- Front Page: animation
Front Page chapter
- Summary: animation
- Resources affected by overpopulation: animation
- Causes of overpopulation: animation
Causes of overpopulation chapter
- Effects of overpopulation: animation
Effects of overpopulation chapter
- Solutions to the problem of overpopulation: animation
Solutions to the problem of overpopulation chapter
- Leadership needed to solve the problem of overpopulation: animation
Leadership needed to solve the problem of overpopulation chapter
Shobha Aggarwal, Nafeez Ahmed, Lionel Anet , Pratap Antony (2), Nicholas C. Arguimbau, John Scales Avery, Ugo Bardi (2), Dr. Glen Barry (2), Jesse Bragg,
Climate Central, Ashley Dawson, Tom Engelhardt, Deirdre Fulton, Dean Goodwin, Kali Holloway, Dahr Jamail, Kevin Kalhoefer, Laura Kehoe, David Korten, Reynard Loki (3), Lauren McCauley, Maria Marlene Nascimento, Yen Ning, Lisa Palmer, Susie Pearn,
Jill Richardson, Alexandra Rosenmann, Iliana Salazar-Dodge, Jordan Shilton, David Swanson,
Valerie Tarico, David Thoreson, John Upton, Eric Zuesse (3).
Shobha Aggarwal, From ‘Mother India’To ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: ‘Azadi’ Eludes Indian Women
Nafeez Ahmed, We Could Be Witnessing the Death of the Fossil Fuel Industry—Will It Take the Rest of the Economy Down With It?
Lionel Anet, We Overpopulated The Planet Because We Could
Pratap Antony, On This Earth Day Let's Remind Ourselves That We Are The Most Destructive Species On Earth
Pratap Antony, Coexisting In Peace And Harmony With Earth's Biodiversity
Nicholas C. Arguimbau, Two Degrees Was Too Much - Global Warming Is Out Of Control
John Scales Avery, Creating The Future
Ugo Bardi, The Population Problem:Should The Pope Tell people To Stop Breeding Like Rabbits?
Ugo Bardi, The Sustainable Energy Transition: A "Back Of The Envelope" Calculation
Dr. Glen Barry, Embrace The Coming Ecological Inflection Point And Great Transition
Dr. Glen Barry, On Ecology And Going Back To The Land
Jesse Bragg, A Member of Congress Issued a Warning to the World Bank: 'Stop Privatizing Water'
Climate Central, The First Three Months of 2016 Dangerously Flirted With the Paris Agreement's 1.5° Limit
Ashley Dawson, Why It’s Impossible for a Capitalist Society to Cope With the Extinction Crisis
Tom Engelhardt, The Real Meaning of Donald Trump
Deirdre Fulton, Gripped By Climate Disruption, World On Brink Of Global Water Crisis
Dean Goodwin, 5 Planet-Changing Consequences of Global Warming
Kali Holloway, America's Pill Popping Is Making Our Fish Anxious and Possibly Getting Into Our Vegetables
Dahr Jamail, Global Fisheries Are Collapsing—What Happens When There Are No Fish Left?
Kevin Kalhoefer, CNN Viewers See Far More Fossil Fuel Advertising Than Climate Crisis Reporting
Laura Kehoe, Please, Do the Planet a Favor: Eat Less Meat
David Korten, This Earth Day, Listen Up: Mother Earth Is Calling Us Back
Reynard Loki, 9 Ways Global Warming Is Making Us Sick
Reynard Loki, The 3 Most Environmentally Damaging Habits You Might Be Able to Change
Reynard Loki, The Massive, Tragic Trashing of Our Oceans: Is There Still Time to Do Something About It?
Lauren McCauley, Dangerous New Normal As 400 ppm Carbon Baseline Expected Within Days
Maria Marlene Nascimento, A PAZ PAIX PAZ PEACE PAZ
Yen Ning, 3 Disturbing Facts You Need to Know If You Eat Sashimi
Lisa Palmer, How Rising CO2 Levels May Contribute To Die-Off Of Bees
Susie Pearn, Climate Will Become the Most Dominant Factor in Human Health, but We Are Woefully Ill-Prepared
Jill Richardson, What Can You Do When the Farmer Next Door Sprays Toxic Pesticides?
Alexandra Rosenmann, This Amazing Project Seeks to Document Every Species in Captivity—Before They Go Extinct in the Wild (Video)
Iliana Salazar-Dodge, Our Fossil-Fuel Economy Destroys the Earth and Exploits Humanity - Here's the Shift We Need to Be Sustainable
Jordan Shilton, US-Russia Tensions Flare In Baltic Sea
David Swanson, What Is a Global Citizen, and Can it Save Us?
Valerie Tarico, Abortion Is Part of the Animal Kingdom, Not Unique to Humanity
David Thoreson, I Sailed Through the Northwest Passage and Saw Firsthand the Devastating Impact of Climate Change
John Upton, Oceans Could Reach Prehistoric Levels as Earth’s Biggest Ice Reservoir Nears Collapse
Eric Zuesse, America’s Biggest Of All Big Lies
Eric Zuesse, Russia Accuses Obama Of Supporting Al Qaeda In Syria
Eric Zuesse, Why Obama Prioritizes Ousting Assad Over Defeating Syria’s Jihadists
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What Is a Global Citizen, and Can it Save Us?
by David Swanson, Countercurrents
Information Clearing House" - Headlines this past week claimed that for the first time ever more than half of poll respondents around the world said they saw themselves more as a global citizen than as a citizen of a country. What did they mean in saying that?
Well, first of all, to lower the heart-rate of U.S. readers, we should state that they clearly did not mean that they were aware of a secret global government to which they had sworn loyalty until the Dark Side crushes all light from the Force, or until Mom, apple pie, and sacred national sovereignty expire in the satanic flames of Internationalism. How do I know this? Well, for one thing, something that a majority of the planet is aware of is the opposite of a secret. But, more importantly, what's at issue here is the poll respondents' attitude, not their situation. In many nations, the responses were almost evenly split; half the people weren't wrong, they were just differently minded.
Still, what did they mean?
In the United States, rather stunningly, 22 percent of respondents supposedly said they strongly agreed that they saw themselves more as a global citizen, while another 21 percent somewhat agreed. How you can somewhat agree with a binary choice I haven't the foggiest idea, but supposedly they did. That's 43 percent total agreeing either strongly or somewhat in the land of flag-waving militarized exceptionalism, if you can believe it -- or if it doesn't actually mean much.
Canada is slightly higher at 53 percent. But what does it mean? Were respondents shocked into agreement with a sensible sounding idea they'd never heard mentioned before? Is a strong minority really enlightened beyond the common nationalism? Russia, Germany, Chile, and Mexico had the least identification as global citizens. Should we look down on that? Nigeria, China, Peru, and India had the highest. Should we emulate that? Are people identifying with humanity or against their country or in support of their own desire to emigrate, or against the desires of others to immigrate? Or are people employed by globalized capital actually turning against nationalism?
I've always thought that if people would stop speaking in the first person about the crimes of their country's military, and start identifying with all of humanity, we might achieve peace. So I compared the "global citizen" results with the results of a 2014 poll that asked if people would be willing to fight in a war for their country. The results of that poll were also stunningly encouraging, with strong majorities in many countries saying they would not fight in a war. But there does not appear to be a correlation between the two polls. Unless we can find a way to correct for other important factors, it does not seem that being a global citizen and refusing to fight have anything consistently in common. Nationalistic countries are and are not willing to fight in wars. "Global citizen" countries are and are not willing to fight in wars.
Of course, the willingness to fight responses are sheer nonsense. The United States has numerous wars up and running, recruitment offices in most towns, and 44% of the country saying it "would" fight if there were a war. (What's stopping them?) And, again, the global citizen responses may be largely nonsense too. Still, Canada does roughly as much better than the United States in each of the two polls. Perhaps they make the sort of sense I'm looking for but only in North America. Asian nations, however, are both biggest on global citizenship and most willing to participate in wars (or to make that claim to a pollster).
Whatever it may mean, I take it to be wonderful news that a majority of humanity identifies with the world. It's up to us to now make it mean what it should. We need to develop a belief in world citizenship that begins by recognizing every other human on earth, and other living things in their own way, as sharing in it. A citizen of the globe does not expect to necessarily have much in common with the inhabitants of some far-off corner of the earth, but does certainly understand that no war can be waged against fellow citizens.
We don't need clean elections or an end to war profits or the expansion of the ICC to impose the rule of law on countries outside of Africa in order to create world citizenship. We just need our own minds. And if we get it right in our own minds, all of those other things had better get ready to happen.
So how do we think like world citizens? Try this. Read an article about a distant place. Think: "That happened to some of us." By "us" mean humanity. Read an article about peace activists protesting war who say aloud "We are bombing innocent people," identifying themselves with the U.S. military. Work at it until you can find such statements incomprehensible. Search online for articles mentioning "enemy." Correct them to reflect the fact that everyone has the same enemies: war, environmental destruction, disease, starvation. Search for "them" and "those people" and change it to us and we humans.
This is in fact a massive project, but apparently there are millions of us already identifying with it, and many hands make light work.
|April 12, 2016||
The Population Problem:Should The Pope Tell people To Stop Breeding Like Rabbits?
by Ugo Bardi, Cassandra's Legacy, Countercurrents
In this post, I argue that overpopulation is a complex problem that has to do with human choices at the level of single families. It is not impossible that such choices will eventually lead to a stabilization of the world population at a sustainable level. It has happened in some historical cases, such as in Japan during the Edo period.
The population question arises strong feelings everytime it is mentioned and there is a general feeling that people will keep reproducing like rabbits unless something drastic is done to stop them. This position often goes in parallel with criticism to religious leaders and to religions in general, accused of encouraging people to reproduce like rabbits. Or, at least, to hide the fact that reproducing like rabbits is bad for the planet.
But is it true that people tend to reproduce like rabbits? And would they stop if someone, let's say the pope, were to tell them to stop? Maybe, but things cannot be so simple. Let me show you an example: Japan during the Edo period.
The population of Japan during the Edo Period (uncorrected data as reported by the bBafuku government). It shows how it is perfectly possible to attain a stable population in an agricultural society, even without "top-down" rules and laws. (data source, see also this link)
Note how the population has remained relatively constant for at least 150 years. It is a fascinating story, discussed in detail in the book "Mabiki: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660–1950" by Fabian Drixler. Here is an illustration from the book:
Another impressive set of data: the net reproduction rates in Japan remained around or below the replacement rate during the Edo period, keeping the population constant for, indeed, something like one century and a half. It is also impressive to note how the reproduction rate literally exploded afterward, bringing the Japanese population from the ca. 25 millions of the Edo period to the present level of around 125 million, five times larger. Note also how rapidly the reproduction rate collapsed after the 1950s; it is a stark example of what we call the "demographic transition."
As we can see from these data, human reproduction strategies are much more complex than what you would imagine if you limit yourself to the biblical commandment "grow and multiply". The Japanese did NOT reproduce like rabbits during the Edo period. It doesn't appear that they were forced to reduce their birthrate by the government or by religious credences. Some famines are reported in Japan during the Edo period, but they couldn't have been truly disastrous, otherwise you would see their effects in the population curve. The population remained stable, it seems, mainly by "bottom-up" strategies at the level of single women or single families: contraception and, when that was not enough, infanticide.
So, what led the Japanese families to choose (rather than being forced) to limit their reproduction rate? There is plenty of scientific literature on the strategies of reproduction of various species, including the human one. The basic idea is that, in all cases, parents have a choice on how to employ their limited resources. Either they invest in having a large number of offspring (the "r-strategy", also the "rabbit strategy") or they invest in caring for their young until they reach adulthood (the "K-strategy" or the "Elephant strategy"). The choice of the reproductive strategy depends on the situation. Let me cite directly from a paper by Figueredo et al. (1)
Humans, clearly, are more like elephants than like rabbits. The number of children that a human female can give birth to is limited, and it is normally a good strategy for her to maximize the survival chances of fewer children, rather than trying to have as many as possible. So, for most of humankind's history a family - or a single woman - would examine its environment and make a rough estimate of what chances their (or her) children could have to survive and prosper. In conditions of limited resources and strong competition, it makes sense for parents to maximize the health and fitness of their children by having a small number of them. It seems to be what happened in Japan during the Edo period: facing limited resources in a limited island, people decided to limit the number of their offspring, applying the "K-strategy."
The opposite is true for periods of abundant resources and scarce competition. When the economy is growing, families may well project this growth to the future and estimate that their children will have plenty of opportunities, then it makes sense to have a larger number of them - hence to apply the "r-strategy". The dramatic growth of population during the past 1-2 centuries is the result of the increasing consumption of fossil fuels. Everywhere, and in Japan as well, people reacted by filling up what they saw as open slots for their children. But with the second half of the 20th century, economic growth slowed down and people started to perceive that the world was rapidly filling up and that the economy wasn't growing anymore. They may not have perceived the depletion of mineral resources, but the result was obvious anyway. It was the "demographic transition," normally related to increasing wealth, but that we may also see as the result of a perception of the future that was seen as less rosy than before.
There are other cases of human populations that remained stable for some periods, so we may conclude that humans do not - definitely - reproduce like rabbits; except in some very special are rare conditions of history. Humans are intelligent creatures and, within some limits, they choose how many children to have in such a way to maximize their survival probabilities. The human population will tend to grow in a condition of economic growth, but it should tend to stabilize in static economic conditions. So, if we were able to stabilize the economic system, avoiding major wars and the need of cannon fodder, then the human population may well stabilize by itself, without any need for a "top-down" intervention by governments (or maybe by the Pope). Unfortunately, between now and then, there is a little problem called "overshoot" and stabilization at a sustainable level may be anything but painless. But if stabilization was possible on the island of Japan during the 19th century, why can't it happen in the larger island that we call "Earth"?
See also a post of mine titled "The cuckoo that won't sing: sustainability and Japanese culture"
1. Aurelio José Figueredo, Geneva Vásquez, Barbara H. Brumbach, Stephanie M.R. Schneider, Jon A. Sefcek, Ilanit R. Tal, Dawn Hill, Christopher J. Wenner, W. Jake Jacobs, Consilience and Life History Theory: From genes to brain to reproductive strategy, Developmental Review, Volume 26, Issue 2, June 2006, Pages 243-275, ISSN 0273-2297, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2006.02.002
Ugo Bardi teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence, in Italy. He is interested in resource depletion, system dynamics modeling, climate science and renewable energy.
|April 18, 2016||
US-Russia Tensions Flare In Baltic Sea
by Jordan Shilton , WSWS.org, Countercurrents
The Pentagon announced Saturday that it was filing a formal complaint with the Russian Defense Ministry and US Secretary of State John Kerry threatened retaliatory action after two incidents involving US and Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.
The Pentagon alleged that a Russian SU-27 fighter jet flew within 50 feet of a US reconnaissance plane in international airspace on April 14, and that a Russian jet and helicopter “buzzed” the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook as it was conducting military exercises with Poland in the Baltic two days earlier.
The two incidents demonstrate once again that Washington’s aggressive military build-up throughout Eastern Europe, in close collaboration with its NATO allies, has brought the entire region to the brink of war between nuclear powers. The Obama administration seized on the Ukraine crisis provoked by a Western-sponsored coup in Kiev in 2014 to massively expand its military presence in Eastern Europe, so as to encircle and isolate Russia in a region stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea.
While the intensification of US military operations on Russian borders represents an act of aggression, the latest incident also demonstrates the bankruptcy of Moscow’s response. The Kremlin oligarchy, which came to power by plundering state resources in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is resorting to a military build-up and the encouragement of reactionary Russian nationalism. Conditions are so tense that a miscalculation by either side or even an accident could serve as the trigger for a conflict that could quickly escalate to include the use of nuclear weapons.
Secretary of State Kerry admitted as much this past week, when he responded to the USS Donald Cook incident by bluntly declaring that the US would have been within its rights to shoot the Russian jet down. Washington’s top diplomat labeled the alleged behavior of the jet as “reckless” and “provocative,” while the Pentagon called Thursday’s interception of the spy plane as an “erratic and aggressive” act.
Moscow denied the allegations, claiming in a statement that in the case of the spy plane, the Russian Air Force had “detected over the Baltic ocean an unidentified aerial target rapidly approaching the Russian border.” Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated that the actions of the Russian aircraft were “in accordance with international standards for the use of air space.”
Confrontations between NATO and Russian aircraft over the Baltic are becoming routine. According to a January report from United Press International, NATO jets scrambled at least 160 times in 2015 to intercept Russian jets in the Baltic. This figure was a 14 percent rise from 2014.
The pace of such incidents is likely to rise dramatically in the immediate period ahead. The Obama administration has announced a quadrupling of defense spending for Europe for 2017 to $3.4 billion. The increase will finance the sending of an additional three brigades. A further 16,500 soldiers will be in permanent rotation throughout Eastern Europe, from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—to whom Obama in September 2014 issued a guarantee of US support in the event of conflict with Russia—to Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the Black Sea states of Romania and Bulgaria.
In this, Washington is aligning itself with virulently right-wing, anti-Russian regimes whose reckless policies could provide the spark that ignites the ongoing standoff.
In comments to the Globsec security forum on the weekend, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski proclaimed Russia to be a greater threat to world peace than the Islamic State. He urged NATO to permanently deploy troops to Poland to protect its eastern border, vowing that he would make an appeal to that end at the NATO summit scheduled to take place in Warsaw in July. “By all evidence, Russia’s activity is a sort of existential threat because this activity can destroy countries,” Waszczykowski asserted.
Romania, another NATO member, is pushing for the Warsaw summit to adopt a plan for a permanent NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. Romania’s defense minister, Mihnea Motoc, said earlier this month on a visit to Georgia that he would be in favor of an enhanced partnership between NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and would-be members Georgia and Ukraine to establish a Black Sea fleet. Motoc said in an interview that the proposed fleet would be open “to NATO members who don’t border the Black Sea, yet are constantly present in Black Sea ports and take part in exercises—first of all, to the United States.”
At the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014, the alliance committed to have all members spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on their militaries, and agreed the creation of a rapid response force for eastern Europe that has since been expanded to enable tens of thousands of troops to be deployed anywhere within the alliance’s territory in a matter of days.
The lead article in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times underscored the fact that potential conflicts for which such forces are being prepared would likely involve the deployment of nuclear weapons. In what it described as a revival of the Cold War, the Times described Washington, Russia and China as being engaged in an arms race to develop a new class of small-scale nuclear weapons with capabilities to bypass traditional missile defense shields.
There is an objective significance to the fact that the Times, America’s “newspaper of record,” has published a front-page article bringing to light a development that has long been the subject of in-depth analysis by US think tanks. A report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments published earlier this year was entitled Rethinking Armageddon: scenario planning in the second nuclear age, reflecting the fact that policymaking circles are considering the practicalities of how to fight and win a military conflict with nuclear weapons.
Since President Obama’s 2010 promise not to pursue new nuclear weapons programs, Washington has announced an additional $1 trillion in funding for the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal. The Times article provides information on the types of weaponry being developed, including a new weapon called a hypersonic glide vehicle. Such weapons, which the US will begin flight-testing next year, could “render missile defenses all but useless,” the Times noted.
At the conclusion of the biennial nuclear summit in Washington at the end of last month, to which Russia refused to send representatives, Obama expressed concern about “ramping up new and more deadly and more effective systems that end up leading to a whole new escalation of the arms race.”
A second Times article published over the weekend on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad makes all too clear that the plans for the deployment of nuclear weapons have moved well beyond the realm of speculation. The Russian territory, located on the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland, was described in testimony to Congress by NATO Commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove in February as a “very militarized piece of property” that was “capable of repelling attacks by air, land or sea.”
The six years since Obama’s empty pledge to reduce nuclear weapons have seen a vast intensification of US-led aggressive military operations aimed at consolidating American hegemony and weakening Russia and China in key geostrategic regions. As part of the ongoing bombardment of Iraq and Syria, carried out under the pretext of combating terrorism, Washington recently sent nuclear-capable B52 bombers to its Middle East bases, bringing them well within range of Iran and Russia itself.
|April 21, 2016||
Creating The Future
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents
The lyrics of a popular song repeat a message of comforting (but irresponsible) fatalism: “Que Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Que Sera Sera. What will be will be.”
I strongly believe that we must not allow ourselves the luxury of fatalism, especially today, when our future is darkened by the twin threats of catastrophic climate change and thermonuclear war.
We must accept our responsibility for both the near future and the distant future. We must do all that is within our power to make our world one in which our children and their descendants can survive. We must save the environment. We must save plants and animals from extinction.
What has happened to the global environment is a human creation. Its very name, the anthhropocene, indicates that we made it. What will happen in the future will also be our creation, the sum of the choices that we make.
War is a human creation. Just as we abolished slavery, we can also abolish the institution of war. It is our responsibility to do so.
The tribal tendencies of human nature are not inevitable. Racism is not inevitable. Nationalist Chauvanism is not inevitable. The dark side of human nature can be overwritten by education and ethics. It is our responsibility to create a global ethical system that matches our advanced technology. We must create an ethic of universal human solidarity.
Global anarchy is not inevitable. We can extend the methods used to avoid war within nations to the entire world. We can reform the United Nations and create a global federation capable of effectively achieving the goals that we desire.
Our economic system is a human creation. The laws of the market are not really laws: They are choices. If we choose we could maximize human happiness, rather than maximizing production and profits.
The population explosion is not inevitable. It is a result of human choices. The threat of an extremely severe worldwide famine resulting from climate change, exploding populations and end of the fossil fuel era is not inevitable. If such a famine comes, it will be the result of human choices.
The decay of democracy is not inevitable. Oligarchy is not inevitable. These evils are the result of neglect and political irresponsibility. As citizens, we must have the courage to restore democracy in countries where it has disappeared, and to create it in countries where it never existed.
We live in a special time, a time of crisis. Here are the responsibilities that history has given to our generation: We need system change, not climate change! We need a new economic system, a new society, a new social contract, a new way of life. We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy. We must decrease economic inequality. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce global population. We must eliminate the institution of war. And finally, we must develop a mature ethical system to match our new technology.
No one is exempt from these responsibilities. No one can achieve these goals alone; but together we can create the future that we choose.
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|April 22, 2016||
On This Earth Day Let's Remind Ourselves That We Are The Most Destructive Species On Earth
by Pratap Antony, Countercurrents
We humans have been in existence for less than 1% of life on Earth – In the short time of our existence, we have impacted everything; every part of our small blue planet. Our home!
We have been around for only 200,000 years - Archaeologists have calculated that humans originated about 200,000 years ago in the Middle Palaeolithic period in southern Africa, and migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago and began colonizing the entire planet. We spread to Eurasia around 40,000 years ago (there is no geologic boundary between Europe and Asia – so they are combined as Eurasia.) and Oceania (roughly Australia to Fiji), and reached the Americas just 14,500 years ago.
Humans are a member of a species of bipedal primates. We walk upright. We also have opposable thumbs so we can grip ‘things’. We have, what we think of as a highly developed brain. And so, we have called ourselves ‘homo sapiens’. In Latin, "Homo" means “man” and "Sapiens" means “wise”. Wise Men.
Dinosaurs existed for 135 million years - It is estimated that dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for 135 million years, from 231.4 million years ago till around 65 million years ago.
Dinosaurs lived for a greater time on the planet than man. Scientists explain the extinction of dinosaurs with one or two hypotheses - that the extinction was due to an extraterrestrial impact, such as an asteroid or comet, or, a massive bout of volcanism.
We humans though, have been around for a comparatively short while, yet we are making ourselves extinct due to our own activities.
In our short existence, we have impacted every corner of the world with smog, with acid rain; by breaking-up habitats and causing extinctions.
We have taken the route to deforestation to make more room for ourselves. And, through sheer cruelty and indiscriminate killing, we have disturbed the ecological balance of nature. Birds and animals are dying and gradually getting extinct. Seasons and the soil have been changed harmfully. We are waging ecocide to garner greater power to ourselves. We are cruel without remorse and we hold nature, environmental issues, truth and justice in contempt. We will soon be wiping ourselves out due to man-made climate changes and devastation of food and water supply. And, we also wage war with each other. We are killing ourselves.
Our excuse - Cleansing, development and progress - The irony of it all is we justify our destructive tendencies as intervention and manipulation - for cleansing, development and progress. And we do this because we suffer from a delusion that sees us as being separate; we think that we live in a higher plane than everything else. But trees, birds, animals and men are all inseparable parts of nature.
We humans are part of the same ecosystem. Each creature on this planet has a reason for its existence and is as important to life on earth as we (humans) think we are.
We are dependent on nature. Nature is not dependent on us. When we destroy an ecosystem, we are destroying life that depends on that ecosystem. Humans and nature are powerfully linked and co-evolving. All living things in an ecosystem depend on all the other things - living and non-living - i.e. organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings for continued survival, to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. All the actions and reactions that take place and affect one part of an ecosystem, affect the whole ecosystem in some way or the other.
We are only one small part of the web of life, yet we, in this short time of our existence have treated our planet so shoddily and with such a callous contempt that we have irreversibly damaged our planet and shortened our own existence on the planet.
When nature cannot defend itself there will be a backlash. Nature cannot resist our wiles and will eventually succumb to our destructive tendencies. When forests are mined for minerals and other resources and laid bare of all their biodiversity, desertification will take place. Lakes, rivers and water resources will dry up.
There is no wisdom in man killing what sustains man ... and with it, humankind!
The backlash will not be nature fighting back! But, of nature as we know it, dying out!
Homo Sapiens… Wise Men. Not at all!? Our wisdom is highly disputable. Dinosaurs were considered unintelligent, due to the small size of their brain compared to their body size. They existed for 135 million years. They didn't kill themselves. But, man is destroying mankind.
Our planet is not in danger. Humans are in danger. From ourselves. Humankind is on the road to extinguish ourselves. Sooner rather than later. The future for all of us is bleak. The planet will continue as it has for the 99% of the time before man, it will adjust and continue. Perhaps with other life forms, other vegetation, other landscapes.
The earlier we learn to curb our innate inclination to be brutal, to pollute and to annihilate, and the earlier we will learn to live with compassion and in peaceful co-existence with ourselves and with nature, the better it is for us and our continued existence.
Pratap Antony, Passive activist/Active pacifist writer on ecology and environment, compassion and humanity, dogs, social justice, music and dance.
|April 23, 2016||
Coexisting In Peace And Harmony With Earth's Biodiversity
by Pratap Antony, Countercurrents
“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her. Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn. And tied her with fences and dragged her down” ~ Jim Morrison
Earths resources are being wantonly destroyed due to human greed, ignorance, cruelty and sheer recklessness. Our demands around energy, food production and agriculture are destroying surface vegetation, degrading soil structure and fertility and impeding water filtration.
Our impact on the planet has been so profound that biodiversity (the variety of life on earth), forests, earth, water, air, animals, plants, fungi, micro-organisms, are being consumed faster than nature can replenish them. And due to the speed of our impact and the global scale of our activities on Earths resources over the last 250 years, we have inexorably changed the chemistry of the oceans and the character of our soils and the atmosphere; we now face a worrying scarcity of critical resources.
Human activity has degraded, and continues to degrade the environment.
Mining, damming, agriculture, industrialisation, deforestation and so-called development have lead to air and water pollution, elevated carbon dioxide levels and reduced biodiversity. Local ecosystems and the biosphere have been diminished, i.e. human interference has caused the depletion of many natural resources.
Mining - Metals, bauxite and other minerals which co-exist in earth are vital to the well-being of Earth itself. Mining causes permanent and irrecoverable damage to the environment. Mining not only lays bare the land, but makes this land uninhabitable due to the excavation, quarrying and obliteration of precious bio-diverse lands and forests! Mining-waste - dust and atmospheric pollution generated infiltrates and makes its way into water and air and annihilates and drives away animals and plants, birds and bees in a wide area surrounding it. This destruction produces a profound and lasting affect not only on the local ecology, but also on our health and safety.
Water – Fresh water in rivers and lakes is under threat - from dumped industrial and chemical wastes, untreated sewage, fertilisers, medicinal and chemical residues, sediment and toxin-laden run-off. Oceans are now devoid of over 95% of its larger predatory fish, due to over fishing. Coral reefs are degrading almost everywhere due to warming and acidifying seas. Discarded plastic ends up killing and sickening marine life.
Dams - Large Hydroelectric dams not only endanger crops, but also, by immersing fertile riverbank land and surrounding pasture and forest land for the catchment’s basin area, fertile lands, once teeming with life and biodiversity, turn saline over a period of time. The dams themselves, after all the time taken to construct them, and the damage done to the biodiversity and people of the area, become unproductive due to siltation in a short period of time! Dams also dry out river zones that are essential for the survival of people of the area that depend on farming, fishing, gathering fruits, and raising cattle - their traditional means of sustenance. Large dams displace people, rivers, forests and pasture-lands which are the natural wealth of our planet.
Biodiversity which is critical for the survival of the ecosystem is slowly being bled to death. Human activity within the last century has rapidly diminished the diversity of life forms and many species are faced with extinction. Habitat loss due to deforestation and human development has long posed a threat to our Earth.
Food production - comes with a hefty carbon footprint due to damage caused by deforestation and the use of fertilizers and pesticides which pollute our land and water. On top of that, the increased demand for food has given scientists the excuse to try out dangerous experiments; manipulating plant DNA to produce disease resistant crops. GMO (genetically modified organisms), are generally not a good idea, as GMO crop growing and food products pose serious threats to the environment and biodiversity, and when consumed, to animal and human health.
Energy – Fossil fuels are the cause of environmental problems. Yet for our short term requirements of energy, we’re destroying our planet, turning it un-inhabitable, hostile and not-fit-for-human survival. We have to face up to the environmental problem of cleaning up or replacing the burning of fossil fuels that we have been using since the Industrial revolution in the 18th century, with renewable resources, and by developing and adopting clean and renewable energy.
Waste - Modern environmental threats due to technological advancement are, electronic products such as computers, laptops, television sets and mobile phones that are discarded resulting in the release of hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, heavy metals and many other toxic substances into the environment. Besides these, the use of man-made pesticides, herbicides and fungicides can consequently kill, harm and damage our ecosystem, our health and our well-being.
Nuclear waste: There are 31 countries with nuclear reactors. Consequently, there are 31 countries in danger of lethal and irreversible danger due to radiation and radioactivity and its continuing impact on health, water and the environment, during and after production of Nuclear energy - from the mining of uranium > to its transportation > to its use during the process of production > waste during production > transportation > and storage of nuclear waste.
Climate change is real, and it is influenced by human activities. Humanity has released ample greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution in the 18th century, and even more over the last 40 years. Due to compromised environment, we are now starting to feel the effects on our ecosystem. Climate change is becoming more and more obvious in an inevitably warmer world, where there are more frequent ‘extreme’ weather conditions, more floods, more droughts, more cyclones, more hurricanes, heavier rainfall over short periods, less rainfall over longer periods, rising seas, more wildfires, reconfigurations of coastlines, and many more changes of the things that are not in our control than we can imagine.
Consumption - A four-year analysis of the world's ecosystems sponsored by the Worldwatch Institute found that over-consumption has pushed 15 out of 24 ecosystems essential to human life "beyond their sustainable limits". Our insatiable desire for more is moving the planet toward a state of collapse that may be "abrupt and potentially irreversible". John James
Corporatisation – Throughout the world, Corporations buy politicians and keep them safely in their pockets. Large corporations are relentlessly taking over and dictating terms to governments of many states and countries on our planet, naturally, for their own self interest and profit.
Large Corporations take control of mining, petroleum/fossil fuel exploration, retailing, energy, housing and agriculture by taking over fertilisers, pesticides and through the control and industrialisation of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). They keep governments in servitude while they get access to our hard earned money and taxes and gamble away our futures. They increase their empires and their profits at public expense without public knowledge. And then they rape and plunder our environment and drive us towards catastrophic climate change and global warming.
Development – Development and ‘corporatisation’ are tied together. The word or idea of ‘Development’, as peddled by politicians is ‘loaded’. Because to politicians, ‘development’ always means, the development of large corporations; industrialists, manufacturers, builders and developers, who build and develop large projects and manufacture products, and commodities.
This idea of development, ostensibly for the benefit of the common people, benefits the already rich and the privileged; it benefits city-dwelling, high-salary employees, industrialists and businessmen, but it does not benefit the vast majority of people who need all the help that they can get, just to survive.
Development works best when it is bottom up. But, it is more lucrative and easy for politicians and economic thinkers to think of top-down development
What should do we do to make amends?
Our survival strategy –Embrace reciprocal altruism, compassion and ahimsa – non-harm.
Pratap Antony, Passive activist/Active pacifist writer on ecology and environment, compassion and humanity, dogs, social justice, music and dance.
|May 14, 2016||
How Rising CO2 Levels May Contribute To Die-Off Of Bees
by Lisa Palmer, Yale Environment 360, Countercurrents
As they investigate the factors behind the decline of bee populations, scientists are now eyeing a new culprit — soaring levels of carbon dioxide, which alter plant physiology and significantly reduce protein in important sources of pollen.
Specimens of goldenrod sewn into archival paper folders are stacked floor to ceiling inside metal cabinets at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The collection, housed in the herbarium, dates back to 1842 and is among five million historical records of plants from around the world cataloged there. Researchers turned to this collection of goldenrod — a widely distributed perennial plant that blooms across North America from summer to late fall — to study concentrations of protein in goldenrod pollen because it is a key late-season food source for bees.
The newer samples look much like the older generations. But scientists testing the pollen content from goldenrod collected between 1842 and 2014, when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide rose from about 280 parts per million to 398 ppm, found the most recent pollen samples contained 30 percent less protein. The greatest drop in protein occurred from 1960 to 2014, when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose dramatically. A field experiment in the same study that exposed goldenrod to CO2 levels ranging from 280 to 500 ppm showed similar protein decreases.
More than 100 previous studies have shown that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide decrease the nutritional value of plants, such as wheat and rice. But the goldenrod study, published last month, was the first to examine the effects of rising CO2 on the diet of bees, and its conclusions were unsettling: The adverse impact of rising CO2 concentrations on the protein levels in pollen may be playing a role in the global die-off of bee populations by undermining bee nutrition and reproductive success.
“Pollen is becoming junk food for bees,” says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research Service in Maryland and lead author of the study. The study itself concluded that the decline of plant proteins in the face of soaring carbon dioxide concentrations provides an “urgent and compelling case” for CO2 sensitivity in pollen and other plant components.
Elevated CO2 levels affect plant physiology by enabling the plant’s starchier parts to grow faster and bigger, since atmospheric carbon dioxide is a building block for plant sugars. For goldenrod, this growth essentially dilutes the plant’s total protein, rather than concentrating it in the grain, which makes a starchier pollen.
“I knew there was work done on insects about how rising CO2 would reduce the protein content of leaves, and so insects will need to eat more leaves to get the same amount of protein,” says Ziska. “But until now, we didn’t know about how CO2 affects protein content in pollen.” The study is a synthesis of the knowledge about what is happening to bees and how CO2 impacts the quality of plants, and it brings those two disparate ideas together.
A number of new and accumulating pressures are threatening bee populations. From 2006 to 2011, annual losses from managed honeybee colonies averaged 33 percent per year in the United States, according to the USDA. Beekeepers have had to replace 50 percent of their colonies in recent years. Factors such as mite outbreaks and the use of neonicotinoid pesticides have been implicated in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”
“I am not saying that understanding neonicotinoids or Varroa mites is not important, but I am saying that how bees respond to these stressors might have something to do with their nutrition,” says Ziska. “If we are mucking around with their nutrition, all these other responses could be affected.”
Bees eat two foods to keep them alive, nectar and pollen, which are fundamentally sugar and protein. Bees can scout a good source of nectar and tell the rest of the hive where it can be found. But bees don’t have a communication strategy for protein. They cannot recognize whether the pollen they consume is a good protein source or not. And by late fall, when bees begin to store food for the winter, the pollen choices are limited.
“It’s not like honeybees and native bees have a menu of lots of different species to choose from,” says Joan Edwards, a pollen ecologist at Williams College in Massachusetts and co-author of the goldenrod study. “Because goldenrod and asters are the only food available for bees [in late season], it limits their ability to adapt. They can’t turn to another food source.”
Some beekeepers have turned to supplementing food for honeybee populations, but native bees like bumble bees don’t have that option, explains Edwards. “Native bees do the lion’s share of pollination,” says Edwards. “Bumble bees and solitary bees provide a free ecosystem service for our food supply. Lack of protein is threatening native pollinators, which has huge public health consequences.” Roughly 35 percent of global crop production depends on pollination to produce fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oils.
Unlike other insects, which will eat more leaves to compensate for lower protein levels in their food, bees will eat a quantity of pollen, but will not adjust consumption based on nutritional inferiority, says entomologist Jeff Pettis, research leader at the USDA’s bee laboratory. However, at least one laboratory study indicates that bees can be resilient to nutritional stress. The laboratory bees foraged for a broader diet, if one is available, to compensate for a nutrition imbalance by identifying complementary types of pollen — similar to how vegetarians balance legumes and grains to get a complete protein.
“Overall the diet of pollinators is going down due to land degradation, pesticide use, and habitat destruction, and now the protein content of their pollen is less,” says Pettis. Scientists know that inferior-quality pollen has an immediate effect of shortening the lifespan of bees because it directly affects the size and strength of the bee colony that will survive until spring. The lack of nutrition may alter bee behavior and vigor and contribute to colony collapse and degraded health of pollinators.
May Berenbaum, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, says that bees are having a hard time getting enough protein as it is. “A declining quality of protein across the board almost assuredly is affecting bees,” she says. “Like humans, good nutrition is essential for bee health by allowing them to fend off all kinds of health threats. Anything that indicates that the quality of their food is declining is worrisome.”
By itself, the relative effect of lower nutrition might be small, but it still might be important, says David Hawthorne, associate professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. “It’s like death by a thousand blows,” Hawthorne says. “With all of these other stresses on bees, it could still matter because it may just be the straw that breaks the beehives’ back.”
The findings that the nutritional quality of plants is changing and affecting pollinators fits squarely with a new field of interdisciplinary research called Planetary Health, which has emerged to assess the links between a changing planet and plant and human health.
Samuel Myers, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, has published groundbreaking studies on how rising CO2 levels lower the nutritional quality of foods that we eat, like rice, wheat, and maize, which lose significant amounts of zinc, iron, and protein when grown under higher concentrations of CO2. Plant composition depends on a balance between air, soil, and water. As CO2, the source of carbon for plant growth, proliferates quickly in the atmosphere, soil nutrients — such as nitrogen, iron, and magnesium — remain the same. As a result, plants produce more carbohydrates, but dilute other nutrients.
In one study, Myers estimated that lower nutritional values in crops will push an estimated 132 million to 180 million people into a new risk of zinc deficiency. “Low levels of micronutrients are already an enormous health burden today and where people get iron and zinc is primarily from these kinds of crops,” says Myers. “With rising CO2, they get significant further reductions. That is a big deal from the global nutritional standpoint.”
Myers — director of the Planetary Health Alliance, a new trans-disciplinary consortium aimed at understanding and addressing human health implications of Earth’s changing natural systems — also modeled how the complete decline in pollinators would affect human health. He calculated that the loss of pollinators would place 71 million people into vitamin A deficiency (which is linked to child mortality) and 173 million into folate deficiency (which is associated with birth defects). An additional 2.2 billion people already lacking in vitamin A would suffer more severe deficiencies, he projected. Overall, there would be 1.4 million excess deaths annually from complete pollinator decline.
Now, new research questions are emerging to connect Myers’ research with Ziska’s with the goal of improving understanding of where this reduced pollen protein content is occurring globally and whether it is altering the nutritional status and health of bee populations. “One could imagine there are new nutritional impacts yet to be discovered,” Myers says. “If it is happening in goldenrod, there is no reason to believe this is not happening in other plants.”
Myers said that a core principle in the field of planetary health is the element of surprise, which Ziska’s study illustrates. “We are fundamentally transforming all of the biophysical conditions that underpin the global food system,” said Myers. “Global food demand is rising at the same time the biophysical conditions are changing more rapidly than ever before. Chances are there are more surprises coming down the road. This is the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of changing health in a system that is changing rapidly.”
Beyond the pollen–bee nexus, the extent and rate of multiple interacting environmental changes — including global warming, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion, ocean acidification, and land use change — are unprecedented in human history. “The research showing how loss of pollinators could have serious adverse effects on nutrition and health outcomes is an important example of how environmental change can undermine human health,” Sir Andy Haines, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in an email.
Researcher Lewis Ziska thinks plants will adapt and change to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. But gesturing to the stacks of specimens at the herbarium at the Museum of Natural History, he says, “Here are 450,000 plant species, and every other living organism depends on plants as a food source. The fact that they are changing, all at different rates in an unprecedented time — it is pretty remarkable in trying to assess how the entire food web is changing.”
Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio - Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Md. She reports on energy, climate change, the environment, and sustainable business for publications such as Slate, Scientific American, and The Guardian. Previously for e360, Palmer reported on how weeds could bolster global food supplies in the face of climate change and whether Indonesia's massive wildfires could help reduce runaway deforestation.
|April 26, 2016||
The Real Meaning of Donald Trump
by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, Countercurrents
26 April, 2016
"Low-energy Jeb." "Little Marco." "Lyin' Ted." "Crooked Hillary." Give Donald Trump credit. He has a memorable way with insults. His have a way of etching themselves on the brain. And they've garnered media coverage, analysis, and commentary almost beyond imagining. Memorable as they might be, however, they won't be what last of Trump's 2016 election run. That's surely reserved for a single slogan that will sum up his candidacy when it's all over (no matter how it ends). He arrived with it on that Trump Tower escalator in the first moments of his campaign and it now headlines his website, where it's also emblazoned on an array of products from hats to t-shirts.
You already know which line I mean: Make America Great Again! With that exclamation point ensuring that you won't miss the hyperbolic, Trumpian nature of its promise to return the country to its former glory days. In it lies the essence of his campaign, of what he's promising his followers and Americans generally -- and yet, strangely enough, of all his lines, it's the one most taken for granted, the one that's been given the least thought and analysis. And that's a shame, because it represents something new in our American age. The problem, I suspect, is that what first catches the eye is the phrase Make America Great and then, of course, the exclamation point, while the single most important word in the slogan, historically speaking, is barely noted: again.
With that again, Donald Trump crossed a line in American politics that, until his escalator moment, represented a kind of psychological taboo for politicians of any stripe, of either party, including presidents and potential candidates for that position. He is the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the sole superpower of Planet Earth, is an exceptional nation, an indispensable country, or even in an unqualified sense a great one. His claim is the opposite. That, at present, America is anything but exceptional, indispensable, or great, though he alone could make it great again. In that claim lies a curiosity that, in a court of law, might be considered an admission of guilt. Yes, it says, if one man is allowed to enter the White House in January 2017, this could be a different country, but -- and in this lies the originality of the slogan -- it is not great now, and in that admission-that-hasn't-been-seen-as-an-admission lies something new on the American landscape.
Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline. Think about that for a moment. Make America Great Again! is indeed an admission in the form of a boast. As he tells his audiences repeatedly, America, the formerly great, is today a punching bag for China, Mexico... well, you know the pitch. You don't have to agree with him on the specifics. What's interesting is the overall vision of a country lacking in its former greatness.
Perhaps a little history of American greatness and presidents (as well as presidential candidates) is in order here.
City Upon a Hill
Once upon a time, in a distant America, the words greatest, exceptional, and indispensable weren't even part of the political vocabulary. American presidents didn't bother to claim any of them for this country, largely because American wealth and global preeminence were so indisputable. We're talking about the 1950s and early 1960s, the post-World War II and pre-Vietnam golden years of American power. Despite a certain hysteria about the supposed dangers of domestic communists, few Americans then doubted the singularly unchallengeable power and greatness of the country. It was such a given, in fact, that it was simply too self-evident for presidents to cite, hail, or praise.
So if you look, for instance, at the speeches of John F. Kennedy, you won't find them littered with exceptionals, indispensables, or their equivalents. In a pre-inaugural speechhe gave in January 1961 on the kind of government he planned to bring to Washington, for instance, he did cite the birth of a great republic, the United States, and quoted Puritan John Winthrop on the desirability of creating a country that would be a city upon a hill to the rest of the world, with all of humanity's eyes upon us. In his inaugural address (Ask not what your country can do for you...), he invoked a kind of unspoken greatness, saying, We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. It was then common to speak of the U.S. with pride as a free nation (as opposed to the enslaved ones of the communist bloc) rather than an exceptional one. His only use of great was to invoke the U.S.-led and Soviet Union-led blocs as two great and powerful groups of nations.
Kennedy could even fall back on a certain modesty in describing the U.S. role in the world (that, in those years, from Guatemala to Iran to Cuba, all too often did not carry over into actual policy), saying in one speech, we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient -- that we are only six percent of the world's population -- that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind -- that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity -- and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem. In that same speech, he typically spoke of America as a great power -- but not the greatest power.
If you didn't grow up in that era, you may not grasp that none of this in any way implied a lack of national self-esteem. Quite the opposite, it implied a deep and abiding confidence in the overwhelming power and presence of this country, a confidence so unshakeable that there was no need to speak of it.
If you want a pop cultural equivalent for this, consider America's movie heroes of that time, actors like John Wayne and Gary Cooper, whose Westerns and in the case of Wayne, war movies, were iconic. What's striking when you look back at them from the present moment is this: while neither of those actors was anything but an imposing figure, they were also remarkably ordinary looking. They were in no way over-muscled nor in their films were they over-armed in the modern fashion. It was only in the years after the Vietnam War, when the country had absorbed what felt like a grim defeat, been wracked by oppositional movements, riots, and assassinations, when a general sense of loss had swept over the polity, that the over-muscled hero, the exceptional killing machine, made the scene. (Think:Rambo.)
Consider this, then, if you want a definition of decline: when you have to state openly (and repeatedly) what previously had been too obvious to say, you're heading, as the opinion polls always like to phrase it, in the wrong direction; in other words, once you have to say it, especially in an overemphatic way, you no longer have it.
The Reagan Reboot
That note of defensiveness first crept into the American political lexicon with the unlikeliest of politicians: Ronald Reagan, the man who seemed like the least defensive, most genial guy on the planet. On this subject at least, think of him as Trumpian before the advent of The Donald, or at least as the man who (thanks to his ad writers) invented the political use of the word again. It was, after all, employed in 1984 in the seminal ad of his political run for a second term in office. While that bucolic-looking TV commercial was entitled Prouder, Stronger, Better, its first line ever so memorably went, It's morning again in America. (Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?)
Think of this as part of a post-Vietnam Reagan reboot, a time when the U.S. in Rambo-esque fashion was quite literally muscling up and over-arming in a major way. Reagan presided over the biggest peacetime defense build-up in history against what, referencing Star Wars, he called an evil empire -- the Soviet Union. In those years, he also worked to rid the country of what was then termed the Vietnam Syndrome in part by rebranding that war a noble cause. In a time when loss and decline were much on the American brain, he dismissed them both, even as he set the country on a path toward the present moment of 1% dysfunction in a country that no longer invests fully in its own infrastructure, whose wages are stagnant, whose poor are a growth industry, whose wealth now flows eternally upward in a political environment awash in the money of the ultra-wealthy, and whose over-armed military continues to pursue a path of endless failure in the Greater Middle East.
Reagan, who spoke directly about American declinist thinking in his time -- Let's reject the nonsense that America is doomed to decline -- was hardly shy about his superlatives when it came to this country. He didn't hesitate to re-channel classic American rhetoric ranging from Winthop's shining city upon a hill (perhaps cribbed from Kennedy) in his farewell address to Lincoln-esque (the last best hope of man on Earth) invocations like here in the heartland of America lives the hope of the world or in a world wracked by hatred, economic crisis, and political tension, America remains mankind's best hope.
And yet, in the 1980s, there were still limits to what needed to be said about America. Surveying the planet, you didn't yet have to refer to us as the greatest country of all or as the planet's sole truly exceptional country. Think of such repeated superlatives of our own moment as defensive markers on the declinist slope. The now commonplace adjective indispensable as a stand-in for American greatness globally, for instance, didn't even arrive until Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began using it in 1996. It only became an indispensable part of the rhetorical arsenal of American politicians, fromPresident Obama on down, a decade-plus into the twenty-first century when the country's eerie dispensability (unless you were a junkie for failed states and regional chaos) became ever more apparent.
As for the U.S. being the planet's exceptional nation, a phrase that now seems indelibly in the American grain and that no president or presidential candidate has avoided, it's surprising how late that entered the presidential lexicon. As John Gans Jr. wrote in the Atlantic in 2011, Obama has talked more about American exceptionalism than Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush combined: a search on UC Santa Barbara's exhaustive presidential records library finds that no president from 1981 to today uttered the phrase American exceptionalism' except Obama. As U.S. News' Robert Schlesinger wrote, American exceptionalism' is not a traditional part of presidential vocabulary. According to Schlesinger's search of public records, Obama is the only president in 82 years to use the term.
And yet in recent years it has become a commonplace of Republicans and Democrats alike. In other words, as the country has become politically shakier, the rhetoric about its greatness has only escalated in an American version of the lady doth protest too much. Such descriptors have become the political equivalent of litmus tests: you couldn't be president or much of anything else without eternally testifying to your unwavering belief in American greatness.
This, of course, is the line that Trump crossed in a curiously unnoticed fashion in this election campaign. He did so by initially upping the rhetorical ante, adding that exclamation point (which even Reagan avoided). Yet in the process of being more patriotically correct than thou, he somehow also waded straight into American decline so bluntly that his own audience could hardly miss it (even if his critics did).
Think of it as an irony, if you wish, but the ultimate American narcissist, in promoting his own rise, has also openly promoted a version of decline and fall to striking numbers of Americans. For his followers, a major political figure has quit with the defensive BS and started saying it the way it is.
Of course, don't furl the flag or shut down those offshore accounts or start writing the complete history of American decline quite yet. After all, the United States still looms lone on an ever more chaotic planet. Its wealth remains stunning, its economic clout something to behold, its tycoons the envy of the Earth, and its military beyond compare when it comes to how much and how destructively, even if not how successfully. Still, make no mistake about it, Donald Trump is a harbinger, however bizarre, of a new American century in which this country will indeed no longer be (with a bow to Muhammad Ali) "the Greatest" or, for all but a shrinking crew, exceptional.
So mark your calendars: 2016 is the official year the U.S. first went public as a declinist power and for that you can thank Donald -- or rather Donald! -- Trump.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2016 Tom Engelhardt
|May 1, 2016||
From ‘Mother India’To ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: ‘Azadi’ Eludes Indian Women
by Shobha Aggarwal, Countercurrents
Women in India do not appear to be active participants in the debate around the chanting of the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Even the debate in the media is dominated through discourse by men.The chanting of this slogan– necessary to prove ‘patriotism’ – is an obsession only of the so called ‘patriotic’men.
Generally men belonging to right-wing political parties are aggressively seen chanting the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’; rarely is a woman heard chanting it except on a political platform. The slogan is not just a construct of a Brahmanical patriarchal mindset, it is an insult to women-hood and camouflages the ugly truth of how women are treated in this country.The ‘Mother India’– a 1957 Hindi film – while depicting oppressionand suffering of Indian women also glamorizes it.
The image of an ideal woman carried by generations of Indian men is of an all sacrificing woman in face of insurmountable adversities and has given rise to similar expectations from all women. In the same vein the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’gives a free hand to the patriarchal capitalist forces to exploit the geographical region called India the same way as its women. The harsh truth is that just to stay alive and not being murdered at the hands of the patriarchal forces in this country is an arduous task for women. If a woman survives not being murdered either in the womb or after birth then she faces the risk of being burnt alive at the funeral pyre of the husband (Sati) or for not bringing sufficient dowry. The female child is so much undesired by most communities that according to 2001 census data even “non-violent” Jains were competing with Sikhs when it came to female foeticide – an uncomfortable fact around which there has been little debate. Hindus, needless to say, are worse when it comes to “missing women” in India. For women, odds for survival are better in rural India compared to urban India. The chances of survival further improve if a female child is born in a minority Muslim or Christian family. Anyone in doubt only need to check the statistical data of the Census of India of the last three decades.
If a girl child manages to survive by bypassing foeticide and infanticide the next big battle for her is how to avoid getting raped. And when it comes to rape for the sick male mind age is nobar. From a two month old female child to a seventy year old woman it is a fair game for men. And how does a two month old girl child saveherself from her male relatives or neighbours?As far as domestic violence goes, women being at the bottom of the pyramid in most communities even a male from the most oppressed section of the society feelsfree to beat up his earning wife and spend all her savings in consuming liquor. Staring and stalking faced by women in everyday life is a social reality as is sexual harassment of women at public spaces, public transport and work place. Discrimination in jobs – civil as well as military – is rampant; under-representation of women in parliament, judiciary and executive is considered the norm. And yet the women are referred to as the better half. This is the height of patriarchal cunningness.
Left to themselves, the Indian men would rather that women are banished even from public spaces. Therefore men have made public spaces almost inaccessible for women. Going out alone at night is unthinkable for women in most cities in India, but even in broad daylight it is not without risks. Just walking in Connaught Place (main business district in New Delhi) abuses like mother fucker, sister fucker pour in your ears like molten lead all the time. In the daily life of a woman the issue is not really whether one chants ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or not as long as she does not have to get her sensitivities and sensibilities hurt by repeatedly being forced to hear abuses centering around a woman’s private parts to wit ‘teri ma ki …’.Often one feels like stopping and hitting these men at the most sensitive part of their anatomy but alas! Openly spitting, blowing their nose, making guttural sounds and urinating constantly in public spaces is a favourite hobby of men irrespective of their class or educational status. A crass and crude show of male power!
Subjugation of women in India is the only kind of oppression that cuts across caste, class, community and race. Women would prefer if men give up these uncivilized, obscene, vulgar, brutal practices against women rather than merely chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. In a country where the incumbent Prime Minister refuses to let his wife live with him in his official residence, the hollowness of the slogan is all too apparent. Women don’t really care about the slogan. Women in India want ‘Azadi’ not idolatry! Just let the women exercise their constitutional right to equality and liberty in all spheres of life – political, economic, social and cultural without any discrimination.Till then the chant should be:
Women of India unite, you have nothing to lose except your patriarchal chains
Embrace The Coming Ecological Inflection Point And Great Transition
by Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet, Countercurrents
Environmental awareness must soon reach a critical mass, whereby massive societal resources are re-allocated to scale up solutions in a great ecological transition; before biosphere, social, and economic collapse become unavoidable. An approaching ecological inflection point reflects a narrow band of opportunity to repair fragmented, quivering nature, clearly at its breaking point, before it is too late.
New York City: After 25 years of ecological advocacy, I can say with certainty that I have never seen as much genuine environmental concern as I do now. This has generally not led en masse to required action such as personal dramatic emission cuts and refusal to buy all products from old-growth forests. But for the first time ecological decline including climate change is visibly apparent to a degree that it is readily known by the educated and it can’t be denied by anyone of good faith and character.
Concurrently trend lines for atmospheric and ecosystem decline are more perilous than ever. Humanity is putting the biosphere at great risk, as rampant industrial pollution and clearing of natural vegetation results in abrupt climate change occurring far faster than envisioned, and natural ecosystems failing to provide the surrounding matrix of natural services which makes life possible.
The natural family’s only hope is that an ecological inflection point occurs, whereby the impacts of biosphere collapse become so evident – perhaps as millions die from extreme storms and other depredations – while there is still time to implement sufficient solutions. At that point the human family will howl for the necessary measures to be taken to protect and restore natural ecosystems, and end fossil fuels, on an accelerated emergency basis.
The only questions are whether as ecosystem collapse becoming apparent, will we squabble for what remains as we deny ecologism, or will we remain free as we begin in earnest a great transition to green liberty? And will we have identified and prototyped, and be ready with sufficient ecological solutions, to meet human needs while maintaining a living Earth? The ecological inflection point is a narrow band of opportunity to repair fragmented, quivering nature before it is too late. We must be ready with templates for ecological sustainability, which can employ billions, as a program of ecological restoration and energy conservation are rapidly scaled.
What hope remains for humanity and her habitat as ecological awareness and collapse converge in such a manner, is whether we are able to ramp up fast enough the plethora of ecological solutions we all know about but don’t support enough. These efforts may be abetted by deep wells of global ecological resilience of which we are unaware, as the Earth is a living organism that has self-regulated for 3.5 billion year, yet whose workings remain largely unknown to her peoples.
Clearly we are already in ecological overshoot, as planetary boundaries regarding species loss, terrestrial ecosystem destruction, and industrial emissions of carbon, phosphorous, and nitrogen have already been breached; and thresholds for safe levels of human population, ozone, ocean acidity, aerosols, freshwater, and chemicals draw near.
Yet as mayhem looms, if we all came together to harness all the resources at our disposal – including from conspicuous over-consumption by the rich, and the military-industrial complex’s lucrative war making – surely we could marshal a response that allows the land, air, water, and oceans to rest, recover, and flourish thereby ensuring global ecological sustainability.
Reaching the ecological inflection point that triggers the great ecological transition before it is too late is going to require an end to greenwashing, which means accepting the gravity of our situation and necessary personal and societal changes, and confronting those that continue to greenwash for personal benefit. Celebrity climate activists jetting around to tell us to cut emissions, and large foundation fed bureaucratic environmental groups enriching themselves from old-growth forest logging, will have to be rebuked and shamed until their behavior changes.
And the voices must be amplified of those personally creating lifestyles without cars, traveling less, eating little or no meat, having one child, and limiting their consumption; and coming together to remake a society that is peaceful, just, and equitable. Ecological leadership must walk the walk.
The poor and dispossessed, as well as those that opulently overconsume, can together learn the meaning of enough. Equity does not mean everyone is equal, but everyone’s basic needs must be met as hard workers have more, but not ridiculously so to the detriment of others and the Earth. As livelihoods of the rich and the poor converge to reasonable levels of disparity, the talents of each can be harnessed to power enterprise without fossil fuels, to scale up alternative energy, even as we conserve negawatts.
Vast resources can be put into reclaiming non-productive, depauperate land with the expansion of historically accurate natural ecosystems, built upon restoring and reconnecting ecologically neglected fragments, wherever remaining natural vegetation occurs; intermingled with organic permaculture, to once again ensconce the human species within nature’s nurturing embrace.
Only by leaving fossil fuels in the ground and returning humanity to a sea of nature can biosphere collapse be avoided, and a sustainable future for human and all life assured.
As ecosystems collapse, horrendous suffering is going to become apparent. When we as a collective consciousness understand the magnitude of the situation – basically as mass human and wildlife death can no longer be ignored – we must be ready to scale proven ecological solutions swiftly and prudently. The sooner the ecological inflection point is reached, the greater likelihood we will avert complete and total biosphere collapse, and the end of being. A few extremophiles, and dandelions and cockroaches, may hang on; but complex life may end, and there is no assurance it will reemerge.
We must maximize the probability that enough nature will remain to sustain Gaia, a living Earth, which can essentially go on forever.
It is vitally important that each and every one of us commit to the great ecological transition by continuing to build awareness. That each of us becomes a leader in living well but consuming simply and with great care. And that we engage with the global growth machine to alter the means of enterprise in our image. We must work for ecological change within society and its engine of production, as only by converting business and the rich to our cause of self and ecological survival can we all prevail.
Sadly, I believe the possibility of an ecological inflection point is fading. And that the mass migration, state of perma-war, and resurgence of authoritarian fascism which we are witnessing are the result of environmental decline and resource scarcity. The sooner this can be widely recognized, the sooner we can get on with a massive program to save Earth, all her life, and thus ourselves.
Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, ecological policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises - and related justice, rights and equity issues - while actively organizing with others sufficient solutions
Gripped By Climate Disruption, World On Brink Of Global Water Crisis
by Deirdre Fulton, CommonDreams.org, Countercurrents
Global water shortages, exacerbated by human-caused climate change, are likely to spur conflict and migration across the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa—all while negatively impacting regional economies, according to a new World Bank report published Tuesday.
Rising demand combined with increasingly "erratic and uncertain" supply could reduce water availability in cities by as much as two thirds by 2050, compared to 2015 levels, the report warns. Meanwhile, "food price spikes caused by droughts can inflame latent conflicts and drive migration," a World Bank press statement reads.
The report further cautions: "Unless action is taken soon, water will become scarce in regions where it is currently abundant—such as Central Africa and East Asia—and scarcity will greatly worsen in regions where water is already in short supply—such as the Middle East and the Sahel in Africa. These regions could see their growth rates decline by as much as 6% of GDP by 2050 due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health, and incomes."
However, the World Bank adds, "the negative impacts of climate change on water could be neutralized with better policy decisions, with some regions standing to improve their growth rates by up to 6% with better water resource management."
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Scientists have warned that global warming is setting the stage for more frequent, and more devastating, droughts. Indeed, extreme drought is currently causing hardship in several of the regions named in the World Bank report.
Just this week, Zimbabwe put its wild animals up for sale, "saying it needed buyers to step in and save the beasts from a devastating drought," Reuters reported. On Tuesday, Burkina Faso's government began rationing water in its drought-hit capital, which is home to some two million people. Much of India is currently suffering from a scorching heat wave and severe drought conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock and humans, and left at least 330 million Indians without enough water for their daily needs.
The World Bank's warning comes on the heels of a study published this week in the journal Climatic Change, which suggests that the Middle East and North Africa could become "uninhabitable" by the end of this century due to climate change and increasing hot weather extremes.
Echoing the World Bank, the Max Planck Institute researchers behind that study wrote: "We anticipate that climate change and increasing hot weather extremes in the [Middle East and North Africal], a region subject to economic recession, political turbulence and upheaval, may exacerbate humanitarian hardship and contribute to migration."
|May 5, 2016||
America’s Biggest Of All Big Lies
by Eric Zuesse, Strategic-culture.org, Countercurrents
On April 26th, Reuters headlined from Romania, “‘We’re Not Here to Provoke,’ Say U.S. Pilots on Putin’s Doorstep”, and gave as an example: “‘We're not here to provoke anybody, we're here to work with our allies,’ says Dan Barina, a 26-year-old pilot on his first trip to a region where tensions have risen markedly since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Romania's neighbor Ukraine two years ago.”
How can it not be ‘provoking', when Russia now faces a threat from Obama and America's NATO alliance, that’s vastly worse than what America had faced from the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev and the USSR’s Warsaw Pact alliance in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis? That was just one missile-base, 90 miles from the U.S. — not dozens of them, some right on Russia’s border. Are those American pilots idiots to believe their superiors’ absurd statements about what their mission is, or is insanity the explanation here — or, is there even some third explanation possible for this oblivious statement from the American pilot? Perhaps those soldiers and airmen are simply drowning in (or drunk with) U.S. propaganda? They really believe that Russia is moving too close to NATO, not that NATO has already moved too close to Russia? Really? The Reuters report said that NATO countries were doing this to protect themselves from “an increasingly aggressive Russia.” Wow. But that’s the line promoted by U.S. President Barack Obama. And he’s accepted as a decent person not only by the millions of voters in his own Democratic Party (though not in the Republican Party, which blames him for everything except the truth: that he is governing so far to the right that they have to concoct false ‘leftist’ reasons to criticize him); but, he’s also respected even by the publics in Europe, where they suffer the flood of refugees from the invasions he leads. After all: one must never underestimate the power of propaganda, to warp the public’s minds.
On February 2nd, the U.S. ‘Defense’ Secretary, Russia-hater Ashton Carter, announced — and the equally Russia-hating NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed and endorsed — America’s quadrupling of its troops and weapons on and near Russia’s northwestern borders; and America’s pilot Dan Barina is part of this extremely hostile action, by the U.S. and NATO, against the people in Russia.
Russia is now surrounded, on and near its borders, by numerous U.S. nuclear weapons — weapons and troops that are as close to St. Petersburg and Moscow as they can possibly get without actually invading Russia.
In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev dissolved the USSR and ended its Warsaw Pact, upon a promise from the regime of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush to the then-Soviet (soon-to-become merely Russian) leader, that NATO would move “not one inch to the east” — a promise which the American President told his people in private was actually a lie, but which they, and all subsequent U.S. Presidents, have accepted as Western policy founded on that lie, by expanding NATO not merely “one inch to the east,” but right up to Russia’s very borders. That’s what this February 2nd policy by U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO stooges is bringing substantially closer to culmination.
How can this not be “provocative”? What type of idiot can believe his superiors when they say “We’re not here to provoke anybody”? Of course, it’s not to “provoke” Russians: it’s to downright terrify them. They’d have to be crazy not to be terrified, at being increasingly surrounded by these WMD, from what is increasingly clearly their enemy.
This big lie, that what America is doing there is ‘defensive’, is stanched up by other, lesser, lies, such as Obama’s lie that the reason why he’s expanding America’s Strategic Defense Initiative (anti-ballistic missile, or ‘star wars’) system, in Europe, has been to protect Europe from Iranian nuclear missiles. Iran never had nuclear weapons, and Obama reached an agreement with Iran that will for decades prevent Iran from having them, but he still expands the SDI system right up to Russia’s borders, as ‘protection against Iran’. The people who protest against Obama’s lies are then marginalized as mere kooks, which is the way to get idiots to ignore even the most barefaced facts (such as Western terrorization of the Russian population), because only idiots can continue to believe such liars as the Obama regime, when their lies are so obvious as this. These protests against Obama and NATO and all of Western aggression, aren’t coming from America’s Republicans or other right-wingers: the smearing of these protesters with that broad-brush taint can be believed only by idiots — people who are willingly suckers, suckers notwithstanding the blatancy with which the facts run against the lies they swallow.
From the very get-go, in 1983 — when the Republican U.S. President, Ronald Reagan (with the active support of Ashton Carter at MIT), started the SDI project, under the lie that disabling a combatant’s retaliatory ability isn’t profoundly aggressive against that opponent (basically checkmating him) — the SDI concept was aimed at achieving an invasion of the Soviet Union which couldn’t be effectively countered; it was aimed ultimately at replacing the balance-of-power system of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD), by a gross imbalance of power that would enable conquest of the opponent; it would enable a blitz-attack against the Soviet Union, an attack which wouldn’t be able effectively to be responded to via a counter-attack; it would enable an attack which would pre-emptively disable that response to it. In other words: it’s all a con, a lie, to say that SDI is ‘purely a defensive measure’. It can be the most decisive aggressive measure, the only way that’s even conceivable to ‘win’ a nuclear war (as some of the West’s aristocrats think can be done).
Wikipedia notes about Ashton Carter: “Carter was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as an advocate of preventive wars against North Korea and Iran. In response to increase in tension in Ukraine, Carter considered proposing deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe that could pre-emptively destroy Russian weapons.” That’s a “hawkish” background just as Hillary Clinton’s is, virtually indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; and yet, Barack Obama, when he was starting his political career in a region where the opposition to invading Iraq was strong, Obama claimed that he opposed invading Iraq. Yet, somehow, once he was finally inside the White House, suddenly the people he was surrounding himself with were Wall-Street-backed individuals who had supported invading Iraq (and any other country whose leader was friendly toward Russia). He did to Libya, Ukraine, and Syria, what George W. Bush did to Iraq. If that’s not fraudulent ‘democracy’, then what is? The public had been given no indication they would be getting, with Barack Obama, merely a more-articulate version of George W. Bush.
America has been lying not only regarding its aggressive designs against the Soviet Union, but (and this is far more heinous) — afterward, when the supposed ‘ideological’ reason for the Cold War had ended — it is lying even more blatantly in its ‘justifications’ for its (and NATO’s) anti-Russia policies despite communism having ended and the Soviet Union (and its Warsaw Pact) disbanded.
How much longer will the aristocracy that control the U.S. Government be able to get away with such obvious lies, such continuation and even escalation of the “Cold War” after its very raison d’etre (anti-communism) is long-since gone? If it turns out to be too long, then only a matter of time will pass before those buttons get pushed and those nuclear weapons are released, to destroy the world. Horrific as those weapons are, they are built, and manned, to be used. If this seems unimaginable, then the question has to be this: Is it as unimaginable as is the manifested-existing evilness of America’s aristocracy (such as Barack Obama, Ashton Carter, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, George Soros, the Koch brothers, etc.) and of the aristocracies (in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere) that are allied with it?
And, the use of ‘Crimea’ as an excuse for this restoration of the “Cold War” (which is already a hot war in Ukraine, Syria, and other lands, where the U.S. sees fit to replace leaders that ally with Russia), is just as bogus as is the use of ‘Iranian nuclear weapons’ as an excuse for installing SDI. Any aristocracy that needs to lie so blatantly in order to continue along such a catastrophic path as this, needs to be defeated, instead of to be believed and obeyed. They might as well be Satan. Except that, unfortunately, they’re not mythological — which makes all the difference: this demon is all-too-real.
Here are some news reports from perhaps the world’s best living investigative reporter, Christof Lehmann, who has provided shocking details about how vile this global-aristocratic operation is, regarding Syria — entailing not only the U.S. aristocracy, but the European ones, and the Arabic ones, the entire rotten-through-and-through “Western alliance” (an alliance of aristocracies who can be satisfied with nothing less than their collective global conquest).
The first report, on 2 May 2013, titled “EU Lifts Oil Embargo on Syria – Buys Directly from Al Qaeda”, summarizes the key facts that Western media had already reported (prior to their being virtually banned from reporting these things in the West), things such as that 27 of the 28 EU nations had already decided in April 2013 to purchase oil stolen from Syria by “the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked rebel group,” in order to assist the Saudi and Qatari royals in financing “the moderate opposition forces” (such as Al Qaeda — the group that had perpetrated 9/11 and other terrorist attacks against Western populations; and, even Seymour Hersh reported, on 4 April 2014, that Obama and U.S. allies were supplying weapons to al-Nusra) to defeat the Syrian army of Bashar al-Assad. (Assad is Shiite but secular, the opposite of fundamentalist Sunni Islamic, which is the jihadism that the Sauds and their fellow-Arab royals are devoted to; and Assad is furthermore allied with those Arab-royals’ chief oil-and-gas competitor, Russia; so, Western aristocracies help these Sunni jihadists who are being sent into Syria to overthrow Assad.)
The second in the series, on 8 August 2013, was titled “EU/US Al-Qaeda Massacres on Kurds for Oil and Secession.” It opened with this summary:
In April 2013, the European Union lifted its embargo on the import of oil from “rebel held” Syrian territories. The import [of oil] is primarily to come from the predominantly Kurdish region of Syria. In July and August 2013, confirmed and unconfirmed reports about massacres of Kurds, committed by western-backed, Al-Qaeda associated insurgents, increase simultaneously with an influx of insurgents [jihadists] from western countries. An estimated 17,000 fighters from the Kurdish Workers´ Party, PKK have deployed from Turkey to the region near Irkuk, in the Kurdish Administrated Region of Iraq. The function of the EU/US strategy – massacres [of Syria’s civilian population] for oil, to finance mercenaries [those jihadist groups that are pouring into Syria to eliminate Assad], and to create a demand for secession among Syrian Kurds, over perceived security concerns.
The third in the series, on 22 June 2014, was titled, “U.S. Embassy in Ankara Headquarter for ISIS War on Iraq – Hariri Insider”, and it opened:
The green light for the use of ISIS brigades to carve up Iraq, widen the Syria conflict into a greater Middle East war and to throw Iran off-balance, was given behind closed doors at the Atlantic Council meeting in Turkey, in November 2013, told a source close to Saudi-Lebanese billionaire Saad Hariri, adding that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara is the operation’s headquarters.
A “trusted source” close to the Saudi-Lebanese multi-billionaire and former Lebanese P.M. Saad Hariri told, on condition of anonymity, that the final green light for the war on Iraq with ISIS or ISIL brigades was given behind closed doors, at the sidelines of the Atlantic Council’s Energy Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 22-23, 2013. …
“Certain circles in Washington put a hell of a lot of pressure on Obama to put a gun to al-Maliki’s head”, said the Hariri source, adding that “time was running out and Obama was hesitant.” Asked what he meant with “time was running out” and if he could specify who it was that pushed Obama, he said: …“Who exactly pressured Obama? I don’t know who delivered the message to Obama.” …
The summit was, among others, attended by Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernst Monitz, Atlantic Council President Frederick Kempe, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft [and others]. … Noting that a prominent member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, Prince Abdul Rachman al-Faisal has been named as the one being “in command” of the ISIS brigades, and if he could either confirm or deny, he nodded, adding that “the Prince” is responsible for financing the operation and for part of the command structure, but that the operations headquarters is the U.S. Embassy in Ankara Turkey.
The fourth in this series, on 7 October 2013, was titled, “Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria”, and it’s so good, it simply must be read (just click onto that link). This report documented that Obama’s accusation that Assad had been responsible for the August 2013 sarin attack in Syria is a lie, and that Obama and his allies are the actual people who were behind that sarin attack. It opened: “Evidence leads directly to the White House, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, CIA Director John Brennan, Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Bandar, and Saudi Arabia´s Interior Ministry.” It described the scheme, by the White House, plus Saudi King Salman, plus Turkey’s President Erdogan, plus Qatar’s Emir Thani, to run sarin-precursor chemicals from Muammar Gaddafi’s stockpiles through Turkey into Syria, to be turned there into sarin, so that the 21 August 2013 gassing in Ghouta Syria resulted, and it was blamed, by these liars, against Assad, so that it could be used by U.S. President Obama as the excuse to do to Assad what Obama and his allies had already done to Gaddafi.
There were many subsequent news-reports, by Seymour Hersh and others, which documented different aspects of this operation, but none gave a fuller picture of it than did the original, by Christof Lehmann.
By no coincidence, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, and Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, all were leaders who had been friendly toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The idea among the Western aristocracies is to eliminate all of Putin’s foreign allies, and then (once he has no foreign allies remaining) to get rid of Putin himself, because Putin refuses to buckle to Western control.
As regards jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda and even ISIS: though they’re of big concern to Western publics, Western aristocrats are far more concerned to conquer Russia. Their foreign policies display this top priority of theirs. To these aristocrats, jihadists are just a side-show. The main event is Russia. The end of communism, and of the USSR, and of the Warsaw Pact, don’t really make any difference to them. They want the land, and its resources. They don’t care about the people on it — anywhere. Just nuke ’em, maybe? It’s a messy job, but it’s the type of job for people such as Dan Barina. Western taxpayers pay their salaries, but the people who control what they do are the Western aristocrats.
Thus, for example, Obama’s National Security Strategy 2015 uses the term “aggression” 18 times, and 17 of them refer to Russia; none of them refer to Al Qaeda, nor to ISIS (which he calls instead “ISIL,” because that’s the English-language version of “DAESH,” the name that the royal Sauds give to the organization), nor to the Sauds and the other Arabic royal families, who finance jihadist groups. (Their only demand upon them is to avoid perpetrating their terrorism within their own countries — to do it only abroad.) However, if the West’s enemies are their own aristocracies, which control both their government and their ’news’ media, then it makes sense that their propaganda will blame Russia and its allies (i.e.: blame the countries the West’s aristocrats want to conquer), for everything they can concoct to blame them. Where the public’s main enemy is in charge, it’s natural for that enemy’s chief foreign enemy to be blamed by the government and the ‘news’ media, so as to get one enemy of the aristocrats (their own public) fearful of the aristocrats’ other enemy (the foreign aristocracy they want to defeat). “Let’s have you and him fight it out.”
Western governments have been heisted by Western aristocrats. This is what has become of “Western ‘democracy’” — and not only of Western kings and princes such as reign in the Arabic countries. They’re all actually tyrannies, even the ones (such as Obama) who speak pretty phrases — who lie right and left about why they are doing what they are doing.
The entire U.S. alliance — all of the aristocracies that comprise it — are rotten to the core. Millions of refugees have poured into Europe, and the publics in Europe are outraged, but the people who are behind it all are their own nation’s leadership (both elected and unelected), who support or even participate in American invasions and coups — not those refugees, from the mass-murder and chaos those Western leaders had caused, in Iraq, in Libya, in Ukraine, in Syria, and elsewhere. The publics in the West take the terrorist attacks and other blows, while their government and media blame Russia and its allied countries such as the BRICS, though the real villains are their own national leadership, and the leadership of “the Western alliance” — the invasion-alliance.
The sickness, that’s destroying the world, emanates from Washington and Riyadh, not from Moscow and Beijing. The proper name for it is “conquest.” This is not the way authentic democracy functions. Feudalism used to function this way. Fascism now does. And now, the biggest of all its Big Lies is that it’s all being done in order to “promote world peace and security.” It’s like in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, 1984.
The real enemy lies within, where it reigns, even in the outlying aristocracies. It calls itself “the Western alliance.” It’s not only responsible for the invasions that are increasingly a curse upon the world; it (via the “Collective Defense” provision of the NATO portion of it) constitutes the hair-trigger for global nuclear annihilation.
Either NATO will end, or the world as we’ve always known and wanted to live in it, will. It’s one or the other. George Herbert Walker Bush left us this curse upon the world, and the challenge now is to end NATO now, because, if it shouldn’t have ended when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact did, then when should it end — or is it going to end only when the world-as-we’ve-known-it ends: in nuclear annihilation? If it’s not going to end in nuclear annihilation, then a global decision will have to be made, that NATO is a criminal organization, which must be ended now.
The result of that would be a better and a safer world, for everybody. Aristocratic dreams of world-conquest have already reached beyond the danger-point, to the alarm-bell. If the solution is not now, it will be the final solution for everybody. The dreams of Obama and many others in the U.S. aristocracy, for “Prompt Global Strike” and “The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy”, are a mythical solution that will actually lead inevitably to such a final solution — not only for Russians, but for everyone.
Peter S. Rieth, at East-West Accord, headlined on April 28th, “Are Poland’s Elites Itching for War with Russia?” and he documented that they are, and that their hatred of Russians goes back at least to when “Poland invaded Kiev in 1919.” He vaguely urges the Obama Administration to withdraw its thousands of new troops and new weapons from Poland, because, “The United States fails to recognize that although it will presumably retain command over any American troops eventually stationed in Poland, it will be helpless in the face of Polish impetuosity.” But his statement is ambiguous, weak, and even evasive: the actual reason that (as he only implicitly acknowledges) the Polish aristocracy’s “impetuosity” could produce World War III, is that both Poland and the U.S. have signed the NATO Treaty with its mutual-defense Article Five saying, in effect, that whenever one member-nation claims to have been attacked by Russia, the U.S. will launch its nuclear weapons against Russia. The only rational opinion of such a commentary as that, is: Cut it out! The reality is: End NATO now!! NATO after 1991 is a criminal organization, the biggest threat to the entire world; and, such pusillanimous commentaries, which don’t even point to the real hair-trigger for nuclear war, are worthless.
Nothing short of ending NATO now, will suffice. Gorbachev ended the Warsaw Pact in 1991. When will NATO end — or will the world end first?
The worst part of it is: Germany, France, and UK, haven’t yet withdrawn from NATO. Until they do, NATO will continue to be the red-hot danger it is. No rational voter in any of those countries will vote for any politician who fails to state clearly: End NATO Now! We must withdraw from NATO!!
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
|May 5, 2016||
Two Degrees Was Too Much - Global Warming Is Out Of Control
by Nicholas C. Arguimbau, Countercurrents
produce "an agreement hailed as 'historic, durable and ambitious' ”and "the world's greatest diplomatic success" UK Guardian December 15, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-cop-diplomacy-developing-united-nations. The president of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel said, “A great tide has turned. Finally the world stands united against the central environmental challenge of our time.' http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/files/paris-climate-agreement-IB.pdf.
They were still basking in the glow of their success, when news arrived of a sudden and extreme rise in global temperature, described by climate scientists as "stunning", "a shocker", "a bombshell', "hurtling at a frightening pace toward the globally agreed maximum of 2C warming over pre-industrial levels", "a kind of climate emergency", an event "using up all our room for manoevre." UK Guardian, "February breaks global temperature records by 'shocking' amount," https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/mar/14/february-breaks-global-temperature-records-by-shocking-amount . An event, in short, rendering almost obsolete everything done at the Paris conference.
The most significant aspect of the February event is probably the speed with which it occurred. Spikes occur in global temperature during major El Ninos, although ordinarily not in arctic regions or the Southern Hemisphere, and this was the largest spike ever. It dwarfs the spike of the last major El Nino, 1998, Here's what recent history of global average monthly ocean and land surface temperature looks like. As you can see, the monthly global average temperature went up in the last two months approximately as much as it had in the prior 35 years. To be sure, El Nino does funny things, but just look for another comparable El Nino.
As you can see, the February temperature anomaly hit 1.35 degrees, by far the greatest in history; a few weeks before, the Paris conference had given lipservice to a goal of keeping below 1.5 degrees, already apparently impossible with the temperature anomaly passing 0.8 degrees, That wasn't supposed to happen until we passed 2 degrees, but here we are at 1.35 only two years after we were at 0.8. Hmmm. It looks sort of as if we should have drawn the line of relative safety at 0.8 degrees ior below nstead of two but that's MUCH too llittle information to go on because the numbers are too "noisy."
There is a stunning video of the arctic ice melt if you prefer visuals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRvmCiNkHKM
Only recently have scientists discovered how powerful the albedo effect is. There were models designed in the sixties to assess the problem, from which it was concluded that cloud cover in the arctic would prevent it from becoming serious. Actual measurements, however, were not made until two years ago, using satellite data. Why it took so long is a mystery. Did "we" not want to know? Be that as it may, the scientists showed that over the period 1979 to 2014, warming attributable to the albedo effect in the arctic ocean alone had been equal to 25% of warming directly attributable to CO2. Pistone, Eisenman and and Ramanathan, National Academy of Sciences, "Observational determination of albedo decrease caused by vanishing Arctic sea ice," http://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3322.short These folks should get a Nobel Prize.
|May 6, 2016||
Russia Accuses Obama Of Supporting Al Qaeda In Syria
by Eric Zuesse , Strategic-culture.org, Countercurrents
On May 4th, Russia’s Sputnik news agency headlined "Lavrov: US Tried to Include Al-Nusra Front Positions in 'Silent’ Period”, and reported that Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Moscow about the lengthy negotiations between himself and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to agree on conditions for a Syrian ceasefire and peace talks to take place between Syria’s government and Syria’s rebels, said, "During the negotiations, our US partners actually tried to draw the borders of this ‘zone of silence’ to include a significant number of positions occupied by al-Nusra [Front]. We managed to exclude this as it is absolutely unacceptable.”
Al Qaeda in Syria calls itself “Al Nusra."
The “zone of silence” or “silent period” (and there are other phrases for it) refers to the areas in Syria that would be excluded from the ceasefire.
In other words: Lavrov was saying that whereas Russia’s President Putin refuses to stop military action in Syria to kill Syria’s Al Qaeda, America’s President Obama has been continuing, ever since the U.S.-Russian negotiations for a ceasefire in Syria started in January of this year, to insist that Russia must stop bombing those jihadists. Russia’s Foreign Minister was saying that Obama has been trying to protect Al Nusra.
Here is a chronological presentation of the reporting in the Western press, about U.S. President Obama’s efforts on behalf of Syria’s Al Qaeda (Al Nusra):
On 7 January 2016, Seymour Hersh reported in the London Review of Books,
On 20 January 2016, the AP headlined "Kerry, Lavrov try to settle differences over Syrian talks”, and reported,
On 12 February 2016, the New York Times bannered, "In Syria, Skepticism That Cease-Fire Will Stop Fighting”, and reported that,
On 16 February 2016, independent journalist Gareth Porter headlined "Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception”, and reported that,
That reporter, unlike some others, assumes that Obama’s support of Syria’s Al Qaeda is due to Obama’s weakness in adhering to the desires of haters of Russia, both in the U.S. and among America’s allies abroad:
Mr. Porter presents no evidence backing up his assumption that President Obama is reluctant to adhere to this obsession against Russia. Seymour Hersh had reported, in his 7 January 2016 LRB report, facts that contradict Mr. Porter’s assumption:
In other words: Despite the opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama was determined to help Nusra replace the Assad government. Despite what Mr. Porter assumed, Barack Obama was not a weak President, but instead a very determined President, a President who fired people in his Administration who advised him against continuing his attempt to replace al-Assad by al-Nusra. Russia insisted on bombing them, and reluctantly — and in fits and starts — U.S. President Obama accepted Russia’s condition.
On 19 February 2016, the Washington Post bannered "U.S., Russia hold Syria cease-fire talks as deadline passes without action”, and reported that,
That report even included an indication that President Obama’s current Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, who started his job on 17 February 2015, after the war against Syria was already well under way and Obama had replaced the people on his team who were opposed to it, is, if anything, even more obsessive against Russia than Obama himself is:
In other words: when Obama replaced Chuck Hagel by Ashton Carter, he was replacing someone whom he held to be insufficiently anti-Russian, by a person, Carter, who is so extremely hostile toward Russians, as to have since been restrained by Obama from pursuing this hostility as forcefully as he wishes to. The only Cabinet member mentioned there as having persuaded Obama not to follow Carter’s more aggressive stance against Russia was Obama’s second-term Secretary of State, John Kerry.
On 20 February 2016, Reuters headlined "Syrian opposition says temporary truce possible, but deal seems far off”, and, under the sub-head “Nusra Front in Spotlight," reported that,
Of course, “Syria’s opposition” there included the United States; and so the U.S. President was, at that time, still insisting upon rejecting the Russian President’s demand that Nusra be included in the “zone of silence,” the locations where the war would continue uninterrupted during the otherwise-ceasefire.
That report went on:
Obama, like King Saud, Emir Thani, Tayyip Erdogan, and the other enemies of Russia, still stood firm that Nusra not be destroyed.
Therefore, the issue of whether Putin would be allowed to continue bombing Nusra was a heavy topic of disagreement between Obama's pro-al-Qaeda-in-Syria alliance, versus Putin’s anti-al-Qaeda-in-Syria alliance.
Seymour Hersh’s 7 January 2016 LRB article concluded:
Even though Obama accepts the case that Turkey’s leader, Erdoğan, is a dangerous man to be allied with, Obama moves forward with what is perhaps the most rabidly hostile toward Russia U.S. Administration ever. And this is after the USSR, and its NATO-mirror organization, the Warsaw Pact, were terminated by Russia in 1991, and after Al Qaeda perpetrated not only 9/11 but many other terrorist attacks, not only in the U.S., but in many of America’s allied countries — not to mention in Russia itself.
Furthermore, Seymour Hersh, in his 4 April 2014 article in LRB, “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, said that,
And, even prior to that, on 7 October 2013, Christof Lehmann at his site nsnbc.me, headlined “Top US and Saudi Officials responsible for Chemical Weapons in Syria”, and opened by summarizing:
He said that, regarding the 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack, which Obama claims crossed his “red line” to launch an invasion of Syria to overthrow Assad, and which Hersh and others report to have been based actually on Obama’s and his allies’ “Rat Line” of weapons from Libya into Syria, the initial decision was made by the Saudi agent in Syria, Zahran Alloush:
Zahran Alloush was killed by a Russian missile on Christmas Day 2015, and his nephew and close associate Mohammed Alloush was chosen by King Salman al-Saud (actually by his son Prince Salman al-Saud) to lead the Syrian opposition in the peace talks on the Syrian war. Zahran Alloush, like the Saud family, favored extermination of Shiites (including Assad), and so does Mohammed Alloush, which (besides the Alloushes’ support of foreign jihad generally) is perhaps the main reason why the Sauds had selected him to lead the U.S.-Saudi-Qatari-Turkish side in these peace negotiations against Syria. However, the Alloushes also greatly admire Osama bin Laden, who founded Al Qaeda; and, so, in total, there can be little if any doubt that what Lavrov was reported on May 4th to have said about Obama’s support for Syria’s Al Qaeda makes sense, even though Obama himself had arranged for bin Laden to be killed.
It seems that, at least after Obama’s success at killing off many of Al Qaeda’s leaders, he is determined to support Al Qaeda’s original jihad, which had been against the Soviet Union, and which continues now against Russia and its ally Assad. Obama therefore protects, and helps to arm, Al Qaeda in Syria, so as to eliminate, if possible, yet another ally of Russia (after Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Viktor Yanukovych): this time Bashar al-Assad.
Whereas the U.S. and its allies will not likely affirm what Lavrov said, the facts do — even some that have been reported in the Western press — not only in non-Western media.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
|May 7, 2016||
Why Obama Prioritizes Ousting Assad Over Defeating Syria’s Jihadists
by Eric Zuesse , Strategic-culture.org, Countercurrents
07 May, 2016
Dr. Christina Lin, a leading young scholar on jihadist groups, opened her April 8th commentary at Asia Times:
That report went on to document, essentially, that U.S. President Barack Obama is continuing his efforts to replace the the only secular, non-sectarian government in the Middle East, that of the Ba’athist Party, which has always been the only non-religious political party in the Arabic world — everything else in Arabia has been fundamentalist-Sunni, to at least some extent (enough for even the least-fundamentalist of America’s Arab allies to cooperate with al-Nusra, which is Al Qaeda in Syria). Nusra has also received direct support from America and its allies, through Turkey, which is a member-nation of NATO and serves as the transit-route into Syria for the thousands of jihadists (all of whom are Sunni) flowing into Syria to bring down Bashar al-Assad. Those jihadists, in turn, are the forces on the ground in Syria that are trying to take over the country — bring down the secular Shiite Assad and replace his Ba’athist government (which is allied with Russia), by a Sunni Shariah-law government (allied with Saudi Arabia). (Think of it: after 9/11, the U.S. government is aiding Al Qaeda! The U.S. government is more against Russia than it’s against jihadists — though Russia never invaded the U.S., and communism is gone! Crazy but true.)
Dr. Lin quotes a Saudi official as saying (in Germany’s Spiegel), “We believe that introducing surface-to-air missiles in Syria is going to change the balance of power on the ground … just like surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan were able to change the balance of power there.” He was referring to this in 1979, where Obama’s friend Zbigniew Brzezinski explained why the Americans and the Saudis were supplying SAMs to the mujahideen who became Al Qaeda, and he was also referring to this in 1998, where Brzezinski, when asked whether he thought that arming those fundamentalist Sunnis had been a mistake, said that it certainly was not. Obama is continuing in that (rabidly anti-Russian) vein. Brzezinski still was talking there as if Russia = USSR = “the enemy.” Obama acts from that same viewpoint — the viewpoint that will end either in WW III, or else in Russia’s capitulation to the U.S. aristocracy.
In their view, the end of communism, and the end of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Soviets’ Warsaw Pact (which was the Soviets’ counterpart to America’s NATO alliance), made and make no difference, and Syria should be ruled by jihadist groups instead of by its current government, because Syria’s current government is allied with Russia, and Russia always tries to kill jihadists, never allies with them (as the U.S. does).
Obama overthrew the Russia-friendly government of Ukraine and replaced it with an anti-Russian government; he also led the NATO bombing campaign that overthrew the Russia-friendly leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi; and he has since been trying to do the same thing in Syria, to Assad.
Dr. Lin continues:
Dr. Lin’s calling this from Obama a “blunder” is based upon an assumption that Obama isn’t aware of the harms that he’s causing by what he’s doing; but, on the same day, a report, including shocking documentation from Jane’s (the specialist site about military matters), made clear that Obama is determined to overthrow Assad no matter what the consequences.
The anonymous “Moon of Alabama” blogger posted at Global Research on April 8th, “U.S. Delivers 3,000 Tons Of Weapons And Ammo To Al-Qaeda and Co. in Syria.” Shown there is the “Simplified packing list for December 2015 arms” that were sent. The anonymous blogger explained:
Consequently, Obama is clearly determined to supply weapons to the jihadists until they win. This is no “blunder” on his part. It’s a determination to beat Putin, no matter what. It has consequences not only for the U.S. and for Russia, but for the countries that America invades or whose governments America overthrows. Here are those consequences:
The “2016 Global Emotions Report” by Gallup, surveying over a thousand people in each one of 140 different nations, found that, by far, the people in Syria had “the lowest positive experiences worldwide,” the people there were far more miserable than in any other nation. The score was 36 (on a scale to 100). Second and third worst were tied at 51: Turkey because of the tightening dictatorship there as Turkey has become one of Obama’s key allies in toppling Assad; Nepal, on account of the earthquake. Then tied at 54, were three countries, the fourth, fifth, and sixth, most-miserable places to live: Georgia, which still hasn’t recovered from the U.S.-backed wars against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the majority want to be part of Russia; Serbia, where the majority are opposed to the government’s move to enter NATO; and Iraq, which still hasn’t recovered from Bush’s 2003 invasion. Then tied at 55, are five countries, the seventh-through-eleventh-most-miserable nations: Yemen, where America’s ally the Sauds are dropping American bombs onto Shiite neighborhoods; Bosnia and Herzegovina, which still hasn’t recovered from the civil war and the U.S. bombing; Lithuania, which became impoverished by IMF-imposition of economic austerity, which has prevented economic recovery; Belarus, which will probably be the last country in the world to break away from Marxism; and, finally, the 11th-worst, Ukraine, which prior to the U.S. coup, was less miserable than 29 countries and had a score of 60, which was 5 points higher than today’s — Obama’s coup there has definitely immiserated the Ukrainian people (not to mention displaced millions and slaughtered thousands by the ethnic-cleansing campaign against residents of the former Donbass region of Ukraine).
To what extent would it be sincere, or even honest, then, for the U.S. President to say this?:
In the U.S. Presidential contest this year, the big foreign-affairs issue that separates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on one side, and all of the other candidates on the other, is whether to prioritize killing jihadists, above defeating Assad and any other ally of Russia. Both Sanders and Trump say that killing jihadists is definitely the top priority. Hillary Clinton and the other Republicans say that both priorities are equal and must be pursued with equal vigor, even though that will mean helping the jihadists whenever they’re causing damage to Russia or to Russia’s allies — such as to Assad in Syria. Judging Obama by his actions not his (lying) words, he’s on the side of Clinton and the other (the self-acknowledged) Republicans. The reality is that anyone (such as Clinton, Cruz, and Kasich) who says that both priorities are equal, is really in favor of placing the defeat of Russia as being a higher priority than killing jihadists — but for political reasons can’t afford to admit it publicly. Those candidates are actually the candidates who (like the Bushes and the Clintons) represent the Saud family, who financed Al Qaeda before 9/11, and who continued doing it after 9/11, and whose friends the other Arabic royal families, are financing the other jihadist organizations.
On the one side in this ongoing international war are Russia and its few allies, which include the Shiites, both the secular Assad in Syria, and the fundamentalist Khamenei in Iran; and, on the other side are the United States and its many allies, which include the fundamentalist Sunni royal families, which own Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Oman, but which also include the fundamentalist Sunni, Tayyip Erdogan, in Turkey, who is the Saud family’s agent in the U.S.-led NATO anti-Russian military club. And, of course, NATO and Japan are also on the American team. And so is Israel.
This is geopolitics, the contest for power between the two blocs of aristocracies — the U.S.-Saudi-led bloc on the one side, versus the much smaller Russia-led bloc on the other.
Here is how Brzezinski put it, on page 46 of his classic 1997 statement of the position of the U.S.-Saudi-led bloc, in his book The Grand Chessboard, where he was discussing specifically Ukraine, and also explaining why the West must support the fundamentalist Sunni, or jihadist, groups that threaten to break up and thus weaken or destroy Russia:
Brzezinski was born a Polish nobleman, to a family who were dispossessed by Russians, and he never lost his hatred of Russians. In 1973, he and his friend David Rockefeller (like the Arabic royals a hereditary oil-billionaire) founded the Trilateral Commission, to coordinate America and Europe and Japan, so as to conquer Russia by breaking it up — classic divide-and-conquer aristocratic thinking. That’s what his Grand Chessboard is all about: conquest, for global dominance. To understand not only Obama but the Bushes, and the Clintons, that book is the classic. And the reason why the American aristocracy loathes both Sanders and Trump — different though those two candidates are — is that both candidates present the first possibility since the end of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact in 1991 to end the purely aristocratic war that has continued on since then (with the public financing it via their taxes, and providing the corpses for it in Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and a few other places) to conquer Russia.
Obama is an extraordinarily gifted politician, notwithstanding any deficiencies he has as a national leader, and so here was from his brief exchange (and there was no follow-up on this question) dealing with his biggest achievement and his biggest error as President, speaking with Chris Wallace of Fox News and telecast on April 10th:
But, even without any follow-up question, that actually says a lot: it says that, though Obama didn’t even “plan for the day after” (a shocking admission, which really shows the abysmal caliber of the man), his bombing Libya till Muammar Gaddafi was killed “was the right thing to do.” (George W. Bush feels the same about his having gotten rid of another Russia-ally, Saddam Hussein.) And, of course, the unasked question there was: Why? Why was it “the right thing to do”? But, if his foreign policy is driven obsessively by the goal of taking down the leader of any nation who is friendly toward Russia, then it does make sense, after all — the same sense as what Obama also did to Yanukovych in Ukraine, and is still so persistently trying to do to Assad in Syria. (And Chris Wallace’s having not even noticed that he had, just then, elicited from Obama the most shocking statement in Obama’s entire Presidency, showed that that TV network of psychopaths was functioning true-to-form — the interviewer didn’t even care that the U.S. President had perpetrated a huge bombing campaign without even concerning himself about what the consequences would be — other than to get rid of a leader who was friendly to Russia, which Obama wouldn’t have admitted as his goal, even if it was true.)
And, as regards America’s future international relations, the continuance (or not) of this psychopathic goal, is the top issue in the current U.S. Presidential campaign. Whereas the American public don’t even think much about it, America’s billionaires certainly do, which is why they’re pouring billions into the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and the other candidates who want to continue that goal (taking control of Russia), but with even more intensity than Obama has been doing.
Properly understood, history isn’t only about the past; it is, far more importantly, about the future. That’s why the aristocracy don’t finance the careers of truthful historians: the public are supposed to believe the myths, which have been shaped by the aristocracy in the past. Truthful history would endanger the aristocracy. And that’s why the public aren’t supposed to know such things as, “Why Obama Prioritizes Ousting Assad Over Defeating Syria’s Jihadists,” nor even to know that he does. But, he does; and here has been provided an explanation as to why he does (and understanding why, will pose an even greater threat to the aristocracy — which is why few media will publish this).
The con isn’t supposed to be known; or, if it’s known, it’s not supposed to be noticed.
OBAMA: Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.
And that’s also the reason “Why Obama Prioritizes Ousting Assad Over Defeating Syria’s Jihadists.” He says: doing it in Libya was his “worst mistake.” But he cares so little, that he’s trying to do it again, in Syria. He’s true-to-form, for a psychopath.
And this answers the question, as well as it can be answered. It’s not a matter of corpses, and bloodshed, and immiserated nations, to him; it’s “The Grand Chessboard.” He simply wants to be the person at the mountaintop, even if it’s a mountain of corpses. Or, maybe, especially if it’s a mountain of corpses. This has been the way of aristocracies for thousands of years, and he’s a natural at it. Just a natural. Especially since the CIA has been aiming since at least 1957 to overthrow the Ba’ath Party as Syria’s leadership, and to replace them with a partitioned Syria, whose key oil-and-gas pipeline route would be controlled by a fundamentalist-Sunni ally of the Sauds.
After all, the Grand Chessboard may be just a game, but it can be a very profitable one, for the right people.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
|May 8, 2016||
On Ecology And Going Back To The Land
by Dr. Glen Barry , Ecological Internet, Countercurrents
"Life begets life, making Earth livable." — Dr. Glen Barry
Not much new land is being made, yet land’s well-being is central to the well-being of human and all life. On land, in a miraculous act of biological emergence, plants and animals have naturally evolved and self-organized to form ecosystems and ultimately the biosphere. Yet existing land and its ecology have been treated incautiously and with great malice for centuries.
Land ensconced in natural vegetation is the living membrane that encompasses Earth and mediates energy and material flows between air and water. Naturally evolved terrestrial ecosystems are a majestic miracle, provider of life, and humanity’s habitat home. Over countless eons pulsing lifeforms emerge and radiate creating the panoply of a living Earth.
Life begets life, making Earth livable.
The history of natural land destruction is largely synonymous with human settlements and agriculture. The disease of ecological colonialism radiated from Europe, utterly decimating land and its productive capacity globally. As the myth of a perpetual growth economy has been universally embraced; about 90% of Earth’s original old-growth forests have been pillaged, 50% of top soil has been lost, and about half of global land cover no longer remains in a natural condition.
The global ecological system has percolated from a state of human settlements enmeshed within a sea of life-giving natural ecosystems, to a sea of unnatural human endeavors surrounding islands of nature. Such ecological overshoot is not sustainable and this terrestrial ecosystem loss is collapsing our one shared biosphere.
Rarely has a species gone so rogue and utterly lost their place within the natural world.
The alleged history of human progress is in fact a litany of ecocidal land abuses. The way industrial humans have treated land is hideous and devoid of ethics. We probe, cut, mine, burn, till, and otherwise desecrate billion year old naturally evolved wonders to make single use consumer junk, to amongst other things, wipe our asses of crap. Soil is sterilized and loses it structure as natural vegetation is lost and industrial agriculture creates sterile monocultures in their stead.
The fires raging across Alberta, Canada, epitomize the violence being waged upon ecology, and show the consequences of sick land. Clear-cutting ancient old-growth boreal forests to mine the sand for filthy tar oil, which when burnt changes atmospheric chemistry, signals the culmination of the death wish inherent in Western thought’s embrace of the myth of endless growth.
Rarely is there such clarity that humans have lost sight of their place within ecology, and utterly failed to sustain natural capital upon which their well-being depends. Yet if we accepted that ecology is the meaning of life, and went back to the land, it is possible this decline could be stopped and reversed.
Gaia’s regenerative capacity is impressive, but not infallible. Never has the Earth had to respond to the rise of over 7 billion super-predators, each determined to out consume the other. Such was the history of life post glacier and volcano, and on at least five occasions life has recovered from mass extinction, recovering from such calamities as asteroid hits.
Yet evolution is neither purposeful nor guaranteed. Earth’s uninterrupted 3.5 billion year progression of ever greater ecological complexity has not faced simultaneous abrupt climate change, introduction of novel toxic compounds, and an unprecedented and unrelenting assault upon natural ecosystems of the scale waged by humanity before.
Humanity’s last great hope is that we go back to the land as we embrace ecology ethics.
Thanks to relatively long lag times, even after vegetation is desecrated, an echo of their ecological splendor lives on within fragmented remnants. Albeit tattered and torn, much remains that if given the opportunity can regenerate and expand.
But we have to move fast, and can’t wait as spiraling ecological simplification of quivering remnants continues apace. There is much that can be done to take pressure off the land and areas adjacent to remnants to harness natural regeneration patterns. And there exists great potential to go back to land in terms of nurturing and in many cases leaving untouched Gaia’s natural capital.
Firstly all remaining primary vegetation must be protected in global biosphere preservation zones. Old-growth forest logging must end, and logging in naturally regenerating forests be sharply curtailed. These forests and other natural vegetation provide the blueprint and genetic materials for the coming age of Ecological Restoration.
Those greenwashing old-growth forest logging, falsely claiming it is sustainable as they gorge on foundation money, are guilty of a great crime against Earth and her species. They must be stopped.
Simultaneously we must move to ecologically recover degraded lands. Restoration ecology is the science of returning land to its natural condition. In some cases it can be as simple as allowing remnants to expand naturally by ensuring the development pressures are taken off adjacent denuded lands. It other cases it may include carrying out plantings to augment natural restoration, particularly seeking to reestablish the ecologically dominant species that provide the context for all the others. Potential exists for non-toxic polycultures of native tree species to be planted as part of a broader ecosystem restoration effort in order to provide forest products.
As the greatest abuser of land, industrial agriculture must be abandoned. Petroleum intensive means of growing food cannot last long, and we must return to local means of organic food production. One of the most exciting innovations to emerge in land care is the rise of permaculture, as boundaries between traditional intensive gardens and forests increasingly blur. Forest gardens intermingled within old-growth forests have tremendous potential for perpetual advancement.
This essay calls for each of us to go back to the land to the extent our current situation allows. Begin by buying local, organic food; eating less or no meat; and progress to growing as much of your own food as possible. Work to protect and restore natural vegetation both on land to which you may have access and supporting the work of others doing so globally. Buy some land and restore it, or join (or establish) a community garden. Gather, collect, trade, and plant seeds; establishing nurseries of native plant materials for ecological restoration, permaculture, and organic gardening.
Remember to lie down upon the land, looking at the clouds; to feel at one with and savor contact with nature’s plants and animals, and to hug a tree when the urge arises.
One of the primary components of the coming Great Ecological Transition will be going back to the land to reverse ecological fragmentation and once again place humanity within the context of surrounding healthy land. Along with ending fossil fuels, limiting human population and inequity, and military demobilization; going back to the land is a requirement for a peaceful, just, and fair human future on a living Earth that can last forever.
Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, ecological policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises - and related justice, rights and equity issues - while actively organizing with others sufficient solutions
|May 8, 2016||
The Sustainable Energy Transition: A "Back Of The Envelope" Calculation
by Ugo Bardi, Cassandra's Legacy, Countercurrents
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Image source. "Back of the Envelope" calculations are a tradition in science and often turn out to be able to provide
plenty of useful information, at the same time avoiding the common pitfall of complex models, that of being able to fit
anything provided that one has enough adjustable parameters.
The world's economy can be seen as a giant heat engine. It consumes energy, mainly in the form of fossil fuels, and uses it to produce services and goods. No matter how fine-tuned and efficient the engine is, it still needs energy to run. So, if we want to do the big switch that we call the "energy transition" from fossil fuels to renewables, we can't rely just on efficiency and on energy saving. We need to feed the big beast with something it can run on, energy produced by renewable sources such as photovoltaics (PV) and wind in the form of electric power.
Here are a few notes on the kind of effort we need in order to move to a completely renewable energy infrastructure before it is too late to avoid the double threat of climate disruption and resource depletion. It is a tall order: we need to do it, basically, in some 50 years from now, possibly less, otherwise it will be too late to avoid a climate disaster. So, let's try a "back of the envelope" calculation that should provide an order of magnitude estimate. For a complete treatment, see this article by Sgouridis et al.
Let's start: first of all, the average power generation worldwide is estimated as around 18 TW in terms of primary energy. Of these, about 81% is the fraction generated by fossil fuels, that is 14.5 TW. This can be taken as the power that we need to replace using renewable sources, assuming to leave everything else as it is.
We need, however, also to take into account that these 14.5 TW are the result of primary energy generation, that is the heat generated by the combustion of these fuels. A lot of this heat is waste heat, whereas renewables (excluding biofuels) directly generate electric power. If we take into account this factor, we could divide the total by a factor of ca. 3. So, we may say that we might be able to keep the engine running with 5 TW of average renewable power. This may be optimistic because a lot of heat generated by fossil fuels is used for indoor heating, but it is based on the idea that civilization needs electricity more than anything else in order to survive. In terms of indoor heating, civilization survives even if we turn down the thermostat, wear a multi-layer of wool, and light up a small wood fire.
Renewable installations are normally described in terms of "capacity", measured in "peak-Watt" (Wp), that is the power that the plant can generate in optimal conditions. That depends on the technologies used. Starting from the NREL data, a reasonable average capacity factor a mix of renewables can be taken as about 20%. So, 5 TW of average power need 25 TWp of installed capacity. We need to take into account many other factors, such as intermittency, which may require storage and/or some spare power, but also better efficiency, demand management, and storage. On the whole, we may say that these requirements cancel each other. So, 25 TWp can be seen as a bare minimum for survival, but still a reasonable order of magnitude estimate. Then, what do we have? The present installed renewable capacity is ca. 1.8 TWp; around 7%. Clearly, we need to grow, and to grow a lot.
Let's see how we have been doing so far. (The values in the figure below appear to exclude large hydropower plants, which anyway have a limited growth potential).
As you can see, we have been increasing the installed power every year. According to Bloomberg, the installed capacity reached about 134 GWp in 2015. If this value is compared with the IRENA data, above, we see that the growth of installations is slowing down. Still, 134 GWp/year is not bad. The renewable energy industry is alive and doing well, worldwide.
Now, let's go to the core of the matter: what do we need to do in order to attain the transition, and to attain it fast enough? (*)
Clearly, 130 GWp/year, is not enough. At this rate, we would need two centuries to arrive at 25 TWp. Actually, we would never get there: assuming an average lifespan of the plants of 30 years, after 30 years we would stabilize around 4 TWp and all the new installations would be used to replace the old plants as they wear out. But we could get to 25 TWp in 30 years if we could reach and maintain an installation rate of 800 GWp per year, about 6 times larger than what we are doing today. (note that this doesn't take into account the need of replacing old plants but, if we assume an average lifetime of 30 years, the calculation remains approximately valid from now to 2050.)
We may not need to reach 100% renewable power by 2050; 80% or even less than that may be enough. In such case, we could make it with something like 500 GWp/year; still a much larger rate than what we are doing today. And if we manage to arrive to - say - even just 50% renewable power by 2050, then we will have created a renewable juggernaut that will lead to 100% in a relatively short time. On the other hand, as I said before, 25 TWp may be optimistic. Therefore, we may need installation rates of the order of at least 1 TWp/year or even more. On the whole, I'd say that 1TWp/year is as good as it can be as an order of magnitude estimate of the energy needed for the survival of civilization as we know it. Approximately a factor of 8 higher than what we have been doing so far.
This back of the envelope calculations arrives at results compatible to those of the more detailed calculations by Sgouridis et al. That study makes more stringent and detailed assumptions, such as the need of increasing the supply of energy for a growing human population, a lower capacity factor, the need of a gradual build-up of the production facilities, the need of oversized capacity to account for intermittency, the energy yield of the plants (*) and more. In the end, it arrives at the conclusion that we need to install at least 5 TWp per year for a successful transition (and, by the way, that, if we do so, we can avoid crossing the 2 degrees C warming threshold). That's certainly more realistic than the present calculation, but let's stay with this scribbled envelope as a minimalistic approach. Let's say that, in order for civilization to survive, we need to install 1 TWp per year, how much would that cost?
Let's see how much we have been spending so far, again from Bloomberg:
Image from Bloomberg Global clean energy investment 2004-15, $bn
As you can see, investments in renewable energy were rapidly increasing up to 2011, then they plateaued with the value for 2015 only marginally higher than it was in 2011. However, if we compare with the previous figure, we see that we have been getting more Watt for the buck. In part, it is because of previously made investments, in part because of the improvements in renewable technologies that have reduced the cost per kWp. But note that technological improvements tend to show diminishing returns. The cost of renewable energy in terms of watt/dollar has gone down so fast and so much that from now on it may be difficult to attain the same kind of radical improvements, barring the development of some new, miracle technology. Take also into account that technological improvement may be offset by the increasing costs of the mineral resources needed for the plants.
We said that we need to increase the installation rate of about a factor of 8 in energy terms. Assuming that the cost of renewable energy won't radically change in the future, we need to increase monetary investments of about the same factor. It means that we need to go from the present value of about 280 billion dollars per year to some 2 trillion dollars/year. This is a lot of money, but not an unthinkable: investment rate. If we sum up what we are investing for fossils (about $1 trillion/year), for renewables ($300 billions/year) and nuclear (perhaps around $200 billions/year) we see that we are not far from there, as we can see in the image below. The total amount yearly invested in the world for energy supply is about 2% of the Gross World Product, today totaling about US$78 trillion.
And there we are. The final result of this exercise is, I think, to frame the transition as a "mind-sized" model (to use a term coined by Seymour Papert). Basically, it turns out that, barring technological miracles, a smooth transition from fossils to renewables is probably impossible; simply because the current way of seeing humankind's problems makes it impossible even to conceive such a massive shift of investments as it would be needed (noting also that investments in renewables have not been significantly increasing from 2011 - that's bad).
This calculation also tells us that it is not unthinkable to advance in the right direction and attain a transition that would allow us to maintain at least some of the features of the present civilization. That is, if we are willing to invest in renewable energy, our destiny is not necessarily that of going back to middle ages or to hunting and gathering (or even to extinction, as it seems to be a fashionable future in certain circles). The transition will be rough, it will be difficult, but it will not necessarily be the Apocalypse. Some kind of transition is unavoidable, anyway: fossil fuels just have no future. But civilization may still have a future: all the investments in renewable energy we can manage to make today for the transition will make the difference for the future. This is a choice that we can still make.
(*) Note: In this simplified calculation, I haven't specified where the energy needed for building the new infrastructure will come from and I haven't used the concept of EROEI (energy return on energy invested). It is taken into account in detail in the calculations by Sgouridis et al in terms of the concept of the "Sower's Strategy", that is assuming that fossil fuels provide the necessary energy during the initial stages of the transition, then they are gradually replaced by renewable energy.
Ugo Bardi teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence, in Italy. He is interested in resource depletion, system dynamics modeling, climate science and renewable energy.
|May 10, 2016||
We Overpopulated The Planet Because We Could
by Lionel Anet , Countercurrents
Life’s purpose is to multiply and increase its scope wherever it can. The population of individual species are maintained and controlled by a combination of mainly cooperative and competitive interactions. Competition is wasteful and destructive; therefore, it’s avoided and is an indirect motivation for the multitude of species and the wide range that life covers. It’s what has enable life to be always in a process of changing to a balanced state for an average best condition for itself. Life therefore ventures in all direction to find a foothold.
The appearance of an upright postured ape with hands that could then carry and do things necessitated and supported an expanding brain that could usefully use hands that gradually moved its thump to oppose its fingers. Brain size always follows the ability to manipulate otherwise it’s a waste of energy. That chance coincidence of an animal that had hands like apes and gradually stood upright to walk took a few million years to evolve into modern people. It gave us an unchallengeable advantage over other life, a feat never attained before. Nevertheless, hunter-gatherers in the main manage to control their reproduction to be in balance with their local resources.
So we kept on populating by spreading all over the planet, which coincided with global warming, that ended the ice age, however, people weren’t responsible for that warming. The change in the climate raised the oceans by a global sea level of more than 120 metres, drowning land, as the vast ice sheets of the last Ice Age melted back. This melt-back lasted from about 19,000 to about 6,000 years ago, meaning that the average rate of sea-level rise was roughly 1 metre per century. It’s hard to imagine the turmoil that loss of land created, it left very few options but to grow one’s food if they were on fertile land that had enough rain or other water source.
Agriculture led to private property and the domination of nature
Agriculture introduced the separation of people from other life, which gave us this exceptionalism ideology to justify the exploitation of other life forms and ourselves. But its private property that agriculture gave us that changed the way we think and interact within ourselves, other life, and the physical world. For the first time in human history food, artefact, and people could be stolen as they are now private property and depending on the resources of the area those stolen people became the slave of agricultural societies. It produced statuses, hierarchy, and organised thievery of land, produce, and people that we maintained to this day in a variety of forms.
The competition for property, which includes land, people, and anything, that’s regarded of value, is a strong motivator for an insatiable need for even more stuff and people. That growth in produce and people needed specialisation that’s slaves to do the hack work, tradesman, oversees, and so on the ladder of domination. Life in cities is the outcome, which we call civilisation.
The glory of civilisation
Civilisation’s purpose and therefore its makeup are to facilitate the fewest number of individuals to control the largest number of people to extract the maximum wealth from the riches resource on the vastest area of land. How that’s accomplished depend on the location, the level of technology achieved, and the history of that society, its ecology, and the climate that it functions in. The result since the use of fossil fuels is reaching catastrophic proportions.
There’s more than enough evidence of the impossible life our young ones will face due to the unwillingness, mainly from journalist, the highly educated, the economist, and warriors to face up to the falsehoods that established civilisation. Also the pretence that democratic governments represent its people when the information they get is to maintain a system that uses people to take far more from nature than it gives to nature until its completely drained. Worst still, it’s an economy that not only must grow its population and commerce infinitely, but it’s our master. The economy demands more people and trade.
The available information on the state of our planet is overwhelmingly depressing. Yet we don’t show the concern for today’s young’s future when they will be living on a much degraded planet because of our need to satisfy the system of economics and population growth. Billionaires and their lackeys have deceived themselves in thinking that they would be immune, as it would only be that multitude of losers that would perish. Even the most concerned atmospheric scientist can only think within the civilised capitalist system, it’s our culture we know no other, but it’s our culture of more, that is destroying our planet- the life of present children’s future.
How we overcame famines by sacrificing future life
England spearheaded the energy from fossil fuel, which led to overpopulate Europe that produced the mass migration. The steam engine, particularly James Watt’s engine took England off its complete dependence on solar energy from plants and those plants to feed animals including less fortunate people, also wind, and water power as they have a large component of solar energy. A little later with George Stevenson’s locomotive, which made travel a possibility for every one and it brought goods where it was needed. This should have equalised life and increased economic security, but under that civilised economic system it expanded the disparity in wealth and health. But worst still instead of giving a better and easier life the extra energy was used to increase the population and help the powerful to conquer the world.
The use of coal to heat water to produce a variation in the pressure of the steam to that of the atmosphere to do work was the major instigator in establishing the basic of science, which’s thermodynamics. The adherence to it, when convenient within a capitalist economy, has produced our modern world of science, which enabled that economy to grossly overpopulate nations.
We mustn’t take more from nature than it can sustain, but within that limit we can have a very large population with a small foot print from individuals or fewer people with a larger footprint. There is a limit to how large societies’ footprint can be and a limit to the fewest people we can have for a sustainable life. The obvious safest size population to have on the planet would be the one to ensure the best life our children can have in a sustainable manner. It could be a population of less than two billion people, which would give us all a very comfortable sustainable and safe life. That, sustainable way of life, can’t be attained in our civilised capitalist world no matter how much we revere civilisation, it on the other hand, is bringing life to the brink of our extinction. A system that’s geared to grow can’t reduce our population, or our consumption and we are wasting valuable time expecting any progress in that line. We don’t have any other choice but to abandon that socioeconomic system if our children are to survive.
To survive, we must unlock our social genetic makeup
To reduce to that sort of population and with a comparative tiny economy, we would need a very different socioeconomic way of life to be able to cope with such drastic measures and give us all a better life. The social life that our hunter-gatherers forebear had is a good model of socialness of the highest order, but only seen last century in a few harsh areas where competition was unknown. They lived in very social groups of cooperative people of a population that their environment could easily sustain safely. The security attained in those societies, especially for children, is impossible for civilised people to imagine. Children like adults would belong to the group, who are all responsible for each other, when able. That meant a child would have multiple mothers and siblings of older and younger age helping each other. Our biggest obstacle to that life is our mind set, not the numbers of people or our technical reliance.
We need a way of life that can give a satisfying live to everyone at the same time as we have a reduction in population and consumption per capita. Doing that would make life easier, as there would be more houses without building more, we would have more choice of where to live and grow our food in the best areas.
The joy of children is not diminished by sharing them, but any stress of nurturing children is reduced by sharing that responsibility. Also, all children would grow up in fair societies because they would all have the same multiple mothers and fathers and would experience the same age position as they grew up. Loneliness for young and old could then be a thing of the past. But this set up can’t function well in an alien milieu of capitalism; nevertheless, it’s our original way of life that our hunter-gatherers live for million years. Our gens are still oriented for social living it’s our way of life the contradiction is adopting private property as our master.
Economic competitiveness of wealth is very different to competitive tennis, as winning a game doesn’t place that player in a stronger position for the next game. Competition for wealth is extremely unfair and dishonest as winning the first round increases the winner’s position for the second go. It’s more like martial arts where a severe blow to one participant makes the contest unequal; it’s like the competitive economy. The game is to annihilate opponents. Striving for equal opportunity in a competitive based economy is divisive, unfair and dishonest. As chance and location can give an advantage that can easily grow and those who have gained that advantage can’t see the need to share fairly. So they will not relinquish their privilege to attain fairness in society. On the other hand, by increasing the awareness of societies wealthiest to the disaster they are also facing, and that, their only saving strategy is to unite people in a drastic reduction in output, consumption, and babies, which will enable everyone to survive. To strive for fairness because it’s the right way to live is utopian, but we must have fairness to survive, and that can unify us all, as survival is the primary instinct for all life. Starting that journey will also give us more than survival; it will start us on the way to have an assured and satisfying life.
With a reduction in the need for private property, we would also see a lessening importance of inheritances, a major unfairness of civilisation. Without the need to compete for position and stuff we can have an increasing cooperative society that involve participation instead of compulsion in a world where life is safe and secure - to venture- able to take challenges.
This piece follows my previous one “Value Our Children, Instead Of Money” .htm as it deals with our genetic makeup of a highly social and adaptable people. So that the less important money-private property is the less dishonesty we will have because we will be able to see that there’s little advantage being dishonest, even for sociopathy.
Lionel Anet is a member of Sydney U3A University of the Third Age, of 20 years standing and now a life member
|May 12, 2016||
Our Fossil-Fuel Economy Destroys the Earth and Exploits Humanity - Here's the Shift We Need to Be Sustainable
by Iliana Salazar-Dodge, Alternet
I am a Mexican immigrant and a senior at Columbia University who’s been organizing around fossil fuel divestment since freshman year. Two years ago, I had a bit of a crisis. I suddenly felt disillusioned with the movement—not with the tactic of divestment, but rather with the fact that national campaigns were solely focused on taking down the fossil fuel behemoth. Don’t get me wrong; it’s extremely satisfying to hear of another divestment win, to see the fossil fuel industry take a hit. But I began to realize that while we need people to fight the bad in this world, we also need people creating the society we do want to live in. I want to be one of those people.
That summer, as a 350.org Fossil Free Fellow, I was introduced to the reinvestment campaign. I learned about a way that we, as students, can build off the successes of the divestment movement to fight for what we want. This campaign is one tactic we can use to facilitate the transition out of our current economy into a regenerative economy. But before we talk about where we want to go, let’s talk about where we are now.
America's extractive economy
Whether or not we care to admit it, our current economy is extractive—that is, it’s built on the exploitation and extraction of human labor and the earth’s resources. It relies on corporations that force workers to work long hours in unsafe conditions for insufficient wages and benefits. It exists by the continual removal of nutrients from the soil, minerals from the mountains, and fossil fuels from underground. This system isn’t working for us today, and it isn’t going to work for us tomorrow. We know that infinite growth is not possible, but this economy depends on it.
In contrast, a regenerative economy satisfies the needs of the present planet without diminishing the prospects of future generations. It builds community wealth by shifting economic power, making workers the owners of their own businesses, community members the decision makers about their resources. It also strengthens the public sector such that it serves the people rather than private interests. A just transition to a regenerative economy restores our relationship to food, Mother Earth and our communities.
A just transition requires accountability, transparency, and solidarity. It exposes the false promises of corporations and governments and values solutions from the people who are most impacted by systemic issues.
This all sounds really great, but it seems impossible, right? There are incredibly powerful forces keeping our extractive economy in place. People in power talk about our economic system like it’s gravity—“it’s just the way the world works.” But a regenerative alternative is not just a figment of the leftist imagination. People wrote the rules for the extractive economy and we can write different rules.
People across the globe have demonstrated that it is possible to justly revitalize their economies. The “solidarity economy” has taken root in many communities throughout Latin America and Europe. Take Argentina, for example, where people saw economic crisis as an opportunity to build an economy more just than the one that had failed them.
Argentina’s solidarity economy: A seed of inspiration
In 2001, the economy of Argentina collapsed. Business executives with capital were afraid, so they fled and left workers without jobs—without their livelihoods. Factory workers realized that although they had been laid off, the perfectly functioning machines they had worked with lay unused. So they decided to take over the factories and claim them as public goods. After many legal and political battles, hundreds of factories came under the democratic ownership of workers. Fifteen years later, these worker-owned cooperatives continue to play a key role in sustaining their communities.
La Base (know as the Working World in English) is one of the organizations that made this just transition possible. La Base offers loans for raw materials, flexible payment schedules, extremely low interest rates, as well as technical assistance to democratically-managed businesses. They only require that loans be paid back if and when businesses are solvent. In doing so, La Base prioritizes the wellbeing of workers and their families. Unlike banks which profit whether or not businesses succeed, La Base’s own success relies on the success of the businesses they support. A remarkable 98 percent of La Base’s loans have been repaid in full. This demonstrates that generating community wealth does not require exploitation nor extraction.
In spring of 2015, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires and got to meet dozens of cooperative members who had been democratically operating their businesses for years. I also got to witness first-hand the way the La Base team practiced their values of open communication, trust, and respect in interactions with worker-owned cooperatives.
This story has not only inspired me to do this work; it has also been a seed of inspiration for a regenerative economy in the United States. Worker-owned businesses and local funds are springing up across the nation with the help of the Working World, La Base’s U.S. affiliate. From a factory occupation in Chicago to the establishment of a democratically owned grocery store in Greensboro, communities across the country are rewriting the rules of their economies. They are building something beautiful.
So what does this have to do with the divestment movement?
Our movement has done incredible things over the past few years. We have built more power for climate justice on college campuses than any campaign before us. We’ve mobilized thousands of students, shifted popular opinion about the fossil fuel industry by running strong campaigns and populated today’s movements with a new generation of organizers. This is incredible work and we should be proud of ourselves. We also know that we have more work to do.
Iliana Salazar-Dodge leads the youth contingent of the People's Climate March, September, 2014. (photo credit: Yong Jung Cho)
In the past, we’ve been told that it’s not our job to tell our universities where to invest our endowments. We’re not economists or fund managers, after all. But we are part of a movement that measures “returns” differently: we believe an economy is successful when it meets the needs of people and the planet. Defining success in these terms is our best shot at ensuring our collective survival.
We can leverage the power we’ve built in the divestment movement to move our institutions’ resources and build popular support for a just transition. With divestment, we’ve said, “we’re not content with the way things are.” With reinvestment, we say, “this is the way things should be, can be and will be.”
The author would like to thank Movement Generation and the Reinvest in Our Power campaign for writings on the work that informed this article.
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|May 11, 2016||
Dangerous New Normal As 400 ppm Carbon Baseline Expected Within Days
by Lauren McCauley, CommonDreams.org, Countercurrents
The planet is hurtling towards a disturbing milestone as researchers predict that the southern hemisphere "within days" will reach a new atmospheric baseline of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon, signifying that humanity has entered a new phase in our climate impact.
"Once it's over [400 ppm], it won't go back," Paul Fraser, a retired fellow with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), told the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday. "It could be within 10 days."
The symbolic climate threshold is expected to be recorded at the Cape Grim monitoring site, on the northwestern point of Tasmania, which is jointly run by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and said to capture "the most accurate reading of the atmospheric conditions in the southern hemisphere." On May 6, a CSIRO team took a reading of 399.9 ppm.
The 400 ppm milestone has been reached before. First, in May 2013 at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii and later in Alaska. But, in both those cases, the carbon concentration later dipped back down with the seasonal cycle. Unfortunately, as Fraser warned, this new record may be here to stay. The Herald explains:
Fraser estimates that CO2 levels are rising fast—roughly 3 ppm each year. Once the 400 ppm level is reached it "will take a few weeks to verify."
The chart below shows 40 years of records taken at Cape Grim with the red line denoting the baseline concentration of CO2.
Australian Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said the landmark "should act as a global wake-up call and must shock both Australian big political parties out of their blind coal-obsession which is literally cooking our planet and our Great Barrier Reef."
As The Herald notes, the likely 400 ppm record will be reached as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues to push new coal infrastructure projects and oppose proposals to lower emissions in compliance with the COP21 climate agreement. What's more, it follows an announcement that the government is slashing 275 jobs at CSIRO, mostly in climate science.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
|April 15, 2016||
9 Ways Global Warming Is Making Us Sick
by Reynard Loki, AlterNet
Thanks to climate change, we'll be seeing more asthma, allergies, Lyme disease and foodborne illnesses.
The Obama administration has released a major new report on how manmade global warming is making Americans sicker—and it's only going to get worse.
Developed over three years and involving approximately 100 climate and public health experts, the 332-page report was based on more than 1,800 published scientific studies and new federal research, and was reviewed by the National Academies of Sciences.
The report, titled The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States, "significantly advances what we know about the impacts of climate change on public health, and the confidence with which we know it," according to a White House fact sheet about the report.
"As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges, and impacting more people in more places," the fact sheet states. "From children to the elderly, every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, now and in the future."
The report also involved the participation of representatives from a number of federal departments and agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
"It's not just about polar bears and melting ice caps," said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy at a White House event unveiling the report. "It's about our families. It's about our future."
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that climate change affects more people in more ways than doctors are accustomed to seeing. Noting that the report will help doctors to quantify "the sheer number of pathways through which climate affects health," Murthy called out increased pollen, wildfire and air pollution exacerbated by emissions from power plants as emergent climate change-related threats to public health.
Here are nine ways global warming increases health risks.
1. Increased asthma and respiratory illness.
The report projects that by 2030, due to “future ozone-related human health impacts attributable to climate change,” the United States can expect to see hundreds or even thousands of premature deaths, not to mention increases in hospital admissions and cases of acute respiratory illnesses every single year.
The report underscores the particular impact on children. Due to their immature respiratory and immune systems, kids can expect to experience more episodes of asthma and other adverse respiratory effects due to climate change. "Not being able to breathe is one of the most frightening experiences" a person can have, Surgeon General Murthy said. "We're talking about scary moments for parents and children."
An estimated five million children in the U.S. currently suffer from asthma, the most common chronic disease among children, According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “asthma is the number one reason that children miss school, go to emergency rooms, and are admitted to hospitals.”
"Now we're seeing [asthma] worsening because of the heat, the allergens [and air pollution],” said Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University's public health school.
2. Worsening allergies.
Every spring, flowers bloom and with them, pollen spores are spread throughout the air, increasing allergies. With warming temperatures ushered in by climate change, the pollen season has lengthened, exacerbating the symptoms of hay fever for an estimated 40 million Americans who suffer from allergies, triggering annual healthcare costs of more than $21 billion.
Between 1995 and 2011 in central North America, the ragweed pollen season has increased by as much as 11 to 27 days. That has already had significant impacts on some 6.8 million kids who are susceptible to allergens.
3. Premature deaths from extreme heat.
White House science adviser John Holdren underscored the looming threat of increased heat waves, warning that greenhouse gas reductions at this point won't stop fatalities caused by increased temperatures. "We can see thousands to tens of thousands of heat-related deaths in the United States each summer," he warned.
These premature deaths are expected to outpace projected deaths due to extreme cold. The western part of the country, in particular, will experience an increase in both the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Using a 1990 baseline for more than 200 U.S. cities, one model projected an increase of more than 11,000 additional deaths during the summer in 2030, rising to 27,000 more deaths by the summer of 2100.
4. More cases of Lyme disease.
Between 2001 and 2014, both the distribution and the number of reported cases of Lyme disease increased in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. The number is set to increase as warmer temperatures impact both the winter and spring months, leading to an earlier annual onset of the Borrelia bacteria that causes the disease. Research indicates that the geographical distribution of ticks carrying the bacteria is “expected to expand to higher latitudes and elevations in the future.”
The annual incidence of Lyme disease is calculated as the number of new cases per 100,000 people. The graph is based on cases that local and state health departments report to CDC's national disease tracking system. (image: EPA; data: CDC 2015)
5. Increased risks of water-related illnesses
The nation’s waterways will be increasingly compromised as more frequent and intense precipitation leads to runoff from human and animal waste and agricultural activities, including the use of fertilizers. This increased runoff will contaminate more water, thereby increasing human and animal exposure to water-related illnesses through contaminated drinking water and recreational water, as well as fish and shellfish harvested in contaminated water.
Precipitation and temperature changes affect fresh and marine water quantity and quality primarily through urban, rural and agricultural runoff. (image: GlobalChange.gov)
6. Increased exposure to contaminated food.
Rising temperature and increased flooding, toxic runoff and drought will lead to increases in both the occurrence and transport of pathogens in agricultural environments, which in turn will increase food contamination risk and human exposure to certain pathogens and toxins.
The report specifically highlights an increased risk of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP), a foodborne illness caused by eating fish contaminated with toxins produced by dinoflagellates, a type of aquatic microorganism. “There is a well-established link between warm sea surface temperatures and increased occurrence of CFP,” the report states, “and thus concern that global ocean warming will affect the risk of illness.”
There is also the issue of lowered nutritional value for some foods, as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide can lower the nutritional value of most food crops. A 2014 study in the journal Nature found that increased C02 levels led to significant reductions in zinc, iron and protein in rice, wheat, soybeans and field peas.
7. The largest health impact will be on vulnerable populations.
The report warns that climate change will have the largest health impact on vulnerable populations, including “those with low incomes, some communities of color, limited English proficiency and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.”
The report underscores the increased lack of potable water for certain vulnerable populations:
Lack of consistent access to potable drinking water and inequities in exposure to contaminated water disproportionately affects the following populations: tribes and Alaska Natives, especially those in remote reservations or villages; residents of low-income rural subdivisions known as colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border; migrant farm workers; the homeless; and low-income communities not served by public water utilities—which can be urban, suburban, or rural, and some of which are predominately Hispanic or Latino and black or African American communities in certain regions of the country. In general, the heightened vulnerability of these populations primarily results from unequal access to adequate water and sewer infrastructure, and various environmental, political, economic, and social factors jointly create these disparities.
8. Increased risk to health-related services infrastructure.
The report points out that extreme weather and other events related to climate change will impact health by “disrupting infrastructure, including power, water, transportation, and communication systems, that are essential to maintaining access to health care and emergency response services and safeguarding human health.”
Challenges to public health infrastructure and health care could include inadequate resources for monitoring and surveillance systems, research on health risks of climate change, management approaches, training of health care professionals and practitioners and technology development and deployment.
9. Increased mental health impacts.
The physical health impacts caused by climate change are becoming increasingly apparent. But climate change has mental health impacts as well. While experiencing extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods can be highly traumatizing, the existential threat and perception of climate change is also a trigger for a host of psychological stressors. The report states:
The effects of global climate change on mental health and well-being are integral parts of the overall climate-related human health impacts. Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts. Other consequences include effects on the everyday life, perceptions, and experiences of individuals and communities attempting to understand and respond appropriately to climate change and its implications. ...
The threat of climate change is a key psychological and emotional stressor. Individuals and communities are affected both by direct experience of local events attributed to climate change and by exposure to information regarding climate change and its effects. For example, public communication and media messages about climate change and its projected consequences can affect perceptions of physical and societal risks and consequently affect mental health and well-being. The interactive and cumulative nature of climate change effects on health, mental health, and well-being are critical factors in understanding the overall consequences of climate change on human health.
Estimated Deaths and Billion-Dollar Losses from Extreme Events in the United States 2004-2013
This figure provides 10-year estimates of fatalities related to extreme events from 2004 to 2013, as well as estimated economic damages from 58 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion. These statistics are indicative of the human and economic costs of extreme weather events over this time period. Climate change will alter the frequency, intensity, and geographic distribution of some of these extremes, which has consequences for exposure to health risks from extreme events. (text and image: GlobalChange.gov)
Preparation for the future are in the works, but will it be enough?
While the report paints a bleak picture of the future health of American citizens, it also provides an opportunity and impetus to combat the threats posed by climate change. The Obama administration announced the following actions that respond to the challenges outlined by the Climate and Health Assessment:
While these are important initiatives, Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington's public health school, who wasn't part of the report, said the government isn’t doing enough. "The report clearly establishes that climate change is a major threat to public health in the United States,” he said, but "there is a vast disconnect between the magnitude of the problem, as outlined by this report, and the response of government health agencies."
Read the entire report.
|April 14, 2016||
The 3 Most Environmentally Damaging Habits You Might Be Able to Change
by Reynard Loki, AlterNet
A Climate Change Concept Image. Landscape of a green grass and drought land. Woman in green dress walking through an opened field
Homo sapiens means "wise person." But considering our behaviors that are putting the Earth's ecosystems at risk, we haven't been very wise at all. Every single day, many of our personal choices and individual actions negatively impact the environment in myriad ways. From turning on a light switch to throwing away a plastic bottle to having a hamburger, even the most mundane actions have a cumulative negative effect on the Big Blue Marble—the home we share with countless other Earthlings.
Think about that brand-new plastic bag you took home today from the store. That bag can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose. And if it doesn't end up in a landfill, it could end up in the ocean and in the stomach of a fish, bird or dolphin—a fatal occurence that happens all the time. In China, a staggering 3 billion new plastic bags enter into circulation every single day. The Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive swirling collection of plastic trash in the North Pacific Ocean, is estimated to be anywhere from 270,000 square miles (about the size of Texas) to more than 5,800,000 square miles (up to 8 percent the size of the entire Pacific Ocean).
With all the ways we affect the health of the planet, it’s hard to know exactly what changes might have the greatest impact. Plus, every person is different. Some people drive every day, while others are rarely behind the wheel. Some of us love to buy stuff; others tend to be minimalist.
Taking into account these variations, here are three of the most environmentally damaging things you probably do that you might be able to change. If you’re truly interested in reducing your impact on the environment—and helping future generations of Earthlings have a better chance of surviving with the planet’s rapidly dwindling resources—these recommendations should be high on your to-do (or rather, not-do) list.
1. Eat less meat or stop eating meat.
It’s difficult to overstate the massive negative impact the meat industry has on the environment. According to a staggering report published by the Worldwatch Institute, more than half of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. It's no coincidence that the carbon footprint of the average meat eater is larger than that of a vegetarian by around 1.5 tons of CO2.
Beef produces a total of 30kg of greenhouse gas (GHG) per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes and rice produce 0.42, 0.45 and 1.3 kg GHG per kg of food, respectively. No wonder the United Nations said a global shift toward eating less meat is necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
Keeping an animal alive is also resource intensive. Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef. Conversely, only 39 gallons are required to produce a pound of vegetables.
The meat industry also maintains society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Approximately 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is required to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat-based protein. But only 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input is needed to produce 1 kilocalorie of grain-based protein.
The vast majority of us are meat-eaters. In the United States, only 3.2 percent of adults, or a little over 7 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. That leaves the rest—more than 97 percent—of Americans who include meat as a regular part of their diet.
So is it crazy to think that people would ever stop eating meat? One of the arguments meat-eaters commonly make is that humans need meat, that it’s a necessary part of a healthy diet. But that’s simply not true. Nutritionist Julieanna Hever sets the record straight:
A popular misconception is that animal products are the best source of protein. One important reason this myth has been perpetuated is because the amino acids—the building blocks of protein—are assembled in a way in animal foods that more closely resembles what humans actually utilize. However, we now know that this is inconsequential. When you consume any protein, it is broken down via digestion into its separate amino acid constituents and is pooled in the blood for further use. When the body needs to construct a protein for an enzyme or to repair muscles tissue, it collects the necessary amino acids and strings them back together in the sequence appropriate for what it is currently creating. This occurs regardless whether you consume animal or plant protein.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Recommended Daily Allowance of protein for adult men and women is 0.7 grams for every kilogram (about 2 pounds) of body weight. So an average 130-pound female should be consuming 46 grams of protein per day. A 170-pound male needs 62 grams.
Hever also points out that though we only need 10 percent of our caloric intake to be protein, we’re also generally eating too much protein, which is bad for our health:
Many people are consuming approximately 20 to 30 percent of their calories from protein, which equals 90 to 135 grams of protein on an 1,800-calorie diet (typical female intake) and 125 to 188 grams of protein on a 2,500-calorie diet (average male intake). This is equivalent to two to three times more than the USDA recommendations. Much of this excess protein comes from animal sources, which may be particularly damaging. Excess protein taxes the kidneys, contributes to gout, and is associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases.
The U.S. addiction to meat is intense: Americans eat nearly four times as much meat as the global average. It may be tasty, but from a health standpoint, every last bloody morsel is unnecessary. “Whole plant foods, as provided in nature,” Hever says, “offer the ideal amount of protein necessary for growth, maintenance and functioning of metabolic processes.”
Many of today’s top performing athletes would agree with her assessment. Take mixed martial artist Nate Diaz, one of the top UFC fighters, an elite class of athletes. Diaz is a raw vegan, and he recently upset featherweight champion Conor McGregor—a meat eater. In fact, the list of so-called ultimate fighters who are switching to a vegan diet strictly for performance reasons is growing.
Eating vegetables over meat is healthier, leads to higher physical performance, is good for the planet and it’s also more ethical, as it avoids the killing of intelligent animals. In many ways, moving away from carnivorism toward veganism is a more evolved, more enlightened state of being.
Cutting out meat one day a week could be a good way to start. “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity,” notes the Meatless Monday website. “And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.”
If you’re still not convinced that taking meat off your menu—or at least reducing your consumption of it—is one of the most important things you can do for the planet’s health, maybe the man whose name is synonymous with genius might push you over the edge. Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
2. Have fewer kids or no kids.
This one is a no-brainer. Pretty much all of the anthropogenic, or human-caused environmental maladies the Earth is undergoing would be less intense if there were fewer people—in the end, it’s a numbers game. Climate change, species extinction, deforestation, ocean acidification, air pollution, spread of disease, destructive farming practices, pesticide overuse, resource depletion—the intensity of all these crises is directly tied to human overpopulation. Martin Luther King Jr., was aware of how problematic our species’ rapid multiplication is, calling overpopulation “the modern plague.”
The United Nations warns: “Rapidly increasing population exacerbates existing problems, such as transnational crime, economic interdependency, climate change, the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and various other pandemics, and such social issues as gender equality, reproductive health, safe motherhood, human rights, emergency situations, and so much more.”
Take water, the most important resource for carbon-based life after air. Though three-fourths of the planet is covered in water, less than 1 percent of it is readily accessible freshwater that is available for human use. But by 2025, when the population reaches 8.1 billion, more than half the world’s people will face water-based vulnerability as demand for available freshwater reaches 70 percent. And while it may feel like rain just appears out of the blue, the Earth is a closed-loop system. Thus water, at least for the foreseeable future, is a finite resource.
Keeping the human population to an acceptable rate of growth isn’t just about helping the environment, it’s about helping humans survive. As Roger Bengston, a founding board member of World Population Balance, puts it, “The point of population stabilization is to reduce".
In 1992, 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, spanning 70 countries and including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued a global appeal to limit population growth. In their “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” they write:
Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.
The warning was spearheaded by Nobel laureate Henry W. Kendall, former chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He described our precarious situation bluntly: “If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity, and will leave a ravaged world.”
Getting the population growth rate to stop skyrocketing into an increasingly overcrowded future is no small task. Doing it through official governmental channels, as China did in the late '70s when it launched its one-child policy (which it recently upped to two children), opens up a Pandora’s box.
Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute, has a better idea: Put the decision in the hands of women. In his book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, he lays out a series of initiatives, including access to contraception, guaranteed secondary school education and the eradication of gender bias “from law, economic opportunity, health and culture,” which he argues will ensure a decline in the birthrate (with a goal of stopping short of 9 billion), solely based on a woman’s intention to have smaller families or even no children.
“Unsustainable population growth can only be effectively and ethically addressed by empowering women to become pregnant only when they themselves choose to do so,” Engelman writes.
Philip Njuguna, a pastor in Nairobi, Kenya, puts it more plainly: “When the family is small, whatever little they have they are able to share. There is peace.”
That’s good advice, particularly in impoverished and populous countries where the sheer number of people puts an unrelenting pressure on limited resources. But that advice also applies to rich countries, whose citizens have much bigger carbon footprints. According to a 2009 Oregon State University study, "an extra child born to a woman in the United States ultimately increases her carbon legacy by an amount (9,441 metric tons) that is nearly seven times the analogous quantity for a woman in China (1,384 tons)."
The study found that having one less child would yield a long-term environmental benefit. "The carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives—things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs," writes OSU science writer David Stauth about his colleagues' study.
3. Fly less or don't fly at all.
In 2013, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote an article whose title neatly summed up one of our worst environmental behaviors: "
For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10. So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create.
If you you live in an urban center like New York City, where driving is minimal and the housing of choice is small apartments, flying is most likely the biggest contributor to your carbon footprint.
In the large scheme of things, aviation is a fairly small industry, but it has a disproportionately big impact on the Earth's climate, accounting for somewhere between five and nine percent of the total impact human activity has on climate change. And its impact is going to grow, with air travel volume steadily increasing—and faster than fuel efficiency gains can compensate.
Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki points out that, compared to other modes of transport like driving a car or taking a train, flying has a much greater climate impact per unit of distance traveled. He writes:
Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased 83 percent. The aviation industry is expanding rapidly in part due to regulatory and taxing policies that do not reflect the true environmental costs of flying. "Cheap" fares may turn out to be costly in terms of climate change. ...
A special characteristic of aircraft emissions is that most of them are produced at cruising altitudes high in the atmosphere. Scientific studies have shown that these high-altitude emissions have a more harmful climate impact because they trigger a series of chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that have a net warming effect. The IPCC, for example, has estimated that the climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone.
Nearly a decade ago, New York Times writer John Tierney put the impact of flying in terms of recycling plastic bottles. “To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger roundtrip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles” in coach (or up to 100,000 for business or first-class seats, adjusting for the additional space pricier seats take up). So if you’ve simply got to board a plane, sitting in coach is a much better environmental option. You can also purchase carbon offsets to reduce your air travel carbon footprint.
What else can you do?
Of course, there are many other things you can do, from not buying plastic water bottles to using cloth shopping bags to simply reducing the amount of stuff you buy. When it comes to consumption, the old adage “reduce, reuse, recycle” isn’t just a list—it’s a hierarchy. The most important thing you can do is reduce your consumption. If you have to consume, try to reuse something rather than buying it new. And if you have to buy it new, recycle it when you’re done.
We can’t all be a part of vegetarian, one-child families who never fly. But if we can all try to get a little closer to that ideal, it’ll be better for everybody—for all Earthlings, not just Homo sapiens. Maybe then we can finally start living up to our name.
[Editor's note: This article previously misstated Nate Diaz's first name as Nick. Nick Diaz is Nate's brother and fellow raw vegan mixed martial artist. Thanks to careful reader Ruben Gutierrez for noticing that error.]
|April 18, 2016||
Oceans Could Reach Prehistoric Levels as Earth’s Biggest Ice Reservoir Nears Collapse
by John Upton, Climate Central, AlterNet
The world’s greatest reservoir of ice is verging on a breakdown that could push seas to heights not experienced since prehistoric times, drowning dense coastal neighborhoods during the decades ahead, new computer models have shown.
A pair of researchers developed the models to help them understand high sea levels during previous eras of warmer temperatures. Then they ran simulations using those models and found that rising levels of greenhouse gases could trigger runaway Antarctic melting that alone could push sea levels up by more than three feet by century’s end.
The same models showed that Antarctica’s ice sheet would remain largely intact if the most ambitious goals of last year’s Paris agreement on climate change are achieved.
The models were produced by a collaboration between two scientists that began in the 1990s. In those models, rising air temperatures in Antarctica caused meltwater to seep into cracks in floating shelves of ice, disintegrating them and exposing sheer cliffs that collapsed under their own weight into the Southern Ocean.
Similar effects of warming are already being observed in Greenland and in some parts of Antarctica, as greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels, farming and deforestation warms the air. Last year was the hottest on record, easily surpassing a record set one year earlier. The ice sheets are also being melted from beneath by warming ocean temperatures.
“Sea level has risen a lot—10 to 20 meters—in warm periods in the past, and our ice sheet models couldn’t make the Antarctic ice sheet retreat enough to explain that,” said David Pollard, a Penn State climate scientist who produced the study with UMass professor Robert DeConto.
“We were looking for new mechanisms that could make the ice more vulnerable to climate warming to explain past sea level rise,” Pollard said.
The breakdown that they discovered was not triggered when warming in the models was limited to levels similar to those called for under the Paris Agreement—something that Pollard described as potentially “good news.” That agreement aims to keep warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F) compared with preindustrial times. Since then, temperatures have already warmed 1°C.
“You need to have a lot of melt to do this,” Pollard said.
Although the Paris Agreement contained highly ambitious goals, individual countries have not come close to committing to action plans that would ensure that the goals are actually realized.
If pollution continues to be released without being reined in, the modeling showed that high Antarctic air temperatures could lead to melting that would push up sea levels by dozens of feet during the centuries ahead. Warmer ocean waters would prevent a recovery for thousands of years after that, the scientists found.
Ongoing work is planned to refine the projections, which remain imprecise, but are nonetheless being hailed by climate scientists as an important step forward in understanding the planet’s future.
“It’s an important paper,” said Luke Trusel, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist who was not involved in producing it, and who has recently published high-profile research on Antarctica and climate change.
“It really starts to look at some of the more underappreciated aspects of climate change across Antarctica,” Trusel said. “They’re starting to look at how sensitive ice shelves are to climate change.”
Assessments by the United Nations and others have previously assumed the effects on Antarctica’s ice sheet would be negligible as temperatures rise. The new study is the latest in a growing list of peer-reviewed papers that rejects that optimistic scenario as unrealistic.
In major East Coast cities, where land is sinking at the same time that seas are rising, an independent analysis by Climate Central shows that the rapid Antarctic melting described by the new modeling effort would push tide levels up by between five and six feet this century alone.
Climate Central’s analysis combined mid-range values from the new projections for Antarctic melting with previous mid-range projections regarding global sea level rise, along with local factors such as sinking that naturally occurs in some areas. It illuminated the dangerous collective impacts of the different ways that climate change is expected to affect sea levels.
If climate pollution is quickly and dramatically reined in, the analysis shows sea level rise in major East Coast cities, including New York, Boston and Baltimore, could be kept to less than two feet—which could nonetheless see developed stretches of shorelines regularly or permanently flooded.
Problems associated with sea level rise are expected to be worse in Louisiana, where stretches of land are being lost to erosion caused by flood control projects and gas and oil exploration. New Orleans could see more than seven feet of sea level rise by 2100, Climate Central’s analysis of the new findings showed.
West Coast cities would experience four to five feet of sea level rise by 2100, Climate Central found.
The new paper by Pollard and DeConto was received positively by sea level rise scientists. That contrasts with overwhelmingly skeptical responses to a recent apocalyptic scenario that was finalized and published last week by a team of researchers led by well-known scientist-turned-activist James Hansen.
Hansen’s 52-page academic treatise, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics following an unconventional peer review process, described a dystopian near-future in which climate change triggers superstorms and more than 10 feet of sea-level.
John Church, an Australian government scientist who specializes in sea level rise projections, cautioned that the experiments used to produce Wednesday’s paper were based on too few models to give him total confidence in the findings. But he said his “overall reaction” to the paper was “positive.”
“Yes, the projections are larger than previous estimates,” Church said. “But not in the unrealistic range like Hansen et al.”
The recent Hansen paper was a “worse-case scenario,” said NASA scientist Eric Rignot, one of its coauthors.
Rignot said the Antarctic study published Wednesday was “absolutely realistic.”
“I think it is setting up a new paradigm for sea level projections, because their numbers are much higher than those from traditional ice sheet models with incomplete or simplified physics,” Rignot said. “Once the ice shelves are gone, melted away, calving of big walls will be the dominant process of mass wastage. It is a great paper.”
To create the maps in this story, Climate Central adjusted existing local sea level rise projections to account for DeConto and Pollard's new findings, rounded results to the nearest foot, and took matching screenshots from our Surging Seas Risk Zone Map. We used local median sea level projections from Kopp et al. 2014 and replaced the Antarctic component with the average of the central projections from the two main scenarios in the new paper.
John Upton is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central. He has written for the New York Times, Slate, Nautilus, VICE, Grist, Pacific Standard, Modern Farmer, 7x7 San Francisco and Audubon Magazine.
|April 17, 2016||
Global Fisheries Are Collapsing—What Happens When There Are No Fish Left?
by Dahr Jamail, Truthout, AlterNet
"Commercial overexploitation of the world's fish stocks is severe," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said back in 2012. "Many species have been hunted to fractions of their original populations. More than half of global fisheries are exhausted, and a further third are depleted."
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 85 percent of global fish stocks are "overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion."
Yet despite these alarms having been sounded loud and clear, life in the oceans is continuing to deteriorate at an ominously rapid pace.
Fisheries for the most sought-after species of fish have already collapsed.
The populations of all large predator fish in the oceans have declined by 90 percent in the 50 years since modern industrial fishing became widespread around the world, according to a shocking paper by scientists with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, published in Nature in 2003.
Three years after the paper's publication, the same scientists, along with colleagues from across the world, published an even more startling paper that predicted a total collapse of all fish that are currently caught commercially by 2048.
Many scientists, like Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, have estimated that the total fish catch for the planet peaked back in the mid-1980s, and has been declining ever since.
Most scientists studying the issue agree that the three primary causes of the crisis are overfishing, plastic pollution and anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).
But several, like Dr. Simon Boxall, an associate professor of oceanography with the University of Southampton, singled out overfishing as the largest culprit.
"The big problem is that we are overfishing," Boxall told Truthout. "The [fisheries] management isn't working, and is in fact causing just as much destruction [as] if there was no management in the first place."
Dr. Maria Salta, a biological oceanographer and lecturer in environmental microbiology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth, echoed this dire outlook on the state of the oceans.
"It is clear that if we continue like this, in a few years time, there is not going to be much left," she told Truthout, speaking about the impacts of ACD, pollution and overfishing. "We are losing species every day without ever knowing about them. Sometimes humans can be like a plague to the environment."
Fishing operations have expanded to, quite literally, every corner of the ocean over the last 100 years, due to the fact that technology now exists that enables humans to find and catch every single fish in the oceans, no matter where they are located on the planet.
Salta's statement might be startling to many, but ample scientific evidence exists to back it up. Overfishing is nothing more than taking wildlife from the sea at rates that are too high for the fished species to replace themselves. Atlantic cod and herring, along with California's sardines, were overfished to the brink of extinction by the 1950s, and by the late 20th century, isolated depletions had become both global and catastrophic.
Salta said sharks provide one example of this problem. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed approximately one-third of all open-ocean shark species as threatened with extinction because of overfishing.
"The oceanic white-tip shark populations declined by 99 percent from 1950 to 1999, making it now an endangered species," Salta said. "Also, when sharks are removed from the environment you change the balance of the ecosystem and how it functions."
According to the Pew Environment Group report "Protecting Life in the Sea," nearly one-third of the world supply of commercially caught fish has already collapsed.
Bycatch and Climate Disruption
Another major issue regarding overfishing is bycatch, which is sea life that is caught with the fish being collected in order to sell commercially, but is not used for any purpose.
Salta told Truthout she believes bycatch should be considered one of the ocean's biggest problems.
"From 1994 onwards, 27 million tons of bycatch are discarded every year," she said. "Thirty percent of marine catch is thrown overboard dead. For shrimpers, 80 percent of everything caught is bycatch and thrown back for dead. It is a mode of mass marine extinction."
Hence, bycatch combines with other issues, like ACD and pollution, to create a multipronged threat to life in the seas.
"If organisms drop out of the food chain, the entire ecosystem is impacted," she said. "And temperature affects biodiversity and fish stock. Changes in this variable can impact the entire ecosystem and impact fish stocks."
The intersecting effects of ACD should not be underestimated. As Salta pointed out, just mild fluctuations in water temperatures, which are now common due primarily to ACD, have dramatic impacts on fish and other marine life.
Boxall pointed to the North Sea cod fishery as an example of this.
"Those cod were overfished, but we also see climate change kicking in and warming the waters, and cod, which like a cooler climate, are being pushed further north," he told Truthout. "Our cod are migrating to Iceland."
It has now become common to see reports of mass displacements of fish due to water temperature changes caused by ACD.
According to a study published in late February, ACD is pushing fish toward both poles, which means that poorer countries near the equator have even less access to one of their primary food sources. The fish migrations are due to global temperature increases in the oceans.
ACD is also a culprit in causing marine diseases to spread, according to a recent report.
Studies show that warming waters in the oceans are promoting marine diseases, so infectious agents now have the potential to alter oceanic life in many different ways. On a global basis, salmon are now being attacked by the diseases, and increasing bacteria is present in oysters.
Coral Bleaching and Overfishing Persist
Dr. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez is a biological oceanographer at the UK's National Oceanography Centre. She specializes in the study of how human impacts on the atmosphere are changing the chemistry of the oceans, and how this causes acidification. She emphasizes that ACD's role in lowering fish stocks must not be taken lightly.
Coral reefs rely on the calcification process to be constructed, and calcification is the process by which corals produce calcium carbonate.
"Calcifying organisms are essentially chalk-producing organisms, and when seawater becomes more alkaline, this is impacted negatively by dissolving them," Iglesias-Rodriguez told Truthout. "Calcification affects fisheries because many fishes' diet is based on these organisms. So this has food security impacts as well."
ecent research shows that coral growth is already being weakened by increasingly acidifying oceans. One-quarter of the carbon dioxide released as a result of human activities is absorbed into the world's oceans, where it alters their chemistry and reduces coral growth.
Meanwhile, a severe coral-bleaching event in the most pristine portions of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has caused authorities there to raise an alarm over severe local coral bleaching, caused by warm ocean temperatures.
Meanwhile, the overfishing issue persists.
Salta went so far as to warn that within the next 25 years, one-quarter of the planet's biodiversity is in danger of extinction due solely to commercial fishing.
"When fish become overfished, the human response is to fish down the species to smaller species, so this shifts the target group down, and this affects biodiversity and the ocean ecology," she said.
Another large problem associated directly with overfishing is the widespread use of trawling: a method of fishing that involves dragging a fishing net through the water behind a boat. Bottom trawling, when the fishing net drags across the seafloor, is particularly destructive.
"It's the equivalent of forest clear-cutting, but in the ocean, because when they trawl the entire bottom, whatever is there, is removed from the environment and changes the entire ecosystem," Salta said. "Biomass of the deep sea is in sharp decline because of trawling."
Salta believes the global commercial fishing industry is affecting evolution in the oceans by causing many fish species to mature earlier; which then causes them to grow to smaller overall sizes; which then causes female fish to produce smaller, poorer quality eggs; which then causes a negative feedback loop of evolution.
All of these issues, taken together, reveal an overwhelming crisis. However, while it may be impossible to restore the oceans to their healthiest state, many scientists believe there is hope, at least, for mitigation.
Boxall says that process must involve humans changing the way we treat our seas -- immediately.
"The sea is over 73 percent of our world," he said. "The scale of it means that anyone actually trying to go out and clean them is not physically possible. We have to find ways to change our impacts, because we can't change what has been done already."
He says local solutions are key: They won't solve the whole crisis, but they can certainly have a positive impact.
"A sustainable fishery looks like an artisan fishery," he said. "Small vessels with small nets, catching what might be considered commercially unviable, is what we need. One hundred small boats would be better than one large factory ship that is scraping the seabed and taking everything out of an area. On small boats, after the sorting, much of it is alive when it goes back into the water."
However, specific changes in practices are just one component of addressing this crisis: Boxall stresses that without a broad shift in consciousness, nothing will change.
"Fishing as it's running at the moment isn't sustainable," he said. "The industry will collapse because there won't be fish to catch. But if we manage it properly now, and come to agreements driven by science and not commerce and politics, we'll have fisheries in the future."
Thus, he suggests we start thinking more about the need for an environmentally driven market, as opposed to a commercially driven market.
If such a shift were to happen on a large scale, it may be possible for some of the negative trends we are seeing today to be slowed -- or even halted altogether.
Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009, and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.
|April 22, 2016||
This Earth Day, Listen Up: Mother Earth Is Calling Us Back
by By David Korten, Yes! Magazine, AlterNet
April 22 is Earth Day 2016. Each Earth Day marks another milestone in a profound human reawakening to the truth that we are children of a living Earth who survive and prosper only as contributing members of a living Earth community.
The first Earth Day, in 1970, brought 20 million people to U.S. streets, parks, and auditoriums in a massive demonstration of public support for political action to limit human harm to nature. As the first mass demonstration in defense of nature, it marked the birth of the modern environmental movement. More than a billion people in 192 countries now participate in Earth Day each year.
The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring planted the seed. Prior to her book, the word “environment” rarely appeared in mainstream media. Silent Spring became a New York Times bestseller and drew worldwide attention to the devastating impact of our toxic wastes on human and animal health.
By 1970, environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute were working with key political leaders to draft landmark environmental legislation. The massive turnout on the first Earth Day demonstrated strong public demand for political action.
In response, Congress quickly authorized the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water, Marine Mammal Protection, and Endangered Species Acts. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, signed them into law.
The second turning point quickly followed. In 1972, two seemingly unrelated events took the movement to a deeper level. The crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft photographed Earth from space. That image of Earth, a finite shining jewel suspended in the vastness of dark space, became one of the most iconic images in history.
That same year, scientists working in MIT’s Systems Development Lab, published the results of a computer simulation demonstrating that if human consumption continued to grow at current rates, critical Earth systems would begin to collapse early in the 21st century. A dry, technical Report to the Club of Rome, “The Limits to Growth,” sold 12 million copies in 37 languages, challenged the fundamental assumption of mainstream neoliberal economics that there is no limit to growth in material consumption, and seemed to set the stage for dramatic political action.
The corporate sector, recognizing a threat to profits, quickly mobilized to support the election of politicians loyal to the myth that growth in GDP and corporate profits holds the key to prosperity for all. It has prevailed for nearly four decades, with the support of academic economists who remain wedded to GDP growth as the economy’s defining purpose. The resulting cost to life and the human future is incalculable.
The economic, social, and environmental consequences of decades of flagrant abuse of corporate power at the expense of democracy, people, and the living Earth have provoked a massive political backlash. The current demand for deep change corresponds to an emerging third stage in humanity’s awakening environmental consciousness.
1. The first stage, provoked by the publication of Silent Spring, focused attention on the impact of industrial toxins on the health of humans and other animals.
2. The second stage, spurred by the image of Earth in space and MIT’s “The Limits to Growth,” introduced a planetary systems perspective.
3. The third stage features the voices of indigenous people whose traditions have long honored Earth as our living mother, of scientists who speak of Earth as a living superorganism that self-organizes to maintain the environmental conditions essential to life, and of religious leaders, such as Pope Francis, who opened his “Care of the Earth” encyclical with a reference to Mother Earth.
Those of us who succumbed to the false promises of Western consumerism at great cost to our Earth mother, our living Earth family, and ourselves, are Earth’s prodigal children now returning home.
We have only begun, however, to confront the implications for how we must now learn to live. This Earth Day let us share and celebrate the possibilities.
David is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and PhD degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.
|April 22, 2016||
This Amazing Project Seeks to Document Every Species in Captivity—Before They Go Extinct in the Wild (Video)
by Alexandra Rosenmann, AlterNet
Due to the rapid disappearance of many of Earth’s creatures, the National Geographic Photo Ark seeks to document every animal in captivity. The Ark also focuses on funding on-the-ground conservation projects for prioritized species.
“We’re supposed to lose half of all species by the turn of the next century and lot of times these pictures I do are the only national coverage these animals will ever get before they go extinct,” said Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark.
Sartore explained, “The goal of the project is to get the public to turn their eyes away from everyday distractions and to think about the other species we share the planet with—while there’s still time to save them. I want to get people to care, to fall in love, and to take action."
The Photo Ark is a multiyear effort and an incredible testament to saving animals’ records—if not the animals themselves.
"This is the best time ever to save species because so many need our help. We have to let people know that these animals exist, and that they're in trouble and what the need is,” Sartore.
|April 18, 2016||
Why It’s Impossible for a Capitalist Society to Cope With the Extinction Crisis
by Ashley Dawson, OR Books, AlterNet
With the increases in price, demand of ivory in South-East Asian countries, Kenya Wildlife Service says poaching activities have increased to the highest ever recorded loss in a single year of 384 elephants and 19 rhinos in 2012, January 16, 2013.
The following is an excerpt from the new book Extinction by Ashley Dawson (OR Books, 2016):
If capitalism is based on the illusory hope that a mysterious “invisible hand” will reconcile ruthlessly self-interested competition with the common good, modern capitalist society is correspondingly organized around antagonistic nation-states whose competing interests, it is vainly hoped, will be attuned through various international forums. Yet, wracked by the periodic crises of over-accumulation that are a structural feature of capitalism, the bourgeoisie is impelled to seek markets abroad. Since their peers in other nations are driven to cope with system-wide crises through similar expansionary policies, the result is increasing inter-imperial competition and endemic warfare. Capitalism thus generates a chaotic world system that compounds ecological crises.
In some cases, ecocide is a conscious strategy of imperialism, generating what might be termed ecological warfare. For example, the destruction of the great herds of bison that roamed the Great Plains of North America was a calculated military strategy designed to deprive Native Americans of the environmental resources on which they depended. When Europeans first arrived, the plains were inhabited by tens of millions of bison, providing indigenous peoples with resources that allowed them to maintain their autonomous, nomadic lifestyle. Commercial hunting of bison began in the 1830s, soon reaching a toll of two million animals a year.
By 1891, there were less than 1,000 bison left on the continent, and the Native Americans had been crushed— defeated militarily and forced onto a series of isolated, barren reservations. Many of these reservations were subsequently turned into “national sacrifice zones” during the Cold War, when nuclear weapons were exploded in sites such as Nevada in order to perfect the US’s military arsenal. Similar ecological violence was meted out by the US military to other parts of the planet. During the Vietnam War, for instance, nearly twenty million gallons of pesticides were sprayed on the tropical forests of Vietnam in an effort to destroy the ecological base of the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. This virulent campaign of ecological warfare eventually generated a revolt among US scientists, who balked at what they called the systematic ecocide being carried out by the military in Vietnam. Despite this history of war resistance, the US military, with more than 700 bases worldwide, remains the single most polluting organization on the planet.
In many cases, however, animals and plants simply suffer as collateral damage in the inter-imperial rivalries generated by capitalism. In a system of competing capitalist nations, no individual state has the power or responsibility to counteract the system’s tendencies toward ecological degradation. Indeed, inter-imperial competition impels individual states to shirk responsibility, seeking to score points by blaming their competitors for failing to address the environmental crisis. This fatal contradiction of capitalist society has been abundantly evident in the rounds of United Nations-sponsored climate negotiations during the last two decades. During these negotiations, advanced industrialized countries such as the United States and Great Britain have refused to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions significantly until developing nations such as China, India, and Brazil offer to cut their emissions as well. The industrializing nations respond by pointing out that their per capita emissions are still far lower than those of the wealthy nations of Europe and North America, and argue that these countries have benefited from two hundred years of industrial growth, effectively colonizing the atmosphere to exclusion of formerly colonized nations. As a result of these antagonistic positions, no binding international agreement on emissions reductions has been reached, despite years of desperate pleas from scientists and civil society. It is not simply that the climate and extinction crises have arrived at a uniquely unpropitious moment when neoliberal doctrines of financial deregulation, corporate power, and emaciated governance are hegemonic. Rather, the deadlocked climate negotiations are a reflection of the fundamentally irrational, chaotic, violence-ridden, and ecocidal world system produced by capitalism.
Can capitalist society reform itself sufficiently to cope with the extinction crisis? This is not simply unlikely. It is impossible in the long run. While it is true that the environmental movement did manage to push corporations and the state into cleaning up local crises from the late 1960s onwards, climate change and extinction suggest that the capitalist system is destroying its ecological foundations when viewed on a longer temporal scale. Recall that capital’s solution to periodic systemic crises is to initiate a new round of accumulation. Capital essentially tries to grow itself out of its problems. But, as we have seen, the extinction crisis is precisely a product of unchecked, blinkered growth. In such a context, conservation efforts can never be more than a paltry bandage over a gaping wound. As laudable as they are, conservation efforts largely fail to address the deep inequalities that capitalism generates, which push the poor to engage in deforestation and other forms of over-exploitation. Many of today’s major conservation organizations were established in the last half of the twentieth century: the Nature Conservancy (1951), World Wildlife Fund (1961), Natural Resources Defense Council (1970), and Conservation International (1987). Yet during this same period, a new round of accumulation based on neoliberal principles of unrestrained hyper-capitalism has engulfed the planet. The neoliberal era has seen much of the global South become increasingly indebted, leading international agencies such as the World Bank to force debtor nations to harvest more trees, mine more minerals, drill for more oil, and generally deplete their natural resources at exponentially greater rates. The result has been a steeply intensifying deterioration in global ecosystems, including a massive increase in the rate of extinction.
Despite this dramatic collapse of global ecosystems, the climate change crisis has unleashed a fresh round of accumulation, obscured by upbeat language about the investment opportunities opened up by the green economy. Neoliberal solutions to the climate crisis such as voluntary carbon offsets are not only failing to diminish carbon emissions, but are also dramatically augmenting the enclosure and destruction of the global environmental commons. Such programs allow polluting industries in wealthy nations to continue emitting carbon, while turning the forests and agricultural land of indigenous people and peasants in the global South into carbon dioxide “sinks” or biodiversity “banks.” Under the green economy, vast numbers of people, plants, and animals are being sacrificed as collateral damage in the ecocidal exploitation of the planet. Capitalism, it is clear, cannot solve the environmental crises it is causing.
Ashley Dawson is a professor of English at CUNY, New York City. He is the author of Mongrel Nation and The Routledge Concise History of Twentieth-Century British Literature, as well as a short story in the anthology Staten Island Noir.
|April 26, 2016||
The First Three Months of 2016 Dangerously Flirted With the Paris Agreement's 1.5° Limit
by Climate Central, AlterNet
Global leaders met in New York last week to sign the Paris climate agreement. One of the expressed purposes of the document is to limit warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”
A Climate Central analysis shows that the world will have to dramatically accelerate emissions reductions if it wants to meet that goal. The average global temperature change for the first three months of 2016 was 1.48°C, essentially equaling the 1.5°C warming threshold agreed to by COP 21 negotiators in Paris last December.
February exceeded the 1.5°C target at 1.55°C, marking the first time the global average temperature has surpassed the sobering milestone in any month. March followed suit checking in at 1.5°C. January’s mark of 1.4°C, put the global average temperature change from early industrial levels for the first three months of 2016 at 1.48°C.
Climate Central scientists and statisticians made these calculations based on an average of global temperature data reported by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But rather than using the baselines those agencies employ, Climate Central compared 2016’s temperature anomalies to an 1881-1910 average temperature baseline, the earliest date for which global temperature data are considered reliable. NASA reports global temperature change in reference to a 1951-1980 climate baseline, and NOAA reports the anomaly in reference to a 20th century average temperature.
NASA’s data alone showed a February temperature anomaly of 1.63°C above early industrial levels with March at 1.54°C.
Calculating a baseline closer to the pre-industrial era provides a useful measure of global temperature for policymakers and the public to better track how successful the world’s efforts are in keeping global warming below agreed-upon thresholds.
A similar adjustment can be applied to some of the temperature change projections in the most recent IPCC report.
The IPCC AR5 Working Group 1 Report contains projections of future global surface temperature change according to several scenarios of future socio-economic development, most of which are presented using a baseline of 1986 to 2005. The IPCC chose this baseline in order to provide its readers a more immediate base of comparison, the climate of the present world, which people are familiar with. But these representations may suggest that the Paris goals are easier to reach than is true.
The IPCC’s presentation of these scenarios was not designed to inform the discussion about warming limits (e.g., 1.5°C, 2°C goals of the Paris COP21 agreements). But the Panel does provide a way to make its projections of future warming consistent with discussions about targets.
IPCC estimates, using the best and longest record available, show that the difference between the 1986-2005 global average temperature value used in most of the Panel’s projections, and pre-industrial global average temperature, is 0.61°C (0.55-0.67). Neglecting 0.61°C warming is not trivial, and makes a significant difference for the assessment of the goals established in Paris. In fact, 0.61°C amounts to about half the warming already experienced thus far.
To capture this warming and display the IPCC warming time series relative to the pre-industrial period, Climate Central adjusted a well known IPCC projection (SPM7(a)) to reflect a 1880-1910 baseline. This adjustment has a significant effect on the dates at which the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds are crossed, moving them up by about 15-20 years.
If current emissions trends continue (RCP8.5) we could cross the 1.5°C threshold in 10 to 15 years, somewhere between the years 2025-2030, compared to 2045-2050 when a 1985-2005 baseline is used.
The dramatic global hot streak that kicked off 2016 doesn’t mean the world has already failed to meet the goals in the Paris agreement. Three months do not make a year, and it is unlikely that 2016 will exceed the 1881-1910 climate-normal by 1.5°C. This year is also in the wake of a strong El Niño, when higher-than-average temperatures would be expected.
And of course, exceeding the 1.5°C threshold for even an entire year would not mean that global temperatures had in fact risen to that point, never (at least within our lifetime) to drop back below it as it’s too short of a timeframe to make that determination.
But the hot start for 2016 is a notable symbolic milestone. The day the world first crossed the 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold for atmospheric carbon dioxide heralded a future of ever increasing carbon dioxide. So too, do the first three months of 2016 send a clear signal of where our world is headed and how fast we are headed there if drastic actions to reduce carbon emissions are not taken immediately.
On Dec.12, 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change approved the Paris Agreement committing 195 nations of the world to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” The pact commits the world to adopt nationally determined policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions in accord with those goals.
The 2°C goal represents a temperature increase from a pre-industrial baseline that scientists believe will maintain the relatively stable climate conditions that humans and other species have adapted to over the previous 12,000 years. It will also minimize some of the worst impacts of climate change: drought, heat waves, heavy rain and flooding, and sea level rise. Limiting the global surface temperature increase to 1.5°C would lessen these impacts even further.
1.5 and 2°C are not hard and fast limits beyond which disaster is imminent, but they are now the milestones by which the world measures all progress toward slowing global warming. And yet it is surprisingly difficult to find objective measures that answer the question, where are we today on the path toward meeting the 1.5 or 2°C goals?
Every month NOAA and NASA update their global surface temperature change analysis, using data from the Global Historical Climate Network, and methods validated in the peer-reviewed literature (Hansen et al. 2010; NCDC). The monthly updates are posted on their websites, and made available to the public along with the underlying data and assumptions that go into their calculations.
These calculations are enormously useful for understanding the magnitude and pace of global warming. In fact, they are the bedrock measurements validating the fact that our planet is warming at all.
But none present their results in comparison to a pre-industrial climate normal.
Methods and results
The NASA and NOAA monthly updates are presented as anomalies, or as the deviation from a baseline climate normal, calculated as an average of a 30-year reference period, or the 20th century average; they do not represent an absolute temperature increase from a specific date. NASA presents their results in reference to a 1951 to 1980 average temperature, NOAA in reference to a 20th century average temperature.
The NASA results, calculated by Goddard Institute for Space Studies are published monthly on the NASA/GISS website (GISTEMP). NOAA methods and monthly updates are published via the National Centers for Environmental Information here.
Climate Central used data from NASA and NOAA to create an 1881 to 1910 climate normal for the months of January, February, and March. We then compared the reported monthly 2016 anomaly for each of these months to this “early-industrial” baseline reference period. These anomalies were then averaged to produce a mean monthly NASA/NOAA anomaly for each month. The results are presented below.
The NASA anomaly is considerably higher than the anomaly reported by NOAA. This reflects the fact the NASA’s calculations are tuned to account for temperature changes at the poles, where there are far fewer monitoring stations. NOAA relies only on historical station data and makes no adjustment to account for sparse records at the poles, where warming has been more rapid relative to non-polar regions.
|April 28, 2016||
CNN Viewers See Far More Fossil Fuel Advertising Than Climate Crisis Reporting
by Kevin Kalhoefer, Media Matters, AlterNet
CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record.
Specifically, CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads during its morning, afternoon and primetime coverage over those two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature records. That disparity does not even account for dozens of Koch Industries ads that also ran on CNN, which were not energy-focused but did serve to boost the image of the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ primary corporation.
Federal Agencies Announced Two Major Global Temperature Records
In January, NASA and NOAA Independently Confirmed 2015 Was Hottest Year on Record.
On Jan. 20, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that they had each independently determined that 2015 was the hottest year on record. In an online article, CNN.com reported: “While it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that 2015 finished in first place, its margin of victory was startling—it lapped the field, with the average temperature across the entire planet 1.62 F (0.90 C) above the 20th century average, more than 20 percent higher than the previous highest departure from average.” A NASA press release on the announcement noted that the increase in the earth’s temperature since the late 19th century has been “largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.” [CNN.com, 1/20/16; NASA, 1/20/16]
In March, NASA and NOAA Determined That February 2016 Was the Most Unusually Hot Month on Record.
On March 17, NOAA released data showing that “[t]he combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for February 2016” was not only “the highest for February in the 137-year period of record,” but also “surpassed the all-time monthly record” set in December 2015. As Time magazine reported, “NOAA’s findings confirm those released earlier this month by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency that both show February as the most unusually hot month on record.” [NOAA, Global Analysis—February 2016, accessed 4/25/16; Time, 3/17/16]
After NASA and NOAA Announcements, CNN Aired Almost Five Times More Fossil Fuel Advertising Than Coverage of Climate Change and Global Temperature Milestones
Following Temperature Records, Big Oil Ads Outpaced Climate-Related Coverage on CNN By Nearly 5-To-1
This analysis examined CNN’s morning, daytime and primetime (4 a.m. to midnight ET) coverage for the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record (Jan. 20-26) and that February 2016 was the most unusually hot month on record (March 17-23). During those timeframes, CNN aired 23.5 minutes of ads by Vote4Energy, a project of the American Petroleum Institute (API), compared to approximately five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature records, a ratio of nearly 5-to-1. The Hill reported in 2015 that the Vote4Energy ad campaign, which features individuals claiming that producing more oil and natural gas will benefit Americans and the economy, is part of API’s “attempt to convince voters to choose candidates who support the priorities of the oil and natural gas industry in 2016.”
In Week After Hottest Year Announcement, CNN Aired Less Than One Minute of Climate-Related Coverage and 13.5 Minutes of Oil Industry Ads.
From Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, CNN morning, daytime and primetime programming included only 57 seconds of coverage about climate change or the announcement that 2015 was the hottest year on record. Over that same time period, CNN aired 13.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads. The climate-related segments included one on the January 21 edition of Early Start, in which anchor Christine Romans reported that 2015 was the hottest year on record and that officials say “the planet is still warming with no apparent change in the long term global warming rate.” Additionally, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin briefly mentioned Republican climate science denial during a discussion of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anderson Cooper 360 and CNN host Fareed Zakaria noted that the “[t]he World Economic Forum said this year that the greatest global risk is the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation,” during a Fareed Zakaria GPS segment about a study finding that humans have entered a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene.
Following Announcement That February 2016 Was Most Unusually Hot Month Ever, CNN Aired Four Minutes of Climate-Related Coverage and 10 Minutes Of Fossil Fuel Ads.
In the one-week period beginning March 17, when NOAA released data showing that February 2016 was the most unusually hot month ever recorded, CNN aired only four minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature record during its morning, daytime and primetime coverage. During that same time period, CNN aired ten minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads. On March 18, CNN anchors Christine Romans and John Berman delivered nearly-identical reports on February’s “astounding” temperature record during the 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. editions of Early Start, respectively, but neither explicitly mentioned climate change or the role fossil fuel pollution and other human activities play in driving climate change. The March 20 edition of Fareed Zakaria GPS featured an interview with astronaut Piers Sellers about his climate change advocacy, followed by a brief report about International Energy Administration (IEA) data showing a decline in carbon emissions from energy production, which Zakaria described as “some good news on the climate front” and a “welcome update in the climate battle.” Finally, on the March 20 edition of New Day Sunday, anchor Christi Paul reported that major cities around the world were participating in Earth Hour, an event meant to bring awareness to climate change, by switching off their lights. [CNN, Early Start, 3/18/16, 3/18/16; Fareed Zakaria GPS, 3/20/16, 3/20/16; New Day Sunday, 3/20/16]
CNN Aired Two Additional Climate-Related Segments Between Midnight and 4 a.m. ET.
CNN aired two additional reports on climate change and the temperature records that were not included in this study because they occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. ET. Any fossil fuel ads that aired during these hours were also excluded. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 1/21/16, 1/21/16]
MSNBC Aired Far Fewer Oil Industry Ads—and More Climate Change Coverage—Than CNN.
During the two one-week periods examined in this study, MSNBC aired six minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads (all during Morning Joe broadcasts), which was far less than the 23.5 minutes of API ads that aired on CNN. This study did not fully examine MSNBC’s climate change coverage, but one of MSNBC’s climate-related segments alone—during the Jan. 21 edition of Hardball—lasted six minutes and 21 seconds, exceeding both the amount of time MSNBC aired the API ads (six minutes) and the total amount of climate-related coverage on CNN over the two weeks of programming (approximately five minutes). The Hardball segment featured interviews by host Chris Matthews with Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Chris Mooney, an energy and environmental reporter for The Washington Post. [MSNBC, Hardball, 1/21/16]
CNN Also Aired Dozens of Koch Industries’ “We Are Koch” Ads.
In addition to airing the American Petroleum Institute ads, CNN aired dozens of Koch Industries ads during the two one-week periods analyzed in this study. The ads, which are part of Koch Industries’ “We are Koch” campaign, tout work that the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ company is doing in industries such as fertilizer production and clothing fibers. According to The Washington Post, the ads are an attempt by Koch Industries to “promote a warm, patriotic image of its multinational empire” and come at a time when “the company is adopting a more confrontational approach in the political arena, seeking to undermine its antagonists on the left.” According to InfluenceMap, a non-profit that uses objective metrics to track corporate positions on climate change, Koch Industries earned an “F” because it “appears to be actively opposing almost all areas of climate legislation.” [YouTube, 3/1/16, The Washington Post, 9/8/14; InfluenceMap, About our Scores, accessed 4/25/16; InfluenceMap, Koch Industries, accessed 4/25/16]
CNN Reports on Temperature Records Did Not Mention Fossil Fuel Pollution or Human Causes of Climate Change
Just One CNN Segment on Temperature Records Mentioned Climate Change—and None Mentioned Fossil Fuel Pollution or Other Ways Humans Impact Climate.
Of the three CNN segments about the hottest year or most unusually hot month on record that aired during the two one-week periods analyzed in this study, only one made any mention of “climate change” or “global warming”—and none addressed carbon pollution from the fossil fuel industry or any of the other ways in which humans are causing global warming. The one mention of global warming in a temperature record report came on the Jan. 21 edition of Early Start, when anchor Christine Romans reported that the latest figures from NASA and NOAA show that 2015 was the hottest year on record and added that officials say that “the planet is still warming with no apparent change in the long term global warming rate.” CNN’s two segments about February being the most unusually hot month, which aired during the 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. editions of Early Start on March 18, did not explicitly connect the temperature record to climate change or its human causes. [CNN, Early Start, 1/21/16, 3/18/16, 3/18/16]
Media Matters searched CNN transcripts in Nexis for coverage between Jan. 20 and Jan. 26 and March 17 to March 23 using the terms “(climate or global warming) or (hottest or warmest or temperature! or heat or (National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA or NOAA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) w/30 (year! or month! or “on record”).” We supplemented the Nexis search with similar queries on Factiva, IQ Media and CNN.com’s transcripts page for coverage of climate change, global warming, 2015 being the hottest year on record and February 2016 being the most unusually hot month ever recorded. Media Matters used TV Eyes and IQ Media to identify instances when American Petroleum Institute or Koch Industries ads ran and to obtain timestamps for API ads and climate-related segments.
This study includes all API ads and climate-related segments that aired on CNN—and all API ads that aired on MSNBC—between 4 a.m. and 12 a.m. ET on the above-mentioned dates. It does not include ads or segments that aired between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. ET or climate-related reporting that only aired on CNN International. One climate-related segment that aired on the Jan. 26 edition of CNN International’s Amanpour also aired on CNN, but did so on Jan. 27, which was outside of the one-week period assessed in this study.
Kevin Kalhoefer is a researcher for Media Matters for America's Climate and Energy team. He joined the organization in 2014. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Southern California.
|April 18, 2016||
Climate Will Become the Most Dominant Factor in Human Health, but We Are Woefully Ill-Prepared
by Susie Pearn, AlterNet
MILAN MALPENSA - NOVEMBER 12, 2014: Ebola emergency simulation in Malpensa. A bogus infected patient has arrived in the airport, and then carried to "Sacco Hospital" by a special modified ambulance.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 140,000 people die annually as a direct result of the climate change that has occurred since the 1970s.
As the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, we will fast reach a tipping point where the climate will be the most dominant influence on human health and our health systems, far outstripping current drivers such as the aging population and lifestyle related diseases.
By 2050, climate change will contribute to doubling the number of people living in water-stressed basins; halving rain-fed agriculture in some African countries by 2020; increasing the number of people at risk of malaria (170 million by 2030) and dengue (2 billion by 2080); as well as increasing exposure to coastal flooding by a factor of 10, and extreme drought by a factor of 10-30, according to WHO.
If this happens, the impact of heat stress conditions and upper respiratory tract ailments, as well as drought and hunger, will be profound. Our health systems are currently struggling to cope with the influx of chronic diseases that our lifestyles and aging are creating…what chance do they have when the true impact of ‘climate disease’ hits them?
Higher temps = more hospital visits
In the here and now, our densely populated cities, especially those which experience an urban heat island effect, already face extreme heat and degraded air quality. In New York City, each single degree (Celsius) increase in summertime surface temperature has been associated with a 2.7–3.1 percent increase in same-day hospitalizations due to respiratory diseases, and an increase of 1.4–3.6 percent in hospitalizations due to cardiovascular diseases.
In Hong Kong, there is a daily broadcast of what the pollutant index is and on some days, it’s recommended that parents don’t let their kids play outside. Coupled to this, food and waterborne infections show a direct correlation to rising temperatures.
Put simply, we’re headed for trouble and a changing climate will soon magnify the already significant effects of extreme weather on our public health system.
Salutogenics for Planet Earth
Our current hospitals and health systems are not designed to cater for climate disease. And while the predicted wave of climate disease is still a way off, hospitals are presently being designed with little regard to how they will adapt. Adaptability in healthcare design is probably the most forward thinking strategy our health departments and hospital designers can implement.
As yet, no one seems to have done the maths around the impact climate related health diseases place on our current burden of disease globally, and what this burden may become if the world were to become 2 degrees (Celsius) warmer. Arguably, there will be a need for different models of intervention and treatment, with new research and innovation to address climate disease.
When it comes to health, "salutogenics" has become fashionable; i.e., an increasing focus on factors that support human health and well-being, rather than on factors that cause disease. But, in focusing on designing the built environment to support human health, we’ve forgotten that if we do not start to design for wellness of the planet, there is little point in designing for wellness of the body.
Tied at the hip: health and climate
It’s time for health leaders to become climate leaders. If we want to see lasting and measurable change, health departments will have to heed the climate debate and then start synthesizing what this will mean to the design of the facilities they are delivering now.
We will have to start investigating how our health systems would cope with this changing disease cohort and start asking the question: "How will our facilities and health system adapt?"
The leaders of our health systems need to understand that there is an intrinsic inter-relationship between human health and sustainability that exceeds any cursory green agenda. We have to take being green seriously. For health practitioners, it must move beyond merely being environmentally responsible to actually protecting human health, which is in truth the very foundation of the Hippocratic Oath.
Deciding that sustainability measures are unaffordable and treating "environmental sustainability" as if it is an issue that is an adjunct to building design has to cease. Our design of health facilities today, and indeed all facilities, has to be capable of changing drastically.
If environmental sustainability is directly linked to human health, we may need to spawn the concept of ‘health credits’ instead of ‘carbon credits’ and start to value those credits differently, given the potential to reduce the cost of healthcare in future.
Back in 2000, the WHO predicted that ‘climate related health diseases’ could have a significant impact on our burden of disease, yet our health departments and health operators are blind to the biggest risk to our health systems: the environment.
There is an innate link between the environment we live in and human health. We cannot afford to wait another 15 years to start asking what role the designers, the private health industry and the general public can play in changing our course.
Susie Pearn has over 20 years of experience in the health sector with a background in health project management. She holds a bachelor's degree in planning and design, a master's degrees in business administration and is a certified practitioner in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP). Susie currently serves as a health expertise leader at Aurecon.
|April 22, 2016||
We Could Be Witnessing the Death of the Fossil Fuel Industry—Will It Take the Rest of the Economy Down With It?
by Nafeez Ahmed, AlterNet
It’s not looking good for the global fossil fuel industry. Although the world remains heavily dependent on oil, coal and natural gas—which today supply around 80 percent of our primary energy needs—the industry is rapidly crumbling.
This is not merely a temporary blip, but a symptom of a deeper, long-term process related to global capitalism’s escalating overconsumption of planetary resources and raw materials.
New scientific research shows that the growing crisis of profitability facing fossil fuel industries is part of an inevitable period of transition to a post-carbon era.
But ongoing denialism has led powerful vested interests to continue clinging blindly to their faith in fossil fuels, with increasingly devastating and unpredictable consequences for the environment.
In February, the financial services firm Deloitte predicted that over 35 percent of independent oil companies worldwide are likely to declare bankruptcy, potentially followed by a further 30 percent next year—a total of 65 percent of oil firms around the world. Since early last year, already 50 North American oil and gas producers have filed bankruptcy.
The cause of the crisis is the dramatic drop in oil prices—down by two-thirds since 2014—which are so low that oil companies are finding it difficult to generate enough revenue to cover the high costs of production, while also repaying their loans.
Oil and gas companies most at risk are those with the largest debt burden. And that burden is huge—as much as $2.5 trillion, according to The Economist. The real figure is probably higher.
At a speech at the London School of Economics in February, Jaime Caruana of the Bank for International Settlements said that outstanding loans and bonds for the oil and gas industry had almost tripled between 2006 and 2014 to a total of $3 trillion.
This massive debt burden, he explained, has put the industry in a double-bind: In order to service the debt, they are continuing to produce more oil for sale, but that only contributes to lower market prices. Decreased oil revenues means less capacity to repay the debt, thus increasing the likelihood of default.
This $3 trillion of debt is at risk because it was supposed to generate a 3-to-1 increase in value, but instead—thanks to the oil price decline—represents a value of less than half of this.
Worse, according to a Goldman Sachs study quietly published in December last year, as much as $1 trillion of investments in future oil projects around the world are unprofitable, effectively stranded.
Examining 400 of the world’s largest new oil and gas fields (except U.S. shale), the Goldman study found that $930 billion worth of projects (more than two-thirds) are unprofitable at Brent crude prices below $70. (Prices are now well below that.)
The collapse of these projects due to unprofitability would result in the loss of oil and gas production equivalent to a colossal 8 percent of current global demand. If that happens, suddenly or otherwise, it would wreck the global economy.
The Goldman analysis was based purely on the internal dynamics of the industry. A further issue is that internationally-recognized climate change risks mean that to avert dangerous global warming, much of the world’s remaining fossil fuel resources cannot be burned.
All of this is leading investors to question the wisdom of their investments, given fears that much of the assets that the oil, gas and coal industries use to estimate their own worth could consist of resources that will never ultimately be used.
The Carbon Tracker Initiative, which analyzes carbon investment risks, points out that over the next decade, fossil fuel companies risk wasting up to $2.2 trillion of investments in new projects that could turn out to be “uneconomic” in the face of international climate mitigation policies.
More and more fossil fuel industry shareholders are pressuring energy companies to stop investing in exploration for fear that new projects could become worthless due to climate risks.
“Clean technology and climate policy are already reducing fossil fuel demand,” said James Leaton, head of research at Carbon Tracker. “Misreading these trends will destroy shareholder value. Companies need to apply 2C stress tests to their business models now.”
In a prescient report published last November, Carbon Tracker identified the energy majors with the greatest exposures—and thus facing the greatest risks—from stranded assets: Royal Dutch Shell, Pemex, Exxon Mobil, Peabody Energy, Coal India and Glencore.
At the time, the industry scoffed at such a bold pronouncement. Six months after this report was released—a week ago—Peabody went bankrupt. Who’s next?
The Carbon Tracker analysis may underestimate the extent of potential losses. A new paper just out in the journal Applied Energy, from a team at Oxford University’s Institute for New Economic Thinking, shows that the “stranded assets” concept applies not just to unburnable fossil fuel reserves, but also to a vast global carbon-intensive electricity infrastructure, which could be rendered as defunct as the fossil fuels it burns and supplies to market.
The coming debt spiral
Some analysts believe the hidden trillion-dollar black hole at the heart of the oil industry is set to trigger another global financial crisis, similar in scale to the Dot-Com crash.
Jason Schenker, president and chief economist at Prestige Economics, says: “Oil prices simply aren’t going to rise fast enough to keep oil and energy companies from defaulting. Then there is a real contagion risk to financial companies and from there to the rest of the economy.”
Schenker has been ranked by Bloomberg News as one of the most accurate financial forecasters in the world since 2010. The US economy, he forecasts, will dip into recession at the end of 2016 or early 2017.
Mark Harrington, an oil industry consultant, goes further. He believes the resulting economic crisis from cascading debt defaults in the industry could make the 2007-8 financial crash look like a cakewalk. “Oil and gas companies borrowed heavily when oil prices were soaring above $70 a barrel,” he wrote on CNBC in January.
“But in the past 24 months, they’ve seen their values and cash flows erode ferociously as oil prices plunge—and that’s made it hard for some to pay back that debt. This could lead to a massive credit crunch like the one we saw in 2008. With our economy just getting back on its feet from the global 2008 financial crisis, timing could not be worse.”
Ratings agency Standard & Poor (S&P) reported this week that 46 companies have defaulted on their debt this year—the highest levels since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009. The total quantity in defaults so far is $50 billion.
Half this year’s defaults are from the oil and gas industry, according to S&P, followed by the metals, mining and the steel sector. Among them was coal giant Peabody Energy.
Despite public reassurances, bank exposure to these energy risks from unfunded loan facilities remains high. Officially, only 2.5 percent of bank assets are exposed to energy risks.
But it’s probably worse. Confidential Wall Street sources claim that the Federal Reserve in Dallas has secretly advised major U.S. banks in closed-door meetings to cover up potential energy-related losses. The Federal Reserve denies the allegations, but refuses to respond to Freedom of Information requests on internal meetings, on the obviously false pretext that it keeps no records of any of its meetings.
According to Bronka Rzepkoswki of the financial advisory firm Oxford Economics, over a third of the entire U.S. high yield bond index is vulnerable to low oil prices, increasing the risk of a tidal wave of corporate bankruptcies: “Conditions that usually pave the way for mounting defaults—such as growing bad debt, tightening monetary conditions, tightening of corporate credit standards and volatility spikes – are currently met in the U.S.”
The end of cheap oil
Behind the crisis of oil’s profitability that threatens the entire global economy is a geophysical crisis in the availability of cheap oil. Cheap here does not refer simply to the market price of oil, but the total cost of production. More specifically, it refers to the value of energy.
There is a precise scientific measure for this, virtually unknown in conventional economic and financial circles, known as Energy Return on Investment—which essentially quantifies the amount of energy extracted, compared to the inputs of energy needed to conduct the extraction. The concept of EROI was first proposed and developed by Professor Charles A. Hall of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York. He found that an approximate EROI value for any energy source could be calculated by dividing the quantity of energy produced by the amount of energy inputted into the production process.
Therefore, the higher the EROI, the more energy that a particular source and technology is capable of producing. The lower the EROI, the less energy this source and technology is actually producing.
A new peer-reviewed study led by the Institute of Physics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico has undertaken a comparative review of the EROI of all the major sources of energy that currently underpin industrial civilization—namely oil, gas, coal, and uranium.
Published in the journal Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, the scientists note that the EROI for fossil fuels has inexorably declined over a relatively short period of time: “Nowadays, the world average value EROI for hydrocarbons in the world has gone from a value of 35 to a value of 15 between 1960 and 1980.”
In other words, in just two decades, the total value of the energy being produced via fossil fuel extraction has plummeted by more than half. And it continues to decline.
This is because the more fossil fuel resources that we exploit, the more we have used up those resources that are easiest and cheapest to extract. This compels the industry to rely increasingly on resources that are more difficult and expensive to get out of the ground, and bring to market.
The EROI for conventional oil, according to the Mexican scientists, is 18. They estimate, optimistically, that: “World reserves could last for 35 or 45 years at current consumption rates.” For gas, the EROI is 10, and world reserves will last around “45 or 55 years.” Nuclear’s EROI is 6.5, and according to the study authors, “The peak in world production of uranium will be reached by 2045.”
The problem is that although we are not running out of oil, we are running out of the cheapest, easiest to extract form of oil and gas. Increasingly, the industry is making up for the shortfall by turning to unconventional forms of oil and gas—but these have very little energy value from an EROI perspective.
The Mexico team examine the EROI values of these unconventional sources, tar sands, shale oil, and shale gas: “The average value for EROI of tar sands is four. Only ten percent of that amount is economically profitable with current technology.”
For shale oil and gas, the situation is even more dire: “The EROI varies between 1.5 and 4, with an average value of 2.8. Shale oil is very similar to the tar sands; being both oil sources of very low quality. The shale gas revolution did not start because its exploitation was a very good idea; but because the most attractive economic opportunities were previously exploited and exhausted.”
In effect, the growing reliance on unconventional oil and gas has meant that, overall, the costs and inputs into energy production to keep industrial civilization moving are rising inexorably.
It’s not that governments don’t know. It’s that decisions have already been made to protect the vested interests that have effectively captured government policymaking through lobbying, networking and donations.
Three years ago, the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) commissioned and published an in-depth report, “EROI of Global Energy Resources: Status, Trends and Social Implications.” The report went completely unnoticed by the media.
Its findings are instructive: “We find the EROI for each major fossil fuel resource (except coal) has declined substantially over the last century. Most renewable and non-conventional energy alternatives have substantially lower EROI values than conventional fossil fuels.”
The decline in EROI has meant that an increasing amount of the energy we extract is having to be diverted back into getting new energy out, leaving less for other social investments.
This means that the global economic slowdown is directly related to the declining resource quality of fossil fuels. The DFID report warns: “The declining EROI of traditional fossil fuel energy sources and its eventual effect on the world economy are likely to result in a myriad of unforeseen consequences.”
Shortly after this report was released, I met with a senior civil servant at DFID familiar with its findings, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity. I asked him whether this important research had actually impacted policymaking in the department.
“Unfortunately, no,” he told me, shrugging. “Most of my colleagues, except perhaps a handful, simply don’t have a clue about these issues. And of course, despite the report being circulated widely within the department, and shared with other relevant government departments, there is little interest from ministers who appear to be ideologically pre-committed to fracking.”
The driving force behind the accelerating decline in resource quality, hotly denied in the industry, is ‘peak oil.’
An extensive scientific analysis published in February in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy & Environment lays bare the extent of industry denialism. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIRES) is a series of high-quality peer-reviewed publications which runs authoritative reviews of the literature across relevant academic disciplines.
The new WIRES paper is authored by Professor Michael Jefferson of the ESCP Europe Business School, a former chief economist at oil major Royal Dutch/Shell Group, where he spent nearly 20 years in various senior roles from Head of Planning in Europe to Director of Oil Supply and Trading. He later became Deputy Secretary-General of the World Energy Council, and is editor of the leading Elsevier science journal Energy Policy.
In his new study, Jefferson examines a recent 1865-page “global energy assessment” (GES) published by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis. But he criticized the GES for essentially ducking the issue of ‘peak oil.”
“This was rather odd,” he wrote. “First, because the evidence suggests that the global production of conventional oil plateaued and may have begun to decline from 2005.”
He went on to explain that standard industry assessments of the size of global conventional oil reserves have been dramatically inflated, noting how “the five major Middle East oil exporters altered the basis of their definition of ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves from a 90 percent probability down to a 50 percent probability from 1984. The result has been an apparent (but not real) increase in their ‘proved’ conventional oil reserves of some 435 billion barrels.”
Added to those estimates are reserve figures from Venezuelan heavy oil and Canadian tar sands, bringing up global reserve estimates by a further 440 billion barrels, despite the fact that they are “more difficult and costly to extract” and generally of “poorer quality” than conventional oil.
“Put bluntly, the standard claim that the world has proved conventional oil reserves of nearly 1.7 trillion barrels is overstated by about 875 billion barrels. Thus, despite the fall in crude oil prices from a new peak in June 2014, after that of July 2008, the ‘peak oil’ issue remains with us.”
Jefferson believes that a nominal economic recovery, combined with cutbacks in production as the industry reacts to its internal crises, will eventually put the current oil supply glut in reverse. This will pave the way for “further major oil price rises” in years to come.
It’s not entirely clear if this will happen. If the oil crisis hits the economy hard, then the prolonged recession that results could dampen the rising demand that everyone projects. If oil prices thus remain relatively depressed for longer than expected, this could hemorrhage the industry beyond repair.
Eventually, the loss of production may allow prices to rise again. OPEC estimates that investments in oil exploration and development are at their lowest level in six years. As bankruptcies escalate, the accompanying drop in investments will eventually lead world oil production to fall, even as global demand begins to rise.
This could lead oil prices to climb much higher, as rocketing demand—projected to grow 50 percent by 2035—hits the scarcity of production. Such a price spike, ironically, would also be incredibly bad for the global economy, and as happened with the 2007-8 financial crash, could feed into inflation and trigger another spate of consumer debt-defaults in the housing markets.
Even if that happens, the assumption—the hope—is that oil industry majors will somehow survive the preceding cascade of debt-defaults. The other assumption is that demand for oil will rise.
But as new sources of renewable energy come online at a faster and faster pace, as innovation in clean technologies accelerates, old fossil fuel-centric projections of future rising demand for oil may need to be jettisoned.
According to another new study released in March in Energy Policy by two scientists at Texas A&M University, “Non-renewable energy”—that is “fossil fuels and nuclear power”—“are projected to peak around mid-century ... Subsequent declining non-renewable production will require a rapid expansion in the renewable energy sources (RES) if either population and/or economic growth is to continue.”
The demise of the fossil fuel empire, the study forecasts, is inevitable. Whichever model run the scientists used, the end output was the same: the almost total displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources by the end of the century; and, as a result, the transformation and localisation of economic activity.
But the paper adds that to avoid a rise in global average temperatures of 2C, which would tip climate change into the danger zone, 50 percent or more of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain unused.
The imperative to transition away from fossil fuels is, therefore, both geophysical and environmental. On the one hand, by mid-century, fossil fuels and nuclear power will become obsolete as a viable source of energy due to their increasingly high costs and low quality. On the other, even before then, to maintain what scientists describe as a ‘safe operating space’ for human survival, we cannot permit the planet to warm a further 2C without risking disastrous climate impacts.
Staying below 2C, the study finds, will require renewable energy to supply more than 50 percent of total global energy by 2028, “a 37-fold increase in the annual rate of supplying renewable energy in only 13 years.”
While this appears to be a herculean task by any standard, the Texas A&M scientists conclude that by century’s end, the demise of fossil fuels is going to happen anyway, with or without considerations over climate risks:
… the ‘ambitious’ end-of-century decarbonisation goals set by the G7 leaders will be achieved due to economic and geologic fossil fuel limitations within even the unconstrained scenario in which little-to-no pro-active commitment to decarbonise is required… Our model results indicate that, with or without climate considerations, RES [renewable energy sources] will comprise 87–94 percent of total energy demand by the end of the century.
But as renewables have a much lower EROI than fossil fuels, this will “quickly reduce the share of net energy available for societal use.” With less energy available to societies, “it is speculated that there will have to be a reprioritization of societal energetic needs”—in other words, a very different kind of economy in which unlimited material growth underpinned by endless inputs of cheap fossil fuel energy are a relic of the early 21st century.
The 37-fold annual rate of increase in the renewable energy supply seems unachievable at first glance, but new data just released from the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency shows that clean power is well on its way, despite lacking the massive subsidies behind fossil fuels.
The data reveals that last year, solar power capacity rose by 37 percent. Wind power grew by 17 percent, geothermal by 5 percent and hydropower by 3 percent.
So far, the growth rate for solar power has been exponential. A Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions report from September 2015 noted that the speed and spread of solar energy had consistently outpaced conventional linear projections, and continues to do so.
While the costs of solar power is consistently declining, solar power generation has doubled every year for the last 20 years. With every doubling of solar infrastructure, the production costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) has dropped by 22 percent.
At this rate, according to analysts like Tony Seba—a lecturer in business entrepreneurship, disruption and clean energy at Stanford University—the growth of solar is already on track to go global. With eight more doublings, that’s by 2030, solar power would be capable of supplying 100 percent of the world’s energy needs. And that’s even without the right mix of government policies in place to support renewables.
According to Deloitte, while Seba’s forecast is endorsed by a minority of experts, it remains a real possibility that should be taken seriously. But the firm points out that obstacles remain:
“It would not make economic sense for utility planners to shutter thousands of megawatts of existing generating capacity before the end of its economic life and replace it with new solar generation.”
Yet Deloitte’s study did not account for the escalating crisis in profitability already engulfing the fossil fuel industries, and the looming pressure of stranded assets due to climate risks. As the uneconomic nature of fossil fuels becomes ever more obvious, so too will the economic appeal of clean energy.
Race against time
The question is whether the transition to a post-carbon energy system—the acceptance of the inevitable death of the oil economy—will occur fast enough to avoid climate catastrophe.
Given that the 2C target for a safe climate is widely recognized to be inadequate—scientists increasingly argue that even a 1C rise in global average temperatures would be sufficient to trigger dangerous, irreversible changes to the earth’s climate.
According to a 2011 report by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientific consensus shows conservatively that for every degree of warming, we will see the following impacts: 5-15 percent reductions in crop yields; 3-10 percent increases in rainfall in some regions contributing to flooding; 5-10 percent decreases in stream-flow in some river basins, including the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, contributing to scarcity of potable water; 200-400 percent increases in the area burned by wildfire in the US; 15 percent decreases in annual average Arctic sea ice, with 25 percent decreases in the yearly minimum extent in September.
Even if all CO2 emissions stopped, the climate would continue to warm for several more centuries. Over thousands of years, the National Academy warns, this could unleash amplifying feedbacks leading to the disappearance of the polar ice sheets and other dramatic changes. In the meantime, the risk of catastrophic wild cards “such as the potential large-scale release of methane from deep-sea sediments” or permafrost, is impossible to quantify.
In this context, even if the solar-driven clean energy revolution had every success, we still need to remove carbon that has already accumulated in the atmosphere, to return the climate to safety.
The idea of removing carbon from the atmosphere sounds technologically difficult and insanely expensive. It’s not. In reality, it is relatively simple and cheap.
A new book by Eric Toensmeier, a lecturer at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, The Carbon Farming Solution, sets out in stunningly accessible fashion how ‘regenerative farming’ provides the ultimate carbon-sequestration solution.
Regenerative farming is a form of small-scale, localised, community-centred organic agriculture which uses techniques that remove carbon from the atmosphere, and sequester it in plant material or soil.
Using an array of land management and conservation practices, many of which have been tried and tested by indigenous communities, it’s theoretically possible to scale up regenerative farming methods in a way that dramatically offsets global carbon emissions.
Toensmeier’s valuable book discusses these techniques, and unlike other science-minded tomes, offers a practical toolkit for communities to begin exploring how they can adopt regenerative farming practices for themselves.
According to the Rodale Institute, the application of regenerative farming on a global scale could have revolutionary results:
Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture’… These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect.
This has been widely corroborated. For instance, a 2015 study part-funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that “replacing chemical fertilizer with organic manure significantly decreased the emission of GHGs [greenhouse gases]. Yields of wheat and corn also increased as the soil fertility was improved by the application of cattle manure. Totally replacing chemical fertilizer with organic manure decreased GHG emissions, which reversed the agriculture ecosystem from a carbon source… to a carbon sink.”
Governments are catching on, if slowly. At the Paris climate talks, 25 countries and over 50 NGOs signed up to the French government’s ‘4 per 1000’ initiative, a global agreement to promote regenerative farming as a solution for food security and climate disaster.
The birth of post-capitalism
There can be no doubt, then, that by the end of this century, life as we know it on planet earth will be very different. Fossil fueled predatory capitalism will be dead. In its place, human civilization will have little choice but to rely on a diversity of clean, renewable energy sources.
Whatever choices we make this century, the coming generations in the post-carbon future will have to deal with the realities of an overall warmer, and therefore more unpredictable, climate. Even if regenerative processes are in place to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, this takes time—and in the process, some of the damage climate change will wreak on our oceans, our forests, our waterways, our coasts, and our soils will be irreversible.
It could take centuries, if not millennia, for the planet to reach a new, stable equilibrium.
But either way, the work of repairing and mitigating at least some of the damage done will be the task of our childrens’ children, and their children, and on.
Economic activity in this global society will of necessity be very different to the endless growth juggernaut we have experienced since the industrial revolution. In this post-carbon future, material production and consumption, and technological innovation, will only be sustainable through a participatory ‘circular economy’ in which scarce minerals and raw materials are carefully managed.
The fast-paced consumerism that we take for granted today simply won’t work in these circumstances.
Large top-down national and transnational structures will begin to become obsolete due to the large costs of maintenance, the unsustainability of the energy inputs needed for their survival, and the shift in power to new decentralized producers of energy and food.
In the place of such top-down structures, smaller-scale, networked forms of political, social and economic organization, connected through revolutionary information technologies, will be most likely to succeed. For communities to not just survive, but thrive, they will need to work together, sharing technology, expertise and knowledge on the basis of a new culture of human parity and cooperation.
Of course, before we get to this point, there will be upheaval. Today’s fossil fuel incumbency remains in denial, and is unlikely to accept the reality of its inevitable demise until it really does drop dead.
The escalation of resource wars, domestic unrest, xenophobia, state-militarism, and corporate totalitarianism is to be expected. These are the death throes of a system that has run its course.
The outcomes of the struggles which emerge in coming decades—struggles between people and power, but also futile geopolitical struggles within the old centers of power (paralleled by misguided struggles between peoples)—is yet to be written.
Eager to cling to the last vestiges of existence, the old centers of power will still try to self-maximize within the framework of the old paradigm, at the expense of competing power-centers, and even their own populations.
And they will deflect from the root causes of the problem as much as possible, by encouraging their constituents to blame other power-centers, or worse, some of their fellow citizens, along the lines of all manner of ‘Otherizing’ constructs, race, ethnicity, nationality, color, religion and even class.
Have no doubt. In coming decades, we will watch the old paradigm cannibalize itself to death on our TV screens, tablets and cell phones. Many of us will do more than watch. We will be participant observers, victims or perpetrators, or both at once.
The only question that counts is, amidst this unfolding maelstrom, are we going to join with others to plant the seeds of viable post-carbon societies for the next generations of human beings, or are we going to stand in the way of that viable future by giving ourselves entirely to defending our interests in the framework of the old paradigm?
Whatever happens over coming decades, the choices each of us make will ultimately determine the nature of what survives by the end of this pivotal transitional century.
Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist and international security scholar. He writes the System Shift column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his former work at the Guardian. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel Zero Point, among other books.
|May 4, 2016||
What Can You Do When the Farmer Next Door Sprays Toxic Pesticides?
by Jill Richardson, OtherWords, AlterNet
A friend of mine is a farmer out in Montana. She’s also eight months pregnant with her first child.
Recently she looked out her window and saw a worker spraying pesticides on her neighbor’s farm. Concerned for the health of her baby, she called the neighbor about the spraying. “Oh,” the neighbor asked, “do you want him to spray your land too?”
She remained polite on the phone but was internally panicked. What had he sprayed, and how would it affect her child?
In the day that followed, she faced dilemmas like whether to take the dog in the car and walk him somewhere else, or even not to walk him at all.
Was the land around her poisoned? Could she walk anywhere without endangering her child? She became a virtual prisoner in her home.
She’s not the only one I know who lives in the country and faces issues like this.
Another friend deals with her neighbor’s cow manure, which runs off into her stream. The neighbor in this case is a nice guy, she says, but there’s a cultural divide between her and the farmers who surround her. She doesn’t see a way to approach them about issues like these to achieve any kind of good results.
Thanks to this divide, what could be a matter of common courtesy—neighbors having a reasonable conversation to keep from imposing on one another—feels impossible.
The question of “organic vs. pesticides” or “local food vs. industrial food” (or however else you want to frame it) hasn’t been a rational debate for a long time. It’s ideological. To the farmers in the two anecdotes above, it’s likely an identity issue.
That is, in farming communities, one’s stance on pesticides or so-called factory farms becomes a part of one’s identity. Anyone who disagrees with you isn’t just engaging in a reasonable disagreement—they’re attacking your very identity.
How do we shift the discourse? How can neighbors learn to have reasonable—and honest—discussions about hot-button food issues?
It can be done. I’ve done it.
I’ve also not done it.
That is, with some people, I’ve been able to have a frank conversation in which each of us is honest. We spoke as human beings, despite some fundamental disagreements.
But in other cases, we couldn’t get past talking points and slogans. Some people, for example, claimed that anyone who takes issue with pesticides or any other agricultural practice is “anti-farmer.” When that’s the case, talking to one another is a pure waste of time.
Right now, we stand at a point in history when most Americans are separated from the production of their food, but also when more and more of us are concerned about where it comes from.
Sometimes that enthusiasm gets ahead of our knowledge of farming, but that’s not a reason to dismiss anyone. It’s a reason for dialogue. Each side has something to learn and something to contribute.
We can go in two directions. Either each side can become more polarized and more entrenched in their positions, or each side can open up to discussion. Let’s take the high road.
|April 22, 2016||
5 Planet-Changing Consequences of Global Warming
by Dean Goodwin, For Beginners, AlterNet
Safe world concept . Hand Holding world ball on bird nest on blur soil cracked background .Elements of this image furnished by NASA.United Nations Climate Change Conference
The following is an excerpt from the new book Climate Change For Beginners by Dean Goodwin (For Beginners, 2016).
Many of the consequences of enhanced global warming and climate change have been highlighted and discussed throughout the media, in television programs and newscasts, magazines and newspapers, radio broadcasts, blogs, Websites, and textbooks. The topic is probably the most widely publicized of any current environmental issue. Depending on the source of the information, and the particular bias of the author, some consequences have been downplayed while others have been sensationalized and exaggerated.
What do we know is happening now, and what could possibly occur in the future? It is clear that we are already seeing global environmental changes that are a direct result of enhanced global warming and climate change. What is unclear is the extent to which these changes may continue to occur, and the impact of other changes that are predicted to take place as a result of the ongoing warming trend. Of course, the extent of any or all of the consequences will depend on how quickly the issue of greenhouse gas emissions is addressed on a global scale. More rapid action will reduce these potential outcomes, while slower action will only lead to a worsening effect. The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) clearly outlines some of the potential consequences of global warming, and these conclusions have been subject to the highest level of scientific scrutiny and consensus, with over 97 percent of climate scientists in agreement with the findings. So what is the current state of affairs according to the latest IPCC report?
The Temperature Is Rising
The Earth is getting warmer. We are witnessing some of the hottest years on record since the mid-1800s. The effect is global in nature with the land masses experiencing a faster increase in temperature than the oceans. The warming effect is also more pronounced farther north from the equator. The IPCC suggests that the 30-year time period from 1983 to 2012 could represent the highest temperature change in any 30-year time period in the last 1400 years. In fact, 13 out of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. The temperature increase is behind the heat waves that have led to many deaths worldwide, such as the tens of thousands that occurred in Europe during the summer of 2003. In the United States and elsewhere it seems that each year the daily temperature record for many locations is broken. The new ones that are set sometimes end up being broken again in a short time period. In January 2015, both NASA and NOAA jointly released their global temperature data showing that 2014 was the hottest year on record to date, surpassing both the 2005 and 2010 records, marking a 38-year trend of consecutive years with above average global temperatures. When the data is in from 2015 it may even supersede 2014 as the hottest year on record! It is interesting to note that the last time a global record cold temperature was set was back in 1911.
According to the IPCC, it is likely that heat waves will become more frequent over most of the earth’s land masses. In fact, a heat wave in Southern Pakistan and India from mid-May to mid-July 2015 resulted in the deaths of 3,200 people. The summer of 2015 saw new national record high temperatures in New Delhi, India (May), Vancouver, British Columbia (June), and new July records were set in Kahului, Maui and San Francisco, USA, Madrid, Spain, Kitzingen, Germany, London, England, Melun, France, and Maastricht, The Netherlands. Conversely, in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand and Australia recorded some of the coldest winter temperatures ever during July 2015! June and July of 2015 saw the highest monthly summer temperatures ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere! So what else is this global temperature increase bringing about?
A Global Meltdown
Snow cover on mountain ranges is decreasing. Sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic is melting at rates even faster than some of the climate models once estimated. Ice on land masses such as Greenland and the Antarctic is melting, and glaciers are receding. Specific examples of this global meltdown include:
This melting has caused an increase in the size of glacial lakes in mountainous regions, and altered the flow in glacial and snow-fed streams and rivers. People in many parts of the world are dependent on snowmelt from mountain ranges as their predominant source of drinking water. Changes in the flow rates of glacial and snow-fed rivers will ultimately create water shortages for those populations who are dependent upon them. The Rockies supply Los Angeles and Southern California; the Himalayas supply Northern India.
Melting of sea ice has been observed in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In the Arctic the ice cover is shrinking, and according to the IPCC the extent of Arctic sea ice may decrease by 20 percent by 2050 with some summers to be completely ice-free by that time.
Rising Sea Levels
As ice melts it can bring about a rise in sea levels worldwide. Water has many unique properties; one of them is that as it freezes it expands. Have you ever known anyone to suffer from burst water pipes in the winter? As the water becomes ice, it passes through a temperature where its volume increases and the pressure exerted on the pipes is strong enough to break them. When the ice becomes liquid the pipes leak as the water flows freely from them through the break. As the sea ice, icebergs, and ice shelves melt the global sea level will increase due to this thermal expansion of water. According to the IPCC, since 1993 sea levels have been rising at around 3.1 mm per year, a finding consistent with the enhanced global warming trend. The global mean sea level rose by around 0.19 m (about 7.5 inches) from 1901-2010. The melting water from the sea ice was part of the ocean before it froze, so when it melts the impact on sea level rise will not be as great as from ice that melts from land masses that comes mainly from precipitation.
The melting of land-based ice in glaciated areas such as Greenland, Antarctica, and snow-covered mountain peaks will have a far greater impact on global sea levels than the melting of sea ice. The glacial ice in Greenland is melting at such a rapid rate that it could result in extremely high sea levels, simply by adding water to the ocean. Chasing Ice, the award-winning documentary on climate change by National Geographic photographer James Balog and his team on the Extreme Ice Survey, clearly shows the rapid melting of the glaciers in Greenland and other parts of the world. Scientists estimate that if all the ice covering Greenland were to melt, it could raise sea levels by 21 feet worldwide!
Roughly half of the earth’s human population lives in coastal areas; the potential effects of sea-level rise could be devastating and widespread. Low-lying coastal plains would become flooded and submerged by the advancing seas. Homes that were on the coast will become submerged. Homes that were miles inland will become, for a while, homes by the sea until the sea advances past them and they become submerged as well. This scenario is not too far-fetched. On July 23, 2015, James Hansen and a group of 16 of the world’s leading climate scientists published a must-read discussion paper on the subject of ice melt, sea level rise, and superstorms. They state that the rise in sea level may be as much as 10 feet in the next 50 years, and even more after that time. In a discussion with the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPSthe following Sunday morning Hansen, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, stated that “science is telling us we have an emergency that could wreak havoc on all of the coastal cities around the world.” When asked by Zakaria about what should be done about it, Hansen replied “we're going to have to reduce emissions as fast as practical.” When asked about how the skeptics would view the publication, Hansen acknowledged “That's the nature of science. That's the lifeblood of science. You always are skeptical of any new conclusion.” Perhaps the residents of Washington, DC do not realize that they live in what could become oceanfront property!
The global rise in sea level would affect many areas, including:
The Effect on Biodiversity
The IPCC has determined with a high degree of confidence that “20–30 percent of assessed species are likely to be at increased risk of extinction . . . and could be as high as 40–70 percent if global temperatures continue to rise.” A report in the journal Sciencein May 2015 suggests that one in six of the world’s species faces extinction due to climate change. The extinction of the golden toad in Costa Rica has previously been linked to climate change that aggravated a deadly disease. Some of the world’s most vulnerable species include the Arctic ringed seal, the golden bowerbird of Queensland, Australia, the American pika, the Haleakalā silversword found only on the island of Maui, Britain’s golden plover, and Namibia’s longlived quiver tree. In the past 40 years the world has lost around half of its animals due to pressures such as climate change, habitat loss, deforestation, pollution, and overfishing according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The Effect on Humans
Climate change has begun to have an impact on human health. It is likely that we will see changes in infectious diseases in some places. As the temperature increases, the range of disease-carrying or disease-causing insect vectors could change. For example, the mosquito and tsetse fly are now found living at higher altitudes in some parts of Africa. A warming globe could bring about the spread of diseases such as malaria that prior to the temperature changes were not a problem in certain regions. This is of particular concern if you happen to be a resident of Harare, Zimbabwe, or Nairobi, Kenya, as these two cities are at elevations that mosquitoes previously did not inhabit. Now these cities are at risk due to the migration of mosquitoes to the higher altitudes as the temperature warms. Time will tell how widespread the changes in infectious diseases will become. Higher carbon dioxide levels have been implicated in increased amounts of ragweed pollen. This could lead to detrimental effects for those who are susceptible to allergies and prone to respiratory distress caused by asthma.
The entire human population is vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change brought about by global warming, because everyone is susceptible to the effects of drought, flood, heat wave, disease, and famine. No one is immune from the risks posed by climate change.
From Climate Change For Beginners by Dean Goodwin, For Beginners LLC, 2016
|April 29, 2016||
Please, Do the Planet a Favor: Eat Less Meat
by Laura Kehoe, The Conversation, AlterNet
It’s a tricky thing to grow enough food for a ballooning population without destroying the natural world. And when I say a tricky thing, I mean it’s one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.
Luckily for us, it is theoretically possible, and the easiest way to get there is by drastically cutting down on meat.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Researchers recently modelled how the world could feed itself in 2050 without converting any current forests into agriculture. They tested the outcome under 500 different scenarios that varied according to realistic assumptions on future yields, the area needed for farming, livestock feed and human diets. They found that “deforestation is not a biophysical necessity”.
“While a wide range of feasible options to feed a no-deforestation world were found, many only worked under certain circumstances,” said Karl-Heinz Erb, lead author of the study, published in Nature Communications.
For example, meat-heavy diets were not compatible with lower yields similar to those under organic farming, or under the potential negative effects of climate change. Of all the variables involved, the feasibility of feeding the world with no deforestation is more dependent on what we are eating, than on how well we farm.
“The only diet found to work with all future possible scenarios of yield and cropland area, including 100% organic agriculture, was a plant-based one,” Erb said.
Even better: if we all woke up vegan in 2050, we would require less cropland than we did in the year 2000. This could allow us to “reforest” an area around the size of the entire Amazon rainforest – somehow fitting considering 91% of deforestation in the Amazon is due to the livestock industry.
In second place, the vegetarian diet was compatible with 94% of future no-deforestation scenarios. Going veggie would also save on cropland, allowing for an area around the size of India to return to nature.
This land-saving makes sense when considering the conversion rate between the grain that we could have directly consumed but instead feed to livestock. For example, in the US, it takes an astounding 25kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, pigs require a grain to meat ratio of 9:1 and chickens, relatively less wasteful, are 3:1. As renowned ecologist Hugh Possingham put it: “Just stop feeding grain to animals – don’t eat something that ate something that you could have eaten.”
Plant-based diets are particularly impressive when compared to those that are rich in meat, which would require a 50% increase in global cropland area by 2050. In order to achieve this with a chance of no-deforestation, we’d have to convert lots of pasture to cropland and substantially increase yields, likely through using chemicals. But both conversion and intensification generally degrade ecosystems and lead to less biodiversity.
Overall the new study found that a meat-eater requires at least double the resources of a vegan or vegetarian.
The study also links to the basic availability of food, one of the main pillars of food security. As people, especially in the Western world, eat less meat, the global demand for grain is reduced – for example, the US could feed 800m people with the grain currently fed to livestock. Less meat consumption would mean more food is available in poorer countries which could enjoy becoming more self-sufficient.
With other recent research showing that reducing our meat intake could result in two thirds less food-related CO2 emissions, and save millions of lives there are few excuses left to justify having meat at every meal.
Most of all, this study brings some much needed good news. In a world where environmental issues are often overwhelmingly depressing, where it seems monopolies that are out of our grasp run the show, here we have a pathway to a healthier, greener and more equitable world. And it’s quite literally handed to us on a plate. As the researchers of the study noted: “We are cutting back on meat, mainly as a result of this study.” And that’s the beauty of this approach, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, vegan or carnivore. Eating sparse amounts of meat, the path of the “carnesparsian”, can have a huge impact – on your own health and that of the planet.
Do the forest a favor. Why not pledge to eat for the planet and challenge yourself and your friends to have a meat-free May?
|May 2, 2016||
3 Disturbing Facts You Need to Know If You Eat Sashimi
by Yen Ning, Greenpeace, AlterNet
One in three pieces of sashimi is from fish caught by Taiwanese fishing vessels.
If you eat imported seafood, chances are you’ve eaten Taiwan caught fish, so when we’re talking Taiwanese seafood, we’re talking about an industry that has an impact on all of us.
Tuna transshipment on the high seas in the Indian Ocean.
In a race to make as much profit as possible, Taiwan’s fishing industry has long been linked to environmental abuse. But what is becoming clearer is that where there are environmental abuse, human rights abuses follow - and that’s what we’ve found in Taiwan’s fishing industry. A year long investigation released by Greenpeace East Asia has painted a terrifying image of what happens when a industry is virtually given free rein on the high seas.
Here are three things you need to know.
1. Shark finning
There are an estimated 100 million sharks killed each year. Sharks get caught almost every time a longline is set (over 90% of the time), regularly making up 25% of the catch in tuna longline fisheries, and as much as 50% of the catch in some billfish longline fisheries.
In our most recent investigation, Greenpeace East Asia found at least 16 illegal shark finning cases in one port alone, in a three-month period - that’s approximately five cases per month. We can only imagine the scale of the practise across the whole tuna fishing fleet.
And sadly this seems to be happening right under the noses of Taiwanese authorities. One Taiwanese vessel, revealed to be illegally fishing, transhipping, and involved in illegal shark finning, continued to behave unlawfully, even after Greenpeace alerted authorities.
Frozen carcasses suspected to be sharks found in Dong Gang, Taiwan. Fins are not allowed to be separated from shark carcasses under legislation Taiwan passed in 2012, but in a single three-month investigation in just one port in Taiwan, Greenpeace East Asia uncovered 16 illegal cases of shark finning. 2. Human rights abuses With up to 160,000 migrant workers working on Taiwan’s distant water fishing vessels, the industry appears beset by issues of human trafficking, and forced and debt-bonded labour. Recent high profile cases implicate Taiwanese vessels and companies in shootings at sea, human trafficking, and illegal fishing, and a complete picture emerges, that of an industry urgently needing reining in. Fishermen haul in their lines on tuna longliner in the South Pacific albacore tuna fishery. 3. Exploitation Interviews with dozens of foreign workers on Taiwanese fishing boats reveal a culture of exploitation, bullying and violence. The report exposes Taiwan’s distant water fisheries’ abusive treatment of foreign crew. Interviews with South East Asian crew members reveal delayed and withheld payments, along with horrendous working conditions, exploitation by recruiting agents, verbal and serious physical abuse, and death at sea. Frozen carcasses of fish suspected to be sharks in Dong Gang, Taiwan. So What Can Be Done? We all knew there was a problem: six months ago, EU issued Taiwan a yellow card, warning of trade sanctions, but we didn’t have the full picture. To date, Taiwan government appears to be moving towards the right direction by proposing new laws and adopting necessary revisions to the old ones. The problem is, you can make anything you don’t like illegal, but unless you police it and enforce it, it’s pointless. It’s time to spread the news far and wide that Taiwan’s fisheries industry is tainted by environmental and human rights abuses. We can demand our supermarkets, sushi bars and stores buy from brands that can tell us where our tuna comes from, and guarantee we’re not supporting human rights abuse, shark finning, and illegal fishing if we’re buying seafood. Check out our tuna guides here. A lot of this tuna ends up in the supply chain of companies like Thai Union, from where it is marketed across the world.
Frozen carcasses suspected to be sharks found in Dong Gang, Taiwan. Fins are not allowed to be separated from shark carcasses under legislation Taiwan passed in 2012, but in a single three-month investigation in just one port in Taiwan, Greenpeace East Asia uncovered 16 illegal cases of shark finning.
2. Human rights abuses
With up to 160,000 migrant workers working on Taiwan’s distant water fishing vessels, the industry appears beset by issues of human trafficking, and forced and debt-bonded labour.
Recent high profile cases implicate Taiwanese vessels and companies in shootings at sea, human trafficking, and illegal fishing, and a complete picture emerges, that of an industry urgently needing reining in.
Fishermen haul in their lines on tuna longliner in the South Pacific albacore tuna fishery.
Interviews with dozens of foreign workers on Taiwanese fishing boats reveal a culture of exploitation, bullying and violence.
The report exposes Taiwan’s distant water fisheries’ abusive treatment of foreign crew. Interviews with South East Asian crew members reveal delayed and withheld payments, along with horrendous working conditions, exploitation by recruiting agents, verbal and serious physical abuse, and death at sea.
Frozen carcasses of fish suspected to be sharks in Dong Gang, Taiwan.
So What Can Be Done?
We all knew there was a problem: six months ago, EU issued Taiwan a yellow card, warning of trade sanctions, but we didn’t have the full picture.
To date, Taiwan government appears to be moving towards the right direction by proposing new laws and adopting necessary revisions to the old ones. The problem is, you can make anything you don’t like illegal, but unless you police it and enforce it, it’s pointless. It’s time to spread the news far and wide that Taiwan’s fisheries industry is tainted by environmental and human rights abuses.
We can demand our supermarkets, sushi bars and stores buy from brands that can tell us where our tuna comes from, and guarantee we’re not supporting human rights abuse, shark finning, and illegal fishing if we’re buying seafood. Check out our tuna guides here.
A lot of this tuna ends up in the supply chain of companies like Thai Union, from where it is marketed across the world.
|May 5, 2016||
I Sailed Through the Northwest Passage and Saw Firsthand the Devastating Impact of Climate Change
by David Thoreson, Alaska Wilderness League, AlterNet
April marked the sixth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy that occurred in the Gulf. We can’t let a similar tragedy happen in the Arctic.
Yet, the Obama administration recently released its proposed 5-year plan for offshore leasing, and while the Atlantic has been given a pass from drilling, the Arctic is still open to potential future development. If we want to address climate change in a meaningful way we need to acknowledge that exposing new areas, especially sensitive areas like the Arctic, to potential fossil fuel development simply can’t happen.
In 2007, our 57’ sailboat, Cloud Nine, was transiting the Northwest Passage among the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. What used to be icy and treacherous waters, instead were nearly ice free. In fact, to the astonishment of those on board, the nearly 7000-mile voyage took only 73 days, and the Cloud Nine never touched one piece of ice.
This was a very different picture from what happened when we attempted the same route in the summer of 1994. That summer we were met by ice choking off all potential routes. We were forced to abandon the voyage and retreat out of the Arctic.
In the 13 short years between those two sailing expeditions to the far north, there was a 40 percent loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. That is a 40 percent loss of our northern polar ice cap. Human activity is having a profound and sudden impact on Earth’s climate systems, and the Arctic is experiencing the most rapid and visible changes. And in March, in a move counter to preventing the human impacts of climate change, President Obama and his administration left open the possibility for potential Arctic offshore drilling. This is unacceptable. We need to do better to protect our planet.
The Arctic Ocean environment is harsh and unforgiving – it is cold, dark and icy for most of the year. There is little infrastructure in place to help if there was a spill – the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away. And the fact is: when we drill, we spill. Accidents are part of drilling and the risks in the Arctic are huge. According to the federal government’s own report, there is about a 75 percent chance of a spill if development happens in the Chukchi Sea. And we know that cleaning up a spill in the Arctic’s icy environment is impossible.
For centuries, explorers have sought to navigate the Northwest Passage — a shortcut from Europe to Asia that would negate sailing around the southern extremes of Africa or South America. For much of that time, the idea was something between a flight of fancy and a dangerously unapproachable challenge. Now, the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are opening to navigation, and we understand that our very own human activity is causing the Arctic environment to rapidly change.
President Obama has made a commitment to mitigate climate change and has announced a U.S.-Canadian agreement to work together to protect the Arctic. The Arctic, which is dual-threatened by climate change and fossil fuel development, should be taken off the table to leasing in the 5-year plan. The president still has time to make the right decision and remove new Arctic leases from the plan – protecting our climate and protecting the Arctic are intrinsically linked, and we can no longer stand by and pretend that we don’t see the impacts of humans on climate change and the Arctic.
|May 3, 2016||
America's Pill Popping Is Making Our Fish Anxious and Possibly Getting Into Our Vegetables
by Kali Holloway, AlterNet
In America’s never-ending pursuit to be number one in all things, it has achieved top billing in a number of troubling areas, including where overmedication is concerned. We are the most pill-popping country on earth, with an astounding 70 percent of us regularly taking one prescription drug and about half of us taking two. A quarter of us take five or more prescription medications, according to the Mayo Clinic—which for the record, is a lot.
What goes into our bodies ultimately must come out, and that’s as true for meds as it is for anything else. Without getting into the elephant in the room (the question of what it means when a good portion of the population is taking enough drugs to kill said elephant?), let’s turn to another issue. That is, when some of those pharmaceuticals are excreted—meaning peed out by users—they generally end up in our toilet water. From there, they enter our waterways and recycled water supplies, the latter of which are used to irrigate food crops. Ultimately, new research finds, those drugs can unwittingly be re-absorbed both by humans and fish who never signed up for a prescription.
A new survey released in March by the University of Jerusalem confirms that crops can bear the fruit, so to speak, of our prescription drug use. Researchers looked specifically at the cycle of carbamazepine, a pharmaceutical anticonvulsant generally used in the treatment of epilepsy that is also “ubiquitously detected in reclaimed wastewater, highly persistent in soil, and taken up by crops.” According to Science Daily, researchers had subjects eat produce—“tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce”—irrigated with treated wastewater for seven consecutive days. At the end of the week “all members of the first group exhibited quantifiable levels of carbamazepine” in their urine.
"Treated wastewater-irrigated produce exhibited substantially higher carbamazepine levels than fresh water-irrigated produce," study lead Ora Paltiel, director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, told Science Daily. “It is evident that those who consume produce grown in soil irrigated with treated wastewater increase their exposure to the drug. Though the levels detected were much lower than in patients who consume the drug, it is important to assess the exposure in commercially available produce. This study demonstrates 'proof of concept' that human exposure to pharmaceuticals occurs through ingestion of commercially available produce irrigated with treated wastewater, providing data which could guide policy and risk assessments.”
Before you start losing sleep about the drugs you’re taking in through the items in your crisper drawer, note that the study group later spent a week eating fresh-water treated crops. Researchers examined the urine again and found that the carbamazepine levels had returned to baseline levels. But Ars Technica points out why these results still deserve further inquiry:
For fish, the widespread use of mental health drugs is turning out to have not so great collateral consequences. A report from Medco Health Solutions indicated that in 2010, more than 20 percent of American adults were taking “antidepressants, antipsychotics, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs [or] anti‐anxiety” medications, up by 22 percent over a decade prior. Another 2014 study found one out of 13 American schoolchildren takes at least one medicine for “emotional or behavioral difficulties.” Brian Bienkowski, writing at Environmental Health News, notes that about 250 million antidepressant prescriptions are filled each year in the U.S., making antidepressants the country’s most prescribed medications.
While those mood lifters might be helping some Americans cope with their days, they seem mostly to bum fish out. Bienkowski cites a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that looked at the effect of putting low doses (one part per billion) of fluoxetine, more popularly known as Prozac, into water containing male fathead minnows. The result: not good.
As Bienkowski notes, the World Health Organization says the amount of pharmaceuticals in our drinking water exists at levels that are about 1,000 times too low to have any real impact. But for marine animals, taking in antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals is a whole other matter.
“Fish do not metabolize drugs like we do,” Klaper told Bienkowski. “Even if environmental doses aren’t thought to be much for a human, fish could still have significant accumulation, and, it appears, changes in their brain’s gene expression.”
|April 22, 2016||
A Member of Congress Issued a Warning to the World Bank: 'Stop Privatizing Water'
by Jesse Bragg, AlterNet
Around the globe, people’s access to water is being threatened every day by one of the most powerful institutions on the globe—the World Bank. Under the guise of development, the World Bank and its investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, invest hundreds of millions in water privatization schemes that reduce access to water, increase costs and have a devastating impact on people. What’s worse is that the IFC often positions itself to profit from these projects, creating an irreconcilable conflict of interest.
But one congresswoman just took a stand against this threat that could mean the beginning of the end of the World Bank’s harmful water-for-profit pursuits. In a letter, Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) demanded the World Bank cease all promotion and financing of these projects pending an external review and congressional hearings on conflicts of interest. Because Moore is the ranking member of a subcommittee with direct World Bank oversight, it has no choice but to listen.
The letter, addressed to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, describes the failure of a World Bank-backed water privatization project in Manila, Philippines—the “success story” the IFC uses in marketing around the world—as the foundation of her concern. In Manila, the IFC advised the government to contract with two private corporations to manage the city’s water system, which it did in 1997 in a concession deal that favored one corporation, Manila Water Company, with less debt and better infrastructure. The IFC subsequently took part ownership in MWC only.Since taking over, MWC has raised rates nearly 850 percent, and has even brought the Manila regulator—and the Philippines Department of Finance—into arbitration in an attempt to hike the cost of water even higher.
As part owner of MWC, the IFC is now in direct opposition to the government’s efforts to keep water affordable for its people. And while the IFC has stood by MWC, it has made $43 million from its initial investment.
Regrettably, these shady dealings aren’t unique to Manila. Recently, as adviser to the government in Kigali, Rwanda, the IFC awarded a 27-year public-private partnership contract to a subsidiary of Metito—in which IFC also has an ownership stake. As if that weren’t enough, it also approved a $14 million loan to the corporation as part of the deal.
These deals create a perverse incentive for the World Bank to try to squeeze money out of the very people it’s supposed to be helping.
Thanks to organizing and powerful leaders like Moore, the World Bank’s course could be changing. In the face of campaigning and public scrutiny, the IFC divested its ownership stake in global water privatizer Veolia in 2014. And in Lagos, Nigeria, a popular movement against a proposed privatization project has brought the World Bank to its knees, forcing it to drop its goal of securing a private sector contract for the water system in that city.
Moore’s intervention wasn’t only inspired by the struggles for water outside of the United States. People in her home state of Wisconsin successfully blocked a bill that would have fast-tracked water privatization by removing a public-vote requirement. Just last month, Moore traveled to Flint to hear firsthand from families affected by the lead contamination caused by corrupt management of that city.
The situation in Flint, Moore says, "demands swift and effective action from federal, state, and local stakeholders.” But as Moore explains, “It also begs of us in positions of influence to take a broader look at the world around us to help identify similar problems.”
Globally, access to water is threatened when those in power treat water as a business, not a public right. The IFC openly markets such an approach to water delivery, using various buzzwords like privatization, “public-private partnerships” and “full-cost recovery.” But, regardless of how they spin it, the results are the same: people lose.
Rep. Gwen Moore’s bold stance this week will likely compel others to take action and demand answers. Ultimately, given that the lives and well-being of millions around the world are at stake, there is no other option. If we are to ensure that everyone has access to water, the World Bank must not only address this conflict of interest, it must abandon its blind pursuit of water privatization and other models that undermine democratic control.
|May 4, 2016||
Abortion Is Part of the Animal Kingdom, Not Unique to Humanity
by Valerie Tarico , AlterNet
Spontaneous abortion, also known as miscarriage, is an ordinary yet important part of normal reproduction; one of several ways nature promotes healthy babies who grow up to have babies of their own. But among the caribou of northern Alberta, Canada and the orcas of the Pacific Northwest, abortion has become alarmingly common.Caribou Abortion
In the quest for tar sands oil, humans have altered the nutritional balance of pregnant caribou. Grazers and browsers may think of boreal trees, shrubs and leafy plants as food, but extraction companies think of them as “overburden,” meaning inconvenient stuff that lies between their powerful machines and the gooey tar sands that feed fossil fuel prosperity. The most efficient way to get at the tar is to strip away the boreal forests and meadows, and that’s what they are doing, across an area that, unchecked, will reach the size of Florida.
Most Canadians don’t like Alberta looking like Mordor, so the oil companies are required to recontour and “reclaim” at least part of the land that has been scraped bare. But a bulldozer and a planting crew can’t put back the intricate, ecosystem—the including slow-growing lichens pregnant caribou rely on for winter calories. To get a sense of the difference, imagine replacing a masterpiece landscape painted by Turner or Bierstadt with something painted by your average two-year-old. Even where the surface isn’t being stripped away, caribou are so vigilant and fearful of people that they avoid human activity, even at the cost of hunger or malnutrition.
Lichens are high in glucose and are the primary fuel that nourishes the caribou fetus. When a pregnant caribou can’t get enough lichens, her body tries to reject the project of baby formation to wait for better times. If she’s still around and fertile, she’ll start over in the fall.
We know about the high rate of reproductive problems among Alberta caribou thanks to a research program that sends trained scat detection dogs and human handlers out into Arctic conditions to find caribou poop. The dogs locate the poop, even under meters of snow, and the handlers package it for analysis at the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. Laboratory analysis of the scat reveals, among other things, pregnancy hormones and nutritional deficiency—and then, later in the spring, no pregnancy and no babies.
Off the coast of Washington, the same dogs and handlers ride in small boats, and the dogs point out orca poop that remains on the surface for about 30 minutes before sinking. As with caribou poop, the goo is packaged for laboratory analysis, and here again, the analysis reveals a pattern of pregnancy cut short.
According to Samuel Wasser, the biologist behind the Conservation Canine program, orcas are aborting 60 percent of their pregnancies—over 40 percent of those in the last few months of their 18-month gestation. Why? Because we humans are eating—and otherwise depleting—the salmon that orcas rely on to feed their young. With no adequate source of calories, a female orca’s body starts breaking down her own fat to feed her fetus. But that fat contains high levels of PCBs, a neurotoxic endocrine disrupter that is now banned but persists in the orca food chain. The cumulative effects slowly starve and poison the growing fetus until the mother’s body finally aborts a pregnancy now gone horribly wrong. Sometimes, when she aborts too late, she can’t fully expel the fetus, and the infection kills the mother too.
Humans also have these natural mechanisms that cause them to spontaneously abort when things go awry. But what most mammals accomplish through instinct or automatic biological processes, we humans may accomplish via conscious decision: pick a mate, figure out how to earn a living, time a pregnancy, or end a pregnancy when conditions are wrong. Yes, we too have spontaneous abortions that stack the odds in favor of healthy children. (The wisdom built into a woman’s body rejects most fertilized eggs before anyone knows they existed.) But in determining whether to carry forward a pregnancy, we—unlike our caribou and orca relatives—can supplement biology and instinct with conscious reasoning. And we do.
The necessary conditions for a thriving child who grows into a thriving adult are so complex that any couple who wants to give their kids the best shot in life must also weigh factors that can be assessed only by the conscious mind. Human children need two decades of persistent loving nurture—seasons and years of attentive care, play and instruction. Raising a human child requires not only a woman’s body but also psyche and skill and parenting partnership and community support.
Prospective human parents often have a pretty accurate sense of their own limits. They can—at least sometimes, at least partly—look to the future and forecast that crucial resources will be in short supply. And they want to live deeply and well, and they want the same for their children. For the sake of prudence or aspiration or loyalty or responsibility or love, they may choose consciously to postpone or terminate a pregnancy.
Most women who choose abortion are already mothers and know quite well what kind of time and attention a child needs and deserves. Women cite emotional and financial resource scarcity as common reasons for choosing abortion. When they choose abortion, they are choosing to invest in their own future or the children they already have.
Foresight and Prudence
No decision process is perfect, but the wisdom of women or couples in choosing therapeutic abortion in many ways complements the body’s own wisdom in choosing spontaneous abortion. A Swedish study in the 1960s found that children born to mothers who sought and were denied abortions were more likely to grow up under adverse conditions and to engage in criminal behavior. In 2001, American economists Steven Levitt and John Donohue analyzed post-Roe data and reported that legalized abortion in the U.S. measurably reduced the crime rate as the next generation came of age. Levitt and Donohue’s findings were fiercely disputed and reanalyzed, and errors were caught, but the effect remained significant, which coincides with similar studies conducted in Canada and Australia.
More recently, researchers at the University of California (UCSF, Bixby Center) found that “turnaways,” meaning women denied abortions, were more likely to be in poverty two years later, compared to their peers who got the abortion services they sought. In other words, they had reason for wanting to wait or limit their family size. The state overruled them at a cost that will be borne foremost by the women themselves, and their children and partners, but also—if social scientists are right—by their communities and society at large.
Don’t Like It? Change It
Would you prefer fewer abortions? I would, even though I am pro-abortion and not just pro-choice. (Why mitigate harm if you can prevent it?) One obvious solution is to give people the means both to prevent unwanted pregnancy and time the pregnancies they do want. Universal access to state-of-the-art contraceptives that are 20 times as effective as the Pill could make most abortion a thing of the past.
The other equally obvious way to reduce abortion is to address the resource scarcities that lead a prospective mother, whether she is a caribou, an orca or a human, to abort a pregnancy and wait for better conditions. Caribou abortions, orca abortions and human abortions are driven in large part by greed and inequality—by the most powerful members of the most powerful species taking what they can and leaving prospective mothers with no path to sufficiency. That means you. And me.
Abortion isn’t the problem; it’s an adaptive response to an adverse situation. And if we think it’s happening painfully often either in humans or any other species, we need to look at our role in creating adversity.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington, and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at valerietarico.com.
|May 3, 2016||
The Massive, Tragic Trashing of Our Oceans: Is There Still Time to Do Something About It?
by Reynard Loki , AlterNet
It's impossible to overestimate how critical the oceans are to the overall health of life on Earth. For one thing, tiny marine plants called phytoplankton provide up to 85 percent of the world's oxygen, according to EarthSky.org. But the oceans don’t just give us good stuff like oxygen; they take away bad stuff, like carbon dioxide. A 2011 international study led by the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, estimated that the oceans absorb 27 percent of the CO2 produced by the fossil fuel combustion.
Sadly, humans have treated the oceans abominably. Overfishing is pushing the world’s fisheries to collapse. “The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support,” warns the World Wide Fund for Nature. “As a result, 53 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32 percent are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion.”
While we’re taking all the fish out, we’re putting incredible amounts of plastic trash in. A 2015 study by the University of Georgia and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis found that nearly 200 coastal countries put some 275 million metric tons of plastic waste into the ocean in 2010. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
“A disposable diaper takes an estimated 500 years to break down while plastic six-pack rings for cans take 400 years and a plastic water bottle can take up to 450 years to degrade,” said Genevieve Johnson, education director and marine coordinator of the Voyage of the Odyssey, a five-year program launched in 2000 by the oceanographic research nonprofit Ocean Alliance to gather the first-ever data on synthetic contaminants in the world's oceans.
“However, this does not mean they will disappear, all remain as plastic polymers and eventually yield individual molecules of plastic too tough for any organism to digest," Johnson says.
In 2010, 275 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the ocean. (image: Doug Woodring/Ocean Recovery Alliance)
Plastic in the oceans also directly impacts food chains, and consequently, human and animal health. "The ocean is basically a toilet bowl for all of our chemical pollutants and waste in general," Chelsea Rochman, a conservation research fellow at the University of California, Davis, told NPR’s Eliza Barclay.
Rochman, who authored a 2013 study about how ingested plastic harms the liver function of fish, knows all about how hazardous materials can work their way from the natural environment to our dinner plates. "Eventually, we start to see those contaminants high up in the food chain, in seafood and wildlife,” she says.
Clearly, we need to stop putting so much plastic in the ocean. One group that is trying to help us do just that is the Ocean Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles and Hong Kong that is developing projects that focus on plastic waste reduction to help improve the ocean environment. I had the chance to ask director and cofounder Doug Woodring some questions about the scope of the marine plastic trash issue, some of the coordinated efforts being made to stem the tide and what we all can do to help reverse this global ecological crisis.
Reynard Loki: How would you characterize the plastic trash crisis facing the world's oceans?
Doug Woodring: It’s not slowing, due to growing populations and consumption. And there is insufficient recycling and waste infrastructure to go along with the use of new materials—mainly plastic—which change the way machines and equipment work. There are good opportunities here for job creation and creating value from this material, but our systems of collection and recovery are not good enough—or keeping up to speed with the widespread use of plastic packaging and material. Sadly, this gets into our environment and stays there.
It is one of the biggest challenges of our time, due to the complexity of the material. It doesn’t mean it can’t be tackled, but today’s current global mindset is not yet focused enough on this to deliver the broad and scaled solutions that are needed. For more about this, see my article in the Economist from last year that compares cleaning up the world's oceans to the "broken windows" theory of policing in high-crime neighborhoods.
RL: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about plastic?
DW: That it doesn’t matter. That it goes away. That it doesn’t cause damage. That it doesn’t impact them. That their littering won’t make a big difference. That all plastic floats. (Actually almost 70 percent sinks.) Also, that just because there’s a nice recycling symbol on the bottom of a container, it will somehow get recycled. In fact, that symbol only means that it can be recycled—provided the city you live in is able to handle that material and you make sure it gets to a recycling center by disposing of it properly. The sad truth is that 90 percent of all plastic actually doesn’t get recycled.
RL: What are a few of the most staggering facts and figures that can help people understand the scope of this problem?
DW: In 2009, we went on an expedition to the North Pacific Gyre with Scripps Oceanography. We were the first in the world to sample fish there to 700 meters deep. Ten percent of all the small fish had plastic in their stomachs. This number might not seem so high, but when the scientists calculated the fish population there, and what they might be eating based on that 10 percent, in a year, the number was estimated at 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year. Of course the fish might pass the plastic, but if the plastic is carrying third-party toxins, that can get into the fish’s flesh. I believe others have found that over 85 percent of all seabirds tested have plastic in them.
Sadly, all animals, big or small, from mussels to whales, and even goats, cows, dogs and cats, will all eat plastic if they can get it in their mouths. They just don’t know better.
RL: What are some of the marine species that are having the most problems with plastic trash?
DW: Over 700 species are known to suffer from impacts. There is no “body count” in the ocean, so we don’t know. Turtles are very susceptible to plastic bags as they look like jellyfish.
RL: Are there any coordinated international efforts to stem this tide and what is Ocean Recovery doing specifically?
DW: It’s a huge problem and requires localized solutions. There is no easy slam-dunk solution, as each river or stream or outlet is a transport channel for pollution (both solid and effluent). We have two of the only programs that exist, globally, which do not require bans, taxes or legislative changes—both were announced at the Clinton Global Initiative, and have been endorsed by UNEP and the World Bank. One is the Plastic Disclosure Project, which is like carbon and water reporting. You can’t manage well if you don’t measure it first.
The other is our Global Alert platform, an online tool and mobile app that gives anyone the ability to track trash hotspots via their computer or mobile phones, with photos, data and geotagging helping stakeholders in any watershed or coastal area to prevent, cleanup and manage plastic in and near the water. With Global Alert, citizens and school groups can easily “See, Share and Solve” their floating trash problems.
Global Alert screenshot (Ocean Recovery Alliance)
In early April, we launched the Global Alert platform in New York’s Times Square on Morgan Stanley’s huge, beautiful screens on the corner of 47th and Broadway.
The Global Alert app is the most powerful tool now available on this topic, as anyone can become an engaged participant, even if they cannot pick up/clean the trash, or they don’t know who to call. The visual data on a map is much more powerful and relevant than a written report or spreadsheet to a stakeholder group in any community. Once they see datapoints, they can then better decide how to do cleanups or prevention.
The Global Alert app premiered in Times Square, New York, in April. (image: Doug Woodring/Ocean Recovery Alliance)
The real goal is to get waterways to have booms, nets or catchment devices to slow the flow. Think of rivers as blood vessels, and they flow to the heart, the ocean. Think of plastic in the water as cholesterol, and you want to stop that from getting to the heart. Sadly, globally, we have hardly even focused on constricting this flow yet. It’s actually not that hard to do, but people just seem to think that if it floats downstream, it is no longer their problem.
Since most plastic also sinks, when in the murky/silty water of a river, we don’t see it. It doesn’t mean it is not there. We need a Global Alert to refocus attention on our waters—and this helps to solve a big fresh water issue too (see Economist), as once we clean the visual things, we can motivate cleaning for the harder problems, such as effluents.
RL: What nations are the worst offenders and what, if anything, are those nations doing to limit the amount of plastic ocean pollution?
DW: Well, much of the developing world simply does not have the waste infrastructure at all to cope, nor the islands. Why can companies sell onto islands, but not be responsible to get it back off islands (back into containers to places where it can be dealt with)? This might be the new norm in the future. If people open-pit burn it (as 40 percent of the world’s waste is), that creates all types of toxic issues, which then end up in the waters with the rains.
RL: What innovations in plastic are you most excited about?
I like plastic from algae. It can clean the water, not compete with food, be biodegradable and potentially “ocean degradable,” which most biodegradable stuff is not.
I also like "bring-back" programs, which get material back from customers, aggregate it, gets them into the stores and then the stores use the reverse supply chains to get the material back to the warehouse. We are doing this with the first coffee lid bring-back program in Hong Kong, with Pacific Coffee, and 30 stores now. Here's a video of the project from last year:
Now customers get a free upgrade in drink size when they bring a lid in.
I'm also excited about plastic-to-fuel technologies which liquefy plastic into a clean (i.e. low-sulfur) diesel fuel. Recycling is always the best option, but if 90 percent today is not getting recycled, there's a lot out there that can be used as a resource.
RL: What about bacteria that eat plastic? Is this a real or scalable solution?
DW: Not good for geo-engineering, but it could be good for controlled use, for sure.
RL: Are all plastics created equal; are some plastics less problematic for the environment?
DW: Some degrade faster than others, but most are still over a long time. The best ones are with non-toxic chemical additives, so that should also be a goal: to use “green chemistry,” so the toxins aren’t there to begin with.
RL: If you could have one national law enacted that would address the plastic trash problem, what would it be?
DW: An Extended Producer Responsibility Law. Or simply, a fee on plastic use, which is used for plastic recovery/recycling. Taiwan does this and it is proven to work. All of the industry is on a level playing field. It is only fair; instead of putting the cost on all of us, it should be part of doing business. Then we won’t have the negative impacts.
RL: Is it possible to live a plastic-free life? Is that a good or realistic goal?
(image: Doug Woodring/Ocean Recovery Alliance)
RL: What about a plastic-free future?
I can’t imagine it. Not in our day. Not with nanotech coming. But it could all be plant-based plastic, and could all one day be biodegradable. Then there will be many fewer problems. But then we need the infrastructure to do the biodegrading, which virtually no cities have at scale today. But that can all come.
RL: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
Not buying things with plastic wrapping…like bananas and fruit! They don’t even need to be in a bag. Don’t use single-use plastic items. Decrease what you can, and re-use what you can. That can all make a difference. Tell the companies, restaurants you frequent to try alternatives to plastic cutlery, and don’t just give straws away as a habit—let people ask for them. It would save restaurants money, too.
RL: What can businesses do to help?
Do the Plastic Disclosure Project, and look at themselves in the mirror as they do the report to see what their use is (or waste generation). Then they can better understand how to make differences.
RL: You participated in the recent Plasticity Forum in Shanghai. What was that about?
DW: It represents one of the first studies of its type which looks at the net benefit analysis of decisions that companies have made in moving to more sustainable use of materials, packaging, recycled content, etc. This is significant, because usually companies look at the life cycle and external costs associated with their actions, but often do not look at the positive externalities which are achieved by making such decisions. It is this positive feedback and knowledge that is needed for decision-makers to have a better understanding and justification of making long-term decisions that are good for their company, the environment and the communities they serve along the way. We initiated this project with Trucost, a firm that makes estimates about companies' hidden costs of the unsustainable use of natural resources. All of the parties have been involved with Plasticity in previous years, so it's a good example of how a multi-stakeholder collaboration outcome is a result of these types of forums.
We hope that companies and governments will use this report as an example for their future planning and calculations when looking beyond simply an immediate “cost” question in considering the benefits gained from moving to more sustainable products, materials, services or activities.
RL: You're a competitive swimmer and outrigger paddler, and have been nominated as Open Water Swimmer of the Year for your contributions to the sport. Has your personal physical relationship with the open water given you any special insight about the oceans?
DW: I would say that some of the ocean's powers come from its vast size, and allows you “space.” This brings peacefulness if you need to escape, but also inspiration and energy. When you are swimming or diving, you are there alone, with no sounds except the water noises around you. On the other hand, due to its vast size, people often think that it is “untouchable” and not something that can be impacted by our activities or action. But overfishing, coastal destruction, pollution and acidification have shown otherwise, and that it's not just a void that is “too big to fail.” It will grow back and become healthy and productive if we give it a chance, but we have not been giving it enough chances yet.
RL: What is one major way we can give the ocean a chance on a macro scale?
DW: One of the things we really need is 10 percent of the ocean to be dedicated as a marine protected area, more in line with the percentage of land we have dedicated to national parks. This will give the ocean some breathing room, and improve fishing and production of resources along the way. But this has to go hand-in-hand with pollution reduction.
RL: What initiative would you like the next president of the United States to immediately launch to help oceans?
Put an Extended Producer Responsibility price on materials. That would drive recycling, drive innovation, create jobs and the end benefactor will be our waters. This would be a major accomplishment.
|April 13, 2016||
A PAZ PAIX PAZ PEACE PAZ
by Maria Marlene Nascimento Teixeira Pinto Brésil ,
Onde está a paz que tanto almejamos?
Onde está a verdadeira felicidade?
Quando veremos nossos irmãos de mãos dadas,
distribuindo amor em todos recantos da Terra?
Sem armas. Sem ambição. Sem poder.
Quando seremos nós mesmos?
Fomos criados e moldados por uma mente inteligente,
repletos de bem-querer...
Para unirmos em prol de um mundo mais humano!
O que houve?
Onde foi parar a nossa espiritualidade?
Por que o materialismo nos destruiu?
Esquecemos a nossa origem, as nossas lições,
as dádivas que recebemos do Senhor!
Hoje, impera a desordem, o sexo, as drogas...
A mídia que corrompe os nossos lares!
Não há diálogo entre pais e filhos.
Nada vale! O importante é ter, e não ser!
Perdemos o nosso referencial.
Mas ( acredito) temos tempo para mudanças...
Ainda existe uma centelha...
Vamos tentar ser amigos,
estender as mãos para os necessitados.
Respeitar a família acima de tudo.
Cuidar, com zelo, os velhos e as crianças.
Tornar nosso mundo um jardim colorido,
respeitando a natureza que nos rodeia.
Vamos celebrar o amor.
Aprimorar os nossos sentimentos
e os nossos pensamentos.
Onde impera a fé, a esperança e a caridade.
o mundo sorri e a alegria contagia todos os corações...
E as mudanças vão surgindo... Aos poucos...
A paz ressurge... Eu creio!
Esta é a nossa missão, a nossa verdadeira missão!
Où est la paix que nous avons si longtemps?
Où est le vrai bonheur?
Quand verrons-nous nos frères se tenant la main,
distribution de l'amour dans tous les coins de la terre?
Pas d'armes. Sans ambition. Sans pouvoir.
Quand allons-nous nous-mêmes?
Ont été créés et mis en forme par un esprit intelligent,
plein de bonne volonté ...
Pour unir pour le bien d'un monde plus humain!
Où est notre spiritualité?
Pourquoi le matérialisme nous détruit?
Nous oublions nos origines, nos leçons,
les dons du Seigneur!
Aujourd'hui, il règne le désordre, le sexe, la drogue ...
Les médias corrompre nos maisons!
Il n'y a pas de dialogue entre parents et enfants.
Sans valeur! La chose importante est d'avoir, et ne pas être!
Nous perdons notre référence.
Mais (je crois) nous avons le temps de changer ...
Il y a encore une étincelle ...
Essayons d'être amis,
tendre la main aux nécessiteux.
Respecter la famille avant tout.
Prenez soin de zèle, le vieux et les enfants.
Faire de notre monde un jardin coloré,
en respectant la nature qui nous entoure.
Améliorer nos sentiments
et nos pensées.
Dominé par la foi, l'espérance et la charité.
le monde sourit et la joie infecte tous les cœurs ...
Et les changements se font jour ... Lentement ...
Paix réapparait ... je crois!
Telle est notre mission, notre véritable mission!
Onde está a paz que tanto tempo?
Onde está a verdadeira felicidade?
Quando vamos ver os nossos irmãos de mãos dadas,
distribuição de amor em todos os cantos da terra?
Nenhuma arma. Sem ambição. Sem poder.
Quando somos nós mesmos?
Foram criados e moldados por uma mente inteligente,
cheio de boa vontade ...
Para unir em prol de um mundo mais humano!
O que aconteceu?
Onde está a nossa espiritualidade?
Por que o materialismo está nos destruindo?
Esquecemo-nos de nossas origens, as nossas aulas,
os dons do Senhor!
Hoje ele reina a desordem, sexo, drogas ...
Os meios de comunicação corromper nossas casas!
Não há diálogo entre pais e filhos.
Sem valor! O importante é ter e não ser!
Perdemos a nossa referência.
Mas (eu acho) que temos tempo para mudar ...
Há ainda uma faísca ...
Tente ser amigos,
estender a mão aos necessitados.
Respeite a família em primeiro lugar.
Tome cuidado com zelo, os velhos e crianças.
Tornar o mundo um jardim colorido,
respeitando a natureza que nos rodeia.
Comemore o amor.
Melhorar os nossos sentimentos
Dominadas pela fé, esperança e caridade.
muitos sorrisos e alegria infecta todos os corações ...
E as mudanças estão surgindo ... Lentamente ...
Paz reaparece ... Eu acho!
Esta é a nossa missão, nossa verdadeira missão!
Where is the peace we so long?
Where is the real happiness?
When will we see our brothers holding hands,
distribution of love in every corner of the earth?
No weapons. Unambitious. Without power.
When are we ourselves?
Were created and shaped by an intelligent mind,
full of good will ...
To unite for the sake of a more human world!
Where is our spirituality?
Why materialism is destroying us?
We forget our origins, our lessons,
the gifts of the Lord!
Today he reigns disorder, sex, drugs ...
The media corrupting our homes!
There is no dialogue between parents and children.
No value! The important thing is to have, and do not be!
We lose our reference.
But (I think) we have time to change ...
There is still a spark ...
Try to be friends,
reach out to the needy.
Respect the family first.
Take care of zeal, the old and children.
Make the world a colorful garden,
respecting nature around us.
Improve our feelings
Dominated by faith, hope and charity.
lots of smiles and joy infects all hearts ...
And changes are emerging ... Slowly ...
Peace reappears ... I think!
This is our mission, our true mission!
¿Dónde está la paz que tanto tiempo?
¿Dónde está la verdadera felicidad?
¿Cuándo vamos a ver a nuestros hermanos de la mano,
distribución de amor en cada rincón de la tierra?
No hay armas. Poco ambicioso. Sin poder.
Cuando son nosotros mismos?
Fueron creados y formada por una mente inteligente,
lleno de buena voluntad ...
El altruismo ...
La empatía ...
Unir en aras de un mundo más humano!
¿Qué ha pasado?
¿Dónde está nuestra espiritualidad?
¿Por qué el materialismo nos está destruyendo?
Nos olvidamos nuestros orígenes, nuestras lecciones,
los dones del Señor!
Hoy reina el desorden, el sexo, las drogas ...
Los medios de corromper a nuestros hogares!
No hay diálogo entre padres e hijos.
Sin valor! Lo importante es tener, y no ser!
Perdemos nuestra referencia.
Pero (creo) que tenemos tiempo para cambiar ...
Todavía hay una chispa ...
Trate de ser amigos,
llegar a los necesitados.
Respetar a la familia en primer lugar.
Cuida de celo, la edad y los niños.
Hacer del mundo un colorido jardín,
respetando la naturaleza que nos rodea.
Celebrar el amor.
Mejorar nuestros sentimientos
Dominada por la fe, la esperanza y la caridad.
un montón de sonrisas y alegría infecta a todos los corazones ...
Y se están produciendo cambios ... Poco a poco ...
La paz vuelve a aparecer ... creo!
Esta es nuestra misión, nuestra verdadera misión!
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