Keynote Speech to the Green Party of Pennsylvania March 17, 2018
Keynote Speech Given by Neal Gale at the Quarterly Meeting of the Green Party of Pennsylvania
March 17, 2018
I want to thank the Pennsylvania Green Party for endorsing me to run for the United States Senate. It would be my honor to represent not only the Green Party, as your candidate for that office, but to represent all Citizens of the Commonwealth, as their Senator from Pennsylvania.
I will begin my campaign with a pledge to you all that I will stay true to my beliefs and to the tenets of the Green Party, and do whatever I can to further those ideals.
What continues to impress me about the Green Party is that we are all compelled to pull the curtain back on government and talk about what we see there and to call for changes where we believe changes are needed. It’s honest, heart-felt and passionate. There’s also something fundamentally patriotic about that. At least as I understand patriotism.
To that end my candidacy will be a declaration that business as usual is no longer sufficient. Politics as usual – not good enough!
Our current United States Senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, whose seat expires this year, maintains positions on various issues that, as far as they go, don’t move the bar – they don’t push hard enough on the status quo.
His generically democratic statements haven’t resulted in the sort of shift that will be required to significantly improve all of our lives in the areas of Grass Roots Democracy, Social Justice, Ecological Wisdom and Peaceful Coexistence.
We must demand leadership that commands a sense of urgency regarding these and all areas championed by the Green Party. But perhaps most critically, we need someone who will stand up in the United States Senate and declare a state of emergency regarding our changing climate and the devastating impact it is already having on our communities, our state, around the country and across the globe.
In addition, there is an undeclared emergency taking place in our economy, as elements of the financial industry continue to create markets and products that allow for faster and faster, greater and greater profits, just by moving money around. These financial plays work by creating debt throughout our society and have been used to successfully shift vast amounts of money from the pockets of most everyone, to the upper tiers of the financial industry and other corporate players who have copied their playbook.
There is an immediate need to address our economic model and re-vision it to one that provides for all of our people. A model that recognizes that there must be a baseline standard, below which no one can be allowed to fall. And at the same time an upper limit on disposable consumer growth, above which it may not expand, in order to maintain the sustainability of our natural resources and planetary systems.
In order to re-vision our economic system, we need to understand the ways in which it has become financialized over the past four decades. We need to understand that, and discuss what that means in terms of our overall society – what place does the economy have and what should it be? What can we do about the political economy and how do we remove the possibility of wealthy donors reversing what well-intentioned legislators do to reign in the financial industry and other industrial sectors?
I propose one place to start is with the Office of Financial Research, an independent agency established post 2008, to study the causes of the Great Recession. I would push to have the agency removed from under the Department of Treasury so it could operate with even more independence. I would look to its conclusions to base real changes in the laws and regulations that allowed the financial industry to create the housing crisis. Little has been done since then to avert another such collapse. In fact, the Senate just passed a bill that would further weaken restraints on high risk, speculative bets placed by smaller, regional banks having less than 50 to 250 billion dollars in assets. The monetary pressures that existed then, exist today.
Our children can’t afford any more of this.
And of course, an integral part of this economic re-visioning, will be the necessity for building into it, a system of health care accessibility and affordability, so that this basic, intrinsic requirement for living above the baseline standard, is realized.
This will not be an easy matter to address as the past twenty years or more of attempted health care reform shows us. All efforts have failed to produce a system free of the money grab by nearly every party associated with our health care system.
That is not to disparage nurses, doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers, and others in the system.
It is to say that the current health care-industrial-complex is designed to allow all sorts of money tricks, which cost us all, dearly. In the United States, twenty percent of our economy is devoted to the health care industry. That’s about twice what other developed nations spend. And by some accounts, our medical outcomes are not as successful.
So, as these two emergency conditions remain on the fringes of the current political conversation, seemingly beyond discussion, the United States Senators from Pennsylvania stand by, looking down at the floor of the Senate. But we now have an opportunity to come together and demand a change in leadership. I will provide that new direction.
I have forty years in the energy efficiency and clean energy world, having more recently become immersed in the various climate sciences. I am genuinely concerned about where we are heading and see an aggressive, focused response as absolutely necessary. We must provide the political will to support all efforts at all levels of government as well as community based local organizations, national organizations, high schools and universities and anyone else who wants to help. We have to find ways to lead, sustain and inspire, throughout the commonwealth and the country. The consequences are far too desperate to ignore.
In Pennsylvania we are already seeing rising temperatures leading to more heat waves of greater duration resulting in increased fatalities. This is particularly true in low-income urban areas where the heat-related mortality rates have risen most significantly, 25 to 35%.
We will be adapting to longer periods of the year when mosquitoes will be breeding, up from 119 days annually during the 1980’s to 141 days a year since 2006. Along with that, not only comes extra nights swatting in the back yard, but more significantly, the spread of mosquito borne illnesses.
Warmer air holds more moisture which results in heavier downpour events. Since 1958 we have experienced a 71% increase in the amount of rainfall coming down in heavy rainfall events.
Droughts are another consequence of warmer temperatures. Warmer air evaporates more water from the ground more rapidly. This impacts Pennsylvania’s farmlands, decreasing crop production and necessitating additional irrigation.
Flooding due to rising ocean levels has increased tenfold since 1955, along the Delaware River into Philadelphia.
With a population of 12.8 million, Pennsylvania represents less than two tenths of a percent of the world’s population, yet we produce about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s about 6 times as much per Pennsylvanian than everyone else in the world. Philadelphia alone produces 56,000 tons of carbon dioxide, every day.
There is much to do and we can’t keep putting it off. These statistics are not improving with time.
You may have noticed that many of them are comparing today with the mid-fifties, as if that were some ecological and environmental golden age. Of course it wasn’t, but 1950 was a point in time when we really turned up the carbon emissions! It’s also two years before I was born, in 1952, so I take all of this very personally. I was born into the petroleum economy, when the living was easy with an endless supply of very cheap, very energy dense, very versatile, easily transported petroleum products, and their spin-off, natural gas. That made it possible to go anywhere faster and more dependably than ever before. We could heat our homes without the smoke and ash of coal or wood. Manufacturing experienced another quantum leap forward. Oil-based plastics altered our world. And almost no one thought about what that might be doing to the balance of our natural systems.
Of course this problem didn’t begin with my generation, nor my parents or their parents. Humans have been releasing carbon dioxide in earnest, since we began burning coal to power steam engines, around the turn of the eighteenth century. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased a little more than forty percent since then. But about half of that increase, about twenty-two percent, has occurred since 1950. And the parts per million has increased since then as well, up until a few years ago. In 2016 the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leveled off. That might be due to the impacts of the work many of us have been doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades. Could be due to other factors.
But we can’t relax and figure we’re out of the woods. We have ice core measurements of carbon dioxide going back 800,000 years, averaging about 256 parts per million up until 1700. Although the levels may seem to have plateaued a few years ago, they plateaued above 400 parts per million. Most of us are familiar with the number 350. That’s the level of carbon dioxide, above which scientists warned we can’t go, beyond which the ramifications are no longer predictable, and quite possibly catastrophic. We’ve been above 350 parts per million consistently since 1988. That’s probably why things are already changing before our eyes. Glaciers disappearing, acid levels in the oceans rising, interfering with many species that depend on high enough base levels in the water to form shells, while a third of coral reefs, home to 25% of the worlds marine species, are already dead.
This is science. Reproducible, measurable science. And as I always tell people when I’m talking about these issues, don’t take my word for it. You don’t have to believe me. In fact you shouldn’t. You should look it up for yourselves. There are many sources of reliable information. Even the U.S. EPA has information on its website regarding climate change. I was there on Saturday.
This is not a partisan matter. This is not political, except that our political leaders in the federal government seem unwilling to come up with an adequate response. There seems to be a willingness there to ignore the very real, increasingly damaging consequences of this global- scale catastrophe, and put off any real conversation, let alone devise a plan.
But beyond all that, in a more perfect world of Grass Roots Democracy and self-governance, every one of us needs to understand how this set of circumstances is affecting us now and how a lack of leadership will allow the continuation of the changes in our climate that will test our children and everyone else for decades to come.
In addition to my intention to address climate change directly and with a sense of urgency, I am just as adamant that we must also address the continuing appropriation of our economy by the financial industry and the multi-national corporations that now mimic that industry’s manipulation of resources, to maximize shareholder returns, at the expense of employees and everyone else living in the real economy.
Our economic system has been transformed over the past several decades from one that originally provided funding for Main Street commercial investments and for individuals buying homes all over the neighborhood, providing the local lending banks with appropriate, long term, reasonable profits.
Our current economic structure has been deregulated and re-designed to shift money upwards, away from our day-to day household budgets, to the top tiers of the financial industry. The faster and the greater the profit, the better, regardless of the impact on the everyday economy.
The financial industry produces 25% of the profits in this country with 4% of the workforce. Twenty-five cents out of every dollar of profit made in this country goes to the financial industry. Mostly by just moving money around – not by adding anything real to the economy. Just by working the financial markets and financial products, all legal, all within the rules and regulations written into law by legislators, often backed by financial industry money. This is not government for the people – certainly not for the majority of people. Certainly not grass roots self-governance.
Through the course of my campaign I will ask everyone I meet to actively engage in our system of self-governance. Grass roots democracy implies that we all understand the issues facing our communities and not only vote for those candidates we believe will most likely represent our viewpoints, but remain engaged as those legislators continue to push for legislation that will further our common objectives. I expect to be held to that standard by all Pennsylvania citizens, whether they vote for me or not.
I believe we do have common objectives, regardless of our political leanings. I believe we all share some core interests and concerns, even if we might not agree on how to achieve or resolve them. I would bet money that everyone wants to see their children have access to good health care, to a good education, to have nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink and unpolluted air to breathe. To live in a warm, dry home and be able to play and learn in a safe environment. To have an opportunity to grow into an adult with at least the same opportunities we had growing up.
I suggest that when any of us come to understand that something might be threatening these basic expectations, it doesn’t matter who we are. We pay attention.
We have to begin the process of recognizing our commonalities, across whatever boundaries we have grown up with and come to believe really exist. Otherwise we are just going ahead with business as usual, politics as usual. We can do better. The Green Party has to do better.
We’ve had generations of the two major parties setting it up as an us vs. them proposition. Defining what the issues are. Highlighting the trigger points in order to create two factions and then attempting to line up at least 1% more folks on one side or the other. Then one side wins for another two years, or four years or six years. And everyone goes home while the winners continue the process of making laws to help those who financed their wins.
That’s not self-governance. That’s politics as usual. And we have an opportunity to overturn it by using the system of self-governance we have inherited. By becoming an active electorate, discussing our concerns together and devising our own plans to address those concerns. All voices must be heard. In this room and outside it.
We must see ourselves as the family that we are. One large, dysfunctional family, perhaps. But one family nevertheless. And what families do is to sit at the table and figure it out. No one can walk away. We let our thoughts be known, we listen to each other’s considerations with respect. We compromise. That is the only way our self-governance can work. The only way.
I am calling my campaign, One Family, Many Voices. I know that may be difficult for some of us, myself included. Some of us know we are right about most issues (😊). But that’s not good enough. We have to be able to listen and talk to everyone regarding our vision of what this state and country can be. And that vision must include everyone.
This is necessary, in my view, to truly live up to the ideals of Grass Roots Democracy, not to mention Social Justice and probably most all of the Green Party dictums.
It is also necessary to win an election in Pennsylvania. My belief is that in order to have any chance politically, it is necessary to reach out to all of the people of Pennsylvania throughout the state and speak with them honestly about the core issues that we all can relate to. Those fundamental questions regarding how we are setting up the future for those who will occupy it.
My first task will be to convey those issues in such a way that even those who we wouldn’t expect to agree, will go away with a new understanding of what’s at stake. One that will compel them to reconsider their traditional positions and alter their voting habits.
My plan is to travel throughout the state for the next eight months and meet with groups, small and large, in all our regions, highlighting the impacts of our changing climate and the usurpation of our economy. I will also discuss positions on many other issues with the people I meet. I will call on all of you to let me know your own thoughts on the issues that concern you the most, so I might be able to fold them into the mix. The goal is to create a venue where all perspectives may be voiced, explored and renewed.
I am not naïve about this process. I understand that there are positions stubbornly held by people, regardless of facts, social norms or enlightened arguments. But I am convinced that I must try to expand the tent and at least provide an opening for conversation. Again, I believe that most of us, regardless of political leanings, can rally around a more forceful voice in the Senate, regarding the issues of whether we are ok with leaving our children with an unmanageable climate and an economy that fails them.
These two issues will require overcoming tremendous inertia. There exists long-established, powerful support for the current state of affairs, designed to dampen the political will to transform our state and nation.
Again, these are not partisan concerns – they don’t just impact one side of the room, leaving the other unscathed. Evidence of our changing climate has been materializing for decades, and the costs of our greed-driven economy are evident, once exposed. These two concerns will continue to be critical drivers leading us into a world we wouldn’t want to leave to our kids. A world less than the one we have enjoyed. A lesser place.
That’s not ok with me, and I’m sure it’s not ok with anyone in the room.
As responsible adults, as active participants in our system of self-governance, I believe we must do whatever we can to minimize the difficulties that everyone living through the next few years and on into the future will be facing. When we imagine that future, picturing in our minds the faces of those who will follow us, those who will be there living with the consequences of the decisions we make today, what do we see? Expressions of fear and despair? Faces questioning us, wondering why we didn’t do more, when we must have known better? I don’t think we can do that to them. Not to our kids. Not to anyone. That wouldn’t be fair. We can’t just stand by and watch.
This isn’t normal business. This isn’t what we’ve seen in generations past. There have always been challenges, some great in scope. But this is something we have never encountered before. The way we react to these questions, the choices we make right now, really will, in fact, set the course, for decades and generations to come. A course that we can alter now, for the better, or we can ignore, leaving uncertain, potentially disastrous global conditions for the inhabitants of rest of this century to deal with.
I need every Pennsylvanian to stand with me. To join me in reviving our system of self-governance so we can affect an actual change in the direction our leaders are now taking us. We need to get out in front of this train and lay some new track so we don’t end up where we’re heading.
There is a whole new future we must create, together. All ideas are welcome and valuable. We are all part of this re-visioning. Pennsylvanians were at the center of the last American Revolution and I believe we still have it in us to lead the way again. Let’s summon the courage to become one people again. One family.