Environmentalist should not have been missed

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What? One of the greatest spokepersons for the most serious condition humans have ever faced was here in Walla Walla, and the U-B did not write about this?

Bill McKibben, the leading environmentalist who has woken up so many with his books and environmental organizations such as 350.orgn, spoke last week at Whitman’s Cordiner Hall.

Bill’s message is sobering, heart wrenching, honest and evidence-based. The reality is we no longer live on the same Earth we grew up on. He even gives it a new name — Eaarth.

He is calling for a movement nationally and internationally to confront the oil companies. One of the efforts modeled after the success of the resistance to South Africa’s apartheid is to have institutions, cities and states divest from the oil companies. I’m pleased to report that students at Whitman are rallying for divestment.

For those who did not hear Bill last week, nor read about it in your local paper, I suggest you read “Eaarth, Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.” Read it and act, for your children and grandchildren.

Judith Freyer

Walla Walla

Comments

PearlY 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Divestment from companies doing business in/with South Africa was relatively easy. Divestment from companies doing business with oil companies will be a little more challenging. How many publicly traded corporations do you think there are that do NOT maintain a fleet of gas or diesel cars, trucks or airplanes, use plastics in their products or packaging, provide parking spaces for their workers to get to their jobs in their gas or diesel vehicles, ship their products by gas or diesel powered trucks or on oil-powered ships, or subsidize transportation on fleets of gas or diesel buses, etc.? Not many.

In fact, the biggest beneficiaries of oil company businesses are federal and state governments, who receive gas tax revenues, payroll tax revenues, extraction fees, property tax revenues and corporate income tax revenues from oil companies in amounts that dwarf the companies retained profits. Why not just jump straight to the source of the problem, and divest T-bills and muni bonds?

I would have thought they taught basic Economics at Whitman. Apparently not.

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namvet60 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Careful PearlY - you will give a severe headache to some of these trojan purveyors of the thoughtless pursuits with facts, reality and common sense. Kind of like the old adage of putting the cart before the horse.

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blue_streak 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The suggestion from Bill McKibben is not "divesting from companies that do business with oil companies," PearlY, that would be, as you suggest, both complicated and ineffective.

What McKibben is asking Whitman and others to do is sell their Exxon Mobil stock or move their endowment or retirement funds to managers who will agree not to purchase fossil fuel company stocks in the future.

That's fairly easy to do and no, it won't hurt the oil company's market caps all that much. But it could have important symbolic value, making it clear that relentlessly dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, regardless of its impact on future living conditions, is just as obnoxious as racial apartheid.

(Oh, and if you think the tax revenue from oil companies dwarf their record billions in profits, please Google "oil and gas tax loopholes." )

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PearlY 11 months, 2 weeks ago

New_guy, I don't have to Google "oil and gas tax loopholes." I can read financial statements. If more people could do that, there'd be a lot less kindergarten-level economic thinking.

You agree that divestment would be of no meaningful effect on the companies' market cap. It also would reflect no meaningful engagement by the part of Whitman College.

What WOULD reflect meaningful engagement is if Whitman vowed to eliminate its own use of oil company PRODUCTS, which directly translate to oil company revenues.

Let Whitman administrators and faculty commit to foregoing all oil-based travel - no flying on airplanes, no driving. Walking and bicycling only. But wait - no bicycles with plastic parts, or that were manufactured outside walking distance from Whitman College or with parts that were manufactured outside walking distance, because that would have required oil or gas used in shipment.

Let Whitman College stop heating and cooling its buildings with anything other than passive solar and fresh air. Even solar panels have to be manufactured and shipped.

Let Whitman College stop using books, paper, pens, computers, glass in its windows, furnishings, etc., that are manufactured or shipped using oil and gas.

It is simply ridiculous to target someone else's investment in a company that produces a product you're not able and willing to live without. Don't you folks GET that it's not the company dumping the CO2, but US? WE are the ones who do the dumping by using the product, not the company by making it available. As long as we keep using it, CO2 keeps getting dumped. If you think the consequences of that dumping are so severe, then YOU must stop doing the dumping, not just demonize the people who provide you the product with which you do it. They are simply giving you what you want. It's rude to bite the hand that does that.

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blue_streak 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, PearlY, we may have different ideas of what constitutes "kindergarten-level economic thinking.

You seem to believe that the only valid response to oil company abuses is to forgo using their products entirely, and return to life as lived in the 18th century. I would call that kindergarten-level.

If you financial statements, you probably know that oil companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers and regulators to twist the rules in favor of their short term profits. And you probably know this lobbying pays off quite handsomely, in lower taxes, and let's-look-the-other-way regulations.

The people Bush put in charge of monitoring federal revenues from oil and gas leases were scandalously inept, but Obama's embrace of deep-water drilling was equally problematic, given the massive BP oil spill.

I get it that "we're the ones" buying oil company products . . but I share your faith in market incentives. Remove the massive subsidies for the production of fossil fuels, throw in a modest carbon tax, and solar panels and bicycles will look a lot better to a lot of people.

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PearlY 11 months, 1 week ago

The entire oil and gas industry spent around $50-60 million a year on lobbying until Obama's election, and now spends around $140 million, not "hundreds of millions." And not as much as the communications/electronics industry spends, at over $200 million.

I do not know that the oil industry's lobbying "pays off quite handsomely in lower taxes." Between excise, property, extraction and income taxes, the industry pays out far more of its revenue in taxes than it retains in after-tax profits. Yes, they get to claim depletion deductions, just like I got to claim depreciation on my office computers. Eventually every well goes dry and every computer is junked. If you hate oil companies, you could call that a loophole or a subsidy but it's no different than what every other business gets.

Yes, it is true that if you make something more expensive, other expensive alternatives become more competitive. Of course, you realize that your proposals will increase the cost of everything, including health care, food, housing, heating, AND government. This will throw lots of people out of work, lower standards of living and increase mortality rates from inadequate health care, stress, depression, and the occasional hypothermia event.

These things don't bother you, but they do trouble me somewhat.

Anyway, why not act on your beliefs now? Figure out what what you think a gallon of gas SHOULD cost, stripped of subsidies and with your desired taxes added, and when you fill your tank, cut a check in that amount to one of the government's agencies dedicated to subsidizing alternative energy sources. Do that with all products - 'tax' yourself extra for shipping, use of plastics, etc.

If everyone who believes as you do acted on their beliefs this way, the cost of those alternatives would decline, effectively accomplishing the same goal - reducing the gap between the costs of oil-based energy and its alternatives.

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blue_streak 11 months, 1 week ago

PearlY, we may be having an apples and oranges moment.

I googled "oil company lobbying expenditures, and quickly found an article from the Center for American Progress, yes, a liberal advocacy group, that claimed that "fossil fuel" industries (oil, gas, coal, and electric utilities and their respective trade associations spend $2 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions between 1999 and 2010.

If you accept "fossil fuel industries" instead of just "oil companies" I'm pretty confident that hundreds of millions in lobbying is a fair, ballpark figure.

A recent article in The Atlantic estimated the value of oil company tax breaks at $7 billion a year. I'd love to see the source of your belief that oil company taxes, etc dwarf their reported profits.

As a final note, the idea that people who object to massive tax breaks to massively profitable fossil fuel companies should just write a personal check to the Treasury and stop complaining is both juvenile and offensive.

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PearlY 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Re-reading this, it occurs to me to ask: Is depriving beneficiaries and pensioners of good returns for ineffective, sentimental symbolic reasons consistent with the fiduciary duties of endowment and retirement fund managers? I don't think so. And when pensioners' benefits are guaranteed by the taxpayers, even less so.

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paco1234 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Pearl, darling! You know so much about the environment, you want to jump straight into ...T bills and muni bonds? You reminded me about my 5 year old daughter. At age 5 she was very disapointed when, on March 21, she woke up expecting to see all the spring flowers in our garden, birds chirping away and bambies trotting around. Of course it takes time to divest from anything. It is called transition! We have the infrastucture we have, to carry us until a transition takes us to more healthy renewable energy resourses. It takes time to adjust to a more sensible paradigm shift.

Here is a question for a clever lady. Can you stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox? What the heck, here is the answer. On a recent test, for 3 consecutive days, 17 out of 20 eggs stood standing, not 100% but close. Now, that's evidence base research! This is due to the tilt of the earth relative to the sun which is zero in equnox (spring). But if we continue to trust oil companies and polluters all over the world, we will invariably have a hell of an omolette when trying this test in the future!

Carlos Acevedo MD

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carcrazy 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Wow, where is that DSM-IV, this would make for an interesting case study.

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namvet60 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Well PearlY - I believe you did it - you have one babbling already!

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PearlY 11 months, 2 weeks ago

paco, I checked my bank account and you haven't been making deposits to it. So drop the "darling", OK?

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paco1234 11 months, 2 weeks ago

For those unique individuals who just cannot fathom what "tongue in cheek " entails, I say they should stay as shallow and concrete as a piece of cement. These deficits are certainly of no fault of their own, not a laughing matter either, but decidedly something to be lamented. Lack of imagination, and for the capacity to abstract is indeed in the new DSM V, but with a new name! Should I say more about "tongue in cheek" whimsical, figurative expressions for the benefit of these guys? Nah, man!

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namvet60 11 months, 2 weeks ago

I have a piece of scientific, evidence based research for you other than your childrens book you started to write in a previous post . Take a couple of your standing eggs and use some of that cement that you endear along with a magnifying glass and try to see how long it takes to get a hardboiled egg in the hot sun. That would probably enhance your liberal thought processes immensely.

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carcrazy 11 months, 2 weeks ago

OK PACO, I guess that nobody else can fathom your "tongue in cheek" intentions so next time let us know ahead of time that is what you are doing. Personally, I thought your post appeared patronizing and condescending to PearlY, or was it just my imagination?

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barracuda 11 months, 2 weeks ago

If this in the real world... I bet Paco would have a hand print on the cheek, and rightfully so!

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paco1234 11 months, 1 week ago

Barracuda, insinuations of physical violence are not allowed in a civil, public debate. You will have to give a good answer to the Police when they knock at your door. In sequitur, my friendly lawyer will be glad write you a lovely letter! This is the real world, my friend!

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carcrazy 11 months, 1 week ago

Sure glad this is all "tongue in cheek". Or are you being serious this time?

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namvet60 11 months, 1 week ago

Does your caregiver allow you out on your own? Your posts are taking up needed space.

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PearlY 11 months, 1 week ago

Don't be scared, paco. I won't hurt you. Unless someone's doing something worth shooting them for, I eschew physical violence. And I'm sure barracuda's remark was tongue-in-cheek.

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paco1234 11 months, 1 week ago

Letting others know ahead of time before pronouncing a "tongue in cheek" statement is incongruous with its main intention. In other words it is an oxymoronic proposition. I certainly disagree with me being condescending to anyone, but if others cease the moment to gain galantry and promptly calling it the day, this is OK with me.

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barracuda 11 months, 1 week ago

Paco.... If you want to spend your money on that, WOW! MD's do make more money than I do, but really? .

In some circles, your statement... (When used in a condescending context), Pearl "Darling" is offensive! Your use of that term, when used in your context is very offensive! I know if some of the ladies that I know were called Darling in a condescending manor, there would be a loud "Chat"!
These people were attempting to have a dialog with you, and it appears to me that you were talking down to others on this site. And reading some of the above responces, some of the others assumed you were offensive as well!

I guess my statement is, lighten up, talk to us as equals, not down to us. You might have a great education and a high IQ etc. but us average people are here in this world too.........

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namvet60 11 months, 1 week ago

barracuda - I have a normal education and I don't have a clue as to my IQ but us average people make the world go around so these supposed intellects think they have the right to dictate. As old as Paco is you would think he would have figured this out by now thats not the case?

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sohcammer 11 months, 1 week ago

"...sobering, heart wrenching, honest and evidence-based"

I think I just threw up in my mouth....the same sensation that overtakes me when I hear the name Al Gore.

Read this and become enlightened to the fact that State and Federal Government and Big Oil is a game of Good Cop/Bad Cop. At the end of the day they sleep in the same bed.

http://www.api.org/oil-and-natural-gas-overview/industry-economics/fuel-taxes/gasoline-tax

Who cares anyways? Doesn't anyone know that most of Central Washington was covered by glaciers at one time? What happened - did the cavemen have too many bonfires?? Can't wait till we start talking about the Ozone again.....

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