August 9, 2014

I’ll always remember August 9th as the day justice died with Michael Brown. A new symbol of the race-based violence faced daily, in the home, the street, and the court. And I hope someday I’ll end up writing about how that death started a revolution that changed the face of America. I hope.

Torture and Facebook

In my last post I informed all of you I’d be writing an essay on torture for my final in writing 122. As I was doing research for the topic I came across a great old article from the New Yorker, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” which I made the mistake of posting to my Facebook page.

About a week later I got a text from my conservative, baby-boomer, step-dad. Unfortunately, I deleted what he wrote because it pissed me off, but I remember some key things he mentioned. He said he read the article and noticed it never mentioned our solders fighting and dying to fight an evil terrorist regime while bringing a “sane religion” to Iraq. He wrote something about terrorist rape rooms, and the atrocities of Al-Qaeda. And he actually wrapped up his spiel by telling me: “as someone who wants to be a journalist” I should be “fair and balanced.” That’s right, a Fox “News” reference–of which he’s been on a steady diet for too many years.

As you might have guessed, I’m not going to post my final on Facebook. I think in some way he was trying to justify torture by saying that our enemies have done equal or worse to us. But the article I posted and my essay don’t have anything to do with the war, or Al-Qaeda, it’s just a good reference people will know–torture happens all over the world–just thought I’d use something familiar to our culture to illustrate one of the great pitfalls of prisons like the one at Abu Ghraib, it puts people in situations where it’s too easy to abuse power.

Not to give away the ending of my essay, but not only is torture illegal, it just doesn’t work, and even the very people who write the handbooks on Torture–the CIA–admit it: “physical abuse or other degrading treatment was rejected, (by their interrogators) not only because it is wrong, but because it has historically proven to be ineffective.” And the FBI back them up: “‘Harsh methods produce unreliable information from people who will say anything to stop the pain,’ no matter if the information is factual or fictional.” People attempt to justify brutality on others with pointless hypothetical situations, but the truth is that it’s an embarrassment to our nation and military, and it’s useless above all else. And to those who think it’s justified because of the violence that’s been inflicted on us I leave you with this: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

On a much lighter note, I’m sure my step-dad is not the first to say it, but “sane religion” might be my new favorite oxymoron.

Final Essay Proposal: Torture

It’s nearing the end of fall term, and every student knows what that means–finals. For me it means a 1,500 word paper. My teacher told us we could write on whatever topic we wished, but it must be out of our textbook. I looked over all the essays and only two stuck out: “Is There a Torturous Road to Justice” by Alan M. Dershowitz, and “The Case for Torture” by Michael Levin. Thus, for my last paper I’m going to write about the modern use of torture. The ethics and positions behind it, whether it even works, and if the government should endorse it. Stay tuned.

Season of Plenty

It’s always this time of year when you hear shit like, “Give other families a happy, healthy holiday,” over the intercom at a grocery store. Followed by some spiel about donating your food–in my case–to fellow employees. We hear all this bullshit about making the holiday season special, and it just raises my stomach because if the companies that tell us to give food to each other would just pay us enough money to buy our own fucking food everyone would have a great holiday–but no. Why give another cog enough dignity to provide for their family when a worker’s poverty can be exploited to show the community how much the company cares?

My Decade

Eighteen was an important age for me. I graduated high school. Quit my job shoving carts, and moved out of my dad’s house. I was an inflated know-it-all with all the answers, which I happily shoved down people’s throats–in the name of Christ. I was on a mission, a holy calling that took me to Las Vegas where I found out everyone is full of themselves, and full of shit. To Burma and Thailand where the towering statues of Buddha can make anyone feel small, and the joy of those who have so little smaller. I was spat out in South Bend, Indiana, where I spent the coldest winter of my life with no heat, and a couch for a bed. From there I flew to Washington, and got married. We flew to Texas to work in a small shitty mall during a summer that would have made the devil happy to be in Hell. My wife and I escaped to Portland, Oregon–once again by the call of God. After a failed nonprofit, clothing store, web development team, and sex toy store I wound up right back at grocery, where I’ve worked thus far. Ten years of life and I’m deflated nobody without any answers. And that decade went by about as fast as it took to read this paragraph.

Climate Crisis

The landscape of the world is changing, drastically in some parts, and in others the effects are much more subtle. But even here in the Northwest we can feel the warmer winters. As a nation we can’t make it through spring without wildfires. Tornadoes plague the mid-west; floods, hurricanes, heatwaves, the list goes on. Strange weather is impacting lives everywhere for the worst, and the cost is great. People are losing their lives to severe cold and heat, but we must also consider property damage, family migration, wildlife extinction, with the added potential of a destabilizing food system. What’s the cause of this unusual weather? Climate change.

Throughout the history of Earth there have been changes in climate. Solar and volcanic activity, even shifts in the ocean’s currents can change weather patterns. They remain factors, but these natural phenomenon can no longer account for the current rate of global warming. Our planet has had a fairly consistent cycle over its modern history, and even events like the “little ice age” are linked to natural changes. Over the past century the planet’s temperature has gone up by 1.4 F, and it’s expected to rise another 10 degrees by the end of the century (National Academies). At just over a degree we can feel the pressure. We don’t exactly know what all lies ahead in a hotter world, but we do know why it’s happening.

Before the industrial revolution Earth maintained a balance which we can see by measuring CO2 concentrations in ice-core samples that date back 800,000 years. After we industrialized we started adding CO2 to the atmosphere, and other gases like methane and nitrous oxide by burning fossil fuels. These gases make it harder for heat to leave the planet by trapping it in the atmosphere, this is known as the Greenhouse Effect. Currently, our way of life puts an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon into the sky—135 times that of all yearly volcanic activity (EPA).

It seems like everyone has a different opinion on what is causing this warming. Politicians debate with scientists about the authenticity of man-made climate change. Environmentalists tend to put all the blame on carbon. And in the middle of the debate, 1 in 4 Americans isn’t really concerned about it at all (Saad). The biggest blow to the political discourse happened recently when voters elected Jim Inhofe (R), one of the most prominent climate deniers in America, to the senates highest environmental position. But don’t be mislead: 97 % of the world’s scientists agree that we are responsible for kicking open the doors to a new extinction period, and they can prove it with mountains of data (Molina).

While the debate wages on, a new report has come out by a committee put together by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Mario Molina restating what we’ve known for a while: “Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying,” and moreover if we don’t act soon there’s the potential for irreversible consequences (Gillis). I learned about these things in my 7th grade natural sciences class—in Texas. Since then things have only gotten worse. More and more nations have industrialized and equally as important, albeit less discussed, their populations are soaring.

Currently, there are 7.2 billion people on the planet, and that number is expected to grow to 9.6 by 2050. Scientists believed that at that point the population would begin to stabilize, but emerging data suggests the opposite. The population could exceed 12 billion by the end of the century (Thomas). A high population contributes to the overall problem, and according to the InterAcademy Partnership:

The relationships between human population, economic development and natural environment are complex and not fully understood. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the threat to the ecosystem is linked to population size and resource use. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions, ozone depletion and acid rain, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and loss of topsoil, shortages of water, food and fuel indicate how the natural systems are being pushed ever closer to their limits.

Many people view this information as highly debatable, some even persist that there is a large disagreement among scientists, but one thing is absolutely clear: our world is in crisis. And the majority of data says it’s going to get worse unless we do something about it.

We have one thing in our favor and that is time, but we don’t have much of it. Luckily, the information is getting to us soon enough to act. It is our civil duty to demand our governments treat these threats with the same voracity as economics and job creation. The time to lean on party politics is over—our food doesn’t care about them. The rising oceans will flood over every ideology from the hand of God to the writ of man. We must hold our elected officials accountable to lowering gas emissions. Funding and foreign policy must be directed at education, family planning, and birth control, which when used in conjunction can stabilize our populations.

We have the intelligence, we have the tools and resources to fix many of these problems, but we must work together—not just as a nation, but as citizens of the world. As a species we face, possibly the greatest challenge in history. Above all, if we are win this fight then we must weigh our own values against the destruction they cause. I’m from a generation that all but lives on the web: we blog, play games, video chat—all of which require monolithic amounts of power. As much as Google projects itself as environmentally friendly, it along with other companies won’t tell consumers how many data-centers (the hard-drives that house the internet) they own. A data-center can consume as much power as a midsize town. Our Luxuries come with a cost.

If we can all work together: government, people, companies—we can all win together. We inhabit a world where most things political come down to dollar signs, so if we start now it’ll spare our national deficit and subsequently our burden as tax payers. A stable population eases the tension on resources, and helps with the overall issue of climate change. I think most people will agree abundance is better than scarcity. If companies supplement conventional fuels with renewable energy it’ll lower emissions, create jobs, cultivate innovation, and make the transition away from fossil fuels possible without having to suddenly fire, or retrain hundreds of thousands of employees. None of these ideas are unobtainable or even novel, but the clock is ticking. Will we work together or will we die together?

…and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”

- Revelations 9:2

Works Cited

(Chair), Mario Molina. WHAT WE KNOW (n.d.): n. pag. What We Know. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

http://whatweknow.aaas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/whatweknow_website.pdf

Advancing the Science of Climate Change. Washington, D.C.: National Academies, 2010. N. pag. Web.

http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/Science- Report-Brief-final.pdf

“Causes of Climate Change.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html

Saad, Lydia. “One in Four in U.S. Are Solidly Skeptical of Global Warming.” One in Four in U.S. Are Solidly Skeptical of Global Warming. Gallup, Inc, 22 April 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/168620/one-four-solidly-skeptical-global-warming.aspx

Gillis, Justin. “Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/science/scientists-sound-alarm-on-climate.html

Thomas, Ben. “World Population Won’t Stabilize This Century After All – D-brief | DiscoverMagazine.com.” Dbrief. Discover Magazine, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/09/18/world-population-wont-stabilize-this- century/#.VFrMZWdxjGt

“IAP Statement on Population Growth.” News Rss. The InterAcademy Partnership, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2014.

http://www.interacademies.net/10878/13940.aspx