Harpoon Notes for June 5, 2019: Pushing Back Against Global Warming

After Tom Strode’s marvelous prelude and accompaniment to the national anthem, which everyone sang with that 1970s equivalent of enthusiastic approbation — gusto — Barbara Niess-May came forward to share the day’s inspiration.

“I’ve been thinking lately of a vision of hope,” she began. “I’d like to read a poem by Anne Lamott; author of Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. The title is ‘Show Up with Hope’ — ‘You would almost have to be nuts to be filled with hope in a world so rife with hunger, hatred, climate change, pollution, and pestilence, let alone the self-destructive or severely annoying behavior of certain people, both famous and just down the hall, none of whom we will name by name.'”

After the next paragraph, a truly radiant testament to personal faith, Lamott asserts, through Barbara, “I wish I had a magic wand and could make people in power believe in climate science, but I don’t. I do, however, have good shoes in which to march for science and sanity….”

Then the clincher: “Sometimes hope is a radical act, sometimes a quietly merciful response, sometimes a second wind, or just an increased awareness of goodness and beauty. Maybe you didn’t get what you prayed for, but what you got instead was waking to the momentousness of life, the power of loving hearts….”

President Greg then welcomed all Rotarians and guests, and asked members to make their introductions. Past President Maurita Holland introduced Ginny Rogers, Nancy Stoll, and Clark McCall. Ginny would come to the podium later as one of our speakers; and Mary Jean Raab introduced Renee Paclinter. In addition, our exchange student from Japan expressed thanks for the opportunity to attend Pioneer High School, and described her experiences here. Among many things, she appreciates the spring heat. Pat Pooley reintroduced us to Christina Ferris, who is returning to Ann Arbor and the Club: “I’m back!” she declared to Greg in answer to his query “Are you back for today, or permanently?” A hearty ovation greeted the news of Christina’s return as well as the presence of all our guests.

Social Committee chair, Susan Smith Gray, reminded the assembly of the gala Rotary 2019 Family Picnic in Gallup Park (at the Fast Shelter, near the UAP), on Sunday, June 23, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. She requested that attendees “bring a dish for six to put on the table. If your last name begins with letters A through G: please bring a salad; if H thru O, bring a dessert; and P-Z, an appetizer. Satchel’s BBQ will provide the main course of pulled pork, pulled chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, rolls, and BBQ sauces. And we have a liquor permit, so it will be a BYO event! But we’ll provide water and pop.” Susan pointed out that that there WILL be a cost per person — $17 per adult, $8 per child under 12. This corrects Ed Hoffman’s announcement last week that it would be free; convincing proof that Ed is an eternal optimist. Susan also asked that people sign-up and pay by June 19th. “You can do this at the Wednesday luncheon meetings. We hope to see you there!”

Kristi Bacon came up next to announce that preparations for Rotary’s presence in the Fourth of July parade are proceeding. “All are welcome to march — kids, grandkids. We need marchers, so please come!” Signs, a banner, and other parade accoutrements are being ironed out. We had a decent showing last year, but let’s make this year a triumph. Let Kristi know if you can march. As members can be heard to say periodically, “Rotary should appear in the Ann Arbor parade…People should have a better idea of what we do in the community.”

Greg then informed everyone of the PayPal security breach, which has affected several of our members who have paid their dues on the club website through PayPal. “People who made payments after May 22 are vulnerable,” Greg noted. “So check your PayPal account to see that the payment actually went to Rotary. Apparently, some ‘tumor society’ is indicated as a recipient.” Members, of course, were advised not to use the a2rotary site to pay for anything until this problem has been resolved. Administrator Lori Walters, and Greg, will keep us informed of progress in the matter.

Speaker: Past President Maurita, visiting from Up North, addressed the assembly on U.N. World Environment Day. “We’re ‘greening the blue,'” Maurita began, citing the growing social and corporate awareness of the need to “assist our environment. “Our speaker, Mary Garton, is one of 500 [advocates] across the country [sparking a sense of activism toward resolving climate change]. Please welcome to our podium Citizen Educator Mary Garton.”

Mary came to the podium accompanied by Nancy Stoll, Ginny Rogers, and Clark McCall, who stood alongside her. “[My organization,] Citizens Climate Lobby, is working toward a solution to climate change.” Mary showed a photo of CCL volunteers arrayed on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. They were a large group. “Our founder, Marshal Saunders, who was featured in The Rotarian, says ‘Climate change is Rotary’s business.’ His values [as a Rotarian and scientist] are deeply infused in CCL.” Mary also spoke of the challenge of climate change/global warming as a world health problem every bit as crucial as polio. And like polio, it follows that Rotarians should be able to concentrate their herculean energies to arrest and roll back the environmental scourge.

Next, Mary explained details of The Bipartisan Climate Solutions Act, which cites the necessity “of cutting carbon emissions by 50% in 12 years.” She noted that Canada “is now ‘pricing’ carbon,” that is, setting annual benchmarks for commercial and individual carbon roll-backs. “It’s a market-based approach,” she insisted, that places financial penalties and rewards for carbon reductions. In terms of penalties, the carbon levy to industry would increase annually by 10%. Conversely, companies adopting carbon-reducing practices and alternative energies (e.g., solar and wind power) would receive ‘carbon dividends.’ Credits would also accrue to individual households on a proportional basis.

A persistent problem, Mary asserted, is what is called ‘solution aversion’ — “which is avoiding solving the climate problem. Look at this chart of energy usage in the U.S.” The chart showed exponential growth in the consumption of hydrocarbons over several decades. “The effects of this usage — increasingly powerful storms, precipitation, and rise of sea level — will only continue” until something is done. She acknowledged that the CCL and Bipartisan Act’s measures are draconian in comparison to other proposals: “The others call for [fines] to level off over time, whereas ours continue upward” (she traced a rising diagonal with her arm, much like an exploding stock chart). “Now, who will lead us to a solution? Innovators!” Her audience’s attention was directed to a simplistic cartoon depicting a scientist/innovator busy at a desk. It was at this point that her speech seemed just that, a rote one-size-fits-all homily on what is to be done. While her listeners no doubt appreciated hearing that “innovators will help us to find solutions and improve efficiencies,” it escaped no one that, at rock bottom, the individual citizen will pick up the ultimate tab. Perhaps the program’s most appealing feature is its apparent “revenue neutrality. Carbon dividends are given to people, but not as a tax. It doesn’t grow the size of government, which attracts conservative legislators.”

In conclusion, Mary described advances in “designer algae, that are grown for fuel,” and stressed the importance of mobilizing “volunteers demanding action.” This popular movement taking place in the media and in the foyers of Congressional offices is well underway and increasing in momentum. However, as with most movements that result in revolutionary change, there is a propensity to dismiss the views of others, to squelch compromise and dissent given in good faith, and to impose on every head the heavy cap of orthodoxy. It may be that in the endless procession of world crises, climate change requires the maximum of our attention, treasure, and national will. To really work, though, the solution, or solutions, must emanate from individual hearts, not from top-down edict or the Babel of our multimedia arena. Perhaps the paramount question is the one enlightened futurists have been asking for decades: ‘What kind of future do you want?’

Greg thanked our speakers warmly, and offered his thought for the week: “Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It was a crap-shoot. Before the invasion, Eisenhower wrote an open letter. In the event of failure, he took the blame on himself. It’s very inspiring to read the words of someone with the guts to do that.”