DC, We Have A Problem

Map of Wildfires Burning in the West

Fire and Fury

Nature just upped the ante on the bet for the survival of the planet. Fires are raging in the west and fury struck our southern states twice in two weeks – the likes of which has never been seen before.

A glimpse at a map of wildfires from Idaho to California gives the appearance of an entire mountain range ablaze. The satellite view of Irma stretched from Florida to the Great Lakes. It will take the determination and resources of the whole nation to recover from these catastrophic events. What is in place for that kind of response?

The National Forest Service tells us that our fire seasons average 78 days longer than in 1970 and twice as many acres burn as three decades ago. In 2015, 52% of NFS budget went to wildfire costs, a jump of 36% from 20 years ago.

This means that less money is available for restoration but also for protecting watersheds. It takes away upkeep of programs that support thousands of recreation jobs that boost the economy of rural communities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is coordinating the hurricane relief effort, an agency where fully a third of its leadership positions have not been filled under the current administration. Part of the help for rebuilding will come from Community Development Block Grant funding, administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an agency which was slated to lose 13.2% of its budget.

“It’s Not Enough”

Shortly after Harvey hit, the House and Senate passed a combined $15.2 billion in hurricane relief. But Harvey alone is projected to cost up to $180 billion. And what about Irma? James Lee Witt, a former FEMA chief, says, “It’s not enough.  It would be lucky if it lasts 30 days with both of these events going on at the same time.”

There is one department of the federal government that consistently receives its budget requests and sometimes Congress even grants more. I was glad to see that multiple branches of the Department of Defense have been called to help in this disaster relief.

The Air Force flew 300 doctors to Florida where Air National Guard used drones to help search and rescue teams find victims, and the Aircraft Carrier Lincoln was sent for disaster relief.  It is reassuring when the equipment, training, and organization of our armed services can be devoted to such life-affirming efforts — something other than war.

President Trump has threatened North Korea with fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen before. We’ve got our hands full dealing with the fire and fury that nature has unleashed. We would be much safer and more secure if a chunk of those defense dollars were directed to the agencies that respond to these national emergencies.

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Women’s March in Eugene

Were you there?

More than 7,000 people gathered for the Women’s March in Eugene in front of the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse on January 21, to raise our voices and be seen by the nation and the world. The mood was enthusiastic, supportive, determined, and not even the rain could dampen the fervor of the huge crowd that gathered there.

We strained to listen to a variety of speakers but the sound system proved inadequate for the overwhelming size of the crowd. We had come to march — march in the tradition of the suffragettes, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam and Iraq war protests. Of course, being Eugene, we were led by the invigorating drums of Samba Ja.

After the sorrow and shock of the election results, and following the harsh, icy weather of December and early January, this was the antidote. Like every march around the world on that day, it lifted our spirits and galvanized us to action. Now the work to protect our rights and safety in the era of the new Trump administration continues, and the energy has not and will not subside.

Were you there? That will be the question people ask for years to come.
 

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Bike Around the Bomb 2016

To commemorate the 71st anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to bring attention to the critical need to eliminate the nuclear arsenal that continues to threaten life on earth as we know it, Global Zero Eugene and groups from around the world participated in the Bike Around the Bomb event on August 6th.

Bike Around Bomb 2016 Eugene

The riders wove through Eugene around a 13-mile radius representing the area of destruction caused by the blast in Hiroshima. The image below shows what such a radius around Eugene looks like. Click on the map to see a larger image and descriptions of the levels of destruction for each ring.

Bomb blast radius if it fell in Eugene

 

Nuclear weapons pose a serious and deadly threat to humanity. It’s time to end the madness.

 

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Levelheaded Enough to Hold the Nuclear Codes?

Presidential races in this country often pose the question, “Who is responsible and levelheaded enough to hold the nuclear codes?” On a recent Morning Joe segment, Joe Scarborough claimed that “several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump and three times he [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons.” Apparently Trump wondered why we couldn’t use nuclear weapons since we have them.

How does one answer that question? These are the ultimate weapons of mass destruction.  The world’s arsenal has the capacity to destroy the planet multiple times over. The lasting contamination from just one bomb brings deadly aftermath to those who survive the initial blast, and mutates generations of life to come.

In this age of biting social media insults is the concept of mutual assured destruction too nuanced?

Ask the Hibakusha. Ask the Marshall Islanders. Ask the Atomic Veterans. Ask the Downwinders.

The real question is: Why do we still have nuclear weapons at all?

 

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Bike Around the Bomb

Why on earth would someone want to bike around the bomb? Wouldn’t that be depressing? And dangerous?

Actually our nuclear industry is the dangerous event and it has been operating for over 70 years. Bravo to Global Zero for raising awareness with the younger set. The gray haired activists, hibakusha, downwinders and Marshallese were beginning to feel as if we would all die off before we could eliminate nukes.

There is value in creating a way to experience the scope of absolute destruction that would occur in YOUR city if a relatively small nuclear warhead were to be dropped on it. Bike Around the Bomb held its fifth annual event on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Eugene hosted one of 26 events in five countries – its first annual.

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How does an event that occurred 70 years ago in Japan relate to Eugene? Let me count the ways:

  1. The plutonium that was used in the Nagasaki bomb was created in the Pacific Northwest at Hanford Nuclear Site on the banks of the Columbia in Washington.
  2. Eugene, much like Nagasaki, is surrounded by mountains. The mountains of Nagasaki limited the total area of destruction causing the force to bounce back on the city.
  3. Eugene, much like Nagasaki, has rivers running through it. Those who survived the initial blast and were able, dragged themselves to the river trying to cool the horrific burns.
  4. Eugene, and most all cities, has churches, schools, markets, playgrounds, businesses, homes and many, many people. Just like Nagasaki.
  5. Eugene has a mayor who is a member of Mayors for Peace, just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the organization was founded on the belief that cities should not be targets.

It is time to retire the world’s arsenal of more than 17,000 nuclear warheads. Seventy years is long enough to hold the world hostage to nuclear threat.

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I’d Rather Pay For . . .

Tax Day protestors held signs in front of the Eugene Downtown Post Office on April 15 – tax day. From climate change and health care to education and homelessness, activists from throughout the area called on the government to redirect tax dollars away from the bloated military budget to issues that impact the well-being of humans and the environment.

Eugene Tax Day Protest image

A central part of this event includes the presentation of checks by war tax resisters to local agencies in lieu of sending it to the government for defense spending. Imagine what this country might look like if all of us could designate where we wanted our tax dollars to go? Things might just even out to everyone’s benefit.

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The Nuclear Madness Continues

GZ Center Abolish Nuclear Weapons image “The U.S. empire claims to be dressed in “unassailable” righteousness. We think the empire has no clothes.” In their recent Register Guard Guest Viewpoint, David Hall, Susan Cundiff, and Michael Carrigan discuss the continuing madness associated with the U.S. actions regarding nuclear weapons.

Hall and his wife Rev. Anne Hall of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Washington state will be in Eugene this weekend (April 11 & 12, 2015)  to share their experiences and actions over the past 30 years resisting nuclear weapons development. The event is free. The inspiration, priceless.

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