Extreme Weather and the Climate Crisis: What You Need to Know

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US 2017 Billion-Dollar Disaster Map - NOAA

U.S. 2017 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters
Photo Credit: NOAA

 

Earlier this month, while the Trump administration quietly cancelled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), concentrations of carbon dioxide at the Mauna Loa Observatory averaged above 410 parts per million (ppm) throughout April. With such irresponsible action, we-the-people must prepare ourselves for more extreme weather.

Extreme Weather & the Climate Crisis: What You Need to Know, published by the Climate Reality Project (March 2018), helps us to understand the challenges we now face. As the captioned NOAA chart shows, climate-related and other natural disasters are costly. Total damages in 2017 left the U.S. with a bill of $306 billion. Families who were hit are still recovering from their loss. Families in poor communities may never recover.

Here’s what we need to know about our extreme weather and the climate crisis. Bear in mind that weather refers to short-term atmospheric changes in temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, and visibility. Climate is the average of weather patterns over a longer period of 30 or more years.

Hurricanes – With average global sea surface temperatures becoming warmer, hurricanes can become more powerful. A warmer ocean also means an increase in evaporation, thereby feeding hurricanes with much more water to dump on those of us who live in their path. It gets worse. As melting ice caps and glaciers raise sea levels, storm surges caused by hurricanes will be stronger and carry water farther and farther inland.

Flooding – As air temperatures increase, more water evaporates into the atmosphere. Because warmer air holds more water vapor, some places get more rain and snow than their average annual amounts; other places may experience intense rainstorms. At the same time, rising sea levels are worsening coastal flooding worldwide.

Drought – Soils dry out when evaporation increases over land. When the rain comes, the hard, cracked ground absorbs little water. The run-off carries pollutants in the dry soil into our streams, rivers, and lakes. Drought also worsens forest fires.

Wildfires – Droughts kill plant life. Dried out, dead vegetation can ignite with a spark. Once started, these fires are harder to contain. With warm weather arriving earlier and extending further into the fall, we now face longer fire seasons. To make matters worse, pests like the mountain pine beetle thrive in the warm, dry weather. The dead trees dry out, adding to the fury of our forest fires.

Extreme Heat – Of the 18 hottest years on record, 17 have occurred this century. If we don’t reduce the greenhouse gases heating up our atmosphere, more and more of us will face the deadly threshold of extreme heat on our fragile human bodies.

Extreme Cold – As global temperatures rise and the Arctic continues to warm, the jet stream is slowing and becoming more wavy. This causes bone-chilling Arctic air to linger longer in northern regions and spread much farther south than usual.

While we cannot prevent climate-related natural disasters from occurring, it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the worst of it. And it certainly could get much worse.

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Motherhood: Where is the joy?

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Today on Mother’s Day in America, families are celebrating the day with their mothers and grandmothers. While my sons will mark the day by joining me in activities I enjoy, I see no cause to celebrate motherhood.

Where is the joy of motherhood, I ask myself, when you live in fear of ICE agents separating you from your American-born children? Where is the joy in motherhood when your hours of labor value little to provide food and shelter for your children? Where is the joy in motherhood when intolerance, bullying, and hate put your children’s lives at risk? Where is the joy in motherhood when you watch your child suffer for lack of medical treatment?

Why, I ask myself, do we bring children into a hostile world that no longer fights for their right to life once they leave our womb? Why do we bring children into a world facing ecological collapse, climate disruption, and threat of nuclear war?

Speak to me not of love. Love protects and defends our young. Love nurtures.

I speak not to parents and grandparents who are doing their best, going beyond the possible. Rather, I speak to those among us who support laws and policies that favor corporations and billionaires and punish the families of our nation.

In an overpopulated world, motherhood has lost its meaning. Our uterus is for “baby-hosting.” Just ask Katy Talento on the White House team.

 

“Poems for the Men of Our Time” by Brazilian Poet Hilda Hilst

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Entrance to Hilda Hilst Institute - Casa do Sol - Campinas - Sao Paulo - Brazil

Entrance to Hilda Hilst Institute – Casa do Sol – Campinas – São Paulo – Brazil

 

My Poetry Corner May 2018 features an excerpt from “Poems for the Men of Our Time” (Poemas aos Homens do Nosso Tempo) by Brazilian poet, playwright, and novelist Hilda Hilst (1930-2004), born in Jaú in the interior of São Paulo, Southeast Brazil. Soon after her birth, her mother moved with her to Santos, a coastal city and port. Her father wanted a lover, not a wife. Having a girl child was “bad luck,” he told her mother. Hilda grew up determined to prove him wrong.

Hilda was seven years old when her mother revealed the truth: Her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Her father’s mental illness and his frequent internment over the years, until his death in 1966, had a profound effect on her poetry and fiction which often drew upon themes of intimacy and insanity with elements of magical realism.

I initiated dialogue a thousand times. It is hopeless.
I prepare and accept myself
Flesh and spirit undone. We could try,
My father, the unequal and tortured poem,
And embrace each other in silence. In secret.
~ Final stanza, “Of the joyful and very unhappy love – 1,” Exercises by Hilda Hilst, 2001.

Though her first love was poetry, like her father, Hilst followed her mother’s advice and studied law at the University of São Paulo (1948-1952). During this period, she published her first two poetry collections (1950 & 1951). After working for a year at an attorney’s office in São Paulo, she abandoned law for the writer’s life. Continue reading

Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution

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Great Pacific Garbage Patch - NOAA

Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Photo Credit: Marine Debris NOAA

 

Today is Earth Day 2018. The theme this year is End Plastic Pollution in response to the exponential growth of plastic waste that now poses a threat to human survival owing to its un-biodegradable nature. When exposed to water, sun, or other elements, our plastic waste breaks down into tiny particles invisible to the naked eye. These particles – called microplastics – now contaminate our drinking water, seafood, or even the salt we add to our meals.

Earth Day Network (EDN) sums up the scope of this threat with the following 10 facts of plastic in our oceans.

Plastic waste floating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras

Plastic waste floating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras
Photo Credit: U.K. Daily Mail

 

Fact #1 – About 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year.

Fact #2 – Five massive patches of plastics are growing in the oceans worldwide. The one between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas.

Fact #3 – Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans.

Fact #4 – The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase tenfold by 2020.

Fact #5 – By 2050 plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.

Fact #6 – Plastic is contaminating remote depths of the ocean.

Fact #7 – Marine organisms and animals are starving to death with undigested plastic in their stomachs.

Fact #8 – Contact with marine plastic increases disease in coral reefs, home to more than 25 percent of marine life.

Fact #9 – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains more plastic than natural prey upon which fish feed.

Fact #10 – Many fish humans consume have ingested plastic microfibers. Continue reading

The Souls of Poor Folk: A National Call for Moral Revival

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Poor Peoples Campaign - A National Call for Moral Revival 2018
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Photo Credit: Poor People’s Campaign

 

I’m finding it hard to stay abreast of all the upheaval triggered by our Twitter-in-Chief. His tweets and threats boggle my mind, create instability across our nation, and embolden our rivals and enemies overseas.

While our bombs turn the Middle East into rubble, people at the bottom rungs in America face their own hell. This month, the Institute for Policy Studies has published its empirical study, The Souls of Poor Folk, highlighting the complex issues that entangle our lives: systemic racism, persistent poverty, the war economy and militarism, and ecological devastation. Here are some of their key findings. Continue reading

“This is My Meditation” – Poem by Guyanese-born Author & Poet Sir Wilson Harris

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Dawn and Evening Star, Olmec Maya Series by Guyanese-born Artist Aubrey Williams, 1982

Dawn & Evening Star, Olmec Maya Series (1982) by Guyanese-born Artist Aubrey Williams
Source: October Gallery

 

On March 8th, Guyana’s illustrious literary writer, Sir Wilson Harris, died at the age of ninety-six in England where he had lived since 1959. Born in 1921 in New Amsterdam, British Guiana (now Guyana), Harris began his writing career as a poet, obtaining exposure through the colony’s literary magazine, Kyk-over-Al. My Poetry Corner April 2018 features one of these poems, “This is My Meditation,” published in 1947. Since I couldn’t find the original title of this poem, I’ve used the opening words as a substitute.

When he was two years old, Harris lost his father, “a well-off insurance businessman with a chauffeur-driven car.” His mother moved to the capital, Georgetown, and remarried. Six years later, tragedy struck again. His stepfather disappeared; believed drowned in the Interior.

“At almost the same time, I saw a beggar on a street corner, with holes in his face,” Harris tells Maya Jaggi (The Guardian, December 2006). “I came home and couldn’t eat – I never forgot that man.”

After completing his studies at Queen’s College, the prestigious secondary school for boys in Georgetown, Harris trained in land surveying and geomorphology. Beginning in 1942, his work as a government surveyor, charting the great rivers of the colony’s interior rainforest and savanna regions, changed his vision of man’s relation to the planet.

balata_bleeders_shooting_rapids_on_the_cuyuni,_british_guiana_c1908

Balata Bleeders Shooting Rapids on the Cuyuni River, Interior of British Guiana (c.1908)
Source: Overtown Miscellany UK/John S Sargent

 

“The shock of contrasts in river, forest, waterfall had registered very deeply in my psyche,” Harris tells Fred D’Aguiar (Bomb Magazine, January 2003). “So deeply that to find oneself without a tongue was to learn of a music that was wordless, to descent into varying structures upon parallel branches of reality, branches that were rooted in a stem of meaning for which no absolute existed.”

Of equal importance was his discovery of pre-Columbian myth and history gained through his contacts with the indigenous peoples in the region.

In his poem, “This is My Meditation,” the young poet calls out what he sees as the cruelty of the Christian God in the treatment of His beloved son, Jesus, left alone to suffer the painful and humiliating death by crucifixion. Continue reading

Update: Doing Business with the USA

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US Total Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 2008-2017

U.S. Total Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 2008-2017
Chart prepared by Rosaliene Bacchus, Your US-Brazil Trade Assist

 

Every year during the period January to March, I update the content and links on my website rosalienebacchus.com. This year, I have redesigned my website to feature my work as a writer. With the exception of three articles – Business with Brazil, Business with the USA, and the Import-Export Workbench – all links to articles for Your US-Brazil Trade Assist remain unchanged.

This week, I completed the update for Doing Business with the USA to include US trade statistics for year 2017. As shown in the captioned chart, U.S. total imports and exports of goods and services have recovered by 6.9 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, when compared with the previous year.

Other information and charts include the following:

  • U.S. Top Ten Trade Partners 2017
  • U.S. Imports of Goods by End-Use Category 2015-2017
  • U.S. Exports of Goods by End-Use Category 2015-2017
  • Entering the U.S. Market
  • Making Contact with U.S. Importers & Exporters
  • U.S. Import Regulations
  • Visiting the United States for Business

Continue reading

Why should we care about the trade deficit?

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Shoppers at Walmart Store - Christmas 2017

American Shoppers at Walmart Store – Christmas 2017
Photo Credit: Digg/Associated Press

 

America’s trade deficit has been making the news. Our president loves to quote the amount of $800 billion: the U.S. trade deficit for trade in goods only. Our trade in services count too. They earned a surplus of over $242 billion in 2017 (Census Bureau, Exhibit 1).

The total U.S. trade deficit of goods and services in 2017 was $568 billion. We imported $2.900 trillion in goods and services while we only exported $2.332 trillion.

An examination of imports and exports of goods by principal end-use category (Census Bureau, Exhibit 10) reveal that consumer goods together with automotive vehicles, parts and engines account for our mounting deficit. Let’s not forget that goods produced by American companies in a foreign country – like the coveted Apple Smartphone designed in California – becomes an imported product on arrival in the USA. Continue reading

The state as ultimate “landlord” of nonhuman nature

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Athabasca Tar Sands - Alberta - Canada - Before and after arrival of oil companies

Athabasca Tar Sands – Alberta – Canada
Before and after arrival of oil companies

 

The third and final part of my series on the book, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Kairos Books, 2016), edited by Jason W. Moore, is a synopsis of Christian Parenti’s article on “Environment-Making in the Capitalocene Political Ecology of the State.” A sociologist and geographer, Christian Parenti is a professor of Global Liberal Studies at the New York University.

Parenti’s core argument is that “the state is an inherently environmental entity, and as such, it is at the heart of the value form.” Within its territorial borders, the modern state controls the surface of the earth – the biosphere. Continue reading

“Camelot or Haunted Eden” by American Poet Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

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Lancelot_and_Guinevere_-_Herbert_James_Draper - c. 1890
Lancelot & Guinevere by Herbert James Draper (c.1890)
King Arthur’s Court – Camelot
Source: Wikipedia

 

My Poetry Corner March 2018 features the poem “Camelot or Haunted Eden” by American poet, Angela Consolo Mankiewicz (1944-2017). March 7th marks one year since she lost her battle with lung cancer, leaving behind her husband of forty-five years.

In August 2017, Richard Mankiewicz compiled a Limited Edition of his wife’s body of work in the collection The Poetry of Angela Consolo Mankiewicz. In the Foreword, he shares her farewell message to him in which she built upon the poem “Camelot or Haunted Eden,” first published in Summer 1989.

What words say Love the way I feel it? she asks in the opening lines of her farewell message. In the face of death, during this Horror of a year, their love is all that matters.

She then speaks of Gratitude for things born of your true Love… / Who would have thought Gratitude could be so pure, so wonderful…

She returns to the love, quoting from the featured poem, “Camelot or Haunted Eden,” but omitting the final stanza in which she had expressed her fear of him dying before she did. Life can be unpredictable.

In the first stanza, after over sixteen years together – when the poem was first published – Mankiewicz ponders a love that’s attentive to her needs and calms her fears, like a knight in armor, yet doesn’t suffocate or impede her to pursue her own dreams.

What is this love that rests inside his heart,
That succors me but lets me breathe apart?

This well from which I fetch a word, a hug,
A kiss that lets me live this day and shrug
Off demons that invade my artless brain;
This armor plate, this clasp without a chain. 

The day to day stresses of life can gnaw at any relationship. Happy the couple who help each other recover from incoming assaults with a willing ear, a hug, an encouraging word, as the poet shares in the second stanza.

This love that rocks the stress of everyday
Away from me and lightens my dismay.
This love that makes a lap for me to sink
Inside when worlds collide and I can’t think.
A love that sits with ready arms to hold
My weariness when I am feeling old. 

Yet, the greatest challenge to an enduring marriage is often our character flaws, whether the size of a lime or grapefruit, that can corrode a fragile relationship. In the last stanza of her farewell message, Mankiewicz expresses her good fortune in finding a lifelong partner who loves her with all her human frailty.  

A love that loves my pride and childish grins.
A love that knows my soul and shares my sins.
A love that brought me more than one can earn,
That only luck’s good fortune can discern. 

Camelot or Haunted Eden? Over the years, life-threatening health issues haunted their Eden. No marital relationship, even one that endures forty-five years, is perfect. Life has its pain and anxieties. What makes the difference is the love and gratitude that we sprinkle daily along the journey. Mankiewicz’s farewell message to her husband says it all.

To read the complete featured poem and learn more about the work of Angela Consolo Mankiewicz, go to my Poetry Corner March 2018.