Rose Marie Berger: Why Bill McKibben Is The New Noah

Noah and friends

Bill McKibben is a good guy.

He’s a Sunday school teacher. He’s funny and a little shy. But he’s got a big problem.

He just got a job from God — and it’s not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill’s been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation.  It’s his job to warn us that we have “grieved the Lord in his heart” and that the flood waters will rise again if we don’t get back to working within our “original contract” and reverse climate change.

Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah’s neighbors didn’t think much of him, and Noah himself didn’t know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.

Bill’s like that.

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit’s whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill’s article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can’t seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill’s article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there’s still time.

If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here’s the plan:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbonfee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It’s been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.

And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.

This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we’ve got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.

Welcome to the fight of your lifetime.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Resources and Further Reading

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben

1. ECONOMIC

2. LEGISLATIVE

3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY/DIRECT ACTION

Matt Taibbi: ‘Banker Are Lucky God Himself Didn’t Come Down At Bonus Time’

The financial services industry went from having a 19 percent share of America’s corporate profits decades ago to having a 41 percent share in recent years. That doesn’t mean bankers ever represented anywhere near 41 percent of America’s labor value. It just means they’ve managed to make themselves horrifically overpaid relative to their counterparts in the rest of the economy.

A banker’s job is to be a prudent and dependable steward of other peoples’ money – being worthy of our trust in that area is the entire justification for their traditionally high compensation.

Yet these people have failed so spectacularly at that job in the last fifteen years that they’re lucky that God himself didn’t come down to earth at bonus time this year, angrily boot their asses out of those new condos, and command those Zagat-reading girlfriends of theirs to start getting acquainted with the McDonalds value meal lineup. They should be glad they’re still getting anything at all, not whining to New York magazine.–Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone (FEBRUARY 8, 2012)

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-wall-street-should-stop-whining-20120208#ixzz1lup6DfZ6

McChrystal v Obama: Battle of the ‘Hard Hearts’?

General McChrystal's gold engraved nunchuks. Photograph by Mikhail Galustov for Rolling Stone/Redux

Yesterday U.S. top Afghanistan warrior General Stan McChrystal was very publicly called to the carpet in the Oval Office. Sources say his job is on the line. President Obama wants McChrystal to answer for comments he made in a Rolling Stone interview (July 8-22, 2010 issue).

The short form is that McChrystal disses the counterterrorism strategy advocated by Vice President Joe Biden, calling it “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” He outright insults Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, and says he feels betrayed by the US ambassador in Kabul Karl Eikenberry. Overall, McChrystal conveys a deep-seated contempt for civilian leadership.

And, despite the “it’s a tough slog, but we are winning the Afghani  hearts and minds” rhetoric from the White House, the civil societies in the countries of our NATO allies have forced their governments to change direction on the failed war policy in Afghanistan. (Having watched The Princess Bride numerous times, they apparently learned the lesson: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”)

In the Rolling Stone article, author Michael Hastings writes:

Opposition to the war [in Afghanistan] has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. …

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply f*&^%d up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,” a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

While the White House is debating whether or not to fire McChrystal and what the fall-out might be on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, Rabbi Arthur Waskow frames the argument differently: “The ‘strategy’ is already a failure, and the ‘civil-military issue’ is the Constitution at stake, not a failed and stupid war.”

Waskow sets Obama’s current dilemma in historical context:

Harry  Truman knew what to do: When the issue was insubordination by General MacArthur over whether to escalate a stupid war  with China that MacArthur had brought on (beyond defending South Korea), Truman fired MacArthur. (I remember Congress begging MacArthur to address a special joint session. I remember how he ended with a bathetic, bedraggled song: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”)  Right. Despite the resulting furor, the arrogant old soldier did indeed fade away.   …

McChrystal’s strategy was arrogant & stupid;  it has already failed  because it was arrogant & stupid;  and many of us, including Biden & Ikenberry, did indeed tell them so.  …

The trouble is that Obama accepted the arrogant, stupid advice from McChrystal — and now has to face the consequences in a failing and mistaken war.  When John Kennedy came new into the White House, he accepted similarly stupid & arrogant advice from the CIA about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba — and when he realized how stupid it was, he fired the lot of them and refused to get trapped into more arrogance and more escalation.

Now we will see what Obama is made of: whether he has the guts and good sense of Truman & Kennedy.

But beyond the political power struggles that are as old as the military strategies of Uzziah in II Kings 15, there is a deeply spiritual issue. It is the issue of arrogance. It is always arrogance that hardens the heart and impedes the ability to listen.

“Refusing to listen breeds stupidity,” writes Rabbi Waskow. “Stupidity arising from a spiritual failure, not an IQ failure, breeds political disaster. There is a deep relationship between the arrogance of the Generals and the CIA in their contempt for China, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan — and their contempt for civilian leadership. And the contempt of BP for the oceans, the forests, the air. The obsessive belief that Conquest and Control are all that matters.”

The consequence of King Uzziah’s failed military strategy is summarized by a proverb from King Solomon: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

McChrystal – who carries around a gold, custom-made, set of nunchuks engraved with his name and four stars –  has got pride and arrogance in spades. (Read the entire Rolling Stone article to get the full experience of this.)

But Rabbi Waskow reminds that pride and arrogance are not the marks of a great military leader. Instead, he says, the Talmud teaches: “Who is the greatest [military] hero? The person who can master his own impulses … and the person who can turn his enemy into his friend.”

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com. She’s the author of Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood (Apprentice House, April 2010).