Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pope to make climate action a moral obligation

Many aspects of the climate change issue cannot be handled well by traditional market forces and politics. The people effected most are 1) people in poor countries, and 2) future generations, neither of whom have any market impact for the next quarter, or vote in current U.S. elections. Thus it's important to see other organizations, and in particular religions stepping up to the plate on this.

When Benedict XVI was first elected to his position as the new Pope, there was a concern that he would turn the Catholic Church in a very conservative direction. The fact that the announcement below is coming from what most people view as a very conservative Pope makes it all the more surprising and important as a milestone in the changing views on sustainable development and climate change.

The Pope is expected to use his first address to the United Nations to deliver a powerful warning over climate change in a move to adopt protection of the environment as a "moral" cause for the Catholic Church and its billion-strong following. The New York speech is likely to contain an appeal for sustainable development, and it will follow an unprecedented Encyclical (a message to the wider church) on the subject... It will act as the centerpiece of a US visit scheduled for next April.... and round off an environmental blitz at the Vatican, in which the Pope has personally led moves to emphasize green issues based on the belief that climate change is affecting the poorest people on the planet, and the principle that believers have a duty to "protect creation".

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in the UK, said last night: "This is a crucial issue both today and for all future generations. We are the stewards of creation and we need to take that responsibility seriously and co-operate to care for the created world."

A Papal tour of America will be particularly potent during election year in
the US, where Catholics number around 73 million [emphasis added]

( from http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2987811.ece )

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Insightful Bush Quote

In his nationally televised speech this week, President Bush actually said something very insightful.
"In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people. We are now at such a moment."

I couldn't agree more. However, I suspect that he an I interpret this in different ways. We are now in a period where we have to make a fundamental choice about our future direction. Do we want to continue with the policies of attempting to establish military domination over the world? Or do we want to change to a policy of investing considerable effort into building a peaceful, cooperative world community? Depending on which road we decide to take, our future will be very different. This fundamental choice will reveal much about our character as a people. I only wish the politicians, news organizations, and religious leaders would talk more about it.

One of my favorite groups that are talking about it are the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and their promotion of a Global Marshal Plan. The other group is based around the Great Turning initiatives of David Korten and Joanna Macy. More on these later.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Bankrupt Nation?

I didn't intend for this to be a purely negative blog, but since I'm on the subject of the collapsing American Empire, I couldn't resist comment on the recent article by Robert Freeman titled The Frightening Future in the Market Meltdown . He makes the following points:
  • When Ronald Reagan took office, in 1981, the cumulative national debt stood at $1 trillion. Today, it approaches $9 trillion
  • In 1975, personal household debt amounted to only 61% of disposable income. Today it stands at over 135%.
  • Consumers have expanded mortgage debt by over $11 trillion since 2001, using mortgage equity withdrawals to purchase life styles far beyond what their incomes alone could support.
  • The annual trade deficit that stood at $377 billion in 2000 now exceeds $800 billion.
  • Over the past six years, this trade deficit has added a cumulative $3 trillion of debt to the economy.
  • Adding up the national debt, consumer debt, and trade debt gives an increase in debt over the past six years comes to $17 trillion. (Note that any economy that borrows $17 trillion in six years can be made to look good, at least for a while. The problem is when the bills come due. )
  • Lawrence Kotlikoff, writing for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revealed last year that the U.S. actually faces $65 trillion in “unfunded liabilities,” debts it has committed to pay but for which there is no identified source of funding.

Here's a definition (from Wikipedia)

Bankruptcy - a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organizations to pay their creditors.

It's hard to see how the U.S. can pay these obligations under any reasonable scenario. We currently have to borrow $2.5 billion every day from the rest of the world just to keep afloat, sinking further and further into debt with no improvement in the situation in sight. Based on the above data, we appear to be, by any reasonable definition, a bankrupt nation waiting for the bills to come due. Where is this argument wrong?