Global Whatever

By Donald Stewart

Something incredible is happening on Earth.

Three tidbits of useful fact:
• One metric ton of CO2 is equal to the volume of a cube measuring 27 feet (9 yards) on all sides.
• In 2012, the world’s population delivered an estimated 34,500 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere to produce electricity. China, with a coal-based generating mentality, led the world, contributing 9,860 million metric tons; the USA was a distant second, contributing 5,190 million metric tons. (Note: this number does not include coal used for any purpose other than electrical production; neither does it include other human production of CO2, like gasoline or diesel combustion engines, oil and gas extraction, and industrial process heating, among others.)
• No one knows exactly what will happen when there is ‘too much’ CO2 in the atmosphere. We measure and confirm the buildup of CO2 overtime (core samples in Antarctica, for example) but we don’t know when the buildup will reach the ‘tipping point’, when Earth’s atmosphere will no longer be able to absorb CO2, or what exactly happens thereafter. Everyone agrees there is a limit, perhaps written in the sands of time, perhaps reflected by the planet Mars, but once the carbon builds to that unknown limit, bad things will follow.

One group of scientists contend the tipping point will overheat the Earth, like an out-of-control greenhouse, except the Earth will be covered with a membrane of CO2 that will allow the sun’s rays to enter, but not escape. Since Earth has no way to exhaust CO2 or heat, our planet will warm and eventually bake and boil. A second view, which I believe is more likely, says the CO2 will initially heat up the planet, but will become so thick, it will reflect the sun’s rays back into space and the Earth will freeze over…another ice age. Either way, predictions agree that Earth will lose its polar caps, the oceans and seas will flood the coastlines, major cities will be threatened, or disappear altogether, and millions of people will be dislocated.

There is another opinion. It’s a bit confusing to me, but I summarize it thus:
1. Mankind does not make a meaningful contribution to the build-up of CO2; man’s contribution is miniscule compared to the CO2 that is annually produced by Earth’s flora, fauna, and natural events, like erupting volcanoes or forest fires. The CO2 contribution of mankind is a tiny fraction of the total. The data which supports global warming is indicative of the natural cycles of Earth, which, as we know, bring about severe changes in global temperatures. Glaciers and desserts may be remnants of past fluctuations.
2. Earth cannot be saved by the United States reducing its CO2. It makes no sense to expend US efforts and resources to reduce CO2, while China belches out twice as much and does nothing.
3. An all-powerful God will decide the fate of Earth, not the feeble conclusions or efforts of mankind.

It is notable that all three positions presented here essentially agree that the Earth is warming; they do not agree about who/what is causing the warming, or what role mankind plays in it. (I give zero credibility to those who deny the Earth is warming; they look a beast in the eyes and claim it has no eyes.) In my view, the areas of disagreement are simply not on point.
I recall hearing the story about an aviatrix who was attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but when she crossed the halfway point she didn’t think she had enough fuel to complete her mission, so she turned around and flew back. Some scientists say we have crossed the halfway point, and reversal is not even thinkable. Less dire predictions abound. We can calculate the loss of our glaciers, polar caps and mountain snow, we can estimate the effects higher temperatures will have on farm crops, poultry and livestock, lakes, rivers and coastlines, but we don’t know when Earth will reach the ‘tipping point’.

Except for cultures that have not matured to accept the truth of Earth’s history, like the lost tribes of Africa, the forest people of Borneo or the Christian-cults in America, we know Earth is millions of years old and has undergone several drastic environmental changes, but we do not know if Earth’s climatic changes were the result of ‘cycles’, a cataclysmic event, like an ancient meteor impact (the crater may lie beneath the ocean), or a pandemic scourge, a plague on all organic matter… or excessive chemicals in the air or water, not necessarily CO2. We know less about Earth’s so-called cycles than we know about the near-term effects of too much CO2.

For myself, I do not accept that God has predetermined anything. There is no reason to think mankind will suffocate Earth because God has fated us to do so. The only way to tie what happens back to God is if humans vacate, abdicate, our responsibilities as the stewards of the Earth. God-given or not, we are the only creatures on Earth who can make a difference. When something affects every living thing on Earth, the proper response requires individual ratification, national (political) acceptance and world participation. None of that is happening on a scale worth mentioning. Most individuals and politicians are ignorant or misinformed about the subject, especially in those countries where economic viability…forget ‘growth’… is the only priority. In China, CO2 is getting attention, but not from the perspective of preventing global disaster; their air pollution ranks among the worst in the modern world.

That China needs more electricity, that their only abundant natural resource is coal, that additional coal-generated electricity is currently being planned or constructed, that their closed culture frustrates the free exchange of thoughts and ideas, and that China has a huge number of functionally illiterate citizens, makes it unlikely they will make any reduction in their CO2 output in this century. Aside from that reality, the US must ask itself, ‘do we wait for China and others, or do we begin now?’ How we will answer the question is unclear, but either way, there are consequences.

The US has already begun to change the arc of the CO2 curve by incentivizing individuals and/or businesses to invest in renewable energy. Some are scornful of its miniscule contribution, mindful of its higher cost/kilowatt ratio, resentful of ‘government picking a winner’ in any industry and fearful of competition or displacement. Still, even though we are not a world leader, a fledgling solar industry is emerging.

If the US commits to lowering our CO2 output, it will cost everyone something. It’s expensive to convert a generating facility (or a residential furnace) from coal to natural gas; it takes more than confidence in engineering to permit new nuclear facilities; it is not cheap for the government to do anything. However, where, when and how we direct our efforts and taxes is important only if we have an energy plan. The US doesn’t have an energy plan; we have an arcade of moving targets.

As the US struggles with energy and CO2 issues, there is one unnerving truth: it makes no difference who/what is causing the warming, or the role mankind plays in the elevation of atmospheric CO2, or the efforts we make to slow the growth; it doesn’t matter what has gotten us to this point, or how close we are to the ‘tipping point’.

If we intend to mitigate and survive the next intense warming of our planet, we need to discuss what to do about events we know will occur in the near term. We should begin to have real conversations about:
• the threatened coastal cities
• inland migration
• intensified competition for land
• farming production and food sources
• habitat and housing
• electricity
• the environment
• urban human civility
• transportation
• severe fuel disruptions
• fresh, clean water
• ship-docking ports
• military bases
• infrastructure deficiencies/needs

Our national conversation fails to realistically assess what we need to do’. Instead, our leaders stand back-to-back and shout obscenities at one another. They neither discuss nor plan; they accomplish nothing. America stands face-to-face with a catastrophe, pretending it is hypothetical. It isn’t, let’s get on with it. No matter what the rest of the world does (or doesn’t do) we must get serious about the threat that…global whatever… means to America’s inland and coastal populations, resources and facilities. It is too real to ignore.

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Could’ve , Should’ve Done That Blues

By Donald Stewart

I got those could’ve should’ve done that
would’ve liked to seen that
wishin’ I’d have said that

The light of the day
blinds me no doubt
‘cause you opened the door
and threw me right out.
Brought on by elixir
unfit for the wise
no shades dark ’nough
to cover these eyes.

It wasn’t my doin’
I swear to that
‘cause doing nothin’
is where I’m at.
What’s not done
Is plain to see
some low, some high
some stupidity.

But what I’ve done
doesn’t bother me.
no scars no regrets
no apologies.
It’s the words unsaid
the deeds undone
the places unseen
the races un-run

that bring on angst
and cause regret.
So many things
I ain’t done yet.
Lost opportunity
is a terrible shame
no life gets better
from unrealized gain.

I got those could’ve should’ve done that
would’ve liked to seen that
wishin’ I’d’ have said that

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God by any name Part IV

By: Donald Stewart

Pantheist: God is synonymous to the Universe
Panentheist: God is all of nature and timelessly extends beyond

By my account, everything in the Universe and the unknown Universe are parts, pieces or expressions of an essence, a phenomenon, a presence that is God. He is not invisible; God is inseparable from anything, everything and nothing. In this scenario, God, as defined and depicted by organized religions, is a fabrication of man, like Leprechauns, the Tooth Fairy or Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. To religions, the truth is blasphemy from a heretic. To me, that man could conjure up such elaborate attributes and divergent images of God is a testament to our resourcefulness in explaining what we did not understand. God is the most captivating and enduring invention of mankind.
While organized religions do not appeal to me, our differences are not so disparate. I have the same basic human emotions, feelings and needs as ‘believers’. I search for meaning in life, yearn for something ‘better’, want to find peace and reconcile with whatever death brings. And, like those who have found peace in religion, my quest for answers is over; I have the right answers for me. It is not important to have an enduring impact on the events of Earth, much less a meaningful presence in the Universe. Like millions of humans before me, I am an observer who has come to an understanding.
Of some things I am sure: Children drown, but God does not guide a child to the edge of deep water and drown him. God does not need children in heaven; God needs nothing. God neither directs nor destines famine, ghettos, poverty, plagues or disease; those maladies have been caused by man or nature, not God. Hurricanes, tornadoes, winds, floods, droughts, typhoons, falling meteorites, shooting stars, an eclipsed moon or sun and all visible Earthly events happen, but God is not ‘behind them’, not in the sense of forethought, malice or motive. God does not inflict punishment upon mankind; He does not purposefully control planets or manipulate suns. God does not cause car accidents, plane crashes or bizarre, lifesaving ‘miracles’; He doesn’t pick one soldier out of six to survive a direct mortar hit on a foxhole. God does not control humans. He doesn’t destine someone to commit suicide or brutalize a baby; He does not pick which children will be unwanted; He doesn’t destine one woman to choose between birth and abortion or another to endure gang rape. God does not control or decide what man says or writes about Him. Religious texts, scriptures, scrolls, dogma and their interpretations are all decided and written by men. God does not endorse, belong to, or favor one people, one country, one denomination, one faith, one belief, one planet, one solar system and definitely not one sports team. Everything bad…ills, problems, tragedies…are not the work of a devil or demon. Shit happens; there is no perpetrator or purpose to anything that befalls mankind.
I believe evolution is the long answer to a short question, ‘who are we?’ Evolution is a science. Science requires observation. When all we can observe are ancient bones and images compressed between two rocks, filling in the gaps of planetary and human history is painstakingly slow.
However, until we finish the story of evolution, can we invoke God’s name to explain to a child that bugs no bigger than a speck of dust are ‘life forms’, and that Hummingbirds and Eagles are in the same family of ‘birds’? Can we wait to explain how Evolution tweaked man’s DNA to deliver a variety of species, hair colors, skin colors, eye colors, sizes, shapes and deformities, until we fully understand it? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
The most disturbing aspects of organized religion is the manner in which they introduce their beliefs to underdeveloped, third-world nations, and the persistence of their dogma, particularly on youth and in parochial and home-based ‘schools’. Indoctrination or proselytization is also what organized religions accuse evolutionists of doing in public schools. But, instead of embracing and reconciling with the facts man has accumulated, religion denies them, as if we don’t know anything more about Earth or human history than we did when we were swinging in the trees…or should it be, running naked in a garden?
Why? Why do religions perceive evolution as a threat to their representation of man’s history? Why do they not strive to reconcile with known facts? Why do they deny the age of the Earth? Why do they persist in representing that dinosaurs and humans walked this Earth at the same time? Why do religions call an incomplete accumulation of texts, written by men, long after the people and events were supposed to have taken place, the ‘words’ of God? None of man’s constructs or institutions has done more to restrict, contain and limit God, than faith-based, organized religions. Who started all this? (Answer: other men.)
Faith based education is a short-term mistake with long-term consequences. Invoking God’s name to explain the strange, divergent paths of evolution is simply out-of-step with reality. Faith and belief have become the shortcut answers to everything religions don’t know, can’t understand or won’t accept. None of man’s constructs or institutions has done more to restrict, contain and limit God, than faith-based, organized religions.

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Things I want to say: page 3

Things I Want to Say: Page Three
By Donald Stewart

A prime number is divisible only by itself and the number 1. Thus, any number ending in 1, 3 or 7 is a prime number; the digit 5 is a prime number, but thereafter any number ending in 5 is not; the digit 9 is not a prime number, but some numbers ending in 9 are (29 is a prime number, 39 is not). Prime numbers occur randomly; there are no patterns, sequences, formulae or equations to identify or isolate them.

I’m forever wishing I hadn’t stayed, or wishing I had.

“I don’t drink, smoke, cuss or chew, and I don’t go with girls who do.”
Kenneth Silas Stewart (1918- 2004)

A politician’s disgrace is often proportionate to his plurality.

Better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

The aging process feels a bit like concrete drying in the sun; at maturity’s end, the deterioration begins.

“If God has a purpose for you, He will guide and protect you. If not, we’ll miss you.”
‘Kingdom of Heaven’
Jeremy Irons speaking to Orlando Bloom

Remember when women were gentler than men?

Stupid: lacking ordinary activity of mind, numbness, unaware.
Ignorant: having little or no knowledge, unlearned, uninformed.
Stupid people have no option; ignorant people do.

“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”
Senator Everett Dirksen (R) Illinois (1896-1968)

Buying a lottery ticket is not gambling, it’s a donation.

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Men are imperfect

By Donald Stewart

Men are imperfect…
imperfect sons, imperfect brothers,
imperfect husbands, fathers, uncles, grandfathers.
Men are flawed
by imperfections big and small.
I am perfect…
a perfect son, perfect brother,
perfect husband, father, uncle, grandfather…
which is to say,
I am a perfect man, flawed
by imperfections big and small.

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The Buffalo Desultory: Part Three

By Donald Stewart

The Buffalo-chip was the currency of the cloven-hooved world. There were other choices…Deer-pie and Antelope-flop, for example…but the Buffalo-chip was traded daily at variable exchange rates at both the BS (Bison Stock) and BX (Buffalo X-change). Those independent facilities handled all of the Chip, Pie and Flop currency transactions for the herd, and between species, for a modest fee.
There was nothing given to any buffalo. Everyone had a personal, steady, reliable source of income. Each buffalo produced Buffalo-chips at intervals related to exercise, diet and regularity. Most were content with a balance between Chips produced and grass consumed, but others tried to manipulate the process by overeating or lapping mud-water, to increase their Chip production. Of course, quality mattered; Chips were graded and valued based on both content and weight.
Since a buffalo’s future was his/her own responsibility, Chips were used to pay for medical or dental needs and gave every buffalo a source of retirement income. An individual’s survival, welfare and age security relied on the same source of income.
A few buffalo hit it big; stumbling into a cache of Chips would make a bull rich for life. Some squandered away their riches on young cows and old flowers. Most invested in buffalo pens, feed yards and rendering plants where Buffalo Chips were broken down into fertilizer, an adobe additive to strengthen mud, and fuel for wood-burning stoves. The rendering plants employed thousands of buffalo.

“Growth isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” said A.
“So, who are you?” asked B.
“I employ hundreds of buffalo, antelope and deer. I pay thousands in contributions and tens of thousands to support clan leaders who agree with me,” replied A. “Who the hell are you?”
“I am me. I vote at election time, employ no one but myself, pay hundreds in taxes and contribute a couple hundred Chips every four years to one politician or another, usually someone I know,” explained B. “What was it you were saying about that growth thing?”
“It is basic and indisputable, growth is all you need. And, believe this, there are only four ways to grow: produce, trade, discover, or take the resources from the antelope and deer,” said A.
“I see.”
C, standing nearby, said, “No, you don’t see. You don’t get it at all. It takes a lot of time to fix the price of products. Everything’s going up, up, up; it is imperative that we exploit the antelope and deer at a reliable cost.”
“Damn right,” said A. “Otherwise, as there becomes less and less, they’ll want more and more.”
“I see.”
“You have to look at it in the right perspective. Let me help you along,” offered C. “First, understand something about the deer…playful, yes; funny, yes…but they are a bovine civilization that has existed far longer than our own, and yet they have not exploited their natural resources.”
A couldn’t hold back. “In other words, they are slow and backward. Not at all like us. We’ve been able to exploit almost everything in just 200 years.”
“But wait”, said B, “our treaty with the deer says we will help them catch up with our advanced culture and we’ll share access to the free range. Our treaty with the antelope promised, if they immigrated to the McKinley Range, we’d leave them alone. What gives? Are we violating our treaties?”
C grunted rudely, “In order for the deer to catch up, they must contribute their natural resources. Cheaply, mind you, lest the ultimate cost of exploitation gets out of hand.”
“Absolutely,” snorted A. “For the sake of the treaties, it is imperative that we firmly establish and forever fix the free market value of the range, the prairie and all of its resources.”
“How can it be a free market if the value is fixed?” asked B.
“Nothing is free, you know,” said A.
“The best things in life are not free,” said C. “There’s no free lunch in the land of the free, why should there be a free market?” He laughed, “Everyone is free to end up with nothing; everything else costs something.”
Added A, “Those who have more must always resist giving it to those who have less. That’s the reason they have more, by not giving it to those who have less. And, those who have less must always give to those who have more; I like to think it’s the cost of improving themselves.”
“I see.”

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Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage
By Donald Stewart

Lesson #1
When I was eight years old, living in south Wichita, Kansas, I performed certain chores in exchange for a weekly allowance. It was a good trade, but I needed an opportunity to earn more so I could buy more things, like ‘Milky Way’ bars, present s at Christmas and, especially, comic books. I didn’t have a collection yet, but I would build one, with an emphasis on ‘super heroes’.
There are not many ways to earn money at 8 years old; I went to Dad, the always smiling Scotch-Irish man with a big heart. We lived in a small, two bedroom ‘cracker box’ home, just three houses North of where Main St. dead-ends at Pawnee Ave. It was a new development filled with families of WWII veterans. Our front yard was entirely sand, rock, or hard dirt, worn slick by a scorching sun, uninhibited wind and the rapid runoff of rain; no trees, no bushes, no shrubs, and definitely no grass. The only green plants were high-growing, spiny leaved plants we called ‘stickers’. Each plant produced dozens of tiny, round balls (seeds), each seed covered with needle sharp points that stick to anything they touch. I suspect ‘stickers’ were the only plants hardy enough to take root and flourish in those harsh conditions.
Dad demonstrated how to root-out the plants. He said, ‘if we don’t get the roots, the plant will grow back again and again’. With leather gloves protecting his hands, he plunged the long blade of a dull, homemade knife into the earth adjacent to a sticker, turned the blade in a circular motion and severed the root deep beneath the surface. Using the knife to assist, he loosened the soil, pulled the plant up and out, and stuffed it into a large glass jar. He handed me the knife, the jar, a pair of cloth gloves and said he’d pay me a nickel for each jar I filled with stickers. I agreed, and went to work.
It was much easier watching than doing. If I tried to pick or pull a plant, sure enough, the top would break-off just below the surface. The knife did not slip into the soil as easily for me as it did for Dad; I struggled to penetrate the hard, densely packed soil on every attempt. Also, the sticker-patches in the yard had become clusters as widespread as a dinner plate; the stems of some plants were as thick as my thumb. The cloth gloves were not good protection, they attracted stickers like iron to a magnet, and the sharp barbs penetrated through them.
An hour and a half later, I delivered my first full jar of stickers to Dad, I knew he would see that I was dirty, squinting in the blazing afternoon sun, wiping away the sweat running down my face and eyes with my shoulders and shirtsleeves. I lifted the jar with my sticker covered glove and waited for my nickel.
Dad took the jar, wiped my head and brow with a soft towel and gave me a cool drink. With his leather gloved hand, he helped brush off the stickers that clung to my pants, socks and shirt. He picked up the jar of stickers with one hand and with the other, pushed down the contents, mushing the sticker plants deep and tight until they could be condensed no further. The jar was less than half full when he returned it to me and said, ‘you have to fill the jar to earn the nickel, like we agreed’.

Lesson #2
At age nine, Dad took me into the woods to dig up and bring home trees for our yard. The woods began on the south side of Pawnee, less than one block away, and continued to the Arkansas River. We walked on a narrow, dirt path; even pushing a wheelbarrow carrying four burlap bags and a shovel, the walk was an easy, gentle downhill slope.
Near the river’s edge, Dad selected four healthy cottonwood saplings and stepped back to provide instructions and suggestions for me to dig up the trees, put the dirt-embedded roots of each tree into one of the bags (called ‘balling’), cinch the top of the bag to the trunk of the tree, tie the four bags together with a rope, put the balled ends in the wheel barrel and cart them home. It was easier saying than doing.
Each time I dug a hole, it quickly filled with river water. I didn’t mind getting wet, but I had to dig every hole three times or more and the digging was very difficult. The earth was not good soil; it seemed to dissolve as I lifted each tree from a hole. I had to insert the root end of a tree into a bag and then fill each bag with some of the soil pulled out of the hole. It wasn’t really balling, but it worked okay. The trip home was brutal. What had been an empty wheel barrel going downhill was now heavy and going uphill. Some places were so steep, Dad gave me an assist. The weight of the trees was bad enough; even worse, the tops of the trees poked and slapped at my face.
At home, I dug four holes in the sand behind the house. With the wheel barrel, I carted back fertilizer and topsoil from the truckload dumped at the front end of the driveway. Together, Dad and I planted and watered the four trees. I did not get paid for helping Dad.

Lesson #3
In the summer before I entered high school, Dad told me he would pay me ‘minimum wage’ to paint the house. He’d buy all the materials and furnish all the tools, but I needed to complete the job before summer camp, a full 12 weeks away. It could be done as an aside to my full-time job as a lifeguard at Joy-Land Amusement Park. I agreed and began immediately.
Unknown to me, the sub layers of old paint would not easily scrape off; the job required a scorching, scraping, sanding and priming process which consumed time. Delayed further by some roof and gutter work being done by Dad (I was his helper) the process consumed over 5 weeks. Before I applied the first brush of paint, I had less than 6 weeks to complete the project. Because of rain delays, the family vacation to the Grand Canyon, and an injury that cost me several days because I couldn’t get up and down a ladder, I finished the first coat with a week to spare. Of course, one coat didn’t cover the house, it looked blotchy and tacky. The second coat fixed that.
Dad must have seen that I was confused and disappointed when pay day arrived. It was enough to cover my camp fee and expenditures, nothing more. He cupped my chin and lifted my head, ‘Son’, he said, ‘minimum wage is zero, anything above that is an improvement’.

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