Proceedings of Global Dialogue 2017 (September 1st, 2016 to August 31, 2017) are ready for reading. Please do verify that your articles, comments and papers were correctly published, and that recommendations were appropriate, useful, pertinent, and proper. Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for Global Dialogue 2017 were published in the Dialogue Overview section at .
David Anderson (2), Ugo Bardi, Robert J Burrowes (2), Arbind Kumar Choudh, Lorraine Chow, Carter Dillard, Dr. Michael Dorsey, Sally Dugman , Laura Gottesdiener, Dani Heffernan, Bill Henderson, Alex Jensen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Bobby Magill, Robert McSweeney, T Navin, Rob Percival, William Rees, Dick Russell, Erin Sagen, Robin Scher, Shobha Shukla, Gaither Stewart, Dr. David Suzuki (2), Andrea Thompson,Jane William, Eric Zuesse.
David Anderson, Homo Economicus We Have All Become.
David Anderson, The End Of Our Species Is Now A Real Possibility.
Ugo Bardi, Our Photovoltaic Future: The Metabolic Revolutions of the Earth’s History.
Robert J Burrowes, Biological Annihilation On Earth Accelerating.
Robert J Burrowes, You Cannot Trap The ‘Magic Rat’: Trump, Congress And Geopolitics.
Arbind Kumar Choudh, Peace
Lorraine Chow, Mano a Mano: Schwarzenegger Unveils 'Blueprint' to Challenge Trump on Climate.
Carter Dillard, We've Prioritized Humans Having Umpteen Kids Over the Right of Entire Species to Survive—and It's Got to Stop.
Dr. Michael Dorsey, Jane Williams, Why Pollution Trading Will Never Be the Climate Solution for California—or Anywhere Else.
Sally Dugman, Where ARE We Heading?
Laura Gottesdiener, Burning Raqqa :The U.S. War Against Civilians In Syria
Dani Heffernan, Nebraskans Install First Solar Panels Inside the Keystone XL Pipeline Route.
Bill Henderson, Dear ENGOs: Stop Supporting Fake Climate Mitigation.
Alex Jensen, Globalization’s Blowback.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dick Russell, The Cronies Behind the Energy Industry's Deliberate Misinformation Campaigns.
Bobby Magill, Court Rules That EPA Isn't Permitted to Regulate One of the Planet's Most Powerful Climate Pollutants.
Robert McSweeney, Half the Global Population Could Face 'Unknown' Climates by Mid-Century.
T Navin, Can A Profit Driven Economy Provide Solution To Climate Change.
Rob Percival, Why Animal Sentience Matters—and Why We Need a Charter for Animal Compassion.
William Rees, Staving Off The Coming Global Collapse.
Erin Sagen, A Trillion-Ton Iceberg Broke Off Antarctica and All I Can Think About Is Food.
Robin Scher, What Stuff Do We Throw Away That Takes Forever to Decay?
Shobha Shukla, Women Should Not Live In Fear, But Act With Courage.
Gaither Stewart, The Character Of Russian Communism.
Dr. David Suzuki, Are Industrial Agriculture and Genetic Modification the Answer to Feeding Humanity?
Dr. David Suzuki, We Would Need 1.7 Earths to Sustain Humanity's Current Rate of Resource Consumption.
Andrea Thompson, Today's Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade.
Dr. Michael Dorsey, Jane Williams, Why Pollution Trading Will Never Be the Climate Solution for California—or Anywhere Else.
Eric Zuesse, U.S. Government & Press Lie Constantly, With Total Impunity.
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|July 27, 2017||
by Arbind Kumar Choudh,
Peace perfumes the passage
For its pinnacle amidst many a sage.
Peace is a labour of love
For the grove of the amative.
The peaceless person makes heaven and earth
For its passage on this strife- stricken earth.
The voice of peace is a saving grace
For its essence for a man of conscience.
Peace is the celestial light
Like many a voice of one delight.
Peace is the bliss of solitude
For the trade of a man of tide.
Peace is the heavenly muse
To make a man worse than curse.
Peace is the mother of all creations
That thrills the masses with the passage of time.
Peace is the pearl for a man of Earl
That stirs sensations amidst many a churl.
Peace is a heavenly abode
For the beatitude of the solitude.
Peace is a charade for the horde of Hade.
Peace is a shade for the horde of Jekyll and Hyde.
Peace is the passage of the pious soul
That runs wild without interruptions .
Peace is an emblem for the son of Adam
That mayhems the old Adam.
Peace is the celestial light
Like many a voice of one delight.
La paix parfume le passage
Pour son apogée au milieu d'un sage.
La paix est un travail d'amour
Pour le bosquet de l'amitié.
La personne sans personnage fait le ciel et la terre
Pour son passage sur cette terre affligée.
La voix de la paix est une grâce salvatrice
Pour son essence pour un homme de conscience.
La paix est la lumière céleste
Comme beaucoup de voix d'un délice.
La paix est le bonheur de la solitude
Pour le commerce d'un homme de marée.
La paix est la muse céleste
Pour rendre un homme pire que la malédiction.
La paix est la mère de toutes les créations
Cela éveille les masses avec le passage du temps.
La paix est la perle pour un homme de de la terre
Cela agite les sensations au milieu d'un grand frère.
La paix est une demeure céleste
Pour la béatitude de la solitude.
La paix est une charade pour la fureur
La paix est une nuance pour la horde de Jekyll et Hyde.
La paix est le passage de l'âme pieuse
Cela court sans interruption.
La paix est un emblème pour le fils d'Adam
Cela peut être l'ancien Adam.
La paix est la lumière céleste
Comme beaucoup de voix d'un délice.
Perfumes pasaje de paz
En su apogeo en medio de un sabio.
La paz es una labor de amor
En el bosque de la amistad.
La persona sin carácter hecho cielo y la tierra
En su paso por esta tierra afligidos.
La voz de la paz es una gracia salvadora
En su esencia de un hombre de conciencia.
La paz es luz celeste
Al igual que muchos de voz una delicia.
La paz es la felicidad de la soledad
Para el comercio de una marea humana.
La paz es la musa celestial
Para hacer que un hombre peor que la maldición.
La paz es la madre de todas las creaciones
Esto despierta las masas con el paso del tiempo.
La paz es la perla para un hombre de la tierra
Esto despierta las sensaciones en el medio de un gran hermano.
La paz es una morada celestial
Para la felicidad de la soledad.
La paz es una farsa de la furia
La paz es una sombra para la horda de Jekyll y Hyde.
La paz es el camino del alma pía
Se ejecuta de forma continua.
La paz es un emblema para el hijo de Adán
Este puede ser el viejo Adán.
La paz es luz celeste
Al igual que muchos de voz una delicia.
Perfumes paz passagem
Em seu auge no meio de um sábio.
A paz é um trabalho de amor
No bosque de amizade.
A pessoa sem caráter fez o céu ea terra
Na sua passagem por esta terra aflitos.
A voz da paz é uma graça salvadora
Em sua essência para um homem de consciência.
A paz é luz celestial
Como muitos de voz uma delícia.
A paz é a felicidade da solidão
Para trocar uma maré humana.
A paz é a musa celestial
Para fazer com que um homem pior do que a maldição.
A paz é a mãe de todas as criações
Isso desperta as massas com a passagem do tempo.
Paz é a pérola por um homem da terra
Isso mexe com os sentimentos no meio de um grande irmão.
A paz é uma morada celestial
Para a felicidade da solidão.
A paz é uma charada para a fúria
A paz é uma sombra para a horda de Jekyll e Hyde.
A paz é o caminho da alma piedosa
Ele é executado de forma contínua.
A paz é um emblema para o filho de Adão
Este pode ser o velho Adão.
A paz é luz celestial
Como muitos de voz uma delícia.
|July 19, 2017||
Today's Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade.
by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, AlterNet
When 2015 blew the record for hottest year out of the water, it made headlines around the world. But a heat record that was so remarkable only two years ago will be just another year by 2040 at the latest, and possibly as early as 2020, regardless of whether the greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet are curtailed.
That is the conclusion of a new study that uses climate models to project when today’s climate extremes will become commonplace — or the “new normal” as they are often called in both media reports and scientific analyses.
Just how soon that record heat will become the norm surprised even its researchers, but the information could be useful to officials around the world trying to plan for the changes global warming will bring to their cities and countries. It will help show when notable heat waves, downpours, or other extremes may become run-of-the-mill, and would allow planners to develop the infrastructure and policies to withstand those extremes.
“At the moment, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal when we have record-hot summers or years,” study leader Sophie Lewis, a climate researcher at Australian National University, said in an email. “But this study really shows the nasty side of our current records becoming more frequent in the near future.”
While the phrase new normal has been used in different ways, it was rarely explicitly defined, so Lewis and her colleagues wanted to come up with a definition that could be used on all kinds of climate extremes.
The team used the climate models developed for the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to see when a global temperature like that of 2015, or higher, becomes normal. When such temperatures happened at least half the time in a 20-year period, they defined that normal as having been reached in the first year of the period.
(The average global temperature of 2015 was 0.23°F (0.13°C) warmer than the previous warmest year, 2014, according NASA. It was the second largest year-over-year jump. 2015 was subsequently beaten as the hottest year by 2016.)
The researchers found that the global climate firmly met that threshold by 2040, regardless of whether greenhouse gas emissions continued on their current path or were significantly curtailed. On average, the new normal emerged between 2020 and 2030 — much earlier than any of the scientists expected.
“I was shocked when I made the first calculations for this study, and went back and checked everything twice and then three times,” Lewis said. “When I first shared a full draft with my co-authors, I remember getting an edit back that included a swear word in the comments about these times.”
Deke Arndt, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist who wasn’t involved in the study, said this kind of disappearance of extremes into the bounds of normal was already happening. He cited the then-record high temperature of 1998, “which was astonishing at the time,” but has since been “fading into the pack” of annual temperatures. (It now sits in eighth place, according to NOAA, and is the only year in the top 10 warmest not from the 21st century.)
“We are moving into new neighborhoods in many of our climate variables. This paper is perhaps a way to help quantify some discussions around that topic,” Arndt said.
“I think it’s useful that they’re defining [the new normal],” Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford climate scientist who has done similar work, said.
The work, published in the June issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, takes the opposite tack of the field of climate science known as attribution, which uses observations and climate models to conduct climatological autopsies of events.
Attribution is useful in gleaning the effect that global warming is already having on today’s extreme weather, but it doesn’t say anything about when those extremes stop being extremes and start becoming the new climate.
“It is useful for preparing for the risks of climate change to know that the 2013 record-hot Australia summer was five times more likely because of climate change, but it is more useful to know that within just a few decades this extreme could be mild,” Lewis said.
Lewis and her co-authors also looked at record annual temperatures at spots across the land surface, “because these are a little more relevant for actual impacts on ecosystems, health, infrastructure than global average temperatures,” Lewis said.
In that case, the particular emissions scenarios did make a difference, because different parts of the world are warming at different rates and have different patterns of natural variability, which can make the signal of warming more difficult to pick out. Today’s record heat became the new normal earlier and for a larger portion of the globe with higher greenhouse gas emissions than for lower ones. Those differences show that if emissions are significantly reduced, such records can be prevented from becoming the norm in some areas.
The method can be further drilled down to study specific extreme events, like heat waves, droughts or floods, which Lewis said the team is hoping to do.
Arndt said this is where such a method would have the most usefulness. “Where I think this approach may have real utility is to help people process and understand things at the local level,” he said. “Global temperature is an important climate marker, but it’s not the design metric for your town’s wastewater treatment or storm sewers.”Andrea Thompson is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central, focusing on extreme weather and climate change. Previously, Andrea was a writer and reporter for Live Science and Space.com, reporting on climate change, weather and other science-related topics. Follow Andrea on Twitter @AndreaTWeather.
|July 21, 2017||
A Trillion-Ton Iceberg Broke Off Antarctica and All I Can Think About Is Food.
by Erin Sagen, Yes! Magazine, AlterNet
On July 12, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke loose from Antarctica and floated into the sea. Researchers, who had been anticipating the breakup since 2014, say that it cannot be attributed to climate change. At least not yet.
As I continued scrolling through my morning news feed, I skimmed other headlines: Donald Trump Jr., the perfect summer cocktail, net neutrality. Over the past year, I developed a habit of pausing before clicking, especially on upsetting content, because when you have a baby in the same year Donald Trump is elected president, you have little energy left to mine toxic tweets. Sometimes that self-preservation would turn into mild indifference, however, and stories with important yet triggering keywords would get ignored, flicked upward and out of sight.
But my thumb stopped on the iceberg headline. A tremulous sense of fear eventually made me click.
It didn’t matter that no scientist was ready to make a call on what caused the break. The reality is that climate change is getting worse every week, and policymakers are ignoring one of the biggest factors. The role food and agriculture plays has been almost entirely absent from written commitments in local or worldwide negotiations, according to the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University.
This is a problem. Two days before the Antarctic iceberg broke loose, a study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that, in a nutshell, confirmed some of our worst fears: Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway, threatening the planet’s animal populations and ecosystems. To use the authors’ words, we’re looking at a “biological annihilation” that’s largely human-caused.
Unlike the researchers assessing the iceberg, the authors of this study clearly point to climate change: “In the last few decades, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption, as well as the interactions among these factors, have led to the catastrophic declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations. …”
Recently, a colleague and I have been collaborating on a project measuring the environmental impacts of residential lawns and the industrial food system. Our research uncovered some surprising facts, and the data, compiled in one convenient place, have been sobering.
For instance, the food and agriculture sector is the second-largest contributor to emissions, at 24 percent, barely less than the energy sector. Global meat and dairy production together account for about 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Why are meat and dairy emissions so high? Last year, in the United States alone, an estimated 90.9 million acres of corn and 89.5 million acres of soybeans were planted, and most of it went to feed livestock. (Feed crop production accounts for 24 percent of the sector’s emissions, while deforestation for feed crops and pasture accounts for 9 percent.)
One problem is the way those crops are grown, usually at an industrial scale requiring intense use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Overuse of chemical fertilizers releases high levels of nitrous oxide, “a greenhouse gas with 300 times as much heat-trapping power as carbon dioxide,” reported Science News. Intensive monoculture farming depletes soil, pollutes rivers, and destroys habitats.
Unlike the cause of the iceberg, there’s no debate there.
Meanwhile, the stomach-churning joke is that all those greenhouse gas-emitting resources—land, travel, energy, labor, livestock, and so on—produce food that we don’t even eat: The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted, approximately 1.3 billion metric tons.
Our food is clearly contributing to climate chaos. But why aren’t governments targeting it in their climate agreements? A problem that huge, involving that much land and production, needs to be tackled on an equally huge scale. There’s only so much local communities can do, especially with the clock ticking.
Once the shock of a (cause-yet-to-be-determined) trillion-ton iceberg has worn off, maybe we can get serious about addressing our food.
|August 2, 2017||
Nebraskans Install First Solar Panels Inside the Keystone XL Pipeline Route.
by Dani Heffernan, 350.org, AlterNet
Silver Creek, NE -- On July 29, the “Solar XL” project placed its first solar panels along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, on the farm of Nebraska landowners Jim and Chris Carlson near Silver Creek.
"I am vehemently opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline mainly because of the properties of the contents of the tar sands oil it will carry—this is not your mother’s crude oil, it is the Devil’s, and it can kill," said Jim Carlson. "We must be focused on clean, renewable energy and America can get along just fine without this foul concoction they call bitumen that TransCanada wants to pipe across our precious soil and water."
The Carlsons, who rejected a $307,000 offer from the pipeline company TransCanada to build Keystone XL through their backyard, partnered with Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO and Oil Change International to put renewable energy directly in the pipeline’s path.
Jim Carlson, Nebraska landowner who placed solar in path of Keystone XL on his family’s farm. Polk County on the route. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska
Keystone XL would be a disaster for our climate and communities, and what's more TransCanada's own CEO questions whether there's even demand for it in the first place," said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director, Oil Change International. "There's simply no reason to build this dangerous pipeline and put us all at risk. Meanwhile, this new solar installation is a shining example of creative and determined resistance to Big Oil bullying. Landowners up and down the Keystone XL route have shown impressive determination to stop this pipeline for years, and with Solar XL, they’re building the future we all need at the same time."
Solar XL underscores the need to center solutions to climate change while rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and resisting the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
"The very thought of a big corporation using eminent domain for their private gain makes Nebraskans angry and inspires our creativity and grit to stop this risky pipeline," said Jane Kleeb of Bold Alliance. "We used 100% made-in-the-USA materials, and a small family-run company to install these solar panels. The Solar XL project is a reminder of the people power that will stop this pipeline."
The Solar XL project is being supported through an ongoing crowdfunding campaign launched last month. The solar panels, which will be installed in at least two other locations along the pipeline route, will serve not only as a form of clean energy, but as a symbol of the urgent need for a just transition away from fossil fuels toward a 100% renewable energy economy. The panels will help power the homes of Nebraskans resisting Keystone XL, and are being installed by the family-owned rural solar business, North Star Solar Bears, run by Jim Knopik.
"Our family-run company is based in Nebraska—and by installing solar projects, like the ones to stop the Keystone XL pipeline—my kids are able to stay on the farm," said Knopik. "It’s time for our country to start the transition to clean energy now."
Chris Carlson holds a protest sign featuring her husband Jim Carlson at the Build Our Energy Barn, west of Benedict, Nebraska, during the Stop the Keystone XL Candlelight Vigil held on the evening of February 3rd. Hundreds of vigils to protest Keystone XL were held across the country. Photo: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska
Josh Nelson, Deputy Political Director at CREDO said:
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil a day from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and then on to the export market. The pipeline would pass through farms, ranches, and Indigenous land, posing a threat to the Ogallala Aquifer and other water sources that would be contaminated by spills and leaks.
Landowners continue to fight eminent domain for private gain knowing this would be the first time the Public Service Commission (PSC) grants those powers to a foreign corporation. Lastly, all along the route, local economies are connected to agriculture, and climate change is a serious issue. Keystone XL would significantly add to climate risks for farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations.
Joye Braun, Indigenous Environmental Network, said:
The first installation took place just over a week before the Nebraska Public Service Commission holds hearings in Lincoln on whether to grant a construction permit for Keystone XL through the state. One day before the hearings on August 6th, people from around Nebraska and surrounding states will converge for a march through the streets of Lincoln urging the Commissioners to reject the permit.
If permits are granted for Keystone XL construction in Nebraska, TransCanada will have to tear down homegrown clean energy in order to build, galvanizing people across the country to fight back.
"Solar XL is about showing what's possible at a massive scale—a renewable energy economy that doesn't sacrifice our communities or our climate, said Sara Shor, Keep it in the Ground Campaign Manager at 350.org.
"Putting solar panels in the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline will help power the homes of Nebraskans refusing to give in to the fossil fuel industry's greed," she said. "This August, farmers, Indigenous peoples, and many more communities living along the proposed Keystone XL route will be in Nebraska to urge the commissioners to deny a permit for the project. This is a fight for our future. We must resist Keystone XL and all new fossil fuel infrastructure while building our way towards a renewable energy economy that works for all."
"Build Our Energy Barn" was built in 2013 on the Hammond family’s land inside KXL route near York, Nebraska—one of the many signs of resistance to Keystone XL. Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska
Dani Heffernan is the U.S. communications coordinator for 350.org and 350Action.org. Follow her on Twitter @DaniHeffernan.
|August 3, 2017||
Half the Global Population Could Face 'Unknown' Climates by Mid-Century.
by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, AlterNet
Billions of people across the world could see climates they’ve never experienced before by the middle of the century, a recent study says.
Using a measure of climate ‘familiarity,” the researchers show that the tropics in particular are likely to experience conditions that are virtually unheard of for the region in the present climate.
But keeping global temperatures rise below 2C° above pre-industrial levels could help keep the climate “familiar” within this century, the researchers say. That means people alive today could see the benefits of mitigation within their lifetimes.
While climate change research often focuses on how many degrees temperatures have warmed or the projected change in annual rainfall, a relatively recent approach is to consider the “time of emergence.”
The weather we experience every day is a combination of the long-term trend of climate change—the “signal”—and the short-term fluctuations of natural variability—the "noise." The time of emergence is the point when the signal becomes clear above the noise.
Taking this idea in a slightly different direction, the new Nature Climate Change study focuses on the magnitude of emergence, rather than the time. In other words, showing how much future climates are going to differ from the highs and lows that people currently experience.
This approach can help pinpoint where climates are likely to change beyond what people have to cope with at the moment, says lead author Dr. Dave Frame, director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. He tells Carbon Brief:
Carbon Brief spoke to another of the study’s authors, Dr. Manoj Joshi from the University of East Anglia, about the study at the recent European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna. You can see him explaining the findings in the clip below.
Unfamiliar, unusual and unknown
Using climate models, the researchers calculated signal-to-noise ratios—i.e., the change in average temperature divided by the year-to-year variability—for future temperatures across the world. The higher the resulting score, the more unfamiliar future climates are likely to feel for the people in that region.
The researchers then classified projections of temperature change in terms of how unfamiliar the climate is expected to become.Glossary: RCP4.5: The RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways) are scenarios of future concentrations of greenhouse gases and other forcings. RCP4.5 is a “stabilisation scenario” where policies are put in place so atmospheric CO2 concentration levels… Read More
They came up with three categories, for when the signal-to-noise ratio hits one, two or three, respectively: An “unusual” temperature is one that people would experience once every six years or so under the baseline climate of 1986-2005. An “unfamiliar” temperature would be one that would only occur once every 44 years. Finally, an “unknown” temperature would be virtually unheard of in the present climate, occurring once every 740 years.
You can see some of their results in the maps below for a moderate emissions scenario called RCP4.5. It’s worth noting that current emissions are tracking above RCP4.5, close to the highest emissions scenario used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (RCP8.5).
The upper map shows the signal-to-noise ratios for temperature by the end of the century. The darker the shading, the more unfamiliar the climates are expected to become.
Maps show emergence of new climates under the RCP4.5 emissions scenario for the end of the century for a standard map (upper) and population-weighted cartogram (lower). Shading indicates the signal-to-noise ratio (the darker the shading, the higher the ratio). Maps show results for the median of all the climate model simulations. Source: Frame et al. (2017)
The results suggest that by the 2030s, around half of the global population can expect to experience “unfamiliar” climates (compared to 1986-2005), and “unknown” climates by mid-century. By 2100, only 20 percent of the world’s population would avoid living in “unknown” climates, the paper says.
The results also show that tropical regions are likely to experience the most dramatic changes to the familiarity of the climate. These areas, which include Malaysia, Indonesia, western India, West Africa and Central America, are home to almost half of the world’s population.
You can see this in the lower map (above), which shows the same signal-to-noise values, but where the size of the land areas is distorted to represent the size of the population affected.
While other places might experience higher absolute temperature change, the impacts will be felt more keenly in the tropics, Joshi explains:
Using signal-to-noise rather than simple temperature change also provides another way to consider mitigating climate change, the paper says:
This shows that cutting emissions now can prevent some large changes in the signal-to-noise ratio of future temperature, says Frame. These benefits could be felt within the lifetimes of people alive today, he adds:
This is a compelling way to incentivize people to cut emissions, says Joshi:
In fact, this is the most important finding from their study, says Frame:
Robert McSweeney covers climate science at Carbon Brief. He holds an MEng in mechanical engineering from the University of Warwick and an MSc in climate change from the University of East Anglia. He previously spent eight years working on climate change projects at the consultancy firm Atkins. Follow him on Twitter @rtmcswee.
|August 6 2017||
Are Industrial Agriculture and Genetic Modification the Answer to Feeding Humanity?
By , by Dr. David Suzuki, Ian Hanington, Greystone Books, AlterNet
The following excerpt is from Just Cool It! A Post-Paris Agreement Game Plan, by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington (Greystone Books, 2017)
Over the past half century, the world has moved increasingly to industrial agriculture—attempting to maximize efficiency through running massive, often inhumane livestock operations; turning huge swaths of land over to monocrops requiring liberal use of fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification; and relying on machinery that consumes fossil fuel and underpaid migrant workers. Industrial agriculture has made it possible to produce large amounts of food fairly efficiently, but it also comes with numerous problems: increased greenhouse gas emissions; loss of forests and wetlands that prevent climate change by storing carbon; pollution from runoff and pesticides; antibiotic and pesticide resistance; reduced biodiversity; and soil degradation, erosion, and loss. Depletion of fertile soils is especially troubling, with losses estimated to be occurring up to one hundred times faster than they can regenerate with current industrial agriculture practices. Biodiversity loss refers to both a reduction in the number of crop varieties—more than 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has vanished over the past 100 years, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization—and to reduced biodiversity among species that require diverse habitats for survival.
The “solution” many experts offer for feeding a growing human population is to double down on industrial agriculture and genetic modification. Some argue leaning more heavily on genetically modified crops, and perhaps even animals, is the only way to go. A new process called clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, allows researchers to turn a specific gene on or off. It’s being touted as a way to produce “plants that can withstand what an increasingly overheated nature has in store” and create “a more nutritious yield, from less plant,”.
Those who oppose increasing reliance on genetic modification for agriculture are often accused of being “anti-science.” Although it’s true that some activists focus on potential health impacts of eating genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and many studies have found no real evidence for such impacts, the technology comes with a host of other problems, some of them intertwined with industrial agriculture itself.
Many GMO proponents point to “golden rice” to illustrate the benefits of genetic modification and to criticize “counterproductive” attitudes of anti-GMO forces. The rice, which unlike many genetically modified products, is not patented by a large company like Monsanto, is modified to produce more vitamin A, thus potentially reducing infection, disease, and blindness among poor people who don’t get enough of the vitamin. Noting that the International Rice Research Institute has itself admitted the rice hasn’t yet proven to do much if anything to address the problem, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Wilhelmina Pelegrina told the Washington Post, “Corporations are overhyping ‘Golden’ Rice to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops. This costly experiment has failed to produce results for the last 20 years and diverted attention from methods that already work. Rather than invest in this overpriced public relations exercise, we need to address malnutrition through a more diverse diet, equitable access to food and eco-agriculture.”
A number of researchers agree. Washington University researcher Glenn Stone, initially a golden rice supporter, said, “The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done.”
Industrial agriculture and increased genetic modification ignore how natural systems function and interact and assume we can do better. History shows such hubris often leads to unexpected negative results. Excessive use of pesticides such as DDT is just one example of human innovation and “dominance” over nature that came back to bite us. People thought DDT was a benign wonder chemical that would reduce diseases spread by mosquitoes and protect crops from insects. Then, in 1962, biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, which showed that the chemicals bio-magnify as they move up the food chain. In other words, higher concentrations of the chemicals accumulate in fat cells of animals throughout the food chain, with the highest concentrations found in top predators, including humans. Predatory birds, such as eagles, were hit especially hard by widespread DDT use. Of course, our use of fossil fuels, once thought to be an entirely beneficial fuel that would improve lives and give people more freedom and mobility, is another example of how the lack of a full understanding of natural systems can lead to dire consequences.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. David Suzuki’s latest book is Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do (Greystone Books, 2017), co-written with Ian Hanington.
Ian Hanington is Senior Editor at the David Suzuki Foundaton and is co-author with David Suzuki of Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet (Greystone Books, 2012) and Just Cool It! A Post-Paris Agreement Game Plan (Greystone Books, 2017). He lives in Vancouver, B.C.
|August 7, 2017||
The Cronies Behind the Energy Industry's Deliberate Misinformation Campaigns.
by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Dick Russell, Hot Books, AlterNet
The following is an excerpt from the new book The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying the Planet—and How They Explain Themselves to Their Own Children by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Dick Russell (Hot Books, May 2017), available for purchase from Amazon, IndieBound, and Hot Books:
Early in October 2015, Rex Wayne Tillerson—62-year-old father of four, recent national president of the Boy Scouts of America—took the stage at the 36th annual Oil and Money Conference in London. As the then-CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson had just been named Petroleum Executive of the Year. His topic was “Unleashing Innovation to Meet Our Energy and Environmental Needs.”
Tillerson’s half-hour-long speech did not ignore the subject of a rapidly changing global climate. He spoke of the challenge of “reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use.” He said “the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action,” including his corporation’s research into alternative technologies and support of a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax. However, Tillerson added, “The world will need to pursue all energy sources, wherever they are economically competitive . . . importantly, we will need coal, oil, and natural gas.”
The highest paid executive of the richest fossil fuel corporation on the planet went on to point out: “From the very beginning of concern on this issue, ExxonMobil scientists and engineers have been involved in discussions and analysis of climate change. These efforts started internally as early as the 1970s.”
What Tillerson failed to mention was this: only the month before, an investigation of internal Exxon documents had revealed that those very scientists had repeatedly warned, almost forty years ago, of a potentially “catastrophic” warming of the planet that “endangered humanity.” But instead of responding to this red alert from their own experts by starting to shift the energy giant toward renewable resources, Exxon’s top executives, including Tillerson, had shut down the company’s own research—and embarked instead on a massive disinformation campaign aimed at debunking climate change as a myth.
The corporation was a ringleader in setting up the Global Climate Coalition, a massive disinformation machine bringing together the world’s leading fossil fuel companies in an all-out effort to prevent governments from curbing their emissions. Tillerson’s company, the second largest emitter of CO2 in the world (after Chevron), dispersed millions to muddy any scientific understanding and delay any real action.
Tillerson, his predecessor Lee Raymond, and their cronies knew the truth about the fate of the planet. And yet they lied, and they paid others to lie. They lied as global temperatures began rising at record rates. They lied as droughts and wildfires swept across the American West, and as California started running out of water. They lied as tornadoes and hurricanes and snowfall levels intensified in unprecedented ways. They lied as thousands died in European heat waves, and thousands more perished in Asian floods. They lied as Greenland’s ice turned liquid, and sea levels began to rise two-and-a-half times faster than anyone thought possible, and the oceans became increasingly acidic and filled with disease-causing bacteria. They lied and sacrificed future generations for their short-term profits.
During his visit to America in December 2015, Pope Francis issued a warning about climate change, “a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. . . . I can say to you ‘now or never.’ Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.”
Six months earlier, in the pope’s encyclical on the situation, he had asked: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” And he had raised another question: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”
The president of the World Bank, Jim Kim, has spoken out along similar lines: “My son will live through a 2, 3 or maybe even 4 degree Celsius warming. We cannot keep apologizing to our children for our lack of action. We must change course now.”
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, while some three billion people watched, the opening ceremony featured a video of ever-escalating global carbon pollution and simultaneously drastic rise in sea levels.
These are the facts behind the pleas of the Pope, the World Bank leader, and the Olympic Games leadership:
• Sixteen of the seventeen warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. For the third consecutive year, it was announced in January, the earth set a heat record. Across vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures in the fall of 2016 reached an astonishing 20 to 30 degrees above normal.
• As billions of tons of ice melt or slide into the sea, satellite data shows that oceans around the world are rising by five millimeters a year, a rate not seen since the close of the last Ice Age.
• “Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years—and some of it will be there for more than 100,000 years.”—Oregon State University paleoclimatologist Peter Clark, lead author of a new study in Nature Climate Change, February 2016.
• “Given currently available records, the present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years.” —Nature Geoscience, March 2016.
Several years earlier, in September 2013, UNICEF published the results of a five-year study about how a changing global climate affects today’s children. “Climate change has too often been discussed and debated in abstract terms, negating the human costs and placing little attention on its intergenerational impact,” the report said. However, “more severe and more frequent natural disasters, food crises and changing rainfall patterns are all threatening children’s lives and their basic rights to education, health, clean water, and the right food.”
These drastic changes in our planet’s ecosystem will have the most severe consequences, of course, on future generations. Climate change is all too often discussed in “abstract terms,” the 2013 UNICEF report noted. But the environmental upheaval associated with climate change is already having a massive impact on “children’s lives and their basic rights to education, health, and [proper] food.” UNICEF has estimated that, by 2030, 25 million more children will suffer malnourishment, with another 100 million facing food insecurity due to scarcity, and between 150 and 200 million more being displaced from their homes. “We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world’s children are threatened, and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised . . . despite being the least responsible for the causes,” said David Bull, executive director of UNICEF in the United Kingdom.
The UNICEF report noted that “children and young people in developed countries are acutely aware of climate change, and are passionate and vocal about the need for action by governments to tackle the problem.” Polling in the UK indicated that nearly three-quarters of those between ages 11 and 16 in Britain worried about the planet’s environmental future. More than seven in ten wanted their government to do more, and nearly two-thirds voiced particular concern about their counterparts in developing nations. In the US, similar polling found almost three-quarters of young voters saying they were less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed President Obama’s climate change plan. “We need to listen to what children are saying,” the study concluded.
The goal of the entrenched interests, however, is to drown out those voices—all the way to the classroom. In Wyoming, when the Park County School District was to vote on whether to purchase new textbooks and reading materials in 2015, one board member responded, “I will not authorize any of the $300,000 allocated for this purchase to include supplemental booklets about ‘global whining’. . . . Our Wyoming schools are largely funded by coal, oil, natural gas, mining, ranching, etc. This junk science is against community and state standards.”
Jeff Turrentine, who wrote about this for OnEarth Magazine’s web site, added, “For thousands of years, going back to Aristotle, humanity’s greatest minds have sought to safeguard the precepts of the scientific method by keeping them away from the corrupting influence of political culture. Defending the integrity of science from powerful people is what got Galileo imprisoned. And yet, 400 years later, here we are: watching a public official tasked with guiding the educational trajectories of his community’s children rail against the accepted science on climate change—because its conclusions threaten to undermine the local political culture. . . . Anyone who would deliberately misinform children about the gravity of the problem that awaits them when they grow up doesn’t deserve to be in charge of their education.”
The campaign to “misinform children” is particularly aggressive in the American West, stronghold of the oil and coal industries, including in Utah, where a coalition of parents decrying “Education Without Representation” has intimidated the state’s Office of Education into watering down education on climate change. Even in “left-coast” California, where the Democratic Party has a lock on state government, a 2015 analysis of science textbooks used in the sixth-grade classrooms revealed that the language and writing techniques “more closely match the public discourse of doubt about climate change rather than the scientific discourse.” The study, which was conducted by Southern Methodist University, speculated that conservative media like Fox News had contributed to “a shift in public discourse, which eventually influences textbook language by creating competing interests within the textbook market.” A follow-up survey published in the journal Science in 2016 found that, while three-quarters of science teachers nationwide devote time to climate change instruction, 30 percent tell students that it’s “likely due to natural causes” and another 31 percent claim that the matter is unsettled. That’s opposed to the 97 percent of active climate scientists who contend that human activity is a primary cause. Bills have now been introduced in state legislatures of four states that promote climate change denial as part of academic freedom.
Even in 2016, as the world weathered another year of record-setting temperature rise, America’s presidential campaign was dominated by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who dismissed the global crisis as a “hoax”—allegedly manufactured by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing “non-competitive” and by Democrats to justify higher taxes. Meanwhile, Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, while acknowledging climate change as an urgent problem, amassed a huge campaign war chest from donors and lobbyists connected to the oil, gas and coal industry, while her allies headed off an attempt by Senator Bernie Sanders to hammer an anti-fracking plank into the 2016 party platform.
Despite all the calamitous news from the environmental front lines, the energy industry still wields extensive influence over the climate change debate, from the classroom to the presidential campaign trail.
Excerpted from the new book The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying the Planet—and How They Explain Themselves to Their Own Children by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Dick Russell (Hot Books, May 2017), available for purchase from Amazon, IndieBound, and Hot Books.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the board president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and author of several books, including Framed and the New York Times bestseller Crimes Against Nature. He has been named by Time as one of the "Heroes for the Planet." Kennedy lives in Los Angeles, California and Bedford, New York.
Dick Russell is an acclaimed environmental writer, with a special expertise on the crisis that is confronting the world's oceans and fisheries. He is the author of Striper Wars: An American Fish Story and Eye of the Whale. He divides his time between Boston, Massachusetts and Los Angeles, California.
|August 10, 2017||
Court Rules That EPA Isn't Permitted to Regulate One of the Planet's Most Powerful Climate Pollutants.
by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, AlterNet
One of the most powerful climate pollutants on earth, hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, account for a small portion of U.S. climate pollution, but scientists say it’s important for countries to urgently cut them just because they’re so potent—and growing.
Efforts to cut HFCs became more difficult both in the U.S. and globally on Tuesday, when a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its authority in regulating HFCs under the Clean Air Act.
As the world warms, the use of air conditioning is increasing and many of those units use HFCs, a coolant harmful to the climate. (image: Matthew Klein/Flickr)
The ruling leaves the U.S. without an immediate legal mechanism to control HFCs, which amount to about percent of U.S. climate pollution.
Though that’s a small part of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, they’re between about 1,000 to 12,000 times as potent as carbon dioxide, depending on the specific chemicals used to make HFCs.
That means that just one kilogram of an HFC is the equivalent of 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide pollution, said Paul Blowers, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Arizona.
HFCs lurk in the leaky refrigerator cases of grocery stores and air conditioners across the globe. Each of those refrigerator cases leaks about 10 percent of its HFCs each year. The EPA expects HFC pollution to triple in the U.S. in the coming decades, and it could grow dramatically here and abroad as more nations adopt air conditioning as the climate warms.
Blowers said HFC emissions are easier to cut than carbon emissions from vehicle tailpipes and other forms of climate pollution because it’s easier to regulate tens of thousands of grocery store refrigerator cases than hundreds of millions of cars on the road.
The ruling, by a three-judge panel, said the EPA was out of bounds when it approved a federal rule in 2015 requiring companies to replace HFCs with another gas as a way to cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The ruling affects an international treaty signed by negotiators from the U.S. and 169 other nations in Kigali, Rwanda, last year to help phase out HFCs globally. The agreement, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, amended the 1987 Montreal Protocol to include a ban on HFCs globally. The Montreal Protocol is the international treaty banning chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.
Using the Clean Air Act to comply with the protocol, the EPA chose HFCs to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in aerosol cans and refrigerators — the main cause of the ozone hole. Without recognizing the climate impact, the agency declared that HFCs do not harm the ozone layer and are a safe replacement for CFCs.
“As we’ve moved away from ozone destroyers, we’ve moved toward climate destroyers,” said Michael Wara, a climate and energy law professor at Stanford University unaffiliated with the case.
Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, help cool grocery refrigerator cases. They're also a powerful climate pollutant that leak into the atmosphere. (image: Open Grid Scheduler/Flickr)
The Obama administration tried to fix that problem by helping to negotiate the Kigali agreement and requiring companies in the U.S. to phase out HFCs as part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Without the ban, the EPA estimated that HFC pollution would triple by 2030.
The regulation was seen as a way to accomplish the goals of the Kigali agreement without requiring it to be ratified by the Senate, which is unlikely to do so under GOP control, Wara said.
But after the new rule took effect in 2015, two foreign HFC manufacturers operating in the U.S., Mexichem Fluor and Arkema of France, sued the EPA.
The companies said the agency had no authority to use the rule banning chemicals harmful to the ozone layer to also ban chemicals that don’t affect the ozone layer, including HFCs. Mexichem declined to comment. Arkema did not respond to requests for comment.
Major U.S.-based HFC manufacturers support the EPA’s regulation and one of them, Honeywell, intervened in the case along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
Honeywell said in 2014 that the Obama administration’s efforts to cut HFC pollution would help the company slash its most potent HFCs by 50 percent by 2020. The company planned to spend $880 million on research and development to replace its HFCs.
“Phasing down the use of HFCs is a critical step that the world is taking to encourage the adoption of technologies that radically reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of refrigerants, aerosols, solvents and blowing agents,” Honeywell said in a statement. “We believe the EPA’s regulation was well-supported by the law and was in the best interests of the public, industry and the environment. We are closely reviewing the decision and are likely to pursue an appeal”
In February, the Trump administration defended the EPA’s HFC rule in court — a rare example of Trump’s EPA, which is on record as questioning the legitimacy of established climate science, defending an Obama-era climate regulation.
An air conditioning unit in San Francisco. (image: heather_mcnabb/Flickr)
The ruling calls into question the U.S. ability to control HFCs without congressional action — something unlikely to happen because Trump opposes new regulations and Republicans are not inclined to create new ones, Wara said.
Wara said the court’s decision could be appealed in two ways. The federal government or another intervener in the case, such as NRDC, could appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Or, they could ask the full panel of 11 D.C. Circuit Court judges to review the ruling, he said.
Lissa Lynch, an NRDC staff attorney, said the organization is assessing its appeal options, including seeking a rehearing of the case before the full appeals court or urging the EPA to pursue new HFC regulations.
“We’re hopeful that EPA will do the sensible thing and fight for this important rule,” Lynch said.
Bobby Magill is a senior science writer at Climate Central.
|August 7, 2017||
Mano a Mano: Schwarzenegger Unveils 'Blueprint' to Challenge Trump on Climate.
by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, AlterNet
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump's anti-climate polices, helped launch a comprehensive online database Friday to help local and state lawmakers advance environmental legislation.
"I'm pumped to unveil the Environmental Digital Legislative Handbook today, a resource for legislators around the country to find the blueprints on policies for energy efficiency, reducing pollution, recycling—you name it," Schwarzenegger announced on Facebook.
According to POLITICO, the website contains an extensive collection of legal and legislative research, voting records, and bill language and data to assist legislators in preparing bills on a vast range of environmental issues.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't have a digital legislative handbook—and make it available to people who wanted to create environmental action now—because of the situation with Trump,'' Schwarzenegger told POLITICO. "With his decision on the Paris agreement, it is even more so important to make this information available because it shows the kinds of wonderful things states can do without waiting for the federal government."
"The message to legislators with the project is now 'you have the power to do it yourselves,''' he added. "The reality is each state now goes to work and passes great legislation that helps them ... make great decisions."
"We hope to assist legislators who are interested in advancing smart environmental policies by sharing best practices and actual legislation that is working successfully in a number of states already," the website states. "Governor Schwarzenegger has long insisted that voters aren't interested in Republican air or Democrat air but instead simply want clean air. That belief has guided our thought process when choosing the legislation to include in this database"
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has emerged as a prominent environmentalist and renewable energy proponent. Last month, he threw his weight behind an extension of California's cap-and-trade program signed by his successor, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
During remarks, the former action star criticized Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.
"America is fully in the Paris agreement. There's only one man that dropped out," Schwarzenegger said of Trump on Tuesday. "America did not drop out."
In June, Schwarzenegger posted a selfie video with French president Emmanuel Macron, in an apparent jab at Trump's stance on climate change.
The clip shows Schwarzenegger saying the pair talked about "talking about environmental issues and a green future." Macron adds, "We will deliver together to make the planet great again."
Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.
|August 11, 2017||
We Would Need 1.7 Earths to Sustain Humanity's Current Rate of Resource Consumption.
by Dr. David Suzuki, AlterNet
August 2 was Earth Overshoot Day. Unlike Earth Day, it’s not a time to celebrate. As the Earth Overshoot Day website explains, it marks the time when "we will have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the whole year." That's the definition of "unsustainable" and it means we're using up the biological capital that should be our children's legacy. We would require 1.7 Earths to meet our current annual demands sustainably.
It doesn't have to be this way. "Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future," says Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that uses U.N. statistics and other sources to calculate when overshoot day falls every year. This year marks the earliest overshoot date yet.
(Wackernagel was a student of University of British Columbia ecologist William Rees. They popularized the footprint concept in their 1996 book, Our Ecological Footprint. Andrew Simms of the U.K.’s New Economics Foundation conceived Earth Overshoot Day, partnering with the Global Footprint Network in 2006 on the first campaign, and with conservation organization
According to the website, overfishing, overharvesting forests and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than natural sinks like forests can sequester are among the ways we overshoot Earth’s capacity. The consequences are serious. "Impacts of ecological overspending are apparent already in soil erosion, desertification, reduced cropland productivity, overgrazing, deforestation, rapid species extinction, fisheries collapse and increased carbon concentration in the atmosphere," it notes. "Natural capital constraints also pose a threat to economic performance and economic stability."
Climate change is the most serious result. The Global Footprint Network says our carbon footprint makes up 60 percent of our total ecological footprint, and it's increasing rapidly. Basing its calculations on "the land area required to sequester carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production,” the network says our carbon footprint has more than doubled since 1970.
The network also offers a mobile-friendly personal footprint calculator. Be warned: If you live in North America, your footprint will likely be much higher than 1.7 Earths, no matter how ecologically aware you consider yourself. We use far more energy and other resources than people in many parts of the world.
The site includes a range of solutions in four areas: food, cities, population and energy. In North America, reducing the carbon footprint by using less energy—especially fossil fuels—is major, but so is changing food habits. Food demand makes up 26 percent of the global footprint. Because raising animals for food requires far more resources and creates more emissions than growing plants, reducing the amount of meat and animal products we eat decreases our footprint. According to Oregon State University researchers, if Americans ate beans instead of beef, the U.S. could meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goals, even if the country did little else and if people continued to eat other animal products.
Food waste is another major problem. One-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted or lost—as much as 40 percent in the U.S.
Population is an obvious concern. More people require more space and resources. Strategies to stabilize population growth also have social benefits. "Educating girls and providing access to safe, affordable and effective family planning" and "empowering women" are essential to reducing population growth and result in better economic development and health outcomes.
Because humans are increasingly urban dwellers—with 70 to 80 percent expected to live in cities by 2050—things like "energy-efficient buildings, integrated zoning, compact cities and effective options for people-powered and public transportation" are crucial to reducing our footprint.
Some have criticized the Earth overshoot concept, arguing it's not accurate or that it underestimates resource overuse. Wackernagel admits the calculations are only as good as the available data, but argues that it remains a useful way to put our unsustainable ways in perspective.
Demanding constant economic growth on a finite planet with limited ability to renew resources is a recipe for overshoot. We can and must do more to reduce our growing impact on the only home we have.
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. David Suzuki’s latest book is Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do (Greystone Books, 2017), co-written with Ian Hanington.
|August 11, 2017||
What Stuff Do We Throw Away That Takes Forever to Decay?
by Robin Scher, AlterNet
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Everyone has heard this call ad infinitum, but do we really take heed? Yes, sorting your trash is a good start, but that still only ticks one box. Maybe you’re a stellar glass and plastic recycler, never go to the shops without your canvas bag, yet still find yourself struggling to reduce your consumption. If that sounds familiar, unfortunately you’re still part of the problem. Or, if you’d prefer a different label, just your average citizen.
According to a recent set of statistics compiled by alternative energy firm SaveOnEnergy, each of us in the U.S. generates more than 4 pounds of trash a day. That translates to a total of “more than 220 million tons of trash” produced across the country every year, a large portion of which ends up in landfills. Put another way by the company Waste Management, the average American will discard “600 times the amount of his or her adult weight in garbage” during their lifetime.
Like most of our environmental concerns, this situation has already reached well beyond critical.
One of the main issues comes down to decay. Any trash that isn’t recycled ends up filling landfills. Due to this mounting situation, Waste Management notes, these dumps have grown to become the “second largest source of human-related methane emissions in the country.” And if there’s one thing our climate could do without, it’s more methane.
A 2015 Livescience article points out that “twice as much solid waste” is being sent to landfills than previous estimates. As a result, methane levels are steadily rising, creating a greenhouse gas with the potential to trap heat in our atmosphere “25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide,” according to the EPA.
"There is a popular notion that in its depths, the typical municipal landfill is a locus of roiling fermentation, of intense chemical and biological activity," William L. Rathje and Cullen Murphy explain in their book Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage. "The truth is, however, that the dynamics of a modern landfill are very nearly the opposite of what most people think. Biologically and chemically, a landfill is a much more static structure than is commonly supposed."
Listed below are some facts and figures about the main culprits contributing to this mess.
You don’t need an environmental expert to tell you that plastic is one of the main contributors to our methane miasma. From straws to water bottles, plastic is everywhere and takes forever to decompose (OK, not literally, but anywhere from around 450 to 1,000 years). Apart from the additional bulk this adds to landfills, plastic spells disaster for aquatic animals, such as this poor turtle:
Paper contributes the greatest amount in volume to American landfills, notes SaveOnEnergy. Once deposited, paper takes on average between 2-6 weeks to fully decompose. Just imagine the landfill space that could be saved if we simply recycled all that paper. That is why it’s important to keep driving the message home.
Glass should be the top priority when it comes to recycling. Apart from the fact that it is one of the easiest materials to recycle (owing to the fact it’s mostly made of sand), glass that ends up in landfills will take around a million years to decompose, if at all.
4. Food waste
Here’s a figure sure to grab your attention: America produces enough food waste to fill Pasadena's 90,000-seat Rose Bowl football stadium, every single day. In fact, SaveOnEnergy reports that food waste comprises the number-one most common item in American landfills. As for the decomposition time of all that waste, that depends on the food. An orange peel can take up to 6 months to decompose, while an apple or banana peel takes only a month. Either way, it all ends up contributing to the methane buildup.
5. Diapers, cans, etc.
Eighteen-billion disposable diapers are used in America every year. Each diaper takes around 250-500 years to decompose after reaching a landfill. As for aluminium cans, notes SaveOnEnergy, every three months the equivalent number of cans that end up in landfills could be used to “rebuild the entire American commercial air fleet.” Each can takes anywhere from 80 to 200 years to decompose.
Here’s the SaveOnEnergy infographic showing the kinds of waste that takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 35 years to decompose:
And here's the much scarier infographic showing the waste that takes between 50 to 1 million years to fully decompose:
If you’re still reading, there is hope. It is never too late to change your behavior and believe it or not, sticking to the three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—can still make a genuine difference. Here’s how:
Many years from now, we may look back on this time and wonder how we were ever so wasteful for so long. For now, though, we have a lot of room for improvement. As overwhelming as things may appear on a global level, the change really does begin at home. By adjusting your consumption habits even slightly, the accumulative effect will be profound.
Infographics courtesy SaveOnEnergy.
Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.
|August 11, 2017||
Why Pollution Trading Will Never Be the Climate Solution for California—or Anywhere Else.
by Dr. Michael Dorsey, Jane Williams, AlterNet
The planet’s largest carbon trading, or cap-and-trade platform, the European Union Emissions Trading System (or EU ETS) was introduced 12 years ago. Initially, the average carbon price was low, on average 7-9 euros per ton ($8-10)) of traded carbon; after 2008 prices plummeted almost to zero following the global economic downturn. The system never recovered since.
The smart money, in the hands of the world’s largest banks, exited the planet’s largest cap-and-trade system by the boatload, and effectively carbon trading writ large.
Over the intervening decade, since 2008, a great number of banks closed down carbon trading desks and operations. First, Lehman shuttered its carbon desk during the course of its bankruptcy navigation. Next, Barclays shut its U.S. emissions trading desk amidst the previous kerfuffle and uncertainty within California’s nascent trading scheme in 2012. The following year, in 2013, carbon trading desk closures spread like wildfire around the planet: No fewer than 10 banks either massively scaled back, or shut their carbon trading desks as the crisis in the EU ETS continued unabated.
By year's end, Deutsche Bank and UBS followed suit with the hordes exiting the beleaguered cap-and-trade system closing their global carbon trading operations and climate change advisory practice, respectively right on the eve of the 2013 Warsaw Climate negotiations—the precursor negotiations to the Paris climate agreement—from which President Donald Trump withdrew earlier this year.
The planet’s biggest banks haven’t jumped back fully into cap-and-trade schemes because they all know what California governor Jerry Brown and a few obscure Chinese financiers refuse to except: That carbon trading was born with one foot in the grave and another on the banana peel. Gov. Brown’s championing free-market claims of the efficacy of cap-and-trade are a hair removed from the “voodoo economics” of the Reagan-era.
Nowhere on earth—not in the largest market (the EUETS), nor in the smaller regional markets from the New England Regional Greenhouse Initiative (RGGI) market to the California cap-and-trade market to the newly minted Chinese market—has the carbon price ever been sufficiently high enough to drive the technological innovation to fully stop carbon pollution.
Last year’s 2016 European Union “Trends and Projections” report on the shortcoming of the planet’s biggest cap-and-trade platform put it succinctly: “At current levels, the price signal of the EU ETS provides limited incentive for the more expensive abatement options necessary to decarbonise the European economy in the long term.”
So why keep the drumbeat for something that has demonstrably and empirically failed for decades?
Alas, Jerry Brown is pushing a revised cap-and-trade boondoggle to give California’s biggest petroleum polluters the right to pollute and poison the state’s poorest and most marginalized black and brown communities; and provide money for his controversial bullet train.
The market-based mechanism outlined in AB 398 perpetuates the very worst elements of the current “cap-and-trade” program and does nothing to create incentives for the technological change we so desperately need to wean ourselves off fossil fuel. AB 398 strengthens future reliance on climate policy loopholes that favor the continued extraction and refining of oil and climate speculators.
The climate science is clear: that we must reduce emissions from all sources as soon as possible, especially those emissions from burning fossil fuels. There is no option but to cut fossil fuel emissions deeply, and not to continue to burn fossil fuels under the erroneous assumption that those emissions can be “neutralized” or “offset” by the uptake of carbon in forests or through other dubious offset projects. AB 398 completely ignores the consensus scientific mandate to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
By limiting the authority of local air pollution regulators this legislation is a direct attack on what have proven to be effective grassroots efforts at the local level to hold polluters accountable for their destruction of the global climate and their poisoning of California’s communities.
AB 398 undermines the goals of SB 32 and AB 197, which together set ambitious emissions reduction goals and require a future emphasis on achieving emissions reductions by a move away from the use of fossil fuels. AB 398 and AB 617 both undermine California’s ambitious pollution reduction goals by authorizing a program that will result in ephemeral emissions reductions through complex pollution credit accounting trickery. Voodoo economics, par excellence.
The very worst thing that California could do now is to adopt climate policy that gives the appearance of doing something about the climate crisis—yet ultimately does nothing to make the real reductions in carbon pollution our planet so desperately needs. And yet, that's exactly what the governor signed in late July.
AB 398 does just that: It provides the appearance of doing something about the threats of climate change to future generations, while actually undermining our communities' ability to protect ourselves and assures that the atmosphere remains a dumping ground for polluting industries.
Lackluster cap-and-trade systems in California, held at arm’s length by the planet’s biggest banks and propped up by wishful thinking from Brown or bandwagon-riding state senators in Oakland, Santa Barbara or elsewhere will never stop carbon pollution and save our children. Strong regulations, supported by diverse constituents, rooted in science are the only way to save California...and the planet.
Dr. Michael Dorsey is co-founding director on the board at the Center for Environmental Health, based in Oakland, California.
Jane Williams is the executive director of California Communities Against Toxics, based in Rosamond, California.
|August 11, 2017||
We've Prioritized Humans Having Umpteen Kids Over the Right of Entire Species to Survive—and It's Got to Stop.
by Carter Dillard, AlterNet
Read a lot of news about family planning and population and you might notice something: We all seem to recognize that our future depends on getting family planning right, but there is no agreement on what that actually means.
Despite studies that show planning smaller families may be the most effective way to mitigate climate change and build a resilient populace that can thrive in the environment of the future, conservative media continues to push women to have more children. Some commentators argue that women in the U.S. should have babies and sooner and get pregnant now—despite the fact that the average person in the U.S. is much more environmentally destructive than the average person in many other countries.
That’s a shocking position for family-loving conservatives to take, given that children will suffer the most in the degraded environment of the future. These voices are more subtle than some of the blatant racism that underlies the “bigger white families” approach, and are often simply focused on using population growth (in an example of what Foucault called biopower) to artificially inflate the economy (adding people rather than value) and ensure returns on investments.
Recent moves by President Trump to defund teen pregnancy programs seem eerily timed in response to fears about how lower fertility among young people would affect the economy. And leading by example, President Trump’s brood of five kids and eight grandkids, completely unsustainable in size and lifestyle, serves as a paragon for others.
Meanwhile, mainstream and more liberal media continue to parrot the tired message that population problems are all about the developing world, and Africa in particular. Commentators claim we must simply educate young girls and provide more access to contraception and reproductive health services. That’s also shocking, given the results of this approach, its failure to establish targets based on sustainability and—like the conservatives’ approach—the way it has simply pushed the problem of growth onto future generations.
This also ignores the needs of nonhuman animals and thereby ensures their extinction, putting the rights of people like the Duggar family to have umpteen kids above the rights of entire species to survive. More subtly, some in the media continue to carry messaging encouraging women to have more kids because it can be the key to a successful career, might make you a better surfer, or could save your marriage.
While commentators debate from opposite sides, those living with the reality of the population explosion are now moving toward direct forms of population control, something no really wants, but may see as necessary given the failure of traditional family planning systems.
This is chaos. And chaos, when it comes to the one behavior that most determines our future, is terrifying. Today, there are anecdotes galore of obviously thoughtful and caring people forgoing having any children because of their concerns about how it would impact others, while those less concerned about the future plan larger and unsustainable families. Is this the worst possible result? Should revelations about the impact that fertility has on climate change mean only those who care enough to make choices that benefit others are the ones to stop having kids?
Is there a solution? The current public family planning model, used almost universally, was developed over half a century ago. And while it was successful at cutting worldwide fertility rates in half, it has many well-known flaws, including lacking a sustainable baseline, ignoring conflicting human rights, orienting around subjective parental choice rather than objective levels of child welfare, ignoring the historic patriarchal structures of families and reinforcing economic inequalities in what New York Times columnist David Brooks recently called pediacracy.
One solution would be to abandon the old model in favor of a sustainable, child-centered and truly human-rights based family planning model. My nonprofit, Having Kids, promotes the Fair Start model as that sort of an alternative. Rather than basing family planning decisions on what parents want in the short term, this model is based on what kids need in the long term, and orients around the simple principle that every child deserves a fair start in life, or the fundamental human right to begin their lives in conditions that create equitable opportunities in life relative to other children born in their locale and generation.
Under this new model, both parents and the community have correlative duties to plan for and ensure that all children are born above a minimum threshold of wellbeing, and in continuously improving conditions that at least approach a fair start in life. The model is based on the historic narrative at the heart of systems of human rights and democracy—the story of a free and equal people coming together to make their own rules to live by.
The model, however, modifies that story by temporalizing the act of “coming together” to account for and focus on incoming generations, and reforms family planning systems to align with the new narrative. The simplest way to think of the model is to imagine smaller families working together to plan a fair start in life for every child.
It's simple to apply. Recently, Having Kids called upon Prince William and Kate Middleton to do just that, and to lead by example by forgoing having an additional (third) child for whatever subjective reasons they might have had, in favor of using those resources to help other families plan a better and fairer start for their own children.
It’s time to put children first, and the only way to do that is by changing the way we plan families. If we can do that, we will build a happier, safer, more equitable and less crowded future. That's something both we, our children—and all the species with whom we share this planet—deserve.
|August 11, 2017||
Why Animal Sentience Matters—and Why We Need a Charter for Animal Compassion.
by Rob Percival, AlterNet
What is the role of the artist and the writer in an age of animal suffering, wildlife destruction and species extinctions? In 50 years, when our grandchildren look back at our age, will they see a response commensurate to the crisis? When they study the period spanning 1970-2020, during which two-thirds of the planet’s wild animals were killed, will they be able to locate the painters and the poets whose work plumbed the depths of the loss?
One aspect of our predicament will seem particularly strange. Looking back, our grandchildren will see that the era of greatest animal obliteration—the era in which we now live—was also an era of strident advances in the science of animal sentience. Never before had a society had such research at their fingertips. Never before had a society wrought such destructive consequence.
Animal sentience refers to the ability of animals to suffer, to experience pain and fear, and to experience pleasurable states such as joy. Sentience is tricky territory for scientists, as it concerns subjective experiences and not just physiological processes; it can be difficult to assess. Nevertheless, researchers have found persuasive evidence of animal sentience: mammals, birds, fish and many other creatures possess the ability to feel and perceive—they experience the world subjectively.Research into animal sentience is important, as our behavior toward nonhuman animals is shaped by our perception of their sentient aptitudes. Descartes famously declared, “animals are like robots: they cannot reason or feel pain,” and then proceeded to dissect his wife’s dog to demonstrate the point (or so the story goes). Few today would concur with Descartes’ statement, but our attribution of sentience to animals is inconsistent, and this inconsistency has important consequences.
Consider the case of a factory farmed pig. Pigs are similar to dogs in many respects: They are intelligent and sociable, they wag their tails when they are happy and they learn to respond to their own names. And yet while we (in Northern America and Europe) would balk at the thought of eating the family dog, we eat our way through hundreds of millions of pigs every year, and the majority of these are raised in semi-dark sheds, upon squalid concrete, suffering considerably. We choose not to eat the family dog because we recognize that it is a sentient being. What about the pig?
IQ tests have revealed that pigs can outsmart dogs and chimpanzees. (image: fritz16/Shutterstock)
In a series of experiments described in a 2014 paper, Steve Loughman and colleagues examine the psychology of eating animals. “[Individuals eating meat] tend to reduce mind attribution to animals and see them as dissimilar to humans,” they write. “In preparation for eating meat, and after it, they attribute diminished mental capacities to animals.”
In other words, when we eat meat, many of us undergo a process of sentience-denial, a mental contortion in which we downplay the capacity of the animal (now food) to experience, feel or suffer. We do this on a largely unconscious level, without realizing, and without ill-intent.
These mental gymnastics are significant, for sentience opens the door to empathy. Allow me to conduct a brief thought experiment. Imagine a paving stone. Now try to empathize with it. Try to adopt its perspective, step into its shoes. It’s difficult, for a paving stone appears to lack sentience. It does not, as far as we know, experience pleasure or pain. It does not fear. It does not have goals and intentions. Now imagine a pig, in a cage, who has never stepped outside or seek the sky above her. It is easier to empathize with the pig, for we recognize her to be a sentient being, albeit in an inconsistent manner. And although we can never know for sure what it is to be a pig, we can, with the support of science, venture an approximation.
Just as sentience opens the doorway to empathy, so empathy makes possible compassion. Around 500 BCE, Confucius said: “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.” The Buddha likewise said: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament says: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This statement, in varying guises, has become known as ‘the golden rule’—the principle that underpins the practice of compassion.
As a society our interactions with nonhuman animals often lack compassion—we do not treat our mammalian, avian, reptilian, amphibian and aquatic kin as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Indeed, this is something of an understatement. Fifty billion animals are born, raised and slaughter in intensive factory farms every single year. We destroy wild animal habitats, bulldozing forests and poisoning oceans. As a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently noted, the sixth mass extinction is already underway—a process of “biological annihilation” that also represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization.”
If our interactions with nonhuman animals often lack compassion, this is partly because as a society, we have become stranded beyond an "empathy gap." We are inconsistent in our attribution of sentience to animals, and not only to the animals that we eat. We rarely take nonhuman animal points of view into consideration when deciding how to organize our society or interact with our natural environment. Although we possess a wealth of research into animal sentience—research that could engender inter-species empathy and more compassionate behavior—this research has not permeated our psyche. It does not shape our behavior in a meaningful sense.
What is the role of the artist and the writer in an age of animal suffering, wildlife destruction and species extinctions? Perhaps it is this: to help us see from nonhuman perspectives, to carry us into the mind of a bat or a baboon, to inform us of the sentience of a cod, to engender an attitude of inter-species empathy that might be the last bulwark against the already-unfolding annihilation of the living world.
The Charter for Animal Compassion is a non-political, non-ideological statement of the significance of empathy and compassion in an age of species-loss and animal suffering. The Charter champions the science of animal sentience and calls on writers, researchers and artists to collaborate in translating and carrying this science into popular awareness. The Charter hopes to galvanize new art and writing that helps us to see through the nonhuman animal eye—art and writing that our grandchildren might recognize as a response commensurate to the crisis we now face.
The Charter was published in July and has already has been signed by hundreds of people in over a dozen countries. Throughout the next year the Charter will be working to promote the artists, writers and researchers whose work engenders a more empathetic understanding of nonhuman animals, inspiring new patterns of behavior.
The Charter is calling on all people to sign their name and affirm the principles it contains. By affirming the Charter, you join the movement for nonhuman animal compassion. You signal your support for art and writing that sees through the animal eye. You signal your support for a more compassionate world.
|July 20, 2017||
Homo Economicus We Have All Become.
by David Anderson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
The viability of Planet Earth to sustain human civilization in its present form is now being questioned. We are heading toward a cliff. The fall will not just be painful; it could spell the end of Homo sapiens. For a start, we urgently need to examine the rational undergirding our Capital Market system. Certain elements of that system, laboriously pieced together over the centuries beginning with the bronze/iron agricultural age and then energized during the Industrial Revolution are now working against us. This examination will require a questioning of the dark side of our neurotic/psychotic weakness.
The expression “Homo economicus” is commonly used today as a reference to those individuals in our modern society who are secular and materialistic. Money and profit take precedence. Some say this is “good” for society. Some say it is “bad.”
The questions we will attempt to answer here are the following: What part of the brain cage is driving this secularism and materialism? Does it amount to neurotic/psychotic deficiencies or strengths? Is everyone this way, or just a few? Does this apply to the peoples in all nations at all levels, rich and poor? How deeply engrained is it? Is it a serious human deficiency with ecological ramifications that could cause the end of our species? If it is a deficiency, with a bit of brain cage tweaking could those secular materialists who emphasize money and profit save us?
Such a discussion must necessarily cover both the strengths and weaknesses of our modern day Capital Market system, and the public acceptance of those governmental structures dependent on that system.
First we need to understand that the exchanging of goods and services most likely was a part of our nature long before this Axial Age. Although there is no direct empirical evidence, anthropologists assume that Homo sapiens from the time that they were fashioning arrow points and beads most likely were trading them within their communities. A recent example of this possibility is an assortment of such artifacts found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa. (It showed the possibility of near humans trading as early as 140,000 BCE)
We need to recognize that any solution to our ecological problems must recognize this part of our nature. Non market solutions that deny our being Homo economicus have in the past failed, with Marxist Soviet Communism being a prime example. We can, however, point to others having success such as those seen from time to time in religious and other kinds of communes. But they have succeeded only when limited to small numbers of people.
Our Industrial Capital Market system is now testing the biophysical limits of Planet Earth. The reason is that Planet Earth’s natural resources are not unlimited. Many are renewable but only over very long periods of time even extending into the hundreds of millions of years. As our industrial society continues to reconstitute and absorb the earth’s resources, there are no technical processes able to eliminate the entropic aspect of such resource depletion and reconstitution. All so called “technocratic fixes” now being widely discussed such as an aerosol blanket in the atmosphere upon examination turn out to be no more than dangerous pipe dreams. Their problem arises from the fact that the cure can be worse than the disease.
This is leading to a questioning of the efficacy of the foundations of the Capital Market system and the dependence on it today of over seven billion humans. (Many are saying that the planet can only support two billion at a medium standard of living)
Given the assumption that capital markets have become a primary cause of our ecological malfunction, the time has come for these markets to be placed under some form of control that acknowledges the deficiencies rooted in our secular and materialist mindset. A way to achieve this is to factor in external costs (externalities) measured and priced in up front so as to encourage, discourage, temper, or at the extreme eliminate the trade itself.
Organic and inorganic resources must be internally priced at the moment of investment decision and subsequent market entry so as to prevent their exploitation and damage to the planet. And these resources must be inclusive of every human planetary exploitive economic activity. At the same time; positive incentives that advance the higher values of humanity; ranging from the opera house to the athletic field to the hospital must be built into every investment decision and subsequent market entry. Economic outcomes with positive social value need to be recognized.
In short; every investment decision must be internally priced to reflect its socially constructive or destructive outcome. At present, this is not being done.
Implicit in this assumption is that only economically disinterested parties can be in a position to recognize negative external costs and positive incentives. This is not what we have in our world today. At both the investment decision and political decision level neurotic/psychotic self-interest prevails. Kleptocratic millionaires and billionaires manipulate markets. Politicians, some too very rich, under Kleptocratic control are manipulated. There is nothing new about this. We saw it in Rome. We saw it in Feudal Europe. We see it all over the Middle East today. We see it in Russia. We see it in China and India. We see it in “so called” American Democracy.
Throughout human history, even before the bronze/iron agricultural age, the manipulation and exploitation of Nature was considered a “given.” There was plenty of animate/inanimate Planet Earth to go around; both eagerly waiting to satisfy Homo economicus’ desires. Most of the religious gods agreed to this; particularly the Abrahamic. Then later on with the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith’s “hidden hand” even for some seemed to have a god-like beneficence. Many in our world today continue to believe this.
The viability of Planet Earth to sustain human civilization in its present form is now being questioned. We are heading toward a cliff. The fall will not just be painful; it could spell the end of Homo sapiens. For a start, we urgently need to examine the rational undergirding our Capital Market system. Certain elements of that system, laboriously pieced together over the centuries beginning with the bronze/iron agricultural age and then energized during the Industrial Revolution are now working against us. This examination will require a questioning of the dark side of our neurotic/psychotic weakness.
From Growth To Degrowth: A Brief History
He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. It can be seen on
David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over a thirty year career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. During that period he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction and conflict.
|July 24, 2017||
Staving Off The Coming Global Collapse.
by William Rees, in Resource Crisis, Countercurrents.org
‘Overshoot’ is when a species uses resources faster than can be replenished. We’re already there. And show no signs of changing.
Humans have a virtually unlimited capacity for self-delusion, even when self-preservation is at stake.
The scariest example is the simplistic, growth-oriented, market-based economic thinking that is all but running the world today. Prevailing neoliberal economic models make no useful reference to the dynamics of the ecosystems or social systems with which the economy interacts in the real world.
What truly intelligent species would attempt to fly spaceship Earth, with all its mind-boggling complexity, using the conceptual equivalent of a 1955 Volkswagen Beetle driver’s manual?
Consider economists’ (and therefore society’s) near-universal obsession with continuous economic growth on a finite planet. A recent ringing example is Kaushik Basu’s glowing prediction that “in 50 years, the world economy is likely (though not guaranteed) to be thriving, with global GDP growing by as much as 20 per cent per year, and income and consumption doubling every four years or so.”
Basu is the former chief economist of the World Bank, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of economics at Cornell University, so he is no flake in the economics department. But this does not prevent a display of alarming ignorance of both the power of exponential growth and the state of the ecosphere. Income and consumption doubling every four years? After just 20 years and five doublings, the economy would be larger by a factor of 32; in 50 years it will have multiplied more than 5000-fold! Basu must inhabit some infinite parallel universe.
In fairness, he does recognize that if the number of cars, airplane journeys and the like double every four years with overall consumption, “we will quickly exceed the planet’s limits.” But here’s the thing — it’s 50 years before Basu’s prediction even takes hold and we’ve already shot past several important planetary boundaries.
Little wonder. Propelled by neoliberal economic thinking and fossil fuels, techno-industrial society consumed more energy and resources during the most recent doubling (the past 35 years or so) than in all previous history. Humanity is now in dangerous ecological overshoot, using even renewable and replenishable resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate and filling waste sinks beyond capacity. (Even climate change is a waste management problem — carbon dioxide is the single greatest waste by weight in all industrial economies.)
Meanwhile, wild nature is in desperate retreat. One example: from less than one per cent at the dawn of agriculture, humans and their domestic animals had ballooned to comprise 97 per cent of the total weight of terrestrial mammals by the year 2000. That number is closer to 98.5 per cent today, with wild mammals barely clinging to the margins.
The “competitive displacement” of other species is an inevitable byproduct of continuous growth on a finite planet. The expansion of humans and their artefacts necessarily means the contraction of everything else. (Politicians’ protests notwithstanding, there is a fundamental contradiction between population/economic growth and protecting the “environment.”)
Ignoring overshoot is dangerously stupid — we are financing growth, in part, by irreversibly liquidating natural resources essential to our own long-term survival.
And things can only get worse. Even at today’s “lacklustre” three-per-cent global growth rate, incomes/consumption would double in just 20 years and produce — in this century — dramatic climate change, widespread extinctions, the collapse of major biophysical systems, global strife and diminished prospects for continued civilized existence.
But even this threat isn’t enough to move the world community to act sensibly to save itself. Like a mind-altering drug, the compound myth of perpetual growth and continuous technological progress obscures reality. Economists thicken the fog by insisting that the economy is “decoupling” from nature — another illusion resulting from faulty accounting, modelling abstractions and the fudging effects of globalization (for example, wealthy countries “offshoring” their ecological impacts onto poorer countries and the global commons).
The biophysical evidence — that is, reality — shows that material consumption and waste production are still increasing with population and GDP growth. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide is accumulating at accelerating record rates in the atmosphere and the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 sequentially shared the distinction of being the warmest years in the instrumental record.
There is little question that the immediate drivers of overshoot are overpopulation and excess consumption, so there is widespread support for the idea of “clean production and consumption.” What only a few realists are willing to state out loud is that this must soon translate into less production/consumption by fewer people.
But this raises another problem. Thirty per cent of the world’s population are still considered to be “very poor” (living on less than $3.10 per day, purchasing power adjusted) and deserve to consume more.
Meanwhile, ours is a world of chronic gross social inequity. Oxfam recently reported that the world’s richest eight billionaires possess the same wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of humanity — more than 3.5 billion people). The richest fifth of people take home about 70 per cent of global income compared to just two per cent by the poorest fifth.
Such inequality deepens the hole we are digging for ourselves. There may be enough of everything to go around, but greater incomes enable the citizens of high-income countries to consume, on average, several times their equitable share of global economic and ecological output. Meanwhile the poor scrounge for crumbs at the bottom of our Earthly barrel. Even within prosperous nations, a widening income gap is known to undermine population health and erode social cohesion, the contemporary United States being an outstanding example.
Our growth-based, winner-takes-all economy has become egregiously unjust as well as ecologically precarious. Perversely, the world community prescribes still greater material growth as the only feasible solution!
How might a clear-sighted neutral observer interpret our predicament? First, she or he would point out that on a finite planet already in overshoot, it is not biophysically possible to raise the material standards of the poor to those of the rich sustainably — that is, without destroying the ecosphere, undermining life-support functions and precipitating global societal collapse. In a non-deluded world, governments would no longer see economic growth as the panacea for all that ails them; in particular, they would acknowledge that enough is literally enough and cease promoting growth as the primary solution to both North-South inequity and chronic poverty within nations.
Instead, a rational world would focus on devising institutions and policies for co-operative redistribution — ways to share the benefits of development more equitably. The goal should be to enhance the material well-being of developing countries and the poor and improve life-quality for all while simultaneously reducing both aggregate material consumption and world population.
Ensuring a socially just, economically secure and ecologically stable global environment requires: a) that rich nations consume less to free up the ecological space needed for justifiable consumption increases in poorer countries; and b) that the world implement a universal population management plan designed to reduce the total human population to a level that that can be supported indefinitely at a more-than-satisfactory average material standard. This is what it means to “live sustainably within the means of nature.”
Fortunately, various studies suggest that planned de-growth toward a quasi steady state economy is technically possible, would benefit the poor and could be achieved while improving overall quality of life even in high-income countries.
Considering the human suffering that would be avoided and number of non-human species that would be preserved, this is also a morally compelling strategy.
The foregoing diagnosis is anathema to the prevailing growth ethic, the naive fallacy that well-being is a continuous linear function of income, and politically correct avoidance of the population question. Many will therefore object on grounds that the suggested policy prescription is politically unfeasible and can never be implemented.
They may well be correct. The problem is that what is politically feasible is likely to be ecologically irrelevant or downright dangerous. Accelerated hydrocarbon development, better pipeline regulations and improved navigational aids for tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast, for example, don’t cut it as sustainable development in a world that should be abandoning fossil fuels.
The data show clearly that we are at a crucial stage of a slow but accelerating crisis. To be effective and timely, sustainability policy should already be consistent with the real-world evidence. Nature can no longer endure the consequences of “alternative facts.”
Failure to implement a global sustainability plan that addresses excess consumption and over-population while ensuring greater social equity may well be fatal to global civilization. Indeed, adherence to any variant of the growth-bound status quo promises a future of uncontrollable climate change, plummeting biodiversity, civil disorder, geopolitical turmoil and resource wars.
In these circumstances, should not elected politicians everywhere have an obligation to explain how their policies reflect the fact of global overshoot?
Denying reality is not a viable option; self-delusion can become all-destroying. If our leaders reject the foregoing framing, they should be required to show how the policies they are pursuing can deliver ecological stability, economic security, social equity and improved population health to future generations. Ordinary citizens should assert their right-to-know as if their lives depend upon it.
It is worth pointing out that B.C.’s recent provincial election campaign and Canada’s 2015 campaign ran with no reference to the key issues outlined here or any explanation of the omission (and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was even more other-worldly).
Are you worried yet?
William Rees is an ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. He is the originator and co-developer (with his former student, Dr Mathis Wackernagel) of ‘ecological footprint analysis’ and author of 150 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, and numerous popular articles, on humanity’s (un)sustainability conundrum. Dr Rees work is recognized worldwide. The Vancouver Sun named Prof Rees one of British Columbia’s top public intellectuals in 2000. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2006 and has since been awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Laval University), a Trudeau Foundation Fellowship, the 2012 Boulding Prize in Ecological Economics and a 2012 Blue Planet Prize (jointly with Dr Wackernagel) , and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.
|July 27, 2017||
Biological Annihilation On Earth Accelerating.
by Robert J Burrowes, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org
Human beings are now waging war against life itself as we continue to destroy not just individual lives, local populations and entire species in vast numbers but also destroy the ecological systems that make life on Earth possible.
By doing this we are now accelerating the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history and virtually eliminating any prospect of human survival.
In a recently published scientific study ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’ the authors Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo document the accelerating nature of this problem.
‘Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe than perceived when looking exclusively at species extinctions…. That conclusion is based on analyses of the numbers and degrees of range contraction … using a sample of 27,600 vertebrate species, and on a more detailed analysis documenting the population extinctions between 1900 and 2015 in 177 mammal species.’ Their research found that the rate of population loss in terrestrial vertebrates is ‘extremely high’ – even in ‘species of low concern’.
In their sample, comprising nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32% (8,851 out of 27,600) are decreasing; that is, they have decreased in population size and range. In the 177 mammals for which they had detailed data, all had lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40% of the species had experienced severe population declines. Their data revealed that ‘beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.’
Illustrating the damage done by dramatically reducing the historic geographic range of a species, consider the lion. Panthera leo ‘was historically distributed over most of Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East, all the way to northwestern India. It is now confined to scattered populations in sub-Saharan Africa and a remnant population in the Gir forest of India. The vast majority of lion populations are gone.’
Why is this happening? Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo tell us: ‘In the last few decades, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption, as well as the interactions among these factors, have led to the catastrophic declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and rare vertebrate species.’
Further, however, the authors warn ‘But the true extent of this mass extinction has been underestimated, because of the emphasis on species extinction.’ This underestimate can be traced to overlooking the accelerating extinction of local populations of a species.
‘Population extinctions today are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to species extinctions, so Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.’ Moreover, and importantly from a narrow human perspective, the massive loss of local populations is already damaging the services ecosystems provide to civilization (which, of course, are given no value by government and corporate economists).
As Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo remind us: ‘When considering this frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization, one must never forget that Earth’s capacity to support life, including human life, has been shaped by life itself.’ When public mention is made of the extinction crisis, it usually focuses on a few (probably iconic) animal species known to have gone extinct, while projecting many more in future. However, a glance at their maps presents a much more realistic picture: as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations.
Furthermore, they claim that their analysis is conservative given the increasing trajectories of those factors that drive extinction together with their synergistic impacts. ‘Future losses easily may amount to a further rapid defaunation of the globe and comparable losses in the diversity of plants, including the local (and eventually global) defaunation-driven coextinction of plants.’
They conclude with the chilling observation: ‘Thus, we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short.’
Of course, it is too late for those species of plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles that humans have already driven to extinction or will yet drive to extinction in the future. 200 species yesterday. 200 species today. 200 species tomorrow. 200 species the day after…. And, as Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo emphasize, the ongoing daily extinctions of a myriad local populations.
If you think that the above information is bad enough in assessing the prospects for human survival, you will not be encouraged by awareness or deeper consideration of even some of the many variables adversely impacting our prospects that were beyond the scope of the above study.
While Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo, in addition to the problems they noted which are cited above, also identified the problems of human overpopulation and continued population growth, as well as overconsumption (based on ‘the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet’) and even the risks posed by nuclear war, there were many variables that were beyond the scope of their research.
For example, in a recent discussion of that branch of ecological science known as ‘Planetary Boundary Science’, Dr Glen Barry identified ‘at least ten global ecological catastrophes which threaten to destroy the global ecological system and portend an end to human beings, and perhaps all life. Ranging from nitrogen deposition to ocean acidification, and including such basics as soil, water, and air; virtually every ecological system upon which life depends is failing’. See ‘The End of Being: Abrupt Climate Change One of Many Ecological Crises Threatening to Collapse the Biosphere’.
Moreover, apart from the ongoing human death tolls caused by the endless wars and other military violence being conducted across the planet – see, for example, ‘Yemen cholera worst on record & numbers still rising’ – there is catastrophic environmental damage caused too. For some insight, see The Toxic Remnants of War Project.
In addition, the out-of-control methane releases into the atmosphere that are now occurring – see ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’ and ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’ – and the release, each and every day, of 300 tons of radioactive waste from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean – see ‘Fukushima Radiation Has Contaminated The Entire Pacific Ocean – And It’s Going To Get Worse’ – are having disastrous consequences that will negatively impact life on Earth indefinitely. And they cannot be reversed in any timeframe that is meaningful for human prospects.
Apart from the above, there is a host of other critical issues – such as destruction of the Earth’s rainforests, destruction of waterways and the ocean habitat and the devastating impact of animal agriculture for meat consumption – that international governmental organizations such as the UN, national governments and multinational corporations will continue to refuse to decisively act upon because they are controlled by the insane global elite. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’with more fully elaborated explanations in‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So time may be short, the number of issues utterly daunting and the prospects for life grim. But if, like me, you are inclined to fight to the last breath, I invite you to consider making a deliberate choice to take powerful personal action in the fight for our survival.
If you do nothing else, consider participating in the fifteen-year strategy of ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’. You can do this as an individual, with family and friends or as a neighbourhood.
If you are involved in (or considering becoming involved in) a local campaign to address a climate issue, end some manifestation of war (or even all war), or to halt any other threat to our environment, I encourage you to consider doing this on a strategic basis. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.
And if you would like to join the worldwide movement to end violence in all of its forms, environmental and otherwise, you are also welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
We might be annihilating life on Earth but this is not something about which we have no choice.
In fact, each and every one of us has a choice: we can choose to do nothing, we can wait for (or even lobby) others to act, or we can take powerful action ourselves. But unless you search your heart and make a conscious and deliberate choice to commit yourself to act powerfully, your unconscious choice will effectively be the first one (including that you might take some token measures and delude yourself that these make a difference). And the annihilation of life on Earth will continue, with your complicity.
Extinction beckons. Will you choose powerfully?
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is email@example.com and his website is here.
|July 28, 2017||
Burning Raqqa :The U.S. War Against Civilians In Syria.
by Laura Gottesdiener, in Imperialism, Countercurrents.org
The United States is now one of the deadliest warring parties in Syria. In May and June combined, the U.S.-led coalition killed more civilians than the Assad regime, the Russians, or ISIS, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization that has been monitoring the death toll and human rights violations in Syria since 2011.
“This administration wants to achieve a quick victory,” Dr. Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights recently told me, referring to the Trump White House. “What we are noticing is that the U.S. is targeting and killing without taking into consideration the benefits for the military and the collateral damage for the civilians. This, of course, amounts to war crimes.”
And nowhere is this war against civilians more acute than in ISIS-occupied Raqqa, where trapped families are living under dozens of airstrikes every day.
Hotel of the Revolution
Located at the confluence of the Euphrates and Balikh rivers in northernSyria, Raqqa was first settled more than 5,000 years ago. By the late eighth century, it had grown into an imperial city, filled with orchards, palaces, canals, reception halls, and a hippodrome for horse racing. Its industrial quarters were then known as “the burning Raqqa,” thanks to the flames and thick smoke produced by its glass and ceramic furnaces. The city even served briefly as the capital of the vast Abbasid Empire stretching from North Africa to Central Asia.
Toward the end of the thirteenth century, wars between the Mongol and Mamluk empires annihilated Raqqa and its surrounding countryside. Every single resident of the city was either killed or expelled. According to Hamburg University professor Stefan Heidemann, who has worked on a number of excavations in and around Raqqa, the scorched-earth warfare was so extreme that not a single tree was left standing in the region.
Only in the middle of the twentieth century when irrigation from the Euphrates River allowed Raqqa’s countryside to flourish amid a global cotton boom did the city fully reemerge. In the 1970s, the region’s population again began to swell after then-President Hafez al-Assad — the father of the present Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad — ordered the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates about 30 miles upstream of Raqqa. Wassim Abdo’s father, Muhammed, was an employee at this dam. Like many of these workers and their families, he and Salam lived in Tabqa’s third neighborhood, which was filled with four-story apartment flats built in the 1970s not far from the dam and its power station.
Despite these agricultural and industrial developments, Raqqa remained a small provincial capital. Abdalaziz Alhamza, a cofounder of the watchdog group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is made up of media activists from Raqqa living in the city as well as in exile, writes that the local news normally didn’t even mention the city in its weather forecasts.
In the mid-2000s, a drought began to wither the local cash crops: cotton, potatoes, rice, and tomatoes. As in other regions of Syria, farmers migrated from the countryside into the city, where overstretched and ill-functioning public services only exacerbated long-simmering dissatisfactions with the Assad regime.
As the 2011 rebellion broke out across Syria, Wassim Abdo and thousands of others in Raqqa, Tabqa, and nearby villages began agitating against the Syrian government, flooding the streets in protest and forming local coordinating councils. The regime slowly lost control of territory across the province. In March 2013, after only a few days of battle, anti-government rebels ousted government troops from the city and declared Raqqa the â€‹first â€‹liberated provincial capitalâ€‹ in all of Syria. The city, then the sixth largest in Syria, became “the hotel of the revolution.”
Within less than a year, however, despite fierce protests and opposition from its residents, ISIS fighters had fully occupied the city and the surrounding countryside. They declared Raqqa the capital of the Islamic State.
Despite the occupation, Wassim’s parents never tried to flee Tabqa because they hoped to reunite with one of their sons, Azad, who had been kidnapped by ISIS fighters in September 2013. In retirement, Muhammed Abdo opened a small electronics store. Salam was a housewife. Like tens of thousands of other civilians, they were living under ISIS occupation in Tabqa when, in the spring of 2017, U.S. Apache helicopters and warplanes first began appearingin the skies above the city. U.S. Marines armed with howitzers were deployed to the region. In late March, American helicopters airlifted hundreds of U.S.-backed troops from the Kurdish-led militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forcesâ€‹ to the banks of the dammed river near the city. Additional forces approached from the east, transported on American speedboats.
By the beginning of May, the Abdos’ neighborhood was under almost daily bombardment by the U.S.-led coalition forces. On May 3rd, coalition warplanes reportedly launched up to 30 airstrikes across Tabqa’s first, second, and third neighborhoods, striking homes and a fruit market and reportedly killing at least six civilians. The following night, another round of coalition airstrikes battered the first and third neighborhoods, reportedly killing at least seven civilians, including women and children. Separate airstrikes that same night near the city’s center reportedly killed another six to 12 civilians.
On May 7th, multiple bombs reportedly dropped by the U.S.-led coalition struck the building where Muhammed and Salam had taken shelter, killing them and their 12-year-old grandson. Three days later, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced that they had fully seized control of Tabqa and the dam. The militia and its U.S. advisers quickly set their sights east to the upcoming offensive in Raqqa.
But for the Abdo family, the tragedy continued. Muhammed and Salam’s bodies were buried beneath the collapsed apartment building. It took 15 days before Wassim’s brother Rashid could secure the heavy machinery required to extract them.
“Nobody could approach the corpses because of the disfigurement that had occurred and the smell emanating from them as a result of being left under the rubble for such a long period of time in the hot weather,” Wassim told me in a recent interview.
That same day their bodies were finally recovered. On May 23rd, his parents and nephew were buried in the Tabqa cemetery.
“In Raqqa There Are Many Causes of Death”
A few days after the Abdos’ funeral, the U.S.-led coalition began dropping leaflets over Raqqa instructing civilians to flee the city ahead of the upcoming offensive. According to photos of leaflets published by Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, the warnings read, in part, “This is your last chance… Failing to leave might lead to death.”
ISIS fighters, in turn, prohibited civilians from escaping the city and planted landmines in Raqqa’s outskirts. Nevertheless, on June 5th, dozens of civilians heeded the coalition’s warnings and gathered at a boat stand on the northern banks of the Euphrates, where they waited to be ferried out of the city. Before the war, families had picnicked along this riverbank. Teenagers jumped into the water from Raqqa’s Old Bridge, built in 1942 by British troops. A handful of river front cafés opened for the season.
“The river is the main monument of the city, and for many people there’s a romantic meaning to it,” Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham, currently co-writing Brothers of the Gun, a book about life in ISIS-occupied Raqqa, told me.
But on June 5th, as the families were waiting to cross the river to escape the impending U.S.-backed offensive, coalition warplanes launched a barrage of airstrikes targeting the boats, reportedly massacring as many as 21 civilians. The coalition acknowledges launching 35 airstrikes that destroyed 68 boats between June 4th and June 6th, according to the journalistic outlet Airwars. Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend later boasted about the tactic, tellingthe New York Times: “We shoot every boat we find.”
The day after the attack on fleeing civilians at the boat stand, the long-awaited U.S.-backed ground offensive officially began.
After three years of ISIS rule, Raqqa had become one of the most isolated cities in the world. The militants banned residents from having home internet, satellite dishes, or Wi-Fi hotspots. They arrested and killed local reporters and banned outside journalists. On the day U.S.-backed troops launched their ground offensive against the city, ISIS further sought to restrict reporting on conditions there by ordering the imminent shutdown of all Internet cafés.
Despite these restrictions, dozens of Syrian journalists and activists have risked and still risk their lives to smuggle information out of besieged Raqqa — and their efforts are the only reason most Western reporters (including myself) have any information about the war our countries are currently waging there.
Every day, these media activists funnel news out of the city to exiled Syrians running media outlets and human rights organizations. The most famous among these groups has become Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, which won the 2015 International Press Freedom Award for its reporting on the ISIS occupation and now publishes hourly updates on the U.S.-backed offensive. All this news is then compiled and cross-checked by international monitoring groups like Airwars, whose researchers have now found themselves tracking as many as a half-dozen coalition attacks resulting in civilian casualties every day.
It’s because of this work that we know the Raqqa offensive officially began on June 6th with a barrage of airstrikes and artillery shelling that reportedly hit a school, a train station, the immigration and passport building, a mosque, and multiple residential neighborhoods, killing between six and 13 civilians. Two days later, bombs, artillery shells, and white phosphorus were reportedly unleashed across Raqqa, hitting — among other places — the Al-Hason Net Internet café, killing a media activist and at least a dozen others. (That journalist was one of at least 26 media activists to be killed in Syria this year alone.) Other bombs reportedly hit at least eight shops and a mosque. Photosalso showed white phosphorus exploding over two residential neighborhoods.
White phosphorus is capable of burning human flesh to the bone. When exposed to oxygen, the chemical ignites reaching a temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s so flammable that its burns can reignite days later if the bandages are removed too soon.
U.S. military officials have not denied using white phosphorus in the city. The Pentagon has, in fact, published photos of U.S. Marines deployed to the Raqqa region transporting U.S.-manufactured white phosphorus munitions. Its spokesmen claim that the U.S. military only uses this incendiary agent to mark targets for air strikes or to create smoke screens and therefore remains in accordance with international law. But in the days after the reported attack, Amnesty International warned: “The US-led coalition’s use of white phosphorus munitions on the outskirts of al-Raqqa, Syria, is unlawful and may amount to a war crime.” (Amnesty similarly accused the U.S. of potentially committing war crimes during its campaign against ISIS in Mosul.)
Following the reported white phosphorus attacks on June 8th and 9th, Raqqa’s main commercial and social avenue — February 23rd Street — reportedly came under three straight days of bombing. Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham, who grew up in that city, recalls how that street had once been lined with cafés, entertainment venues, and shops. Its western edge runs into Rashid Park, one of the city’s main public spaces. Its eastern edge stretches to the ancient Abbasid Wall.
Between June 9th and June 11th, as many as 10 civilians were killed in repeated bombings of February 23rd Street and its major intersections, according to reports compiled by Airwars. (These sorts of air strikes, ostensibly aimed at limiting the mobility of ISIS fighters, were also employed in Mosul, parts of which are now in ruins.) On those same days, four adults and four children were reportedly killed in airstrikes on Raqqa’s industrial district, another 21 civilians were killed in the west of the city, and at least 11 more civilians, again including children, when airstrikes reportedly destroyedhomes on al-Nour street, which is just around the corner from the al-Rayan Bakery, bombed less than two weeks later.
On that day, June 21st, a Raqqa resident named Abu Ahmad was returning from getting water at a nearby well when, he later told Reuters, he began hearing people screaming as houses crumbled. He said that as many as 30 people had died when the apartment flats around the bakery were leveled. “We couldn’t even do anything,” he added. “The rocket launchers, the warplanes. We left them to die under the rubble.” Only a few days earlier, coalition warplanes had destroyed another source of bread, the al-Nadeer bakery on al-Mansour Street, one of Raqqa’s oldest thoroughfares.
More and more names, photographs, and stories of the coalition’s victims were smuggled out by local journalists. According to these reports, on July 2nd, Jamila Ali al-Abdullah, her three children, and up to 10 of her neighbors were killed in her neighborhood. On July 3rd, at least three families were killed, including Yasser al-Abdullah and his four children, A’ssaf, Zain, Jude, and Rimas. On July 5th, an elderly man named Yasin died in an airstrike on al-Mansour Street. On July 6th, Anwar Hassan al-Hariri was killed along with her son Mohammed, her daughter Shatha, and her toddler Jana. Five members of the al-Sayyed family perished on July 7th. Sisters Hazar and Elhan Abdul Aader Shashan died in their home on July 12th, while seven members of the Ba’anat family were killed on July 13th, as was Marwan al-Salama and at least ten of his family members on July 17th.
Hundreds more were reportedly wounded, including Isma’il Ali al-Thlaji, a child who lost his eyesight and his right hand. And these are, of course, only some of the reported names of those killed by the U.S.-led coalition.
“In Raqqa, there are many causes of death,” the journalists at Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently wrote. These include “indiscriminate airstrikes by international coalition warplanes, daily artillery shelling by Syrian Democratic Forces, and ISIS mines scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.”
For those who survive, conditions inside the city only continue to worsen. Coalition bombing reportedly destroyed the two main pipes carrying water into the city in the 100-degree July heat, forcing people to venture to the banks of the Euphrates, where at least 27 have been reportedly killed by U.S.-led bombing while filling up jugs of water.
A Coalition in Name Only
The United States has launched nearly 95% of all coalition airstrikes in Syria in recent months, meaning the campaign is, in fact, almost exclusively an American affair. “The French and British are launching about half a dozen strikes a week now,” Chris Woods, director of Airwars, explained to me. “The Belgians maybe one or two a week.” In comparison, in Raqqa province last month the U.S. launched about twenty air or artillery strikes every single day.
In June alone, the U.S.-led coalition and U.S. Marines fired or dropped approximately 4,400 munitions on Raqqa and its surrounding villages. According to Mark Hiznay, the associate director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, these munitions included 250-pound precision-guided small diameter bombs, as well as MK-80 bombs, which weigh between 500 and 2,000 pounds and are equipped with precision-guided kits. The bombs are dropped by B-52 bombers and other warplanes, most taking off from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, or the USS George H.W. Bush, an aircraft carrier stationed off Syria’s coast in the eastern Mediterranean.
Hundreds of U.S. Marines, most likely from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are also positioned outside Raqqa and are firing high explosive artillery rounds into the city from M777 Howitzers. In late June, the Marines’ official Twitter feed boasted that they were conducting artillery fire in support of U.S.-backed troops 24 hours a day.
The result of this type of warfare, says Airwars’ Chris Woods, is a staggering increase in civilian casualties. According to an analysis by the group, since President Trump took office six months ago, the U.S.-led campaign has reportedly killed nearly as many civilians in Syria and Iraq as were killed in the previous two and a half years of the Obama administration.
And for surviving civilians, the conditions of war don’t end once the bombing stops, as life today in the city of Tabqa indicates.
As of mid-July, according to Wassim Abdo, Tabqa still has neither running water nor electricity, even though displaced families have begun returning to their homes. There’s a shortage of bread, and still no functioning schools or hospitals. The Tabqa Dam, which once generated up to 20% of Syria’s electricity, remains inoperable. (U.S.-led coalition airstrikes reportedly damaged the structure repeatedly in February and March, when they burnedthe main control room, causing the United Nations to warn of a threat of catastrophic flooding downstream.) The U.S.-backed troops in Tabqa have, according to Abdo, banned the Internet and U.S. officials admit that children in the area are being infected by diseases carried by flies feeding off corpses still buried in the rubble.
Meanwhile, less than 30 miles to the east, the battle for control of Raqqa continues with tens of thousands of civilians still trapped inside the besieged city. Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend has indicated that the U.S.-led coalition may soon increase the rate of airstrikes there yet again.
From Wassim Abdo’s perspective, that coalition campaign in Syria has so far killed his parents and nephew and ruined his hometown. None of this, understandably, looks anything like a war against ISIS.
“My opinion of the international coalition,” he told me recently, “is that it’s a performance by the international community to target civilians and infrastructure and to destroy the country.” And this type of warfare, he added, “is not part of eliminating Daesh.”
Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and a news producer with Democracy Now! Her writing has appeared in Mother Jones, Al Jazeera, The Nation, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and frequently at TomDispatch. Special thanks on this piece go to Alhasan Ghazzawi..
Originally published in TomDispatch
|July 29, 2017||
Dear ENGOs: Stop Supporting Fake Climate Mitigation
by Bill Henderson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
Continuing my new metaphor for effectively treating climate change (I’ve been traveling into town everyday: ferry, bus, Canada Line to the Cancer Agency and same back from treatment) – this quote was in my post-Canada Day Guardian Weekly:
I watch foreign tourists in awe on the ferry and see it through their eyes. Our country works. Hey, not perfectly… the ferry is almost always a little late because of the volumes; the bus is often crowded. I have been stuck on the Lions Gate bridge behind an accident (people were kind, considerate). If you escape taking it for granted, life in Vancouver works amazingly well.
On Canada Day, walking in the downtown, the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of our society absolutely blew me away. We are an immense overachiever where historic problems such as racism and sexism are being addressed to a degree that few people anywhere could have imagined possible just a very short time ago. Of course, as an environmentalist I see the ongoing crimes behind the beauty strip but even here I think we have and will continue to make real progress.
Why am I writing this? We need first and foremost to solve the building problem of climate change. If we don’t solve problems such as climate change there will not be much further progress. There won’t be a Canada.
What are the key changes that have to happen for Canada to survive climate change?
We need to lead in clawing back good governance. We need to rebuild our ability to effectively regulate, so that we can actually do what we could not do back in the failed forestry revolution of the 90s and move to an ecocentric forestry free from timber management-based long term fiber contracts. We need to protect salmon and move past factory farming, etc, etc.
We need to be able to remove the Golden Straitjacket (that we have put on to be competitive in the global economy) in order to have the ability to use government effectively to, first of all, mitigate climate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the scale necessary. Then we must use our returned governance powers to match our escalating technological abilities. There was good reason to put on the Golden Straitjacket and we should not be renouncing trade, but our children and country’s future is at stake. Our trading partners have to understand – will understand – our leadership.
The leadership we need to show the world is a scheduled wind-down of all fossil fuel production and use in line with the best carbon budget science, responsibly and fairly regulated as a last chance to keep us safe from the suite of dangers we know imminently threaten if we don’t reduce emissions now, globally. Canada has to recognize the civilization-threatening imperative. We need to recognize our ability and the necessity to regulate fossil fuels so that real – not pretend – emission reduction happens, and in time.
A regulated wind-down could be not only effective – the best path to reducing GHG emissions at a scale now needed – but also the best mitigation path at using and protecting our market-based governance.
A regulated wind-down would provide the necessary strong, certain signal to markets hopefully enabling optimum use of production allowed. Such a schedule would ensure an immediate, urgent reduction of production and use with consequent emission reduction but within a signal that life will go on, business especially, markets will continue, our social/market evolution will continue.
We need to be free and confident enough to put such a scheduled wind-down first on the menu for full public debate, then to be fully examined on government policy tables. The Canada where a Canada Line gets built and runs efficiently; properly designed, engineered, and operated. Not perfect, but doable with the minimum of disruption. As effective as I’m finding the Cancer Agency and their radiation units in providing treatment for those in need.
We could and can do this and prosper but we are not even considering such action. That is why I’m addressing my latest open letter to Canada’s Environmental NGO climate community. Why are you not leading? Why do you continue to support the present carbon pricing/decarbonization pretend mitigation? Why don’t even some of you find a way to get the promise of such a wind-down schedule on the menu for public debate? Why don’t some of you at least try and write up the possibilities of actually keeping fossil fuels in the ground – the problems too of course – instead of supporting what everyone knows is obvious failure?
Have you no idea of how brilliant Canada is? We need to show the world that a wind-down schedule for fossil fuels is possible, workable, doable, and will lead to not only a climate solution for the world but – within continuing prosperity – will be a solution for many other bottleneck problems that threaten our future.
Traveling back and forth across Vancouver for treatment has re-opened my eyes to how successfully we function as a society. This has been reinforced by the quality of my cancer treatment: state of the art consilience in diagnosis and treatment planning by a skilled team of experts delivered with compassion and care. My journey – though painful and at some disruption to my regular life – promises a cure and life after cancer. We still have it within our power to mitigate climate change: treatment and a cure. Those of you in Canada’s ENGO climate community know this. We need you to insist upon effective mitigation action that Canada can deliver.
Bill Henderson is a climate activist who lives in Gibsons, BC.
|August 8, 2017||
Women Should Not Live In Fear, But Act With Courage.
by Shobha Shukla, in Patriarchy, Countercurrents.org
“One day, when my first child was barely 6 months old, my husband kicked away the water and food I had served him. On asking him the reason, he started pulling my hair and thrashing me. I was stunned at his sudden violent behaviour. But this was just the start of a never-ending saga of domestic violence that continues till today”, said 30 years old Lakshmina. She hails from a Dalit community in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. The only sister of four brothers, Lakshmina is illiterate. She did start her schooling, but one day, while going to school, she met with an accident and hurt herself. Her doting mother immediately stopped sending her to school, saying that she did not want to risk her daughter’s life.
At the age of 18, Lakshmina was married to a labourer. Her marital problems began soon after one year of married bliss. Her husband would come home drunk and start beating her for no apparent reason. The first time she was hit, Lakshmina went to her parent’s home. When she returned after two months, her husband pushed her in his room, held her by the neck and started thrashing her. She was saved through the intervention of her in-laws and neighbours. But the beatings continued- even after the birth of two more children. After every bout of violence, he would apologize and promise never to hit her again, only to forget it just too soon.
No excuse for abuse
He began spending more and more of his earnings on liquor. To make both ends meet, Lakshmina started working in the fields. But thinking that this would make her independent, he forbade her from stepping out of the house. When she resented, she was beaten black and blue. When she was seriously injured, her parents came and took her from one hospital to another, till she got well.
Lakshmina’s brothers wanted her to leave her husband for good and marry someone else. But she knew that no one would accept her with her three children (two sons and a daughter) in tow. She decided to stay in her husband’s home and continue to fight for justice, even though he wanted her to leave his house.
She was clear in her mind that, “Being his wife and the mother of his children, I have equal rights in his house and property. I too contribute in running the household. I am ready to be reprimanded if I do something wrong. But to be beaten without any reason, is something I will not tolerate. I will fight for my rights by staying here. Men must realize that anger and blatant show of power is not their prerogative. Marriage is all about having equal partnership.”
Some neighbours, told her to contact Hina Desai, Director of Sri Ramanand Saraswati Pustakalaya (SRSP)–an organisation that works to combat caste and gender biases in rural India. The support provided by Oxfam India has helped SRSP in advancing the fight against gender discrimination and motivating women to stand up against domestic violence.
SRSP helped Lakshmina file a police complaint, as well as a case of domestic violence against her husband. Under police duress, he promised never to misbehave with his wife again. But he did not keep his words.
He has no love even for his three children. Lakshmina recalls an incident that occurred 3 years ago: “Once, he literally snatched the food from their hands, saying that he will eat first. When my elder son (who was 12 years old at that time and was studying in Class 7 then) resented his behaviour, he hit him in the stomach. After this incident, my son refused to stay in the house. He left his studies and home and went to Chennai to make a living to help me financially. I feel very sad for him. His is an age to study and not to work. He sends money for me and for his siblings. But my husband accuses me of having earned this money by selling my body.”
Earlier Lakshmina would beg for mercy from her husband when ill-treated. She would also run to SRSP for help. They would scold her husband and the police too would threaten to send him to prison if he did not mend his ways. He would say sorry and remain calm for 3-4 months, only to start his brutal behaviour all over again.
Change your mind, change your life
But long years of sufferings have made her strong and determined. She is no longer scared of her husband and does not tolerate his beatings anymore. Now if he hits her, she hits him back. She has learnt it the hard way that women should not live in fear, but act with courage. Fear is a sign of weakness. Women need to be strong from within and fight their own battles. No amount of outside interventions can alone help. The more one fears the more one is suppressed.
Belief triggers the power to do
God gave her courage and Hina Desai restored her self- confidence, feels Lakshmina. SRSP gave her INR 2000 and helped her open a bank account. She used that money to start her own business. Lakshmina shared with Citizen News Service (CNS): “We have formed a group of ten women to make and sell pickles, potato chips, ‘papads’, etc. Today I am earning myself. I am no longer financially dependent on my husband and so I am under no obligation to suffer his indignities. I will continue to fight my battle while staying in his house. I will not let him succeed in throwing me out.”
Lakshmina wants her children to marry only after they complete their education and start earning. She has also told her sons that if they ever misbehave with their wives (as their father did with her), she would stand by her daughters-in-law and would not hesitate to seek punishment for them if need be.
Lakshmina fights for the rights of other women too. She strongly believes that, “Women must raise their voices against injustice, and not take it lying low. It is human to err, but it is inhuman to become violent. Solutions to problems can be found through dialogues and discussions only. Men should be taught to respect their wives.”
Keep the promise
Let us not forget that governments of over 190 countries, including India, have promised to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, one of which is to achieve gender equality and end all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls. If we are to deliver on these promises of sustainable development and gender justice, lot more action is needed on the ground.
The upcoming 3rd Asia Pacific Feminist Forum (APFF 2017) to be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, would hopefully provide a platform to mobilize stronger action for dismantling economic, social and political systems that produce obscene levels of inequality and fuel violations of women’s human rights.
Shobha Shukla is the Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and has written extensively on health and gender justice over decades. Follow her on Twitter @Shobha1Shukla or visit CNS: www.citizen-news.org
Shared under Creative Commons (CC) Attribution License
|August 8, 2017||
Our Photovoltaic Future: The Metabolic Revolutions of the Earth’s History.
— by —
by Ugo Bardi, in Alternative Energy, Countercurrents.org
Olivia Judson published a very interesting paper this March on “Nature Ecology & Evolution“. It is a wonderful cavalcade along 4 billion years of the history of the Earth, seeing it in terms of five “metabolic revolutions.” It is an approach that goes in parallel with a paper that I wrote last year on BERQ; even though I focussed on the future rather than on the past. But my paper was very much along the same lines, noting how some of some of the major discontinuities in the Earth’s geological record are caused by metabolic changes. That is, the Earth’s changes as the life inhabiting it “learns” how to exploit the potential gradients offered by the environment: geochemical energy at the very beginning and, later on, solar energy.
Seen in these terms, the Earth system is a gigantic autocatalytic reaction that was ignited some four billion years ago, when the planet became cool enough to have liquid water on its surface. Since then, it has been flaring in a slow-motion explosion that has been going faster and faster for billions of years, until it is literally engulfing the whole planet, sending offshoots to other planets of the solar system and even outside it.
Judson correctly identifies the ability to control fire as the latest feature of this ongoing explosion. Fire is a characteristic ability of human beings and can be argued that it is the defining feature of the latest time subdivision of the planet’s history: the Anthropocene.
Judson stops with fire, calling it “a source of energy” and proposing that “The technology of fire may also, perhaps, mark an inflection point for the Solar System and beyond. Spacecraft from Earth may, intentionally or not, take Earthly life to other celestial objects.” Here, I think the paper goes somewhat astray. Calling fire a “source” of energy is not wrong, but we need to distinguish whether we intend fire as the combustion of wood, that humans have been using for more than a million years, and the combustion of fossil hydrocarbons, used only during the past few centuries. There is a big difference: wood fires could never take humans to contemplate the idea of expanding beyond their planetary boundaries. But fossil energy could fuel this expansion at most for a few centuries and this big fire is already on its way to exhaustion. If the Anthropocene is to be based on fossil fuels, it is destined to fade away rather rapidly.
Does this mean that we have reached the peak of the great metabolic cycle of planet Earth? Not necessarily so. Judson seems to miss in her paper that the next metabolic revolution has already started: it is called photovoltaic conversion and it is a way to transform solar energy into an electric potential, coupled with the capability of controlling the motion of electrons in solid state conductors. It is a big step beyond fire and thermal machinery (*). It is, by all means, a new form of metabolism (**) and it is generating a new ecology of silicon-based life-forms, as I discussed in a previous post that I titled “Five Billion Years of Photovoltaic Energy”.
So, we are living in interesting times, something that we could take as a curse. But it is not a choice that we are facing: we are entering a new era, not necessarily a good thing for humans, but most likely an unavoidable change; whether we like it or not may be of little importance. It is a new discontinuity in the billion years long history of planet Earth that will lead to an increased capability of capturing and dissipating the energy coming from the sun.
The great chemical reaction is still flaring up and its expansion is going to take us somewhere far away, even though, at present, we can’t say where.
A new lifeform, just appeared in the Earth’s ecosystem:
(*) The Jews have been arguing for about a century whether electricity has to be considered a form of fire and therefore prohibited during the Sabbath. It is surely an interesting theological discussion, but for what we are considering here there is no doubt that fire (a hot plasma ignited in air) is not the same as electricity (controlled movement of electrons in solids)
|August 9, 2017||
Where ARE We Heading?
by Sally Dugman , in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
My friend, Ashok A. in India, wrote me: “Clearly the main wealth of America lies in the vast territories it has usurped [from Native Americans – S. D.] and holds. I agree, much of the world’s population will perish in this century. We’ll be long gone. Our children – those who survive – will find it in them to sustain their struggles. Albeit many more will perish in our kinds of lands, very large numbers will perish in the USA too.”
My response to this commentary from him is
That which I predict for here in the USA is desertification for the Southwest and most of California (the latter of which will keep having earthquake tremors since it is separating from the continental USA due to being geographically part of the Pacific tectonic plate rather than Continental USA landmass.). Severe water shortages and fires, too, will transpire, but ramped up beyond the current levels in California. They are coming.
The moon illuminates the Erskine Fire burning over the Kern River Valley
The increasing desertification is coming, too:
USA Midwest and states elsewhere located will have a combination of floods, drought and tornadoes just like now, but also worse in amounts and severity.
Historic flooding hits Missouri and Arkansas, more heavy rain on the way
alabama tornado aftermath on beautiful tornado
Some of the USA region is also losing the fossil aquifer that provides much of the water for eight states. Oops, there goes the agriculture from these states and, also, in the southwest wherein land is sinking due to water depletion, although not connected to the Ogallala! … USA is the bread basket of the world in the future? Don’t count on it.
People who live on the Ogallala, also known as the High Plains aquifer, often describe their water as thick or thin. This is shorthand for the aquifer itself. The Ogallala is a giant underground sponge made of a jumble of gravel, silt, sand, and clay.
Our Southeast USA won’t fare any better since it will be too hot for life (including agriculture and other species besides ours) except for Florida, which will lose a third or more of its landmass due to ocean rise due in addition to the heat factor making life unbearable.
The people surviving these catastrophes will all try to get northward where conditions will be more favorable. … The Dakotas would be okay except the soil there doesn’t seem much suitable for agriculture due to it being poor. Ditto for Canada. Soil quality is poor there, too.
Northeast will become like Georgia in weather and temperature patterns. Yeah, we have the soil (although rocky) to grow more crops in MA, NH, ME and VT. We have the water, too. However, our doing so will come at the expense of further biodiversity loss as the biosphere is torn apart further by this food growing activity and all of the people trying to get and live here from collapsed regions.
In addition, their coming here will make my region of the world even worse in being complicit in the sixth great extinction. I already see the impacts of it in my part of the world since I’ve noted changes here due to loss in animal diversity and plant diversity. So I’m a bit rueful about being impacted by other humans entering this space.
How can I fight the coming ruin when I have to choose between more humans in my place on Earth and the other species that get decimated in the process of the assault upon our land, air and water supplies by people?
Jun 23, 2015 – Journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. We talked with her about what …re for thirty years in terms of species of plants and animals.
Good luck in their trying to move towards my area of the world since fossil fuels will be all, but gone! So a lot of the people will probably be trekkers trying to move northward and have enough food and water while trekking … just like the current immigrants trying to trek across Central America to the USA southern border to get to the USA, a so-called land of opportunity. … As a rhetorical question, does this look like an opportunity?
We’ll also lose our coastal cities as many of them are not prepared, nor preparing for changes:
World’s top climate scientists warn coastal cities will soon be uninhabitable NYC under water, flooding – Inhabitat – Green Design, Innovation, Architecture .
California – Sea-Level Rise Too Fast to Reverse Climate Change, Study Says
Your country won’t fare much better, I’m sad to share:
Climate Change Could Make South Asia Uninhabitable in Our Lifetime
NOAA Climate.gov map by Fiona Martin, based on interpolated weather station data provided by the India Meterological Department.
E.O. Wilson once pointed out to me that our species is great at dealing with short-term immediate emergencies (like a fire in a house in one’s neighborhood), but lousy at identifying and relating to the slowly evolving kinds of dangers. Ergo, I doubt that we will collectively be prepared for the “mess” that is coming later this century … any more than is a frog or a lobster in a room temperature pot of water on the stove is as it slowly comes to a boil.
Three of several main reasons for which we can’t fix our collective human/planetary problems that I’ve identified are:
I’m not very hopeful, I’m afraid, for the future, but so it goes! … Steve S., a friend of mine who’s a population expert, wrote me just now: “The predicament we face could be one that will not be solved. What is required of us is simply too damn hard. As always, I wish you well and support your current efforts to find a way forward.” … We’ll just keep on trying our best to find solutions because to help even a few people and a small piece of the world (since we can’t help all) is better than sitting back and twiddling our thumbs in hopelessness or becoming totally self-serving for ourselves and our families.
Al Gore came out with a new film. He may be more optimistic than am I. It’s hard to say since I haven’t seen it yet.
The way that our species is going about the world is frangible in the extreme. It’s fragile and we have to change our ways to protect it to serve us all… and need to do so soon.
There is an old adage: “Ignorance is bliss.” No, it isn’t since it can only lead to further losses in the future if we keep up our current ways of badly behaving in abnegating the support of life to go forward.
Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA
|August 9, 2017||
You Cannot Trap The ‘Magic Rat’: Trump, Congress And Geopolitics.
by Robert J Burrowes,in World, Countercurrents.org
A wonderful thing about observing and analyzing the human mind is that there is a seemingly infinite variety of phenomena to observe and analyze. I sometimes wonder if it is even remotely possible to master this subject but, even if it is not, at least it provides an unending source of ‘entertainment’.
The phenomenon that I want to discuss in this article is what Anita McKone and I call the ‘magic rat’.
Before proceeding, let me emphasize that the ‘magic rat’ is an incredibly dangerous psychological disorder that afflicts most political and virtually all corporate leaders, notably including those in the United States, thus rendering them incapable of responding intelligently and appropriately to the ongoing crises in human affairs. And, tragically, it afflicts most other people too, which is one reason why it is difficult to muster a strategic response to these crises, even at grassroots level.
In describing this disorder, I also want to emphasize that it never occurs in isolation. Individuals afflicted by this disorder will invariably have a multiplicity of other disorders too, not necessarily labeled ‘disorders’ in the psychological literature.
So what is the ‘magic rat’, and why can’t it be trapped?
When a human being is terrified to consider a particular fact or set of facts, their mind has an enormous variety of unconscious mechanisms for preventing them from doing so. The most obvious version of this phenomenon which has been identified is known as ‘denial’. See ‘The Psychology of Denial’.
However, the ‘magic rat’ is a different phenomenon which most humans routinely use (unconsciously) to avoid having to respond to frightening circumstances. The nature of these frightening circumstances varies from one individual to the next although patterns can be readily observed in many contexts.
In 2003, Anita had a dream in which a rat was running around and I was chasing it and hitting it with an iron bar. However, each time that I appeared to land a blow on the rat, the rat simply disappeared and reappeared somewhere else. And so my chase resumed. I just couldn’t pin it down.
This psychological phenomenon is readily observed and many people will be able to recall this from their own experience. The ‘magic rat’ occurs when someone is given information that terrifies them. It is important to understand that their fear is unlikely to be readily displayed and it will often be concealed behind some behaviour, such as an apparently ‘rational’ argument or ‘off-hand’ comment in response, or perhaps even a joke.
The frightening information might be personal but it might just as readily be information of any other kind, such as in relation to something that happened historically or about the state of the world. What matters is that the person to whom the information is presented is (unconsciously) terrified by it and responds (again unconsciously) by employing the ‘magic rat’.
The ‘magic rat’ is simply the mechanism by which an unconscious and terrified mind instantly switches its attention from something frightening to something more pleasant to avoid having any time to consciously engage with the presented information. The switch happens instantaneously precisely because the person is so terrified by the information that their mind takes their attention away from it in a moment. If their mind did not do this, the person would be compelled to consider the information and to respond to it.
As Anita and I discussed this phenomenon recently, we could easily recall four different responses by the ‘magic rat’ that we have observed. In no particular order, the first response is for the terrified person’s unconscious mind to shut out the frightening information so effectively that it might well have never been uttered/written; they then proceed as if it had not been.
The second response is for the person frightened by the information to instantly switch the topic of discussion to something else that feels safe (so that they do not have to engage with the information). In some contexts, this might look like a ‘rational’ response but, in fact, closer examination will reveal that their response is irrelevant to the issue raised previously. This version is probably the most difficult to identify simply because most of us have learned to largely ignore what we probably (but incorrectly) perceive as ‘red herrings’.
The third response is to ‘throw out smoke bombs’, as Anita describes it, so that the whole issue is clouded by distractive ‘noise’ designed to distract the attention of the person/people presenting the information in the first place so that they are lured into discussing a less frightening subject. These ‘smoke bombs’ can take many forms, including introducing irrelevant information to confuse you or offering a sarcastic comment as the preliminary to any response (which, of course, will be wide of the subject).
The fourth response is to attack you verbally or physically, because your information is considered an attack on them against which they must immediately and aggressively defend themselves. This version of the problem is sometimes labeled ‘kill the messenger’.
There are no doubt other versions of the ‘magic rat’: what matters is that the person in question is so frightened that they find a way to avoid dealing with the issue that makes them scared.
The purpose of the ‘magic rat’ mechanism is to enable an individual to remain feeling safe in the delusion that they have created for themselves and it is vital that the truth does not penetrate this delusion.
Why would an individual want to (unconsciously) use a delusion to feel safe? For the simple reason that, as a child, the individual never felt safe but was also never given any time or the necessary conditions to both feel this fear while feeling safe, and to actually be safe for most of the time. So because evolution did not equip any individual to live in a permanent state of feeling terrified, the child has no ‘choice’ but to (unconsciously) generate a delusional sense of safety in the unsafe environment. Once the child has done this, however, the delusional state becomes ‘permanent’ and is ‘defended’, both consciously and unconsciously depending on the context, using mechanisms such as the ‘magic rat’ described above.
So is this problem very prevalent? Unfortunately, it is ‘everywhere’. For instance, if you take the information I have presented above and consider this the next time you listen to or read something from Donald Trump, you will have an excellent opportunity to observe and identify the ways in which his mind routinely uses ‘magic rats’ to avoid dealing with reality. See, for example, his decisions in relation to the environment and climate, summarised in ‘A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment’. You might also ponder the extraordinary violence that this man suffered, as a child, at the hands of those adults who were supposed to love him. In addition, you might consider the phenomenal danger to humanity of having this individual in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and its primary human, environmental and climate destroyer: the US military.
But Trump is not the only person afflicted with this psychological disorder. Members of both houses of the United States Congress, with only a few exceptions, also routinely display this disorder although, it should be emphasized, it is often combined with other disorders as they terrifiedly submit to the directives of the insane neocon elite driving US foreign policy and its perpetual war against life.
For instance, it has just been graphically highlighted, yet again, by the recent (virtually unanimous) Congressional decision to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea for reasons which are readily refuted by the verifiable evidence if you are not too terrified to consider it. See, for example, ‘Intel Vets Challenge “Russia Hack” Evidence’, ‘The Mask Is Off: Trump Is Seeking War with Iran’, ‘Trump Intel Chief: North Korea Learned From Libya War to “Never” Give Up Nukes’ and ‘With the European Union Livid, Congress Pushes Forward on Sanctions Against Russia, Iran and North Korea’.
You will also have no trouble identifying this disorder in Israeli or Saudi Arabian leaders either. Again, however, they are far from alone.
Most importantly though, the ‘magic rat’ is almost invariably evident when adults are challenged to consider their phenomenal violence – ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – against children, which leads to the terrified and dysfunctional outcomes described above (as well as all of the other terrified and dysfunctional outcomes). See‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So if you don’t even want to know about this violence, the good news is that your ‘magic rat’, if you have one, will ensure that you never even consider looking at these documents (or don’t get past the first page). The problem, for humanity as a whole, is that if too many people are too terrified to even consider the truth, then we are in deep trouble from which I can see no exit. Because if we are to extricate ourselves from this mess, we must start with the truth, no matter how terrifying.
Is there anything you can do next time you see someone use their magic rat? Yes. You can reflect that they sound terrified to consider the information in question. If you feel capable of doing this, bear in mind that you might then need to also listen to their terrified response, which might be aggressive as well. For a fuller answer to this question, see ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.
Moreover, if you ever notice your own mind being taken away from information that frightens you, see if you can take your attention back to what you found frightening and feel your fear. The information, in itself, is not going to cause you any harm. It is, after all, simply the truth and you are infinitely more powerful to know the truth and hence be in a position to respond to it, even if it scares you initially.
So if you feel able to respond intelligently and powerfully to reality, which means that you can contemplate information that is terrifying to many, then you might consider participating in the fifteen-year strategy of ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’ and signing the online pledge of ‘The People‘s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’. And if you want to develop an effective strategy to resist one or the other of the many threats to our survival, consider using the strategic framework explained in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.
We cannot trap the ‘magic rat’ that afflicts so many individuals but we might be able to assist some of them to recover from this psychological disorder. We might also be able to mobilise those not afflicted (or not so badly afflicted) to respond powerfully to frightening information about the state of our world.
Sadly, however, many people will use their ‘magic rat’ until the day they die. The important point is that we do not let these people, like Donald Trump, decide the fate of humanity.
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is here.
|August 10, 2017||
U.S. Government & Press Lie Constantly, With Total Impunity
by Eric Zuesse, in World, Countercurrents.org
The U.S. press don’t report this fact, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The following will document its truth, by recent prominent examples, and will explain how and why this rampant lying by the government and press is done.
The lies are usually about the most important policies and actions of the United States government regarding international relations — foreign policy matters, such as wars, treaties, and economic sanctions. In the past, they were lies about matters such as that North Vietnam had attacked the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and that Chile’s President Salvador Allende opposed democracy, and that Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein was “six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon,” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “conquest of land” regarding Crimea had happened and is the basic reason for the economic sanctions the U.S. has placed against Russia.
On August 2nd, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law increased sanctions against Russia, which had been passed 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House. This new law stated in Section 211, “Congress makes the following findings” as the basis for greatly hiking the economic sanctions against Russia:
(6) On January 6, 2017, an assessment of the United States intelligence community entitled, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” stated, “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the United States presidential election.” The assessment warns that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. Presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes”.
In other words: because of this alleged hacking of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the sanctions that were originally (and entirely falsely) based upon “conquest of land” regarding Crimea, are now being greatly increased.
The 6 January 2017 document that the 98 Senators and 419 Representatives were relying upon there, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”, was signed by just one of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies: President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence (James R. Clapper), who served at the pleasure of the then-President (Obama). The portion of it titled “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election” was additionally signed by the NSA, FBI and CIA. The entire document was built upon an earlier document, dated 7 October 2016 and issued in anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s becoming the next President; and that earlier document had been signed by two of the 17: the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the office of the intelligence service for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The public part of this earlier document was titled “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security”. It opened:
The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.
It was signed with the seal of the Department of Homeland Security, and the seal of the Director of National Intelligence — those two seals or official signatures, being co-equals in authority. They were two of the 17 offices of the U.S. federal government’s Intelligence Community
According to Wikipedia’s article “United States Intelligence Community”, “The IC [Intelligence Community] is headed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), whose statutory leadership is exercised through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).” The 17 members of the IC are shown there in that Wikipedia article, along with the official seal for each one (because a “finding” is officially “signed” with that seal, not with the person’s signature); and the 17 are:
Eight are under the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). These offices are the respective intelligence-offices for: Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and then 3 stand-alone ones that also are under U.S. DOD: National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Agency.
Two intelligence-offices are at Department of Homeland Security: Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and Coast Guard Intelligence.
Two are at Department of Justice: Office of National Security Intelligence, and FBI Intelligence Branch.
One is at Department of Energy: Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
One is at Department of State: Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
One is at Treasury Department: Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
There are two entirely independent stand-alone intelligence offices: CIA, and Director of National Intelligence. Each of those two officials reports directly to the U.S. President, not via a Cabinet Department.
That’s all 17 of them.
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is authorized to represent each of the other 16, and not only himself. He is authorized to do that even if some (or all) of the other intelligence offices disagree with him in opinions that he expresses — if they disagree, they just don’t sign it (their official seal then doesn’t appear on the “finding”). The DNI may express an opinion that’s contradicted by any or all of the other 16. However, his opinion is not superior to the opinion of any of the other 16 top intelligence officials: he is instead considered to be one among the 17 — not superior to the other 16 — but nonetheless to express, in some purely official sense, “the Intelligence Community.” However, if he expresses an opinion that contradicts the opinion of the sitting President, he may be fired by the President. None of his 16 Intelligence Community colleagues can do that — officially represent “the Intelligence Community” regardless of what its other 16 persons might privately support. The basic law that defines the DNI’s authority is Sec. 102. [50 U.S.C. § 3023], and states (on page 37) that he is at all times “Subject to the authority, direction, and control of the President.” In other words: When the DNI speaks, the President of the United States is actually being expressed. Whether any other of the 17 top U.S. intelligence officials is also being expressed, is therefore irrelevant. The system was set up this way so that the President would officially have “the Intelligence Community” supporting whatever publicly endorsed “facts” or findings the President backs. Any dissenting members of that 17 simply don’t sign, that’s all. The purpose of this arrangement is to keep the findings — the public ‘facts’ — in line with the President’s policy on the given matter, no matter what.
Each of the 17 top intelligence officials has an official seal of office. No document that lacks the official seal of a particular one of these 17 offices is officially approved by that office. The lack of that person’s seal means one of two things: his agency was not consulted on the given matter, or else he had been consulted and declined to sign the given document or “findings.”
Thus: only two of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies signed the “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security”.
On 19 October 2016 occurred the last one of the three U.S. Presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; and Clinton said: “We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election.” She was referring to that “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security.” That night, Politifact headlined “Hillary Clinton blames high-up Russians for WikiLeaks releases”, and rated Clinton’s assertion there “True” because:
The October statement … said “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident” in its assessment. As we noted in the article, the 17 separate agencies did not independently come to this conclusion, but as the head of the intelligence community, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence speaks on behalf of the group.
That’s not really true, but it is officially true: if the DNI signs to a “finding,” then any dissenting member of the 17 must simply keep quiet, say nothing publicly about the matter. To Politifact, the refusal of the other top 15 U.S. intelligence officials to sign the October 7th document meant nothing, and was irrelevant; the only signature that mattered to Politifact was the DNI’s (the signature of the person who, at all times, is, in fact, by law, “Subject to the … control of the President” — which then was Obama) — even the DHS signature (which was on the document) meant nothing to Politi‘fact’. Politi‘fact’ didn’t say two signed it; but instead said that all 17 did — which was false. Politi‘fact’ too lies, in order to make the ‘facts’ fit the government’s policy.
Then, on 21 October 2016, USA Today headlined “Yes, 17 intelligence agencies really did say Russia was behind hacking”, and wrote — in this ‘news’report; this wasn’t published as an opinion-piece but ‘news’:
The fact-checking website Politifact says Hillary Clinton is correct when she says 17 federal intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia is behind the hacking.
“We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing,” Clinton said during Wednesday’s presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Trump pushed back, saying that Clinton and the United States had “no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else.”
But Clinton is correct. On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The USIC is made up of 16 agencies, in addition to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. … The agencies all issued the statement together.
That ‘news’-report was influential: it had 45 thousand shares online. Its statement that the Department of Homeland Security was authorized to speak for any other intelligence agency than itself, was entirely false. And the fundamental Russiagate narrative itself is almost certainly also a lie, which might help explain why Obama couldn’t get the other 15 U.S. intelligence services (or at least the ones such as the CIA and NSA and FBI, which clearly possessed relevant intelligence about the matter) to attach their seals to it at the time.
An alternative narrative explaining the Wikileaks information-releases exists, and is supported by all of the available relevant evidence, and it doesn’t entail any hacks at all, but instead leaks: both of the information-releases resulted from leaks by insiders, instead of from hacks by outsiders. This doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody hacked anything, but just that neither of the information-releases came from a hack.
Strong evidence exists that Craig Murray, a British friend of Julian Assange, picked up from a Democratic National Committee insider on 24 September 2016 in Washington DC a thumb drive or other physical embodiment of the data that soon thereafter became leaked, and that he delivered it to the Wikileaks founder inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
Furthermore, according to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh speaking on 1 August 2017, an earlier leak from a different DNC insider, had produced the June 2016 DNC computer-data release by Wikileaks.
The charge that Russia had ‘hacked’ ‘the election’ is the core ‘justification’ given for the 98-2 Senate and 419-3 House passage of the great hike in anti-Russia economic sanctions. Clearly, this Congress — both Parties in it — are determined to squeeze Russia harder and harder, until it’s conquered. Maybe the reason why Trump signed this bill into law (which would have easily passed over his veto if he had vetoed it) is so as not to give Congress an additional ‘reason’ to impeach and replace him by Mike Pence, whom both Parties in Congress seem to prefer.
America invaded Vietnam on the basis of lies. We invaded Iraq on the basis of lies. We’ve done much else — in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine etc. — on the basis of lies. Are our leaders preparing to invade Russia on the basis of lies? (If so, those lies started on 24 February 1990.) How much longer will the American public continue rewarding (instead of demanding prosecution of) the liars who are promoting Lockheed Martin and the rest of the U.S. military-industrial complex and destroying countries one after another? America isn’t being ruled by the military; it’s being ruled by the Military-Industrial Complex. To understand the MIC, the “revolving door” is essential. Without that revolving door, America could be a democracy. But that revolving door is controlled by billionaires; and, by means of it, the billionaires control the U.S. government. The divisions within the U.S. government are only superficial, as is clearly shown by that virtually unanimous vote (98-2 and 419-3) in Congress, for lies. It’s now become almost lock-step, in Washington. The U.S. aristocracy controls the U.S. MIC, by controlling both the government, and the press. The only way to become a serious contender, to win a seat in Congress, or especially to win the Presidency, is to be acceptable to billionaires — Republican, Democratic, or otherwise. And America’s billionaires are virtually unanimous in their determination to conquer Russia.
This is not likely to end well. Robert Mueller has now impanelled two grand juries in order to find some crime by the President that’s part of his Russiagate investigation, so that Trump can be criminally charged, then impeached, and then replaced by the hard-right, neoconservative, Mike Pence. At the present stage, it’s an “investigation in search of a crime”, and probably one or more crimes will be found, on which Trump can be prosecuted; but, why weren’t Barack Obama’s crimes even searched for (I could name several he could almost certainly have been indicted for, including his aiding and abetting the American public’s actual enemies, in his policies on Honduras, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, and elsewhere — and his protecting mega-banksters whose frauds had produced the 2008 economic collapse, and he even told them privately “I’m protecting you”), much less investigated at all? Obviously, America’s aristocracy detest Trump, though he’s one of them. Trump is trying to give them almost everything they want, but that’s clearly not sufficient. He’s not bad enough to satisfy them, and they’re in control. Most recently, the lies they are pumping out have focused against Venezuela. Only ignoramuses and fools still trust the honesty of the U.S. government, and of its sycophantic press, which is controlled by the same aristocracy — both Parties of it. Some ‘democracy’!
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
|August 10, 2017||
— by by Alex Jensen, in Globalisation, Countercurrents.org
Alex Jensen questions the assumption that countries like China and India are in fact the “worst offenders” in terms of contributing to global air pollution and other environmental ills. He concludes that the blame should instead be placed where it belongs – with transnational corporations and their highly-profitable global trade networks.
A recent study of air pollution in the western United States made a startling finding: despite a 50 percent drop over the past 25 years in US emissions of smog-producing chemicals like nitrogen oxides (NOx), smog actually increased during that period in the rural US West – even in such ‘pristine’ environments as Yellowstone National Park. Most of this increase was traced to “the influx of pollution from Asian countries, including China, North and South Korea, Japan, India, and other South Asian countries.” That’s because over the same period that NOx emissions declined in the US, they tripled in Asia as a whole. In media reports of the study, China and India are described as the “worst offenders” of this fugitive “Asian pollution”.
Left only with these findings, a reasonable conclusion would be that the US has become more environmentally enlightened in recent decades, while Asia – particularly ‘developing’ Asia – is a veritable eco-reprobate, sacrificing not only its own but global airsheds to choking pollution. The new, anti-environmental EPA director, Scott Pruitt, recently expressed this view in explaining why the US should exit the Paris Climate Accord: “[China and India] are polluting far more than we are.”
A similar study of global air pollution drift in 2014, focusing on China and the US, made comparable findings, but included an important factor missing from the more recent study: production for export. Among other things, the scholars of the older study asked how much of the Chinese air pollution drifting to the Western US was occasioned specifically in the production of exports for world markets (including the top destination for Chinese manufactures, the US.)
The answer? In 2006, up to 24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States were generated in the Chinese production of goods for export to the US. Applying these findings to the more recent study, it’s likely that a significant percentage of the Asian nitrogen oxides now choking the US West were also emitted in the production of goods destined for the US.
In other words, it’s meaningless to speak of “Asian pollution” in this context. Though the pollution was emitted in Asia, it properly belongs to the country/ies on whose behalf and at whose behest it was produced. Even more accurately, the pollution finally belongs to the transnational corporations (TNCs) who are the real drivers and beneficiaries not only of offshoring, but also of insatiable consumerism through marketing and obsolescence.
Economic globalization has enabled the manic scouring of the world by TNCs for the most ‘liberal’ (read: unregulated) environments in which to locate production facilities – the places where expenses can be minimized and profits maximized. Since the biggest drags on corporate profiteering come from taxes, environmental regulations, and decent labor protections and wages, the global relocations of TNCs have largely been towards countries where those costs are lowest, or absent altogether.
By increasing their economic power, globalization has also given TNCs the ability to capture governments, which then collude in further reshaping of the world through ‘free’ trade treaties, supra-national institutions like the IMF, WTO and World Bank, and subsidies and hand-outs to attract and retain big businesses.
This entire system of globalization, production and pollution off-shoring is driven by the profit-maximization logic governing transnational corporations, greased along by an ever-growing number of bilateral and global free trade treaties. As economist Martin Hart-Landsberg writes:
“Beginning in the late 1980s large multinational corporations, including those headquartered in the US, began a concerted effort to reverse declining profits by establishing cross border production networks (or global value chains). This process knitted together highly segmented economic processes across national borders in ways that allowed these corporations to lower their labor costs as well as reduce their tax and regulatory obligations. Their globalization strategy succeeded; corporate profits soared. It is also no longer helpful to think about international trade in simple nation-state terms.”
China – having colluded with global capital in turning itself into the ‘factory of the world’ – is bearing the lion’s share of globalization’s brunt. But at least China is getting rich as a result, right? Certainly there is an emerging wealthy (and superwealthy) class within China that is profiting from globalization, but it represents a minuscule fraction of the overall population. The mass of the workers who make up China’s labor and ‘bad-labor’ workforce are not benefiting from the country’s conversion into a TNC workshop: labor’s share of China’s GDP has been steadily falling since the late 1990s. For a high-end electronic product like the iPhone, less than 2% (about US$10) of the sales price goes to Chinese workers involved in its production.
So who is driving China’s export-oriented boom? Quoting Hart-Landsberg again, “it is not Chinese state enterprises, or even Chinese private enterprises, that are driving China’s exports to the US. Rather it is foreign multinationals, many of which are headquartered in the US, including Apple, Dell, and Walmart”. By 2013, foreign-owned TNCs were responsible for 47% of all Chinese exports (and over 80% of high-tech exports) compared to a mere 11% by Chinese state-owned enterprises. US-based TNCs dominate this control and ownership of exports made in China.
The division of profits from Chinese manufactures is also heavily skewed in favor of foreign corporations. For telecommunications equipment, China produced 38% of world exports in 2013, but their share of the profits generated by the sale of those products was just 6%, while US firms captured 59%. Similar imbalances obtain in the case of textiles, where US firms commandeered 46% of the profit share.
From the production, sale and transport of globally-traded commodities, to the shipping of the resulting waste back to China, and now to the profitable ‘adaptation’ to the ghastly air pollution, TNCs are the main drivers and beneficiaries of this system. In other words, Chinese production and exports are dominated by US and other foreign corporations, and – like the pollution drifting across the globe – are not really ‘Chinese’ at all.
This ‘Asian pollution’ may have an even deeper connection to the American west over which it is now drifting. The world’s largest surface mines are the Black Thunder mines, in the Powder River Basin straddling the Wyoming/Montana border. The mine’s owner and operator, Arch Coal, exports sizable amounts of this government-owned coal to places like China, where it is burned to power the factories that produce American consumer goods.
It has been widely noted that American consumers have the largest ecological footprint in the world. While not completely absolving individuals – especially those on the upper rungs of the socio-economic ladder – for perpetuating this wasteful system, it can be argued that those large ecological footprints are not entirely their own. The combined effects of aggressive marketing, advertising, and planned product obsolescence mean that the American consumer’s oversized footprint is largely a consequence and reflection of the global power of TNCs. In that sense, it is perhaps more accurate to speak of corporate ecological footprints rather than the footprints of nations or individuals.
Globalization has meant the distancing of cause and effect, source and sink, so that the pollution and human exploitation caused in the production and transport of goods has remained invisible and opaque to consumers. As Wendell Berry says, “The global economy institutionalizes a global ignorance, in which producers and consumers cannot know or care about one another, and in which the histories of all products will be lost.”
Until now, it seems, corporations’ pollution offshoring was easy enough for Northern policymakers to comfortably ignore – it was offshored, after all. Of course, global warming already showed that simply exporting polluting production to the global South was meaningless as far as the Earth’s atmosphere and climate were concerned. But local air quality was seen as something distinct, so that the smoggy horrors of industrializing China or India were, for places like North America, still at a ‘safe’ distance. No more. Now, in addition to the products that magically appear on Western store shelves absolutely shorn of history and provenance, much of the hitherto distant pollution emitted in their production has also arrived. It has come home to roost. Globalization’s blowback.
 Lin, M., Horowitz, L., Payton, R., Fiore, A., and Tonnesesn, G. (2017) ‘US surface ozone trends and extremes from 1980 to 2014: quantifying the roles of rising Asian emissions, domestic controls, wildfires, and climate’, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 17(4).
 Lin et al. 2017.
 e.g., Rice, D. (2017) ‘Air pollution in Asia is wafting into the USA, increasing smog in West’, USA Today, 2 March. https://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2017/03/02/air-pollution-asia-wafting-into-usa-increasing-smog-west/98647354/#.
 Kessler 2017 ‘EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s claim that China and India have ‘no obligations’ until 2030 under the Paris Accord’, The Washington Post, 14 April. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/04/14/epa-administrator-scott-pruitts-claim-that-china-and-india-have-no-obligations-until-2030-under-the-paris-accord/.
 Lin, J., Pan, D., Davis, S., Zhang, Q., He, K., Wang, C., Streets, D., Wuebbles, D., and Guan, D. (2014) ‘China’s international trade and air pollution in the United States’, PNAS 111(5), 4 February. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/5/1736.abstract.
 Hart-Landsberg, M. (2017a) ‘Trump’s Economic Policies Are No Answer To Our Problems’, Reports from the Economic Front, 13 February. https://economicfront.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/trumps-economic-policies-are-no-answer-to-our-problems/.
 David Harvey, among others, tells the complicated tale of how this transformation occurred: Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ‘Neoliberalism ‘with Chinese Characteristics’’ (ch. 5).
 By 2015 China was expected to have the world’s fourth-largest concentration (4.4 million) of wealthy people (Atsmon, Y. and Dixit, V. (2009) ‘Understanding China’s wealthy’, McKinsey Quarterly. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/understanding-chinas-wealthy), and where 80 of the 113 Asian billionaires (and over half the world’s total) reside (71% of Asia’s new billionaires in 2015, up from 35% in 2009) ( (Butt, R. (2016) ‘China gets a new billionaire every 5 days’, Business Insider, 13 October. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-number-of-billionaires-growing-fastest-in-china-asia-2016-10).
 ‘Bad labor’ refers to vulnerable, health-damaging, gender unequal, child and forced labor. Simas and colleagues have looked at the relationship between globalization of production chains and ‘bad labor footprints’, and estimate that more than half of such footprints behind “wealthy lifestyles of affluent regions” occur in the production of exported goods in un-affluent regions/countries, with the majority of these being in Asia. Up to 30% of bad labor conditions in poor countries are related to the production of exports (Simas et al. 2014 ‘The “Bad Labor” Footprint: Quantifying the Social Impacts of Globalization’, Sustainability 6.).
|August 10, 2017||
The Character Of Russian Communism.
by Gaither Stewart, in World, Countercurrents.org
A civilization reveals itself as fruitful by its ability to incite others to imitate it: when it no longer dazzles them, it is reducedto a mere collection of odds and ends and vestiges of former worldly greatness. The successive attempts of Napoleon and Hitler to create a world empire failed, as the United States of North America has failed in our time because any initial attraction they might have exerted on the conquered transformed into resistance and hate as a result of their genocidal policies or military occupation and/or exploitation of the resources of the conquered landsinstead of gradual absorption and acceptance of different peoples andthe furthering of local cultures. (Paraphrased from Cioran’sHistoire et Utopie)
The goal of the brutal Mongol domination of Russia (1240-1480) was even more ruinous than imperialism as we know it in our times. It was the physical destruction, occupation and colonialization of the known world of its times.Militarilythe Mongol (Tatar) invasion was devastating, its historical effect ambivalent and long-range significance immeasurable.After widespread destruction and massacres of the populations from China to Germany, the Mongols reigned over most of Russia from their capital near the Caspian Sea; however, they mingled little in everyday Russian life—demanding chiefly financial tributes and recognition of their domination—during which centuries they themselves were gradually assimilated. Russian historians are therefore divided between those who pay only passing attention to the Mongol domination—known as the Mongol yoke—and those who stress its destructive influence on Russia.
Perhaps the most enduring effect of the Mongol yokewas to cut off the dominated Russianlandsfrom the West causing Russia to look eastwards so that the Russian civilization did not experience the Renaissance of the West.On the other hand, as the philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev writes in The Origin of Russian Communism:“the immensity of those territories to the East, the absence of boundaries, came to be expressed in the breadth of the Russian spirit.”
Later rulers like Peter the Great who built St. Petersburgturned the Russian outlook westwards by force; yet the divisions persisted between Russia’s Westernizers who still look westwards and Slavophiles who cling to pure Russian traditions. The latter outlook is much in vogue today, buttressing Russia’s cold shoulder toward U.S. imposed economic sanctions.
It seems inconceivable to some this observer that such a people, after the two centuries of the Mongol yoke, its cities destroyed and Moscow burned by Napoleon, and Nazi armies who laid waste to country up until their defeats at Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad costing however 27 million Russian lives, that such a people is now in a position to be on the point of becoming the world’s third economic power, that this people that has suffered harshly throughout its history can claim not to give a damn about America’s sanctions, (sanctions already opposed by some of America’s own European allies).
Moreover: Russia’s claims to be the savior of the West finds also historical justification in its having stopped and absorbed the brunt of the Mongol attacks on the Westafter which Russia paid the additional price of two centuries of servitude and exclusion from the rest of the world. In any case, during its period of exclusion Russia, retreating as always on itself, became increasingly conscious of its roots—also in its Eastern occupiers as according to the old expression: ‘Scratch a Russian and find a Tatar’—while Russia was becoming increasingly powerful before it centurieslater adopted Marxism on which however it gave its Slavic imprint with its vestiges of the Eastwhich eventually marked also the Russian revolution itself.
That Asiatic-socialist marknot only survives but flourishes today in its capitalist societywhich bears definiteMarxist collective overtones demonstrating that when a people with the wide breadth of view of Russians—its special and differentiating mirovozreniye—gained from its land expanses and its history adopts a foreign ideology so powerful as Marxism, that people assimilates and changes its nature: Lenin was a Marxist but he changed the essence of Marxism to suit Russia’s needs; Lenin never conceived of Russian Socialism/Communism as utopian; it was hard reality geared to Russia’s needs of the moment. Also for that reason, though the USSR dissolved, Marxism-Leninism remains in contemporary Russia and has already changed Russian society fundamentally.
It has been said that the Russians were always socialistic, a trait engrained its illiterate peoples long before the revolution. Russian revolutionaries were always ideological, it was in their blood. So it is no surprise that Lenin wrote in What Is To Be Done: “It is either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle road here… Therefore any belittling of socialist ideology, any alienation from it signifies the strengthening of the bourgeois ideology.”Russian people could understand him perfectly.And no wonder that The Communist Party of the Russian Federation with a program of Socialism for Russia had 570,000 members in 2015, the second Party in Russia, whilerecent polls show that more than 50% of Russians favor a return to the USSR.
In American propagandistic terms Russia’s expansionism is labeled imperialist aggression, citing as examples the annexation of (Russian) Crimea and the invention of Russian intervention in Ukraine and in the ridiculous and unfounded claims of Russian intervention in the U.S. presidential elections. There is a basic difference between American imperialism and aggression—which began with the Mexican War in 1846 and has since never ceased on a worldwide scale that the Mongols would admire—and Russia’s expansion to the East from European Russia to the Pacific. Not only was this expansion in the nature of an empire which stood with its back to the West and facing eastwards ata huge but extremely sparsely occupied territory, containing enormous wealth. That is what the West in general and the USA in particular envy Russia for: its natural wealth much of which is still buried under the soil beyond the Ural Mountains. Why should they have all that wealth? is the U.S. attitude, part of the justification for its great plot to subjugate Russia and split it up into small states.
Things changed dramatically when first the Russian empire, then the great Communist “beast”, turned westwards, first to defeat Napoleon, then to win World War II—again for the West as it had done against the Mongols. Revolutionary Communist Russia’s victory proved to be nearly unforgiveable in the West. As if it wanted to continue its march on from Berlin to Paris and Rome. Cossacks in the fountains of the Eternal City. Had Russian Slavophiles not always maintained that Russia was ‘destined to save the world’?
However, as Cioran wrote that claim was merely euphemistic. The bare expression “save the world”(i.e. save the West) did not mean to dominate it.In reality, spiritual Russia has always felt both love and hate, attraction and repulsion, jealousy and aversion inspired by a rottenness (of the West), both enviable and dangerous, with which contact is sought as well as evaded.
To be remembered: The soul of the Russian people was molded by the Orthodox Church. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, called the Second Rome,which was the greatest Orthodox state in the world, the Russian Orthodox Church remained as the home of Orthodoxy. Thus emerged the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome. “Two Romes had fallen, but the third stands … and there will be no fourth.” The doctrine of Moscow the Third Rome became the basic idea of the former Moscow state. Its symbol was the messianic idea of that state. Tsar Ivan the Terrible ruled over a totalitarian state to the degree that among the people emerged the conviction of a plot of the Church hierarchy and State to betray the true faith. On which the people broke with Church and State and went underground from which arose the legend of the (pure) City of Kitezh hidden beneath a lake, a city that guaranteed social justice, another fundamental trait of the Russian people: the search for social justice as exemplified by the imaginary Utopian City of Kitezh.
Intellectual asceticism, nihilism and materialism were traits of the nineteenth century Russian revolutionary character among the intelligentsia, qualities superimposed on the inherent sense of social justice among a largely illiterate people. Nihilism cannot be overemphasized in an understanding of Lenin’s generation of revolutionaries. Berdyaev defines Russian nihilism as “a revolt against the injustices of history, against false civilization, a demand that history shall come to an end, and a new life, outside or above history, begin….a demand for nakedness, for the stripping from oneself of all the trappings of culture, for the annihilation of all historical traditions, for the setting free of the natural man, upon whom there will no longer be fetters of any sort.”
Such was the maximalist nature of the Russians (which became ideology)who then became the revolutionaries who in October of 1917 made the greatest revolution of our times that still appeals to major parts of mankind and changed the history of the world.
Gaither Stewart is a veteran journalist, his dispatches on politics, literature, and culture, have been published (and translated) on many leading online and print venues.
|August 12, 2017||
Can A Profit Driven Economy Provide Solution To Climate Change.
by T Navin, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
The science of Climate Change has come to be well established. Predictive models indicate its dangers to the existence and survival of the future generations. While future technologies can arrest the dangers and reduce the pace of increase of atmospheric CO2, it has already crossed the alarm level of 408 PPM much above the acceptable limit of 350 PPM. Yet it is not raising the needed alarm bells to eradicate the challenge.
The world has come together time and again to address the global challenge. From Rio summit, to Paris agreement to Kyoto protocol has attempted at finding solution to this global challenge. From fixing of responsibility to addressing climate change on developed countries to agreement on development and transfer of green technologies has been part of the agreement. However, the conferences have hardly been able to show signs of arrest the emerging danger. While agreements have been arrived to reduce CO2 emissions, there are also parties which have broken away from the same.
The modern life is full of contradictions. While the dangers are agreed upon, there is reluctance for change. The change does not necessarily mean to go back to pre-industrial ages with lack of technologies and benefits of modern civilization, but to innovate and make a shift towards greener technologies and more sustainable lifestyles. These technologies need to be produced at a scale and made available that it arrests the pace of acceleration of CO2 levels. It does not necessarily mean giving up Cars, but definitely an increase in usage of Mass transportation. It does not mean stopping usage of thermal power generation but to gradually replace it with power generation through renewable energy sources, more particularly solar energy. It does not mean giving up Air condition (AC) completely, but to substantially reduce it. It does not mean negating modernity, but to accept modernity including the flaws and to give it a direction that ensures shift to more sustainable lifestyles.
Modernity through industrial revolution did bring in changes which benefitted human civilization. The modern medicines did bring improvement in health and reduced mortality. The educational system did build in a new human being and vocations for meeting the needs of modern society. Transportation technologies reduced the time and spatial dimensions. Technologies reduced drudgery both at home and in economic activities. While these need to be welcomed and built upon, the dangers posed by modernity also need to be agreed upon.
Modernity also under the garb of the new economic system also brought in new cultural values. The values related to achieving accelerated growth, industrialisation, increase in gross domestic product, consumption lifestyles, and increased usage of energy for higher level of comforts. It did create a necessary societal shift from pre-industrial to an industrial age. The modern values did break the trend of supremacy of religion over men, separated religion from politics, questioned inequalities – particularly political, and brought in the concept of liberty equality and fraternity. It did have its benefits at the societal level. At the same time it also established the concept of supremacy of men over nature. This also meant that human civilization took it for granted that resources of earth can be utilised in a manner to achieve maximal benefits. The limited capacities of resources of earth to support were not realised. It was only when dangers became imminent that it was realised that there is a limit to which resources of earth can be extracted. And it was agreed that there are ‘limits to growth’.
Modernity and the modern economic system has resulted in benefits such as increase in production of food availability, increased availability of health care and medicines, increased availability of modern technologies which can substantially reduce human drudgery. Yet it also true that education, health care and modern technologies are increasingly becoming unaffordable as it is closely linked to an economic system driven by profit motive. The modern systems did bring substantial improvements in lifespan, health and education. But its increased connection with profit driven economy is making access to these basic services unaffordable.
The green technologies of future can have a potential solution to address climate change. But does an economic system driven by cultural values determined by profit motive, take it to a scale and make it available for the masses. Will the green technologies be accessible to all? When even agricultural technologies and gas cylinder hasn’t been able to reach the masses and the producers, how can the greener technologies reach the masses?
Similar to acceptance of the earth’s capacities to support modern unsustainable lifestyles are to be agreed upon, similarly limits of the economic system driven by profit motive to make shift to sustainable future needs to be questioned.
T Navin is a writer. He works with an NGO as a Researcher and an M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
|August 13, 2017||
The End Of Our Species Is Now A Real Possibility.
by David Anderson, in Climate Change,Countercurrents.org
From its very beginning it defined the human civilizational understanding of our relationship to Planet Earth and the cosmos. And it all worked very well for over three thousand years. But now we have a problem. That belief system turned our attention away from planetary/cosmic reality. That reality can be defined as the sacredness of all life and nonlife on land and in the waters of this planet.
So the question now for human civilization is this: How can all of humanity recognize its misdirection and absorb into its consciousness this new sense of reality? How can it break out of the concave/convex mold in which it is now encased?
It categorically defined everything on above and below our planet – including ourselves. It also defined what is profane and what it is not. It then made the distinction between the “favored” and the “un-favored” by separating the “Hebrews” as those favored by God from the other tribes. Then later on by way of “substitutional atonement,” it separated the Christians and made those the favored. Then again six hundred years after that there was a further favoring with the introduction of Islam.
From its very beginning the legalistic declaration of what is “right” and what is “wrong” gave its followers tremendous power. It enabled them to set the political/legal/economic course direction for world civilization. Today that power is manifest to one degree or other in all world cultures and the institutions that support them. It defines the rightness or wrongness of individual social behavior and government action.
The minds of world leaders today are encased in this concave/convex mold. For that reason they are not asking themselves vitally important questions: These are “break out of the mold” questions. Here they are:
Am I capable of seeing through my thought process and breaking away from those ideas that do not respect the sacredness of all life and nonlife on land and in the waters of this planet? Can I cast aside my cultural/institutional mind-frame? Can I put in place new ideas that will bring about a reversal of the planetary damage already having been done? Can I assure no future damage? Can I be a part of moving humanity away from dissonance to a state of consonance with Planet Earth and the Cosmos?
There are some encouraging signs on the horizon. Human civilization is beginning to change. Greater numbers are becoming aware of the problem. But then; those numbers have limited control over the social, political, religious and economic institutions that are so firmly in place. Also, in opposition to change are some (The deniers) who even flatly refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem. Others are too narcissistic to care. The cold hard fact is that most of the world’s population – Abrahamic religionists included ‑ at this moment refuse to face planetary ecological reality.
A few closing words on that reality: Population numbers in many areas of the planet continue to grow far beyond planetary sustainability. The ppm CO2 level will soon exceed the COP21 target. This year there have been record breaking temperatures. Methane (More powerful than CO2) is being released in the arctic. Acidification in the oceans is attacking coral life. Life in reefs (bottom of the food chain) is dying. The top of the food chain is being exterminated by industrial fishing. Oceans are warming and rising. Agricultural dependent aquifers on land are being depleted.
And the list goes on. Time is closing in. Our species is under threat. We must act in unison ‑ and quickly.
We must change the way we think.
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. It can be seen on