Sunday, October 28, 2007


We have all heard of the problems relating to the sub-prime mortgage. What may not be readily understood is that events surrounding this economic issue can serve as an example and model for debates over environmental issues. The universe is all about relationships, many of which we do not understand or even recognize.

The events surrounding the sub-prime mortgage have been on all of the news outlets. In an oversimplified summary, people who were at the economic margin borrowed money for homes at very low interest rates. The only way they could even afford the mortgages is because of those low rates. Keep in mind that many lenders enticed people into these markets with a constant barrage of advertising. The problem arose because these very low-interest rate mortgages were variable and not fixed. When interest rates doubled and tripled, the homeowner could not afford the new payments, hence, foreclosure.

What people did not understand was the extent that this phenomenon would impact the world. No one really knew, or let it be known, that many of these mortgages were in the hands of foreign investors. The result? The closure of many foreign banks, many job losses, a downturn in the economy, an increase in bankruptcies, loss of local government tax revenues, lives destroyed, credit crunches, a stalled housing market and the effects are still unfolding.

What does this have to do with the environment and CNN’s show, “Planet in Peril?” Perhaps humanity’s greatest failing is that it fails to learn from its mistakes and its actions. Biologists talk of the ‘web of life.’ It is about the inter-connectedness of all things. In CNN’s “Planet in Peril” numerous examples were given of how one event can trigger many events. The re-introduction of the grey wolf into Yellowstone Park was but one example. From the tiniest insect to the largest mammal, the presence had a profound impact upon the ecosystem. Just as in the sub-prime market, the decision to raise interest rates affected not only the borrower, but its impact was felt globally and throughout the economy. Few of the effects were anticipated. Just as with climate change, few of the effects of our action and ignorance are anticipated. The CNN show, backed by recent UN reports, indicates that basically, we do not know what we are doing. Even our most sophisticated computer models have been in error. Impacts of climate change that were forecast to occur in 2050 are happening now. We seem to have no clue as to what is really happening to the environment, just as lenders had no clue as to the impact of raising interest rates.

The most recent UN report on the environment indicates that despite warnings, there has been no reduction in climate changing emissions in the past 20 years. Having ears, we have not heard the warnings. Having eyes we have not seen the damaging affects of our actions. A recent AP report said that a third of the world’s primates are in danger of extinction. CNN, backed by other reports, said that humanity is causing the 6th major worldwide extinction of animals and plants with the rate of loss 1,000 times the normal rate. Now we see reports of drugs and chemicals that are consumed by humans finding there way into water supplies as we urinate these wastes from our body and flush them into the environment. Effects are now being observed in fish and other wildlife.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the handwriting is on the wall. From the economy to the loss of primates and the chemicalization of the environment, we have set in motion a chain of event that is spinning out of our control. The impact of our actions will be felt regardless of what we do. Of course, we are still doing nothing. Perhaps we should all change our name to Nero since we seem to be fiddling while Rome, or rather civilization as we know, burns.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


A recent AP report (10/17) indicates that the Tundra, worldwide, is warming up. Caribou are on the decline as they have a hard time dealing with change and shrubs are taking hold in was once a permanent frozen wasteland. In the article NOAA said that the change was is rapid and occurring from Alaska to Siberia. This past year sea ice saw a reduction of 23%. As shrubs begin to take a foothold in the Tundra, the area warms even further as the darker earth absorbs more heat.

On the other side of the globe, residents of Ghoramara are fleeing rising sea levels as two islands are being swallowed by the sea. They have landed on the Sunderbans and are the first of what is being called “climate change refugees.”

Back on the home front, the city of Atlanta is down to a 90 day water supply. With no plans in place for getting more water, we may see climate refugees here in the good old US of A. According to state officials, Lake Lanier, which supplies water for some 3 million residents, may well go dry in the next three months. A dry summer and no hurricane activity have brought the region to a major crisis. If a La Nina develops the situation may get even worse

Water is also of great concern in India and China. According to an ANI article, the snows of the Himalayas are melting at an alarming rate. Some 500 million people in South Asia and 250 million people in China may also find themselves with dry faucets. One model run by the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment indicates that the North Pole may be free of ice by 2070.
An important thing to keep in mind is that many of these models are not capable of keeping pace with rapid changes in the climate. Few were able to take into account the thawing of the Tundra and the release of methane gas and now they have to take into account the greening of the Tundra. The fact that there still has been no real breakthrough in greenhouse gas reduction plans does not bode well.

The upcoming climate change meeting in Bali in December may be “make or break” for the planet. While the U.S. will attend the session, the Bush Administration is still rejecting the idea of mandatory limits of greenhouse gases, pushing instead for voluntary curbs. The problem is the point is being missed. While there is no question that we must reduce greenhouse gasses, climate change is happening now. The effects are being felt now and they only promise to get worse. Yes, we must try to stop making it worse, but we must plan now to deal with the effects that are already happening. We have no real plans for Atlanta; we do not know the impact of a thawing Tundra: glaciers and sea ice are disappearing at a more rapid rate than projected by most models and we have done nothing to deal with these issues.

Most experts had predicted that climate change would mostly affect third world countries. With 43% of the U.S. under a drought and Atlanta about to go dry, this may very well not be the case. Where will the dollars come from to quench a thirsty Atlanta? What will have to cut to pay the bill? We still have not managed to address the issues from Hurricane Katrina so what makes us think we can deal with other looming disasters? Perhaps there should be a Summit of the States here at home and some real planning can get started.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


By now many of you have probably heard the news about the new ‘superbug,’ designated as MRSA infection. A staph infection, this virus is claiming over 18,000 lives each year which is more than AIDS, heart disease and auto accidents combined. Some 90,000 new cases are reported each year. For all practical purposes, the drug is immune to most antibiotics. What is even more disturbing is that these numbers and reported deaths have been around since at least 2005. Why are we just now hearing about this new pandemic? According to the New York Times (10/17/07), the CDC reported 19,000 deaths from this disease in 2005. The article goes on to say that the infection is cropping up in schools nationwide. Outbreaks of the infection of occurred in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida.

This general lack of information concerning the state of our nation makes on wonder if there isn’t a covert conspiracy to keep the truth from the American public. When deaths begin to occur, the information starts to see the light of day but it is almost as if there is a ‘disinformation’ on the part of the government to play down key news that affects us all. Another example is the worsening droughts in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina., Tennessee and Kentucky. According to a recent news story, this is the worst drought on record since the 1800’s. Pictures on the news have shown major reservoirs looking like mud flats. According to an AP report (10/16/07), The Weather Service says that 26% of the southeast is experiencing an ‘exceptional’ drought, the worst Weather Service category. Another report issued by the National Climate Data Center says that 43% of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing moderate to severe drought. The TVA has shut down Brown’s Ferry number 2 nuclear power plant due to inadequate steamflow. What else is not making the headlines? What is happening to agriculture in all of those states and how are major cities going to deal with dried up water supplies. What is FEMA doing about this? If the new book, RAPING LOUISIANA: A DIARY OF DECEIT is any indication, we may all be headed for deep trouble. This is not be doom and gloom but rather to get someone to wake up and start doing some serious planning as to how we are going to cope with problems.

Take a look at the housing crisis. Why have three major banks agreed to pool their resources to create a safety net to deal with the housing mortgage crisis? To hear the government tell it, the economic system will self-correct. If this is so then why did Treasury Secretary Paulson say, "Let me be clear, despite strong economic fundamentals, the housing decline is still unfolding, and I view it as the most significant current risk to our economy. The longer housing prices remain stagnant or fall, the greater the penalty to our future economic growth," (AP). What is happening to the economy that has Paulson sounding the alarm? What is being kept from the American public?

Obviously, these events have made the news and are not being kept a big secret. Although, one cannot help but be skeptical as to whether we are being given all of the information. There is no overt conspiracy to hide this information, but it does have the appearance of a covert conspiracy to downplay some of the serious issues facing our nation. Do they think that the public will panic? Perhaps they will but I, for one, would like to know if I am in the road with a tractor trailer bearing down on me. Give me the choice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee decided to broaden its resolution condemning the Ottoman Empires genocide of Armenians to include a few more historical events. Not wanting to offend just the Turks, the Committee thought they should spread the condemnations. Citing the contagious new disease, Bush-itis, which makes you want to offend everyone, allies in particular, The Committee felt they should set the historical records straight.

The new resolution has labeled as genocide the following events or actions: the Assyrian Empire, the Peloponnesian War, the Amalekites and the Midianites, the Third Punic War, the Mongols, Christopher Columbus, Spain in general and the Inquisition, the U.S. slaughter of native Americans, the Slave trade, Argentina, the British for their actions in Australia, the French Revolution, the Germans for their actions in South-West Africa, the UK for the Irish famine, the Russians, the Nazis, Croatia, Guatemala, Bangladesh, the Tutsi, the Khmer Rouge, Indonesia, Lebanon, Iraq, the former Soviet Union, China for their actions in Tibet, Brazil, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, and the Pope for the slaughter of the Cathars and Pagans in general, and God and his angels for their action in Egypt and the general smiting of those opposed to Him.

The White said that they were pleased that the Committee did not just single out Turkey since we still need our bases in their Country. Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said that while more historical could have been a part of the resolution, it will do for now. He added that he hopes the committee will tackle this touchy subject again next year in the hopes of telling historians what should be in the history books rather than relying upon common sense and historical conjecture.

In response to the Committee’s resolution, not only has Turkey recalled its ambassador but the Vatican, England, Spain, Russia, China, most Latin American countries, Indonesia and every country mentioned or implied in the resolution has followed Turkey’s lead. It has been noted that angels have been seen at the U.S. Treasury erasing the words, In God We Trust from U.S. currency in retaliation for the Biblical implications of genocide.

Committee members were not concerned over the recent diplomatic events as they assured each other that their actions would get them some votes at re-election time from the groups that have been targets of the genocides cited in the resolution. Their only real concern was the angelic activity but, they placated themselves by admitting that the removal of the phrase on the currency would gain the votes of the atheists. They were further heartened by the fact that the President had not as yet alienated all of these groups and they were pleased to beat the White house to the punch.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The LiFE Award

LiFE Award Recipients

26. Raping Louisiana: A Diary of Deceit by Philip F. Harris, with Stephen Burgoyne.
Publisher: Write Words, Inc., and
Formats: Trade paperback, PDF, RTF, HTML, and Mobi
ISBN(s)1-59431-495-0 paper 1-59431-541-8 ebook
A non-fictional account of clean-up efforts after the ecological disaster caused in New Orleans and surrounding areas by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This story puts a human face on an area that was raped by nature and then deceived by its government. Based upon the diary of a truck driver by the name of Stephen Burgoyne, we see a first hand account of the daily routine, the challenges and the bureaucratic ineptness that still plagues the residents of Louisiana. Steve tells a story in his diary entries that is far removed from the "official accounts" of government agencies and “spin doctors."
Do you worry about the future? Can you see how we are destroying all that is keeping us alive, depriving coming generations of the very basis of existence, stealing from poor countries in order to fuel our extravagant lifestyle? Are you saddened by the loss of species, by the replacement of nature's beauty and bounty by humanity's artificial, noisy, ugly creations of concrete, steel and plastic? If you are a writer, your attitudes and beliefs will have imbued your work. Your book or books may qualify for the LiFE award: Literature For Environment.

Monday, October 8, 2007


As the military junta in Burma puts the final nails in the pro-democracy movement an interesting question comes to mind. What would have been the world’s reaction, particularly in the West, if instead of monks, 6,000 priests were arrested? What would have been the reaction if 6,000 ministers were arrested? Or, what might have been the reaction if 6,000 Muslim clerics were arrested?

An October 7th AP report indicated that Burmese military authorities arrested 78 more democracy advocates on Sunday. Military authorities say that they have only arrested 1,000 and are only detaining 135 monks. Outside sources put the numbers at closer to 6,000. Adding insult to injury there are reports on the junta forcing civilians to march in support of the government claiming that dissidents are only a small minority that have been labeled by the Burmese government as terrorists.

While foreign governments have condemned the actions of the ruling junta in Burma, little has been done to offer support to the pro-democracy movement. The EU has widened some sanctions and the U.S. is pushing the UN for more sanctions but it is widely known that both China and Russia will veto such a move. It is easy to talk tough when you know there is little chance you will actually have to act.

Reports out of Burma today indicate that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest which she has been for the 12 out of the last 18 years. The state controlled New Light of Myanmar claims that when a new state constitution is completed, all of the demands of the protesters will be within reach. An AAP story notes that work on reform has been “in Process” for the past 14 years and drafts of the new constitution leaves almost all authority in the hands of the commander-in-chief. There is very little light at the end of that tunnel.

Back to my opening question: would Western nations be so complacent and placid if the images come from Rangoon showed thousands of priests or ministers being beaten, shot at, hosed with water canons and arrested? If Catholic monasteries were emptied of their clergy and secreted off to some unknown and horrid prison, would there merely be talk of sanctions? What would Muslim nations do if they saw the U.S. arresting thousands of their clerics and closing mosques? Buddhist monks are probably the most peaceful group of people on the planet. They walk their talk. They seek not power and fight for the rights of all. Where are the churches when people cry out for freedom? What would happen if hundreds of thousands of priest, ministers and clerics defended upon the borders of Burma in support of their Buddhist brethren? What would happen if Burmese troops opened fire upon them? Interesting questions, but ones we will probably never have to answer!

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Just hours after the departure of a U.N. envoy, Myanmar's junta continued a violent crackdown on its own people.

We need to act now to protect monks, activists and innocent civilians from further abuses. Reportedly, more than 10 people have been killed, and thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been detained. "It is an emergency," said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. human rights investigator for Myanmar.

Myanmar has an appalling human rights record. Thousands of political prisoners are detained in deteriorating prison conditions and the use of child soldiers, forced labor, and torture are common.

The recent violence has shown the world the extent of Myanmar’s brutal crimes. Urge the United Nations to take urgent steps to get Myanmar’s junta to stop the crackdown.

Sign this petition and stand with the people of Burma.

I support the people of Burma.

After weeks of peaceful demonstrations, the military government has launched a violent crackdown, and I am deeply concerned about the well being of monks and civilians.

As stated by the UN Human Rights specialist on Myanmar, "this is an emergency" and we need to act now to stop these atrocities. The demonstrators in Myanmar have the right to peacefully express their opinion and the Government of Myanmar has a duty to fully respect this right.

I stand with the people of Burma and demand that the UN Security Council takes urgent steps to get the Myanmar military government to stop the violent crackdown on Buddhist monks and civilians and to address the peaceful political protests without violence.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. Please act now before violence against innocent civilians escalates even further.
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