billion to $270 billion in the last ten years and will grow as more and more countries institute a price on carbon, as dozens already have.

Clean energy still has a long way to go—the United States currently gets just 13 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including hydropower—but the pace of change is startling.

And solar is the brightest story. The price of solar energy has dropped 78 percent since Obama took office. Even without federal policies that offer generous tax breaks for clean energy, the United States is poised for a revolution "when solar becomes that technology of choice," explained Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst William Nelson. The price of wind energy has also dropped 58 percent. The switch to renewables is having a significant impact. In 2014, the global economy grew by 3 percent, but world emissions remained flat—exactly the sort of trend that needs to continue if the world is to keep growing without spinning into a death spiral.
Meanwhile, the coal industry is facing a steady stream of bad news. The symbolic movement to divest from fossil fuel assets hit $2.6 trillion in pledges this year, 50 times more than where it was a year ago, exceeding even activists' expectations.

The boom in natural gas development has eaten into coal's prominence as a power source, and cheap clean energy and federal regulations have also contributed to the largest wave of closed-down coal plants the United States has ever seen.

Global leaders don't have to convince the world that renewable energy is the future. They just need to hasten that future along.
If they succeed, the world will look dramatically different even in our own lifetimes. Billions of young trees will help take carbon out of the air, as reforestation efforts make headway. The sun could be our single largest energy provider, up from just 0.5 percent globally today.

Sunny cities will have solar panels lining rooftops as far as the eye can see. We won't be debating whether to build new pipelines to carry oil from coast to coast, but where to locate the next wind farm.

In the United States alone, the oil rigs that dot the landscape in Texas and North Dakota could give way to sprawling fields of turbines. If that happens, we could look back at the Paris talks as the moment that truly made the future possible.


Hawaiian sovereignty on the line

SUBHEAD: Walter Ritte to disenroll from Native Hawaiian Roll over upcoming Constitutional Convention. 

By Walter Ritte on 27 October 2015 in Island Breath -

[IB Publisher's note: It appears the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is working against Hawaiian sovereignty through the process of holding a "Native Hawaiian Constitutional Convention" that will deliver the Hawaiian people with the proper "blood quantum" as "American Indians". And you know how that worked out.]

Image above: In Hawaii the American flag flies over the Hawaii State flag that was once the flag of the Hawaiian Territory that was once the flag of the Hawaiian Nation that was once free and sovereign. From Huffington Post article below.

Native Hawaiian Community leader, Walter Ritte, to disenroll from Native Hawaiian Roll, and make statement concerning upcoming Native Hawaiian Constitutional Convention.

10:30am on Wednesday, 28th October 2015

In front of Hawaiian Hall, at the University of Hawaii in Manoa
Varney Circle next to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services
Honolulu, Oahu, HI

Walter Ritte
Phone: (808) 213-1107
Email: ritte@hotmail.com

At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, in front of Hawaii Hall at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Native Hawaiian community leader, Walter Ritte will publicly disenroll from the Native Hawaiian Roll and withdraw his candidacy from the Naʻi Aupuni Native Hawaiian election and ʻaha, calling for a boycott of the election.

Joined by the Royal Order of Kamehameha, community leaders and academics, Ritte will read a statement explaining why he is now removing his name from the Native Hawaiian Roll and withdrawing his candidacy for the election.

“Four fifths of all Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi and abroad are excluded from this election. I cannot participate in a process that is not pono, and have decided to remove my name from consideration to be a delegate in the ‘aha. We need to be steadfast and remain on the path that our kūpuna have laid because we are still a sovereign and independent state” stated Ritte.

This statement comes just days prior to the beginning of the election, which will produce the final delegates for next Spring’s Native Hawaiian constitutional convention. The election is to take place from November 1 - 30, 2015.

Hawaiʻi Hall is located at Varney Circle next to the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center for Student Services. Parking is available for purchase in green marked stalls in Varney Circle or at the parking adjacent to the Center for Hawaiian Studies on Dole street, from where shuttles run regularly to Varney Circle.

Media Contact:
Walter Ritte
Phone: (808) 213-1107
Email: ritte@hotmail.com

U.S. defines Native Hawaiian Recognition
By Chris D'angelo on 30 September 2015 for Huffington Post -


Native Hawaiians have not had a formal government since the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in 1893 by a group of American businessmen, with the support of 300 U.S. Marines.

But that may soon change.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed a framework for the Native Hawaiian community to re-establish a unified government if it wishes, and to decide what relationship it would have with the United States -- if any.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in an announcement Tuesday that the proposal is a testament to the Obama administration’s strong support for Native peoples’ right to self-determination.

"The United States has a long-standing policy of supporting self-governance for Native peoples," she said. "Yet the benefits of the government-to-government relationship have long been denied to Native Hawaiians, one of our nation’s largest indigenous communities."

Tuesday's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking comes more than a year after the Department of the Interior held a series of public meetings across the state on the topic. For the most part, the meetings were dominated by Native Hawaiians who opposed federal recognition, saying it would do nothing to right the wrongs of history, particularly the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

"This is just part of the grand scheme to make us Indians," Walter Ritte, a Native Hawaiian activist, said this week of the new DOI proposal.

But more than 5,000 pieces of written testimony "overwhelmingly favored creating a pathway for re-establishing a formal government-to-government relationship," according to the DOI.

“We’ve listened to the feedback we received during the public meetings and in writing and worked to improve the proposal to reflect those comments,” Jewell said Tuesday.

The DOI stressed that under the new proposal, the Native Hawaiian community, not the federal government, would decide whether to reorganize a Native Hawaiian government. It would also decide what form that government would take, and whether it would seek a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The DOI says such a relationship could provide the community with greater flexibility to preserve its distinct culture and traditions, as well as special status under federal law to exercise powers of self-government over many issues that directly affect the community.

For members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, the proposal came as welcome news.

“Native Hawaiians have the right to reorganize a government that they determine is best for them,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement Tuesday. “With today’s publication of proposed rules from the Department of the Interior, I urge Native Hawaiians and other interested individuals to stay engaged and to contribute their comments and concerns as the process moves forward.”

“The Native Hawaiian community’s ongoing work toward self-determination takes a significant step forward today, and I applaud the Obama administration for its commitment to this effort," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said in a statement Tuesday.

Tuesday's announcement, which kicked off a 90-day public comment period, comes in the midst of a unique election process in which Native Hawaiians will select delegates to represent them at a constitutional convention, where they could possibly come up with a recommended form of government that would then face a vote.

Akina versus the State of Hawaii

SUBHEAD:Plaintiffs File Appeal in Ninth Circuit Court regarding lawsuit against unconstitutional OHA election in response to Friday's ruling on injunction appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

By Staff on 26 October 2015 for Hawaii Free Press -

Today, the Plaintiffs in Akina v. State of Hawaii filed an appeal from the Order of Judge Michael Seabright denying their motion to halt a race-based election to establish a Hawaiian tribe in violation of the Constitution. On Friday, Judge Seabright announced his ruling against the Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. Though Judge Seabright has not yet issued his written opinion, the fact that the election process is ongoing persuaded the Plaintiffs of the importance of an immediate appeal.

“We feel confident that the appellate courts will stop a racially-divisive state-sponsored election which tramples on constitutional rights,” said former Hawaii Attorney General Michael A. Lilly who, along with Bob Popper and other attorneys at Judicial Watch, represents the Plaintiffs.

"Every day that this unconstitutional election is allowed to proceed is another day that Native Hawaiians are misled, people's rights are bypassed, and the will of the thousands of Hawaiians who have voiced their opposition to the state's nation-building scheme are ignored," said Kelii Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute and one of the Plaintiffs in the case.
"We must stop wasting time, money, and good will on a divisive and unconstitutional race-based election and begin looking for ways to improve the lives of everyone who lives in our state."
Speaking as a Plaintiff, Dr. Akina continued: "We believe that the ruling against our preliminary injunction was the wrong decision. The law is clear on the issues in this case, and we are certain that an appeal to a higher court will demonstrate that this election is harmful to Native Hawaiians and our constitutional principles."

The Notice of Appeal can be viewed at:

To see all the documents for the case, go to:

Maui Protest of Naʻi Aupuni

By Wendy Osher on 23 October 2015 for Maui Now -

The Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaii Maui College sponsors a community meeting on Oct. 29, in opposition to the Naʻi Aupuni group, which was established to create a path toward Hawaiian self-determination.

The Naʻi Aupuni group has solicited nominations for candidates to represent the various islands as delegates in an upcoming Native Hawaiian Constitutional Convention or ʻAha.

It came about following the passage of Act 195, which recognizes Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaiʻi, and also created the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to develop the process for enrolling Native Hawaiians to organize a sovereign entity.

In a similar opposition meeting held on Oʻahu earlier this month, longtime cultural advocate Andre Perez said, “The majority of our people have been disassociated from this process and we’re here to acknowledge those feelings and be sincere about it.  Many of us didn’t know where Act 195 came from… We were never part of our own self determination design.  Therein lies the problem,” Perez said during the Oct. 9, 2015 meeting at the Center for Hawaiian Studies at Mānoa.  (Video made possible by Scotty Wong of Kingdom Media Hawai`i.)

Perez said it is important that the public understand the impacts, implications, risks and take a critical analysis of the process.  In a video of the meeting he said the discussion is not about trying to argue the merits of participation in Naʻi Aupuni or re-hasing Hawaiian history.

“Most of us believe that we will not be able to control this process and so we are very concerned about it…  We want to get into the meat of understanding Naʻi Aupuni; how it’s going to work; what the potential implications are; and also understanding how has it violated principles of self determination.  The highest standards of human rights have not been met. That is our belief and that is why we are holding this hālāwai (meeting),” said Perez during the Oʻahu meeting.
The Maui meeting, entitled “Protest Naʻi Aupuni. Choose Aloha ʻĀina,” will include information and strategy discussion.  The Protest Naʻi Aupuni website expresses opposition to the group with material that reads, “Hawaiian Sovereignty is not for sale.”

The site urges signatures for an online petition that was drafted with the following assertion: “I am an indigenous/aboriginal Hawaiian. I did not give my free, prior, informed consent to be on the Kanaʻiolowalu Rolls and protest Naʻi Aupuni which is the Office of Hawaiian Affairsʻ/State of Hawaiʻiʻs attempt to relinquish my peoplesʻ cultural and political rights to sovereignty over our national lands and our human right to self-determination.”

The petition, which went live on Sept. 13, is seeking 5,000 signatures and had garnered 367 signatures by Friday afternoon, Oct. 23, 2015.

The upcoming Maui meeting runs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the UHMC Pilina Building.

List of OHA Candidates

SUBHEAD: List of candidates released for Native Hawaiian constitutional convention.

By Staff on 30 September 2015 for the Star Advertizer - 

Some 209 candidates will vie for 40 delegate positions across the islands for the Native Hawaiian 'aha constitutional convention.

Kuhio Asam, president of Na'i Aupuni, which is in charge of running the November election and subsequent Native Hawaiian convention and ratification process, said the candidates are "diverse in their age, backgrounds and purpose. They are representative of a good cross-section of the Native Hawaiian community."

The list of candidates was released today by Election-America, a private national company hired by the independent group Na'i Aupuni to conduct the election.

The delegates will be elected to represent Native Hawaiians who live in and out of Hawaii. They will meet next year at a constitutional convention to work on forming a Native Hawaiian government.

The election breakdown by area is: On Oahu, 110 candidates will vie for 20 delegate positions; Hawaii island, 32 candidates for 7 slots; Maui, 15 contenders for 3 positions; Kauai and Niihau, five hopefuls for two spots; Molokai and Lanai, four candidates for one position; and out of state, 43 contenders for seven slots.

Information on each candidate can be found at www.naiaupuni.org or at https://vote.election-america.com/naiaupuni/bios.htm.

Ballots to elect the delegates will be sent to certified voters on Nov.1, Election-America officials said. Votes can be cast by mail or electronically but must be received by Nov. 30.

Native Hawaiians who have not been certified can still apply with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission (www.kanaiolowalu.org) or at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (www.oha.org/registry).

Information about the election process can be found at www.naiaupuni.org or by emailing naiaupuni@election-america.com. The deadline to be certified is Oct. 15.


Step closer to war with China

SUBHEAD: Furious China summons U.S. Ambassador to slam Obama decision to "Threaten Peace" with warship challenge.

By Tyler Durden on 27 October 2015 for Zero Hedge -

[IB Publisher's note: It is true that this is an imperial expansion into the South China Sea bounded by Vietnam, the Philippines Malaysia, Brunei and of interest also to Japan. However America's is flexing its "Super Power" muscles against China in that part of the world is a bit of imperial stretch for the USA. We have already made claim to much of the Pacific Ocean with out weapons testing/exercise areas and national ocean "monuments" See (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/10/a-new-colinization-of-pacific.html) and (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/search/label/Strategic%20Islands). Isn't China entitled to some empire too?]

Image above: USS Lassen in 2001. From (www.navsource.org/archives/05/01082.htm).

Well, the US navy vessel Lassen sailed within 12-nautical miles of Subi Reef and surprisingly, World War III did not break out overnight.

Nine months of tension between Washington and Beijing over the latter’s land reclamation efforts in The South China Sea culminated on Monday with President Obama’s decision to send a guided missile destroyer to China’s man-made military outposts on a “freedom of navigation” exercise. As we put it on Monday evening:
"The ball is now squarely in China's court. The question now is whether Beijing will back down and concede that "sovereignty" somehow means something different with regard to the islands than it does with respect to the mainland or whether Xi will stick to his guns (no pun intended) and take a pot shot at a US destroyer."
In short, some feared that based on recent rhetoric out of Beijing (e.g. the PLA will “stand up and use force”) that China might actually fire upon the US-flagged vessel or at least move to surround it in what might mark the first step on the road to war.

Ultimately, that didn't happen as China apparently decided to take the high road for now and avoid an escalation that might have had far-reaching consequences.

Image above: Map of From (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/125704/ph-govt-makes-impassioned-plea-at-the-hague).

That said, Beijing isn't happy. Here's more from Bloomberg:

China said it will take “all necessary measures” to defend its territory after the U.S. sailed a warship through waters claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea, a move the government in Beijing called a threat to peace and stability in Asia.

“The behavior of the U.S. warship threatened China’s sovereignty and national interest, endangered the safety of the island’s staff and facilities, and harmed the regional peace and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement today. “The Chinese side expressed its strong discontent and firm opposition.”

The comments came hours after the USS Lassen passed within 12-nautical miles of Subi Reef, an island built by China as a platform to assert its claim to almost 80 percent of one of the world’s busiest waterways. By passing so close to the man-made island, the U.S. is showing it doesn’t recognize that the feature qualifies for a 12-nautical mile territorial zone under international law.

The patrol marks the most direct attempt by the U.S. to challenge China’s territorial claims and comes weeks after President Barack Obama told President Xi Jinping at a Washington summit that the U.S. would enforce freedom of navigation and that China should refrain from militarizing the waterway. 

In a strongly-worded statement, Lu said the USS Lassen had “illegally” entered Chinese waters and that “relevant Chinese departments monitored, shadowed and warned the U.S. ship.” China has “indisputable” sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and surrounding waters, Lu said.

“What the U.S. is doing now will only damage the stability in the South China Sea, and send the wrong message to neighboring nations such as the Philippines and encourage them to take some risky behavior,” said Xu Liping, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-linked institute.

Image above: Artificial islands, like this one planned to be built by China over Mabini Reef. From (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/06/04/1330967/designs-chinas-planned-base-mabini-reef-surface).

While it's not entirely clear what professor Xu Liping means by "encourage the Philippines to take some risky behavior," it's worth noting that Washington's provocation is in some respects explicity designed to embolden America's regional allies. That is, this isn't going on in Washington's backyard.

This is simply the US responding to calls from its friends in the South Pacific to counter what they view as Chinese aggression by letting Beijing know that Big Brother isn't going to stand for any bullying from the PLA. That gambit appears to have paid off - for the time being.

As for what comes next, Malcolm Davis, an assistant professor in China-Western relations at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast tells Bloomberg China could move to set up a no-fly zone:
China may choose to respond without directly challenging U.S. ships with its Navy or coast guard. It could declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the South China Sea, or speed up the militarization of the area by deploying extra forces, including combat aircraft, to the islands. 

“The ball would then be back in the U.S.’s court,” Davis said. “A Chinese attempt to enforce an ADIZ over the South China Sea would increase tensions with its neighbors, most notably Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, and they would place increasing pressure on Washington not to back down.”
In other words, China doesn't need to fire on a US destroyer to ratchet up the pressure. Beijing can simply continue to do what it's done up until now; that is, militarize the region and essentially dare the US to take action beyond sailing by and waving.

We suspect we'll see plenty of new satellite images over the coming weeks and months which purport to show the extent to which the PLA is beefing up its defenses in the face of unnecessary (not to mention extremely petty) posturing on Washington's part.

Image above: Detail of map of Marine Monuments and US Military Range Complexes and major bases in the Pacific claimed by the United States of America. by Juan Wilson produced for Koohan Paik. Click to see entire map. From (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-pacific-pivot.html).


War over Olympic National Forest

SUBHEAD: Did the US Navy break federal laws to push war games over our Olympic National Forest?

By Dahr Jamail on 26 October 2015 for Truth Out -

Image above: Shoreline of Olympic National Forest. From (http://www.stateparks.com/olympic_national_forest_in_washington.html).

The US Navy aims to begin conducting electromagnetic warfare training across much of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula soon.

Meanwhile, it is being accused of breaking federal laws in order to secure the permits necessary to move forward with its training operations.

Karen Sullivan worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for 15 and a half years, and is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following.

She is now part of the West Coast Action Alliance, one of two large multistate and international citizen groups who have tasked themselves with watchdogging the Navy, due to what they believe are ongoing violations of the law, blatant acts of disrespect toward human and environmental health, and ongoing bellicose behavior by the military branch in their areas.

"Ethical and legal questions about the Navy's conduct abound: hidden notices, comment periods that have been shortened or wholly eliminated, and last-minute publication of key documents coupled with total disregard for NEPA's [National Environmental Policy Act] prohibitions on segmentation present a clear and present danger that the Navy is hastily proceeding with plans regardless and in defiance of federally mandated processes," Sullivan's organization wrote recently in a memorandum to the Navy.

Some of the points of concern about the Navy's actions include: failure to provide reasonable notice to the public about their planned war games, failure to provide adequate comment process, failure to address functionally connected activities and their cumulative impacts, and failure to adequately consider impacts to Olympic National Park's World Heritage designation, among others.

Sullivan, who worked for over 15 years in the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Endangered Species and External Affairs, told Truthout she believes the Navy's final environmental impact statement (EIS) about their upcoming warfare training is "unlawful and fatally flawed."

"The Navy has an astonishing sense of entitlement to public lands and waters," Sullivan said about how the Navy has approached the public's concerns over its operations. "Northwest Training and testing range manager Kent Mathes told me last year after a public meeting, 'We own the airspace and there's nothing anyone can do about it.'"

As Truthout previously reported, if it gets its way, the Navy would be flying Growler jets - electronic attack aircraft that specialize in radar jamming - in 2,900 training exercises over wilderness, communities and cities across the Olympic Peninsula for 260 days per year, with exercises lasting up to 16 hours per day. Naval surface fleet ships will also be participating by homing in on ground-based emitters - a topic that was never discussed in the Navy's environmental assessment.

Dozens of naval EA-18G Growler supersonic jet warplanes will fly as low as 1,200 feet above the ground in some areas in order to conduct war games with 14 mobile towers on the ground in national forests.

Medical doctors, scientific reports and even the Navy's own documents show that enough electromagnetic radiation will be emitted to be capable of damaging human eye tissue, causing breast cancer, causing childhood leukemia and damaging human fetuses, let alone impacting wildlife in the area. The Navy has denied that these impacts will occur.

Medical doctors also told Truthout that noise from the Navy's jets is a major health risk.

Nevertheless, the Navy appears to be rapidly moving forward with its plans to war game over the Olympic Peninsula. In doing so, Sullivan believes it is opening itself up to major lawsuits - because it is taking blatantly illegal actions.

Fatal Flaws
John Mosher, the Navy's northwest environmental manager for the US Pacific Fleet, has stated that its planes will be flying as low as 1,200 feet above the ground.

Yet the Navy's environmental impact assessment does not even mention jet noise pollution or the sound of the Navy's jets, and states that there are "no significant impacts" on public health and safety, biological resources, noise, air quality or visual resources.

Tens of thousands of outraged residents from around the Olympic Peninsula have expressed their opposition via letters to the US Forest Service, public meetings, letters to the editor in newspapers across the peninsula, flooding article comment sections and via social media.

"Olympic Forest Coalition is extremely concerned with all aspects of the Navy's proposal, but of primary concern is for the disruption to wildlife activities in both the national park, the forest and our coast.

Endangered species such as the marbled murrelet are at a 5 percent population decline due to loss of habitat and other disruptions," Connie Gallant, president of the Olympic Forest Coalition, which co-authored the recent memorandum to the Navy, told Truthout. "The Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary area is also in peril due to the many 'takes' the Navy plans. It is as if our entire ecosystem has been targeted for destruction and, so far, the Navy is showing very little concern for it."

But apparently the Navy is not having any of it: It has simply ignored or neglected to address residents' outcries about its actions.

The October 13 memorandum sent to the Navy by the West Coast Action Alliance states, "Reasonable concerns and objections presented by the public and allied organizations continue to be utterly disregarded, and this controversy intensifies by the day."

Even some politicians have become concerned about the Navy's negligence; in fact, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Washington State) requested that the Navy undertake a sound study under the auspices of the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise (FICAN).

But according to Sullivan's group, "The Navy failed to do so. Instead it reconstituted an older study using data from Prowler jets, which are no longer being flown, to justify no significant impacts on the soundscapes of Olympic National Park."

Sullivan explained to Truthout that the Navy's EIS is "fatally flawed" for a number of reasons. One of the requirements of the law is for the Navy to give the public reasonable time to read and comment on their proposed operations, before the review period ends.

"Notices in local papers did not appear until five to seven days into the 30-day 'review' period, and as of October 10 only one individual we knew of had received the copy as requested, with more than one-third of the allotted 30 days already past," Sullivan explained. "Libraries in northern California have still not received their copies as of October 20. The public review period ends November 2, and the documents are more than 4,000 pages long."

This was just one of several examples of how, according to West Coast Action Alliance, the Navy has been in violation of the law.

"The bottom line is the Navy doesn't care how we feel about it and they don't want to hear from us," Sullivan said. "If they did, there'd be a real person manning the jet noise complaint hotline, and there'd be a way to get information from them in a timely manner, and there'd be a way for the public to be heard on the record. Their message to communities on the Olympic Peninsula is: Go away. Your comments don't count."

Sullivan is far from alone in feeling this way. Even naval veterans are troubled by the Navy's current behavior.

"I'm one of them, and always will be," Navy and Vietnam veteran Patrick Noonan told Truthout. "I'm deeply committed to what it is the Navy has to do. Given that, they need to learn to be better neighbors rather than worse neighbors to the surrounds and the cities they fly over."

Noonan, who was also a naval test pilot, added, "They are going in the wrong direction. They are becoming worse neighbors and becoming more belligerent. These people just want the Navy to be more considerate."

Other "fatal flaws" in the Navy's final EIS, Sullivan told Truthout, include "segmenting connected actions into smaller pieces that get evaluated separately. What this means is nobody gets to evaluate the totality of effects, or what agencies would call cumulative impacts."

Another issue she takes with the Navy's EIS is that it fails to consider the impacts to the soundscape of Olympic National Park, which is a World Heritage site.

"They did not conduct a 'neutral' study on the effects of jet noise after being specifically requested to do so last May by Congressman Derek Kilmer," Sullivan said. "The Navy ignored Congressman Kilmer's request and reconstituted an old study using data from aircraft that are no longer being flown."

She went on to point out how the Growlers are notably more powerful and far louder than the Prowlers, the aforementioned aircraft the Navy used in the reconstituted study. Her data came from calculations performed by Noonan, the former Navy test pilot.

"The new airplane is dramatically louder than even that monster F4 I used to fly," Noonan said.
As Truthout has previously reported, doctors have shown that the intense jet noise from the Navy's warplanes causes our bodies to go into functions that cause hypertension, increased triglycerides, lack of sleep, anxiety, lack of enough REM and other negative impacts. Several medical studies also show that the higher the decibels and the longer the hours, the higher potential for increased myocardial infarction, hypertension, anxiety and other issues.

Possible Lawsuits
The Navy has left itself open to being sued on many fronts. Sullivan said the Navy failed to provide adequate public notice nor provide libraries the Navy listed with their EIS in hard copy or CD format for the public to read.

"They also violated NEPA by pre-selecting an alternative long before making anything public," Sullivan said. "The Navy applied for an incidental take permit [permit allowing the Navy to kill certain numbers of wildlife] from NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] last April, long before this EIS was finalized, yet they still have not announced their preferred alternative, so what this means is they have already selected it, applied for the permit and the public's comments don't matter a bit with regard to their final choice. That's illegal."

This leaves the Navy potentially vulnerable to Endangered Species Act and National Historic Preservation Act violations. The types of violations in which the Navy has engaged, according to Sullivan, are not simply routine blunders.

"The release of the EIS before consultation is complete is unprecedented," Sullivan said. "To sign a record of decision before consultations are complete, while not strictly illegal, is unethical. Basically, it would amount to making up one's mind before knowing what the impacts are."

The US Forest Service has to grant the Navy the permit it needs to use national forest roads for driving its mobile emitters for the war games. The Forest Service has said it will issue its decision in November, but many activists involved in the situation believe the Forest Service is poised to rubber-stamp the Navy's permit, despite thousands of formal public comments made in opposition to naval plans.

Consequently, Sullivan said, the Forest Service has also now left itself open to lawsuits.
"This could leave them [Forest Service] vulnerable on many fronts," she said. "For example, they did not conduct their own scientific investigations to validate the Navy's claims of no significant impacts."

She believes there are "egregious" factual errors in the Navy's environmental assessment, yet the Forest Service has nonetheless indicated it may adopt it wholesale anyhow.

"This violates the National Forest Management Act, among other laws, which basically prohibits them from accepting scientific conclusions from other agencies without verifying them," Sullivan explained. "The fact that they received 4,000 comments from the public, all but 31 opposed, and that they are prepared to ignore that as well as the laws they've violated, makes them vulnerable."

Gene Marx is a former Navy pilot who flew as an airborne electronic warfare officer in Vietnam. Nowadays, he lives in Bellingham, and is publicly critical of the Navy's plans for the Olympic Peninsula.

"They will be flying over the Olympic Peninsula without restriction to altitude or speed; this will without a doubt have major negative consequences on the environment," Marx told Truthout. "The Navy isn't telling you a thing about what the overflights will be doing to the environment - so if we look at the noise impact, that alone will have a major impact on the peninsula."

Marx called the Growler aircraft the Navy is using "a killing machine and a jamming machine," and does not believe the Navy is doing anything in the best interests of the environment. "They are being disingenuous telling us they will be stewards of the environment and that they will not impact the peninsula with their training," he added. "That is just crazy."
Sullivan agrees.

"We have the right and the duty to oversee the actions of federal agencies, including the military, and to insist that they follow the law and their own policies," she said. "We have the right to be heard on the official record, a right that is currently being denied. It is not unpatriotic to insist on these rights, and to demand that our government follow the law and its own policies."

And similar to Marx, she is extremely disappointed by the Navy's actions, on a personal level.
"Not that many years ago I used to feel a sense of pride whenever a Navy ship would pass by," she said. "Being a mariner, I used to dip the ensign, or lower my boat's American flag, to them in salute, and they always returned the salute. I used to be proud when they'd pass by."

But her experience today has changed her sentiment.

"Now it feels like they have nothing but contempt for their neighbors," she said. "The public is being left out of too many major decisions by our government, and that's wrong."

Noonan believes one immediate solution would be for the Navy to use already existing training ranges, instead of "going to pristine lands and imposing their noise on them."

"They have the Yakima range, which gets very little air use," he explained. "That range is vast and totally available to them, and it's eight minutes [flying] from Whidbey. I'm frustrated by the Navy's method and how inconsiderate they are being of the environment when they don't have to be. I don't understand that."

Sullivan is acutely aware of how the deck is stacked against the public when it come to standing up against any arm of the US military.

"The Navy has teams of lawyers, and we citizens have only our powers of observation and freedom of speech," she said. "However, we have the right and the obligation to speak out as informed citizens, across the country, wherever unwarranted encroachment into public and private land is happening, and it's happening in a lot of places."

In other words, she intends to fight.

"We are not giving up," Sullivan said. "We will make them follow the law."