Theme and copyrightsglobal warming, climate change, overpopulation, overconsumption, overfishing, starvation, deforestation, refugees crisis, wars and conflicts, global life-support systems put in danger, Earth ecosystem destruction, pollution beyond repairs.freedom, knowledge, peace, justice, empathy, love, hope, sustainable management of global resources.
Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month.
David Anderson, Alexis Baden-Mayer, Ugo Bardi, Andrea Basche, Shonil Bhagwat, David Bollier, Damian Carrington, Marcia DeLonge, Chelsea Green, Chris Hedges, David Hill, André Jacob, Kathleen B. Jones, Brian Kahn, Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, David Korten (2), Howard Kunreuther, Bobby Magill, Robert Meyer, Katharine Murphy, Adam Parsons, Dr Gideon Polya, Tim Radford, Kirkpatrick Sale, Dr. David Suzuki, Andrea Thompson, Colin Todhunter, Brian Whitney, James Wilt, Cameron Witten.
David Anderson, The Methane Hydrate Feedback Loop Threat.
Alexis Baden-Mayer, Here Are the Three Main Challenges Facing U.S. Agriculture Over the Next 50 Years.
Ugo Bardi, Why EROEI Matters: The Role Of Net Energy In The Survival Of Civilization.
Andrea Basche, Marcia DeLonge, What We Need Are Farms That Support Farmers, Consumers and the Environment.
Shonil Bhagwat, Trump's Border Wall Will Have Severe Ecological.
David Bollier, Re-imagining Value: Insights From The Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace And Nature.
Damian Carrington, Pollution Responsible for a Quarter of Deaths of Young Children, Says WHO.
Kirkpatrick Sale and Chelsea Green, To Avoid Ecological Calamity, We Must Adopt More Human-Scale Technologies.
Chris Hedges, The Dance of Death.
David Hill, 10 Ways Humans Are Destroying Earth's Most Biodiverse Place.
André Jacob, Je suis la paix Eu sou a paz Soy la paz I am the peace.
Kathleen B. Jones, The Power of Ordinary People Facing Totalitarianism.
Andrea Thompson, Brian Kahn, Trump's Planned Cuts to Leading Climate Science Agency Would Put Lives at Risk (Video).
Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, Towards A Rational World Of Peace And Humanity: America, Europe And Russia.
David Korten, For Automation to Benefit Society, It Must Serve Humans, Not Replace Them.
David Korten, The Refugee Crisis Is a Sign of a Planet in Trouble.
Robert Meyer, Howard Kunreuther, 4 Guiding Principles That Will Help Us Protect the Environment for Future Generations.
Bobby Magill, EPA to Big Oil and Gas: No Need to Report Methane Pollution.
Katharine Murphy, 'Irreversible' Climate Change Impacts Ravage Australia: Report.
Adam Parsons, Initiating a Global Citizens Movement for the Great Transition
Dr Gideon Polya, 50 Reasons For Free University Education As We Bequeath The Young A Dying Planet.
Tim Radford, Extreme Wildfires Set to Increase by up to 50%
Dr. David Suzuki, How a Culture of Overworking Leads to Environmental Destruction.
Colin Todhunter, Organic Vs Industrial Chemical-Dependent Agriculture: Philosophies And Practices.
Brian Whitney, Find Out How Endangered the Wilderness Is Near You.
James Wilt, Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built.
Cameron Witten, Trump's Budget Deals Massive Blow to Clean Water and Air, Public Lands, Public Health and the Environment.
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|February 26, 2017||
For Automation to Benefit Society, It Must Serve Humans, Not Replace Them
by David Korten, in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents
A recent episode of CBC Radio’s Day 6 featured an interview with David Levy, artificial intelligence expert and author of Love and Sex with Robots. Levy discussed a line of robotic sex dolls to be released in 2017 that can speak and respond to touch. He reaffirmed his 2007 prediction, in his book Love and Sex with Robots, that humans will be marrying robots by 2050. He suggests this will be a step forward.
“There are millions of people out there who, for various reasons, don’t have anyone to love or anyone who loves them. And for these people, I think robots are going to be the answer,” he said.
I suspect that Levy sees this as a lucrative business opportunity for Intelligent Toys, Ltd, a company the article mentions he founded.
The profit potentials of automation are not limited to robot spouses.
Front and center is the issue of jobs. Donald Trump promised to bring back millions of jobs that globalization outsourced at the expense of U.S. workers. According to a 2014 MIT study recently cited by the New York Times, 2 million to 2.4 million jobs have been lost to China alone since 2000. People living in areas of the country most impacted by those job losses suffer long-term unemployment and reduced income for the rest of their lives. They are understandably angry and constitute an important segment of Trump’s political base.
But, as former President Barack Obama noted in his farewell address, those jobs are gone forever—not because of globalization, but because of automation. “The next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”
Gartner, an information technology consulting firm, estimated in 2014 that by 2025, a third of current U.S. jobs will be replaced by some form of automation. Indeed, China itself has become a world leader in automation, threatening both Chinese and U.S. workers.
Trump touted United Technologies as his first victory in convincing a corporation to keep a factory in the U.S. But UT has announced plans to use automation to do the jobs it would have moved. So, in the name of saving jobs, Trump is subsidizing with tax breaks their elimination by automation.
We are seeing a flood of predictions in business media from artificial intelligence experts that jobs at risk include pharmacists, cashiers, drivers, astronauts, soldiers, babysitters, elder care workers, sports writers, and news reporters—among others. On Wall Street, the jobs of most floor traders have already been automated, and the jobs of hedge fund managers and stock market analysts may soon be on the chopping block.
These predictions suggest we face the prospect of an economy with little need for humans. As with any technology, however, artificial intelligence is not inherently good or bad. The issue is how we choose to use it and who makes the choice.
The economy is a human creation. The only reason for its existence is to support people—all people— in securing material well-being sufficient for their good health and happiness. For most people, there is no happiness without relationships, a sense of being needed by others, and opportunities to express their creativity. That most always includes some form of work. Thus, while the automation of dirty, dangerous, and boring tasks can be a blessing for humanity, the need for meaningful work remains an imperative.
Our vision of how to deal with the coming workforce disruption must be guided by our common quest to actualize the fullness of our human possibility, not by the quest for corporate profits. The primary decisions regarding how to use artificial intelligence and how to distribute the benefits must be in the hands of self-governing human communities rather than profit-maximizing corporations.
The social isolation of which Levy speaks is real—the product of economic forces that undermine the family and community relationships that for millennia sustained our species and defined our humanity. Our need to relate to one another is foundational to our humanity.
Attempting to meet that need by turning to machines that look, feel, and act like humans would be a further step toward our dehumanization. If we want our children to learn to relate to humans and if we are more comfortable being treated by human doctors—then let our primary care providers be humans aided by machines as appropriate. But let us not confuse the two. The creation of machines that look, feel, and act like humans should be prohibited. If it looks, feels, and acts like a human, it should be a human.
In our current political climate, everything is up for grabs. This is a timely moment to stretch our imaginations and envision the lives and the society we want. Let us be clear that a world in which we are distracted from our loneliness by electronic games, animated videos, and robot sex is more appropriate as a horror movie plot than as a desirable vision for society.
Let us strive for an economy in which a primary goal and responsibility of business is to make work meaningful, build relationships of internal and external community, and heal the Earth. A combination of the appropriate use of automation and of worker and community ownership would make this possible. This might be a foundational element of a positive democratic vision for a living Earth economy, around which all people of good will can enthusiastically unite.
David Korten wrote this opinion piece for YES! Magazine as part of his series of biweekly columns on “A Living Earth Economy.” David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including When Corporations Rule the World and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty. Follow him on Twitter @dkorten and on Facebook. As do all YES! columnists, he writes here in his personal voice.
|February 28, 2017||
Organic Vs Industrial Chemical-Dependent Agriculture: Philosophies And Practices
by Colin Todhunter, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents
What follows is a summary of this article, ‘A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed’, and is a preamble to something that was recently forwarded to me by Emeritus Professor Stuart B. Hill, Foundation Chair of Social Ecology, School of Education, Western Sydney University.
In 2007, as part of a requested submission to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), Professor Hill submitted a very useful and concise table comparing the philosophies and practices of organic-based agriculture (including agroecology) and chemical-intensive, industrialised agriculture.
I’ve taken the time to present Prof. Hill’s work here because, although it is 10 years old, it is a valuable reminder of the differences between the two models and why the world must step off the chemical treadmill and move towards a more organic-based system of farming.
There has been an adverse trend in the food and agriculture sector in recent times with the control of seeds and chemical inputs being consolidated through various proposed mergers. Over the past couple of decades, there has already been a restriction of choice with the squeezing out of competitors, resulting in higher costs for farmers, who are increasingly reliant on corporate seeds (and their chemical inputs).
Big agribusiness players like Monsanto rely on massive taxpayer handouts to keep their business models on track; highly profitable models that have immense social, health and environmental costs to be paid for by the public. Across the globe healthy, sustainable agriculture has been uprooted and transformed to suit the profit margins of transnational agribusiness concerns. The major players in the global agribusiness sector fuel a geo-politicised, globalised system of food production that result in numerous negative outcomes for both farmers and consumers alike (listed here: 4th paragraph from the end).
The extremely wealthy interests behind these corporations do their level best to displace or dismantle alternative models of production – whether agroecology, organic, public sector agriculture systems or anything that exists independently from them – and replace them with ones that serve their needs. Look no further than attempts attempts to undermine indigenous edible oils processing in India, for instance. Look no further than the ‘mustard seed crisis‘ in India in 1998. Or look no further than how transnational biotech helped fuel and then benefit from the destruction of Ethiopia’s traditional agrarian economy.
Whether it’s on the back of US-backed coups (Ukraine), military conflicts (Iraq), ‘structural adjustment’ (Africa) or slanted trade deals (India), transnational agribusiness is driving a global agenda to suit its interests and eradicate impediments to profit.
Increasing profit and shareholder dividends are the bottom line. And it doesn’t matter how much devastation ensues or how unsustainable their business model is, ‘crisis management’ and ‘innovation’ fuel the corporate-controlled treadmill they seek to impose.
Despite the promise of the Green Revolution, hundreds of millions still go to bed hungry, food has become denutrified, functioning rural economies have been destroyed, diseases have spiked in correlation with the increase in use of pesticides and GMOs, soil has been eroded or degraded, diets are less diverse, global food security has been undermined and access to food is determined by manipulated international markets and speculation – not supply and demand.
Food and agriculture have become wedded to power structures that have created food surplus and food deficit areas and have restructured indigenous agriculture across the world and tied it to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for a manipulated and volatile international market and indebtedness to international financial institutions.
Organic & Conventional Agriculture Compared by Prof. Stuart B. Hill
|February 28, 2017||
Initiating a Global Citizens Movement for the Great Transition
by Adam Parsons, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents
A new publication by The Great Transition Initiative provides an inspiring vision of a more equal, vibrant and sustainable civilisation. From STWR’s perspective, all that it lacks is a sufficient focus on the critical needs of the very poorest citizens—which could ultimately forge the global solidarity needed to bring that new world into being.
‘Journey to Earthland’ is a recently released book by the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), a worldwide network of activist scholars with a unique purpose—to advance “a vision and praxis for global transformation”. Few civil society organisations have such a broad focus on transformational strategies towards a new global social-ecological system, as condensed and overviewed in this latest publication by GTI’s director, Paul Raskin. The short and accessible book presents a majestic overview of our historic juncture and expounds the urgent need for systemic change, with a hopeful vision of a flourishing civilisation that has long inspired Share The World’s Resources (STWR) in our complementary proposals for peaceful mass civic engagement.
The phrase ‘Earthland’ adopted by Raskin relates to the Planetary Phase of civilisation that GTI conceptualise as the coming era, in which humanity embraces its increasing interdependence through a new ethos of global solidarity and a transformed political community of cooperative nations. With the first part of the book summarising the evolving phases in human history since the earliest dawn of man, the Planetary Phase is finally “born of systemic crisis”, requiring a corresponding systemic response that can shape an inclusive and sustainable future for all.
Earthland is the idealised outcome of this great transition, brought to life in the final part of the book where three archetypal regions are explored: Agoria (with its market emphasis and socialised economy, or ‘Sweden Supreme’), Ecodemia (distinguished by its economic democracy and collectivist ethos), and Arcadia (accentuating self-reliant economies and a ‘small-is-beautiful’ enthusiasm). Raskin argues that such a compelling vision of “One World, Many Places” may seem remote, but should not be dismissed out-of-hand—just as sovereign states may have once seemed an implausible dream to eighteenth-century sceptics.
Central to the book’s thesis is the question of collective action, and the need for a “vast cultural and political arising” that can bring this new world into being. The rationale for a new form of global citizens movement is made throughout the book, drawing upon much of the analysis and propositions in GTI’s canon. It is the missing actor on the world stage, an overarching systemic movement that includes all the many struggles for peace, justice and sustainability, yet remains united under a broad umbrella of common concerns and universal values. Raskin and the GTI make a convincing case that such a movement may be our only hope of avoiding a “Fortress World” or “Barberisation” future, as long as a movement for a great transition can fill the vacuum in political leadership and lay the foundations for a “post-growth material era”, and a true “global demos” or “planetary democracy”.
From an STWR perspective, the book hits all the right notes in sketching out a more equal and vibrant civilisation that exists within planetary boundaries. It envisages a new paradigm in which economies are a means for attaining social and environmental ends, not an end in themselves; in which economic equity is the prerequisite in a shift towards post-consumerist societies, while poverty elimination is “a galvanising priority”; and in which continued economic growth is equally shared both within and between regions, until Global North-South disparities have vanished.
In the imagined social dimensions of Earthland, we also find a more leisured society where everyone is guaranteed a basic income, and where the pursuit of money has given way to non-market endeavours that enable genuine “sharing economies” and the art of living to flourish. Raskin even outlines the new modes of trade and global governance for a Commonwealth of Earthland, including world bodies that marshal “solidarity funds” to needy areas, thus ensuring a truly communitarian and interdependent economy.
What’s most interesting about ‘Journey to Earthland’ is its almost spiritual exhortations for a shared planetary civilisation, often expressed in eloquent passages that variously define the need for an enlarged sense of human identity that extends beyond national boundaries. “Interdependence in the objective realm of political economy cultivates, in the subjective realm of human consciousness, an understanding of people and planet as a single community,” the author writes. Similarly, he states: “This augmented solidarity is the correlative in consciousness of the interdependence in the external world.”
The author also depicts the “three-fold way of transition” in diagrammatic form, illuminating the need for a fundamental change in human consciousness (the “ontological” and “normative” realms), as well as in the social model (or “institutional” realm). Stressing the “longing for wholeness” that distinguishes the values of a Great Transition, he also cites the origin of these universal values that remain the sine qua non of human life: “All along, the tangible political and cultural expressions of the Great Transition were rooted in a parallel transition underway in the intangible realm of the human heart.”
The real question, however, is how a global citizen’s movement can actually emerge in these socially polarised times, when even the prospect of uniting Western societies to welcome refugees is a forlorn challenge. Raskin provides a cogent theoretical perspective on how a mass movement can be galvanized, built on cultural or “normative solidarity” and a sense of “emotive unity”. Emphasis is placed on the need for proactive organising strategies, as well as an “integrated strategic and intellectual framework” that can connect the full spectrum of global issues. The times cry out, writes Raskin, for large-scale campaigns with the explicit purpose of catalysing a transformative social movement along these lines. But still we await a truly international effort of this nature to emerge, while most single-issue movements are increasingly entrenched in local or regional struggles as the trends of inequality, conflict and environmental degradation generally worsen.
This is where STWR’s advocacy position departs from the GTI, despite fundamentally agreeing with their broad analysis and vision for a consciousness shift towards a Planetary Phase of civilisation. To be sure, the greatest hope for the future rests with new solidarities being forged on the global stage, with the welfare of the collective whole being prioritised above the welfare of any one particular group, class or nation. But what does this actually mean in the present moment, when discrepancies in global living standards are so extreme that millions of people are currently at risk from dying of hunger or other poverty-related causes, while 8 billionaires own more wealth than the poorest half of the world? Furthermore, is it realistic to expect the 4.3 billion people who subsist on less than $5-a-day to join a global citizens movement, if their basic socioeconomic rights are not at the forefront of any such planetary endeavour?
From this immediate perspective of a starkly divided world, the answer for how to catalyse a united voice of engaged citizens may be unexpected in the end. For perhaps what’s missing from most Western-led campaigning initiatives and protest actions is not the right intellectual strategy, but a sufficient focus on the hardships and suffering experienced by the very poorest citizens within the world population. Perhaps the spark that will initiate an unprecedented demonstration of global unity is not to be found in the human mind at all, but in the simple attributes of the human heart—as Raskin himself appears to intuitively recognise. He writes: “As connectivity globalizes in the external world, so might empathy globalise in the human heart.” The question that remains is: how can that collective empathy be initially catalysed, and on what basis—given the fact that tens of thousands of neglected citizens are needlessly dying each day without sufficient help from governments or the public-at-large?
This is the starting point for STWR’s understanding of how to unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, based on the awareness of an international humanitarian emergency that our mainstream Western culture tends to largely ignore. Hence our proposal for enormous, continuous and truly global demonstrations that call upon the United Nations to guarantee Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all—until governments finally commit to an emergency redistribution programme in line with the Brandt Commission proposals in 1980.
As STWR’s founder Mohammed Mesbahi has explicated in a different kind of political treatise titled ‘Heralding Article 25: A people’s strategy for world transformation’, such unprecedented protests across the world may be the last chance we have of influencing governments to redistribute resources and restructure the global economy. It may also be the only hope for initiating a global citizen’s movement, bringing together millions of people for a shared planetary cause—and ultimately paving the way for all the social, economic and political transformations that are inspiringly promoted by the GTI.
Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead, by Paul Raskin et al, April 2002
Adam Parsons is the editor at Share The World’s Resources (STWR), www.sharing.org
|March 9, 2017||
The Refugee Crisis Is a Sign of a Planet in Trouble
by David Korten, in World, Countercurrents
The plight of immigrant families in the United States facing threat of deportation has provoked a massive compassionate response, with cities, churches, and colleges offering sanctuary and legal assistance to those under threat. It is an inspiring expression of our human response to others in need that evokes hope for the human future. At the same time, we need to take a deeper look at the source of the growing refugee crisis.
There is nothing new or exceptional about human migration. The earliest humans ventured out from Africa to populate the Earth. Jews migrated out of Egypt to escape oppression. The Irish migrated to the United States to escape the potato famine. Migrants in our time range from university graduates looking for career advancement in wealthy global corporations to those fleeing for their lives from armed conflicts in the Middle East or drug wars in Mexico and Central America. It is a complex and confusing picture.
There is one piece that stands out: A growing number of desperate people are fleeing violence and starvation.
I recall an apocryphal story of a man standing beside a river. Suddenly he notices a baby struggling in the downstream current. He immediately jumps into the river to rescue it. No sooner has he deposited the baby on the shore, than he sees another. The babies come faster and faster. He is so busy rescuing them that he fails to look upstream to see who is throwing them in.
According to a 2015 UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution in 2015, the most since the aftermath of World War II. It is the highest percentage of the total world population since UNHCR began collecting data on displaced persons in 1951.
Of those currently displaced outside their countries of origin, Syrians make up the largest number, at 4.9 million. According to observers, this results from a combination of war funded by foreign governments and drought brought on by human-induced climate change. The relative importance of conflict and drought is unknown, because there is no official international category for environmental refugees.
Without a category for environmental refugees, we have no official estimate of their numbers, but leading scientists tell us the numbers are large and expected to grow rapidly in coming years. Senior military officers warn that food and water scarcity and extreme weather are accelerating instability in the Middle East and Africa and “could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.” Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, former military advisor to the president of Bangladesh and now chair of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, notes that a one-meter sea level rise would flood 20 percent of his country and displace more than 30 million people.
Already, the warming of coastal waters due to accelerating climate change is driving a massive die-off of the world’s coral reefs, a major source of the world’s food supply. The World Wildlife Federation estimates the die-off threatens the livelihoods of a billion people who depend on fish for food and income. These same reefs protect coastal areas from storms and flooding. Their loss will add to the devastation of sea level rise.
All of these trends point to the tragic reality that the world community will be facing an ever-increasing stream of refugees that we must look upstream to resolve.
This all relates back to another ominous statistic. As a species, humans consume at a rate of 1.6 Earths. Yet we have only one Earth. As we poison our water supplies and render our lands infertile, ever larger areas of Earth’s surface become uninhabitable. And as people compete for the remaining resources, the social fabric disintegrates, and people turn against one another in violence.
The basic rules of nature present us with an epic species choice. We can learn to heal our Earth and shift the structures of society to assure that Earth remains healthy and everyone has access to a decent livelihood. Or we can watch the intensifying competition for Earth’s shrinking habitable spaces play out in a paroxysm of violence and suffering.
David Korten wrote this opinion piece for YES! Magazine as part of his series of biweekly columns on “A Living Earth Economy.” David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including When Corporations Rule the World and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty. Follow him on Twitter @dkorten and on Facebook. As do all YES! columnists, he writes here in his personal voice.
|March 13, 2017||
The Dance of Death
by Chris Hedges, in World, Countercurrents
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their ‘greatness,'” writes Hedges. “Their illusions condemn them.” (Illustration detail: Mr. Fish/TruthDig.com)
The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.
The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
“The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence.”
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”
A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
|March 16, 2017||
Why EROEI Matters: The Role Of Net Energy In The Survival Of Civilization
by Ugo Bardi, in Alternative Energy, Countercurrents
The image above was shown by Charlie Hall in a recent presentation that he gave in Princeton. It seems logic that the more net energy is available for a civilization, the more that civilization can do, say, build cathedrals, create art, explore space, and more. But what’s needed, exactly, for a civilization to exist? Maybe very high values of the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) are not necessary.
A lively debate is ongoing on what should be the minimum energy return for energy invested (EROEI) in order to sustain a civilization. Clearly, one always wants the best returns for one’s investments. And, of course, investing in something that provides a return smaller than the investment is a bad idea. So, a civilization grows and prosper on the net energy it receives, that is the energy produced minus the energy required to sustain production. The question is whether the transition from fossil fuels to renewables could provide enough energy to keep civilization alive in a form not too different from the present one.
It is often said that the prosperity of our society is the result of the high EROEI of crude oil as it was in mid 20th century. Values as high as 100 are often cited, but these are probably widely off the mark. The data reported in a 2014 study by Dave Murphy indicate that the average EROEI of crude oil worldwide could have been around 35 in the past, declining to around 20 at present. Dale et al. estimate (2011) that the average EROEI of crude oil could have been, at most, around 45 in the 1960s Data for the US production indicate an EROEI around 20 in the 1950s; down to about 10 today.
We see that the EROEI of oil is not easy to estimate but we can say at least two things: 1) our civilization was built on an energy source with an EROEI around 30-40. 2) the EROEI of oil has been going down owing to the depletion of the most profitable (high EROEI) wells. Today, we may be producing crude oil at EROEIs between 10 and 20, and it keeps going down.
Let’s move to renewables. Here, the debate often becomes dominated by emotional or political factors that seem to bring people to try to disparage renewables as much as possible. Some evidently wrong assessments, for instance, claim EROEIs smaller than one for the most promising renewable technology, photovoltaics (PV). In other cases, the game consists in enlarging the boundaries of the calculation, adding costs not directly related to the exploitation of the resource. That’s why we should compare what’s comparable; that is, use the same rules for evaluating the EROEI of fossil fuels and of renewable energy. If we do that, we find that, for instance, photovoltaics has an EROEI around 10. Wind energy does better than that, with an average EROEI around 20. Not bad, but not as large as crude oil in the good old days.
Now, for the mother of all questions: on the basis of these data, can renewables replace the increasing energy expensive oil and sustain civilization? Here, we venture into a difficult field: what do we mean exactly as a “civilization”? What kind of civilization? Could it build cathedrals? Would it include driving SUVs? How about plane trips to Hawaii?
Here, some people are very pessimistic and not just about SUVs and plane trips. On the basis of the fact that the EROEI of renewables is smaller than that of crude oil, considering also the expense of the infrastructure needed to adapt our society to the kind of energy produced by renewables, they conclude that “renewables cannot sustain a civilization that can sustain renewables.” (a little like Groucho Marx’s joke “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.”).
Maybe, but I beg to differ. Let me explain with an example. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the energy source that powers society has an EROEI equal to 2. You would think that this is an abysmally low value and that it couldn’t support anything more than a society of mountain shepherds, and probably not even that. But think about what an EROEI of 2 implies: for each energy producing plant in operation there must be a second one of the same size that only produces the energy that will be used to replace both plants after that they have gone through their lifetime. And the energy produced by the first plant is net energy that goes to society for all the needed uses, including cathedrals if needed. Now, consider a power source that has an EROEI= infinity; then you don’t need the second plant or, if you have it, you can make twice as many cathedrals. So, the difference between two and infinity in terms the investments necessary to maintain the energy producing system is only a factor of two.
It is like that: the EROEI is a strongly non-linear measurement. You can see that in the well-known diagram below (here in a simplified version, some people trace a vertical line in the graph indicating the “minimum EROEI needed for civilization”, which I think is unjustified)):
You see that oil, wind, coal, and solar are all in the same range. As long as the EROEI is higher than about 5-10, the energy return is reasonably good, at most you have to re-invest 10% of the production to keep the system going. It is only when the EROEI becomes smaller than ca. 2 that things become awkward. So, it doesn’t seem to be so difficult to support a complex civilization with the technologies we have. Maybe trips to Hawaii and SUVs wouldn’t be included in a PV-based society (note the low EROEI of biofuels) but about art, science, health care, and the like, well, what’s the problem?
Actually, there is a problem. It has to do with growth. Let me go back to the example I made before, that of a hypothetical energy technology that has an EROEI = 2. If this energy return is calculated over a lifetime of 25 years, it means that the best that can be done in terms of growth is to double the number of plants over 25 years, a yearly growth rate of less than 3%. And that in the hypothesis that all the energy produced by the plants would go to make more plants which, of course, makes no sense. If we assume that, say, 10% of the energy produced is invested in new plants then, with EROEI=2, growth can be at most of the order of 0.3%. Even with an EROEI =10, we can’t reasonably expect renewables to push their own growth at rates higher than 1%-2%(*). Things were different in the good old days, up to about 1970, when, with an EROEI around 40, crude oil production grew at a yearly rate of 7%. It seemed normal, at that time, but it was the result of very special conditions.
Our society is fixated on growth and people seem to be unable to conceive that it could be otherwise. But renewables, with the present values of the EROEI, can’t support a fast growing society. But is that a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so. We have grown enough with crude oil, actually way too much. Slowing down, and even going back a little, can only improve the situation.
(*) The present problem is not to keep the unsustainable growth rates that society is accustomed to. It is how to grow renewable energy fast enough to replace fossil fuels before depletion or climate change (or both) destroy us. This is a difficult but not impossible task. The current fraction of energy produced by wind and solar combined is less than 2% of the final consumption (see p. 28 of the REN21 report), so we need a yearly growth of more than 10% to replace fossils by 2050. Right now, both solar and wind are growing at more than a 20% yearly rate, but this high rate is obtained using energy from fossil fuels. The calculations indicate that it is possible to keep these growth rates while gradually phasing out fossil fuels by 2050, as described hereUgo 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. Contact: ugo.bardi(whirlything)unifi.it
|March 16, 2017||
Re-imagining Value: Insights From The Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace And Nature
by David Bollier, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents
What is “value” and how shall we protect it? It’s a simple question for which we don’t have a satisfactory answer.
For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. Value results when private property and “free markets” condense countless individual preferences and purchases into a single, neutral representation of value: price. That is seen as the equivalent of “wealth.”
This theory of value has always been flawed, both theoretically and empirically, because it obviously ignores many types of “value” that cannot be given a price. No matter, it “works,” and so this theory of value generally prevails in political and policy debates. Economic growth (measured as Gross Domestic Product) and value are seen as the same.
Meanwhile, the actual value generated outside of market capitalism – the “care economy,” social labor, eco-stewardship, digital communities and commons – are mostly ignored or considered merely personal (“values”). These types of “value” are seen as extraneous to “the economy.”
My colleagues and I wondered if it would be possible to develop a post-capitalist, commons-friendly theory of value that could begin to represent and defend these other types of value. Could we develop a theory that might have the same resonance that the labor theory of value had in Marx’s time?
Marx’s labor theory of value has long criticized capitalism for failing to recognize the full range of value-creation that make market exchange possible in the first place. Without the “free,” unpriced services of child-rearing, social cooperation, ethical norms, education and natural systems, markets simply could not exist. Yet because these nonmarket value-regimes have no pricetags associated with them, they are taken for granted and fiercely exploited as “free resources” by markets.
So we were wondering: If modern political/economic conceptions of value are deficient, then what alternative theories of value might we propose? In cooperation with the Heinrich Boell Foundation and anthropologist David Graeber, who has a keen interest in these themes, we brought together about 20 key thinkers and activists for a Deep Dive workshop in September 2016 to explore this very question. So much seems to hinge upon how we define value.
I am pleased to say that an account of those workshop deliberations is now available as a report, Re-imagining Value: Insights from the Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace and Nature (pdf download). The 49-page report (plus appendices) explains that how we define value says a lot about what we care about and how we make sense of things – and therefore what kind of political agendas we pursue.
Here is the Contents page from the report:
I. THE VALUE QUESTION
A. Why “Value” Lies at the Heart of Politics
B. Should We Even Use the Word “Value”?
II. TOWARDS A RELATIONAL THEORY OF VALUE
III. KEY CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A NEW THEORY OF VALUE
A. Can Abstract Metrics Help Build a New Value Regime?
B. How Shall We Value “Nature”?
C. Should We De-Monetize Everyday Life?
IV. COMMONS-BASED PEER PRODUCTION: A FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT IN UNDERSTANDING VALUE?
A. Practical Strategies for Building New Systems of Value
B. The Dangers of Co-optation and Wishful Thinking
C. But Peer Production Still Relies Upon (Unpaid) Care Work and Nature!
V. NOTES TOWARD A COMMONS THEORY OF VALUE
Appendix A: Participants
Appendix B: A Commons Theory of Value
Appendix C: Readings for Value Deep Dive
Below, some excerpts from the report:
The absence of a credible theory of value is one reason that we have a legitimacy crisis today. There is no shared moral justification for the power of markets and civil institutions in our lives. Especially since the 2008 financial crisis, the idea of “rational” free markets as a fair system for allocating material wealth has become something of a joke in some quarters. Similarly, the idea of government serving as an honest broker dedicated to meeting people’s basic needs, assuring fairness, providing ecological stewardship and advancing the public interest, is also in tatters.
“We cannot do without a value regime,” said Michel Bauwens, founder of the Peer to Peer Foundation and cofounder of the Commons Strategies Group. “Today, we have a dictatorship of one kind of value as delivered by the market system, which determines for everyone how they can live.” Consider how the labor of a nurse is regarded under different value regimes, he said: A nurse working as a paid employee is considered value-creating – a contributor to Gross Domestic Product. But the same nurse doing the same duties as a government employee is seen as “an expense, not a value-creator,” said Bauwens. The same nurse working as a volunteer “produces no value at all” by the logic of the market system.
Bauwens said that his work in fostering peer production communities is an exploratory project in creating a new type of “value sovereignty” based on mutualism and caring. An important aspect of this work is protecting the respective community’s value sovereignty through defensive accommodations with the market system. “The peer production system lives a dichotomy,” explained Bauwens. “It is based on contributions for which we don’t get paid. We therefore have to interact with the market so that we can earn a living and get paid for what we have to do.” Maintaining a peer community within a hostile capitalist order requires that the community “create membranes to capture value from the dominant system, but then to filter it and use it in different ways” – i.e., through collective decisionmaking and social solidarity, not through the market logic of money-based, individual exchange.
…. One participant, Ina Praetorius, a postpatriarchal thinker, author and theologian based in Switzerland, asked a provocative question: “Do we need to use the word ‘value’ at all?” She explained that as an ethicist she does not find the word useful. “Value is not part of my vocabulary since writing my 2005 book, Acting Out of Abundance [in German, Handeln aus der Fülle]. It’s perfectly possible to talk about the ‘good life’ without the notion of value.” Praetorius believes the word “value” is useful to merchants and economists in talking about money and markets. But it has little relevance when talking about ethical living or the human condition.
Praetorius is also suspicious of “value” as a word associated with the German philosophical tradition of idealism, which she regards as “an unreliable authority because of its strange methodological origins” – “Western bourgeois men of the 19th and 20th Centuries, who created an invisible sphere of abstract concepts meant to denote certain qualities, as a means to forget their own belonging to nature and their own basic needs, especially towards women.”
But ecophilosopher Aetzel Griffioen, based in The Netherlands, regards the word “value” as “a necessary abstraction that can be used in some places and not in others.” In his dealing with a labor union of domestic workers, for example, Griffioen considers the word too philosophical and abstract to use. However, “for commoners trying to tackle what so-called economists call ‘value-creation,’ it is a practical necessity to use the word in trying to create commons based on their own values.”
Again, the value/values dichotomy cropped up. Economics claims the word “value” for itself while everyone else, in their private and social lives, may have their own personal “values.” This rift in thinking and vocabulary is precisely what this workshop sought to overcome. Economists are eager to protect their ideas about “value” as money-based and make them normative. Commoners and others, by contrast, want to broaden the meaning of the term to apply to all of human experience. This conflict prompted Ina Praetorius to conclude, “Language is politics.” For herself, she has no desire to contest with economists over control of the term. Others, however, are determined to continue that very struggle.
Towards a Relational Theory of Value
The conventional economic definition of “value” has a significant rhetorical advantage over other notions of value/s. It can be encapsulated in numbers, manipulated mathematically and ascribed to individuals, giving it a tidy precision. Value defined as price also has an operational simplicity even though it flattens the messy realities of actual human life and ecosystems. It purports to precisely quantify and calculate “value” into a single plane of commensurable, tradeable units, as mediated by price.
Through discussion, workshop participants set forth a rough alternative theory of value based on a radically different ontology. This theory sees value arising from relationships. Value does not inhere in objects; it emerges through a process as living entities – whether human beings or the flora and fauna of ecosystems – interact with each other. In this sense, value is not fixed and static, but something that emerges naturally as living entities interact.
“In a commons, value is an event,” said Silke Helfrich of the Commons Strategies Group. “It is something that needs to be enacted again and again.” The difference between the standard economic theory of value and a commons-based one is that the latter is a relational theory of value, said Helfrich.
According to Nick Dyer-Witheford, this idea aligns with Marx’s thinking. While some observers say that a Marxist theory of value ascribes value to things, Dyer-Witheford disagreed, noting that “Marx condemned the idea of value inhering in objects as commodity fetishism. He believed in a relational theory of value – the relations between workers and owners – even if Marx may not have considered the full range of social relationships involved in the production of commodities.”….
Everyone agreed that a relational theory of value has great appeal and far-reaching implications. It means that the “labor” of nonhumans – the Earth, other creatures, plants – can be regarded as a source of value, and not definitionally excluded, said Neera Singh, the geographer. Indeed, this is a point made in a John Holloway essay on Marx’s ideas about “wealth”: the nonhuman world produces such an excess of wealth that it overflows what capitalism can capture in the commodity form, said Sian Sullivan, a co-investigator with the Leverhulme Centre for the Study of Value in the UK and Professor of Environment and Culture at Bath Spa University. “This of course leads to the paradox of capitalism trying to use commodity form, an engine of accumulation, to solve ecological crises that the commodity form created in the first place. It does not know how to protect intrinsic value.”
The report deals with a wide variety of other issues related to the “value question”: Can abstract metrics help build a new value regime? How shall we value “nature”? Should we attempt to de-monetize everyday life? The report also includes a major discussion of commons-based peer production as a fundamental shift in understanding value. This point is illustrated by open value accounting systems such as those used by Sensorica, and by organizational experiments in finance, ownership and governance.
While workshop participants did not come up with a new grand theory of value, they did develop many promising lines of inquiry for doing so. Each prepared a short statement that attempted to identify essential elements for a commons theory of value. (See Appendix B in the report.) We hope that the record of the workshop’s discussions will help stimulate further discussion on the question of value – and perhaps bring forth some compelling new theories.
David Bollier is an author, activist and independent scholar of the commons. He is Co-Founder of the Commons Strategies Group, a consulting project that works to promote the commons internationally. He was Founding Editor of Onthecommons.org and a Fellow of On the Commons from 2004 to 2010. His books include Viral Spiral, Brand Name Bullies, Silent Theft, Wealth of the Commons (co-edited with Silke Helfrich), and Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons (New Society Publishers) 2014. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Originally published by David Bollier blog
|March 16, 2017||
Three Reasons Why Keystone XL May Never Get Built
by James Wilt , in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents
Almost a full decade since first applying for a presidential permit, TransCanada looks set to finally receive go-ahead in the U.S. for its massive $8-billion Keystone XL pipeline.
But here’s the thing: U.S. approval, while a great leap forward for TransCanada, doesn’t guarantee the Keystone XL pipeline will ever be built.
New U.S. President Donald Trump was elected with the explicit promise to get the 830,000 barrel per day pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska built, under the conditions that the U.S. would receive a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights” and it would be built with American steel; his administration has already flip-flopped on the latter pledge.
On January 24, 2017, Trump signed an executive order, inviting TransCanada to reapply for a presidential permit, which the company did two days later. It’s now in the hands of the State Department, which has to issue a verdict by the end of March.
Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Here are three key reasons why.
Even Enbridge CEO Al Monaco recently stated that Canada only needs two more export pipelines.
“If you look at the supply profile and you look at our expansion replacement capacity for Line 3 and one other pipeline, that should suffice based on the current supply outlook, out to at least mid-next decade,” Monaco said on a fourth quarter earnings call last week.
Wood Mackenzie analyst Mark Oberstoetter seconded that: “There’s not an evident need to get three or four pipelines built.”
Add to that the rapidly declining long-term prospects in the oilsands.
“There will be no more greenfield projects if the price of oil stays at what it is,” says David Hughes, expert on unconventional fuels and former scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada.
Hughes adds that Western Canadian Select already sells at a discount of around $15/barrel due to transportation and quality discounts.
Pipeline companies thrive on long-term contracts with producers, with lower rates for longer terms (such as 10 or 20 years).
Such contracts are huge financial gambles, especially given uncertainty about oil prices. In a low oil price scenario, oilsands take a hit because of the high cost of production.
“The economic case is not there for the three pipelines,” says Amin Asadollahi, lead on climate change mitigation for North America at the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “And should the massive expansion happen, I don’t think the financial benefits for the sector … would be there.”
We’ve already seen what lawsuits and protests can do to proposed oil pipelines, including crippling Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and seriously delaying Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline.
Same goes for Keystone XL. Lawsuits have plagued the company for years. In 2015, over 100 Nebraska landowners sued TransCanada over the proposed use of eminent domain; the company eventually withdrew from the case and its plans for eminent domain, but it appears such conflicts will reignite with the federal approval. Landowners have already started to meet to plot out how to resist the pipeline.
TransCanada requires a permit from Nebraska in order to proceed. Last week, two-thirds of Nebraska’s senators signed a letter petitioning the state’s Public Service Commission to okay the proposed route; the original route was altered in April 2012 due to public opposition.
Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, says: “They’ll probably get the federal approval, but state-level and other legal challenges will go ahead to try to stop it.”
Adam Scott of Oil Change International notes that he expects a lot of resistance to the Keystone project on the ground in Nebraska, especially given that the project still doesn’t have a legal route through the state.
There’s also growing resistance from Indigenous people, especially in the wake of Standing Rock. Thousands of Indigenous people recently gathered in Washington, D.C. for a four-day protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In 2014, the Cowboy Indian Alliance united potentially affected farmers and Indigenous people to protest against the Keystone XL project. The recently signed continent-wide Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion specifically identified Keystone XL as a proposed pipeline to be stopped.
3) Environment and climate
Then there’s the fight north of the border over greenhouse gas emissions and climate obligations.
The Canadian government’s approvals of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and Enbridge’s Line 3 added a bit over one million barrels per day in potential capacity to the oilsands network.
Unless there are significant breakthroughs in technology to cut per-barrel emissions, those two pipelines alone will allow for oilsands production and associated greenhouse gases to hit Alberta’s 100 megatonne (Mt) cap; Stewart says companies have been talking about the possibility of emissions-cutting technologies such as solvents since 2007, but they still haven’t materialized in a commercial setting.
Unconventional fuels expert David Hughes has calculated that if the 100 Mt cap is reached and a single LNG export terminal is built, Canada will need to cut non-oil and gas emissions by 47 per cent cut in order to meet the 2030 target, which will be impossible “barring an economic collapse.”
Adding an additional 830,000 bpd of export potential via the Keystone XL — allowing for the kind of expansion hoped for by the National Energy Board and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — could result in the breaching of Alberta’s emissions cap and the country’s climate targets.
Stewart points to Chevron’s recent submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which acknowledged the increasing likelihood of climate-related litigation as a related sign of looming danger for companies.
It’s a rapidly growing trend. Climate-based litigations are grounding fossil fuel projects around the world. A lawsuit based on constitutional rights to a healthy environment filed on behalf of 21 children during the Obama administration threatens to bring a similar precedent to the U.S.
“We’re actually looking at a variety of ways to put pressure — including possible legal challenges — on companies that are basing their business model on the failure of the Paris Agreement,” Stewart says. “If you’re telling your investors, ‘We’ll make money because the world will not act on climate change’ are you actually engaging politically to try to produce that outcome? Are you lobbying against climate policy?’ ”
|March 19, 2017||
50 Reasons For Free University Education As We Bequeath The Young A Dying Planet
by Dr Gideon Polya, in World, Countercurrents
Education is a basic human right and all education should be free for all. However the commodification and corporatizing of higher education has meant that free university education presently only obtains in about 25 countries, and the young are brainwashed into acceptance of fee-charging higher education. The present ruling generations should grant free university education to the young who are inheriting a dying planet. Below are 50 reasons why we must have free university education now.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” .
Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states in part: “1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need; (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means; (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children” .
However, within prosperous Western countries having zero avoidable deaths annually on this global comparative basis one can determine that there are numerous preventable deaths from all kinds of notionally preventable causes ranging from adverse hospital events, smoking, and obesity to guns, suicide and homicide. Thus in rich Australia, rich Canada, the rich UK and rich America, annual preventable deaths total about 85,000, 100,000, 150,000 , and 1.7 million, respectively, as assessed on this “rich country comparative” basis [11-15]. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, president of the World Medical Association and director of the UK Institute of Health Equity, gave a series of ABC Boyer Lectures addressing the relationship between morbidity, mortality and social deprivation and stated “The link between deprivation of social conditions, ill health and crime is all too obvious in Australia” . Thus there is a circa 11 year life expectancy gap between the impoverished and relatively poorly educated Indigenous Australian population and White Australians. Indeed on a global comparative scale the avoidable Indigenous Australian death rate as a percentage of population per year is 0.6% as compared to 0.4% pa for impoverished South Asia and 1.0% for impoverished sub-Saharan Africa but occurring in one of the world’s richest countries (per capita GDP $53,000 per head per year) i.e. about 4,000 Indigenous Australians die avoidably from deprivation every year as compared to zero (0) White Australians on this comparative basis [9, 17]. Education decreases untimely deaths and dishonestly charging people for educating themselves is an obscenity that contributes to preventable death within societies. A major argument for university fees is cost recovery for service provision but this argument is not applied to cost recovery for life-saving medical services in countries like Australia, Canada and the UK with substantial, taxpayer-funded universal health care.
The young and future generations have a daunting task of achieving a required draw-down of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) back to the pre-Industrial Revolution level of circa 300 parts per million (300 ppm CO2) from the present damaging and dangerous record level of 405 ppm CO2 that is increasing at a record level of 3 ppm CO2 per year [29-31]. The inescapable obligation that has been imposed on future generations can be described as an inescapable Carbon Debt – while conventional debt can be evaded by default, bankruptcy or printing money, Carbon Debt is inescapable because, for example, sea walls will have to be built or coastal cites will flood and highly productive deltaic lands will be flooded and salinized. Dr. James Hansen and his NASA colleagues recently stated (2015): “There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m [metres], and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 °C warmer than today” . The total Carbon Debt of the world from 1751-2016 is about 1,850 billion tonnes CO2 and, assuming a damage-related Carbon Price of $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent , this corresponds to a Carbon Debt of $370 trillion, similar to the total wealth of the world and 4.5 times the world’s total annual GDP. The world’s GHG pollution is increasing at a recently re-calculated 64 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent per year i.e. the Carbon Debt in increasing at $12.8 trillion each year or at about one-sixth of world GDP annually . One notes that science-trained, Green-Left Pope Francis (controversial as a defender of the unwanted unborn) demanded in his 2015 Encyclical Letter “Laudato si” that the environmental and human cost of deadly greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution be “fully borne” by the polluters (i.e. by a Carbon Price or Carbon Tax that are desperately resisted by the presently dominant neoliberal climate criminal governments) .
Dr. James Hansen: “If we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty” [36 ] – yet pro-fossil fuels neoliberal, climate change denier, climate criminal and war criminal Trump has already signed an executive order allowing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas (“game over for the climate” according to Dr Hansen). Free University Education is the least we can offer as we bequeath the young a dying planet that may well be doomed.
In addition, Nigeria ($3,203), university education is free for Science, Education & Technology students . Some further countries provide university education that is very cheap from a Western perspective, namely Austria ($44,118), Belgium ($40,278), India ($1,614), Italy ($30,426), Mexico ($8,981), Spain ($25,865), and Taiwan ($22,263) In some further countries free university education is available based on means or ability e.g. Canada ($43,206; means-based free places in Ontario) and Russia ( $9,243; competition-based free places) .
48. Huge university fees and Carbon Debt cripple students for life. It is now widely believed that the Baby Boomers born in the 1940s and possibly their children may be the last Anglosphere generations to be better off than their parents. In Australia even young professional couples now find home ownership an impossible dream in Sydney. In America the working poor can spend most of their paltry income on minimal housing rental. This is compounded by the imposition of huge tuition debt in the Anglosphere. However the real killer for the young is inescapable Carbon Debt. The damage-related cost of carbon pollution has been estimated by Dr Chris Hope (the Judge Business School of 90-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University) at about $200 per tonne of CO2-equivalent (greenhouse gas pollution measured in terms of equivalently global warming masses of carbon dioxide). It can be readily estimated from historical greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution data that the total Carbon Debt of the world from 1751-2016 is about 1,850 billion tonnes CO2 (1.85 trillion tonnes CO2) and, assuming a damage-related Carbon Price of $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent, this corresponds to a Carbon Debt of $370 trillion, similar to the total wealth of the world and 4.5 times the world’s total annual GDP. The world’s GHG pollution is increasing at a recently re-calculated 64 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent per year i.e. the Carbon Debt in increasing at $12.8 trillion each year or at about one-sixth of world GDP annually. Unlike conventional debt that can be simply wiped out by default, bankruptcy or printing money, this horrendous Carbon Debt for future generations is inescapable – future generations will have to act or die. Thus climate criminal Australia has a Carbon Debt (in US dollars) of $7.5 trillion that is increasing at $400 billion per year and at $40,000 per head per year for under-30 year old Australians, this Carbon Debt dwarfing the average Australian lifetime university tuition debt of circa $20,000 .
With the world now facing the inevitability of catastrophic global warming beyond a plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise, the least our present ruling generations can do to the young (and unborn) that they have betrayed is to grant them free university education to empower them to help make the future “less bad”. Young people (born and unborn) face the daunting task of reversing several centuries of profligacy and returning the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) to a safe and sustainable circa 300 parts per million (ppm) CO2 (300 ppm CO2) from the present damaging, dangerous and coral-killing 405 ppm CO2 that is increasing at a record 3 ppm CO2 per year [30, 31].
We need a climate revolution now , and if the young cannot even secure free university education using the above arguments, what hope is there for a world needing a return to 300 ppm CO2 ASAP? The American Greens and the Australian Greens demand free university education and young people who are serious about saving what remains of their world must utterly reject the mendacious, endlessly greedy, speciescidal, ecocidal, omnicidal and terracidal neoliberal scum who have egregiously betrayed them, support the Greens and the like-minded Green-Left folk, socialists and ecocsocialists, and insist on free university education now that predicates by example, and will assist in substance, an informed climate revolution now.
The massive downsizing of academic staff in recent decades in the name of institutional profitability could notionally work to the benefit of free university education. It would be nice to see free Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) instituted globally, backed by the intellectual and professional credentials of existing, downsized or otherwise retired academics.
In American activist Michael Moore’s recent movie “Where to invade next”, Moore invades 9 countries to steal their ideas in order to “make America great again”. In Slovenia Moore discovers that university education is free and that when the government proposed university fees, massive student protests stopped it and the government fell [73, 74]. Young people have the numbers and the energy, if not the money, and should be unstoppable globally in their demand for free university education.
The Methane Hydrate Feedback Loop Threat
by David Anderson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents
Will we experience a Methane (CH4) Hydrate Feedback Loop that will place us on a repeat path like that of the Permian Triassic mass extinction? Or, to our horror, will there be some other self-induced something even more horrific and impossible to reverse?
“Biosphere” is a term used to define the relatively thin layer of the earth’s surface that can support life. It extends down to the deepest layers of soils and ocean trenches and up to the highest levels of the earth’s atmosphere. Change in the biosphere generally operates on “slow,” that is in multiples of many hundreds or thousands or even millions of years. But change can also operate on “fast.” The Permian Triassic mass extinction 252 million years ago and the Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago are two examples of relatively rapid change. The Cretaceous came from a meteorite and the Permian Triassic came from high global temperatures triggering a Methane (CH4) Hydrate Feedback Loop. Both were accompanied by atmospheric change so extreme as to extinguish a very large percentage of planetary life. When such atmospheric change does occur, those species that inhabit precisely bounded biologic niches are the first to be affected. They die out. Then others follow. We are now in our Modern Age seeing the first signs of this due to our industrial civilization adding CO2 to the atmosphere. One result of this, climate change, is becoming a major threat to food production in areas of the planet. There are however many other changes. A recent one has been the die off of the Australian Great Barrier Reef. All of this has raised a wide range of scientific questions as to the continuance of our own species on the planet. We know that we are today totally dependent upon certain temperature and biochemical parameters within the earth’s biosphere as these parameters were developed over the past several million years.
We know that in a metaphorical sense we live in a cocoon. It allows our lives to take form and to develop biologically. We are born in that cocoon and then a short period afterward we die in that cocoon. As with all other life on the planet, while in our cocoon we are biologically dependent on our own evolutionarily constructed and unique “precisely bounded biologic niche.” We also know that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution our cocoon has been under attack and that there is no slowdown in sight. We also know that there is an awareness of this among many. Yet, we see no universal social, political or economic consensus as to a corrective course. So the following life or death question is now facing us: Will we experience a Methane (CH4) Hydrate Feedback Loop that will place us on a repeat path like that of the Permian Triassic mass extinction? Or, to our horror, will there be some other self-induced something even more horrific and impossible to reverse?
Arctic News June 10, 2014 “There are such massive methane reserves below the Arctic Ocean floor, that they represent around 100 times the amount that is required to cause a Permian style major extinction event, should the subsea Arctic methane be released in a short period of time into the atmosphere….The energy necessary to produce these Arctic methane release rates is relatively small; it requires only about one thousandth of the heat energy input from the Gulf Stream to dissociate the methane hydrates.”
A 2012 World Bank report stated that without quick action to curb CO2 emissions, global warming is likely to increase by 4 degrees Centigrade (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above today’s normal during the 21st century and that is dangerously close to the temperature of 6 degrees Centigrade above normal that initiated the Permian-Triassic extinction event 252 million years ago when 96%* of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates were wiped out. *(current estimate 81%)
Many scientists are now telling us that temperatures far in excess of the 4 C degrees figure are predicted to occur due to a runaway increase in CH4 as a result an Arctic methane feedback loop. That methane hydrate feedback loop will begin to “kick in” after a 2 C degrees (3.6 F degrees) increase. Our civilization is approaching that 2 C degrees figure. Global temperatures will then rise rapidly. During the Permian extinction; after 6 C degrees temperatures were reached, the ocean surface waters at their extreme eventually reached more than 40 degrees Celsius. (104 degrees Fahrenheit) That led to near total planetary life extinction.
Our problem today is that Massive methane reserves below the Arctic Ocean floor and Arctic land areas represent around 100 times the amount required to cause another Permian style major extinction event. These large quantities of Methane Hydrates are now trapped in a frozen state. As temperatures are rising from CO2 emissions, darkened land mass is being exposed to the sun, and as ice is melting and oceans are exposed, the waters are warming.
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics.
He has published three books. A fourth is near completion. It is about the necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift needed for human survival.
|March 21, 2017||
Towards A Rational World Of Peace And Humanity: America, Europe And Russia
by Dr Mahboob A Khawaja, in World, Countercurrents
The 21st century global politics is fraught with conflicts, deaths and destruction of human lives, indifference to the vital problem of global warming and climate change and leadership failure to resolve the issues via peaceful dialogue. Those claiming to be the leaders of the elected masses, discard people’s voices of reason and accountability. Most leaders act in disconnect to the Nature of Things in which we breath and enjoin life – all fragmented by design or by the emerging crises,the so called leaders have failed to bridge the gaps of moral and intellectual decadence and human predictability. The reason being that global politics is not about the humanity’s mirror of the Nature reflecting ethical or spiritual bonds which are common across the global mankind, and therefore, humanity views the deliberate division as formidable blocks stalling its ideas and ideals for global change, progress and unity of the mankind. One of the major deficient appears to be the missing Reality of global consciousness as seen and observed by the citizenry of the humanity. The global affairs are led by mediocre leaders lacking rational vision and thinking for the unity of mankind but focused on egoistic ambitions of power and politics to dominate societies and people of the globe by means of lies, deceptions, militarization and political hegemonic control over others.
How to find a rational culture of holistic thinking encompassing peaceful dialogue and co-existence in global affairs? The response to this vital question has great deal to do with the thinking, role and policy behaviors of the contemporary political leaders holding positions of power and influence in making the global politics. In this evolutionary conjecture, individualistic thinking and animosity play significant part to determine the leadership attributes and competitive role-play. There are no visible characteristics of moral and intellectual traits which govern the global political affairs. Do most of the powerful leaders possess formidable mental microscope to scan the experiential observations for making favorable policies and practices in international affairs? Leadership effectiveness must embody ethical values and learning aptitude to relate to the voices of the people. At times, you may find many morally and intellectually abhorrent people assuming leadership role to invite hollow laughters frompolitical opponents. This is the forbidden reality of the 21st century political world in which we try to cherish civic values, honesty and moral accountability from elected leaders. Today, in a Washington congressional hearing,the FBI Director and the NSA Chief denied President Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped his movements during the elections. But Mr. Trump and his press secretary continues to insist that it did happen. Could President Trump be using a strategy of distraction to divert attention from other critical issues facing his hurriedly done executive orders? The critical lens has another angle that many European, Russian and others are concerned about what unscheduled political developments are taking shape and form in America with immense implications for global economic and political affairs. Comparatively, American politics is geared towards blame game on Russia for alleged election interference – the issue is disputed and still under scrutiny by the US agencies. Often, it is convenient to blame others for your own errors of thinking, intellectual weaknesses and vocal judgment when facts fail to support the end-game. The US political media accuses Russia of cyber incursion and interference in the presidential election system. This is a challenging new scenario in US-Russia relations. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin denied Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US election. Under Obama , all the IMF financial commitments to Russian projects were stopped.The wishful political metaphor is not the outcome of the history, ideology, knowledge or mythology but specific ideas aimed at degeneration of the civilized world. The masked agenda unfolds motives, phobias, fears and prejudices towards each other political culture and human values. Most often such framework ushers dereliction, unknown fear, and transfers chaos and uncertainty as new normal in global relations. You will imagine that all elected politicians are mature and accountable in their thoughts and behaviors. Not so, as you could analyze the recent war torn stories of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and many others, how they victimized the mankind.
The West and Russia on a Collision Course
Formal foreign policies and practices are not abrupt but highly thoughtful course of actions often with available alternatives and deliberate pauses for reactionary behavior. The Russian stance on Ukraine and its overwhelming powerful cultural-political relations with the eastern broken parts of Ukraine are point of great anxiety and political reaction across the Western hemisphere. NATO is search of new animosities has worsened the geo-politics of the region. Russia is under economic embargo by the EU and America. Who suffered most, not Russia but the farmers and agricultural exports of Italy, Spain, Portugal and perhaps Greece? The EU-US economic embargo against Russia did not seem to work to change the status-quo of problematic situations in eastern Ukraine to anybody’s favor. What if all the leaders were at one table and some intellectual like Immanuel Kant would have told them that all of you are immature and emotionally unbalanced to use economic embargo as a reactionary remedy when it really hurts the common masses, not the political elite making the decisions on vital issues. What if you will prefer a leadership dialogue on equal terms while sitting face to face – without agreeing or disagreeing, just listening to each other’s contentious claims? Listen fellows, your claims and counter-claims do not open-up the wonderlands of any plausible futuristic probabilities of peace and human understanding. There is tension between your ego and authority to face the facts of human life. You desperately need an intellectual and leadership advisory from an impartial scholar of global affairs. You are engaged in penalizing the humanity in a useless game, wasting time and opportunities for change and new thinking to cope with wrongful human policies and practices. All of you appear to be on a wrong path of moral and intellectual pursuits. Your individuality and sense of belligerency is the cause of troubles that you seem to cherish the form and forgot the essence of collegiality and human excellence in bridging the invisible gaps by human communication.None of you will ever win-win but lose-lose in all humanitarian corridors of accountability. Likewise, none of the superpowers havecapacity to strike peace or resolve political issues at a global scale. It is clearly demonstrable from their behaviors at the UN Security Council. What did Europeans achieve in the scourge of the Two World Wars except killings several millions of innocent people on all the fronts. The Earth and environmental devastations have not fully recovered from the wrongful human belligerency of the Two WW. Are you forging a Third World War as another option against the humanity? If so, it will leave nothing in tact except inhumanity of the human follies. There are inborn illusions and intellectual contrasts still governing the world politics. Sochi Winter Olympics had not started yet, but the Western political media campaigns were in progress to zero-in on insults against President Putin and mental reservation against the functionality of successful Sochi games. None of the prominent Western leaders went to see the Sochi games. Then Russian engagements in Ukraine were the center piece of political rebuttal. What if all these issues were part of an agenda for face to face continuous dialogue for political resolution in Ukraine and the Middle East? In all earnest, many such problems could have been resolved without much bloodshed, be it Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and /or NATO military exercises or Russian inroads into Ukraine.
Late Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr- Nobel Address, December 11, 1964 (“The Quest for Peace and Justice”) tried to put the same essence of his message into a rational context:
Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. …. This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual “lag” must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the “without” of man’s nature subjugates the “within”, dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.
Global Leaders to Rethink about a Navigational Change
America and its politics envisage a global outlook and influential power. Its leadership is in desperate need of change and realignment to the global perspectives of Human Reality for a sustainable future. The 9/11 attacks on America have transformed the country into a disjointed incrementalism, not knowing how to cope with challenges of the future. John W. Whitehead (“The Tyranny of 9/11-The Building Blocks of the American Police State from A-Z” www. Rutherford.com: 9/06/2016), is an American Attorney in Constitutional Law and Human rights and President of Rutherford Institute. He points out that “These past 15 years have indeed been an unbearable, choking hell…..The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation is being locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.This is not freedom. This is a jail cell….Since the towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process….In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, underwear bombers and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the true enemy to freedom was lurking among us all the while.
If time and history are a reference point, we the global humanity stand at a critical juncture of our own complicity to have allowed ignorance, hatred, fear, failure and animosity to destroy our life, culture and existence. How should we think of making a navigational change? The informed global humanity no longer believes in the usefulness of international institutions, classic leadership of the few, economic advancement for the 99% of the masses in democracies or in the sufficiency of redistributive social programs, equality, law and justice? How can global institutions, people-oriented and accountable system of governance, responsible leadership and result-oriented policies and practices be reconstructed to suit the progressive goals of the 21st century mankind? Global humanity looks for rational attitudes and realistic rethinking to deal with sensitive issues of humanitarian concerns. While Europeans and the US have imposed economic embargo and cultural boycott of Russia, it has no meaningful impact except evolution of more discards and animosity when human communication is deliberately neglected. The similar problems of imbued animosity and hatred persist across the Middle East. Foreign interventions and killing machines are destroying the ancient lands of human culture and civilizations. To destroy the Arab people, they are collaborating in military interventions. Wars suck out positive human thinking and creative energies to articulate a sustainable human future. Arab leaders are entangled willfully in catastrophic and bloody sectarian warfare. They have consciously put on hold the focal issue of the Middle East -that is, Palestine and normalization of relations with the State of Israel. They appear to have lost the sense of strategic and moral direction to restore normalcy in thinking and policy behavior. Leaders of America, Europe and Russia need to rethink, how they could facilitate a peaceful ending of the sectarian cruelty rather than taking sides and bombing the innocent civilians and causing destruction of the human habitats. How should the global humanity view the contemporary Arab societies, their war-torn bloody cultures operated by foreign mercenaries and few egoistic authoritarian leaders? Every day is a killing day in Syria, Iraq, Egypt,Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. What kind of message of civility, moral and intellectual values do they convey to the watchful eyes of the global observers? Leadership is an art, it can be improved if leaders are open to listening, flexible and adaptable to the challenging facts of human affairs and have passion for facts, not fantasy. The informed and spirited global humanity could help the entrenched leaders to make a navigational change for global peace and One Humanity.
Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in international relations-global security, peace and conflict resolution with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including Global Peace and Conflict Management: Man and Humanity in Search of New Thinking. Germany, May, 2012). His next publication is entitled: One Humanity and the Remaking of Global Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution
|March 21, 2017||
The Power of Ordinary People Facing Totalitarianism
by Kathleen B. Jones, The Conversation, Alternet
In the weeks since the election of President Donald J. Trump, sales of George Orwell’s “1984” have skyrocketed. But so have those of a lesser-known title, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” by a German Jewish political theorist named Hannah Arendt.
“The Origins of Totalitarianism” discusses the rise of the totalitarian movements of Nazism and Stalinism to power in the 20th century. Arendt explained that such movements depended on the unconditional loyalty of the masses of “slumbering majorities,” who felt dissatisfied and abandoned by a system they perceived to be “fraudulent” and corrupt. These masses sprang to the support of a leader who made them feel they had a place in the world by belonging to a movement.
I am a scholar of political theory and have written books and scholarly essays on Arendt’s work. Published more than 50 years ago, Arendt’s insights into the development of totalitarianism seem especially relevant to discussions of
Who was Hannah Arendt?
Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1906 into a secular Jewish household. She began studying the classics and Christian theology, before turning to philosophy. Subsequent developments made her turn her attention to her Jewish identity and political responses to it.
It began in the mid-1920s, when the nascent Nazi Party started spreading its anti-Semitic ideology at mass rallies. Following the arson attack on the Reichstag (the German Parliament), on Feb. 27, 1933, the Nazis blamed the Communists for plotting against the German government. A day later, the German president declared a state of emergency. The regime, in short order, deprived citizens of basic rights and subjected them to preventive detention. After Nazi parliamentary victories a week later, the Nazis consolidated power, passing legislation allowing Hitler to rule by decree.
Within months, Germany’s free press was destroyed.
Arendt felt she could no longer be a bystander. In a 1964 interview for German television, she said,
Leaving Germany a few months later, Arendt settled in France. Being Jewish, deprived of her German citizenship, she became stateless – an experience that shaped her thinking.
She remained safe in France for a few years. But when France declared war on Germany in September 1939, the French government began ordering refugees to internment camps. In May 1940, a month before Germany defeated France and occupied the country, Arendt was arrested as an “enemy alien” and sent to a concentration camp in Gurs, near the Spanish border, from which she escaped. Assisted by American journalist Varian Fry’s International Rescue Committee, Arendt and her husband, Heinrich Blücher, immigrated to the United States in 1941.
Soon after arriving in America, Arendt published a series of essays on Jewish politics in the German-Jewish newspaper “Aufbau,” now collected in The Jewish Writings. While writing these essays she learned of the Nazi destruction of European Jewry. In a mood she described as “reckless optimism and reckless despair,” Arendt turned her attention back to the analysis of anti-Semitism, the subject of a long essay (“Antisemitism”) she’d written in France in the late 1930s. The basic arguments from that essay found their way into her magnum opus, “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”
Why ‘Origins’ matters now
Many of the factors that Arendt associated with the rise of totalitarianism have been cited to explain Trump’s ascendancy to power.
In “Origins,” for example, some key conditions that Arendt connected with the emergence of totalitarianism were increasing xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, and hostility toward elites and mainstream political parties. Along with these, she cited an intensified alienation of the “masses” from government coupled with the willingness of alarming numbers of people to abandon facts or to escape from reality into fiction.” Additionally, she noted an exponential increase in the number of refugees and stateless peoples, whose rights nation-states were unable to guarantee.
Although that might be true, I argue there is an equally important lesson to be drawn – about the importance of thinking and acting in the present.
Why people’s voices and actions matter
Arendt rejected a “cause and effect” view of history. She argued that what happened in Germany was not inevitable; it could have been avoided. Perhaps most controversially, Arendt claimed the creation of the death camps was not the predictable outcome of “eternal anti-Semitism” but an unprecedented “event that should never have been allowed to happen.”
The Holocaust resulted neither from a confluence of circumstances beyond human control nor from history’s inexorable march. It happened because ordinary people failed to stop it.
Arendt wrote against the idea that the rise of Nazism was the predictable outcome of the economic downturn following Germany’s defeat in World War I. She understood totalitarianism to be the “crystallization” of elements of anti-Semitism, racism and conquest present in European thought as early as the 18th century. She argued that the disintegration of the nation-state system following World War I had exacerbated these conditions.
In other words, Arendt argued these “elements” were brought into an explosive relationship through the actions of leaders of the Nazi movement combined with the active support of followers and the inactions of many others.
The redrawing of European states’ political boundaries after World War I meant a great number of people became stateless refugees. Post-war peace treaties, known as minority treaties, created “laws of exception” or separate sets of rights for those who were not “nationals” of the new states in which they now resided. These treaties, Arendt argued, eroded principles of a common humanity, transforming the state or government from an instrument of the law into an instrument of the nation.”
Yet, Arendt warned, it would be a mistake to conclude that every outburst of anti-Semitism or racism or imperialism indicated the emergence of a “totalitarian” regime. Those conditions alone were not sufficient to lead to totalitarianism. But inaction in the face of them added a dangerous element into the mix.
Not submitting quietly
I argue that “Origins” engages readers in thinking about the past with an eye toward an uncharted future.
Arendt worried that totalitarian solutions could outlive the demise of past totalitarian regimes. She urged her readers to recognize that leaders’ manipulation of fears of refugees combined with social isolation, loneliness, rapid technological change and economic anxieties could provide ripe conditions for the acceptance of “us-against-them” ideologies. These could result in ethically compromised consequences.Protesters march in front of the White House to protest Trump administration’s ban on immigration and travel from seven Muslim majority countries.
In my view, “Origins” offers both a warning and an implicit call to resistance. In today’s context, Arendt would invite her readers to question what is being presented as reality. When President Trump and his advisers claim dangerous immigrants are “pouring” into the country, or stealing Americans’ jobs, are they silencing dissent or distracting us from the truth?
“Origins” wasn’t intended to be a formulaic blueprint for how totalitarian rulers emerge or what actions they take. It was a plea for attentive, thoughtful civil disobedience to emerging authoritarian rule.
What makes “Origins” so salient today is Arendt’s recognition that comprehending totalitarianism’s possible recurrence means neither denying the burden events have placed on us, nor submitting quietly to the order of the day.
Kathleen B. Jones is Professor Emerita of Women's Studies, emphasis on politics, San Diego State University.
|February 18, 2017||
4 Guiding Principles That Will Help Us Protect the Environment for Future Generations.
by Robert Meyer, Howard Kunreuther, Wharton Digital Press, Alternet
The following excerpt is adapted from The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters, by Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther, copyright 2017. Reprinted by permission of Wharton Digital Press.
Among the many possible negative consequences of climate change, sea level rise is the least controversial. Since reliable records began in the 1800s, sea levels have been steadily rising worldwide, something that poses an obvious risk to the trillions of dollars in real estate that now sit at our coastlines. Yet, sea level rise is also a deceptively subtle hazard. While sea levels are indeed steadily rising, that rise is at such a slow rate, about three millimeters a year, that it would likely go unnoticed by all but the sharpest of eyes. The Miami and New York City waterfronts today, for example, look pretty much the same as they did a century ago. Ships still land at the same ports, waterfront parks are as reliably dry today as they were in the past.
Yet there are strong indications that this is about to change. The consensus among climate scientists is that we are soon approaching an irreversible “tipping point” in the rate of sea level rise, such that by the turn of the next century, sea levels may be three feet (or more) higher than they are today. Such an increase would not just require the relocation of vast numbers of people and infrastructure currently adjacent to the coast, but also create a wide range of spillover effects, including amplification of the effects of storm surges and, in the case of South Florida, seawater intrusion into the local fresh groundwater supply.
While this threat is a very real one, the good news is that we have plenty of time, at least in principle, to prepare for it. In South Florida, for example, there is ample time for builders and city planners to start the slow process of elevating streets and buildings, installing pumping technologies, and planning for the construction of desalination plants to deal with saltwater intrusion in the water supply. Better yet, because in Florida the money for such preventive actions needs to come from real estate tax revenue, the fact that the threat is some years off should allow the area to sustain its appeal to tourists and investors, filling the coffers with the money needed to pay for it all. One might think sea level rise would be an easy risk to manage: We know it’s coming, and we have the time and resources to deal with it preemptively.
Yet, what we are about to say won’t surprise you: None of this is happening. Planners in coastal cities are sounding the alarms, but the pleas to take action are widely falling on deaf ears. The City of Miami Beach, for example, recently invested $400 million to build pumps to deal with the increase in nuisance flooding that has been seen in recent years, but the investment is designated only to remedy the problem as it exists today, not the much larger problems that will come as the century wears on. The City of New York has approved spending to prepare for sea level rise, but all in anticipation of a two-foot rise by the end of the century, not the three-foot rise that most climate scientists warn about.Taking Preventive Action: Four Guiding Principles
This conundrum, of course, is by no means limited to sea level rise. Climate change poses a broad range of other threats whose consequences lie beyond the planning horizons of current residents, and our society faces long-term social and economic risks that are similarly difficult to fathom. Yet ignoring these risks is clearly an unacceptable option. We have a moral responsibility to care for future generations, even in the absence of immediate paybacks to ourselves.
How might we achieve this? We propose four guiding principles as an umbrella for how societies should approach the management of long-term risk:
Guiding principle 1: Commit to long-term protective planning as a major priority.
This principle, of course, is fundamental; decision makers in the public and private sector need to place reduction in future losses and the required investments in protection near the topic of their agendas, and provide rationales for individuals to support their proposals.
Guiding principle 2: Commit to policies that discourage individual and community actions that increase their exposure to long-term risks.
The simplest means of managing risk is to avoid it. Policies regulating land use, building codes, and insurance need to be designed to reflect the expected benefits and costs associated with exposure to future risks. Insurers should be permitted to price their coverage to reflect the nature of the risk and encourage those at risk to invest in loss-reduction measures. Building codes could complement insurance by requiring structures to meet specific standards.
Guiding principle 3: Create policies that consider the cognitive biases that inhibit adoption of protective measures.
Regulatory policies designed to dissuade risk exposure will be effective only if they are widely adopted and enforced. People are naturally prone to a range of biases that inhibit long-term thinking. Therefore, policies have to be designed in ways that recognize and overcome these biases.
Guiding principle 4: Commit to addressing problems equitably.
A transformative shift toward long-term protection will lead to costs that will differentially impact different groups in society. Long-term protective policies must be designed with these inequalities in mind, addressing the hardships faced by low- and middle-income households facing budget constraints, so that those households have economic incentives to adopt the protective measures.
If we as a society are to commit ourselves to reducing future losses from natural and man-made disasters in the truly long run, we need to do more than hope that individuals and policy makers will see wisdom in these investments on their own. Rather, we need to engage the private and public sectors in innovative partnerships that create environments where safety is the social norm, encouraged by appropriate regulations and well-enforced standards, and where the costs of this transformation are equitably distributed across society—ideas that follow from these four guiding principles.
Robert Meyer is the Frederick H. Ecker/MetLife Insurance Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and codirector of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. His work has appeared in a wide variety of professional journals and books, including the Journal of Consumer Research; Journal of Marketing Research; Journal of Risk and Uncertainty; Marketing Science; Management Science; and Risk Analysis.
Howard Kunreuther is the James G. Dinan Professor of Decision Sciences and Public Policy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and codirector of the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. His recent books include At War with the Weather (with Erwann Michel-Kerjan), winner of the Kulp-Wright Book Award from the American Risk and Insurance Association in 2011; Insurance and Behavioral Economics: Improving Decisions in the Most Misunderstood Industry (with Mark Pauly and Stacey McMorrow); and Leadership Dispatches: Chile’s Extraordinary Comeback from Disaster (with Michael Useem and Erwann Michel-Kerjan).
|February 20, 2017||
Trump's Border Wall Will Have Severe Ecological
by Shonil Bhagwat, The Conversation, Alternet
It looks like Donald Trump’s “great, great wall” is actually going to happen. Its likely impact on human society has been well-noted, but in the longer-term a barrier across an entire continent will also have severe ecological consequences.
The US-Mexico border is around 1,900 miles (3,100 km) long and some of it has already been fenced off. According to Trump the proposed wall will cover approximately 1,000 miles and “natural obstacles” such as rivers or mountains will take care of the rest.
Aside from the debates over whether or not the wall will do much to stop drug trafficking or illegal immigration, how much it will cost the US taxpayer, or whether Mexico will pay for it, a 1,000-mile wall has significant environmental costs. For a start, all that concrete will generate millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And then you have the fact the wall will ravage a unique desert habitat that straddles the two countries and will prevent the movement of local animals.
US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has estimated that the wall will threaten 111 endangered species as it passes through four key wildlife reserves on the US side of the border and several nature reserves on the Mexican side.
Some of the affected species are obvious: animals with cross-border populations include bighorn sheep, ocelots and bears. Splitting plant and animal populations by building a concrete wall promotes inbreeding and a decrease in genetic diversity, which makes many species susceptible to diseases and epidemics. The wall is also likely to wipe out the few jaguars still lingering in Arizona and New Mexico by cutting them off from breeding populations south of the border.
Other species are more unexpected: the bald eagle, America’s national bird, can obviously fly over any barriers yet the disruption to its habitat means it makes the FWS’s list of affected migratory birds. Even marine animals such as manatees or sea turtles can’t escape the wall’s impact.
The Trump wall may never become anything more solid than a metaphor for increased border surveillance, aided by technology, to keep illegal immigration under control. However, if a vast concrete wall really is built, and if it is as tall and impenetrable as Trump hopes, it will presumably last for thousands of years. This will have long-term ecological consequences.
July 2100 on the US-Mexico border if we maintain high carbon emissions. (credit: climateinternational.org / NASA)
The glacial and interglacial cycles of ice ages and warm periods unfold over thousands of years. Over the past 11,000 years we have had a relatively stable climate, but anthropogenic warming is delaying the arrival of
As species start to feel the pressure of a warming climate, they will need to move towards the poles as their habitats shift. Plants and animals currently found in central Mexico may find their “natural” home moves north of the border. The wall will make such movement impossible and will make these species vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Equally, in the much longer term, if or when the next ice age eventually begins and ice sheets start to expand southwards, species from the north of the wall will need to move south to escape the freezing temperatures. The Trump wall will pose a significant obstacle for such movements.
On evolutionary timescales of millions of years, such an obstacle in the movement of animals and plants will drive extinctions and the emergence of new species. A political act of this kind can have far-reaching consequences for the ecological and even evolutionary landscapes.
Build bridges instead
Preexisting security barriers across the US-Mexico border are already making life difficult for local wildlife, according to peer-reviewed research.
Researchers found fewer racoon-like coatis in areas with border fences. (credit: Francesco de Marco/Shutterstock)
Scientists across the world consistently call for more permeable border fences in order to allow animals to move through them. One 2011 study even looked specifically at the US-Mexico border. The authors warned species were being forced into risky unfenced “bottlenecks” and called for better planning tailored towards wildlife movement.
Our knowledge of how to conserve animals across international borders has come a long way. Many nations have embraced shared responsibility for shared wildlife, and a number of international legal instruments also set out the “dos and don'ts” for conservation in transboundary regions.
If Trump really wants to show his prowess in construction, and wants to leave a long-term infrastructure legacy, then he should build bridges for wildlife on the US-Mexico border – not walls.
Shonil Bhagwat is a Senior Lecturer in Geography at The Open University. He is an environmental geographer with broad research interests at the cross-section between natural and social sciences. Most of his research investigates ‘social-ecological systems’ at various spatial scales, from landscapes to continents; and at various temporal scales, from seasonal to millennial. Follow him on Twitter @shonilbhagwat.
|March 2, 2017||
Extreme Wildfires Set to Increase by up to 50%
by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Alternet
The conditions for extreme and catastrophic wildfires could increase by 20% to 50% as the world warms and the climate changes, according to new research.
An analysis of 23 million wildfires between 2002 and 2013 has identified 478 of the worst – scientists call them “extreme wildfire events”.
“Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons,” says David Bowman of the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia, who led the study with US colleagues.Weather for wildfires
“With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather – such as droughts, winds or, in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.
“Of the top 478 events, we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America.”
It follows a series of warnings of increased wildfire hazard as global temperatures rise in response to the ever greater levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a consequence of the increasing combustion of fossil fuels.
Fire poses a threat to the entire warming world. US authorities spent more than $2bn suppressing wildfires in 2015, but greater conflagrations are expected in the US west, and wildfire damage could eventually double, according to other studies.
But the hazard is not confined to the Americas. The researchers began their analysis to identify the range of conditions that turn a chance lightning bolt, or a carelessly discarded cigarette, into the kind of conflagration that kills people and destroys townships. And they found a pattern: in more than nine out of 10 cases, “anomalous” weather conditions made the hazard worse.
These could be high winds, high temperatures and drought, and, in desert regions, unusually high rainfall the preceding season that triggers greater growth and more fuel for the next fire.
“Climate change is causing fire seasons to start earlier and finish later, with an associated trend towards more extreme wildfire events in terms of their geographic extent and duration, intensity, severity, associated suppression costs, and loss of life and property,” the scientists write.
The sharpest increases will be on Australia’s east coast and in the Mediterranean basin, in particular Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey. Some of these landscapes are naturally adapted to fire. But in the US, a higher proportion of all fires became disasters for precisely identified reasons.Fatal combination
“What makes a fire event a disaster in the US is when key factors combine – low-density housing amidst dense forests, the right climatic conditions and a lack of fire preparedness on the part of humans,” says co-author Crystal Kolden of the University of Idaho in the US.
“We can’t stop big, intense fires from happening here, and they are increasing under climate change. However, in the western US, we can reduce the potential for fire disasters by both reducing forest density and improving mitigation and preparedness through the development of fire-resilient communities.”
Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988. Tim won the Association of British Science Writers award for science writer of the year four times, and a lifetime achievement award in 2005.
|February 26, 2017||
How a Culture of Overworking Leads to Environmental Destruction.
by Dr. David Suzuki, Alternet
Since the 1950s, almost everything about work in the developed world has changed dramatically. Rapid technological advances continue to render many jobs obsolete. Globalization has shifted employment to parts of the world with the lowest costs and standards. Most households have gone from one income-earner to at least two. Women have fully integrated into the workforce, albeit often with less-than-equal opportunities, conditions and pay. A lot of our work is unnecessary and often destructive — depleting resources, destroying ecosystems, polluting air, water and soil, and fuelling climate change.
Yet we're still working the same or more hours later into life within the same outdated and destructive system, furiously producing, consuming and disposing on a wheel of endless growth and conspicuous consumption. The gap between rich and poor is widening and working people — and those who can't find work — are falling further behind, crushed by growing debt, increased competition for scarce jobs and declining real wages and benefits.
Although unions deserve credit for many gains working people have enjoyed over the past century or more, they also merit some criticism. In the face of technological advances and globalization, unions have failed to fight for steadily reduced work hours, focusing instead on higher wages and better benefits — although lately it's more fighting to prevent drastic cuts to jobs, wages and benefits.
Many people are tired, too stretched to become politically engaged or even to spend as much time with family and friends as they'd like, and the grinding consumer cycle doesn't bring them real joy or fulfilment.
As with climate change, gradual reform could have forestalled the drastic actions now needed, but addressing the issue now will do far more good for a greater number of people than doing nothing — and it will become more difficult and costly the longer we put off necessary action.
It's absurd that so many people still work eight hours a day, five days a week — or more — with only a few weeks' vacation a year, often needing two incomes to support a household. Our economic system was developed when resources seemed plentiful if not inexhaustible, and physical infrastructure was lacking. We need an overhaul to meet today's conditions rather than those that existed decades ago when we were unaware of many of the potential negative consequences of our actions.
Research points to many advantages of reforms such as reduced work hours and universal basic income. In Gothenburg, Sweden, workers at a care home for the elderly were put on a six-hour workday as part of a two-year controlled study. Although hiring 15 new employees to cover the workload drove costs up by about 22 per cent, spending was reduced in areas like covering sick leave, which dropped by 10 per cent. Workers reported health improvements at rates 50 per cent higher than workers at institutions with regular working hours. Patient care also improved. Women with children benefited substantially.
Many global warming impacts could also be lessened with small work-hour reductions, through shorter workweeks and increased vacation time, a 2013 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington-based think-tank, concluded.
"By itself, a combination of shorter workweeks and additional vacation which reduces average annual hours by just 0.5 per cent per year would very likely mitigate one-quarter to one-half, if not more, of any warming which is not yet locked-in," report author and economist David Rosnick said.
A four-day workweek (as David Suzuki Foundation staff enjoy) cuts pollution and emissions from commuting and, in many cases, reduces energy consumption. When Utah went to a four-day week for government employees in 2007, the state saved $1.8 million in energy costs alone. Fewer commutes led to an estimated reduction of more than 11,000 tonnes of CO2.
A better work-life balance also brings many individual and societal advantages. Family life is strengthened, people have more time for creative or educational pursuits, and happier, rested employees are more productive. As more people share in available jobs, social service costs go down and more people are able to contribute to economic prosperity.
A lot needs to be done to reform our economic systems and to address critical issues like pollution and climate change. Reducing work hours is one way to make substantial gains.
|February 28, 2017||
Find Out How Endangered the Wilderness Is Near You.
by Brian Whitney, Alternet
Several Republican lawmakers want to give much of the public land that is now under federal protection to the states. Recently Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a bill that would have transferred more than 3 million acres of public land in the Western U.S. to the states. After an intense public outcry, the bill was dropped. To the uninitiated, this might seem fairly innocuous. What difference does it make if the federal government or states control our public lands, as long as we keep them wild?
Well that's just it. The public land we all use to hike, camp, hunt or fish becomes much more endangered when it is transferred to the states. The reasons are simple. Often lacking resources to manage public land, many states see public land as something to be sold and developed or financial gain—particularly to extractive industries like oil, gas and mining. These activities don't just take away the public enjoyment of those lands and ruin the natural landscape, they further exacerbate the effects of climate change, which is already impacting many regions of the United States.
Handing wildlands over to states isn't the only way that some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are threatening the environment and the outdoor enjoyment for millions of Americans. "Congress is expected to further cut funding for conservation programs and land agencies, already sitting at less than 1 percent of the federal budget," writes Brad Brooks, the associate director of the Idaho office of the Wilderness Society, a nonprofit conservation group dedicated to protecting natural areas and federal public lands, in a recent AlterNet article. "We must keep our eyes open and our voices loud for the wild places that can’t speak for themselves."
Travis Belote, a biologist and research ecologist who works in the Northern Rockies office of The Wilderness Society in Bozeman, Montana, led a team of scientists in a recent study to help understand how the nation's various ecosystems are coping with climate change. Working with data sources from AdaptWest, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau, NatureServe, and others, the researchers produced what they call a "national assessment of conservation values and climate change vulnerability." Belote explained why wildlands are so important and must be protected:
The study comes at a time when—in part, due to the far-reaching effects of anthropogenic climate change—wilderness advocates and conservation scientists are rethinking the long-held belief in a "hands off" conservation strategy based on the notion that nature can take care of itself. Anthony J. McMichael, who was professor emeritus at the Australian National University, noted in his posthumously published book Climate Change and the Health of Nations that "we face a change in global climatic conditions far greater and faster than anything in recorded human history." But, he also points out that we are also in a good position, evolutionarily speaking, to respond effectively:
If we do respond proactively, the Wilderness Society's national assessment should help. The goal of the study was to determine locations where certain strategies—ranging from restoration to protection—should be emphasized to protect specific wildlands, based on existing conditions as well as projected climate conditions. Scientists combined maps of established conservation qualities, such as wildness, connectivity and habitat representation, to create a composite wildland conservation value to each region of the 48 contiguous states.
They studied conservation values like wilderness protection and restoration processes as well as a number of variables, including how much human modification the land has experienced, how important the land is as a natural linkage between protected areas, how well the land's ecosystems are represented within existing protected areas, and whether a place is rich in rare and endemic species. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that conducts environmental research, said that the map "highlights wild, connected places that encompass a comprehensive range of ecosystems or rare species: It shows patterns that can help identify conservation priorities and provide a quantitative estimate of land's existing value."
Map of conservation values that include wildness, connectivity, and habitat representation in protected areas. (U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit via NOAA)
"We mapped areas important for added conservation," Belote told AlterNet. "Adding these lands to conservation reserves may help build a more resilient system of protected areas, so that species can be maintained across national or regional networks for future generations to appreciate."
Belote said that the very tops of the western mountains and the central Great Plains and prairies in the United States are "particularly vulnerable … mostly because species that are accustomed to living in high alpine environments can’t typically move any further upslope to track warming climate conditions. They are already at the tops of mountains and can’t go higher. At the same time, species that live in large flatlands can’t easily escape to climate refugia by moving upslope or to a favorable mountain or canyon environment."
By contrast, the researchers also identified that regions that had low wildland values and low climate vulnerability, such as New York and Massachusetts, as well as regions that have already been altered by humans, not critical for connecting protected areas, or are already well-represented in protected areas. "These regions may not experience much impact from climate change," according to the study, "so a historical model for restoration may be appropriate."
Other areas, such as Iowa and Illinois, have low wildland values and high climate vulnerability. For these areas that have experienced more degradation and are more vulnerable to climate change, the researchers suggest that "attempting historical restoration may be less useful because the future climate is expected to be very different than the past." In other areas, such as much of California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico, wildland values are high and climate vulnerability is low. These areas are often wild and the climate in these places may be relatively stable, making them low risk areas to be affected.
The scientists found a significant challenge in areas that had high marks in both wildland conservation values and climate vulnerability—and which "may experience substantially new conditions as climate changes," including eastern Maine, central Oregon and parts of Nevada, Missouri and Arkansas. "Given the uncertainties associated with climate change and the unintended consequences of management, it isn’t easy to identify a single best solution," the researchers said of these regions. (Click here to launch NOAA's Climate Explore to explore maps and graphs of historical and predicted climate trends in your local area.)
While the Wilderness Society's national assessment will help conservationists in the fight to protect wildlands, it's clear that climate change isn't the only hurdle facing climate resiliency. In addition to a Trump administration filled with climate deniers, and that wants to gut the EPA and cut NASA climate research funding, the schemes by many GOP lawmakers to transfer control of public lands—which includes national parks, national forests, wilderness areas and wildlife preserves—presents a unique, yet ultimately avoidable problem.
But as Tania Lown-Hecht, communications director of the Outdoor Alliance, a nonprofit public lands conservation group, points out, calling the GOP plan a "transfer" is a misnomer. "Right now, you own these places, and as state lands, they are effectively privatized," she told AlterNet. "Congress is trying to give away something that belongs to you. That sounds more like stealing than like transfer." Brooks of the Wilderness society agrees. "Protected forests and red rock lands belong to vacationing families in Massachusetts and New Mexico," he writes. "Parks and refuges in Montana and California belong to campers and birdwatchers from South Carolina and Illinois."
Brian Whitney's writing has appeared in Paste Magazine, The Fix and Pacific Standard Magazine. He is the author of the forthcoming book "Subversives in Their Own Words" (Headpress, 2017).
|March 9, 2017||
'Irreversible' Climate Change Impacts Ravage Australia: Report.
by Katharine Murphy, The Guardian, Alternet
An independent review of the state of Australia’s environment has found the impacts of climate change are increasing and some of the changes could be irreversible.
The latest State of the Environment report, a scientific snapshot across nine areas released by the federal government every five years, says climate change is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems in Australia, and is affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing.
It warns climate change will result in “location specific vulnerabilities” and says the most severe impacts will be felt by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Record high water temperatures caused “widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality” in the marine environment between 2011 and 2016, it says.
The minister for energy and the environment, Josh Frydenberg, was due to release the report card on Tuesday morning.
In a column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the report indicates the impact of changing weather patterns is being felt in the ocean, on the Great Barrier Reef and on land, affecting biodiversity and species habitat.
“While carbon emissions per capita have declined from 24.1 tonnes in 2011 to 22.2 tonnes in 2015 and energy efficiency improvements are reducing electricity demand, the report makes clear that, for the world to meet its Paris goals, there is much more to do,” Frydenberg says.
The minister says the report makes clear Australia needs to prepare for changes in the environment and “put in place a coordinated, comprehensive, well-resourced, long-term response”.
He warns that failure to do so “will have a direct and detrimental impact on our quality of life and leave a legacy to future generations that is inferior to the one we have inherited”.
The minister says the report presents the government with a mixed picture. “Good progress has been made in the management of the marine and Antarctic environments, natural and cultural heritage and the built environment – while pressures are building in relation to invasive species, climate change, land use and coastal protection,” he says.
Frydenberg says the doubling of Australia’s population in the past 50 years and growing urbanisation “have all combined to contribute to additional pressures on the environment”.
Australia’s heavily populated coastal areas are under pressure, as are “growth areas within urban environments, where human pressure is greatest”, the report finds.
Grazing and invasive species continue to pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
“The main pressures facing the Australian environment today are the same as in 2011: climate change, land use change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species,” the report’s summary says. “In addition, the interactions between these and other pressures are resulting in cumulative impacts, amplifying the threats faced by the Australian environment.
“Evidence shows that some individual pressures on the environment have decreased since 2011, such as those associated with air quality, poor agricultural practices, commercial fishing, and oil and gas exploration and production in Australia’s marine environment.
“During the same time, however, other pressures have increased — for example, those associated with coal mining and the coal-seam gas industry, habitat fragmentation and degradation, invasive species, litter in our coastal and marine environments, and greater traffic volumes in our capital cities.”
The report criticises the lack of “an overarching national policy that establishes a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of Australia’s environment to the year 2050”.
It points to poor collaboration, gaps in knowledge, data and monitoring and a lack of follow-though from policy to action.
“Providing for a sustainable environment both now and in the future is a national issue requiring leadership and action across all levels of government, business and the community,” it says. “The first step is recognising the importance and value of ecosystem services to our economy and society.
“Addressing Australia’s long-term, systemic environmental challenges requires, among other things, the development of a suite of stronger, more comprehensive and cohesive policies focused on protecting and maintaining natural capital, and ongoing improvements to current management arrangements.”
Late last year, the government established a review of its Direct Action climate policy. The current policy has been widely criticised by experts as inadequate if Australia is to meet its international emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate change agreement.
Shortly after establishing the review, Frydenberg ruled out converting the Direct Action scheme to a form of carbon trading after a brief internal revolt. Many experts argue carbon trading would allow Australia to reduce emissions consistent with Paris commitments at least cost to households and businesses.
The Direct Action review still allows for the consideration of the potential role of international carbon credits in meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets – a practice Tony Abbott comprehensively ruled out as prime minister – and consideration of a post-2030 emissions reduction goal for Australia.
The review also requires an examination of international developments in climate change policy, which is code for an assessment of what is happening on global climate action in the event the US pulls out of the Paris climate agreement.
The New York Times reported last week that the White House was fiercely divided over Trump’s campaign promise to cancel the Paris agreement.
Its report said Trump’s senior strategist Steve Bannon wanted the US to pull out of the Paris agreement but Bannon’s stance was being resisted by the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who are concerned about the diplomatic fallout.
The Turnbull government has already indicated that it intends to stay the course with the Paris agreement, and has argued it would take the US four years to withdraw from the deal under the terms of ratification.
But if the US withdraws from Paris, internal pressure inside the Coalition will intensify, and the prime minister will face calls from some conservatives to follow suit.
In his column for Guardian Australia, Frydenberg says the Coalition is doing good work on the environment and the conservative parties in Australia have been responsible for establishing legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and programs such as the Natural Heritage Trust and the first mandatory Renewable Energy Target.
“The task now is to build on this proud Coalition tradition and to use this report to continue the good work the Turnbull government is already doing across so many areas of environmental policy,” he says.
Katharine Murphy is Guardian Australia's political editor. She has worked in Canberra's parliamentary gallery for 15 years. In 2008, she won the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism, while in 2012 she was a Walkley award finalist in the best digital journalism category.
|March 7, 2017||
Trump's Planned Cuts to Leading Climate Science Agency Would Put Lives at Risk (Video).
by Andrea Thompson, Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Alternet
NOAA ships spent the last several days preparing for their Arctic missions. Here, Chief Bosun Jim Kruger (front) works with Jason Kinyon and Lindsey Houska on NOAA Ship Rainier as they get ready to depart this week for the summer's first Arctic survey project, in Kotzebue Sound.(Credit: NOAA)
On Friday, the meteorology community was riding a major high as stunningly high-definition images came in from the nation’s newest and much-anticipated earth observation satellite. The high came crashing down that evening, though, as the first hints of significant cuts to the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began to emerge.
NOAA oversees weather forecasting and is a major funder of weather and climate research. If these cuts — which an Office of Management and Budget document obtained by the Washington Post pegged at 17 percent agency-wide — materialize, they could significantly hamper improvements in weather forecasting and climate modeling and put the public at risk, experts warned.
“Any weakening of our technological, scientific, and human capabilities related to weather and climate places American lives and property at risk,” Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia and a former president of the American Meteorological Society, said in a Forbes blog post.
The proposal “is opposite to the ‘leave it better than you found it’ philosophy. This is take the money while you can, and let someone else in the future put Humpty Dumpty (aka NOAA) together again,” David Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State and a retired rear admiral in the Navy, said in an email.
The budget proposal is part of the Trump administration’s larger effort to beef up military spending by $54 billion and pay for that increase with cuts to other agencies. It has also proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s $8.2 billion budget by 25 percent.
NOAA’s annual budget is currently $5.6 billion, a small fraction of the federal government’s $1.2 trillion discretionary budget.
The largest cuts in the “passback” document, part of the White House budget proposal process, were slated for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (26 percent of current funding, or $126 million) and the satellite data division (22 percent, or $513 million), the Washington Post reported.
Several smaller programs, such as external research funding and work in coastal resilience, which provides funds for coastal communities to guard against storm surge and rising seas, would be eliminated entirely.
These proposals do not represent a final budget, as Congress ultimately decides on appropriations to agencies, but they have left many forecasters and climate scientists deeply concerned.
Individuals from across the weather and climate enterprise, from academic researchers to those who work in the insurance industry, took to Twitter on Friday night after the news broke, to express their alarm and concerns for the impacts such cuts could have.
“I simply could not do my job without NOAA data. It is invaluable to the insurance industry for proper risk management,” Bryan Wood, an insurance industry meteorologist, tweeted. “Any reduction to NOAA's free-to-use services could lead to a rise in prices in any number of consumer-facing industries.”
“As a *private sector* meteorologist, I depend heavily on availability of data like this to do my job in *energy,*” Matt Lanza, an energy industry meteorologist, tweeted.
The OAR and satellite divisions are critical for maintaining and advancing forecasting and modeling capabilities in both the weather and climate spheres, experts said, and any cuts will curtail those capabilities well into the future.
Polar orbiting satellites, which aide in longer-term forecasting, are already facing problematic gaps, as funding shortfalls and planning delays have resulted in a delay in the launch of replacement satellites.
The Government Accountability Office included the polar satellite program and a potential coverage gap on its 2017 high risk list due to the challenges it already faces. The new budget zeroes out funding for the Polar Follow On program, which is developing the next polar satellites.
Modeling capabilities could also be impacted. For several years, some meteorologists and climate researchers have remarked that the U.S. is already behind European weather and climate modelling efforts, run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which is investing more than $50 million in a new building to house a new, next-generation supercomputer.
“OAR is key to improving forecasting and modeling, and cuts to it will set back improvements to prediction and modeling that would have helped keep Americans safer from weather hazards. The Europeans get it, and they're doing what they can to be leaders,” Gabriel Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University and a former climate modeler at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, part of the OAR, said.
OAR also houses the bulk of the communications team that runs climate.gov, the main conduit for the federal government to share information about climate research. Perhaps more importantly, the office runs grant programs for research at local universities focused on applied research that links climate information directly with state and city planners. The expertise those grantees provide is critical to helping local climate adaptation efforts.
“The Executive Office and Congress need to understand that basic human services are at stake as the pendulum swings in budget debates,” said Adam Parris, a former grant manager at OAR and current head of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.
That includes people living in small towns and major metropolitan areas. Philip Orton, an oceanographer at Stevens Institute for Technology, leads a NOAA-funded program in the Northeast that focuses on the region’s major cities. He said their research “is now improving the basis on which multi-billion-dollar flood protection decisions are being made,” particularly New York’s $20 billion flood plan.
“NOAA funding sensibly enables scientists to evaluate how flood risks are growing and evaluate potential adaptation options that will save money,” he said.
Satellites, such as the new high-definition GOES-16 that meteorologists spent the week celebrating, provide most of the data that feed weather forecasts. Without sustained funding and development, new satellites won’t be ready to replace aging ones, a process Shepherd likened to needing to periodically replace the batteries in household smoke detectors.
Satellites help contribute to a weather forecast that provides an estimated $109 benefit to every household in the U.S. (which adds up to $11.4 billion), according to a 2009 assessment. NOAA satellites and real-time weather data also provide an estimated $700 million in benefits to the private weather industry reliant on federal data.
Weather and climate data kept by NOAA has also been shown to be of significant value to the re-insurance industry, which provides insurance to insurers, providing protection from major losses sustained during tornadoes, hurricanes and other extreme weather.
The impacts of any cuts today will resonate for years to come.
“There are very few cuts here that the public is going to feel quickly,” Titley said. “The satellite cut (if not restored) impacts observations in the late 2020s.”
The same satellites that feed weather models also inform climate research, because sustained, long-term observations of the planet’s atmosphere, oceans and other systems are crucial to capturing trends and to understanding any changes that are occurring.
“This data is vital for understanding how our weather and climate are changing,” Shepherd wrote.
And “any observations you don’t make, you can’t go back and make that again,” Vecchi said in an interview at his office last week before the cuts were announced. This is a problem climate scientists deal with now, since satellite observations only began in the 1970s.
Some saw the cuts to the research division in particular as retaliation for the climate research they do. For example, at its first hearing of the new Congress, the House Science Committee chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), criticized a paper conducted by NOAA scientists that found there had been no “hiatus” in global warming, accusing the authors of malfeasance and using science to advance a political agenda, though no wrongdoing has been shown.
“I see this as the undeclared war on climate research (and maybe climate monitoring),” Titley said.
“Make no mistake — the proposed policies are designed to deal a body blow to climate science, and associated climate policy, that will be felt long after this administration leaves the White House,” Kim Cobb, a coral expert at Georgia Tech who receives some NOAA funding, said in an email.
What cuts will ultimately materialize will depend on the long budget negotiations between the administration and Congress, where there is likely more support for NOAA and in particular for improving weather forecasting.
Several House Republicans, including Smith, have endorsed the Weather Research and Innovation Forecasting Act of 2017, which, like other bills Titley has seen, seems to intend to add modest funding to NWS, the OAR, and satellite division (though with an emphasis on focusing on weather over climate).
“As I have been reading through the bills, I never got a sense that Congress' intent was to cut these components of NOAA by 5-25 percent,” he said. “The next few weeks will be very interesting to see which coalitions can be put together and how many Republicans would join such a coalition. I would be very surprised if the final budget has these type of cuts, but NOAA could easily be cut 10 percent-plus in the final budget.”
For his part, Vecchi said, “I hope that reason prevails in DC and the nation's leadership in prediction and developing environmental understanding isn't sold off.”
Andrea Thompson is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central, focusing on extreme weather and climate change. Previously, Andrea was a writer and reporter for Live Science and Space.com, reporting on climate change, weather and other science-related topics.
Brian Kahn is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central. He previously worked at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and partnered with climate.gov to produce multimedia stories, manage social media campaigns and develop version 2.0 of climate.gov. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Grist, the Daily Kos, Justmeans and the Yale Forum on Climate Change in the Media.
|March 8, 2017||
EPA to Big Oil and Gas: No Need to Report Methane Pollution.
by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, Alternet
The Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn an Obama-era request for methane emissions information from 15,000 oil and gas companies nationwide — a decision the Trump administration made after 11 states said the request amounted to “harassment.”
The EPA responded to the states’ complaints within one day, saying it will look into whether it’s necessary for the agency to collect information about the industry’s methane emissions.
Flaring excess natural gas at oil well sites in North Dakota is source of methane emissions causing climate change. (credit: Tim Evanson/flickr)
The withdrawal on Thursday is a sign that the EPA under new administrator Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who has expressed doubts about established climate science, is beginning to reconsider and possibly reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The decision will hobble the EPA’s ability to accurately calculate methane emissions in its annual tally of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which is provided to the United Nations to track America’s progress in addressing climate change, said Danny Cullenward, an energy economist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Oil and gas wells, pipelines and other equipment leak a large, but not fully understood, quantity of methane into the atmosphere. Methane can be a serious climate change problem because it has 86 times the power to warm the atmosphere over a span of 20 years compared to carbon dioxide.
The EPA’s annual climate pollution tally has long been considered imperfect because its methods were known to be unable to fully capture all of America’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama administration tried to revise those methods, but more revisions are necessary in order to more effectively account for all U.S. emissions, Cullenward said.
As part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, the EPA began to take steps last year to better understand how oil and gas equipment leaks methane and how those leaks can be plugged as a way to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The agency announced last May that it would strictly regulate the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions, a process that would begin by requesting 15,000 industry owners and operators nationwide to provide information about their methane emissions and the technology they could use to control them. The information request was finalized in November, sparking pushback from the industry.
Oil wells in North Dakota's Bakken shale oil fields are major sources of methane emissions. These wells are near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (credit: National Parks Conservation Association/flickr)
“This information request furthers the previous administration’s climate agenda and supports the next and most onerous phase of the Obama administration’s regulations targeting the oil and gas industry — the imposition of burdensome climate rules on existing sites, the cost of which will be enormous,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a letter to Pruitt on Wednesday.
The letter was signed by Paxton and the governors or attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.
“We believe the EPA’s requests to be an unnecessary and onerous burden on oil and gas producers that is more harassment than a genuine search for pertinent and appropriate information,” Paxton wrote.
Pruitt responded, saying the EPA takes the oil and gas industry’s concerns seriously and the withdrawal of the information request will reduce burdens on business.
Recently released emails from Pruitt’s tenure as Oklahoma attorney general reveal his close relationship with the oil and gas industry. In 2014, the New York Times reported that Pruitt accused the EPA of overestimating the quantity of methane emissions the oil and gas industry emits — claims he made by using a letter written by lawyers for a large oil and gas company.
“The notion that EPA won't be collecting and monitoring data is cause for concern,” Cullenward said. “How is the public supposed to be confident that EPA policy is striking an appropriate balance without any data?”
Bobby Magill is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central, focusing on energy and climate change.
|March 6, 2017||
Pollution Responsible for a Quarter of Deaths of Young Children, Says WHO.
by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Alternet
Pollution is responsible for one in four deaths among all children under five, according to new World Health Organisation reports, with toxic air, unsafe water and and lack of sanitation the leading causes.
The reports found polluted environments cause the deaths of 1.7 million children every year, but that many of the deaths could be prevented by interventions already known to work, such as providing cleaner cooking fuels to prevent indoor air pollution.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children,” says Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO. “Their developing organs and immune systems – and smaller bodies and airways – make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
The harm from air pollution can begin in the womb and increase the risk of premature birth. After birth, air pollution raises the risk of pneumonia, a major cause of death for under fives, and of lifelong lung conditions such as asthma. It may also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer in later life.
The reports present a comprehensive review of the effect of unhealthy environments and found 570,000 children under five-years-old die each year from respiratory infections such as pneumonia, while another 361,000 die due to diarrhoea, as a result of polluted water and poor access to sanitation.
The WHO estimates that 11–14% of children aged five years and older currently report asthma symptoms, with almost half of these cases related to air pollution. It also suggests that the warmer temperatures and carbon dioxide levels linked to climate change may increase pollen levels, making asthma worse.
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health will result in massive health benefits,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of environmental and social determinants of health. For example, tackling the backyard recycling of electrical waste would cut children’s exposure to toxins which can cause reduced intelligence and cancer.
In October, the UN’s children’s agency Unicef made the first global estimate of children’s exposure to air pollution and found that almost 90% – 2 billion children – live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO limits. It found that 300 million of these children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times above the health guidelines.
The WHO announced in May that air pollution around the world is rising at an alarming rate, with virtually all cities in poorer nations blighted by unhealthy air and more than half of those in richer countries also suffering.
Research in 2015 revealed that more than 3 million people a year die early because of outdoor air pollution, more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Chan told the BBC on Monday that air pollution is “one of the most pernicious threats” facing global public health today and is on a much bigger scale than HIV or Ebola.
Damian Carrington is the head of environment at the Guardian.
|March 10, 2017||
Here Are the Three Main Challenges Facing U.S. Agriculture Over the Next 50 Years.
by Alexis Baden-Mayer, Alternet
There are three interrelated challenges facing agriculture over the next 50 years.
The first is soil loss.
In the United States, soil is swept and washed away 10 times faster than it is replenished. That costs $37.6 billion every year. Globally, all of the world's topsoil could be gone within 60 years.
The second challenge is diet-related disease.
About half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases related to diet. Diet is now the number-one risk factor for disease. More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children are overweight or obese. This costs $190 billion a year. Obesity is the new malnutrition. Globally, a growing number of people have plenty to eat and yet remain malnourished.
The third challenge is climate change.
Floods, droughts, wildfires and extreme or unseasonable temperatures cause crop and livestock losses. In 2011, exposure to high temperature events caused over $1 billion in losses to U.S. agricultural producers.
Phasing out greenhouse gas emissions is important, but it won’t reverse climate change. Until we remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to get back down below the dangerous tipping point of 350 ppm, the impacts of climate change will persist.
Luckily, there’s an inexpensive and easy-to-use technology for reliable carbon dioxide removal and sequestration. Soil.
Agricultural activities have removed roughly 660 GtCO2 from terrestrial ecosystems. The good news is we can put it back.
Shifting to agricultural practices that can draw that carbon back down to the soil would:
We need more research on the microbial communities in the soil that generate carbon storage. Plants give the carbon they get from photosynthesis to soil microorganisms in exchange for water and nutrients. It works best when there are lots of different plants exchanging lots of different nutrients with lots of different microbes. The greater the plant biodiversity, the more carbon gets stored. The best way to reverse soil loss and sequester carbon is to continuously cover soil with a diverse array of living plants.
Scientists are currently documenting microbial soil carbon sequestration using carbon-13 isotope pulse labeling. Using this method, they can track the carbon flows from plants to and through soil microorganisms and identify the plants and the microorganisms that store the most carbon.
Fence line comparisons have demonstrated greater resilience to droughts and floods in carbon rich soils. Now, scientists can measure water flows through soil in three dimensions and accurately document soils’ water infiltration and holding capacity.
Grazing and pasture-raised animals can be managed to increase plant biodiversity and microbial activity. Well-managed pastures can sequester even more soil carbon than cropping systems. But we need a deeper understanding of how methanotrophs in the soil utilize methane emitted from grazing animals.
Finally we need an assessment of the socio-economic impediments to, and opportunities for, realizing the full potential for soil carbon sequestration.
If increasing soil carbon can help produce more food than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine, as John Jeavons would say, then why don’t more farmers do it?
If increasing soil carbon produces food that is flavorful, aromatic, and so healthy and nutritious that it could cost-effectively reverse diet-related diseases, why aren’t more consumers demanding it?
The above text was given as testimony by Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director at the Organic Consumers Association,at the Visioning of U.S. Agriculture Systems for Sustainable Production Listening Session held by the USDA on March 2, 2017.
Alexis Baden-Mayer is the political director of the Organic Consumers Association.
|March 15, 2017||
What We Need Are Farms That Support Farmers, Consumers and the Environment.
by Andrea Basche, Marcia DeLonge, Ensia, Alternet
Editor’s note: This Voices contribution is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy and water, a peer-reviewed article published March 2, 2017, as part of Elementa’s Food-Energy-Water Systems: Opportunities at the Nexus forum.
The past several years have been rough for many U.S. farmers and ranchers. Net farm incomes this year could fall to 50 percent of 2013 levels in a fourth consecutive year of income declines that is leading some producers to seek alternatives. At the same time, rural and urban Americans share growing concerns related to agriculture: worries that water pollution will be increasingly costly and harmful, that water supplies are at risk from extreme swings in rainfall, and that global warming due to fossil fuel burning threatens our food system and will necessitate changes in how we farm.
What if all of these challenges could find a common solution? It might just be that they can. In a commentary published this week in the scientific journal Elementa, we contend that agroecology offers a promising approach to solving food system problems while mitigating, water and energy concerns — and propose a way to overcome the obstacles to fully embracing it.
U.S. agriculture has trended for several decades — as a result of policy, economics and other drivers — toward systems that are more simplified over both space and time. This has had adverse consequences for food, energy and water.
Agroecology takes a different approach, applying ecological concepts tocreate and maintain diverse, resilient food systems. Promising research demonstrates that bringing diversity back to farms can begin to reverse the problems simplification has created. For example, scientists have found that strategically incorporating perennial plants (including food, energy or non-crop plants) into small areas of commodity crops can significantly reduce water pollution and soil loss. Studies also show that using multiple crops rather than a monoculture is associated with improvements in the amount of carbon (important to help soils hold onto more water and mitigate climate change) and nitrogen (critical for plant growth and soil function) in the soil.
If better farming systems exist, why don’t more producers use them, and why aren’t they more encouraged? Among the reasons:
In spite of these and other obstacles, innovators have begun to demonstrate that diversified land management can be good business, from a cover crop seed company in rural Nebraska, to a food hub supporting local diversified food production in western Iowa, to a consulting group helping farmers optimize land management and costs with a “precision conservation” approach. The dire need for economic opportunity in rural America was a major discussion point in the 2016 election, and these examples suggest how a more diverse and sustainable agriculture can help meet that need.
A shift in perspective that recognizes relationships among food, water, and energy systems and new metrics that value co-benefits to water and energy could go a long way toward further advancing agroecology. In fact, recently published research refutes the idea that we must solely focus on doubling crop production to meet future demand. These researchers believe the actual future yield increases needed are smaller and that we must explicitly define environmental goals to match the production demands that always seem to dominate the narrative around food.
Fortunately, we know that solutions do exist, and with agroecological approaches we can solve these multiple challenges at the same time.
Andrea Basche is a Kendall Science Fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Marcia DeLonge is an agroecologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
|March 14, 2017||
10 Ways Humans Are Destroying Earth's Most Biodiverse Place
by David Hill, The Guardian, Alternet
Gallito de las rocas (Rupicola peruviana) national bird of Peru.
Just under half of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites are under threat, the WWF asserts. Sites deemed threatened include the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Pantanal in Brazil and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo - and 111 others.
But what about the Manu National Park in Peru’s Amazon, which UNESCO calls the most biodiverse place on earth and was declared part of a biosphere reserve in the 1970s? In south-east Peru and stretching for 1.7 million hectares from the tropical Andes to the lowland forest, Manu is home to extraordinary biodiversity and Harakbut, Matsigenka, “Matsigenka-Nanti,” “Mashco-Piro,” Nahua, Quechua and Yine indigenous peoples.
The WWF told the Guardian that Manu didn’t make its threatened list because “at the time of the analysis it did not have any large-scale commercial mining, oil or gas concessions within or overlapping with the park’s borders, and was not listed by the IUCN as at “high” or “very high” threat from any non-extractive industrial activities.” However, as the Guardian has reported over the last few years, Manu and its inhabitants do face numerous threats—including from mining, oil and gas.
1. A highway through the park.
Peru’s government is planning to build a national highway along the course of the River Manu right through the middle of the park, effectively extending a route called the PE-5S. According to Transport Ministry maps, the highway will run all the way to the border with Bolivia, for 1,130 kms (702 miles). This would also mean entering the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve, as well as linking up with the Inter-Oceanica Highway which ultimately connects Peru’s Pacific coast to Brazil’s Atlantic coast.
Map showing how the PE-5S national highway would run right through Manu national park and all the way to the border with Bolivia. (Photograph: Screenshot from a Peruvian transport ministry map)
2. Oil/gas operations in the park.
A Guardian exposé in 2013 revealed how oil and gas company Pluspetrol was planning “geological fieldwork” in—and “the development of”—the far west of Manu, and how it had applied to enter the park in 2011 but was denied by the Environment Ministry agency, SERNANP, which manages it.
Pluspetrol responded to the Guardian by saying it had no interest in exploring in Manu, but reports and rumors have emerged from the region suggesting that one company or other has operated there in recent years. In 2015 the Guardian published a leaked Pluspetrol map again showing its interest in Manu. The oil and gas industry has long eyed the park, and companies—including Shell—have conducted seismic tests there in the past.
Map demonstrating the reasons for the oil and gas industry’s interest in Manu. The yellow blobs are ‘undrilled prospects’, while the red blobs are ‘discovered deposits.’ (Photograph: Screen shot from a Perupetro presentation)
3. Gas operations in the buffer zone.
Pluspetrol heads a consortium, including the US’s Hunt Oil, Spain’s Repsol and South Korea’s SK Innovation, extracting and exploring for gas in the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti and Others Reserve (KNNOR), which is part of Manu’s western buffer zone. The concession, called Lot 88, forms part of what is known as the Camisea gas project. It is almost immediately to the west of the very same area in Manu in which the Guardian, in 2013 and 2015, argued that Pluspetrol was interested.
Over the years operations in Lot 88 are reported to have had devastating impacts on the indigenous peoples in the KNNOR, which was established specifically for those living in “isolation” and “initial contact.” In 2013 the Culture Ministry warned that expansion eastwards, towards Manu, could “devastate” the Nahuas and make the “Matsigenka-Nantis” and Kirineris “extinct,” while SERNANP expressed concern it would lead to new settlements being established in Manu, increase pressure on natural resources, and potentially generate conflict among communities living there.
But expansion was permitted, with plans to explore so far east that some seismic tests would be approximately 7.5 kms (4.6 miles) from Manu’s western border and one well would be approximately 10 kms (6.2 miles) away. According to Perupetro, Pluspetrol drilled that well in 2015.
4. Coca cultivation and narco-trafficking in the park and buffer zone.
The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2016 report on coca cultivation in Peru states that coca has been growing in Manu’s buffer zone “for various years.” In 2015 there were 809 hectares of coca in the buffer zone, the UN reports, although none in the park itself.
The official Management Plan for Manu acknowledges the threat posed by coca cultivation to the buffer zone, as well as the recent “appearance of maceration pits” which it fears that “at any given moment ... will be dug inside the park” too. In 2016 Peruvian media outlet Ojo Publico reported that an anti-drugs prosecutor based in Cusco had “detected various maceration pits even within the jurisdiction of the Manu National Park, one of the Amazon’s last natural paradises.”
5. Illegal logging in the park and buffer zone.
The Management Plan calls illegal logging in Manu’s buffer zone, particularly on the eastern side, “the real problem.” Some indigenous communities have permission to extract wood from that area, but SERNANP holds no authority there and the Environment Ministry argues that the communities’ operations are not properly supervised by the regional government. Loggers are sometimes reported to enter the park itself.
6. Mercury contamination from gold-mining outside the park.
Gold-mining has been estimated to have destroyed over 150,000 hectares in Peru’s southern Amazon, mostly in the Madre de Dios region, and involved dumping 100s of tons of mercury into the rivers. In May 2016 the government—pathetically—announced a Declaration of Emergency across all Madre de Dios because of mercury contamination.
According to a map based on preliminary research by scientists at the Duke Global Health Institute in the U.S., the most contaminated area in Madre de Dios is upriver from the mining along the stretch of the River Madre de Dios between towns called Boca Colorado and Boca Manu, a significant part of which is in Manu’s buffer zone. The map suggests the second worse-hit area is inside the park, immediately upriver from Boca Manu, along the River Manu’s left bank. The right bank is reported to be affected too.
7. A road through the buffer zone.
A road has been cleared along the right bank of the River Madre de Dios in the buffer zone of the supposedly “protected” Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, just across the river from Manu. Members of two local indigenous communities, Shipetiari and Diamante, are reported to be in favor and detained approximately 40 people in 2015 to make themselves heard on the issue, but the road has provoked vigorous concern and/or opposition—from regional indigenous federation FENAMAD, local indigenous organization COHARYIMA, a Cusco judge, the Culture Ministry, the Environment Ministry and even UNESCO.
According to SERNANP, which set in motion an official complaint about the road made by the Environment Ministry to a prosecutor in Madre de Dios against the regional governor and two others, it is “clearly related to gold-mining and illegal logging interests.” Ultimately, it is slated to run to Boca Manu and then along the River Manu to Boca Colorado through Manu’s buffer zone—effectively the same route identified for the PE-5S extension.
8. Deforestation in the park and buffer zone.
Between 2010 and 2014 Manu had more forest cleared than any other national park in Peru’s Amazon with the exception of the Rio Abiseo National Park in the San Martin region, according to a 2015 report by the Environment Ministry. That same report states that in its buffer zone 583 hectares were cleared. No possible causes were suggested, but the Management Plan cites coca and other agriculture as reasons for the deforestation in the buffer zone.
9. “Human safaris.”
The appearance of a group of indigenous people living in “isolation” along the left bank of the upper River Madre de Dios in 2011 has led some tourist operators to offer trips to “spot” and photograph or film them. Such “human safaris” have been vigorously condemned by FENAMAD and others - not only for the obvious ethical reasons, but because of the danger that contact poses to the “Mashco-Piros,” as they are widely-known, because of their lack of immunological defenses which means potentially fatal diseases can be easily transmitted to them.
These “human safaris” are arguably the most obvious indication of how the “Mashco-Piros” and other indigenous peoples in “isolation” in Manu are being increasingly boxed in by what is going on around them—by the oil/gas operations, the road, the logging, the gold-mining, coca, colonization and even some tourism. Severe tension and conflict between them and their most immediate neighbors—Diamante and Shipetiari—has resulted in two men from those communities being killed in recent years.
10. Oil/gas operations to the park’s east.
Hunt Oil, partnered by Pluspetrol and Repsol, runs an oil and gas concession immediately to Manu’s east and overlapping most of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. The concession, Lot 76, includes parts of Manu’s buffer zone, Shipetiari and another indigenous community bordering the park, although the area where Hunt has explored until now is to the east and on the other side of the River Madre de Dios. The prospective deposits—marked on the map above—appear to be part of the same trend as those in Lot 88 and Manu.
David Hill is a Guardian environment writer reporting on human rights and environmental issues in Latin America, and a consultant for Global Witness researching Peruvian forest governance. Follow him on Twitter @DavidHillTweets.
|March 15, 2017||
To Avoid Ecological Calamity, We Must Adopt More Human-Scale Technologies.
by Kirkpatrick Sale and Chelsea Green , Alternet
The following is an excerpt from Kirkpatrick Sale's forthcoming book "Human Scale Revisited: A New Look at the Classic Case for a Decentralist Future" (Chelsea Green, May 2017):
There is no such thing as a society without technology. Homo erectus and Homo sapiens for nearly two million years had the hand-axe, a small, simple, beautiful, and extremely useful tool that could butcher animal carcasses, slice off the meat, and crack open the bone for the nutritious marrow. (The fact that it remained essentially unchanged for all this time suggests that, unlike our own, these societies had a settled social order, were highly cohesive and cooperative, and did not feel any individualistic need to innovate, change for the sake of change.)
The question is not of eliminating technology but of deciding what kind of technology should prevail, which of society’s values should it express. For there is no such thing as neutral technology—rather it comes with an inevitable logic, bearing the purposes and priorities of the economic and political systems that spawn it. Thus a reporter for Automation at the dawn of the computer age could praise a computer system as “significant” because it assures that “decision-making” is “removed from the operator [and] gives maximum control of the machine to management”—a system, that is, that turns the user into a soulless factotum without any power and assures that management retains power to itself, quite what our manufacturing world desires.
A violent empire guided by the principles of capitalism will surely develop technologies that heedlessly wrench resources from the earth in service to a few corporate and financial interests that are protected and nurtured by the political systems that they have commandeered to their ends. It seems fairly clear by now, as we have seen, that these technologies—more powerful and more rapacious than the world has ever known—will end by extracting and consuming so much of those resources, so alter the systems of atmospheric balance and oceanic tolerances, that it will diminish or destroy most of the surface and many of the marine species within the near future. These technologies have been developed to permit the human species to devote itself to every deadly sin but sloth, particularly pride, and it has done so with great skill, ingenuity, and speed. An alternative technology is clearly necessary, one based upon the human scale, in the sense both of being designed for and controlled by the individual and of being harmonious with the individual’s role in the ecosphere.
In an important but generally unnoticed phenomenon, just such a movement has arisen in the last fifty years, starting only in the 1960s and still evolving today, and it has created, tested, and proven an amazing array of soft technologies. Called variously “appropriate,” “green,” intermediate,” or “alternative,” it satisfies the basic criteria of a human-scale technology as set out by the wise Kentucky essayist Wendell Berry in the 1980s: a new tool, he says, should be cheaper, smaller, and better than the one it replaces, should use less energy (and that renewable), be repairable, come from a small local shop, and “should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.” To which need be added only two other crucial standards—that those family and community relationships embrace all the other species, plants and animals alike, and the living ecosystems on which they depend, and that they be considered, as the Irokwa nation has expressed it, with the interest of the next seven generations in mind.
There is one other good way of assessing human-scale technology, as expressed in a sage axiom of the British philosopher Herbert Read: “Only a people serving an apprenticeship to nature can be trusted with machines.” Far from serving an apprenticeship, modern industrial society works to enslave nature, for the benefit of humanity (or some small part of it), and regards mastery over it as ordained.
Since technology is generally, by its very essence, artificial—that is to say, not natural, a human construct not otherwise found in nature—it tends to distance humans from their environment and set them in opposition to it. “The artificial world,” says Jacques Ellul, the French philosopher, is “radically different from the natural world,” with “different imperatives, different directives, and different laws” such that it “destroys, eliminates, or subordinates the natural world.” In order to avoid the catastrophe that this has brought us to, it is necessary to embed technology with a due regard for the natural world, with a sense of humans as a species, and the individual as an animal, needing its elements for successful survival, including healthy land and air, decent food and shelter, intact communities and nurturing families. Only then, suggests Read, can we start monkeying around with artifacts.
Most of the technology along these precepts has already been developed over the last fifty years. It is now possible to find instruction in multiple books and pamphlets and magazines on—to take just a few—how to build underground houses and aquaculture greenhouses, how to design windmills and solar-powered bicycles, how to grow food by organic, hydroponic, or French-intensive methods, how to establish urban-homesteading projects and eco-villages, how to set up land trusts, food co-ops, and self-examination clinics, and how to construct practically anything you want out of earth, adobe, canvas, wood, stone, hemp, skins, logs, bamboo, or pneumatic balloons. And all of this creativity has been achieved in the face of the dominant, computer-driven technology, which argues that it has some serious durability and sufficiently ardent, widespread support.
Human-scale technology is not some dream or illusion: it exists. And that makes the present age unique. We now know that it is possible to achieve a technology for a wide range of human actions and still be kept within human dimensions and human control, without doing violence to the planet’s resources or ecosystems. We are on the brink of a truly alternative technological paradigm and can enter if we but chose to.
One further point. It should be obvious that there is no necessary contradiction between sophisticated technology and human-scale technology. Rational technologies of the future would not discard everything about contemporary systems but rather evolve from them, leaving aside the dangerous and destructive aspects, absorbing the humanistic and communitarian ones. Obviously there is much in current high technology that is anti-human and brutalizing, but there is also part of it that, however it has managed to slip in, is potentially liberating. In fact in the last twenty years or so there has been a strong trend in the direction of smaller and more decentralized operations: miniaturization has brought about the silicon chip and the proliferation of sophisticated machines available to any home or office; the creation of machines that perform a multiplicity of functions, allowing a wide range of products to be built in a single plant, has opened the way for communities to have an increasing number of goods manufactured locally; and the development of solar energy has pointed the way to the time, not far off, when we can have a completely localized power source no longer dependent on centralized plants.
In an age of high authoritarianism and bureaucratic control in both governmental and corporate realms, the dominant technology tends to reinforce those characteristics—ours is not an age of the assembly line and the nuclear plant by accident. Nonetheless, it must be recognized that there are always many other technological variations of roughly equal sophistication that are created but not developed, that lie ignored at the patent office or unfinished in the backyard because there are no special reasons for the dominant system to pick them up.
For example: sometime before the birth of Christ, Hero of Alexandria designed (and probably built) a steam engine: a fire created boiling water in a cauldron and the steam from it was sent along a tube into a hollow metal ball; two other tubes on opposite sides of the ball expelled the steam, forcing the ball to turn steadily and creating motion that could then be harnessed. The trouble was that neither the rulers of Alexandria nor any other powers in the Mediterranean world had any particular need for such a device, since the muscle power of slaves seemed perfectly adequate and the economic advantages of such a machine were quite unappreciated. It was not until the eighteenth century, in an England of entrepreneurial capitalism, where slavery was outlawed and cheap labor unreliable, that the virtues of steam power were sufficiently appreciated to enlist whole ranks of inventors and investors, many of whom set about unknowingly reinventing Hero’s machine.
Or again. By the late eighteenth century there were two kinds of machines capable of sophisticated textile production in England. One was a cottage-based, one-person machine built around the spinning jenny, perfected as early as the 1760s; the other was a factory-based, steam-driven machine based upon the Watts engine and the Arkwright frame, introduced in the 1770s. The choice of which machine was to survive and proliferate was made not upon the merits of the machines themselves nor upon any technological grounds at all but upon the wishes of the dominant political and economic sectors of English society at the time. The cottage-centered machines, ingenious though they were, did not permit textile merchants the same kind of control over the workforce nor the same regularity of production as did the factory-based machines. Gradually, therefore, they were eliminated, their manufacturers squeezed by being denied raw materials and financing, their operators suppressed by laws that, on various pretexts, made home-production illegal. It is interesting that it was against this technological tyranny that the Luddites in the early nineteenth century actually acted: they were not engaged in the destruction of all machines, as they are usually blamed for, but only those factory-centered machines that threatened to destroy their cottage-based textile industry.
In other words, each politico-economic system selects out of the available range of artifacts those that fit in best with its own particular ends. In our own time, we have seen the great development of machinery that displaces labor (and hence does away with labor problems), but there is a vast array of machinery, as the alternative technologists have proved, that is of equal sophistication and effectiveness but is labor-intensive. A human-scale system would select and develop the latter kinds of machinery, at no especial sacrifice in efficiency but with considerable enhancement of individual worth and ecological well-being.
Kirkpatrick Sale is a prolific scholar and author of more than a dozen books—including Human Scale, Rebels Against the Future, After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination and Human Scale Revisited. He has been described as the “leader of the Neo-Luddites,” is one of the pioneers of the bioregional movement, and throughout his career has been a regular contributor to The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, CounterPunch, Lew Rockwell, The New York Review of Books, and The Utne Reader, which named him one of 100 living visionaries. Sale is currently the director of the political think tank the Middlebury Institute for the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination.
|March 16, 2017||
Trump's Budget Deals Massive Blow to Clean Water and Air, Public Lands, Public Health and the Environment.
by Cameron Witten, The Wilderness Society, Alternet
The fiscal year 2018 budget proposed by the Trump Administration would herald a new low for America’s shared public lands. It’s fitting for President Trump to release his budget in March, because this is simply madness.
This budget would decimate the very foundation of what makes America great: our parks, public lands, and historic leadership on conservation. Instead of investing in conservation programs that provide clean drinking water, protect public health, and support a booming outdoor recreation economy, the Trump Administration is rigging the system to solely benefit oil and gas special interests and private developers at the expense of essential conservation programs that benefit all Americans.
The nation’s land management agencies have seen their budgets cut and their workforces dwindle for years. This had led to many tough decisions: reduced visitor services and recreational investments, reduced scientific research and monitoring, compromised conservation and management decisions, growing maintenance backlogs, and other impacts. There is a significant and growing need for Congress and the Administration to invest in conservation programs.
The Trump administration FY18 proposal requests $11.6 billion for the Department of the Interior, a $1.5 billion or 12 percent decrease from the 2017. Funding for land acquisition and the essential Land and Water Conservation Fund, which invests in parks in virtually every county in the U.S., would also be slashed. Cuts of at least $120 million to federal land acquisition would basically end public land investment under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, crippling enhancements to public access and national parks.
Over the past several decades, investments in conservation have fallen dramatically. The Congressional Budget Office projects that in the next decade federal spending on non-military programs will fall to the lowest level ever recorded.
In total, conservation and natural resource programs account for barely one percent of the federal budget, yet they provide invaluable benefits: clean air for children to breathe, clean water for families to drink, healthy public lands that support a booming outdoor recreation economy, vibrant wildlife populations, resilient ecosystems, and renewable energy that powers a clean, sustainable future. These benefits are foundational to the U.S. economy, and create high quality American jobs that cannot be exported.
Americans deserve a federal budget that protects public health, prioritizes conservation, and ensures the world we leave our children is cleaner, healthier and more sustainable than the one we inherited.
Federal agencies are doing everything in their power to meet their obligations, and they have been tremendously successful in doing more with less, tightening belts in every way possible before making decisions that impact program funding. Nevertheless, as a forthcoming report from The Wilderness Society will show, years of funding and staffing constraints have taken their toll.
Cameron Witten is a government relations and budget specialist at The Wilderness Society.
|March 21, 2017||
Je suis la paix Eu sou a paz Soy la paz I am the peace
by André Jacob , Canada
Je suis la paix
Au bord d’une mer étale
irisée par la lumière de l’aube
un rideau se lève la paix se dessine
à travers des cirrostratus.
elle avance à tâtons
en équilibre instable
sur un fil de fer.
Je l’observe, je tremble.
Elle peut basculer
dans le vide de l’horizon
mystère aux mille visages
je l’appelle je l’implore.
Pour briser le mur de la peur
je crie à pleins poumons
je suis la paix.
Pour adoucir les deuils
je clame en mille poèmes
je suis la paix.
Pour rappeler la tolérance
je sculpte un gigantesque monument
Je suis la paix
Pour dénoncer la haine
je chante fortissimo
je suis la paix
Pour exiger le respect
j’écris en lettres d’or
je suis la paix.
Pour casser les murs
je peins une fresque infinie
Je suis la paix.
Pour éradiquer l’intolérance
je sculpte en lettres majuscules
je suis la paix.
Pour vivre dans la dignité
je décline en poésie
Je suis la paix.
Pour établir la justice sociale
je filme en gros plan
je suis la paix.
Pour faire taire les canons
je rejoue sur toutes les scènes
je suis la paix.
Pour stopper les producteurs d’armes
je gueule sans vergogne
je suis la paix.
Pour réinventer le monde ensemble
parlons écrivons chantons dansons
sculptons et peignons
je suis la paix.
Pour briser le silence
L’écho reprend en chœur
Je suis la paix.
Eu sou a paz
Na beira de um mar calmo
iridescente pela luz da aurora
a cortina sobe teares de paz
sobre um fio.
Eu observo, eu tremo. Pode oscilar
no vazio do horizonte
Mistério de Mil Faces
Eu chamo eu imploro. Para quebrar o muro de medo
Eu grito lustily
Eu sou paz. Para suavizar a dor
Eu choro mil poemas
Eu sou paz. Para chamar a tolerância
I esculpir um monumento gigante
Eu sou a paz
Para denunciar o ódio
Eu canto fortissimo
Eu sou a paz
Para exigir o respeito
Eu escrevo em letras de ouro
Eu sou paz.
Para quebrar as paredes
Eu pintar um mural de infinito
Eu sou paz. Para erradicar a intolerância
I esculpir em letras maiúsculas
Eu sou paz.
A viver com dignidade
Eu me recuso a poesia
Eu sou paz.
Para estabelecer a justiça social
Eu tiro close-up
Eu sou paz.
Para silenciar as armas
I repetir em palcos
Eu sou paz.
Para parar os produtores de armas
Eu descaradamente boca
Eu sou paz.
Para reinventar o mundo juntos
falar gravação cantar, dançar
esculpir e pintar
Eu sou paz.
Para quebrar o silêncio
O eco em coro retoma
Eu sou paz.
Soy la paz
En el borde de un mar en calma
iridiscente a la luz de la aurora
una cortina se levanta telares de paz
a través cirrostratus.
que andar a tientas
en un alambre.
Se puede hacer pivotar
en el vacío del horizonte
Misterio de las mil caras
Me llamo imploro.
Para romper el muro del miedo
Le grito vigorosamente
Soy la paz.
Para suavizar el dolor
Lloro un millar de poemas
Soy la paz.
Para recuperar la tolerancia
Esculpo un monumento gigante
Soy la paz
Para denunciar el odio
Yo canto fortissimo
Soy la paz
Para exigir el respeto
Escribo con letras de oro
Soy la paz.
Para romper las paredes
Pinto un mural infinita
Soy la paz.
Para eliminar la intolerancia
Esculpo en mayúsculas
Soy la paz.
Para vivir con dignidad
Rechazo la poesía
Soy la paz.
Para establecer la justicia social
Disparo de primer plano
Soy la paz.
Para silenciar las armas
Reproduzco en los escenarios
Soy la paz.
Para detener los productores de armas
Yo descaradamente la boca
Soy la paz.
Reinventar el mundo juntos
hablar contra escritura cantar danza
esculpir y pintar
Soy la paz.
Para romper el silencio
El eco en coro se reanuda
Soy la paz.
I am the peace
At the edge of a seaside
Iridescent by the light of the dawn
A curtain rises peace is drawn
She moves gently
In unstable equilibrium
On a wire.
I watch, I tremble.
It can switch
In the emptiness of the horizon
Mystery with a thousand faces
I call him I implore him.
To break the wall of fear
I cry out loud
I am peace.
To mitigate bereavement
I proclaim in thousand poems
I am peace.
To recall the tolerance
I sculpture a gigantic monument
I am the peace
To denounce hatred
I sing fortissimo
I am peace
To demand respect
I write in golden letters
I am peace.
To break the walls
I paint an infinite fresco
I am peace. To eradicate intolerance
I sculpt in capital letters
I am peace.
To live in dignity
I decline in poetry
I am peace.
To establish social justice
I film in close-up
I am peace.
To silence the guns
I replay on all stages
I am peace. "
To stop weapons producers
I shout without shame
I am peace.
To reinvent the world together
Let's speak let's sing
Sculptures and combs
I am peace.
To break the silence
The echo resounds in chorus
I am peace.