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Mr. Obama, You Need to Forcefully Take the Lead

Emily Spence: You cannot leave critical matters for future administrations to sort out in a meaningful manner. Despite vicious backlash for your stance, you must vigorously work to change our collective course now rather than continue the same old policies that your predecessors in office had and that, obviously, do not work.

Mr. President,


It is easy to understand that you are beholden to corporate interests in a number of diverse ways, which could limit your sense of options relative to unrestrained fossil fuel use. Yet, we, all together, cannot face run-away climate change, weak support for constructive energy programs, unbridled economic growth, barely regulated free trade, ever expanding resource wars, critical resource depletions (involving water, minerals, oil and so forth), high extinction rates for multitudinous species, overall environmental ruin, increasing overpopulation, grossly inequitable sharing of global wealth and other dire conditions, and all of which are interconnected, without your forcefully taking the lead to address them and doing so in a holistic tough fashion.

In other words, you cannot leave these serious matters for future administrations to sort out in a meaningful manner. Despite vicious backlash for your stance, you must vigorously work to change our collective course now rather than continue the same old policies that your predecessors in office had and that, obviously, do not work out well for human welfare in the long run. (Isn't there enough ample evidence currently available to show that this standpoint is valid?)

In relation, one of the major disappointments that I've experienced during your time in office involves wrong choices having been made when it came to the government bailouts. Instead of supporting this damaging wealth transfer, your colleagues and you should have let many of the companies in dire straits fail.

While creating policies that comfortably ease them into their demise by various means, you could have, simultaneously, worked to create small vibrant self-reliant communities across the U.S.A., ones in which local trade, job growth and eco-sustainability are simultaneously fostered. With such a program, reliance on foreign fossil fuel would, obviously, have been permanently minimized due to deglobalization of commerce and finance.
Instead, we have a situation in which, despite the growing federal deficit, the upcoming and always increasing military budget is expected to be around $710 billion. Now compare that amount to the $100 billion slated to address unemployment and the federal education budget of around $220 billion.

At the same time, it's clear that we don't get much return from such a meager educational subsidy. The lack is, indeed, glaring when a graduate from a U.S. university can wind up not being able to figure out the three countries that make up North America and thinks that all of Africa is one nation.

Additionally, what does the disparity between the first and the two additional sums indicate about the type of combative nation that ours is becoming? What does it suggest that the definitive foundation of our economy is? What does it imply about your own priorities, especially when this information from "The Foundations of the U.S. Economy have been Destroyed" is thrown into the mix?

"So where did all the jobs go? Over the past few decades we have allowed the corporate giants to ship mountains of American jobs overseas, and there are signs that this trend is only going to get worse. In fact, Princeton University economist Alan S. Blinder estimates that 22% to 29% of all current U.S. jobs will be offshorable within two decades. So get ready for even more of our jobs to be shipped off to Mexico, China and India."

Meanwhile, many people across the globe, in addition to most U.S. citizens, are totally fed up with brute military force being used to obtain geo-political control of regions with the remaining resources. At the same time, you are, undoubtedly, concerned over the implications of dwindling supplies, as is substantiated by our nation's offshore drilling arrangement with Brazil, as well our continued fixation on fossil fuel supplies in Iraq, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, Haitian waters and other locations. Therefore, it would behoove you to consider about alternatives that, actually, do make us energy-safe -- alternatives such as the ones discussed in Thomas Friedman's "Flush With Energy".

Further, it's common knowledge that the single biggest user of oil in the world is the Pentagon at the same time that "more than 151 members of Congress have up to $195 million invested in major defense contractors that are earning profits from the US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan." Likewise, it's generally recognized that there will be no end to wars, nor the freedom fighter (AKA terrorist) counterattacks that they create, as long as resources are chased for energy security rather than security built in the homeland by helping society transition away from heavy dependence on fossil fuels.

Besides, it's guaranteed that, at some point in the fairly near future, oil will exorbitantly jack up in price and, eventually, run out. Then what will happen if a sufficient portion of it were not used early-on to help develop, manufacture and put in place alternatives before it, essentially, disappears and prices for transported goods, including food and medical supplies, have skyrocketed on account? Are the millions of people across the U.S.A. expected to suddenly overnight learn all on their own about ways to eke out a living off of local indigenous resources? In relation, how do you plan to handle the shift to labor intensive agriculture away from the oil dependent, mechanized version currently practiced, along with bypass herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer, that are reliant on a petroleum base for their formation? How will you help communities adjust at the eleventh hour? Do you plan to leave such conundrums for future legislators to thrash out? What sort of future do we owe subsequent generations? What would you want for your potential grandchildren?

This backdrop in mind, imagine were the incredible amount of funds used for war and the preparations for war to be largely provided to set up social, energy and agricultural conversions. Picture the sweeping long term benefits both in the U.S.A. and abroad were such an innovative plan initiated. Envision, too, the added advantage of returning troops still being provided with incomes through the creation of permanent jobs from this type of endeavor while being safely back on homeland soil and with their families.

At the same time, please keep in mind Ramón-Luis Acuña's following perspective and its undeniable ramifications for our country:

"If a government is more concerned with strategic security than with that of its citizens and gives priority to military spending to the detriment of social expenditure, the result is human misery. Which two countries had the highest ratio of military to health and education spending in 1980? In descending order they were Iraq (8 to 1) and Somalia (5 to 1). How effective is Unesco in trying to reverse these priorities?" Mr. Obama, how effective are you?

Further, contemplate about the folly of instigating ever more sweeping resource wars for economic superiority when petroleum products are ultimately affiliated with uncontrollable climate change effects. Is there not some harebrained inherent contradiction when one's actions, actually, lead to results that are opposite to the ones that he is trying to achieve? With climate change factors in the mix and their being related to fossil fuel use, how can any ongoing oil use possibly be expected to create durable economic improvements? How can they possibly check the global financial crisis?

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As you are aware, a growing number of top atmospheric researchers deem it impossible to limit climate change to a 2C rise. Indeed, the minimum that they expect is a 4C increase.

In relation, World Bank chief economist Lord Stern stated, "A rise of 5C would be a temperature the world has not seen for 30 to 50 million years. We've been around only 100,000 years as human beings. We don't know what that's like. We haven't seen 3C for a few million years, and we don't know what that looks like either."

He went on to add, "Do politicians understand just how difficult it could be, just how devastating rises of 4C, 5C or 6C could be? I think, not yet," after which he warned that the risk associated with governments not adequately addressing climate change in time to avert the brunt of the disaster would lead to catastrophic consequences. According to him, these involve risking at least a third of the world's aggregate wealth, along with a minimum of a thirty percent reduction in consumption per person worldwide. Posed another way, global GDP would drop to at least 70 percent of current output.

With the above assessment in mind, here are some additional considerations. I hope that you will reflect on them and, while you're at it, please view Howard Zinn's documentary "The People Speak". I think that you need to see it so that you will be reminded of your earlier passions and commitments.

In any event, you are always going to have critics and obstructionists. In relation, the more that you act reconciliatory - the more that they will demand regardless of the particular position that you take on war and other policies. This is a given outcome for bipartisan politics regardless of where one stands on the ideological spectrum.

So you might as well take a deep breath, chuck the speech writers' carefully crafted words and wing it. State the unvarnished truth about your understandings in terms of the actions that absolutely need to be undertaken to preserve the world intact for our and future generations.

Nobody expects that, were you to be candid, you wouldn't have lots of trouble ahead. People who gain advantages from the status quo remaining as it is, people like the Waltons and some of the Rockefellers, would clearly get agitated and outright hostile.

They always do when their undue privileges are threatened. However, this being the case does not excuse any one of us, especially not you in your influential position, from taking chances and commencing those actions, unpopular although they may be, that he knows are in the best interest of the citizens in his country and the world in general. Anyone who deems otherwise is a sorry excuse for a human being - a little nothingness. I know this is so and you know it, too.

In relation, please remember that nothing is politically right when it is ethically wrong. Consequently, it takes tremendous courage of conviction to, on a consistent basis, keep on the principled path.

Yet one must do so. Without it, there can be no good leadership. As Thomas Jefferson suggested, “I never did, or
countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man."

This outlook in mind, your success or failure as a President will depend on your capacity to fearlessly follow life supporting choices, not necessarily whatever is politically expedient, easy, popular with colleagues or comfortable. In a similar vein, it means your unshackling yourself from a perverse level of corporate influence.

All considered, realize that you can learn to take a firm step to move forward in a better direction than you have chosen to take so far. As you can gather from the commentary at Asher Miller's "Open Letter to President Obama" at Post Carbon Institute's website, there are many people who will encourage, support and assist you in doing so.


Emily Spence

Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts.