Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website
Volume 15 Issue 4 December 2016

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Global Civilization values, solutions, vision, for the survival of our species.

Table of Contents of December Newsletter

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Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Janet Allon, Milan Djurasovic, Charles Eisenstein, Joel Espino, François Fournet, Jan Frel, Kali Holloway, Don Hazen, Jim Hightower, Brian Kahn, Jim Miles, Mark Crispin Miller, Elliott Negin, Jimmy O’Dea, Steven Rosenfeld, Alexandra Rosenmann, Adele M. Stan, Peter Wadhams,Mike Whitney, Chaitra Yadavar,

Don Hazen, Kali Holloway, Steven Rosenfeld, Adele M. Stan, Janet Allon, Jan Frel, Now That Trump Won: 10 Plagues Unearthed by This Election We Need to Face. Now That Trump Won: 10 Plagues Unearthed by This Election We Need to Face.
Milan Djurasovic, Reconciling Mutual Aid With Revolutionary Violence: The Case of Peter Kropotkin. Reconciling Mutual Aid With Revolutionary Violence: The Case of Peter Kropotkin.
Charles Eisenstein, Fear Of A Living Planet. Fear Of A Living Planet.
Jimmy O’Dea, Joel Espino, 9 Reasons Why California's Electric Buses and Trucks Can Help the Environment and Poor Communities. 9 Reasons Why California's Electric Buses and Trucks Can Help the Environment and Poor Communities.
François Fournet, Avec peu de mots con pocas palabras com poucas palavras With few words. Avec peu de mots con pocas palabras com poucas palavras With few words
Jim Hightower, Enough Native Stereotyping: Dakota Pipeline Showdown at Standing Rock Is Where Native American Are Drawing the Line. Enough Native Stereotyping: Dakota Pipeline Showdown at Standing Rock Is Where Native American Are Drawing the Line.
Brian Kahn, After Years of Negotiations, the World's Largest Marine Protected Area Has Been Created.  After Years of Negotiations, the World's Largest Marine Protected Area Has Been Created
Jim Miles, Comprehensive Economic And Trade Agreement – CETA – Canada And The EU. Comprehensive Economic And Trade Agreement – CETA – Canada And The EU.
Mark Crispin Miller, Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes
Elliott Negin, 8 Fossil Fuel Companies Responsible for 15% of Global Carbon Emissions Since 1850s.  8 Fossil Fuel Companies Responsible for 15% of Global Carbon Emissions Since 1850s.
Alexandra Rosenmann, Hillary Clinton Urges Democrats to Hold President Trump Accountable in Concession Speech. Hillary Clinton Urges Democrats to Hold President Trump Accountable in Concession Speech.
Peter Wadhams, How Disappearing Arctic Ice Could Lead to Global Climate Catastrophe. How Disappearing Arctic Ice Could Lead to Global Climate Catastrophe.
Mike Whitney, How Putin Derailed the West. How Putin Derailed the West.
Chaitra Yadavar, Your Hard-Earned Money Is Going Towards Subsidies For The Biggest Pollutors- Big Oil companies.  Your Hard-Earned Money Is Going Towards Subsidies For The Biggest Pollutors- Big Oil companies.

Articles and papers from authors


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  November 9, 2016
Hillary Clinton Urges Democrats to Hold President Trump Accountable in Concession Speech.

by Alexandra Rosenmann, Information ClearingHouse

Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech at the New Yorker Hotel, half a mile from what the campaign believed would be a historic victory Tuesday night.

"Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country," Clinton told supporters in New York City.

Despite Trump's devise rhetoric, frequently called out by Clinton, she had a different message this time. 

"I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans," Clinton said.

Bill Clinton and VP nominee Tim Kaine were nearly in tears.  

"This is not the outcome we wanted, that we worked so hard for," she continued. "I'm sorry we did not win this election for the values that we share, for the visions that we hold." 

Yet Clinton claimed to feel pride and gratitude. 

"You represent the best of America and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life," she said, sharing her disappointment with the room and tens of millions of Americans.

Reminiscent of Bernie Sanders in the primary process, Clinton urged her voters not to lose hope. 

"This is painful, and it will be for a long time, but this campaign was never about one person. It was about building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted."

She also spoke to the deep divides that plague America.

"We must accept the result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead," she explained, and pressed supporters to hold Trump accountable in his new role. 

"Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power," Clinton said. "It also enshrines other things: the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect these values, too." 


  Read Hillary Clinton Urges Democrats to Hold President Trump Accountable in Concession Speech
  November 1, 2016
How Putin Derailed the West.

by Mike Whitney , Information ClearingHouse

“Nation state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.”

— Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Between Two Ages: The Technetronic Era”, 1971

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria….not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.”

— Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Third Presidential Debate

November 01, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - "Counterpunch" - Why is Hillary Clinton so eager to intensify US involvement in Syria when US interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have all gone so terribly wrong?

The answer to this question is simple. It’s because Clinton doesn’t think that these interventions went wrong. And neither do any of the other members of the US foreign policy establishment. (aka–The Borg). In fact, in their eyes these wars have been a rousing success. Sure, a few have been critical of the public relations backlash from the nonexistent WMD in Iraq, (or the logistical errors, like disbanding the Iraqi Army) but–for the most part– the foreign policy establishment is satisfied with its efforts to destabilize the region and remove leaders that refuse to follow Washington’s diktats.

This is hard for ordinary people to understand. They can’t grasp why elite powerbrokers would want to transform functioning, stable countries into uninhabitable wastelands overrun by armed extremists, sectarian death squads and foreign-born terrorists. Nor can they understand what has been gained by Washington’s 15 year-long rampage across the Middle East and Central Asia that has turned a vast swathe of strategic territory into a terrorist breeding grounds? What is the purpose of all this?

First, we have to acknowledge that the decimation and de facto balkanization of these countries is part of a plan. If it wasn’t part of a plan, than the decision-makers would change the policy. But they haven’t changed the policy. The policy is the same. The fact that the US is using foreign-born jihadists to pursue regime change in Syria as opposed to US troops in Iraq, is not a fundamental change in the policy. The ultimate goal is still the decimation of the state and the elimination of the existing government. This same rule applies to Libya and Afghanistan both of which have been plunged into chaos by Washington’s actions.

But why? What is gained by destroying these countries and generating so much suffering and death?

Here’s what I think:  I think Washington is involved in a grand project to remake the world in a way that better meets the needs of its elite constituents, the international banks and multinational corporations. Brzezinski not only refers to this in the opening quote, he also explains what is taking place: The nation-state is being jettisoned as the foundation upon which the global order rests. Instead, Washington is  erasing borders, liquidating states, and removing strong, secular leaders that can mount resistance to its machinations in order to impose an entirely new model on the region, a new world order. The people who run these elite institutions want to create an interconnected-global free trade zone overseen by the proconsuls of Big Capital, in other words, a global Eurozone that precludes the required state institutions (like a centralized treasury, mutual debt, federal transfers) that would allow the borderless entity to function properly.

Deep state powerbrokers who set policy behind the smokescreen of our bought-and-paid-for congress think that one world government is an achievable goal provided they control the world’s energy supplies, the world’s reserve currency and become the dominant player in this century’s most populous and prosperous region, Asia. This is essentially what Hillary’s “pivot” to Asia is all about.

The basic problem with Washington’s NWO plan is that a growing number of powerful countries are still attached to the old world order and are now prepared to defend it. This is what’s really going on in Syria, the improbable alliance of Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah have stopped the US military juggernaut dead in its tracks. The unstoppable force has hit the immovable object and the immovable object has prevailed…so far.

Naturally, the foreign policy establishment is upset about these new developments, and for good reason. The US has run the world for quite a while now, so the rolling back of US policy in Syria is as much a surprise as it is a threat. The Russian Airforce deployed to Syria a full year ago in September, but only recently has Washington shown that it’s prepared to respond by increasing its support of its jihadists agents on the ground and by mounting an attack on ISIS in the eastern part of the country, Raqqa. But the real escalation is expected to take place when Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2017. That’s when the US will directly engage Russia militarily, assuming that their tit-for-tat encounters will be contained within Syria’s borders.  It’s a risky plan, but it’s the next logical step in this bloody fiasco. Neither party wants a nuclear war, but Washington believes that doing nothing is tantamount to backing down, therefore, Hillary and her neocon advisors can be counted on to up the ante. “No-fly zone”, anyone?

The assumption is that eventually, and with enough pressure, Putin will throw in the towel. But this is another miscalculation. Putin is not in Syria because he wants to be nor is he there because he values his friendship with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. That’s not it at all. Putin is in Syria because he has no choice. Russia’s national security is at stake. If Washington’s strategy of deploying terrorists to topple Assad succeeds, then the same ploy will be attempted in Iran and Russia. Putin knows this, just like he knows that the scourge of foreign-backed terrorism can decimate entire regions like Chechnya. He knows that it’s better for him to kill these extremists in Aleppo than it will be in Moscow. So he can’t back down, that’s not an option.

But, by the same token, he can compromise, in other words, his goals and the goals of Assad do not perfectly coincide. For example, he could very well make territorial concessions to the US for the sake of peace that Assad might not support.

But why would he do that? Why wouldn’t he continue to fight until every inch of Syria’s sovereign territory is recovered?

Because it’s not in Russia’s national interest to do so, that’s why. Putin has never tried to conceal the fact that he’s in Syria to protect Russia’s national security. That’s his main objective.  But he’s not an idealist, he’s a pragmatist who’ll do whatever he has to to end the war ASAP. That means compromise.

This doesn’t matter to the Washington warlords….yet. But it will eventually. Eventually there will be an accommodation of some sort. No one is going to get everything they want, that much is certain. For example, it’s impossible to imagine that Putin would launch a war on Turkey to recover the territory that Turkish troops now occupy in N Syria. In fact, Putin may have already conceded as much to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan in their recent meetings. But that doesn’t mean that Putin doesn’t have his red lines. He does.  Aleppo is a red line. Turkish troops will not be allowed to enter Aleppo.

The western corridor, the industrial and population centers are all red lines. On these, there will be no compromise. Putin will help Assad remain in power and keep the country largely intact. But will Turkey control sections in the north, and will the US control sections in the east?

Probably. This will have to be worked out in negotiations, but its unlikely that the country’s borders will be the same as they were before the war broke out. Putin will undoubtedly settle for a halfloaf provided the fighting ends and security is restored. In any event, he’s not going to hang around until the last dog is hung.

Unfortunately, we’re a long way from any settlement in Syria, mainly because Washington is nowhere near accepting the fact that its project to rule the world has been derailed. That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? The bigshots who run the country are still in denial. It hasn’t sunk in yet that the war is lost and that their nutty jihadist-militia plan has failed.

It’s going to take a long time before Washington gets the message that the world is no longer its oyster. The sooner they figure it out, the better it’ll be for everyone.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

  Read How Putin Derailed the West.
  November 8, 2016
Now That Trump Won: 10 Plagues Unearthed by This Election We Need to Face.

by Don Hazen, Kali Holloway, Steven Rosenfeld, Adele M. Stan, Janet Allon, Jan Frel, AlterNet


This election laid bare what has long plagued us.

The clash between Trump and Clinton slit open the underbelly of America and a toxic stew has oozed out. Old, familiar race hatred and anti-Semitism have reemerged, newly swathed in the cloak of the “alt-right.” Misogyny has proved its enduring electoral strength. Anti-immigrant hysteria, ironically, has given validity to anti-American policy proposals. With Trump at the lead, all this has been married with old-fashioned fear-mongering, racial profiling and contempt and disdain for the "other," be they Muslims, people of color, the handicapped, or even journalists just trying to do their jobs.

The U.S. was a divided and traumatized place before the election, but the coarseness of this campaign has made the environment more polluted. White Christians and working-class white men feel threatened by a world they see as passing them by. Their fear and anger has made them easy pickings for extreme right-wing media outlets including Breitbart, Alex Jones and far worse actors. Trump, whose presidential aspirations were built on the lies of his “birther” claims, embraced a number of their wildest conspiracies.

Unprecedented (and perhaps exhausting, tedious and maddening) is the only way to describe what we’ve all just gone through. The 2016 election was a tortuous 18 months long, all leading to an unthinkable verdict and offering a horrifying view of the future. This bizarre, mean-spirited, angry campaign season is a portent of more of the same ahead.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the worst plagues released by this campaign.

1. Displacement

This election has made fundamentally clear that perhaps the most powerful factor that has contributed to the polarization, anger and pessimism prevalent among many in the U.S. is displacement and the trauma that can follow it.

Displacement is defined as “moving of something from its place or position.” Millions of Americans, for a host of reasons leading up to the election, have been feeling fundamental loss. Their displacement is a loss of culture, jobs, community, religion, economics, identity and hope for the future.

Displacement has exacerbated fear of the “other,” of immigrants, of minorities, providing increased permission for racism and misogyny. It can produce paranoid thinking, blaming-the-victim psychology and fantasies of reverse discrimination. It has played a role in generating a vicious troll culture that traffics in misogyny and has invented a kind of hipster racism associated with what is euphemistically called the alt-right.

Displacement can lead to new levels of loss and trauma. It exacerbates deeper levels of unresolved trauma from childhood and can trigger fear, anger and domestic violence. People who feel psychologically displaced and fearful are more likely to respond to authority figures who talk of law and order. Manufactured fears lead to the loosest gun laws imaginable despite the fact that whites in America are probably safer than they have ever been.

The feeling of being displaced can be a loss experienced so deeply it has led to increasing levels of addiction, alcoholism, violence and suicide. The trauma caused by various psychological and physical displacements has affected people’s thinking and helped to nurture an anti-science reality fueled by a wide range of conspiracy theories.

And the consequences of feeling displaced have led people to desperately embrace Donald Trump, a man has promised to bring America back to the white Christian past for which much of red America yearns.

As Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, offers in his interview with AlterNet:

“My best read of what's happened on the ground is a combined economic and cultural anxiety, particularly among white conservative evangelical Christians. In addition to the cultural fears, about eight in ten white evangelical Protestants say they still think we're in a recession today. They still feel economically distressed. I think that plays a role in this as well. It's the combined sense that evangelical Christian values have lost their power in the center of American culture and that working-class jobs that make ends meet are hard to come by."

As Jones underscores:

“What has become most important to the eight in ten white evangelical voters who say they're voting for Trump over Clinton is that in Trump they see someone who is going to restore their vision of America. It is a vision which really does look like 1950s America. It's pre-civil rights, it's pre-women's rights, and it’s before immigration policy was opened up in the mid-1960s. And most of all, it’s a time when white Protestants were demographically in the majority. But just over the last two election cycles, we’ve gone from a majority white Christian country to a minority white Christian country, from 54 percent white Christian in 2008 to 45 percent white Christian today."

2. Economic trauma.

The election of 2016 proved just how little the economic recovery has affected tens of millions of Americans who live on the margins, and fear for their economic future. Loss of jobs, aging workers and the arrival of immigrants are all factors in the economic displacement of many Americans, but acutely among those 100 million Americans who did not attend college.

Nearly half (43.9 percent) of U.S. households live on the edge of financial collapse with almost no savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-eliminating emergency, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

Things are as bad or worse for those in retirement or on the brink. In December 2014, 42.9 million people received Social Security retirement benefits that averaged $1,328.58 a month, or roughly $15,943 annually before taxes. One-third, or 14.3 million people, derive almost all of their income this way. For most of the other two-thirds, Social Security provides over half their income. That means more than 20 million additional people live on less than $32,000 a year. These figures are averages and don’t reflect racial differences. For example, for every $1 white families have in savings, African Americans have just 5 cents and Latinos have 6 cents.

In terms of general poverty, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that “45.3 million people lived at or below the poverty line in 2013 ($11,888 for one person) for the third consecutive year.” Looking at this population broken up by race, blacks account for 27 percent; Latinos 23.5 percent; Asians 10.5 percent; and whites and others make up the rest.

For many of us it is almost incomprehensible to live daily life with this level of financial stress. But more than 100 million do.

Acute financial stress.

Researcher Galen Buckwalter, the head scientist at Payoff, a company that researches the impact of debt, concluded that huge levels of financial stress and debt produce symptoms of PTSD, a state he describes as acute financial stress. He points out that, “In reality, a majority of us don’t have the natural cognitive and organizational styles of those who excel at the kind of thinking that financial planning requires, leaving many of us exceptionally vulnerable to chronic stress.”

Buckwalter offers that:

“Our studies led us to surprising findings: 23 percent of adults and 36 percent of millennials experience Acute Financial Stress at levels that would qualify them for a diagnosis of PTSD. We knew people were feeling under the gun and often anxious about their futures, but this degree of clinical stress was more severe and pervasive than we could have imagined."

PTSD and acute financial stress, according to Buckwalter, change one’s beliefs and feelings:

“The world feels more threatening and relationships become difficult, leading to depression and isolation. Perhaps most important in all of this, PTSD symptoms results in hyperarousal, in which it’s chronically difficult for people to fully calm down, even in sleep. The mind and body are always prepared for trouble, leading to chronic stress that wears at all of the body’s systems, hastening the natural processes of aging the body and mind."

Buckwalter's research has found that financial stress affects cognitive processes. As Buckwalter told AlterNet, "It’s also damaging our bodies and minds, leading to deeply destructive health outcomes, leaving millions of Americans sick in ways we’re just beginning to understand. We know that stress disproportionately contributes to all-cause mortality nationwide, and stress over money is a significant, though widely ignored, contributor."

3. Race and the emergence of the alt-right.

While anti-black racism was predictably common across the board among whites, multiple surveys have found that Trump supporters are particularly likely to hold negative views of African Americans, in one study describing them as “‘savage,’ ‘barbaric,’ and ‘lacking self-restraint, like animals.’” An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found 67 percent of self-identified Trump voters hold animus toward Muslims, with a staggering 87 percent supporting Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration. The overwhelming majority of Trump voters, nearly 70 percent, say immigrants “burden the country,” according to a study from Pew Research Center. And an Anti-Defamation League review of the precipitous rise in anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish journalists on Twitter found that the “words appearing most frequently in the Twitter biographies of the attackers were ‘Trump,’ ‘nationalist,’ ‘conservative’ and ‘white.’”

Trump has unabashedly stoked the flames of racial hatred throughout his campaign. From the moment he launched his presidential bid with a speech declaring the vast majority of Mexican immigrants lawless criminals, to his closing ad filled with anti-Semitic stereotypes and dog whistles, the Trump campaign has preyed upon the fears of white Christian Americans who feel they’ve been pushed aside in a country they believe rightfully belongs to them. Without doubt, the poisonous tenor of Trump’s campaign has contributed to a recent rise overall in hate crimes committed against both historically and more recently marginalized groups. Trump’s vitriol has also helped drive up the number of Ku Klux Klan chapters and anti-government militia groups that have now taken root around the country.

Trump supporters are more likely to live in areas where industry has failed, manufacturing jobs are disappearing and life expectancies are dropping off. There have been calls for greater empathy and understanding for those who made Trump president, who have had their trauma exploited by the campaign. But it seems far more important to recognize the trauma that Trump has already caused—and will only continue to cause—in the lives of those already vulnerable to this country’s ugliest and darkest biases.

4. The rise of white supremacists and the militia movement.

There has always been an American militia movement, in which mostly white men and a handful of women embrace a mix of armed survivalism and self-proclaimed fealty to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. This movement's members have threatened to take the law into their own hands to defend a white Christian America. Barack Obama’s election in 2008 led to an exponential growth of these extreme anti-government groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks 1,000 anti-government groups, including more than 276 armed militias (a 37 percent increase compared to 2014) and “citizen” coalitions that do not recognize the federal government.

However, Trump has brought groups like Oath Keepers out of the woods and into the Republican Party, where they took it upon themselves to police urban polling places for “suspicious activities”—meaning anything helping Democrats to vote. Other groups (like the Three Percenters, who are named after the 3 percent of colonists who fought the British to win American independence) not only voice the same pro-gun, anti-Obama, anti-Muslim, anti-liberal views as Trump but also embrace using violence, if necessary, to advance their beliefs.

Trump has elevated and unleashed these dark beliefs. It remains to be seen what role they will play in his presidency, but because many are retired military and law enforcement officers, you can bet they will be eagar to help Trump with his deportation plans for undocumented immigrants.

5. Conspiracies, disinformation and low-information voters.

Rush Limbaugh, the Wall St. Journal and Fox News have been the right-wing media triumvirate, the kingmakers of GOP politics for over two decades. That changed in this presidential election. As fiendish as those three are, this election has been deeply influenced by far more fringe-y media figures including the Breitbart news site, radio hosts Michael Savage and Alex Jones, and the cauldrons of hatred, paranoia and conspiracy that fuel their media empires. Alt-right is now part of the mainstream.

The reviled and mendacious Breitbart quickly emerged as Trump HQ since the primaries, knee-capping Trump's GOP rivals at every opportunity and amplifying Trump's wide array of hate-filled attacks on almost every minority group imaginable. Breitbart and Trump got so close he hired the company's CEO, Steve Bannon, to run his campaign. Right-wing xenophobe and hatemonger Michael Savage hosted Trump on his radio show regularly throughout the GOP primaries and the national election to his audience of millions, and he rightly described himself as the "architect" of Trump's constant attacks on Muslims and the need for a border wall with Mexico. Alex Jones, with a cult following through his radio show and online news and video, was the launchpad for countless bizarre conspiracy theories that ended up getting wider play in the mainstream media, including a variety of insinuations about Hillary's physical and mental health.

6. Misogyny

Donald Trump has a long and rich history, traceable some three decades back, of speaking his misogyny aloud and on-the-record. He has not wavered in his sexism during the 2016 campaign, never letting a thing like “seeming presidential” get in the way of an opportunity to criticize a woman’s looks or body. For the last 18 months—though it feels like far longer—we’ve watched Trump shuttle from one misogynist moment to the next, leaving a trail of Twitter insults behind him. Perhaps the moment when Trump’s pathological and deeply disturbing views of women were on peak display came early last month, with the leak of a video showing him boastfully describing what can only be categorized as criminal sexual abuse. In the ensuing trickle of sexual assault allegations from numerous women, Trump’s alibi has been that none were hot enough for him to attack.

It makes sense, then, that researchers have found a key predictor of support for Trump is negative attitudes toward women. As early as June of last year—long before the Access Hollywood tape leak—a team of political scientists surveyed his supporters and concluded that “sexism was strongly and significantly correlated with support for Trump” and that misogynist attitudes among Trumpites were “equivalent to the impact of ethnocentrism.” In other words, Trump fans are as myopically misogynist as they are racist.

Trump’s legacy will include effectively driving up the number of callers to rape crisis lines, negatively affecting the body images of America’s teenage girls, and triggering the pain of millions of sexual assault survivors. But also, this: Having a man who is so consistent in his disdain for women become president of the most powerful country in the world is a reminder that gender matters, and feminism is necessary, even now, in 2016.

7. Trolls

In addition to being one of the most toxic campaigns in history, the 2016 election may well be remembered as the first time that internet trolls played a role in shaping the tone of mainstream political discourse. They did this mainly by hurling abuse: torrents of racism and misogyny, lobbed both online and offline at those who spoke up against injustice on social media or in other digital spaces.

In Donald Trump, the candidate most likely to be baited with a tweet, those racist, misogynist trolls found both a kindred spirit and inspiration to become more prolific in their abuse. Under the guise of fighting for free speech—to say the most vile and disgusting things to the same groups of people they’ve always said them to—some of the worst trolls have loosely gathered under the banner of the alt-right, a movement its founders proudly note is rooted in white nationalism and the fight against the creep of multiculturalism, race mixing and “the Jewish influence.”

Stephen Bannon, the CEO of Trump's campaign, is also the chairman of Breitbart, a publication he refers to as "the platform for the alt-right." Richard Spencer, who eschews the title "white supremacist," even as he advocates for a white ethno-state and forced sterilization for people of color (which sounds pretty darn white supremacist-y by everyone's definition ever), coined the term and has been a big fan of Trump's campaign. Recently, Spencer told Mother Jones, "I think if Trump wins we could really legitimately say that he was associated directly with us, with the 'R[acist]' word, all sorts of things. People will have to recognize us."

These are Trump’s people, and they have made the internet, and non-virtual life, inhospitable for millions. Alt-righties like Milo Yiannopoulos have attempted to turn it all into a bit a provocative fun designed to upset the “normies”; less light-hearted adherents such as Andrew Anglin, founder of alt-right site The Daily Stormer, have been less capricious in expressing their mission. “The goal is to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government,” Anglin has written. “Many people also believe that the Jews should be exterminated.”

Trolls—and that includes Kremlin-backed fakes like those exposed by Samantha Bee—amplify the ugly hatred present in American society to deafening levels. They intimidate and harass, using the trauma and fear they cause to attempt to shut down the voices of those who are speaking loudly for the first time. In other words, they embody, in many ways, the Trump ethos.

8. The red-blue divisions that will remain long after the election.

The final vote counts do not have to be in for Americans to be reminded of how deeply polarized the country has become, with blue states lining the coasts and, apart from New England, Colorado and New Mexico, most of the rest of the country red. Presidential elections stopped being national landslides years ago, when one party swept most of the states. Some of that is due to Republican redistricting after the latest Census, in 2010, where GOP state majorities redrew political boundary lines benefiting their incumbents and pushing Democrats into electoral ghettos.

What Republicans didn’t realize then was that they created a pathway for their party’s extremists, led by the Tea Party, to start winning their nominating primaries, which brought a new uncompromising crowd to Congress and state capitals. Trump’s candidacy is the consequence of a GOP where there’s no room for moderates—who typically describe themselves as independents to pollsters. Trump is the perfect standard-bearer for a political culture that now has more power than ever.

After the election, the GOP controls the executive office, more than 30 governorships and the U.S. House. Needless to say, Latinos, who comprise a growing segment of the population, will be increasingly powerful. Of the eight states with populations that are higher than the national average, there was only one in which Trump was expected to win—Texas. Parts of the South are also tilting blue, such as northern Virginia, eastern North Carolina, urban Georgia and southern Florida. But the GOP will retain its grip on parts of the nation where the population is older and whiter than the rest of the country, such as much of the South and Rust Belt. And because Republicans gerrymandered political districts after 2010, the conditions remain for stretches of the country to keep electing far-right extremists. That means the harsh political rancor will continue.

9. Pessimism and dislike of both candidates.

Disgust with the establishment and a deep pessimism that either of the two major party candidates would offer any meaningful improvement in the lives of most Americans was a theme throughout this long depressing presidential campaign. On Election Day, six of ten voters were still saying they were dissatisfied with their choices, and half said they would not support the new president no matter who wins. Not quite the message of hope and change that resounded at the beginning of the Obama years.

Both major party candidates seemed so deeply flawed. Reality TV star Donald Trump was initially seen as a curiosity, a laughable addition to the overstuffed clown car, more a boon to late-night comedy than an honest-to-goodness contender. Hillary Clinton, the boring, inevitable, establishment insider, just seemed to promise more of the same old, same old system that was failing too many people. Bernie Sanders breathed some fresh life and new hope into people, especially for millennials, but his ultimate defeat left a bitter aftertaste and a return to cynicism. Of course, Donald Trump ignited some passions as well, but they were mostly dark, xenophobic, divisive ones.

Still, the equivalence, always false, ends there. While both candidates were historically unpopular, Trump represented dark authoritarian impulses, sexually predatory remarks and stubborn ignorance about the world. Sadly, he turned out to know precisely what many American voters wanted.

10. Violence and guns.

Among the many false claims that Donald Trump has made on the campaign trail is the big lie that Hillary Clinton intended to abolish the Second Amendment. Although PolitiFact rated the claim as false, the result was exactly what Trump’s endorsers at the National Rifle Association likely wanted: a surge in the sale of guns.

Since the onset of the presidential campaign, gun sales have climbed—for one company, Sturm, Ruger & Co., earnings increased by 66 percent in the quarter that ended on October 1, according to CNN, when compared with the same quarter the year before. NPR reports that the FBI saw a major uptick in the number of background checks it performs: In October, the bureau processed 2.3 million background checks, an increase of 350,000 when compared with figures from October 2015. According to NPR, “October marked the 18th month in a row that the number of FBI background checks set a monthly record, putting 2016 on track to shatter the previous annual record.”

Although it has become American tradition that gun sales surge in advance of a presidential election, 2016 beats previous records. Trump, meanwhile, darkly suggested that “Second Amendment people” might take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton assumed the presidency. As AlterNet reported, at a Trump rally in Virginia, a vendor did brisk sales in gun targets with Clinton’s face superimposed on them, emblazoned with the tagline: “Chipping Away at Your Gun Rights Since 1993.” And now, there are millions more guns in the hands of Americans. They have been emboldened by Trump’s hateful calls to violence and, no doubt, his ascent to the presidency.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter

Jan Frel is AlterNet's editor-at-large and associate publisher. He is the author of Neighbors from Hell: An American Bedtime Story (Feral House, 2015). 

  Read Now That Trump Won: 10 Plagues Unearthed by This Election We Need to Face.
  November 6, 2016
Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes

by Mark Crispin Miller, Information ClearingHouse

Is election theft possible in the United States? And might the suspects live closer to home than the Kremlin? Professor Mark Crispin Miller, author of numerous books and articles on computerized election fraud, explores the very real possibilities.

Posted November 06, 2016


  Read Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes
  November 8, 2016
Pick a Peacemaker

by Suzy Kassem, Information ClearingHouse

To vastly improve your country and truly make it great again, start by choosing a better leader. Do not let the media or the establishment make you pick from the people they choose, but instead choose from those they do not pick. Pick a leader from among the people who is heart-driven, one who identifies with the common man on the street and understands what the country needs on every level. Do not pick a leader who is only money-driven and does not understand or identify with the common man, but only what corporations need on every level.

Pick a peacemaker. One who unites, not divides. A cultured leader who supports the arts and true freedom of speech, not censorship. Pick a leader who will not only bail out banks and airlines, but also families from losing their homes -- or jobs due to their companies moving to other countries. Pick a leader who will fund schools, not limit spending on education and allow libraries to close. Pick a leader who chooses diplomacy over war. An honest broker in foreign relations. A leader with integrity, one who says what they mean, keeps their word and does not lie to their people. Pick a leader who is strong and confident, yet humble. Intelligent, but not sly. A leader who encourages diversity, not racism. One who understands the needs of the farmer, the teacher, the doctor, and the environmentalist -- not only the banker, the oil tycoon, the weapons developer, or the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyist.

Pick a leader who will keep jobs in your country by offering companies incentives to hire only within their borders, not one who allows corporations to outsource jobs for cheaper labor when there is a national employment crisis. Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.

Most importantly, a great leader must serve the best interests of the people first, not those of multinational corporations. Human life should never be sacrificed for monetary profit. There are no exceptions. In addition, a leader should always be open to criticism, not silencing dissent. Any leader who does not tolerate criticism from the public is afraid of their dirty hands to be revealed under heavy light. And such a leader is dangerous, because they only feel secure in the darkness. Only a leader who is free from corruption welcomes scrutiny; for scrutiny allows a good leader to be an even greater leader.

And lastly, pick a leader who will make their citizens proud. One who will stir the hearts of the people, so that the sons and daughters of a given nation strive to emulate their leader's greatness. Only then will a nation be truly great, when a leader inspires and produces citizens worthy of becoming future leaders, honorable decision makers and peacemakers. And in these times, a great leader must be extremely brave. Their leadership must be steered only by their conscience, not a bribe.”

- Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

  Read Pick a Peacemaker
  October 20, 2016
8 Fossil Fuel Companies Responsible for 15% of Global Carbon Emissions Since 1850s.

by Elliott Negin, AlterNet


When assessing responsibility for global warming, politicians, journalists and others tend to think in terms of nations. China, as we all know, is the world’s largest carbon emitter; the United States—the top emitter until 2006—is number two, and so on.

Some researchers, however, are now focusing on the role played by fossil fuel producers. After all, nations do not emit carbon dioxide and methane. Hydrocarbon fuels, which are extracted and marketed by companies, do.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of geographer Richard Heede, we also know that a relatively small number of investor- and government-owned companies are responsible for two-thirds of human-caused carbon emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Heede’s 2014 study found that just 90 companies accounted for 65 percent of worldwide carbon emissions between 1854 and 2013. What’s more, half of those companies’ total emissions have occurred since 1988—long after the scientific community and the public became aware of the threat posed by global warming.

In light of Heede’s findings, what responsibility do these fossil fuel giants bear for climate change? And what role should they play now, given that the December 2015 Paris climate accord has committed nearly 200 nations to move to a low-carbon future?

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently compiled a scorecard to help answer these questions. In its new analysis, UCS rated the business practices of the top eight U.S. investor-owned fossil fuel companies on Heede’s list that are U.S.-based or have a North American affiliate. In order of emissions magnitude, they are:

  1. Chevron
  2. ExxonMobil
  3. BP
  4. Royal Dutch Shell
  5. ConocoPhillips
  6. Peabody Energy
  7. Consol Energy
  8. Arch Coal

Together, these eight companies are responsible for nearly 15 percent of worldwide industrial carbon emissions since the 1850s and have spent tens of millions of dollars over the last two decades to deceive the public about the reality of climate change.

UCS graded the companies on a five-point scale—ranging from “advanced” to “egregious”—in four broad categories, including the accuracy of their public statements about climate science; their support for trade associations, think tanks and advocacy groups that spread disinformation about climate science and try to block government action on climate; their position on proposed government climate policies; and their willingness to disclose the risks climate change poses to their business as required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The overall finding? The companies in the UCS survey all rate below average.

“These companies are substantial contributors to the problem of climate change and, if we’re going to achieve swift and deep reductions in carbon emissions, they will have to take responsibility for their climate-related actions,” said Kathryn Mulvey, a senior UCS analyst and lead author of the scorecard. “We found some differences in the climate-related positions and actions among the companies but, by and large, they all have a long way to go.”

Renouncing climate disinformation

For a fossil fuel company to retain the public trust and social legitimacy to do business, step one is to make accurate public statements about climate science and renounce support for trade associations and advocacy groups that mislead the public about climate change.

How have the companies performed in these areas?

Only BP and Shell earned a passing grade for their public positions on climate science. In June 2015, BP, Shell and four other European-based oil and gas companies sent a letter to the United Nations acknowledging that much more needs to be done “to limit the temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees [Celsius] above pre-industrial levels” and urging governments to set a price on carbon. “We want to be part of the solution,” they wrote, “and deliver energy to society sustainably for many decades to come.”

The lowest mark in this category went to ExxonMobil, which has consistently disparaged climate science and recommended that societies learn to adapt to global warming. “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity,” ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said at the company’s 2015 annual shareholder meeting, “and those solutions will present themselves as the realities become clear.” Never mind that the realities of climate change have been clear for many years—and the company’s own scientists warned Exxon’s upper management decades ago about the “potentially catastrophic” risks posed by global warming.

UCS also ranked ExxonMobil the lowest—a designation of “egregious”—for its longtime support of climate science denier groups. The company has spent at least $33 million since 1998 on a network of more than 60 think tanks, advocacy groups and trade associations, many of which continue to distort climate science and denigrate renewable energy to this day.

Chevron, which routinely tries to block federal and state climate initiatives, joined ExxonMobil at the bottom. Both are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive business lobby group that denies human activity is driving climate change and provides its state legislator members with sample bills to undermine renewable energy. Over the last several years, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell have quit ALEC. Nonetheless, they each earned poor marks for standing by while the trade groups to which they belong—including the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—misrepresent climate science and oppose government efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Doing business in a low-carbon world

Because the products fossil fuel companies sell in the marketplace are directly responsible for carbon emissions, these companies have a special responsibility to transform their business models to reduce that threat. Practically speaking, that means publicly acknowledging the international community’s commitment to swiftly move to a low-carbon economy and supporting policies consistent with this goal. It means taking immediate action to disclose and cut emissions from their current operations by, for example, ending the harmful practice of flaring natural gas. And ultimately it will mean transitioning to cleaner energy sources to remain relevant.

How do the companies rank on these metrics?

The companies UCS appraised have made general statements on their websites or elsewhere about the need to reduce carbon emissions, but most have stopped short of supporting specific policies. As mentioned above, BP and Shell now back carbon pricing, earning each of them a middling grade for their stated support of U.S. government action. ExxonMobil also got a middling grade in this category. The company claims to favor a revenue-neutral carbon tax, although its sincerity is questionable given the fact that the majority of senators and representatives the company funds consistently vote against the policy.

The three coal companies reviewed on the scorecard—Arch, Consol and Peabody—ranked low for continuing to support efforts to block U.S. climate action. The largest, the now-bankrupt Peabody Energy, was the worst of the lot. It received an “egregious” rating for denying there is a scientific consensus about climate change in its legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

All of the companies received poor marks on disclosing and reducing their own emissions. While more than 180 major corporations have now committed to setting science-based targets to reduce their emissions in line with last year’s international climate agreement, none of the companies UCS evaluated has yet done so. In fact, not a single fossil energy producer is among those companies.

Fossil fuel industry at the crossroads

If the companies UCS surveyed are smart, they will reinvent themselves. History provides clear examples of success—and failure. Back in the mid-1800s, whaling, which provided oil for the lamps that lighted much of the Western world, was the fifth-largest industry in the United States. By the second half of that century, whale oil was replaced by kerosene, which in turn was rendered obsolete by the electric light. The whaling industry collapsed.

By contrast, Fisher Brothers, which manufactured horse-drawn carriages at the turn of the 20th century, adapted to the changing times. Realizing that its future was tied to the fledgling auto industry, the company redesigned its product to handle the stresses and strains of the new technology. It morphed into the fabulously successful Fisher Body Company, which eventually became a division of General Motors.

The fossil fuel industry is at a similar crossroads today, and at least two of the companies in the UCS survey—BP and Chevron—ventured into the renewable energy business a decade ago. When they did not realize quick profits, however, they sold off their holdings. Others, notably ExxonMobil, flatly reject the idea of diversifying into renewables because, as Rex Tillerson told his shareholders, “We choose not to lose money on purpose.”

Given that scientists  energy companies worldwide will have to leave 60 to 80 percent of their reserves in the ground to ensure average temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius, that’s shortsighted thinking at best. In any case, genuflecting to the quarterly earnings report stifles innovation. When Toyota first introduced the Prius, the company lost money on every Prius it sold. Now the vehicle dominates the hybrid market because Toyota was willing to invest in a long-term strategy.

So what should these eight leading energy companies do? The UCS scorecard makes a number of recommendations, including ending their support for climate science disinformation; fully disclosing the risks of climate change to their operations; developing new products and technologies that do not harm the environment; and supporting sensible policies to curb carbon emissions.

“Fossil fuel companies will, in all likelihood, continue to operate for many years to come while we decarbonize the world economy,” Mulvey said. “But they can no longer be allowed to mislead the public and their shareholders about the threat their products pose to the planet. We’ve identified a series of steps these companies should take immediately, and we’re going to keep the pressure on to get them to do so.”

  Read 8 Fossil Fuel Companies Responsible for 15% of Global Carbon Emissions Since 1850s.
  October 26, 2016
How Disappearing Arctic Ice Could Lead to Global Climate Catastrophe.

by Peter Wadhams, Yale Environment 360, AlterNet


This article first appeared on Yale Environment 360.

The news last week that summer ice covering the Arctic Ocean was tied for the second-lowest extent on record is a sobering reminder that the planet is swiftly heading toward a largely ice-free Arctic in the warmer months, possibly as early as 2020.

After that, we can expect the ice-free period in the Arctic basin to expand to three to four months a year, and eventually to five months or more. 

Since my days measuring the thickness of Arctic Ocean ice from British nuclear submarines in the early 1970s, I have witnessed a stunning decline in the sea ice covering the northern polar regions — a more than 50 percent drop in extent in summer, and an even steeper reduction in ice volume. Just a few decades ago, ice 10 to 12 feet thick covered the North Pole, with sub-surface ice ridges in some parts of the Arctic extending down to 150 feet. Now, that ice is long gone, while the total volume of Arctic sea ice in late summer has declined, according to two estimates, by 75 percent in half a century. 

The great white cap that once covered the top of the world is now turning blue — a change that represents humanity’s most dramatic step in reshaping the face of our planet. And with the steady disappearance of the polar ice cover, we are losing a vast air conditioning system that has helped regulate and stabilize earth’s climate system for thousands of years. 


Illustration by Katie Peek (click here to enlarge)

Few people understand that the Arctic sea ice “death spiral” represents more than just a major ecological upheaval in the world’s Far North. The decline of Arctic sea ice also has profound global climatic effects, or feedbacks, that are already intensifying global warming and have the potential to destabilize the climate system. Indeed, we are not far from the moment when the feedbacks themselves will be driving the change every bit as much as our continuing emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

So what are these feedbacks, and how do they interact? The most basic stem from turning the Arctic Ocean from white to blue, which changes the region’s albedo — the amount of solar radiation reflected off a surface. Sea ice, in summer, reflects roughly 50 percent of incoming radiation back into space. Its replacement with open water — which reflects roughly 10 percent of incoming solar radiation — is causing a high albedo-driven warming across the Arctic. 

When covered almost entirely by ice in summer — which the Arctic was for tens of thousands of years — water temperatures there didn’t generally rise above freezing. Now, as the open Arctic Ocean absorbs huge amounts of solar radiation in summer, water temperatures are climbing by several degrees Fahrenheit, with some areas showing increases of 7 degrees F above the long-term average. 

Such changes mean that a system that was once a vast air conditioner has started to turn into a heater. Just how much extra heat are the dark waters of Arctic Ocean in summer adding to the planet? One recent study estimates that it’s equivalent to adding another 25 percent to global greenhouse emissions. 

To appreciate the complexity of these feedbacks and interactions, one need only look at the growing role played by waves and storms in the melting Arctic. With more of the Arctic Ocean becoming ice-free in summer, more waves are being generated. In summer, this increased wave action breaks up large ice floes into smaller fragments and hastens their melt. Then, in autumn, larger storms fed by open water cause wave-induced mixing of the Arctic Ocean, which brings up heat absorbed during the summer. This warms the water, making it harder for ice to form in the fall. I observed this phenomenon last September and October aboard the University of Alaska research vessel Sikuliaq in the western Arctic Ocean. After the warm summer of 2015, the advance of winter ice was slow and sporadic, apparently held back by the quantity of heat in the water column. 

Yet another albedo-related effect with important global climatic repercussions is now unfolding in the Arctic. As ice-free Arctic waters have warmed, in turn warming the air above them, these rising temperatures have spread over land. This is an important factor in the increased melting of snow in Arctic terrestrial regions. Today, in midsummer, the Arctic land area covered by snow has decreased by several million square miles compared to five decades ago. These now-dark lands absorb more heat and further warm the Arctic — and the planet. 

Also, as the tundra and boreal forests heat up, runoff from snowmelt and waterways runs through warmer land, increasing the temperature of the great Arctic rivers such as the Mackenzie in Canada and the Ob, Lena, and Yenisei in Siberia. The warmer waters of these north-flowing rivers discharge into the Arctic basin, injecting more heat into the polar ocean. 

By my calculations, the terrestrial warming in the Arctic is roughly equivalent to a 25 percent boost in global CO2 emissions. This, combined with the warming caused by the loss of Arctic sea ice, means that the overall ice/snow albedo effect in the Arctic could add as much as 50 percent to the direct global heating effect of CO2. Scientists can debate the potential magnitude of such increases. But there is no doubt that they will be significant — vividly illustrating how the Arctic can become a driver of, rather than just a responder to, global climate change.

The list of feedback effects on the global climate from diminishing Arctic sea ice goes on. As ocean and air temperatures in the Arctic rise, this adds more water vapor to the atmosphere, since warmer air holds more moisture. Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, trapping outgoing long-wave radiation and holding heat closer to the surface of the earth. With air temperatures rising in many parts of the Arctic by several degrees F in recent decades, water vapor concentration has gone up by more than 20 percent, adding to Arctic warming. 

Rising air temperatures over open Arctic waters in summer are also heating up the Greenland ice sheet. Until the 1980s, the Greenland ice sheet did not experience extensive summer melt. The melt then began at low altitudes, and in recent years has spread to the whole ice sheet. In July 2012, for example, 97 percent of the Greenland ice cap experienced surface melting, according to remote sensing by satellite. 

The meltwater does not just remain on the surface to refreeze in autumn. It plunges down into the ice sheet through large holes called moulins, lubricating the ice sheet bed and causing glacial advance to accelerate, doubling in speed in some cases as glaciers calve more icebergs into the ocean. Greenland is now the largest single contributor to global sea level rise, its melting ice cap adding some 300 cubic kilometres (72 cubic miles) of water per year to the ocean. The low estimates of sea level rise by the end of the century — two to three feet according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — are being revised upwards, with serious implications for policymakers who must plan the defense of low-lying cities like Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, and Shanghai, or of defenseless coastlines like Bangladesh. 

But the most worrisome feedback, which could lead to catastrophic effects in the near future, involves the release of seabed methane — a potent greenhouse gas — from the continental shelves of the Arctic Ocean. 

The Arctic Ocean is unusual in that, while its abyssal depths are great (13,000 feet or more), it is surrounded by wide continental shelf seas only 150 to 300 feet deep. Most of these — the East Siberian, Kara, Laptev, and Barents seas — lie to the north of Siberia. Until this century, most of these Arctic continental shelves were covered with sea ice even in summer, and this prevented the water temperature from rising above 32 degrees F. During the last decade, however, the summer sea ice has retreated from the shelves, allowing the water to warm up into the high 30s. The warmer water, extending to the seabed, thaws the offshore permafrost that has been in place since the last Ice Age. Underneath it is a thick layer of sediment containing large amounts of methane in the form of solid methane hydrates; these have a cage-like crystal structure in which methane molecules are surrounded by ice. 

The release of the overlying pressure allows the hydrates to disintegrate and turn into gaseous methane, which bubbles up through the water column in intense plumes and is released to the atmosphere. This release is already causing global methane levels to rise after being flat through the early years of this century. The fear is that a larger portion of the methane will be released from the sediments. And although methane only remains in the atmosphere for a decade or so (unlike CO2, which can linger for centuries), it traps heat 23 times more efficiently per molecule than carbon dioxide. 

The Russian scientists investigating the offshore plumes (joined recently by German and Swedish expeditions) fear that a pulse of up to 50 gigatons of methane — some 8 percent of the estimated stock in the Arctic sediments — could be released within a very few years, starting soon. If this happened, model studies show that there would be a virtually immediate warming of 1 degree F, with accompanying massive costs to the planet. 

What is the risk of such an outbreak? Many scientists say it is low, although those who regard it as high are the very scientists who have actually done the observational work in the East Siberian Sea. The IPCC ignores this risk, but does go into the likely result of the thawing of permafrost on land, which would itself set off a total methane emission of a similar magnitude, albeit spread over decades. 

Other feedbacks from the loss of Arctic Ocean ice — ranging from a possible slowdown of the so-called “global ocean conveyor belt” to major shifts in the northern hemisphere’s jet stream — could also have serious climatic impacts. 

What I am trying to offer in this tale of apparently unremitting gloom is a wake-up call rather than a statement of despair. What is taking place in the Arctic reinforces the conclusion of many scientists that last year’s Paris agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees C is unrealistic so long as it only involves the reduction of CO2 emissions. As the various Arctic climate feedbacks show, we are fast approaching the stage when climate change will be playing the tune for us while we stand by and watch helplessly, with our reductions in CO2 emissions having no effect in the face of, say, runaway emissions of methane. 

What is needed today is a widespread global campaign to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using techniques like direct air capture. In my view, initiatives to devise economically acceptable methods for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere should be the most important concern of science and technology. The success of these efforts will mean the difference between the prospect of a positive future for mankind and the certainty of a descent towards climate-driven chaos. 

In my professional lifetime, I have witnessed the transformation of the top of the world from a beautiful ice-bound expanse of wilderness to a region now characterized by warming and melting on all fronts. These changes represent a spiritual impoverishment of the earth, as well as a practical catastrophe for humanity. The time for action has long since passed.

Peter Wadhams is professor emeritus of ocean physics at Cambridge University. He is a sea ice specialist with 46 years of research on sea ice and ocean processes in the Arctic and Antarctic. In more than 50 expeditions to both polar regions, Peter has worked from ice camps, icebreakers, and aircraft. He also has traveled six times on Royal Navy submarines under frozen north polar seas to conduct research. His new book is A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic.

  Read How Disappearing Arctic Ice Could Lead to Global Climate Catastrophe.
  October 26, 2016
9 Reasons Why California's Electric Buses and Trucks Can Help the Environment and Poor Communities.

by Jimmy O’Dea, Joel Espino, AlterNet


When most people think of electric vehicles, we think of cars, like Teslas, Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs. But trucks and buses are going electric, too, and the impact on both our air and our economy could be huge.

The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Greenlining Institute recently joined forces to analyze the growing electric truck and bus industry, producing the report "Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California." While we focused on California, where electric buses and trucks are taking off rapidly, what we found has major implications for the whole country. Here are nine things you need to know about electric trucks and buses.

1. Transportation is the largest contributor to global warming in California and nationwide.

Including carbon pollution from refining petroleum products, transportation accounts for more than 50 percent of global warming emissions in California, and the transportation sector recently overtook power plants as the largest contributor to climate change nationwide.

2. Trucks and buses form a major part of our air pollution problem.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the single largest source of smog-forming pollution in California. They also emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants. Oh, and they make up 7 percent of the state’s global warming emissions—an amount projected to increase as freight shipments grow.

3. Poor communities bear the brunt of air pollution from transportation.

Poor communities disproportionately suffer from exposure to traffic-related pollution because they are more likely than wealthier neighborhoods to be near busy roads and highways. Breathing lung-damaging exhaust from vehicles on a daily basis leads to higher rates of pollution-related diseases such as cancer and heart attacks. Race matters, too: Even for people in the same socioeconomic class, people of color are more likely than whites to be exposed to pollution from cars, trucks and buses.


Proterra Manufacturing Facility, Greenville, South Carolina. Proterra makes zero-emission, battery-electric buses that help fleet operators eliminate fossil fuel dependency and reduce costs. The facility in South Carolina complements Proterra's battery engineering R&D and manufacturing in Burlingame, California, and a West Coast bus manufacturing plant in the City of Industry, California.

4. Electric trucks and buses are cleaner than diesel and natural gas vehicles.

Electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning you won’t have to gulp pollution while waiting for the bus or walking down the street. When you put together global warming emissions, smog forming emissions and particulate matter, electric vehicles powered by clean electricity have the lowest emissions compared to any other vehicle technology, including natural gas. The clean air benefit continues even when you look at “life cycle” emissions from electricity generation and hydrogen production.

And these clean vehicles will only get cleaner: California will get at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030, has virtually no coal power in the state and will end contracts for coal power imported from other states by 2025. California also requires that at least 33 percent of hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, a standard the state already exceeds. Bottom line: We’re blazing a path toward clean power that other states can follow.

5. Electric trucks and buses are way more energy efficient.

Depending on the type of vehicle, electric trucks and buses are up to four times more efficient than diesel and natural gas vehicles, meaning that for the same amount of energy used to power a vehicle, the electric vehicle will travel up to four times as far. This can lead to significant savings in fuel costs.

6. Electric truck and bus technology is here and ready to clean the air today.

This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky future dream. Battery-powered electric trucks and buses have ranges over 100 miles. One company recently announced a transit bus with a 350-mile range. Fuel cell trucks and buses have long had ranges over 200 miles. While these vehicles may cost more to purchase, reduced fuel and maintenance costs mean the total cost of ownership of electric trucks and buses is becoming competitive with traditional technologies. Electric trucks and buses can accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel and natural gas vehicles. They’re quieter, too.

7. The heavy-duty EV industry is creating good jobs.

Some of the leading electric bus and truck manufacturers in California pay assemblers $13-$20 per hour to start, considerably above typical pay for assembly jobs in California. These jobs can also lead workers into higher-skilled, well-paid occupations. When we asked representatives of heavy-duty EV companies what jobs were likely to grow the most if demand for heavy-duty EVs increases, they unanimously identified assembler positions. Increased investment in this technology should spur growth of good, well-paying jobs.

8. This industry can be a great source of jobs for underserved communities—if workers get the training and skills they need.

Leading electric bus and truck companies in California typically require one to three years of related experience for assemblers, a higher standard than assembly jobs in general manufacturing. Jobs in EV manufacturing, charging and maintenance require significant electrical skills. These requirements can be barriers to employment for people from low-income communities. But good, readily accessible training programs can overcome this barrier and make sure those most in need of good jobs will get a fair shot.

9. It will take conscious effort to bring workers from underserved communities into the electric truck and bus workforce.

Right now we don’t have enough training programs accessible to those who need them. Manufacturers can help fix this by partnering with workforce training organizations and community colleges to establish pathways for training and certifying workers from these communities and placing them in quality jobs. This emerging industry needs effective, equitable workplace policies and programs to ensure opportunity for all.

You may not hear much about electric trucks and buses, but they’re here and growing. In the coming years, they can help clean the air we all breathe and give a big economic boost to communities most in need.

Read the full report here.

  Read 9 Reasons Why California's Electric Buses and Trucks Can Help the Environment and Poor Communities.
  October 9, 2016
Enough Native Stereotyping: Dakota Pipeline Showdown at Standing Rock Is Where Native American Are Drawing the Line.

by Jim Hightower, AlterNet


In bad movies (and bad history alike), the Native American ceremonial pipe figured prominently as symbol of defeat -- typically in a cliched scene of subdued chieftains signing a treaty of surrender and passing around a "peace pipe" in a sorrowful gesture to seal the raw deal.

The reality is that the communal smoking of a ceremonial pipe, often filled with tobacco, is a centuries-old tradition rich in spiritual meaning for many Native people who see it as an eternal channel through which tribes seek metaphysical strength, courage and endurance. The ceremonial pipe both shapes and conveys Native people's living history, a story that's perpetually being written.

Indeed, a dramatic new chapter is unfolding this year in a volatile confrontation on a remote stretch of the Northern Plains in rural North Dakota. It's a "Battle of Two Pipes," pitting the cultural power symbolized by the Native American pipe against the bruising financial power of a giant pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

In 2014, ETP, a Texas oil behemoth, went public with its scheme to build a massive oil pipeline from the fracking wells of the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota. ETP's 30-inch-wide Dakota Access Pipeline would cut a 1,172-mile-long scar diagonally through the hearts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

If ETP's $3.8 billion line is completed, it would carry 570,000 barrels of oil a day through most of the four states' watersheds and wildlife habitats; it would transit hundreds of farms and ranches and make 200 river crossings. All the water and land in its path would be endangered, for one unpleasant fact about pipelines is that they regularly leak, sometimes rupture, and can blow up (an especially relevant concern with fracked Bakken oil, which is not only some of the dirtiest crude on the planet, but is also exceptionally flammable and "more prone to explosions than earlier thought," according to U.S. officials).

Kelcy Warren is the honcho of Energy Transfer Partners and its parent financial outfit, Energy Transfer Equity, a fossil fuel colossus that also owns Sunoco oil and Southern Union gas. Warren's company -- with such an unkempt environmental record plus national notoriety for bulldozing over opposition from outraged landowners and communities-regularly gets state and federal regulatory authorities to clear the path for them. This is done the old-fashioned way: Warren, ranked by Forbes as the 86th richest American, pumps big bucks into the campaign coffers of key politicos, drawing from corporate funds as well as his personal $5.45 billion fortune.

Consider Warren's recent Texas play. For the last two years, ETP has laid siege to one of the Lone Star State's most spectacular and environmentally unique regions -- the mountainous, desert ranch country of Big Bend, which includes historic sites and artifacts of Comanche, Mescalero, Chiso, and other indigenous cultures dating back more than 14,000 years. Despite adamant local protests, ETP is presently ripping the land with the 148-mile-long, 42-inch "Trans-Pecos Pipeline" that will export gas from West Texas to Mexico. "We feel like we've been invaded," said one member of the local citizens group, Defend Big Bend.

They have been -- with the Obama administration's approval and the collusion of their own state officials, who blithely handed the sledgehammer of the state's power of eminent domain to the private corporation, letting it take people's land for its own profit. Why? Follow the money. Since 2013, CEO Warren has become Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's No. 4 donor by personally bestowing $700,000 on the governor's campaigns. Last November, Warren's coziness with Abbott came full circle when the governor awarded the pipeliner a seat on the prestigious Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, ironically making Warren an environmental "steward" of state parks in the area he is presently despoiling.

And he plans on destroying more majestic American land, too, for Warren's contested DAPL would run just outside of the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, along the northern edge of the Standing Rock Reservation. Warren was so obtuse that he didn't realize (or care) that the tribe's deep connection to the area adjacent to Standing Rock doesn't stop at the reservations arbitrary boundaries -- the DAPL project would gouge right through ancestral lands and burial grounds. Corporate routers likely assumed that the reservation's 8,500 mostly impoverished Lakota Sioux had no clout, so there was no need to get their permission, especially since the pipeline wouldn't actually be on tribal land. Bad assumption. Imagine a corporation running a pipeline through Arlington National Cemetery.

Not since Custer has an Anglo been as surprised as Kelcy Warren by a powerful force of Indians thwarting his ambition. You can learn more and donate to the tribes fight at standingrock.org

  Read Enough Native Stereotyping: Dakota Pipeline Showdown at Standing Rock Is Where Native American Are Drawing the Line.
  October 31, 2016
After Years of Negotiations, the World's Largest Marine Protected Area Has Been Created

by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, AlterNet


The creatures of the Southern Ocean just got a lot more space to roam freely. On Thursday, 24 countries and the European Union agreed to set aside a 600,000-square-mile swath of ocean—roughly twice the size of Texas—off the coast of Antarctica as a marine protected area.

It’s taken years of negotiations to get to this point, but the end result is the largest marine protected area ever created. More than two-thirds of the ocean set aside was designated a marine reserve, closing it to fishing and making it a particularly safe space for marine life to weather the pressures of climate change and overfishing. It’s a technique that’s had success in other parts of the world and in addition, scientists will also be able to use the Ross Sea as a baseline in the coming years to assess the impacts of climate change on the marine food web.

“The fact that 25 governments came together gives us hope that more of the ocean can be protected and used wisely,” Jane Lubchenco, an ocean researcher at Oregon State and a founding Climate Central board member, said, praising the marine reserve aspect in particular. “Marine reserves are climate reserves.”

The new protected area will ensure biological processes can go on without the added pressure of fishing and other local impacts. It’s obviously harder to keep climate change out since it doesn’t respect boundaries. But by reducing other stresses, scientists hope that marine life will be able to better cope with the challenge of climate change. If nothing else, it also provides an important place to gauge how much climate change alone is impacting marine life.

Much has been made of the penguins and whales that live in the Ross Sea. According to the United Nations, the Ross Sea represents only 2 percent of the Southern Ocean, but it’s home to 40 percent of Adelie penguins and 25 percent of emperor penguins as well as half of all Ross Sea orcas, a specific type of killer whale. The marine protected area is good news for them to be sure, but the biggest benefit will be to the base of the foodchain.“The Ross Sea is this physical location that creates this kind of special place for biology to happen,” Gretchen Hofmann, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said. “When you’re working there in austral summer, it’s a productivity party. It’s like boom, everything happens at once and there’s so much life.”

There are two factors that make the Ross Sea such a spectacular source of life. It’s home to a shallow coastal shelf area but also a deep bay that allows cold water to well up from the depths of the ocean. Add in 24-hour daylight in the summer and you get spectacular phytoplankton blooms, which form the base of the foodchain. Phytoplankton also suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, providing a substantial climate benefit as well.

From phytoplankton, tiny krill—essentially microscopic shrimp—are the next step up the foodchain followed by smaller fish and eventually those charismatic penguins and whales.

“We say we’re protecting the Ross Sea for the penguins, but really we’re protecting their food cupboard,” Hofmann said.

What happens to the cupboard is of intense interest to scientists. They already have a few ideas about what’s going on in other parts of the Southern Ocean. In the Weddell Sea, located on the other side of Antarctica, krill populations have declined by up to 80 percent over the past 40 years.

Recent research has shown that climate change could alter sea ice patterns and put future stress on krill productivity. Having long-term ocean monitoring in that region has given scientists a leg up on understanding what will come next there, and because the oceans are connected, elsewhere.

“In addition to its tremendous conservation value, the Ross Sea MPA is designed to be a natural laboratory for valuable scientific research to increase our understanding of the impact of climate change and fishing on the ocean and its resources,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement following the announcement.

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.

  Read After Years of Negotiations, the World's Largest Marine Protected Area Has Been Created
  November 6, 2016
Reconciling Mutual Aid With Revolutionary Violence: The Case of Peter Kropotkin.

by Milan Djurasovic, in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org


An American evolutionary biologist and historian of science, Stephen J. Gould, wrote the following in his essay titled “Kropotkin Was No Crackpot”:

“More generally, I like to apply a somewhat cynical rule of thumb in judging arguments about nature that also have overt social implications: When such claims imbue nature with just those properties that make us feel good or fuel our prejudices, be doubly suspicious. I am especially wary of arguments that find kindness, mutuality, synergism, harmony – the very elements that we strive mightily, and so often unsuccessfully, to put into our own lives – intrinsically in nature. “[1]

Without coercion coming from authority, whether it is the head of the church or the head of the state, a society would not regress and turn into chaos in which each individual would murder, plunder and hoard the wealth knowing that no punishment from the law enforcers awaited them. Kropotkin argued that these immoral acts were already taking place and were directly linked to the policies of the oppressive governments and the hypocritical teachings of the church and the institutions of law. Thousands of years of living in societies, of sharing and struggling together against the forces of nature, had fostered in human beings deeply rooted sentiments of sympathy and an unbending desire for equity. It is not coercion or the fear of eternal punishment that urges us to help those who are in need of assistance. We aid one another instinctively, because it has been beneficial for us to do so, morally and physically. The gratification we feel upon aiding a fellow human being is a sentiment more powerful than any other, and it is so deeply rooted that it can never be entirely eradicated from our genetic makeup because “the moral sentiment is anterior in animal evolution to the upright posture of man.”[2]

In his essay, Stephen J. Gould is sympathetic towards the theory of Mutual Aid, and he emphasizes the importance of it belonging to an entire school of Russian evolutionary thought rather than being an isolated hypothesis stemming from wishful thinking of a secluded anarchist, yet the quotation cited above is nevertheless an illustrative example of how Kropotkin’s views on the nature of living organisms, and more importantly his views on the properties of human character, have often been skewed to portray the anarchist prince as a jolly dreamer with an inclination to see only the good in his surroundings. Another frequent criticism of Kropotkin’s philosophy is that he was guilty of the same mistakes he accused the British social Darwinists of committing: that he only chose to focus on the evidence which supported his own assertions, mainly that the majority of species, including our own, were inherently good-natured.

While it is true that Kropotkin did not devote the same effort and an equal number of pages to the two extremes of human nature, the aggressive and benevolent impulses, in many of his writings he acknowledges the former and regularly refers to it as he makes the case for the latter. As Gould states, Peter Kropotkin was no crackpot; in many of his works, he stresses that competition and mutual aid are both factors of evolution, but that the latter was more prominent in the flourishing species while the former leads to dwindling of the higher intellectual and physical capacities, and even extinction. The underlying idea that runs throughout the entire body of Kropotkin’s work, both his revolutionary writings and his scientific contributions, is the attempt to demonstrate that there is another, more peaceful way of conducting our affairs.

Kropotkin argued that the existing institutions favored only an artificially select few who were able to prosper through nepotism, through the inheritance of the amassed wealth of their parents, or by engaging in some other corrupt activities. Those who were unlucky to be born to poor parents were neglected and regarded as unworthy by the institutions in any system that is ruled by some kind of authority. Kropotkin was well aware of the aggressive impulses of human nature, but he thought that coercion and punishment were not an acceptable way to contain them, and that the current system of authoritarianism was “hindering, even preventing the development of the seeds which are being propagated with its damaged walls.”[3]

In his book Darwin without Malthus, Daniel P. Todes explains how vastly different was the experience of Russian scientists and explorers compared to their British counterparts, and that this divergence was primarily due to the areas of the globe they explored and lived on. As opposed to crammed living conditions and competition for scarce resources in the industrial centers of England and the tropical rainforests studied by the British naturalists, Russian scientists of the nineteenth century lived in a vastly different milieu. The observations they made exploring the enormous and scarcely populated continental plain of Russia led them to very different conclusions than those made by the British naturalists. Therefore, when the British naturalists began to make assertions that their discoveries applied to the entire world, Russian scientists promptly objected. “They reacted negatively to what they perceived as a transparent introduction of Malthusianism—or, for some, simply the British enthusiasm for competition—into evolutionary theory.”[4] They believed that even Darwin (but especially the social Darwinists who came later) exaggerated two parts of his theory of natural selection that contained a direct link to the hypotheses of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. One of them was overpopulation and the other was the conflict that arises because of it.

Kropotkin’s scientific research lead him to conclude that cooperation, justice/equity, and self-sacrifice were the traits that were responsible for a healthy existence, while aggression and competition were the traits of those species that were on the brink of extinction. This conclusion was the framework through which he analyzed human societies. During his stay with the Jura Federation of watchmakers, Kropotkin’s belief that egalitarianism was synonymous with a peaceful society was confirmed. Mutual decision making, cooperation, and the equitable distribution of the obtained resources were the primary reasons behind the contentment and moral development of the Jura Federation laborers.

Individual effort is never entirely individual; even an estimation of how much each member of a society contributes to the wellbeing of all is unfeasible. Since no individual lives on an isolated island, none can claim that their work is entirely their own, and that they deserve preferential treatment because of it. The alternative which anarchist communism offers is a society in which everyone works and contributes to the fullest extent of their ability and consumes what is necessary to satisfy his/her need so that the rest of one’s time can be devoted to pursuing cultural and intellectual interests. In his books Fields, Factories and Workshops and The Conquest of Bread, books which were not analyzed in this thesis but whose importance cannot be overstated, Kropotkin, in great detail, discusses how to go about organizing and producing enough goods so that everyone’s needs would be adequately satisfied. It is also important to mention that Kropotkin believed that in a just society, a division between intellectual and physical labor should not exist because each individual ought to engage in both. The over-specialization of labor was a major problem that stood in the way of obtaining justice/equity. This is why Kropotkin believed that the metaphysical explanations of human nature offered by philosophers, who spent many years of their lives hiding in libraries, failed to represent the reality as it is. Additionally, Kropotkin thought that physical activity and labor would only augment the intellectual activities by enriching the individual’s life with a variety of experiences.

Another line of criticism that is sometimes directed at Peter Kropotkin’s activism and philosophy is that he, too, was hypocritical and judged others by the standards he himself refused to follow; that while he egged on the poor and ignorant masses to revolt against their oppressors, he enjoyed the safety and comfort his prominence provided him. But even a brief examination of Peter Kropotkin’s biography reveals that such a case cannot be made with a serious conviction. At the very young age Kropotkin was already disenchanted with punishment his father regularly imposed on his serfs, and at the age of twelve he decided to give up his title of prince. Instead of embarking on a promising military career in St. Petersburg, Kropotkin chose an insignificant post in a remote part of Siberia. Upon his return to the capital, he did not accept the secretaryship of the entire Russian Geographical Society, and instead he joined a revolutionary circle and was jailed for two years in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where his health greatly deteriorated. After his escape, forty two years of involuntary exile followed. After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, Kropotkin was forced to leave Switzerland at the insistence of the Russian government, and he received numerous death threats from the Russian Holy League, which was organized to protect the Tsarist regime. Later on, in France, Kropotkin was again arrested under the suspicion that he played a role in the terrorist attacks in Lyons, although no connection between Kropotkin and the perpetrators was ever established. He spent three years in Clairvaux prison. After his imprisonment, he was expelled yet again, and this time he settled in the vicinity of London. There, after writing four books and reaffirming his place as a serious scholar, Kropotkin was offered the chair of geography at Cambridge University, but he did not take the position because the university expected him to abandon his revolutionary activities. At the time of the Russo-Japanese war Kropotkin rejected financial assistance that the Japanese government proposed to the Russian revolutionaries because he thought that external influence in Russian affairs was detrimental as well as because the aid came from the government/authority. When Kropotkin returned to Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, despite living in poverty in a small town near Moscow by the name of Dimitrov, he refused a hefty financial offer given to him by the Soviet Government in exchange for his approval that his book, The Great French Revolution, be used in Russian schools for the simple reason that the offer came from those in positions of authority.[5] As we can clearly see, Peter Kropotkin was neither a crackpot nor a hypocrite.

Peter Kropotkin was a perceptive psychologist and responsive to even the minutest acts of violence. He believed that even if the authorities refrained from using repressive means against any semblance of opposition, and even if the serfs had been freed much earlier, the Russian society would still have been unequal, and for Kropotkin, deeply unjust and harmful. Once the malady had been detected and the cure found, Kropotkin set out to promptly apply it so that the equilibrium would be reestablished. At times violence was a part of the cure because Kropotkin thought that the privileged minority would never willingly, and equally, share their possessions.

Kropotkin believed that the Tsarist regime and its adherents were ruled by the instincts of greed and egocentricity, and that any negotiations with them would be futile even if they were permitted. The only way to improve the state of things was through a revolution, a complete demolition of the old system and the creation of a new one, whose foundations would be built around the principles of mutual aid, justice/equity, and self sacrifice. Unfortunately, one cannot find in Kropotkin’s writings any elaboration on what happens to the psychology of the revolutionaries who engage in violence and even murder. Revolutions are chaotic and can be protracted for years, even decades. In a constant struggle awash with blood and suffering, one cannot help but wonder how such an environment impacts one’s emotional wellbeing. Kropotkin more than adequately described the adverse effects of greed and power and how they influence one’s psychology; he did not, however, sufficiently address the very likely consequence of the revolutionaries becoming what they are fighting against (cruel and dogmatic), a process that would arise after years of employing the same tools (violence) in a struggle against what they thought was unjust. Wouldn’t they, after all, resort to those same aggressive instincts which Kropotkin warned about in his scientific works? Kropotkin regrettably does not adequately address whether or not the revolutionaries would be capable of re-assimilating after a bloody revolution in order to undertake the tasks he thought were necessary for the creation of a different society.

Perhaps this issue was too daunting to take on candidly, and since Kropotkin was convinced that peaceful demonstrations could only yield limited concessions, and that a revolution is inevitable, it is likely that he purposefully avoided the mentioned problem out of fear that it might prevent a segment of the Russian population form supporting and joining the revolutionaries. Another explanation, one I believe is closer to the true sentiments of Peter Kropotkin, is that he simply thought that if aims of the revolution were properly and sincerely understood, if the urge for action was stimulated by the sympathy one feels for fellow men and a desire to live in an equal society, that participation in violent acts would not alter, in any significant way, the moral psychological makeup of a revolutionary. Instead, he/she would understand that what they are doing is necessary, and that just like the various species of animals in which a group collectively punishes the gluttonous hoarder, they were ridding the society of parasites. Whether or not Kropotkin was mistaken in his conviction that some blood needed to flow in the process of a societal transformation is a debate for another essay, but one cannot help but wonder why a man who was admired by so many for his peaceful nature and gaiety did not choose a path followed by Lev N. Tolstoy or Alexandr I. Herzen, who were inclined to think about and protect each individual life.

Herzen thought that life and living in general was far too complex and insoluble, and found it objectionable for any human being to devote all of his/her attention to any single cause. He believed that the biggest tragedy arises when one sacrifices his/her life for the bold statements of those who claim to have discovered some unalterable truth.[6]

“I can no longer bear this perpetual rhetoric of patriotic and philanthropic phrases that have no influence on life at all. Can you find many people ready to sacrifice their lives for whatever it may be? Not many, of course, but, still, more than those with the courage to say that ‘Mourir pour la Patrie’ is not really the apex of human happiness, and that it would be much better if both country and the individual could remain intact.”[7]

While Peter Kropotkin would agree with the essence of this statement, he would add to it that realty, as he finds it, is such that a just a society cannot be achieved without bloodshed, not because those who desire it would not want it to be created without loss of life, but because history shows that those who rule do not value life at all. Herzen also wrote that words like ‘liberty’ or ‘equality’, unless they were explained in detailed and unambiguous terms that could be applied to real situations, were bound to, at best, only instigate the nebulous and poetical imagination and encourage men to behave morally and generously. Liberty and equality were the words Kropotkin used the most in his writings. What Kropotkin offered as a scientist, as a revolutionary, and, most of all, as a human being with an insatiable thirst for a different, more peaceful and equitable way of conducting affairs, would surely not have entirely disappointed Herzen. With his detailed account of what ought to be done, from his comprehensive theory on human nature to meticulous descriptions of the steps to be taken by the revolutionaries in their struggle, to exhaustive calculations and statistics of production of all necessities required for a respectable life for all members of the society, Kropotkin’s work appears to satisfy Herzen’s requirements.

Another and perhaps most valid criticism of Kropotkin’s revolutionary ideas comes from those who have stated that in modern history one cannot find an example of a lasting society built on anarchist principles. These critics say that the faith of the Paris Commune and what took place in 1939 to the Spanish anarchist-syndicalists who were defeated by Francisco Franco’s troops, demonstrates the impracticability of anarchist communist principles. In the first case, it was the regular French army that crushed the workers; in the latter case it was done by the much more powerful fascist forces and their allies. Anarchists stood no chance against these more numerous and better armed foes. Kropotkin was aware of the steep and difficult climb anarchist communists would have to undertake before their message reached enough ears for a critical mass to form and implement at least some aspects of the social and political organization discussed in their pamphlets and speeches. A claim could be made that anarchist philosophy, because of its disdain for authority (and therefore lack of it in their own ranks) and unwillingness to employ simple, comforting but deceitful promises to win the support of the masses, a devious strategy that politicians and leaders of all political parties have engaged in since the advent of the profession, contains an inherent disadvantage.

Kropotkin thought that the demise of the Paris Commune began as soon as the Parisian workers elected representatives, thinking that they had finally found some generous and honest leaders who will work for the good of all.[8] Kropotkin writes that this very act, regardless of how sincere the leaders happen to be, is harmful for the society because the personal initiative (the most important factor of insuring the equity/justice of a society) is discarded and that laziness and apathy inevitably ensue whenever someone is elected to do the work people themselves ought to carry out. The initiative and involvement of the workers in the decision making of all aspects of societal affairs would not only ensure that no self-centered leader arises and hijacks the effort of all for his personal benefit, but, at the same time, it also aids the laborers in the process of developing new intellectual capacities; it fosters cooperation, and it makes an individual’s life rich with variety of experiences.

As has been stated already, Kropotkin knew that the realization of a society built on anarchist communist principles was a daunting task, but he believed that human species had the potential to move towards those goals. In fact, he believed that their biological inclinations urged them to move in the direction of anarchism and communism, but that those, whose minds had been spoiled by living in a society with hierarchical institutions and severe authority since their births, were, sometimes deliberately and sometimes unknowingly, preventing the majority from developing an alternative system. Kropotkin believed that these obstructions had to be eliminated; and, as we have seen, violence, in some cases and in a limited capacity, was permissible. If those obstructions remained sturdy, if a minority who held all the power and wealth continued to make decisions for the entire society, humanity would engage in more acts of needless competition, unnecessary destruction, and could even bring about extinction of our species. When one thinks of imperialist endeavors which continues to this day, the weapons of mass destruction that could obliterate humanity many times over, and the irreversible hazardous consequences that man made climate change presents to the existence of our species, all being the consequences of ruthless but unnecessary competition instigated by a minority of powerful and wealthy masters of the humanity, Kropotkin’s teachings promptly become relevant and indispensible.

  Read Reconciling Mutual Aid With Revolutionary Violence: The Case of Peter Kropotkin
  November 2, 2016
Comprehensive Economic And Trade Agreement – CETA – Canada And The EU

by Jim Miles , Globalisation, Countercurrents.org


Most interesting watching the progress of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU through the various opaque backroom ministrations this past week.

NAFTA first

As the progeny of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994) it serves to refer to a bit of history. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney very recently on CBC said that NAFTA was a wonderful agreement. He said that its purpose generally was to help all economies but more specifically “to help Mexican workers” who at that time had been devastated by the devaluation of the peso (also 1994) due to capital flight from Mexico (one of the many outcomes of fiat currency markets).

Unfortunately the record does not support this. Mulroney used the example that this year (2016) more Mexicans were returning home than entering the U.S., implying it was due to the NAFTA success. More realistically it has been due to the increasing police violence in the U.S. accompanied by the election cycle fought between a manipulative chicken-hawk liar and a misogynist xenophobic narcissist.

The truth behind NAFTA is different. Yes thousands of jobs were created in the Mexican maquiladora along the U.S. border. These jobs were filled by workers who in general were displaced from their lands through a combination of two economic hits. First was the IMF and its “structural adjustment programs” (known and admitted failures, at least in an economic sense, not in a political control sense) applied after the 1994 debt collapse. This was quickly followed or accompanied by NAFTA which allowed ample cheap subsidized U.S. agricultural products to flow into Mexico, cutting the main basis of support for the agricultural sector.

Not only was NAFTA not good for Mexico, it also seriously affected well paying jobs in Canada and the U.S. as corporations moved their production to where the wages and benefits were lowest or, as for benefits, non-existent. Much of the increased trade was not due to increased economic activity but the recording of cross-border transactions that used to take place internally. Nowadays, views of the U.S. “rust belt” and the declining number of living wage jobs in both Canada and the U.S. testify to the negative impact of NAFTA – except for the corporations and their managers who have gained enormously.

Another aspect of NAFTA that is of note is the political manipulations that occurred in Canada. NAFTA was essentially a Conservative creation Under PM Mulroney, as above. The Conservative party was devastated in 1993 in part due to NAFTA (but also due to other domestic failures) – the interesting part being that his replacement, Jean Chretien, Liberal leader, campaigned against it, but once in power accepted it as it was (with additional “side deals” and promises).

One of its significant factors, other than selling out Canadian workers and resources, was the trade dispute settlement section the appropriately labelled “Chapter 11” section. This allows for opaque, non-democratic, supranational (above national sovereignty), closed door arbitration panels staffed by selection rather than qualification (other than perhaps their pro-business financial status). Along with this is that a foreign corporation can sue the Canadian government for perceived loss of profits due to some Canadian regulation or policy, regulations that would generally serve to protect the environment, the health, benefits of Canadian workers, and the independent agricultural sector.

This has resulted in many lawsuits against Canadian sovereignty that has cost the taxpayer billions of dollars in lawyers fees and settlements to companies that may or may not have intended to set up business here in the first place. It has also caused the government to change some of its regulations in favour of corporations.


The same indicators on dispute settlement occur with CETA. Many informed citizens object to corporations having supranational rights over sovereignty both in Canada and the EU concerns that reflect the same “investor dispute settlement” mechanisms. Note also that it is “investor” dispute and not citizen dispute, meaning that the average citizen cannot sue either the government or the corporations for damages to health, benefits, wages et al. There is a lawsuit currently underway to challenge the constitutional legality of the agreement as it also overrides provincial, territorial, and First Nations jurisdiction. These are not national functions but can be effectively manipulated through various degrees of transfer payments and the good old fashioned crony benefit payment system.

The Walloons opposed the “investor dispute mechanism”, in part because it would facilitate the loss of an independent agricultural sector (via Canadian corporations, in effect U.S. branch corporations, suing for agricultural benefits – much of Canada’s agricultural sector is already owned/controlled by a small number of supranational agrobusinesses).

While listening to Scott Peterson on CBC discuss CETA and the Walloons, he said it was “amazing how money and politics are intertwined.” Well, really, if that is the ignorant level of commentary that CBC can provide, considering it abides by establishment guidelines [1], no wonder we get little truth from the media and the government – being intertwined themselves – concerning what is truly being negotiated with CETA.

But Peterson also reiterated the tired old mantra, CETA will create jobs and promote growth. Kevin O’Leary also added his support indicating the agreement is “progressive”, another meaningless platitude when given without context (e.g. progressive for whom?).

Jobs, growth, the middle class, values, and progressivity

PM Trudeau spoke this morning (Sunday, October 30, 2016) after signing CETA. It was almost a deja vu moment, after having listened to Mulroney brag about jobs and progress with NAFA. Even further, it has another similarity because it was the loathed Conservative government that began the secret negotiations, only to be defeated, in part because of that, only to have the Trudeau Liberals accept the agreement essentially as is – with a few “side deals” with Belgium and Wallonia – without allowing it to be voted on in a referendum. Do they not trust their ability to manipulate a referendum, relying instead on their false majority (with 39.5 % of the vote) in the House to give it legitimacy?

In sum, very similar to the Mulroney/Chretien duo, and also very similar to our NAFTA partners, wherein the Democrats and Republicans are essentially two sides of the same coin – pretty much literally as it is the corporate-industrial-military coin that determines policy, not the House nor the ever absent referenda.

But on….the rhetoric from Trudeau this morning was quite repetitive, with the same old platitudes brought forth. He indicated “we need economic growth..to contribute to society,” we have progressive “values and concerns very similar” to the EU, the dispute mechanism is a “progressive mechanism,” and Canada has provided “leadership…on values” with “like-minded countries.” Even though it needs to be ratified after signing, it has a “provisional implementation” clause ( but that clause has not been ratified?) and we will “feel benefits immediately,” and it is “good for middle class.”

Sounds great, but if NAFTA is our guide, not much benefit will be seen by the middle class, not much “progress” will be made (exactly how is that defined, Justin?), not many jobs will be created to lift the poor up into the middle class (maybe by Mexican standards).[2] And what really are our values? Corporate control over government? Intertwined networks of bankers, industrialists, militarists, politicians, and media telling us what is best for us? Can we go forever in our finite world with “economic growth” that is based on consumer extractive industries backed by corporate military power?

Trudeau has earned an honorary PhD – “piled higher and deeper”, conveyed by Mr. Harper, as he watches his nemesis follow exactly the same policies he had pushed for. The main benefactors of all trade agreements, none of which are “free”, are large corporations and the financeers and politicians that work within and alongside them.

In sum

CETA is an agreement that reflects all that was negative about NAFTA. It provides the promise that further agreements (TTIP, TTP) will provide the same investor dispute mechanism that supersedes national sovereignty. It further disenfranchises the average citizen while enriching and empowering the corporate elite, again promising more for the future. It displays all the hollow rhetoric that is manipulated through the media, generally meaningless undefined platitudes without context or reference to the realities of existing agreements.

The Trudeau government is simply reinforcing the Harper government that preceded it, using essentially the same verbiage but somehow with a kinder, gentler persona. And both reflect the will of the corporate political elites who chase the overall dream of global control of wealth and resources regardless of the detriment to the people or the environment.

[1] prime recent example: CBC’s Natasha Fatah commenting on the Syrian war, asking a question about the “collateral effects” of the U.S. led attack on Mosul. So it’s no longer ‘collateral damage’ and assuredly a far cry from “war crimes” charges that are made against Russia and Syria for very similar actions against al-Nusra/al-Qaeda/ISIS in Aleppo.

[2] Another CBC asisde: Canada’s Finance Minister Morneau recognized that currently there is a large job “churn”, that workers will need to get used to short term, insecure, “precarious” jobs; if this is the way the Finance Minister thinks – along with his cronies – it provides a more realistic picture of what a CETA future will hold for Canada, and other countries aligned inside trade deals.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

  Read Comprehensive Economic And Trade Agreement – CETA – Canada And The EU.
  October 18, 2016
Your Hard-Earned Money Is Going Towards Subsidies For The Biggest Pollutors- Big Oil companies

by Chaitra Yadavar, Climate Change, Countercurrents.org


Even today, the fossil fuel industry remains one of the biggest contributors to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, raising the temperature of the earth by 1.5 degrees which is lethal for life to survive. For these ‘Big Oil’ companies are bringing about an economic cost for the world in terms of impact of climate change. But these companies are not required to pay that cost. The poorest nations, the low lying countries are the ones who are bearing the brunt and paying the costs.

In 2011, fossil fuel use created 33.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.1

The 3 types of fossil fuels that are used the most are coal, natural gas and oil. Coal is responsible for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion, 36% is produced by oil and 20% from natural gas.

Source: Le Quéré, C. et al. (2013). The global carbon budget 1959–2011, www.whatsyourimpact.org

In many cases, the impacts will come to the fore after many years of the emissions. Several countries like the European Union have given heavy subsidies to the Big Oil companies but have cut the subsidies for the renewable sector.

In the COP 22 to be held at Morocco this year, several International organizations, countries will come together to discuss issues of importance in relation to Climate change and making a legislation where the Big Oil is asked to pay for damages they cause is imperative.

Big Oil getting subsidies?

The International Monetary Fund, (IMF) recently issued a report saying that total worldwide subsidies to energy, mainly fossil fuel energy, amounted to $5.2 trillion a year. This includes the unpaid cost of carbon pollution and the social costs imposed by businesses (including climate damages) that they don’t have to pay for.

It is one of the most chilling facts from the above report that the industry which is one of the biggest culprits responsible for GHG emissions is the one getting the most amounts of subsidies.

Climate change is getting worse and the chance to avoid harsh impacts is reducing. Therefore governments are getting serious about putting some sort of price on carbon emissions, whether explicit (a tax) or implicit (regulations). Soon, 1/3rd of the world’s carbon emissions will be priced in some way. Businesses that now emit carbon pollution for free (or cheap) will soon see their costs rise.

With proper accounting, the fossil fuel business doesn’t look like such a profitable industry at all.

Burden on Tax-payers:

It’s also a good reminder that we are, in carbon terms, making hay when the sun is shining, using up resources that only appear cheap because we’re shifting the costs to poor and future people, who don’t have the political power to stop us. It is grossly irresponsible.

One of the most serious aspects of the climate crisis is the fact that fossil fuel companies are passing on huge financial risks to taxpayers and politicians are simply turning their backs on the problem instead of holding those companies accountable.

At each stage of the fossil fuel product life cycle, taxpayers in various countries are increasingly burdened with a string of costs such as those associated with fracking-induced earthquake swarms, pipeline explosions, abandoned infrastructure, diseases, water pollution and of course the costs of climate change.

Alongwith the social costs of climate change which the people are paying for, they also have to face some serious hazards of pollution caused by fossil fuel industry like asthma, bronchitis, cancer, nasal congestion, pulmonary inflammation, acidic rain, earthquakes, pipeline explosions.

Fossil Fuel Bond programs:

A concept called Fossil fuel risk bond programs — a policy innovation proposed by Center for Sustainable Economy, USA — can help reverse this glaring inequity by shifting the economic risk back where it belongs: on the polluters.

As stated in its latest report, fossil fuel risk bond programs are essentially systematic efforts by state and local governments to evaluate and respond to the financial risks they face at each stage of the fossil fuel lifecycle in their jurisdictions.

The benefits would be tremendous for districts, states and cities and countries struggling with rising climate-related costs with no clear way to pay for them. For example, consider a district in which coal extraction takes place that is also suffering the severe effects of climate change in the form of regular floods.

Climate risk trust funds maintained by that district could be used to: (1) compensate homeowners for fracking-related earthquake damage which occurs in countries like United states and Canada; (2) pay for the costs of filtering water contaminated by the reservoir leaks; (3) pay for the increased public service cost burden associated with oil towns; and (4) relocate infrastructure from floodplains.

In particular, fossil fuel risk bond programs provide a way to speed up the funding necessary to put scores of people to work — including displaced oil, gas, and coal workers — while reducing fossil fuel consumption, decommissioning obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure, restoring mines, and implementing climate adaptation projects to help make communities safe in the face of climate disasters.

Glaring examples:

To take a very practical example, Fort McMurray, a place in Alberta, Canada has experienced one of the scariest signals of climate change in 2015 — an huge wildfire of epic proportions that burned large portions of the city to the ground. Over 1,600 structures were lost. The economic toll is more than $1 billion. The irony, of course, is that the city lies at the epicenter of the tar sands industry, producing oil that packs an enormous climate change cost.

If fossil fuel risk bond programs would have been in place, the city, province, and federal governments would have adequate funding to respond to this disaster, help residents rebuild, and invest in a future beyond fossil fuels. Instead, they are left with a blackened landscape and a mountain of debt that has yet to be tallied.

Talking about India:

To take a very local example, every year in India, the Brahmaputra river causes heavy destruction in Assam. From 2012 to 2016 itself, 8900 villages have been destroyed, more than 1 crore people were affected and 1,34,000 houses were destroyed, 15.36 lakh hectares of land was destroyed due to the swelling up and floods caused by the river Brahmaputra as reported by anarticle in the Indian Express. “Whenever we take one step forward towards development, floods and erosion push us two steps backwards. While we spend around Rs 12,000 crore on development every year, floods and erosion cause a loss of about Rs 10,000 annually,” says Assam Chief Secretary V K Pipersenia.

Part of this loss could have been reduced if there would have been strictures on the fossil fuel and Coal companies in India to pay for the damage they are causing and those funds would have been put towards providing rehabilitation to the 8900 villages in Assam!

Adaptation is therefore necessary to minimise climate change vulnerability and threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, properties, amenities, species and ecosystems.

Sadly, most developing countries cannot afford the cost of putting in place adaptation measures.

Climate Change adaptation:

To mitigate climate change, the world agreed in Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming below 1.5oC to avoid tragic impacts in the COP21 which was held there.

The annual adaptation costs are projected to rise to US$50 billion per year in Africa and US $250–500 billion across all developing countries by 2050 even if global warming is limited to 2oC this century.

Nonetheless, even in the best mitigation and adaptation scenario, climate instigated loss (irreversible impacts of climate change such as deaths, extinction of species, loss of heritage) and damage (recoverable impacts of significant economic cost such as damage to property and infrastructure) are likely to remain for years.

The cost of loss and damage is high and rising.

The global cost of residual damage is estimated at US$275 trillion between 2000 and 2200 for all countries. This does not include non-economic losses though. The cost is extremely high if very little or absolutely no action is taken (~US$1,240 trillion).

What can we do?

Make the Big Oil pay for the large scale damages that they are causing to the environment. The industry should either be fined or a legally binding framework should be established to make the companies finance Loss and Damage from an impact and legal point-of-view.

As a way of phasing out fossil fuels, after stopping the industry from the climate negotiations, we need to take the second and an important: to make the perpetrators pay for adaptation, loss and damages. The fossil fuel companies have not only contributed to climate change but also amassed huge profits in the process whereas the common folks and the poorest countries are paying the price!

Chaitra Yadavar runs  an NGO ‘Rupantar’working on women empowerment and has previously been selected as one of the 30 fellows to attend the ‘Emerging leaders in Multifaith Climate change movement’ in Rome, 2015

  Read Your Hard-Earned Money Is Going Towards Subsidies For The Biggest Pollutors- Big Oil companies
  October 17, 2016
Fear Of A Living Planet.

by Charles Eisenstein, Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org


Does the concept of a living planet uplift and inspire you, or is it a disturbing example of woo-woo nonsense that distracts us from practical, science-based policies?

The scientifically-oriented nuts-and-bolts environmental or social activist will roll her eyes upon hearing phrases like “The planet is a living being.” From there it is a short step to sentiments like, “Love will heal the world,” “What we need most is a shift in consciousness,” and “Let’s get in touch with our indigenous soul.”

What’s wrong with such ideas? The skeptics make a potent argument. Not only are these ideas delusional, they say, but to voice them is a strategic error that opens environmentalism to accusations of flakiness. By invoking unscientific concepts, by prattling on about the ‘heart’ or spirit or the sacred, we will be dismissed as naive, fuzzy-headed, irrational, hysterical, over-emotional hippies. What we need, they say, is more data, more logic, more numbers, better arguments, and more practical solutions framed in language acceptable to policy-makers and the public.

I think that argument is mistaken. By shying away from the idea of a living planet, we rob environmentalism of its authentic motive force, engender paralysis rather than action, and implicitly endorse the worldview that enables our destruction of the planet.

The psychology of contempt.

To see that, let’s start by observing that the objection to “Earth is alive” isn’t primarily a scientific objection. After all, science can easily affirm or deny Earth’s aliveness depending on what definition of life is being used. No, we are dealing with an emotional perception here, one that goes beyond ‘alive’ to affirm that Earth is sentient, conscious, even sacred. That is what upsets the critics. Furthermore, the derisiveness of the criticism, encoded in words like ‘hippie’ or ‘flake,’ also shows that more than an intellectual difference of opinion is at stake. Usually, derision comes from insecurity or fear. “Judgment,” says Marshall Rosenberg, “is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”

What are they afraid of? (And I—the voice of the derisive critic lives in me as well.) Could it be that the contempt comes in part from a fear that one is, oneself, ‘naive, irrational and over-emotional?’ Could the target of the derision be the projection of an insecurity lurking within? Is there a part of ourselves that we disown and project, in distorted form, onto others—an innocent, trusting, childlike part? A feminine part? A vulnerable part?

If so, then critics of the infiltration of New Age ideas into the environmental movement may not be serving the movement at all. They may be enacting their own psychological dramas instead. If you are one of those critics, I am not asking you to join hands with me and sing Kumbaya. I ask only that you soberly and honestly consider where your discomfort comes from.

Certainly, much of the discomfort is a healthy revulsion toward the escapism, spiritual bypass, and cultural appropriation that plague so much of the New Age. Certainly, there is a danger that, intoxicated by the idea of cosmic purpose or some-such, we ignore the pain and grief that we must integrate if we are to act effectively and courageously. Certainly, dogma like “It’s all good” or “We’re all one” can blind us to the exigency of the planetary crisis and discourage us from making changes in our lives. Certainly, borrowed rituals and concepts of sacredness can be an insidious form of colonialism, a strip-mining of cultural treasure to compensate for and enable the continuation of our own cultural vacuity.

However, such criticisms address a mere caricature of the thoughtful work of generations of philosophers, scientists and spiritual teachers, who have framed sophisticated alternatives to conventional phenomenological, ontological and causal narratives. Phew, that was a mouthful. What I’m saying is not to hide behind facile criticisms.

The fear of being emotional, irrational, hysterical, etc. is very close to a fear of the inner feminine, and the exclusion of the fuzzy, the ill-defined, and the emotionally-perceived dimensions of our activism in favor of the linear, rational, and evidence-based, mirrors the domination over and marginalization of the feminine from our social choice-making. Part of our resistance to the notion of Earth as a living being could be the patriarchal mind feeling threatened by feminine ways of knowing and choosing. But that’s still pretty theoretical, so let me share a little of my own introspection.

When I apprehend concepts such as “Earth is alive,” or “All things are sacred,” or “The universe and everything in it bears sentience, purpose and life,” there is always an emotion involved; in no case is my rejection or acceptance the result of pure ratiocination. Either I embrace them with a feeling of eager, tender hope, or I reject them with a feeling of wariness, along the lines of “It is too good to be true,” or “I’m nobody’s fool.” Sometimes, beyond wariness, I feel a hot flash of anger, as if I had been violated or betrayed. Why?

That wariness is deeply connected to the contempt I’ve described. The derision of the cynic comes from a wound of crushed idealism and betrayed hopes. We received it on a cultural level when the Age of Aquarius morphed into the Age of Ronald Reagan, and on an individual level as well when our childish perception of a living, personal universe in which we are destined to grow into magnificent creators gave way to an adulthood of deferred dreams and lowered expectations. Anything that exposes this wound will trigger our protective instincts. One such protection is cynicism, which rejects and derides as foolish, naive or irrational anything that affirms the magic and idealism of youth.

Our perceived worldview has cut us off, often quite brutally, from intimate connection with the rest of life and with the rest of matter. The child hugs a tree and thinks it feels the hug and imagines the tree is his friend, only to learn that no, I’m sorry, the tree is just a bunch of woody cells with no central nervous system and therefore cannot possibly have the qualities of beingness that humans have.

The child imagines that just as she looks out on the world, the world looks back at her, only to learn that no, I’m sorry, the world consists of a jumble of insensate stuff, a random melee of subatomic particles, and that intelligence and purpose reside in human beings alone. Science (as we have known it) renders us alone in an alien universe. At the same time, it crowns us as its lords and masters, for if sentience and purpose inhere in us alone, there is nothing stopping us from engineering the world as we see fit. There is no desire to listen for, no larger process to participate in, no consciousness to respect.

“The Earth isn’t really alive” is part of that ideological cutoff. Isn’t that the same cutoff that enables us to despoil the planet?

The wounded child interjects, “But what if it is true? What if the universe really is just as science describes?” What if, as the biologist Jacques Monod put it, we are alone in “an alien world. A world that is deaf to man’s music, just as indifferent to his hopes as to his suffering or his crimes.” Such is the wail of the separate self. It is loneliness and separation disguised as an empirical question.

While no amount of evidence can prove it false, we must acknowledge that the science that militates against an intelligent, purposeful, living universe is ideologically freighted and culturally bound. Witness the hostility of institutional science to any anomalous data or unorthodox theory that suggest purposiveness or intelligence as a property of inanimate matter.

Water memory, adaptive mutation, crop circles, morphic fields, psi phenomena, UFOs, plant communication, precognitive dreams…and a living Earth, a living sun, a living universe, all incite scorn. Anyone who believes in these, or even takes them as a valid topic of investigation, risks the usual epithets of ‘pseudo-scientist,’ ‘flake,’ or ‘woo-woo,’ regardless of the merits of the theory or the strength of the evidence.

Of course, simply by making this assertion I open myself to the very same calumny. You can conveniently dismiss me as irrational, scientifically semi-literate, gullible at best and delusional at worst, perhaps knowingly dishonest, bamboozling my audience with learned allusions to impart an illusion of scientific probity to my ravings. But if you really care about this Earth, you’ll want to be curious about the emotional content of this judgment. What hides behind the contempt? The reactivity?

What moves the environmentalist?

Our discomfort with New Age-sounding concepts like “The planet is alive” is not entirely rational, but comes in large part from a wound of betrayal, cloaked in the pervasive ideology of our culture. Is it true though? We might play with various definitions of life and come up with logical, evidence-based arguments pro and con, just as we could debate the veracity of anomalous data and unconventional theories, and never come to an agreement. So let us look at the matter through a strategic lens instead. What belief motivates effective action and real change? And what kind of action results from each belief?

Most people reading this probably consider themselves to be environmentalists; certainly most people think it is important to create a society that leaves a livable planet to future generations. What is it, exactly, that makes us into environmentalists? If we answer that, we might know how to turn others into environmentalists as well, and to deepen the commitment of those who already identify as such.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become an environmentalist because someone made a rational argument that convinced me that the planet was in danger. I became an environmentalist out of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed. It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world. I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.

Now, I am not saying that a rational, evidence-based analysis of the situation and possible solutions is unimportant. It’s just that it will be compelling only with the animating spirit of reverence for our planet, born of the felt connection to the beauty and pain around us.

Our present economic and industrial systems can only function to the extent that we insulate ourselves from our love and our pain. We insulate ourselves geographically by pushing the worst degradation onto far-away places. We insulate ourselves economically by using money to avoid the immediate consequences of that degradation, pushing it onto the world’s poor. We insulate ourselves perceptually by learning not to see or recognize the stress of the land and water around us and by forgetting what healthy forests, healthy streams and healthy skies look like. And we insulate ourselves ideologically by our trust in technological fixes and justifications like, “Well, we need fracking for energy independence, and besides it’s not that bad,” or “After all, this forest isn’t in an ecologically critical area.”

The most potent form of ideological insulation though is the belief that the world isn’t really in pain, that nothing worse is happening than the manipulation of matter by machines, and that therefore as long as we can engineer some substitute for ‘ecosystem services,’ there need be no limit to what we do to nature. Absent any inherent purpose or intelligence, the planet is here for us to use.

Just today, the borough was removing trees on our street, and I felt grief and rage as I listened to the chainsaws, even as my mind said, “But after all, those are old trees and the branches could fall onto a person or damage a house. They are unsafe. And what does it matter? They are only trees.” So here, inhabiting my own mind, was the fundamental ideology of domination (the trees must be removed because they stand in the way of human interests) and separation (they are ‘only trees;’ they are not-self; they do not have the basic qualities of beingness that I do).

Look around this planet. See the results of that ideology writ large.

The love of life.

The idea that our planet is alive, and further, that every mountain, river, lake and forest is a living being, even a sentient, purposive, sacred being, is therefore not a soppy emotional distraction from the environmental problems at hand; to the contrary, it disposes us to feel more, to care more, and to do more. No longer can we hide from our grief and love behind the ideology that the world is just a pile of stuff to be used instrumentally for our own ends.

True, that ideology is perfectly consistent with cutting carbon emissions, and consistent as well with any environmental argument that invokes our survival as the primary basis for policymaking. A lot of environmental activism depends on appeals to survival anxiety. “We have to change our ways, or else!” Appealing to fear and selfish interest, in general, is a natural tactic for anyone coming from a belief that the planet has no intrinsic value, no value beyond its utility. What other reason to preserve it is there, when it has no intrinsic value?

It should be no surprise that this tactic has failed. When environmentalists cite the potential economic losses from climate change, they implicitly endorse economic gain and loss as a basis for environmental decision-making. Doubtless they are imagining that they must ‘speak the language’ of the power elite, who supposedly don’t understand anything but money, but this strategy backfires when, as is the norm, financial self-interest and ecological sustainability are opposed.

Similarly, calls to preserve the rainforests because of the value of the medicines that may one day be derived from its species imply that, if only we can invent synthetic alternatives to whatever the forest might bear, we needn’t preserve the rainforest after all. Even appealing to the well-being of one’s grandchildren harbors a similar trap: if that is your first concern, then what about environmental issues that only affect people in far-away lands, or that don’t tangibly harm any human being at all? The clubbing of baby seals, the extinction of the river dolphin, the deafening of whales with sonar… it is hard to construct a compelling argument that any of these threaten the measurable well-being of future generations. Are we then to sacrifice these beings of little utility?

Besides, did anyone ever become a committed environmentalist because of all the money we’ll save? Because of all the benefits we’ll receive? I am willing to bet that even the survival of the species or the well-being of your grandchildren isn’t the real motive for your environmentalism. You are not an environmentalist because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t act. You are an environmentalist because you love our planet. To call others into environmentalism, we should therefore appeal to the same love in them. It is not only ineffectual but also insulting to offer someone a venal reason to act ecologically when we ourselves are doing it for love.

Nonetheless, environmental campaigning relies heavily on scare tactics. Fear might stimulate a few gestures of activism, but it does not sustain long-term commitment. It strengthens the habits of self-protection, but what we need is to strengthen the habits of service.

Why then do so many of us name “fear that we won’t have a livable planet” as the motive for their activism? I think it is to make that activism acceptable within the ideological framework I have described that takes an instrumentalist view of the planet. When we embrace what I believe is the true motive—love for this Earth—we veer close to the territory that the cynic derides. What is it to make ‘rational’ choices, after all? Is it ever really rational to choose from love? In particular, is it rational to love something that isn’t even alive? But the truth is, we love the Earth for what it is, not merely for what it provides.

I suspect that even the most hardheaded environmentalist, who derides the Earth-is-alive crowd most vociferously, harbors a secret longing for the very object of his contempt. Deep down, he too believes the planet and everything on it is alive and sacred. He is afraid to touch that knowledge, even as he longs for it. Often, his intellectual reasons are but rationalizations by which he gives himself permission to act on his felt understanding of what is sacred.

This person is all of us. I am no exception: the idea of a living, sentient Earth attracts me and repels me both, mirroring the polarity of opinion I observe at conferences between the nuts-and-bolts and spiritual factions. Accusations of ‘naive!,’ ‘softheaded!’ and ‘gullible’ rattle around in my own brain, expressing a hurting thing within. Maybe if I join the ranks of the critics and turn the criticism outward, accuse others of ignoring science and indulging in fuzzy thinking, I can find some temporary relief. But there is no real healing in that. I want to be whole. I want to feel more and not less. I want to heal these alienated parts of myself, so that I don’t act from them unconsciously and sabotage the beautiful vision that asks my contribution.

Each of us (in an industrial society) wades against the tide of an old ideology as we dare to act from the felt understanding of our intimate connection to life, our interdependency, our interbeing. Critiques of the idea of a living planet make that struggle all the harder. In the interests of honesty as well as effective strategy, we need to look at the fear and pain that that critique comes from. Then we can get people in touch with their perception of a living sacred planet, so they can feel the grief and love that perception opens, and act upon it.

  Read Fear Of A Living Planet.
 October 24, 2016
Avec peu de mots con pocas palabras com poucas palavras With few words

by François Fournet, France


Avec peu de mots

Avec peu de mots
juste une pincée de mots
comme graines pour fleurir le temps
dire l’ éclosion de mon cœur
dans le jardin de la tendresse.
Avec peu de mots
juste une poussière de mots
semer des frissons de bonheur
sur la peau blessée du monde.
Avec peu de mots
des gouttelettes de mots
verser des notes de fraicheur
sur le désert des solitudes.
Avec peu de mots
Juste une bruine d'étincelles
ensemencer d'étoiles pures
l'espoir meurtri et la faim de justice
pour que vive la paix
dans les regards du monde.

Con pocas palabras

Con pocas palabras
sólo una pizca de las palabras
como semillas que florecen tiempo
decir que el brote de mi corazón
en el jardín de la ternura.
Con pocas palabras
sólo polvo de las palabras
sembrar escalofríos de la felicidad
en la piel lesionada del mundo.
Con pocas palabras
gotitas de palabras
tomar notas frescas
soledades del desierto.
Con pocas palabras
Sólo una llovizna de chispas
sembrar estrellas puros
la esperanza magullado y hambre de justicia
para la paz animado
en los ojos del mundo.

Com poucas palavras

Com poucas palavras
uma pitada de palavras
como sementes para Blossom Time
dizem que o surto de meu coração
no jardim de ternura.
Com poucas palavras
apenas pó de palavras
semear arrepios de felicidade
na pele lesada do mundo.
Com poucas palavras
gotículas de palavras
fazer notas frescas
solidão do deserto.
Com poucas palavras
Apenas uma garoa de faíscas
semear estrelas puras
a esperança ferido e fome de justiça
vivamente para a paz
nos olhos do mundo.
With few words

With few words
just a pinch of words
as seeds to blossom time
say the outbreak of my heart
in the garden of tenderness.
With few words
just dust of words
sow shivers of happiness
on the injured skin of the world.
With few words
droplets of words
make fresh notes
desert solitudes.
With few words
Just a drizzle of sparks
sow pure stars
the bruised hope and hunger for justice
for lively peace
in the eyes of the world.
  Read Avec peu de mots  con pocas palabras  com poucas palavras   With few words

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