Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Can the Democrats be Liberated “from the cult of neoliberalism”?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 4th, 2009

Check out Michael Lind’s piece in Salon.com. If I understand him correctly, this is what he means by neoliberalism, a political perspective opposed to progressivism: “New Dealers and Keynesians are wrong to think that industrial capitalism is permanently and inherently prone to self-destruction, if left to itself. Except in hundred year disasters, the market economy is basically a sound and self-correcting. Government can, however, help the market indirectly, by providing these three public goods [environment, healthcare, and education], which, thanks to ‘market failures, the private sector will not provide.” Cick here to read the full piece.

Victory Gardens

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on May 14th, 2009

A beloved tradition from the World War II era, Victory Gardens are being revived throughout the country.  This time, people are not planting those gardens to support victory over an enemy abroad, but instead to support our neighbors at home.  In the Twenty-First Century, victory gardtbg_logo.jpgens are not about beating Nazis, but instead about defeating hunger and malnutrition.  While the more affluent among us have been celebrating locally grown foods in recent years, far too many people without financial resources are unable to access fresh fruit and vegetables from any source.  Inner city neighborhoods have few grocery stores, and residents of those neighborhoods often lack the money to travel to shop.  All those beautiful farmer’s markets sprouting up throughout the country have not been sufficiently accessible to the poor.  That’s the reason for the new victory gardens – community or individual gardeners who pledge to give their produce to food banks and provide fresh, locally grown food for those who currently are unable to afford it.

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the plant pick up of community gardens in Toledo at the greenhouse operated by a great local organization, Toledo Grows.  The mission of Toledo Grows is to promote community gardens and gardening as a productive activity for inner city youth.  Many of these community gardens have pledged to join the Victory Garden movement.

On the plant pick up day, the greenhouse was mobbed by people of all different ages, races, ethnicities and occupations.  The one thing those people had in common was the love of gardening and food, and the interest in working with members of their community to feed people.  That experience reminded me of how diverse gardeners are, from opera fans to Nascar fans, from conservative Christians to leftwing hippies.  Victory gardens are an ideologically neutral means for us to help other people, and to be civic minded while doing something that we love.

The Environment? Had McCain Won

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on January 2nd, 2009

Check out Katharine Mieszkowski’s piece in Salon.com tracing an imaginary scenario implicating continued degradation of the economy had Senator McCain won the presidency. Here’s a taste: “Before hailing tmpphpbmpaxg1.jpgthe close of the Bush administration’s eight-year attack on the environment and scientific integrity, and celebrating Barack Obama’s takeover, let us pause to imagine an alternative future with John McCain and Sarah Palin in the White House.  . . .   Even a grizzly bear shudders to think of it.  . . .  During the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain and Palin displayed a callous disregard for scientific research, while attempting to make light of wasteful government spending. On the stump, McCain ridiculed a major grizzly bear study, charging that the taxpayers had spent millions to study DNA of bears in Montana and joking, “I don’t know if that was a criminal issue or a paternal issue.’ Never mind that McCain himself voted to fund the totally legit study, which assessed the federally protected species’ distribution in a 12,000-square-mile area in and around Glacier National Park.'” Click here to read further.

The Bush assault on the environment; his inability to appreciate the perils of continuing our degradation of the environment; his disdain for science and scientists; and his egregious incapacity to approach environment problems as well as other problems with a sophisticated, inquisitive mind and the analytic capacity to draw lessons from a comprehensive understanding of these problems, rendered Mr. Bush totally incompetent to govern.  Surely Mrs. Palin would have been even worse in attempting to approach the enormous range of challenges we face today. And, alas, so too would John McCain. The know nothing approach of the past eight years would have been prolonged in a McCain administration. We’re lucky that the brutal year of 2008, at least, ended on a positive note with the election of Barack Obama. Let’s hope that the 44th president will continue approaching governing with the experience and intellectual acumen he has displayed during the campaign.  Only then will America have a chance, however meager, to restore American politics and constitutionalism to their rightful place in governing our great nation.

Click here for more on the downfall of the Republican Party.  And for the legacy on the environment Mr. Bush bequeathed to President Obama click here.

Neo-Conservativist Goverance & The New World Oder

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 17th, 2007

Word has it that the world bank attempted to de-legitimize the idea of global warming as a relevant factor in approving investments. Consider: “The Bush administration has consistently thwarted efforts by the World Bank to include global warming in its calculations when considering whether to approve major investments in industry and infrastructure, according to documents made public through a watchdog yesterday. . . . On one occasion, the White House’s pointman at the bank, the now disgraced Paul Wolfowitz, personally intervened to remove the words “climate change” from the title of a bank progress report and ordered changes to the text of the report to shift the focus away from global warming.” What can motivate people to reject even the possibility of an impending environmental crisis? This represents more evidence of the devastating effects of neo-conservatism has had in “the new world order.” Mr. Bush and the neo-conservative movement generally make a compelling case for the dangers of government, but only when they are actually in power.

A Perfect Ad Hominen Argument (Against Al Gore & Global Warming)!

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on March 1st, 2007

Word has it that Al Gore uses too much energy. This condemnation of Mr. Gore contains a virtually perfect ad hominen from the Insidious Right, you know, those folks who believe in attacking people not arguments or ideas. Ad hominen arguments attack one’s opponent, not the form or content of one’s opponent’s argument. Al Gore is known for his dedication to protecting the environment and for addressing the problem of global warming. Indeed, a documentary he narrated received an academy award for best documentary. Now, however, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an astute think tank, has skillfully uncovered one of the most shocking instances of hypocrisy imaginable. Al Gore, the same Al Gore described above, wastes energy in his family home in Nashville. How can we tolerate such duplicitous hypocrisy? Perhaps Mr. Gore should be impeached and removed from office. Oh no, “the former next president” doesn’t hold any political office. Perhaps, we should enlist the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to charge Mr. Gore with a crime? No, thankfully hypocrisy is not a crime. That’s a relief. What would any of us do if it were. Well, can we do anything?

Well let’s step back. Who is this group? According to the report, Drew Johnson, the Center’s president, “wanted to see if he [Al Gore] was living by his own recommendations and walking the walk.” The Center is is a “conservative” watchdog protecting libertarian economic values. Although the Center’s website doesn’t list the “environment” as one of its “policy areas” of expertise, it nonetheless takes on the most notable advocate of saving the planet. Does the Center deny the dangers from global warming? The problem with this paradigmatic illustration of how the Insidious Right operates is that it commits the informal fallacy of arguing against a person not the person’s argument. Disparage a conclusion you don’t agree with by broadcasting the alleged failings of a particular person advocating a position you virulently disagree with, so that we can say “See, he talks a good game, but he doesn’t walk the walk.” But who cares if Al Gore doesn’t practice what he preaches? I don’t. What I want to know is whether his argument is sound. If Al Gore is right about global warming, what difference does it make that he doesn’t live up to standards he applies to others. Forget about him–he’s not running for office, is he?–and assess what he’s offering. If it turns out that two things are true about Al Gore: (1) his position on global warming is correct, and (2) he’s a hypocrite, humanity is still overwhelmingly served and benefited because we can now fix or try to fix the problem of global warming. If we act on (1) and protect the environment maybe we will even get Al Gore to help to straighten himself out. But, as I said, who cares about Al Gore? What’s important is his message, and his message is just what the Center doesn’t dare to engage. So David Roberts at the Huffington Post need not insist:

The larger point, which probably won’t work well as a cable-show soundbite but is nonetheless true, is that Gore has done heroic work making global warming a top issue for governments the world over. He has prompted more individual and collective action on this issue than anyone else alive. The changes he has wrought outweigh his personal carbon emissions by many orders of magnitude.

Who cares what order of magnitude Gore’s contribution is? What’s important is that his argument is sound, and “even if they’re successful in tarnishing Gore, it won’t change that.” That’s the point. Whether Al Gore is a straight-shooter or a hypocrite is completely irrelevant. What’s important is his argument. Of course, Mr. Roberts’ indignation and frustration is perfectly understandable. The Insidious Right’s most successful tactic is ad hominen, all the way down. Single-handedly, the Insidious right has succeeded in debasing American civic discourse. Indeed, doing so is the modus operandi of the Insidious Right.

It’s time for this to end. Honest conservatives and libertarians must disown the Insidious Right. Does hypocrisy matter at all? Of course, it does, but only after we determine that an individual’s argument is fallacious, and only when it is important–as when deciding upon our leaders–to evaluate the individual’s character. One caveat: Who among us is not significantly hypocritical in some aspect of our lives life? Hypocrisy is legion in American society. Does that might it right? Of course not. Each of us should persevere in the enormous task of exorcising our demonic hypocrisies. In doing so, however, let’s remember that hypocrisy does not falsify one’s argument. It only means one should strive more diligently to live up to the ideals one’s argument expresses.

Under the “Gotta Read” Category

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on February 28th, 2007

The Supreme Court, according to Andy Borowitz, has reversed the Motion Picture Academy’s Award to Al Gore for the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Read this howl for yourself.

Posted: 1:20 PM