Reading for January 16 from Praying for justice. “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.” Romans 15: 5

Reading for January 15 from Praying for Justice. “Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10: 1b

17.01.2019 – Rome, Italy – Human Wrongs Watch

A New Spectre Is Haunting Europe
(Image by Pixabay)

After Teresa May’s defeat in the British parliament it is clear that a new spectre is haunting Europe. It is no longer the spectre of communism, which opens Marx’s Manifesto of 1848; it is the spectre of the failure of neoliberal globalisation, which reigned uncontested following the fall of the Berlin Wall, until the financial crisis of 2009.

By Roberto Savio

In 2008, governments spent the astounding amount of 62 trillion dollars to save the financial system, and close to that amount in 2009 (see Britannica Book of the Year, 2017), According to a US Federal Reserve study, it cost each American 70,000 dollars.

Belatedly, economic institutions left macroeconomics, which were until then used to assess GNP growth and started to look at how growth was being redistributed.

And the IMF and the World Bank, (also because of the prodding of civil society studies, foremost those of Oxfam), concluded that there was a huge problem in the rise of inequality.

Of course, if the 117 trillion dollars had gone to people, that money would have led to a jump in spending, an increase in manufacturing, services, schools, hospitals, research, etc. But people were totally absent from the priorities of the system.

Under the Matteo Renzi government in Italy, 20 billion dollars went to save four banks, while in the same year total subsidies for Italian youth could be calculated at best at 1 billion dollars.

Then after the crisis of 2008-9, all went haywire. In every country of Europe (except for Spain, which has now caught up), a populist right-wing party came to life, and the traditional political system started to crumble.

The new parties appealed to the losers of globalisation: workers whose factories has been delocalised for the cheapest possible place to maximise gains; small shop owners displaced by the arrival of supermarkets; those made redundant by new technologies, by Internet like secretaries; retired people whose pensions were frozen to reduce the national deficit (in the last 20 years public debts have doubled worldwide).

A new divide built up, between those who rode the wave of globalisation and those who were its victim.

Obviously, the political system felt that it was accountable to the winners, and budgets were stacked in their favour. Priority went to towns, where over 63% of citizens now live.

The losers were more concentrated in the rural world, where few investments were made in infrastructure. On the contrary, in the name of efficiency, many services were cut, railway stations closed, along with hospitals, schools and banks.

In order to reach work, people often had to go several kilometres from home by car. A modest increase in the cost of petrol fuelled the rebellion of the ‘yellow jackets’. It did not help that out of the 40 billion that the French government obtains from taxes on energy, less than one-quarter went back into transportation infrastructure and services.

Universities, hospital and other services in towns suffered much less, were points of excellence, public transportation was available, and a new divide arose between those in towns and those from the rural world, those with studies and education and those who were far away and atomised in the interior.

A new divide had come about, and people voted out the traditional party system, which ignored them. This device brought Trump to power and led to the victory of Brexit in the United Kingdom.

This divide is wiping the traditional parties, and bringing back nationalism, xenophobia and populism. It is not bringing back the ideological right wing, but a gut right and left with little ideology …

All this should be obvious.

Now, for the first time, the system is turning its attention to the losers, but is too late. The left is paying the dramatic illusion of Tony Blair who, considering globalisation inevitable, decided that it would be possible to ride its wave. So, the left lost any contact with the victims, and kept the fight on human rights as its main identity and difference with the right.

That was good for towns, where gays and LGBTs, minorities (and majorities like women), could congregate, but it was hardly a priority for those of the interior.

Meanwhile, finance continued to grow, become a world by itself, no longer linked to .industry and service, but to financial speculation. Politics became subservient.

Governments lowered taxes on the who stashed the unbelievable amount of 62 trillion dollars in tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network. The estimated yearly flow is 600 billion dollars, double the cost of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations.

And the Panama Papers, which revealed just a small number of the owners of accounts, identified at least 140 important politicians among them from 64 countries: the prime minister of Iceland (who was obliged to resign), Mauricio Macri of Argentina, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, a bunch of close associates of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father, the prime minister of Georgia, and so on.

No wonder that politicians have lost their shine, and are now considered corrupt, or useless, or both.

In the current economic order, Emmanuel Macron acted rationally by lowering the tax on the rich people to attract investments. But he totally ignored that for those French who have difficulty in reaching the end of the month, this was proof that they were being totally ignored. And sociologists agree that the real ‘Spring’ of the yellow jackets was their search for dignity.

Ironically, British parties, and especially the Conservative and Labour parties, should be thankful to the debate on Brexit. It is clear that the United Kingdom is committing suicide, in economic and strategic terms. With a ‘hard’ Brexit, without any agreement with the European Union, it could lose at least seven percent of its GDP.

But the divide which makes Brexit win with all towns, the City, the economic and financial sector, academics, intellectuals and all institutions has confirmed the fear of those of the interior. Belonging to the European Union was profitable for the elites, and not for them. Scotland voted against, because it has now a different agenda from England. And this divide is not going to change with a new referendum.

That the cradle of parliamentarian democracy, Westminster, is not able to reach a compromise is telling proof that the debate is not political but a clash of mythologies, like the idea of returning to the former British Empire. It is like Donald Trump’s idea of reopening coal mines.

We look at a mythical past as our future. This is what led to the explosion of Vox in Spain, by those who believe that under Franco life was easier and cheaper, that there was no corruption, woman stayed in their place, and Spain was a united country, without separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

It is what Jair Bolsonari in Brazil is exploiting, presenting the military dictatorship at a time when violence was limited. Our future is the past …

So this divide – once in one way or another the United Kingdom solves its Brexit dilemma – will pass into normal politics, and will bring about a dramatic decline, like elsewhere, of the two main traditional parties.

Unless, meanwhile, populist, xenophobe and nationalist parties take over government and show that they do not have the answer to the problems they have rightly identified.

In that sense, the Italian experience could be of significant help … look how the government has performed with the European Union.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

16.01.2019 – Stockholm, Sweden – Tony Robinson

Swedish pension fund to abandon nuclear weapons investments

Today Sweden’s fourth national pension fund company, AP4, announced via a press statement that it is to divest from firms involved in the production of nuclear weapons, such as Airbus, Boeing and Raytheon.  In June last year, AP4 had more than 2.5 billion Swedish kronor (around 250 million euros) invested in companies linked to the nuclear industry.

The news follows a change of rules which came into force on the 1st of January whereby pension funds should be managed in an “exemplary manner” with regard to responsible investment and responsible ownership.

In the statement, the company said, “AP4 now increases its ambitions within sustainability based on the new law regarding exemplary asset management and has decided to divest from companies related to nuclear weapons and oil sand.”

Adding, “AP4 is of the view that an exemplary interpretation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) supports the decision not to invest in companies involved in nuclear weapons.  AP4 assesses that the current upgrades and modernizations of nuclear weapon systems are not aligned with the intention of long-term disarmament as expressed in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Swedish anti-nuclear campaigners were ecstatic on hearing the news.

“Divesting from companies linked to nuclear weapons is an important step towards a nuclear-free world.  We in Swedish Physicians against Nuclear weapons have long worked so that our pension money is not invested in weapons of mass destruction, so we warmly welcome this decision,” said Josefin Lind, Secretary General of Swedish Physicians against Nuclear Weapons in a press statement.

She continued, “We now expect AP1–3 to follow the Fourth AP Fund’s step of blacklisting investments in nuclear weapons.  Today, when nuclear states are spending billions on maintaining their nuclear weapons instead of abolishing them, this is an important step in the work of stigmatizing nuclear weapons.  It also sends an important signal to the nuclear weapons countries and other investors.”

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Swedish herself, welcomed the announcement on twitter.

Beatrice Fihn@BeaFihn

Great news from our ICAN partners in Sweden, one of the main Swedish pension funds stops investing in nuclear weapons. The #nuclearban treaty continues to show practical results!Läkare mot Kärnvapen@IPPNWSwedenPositiva nyheter, AP4 slutar investera i kärnvapen! #nuclearban #dontbankonthebomb https://slmk.org/nyheter-press/pressmeddelande-lakare-mot-karnvapen-valkomnar-att-fjarde-ap-fonden-avslutar-investeringar-i-karnvapen/ …5609:39 – 16 Jan 2019Twitter Ads information and privacy32 people are talking about this

Regardless of the justification for divestment, what is clear is that divestment is having an increasing effect on nuclear weapons producers, and this is a result of the renewed emphasis on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons coming out of the work done by the International Committee of the Red Cross (Nobel Peace Prize 1917, 1944, 1963) and ICAN (Nobel Peace Prize 2017), among others, which led to the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” campaign and annual report from Dutch peace organisation PAX has been increasingly vociferous in making the case for divestment from nuclear weapons.

15.01.2019 – Geneva, Switzerland – TED: Ideas worth spreading

Ray Acheson, from Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament wing of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom talks about nuclear weapons in the conext of the patriarchal system in which we live today.

Transcript:

Who has the biggest nuclear button?  No, I’m serious.  This is a real foreign policy question, apparently.  This is how 2018 started: The US president taunting the North Korean president over the size and virility of his nuclear arsenal.  You can’t make this stuff up, right? I mean this is feminist comedy gold.  But it is also deadly serious, because the US president also threatened to unleash fire and fury like the world has never seen before.

Except we have seen this fire and fury before.  We saw it unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 by another US president.  We’ve seen it unleashed on the islands of the Pacific, across the Australian outback, in the deserts of New Mexico and Nevada.  The world has seen this fire and fury. We know how it melts human beings, turning them into shadows.  We know how it contaminates the land and the water and our bodies for generations.

Today fourteen thousand nuclear weapons exist in the world, in the hands of nine governments.  This is an incredibly dangerous situation for all of us, for every single person on the planet.  And yet it’s those of us who call out this danger and demand disarmament that are ridiculed.

Last year for example the vast majority of governments in the world worked with the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to ban the bomb, and we did it.  We got a treaty and ICAN even won the Nobel Peace Prize, but through it all we were called radical dreamers. By “we” I mean activists, diplomats, men, women, non-binary, didn’t matter, we were told that we don’t understand security.  We were told that we were being naïve and ridiculous and, my personal favourite, terminally unserious.

But we were also told repeatedly that we were being emotional.  Now this one is curious.  What woman in this room has not been accused of being emotional for raising a point about pretty much anything, right?

It’s classic patriarchy.  You’re a woman, so you’re emotional.  Real men, they don’t act out of emotion, right?  Real men like to make hard decisions about hard security.  So let’s think about nuclear weapons in this context.

I believe that feminism helps us to think about how nuclear weapons are related to the patriarchy: the patriarchy as a system that privileges men, especially those that conform to a certain kind of masculinity, a masculinity that equates strength with violence, that equates security with the capacity and the willingness to use force.  It’s a system where you need weapons to be strong and secure.  More weapons, more security.  Nuclear weapons are the pinnacle of a system like this.  They are the ultimate tool of violence and of dominance and control.

Nuclear weapons are bound up in this system of patriarchy, because systems like this require this capacity for massive violence in order to sustain themselves.

It’s how people in power, stay in power.  Now I am NOT talking about absolutes or individuals; I am NOT saying all men this or all women that.  I’m talking about a system in which gender is constructed, where there’s expectations on us of how we’re supposed to behave, on what’s masculine and what’s feminine, a system that totally denies any other identity or experience of trans, queer, non-binary.  It’s a system that celebrates the certain kind of violent masculinity and it belittles anything that it sees as a threat to that: emotion, compassion, cooperation.

The patriarchy oppresses along lines of sex and sexuality but also along the lines of race and class.

Just think about where nuclear weapons have been used, where they’ve been tested, on whose bodies, on whose lands: indigenous people, people of colour, marginalized segments of populations.

Feminism helps us unpack all of this.  It helps us see nuclear weapons’ place in the patriarchy, in a system that allows certain groups or people to remain in power through this capacity to use violence.  It helps us see how the dominant narratives around nuclear weapons are myths designed to uphold a patriarchal world order.

The story goes: nuclear weapons keep us safe, deter conflict, prevent war, keeps the world stable and secure. Stable and secure, for whom?  Not for those who have experienced the fire and the fury of nuclear weapons.  Not for those of us who live under the threat of experiencing it one day ourselves.

The magical thinking of nuclear deterrence theory says that we are safer living with weapons that have the capacity to kill us all than we would be without them.  It’s like “these are not the droids you’re looking for,” right?  This is why I think feminism is so important to our thinking about nuclear weapons.  It helps us see how nuclear weapons are about dominance and control.

It helps us see how our socially constructed expectations of gender come into play, how our ideas of what’s masculine and feminine, and our insistence on this binary, effects what we see is strong and rational and credible when it comes to weapons policy.

It helps us see nuclear deterrence theory for what it really is: pure gas-lighting, the total disregard for the lived reality of those who’ve experienced the fire and fury of nuclear weapons.  And it helps us think about security.  Whose security matters?  What does security mean?  How do we build security?

Feminism helps us engage with nuclear weapons as an issue of social justice.  This means learning from survivors, listening to those who have been impacted by the use and testing and the massive spending on nuclear weapons.  It means being led by those who understand structural discrimination and institutionalized violence: women, queer folks, people of colour.  We are at the forefront of the anti-nuclear resistance.  We led government delegations and activist groups to ban the bomb. By banning nuclear weapons, we put the interests of the marginalised ahead of the quest for dominance by the most militarily powerful countries in the world.

The governments of these countries were right about one thing.  They told us that by banning nuclear weapons we would disrupt the international order.  We did.  That was the whole point.  We mounted a challenge to the patriarchal world order supposedly ruled with the iron fist of the atomic bomb.  And we won.  This is massive.  This is a huge, incredibly important victory, but the struggle is far from over.

Nuclear weapons still exist.  Violence and militarism still dominate.  And the patriarchy is fighting fiercely for its survival.

So I urge all of you here to help, to help debunk myths, challenge these dominant narratives, disrupt the supposed natural order of things.

Our power does not lie in weapons, our power lies in our ability and our willingness to challenge the attitude that nothing can change.  We can achieve nuclear abolition.  We can achieve peace and nonviolence.  We can build collective security, human security and in this work together we’re dismantling racism and patriarchy, and we’re building something better.

Thank you

Reading for January 8 from Praying for Justice. “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” Matthew 6: 28- 29


14.01.2019 Redazione Italia

Liberté, Égalité, Impérialisme!
(Image by Jean-Claude Coutausse: Hutu refugee camp, 1994)

“Hotel Rwanda” is a touchstone of interventionist ideology, writes Ann Garrison.
Debunking that script helps show why the closure of the assassination case against Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame serves Western interests.

By Ann Garrison
Black Agenda Report

Most Westerners believe that the Rwandan Genocide was the simple story of good and evil told in the hugely successful film “Hotel Rwanda,” but there is barely a moment of “Hotel Rwanda” that is not carefully constructed propaganda. The film was produced to convince the world that demon Hutus murdered a million innocent Tutsis in 100 days in 1994, that the U.S. and its NATO allies failed to intervene, and that their failure obligates them to intervene “to stop genocide” anywhere in the world from hereon.

Obama’s foreign policy team—most prominently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha Power, a national security advisor—invoked the Rwandan genocide over and over, as did the press, to justify destroying Libya and beginning the aerial bombing war that continues in Syria today. The propaganda has also been used to justify Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s invasions, occupation and resource plunder in the fabulously resource rich Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Western press and governments have portrayed him as Rwanda’s savior and characterized his invasions of DRC as the defense of Rwanda against “Hutu genocidaires” who fled into the DRC as he and his army advanced and seized power.

The late Edward S. Herman and his co-author David Petersen deconstructed these lies in “Enduring Lies: the Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later.” So did Robin Philpot in “Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa, from Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction;” Marie-Beatrice Umutesi in “Surviving the Slaughter, the Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire;” Peter Erlinder in his compendium of primary source documents “The Accidental Genocide;” and most recently Judi Rever in “In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.” But none of these books made bestseller lists, and none could come close to the influence of “Hotel Rwanda.”

Kagame: Helpful U.S. ally.  (Chatham House / CC BY 2.0)

Essential elements left out of the “Hotel Rwanda” construction include the 1990-1994 Rwandan War and massacres that concluded in the infamous hundred days. The tragedy happened over four years’ time, not 100 days, and both Hutus and Tutsis were massacred, Hutus by Kagame’s army.

Unsolved Crime

Another missing element is the unsolved crime that triggered the final bloodletting of the final 100 days: the assassination of Rwanda and Burundi’s Hutu presidents, when a surface-to-air missile downed their plane as it was approaching the airport in  Rwanda’s capital Kigali on April 6, 1994. No one has ever been convicted of the crime, and there is enormous Western pressure to make sure that no one ever is. Overwhelming evidence implicates Kagame, but he is a key U.S. ally and “military partner” in Africa, and the “Hotel Rwanda” story is a key touchstone of Western interventionist ideology.

Kagame has nevertheless been accused and his inner circle indicted in both French and Spanish courts, where French and Spanish citizens claim jurisdiction because their family members died in the plane shoot-down or the ensuing massacres, but both of those cases have been shut down.

Last month, geopolitics trumped international justice again—just in time for Christmas. On Dec. 21, a French court closed the long-running case against Kagame and his inner circle for assassinating Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, both of whom were Hutus.

Nearly 25 years later, there are still no convictions for the assassinations that turned first Rwanda, then DRC, into a vast killing ground. Not in the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, where two investigations of Kagame were shut down, and where a judge told defense attorney Tiphaine Dickson, “We don’t investigate plane crashes [or Tutsis, only Hutus].” And not in the French or Spanish courts.

The Subtext: Imperial Competition

The subtext of the Rwandan War and the ensuing Congo Wars was competition between the U.S./U.K. and France. France, which was then the dominant power in the region, had been the patron of Habyarimana’s Hutu government; the U.S. and U.K. backed Kagame’s invading Tutsi army, which emerged victorious in 1994, declared that English would from thereon be Rwanda’s international business language, then invaded and occupied French-speaking Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) two years later.

France and Rwanda have engaged in a bitter argument off and on for all these years about who was responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Their embassies have often been closed in one another’s capitals, and France pulled out of the 20th anniversary commemoration in Kigali after Kagame once again accused France of participating in the killing.

One of the recurring points of contention is Opération Turquoise, France’s emergency relief response, which began on June 23, 1994, several weeks before Kagame, then a general, seized power in Kigali. Some French officials who were in office at the time, most notably former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, have maintained that Opération Turquoise created a humanitarian corridor for Rwandan Hutus fleeing into Zaire, for fear of being massacred by General Kagame’s advancing Tutsi army. Kagame’s government has claimed that France instead provided an escape route for Hutus guilty of genocide, although the vast majority flooding into Zaire were civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. According to the 2010 UN Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1993-2003, Kagame’s troops followed the refugees into Zaire and massacred as many as 250,000.

In “Dying to Live: A Rwandan Family’s Five-Year Flight Across the Congo,” Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga describes how he and his family and 300,000 more Rwandan Hutus fled Kagame’s advancing army all the way through the Congolese jungle, from east to west, as many more died of hardship or were massacred by Kagame’s troops along the way.

Rwandan Hutus refugee camp in Zaire, 1994. (Wikimedia)

The authors of the UN Mapping Report said that the massacres in Congo would most likely be ruled a genocide if a case were brought to court, but none has been and none ever will be without a major geopolitical shift in power. In 2013, in one of his many cynical moments, former President Bill Clinton told BBC journalist Komla Dumor that he would not condemn his friend Paul Kagame for murdering the refugees because “it hasn’t been adjudicated.” (And because it happened on his watch, with his support, as did the 1998 Rwandan and Ugandan invasions of DRC, during which Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni became what another UN report called “the godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the DRC.”)

France Wants Its Share

France of course wants its share, and French officials now in power have decided to close the case against Kagame in order to secure access to Congo’s riches, which he significantly controls. The court’s ruling came shortly after Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo became secretary-general of La Francophonie, an international organization similar to the British Commonwealth, in what was widely perceived to be another concession to smooth French-Rwandan relations and ease France’s imperial access in DRC.

Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan general, chief of army staff, and chief of military intelligence, was also named as a defendant in the French indictment. Speaking to Jane Corbin in the BBC video “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” he said that Kagame most definitely ordered his troops to shoot down the plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents:

Jane Corbin:  Who do you believe was behind the shooting down of the plane?

Kayumba Nyamwasa:  Paul Kagame undoubtedly.

JC:  Paul Kagame?

KN:  Oh yes, oh yes.

JC:  You know that?

KN:  One hundred percent.

JC:  Were you at meetings where it was discussed?

KN:  Well, I know. I was in a position to know, and he knows I was in a position to know. And he knows that.

BBC interjection: General Nyamwasa has offered to cut a deal with the French judge to testify.

JC:  If you discuss these matters with the judge and it implicates you yourself, are you willing to do that?

KN:  Obviously. If it implicated me? Why not? Because I think that truth is what matters.

The French court said they were closing the case for lack of “credible” and “significant” evidence despite abundant such evidence. That does not mean, however, that they acquitted Kagame, Nyamwasa, or anyone else who was in Kagame’s inner circle at the time Habyarimana and Ntaryamira were assassinated. As Rwandan American legal scholar Charles Kambanda said, “This is a political decision which could well be superseded by another political decision to reopen the file when there is additional ‘credible’ and ‘significant’ evidence.” In other words, France has mollified Kagame for now, but it’s kept a knife behind its back.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.

13.01.2019 – Milan – Sarah Marder

Environmental Optimism over Despair: Cities Are Key to Fighting Climate Change

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, we need you now to stand outside your parliament or local government office to let them know that we demand climate action.” These words, pronounced by Greta Thunberg on December 12, 2018, changed my life.  Greta is the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist who has made headlines and captured the hearts of people of all ages around the world who are fed up with the lack of climate action on the part of world leaders.

I had been following Greta with increasing interest for a month or two, having been bowled over by her pithy, deep and effective way of communicating about the existential threat that we are facing. I have been alarmed for years by the fact that our developmental model is causing we humans to devour or contaminate all that sustains planetary and human health.

My journals of the last decade are peppered with notes such as “we humans are the only species intelligent enough to orchestrate its own extinction.” Leafing through them, I realize that deep down inside, I have been fretting about the environment for years. My survival instinct feels threatened. This sensation was heightened by the fact that I’m a mother. As my children grew, my maternal instinct widened to include other young people and gradually I came to feel that I was in some way responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment not only for my children but for all children now and long into the future.

Yet in the past to express this “climate anxiety” among my circle of friends was to place myself on the fringe. I often isolated myself socially because I had difficulty maintaining small talk with others, wondering if they didn’t have existential matters that bothered them.

I identify the zenith of my environmental anguish when I instinctively scribbled these words in a journal in 2009:

I can imagine us on our knees, pleading to the Earth,

asking that she be kind to us, begging forgiveness, 

saying, admitting, confessing that we had been blind,

that we mistook her bounty for something boundless. 

We’ll prepare succulent offerings for Her, with tears in our eyes, 

we’ll hope to appease her wrath. We’ll erect temples to her 

and utter Her name with a mix of fear and reverence. 

We will be pagans again. Finally. 

And it will be too late.     

Fast forward another ten years in which I agonized over the lack of climate action and so when Greta made that appeal at the end of COP24, it called to me as though she were speaking to me individually and exhorting me to follow her example. I felt as though I had been summoned to play on a global team and to give it all I had. Without giving it further thought, I got out my agenda and wrote on every Friday from then until the end of the year Fridays for Future, thus committing to dedicate some time every Friday to this cause, exactly as Greta had said.  I’ve now done the same through the end of March 2019.

The first week of #ClimateStrikeMilano, I went by myself and sat for half an hour in front of Milan’s City Hall. I have to say that it felt strange. It was just me sitting there then taking a selfie with my homemade sign on which I had decided to write CLIMATE EMERGENCY, inspired by an article that I had read on December 11, 2018 on The Guardian: London mayor unveils plan to tackle ‘climate emergency’: Sadiq Khan accuses government of dragging its feet and calls for investment to avert catastrophe.

As I read that article, it was like a revelation to me. I have known for years that cities produce the vast majority of global CO2 emissions and are central to fighting climate change and yet Mayor Khan’s declarations stepped up the game.  That was the moment when I could suddenly see acceleration in the trend in which cities switch from being culprits to champions in the Climate Change struggle, since cities are crucial arenas in which environmental and climate battles could be fought and won, without necessarily having the buy-in of the national government, which have on the whole been proceeding at far too slow of a pace.  The situation has become far too grave and urgent to wait for recalcitrant national governments to get on board. We have to push the change from the bottom.

Thanks to Greta, grassroots advocacy suddenly seems perhaps the most powerful weapon imaginable. So my homemade sign, worn outside the Milan City Hall, was and still is addressing first and foremost Milan’s Mayor Giuseppe Sala, to ask that he do even more to fight climate change. I’d like him to declare a Climate Emergency and then work with others to take far more decisive action than to date. And I’d like Mayors of leading cities around the world to forge ahead, thus providing examples for other cities to follow.

Putting these pieces together, I suddenly saw my particular way to snap out of the trance of a deer frozen in the lights of an oncoming car. I saw that I, as a simple citizen, could carry my message to my local leaders, and could try over time to persuade the city where I live to step into a larger leadership role in fighting climate change. I could carry the message that “ending climate change begins in the city”, as the C40 Cities point out.  More specifically, ending climate change begins in the city that we inhabit.

So that is my message and I am inspired by Greta, who has called on people around the world to tell their truths, share their concerns and hold our leaders to a markedly higher standard on these issues. So I have committed to striking every Friday from now until March and will carry that message.

What is heartening beyond belief is to see how Greta has managed to “summon” not just me, but people of all ages around the world who are now mobilizing. She has unleashed pent-up energy and is encouraging each of us to band together with like-minded people and to speak up and tell our truth, i.e. that we will no longer tolerate a world in which our leaders ignore, minimalize or even deny the gravity of the climate crisis. Those positions now seem anachronistic. Whereas for years I saw few encouraging sings, now I see countless reasons to be inspired and encouraged, and Greta is the catalyst that we needed to set all of this in motion and help us to bring together what until now had been disparate energies.

I have been oozing climate anxiety for years and I cling to the words expressed by Noam Chomsky: “We can be pessimistic, give up and help ensure that the worst will happen, or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist and maybe help make the world a better place.”

Because I want to choose optimism over despair, I’ll end with the words of Greta Thunberg: “Yes, of course we need hope. But more than hope we need action.  Once we begin to act, hope is everywhere.”

Amen.

Friday December 14, 2018 – first week of #ClimateStrikeMilano

Friday December 21, 2018 – second week of #ClimateStrikeMilano

Friday December 28, 2018 – third week of #ClimateStrikeMilano

All of the signs are homemade by participants, each carrying their own personal climate message.

Reading for January 10 from Praying for Justice. “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice.” Psalm 11: 7a

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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