$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing In America

$2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America

By Katheryn J Edin and Luke Schaefer, 2015

After the Civil War in the 1870s, Aid was created for the Windows of the War.  That was about all that was available until the Great Depression in the 1930s.  Then the Aid for Dependent Children was created—also known as ADC.  ADC took a backseat to creation of Social Security for the disabled and elderly in 1935.

The few thousand who received aid rose from a few thousand to 3.6 Million in 1962. However, aid was largely segregated. Blacks didn’t receive near as much aid as their white counterparts. Teen mothers were discouraged from applying.  Then the book The Other America: Poverty in America came out in 1962, bringing attention to all of these issues.

President Lyndon Johnson declared war on Poverty in 1964.  In the 1970s Richard Nixon created the Food Stamp program.  Reduced and Free Lunches Programs were also put in place.  AFDC or Aid to Families of Dependent Children created.  The number of people on Welfare jumped from 4.2 Million to 11.3 Million largely because they were now including more minorities and single mothers. The NWRO or National Welfare Rights Organization was responsible for getting aid for more people.  They did away with stupid White Glove Tests and unfair decisions making processes.

Ronald Regan ran in 1976, but lost.  In 1980, he won the Presidency.  He made a famous speech about The Welfare Queen who was his villain. She was black and decked out in furs and driving a Cadillac to appointments. The truth was that more white families received welfare than black families.  Regan was influenced by Losing Ground by Charles Murry, who was a Libertarian.  He believed that the poor were going to remain poor as long as we kept giving them handouts.  In his opinion, welfare didn’t lift the poor up. It kept them down. It was our duty to help them escape the spider web of dependency. However, studies done in 80s showed that most Welfare users were on Welfare temporarily for two years or so.  They were not lifelong users and abusers of the system.

The book Poor Support by David Ellwood proposed four ways to uplift the poor and keep them from needing Welfare forever.  1) Raise Minimum Wage 2) Earned Income Tax Credit. 3) Education and Training for Jobs 3) Limit on Time To Receive Benefits

Bill Clinton ran for President on the platform of creating Welfare Reform.  This made him more popular and perhaps got him elected.  He wasn’t offering a hand up or handout. Instead, he offered a hand off.  1995 saw the proposal for Welfare Reform. By 1996, it had been approved.  Cuts were made to Medicaid and Food Stamps.  No real money was put into training and education.  Mary Jo Bane and Peter Edelman who were in charge of the programs quit after the bill passed.

At first it seemed Welfare Reform was a good thing. Unemployment rates dropped. TANIF or Temporary Aid For Families in Need programs were going unused. However, other problems began popping up.  Low Wage jobs were not helping the poor get ahead.

By 2014, there were a portion of those in poverty who were surviving on SNAP benefits only. The low wage jobs were hard to find and keep.  Most of these low wage jobs required the employee be flexible with their schedule—working evenings and weekends.  When employees try to ask for time off they are often punished by a reduction in hours.  They aren’t fired, but are often forced to quit.  The up and down hours make SNAP benefits difficult to rely on since they are dependent on income.

The Welfare Reform pushed more people to work, but it didn’t improve working conditions or low wages. Minimum wage is $6 to $9 dollars an hour, which isn’t a livable wage. Many workers hope to find a job that pays at least $12 to $13 an hour.  Conditions border on slave labor sometimes.  Minimum Wage workers don’t get sick days, health insurance or retirement.

Education isn’t always the answer. Those in poverty can afford to go. Those in poverty often have to drop out of high school to work.  There is not enough time in the day to work and go to school—especially if they have children. And an education is NOT a guarantee that they will get a better job.

Many $2 a day families have unstable housing conditions.  They sleep on couches of friends and family members.  Rents have risen faster than inflation.  Wages have dropped while rents have sky rocketed. A Minimum Wage job—even a full time one—is not enough to pay for rent and utilities. Section 8 Housing helps, but only a handful of people. There are waiting lists in bigger cities ranging from 85,000 to 268,000.  Landlords buy up cheap housing, but can’t afford to fix them up and maintain them. Many abandon houses and move on to other houses in the neighborhood.

Abuse is unfortunately common in the USA. However, it is much more common among $2 a day families.  Why? Because if a family stays with friends or families it increases the likelihood of verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

The poor have to employ Survival Strategies. They seek out Public Help other than SNAP or Welfare.  They make use of Private Charities and Food Pantries.  The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Catholic Charities are the major players.  They find School Supply Give Aways and Utilize Public Libraries. The find Medical and Dental Clinics that offer free services, but have to wait in line for hours—sometimes a whole day without being seeing.  They also find creative ways to generate income like collecting scrap metals and selling them or selling their plasma.  In the end, they often just have to find a way to make do with less.

Prostitution is another way to make money, but it isn’t often as cut and dry as selling one’s self for sex on the street corner. It is often doing sexual favors in return for someone allowing you stay with them or in return for them paying a bill or two.

In Poor Support, Ellwood said that any Welfare or Aid Programs must be in alignment with American Values. He says we must not just reform Welfare, but replace it with a better program. Programs must promote Autonomy of the Individual, which means those on Welfare must feel like they have some power over their lives.  Americans must have a program that promotes the Virture of Work. Americans need opportunities not just handouts.  The truth is most Americans want to work. They don’t like taking handouts and feeling dependent on other people.  Family is very important to the American.  This means help should be designed to keep families together, not tear them apart.  Americans also crave a sense of community.  They don’t like feeling isolated by their financial problems.

Although TANIF is still available to poor families, many don’t realize it or don’t think it is worth it. Generally cash benefits require proof of intensive jobs searches—up to 30 hours a week—which can take time out of taking care of their families and making money in other ways.  They may be subjected to job training that doesn’t result in them getting a job at all.  Not Graduating High School or Felony Convictions or even being the wrong race can prevent the poor from getting good jobs or any job at all.

In order to lift up the $2 a day poor Work Support is Key.  Offering help with dependable transportation and childcare is another important way to make sure the impoverished can not only get jobs, but keep them.  Wages need to be raised to at least $10 an hour at least, but $15 an hour is preferable.  Hours should be guaranteed. Employers should be forced to give full time employees at least 35 hours a week and part time employees at least 25 hours a week. Business can still turn a profit and treat their employees well!  Also, creative ways to employee partially disabled workers would be desirable as well.

Solving the housing issues the plague the impoverished is key as well. The poor need a place to call their own that is physically dangerous.  Right now subsidized housing is our best bet. There are already some places available, but more of these would help greatly.

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Why Nations Fail

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, 2012

The book applies insights from institutional economics, development economics and economic history to understand why nations develop differently, with some succeeding in the accumulation of power and prosperity and others failing, via a wide range of historical case studies.

In the first chapter they compare the USA to Mexico and Peru. The USA has been relatively prosperous while Mexico and Peru have not been. Why is that they wonder. When each government was forming, they went through different things. The USA, particularly in the 1800s, gave patents to anyone who had a good idea and land was given to those who claimed it and homesteaded. Patents and Land are examples of Inclusive Economics.  Mexico and Peru, among other countries, only gave opportunities to those who were already rich and powerful. This is an Exclusive type of Economics.

The authors examined the reasons typically given for the divide between rich and poor countries. Geography has been listed as one of the reasons traditionally.  And it is true to that most of the rich countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, while the poor ones are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.  Other Economists try to argue that it has to do with difficulty with agriculture or poor education, but the authors of Why Nations Fail disagree.

In my Social Work Class about Women and Children in Developing Countries back in 2002, we talked about how Colonialism and Patriarchy were two key factors in keeping poor countries poor. There would be much social unrest, particularly for the first few years that the Colonizing Country pulled out and left the government.  The US won their freedom early on and grew prosperous after a short period of unrest.

Acemoglu and Robinson go on to talk about England and the Glorious Revolution. First came the Magna Carta and then eventually the formation of Parliament.  Soon the Industrial Revolution came and England became the most prosperous country in the world. Becoming Pluralistic and Developing Parliament allowed England to embrace the Industrial Revolution and become an Inclusive Economy. That is why it thrived.

France didn’t thrive until the French Revolution happened. Once the Monarchy was overthrown, the government shifted from Exclusive and Extractive to more Inclusive. The Rich Aristocracy essentially taxed all the poor people and allowed all the rich to just grow richer. This meant they were essentially sucking the life out of the Economy. When more people had opportunities to better themselves and their lives, the Economy rebounded.

Although the Mid-1800s were a time of Growth for the USA, the early 1900s saw a shift in things.  The rich US Barons fought a very public war against the Mudracker Journalists who called them out and called for change.  Eventually monopolies were broken up and things like The New Deal were put in place.  And once again, the Economy rebounded.

Acemoglu and Robinson discuss the idea of the Virtuous Circle Vs the Vicious Circle. A Virtuous Circle will give positive feedback into the Economy and keep thing moving and growing. A Vicious Circle will give negative feedback and keep the poor from ever rising to middle class and beyond.  They use the Mayan City-States in Pre-Colonial Mexico as an example of a Vicious Circle that led to the Failure of the Mayan Civilization.  Other examples they used of Vicious Circles or Negative Feedback were Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sierra Leon in Africa.

Uzbekistan was another example of a country that had benefited from being Colonized by the Soviet Union. When Soviet Union broke-up and then left their colony President Kasimov took over. He held fraudulent elections and kept himself in power indefinitely. He has also forced children in hard labor—harvesting the cotton crop, which is their biggest export. While the thinly veiled Dictatorship has kept Uzbekistan from failing completely, it is floundering.  The short term pay off are already damaging the long term prospects for this country. The effort to grow tea on the land failed due to Kasimov’s unwillingness to give up any power whatsoever.  Uzbekistan will mostly likely collapse in the near future.

Argentina was a peculiar case and unique in many ways. The country was one of the richest back in 1914 when the Peron’s took over.  Elections were bought and sold. Though they appeared to be democratic, they really weren’t.  Eventually, they corralled the money of their citizens, forcing them to exchange their American Dollar for the Peso. This meant they effectively stole money from everyone in the country and deflated the economy. Now their economy is stagnant. It hasn’t collapsed entirely, but hasn’t grown either.

After using many examples to illustrate their theories, the authors concluded their book. They didn’t really make any recommendations for trying to keep your own personal country afloat, however, they did mention that freedom of the press was a key part of keeping an Inclusive Economy.

Overall, I thought they had an interesting theory. The biggest criticism general readers had was how much information they had to wade through to get the basic idea of what the authors were trying to say. And it is not a small book at 556 pages to be sure, but it was a pretty quick read for me. Organization was the other criticism on Amazon.com.  And it is true that they did jump around a bit. Taking notes helped me keep their points in order though. It wasn’t too much of a detractor.  Other Economists complained about the lack of graphs and statistics. Adding such things might have improved it.  Still, it was definitely worth a read if you are curious about politics, economics and the like.

For more information you check out the Why Nations Fail Blog at http://whynationsfail.com/

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July 1, 2017 Gentrification

Gentrification comes from the old French word genterise, which means “of gentle birth.”  The term refers to the process of renovating poor urban neighborhoods. Gentrification can be seen as an attempt to beautify or civilize the lawless inner city.  Essentially, investors buy up cheap falling down homes and businesses. Then they fix them up and flip them.  Although some of the efforts might be altruistic, many are motivated by profit.

The largest problem with gentrification is the displacement of the poor. Once property values go up, so do property taxes and the poor can no longer afford their Ghetto homes.  Starbucks and Yoga Studios may be more pleasing to look at than outdated laundromats and falling down department stores, but they don’t solve any real problems. Pouring the Middle Class back into City Centers doesn’t lift up the Poor. It merely replaces them.

Pouring money into Education and Health Care would produce better long term results. Giving those in poverty opportunities to better themselves is a way to make those of rough birth a chance to become gentler.  Addressing the wage gap, inflation and racism is more important than giving a neighborhood a facelift.

It is sad to drive by boarded up businesses and abandoned homes. Economists talk about deindustrialization, the great white flight from the cities to the suburbs and desegregation, but nobody seems to be willing to admit that cheap land outside the city and a desire for higher profits created the poverty of the inner city.  Gentrification for profit just creates all new problems. True change can only take place when we invest in people, not places.

Anyway, I’d never heard the term Gentrification until I got to Season 5 of Shameless. I thought it was an interesting theme or subtext to the show and I’ve seen it in real life. From Denver to Mansfield, I see efforts to try and improve Urban Decay.  Hell, even Monett and Shelby have continued to evolve and change.

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I read that Shameless is the most watched series on Netflix in America. Sherlock Holmes is the most watched Netflix show in England.  This sparked my curiosity and so I binged watched Shameless this week—all 7 Seasons.

The first two seasons followed the British television series pretty closely in plot. Then the writers began to the the characters in new directions, which I liked.  Overall, I found that identified with the characters in Shameless—at least to some degree. I didn’t exactly grow up in the Ghetto of a large city, but I have lived most of my life in poverty.

Unlike the Gallagher family, I was an only child and I was lucky that I had at least one parent that was there for me consistently.  I couldn’t imagine how tough it would be to have both parents pretty much MIA.  The kids had to grow up all too quick and learn to take care of each other.  It is really a sad situation, but the show does find humor the chaotic moments when Frank or Monica reappears and tries to make up for their long periods of absence.

 Frank Gallagher is meant to be a Philosopher Drunk, but in the first couple of seasons he isn’t very likable.  As the series progresses, the character of Frank develops and he becomes more sympathetic. Seeing his cruel and crazy Mother in Season 2 helps explain why Frank is so messed up.  But my favorite moment perhaps is his Eulogy for Monica in Season 7. We finally get to hear a bit about back story and realize that he once had a promising future that he threw away.  He and Lip aren’t so different it seems.  And though I could only imagine the frustration the kids felt at his antics, there are times you can see the heartbreak in Frank’s eyes when they yell at him and try to get him to leave.

Monica Gallagher is the love of Frank’s life, but she is Bipolar.  She knows that she is not a very good Mom, which probably one the reasons she left. The kids are better off without her. Even still Monica can’t help but come around occasionally anyway. I think Frank’s relationship with Monica is the most dramatic and fun to watch. Frank’s relationship to Shelia is amusing though. I wasn’t very fond of his other lovers.

Fiona is fierce and for that I like her.  She struggles to balance having fun with raising a family.  And for a while, she manages to keep things from falling apart, but when Liam gets a hold of her coke and overdoses everything unravels.  I liked watching her character arc for the most part. Although I understand why she must pull away and become her own woman, I found her reaction to the continuing family drama more than a little bitchy at times.  I felt bad for Debs in particular.

I liked Jimmy Steve and his adventures. I was sad to see him go, but he did add to Fiona’s chaos.  It was probably better that she didn’t end up with him even though he was handsome, charming and funny.  I wasn’t particularly fond of Fiona’s string of lovers after that. He ex-husband was a real asshole.  And though I like the actor Dylan McDermott, I wasn’t fond of his character. Jeffery Dean Morgan was supposed to play her manager love interest originally. I am curious how that would have looked if he’d stayed.

I suppose I identify the most with Lip, who is too smart to waste his life trapped in the tragedy of his childhood. Although he loves the company of fellow intellectuals in college, he never quite feels at home in the world of academia. Despite being happy to see him go to college, I still had a problem with the college plotline. The writers didn’t seem to understand how college works.  Lip never seemed to be taking an entry level survey courses like Freshman English. He skipped right to Literary Criticism, which would be for Seniors or Graduates even. He also jumped right into Quantum Physics instead of taking Geology or Biology first.  And, perhaps most importantly, he had a Teaching Assistantship even though Assistantships are generally not given to Undergraduates either.

Ian and Mickey’s relationship is incredibly passionate and heartbreaking.  It was well developed and I found their deep bond believable.  I liked Ian’s Bipolar arc for the most part. I think it added a lot of depth to character to watch him struggle. My only complaint is how frustrating it was to watch him as he moped around after he was released from the hospital. Seeing him become an EMT was nice, although I don’t think they ever addressed whether he got his GED or not. I’d imagine one needs at least a GED for the EMT job.

Carl seems pretty smart despite his delinquent ways. His entrepreneurial spirit is admirable even if it is misdirected.  His thug phase was amusing at first, but it began to get old. Just as I was getting ready to give up on him, the writers made him evolve even more. Carl was shocked into the reality of how horrible Thug life can be when his friend Nick kills that little boy. It was tragic, but it really shaped Carl. It was wonderful to see him get into his first relationship and take an interest in police work. When he went off to Military School it made me think that there was still hope for this adorable little sociopath.

Debs didn’t have a lot to do early on, but as she evolved, she became one of my favorite characters.  She is nurturing and loving in many ways, but as the mean girls in school made fun of her in middle school, she began to change. In the last two seasons we see Debs stealing and scamming like her mother, father and brothers have all done. We see her fierceness when defending her corner and when she is trying to get her baby back. When she finally settles with Neil, we see her become a caretaker like her old self and bossy like older sister Fiona.

Liam is always cute and quiet. Though Fiona cared for him as an infant, he went through the most caretakers of all the children. Shelia and Sammi helped watch Liam when everyone else was too busy to. In later seasons we see Frank taking more a role in his youngest son’s life. I was thrilled to see Frank get Liam into a good private school. Perhaps despite his chaotic early years, Liam will be able to have opportunities his siblings did not.

I liked the Russian Prostitute Svetlana’s spunk. She turned out to be an interesting character despite her dubious beginnings. Her relationship with Keven and V was hot and funny. She evolved during her time with them and grew to be likable—until she stole the Alibi at least.  In any case, I always rooted for Kev and V.  Kev is just a big lovable goof and his wife V is a strong black woman.

My least favorite characters are probably Karen and Sammi. I felt bad for Karen in many ways. She obviously had lots of issues, but she was pretty bitchy toward everyone. After she abandoned her baby, I’d given up on her. Although many feel it was just deserts when Mandy hits her with a car, I still felt sorry for her.  I was conflicted about the Character of Mandy. Though Mandy was cold hearted at times, I felt she had some redeeming qualities—unlike her piece of shit father.  Frank’s oldest daughter Sammi was annoying and grating from day one.  She was definitely Jerry Springer material.

Shameless has no shortage of strange and memorable characters. The colorful characters are one of the main reasons to watch the show in my opinion. And though perhaps the first season or two wasn’t particularly strong, I appreciate how well everyone evolved and changed throughout the series.

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Betrayal of Science and Reason

Betrayal of Science and Reason

Ehrlich, 1996

In this hard-hitting and timely book, Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich challenge those who downplay the reality and importance of global environmental problems with appealing but misleading rhetoric. Such efforts to undermine and misinterpret environmental data, labeled the “brownlash” by the Ehrlichs, prolong an already difficult search for solutions and are deeply disturbing to environmental scientists. In Betrayal of Science and Reason, the Ehrlichs contrast anti-environmental rhetoric with the consensus view of the scientific community, tackling head-on such issues as population growth, desertification, food production, global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, and biodiversity loss.

This book offers a unique glimpse into how science works, and they discuss how scientists can speak out on matters of societal urgency yet retain the support of the scientific community. This book provides an eye-opening look at current environmental problems and the fundamental importance of the scientific process in solving them. It presents unique insight into the sources and implications of anti-environmental rhetoric, and it provides readers with a valuable means of understanding and refuting the feel-good fables that constitute the brownlash.

“The time has come to write a book about efforts being made to minimize the seriousness of environmental problems.”

Wise-Use Vs Brown-Wise or Environmentalism Vs Anti-Environmentalism (11)

65% of people are willing to pay for a better environment. (12)

Erroneous Notions (Things that are NOT true).

  • Environmental Scientists Ignore any good news on the Environment
  • Population Growth itself does not cause Damage to the Environment
  • Hunger (Poverty) is nearly Eradicated
  • That Natural Resources are Abundant
  • That Risks posed by Toxic Substances are Greatly Exaggerate
  • That Global Warming and Acid Rain are NOT serious Threats
  • That Environmental Regulation is Wrecking the Economy

Beware of “Sound Science” and “Balance” Rhetoric (17)

Cowboy Economics are all for Private Rights and Often Rights to Waste. People are Conservative and they simply don’t want to Change Their Ways.  (18-20)

Scientists don’t claim to be perfect or to have solid proof or 100% accurate predictions. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously.

It is clear that most Brownlash proponents have an agenda that is very different from MOST scientists. Their conclusions generally support that view that their immediate economic concerns or interests are best served by continuing business as usual and that long-term are not threatened by that policy.

Indeed, even some scientists have been fooled by the seemingly authoritative nature of some “anti-environmentalist” literature (though it should be noted that the scientific community, by and large, agrees with both the theory of global warming, and its human related causes).

As well, a few scientists operating outside the mainstream, such as Patrick Michaels and S. Fred Singer, seem motivated by the large salaries offered to them by multi-million dollars corporations with economic interests at stake regarding environmental regulation. Michaels is the primary authority on the CO2 and Climate Change website, superficially sponsored by the Greening Earth Society, which is, in turn, funded by the Western Fuels Association. The “laundering” of website sponsorship further adds to the confusion concerning ulterior motives.

The effect has been clear: budget cuts, reversal of legislation, a psychological spin toward “wise-use” of resources and downplaying of very imminent dangers. One congress person tried to cut funding for the new Mojave National Park to one dollar per year, another seeks to open mining on park lands.

Congressman Charles Taylor successfully sponsored a bill disguised as a forest health measure which allowed massive clear-cuts of old growth timber in 1995-96.

This last is instructive, a clear example of the subversion of green aims by the opposition. Taking earth-friendly names like “National Wetlands Coalition, The Sahara Club, The Abundant Wildlife Society of North America, The National Wilderness Institute, etc.” the browns wear verbal sheep’s clothing while actively working against the causes their names suggest they must support.

Volcanoes do emit CO2, but it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere.

Good News Perspective: Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act has helped. The number of cars have doubled, but not pollution. (42)

It is a Myth that Environmentalists Hate People.  Wanting people not to double the population doesn’t not mean Scientists are misanthropic. They care about people, but they also wish to see quality of life increase.

Overpopulation Concerns are about not having enough natural resources to sustain EVERYONE!

Greg Easterbrook was wrong to say Earth has NOT been altered significantly by men and women.

Is Global Warming a Crisis or Problem? The nay-sayers say that there is little to no evidence that there is any sort of problem.

The current trend of Warming matches the rise of Industrialization and CO2 output by human beings.  CFCs, Fossil Fuels, Deforestation, Agriculture Practices all Effect that Climate.

Dixylee Ray and Lou Guzzo argue, “It is unlikely that human beings can really influence the overall climate because there are one million tons of air per capita for every person on earth.”  It is like saying a few micro-grams of bacteria can’t make a 200 lb man sick.  (135)

Ronald Bailey and S Fred Singer said that The Earth is not Warming, but Cooling.

Regional Vs Global

Minor adjustment will be made and it will be no big deal is a fallacy.  We don’t just need to change how air conditioners are made.  There is already a rise in sea levels and droughts.

CFCs were invented in the 1930s for Refrigerators. Then holes in the Ozone were discovered around 1956 and 1957.  Brown Lasher’s claim the hole in the Ozone wasn’t discovered until the 1990s and the CFCs aren’t responsible for it.  (141-142)

Brown Lasher’s argue that without Pesticides that Starvation will result. And that is just false.

FACTS: Consensus of the Scientific Community

  • The Earth is Finite
  • Lands for Agriculture are Declining and Waters are being Over-Fished
  • Life-Support Systems are Damaged beyond Control
  • Over-consumption Contributes To Diminishing Resources and Pollution Both
  • Developed/Underdeveloped Countries Can Both Help

It is NOT true that Unregulated Capitalism is good for the Environment.  People not likely to spend more on the environment. It is NOT the Environment Vs Jobs either.

“The world’s scientific community is now pointing out that we have only one Earth and that our global society is running a vast and dangerous experiment on it. If the experiment goes wrong, where will be no way to rerun it.” (pg. 216)

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Silent Spring

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson, 1962

Silent Spring begins with a “fable for tomorrow” – a true story using a composite of examples drawn from many real communities where the use of DDT had caused damage to wildlife, birds, bees, agricultural animals, domestic pets, and even humans. Carson used it as an introduction to a very scientifically complicated and already controversial subject.

Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long-term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world.

Carson asked the hard questions about whether and why humans had the right to control nature; to decide who lives or dies, to poison or to destroy non-human life. In showing that all biological systems were dynamic and by urging the public to question authority, to ask “who speaks, and why”?

Silent Spring inspired the modern environmental movement, which began in earnest a decade later. It is recognized as the environmental text that “changed the world.” She aimed at igniting a democratic activist movement that would not only question the direction of science and technology but would also demand answers and accountability. Rachel Carson was a prophetic voice and her “witness for nature” is even more relevant and needed if our planet is to survive into a 22nd century.

(From the website http://www.rachelcarson.org/SilentSpring.aspx)

Notes and Quotes

Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species, man, acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world.

It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged

In the course of developing agents of chemical warfare, some of the chemicals created in the laboratory were found to be lethal to insects. The discovery did not come by chance: insects were widely used to test chemicals as agents of death for man.

Where do pesticides fit into the picture of the Environmental Disease? We have seen that pesticides contaminate soil, water, and food. They have the power to make our streams fish-less, our gardens and woodlands silent and bird-less.  Man, however much he may like to pretend to the contrary is part of nature.  Can he escape pollution that is now so thoroughly distributed throughout the world?

When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizers pills of half-truth.

We are accustomed to looking for the gross and immediate effect and to ignore all else. Unless this appears promptly and in such an obnoxious form that it cannot be ignored, we deny the existence of hazard.

Life Book by Gaylord Simpson et al. In this sense of the word of life, while surely fragile and complex, is incredibly durable through time.  It is more durable than the mountains. This durability is wholly dependent on the almost incredible accuracy which inherited information is copied from generation to generation.

Sir Perceval Pott in 1775 declared the Coal Cough (Cancer) was so common among chimney sweeps that it must be the soot that accumulated in their bodies.  A century or more later, there seems to have been a realization the chemicals in the human environment could cause cancer by repeated skin contact, inhalation or swallowing. True, it had been noticed that skin cancer was prevalent among workers exposed to arsenic fumes in copper smelters in tin factories in Cornwall. And it was realized that workers in the mines in Saxony and in Uranium mines in Joachmsthal in Bohemia were subject to disease of lungs, later identified as Cancer.

12% of deaths in all children between the ages of one and fourteen are caused by cancer, according to the Boston Hospital

A Swedish Farmer treated 60 acres of land and a week later they fell very ill with a high fever and blood count abnormal.  Later, he died. A postmortem examination showed that his bone morrow had been completely washed away.  It is theorized that his cells had mutated due to exposure to radiation.

A Who’s Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.

Dutch Biologist says, “The insect world is nature’s most astonishing phenomenon. Nothing is impossible to it. The most improbable things commonly occur there. One who penetrates deeply into its mysteries will be breathless with wonder. He knows that anything can happen and that it is impossible often does happen.

Study in Holland shows support for the view that polluted waterways carry cancer hazards (carcinogens). Cities receiving their water from the rivers have a higher death rate to cancer than those whose waters come from wells or other less polluted waterways.

“Although modern man seldom remembers the fact that he could not exist without plants, that the sun’s energy manufactures the basic food stuff for life.”  ~William O Douglas, My Wilderness East to Katahdin.  The earth’s vegetation is a part of the web of life in which relies on plants, animals and humans all alike.

Synthetic pesticides in the US soared from 124,259,000 pounds in 1947 to 637,660,000 in 1960. The amount used on California farms alone would provide a lethal dose for 10 times the world’s population.

Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?

A New England woman wrote to her newspaper, “This is not what the tourists expect, with us spending all this money advertising beautiful scenery. Maine roadsides are merely an example, a particularly sad one, for those of us who have a deep love of beauty of that state, of the senseless destruction that is going on in the name of roadside brush control throughout the nation.

Incidents like the eastern Illinois spraying raise a question that is not only scientific but moral. The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.

How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind? Yet this is precisely what we have done. We have done it, moreover, for reasons that collapse the moment we examine them.

It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.

If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.

We now stand where two roads diverge. But unlike Frost’s poem, the road we have been traveling is deceptively easy, as smooth as the highway on which progress is made with great speed, but ahead lies disaster. The other fork in the road, the one that is less traveled, is our last chance for the preservation of our earth.  The choice is, after all, ours to make…We should look and see what other course is open to us.

We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

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Our Endangered Atmosphere

Our Endangered Atmosphere

Gary E McCuen, 1987

Several major scientific reports have been published on this issues.  The Department of Energy Review, NASA and several foreign agencies agree.

  • Greenhouse warming of 3 to 8 degrees is expected for the doubling of CO2 above pre-industrial levels. This global average will be experience near the poles. It is not unreasonable to expect the sea to rise 4 ½ feet if this happens.
  • Other gasses, including, CFC and Methane, are collecting in equal amounts to CO2.
  • Continued emissions at the levels here in 87 would result in Ozone depletion, which would result in fatal and nonfatal skin cancers. It could also contribute to increased immune system suppression.

Conclusion: The human condition may depend on the ability of governments to implement policies to reduce the risks before the full extent of the damage becomes apparent. If we don’t act now, it may be too late to reverse or stop the damage.

Both Greenhouse Gasses and Ozone Modification are now accepted phenomenon.  We already have empirical evidence and proof to support these occurrences.  The issue is no whether it happens, but WHEN it happens.

Conventional approaches to problem solving are inadequate to address what we are talking about. Cost and Benefits don’t apply. We must place these issues much higher on the world’s agenda.  International Leadership can’t do it alone.

We cannot afford to give chemicals the same constitutional rights that we enjoy under the law. Chemicals are NOT innocent until proven guilty. There is a very real possibility that man, through ignorance or indifference or both, that we have altered to atmosphere irreversibly. It may one day no longer be able to support life…

Those who believe that these are problems to be dealt with by future generation are misleading themselves. Man’s activities to date may have already committed us to some level of a higher temperature.

The pathway of society is following today is much like a car driving toward the edge of a cliff.  We have a choice to go ahead and take NO action and drive off the cliff and figuring that we won’t hit the bottom until our generation is long gone.  Or we can take action before we get to the point of no return.

We need to Evaluate climate change scenarios, working in outside groups to understand the effects of Greenhouse Gases. We can Estimate trends in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and determine Possible Control Options.  Developing and Evaluating Responses to Various Greenhouse Gas/Climate Change Scenarios would be good.  Expanding Long Term Research focused on long term Environmental Effects.

The Atmosphere buildup of Carbon Dioxide could cause serious climate changes in the next century, but there is no basis for panic or a precipitous change in Energy Policy says the National Academy of Sciences.  The 500 page report on the Greenhouse Effect takes a less pessimistic view than another study released this week.  The EPA’s estimates of rising oceans and warm climates were similar to The Academy of Sciences. However, the EPA warned that the consequences could be catastrophic unless the world begins planning with a sense of urgency.

Thomas F Malone who gave testimony before the House Subcommittee on Investigation and Oversight in February of 1984.  He suggested that immediate action be taken. We need to slow the growth in Greenhouse Gases and find a more efficient way of getting our energy needs met. We need to act to preserve forests and try to slow the rate of deforestation.  We must increase the support for research on the ecological impact of these gases, global warming and climate change.  We must slow air pollution and reduce emissions.

The United States should immediately develop policy alternatives for Greenhouse Gases emissions.  We must massively increase support for Climate Change Research.  We must push for limits on Chlorofluorocarbons pollution. We must encourage attendance at the 87 Convention and attend to the long overdue alleviation of local pollutants, smog and acid rain.

Wallace S Brocka complained that, “We lack the ability to accurately predict the consequences of our actions.”

The depleting of the Ozone and Greenhouse Gases are connected issues.  The same gases that deplete the Ozone also contribute to Global Warming.

The Associated Press ran a story in June of 1986 that said that pollution was Hostile to Human Life.  “A dramatic reduction in the vital ozone layer over Antarctica proves the Greenhouse Effect is REAL and that a gradual warming would raise the ocean levels, erode coastal cities, bring dustbowl conditions to other areas, increase human misery and if not checked, lead to the eventual extinction of the human species” warned Scientists.

Tropical Rain Forests and the Atmosphere by Jose A Lutzen. “Every single adult Brazilian Nut tree left in peace can produce hundreds of kilos of precious food. Every palm tree or rather any number of the other species of palm trees in the Rain Forest can produce dozens of kilos of food and produce oxygen for the world. Not to mention proving construction materials. Brazil’s policies on the Amazon must change and they must change during the 80s or it may be too late!

Carl Wursch gave testimony before the Senate Committee on The Environment and The Public.  “Co2 build up in the air depletes the nutrients of plants and animals on the surface of the earth.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Living Patterns by Stephen P Leatherman. Leatherman also gave testimony. “The principle effects of a sea level rise are increased tidal flooding and wave induced erosion. Salt water intrusion can also be a problem in some areas, effecting surface waters.”

“The most significant impact of higher sea levels will be the submergence of coastal wetlands. Inter-tidal salt marshes can adapt only to relatively moderate rates of sea level rising.  Rapid increase in sea levels can literally drown these wet lands, converting them to simply shallow bodies of open water.”

If the Earth had its present albedo but had no atmosphere, the temperature would be well below the freezing point.  This planet would, in fact, be uninhabitable.  It is the Greenhouse Effect that brings the Earth well above the freezing point and permits oceans and bodies of water and all of that.  What happens though, is a kind of equilibrium is established so that the amount of sunlight coming from the sun that is absorbed by the plant is precariously balanced by the amount of inferred radiation admitted by the planet back into space,” says Carl Sagan.

Fossil fuels mean more carbon dioxide in the air then normal.  Doubling Co2 will increase the global temperature by a few degrees centigrade. That doesn’t seem like much, but it will upset this delicate balance.  We’re pushing and pulling on the global environment add there is no current instruction to systematically seek out and study such effects. (In 1987).

CO2 might warm the earth and ocean as well as change precipitation regionally and seasonally.  It might affect weather on a larger scale and we don’t know how this will effect humankind over the years ~ John R Justice on a report to the House Committee on Carbon Dioxide and Global Warming

Table in book showing Strategies for Mitigating the Effects of Global Warming says we need to protect soil, reduce CO2 emissions, improve water management, find renewable energy sources, reforest places that have been deforested and change costal land use policies. It also suggests educating the public and preparing for disaster relief.






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