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Kellyanne Conway may be a lot of things, but one thing she is not, is stupid.

First, she garnered a Federal ethics violation regarding the use of her official position to hawk Ivanka Trump’s product line from the Whitehouse Press Room on national TV.  For that breach, she was “reprimanded” and required to take remedial training on the ethics rules.

Next, she violated the Hatch Act and was required to take more training, to familiarize herself with the requirements of that law.  The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, established the patronage system for federal employment and prohibits the president from firing the heads of independent executive agencies. Additionally, and specifically relevant to Kellyanne Conway, it prohibits federal civil service employees from active participation in partisan politics. In other words, they may not endorse one candidate over another, as she did with Roy Moore. POTUS AND VPOTUS are the exemptions.

Now, with two strikes against her and with full knowledge of the rules, she willfully violated the Hatch Act again, to endorse candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.  What can we make of this? A brazen and relentless sycophant, with full knowledge she openly violated the law, and with the implicit (more than likely explicit) approval of her boss, was insured ultimate immunity, so as to fulfill his devious ends.

Clearly, she knew that what she was doing was illegal but it did not concern her.  She just didn’t care. In so doing, she provided cover for her boss, thus allowing him to implicitly endorse a repugnant child molester in order to maintain a Republican seat in the Senate. It’s only logical that she and Trump conspired in this regard since Trump does not need the political stain of such an endorsement and punitive action against KAC for a violation of the Hatch Act rests solely with him. It’s safe to say that nothing will happen to KAC.  In any other administration, she would have been fired by now. If Trump fired everyone in his inner circle who broke the law, he’d be alone in the Whitehouse with only Melania for support and these days, that looks rather doubtful.  Melania may have more ethics than Trump and certainly much more emotional intelligence. It only remains for her to fire him. As Trump likes to say, “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

 


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Scientists: Make it Easier for the Public to Understand Your Reports!

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Carbon neutral? Mitigation? People don’t know the words scientists think they do.

If you’ve ever furrowed your brow trying to remember what “mitigation” meant, you’re not alone.

Many people don’t understand key terms experts use to talk about climate change, according to a recent study from researchers affiliated with the United Nations Foundation and the University of Southern California. Some of the most difficult-to-understand words were mitigation, referring to efforts to reduce emissions to slow down climate change, and carbon-neutral, when there’s no net increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Experts in a given field might think that technical language is more precise or more efficient than commonplace alternatives. But subjecting normal people to obscure terms can leave them feeling confused and disengaged and can sometimes encourage a head-in-the-sand response. Everyone has heard the advice “know your audience.” That’s easier said than done, especially since many specialists may not even realize what counts as jargon, with their non-expert days long in the past.

“Some of the people in our study were really concerned about climate change,” said Wändi Bruine de Bruin, a professor of psychology and behavioral science at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. “If they don’t understand what you’re trying to tell them, you could be missing an opportunity to make a difference.”

The researchers landed on a shortlist of terms for the study by talking with experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of U.N. scientists that released a dire report last month warning that greenhouse gas emissions were quickly destabilizing the climate with devastating and “irreversible” consequences. They picked words and phrases that were important for understanding climate policy but tend to get misinterpreted, like tipping point, carbon dioxide removal, and adaptation. Then the researchers interviewed 20 people, picked to provide a diversity of views, asking them to define these words and rate how easy they were to understand. The takeaway from the study: “many of the terms were unfamiliar or perceived as needlessly complex.”

More than half of the participants turned out to be unfamiliar with the meaning of mitigation in its climate change context, instead associating it with law or insurance, where the term refers to minimizing losses. “Mitigation, oh God I hate this word,” one person said. Another third appeared to conflate it with the similar-sounding “mediation,” where a neutral party helps resolve a conflict through discussion.

An informal survey by Grist of folks around Seattle revealed similar problems. Bud Goodwin, owner of Rising Sun Farms & Produce in Seattle, feels strongly that something needs to be done about climate change. Worsening droughts, wildfires, and heavy rains have hit the farmers who supply his fruits and vegetables. He said he’s heard the terms tipping point, carbon-neutral, and adaptation in the context of climate change. But he was stumped when it came to mitigation. “The only thing I can think of is ‘mitigating circumstances,’” he said. “That’s the only time I’ve heard of that used. And I don’t know if that’s the right context.”

Theo Henderson, who works at Third Place Books in north Seattle, was unsure what to make of the phrase tipping point when it’s used so widely in other contexts, like epidemiology, Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, and iconic moments in sports. “It’s used in contradictory ways,” he said. “It’s almost like you just don’t want to say it anymore, because it means different things to different people.”

In a bit of irony, even the phrase used to talk about talking about climate change — “climate communication” — confounded some people on the streets of Seattle.

That general sense of confusion was reflected in the study. When asked about tipping point — a point of no return for ice shelves, ocean patterns, rainforests, or other systems central to life on Earth — people didn’t always see the link to the warming planet, instead thinking of a seesaw, a sudden change of mind, or difficulty going back to how things were before. Only 15 percent of those interviewed in the study mentioned climate change in their initial definition.

Another inscrutable phrase for some was carbon neutral, with just under half of people in the study understanding it right off the bat. Some people found the shorthand use of carbon confusing. “I know carbon is used in front of a lot of words, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide … Carbon neutral means – I don’t know,” one participant said.

Even putting the tricky words and phrases in context — the classic vocab-learning trick you learned in school — often failed to help people understand their meanings. The example sentences, pulled from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, were long and wordy and often filled with other jargon. See for yourself. Does the following sentence help you understand what sustainable development means? “Natural hazards, climate change, and societal vulnerability can pose fundamental limits to sustainable development.” (If you’re curious, the study describes sustainable development as “meeting the needs of people living today without compromising the needs of people living in the future.”)

Companies have helped muddy the picture by using buzzwords to tout their sustainability cred. You can buy “carbon-negative” hand sanitizer or a “climate positive” burger. In a recent survey commissioned by Yeo Valley, an organic dairy company in the United Kingdom, 79 percent of people said that eco-friendly jargon should be translated into plainer language.

There are plenty of ways to phrase things more simply, and communication experts have long advised specialists to do so. But the problem is, Bruine de Bruin said, scientists might not even realize which words are coming across as gibberish, having used mitigation for so long that they think it’s a simple, straightforward term. The concrete examples of misunderstandings quoted in the study, she said, and are “more powerful than people coming in saying, ‘Look, don’t use jargon.’”

Source: Grist

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Current education systems inhibit identity development

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Current education inhibits identity development

Note from Publisher: When we look at society as a whole, we could take a good look at a dysfunctional education system which is failing children and the whole of society.  If we are to truly evolve and transform as a society, education needs to transform from linear thinking to holistic thinking, seeing all life on the planet as ONE WHOLE SYSTEM, otherwise we are bound to continue the insanity of repeating our problems and crises over and over again.  True transformation begins with a shift in how we view and act in the world.

Education systems have undergone a great change in the last 40 years. Along with the massification of supply, education has become dehumanised, strongly influenced by mercantilist logics that have associated quality only with cognitive learning. The focus on subjects and the neglect of holistic education inhibits the development of identity.

Today’s schools are more like a production line than a community of people in search of human growth and development. Like any production line, the aim is to obtain a “product” that is as homogeneous as possible and that can be evaluated in the successive quality controls that are applied over the years. For example, the SIMCE and the PDT.

A homogeneous product allows comparisons to be made which, in the case of individuals, is always odious and discriminatory. The idea of a “good quality product” in education, measured through standardised tests, has proved to be a perverse incentive for educational communities. Teachers and education professionals have put the education and social-emotional development of their students on the back burner. Mums, dads and parents focus their attention on what they believe will be financial security. And, children and youth see school as a boring, creativity-limiting obligation.

Instead of a “standard product”, at Fundación Semilla we promote the formation of unique individuals through pedagogical support methodologies that open spaces for children and young people to advance in the development of their own individual traits or characteristics that allow them to distinguish themselves from others in a group. In other words, in the development of their identities.

Schools that assume their educational role in a comprehensive manner become protective factors because the development of identity allows one to value oneself and recognise oneself as unique in the group. Without identity there is no sense of belonging. Without identity you are invisible to others.

Whenever I talk about identity and a sense of belonging, I am reminded of heart-wrenching testimonies such as that of a boy: “the first time someone told me I was good at something was when I shot a gun and hit the target” or that of a girl: “having sex makes me feel that he cares about me”.

This is not to dismiss learning in mathematics, reading, writing or other subjects, but to reduce content in order to have more time to humanise education. Having spaces to dream and create, to talk and reflect, to play and sing, to meet other people and to recognise oneself.

Putting children and young people at the centre and the first priority is much more than obtaining good scores in the transition test (ex PSU and ex PAA) and as long as political authorities do not change their educational paradigm, education will continue to inhibit the development of identity and a sense of belonging with the dire consequences that this implies for society as a whole.

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Energy and Transportation

New report details Big Polluters’ next Big Con

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Image: Vincent Go / Greenpeace

Amsterdam, 9 June 2021

In the midst of virtual discussions of the UN climate treaty, a new report shines a light on how polluting industries are pushing a “net zero” agenda to become  the presumed centrepiece of global climate plans and how the details in these plans (should any be included) delay action and don’t add up.

—The report is embedded at the bottom of this story.—

The report, entitled, “The Big Con: How Big Polluters are advancing a “net zero” climate agenda to delay, deceive, and deny,” comes following a year packed with record announcements of “net zero” pledges from corporations and governments, and builds on a growing body of research that calls the integrity of “net zero” as a political goal into serious question. As more and more “net zero” plans have been rolled out, the scientific, academic and activist communities have all raised grave concerns about the inability of these plans to achieve the commitments of the Paris Agreement and keep global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report, written by Corporate Accountability, The Global Forest Coalition and Friends of the Earth International, was endorsed by over sixty environmental organisations including ActionAid International, OilWatch, Third World Network, and the Institute for Policy Studies.

“The Big Con” joins a series of recent reports in uncovering the dubious arithmetic, vague targets and often unachievable technological aspirations of these “net zero” plans, analysing plans from a number of key polluting industries including the fossil fuel and energy, aviation, technology, retail, finance, and agriculture industries. It also includes an in-depth look at some of the strategies these industries have deployed to ensure their “net zero” agenda becomes the primary dogma of the global response to the climate crisis.

Some of the key findings highlighted in the report include:

The Plans:

  • By 2030, Shell alone plans to purchase more offsets to compensate for its emissions every year than were available in the entire global voluntary carbon offset market capacity in 2019.
  • United Airlines is counting on using a geoengineering technology that is not developed at any viable commercial scale to suck carbon out of the air and pump it into the ground (a process that is intended to extract even more oil in hard-to-reach places). If the same geoengineering plants were to be built to offset the world’s emissions in 2019, this would require 4 million acres of land—approximately the size of the country of Belize.
  • Walmart’s climate plan entirely neglects its value chain emissions, which account for an estimated 95 percent of the corporation’s carbon footprint.
  • Eni is planning on increasing its oil and gas production over the coming years, a feat that the corporation proposes to offset through reforestation schemes that have been described as fake forests.
  • BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has pledged to reach “net zero” emissions in its portfolio by 2050. But despite pledging in 2020 to sell off most of its fossil fuel shares “in the near future”, it still owns US$85 billion in coal assets due to a loophole in its policy.
  • JBS’ commitment to eliminate deforestation in its supply chain by 2035 in effect means it will continue contributing to deforestation for the next 14 years (until 2035), instead of immediately ending the deforestation associated with its supply chain—arguably one of the most effective and quickest ways for JBS to decrease its emissions.

The Tactics:

  • Big Polluters, including the aviation and fossil fuel industries lobbied massively to help ensure the passage of a tax credit in the US, called 45Q, that subsidises carbon capture and storage. Those same corporations are likely to have raked in millions from the credit, despite not having the right systems in place to qualify.
  • The International Emissions Trading Association, perhaps the largest global lobbyist on market and offsets (both pillars of polluters’ “net zero” climate plans”) has leveraged its outsized presence at international climate talks to advance its agenda over others.
  • Corporations have made massive financial contributions to renowned academic institutions including the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University and Imperial College London to shape and influence the type of “net zero” related research these institutions pursue.
  • In one example, Exxon Mobil retained the right to formally review research before it is completed and in some cases to plant its own staff on project development teams at Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project.

The report was released in a press briefing during the virtual discussions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UN Secretary General and the COP presidency, who are organisers of the next milestone in the UNFCCC process COP26, have already made “net zero” a primary focus despite a number of recent controversies including the recent backlash against Mark Carney’s initiative.

Quotes from authors:

Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International, Climate Justice & Energy program co-coordinator:

“This report shows that ‘net zero’ plans from big polluters are nothing more than a big con. The reality is that corporations like Shell have no interest in genuinely acting to solve the climate crisis by reducing their emissions from fossil fuels. They instead plan to continue business as usual while greenwashing their image with tree planting and offsetting schemes that can never ever make up for digging up and burning fossil fuels. We must wake up fast to the fact that we are falling for a trick. Net zero risks obscuring a lack of action until it is too late.”

Rachel Rose Jackson, Director of Climate Policy and Research, Corporate Accountability:

“After The Big Con, it’s hard not to see the recent fervour over ‘net zero’ as anything but a scheme propped up by Big Polluters that’s way too little, way too late,” said Rachel Rose Jackson of Corporate Accountability, “These players stacked the deck to make sure the world would hinge its hopes on plans that are nothing more than greenwashing. If we don’t course correct now, the world will be on the fast track to climate destruction incompatible with life as we know it.”

Coraina De la Plaza, Climate Campaigner, Global Forest Coalition:

We are deeply concerned about the corporate capture of climate policies and finance, and the growing nexus between governments and corporations to promote false solutions through Net Zero and ambiguous concepts like NBS. Instead of deep emissions cuts, they continue to pursue ‘green’ neocolonial offsetting schemes to reap more profits and pollute through forest offsets, afforestation, reforestation, tree plantations, and dangerous techno-fixes. This Net Zero circus has to stop: the planet and people need real and ambitious targets and commitments, real emissions cuts, and real zero targets.”

Quotes from endorsing organisations:

Meena Raman, Third World Network:

“As big polluters hide behind false claims of supporting climate action, they are planning to do more damage by pushing carbon offset projects in developing countries, leading to more forest and land grabs. Such efforts promote climate injustice and will impact the poor communities and indigenous peoples in the Global South. This has to stop.”

Pascoe Sabido, Researcher and Campaigner, Corporate Europe Observatory:

“Europe’s biggest fossil fuel companies are using their flimsy ‘net-zero’ plans to curry favour with our decision makers. But in exchange for their hollow commitments, Shell, BP and others have successfully lobbied for financial and regulatory support for techno-fixes like carbon capture and storage or fossil-hydrogen, which will allow them to dig up and sell yet more oil and gas. An utter climate catastrophe. Net zero is nothing more than a massive con, letting the EU and its polluting corporations to talk the talk while walking in the opposite direction.”

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa:

“The Big Con” is not only timely, it also reinforces what we have been saying for years. The fossil fuel industry is not about to repent. Net Zero is a scam intended to keep us in a state of suspended animation while for the industry, it is business as usual.”

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development:

“Proclamations of Net Zero targets are dangerous deceptions. Net Zero sounds ambitious and visionary but it actually allows big polluters and rich governments to continue emitting GHGs which they claim will be erased through unproven and dangerous technologies, carbon trading, and offsets that shift the burden of climate action to the Global South. Big polluters and rich governments should not only reduce emissions to Real Zero, they must pay reparations for the huge climate debt owed to the Global South.”

Trusha Reddy, Programme Head: Women Building Power for Energy & Climate Justice, WoMin African Alliance:

“Net Zero is just the latest attempt by corporates and colluding governments in the Global North to undermine real action on the climate crisis. It follows (and includes) decades of different variations of big cons from outright denial to carbon markets and a slew of other false solutions pushed out by public relations machines and strong arming of the big economies. What cannot be avoided, and is becoming a permanent reality are the cyclones, wildfires and a multitude of other climate related disasters impacting regions like Africa with the fiercest intensity. As our world gets pummelled by these forces, impacted women and others in the Global South are starting to make the connections, pierce the veil, demand climate justice, and rise up to claim real zero solutions.”

Source: Friends of the Earth International

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