Sunday, 26 March 2017

THINKING POSITIVELY

    Within the confines of a blog, I can only start to accommodate the advice of Mark, a Toronto lawyer and hockey coach, that my blogs would be more effective if they included more positive thinking to balance all that data about the unsavoury things of which our species is guilty.
I do know that shining out from all the bad are an incredible tally of benefits to many life forms and to our environment, but where to start?  Because some of our world’s most powerful politicians deny our human guilt, should it not be Climate Change? 
Yes, there were times when I yearned for global warming.  Intermittently, between 1949 and 1963, my RCAF responsibilities saw me strolling the beautiful sandy beaches along the Arctic coasts of Canada and the United States.  The ice pack was well off shore and the water was so temptingly placid that I tested it.  I instantly withdrew.  The 24 hours of sunlight were inadequate to make this the paradise it could be and, geologically, once was.  And my sympathies for polar bears were somewhat lessened a few moths later when I barely escaped the embrace of a huge one while away from my truck, all alone and unarmed, on the frozen tundra with only the moon reflected off snow for light.  Thanks, Wind, for keeping me downwind of him.
  But, I spent most of my time in the relatively-balmy South where my own senses were quite adequate to convince me that humans were racing towards self extinction.   This fear, augmented by the mountain of facts provided by scores of concerned investigators, resulted in me filling many of my blogs with dire warnings.   Deniers still argue that it is all Nature’s fault, but brilliant human minds keep unveiling her part of the blame.
There was Alfred Wegener in Germany who, in 1915, alerted us to continental drift and Milutin Milankovich  in the 1920s in Serbia who computed our Planetary Cycles: 
ORBIT: Every100,000 years the earth travels a path that goes from circular to elliptical around the sun.
TILT: Every 41,000 years the tilt of our polar axis goes from 21.5 to 24.5 degrees.  It is now at 23.5.
PRECESSION: Our earth has a wobble cycle of 23,000 years, altering where we are in our orbit when the seasons occur.   During the current ‘Now’, we northerners are furthest from the sun in summer.  It will take another 5,200 years to be closest in summer.
So, it is unjust to blame Nature for our current mess.  Other than a chance encounter with an asteroid, Nature is in no mood to molest us unduly.  We need to turn to other famed researchers like Paul and Anne Ehrlich and David Brower for their 1968 warning in their book “The Population Bomb”  wherein lie the real culprits.
Those who profit from the status quo tend to use Nature as a shield to hide behind while ignoring the dedicated work of 97% of investigators who find that humans with their excessive use of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide and their cattle emitting methane are the main causes of imminent disaster.
TRANSPORTATION: It is also a fact that the quickest and cheapest way to fry our planet is to get airborne in vehicles that emit heat, particles, gases that include carbon, both mon and di oxide, nitrogen and sulphur oxides which interact among themselves and the atmosphere.  This, plus our population explosion that has given Europe an 87% increase in air travel in 16 years and North America an annual increase of 5.2%, must be, and is being, addressed in the aircraft industry by thousands of scientists who are spread among diligent workers in the engine, propellor, airframe, seating, paint, scheduling, routing, advertising, and aircraft selection components.  It may be a losing battle but their successes have given us more time to avert disaster.
Our demand for energy increases 2% annually, so where do we find praiseworthy counter actions?
      It will take a while to be truly effective, but look: renewable energy is increasing at 2.6%!  And: CARS: Barcelona plans to bar cars from 60% of its streets.
COAL:  All of the UK went 6 days free of coal burning; Vietnam plans to eliminate the use of coal;    Scotland has already eliminated coal use.
SOLAR companies are adding workers at 12 times the average rate.    Wattway solar roads: The Anglo-French Company, Colas, has built in Normandy, France, at a cost of $5.2 million, a kilometre-long road made of photovoltaic cells.  It will undergo a 2-year test period.  A huge solar farm in the Sahara will, by 2028, supply 1.1 million homes. India has activated the world’s largest solar farm.
BIRD DEATHS: Birds do not prosper from many human activities, but moving to renewable energy is reducing the kill rate.  Various and varied studies rate annual deaths in this order:  solar 28,000, wind 328,000, nuclear 330,000, towers 470,000, oil and gas 1 million, coal 7,900,000, electrical lines 25 million, vehicles 200 million, windows 303 million, cats 3.7 billion.  As we are moving towards the front of this list we are improving bird survival but we still need to work on cats.  One irony is that, with my 6 bird feeders, my birds eat one 13-pound bag of cat-food pellets per week.  Yes, my squirrels prove the value of positive thinking by figuring out how to access squirrel-inaccessible bird feeders.
CRIME: has fallen:  In spite of a recession, Estonia has reduced crime by 70%.  In the US it started to fall in 1991, in the UK in 1995.  In the UK car thefts fell from 400,000 in 1997 to 86,000 in 2012.  In US cities the crime drop averages 32% with some cities 64 to 90%.  Some of this may be due to the ageing population.  Canada, the Netherlands, and Estonia have reduced prison population with no increase in crime.  In the UK the number of people arrested for a first crime is down 44%.  Better trained and less racist police get the credit.  But also burglar alarms, increased security, less cash transactions, and increased affluence do help.
China still leads the world in the number of executions, followed by Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, but the number of countries with no death penalty has risen from 60 to 102. 
PHILANTHROPY has been increasing.  Asia has the fastest growth in billionaires.  World-wide billionaires gave, in just one year, $7 billion to fund higher education.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, is one of many organizations fighting for  freedom of expression.  Rating 180 countries, the ten most-free nations are: Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, and Jamaica.  Germany ranks 16th, Canada 18th, Australia 25th, UK 38th, USA 41st, Poland 47th, Hong Kong 69th, Japan 72nd, Italy 77th, Israel 101st, Ukraine 107th, Palestine 132nd, Russia 148th, Mexico 149th, Turkey 151st, Egypt 159th, Saudi Arabia 165th, Iran 169th, Cuba 171st, and China 176th.
During 2016, the USA jumped from 49th to 41st place, Russia from 152 to 148, Palestine 140 to 132. 
ENERGY IMPROVEMENTS - Nuclear: Military accidents have decreased: 1940s 3, 1950s 28, 1960s 19, 1970s 10, 1980s 8, 1990s 1, 2000s 1.   We did come terrifyingly close to killing millions, but luck was with us.
      Civilian nuclear accidents: 1950s 4, 1960s 5, 1970s 3, 1980s, 5, 1990s 3, 2000s 3, 2010s 1.
POVERTY:   Last year China lifted 35 million above the poverty line, but still has 21 provinces with counties below.  It plans to invest 100 billion yuan to eliminate all poverty by 2020. It will also ban all ivory imports in 2017.
Enormous gratitude is due hundreds of organizations dedicated to improving our lot.  Just a few:
Amnesty International, founded in UK, in 1961; has 7 million members focused on human rights; pressured Shell Oil for 7 years to get in 2016 a £55 million settlement to 15,600 Nigerians whose lives were devastated by two major oil spills; gave strong support to Ireland becoming the first county to legalize full marriage equality; and pressured EU governments to set up search and rescue operations that saved thousand of refugees.
Doctors Without Borders (Médicins sans Frontières) founded in France in 1971 now has associates in 19 countries and over 4 million individual donors.  It provides non-political aid to over 60 countries.  
The Environmental Protection Agency kept in place pollution reduction requirements that will force automakers to produce by 2025 fleets averaging 51.4 miles per gallon up from the 2015 average of 33.2.  The fact that more trucks and SUVs are now being sold has already reduced the original goal of 54.5.  The new US administration appears determined to reduce it further, so here is a plea to it for positive thinking.
Friends of the Earth, founded 1969 in USA; now with HQ in Amsterdam and a 74-country membership.
Greenpeace, founded in Vancouver, Canada, in 1971, has offices in over 40 countries with its co-ordinating body in Amsterdam.  It is focused on making greener and healthier our oceans, forests, food, and climate.
Oxfam, founded in Oxford, UK, in 1942 is a global confederation of charitable organizations focused on alleviating global poverty.
The Top Ten Philanthropics: Bill & Melinda Gates, Open Society (George Soros), Ford, William & Flora Hewlett, Children’s Investment Fund (UK), United Nations, Conrad N. Hilton. Rockefeller, Gordon & Betty Moore.
Charitable Organizations: Human generosity is universal. In the US the IRS lists 1,800.000 charities and these include Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu. The top 20 Muslim charities are located in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait, USA, Iran, France, Sudan, and Canada.   
I have lots more, Mark, but I am out of room. So, is this enough for now?
I hear your hockey team won a playoff spot.  I am sure you will tell me it was due to positive thinking.
                                                                                                                        Ye Olde Scribe.

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