Thursday, October 28, 2010

America's Choices

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crossing Paths With POTUS: Obama in Portland, Oregon

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was my introduction in early 2008 to Barack Obama. His story of exploring his identity in the multi-cultural setting of Hawaii was poignantly and beautifully captured. I love a good memoir and this was a great one.

So naturally I wanted to go and see him speak when he was here in Oregon in April 2008 when he inspired 75,000 people at Waterfront Park, the largest crowd in his presidential campaign. Alas, I was getting on a flight to the Virgin Islands just when he arrived so I missed his speech. But he followed us to St. Thomas, taking his family for a weekend Easter vacation that coincided with my visit. Indeed, he played golf a few minutes away from where I was staying and damn! - we just missed him one afternoon on the way to the beach! We vacationed in Hawaii a year ago, staying in the small beach community of Kailua, ½ mile from where the President and his family spend their Christmas vacations. Fast forward to this year and I was in the Los Angeles airport in April when I caught sight of Air Force One landing to bring him to an event in L.A. Missed you again Barack!!!

Well, last night, the stars were in alignment and I was at the Oregon Convention Center to see President Obama give one of his electrifying speeches as he stumped for the next Governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber.

The hall was packed with the enthusiastic progressive crowd that predominates in this city. Organizers expected 5,000 and 10,000 showed up to demonstrate that there is no lack of enthusiasm in this mid-term election here. Kitzhaber is fighting a tight race against former basketball player Republican candidate Chris Dudley and Portlanders are engaged in this election. A Sarah Palin look-alike strolled through the line-up to get inside drawing laughs as she said her “you betchas,” and the crowd was happy and excited as we patiently waited for hours for the doors to open. Once inside, toddlers played with Kitzhaber signs, music blared and campaign workers revved up the crowd to build the excitement. China Forbes of the great Portland jazz group Pink Martini sang a beautiful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner to kick it off. After a few short speeches the crowd went crazy when popular junior Senator of Oregon Jeff Merkeley took to the stage accompanied by senior Senator Ron Wyden and Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and David Wu.

The debonair, former emergency room doctor and two term former Governor of Oregon John Kitzhaber then took to the stage wearing his signature sports coat, white shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots. He was wildly cheered by the crowd that included many contingents of union workers, teachers and firemen. Kitzhaber highlighted the choices Oregonions face in this election and then introduced the man of the hour, President Obama. With U2 blaring in the background, the President made his way through the crowd to the stage with the whole room erupting in cheers and screams of support. The President started by saying he was glad to be back in Oregon – he referenced the support he received here in 2008 and the large crowd that came to see him at Waterfront Park. He said that his best friend from high school lives in Eugene, Oregon and is a Ducks fan. (University of Oregon football team) and that he’s always getting emails about how the Ducks are doing. However, he said, his brother-in-law coaches the Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State University football team). Of course all of that drew more cheers – Oregon loves their football and the teams have devoted fans that makes for a ‘Civil War’ rivalry that plays out each year in the state. Obama said he’s got the state covered.  It was a great speech, but I'll let you hear some of it for yourself:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Caribbean: Flooding Events Increase With Speed Up of Global Water Cycle : A Blog Action Day Post

 I am pleased to be joining today in the Blog Action Day initiative where over 4,000 blogs from 130 countries, reaching over 30 million readers, will be writing about the issue of water.
Flooding in Havendale, Kingston Jamaica Sept 2010
We have been inundated with the topic of water this year. In Jamaica and the Caribbean, who could forget that the region was experiencing the worst drought ever for the first 5 months of this year? Fast forward 5 months and it would easy to forget the drought. Jamaica was inundated a few weeks ago from devastating flooding from the effects of Tropical Storm Nicole: a perfect example of the extremes in weather fluctuations that have been predicted all along by climate scientists. In the words of one resident of the parish of St. Elizabeth which was particularly hard hit: "Every (rainy) season we get flooding but I never see it like this," he said.   Another concerned citizen, Michael Burke, writing in the Jamaica Observer, laments the lack of preparation for flooding:
In Jamaica, discipline is still a goal to be reached. So we do not prepare for floods during drought and we do not prepare for floods during the rainy season. And while illegal sand miners remove sand and stones from gullies and leave only soft earth, we say nothing until heavy rain washes away houses with people in them.

In the Gleaner last Sunday, there was the story of an 84-year-old woman who was concerned that her house in Tavern, St Andrew, would be washed away. She said that people told her that it was her fault for building her house in the riverbed, but when she built her house 50 years ago, she was 50 feet from the river. What has happened is that the illegal sand mining has eroded the land. Will Papine Square itself be affected in another few years? ~ Michael Burke (See full article here.)

The global water cycle is speeding up and countries in the tropics are taking the brunt of it. Jamaica and the Caribbean should expect more of the flooding and drought extremes and prepare for this new reality. National Geographic’s Freshwater Fellow Sandra Postel summarizes new findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which explains the disturbing reasons why we are seeing so much more flooding now:
Flooding in Havendale, Kingston Jamaica Sept 2010
There is nearly 20 percent more freshwater flowing into the world's oceans than there was 10 years ago--a sign of climate change and a harbinger of more flooding.

A new indicator has joined the century-long rise in temperature to signal that the planet's climate is changing: the global water cycle is speeding up. Using satellite observations, NASA and university researchers have found that rivers and melting ice sheets delivered 18 percent more water to the oceans in 2006 than in 1994.

The findings, which appear in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the volume of water running off the land toward the sea is expanding by the equivalent of roughly one Mississippi River each year. 

On the face of it that might sound like a good thing--more water in rivers means more water to tap for agriculture, industry, and growing cities. But most of the increase is occurring in places where extra water isn't needed, like the wet tropics or the remote Arctic, or is being delivered through torrential storms that overwhelm human infrastructure and coping capacities. Though no single weather episode can be pinned to climate change, the massive rains that recently flooded a fifth of Pakistan is the kind of event scientists expect to see more of--and that nations should prepare for.

Why is the water cycle speeding up? As the atmosphere warms from the addition of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it can hold more moisture. As a result, more water evaporates from the oceans, leading to thicker clouds that then dump more rainfall over the land. That heavier-than-normal rain can then produce massive flooding as it runs back toward the sea, where the cycle begins all over again. 

Scientists have expected global warming to speed up the water cycle in this way, but the use of satellite data allowed the trend to be observed and measured for the first time. The research team, led by Jay Famiglietti of the University of California at Irvine, used satellite records of sea level rise, precipitation, and evaporation to compile a unique 13-year record, the first of its kind.

As the scientific evidence mounts that more severe floods and droughts are on the horizon, getting on with ways of adapting to climatic change becomes just as urgent as slowing the pace of that change. ~ Sandra Postel directs the independent Global Water Policy Project and lectures, writes, and consults on international water issues. She is also Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and serves as lead water expert for the Society's freshwater initiative.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Caribbean Communities Mobilize for International Day of Climate Action - 10/10/10

World leaders have failed miserably at the many United Nations Climate Talks to enact any type of concerted and meaningful action against the rising effects of climate change. This year saw record wildfires in Russia, unprecedented floods in Pakistan, and the hottest year on record. But where politicians fail to take the threats to our planet seriously, a strong grassroots movement is mobilizing and taking action to fill the void left by political and corporate paralysis. All around the world, on October 10, 2010, a second global work party will be taking place to educate people and take action on climate change. The first global work party took place a year ago on October 29, 2009 when 5,248 events were held in 181 countries (see video below).  This year's global work party will see over 6,000 events taking place in 184 countries as people around the world unite in a common vision to work to reduce our carbon footprint.

Caribbean nations with communities participating in the event include Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Guadalupe, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados. The Caribbean Youth Environment Network is participating with events in several countries.  For the full listing of events and contact names for event organizers, please see the event listing page here.

From the organizers of the event: is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in "parts per million" (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a "people powered movement" that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.

We are currently at 388 ppm. A year ago we were at 385 ppm so we have a ways to go if we are to turn back the carbon clock to 350 ppm. Let's hope that the power of this worldwide grassroots mobilization will bring about a serious effort on all levels of society to bring our planet back into balance with a sustainable future for all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Nation March on Washington, D.C.

Photo Alison Omens

Thank you to Crooks and Liars for these clips of speeches from the One Nation Rally held today in Washington, D.C.   Nicole Belle reports on Crooks and Liars:
Enthusiasm gap, schmenthusiasm gap. Without the benefit of months and months of advertising and promotion on Fox News Channel (in fact, I'm only aware of Ed Schultz on MSNBC doing any kind of TV promotion), the One Nation Working Together rally in Washington DC has gathered more supporters than Glenn Beck's much ballyhooed rally, which I will lovingly refer to as "Whitestock".

Preliminary satellite estimates put the crowd size at 175,000 to 200,000 at about noon EST. Read full article here.

From the One Nation website:
One Nation Working Together is a social movement of individuals and organizations committed to putting America back to work and pulling America back together. Coming from a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and orientations, we are determined to build a more united country with good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education for all.