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December 28, 2017 

Bulletin 240: The New Year calls us to action; tax law update and our last 2017 funding request

The threat of war, the immanence of climate change, the burial of the planet in garbage, the sixth great extinction all produce at most a shrug. Journalism junkies natter on about Trump, long for Obama, and argue about whether Trump is worse than Bush. Climate scientists give talks, hold conferences, and bemoan the lack of any meaningful action. Trump edges towards Armageddon and people think about lunch. Everyone looks elsewhere for somebody to do something. The entire population has lost the ability to act. Meanwhile, human extinction approaches like a fire fanned by the Santa Ana winds. 
    "Simone Weil, Marx and Revolution," Michael Doliner, 12/21/17

To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual....Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.
    "World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice," William Ripple et. al. and 15,364 scientists from 184 countries, BioScience 67:12, 1 December 2017, pp 1026–1028

...Saint Isaac of Syria wrote: “An elder was once asked, ‘What is a compassionate heart?’ He replied: ‘It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists.’”
    "The Ecology of Prayer," Fred Bahnson, Orion, December 2017

The first principle of life in the new common world would be respect...This respect would grow out of each generation's gratitude to past generations for having permitted it to exist. Each generation would look upon itself as though it were a delegation that had been chosen by an assembly of all the dead and all the unborn to represent them in life...For if the surface of the globe is the breath of the world, time, which politics is now called on
to guarantee, is its depth, and we cannot expect the world to cohere horizontally if it is not joined together vertically as well. In this new world, the people of the present generations, if they acquit their responsibility, would be the oldest of the grandfathers, and their role would be that of founders.
    The Fate of the Earth
, Jonathan Schell, 1982, p. 177

Dear friends and colleagues –

As this Bulletin has grown overlong I will break it up into four, of which this is the first.

The New Year calls us to action

For those of us in the northern hemisphere the sun is now rising a bit higher every day. Winter's holidays are largely behind us. The old year, with all its gains and losses, procrastinations and victories, is passing. The New Year lies before us, with all its enormous potential. How wonderful! "The ball," as they say, "is in our court."

In his still-resonant masterwork, The Fate of the Earth, the late Jonathan Schell remarks, "By threatening life in its totality, the nuclear peril [now, 35 years later, we can generalize this to the climate crisis as well] creates new connections between the elements of human existence -- a new mingling of the public and the private, the political and the emotional, the spiritual and the biological."

With this license I want to ask, at the beginning of the New Year and against all convention, can we step "barefoot into reality" in the coming year, as Wallace Stevens put it? Even a reality as challenging as our public life is today? I don't want to pretend it will be easy but I think we can. What real choice do we have, after all? The alternatives are not good.

In our effort to do so -- to apprehend a spark of truth, to speak a true word and act within it -- we will find the true fellowship that is almost entirely missing in the desert that capitalism, war, and propaganda have made in the American public mind.

As plain as I can say it: fulfillment and lasting joy await us to the degree we can embrace roles as protectors of a threatened planet. 

On Christmas day, commentator James Kunstler wrote,

[W]e’ve never seen our country in such a state of ugly division, moral confusion, and intellectual disarray. A coherent consensus eludes us. Grievance, resentment, and bitterness boil and sputter everywhere. My Christmas wish is that we might put behind us some of the more idiotic and pointless debates of the past year and get on with tasks that really matter… that will allow us to remain civilized through the hardships to come.

Amen to that. The "moral confusion and intellectual disarray" we see now is widespread, and coming from a wide array of formerly trusted sources. Certainly it is not confined to any single group or party. The American polity and its leadership struggle daily through a barrage of propaganda, the sheer brazenness and volume of which we have never seen before.

There can be little doubt that in sum this cacophony is a "system response" to the instability of the existing order ("business as usual"), which requires obfuscation to maintain its myths. It resists truths which expose its fraudulence and fragility. Business as usual is in crisis. The US empire is in steep decline. All our economic growth is new debt and financial predation. Our elections and government are corrupted, not by Russia (what an amazingly empty and idiotic spectacle that is!), but by organized money, political mafias, and "Deep State" factions. Our society and politics, not to mention our environment, are altogether riddled with crises so severe that our predicament can no longer be openly and accurately discussed in the major media. Truth cannot be tolerated.

Doesn't this point the way for us quite clearly?

Friends, these are not normal times. Let's seek out like-minded friends and conspire with them, right now! What in the world are we waiting for?

Quickly: tax law update and our last 2017 funding request

Larger policy questions aside, the new law will limit the ability of millions of Americans to deduct charitable giving from their taxes in 2018, with big implications for churches and nonprofits. Checks and other donations after January 1, 2018 and after will be subject to the new law. For married couples filing jointly, the standard deduction will be $24,000 (up from $12,700); for individuals, $12,000 (up from $6,350). Next year only about 5% of tax filers will be able to itemize. Therefore, for some people, it may be better to make a charitable contribution now, in 2017.

Here again is our year-end appeal. For all those who have contributed, thank you!

As a reminder, peer-to-peer fundraising is very important. The coming year will be very challenging for us. Funding will again limit our strategic choices. Decisions about new nuclear weapons and the factories in which to build them are proceeding at a rapid clip, now in a context of Cold-War-level fear. Your support has been the basis for all our successes to date. Your social networks and your endorsement are precious resources for nuclear disarmament.

Money is far from everything, as we know! Your support and solidarity are important in any form. Networking, creating educational opportunities (which you can do better than us in your own specific social context), and committed volunteerism are foundations of all locally-based nonprofits, including ours. Hopefully we can provide a warm and supportive context for your work with us, but bear in mind that we are a small professional organization in considerable demand, in a very challenging environment. The mix, skills, and commitment of volunteers and interns are critical factors for us. As someone wisely said, it takes a 40-hour-per-week person to coordinate many 5 hour-per-week volunteers. Deeper commitments of this nature, which facilitate others' work, are scarce. If you are familiar with us or our work and are in a position to consider volunteering, please contact us.

In solidarity and hope for the New Year,

Greg and Trish, for the Study Group


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