Quick Response to Planet of the Humans

5/1/20

Planet of the Humans makes often-ignored points that need to be made about corruption in the environmental movement and lack of accountability in the renewable energy industry, as well as the need to curb consumption and population growth.  I am glad they outed Sierra Club as a highly-compromised Bloomberg tool, but I know personally that Sierra Club has ardently opposed biomass for the past decade.  So much of their info is dated, and it’s unacceptable that they don’t even mention the Green New Deal or the Solutions Project.

Essentially, the terrible inaccuracies, mischaraterizations, and distortions in this film destroy its potential as a tool to raise awareness about the good points it makes.  It’s a waste.

However, you can listen to Moore and filmmakers make the same arguments in a coherent way by watching this interview. Too bad they weren’t able to do the same in the film itself.:

Michael Moore, filmmakers respond to criticism of new bombshell environmental film

Don’t Listen to Privileged Pussy Philosophers

November, 15, 2020
(Letter to Editor, submitted to the Wall Street Journal this morning)

Don’t Listen to Privileged Pussy Philosophers

As joint owner of a sweet red tabby named Vinnie, and lifelong cat worshipper, I take serious umbrage at John Gray’s lazy daydream of an essay, Cats are the Best Philosophers, (Review, Nov. 14, 2020), which promotes cats as models for a life philosophy delivering contentment through a “what, me worry?” point of view.

In Gray’s bubble world, the cats he’s familiar with spend all their time sleeping, eating, playing, and repeating, while humans do all the worrying, for no good reason. Must be nice.

Although Gray’s musing is largely tongue-in-cheek, I think it’s important to recognize that even the ability to access and take time to read his feel-good patter constitutes a privilege denied to most, just as the comfort experienced by his pampered kitties is a privilege denied to most felines worldwide, where far too many are homeless, hungry, abused, and forsaken.

For those of us with the means to sit at our breakfast tables with the Journal and “unwind”, it’s frighteningly easy to forget how privileged we are, and too tempting to legitimize Gray’s puffery as reasonable coaching for living a “good life”.

Are we ready to accept the harm that will befall humanity, planet Earth, and the cats of all stripes that call it home, if too many embrace this philosophy of disengagement, which is based on the behavior and attitude of only the most privileged pussies? I don’t think so.

Lauren Swain
Denver, CO

Summary of Colorado Common Cause Report – Drilling and Dollars: The Colorado Oil and Gas Industry’s Stream of Political Influence – Part 1: Lobbying

See full document, published June 18, 2020, here:
https://www.commoncause.org/colorado/clip/drilling-and-dollars-the-colorado-oil-and-gas-industrys-stream-of-political-influence/?fbclid=IwAR35g36eNlYQtKMRnpH09Pv7QpCgWnrSBZPnqmtpvjc4e940rGZ-W3D3p9k
Note: as of June 19, 2020, the full document cannot be downloaded from this page.

This lobbying report is the first of three reports on the influence of oil and gas money on Colorado politics. It seeks to connect the industry’s spending on lobbying with their political influence in an effort “to hold officials, lobbyists, and corporations accountable” and to inform lobbying policy reform efforts. It notes that a new law passed in 2020 requires that lobbyists disclose the clients, not just the firm, that they work for.

Highlights:

  • Lobbyists outnumbered legislators 5 to 1 in 2019, with oil and gas lobbyists being a major contingent. Lobbyists opposing SB 181 outnumbered committee members six to one, in one example given.
  • Oil and gas does not create as many jobs as it claims to, but it spends millions hiring lobbyists each year. A 2019 Colorado Fiscal Institute report found the industry responsible for about 29,000 or only about 1% of jobs in Colorado.
  • 2491 instances of lobbying action on specific legislation were reported by firms from 2015 to 2019, with 612 being directly related to oil and gas, and with roughly $4 million spent to influence officials during that time.
  • 160 lobbyists were assigned to influencing SB 181. A significant proportion of lobbying dollars are spent in advance of each session.
  • SB063 “Alternative Energy for Schools Grant program” was killed after significant industry spending on lobbyists.
  • HB 1215 of 2018 “Safe Disposal of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials” was killed in a Republican committee after significant lobbying spending.
  • The industry creates fake grassroots groups to influence legislators – examples given.
  • PDC, Nobel, Xcel, are among the largest, most influential, lobbying clients. Spending is still high in the 2020 session – around 500K total through April – despite the legislature being closed and the lack of bills related to oil and gas. “Colorado Legislative Strategies”, (formerly COGA) has received $90,000 in business in 2020 alone. Oil and gas is also funding a series of ballot initiatives this year.

The report recommends five new reforms:

1) Record the number of meetings legislators hold with lobbyists
2) Prohibit lobbying firms from representing conflicting interests
3) Require lobbyist registration and disclosure at the city and county level
4) Record and give public access to information about lobbying activity and spending on each bill.
5) Increase spending allocations to legislators for the purpose of research, so that legislators will not need to rely on lobbyists for information.

Contact Colorado Common Cause for the data used for the report, which is derived from publicly available sources. Footnotes included in document.

Stop Hick

Anti Hick graphic v7

US Senate candidate and former Gov. John Hickenlooper used taxpayer dollars to sue Colorado communities to overturn voter-approved fracking bans and moratoria, told Congress that he drank frack fluid with Halliburton executives, and opposes a Green New Deal and Medicare for All.  The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has found Hickenlooper in violation of ethics rules.

Hickenlooper has told the media on more than one occasion that he is “not cut out to be a senator.” We can and should heed his self-assessment. Hickenlooper’s treatment of Coloradans and the climate have made him a weak candidate, unworthy of representing Democrats or Coloradans as US Senator.  In the 9News debate with progressive candidate Andrew Romanoff on June 10, John Hickenlooper refused to answer the question of whether or not he would vote with the GOP against Medicare for All. It’s chilling to know he does not have the party interest or public interest at heart. Please tell fellow voters to vote in the June 2020 Democratic primary for Andrew Romanoff, who has a clean ethics record, entered the race early, shows up to public forums, and supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. We must take action now to hold Hickenlooper accountable, protect our climate, and place our public interest above corporate interests, or we’ll all suffer the unacceptable, dire consequences. Thank you.

Read and share the Rolling Stone article denouncing Hickenlooper as the anti-climate candidate, here.

Amalthea Aelwyn: My Response to Planet of the Humans, presented by Michael Moore.

by Amalthea Aelwyn
4/28/20

A few of you have asked me for my perception of the new Michael Moore film.

Here is my perception.

There is so very much wrong with the climate movement. It is steeped in abelism it has mostly not even begun to address, still deeply struggling and largely failing to deal with its racism problem, and it is rife with the failure to be sustainable or regenerative itself in terms of how it handles the people and technologies and needs, focusing too much on begging politicians for change, having cute break out groups and hand wringing, and not enough on being change on the ground in ways that are possible now. One example is how hard I have to work to get people engaged with permaculture models of food growing.

There are many problems, but this movie basically ends up carrying water for climate denialism more than helping to improve the climate movement. It’s unfortunate that while it has some important points, many of them miss the real problems with the climate movement or address problems it had between 10 and 20 years ago. Yes, the movement is broken in places. Yes, we definitely have a capitalism problem. But one of the ways it is broken is the expectation of perfectionism, but without the real big picture integrated systems thinkers or the most harmed being centered. And this movie does neither.

I feel like if you’re going to make a movie like this, you have a responsibility to make an accurate and current movie like this, and that you do not just drop everything on the floor as soon as you bring it up.

It doesn’t actually help us to change as people to just know everything has problems. I mean that’s sort of endemic of our larger culture overall. Can you name anything about which that isn’t true? And yes, I am utterly down for the indictment of capitalism, overall, but let’s indict it with its actual current facts, not with its historic failings almost entirely. And let’s talk about some beginnings to solutions.

Why does this film not talk about the need to educate girls and women about climate change, family planning and contraception at mass scale? Why does it allow itself to be more of the idiotic “well, but you’re not pure, so you’re not making progress” mess that is part of denialism, rather than talking about the difficult tension of literally every civil rights movement, wherein we must use the tools of a currently broken model to somehow manifest a less broken model, and that is just painfully hard to do.

No, I don’t believe technology will be the lion’s share of saving us. But this movie isn’t really part of it either. There is not really a point to butchering sacred cows to just leave them to rot on the ground. Do something with whatever you sacrifice on the altar to change, or you’re just as wasteful as what got us into this mess.

It’s not news that there is hypocrisy in everything. Why can’t we talk about, as a culture, how to deal with that conflict, and how to talk about it intelligently, rather than as more meaningless indictment. That really is our cultural disease. We have normalized sociopathy and narcissism to such an extent that finding our way back from that is really damn hard. All the money we need is in the hands of the people using it for harm. All of it is tied up in money when it needs not to be, in order to make progress. Progress is measured in dollars, not in success, but rather than really having that conversation about our cultural underpinnings, proposing any path forward, or even helping us learn to face and deal with grief, this film ends up carrying water for the climate change denialists who would rather we just drop the whole thing.

And it does that job badly, and with 20 year old information, all too often. I want this to be the movie we need. But instead, it is part of our call-out-but-don’t-fix-shit culture of centering not solutions, but just ourselves and our complaining.

So how many of you are going to join me in a growing project? How many of you are working to teach girls family planning? How many of you are working on solving that women are being sacrificed to energy efficiency in building projects that encourage mold-harboring materials and VOCs that are endocrine disruptors? Yes, let’s do something. Let’s stop begging politicians and working on election cycles so extensively, and start creating change on the ground. But maybe without calling each other hypocrites for our imperfections, and maybe with more honest self reflection. And certainly, with more intersectionality and less cute break out groups.

That’s where I am, personally.

Democracy Demands Online Petition Signature Collection

Earth Day
4/22/20
Dear Governor Polis and Secretary of State Griswold,

Given the current pandemic state of emergency, the climate crisis, and the erosion of democracy we are experiencing, I urge you to quickly move our state into the 21st century and provide safe, healthy, equitable platforms for our democratic processes by adopting online petition signature collection statewide.

Current policy requiring in-person petition signature collection is harming and failing us because it:

    • increases exposure to COVID-19 and other pathogens
    • harms the environment by requiring circulators to log thousands of miles of travel that consumes fossil fuels, pollutes, and damages the climate.
    • is extremely costly, and therefore favors wealthy candidates and donors, rather than campaigns that best serve constituents.
    • deprives voters with illnesses and disabilities, who care for young children and the elderly, who live in rural areas, and who lack transportation of their right to participate in the democratic process.

Because of this, Colorado must adopt online petition signature collection now to provide for a safe, healthful, environmentally-sound, and equitable process.

Other states have successfully adopted online petition signature collection. Colorado voters deserve the same.

Thanks for your consideration,

Lauren Swain

Note from 4/26/20:

If the Sec. of State and Governor don’t find online petition signature collection to be an appropriate remedy under this state of emergency, and if the legislature cannot change the law because the state constitution supersedes their authority, then they should refer a constitutional amendment directly to the ballot for a vote of the people. Anything less betrays democratic values.

Retaining the advantages of the pandemic response

We need to have a discussion with the powers that be making the case for allowing workers, teachers, and students to work from home and study from home when they want to or need to. There are so many advantages – reducing pollution, protecting the climate, reducing accidents, reducing costs, empowering caretakers and people with disabilities and people living in rural areas to work, teach and learn being among the advantages. Let’s not let go!

Analyzing the Goals of Communication

4/19/20

By Lauren Swain

I have identified six goals for communication, each with a range of subgoals that may harmonize or conflict with each other.  More may occur to me but here’s what I have for now:

  • Share information
  • Express yourself
  • Persuade
  • Build a bond with others
  • Deceive
  • Gain power

Communication is often conducted with more than one of these goals in play, with intentions unknown to both the communicator and those being communicated with. Intentional communication achieves its goal far more often than unintentional communication. Unintentional communication often leads to unintended consequences. Communicating with intention often interferes with the more immediate satisfaction derived from spontaneous communication. But the ability to intentionally delay gratification is a cornerstone of a successful life.