LETTERS | The Argonaut Newsweekly
Kittens and climate change
For almost 70 years I have been interested in the behavior of kittens and for 60 years I have been interested in earth sciences. “What do these two interests have to do with each other?” You might ask.
One game kittens love to play is jumping on tables and pushing small things. The easier the tabletop game object moves, the more interesting the game is for the playful kitten. The climax of the game occurs when the object approaches the edge of the table and successive small strokes eventually push the object. The kitten discovers the tipping point.
Earth science and human behavior are similar in that they involve pushing things without initially worrying about the consequences. Things get more interesting as things approach the edge, and you must have noticed that there is an edge to climate change – one that we are approaching too quickly.
Kittens don’t predict the tipping point until their play object falls over the edge. People don’t have such an excuse. We have plenty of clues as to how close our tipping point is to climate change, if we take the trouble to notice them. And we need to take the trouble to notice these clues now – without waiting for our business to go down the drain.
The tipping points are much more evident in the rearview mirror than in our windshield when we look ahead. But when we practice safe driving, we are always alert to conditions as they approach, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating signals and potential dangers ahead. My point is that we should cultivate and maintain a similar vigilance in our forward progression and current behavior to locate climatic tipping points before tipping.
This long missive was recently written by my brother, Dr Patrick O’Heffernan, who has a doctorate from MIT in public policy and has spent much of his life following social policy. This can be seen as an authoritative answer to the question regarding our homeless crisis, “What happened?” How did we get here? ”It’s long, but it’s detailed and, I think, precise.
“In 1967, Governor Reagan slashed the budgets and staff of state mental hospitals, forcing them to dismiss many patients prematurely and saying they would be cared for in their ‘communities’.
At the same time, the legislature passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (named after the sponsors, two Democrats and one Republican) in response to pressure from mental health professionals, lawyers, patient advocates and the ACLU. When fully implemented in 1972, the LPS effectively ended the involuntary civilian confinement of mental patients in California. But the legislature did not allocate money to community mental health care programs.
In 1980, President Carter signed the Mental Health Act, which funded community and state mental health care programs. But in 1981, newly elected President Reagan and a GOP convention repealed it and cut funding for all community mental health care.
Medicare and Medicaid provide mental health care, but at such a low rate of pay, most psychiatrists cannot afford to accept it. And conservative states refuse to expand Medicaid, so the poor in those states can’t get mental health care anyway.
Many poor people with mental health issues then migrate to states with extensive Medicaid and good weather, such as California.
Additionally, decades of underfunding and mismanagement of the Veterans Administration under the GOP and Democrats have left thousands of veterans on the streets without care and often without homes or jobs.
To make it all worse, there have been 40 years of GOP legislation undermining unions, piling up courts and Congress and the National Labor Relations Board, and – again under both parties, but most importantly the GOP – allowing companies break unions, hire ‘contractors’ and workers together and underpay them, maintain minimum wages, import thousands of immigrants who are paid less than legal residents earn, automate unemployed people , export jobs that do not require higher education, steal wages and otherwise evident the working middle class, creating an enlarged poverty class.
Add to it all: astronomical rents spawned by lenient eviction laws, courts and agencies that look the other way when landlords illegally evict or harass tenants, and foreign investors park money in large housing estates. cities.
And then there are the decades of ignorance of the nationwide proliferation of addictive drugs (like Oxycontin so the manufacturer could make over billions), the uncontrolled gentrification that makes a few people rich and kicks out thousands of workers, a tax system that taxes wages but not wealth (e.g. capital gains) – taking workers’ money and giving it to billionaires – and the result is that thousands of people are living on the streets because they cannot not pay rent even though they are working, or because they are mentally or physically ill but cannot get treatment, or because they are veterans with PTSD or other injuries and have suffered rescued from a dysfunctional system.
Ultimately, in an economic and legal system that puts property before people and wealth above all else, and impoverishes workers and rewards greedy owners, you are going to have thousands of homeless people. I cannot see a solution without completely revolutionizing the economic and legal systems of the nation.
But, well, there is a silver lining: a few people… foreign investors, real estate developers and CEOs mostly… are now billionaires.
We the people have slept on the switch for a long time.