Independence Day: Time to reject corporate tyranny

‘Ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness  requires persistent vigilance’

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Happy Independence Day. Cherish your freedom and stay vigilant.

By Bob Berwyn

The last few years, I posted the text of the Declaration of Independence in the Summit Voice news feed on July 4th because it’s an important reminder of why we’re all celebrating on this day. As a writer, I marvel at the flowing cadence of the declarative phrases; as a human being and American, I take special pride in what the words represent.

The Declaration speaks to us through the ages as a timeless statement of basic human values that transcends the issues specific to the age in which it was written. Refocusing on those values could help us rid ourselves of new and particularly insidious forms of tyranny, including the quasi-totalitarian control that some corporations seek to exert over the public and private lives of Americans.

And there’s more. I don’t want to harsh your holiday hotdog buzz, but our own government is spying on us. Not so many years ago, it ordered the torture of prisoners in our name, and it should be pretty clear that Congress is pretty much for sale to the highest bidder — not at all what the founding fathers envisioned.

All this may not be quite as dramatic as a squad of red-coated British soldiers surrounding your house with bayonet-affixed muzzle-loaders. But add up the incremental cuts and bites taken from the fundamental liberties and rights spelled out by the Declaration if Independence and draw your own conclusions.

The list is pretty long, but I’ll just stick to a few examples from my neighborhood. Let’s start with the ski industry, dominated in these parts by Vail Resorts, which is trying to privatize water that by any common sense definition belongs to all the people of the United States because it flows off national forest lands. The industry’s recent efforts in that area reflect a global trend of water privatization— a scary thought, because corporations know that, when they control water, they control everything. It’s time to take back public control over public lands and resources.

The multinational fossil fuel companies of course have their tentacles deeply wrapped into almost every aspect of daily life, as do the giant petrochemical corporations and agribusinesses that don’t really want to give you much choice in what you eat — you can put 25 different types of colorful cereal packages on the shelf, but what does it matter if it’s all grown by the same three companies using the same three strains of genetically modified grain?

How about making a personal declaration of independence this year, finding a way to weaken corporate and government rule. Try buying less stuff, for starters. You could search out pre-owned and recycled items reduce the need for the exploitation of raw natural resources. For the same reasons, drive your old car one or two years longer, or better yet, ride your bike. Instead of just whining about how high gas prices spike on the 4th of July, don’t buy any gas. The fossil fuel companies may not hear your cries, but they’ll notice when your dollars are missing from their bottom line.

Energy independence overall is probably one of the most important areas. Imagine how much control a company could exert if it threatened to shut off energy supplies during a cold mountain winter. It sounds far-fetched, but Russia is doing just that with recalcitrant republics. The best answer is a fully distributed system of renewable energy production, combined with a drastic cut in usage — both achievable with current technology.

Let’s elect some politicians next year who understand the dangers of creeping corporate totalitarianism and who are willing to take a stand for personal liberty. It’s more important than ever for lawmakers to fulfill their true role as representatives of the people, with the judicial apparently willing to kowtow to corporations at every level and the executive bent on expanding centralized government control.

And finally, you can support independent media like Summit Voice. By know we all know that most the major remaining major media outlets are themselves part of huge corporations that are definitely not designed to serve the public interest. Far from it, the web of advertising that’s spun through what passes for news these days is mind- and soul-numbing, and saps your ability to recognize “the long train of abuses and usurpations” that are the signs of despotism.

Independent journalism will play a critical role in the years ahead, as evidenced by the chain of events around Edward Snowden. Without reporters willing to tell the story, Snowden’s revelations would have been like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, and we would still know very little about how our own government, elected to serve us, has callously abused the public trust.

We still enjoy an incredible amount of freedom in this country, but don’t take it for granted. Ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all requires persistent vigilance, an enlightened and educated electorate and the exercise of personal responsibility on a daily basis.

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Pilot killed as medical helicopter crashes near Frisco, Colorado

Flight crew suffers serious injuries

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Firefighters work to extinguish the flames after a Flight For Life helicopter crashed near Frisco, Colorado on July 3, 2015. Photo via Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The pilot of a Flight For Life medical helicopter died in a fiery crash Friday afternoon at the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center near Frisco, Colorado.

Two other crew members, a paramedic and flight nurse, were seriously injured in the crash and were transported to hospitals in Denver,  officials said in a press conference.

The Summit County coroner identified the pilot as 64-year-old Patrick Mahany, a Flight for Life pilot since 1987. Mahany was  a Vietnam veteran and received a bronze star and a purple heart during his years of service. He was a loving father, grandfather and a very proud patriot.
The death is still under investigation and an autopsy has been scheduled. There is no further information available at this time.

Firefighters arrived on the scene in Summit County at about 1:45 p.m., finding the helicopter and two nearby vehicles engulfed in flames.

The helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after taking off. The accident will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Morning photo: The mountain zone

High in the Rockies …

FRISCO —Early mornings are the best during these long summer days in the Colorado high country. Before the heat and haze build, before the traffic gets thick, it’s quite and calm, and the glow of dawn suffuses the landscape with warmth. But if you want to catch the sunrise, you’ll have to get up plenty early. If not, follow us on Twitter and Instagram for daily photo updates and visit our online Fine Art America gallery for more Colorado landscape photography.

Study tracks global warming threats to tropical shellfish

Some of the best oysters in the world come from Apalachicola Bay.

Shellfish face multiple threats linked to global warming.

Commercial mussel hatcheries in India seen as threatened by climate change

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean acidification isn’t the only threat to the planet’s shellfish. In parts of the tropics, warming ocean temperatures and increased rainfall is likely to dilute salt concentrations on the surface of the sea, which will change microscopic communities of bacteria and plankton.

That, in turn, will affect other species higher on the food chain, especially as future conditions may favor disease-causing bacteria and plankton species which produce toxins, such as the lethal paralytic shellfish toxin. These can accumulate in shellfish such as mussels and oysters, putting human consumers at risk. Continue reading

Nobel laureates warn of global warming risks

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2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record for Earth.

Unsustainable plunder of the planet represents a serious threat to humanity

Staff Report

FRISCO — When several dozen of the world’s smartest people — all recognized as Nobel Laureates — gather on an island and declare that climate change and the unsustainable plunder of natural resources are a serious threat, it might be time to listen.

That’s what happened this week during the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, as physicists, chemists and many Nobel Prize winners ended their conference by signing a declaration on climate change, urging nations of the world to “take decisive action to limit future global emissions.” Continue reading

Lawsuit challenges federal plan for Mexican gray wolves

Wildlife advocates say arbitrary caps on population and habitat won’t allow for full recovery of the species

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say a federal plan to cap the Mexican gray wolf population at 300 to 325 animals won’t ensure the long-term survival of the species, and they’re going to court to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopts policies that give endangered Mexican gray wolves a fair shot at recovery in their historic U.S. range.

At issue is a final federal rule issued early this year that would likely prevent the wolves from recolonizing suitable habitat in northern Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

“Unfortunately, politics supplants wildlife biology in key parts of the USFWS Mexican gray wolf plan,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney representing the advocacy groups in the lawsuit. “Our goal in this case is to put the science back into the management of Mexican wolves in the U.S.” Continue reading

Climate change: New polar bear prognosis not good, as feds prepare to publish recovery plan

‘Addressing sea ice loss will require global policy solutions …’

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An updated USGS study shows how global warming will affect polar bears.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Loss of Arctic sea ice caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the primary threat to polar bears, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said after updating their research models.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions drastically reduced, sea ice will continue to shrink for decades, leading to a significant loss of polar bear habitat in many parts of the Arctic. The Canadian Archipelago is a notable exception. That region may serve as a climate refuge for the bears and other ice-dependent species, the federal scientists said. Continue reading

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