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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Earth Day cometh — the 43rd year of this national focus on the state of our globe. So, how is Earth doing? Should we be weeping … or cheering?

Both.

The first step to any recovery is recognition of the obvious: Earth has a problem. In fact, beaucoup problems. For example, despite the squawking of profiteering polluters and professional deniers, our very atmosphere — without which everyone and everything is dead — is rapidly being degenerated by our own addiction to fossil fuel, literally altering Earth’s climate in disastrous ways. Yet, as we burn, energy corporations blithely fiddle.

They’re fiddling with tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada, uncaring about the vast amounts of ozone-destroying carbon that will be released by ripping open Northern Alberta’s boreal forest to get at the junk oil, or about the extra carbon-dioxide contamination that will come from processing this especially toxic sludge at Big Oil’s Gulf Coast refineries.

Also, they’re fiddling with the Earth itself, by fracking deep underground shale to bring gas and oil — plus more ozone-depleting methane — to the surface. And they’re still fiddling with the priceless ecology of America’s ancient Appalachian Mountains and streams by exploding off the mountaintops — merely to make it easier and cheaper for Big Coal to extract the ozone-killing carbon.

There are plenty of horrors to make you weep this Earth Day. But tears don’t bring change. That comes only from the determined effort of ordinary grassroots people to organize, strategize and mobilize. The good news for our Earth and our own existence is that such people are on the move in every part of America. They’re confronting the greedheads and boneheads, creating effective energy alternatives, forging fresh and sensible polices, lifting heads out of the sand — and producing the change we must have.

The courageous and tenacious mountaineers of Appalachia, for example, are at last beginning to score big victories in their long, hard fight against the coal giants, including winning an agreement last November from one, Patriot Coal, to cease all mountaintop-removal coal mining.

Also, from Vermont to California, the frackers are getting fracked, as local groups are winning fights in city halls, legislatures and courts to stop the rampant exploitation of their land, water and communities. And, all across the country, including in the reddest of red states, grassroots advocates are producing a sensible shift from fossil-fuel dependency to renewable fuels and conservation.

That’s what Earth Day is about, so don’t weep — cheer the progress we’ve made, and join the movement for more.

In fact, some communities are going so far as to imagine achieving “net zero.” That’s the wonky name attached to an elegant idea, namely a conversion to total renewable energy, complete recycling and a culture of conservation to bring humankind’s carbon footprint into a sustainable balance with a healthy earth.

Now, imagine the least likely place you’d expect this net zero ideal to take root — and even flourish. How about oil-saturated Texas? Yes! On an Army base, no less. Astonishingly, America’s sustainable energy future is being pioneered in El Paso on a sprawling military base named Fort Bliss, home to 35,000 soldiers.

The post already has a 1.4 megawatt solar array and rooftop solar panels on all base housing (generating 13.4 megawatts of energy), and it’s in partnership with El Paso Electric to complete a 200-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm by 2015.

It also has a plan with the city of El Paso to convert the post’s waste into energy, and it’s engaged in wind, geothermal and conservation projects. Adding to the effort, base officials are encouraging the use of energy-efficient vehicles — and even building bicycle lanes throughout the base.

The Army! Who knew they cared?

Practically everyone on the base is committed to achieving the goal of net zero by 2018, meaning the base will generate all of the energy it uses — and do it with renewables. The troops have planted nearly 15,000 trees and have become converts to recycling. To encourage the latter, the base commander, Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, has put the million-dollar-a-year recycling revenue that Fort Bliss earns into skating parks, exercise facilities and other morale-boosting recreation projects.

“Everybody is getting involved,” he says, noting that the effort is changing behavior and fostering a conservation culture, which he hopes “our soldiers will take with them when they go on.”

There’s hope for the Earth when even the Army begins to care, take action and change attitudes. In this case, let’s all “join the Army.”

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

This just in: There's no wizard behind the curtain, and nobody's actually in charge. There's no shadowy cabal of billionaires scheming to bring about one-world government. To begin with, nobody clever enough to accumulate that much money believes that such a thing is A.) remotely possible, or B.) even desirable.

If the world seems scary and confusing, that's because it's scarier and more confusing than usual of late, although nowhere near as frightening as it was to Grandpa. Here's the opening stanza of W.H. Auden's great poem, September 1, 1939:

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Auden wrote to commemorate that terrible day Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland, triggering World War II, the most cataclysmic struggle in human history. Some 70 to 85 million people, military and civilian, died before it was over.

(The Soviet Union lost an estimated 24 million citizens. So if Russian leadership seems unduly paranoid and defensive, it's worth remembering that they do have their reasons.)

That said, the COVID pandemic's "unmentionable odour of death" appears to have driven many Americans to embrace preposterous conspiracy theories that provide simple storybook explanations for otherwise incomprehensible events.

Amid the devastating wildfires in Oregon last week, for example, the FBI needed to debunk rumors that the disaster was caused by left-wing arsonists. The agency's Portland office posted a statement on Twitter stating that "the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue."

Finding their own operations hampered by armed crackpots eager to hunt down imaginary terrorists, one rural Oregon Sheriff's Department posted a Facebook notice: "Rumors spread just like wildfire and now our 9-1-1 dispatchers and professional staff are being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires in DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumor and it is causing problems."

Would-be vigilantes also got excited about radio transmissions about the BLM setting backfires, unaware that the initials signified the Bureau of Land Management, not Black Lives Matter.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, back home in Yamhill, Oregon seeing after his mother, expressed his frustration with Boss Trump, who "rushed to send in unwanted federal agents to deal with protests and trash fires in downtown Portland, but…seems indifferent when millions of acres and thousands of homes burn across the West."

Oregonians are not alone. Elsewhere, reporters have documented a wave of barely subdued hysteria sweeping the nation regarding busloads of Antifa operatives rumored to be targeting towns from Idaho to New Jersey--invasions that have proven totally imaginary.

Trump and Attorney General William Barr have even spoken of designating ANTIFA a terrorist organization. Alas, writes Rutgers University historian Mark Bray in the Washington Post "Trump cannot designate "ANTIFA" as a terrorist organization because antifa is not an organization. Rather, it is a politics of revolutionary opposition to the far right…You cannot subpoena an idea or a movement."

Mostly an academic movement at that: graduate students and other university-affiliated types blowing off steam. If Antifa's a real threat, who are its leaders? Where's its headquarters? Who's paying those phantom arsonists?

The questions answers itself: Nobody.

Then there's QAnon, the metastasizing conspiracy theory that's grown into a full-blown cult. Initiates believe that beneath his blustering exterior Trump's actually a sort of elephantine Batman, secretly battling a "deep state" cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles led by Hillary Clinton and the actor Tom Hanks.

Also Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and a number of other Hollywood figures. Believers have predicted Clinton's impending arrest more often than my brother Tommy has forecasted the Mets winning the World Series.

Which did happen 34 years ago.

Hillary's arrest? Oh grow up.

Some dope named Jason Gelinas in Berkeley Heights, N.J. recently got outed as the "brains" behind the main QAnon website—possibly as the Prophet Q himself. His employer, Citigroup, fired him, and he's not talking to reporters.

Historians point out the QAnon is basically a reprise of the century-old Russian forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Then it was Europe's Jews who allegedly murdered Christian children to consume their blood at Passover—the infamous "Blood Libel." Jews also secretly ran the banks, the government, and the news media. Their diabolical plan was to "mongrelize" the white race and conquer the world.

Which leads us back to 1939 and the Holocaust.

So what does Boss Trump think about this delusional nonsense? Asked about QAnon, the portly superhero said only that "I understand ... they like me very much, which I appreciate. These are people who love their country."