The Desperation of the Middle Class: The Anaesthetization of the Well-Off

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On his January 18, 2019, show, Bill Maher offered a keen insight about keeping the middle class perpetually squeezed and just this side of desperate:

I would add that people who are wealthy enough not to feel squeezed generally keep themselves distracted from all the environmental, social, and psychological decay parading before them by focusing, metaphorically, on the bright, shiny objects that industries across the board produce. Sometimes I just want to yell: Snap out of it! Abracadabra! Wake up! Life is beautiful! We don’t need to consume like there’s no tomorrow, and, what’s more, we shouldn’t because if we do, there will be no tomorrow. That concept seems to be a piece that Bill Maher doesn’t get yet.

Procrastinators Rejoice! It Isn’t Too Late

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Have you made a New Year’s resolution yet? Are you thinking about making one? If so, you’re among the 44 percent of Americans who, according to a December 2016 Marist poll, say they are likely to make a resolution for 2017.

The Marist survey asked: “What is it that you will resolve to do or not do in the New Year?” (Here’s a link to the poll in case you’re interested in analyzing the data: http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/misc/usapolls/us161201/Marist%20Poll_National%20Tables_New%20Years%20Resolutions_December%202016.pdf#page=3).

The results of the poll show that many of the most common resolutions involve reducing some kind of consumption. While the top vow is to “be a better person,” resolutions to lose weight (that is, to eat less), spend less money, stop smoking, and stop drinking are also popular. Absent from the survey are resolutions to achieve materialistic goals. Apparently, Americans aren’t resolving to become rich and famous in 2017—or, if they are, they aren’t admitting it.

In addition to resolving to be a better person, people are vowing to improve themselves by exercising more, eating healthier, getting closer to God, going back to school, setting goals, and getting a better job. They say they want to use their time better, increase family time, enjoy life, be kinder to others, and get politically involved. Worth noting is the fact that, with the exception of the 1% who are resolving to get a new house and the less than 1% who want to travel, Americans are resolving to do things in 2017 that are either environmentally benign or environmentally beneficial.

So now that it’s January, and the super-duper, holy-cow(!), consume-like-there’s-no-tomorrow season is behind us, a lot of us are thinking about reducing our consumption of food and other stuff and spending our time involved in more meaningful pursuits. If we follow through with our resolutions, we’ll not only make our own lives better, stronger, and happier, we’ll also be reducing the strain our consumption puts on the natural world.

A Language-Spinner Sees the Light?

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In today’s New York Times, Frank Luntz counsels the winner of tonight’s presidential election to appeal to the common ground that unites us and bring the American people back together.

If you haven’t read his article and would like to, here’s a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/08/opinion/how-to-begin-the-healing.html?emc=edit_th_20161108&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=26749800

I’m glad to see that Frank Luntz is counseling the winner of the election to seek common ground, but I can’t forget that for years he has advised Republicans to use poll-tested phrases to spin arguments to their advantage. Care for an example? He told Republicans never to say “estate tax,” but to say “death tax” instead. Why? Because “estate tax” sounds like something only the rich pay, and “death tax” sounds like something everyone pays — even though the tax only applies to individuals inheriting over $5.45 million. Luntz’s Machiavellian twists of language have been influential in driving Americans into hostile camps. I hope he now turns his talents and attention to coming up with phrases that will help bring Americans back together.

The Urgency of NOW

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After studying environmental issues for decades, I feel responsible to wake up as many people as possible to the fact that procrastinating on climate change is a horrific mistake.  If we wait to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions drastically, we will make it virtually impossible to reverse, stop, or even slow global warming. Why? Because the current level of warming has already begun to trigger positive-feedback mechanisms, and, as the temperature goes up, those mechanisms will trigger more mechanisms, and then the warming will continue to accelerate to levels we don’t even want to think about.

As The Guardian explains:

Scientists are aware of a number of positive feedbacks loops in the climate system. One example is melting ice. Because ice is light-coloured and reflective, a large proportion of the sunlight that hits it is bounced back to space, which limits the amount of warming it causes. But as the world gets hotter, ice melts, revealing the darker-coloured land or water below. The result is that more of the sun’s energy is absorbed, leading to more warming, which in turn leads to more ice melting – and so on.

You can find another positive-feedback example, the release of methane as permafrost melts, in one of my earlier blogs. That post is entitled: IN WHICH I RANT IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Here’s a link to that post: https://sallywengrover.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/in-which-i-rant-in-capital-letters/

For lighter look at positive feedback, you might check out “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” from Fantasia. Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ait_Fs6UQhQ

Below, you’ll find links to a couple of recent articles about where we now stand in regard to global warming.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/16/april-third-month-in-row-to-break-global-temperature-records

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/11/worlds-carbon-dioxide-concentration-teetering-on-the-point-of-no-return?CMP=share_btn_fb