Climate Change in These United States

Fans of my previous commentary on climate change discussion (I figure there may be one or two people out there) would enjoy May 17’s episode of This American Life, No. 495, “Hot in My Backyard,” which analyses how our perception of climate change is stuck. I’m just getting around to listening to it now, and it’s quite good.

Enjoy.

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GAO Report Treats Climate Change’s Symptoms

Mike Groll / AP file

A recent NBC News article concerns an NGO, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), warning the federal government of items presenting high risk. Among the top risks? Climate change, a major issue concerning us all on which the government has been noticeably quiet and evasive in recent months, despite numerous outreach and advocacy groups calling for more government action. I myself wrote a post in October about how discussion of the issue was being avoided at the 2012 presidential debates.

The GAO’s report apparently concerns the federal government’s responsibilities to react quickly and effectively to natural and environmental disasters like the recent hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and it is in relation to this that the report concerns climate change. According to the GAO, the federal government needs to be held more accountable for protecting its citizens from disasters, and it is because these disasters are caused by climate change that climate change is on their list. While it is true that climate change should certainly be on the GAO’s list, the primary incentive being disaster relief is, in my opinion, not nearly enough. It’s tantamount to treating a disease’s symptoms instead of the disease itself. Continue reading

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A History of Climate Change Questions at Presidential Debates

Photo credit: the Baltimore Sun

On Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw recently posed the question as to why presidential and vice presidential debates in the 2012 election have ducked the question of climate change and how they and their administrations would address it. In neither of the ensuing debates was a question about climate change asked, even during the town-hall debate where all questions were asked by ostensibly undecided voters.

According to an article on ThinkProgress.com, two-thirds of voters see evidence of climate change and thus see it as a viable issue for discussion between presidential candidates.

I’ve been working at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, an urban sustainability nonprofit in Chicago. Obviously, the lion’s share of CNT’s work is concerned, directly or indirectly, with climate change and so we have an interest in seeing the issue discussed by the potential leaders of our country. This post gives a history of the discussion of environmentalism and climate change at presidential debates in the last few elections. The point is not to make the case for any partisan groups, but to pose the question: why is such a fundamentally important issue being skirted now, when it’s more important than ever? Continue reading

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I love the English language

Take the word editorializing:

To edit is to alter preexisting words.

An editor is a person who alters preexisting words.

An editorial is a piece of writing that gives the opinion of a person who alters preexisting words.

To editorialize is to assume the voice and or diction (whether in speech or print) of a piece of writing that gives the opinion of a person who alters preexisting words.

The act of editorializing is the present tense form of assuming the voice and diction of a piece of writing that gives the opinion of a person who alters preexisting words.

It’s such a beautiful telescope.  Let the critics hate us for our insufficient alphabet, nonsensical spelling system, and hodgepodge of influences; it’s quite wonderful once you get the hang of it.

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Georgian Nature

Two parables (OK, “unfunny jokes”) to give you some idea of the Georgian national character, the first by an until recently fellow teacher, the other by me:

Americans have a mistress by love their wife; the French have a wife but love their mistress; Georgians have a wife but love their mother.

A constant controversy is whether Georgia is in Eastern Europe or Asia.  Eastern Europeans, if asked, would say Georgia were a part of Asia; Asians, if asked, would say Georgia were a part of Eastern Europe; Georgians, whether they are asked or not, say Georgia is a part of neither.  It’s just Georgia.

More on that first point later; let’s focus on the second.

Georgians, in general, have a very xenophobic and self-centered view of their place in the world.  This is by no means unique, my guess is that every country has it to some extent, but the degree here in Georgia is staggering.  It’s nearly on the same level as countries famous for their disinterest in foreign influence like the U.S., France, Great Britain, or China.  Take a moment to compare these five countries in terms of influence in the world, though.  Georgians are constantly underestimating the insignificance of their own country. Continue reading

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On National and Personal Pride

My host brother’s grandfather has been staying with us for a few days now.  He’s nearly ninety years old and is very frail, so I expect that they’ve decided to bring him here to die.  With two barriers between us—age/senility and language—I couldn’t rightly say that we’ve gotten close, and he doesn’t seem to have much interest in talking to me, but I find the old man’s presence at once troubling and comforting.

Last night I sat outside with my host brother, mother, father, and grandfather, and my host brother being the only one of them who spoke English, he selectively translated some of what they were saying about the grandfather.  I learned that he had fought in World War Two in the Soviet army at seventeen years old, being decorated for bravery, wounded in action, and celebrated as a hero.  Evidently his story is included in a lengthy book about Georgian soldiers in the War, and there may be (it was unclearly explained in three languages, two of which I don’t understand) a documentary about his service.  What was completely clear was that he had received medals from the Soviets, receives a pension to this day, and everyone in the family is extremely proud of what he did.

But what he did was for the Russians.  The country these people hate—or at least hold a grudge towards.  It was clear that this pride was not for the Russian military action, it was for this one brave man’s courage and loyalty, but there was none of the same framing of heroism you sometimes hear about American Vietnam veterans.  They say “He showed bravery in the face of danger and loyalty to protect his fellow soldiers,” but choose to leave off the requisite statement that “The war was evil and the purposes pointless, and he performed his actions out of pure determination for his fellow [Georgians/Americans/etc.].”

It could be the language barrier, but my experience with Georgians is that they take every opportunity to be as specific as possible about their views on the past.  That they choose in this instance to leave off the usual disclaimer, I find significant.  I can’t help but see this as contradictory towards their usual indictment of Russia: when a Georgian family member fights alongside Russians, then Russian actions are as unassailable as Georgian actions.  I can’t help but be troubled by this reasoning.

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