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The Environmentalist Staff 


Obama's Push-Back Against China Is Bitter Medicine


For the past number of years, the prevailing view in foreign policy circles in Washington has been that China's economic growth of 9%, along with the recent economic recession that hit the United States, has shifted the balance of Sino-U.S. relations in China's favor. During a recent conversation I had with David Bosco, the author of Five to Rule Them All, he pointed out that while for most of the Cold War and twenty-first century, the Soviet Union -- and then Russia -- led the efforts to challenge Western authority on the international stage, China has been becoming the leading voice of opposition in the United Nations Security Council in recent years.
And ever since President Obama's inauguration, China has been especially uncooperative on a number of global issues. Kenneth Lieberthal -- director of Brookings Institution's China Center in Washington -- says such testy relations in the first year of American administrations have historic precedence as the two countries are more willing to test each other. Nonetheless, China has shown to be particularly resistant to respond positively to Obama's international charm offensive. 

Two of those major issues have been climate change and Iran. China sent a low level diplomat to negotiate with President Obama during the Copenhagen Conference on climate change in 2009 and unilaterally ensured the conference's minimal success by resisting enforcement mechanisms for any agreement on carbon emissions. And, as the military rulers in Iran proceed with horrific human rights crimes and lack of cooperation to address concerns about their nuclear program, China has shown unwilling to cooperate on sanctions on Sepah-e Pasdaran, also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  Continued...


The Psychological Effect of Crisis


In light of the Haitian earthquake and the subsequent aid efforts there, and having recently attended a meeting at one of the UN cluster agencies' headquarters in NYC on psychology, development issues and crisis, it was disconcerting to me that there is no current permanent program in place at the UN or among many different aid agencies, or one that can be immediately implemented, to commonly do psychological needs assessments among both crisis-affected populations and for workers in the field.

After food, water, and shelter, such needs are considered a tangential, secondary, or non-essential matters that only get ad hoc attention in rare circumstances. Some agencies or organizations are better than others at recognizing this as a critical need, which is especially true among crisis-affected populations, as the psychological well being--which includes issues of safety, security, and trust--fundamentally affect long-term recovery and development in post-conflict and post-disaster areas. This is indeed something that we will be seeing prove true, and with veritable profundity, during Haiti's post-earthquake reconstruction.  Continued...

Where To Buy Fair Trade Chocolate


Given chocolate's status as a conflict substance, it's important to know that ethical (and tasty!) chocolate is readily available. 

Why is this important? 

With Fair Trade chocolate:

  • •  Forced and abusive child labor practices are prohibited
  • •  Farming families earn a price that is adequate to meet their basic human needs
  • •  Environmentally sustainable production methods are required
Where to buy Fair Trade chocolate and other Fair Trade goods?

For more information on healthy foods, see: Do we need another Jungle?

President Obama’s Rope-Line Debate on Coal


If you suddenly came face to face with President Barack Obama, what would you say?

Gillian Caldwell found herself in that position last week when she encountered the President on a rope-line. Caldwell – the leader of the climate-action group 1Sky – decided to debate the President over his position on coal.

As she shook President Obama’s hand, Caldwell appealed to him to stop supporting federal investments in “clean coal” and to put the money instead into renewable energy. To his credit, President Obama stopped long enough to engage. Here are excerpts of their exchange (see the video and full transcript):

CaldwellIt’s got to be renewable energy. No more clean coal. It’s a unicorn. It doesn’t exist.

President ObamaI disagree with you…We are not going to get all our energy from wind and solar in the next 20 years.

CaldwellLet the market do it…Can’t the market make the investment?

President ObamaThey can’t do it. The technology’s not there. I’ve got a nuclear physicist in my Department of Energy who cares more about climate change than anyone and he will tell you you can’t get it done just with that – so you’ve got to have a transition period to do all this other stuff. Don’t be stubborn about it…If I could do it all with wind and solar, I would! We can ramp it up. That’s what we’re working on.  Continued...

That Age Mocking Super Bowl Ad


Okay, maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor in my seventies but there’s one Super Bowl ad that I hated, and it’s the one that is getting the most attention.  It featured the elderly but ever game Betty White as a football player who gets tackled and trounced on in the field, only to be transformed into a youthful male player when given some magical energy by a Snicker candy bar.  The joke ad has an additional payoff when the young player is tackled again and turns into the seriously old Abe Vigoda.  

What’s the ad saying?  That it’s a young man’s worst nightmare to get old, first - God help him - as an old woman, then as a decrepit old man, both lying in the mud,  looking weak and ridiculous - only to be rescued by the magic of cheap chocolate covered candy – one that is sure to rot his teeth and his mind.    I can see the geniuses at the ad agency thinking that one up.  Gramps and Grandma tackled, roughed up and lying face down in the mud  - the decrepit duo knocked down and messed up by young football players – America’s gonna love that one.  Well, here’s an American who didn’t.   Continued...


Obama 2.0


The second year of the Obama Era is young, but we may be seeing the emergence of Obama 2.0 – a president willing to do battle against the dark forces of stasis and negativity. Let’s hope so.

Obama 1.0 didn’t want to get ahead of Congress. Obama 2.0 appears ready to go head-to-head with Democrats who have the numbers to lead but lack the discipline, and Republicans whose only big idea is to make Democrats fail – a job that has turned out to be pretty easy so far.

Now the President seems open to strategy-change and he’s being flooded with fresh advice. In the Feb. 8 issue of TIME, for example, columnist Mark Halperin suggests that Obama “borrow from the playbook of Ronald Reagan” by becoming bigger than life, standing for a few big things and striking themes with which no self-respecting American patriot – Republican, Democrat or Tea Person -- can disagree.

Halperin is correct. Obama 1.0 worked at playing the Washington game; Obama 2.0 must prove he can change the game, as he promised in the campaign. He should lead us in a tectonic shift from the politics of fear to the politics of hope.

The Right claims we are losing the America we love. The Left tells us we are teetering on the brink of environmental collapse. Both tell us we should be very afraid. A little fear is good. It teaches us, metaphorically speaking, not to touch the hot pot on the stove. But fear without hope leads to the kind of persistent polarity, political paralysis and apocalypse fatigue that seems to be infecting the American spirit like a pandemic.  Continued...