[Mb-civic] Action for Endangered Species and...Optimism!....Howard
ean at sbcglobal.net
ean at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 23 21:02:34 PDT 2004
This action alert is important and won't take long....and I hope you will read Howard
Zinn's article afterward for a jolt of optimism....
ACTION ALERT: SIGN THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT LEGACY
The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for our nations wildlife, fish
and plants on the brink of extinction. For over 30 years, it has provided
critical protections for endangered species and the places where they
Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act, and the protections it provides
for our nations endangered fish, plants, and wildlife, has been under
constant assault from both Congress and the Bush Administration in recent
months and is facing its most serious threats in its 30 year history.
For all those who support the protection of threatened and endangered
species, the time for action is now. We owe it to our children and
grandchildren to stand up against these attacks, so that they will enjoy
the wildlife legacy with which we have been blessed.
Despite the fact that the Endangered Species Act has been one of the
nations bedrock environmental laws since 1973 and, according to a recent
poll, 90 percent of U.S. voters recognize the importance of providing a
safety net for wildlife, plants, and fish that are on the brink of
extinction, the opponents of strong endangered species protections seem to
be winning the messaging war. We know better, the American public
supports a strong Endangered Species Act.
With this Representative Dingell, an endangered species champion who
helped write the original Endangered Species Act in 1973, has created an
Endangered Species Act Legacy pledge. Conservation organizations are
working to get thousands of concerned citizens across the country to sign
this pledge and let the media and our elected officials know that we need
to be good stewards of the environment by protecting endangered species
and the special places they call home.
When various threats arise to the Endangered Species Act, in the form of
legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate or negative
administrative actions, the conservation community will be able to take
the list of pledge supporters to members of Congress and let them know
that their constituents support strong protections for our nations
endangered fish, plants and wildlife.
ACTION: Sign the Endangered Species Act Legacy pledge. You can sign the
Please also pass this alert on to your friends, family and colleagues and
ask them to join you in signing the pledge and supporting the Endangered
The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for wildlife, plants and fish
that are on the brink of extinction. We have a responsibility to prevent
the extinction of fish, plants and wildlife because once they are gone, we
cannot bring them back. Thank you for taking personal responsibility by
signing the pledge today!
The staff of the Endangered Species Coalition
The Optimism of Uncertainty
by HOWARD ZINN
[posted online on September 2, 2004]
In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison
to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved
and seemingly happy?
I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not
give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is
deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning.
To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.
There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will
continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden
crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by
unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of
systems of power that seemed invincible.
What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter
unpredictability. A revolution to overthrow the czar of Russia, in that most
sluggish of semi-feudal empires, not only startled the most advanced imperial
powers but took Lenin himself by surprise and sent him rushing by train to
Petrograd. Who would have predicted the bizarre shifts of World War II--the
Nazi-Soviet pact (those embarrassing photos of von Ribbentrop and Molotov
shaking hands), and the German Army rolling through Russia, apparently
invincible, causing colossal casualties, being turned back at the gates of
Leningrad, on the western edge of Moscow, in the streets of Stalingrad,
followed by the defeat of the German army, with Hitler huddled in his Berlin
bunker, waiting to die?
And then the postwar world, taking a shape no one could have drawn in
advance: The Chinese Communist revolution, the tumultuous and violent
Cultural Revolution, and then another turnabout, with post-Mao China
renouncing its most fervently held ideas and institutions, making overtures to
the West, cuddling up to capitalist enterprise, perplexing everyone.
No one foresaw the disintegration of the old Western empires happening so
quickly after the war, or the odd array of societies that would be created in
the newly independent nations, from the benign village socialism of Nyerere's
Tanzania to the madness of Idi Amin's adjacent Uganda. Spain became an
astonishment. I recall a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade telling me
that he could not imagine Spanish Fascism being overthrown without another
bloody war. But after Franco was gone, a parliamentary democracy came
into being, open to Socialists, Communists, anarchists, everyone.
The end of World War II left two superpowers with their respective spheres of
influence and control, vying for military and political power. Yet they were
unable to control events, even in those parts of the world considered to be
their respective spheres of influence. The failure of the Soviet Union to have
its way in Afghanistan, its decision to withdraw after almost a decade of ugly
intervention, was the most striking evidence that even the possession of
thermonuclear weapons does not guarantee domination over a determined
population. The United States has faced the same reality. It waged a full-
scale war in lndochina, conducting the most brutal bombardment of a tiny
peninsula in world history, and yet was forced to withdraw. In the headlines
every day we see other instances of the failure of the presumably powerful
over the presumably powerless, as in Brazil, where a grassroots movement
of workers and the poor elected a new president pledged to fight destructive
Looking at this catalogue of huge surprises, it's clear that the struggle for
justice should never be abandoned because of the apparent overwhelming
power of those who have the guns and the money and who seem invincible
in their determination to hold on to it. That apparent power has, again and
again, proved vulnerable to human qualities less measurable than bombs
and dollars: moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit,
ingenuity, courage, patience--whether by blacks in Alabama and South
Africa, peasants in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Vietnam, or workers and
intellectuals in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union itself. No cold
calculation of the balance of power need deter people who are persuaded
that their cause is just.
I have tried hard to match my friends in their pessimism about the world (is it
just my friends?), but I keep encountering people who, in spite of all the
evidence of terrible things happening everywhere, give me hope. Especially
young people, in whom the future rests. Wherever I go, I find such people.
And beyond the handful of activists there seem to be hundreds, thousands,
more who are open to unorthodox ideas. But they tend not to know of one
another's existence, and so, while they persist, they do so with the desperate
patience of Sisyphus endlessly pushing that boulder up the mountain. I try to
tell each group that it is not alone, and that the very people who are
disheartened by the absence of a national movement are themselves proof
of the potential for such a movement.
Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of
such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag
toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic
actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied
by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win,"
there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other
good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope.
An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our
time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on
the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of
compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in
this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it
destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and
places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently,
this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this
spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however
small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future
is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human
beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a
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Action is the antidote to despair. ----Joan Baez
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