Global Civilizational State leadership is a global partnership, solidarity, and cooperation between 9 or more Global Governments dealing with the needs of all humanity for its survival.
Note: We do not have any funds to pay anyone and for anything. We work strictly on a volunteer basis .
David Anderson, Pratap Antony, John Scales Avery, Dr Glen Barry , Robert J Burrowes, Farooque Chowdhury(2), Countercurrents Collective(4), Jessica Corbett(2), Nicolas J S Davies, Dr James M Dorsey, Sally Dugman(2), Stephen Durham, Tom Engelhardt, Dr Andrew Glikson, Anders C Hardig, Robert Hunziker, Irwin Jerome, Zeenat Khan, Michael T Klare, David Korten, Rohin Kumar, Dr Gideon Polya, Andre Vltchek, Robert Snefjella, Shobha Shukla, Colin Todhunter, Eric Zuesse.
David Anderson, A thinking imperfection we brought with us into this New Age.
Pratap Antony, Humanity Means Being Humane.
John Scales Avery, Kicking The Habit.
Dr Glen Barry, Global Ecological Restoration: The Leaves of the Tree Will Heal the Nations .
Robert J Burrowes, Human Extinction Now Imminent and Inevitable? A Report on the State of Planet Earth.
Farooque Chowdhury, Voice of the world capitalist system from Davos.
Farooque Chowdhury, An amoral foreign policy.
Countercurrents Collective, Richest 1% own more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, says report.
Countercurrents Collective, Wuhan seafood market may not be source of coronavirus spreading globally.
Countercurrents Collective, Antarctic continent suffers from record temperature of 18.3°C.
Countercurrents Collective, By 2030, 2·3 billion people are projected to live in fragile or conflict affected contexts.
Jessica Corbett, Concentration of CO2 Hits Record High of 416 ppm.
Jessica Corbett, Climate Crisis Could Cause a Third of Plant and Animal Species to Disappear Within 50 Years.
Nicolas J S Davies, The U.S. Is Recycling Its Big Lie About Iraq To Target Iran.
Dr James M Dorsey, Pakistan puts press freedom at the core of struggle for new world order.
Sally Dugman, Seafood and Population.
Sally Dugman, Tribalism.
Stephen Durham, A bold step forward in Mexico City for international socialist regroupment.
Tom Engelhardt, The Fate of the Earth – See Page Five.
Dr Andrew Glikson, Planetary arson.
Anders C Hardig, Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression.
Robert Hunziker, Kill GDP to Help Save the Planet.
Irwin Jerome. Traditional Indigenous And White Man’s Conflicting Rules Of Law: A Coming To Terms That Hasn’t Been Resolved Since First Contact.
Zeenat Khan, Nature, Bonbibi, American cetologist in the Sundarbans.
Michael T Klare, War in the Arctic?
David Korten, The Time for Postponing Climate Action Is Over.
Rohin Kumar, Toxic Air: Pollution from fossil fuels costs 5.4% of India’s GDP annually.
Dr Gideon Polya, Methane Leakage Makes Australia A World Leading Per Capita Greenhouse Gas Polluter.
Andre Vltchek, How Is Washington ‘Liberating’ Free Countries.
Robert Snefjella, The Destruction of Libya: Posturing Predators; Lethal Lies.
Shobha Shukla, Gender equity and human rights are pivotal for advancing progress on SDGs.
Colin Todhunter, Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis.
Eric Zuesse, What Europe Can Do to Avoid WW III?: Say ‘No!’ Now, to Its Start.
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|December 26, 2020||
by Dr Andrew Glikson , Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
“Meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement is going to be nearly impossible without removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” Kevin Drum (2019). No one knows how to impose 1.5 or 2.0 degrees Celsius limits unless drawdown /carbon sequestration of atmospheric CO2 is attempted, nor are drawdown methods normally discussed in most political or economic forums.
The release of some 910 billion tons of carbon dioxide is leading human society, indeed much of nature, to an existential impasse. The widest chasm has developed between what climate science is indicating and between climate policies and negotiations controlled by governments, politicians, economists andjournalists—none of whom fully comprehends, or is telling the whole truth about, the full consequences of the current trend in the atmosphere-ocean-land system.
The evidence for future projections, as understood by climate scientists, has been largely putto one side, mainly because it is economically and politically “inconvenient” or isfrightening. Reports from the Madrid climate COP-25 Conference suggest negotiations, focusing on emission reductions, are overlooking the evidence that at the current concentration of CO2, which have reached 412 ppm and496 ppm-equivalent, amplifying feedbacks from land and ocean are pushing temperatures further upwards.This is driven by the replacement of sea ice and land ice and snowsurfaces by open water surfaces, by methane leaks, desiccated vegetation, fires and reduced CO2 absorption by warming oceans.Given the long atmospheric residence time of CO2(Solomon et al. 2009, Eby et al. 2009) and the short life span of aerosols, attempts at CO2 drawdown are essential if complete devastation of the biosphere is to be avoided
Figure 1.(a) 1990-2019 Global growth of CO2 emissions (gigaton); (b) 1960-2019 Annual fossil CO2 emissions from coal, oil, Gas and cement (gigaton).
The prevailing political and economic focus in international climate projects, conferences and advisory councilsis concerned with (a) limitson, or a decrease of, carbon emissions from power generation, industry, agriculture, transport and other sources; (b) limits on the current rise in global temperatures to +1.5 degrees Celsius, and a maximum of +2.0 degrees Celsius, above mean pre-industrial (pre-1750) temperatures.
However, no one knows how to impose these limits unless drawdown/sequestration of atmospheric CO2 is attempted, nor are drawdown methods normally discussed in most forums.
At the present the concentration of greenhouse gases of just under-500 ppm CO2-equivalentis activating amplifying feedbacksof greenhouse gases from land, oceans and melting ice sheets, namely further warming:
Figure 3.Total water vapor that can precipitate, as observed by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.
With rising global temperatures and further encroachment of subtropical climate zones desertification and warming can only become more severe.
Abrupt reductions in emissions may be insufficient to stem global warming, unless accompanied by sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, recommended as below 350 ppm CO2.According to Hansen et al. (2008)carbon sequestration in soil (the biochar method) has significant potential, applying pyrolysis of residues of crops, forestryand animal waste.Biochar helps soil retain nutrients and fertilizers, reducing release of greenhouse gases such as N2O. Replacing slash-and-burn agriculture with a slash-and-char method and the use of agricultural and forestry wastes for biochar production could provide a CO2 drawdown of ~8 ppm or more in half a century.
Stabilization and cooling of the climate could include two principle approaches (Table 1): (a) solar shielding, and (b) CO2drawdown/sequestration. However, solar shielding by injected aerosols or water vapor is bound to be transient, requiring constant replenishment.
Table 1.Solar shielding and atmospheric CO2 sequestration methods
Figure 4.Iceland: The streaming of CO2-containing air and of water through basaltic rocks and CO2-capture as carbonate minerals.
The big question is how effective are the above methods in reducing CO2 levels on a global scale, at the very least to balance emissions, currently 36.8 billion tons CO2 per year.Whereas each of the methods outlined in Table 1has advantages and disadvantages, it is hard to see an alternative way of cooling the atmosphere and oceans than a combination of several of the more promising methods.Budgets on a scale of military spending ($1.7 trillion in 2017) are required in an attempt to slow downthe current trend across climate tipping points. The choice humanity is facing is whether to spend resources on this scale on wars or on defense from the climate calamity.
Time is running out.
Andrew Glikson, Earth and climate scientist, Australian National University
when the CO2-equivalents of methane and nitrous oxide are included
|January 3, 2020||
Kill GDP to Help Save the Planet.
by Robert Hunziker, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
There’s a problem with America’s favorite statistic:GDP. It avoids pretty much everything that’s actually, truly, really good for society, including the importance of robust ecology. Still, it’s the biggest measure of what’s happening with the economy and used around the world,even though horribly flawed.
According to some forward thinkers, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the monetary value of all finished goods and services, is a distortion that needs fixing.
Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s (former chief economist of the World Bank) new book: Measuring What Counts: The Global Movement for Well-Being, The New Press, 2019 tackles the issue by exposing its paramount importance in judging how society gauges prosperity or alternatively the failure of prosperity, e.g. one-in-eight Americans (40 million) is on food stamps during the longest economic expansion in memory and 40-50% of Americans don’t have $400 readily available for emergencies.Is this failed prosperity?
GDP distorts reality by giving an appearance of real economic growth even as living standards stagnate for lower/middling classes.Additionally, GDP totally misses ecosystem collapse by abuse/misuse/overuse, which is only noticed by the general public after it’s way too late when it’s easily noticeable, even by those of low self-esteem that blindly follow tyrannical maniacs. Hmm.
According to Stiglitz: “The world is facing three existential crises: (1) a climate crisis, (2) an inequality crisis and (3) a crisis in democracy… Yet the accepted ways by which we measure economic performance gives absolutely no hint that we might be facing a problem.”
Accordingly, politicians see positive GDP numbers, which inspires them to continue with the status quo, meaning they do not focus on key aspects for sustainability, as well as human well-being. GDP does not compute environmental degradation. GDP does not register societal divisions that build tension over massive wealth disparity. And, GDP overlooks calculations of lowered standards of living for the abandoned middle class, as they increasingly deploy mountain-loads of debt to support bogus lifestyles.
According to Pew Research Center: “In real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago.” (Source: For Most U.S. Workers, Real Wages Have Barely Budged in Decades, Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018) Where’s prosperity?
Furthermore, according to Stiglitz: ‘If growth is not sustainable because we are destroying the environment and using up scarce natural resources our statistics should warn us… If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing.”
Stiglitz’s new book with co-authors French economists JeaPaul Fitoussi and Martine Durand discusses alternative metrics that more properly account for details like “sustainability” as well as “how people feel about their lives.”
In other words, GDP does not paint a true-life picture. Rather, it’s a wobbly ghostly statistic that measures business activity without consideration for humanity or ecology, begging the question: What’s really important in life?
GDP numbers do not hint at trouble with (1) sustainability of resources, (2) climate crises, or (3) the well-being of the people. Yet, all three are crucial issues under stress like never before.
As an interesting side note, according to Jorgen Randers’ A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, 2052 – A report to Club of Rome commemorating the 40th anniversary of The Limits to Growth, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012, there’s already a shift away from the use of GDP: “The sustainability revolution has already begun… The new paradigm already emerged forty years ago, or perhaps even fifty (with Rachel Carson in 1962). It has spread since, but it is still not mainstream. We have evolved an increased understanding of the need to replace fossil energy, but we have not really embarked on the challenge. And some — even in high places— have started to talk seriously about the need to replace GDP growth with growth in ‘well-being’ as the overriding societal goal.” (Randers, pg. 13)
Furthermore, GDP totally misses crucial points supporting societal existence from an ecological perspective, as stated by Christopher O. Clugston’s Blip, Humanity’s 300 Year Self-Terminating Experiment With Industrialism (BookLocker Press, 2019): “The premise of Blip is that increasingly pervasive global nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity is causing faltering global human prosperity, which is causing increasing global political instability, economic fragility and societal unrest. This scenario will intensity during the coming decades and culminate in humanity’s self-inflicted global societal (species) collapse, almost certainly by the year 2050.”
GDP does not calculate, does not represent, and does not hint at the scarcity value associated with overuse/abuse of natural resources accompanied by egregious planet-wide degradation, e.g. the gooey tar sands in Alberta, Canada (This is the World’s Most Destructive Oil Operation-and it’s Growing, National Geographic, 2019).
The missing GDP calculations result in cultural upheaval as people increasingly “hit the streets” in protest, aware that “something is not right.” And, the Canadian tar sands are proof positive that something is way-way-way off course. It literally frightens the daylights out of people that seriously contemplate future prospects for society. It’s an actual horror story in the making in full operation and actually celebrated by neoliberal nincompoops. No wonder kids are protesting in the streets; adults behave like bloody fools blinded to a self-destructive stupidity. Getting oil from gluey tar sands… Really!!! Or, how about fracking with toxic chemicals! Man alive, it’s a wonder there aren’t millions of people in the streets everyday.
According to NBC News (12-24-2019): “In 2019, demonstrations around the world, both peaceful and violent, were set off by social unrest over economic instability, government corruption, and inequality.”
(1)Hong Kong street protests, peaked at over 2 million people (2)Iran 304 people killed in protests over rising gasoline prices and government corruption (3) Iraq huge demonstrations over corruption in government with 354 killed (4) Lebanon a proposed internet fee brought hundreds of thousands to protest in the streets seeking economic reform and an end to government corruption (5)Chile a million protesters hit the streets sparked by a subway fare increase of 4 cents but really opposed to abuses by government, 27 dead so far (6)Columbia tens of thousands protested the government (7) Bolivia at least 17 killed as indigenous people protested a right-wing coup, tossing out Bolivia’s most effective president of all time for the people, Evo Morales (8) the Yellow Jacket movement in France continues to protest week-by-week over pension reform (9) anti-government protests are prevalent in Pakistan (10) Russian street protesters stepped up opposition against the government (11) India huge protests against the new anti-Muslim law (12) huge protests in Ecuador over austerity measures (13) Catalonians in Spain hit the streets in protests and want to break away from the central government (14) Indonesia thousands hit the street to protest a new criminal code outlawing sex outside of marriage (15) Netherlands protesting farmers on tractors plugged up 700 miles of highways to protest Dutch parliament claims that agriculture is responsible for high emissions (16) Peruvians blockaded copper mines after larger protests against the corruption of government (17) Haiti massive demonstrations over shortages of food, oil, and electrical power, 30 dead.
Young people that see the future melting away into viscous piles of neoliberal crap lead the protests. The common themes are injustice,government corruption, unemployment, poverty, lack of government services,and a failure to respect the environment, as they rage against the traditional political class.
It’s likely only just begun.
Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 articles published, including several translated into foreign languages, appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He has been interviewed on numerous FM radio programs, as well as television.
|January 9, 2020||
Human Extinction Now Imminent and Inevitable? A Report on the State of Planet Earth.
by Robert J Burrowes, Countercurrents Collective, in World
There is a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now imminent; that is, it will occur within the next few years and possibly this year: 2020. There is also a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now inevitable; that is, it cannot be prevented no matter what we do.
There are at least four distinct paths to imminent (that is, within five years) human extinction: nuclear war (possibly started regionally), biodiversity collapse (already well advanced and teetering on the brink), the deployment of 5G (commenced recently) and the climate catastrophe. Needless to say, each of these four paths might unfold in a variety of ways.
In addition, it should be noted, there are other possible paths to extinction in the near term, particularly when considered in conjunction with the four threats just mentioned. These include the cascading impacts triggered by destruction of the Amazon rainforest (which is now imminent) particularly given its critical role in the global hydrological cycle, the rapidly spreading radioactive contamination of Earth, and geoengineering for military purposes (which has been going on for decades and continues).
Far worse, however, is the path to extinction that looms before us when we consider the impact of all seven of these paths in combination with the vast range of other threats noted below.
These interrelated threats have generated a shocking series of ‘points of no return’ (‘tipping points’) that we have already crossed, the mutually reinforcing set of negative feedback loops that we have already triggered (and which we will continue to trigger) which cannot be reversed in the short-term, as well as the ongoing synergistic impact of the various ‘extinction drivers’ (such as ongoing extinctions because dependent species have lost their resource species) we have set in motion and which cannot be halted irrespective of any remedial action we might take. Hence, taking into account all of the above factors, the prospects of averting human extinction are now remote, at best.
Why has this happened?
Because long-standing dysfunctional human behavior, which we have not even begun to recognize as the fundamental driver of this extinction crisis, let alone address, has now trapped us between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, we are trapped by our grotesquely dysfunctional parenting and education models that mass produce individuals who are terrified, self-hating and powerless (leaving them submissively obedient while unable to seek out and consider the evidence for themselves and take powerful action in response) and who, as a result of being terrorized during childhood, are now addicted to chronic over-consumption to suppress their awareness of their deep (and unconscious) emotional pain. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’and ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ with more detailed evidence in ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
On the other hand, also as an outcome of our dysfunctional parenting and education models (as well as the political and economic systems these generate), we keep reproducing and remain trapped by the global elite, and its compliant international organizations (such as the United Nations), national governments and corporations, including its corporate media. This global elite is utterly insane (and, hence, devoid of such qualities as conscience, empathy, compassion and love) and intent on exploiting our desire to suppress awareness of our emotional pain by over-consuming in order to feed their insatiable desire for profit, power and privilege no matter the cost to humanity and Earth’s biosphere. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.
Hence, this article does two things.
First, in the hope of generating greater consideration of these two issues – imminence and inevitability of human extinction – I have presented in straightforward language and point form, a reasonable summary of the nature and extent of our predicament (which clearly indicates that we are on track for human extinction between now – January 2020 – and 2025), as well as citing the relevant scientific and/or other evidence that explains each problem in more detail.
And second, the article outlines a powerful series of actions and strategies that individuals as well as community groups, neighborhoods and action groups can take as part of a global effort to fight to avert human extinction even if, as mentioned above, it is now inevitable. See, for example, ‘Extinction Foretold, Extinction Ignored’ in which the ‘McPherson Paradox’, which explains one key reason why we are doomed to extinction, is explained.
The obvious question, which you might well ask me, is this: ‘If the overwhelming evidence that human extinction is now imminent and inevitable is incontrovertible, why are you suggesting that we “fight to avert human extinction”?’ And my answer is simply this: Because, as I have done for several decades, I am committed to trying to do this one key thing that feels worth doing. Moreover, I am also hopeful that a miracle or two might just occur if we humans commit ourselves fully to the effort. I am only too well aware that anything less than a full effort, as outlined below, will certainly fail. And we will virtually certainly fail anyway. But I would rather try, than give up. And you?
So, in noting the points below, each of which identifies one key way (or a set of related key ways) in which the Earth and its inhabitants were subjected to greater violence in 2019, it is painful to reflect that, as forecast this time last year and based on a clear understanding of the primary driver of human behavior – fear – that is generating this multifaceted crisis, 2019 was another year of vital opportunities lost when so much is at stake.
Because, in essence, whether psychologically, socially, politically, militarily, economically, financially, ecologically or in other ways, in 2019 humanity took more giant strides backwards while passing up endless opportunities to make a positive difference in our world.
Moreover, to highlight the dramatic nature of our failure, by the end of 2019, a substantial number of countries and regions of the world – notably including the Amazon basin, Australia, several countries in Central Africa, many European countries, Indonesia, Siberia and North America – had each experienced (and/or were still experiencing) a huge series of wildfires (or fires that were deliberately lit), many of them ‘out of wildfire season’ and breaking records for their ‘unprecedented’ destructive impact, demonstrating that the Earth is literally burning up. For just an overview, see NASA’s ‘Fire Information for Resource Management System’.
But this very visible symptom of our crisis masks a vast quantity of evidence, in many domains, that is virtually unknown but far more damaging.
One acknowledgment of this crisis in Earth’s biosphere was the fact that the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists remains poised at just two minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been to ‘doomsday’ (and equal to 1953 when the Soviet Union first exploded a thermonuclear weapon matching the US capacity and raising the spectre of nuclear war). See ‘It is now two minutes to midnight’.
This status reflects the perilous state of our world, particularly given the renewed threat of nuclear war and the ongoing climate catastrophe. It didn’t even mention the massive and unrelenting assault on the biosphere (apart from the climate) and the rapidly accelerating biodiversity crisis nor, of course, the ongoing monumental atrocities against fellow human beings.
So let me identify, very briefly, some of the more crucial backward steps humanity took during 2019 and, far too easily, unfortunately, forecast what will happen in 2020.
Some Key Lowlights of 2019
1) The global elite, using key elite fora such as the Group of 30, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group and the World Economic Forum, and despite much rhetoric to the contrary, continued to plan, generate and exacerbate the many ongoing wars, deepening exploitation within the global economy, climate and environmental destruction, and the killing and exploitation of fellow human beings in a multitude of contexts, in pursuit of greater elite profit, power and privilege. See, for example, ‘Who Is Really in Control of US Foreign Policy?’, Giants: The Global Power Elite and ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.
2) International organizations (such as the United Nations, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and national governments and corporations used military forces, legal systems, police forces and prison systems – see ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ – around the world to serve the global elite by defending its interests against the bulk of the human population, including those individuals and organizations courageous enough to challenge elite profit, power and privilege who are being killed in record numbers. (See more in point 35 below.)
3) $US1.8 trillion was officially spent worldwide on military weapons to kill fellow human beings and other lifeforms, and to destroy the biosphere. This is the highest official (because the figures are taken from ‘open sources’) annual military expenditure ever recorded and the second consecutive year in which an increase occurred. Apart from military spending, weapons transfers worldwide remained high and both the USA and Russia were ‘on a path of strategic nuclear renewal’. See ‘SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security; Summary’.
However, as noted last year, so out-of-control is this spending that the United States government has now spent $US21trillion on its military in the past 20 years for which it cannot even account! That’s right, $US1trillion each year above the official US national budget for killing is ‘lost’. See Army General Fund Adjustments Not Adequately Documented or Supported, ‘Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us?’ and ‘The Pentagon Can’t Account for $21 Trillion (That’s Not a Typo)’.
There has been no progress reported in accounting for this ‘lost’ expenditure during the past year.
4) Under the direction of the global elite (as explained above), the United States government and its NATO allies continued their perpetual war across the planet wreaking devastation on many countries and regions, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. See, for example, Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and ‘Understanding NATO, Ending War’.
As a result, whether in the US-sponsored and supplied Saudi Arabian war against Yemen which the UNHCR characterizes as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world – see ‘The Cost of Feeding Yemen as War Rages On’ – the result of the US use of depleted uranium on top of its other extraordinary military destruction of Iraq over the past 29 years – see ‘Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview’ – or the complete dismemberment of Libya as a result of NATO’s bombing of that country and the subsequent assassination of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 – see ‘Endless War and Chaos in Libya’ – the United States and its NATO allies have continued their efforts to destroy entire countries (also including Afghanistan, among others), at staggering cost to their populations and environments, not because these countries posed a threat to security anywhere but in order to maintain geopolitical control and to facilitate the theft of their resources (mainly oil) at great profit to the global elite. See, for example, ‘Hillary Emails Reveal NATO Killed Gaddafi to Stop Libyan Creation of Gold-Backed Currency’.
Moreover, of course, the perpetually-profitable perpetual war, by definition, has no end. But it still isn’t quite acceptable to say, too publicly and loudly, that ‘The global elite has again used the United States military and its NATO allies to destroy Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/… (or, as is now the case, to attack Iran) to make a profit’ so what can be passed off as an excuse must be manufactured and promulgated by the compliant corporate media. And, with a gullibly terrified human population disinclined to question authority, this isn’t a problem. The same unconvincing formula invariably works each time. For a fuller and insightful explanation of this point, see Edward Curtin’s article ‘The war hoax redux’.
Of course, Iran has long been in the crosshairs of the global elite because of its prodigious (and thus hugely profitable) oil reserves as well as the clear inclination of its leaders (both before and after the US-installed Shah) to make decisions in the interests of Iranians, including foreign policy decisions such as those related to defense and the role of nuclear weapons. Thus, the global elite ensured that the US Congress, via removal by the Senate of a provision ‘explicitly not authorizing the Pentagon to wage war against Iran or assassinate its officials’ – see ‘America Escalates its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East’ – in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, effectively encouraged President Trump’s recent assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s head of the foreign arm – the Quds Force – of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite military force and the key figure in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, in clear contempt of international law. See ‘Trump’s assassination of Soleimani: Five things to know’, ‘With Suleimani Assassination, Trump Is Doing the Bidding of Washington’s Most Vile Cabal’, ‘Why US assassinated General Qassem Soleimani’ and ‘US killing of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani “an act of war”’.
This assassination, of course, raises a heightened possibility of war – essentially, from the elite perspective, to achieve ‘regime change’ and capture control of Iran’s oil – in one or more guises possibly involving, as explained by Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the use of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, acts of political destabilization, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions, electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques, cyberwarfare as well as chemical and biological warfare. See ‘A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure’ and ‘America, An Empire on its Last Leg: To be Kicked Out from the Middle East?’
Hence, much will depend on the Iranian response to the insanity of those attacking it, which will unfold as this article is being published. For further thoughtful analyses of this crisis, see ‘War With Iran’, ‘Iran vs. US – The Murder of General Qassem Suleimani’ and ‘On the Brink of War?’
5) Not content with the devastating impact of the military violence it is inflicting already, during 2019 the global elite continued to plan how to cause more destruction in future. Key initiatives included ongoing work to employ advances in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence technologies that will undermine nuclear deterrence and increase the likelihood of nuclear escalation – see ‘A Stable Nuclear Future? The Impact of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence’ – and the decision in the United States to create a Space Force, a sixth branch of the US military forces, just two manifestations of this. See ‘The Very Bad Space Force Deal’ and ‘US Making Outer Space the Next Battle Zone – Karl Grossman’.
In its turn, the Russian government has developed and just deployed a hypersonic weapon that travels at Mach 27 and which makes the US missile defense installations in Europe ‘obsolete’. See ‘Avangard changes everything: What Russia’s hypersonic warhead deployment means for the global arms race’.
But other initiatives receiving renewed attention – ‘hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons onboard orbiting battle platforms with onboard nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium systems providing the power for the weapons’ – also enhance the threat that ‘Modern society would go dark’ in the words of Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Why? Because ‘any war in space would be the one and only. By destroying satellites in space massive amounts of space debris would be created that would cause a cascading effect and even the billion-dollar International Space Station would likely be broken into tiny bits. So much space junk would be created… that we’d never be able to get a rocket off the planet again because of the minefield of debris orbiting the Earth at 15,000 mph’. See ‘Trump Signs Measure Enabling Establishment of a U.S. Space Force’.
Of course, technological ‘advances’ in weaponry reflect retrograde steps in policy with the US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) – which includes 20 B-2 stealth bombers, 76 B-52 bombers and 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles together capable of delivering thousands of nuclear warheads – along with the U.S. Navy’s submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles, are now ‘capable of extinguishing essentially all life on Earth within a matter of hours.’ See ‘The Air Force’s Global Strike Command Is Preparing For A Delivery Of New Nuclear Weapons’.
6) Following the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002 and after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the ‘Iran nuclear deal’) and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (which limited the deployment of intermediate range nuclear weapons) in 2018, the US government further and unilaterally signaled its intention to dismantle the little that remained of attempts during the Cold War and since that time to contain the threat of nuclear war by further acting in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 – see ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’ and ‘US Weaponizing Space in Bid to Launch Arms Race’ – as explained in the point above, and demonstrating its disinterest in extending New START: the sole remaining restraint on U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals that caps deployed offensive strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 each. See ‘Russia says it’s already too late to replace new START treaty’ and ‘Global Zero Urges Trump to Accept Putin’s Offer on Nuclear Treaty’.
If you are in any doubt regarding the devastating consequences of nuclear war, you will find Professor Steven Starr’s thoughts – see ‘Nuclear Darkness, Global Climate Change and Nuclear Famine: The Deadly Consequences of Nuclear War’ – illuminating. In addition, the description by Lynn Eden in ‘City on Fire’ (based on her book Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation) is compelling.
7) Another substantial proportion of global private financial wealth – conservatively estimated by the Tax Justice Network in 2010 to already total between $US21 and $US32 trillion – has been invested virtually tax-free through the world’s still-expanding black hole of more than 80 ‘offshore’ tax havens (such as the City of London Corporation, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Nauru, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Monaco, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Liechtenstein). This is just financial wealth. Additionally, a large share of the real estate, yachts, racehorses, gold bricks and many other assets that count as non-financial wealth are also owned via offshore structures that make it impossible to identify their owners. See Tax Justice Network.
Tax havens are locations around the world where wealthy individuals, criminals and terrorists, as well as governments and government agencies (such as the CIA), banks, corporations, hedge funds, international organizations (such as the Vatican) and crime syndicates (such as the Mafia), can stash their money so that they can avoid laws, regulation and oversight and, very often, evade tax. See ‘Elite Banking at Your Expense: How Secretive Tax Havens are Used to Steal Your Money’.
Controlled by the global elite, Wall Street and other major banks manage this monstrous diversion of wealth under Government protection. ‘Their business is fraud and grand theft.’ Tax haven locations offer more than tax avoidance. ‘Almost anything goes on.’ It includes ‘bribery, illegal gambling, money laundering, human and sex trafficking, arms dealing, toxic waste dumping, conflict diamonds and endangered species trafficking, bootlegged software, and endless other lawless practices.’ See ‘Trillions Stashed in Offshore Tax Havens’.
8) The world’s major corporations continued to inflict enormous ongoing violence (in a myriad of ways) in their pursuit of endless profit at the expense of living beings (human and otherwise) and Earth’s biosphere by producing and marketing a wide range of life-destroying products ranging from nuclear weapons and nuclear power to fossil fuels, junk food, pharmaceutical drugs (including health-destroying and sometimes life-destroying vaccinations: see, for example, ‘Vaxxed-Unvaxxed – The Science’), synthetic poisons and genetically mutilated organisms (GMOs).
These corporations include the following: weapons manufacturers, major banks and their ‘industry groups’ like the International Monetary Conference, asset management firms, investment companies, financial services companies, fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) corporations, technology corporations, media corporations, major marketing and public relations corporations, agrochemical (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers) giants, pharmaceutical corporations (with their handmaidens in the medical and psychiatric industries: see ‘Defeating the Violence in Our Food and Medicine’ and ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’), biotechnology (genetic mutilation) corporations, mining corporations, nuclear power corporations, food multinationals and water corporations. You can see a list of the major corporations in this article: ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.
9) More than two billion people continued to live under occupation, dictatorship or threat of genocidal assault often with the global elite sponsoring an oppressive national government or simply a local elite that exercises power irrespective of the government in office. See, for example, ‘500 Years is Long Enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.
10) 36,500,000 human beings (mainly in Africa, Asia and Central/South America) were starved to death in 2019.
Are we serious about ending these totally unnecessary deaths? Not even remotely, as thoughtfully explained by Professor George Kent in his article ‘Are We Serious About Ending Hunger?’
As Professor Kent notes: currently, around the world, ‘around 800 million people suffer from hunger’ and that ‘global efforts to end hunger have not been serious’: There has been ‘no substantial commitment of resources, no management group to control the process, no realistic timeline, and no means for mid-course corrections on the way to the goal. There [have been] no contracts with agencies that would work toward achievement of the goal…. hoping for the end of hunger won’t work. Hope is not a strategy.’ Moreover, ‘The UN system offers little more than vague aspirations.’
11) 18,250,000 children were killed by adults in wars, by starving them to death, by denying them clean drinking water, and in a large variety of other ways.
12) 8,000,000 children were trafficked into sexual slavery; executed in sacrificial killings after being kidnapped; bred to be sold as a ‘cash crop’ for sexual violation, to produce child pornography (‘kiddie porn’) and ‘snuff’ movies (in which children are killed during the filming); ritually tortured and murdered as well as raped by dogs trained for the purpose. See ‘Humanity’s “Dirty Little Secret”: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children’.
13) Hundreds of thousands of individuals were kidnapped or tricked into slavery, which now denies 46,000,000 human beings (more than at any time in human history) the right to live the life of their choice, condemning many individuals – especially women and children – to lives of sexual slavery, forced labor or as child soldiers. Needless to say, the global elite continues to expand this highly profitable business while its compliant governments do no more than mouth an occasional objection to the practice while doing nothing effective to actually end it, as was patently evident following disclosures about high-profile public figures during the year. See ‘The Global Slavery Index’. For one recent account of the life of a modern slave, see ‘My Family’s Slave’. And for an account of the involvement of public figures in sex slavery, see ‘Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein: what you need to know’ and the other articles listed at the end of this one.
14) Well over 100,000 people (particularly Falun Gong practitioners) in China, where an extensive state-controlled program is conducted, were subjected to forced organ removal for the trade in human organs. See Bloody Harvest and The Slaughter.
15) 15,768,000 people were displaced by war, persecution or famine. There are now 70,800,000 people, more that half of whom are children and approximately 10,000,000 of whom are stateless, who have been forcibly displaced worldwide and remain precariously unsettled, usually in adverse circumstances. One person in the world is forcibly displaced every two seconds. See ‘Figures at a Glance’.
16) Millions of people were made homeless in their own country as a result of war, persecution, ‘natural’ disasters (many of which, including hurricanes/cyclones and wildfires, were actually generated by dysfunctional human behavior rather than nature), internal conflict, poverty or as a result of elite-driven national economic policies. The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations back in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. In addition, as many as 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing (living in slums, for example). See ‘Global Homelessness Statistics’.
17) Highlighting the unheralded biodiversity crisis on Earth, as a result of habitat destruction and degradation as well as a multitude of other threats, 73,000 species of life (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles and microbes) on Earth were driven to extinction with the worldwide loss of many of these species – and certainly including insects, birds, animals and fish – now at catastrophic levels. Tragically, many additional species are now trapped in a feedback loop which will inevitably precipitate their extinction as well because of the way in which ‘co-extinctions’, ‘localized extinctions’ and ‘extinction cascades’ work once initiated and as has already occurred in almost all ecosystem contexts. See the (so far) five-part series ‘Our Vanishing World’. Have you seen a flock of birds of any size recently? A butterfly?
18) Separately from global species extinctions, Earth continued to experience ‘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.’ Moreover, local population extinctions ‘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.’ See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’ and ‘Our Vanishing World: Wildlife’.
19) Wildlife trafficking, worth up to $20 billion in 2019, is pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction. Illegal wildlife products include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets, most of which are sold to unaware/unconcerned consumers in the West although China is heavily implicated too. See, for example, Stop Wildlife Trafficking.
20) 16,000,000 acres of pristine rainforest were cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timbers used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soybean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a ‘green biofuel’ in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper. One outcome of this destruction is that 40,000 tropical tree species are now threatened with extinction. See ‘Our Vanishing World: Rainforests’, ‘Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests’, ‘Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species’ and ‘Half of Amazon Tree Species Face Extinction’.
Another outcome is that ‘the precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we’. How long do we have? ‘The tipping point is here, it is now.’ Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy and his fellow researcher Carlos Nobre elaborate this point: ‘Bluntly put, the Amazon not only cannot withstand further deforestation but also now requires rebuilding as the underpinning base of the hydrological cycle if the Amazon is to continue to serve as a flywheel of continental climate for the planet and an essential part of the global carbon cycle.’ See ‘Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action’.
21) Vast quantities of soil were washed away as we destroyed the rainforests, and enormous quantities of both inorganic constituents (such as heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc) and organic pollutants (particularly synthetic chemicals in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) were dumped into the soil as well, thus reducing its nutrients and killing the microbes and earthworms within it. We also contaminated enormous quantities of soil with radioactive waste. See Soil-net, ‘Glyphosate effects on soil rhizosphere-associated bacterial communities’ and ‘Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity’.
To briefly elaborate the evidence in relation to earthworms: Given ‘recent reports of critical declines of microbes, plants, insects and other invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates, the situation pertaining to neglected earthworms’ was evaluated in an extensive investigation recently undertaken by Robert J. Blakemore. His research demonstrated an 83.3 percent decline in earthworms in agrichemical farms – that is, those that use pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers – compared with farms utilizing organic methods. Why? Because ‘it is impossible to replace or artificially engineer the myriad beneficial processes and services freely provided by earthworms’ which includes extensive burrows in pastures enriched with soil organic matter that allow ingress of air & water and provide living space for other soil organisms. Moreover, given that ecological services overall have been given a median value of US$135 trillion per year, which is almost double the global economic GDP of around $75 trillion – see ‘Changes in the global value of ecosystem services’ and ‘Valuing nature and the hidden costs of biodiversity loss’ – Blakemore reaches an obvious conclusion: ‘Persistence with failing chemical agriculture makes neither ecological nor economic sense.’ See ‘Critical Decline of Earthworms from Organic Origins under Intensive, Humic SOM-Depleting Agriculture’.
Given that this multifaceted destruction of the soil fundamentally threatens the global grain supply, when the ability to grow, store and distribute grains at scale is a defining element of civilization, as Professor Guy McPherson eloquently explains it: ‘A significant decline in grain harvest will surely drive this version of civilization to the abyss and beyond.’ See ‘Seven Distinct Paths to Loss of Habitat for Humans’.
22) Despite an extensive and ongoing coverup by the Japanese government and nuclear corporations, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), vast amounts of radioactive waste were dumped into the biosphere from the TEPCO nuclear power plant at Fukushima in Japan including by discharge into the Pacific Ocean killing an incalculable number of fish and other marine organisms and indefinitely contaminating expanding areas of that ocean. See ‘Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation’, ‘2019 Annual Report – Fukushima 8th Anniversary’, ‘Eight years after triple nuclear meltdown, Fukushima No. 1’s water woes show no signs of ebbing’ and ‘Fukushima’s Three Nuclear Meltdowns Are “Under Control” – That’s a Lie’.
But the challenges to be overcome in safely handling and, ultimately, safely storing the radiation hazards (such as the three melted nuclear reactors and the spent fuel rods) and the radioactive waste from the Fukushima disaster are monumental, as touched on in this article outlining the 40-year plan that the Japanese government hopes will delude us into believing will deal with the many components of this perpetual radioactive nightmare. See ‘Japan revises Fukushima cleanup plan, delays key steps’.
In addition, one critical legacy of the US military’s 67 secretive and lethal nuclear weapons tests on the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 is the ‘eternally’ radioactive garbage left behind and now leaking into the Pacific Ocean. See ‘The Pentagon’s Disastrous Radioactive Waste Dump in the Drowning Marshall Islands is Leaking into the Pacific Ocean’.
Is other nuclear waste safely stored? Of course not! See, for example, ‘NRC admits San Onofre Holtec nuclear waste canisters are all damaged’, ‘USA’s Hanford nuclear site could suffer the same fate as Russia’s Mayak – or worse’ and, for a more comprehensive report, ‘The World Nuclear Waste Report 2019: Focus Europe’.
Of course, the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986 continues to inflict extensive damage on the biosphere which you can learn more about from the research by Professor Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future – ‘Chernobyl Radiation Cover-Ups & Deadly Truth’, ‘UN and Western countries covered up the facts on the huge health toll of Chernobyl radiation’ and ‘Unreported Deaths, Child Cancer & Radioactive Meat: The Untold Story of Chernobyl’ – as well as the investigatory work of Alison Katz of Independent WHO: ‘Chernobyl Health Cover-Up, Lies by UN/WHO Exposed’.
23) Human use of fossil fuels to power aircraft, shipping and vehicles as well as for industrial production and to generate electricity (among other purposes) released 10 billion metric tons (10 gigatons) of carbon dioxide into Earth’s biosphere, a 0.6% increase over 2018, with China’s monstrous CO2 emissions for 2019 totaling 2.6% greater than the previous year. See ‘Global Carbon Budget 2019’.
As one measure of their contempt for the utterly inadequate goals of the Paris climate agreement, and with government approval,‘over 400 of the 746 companies on the Global Coal Exit List are still planning to expand their coal operations’. If built, these projects in 60 countries would add over 579 GW to the global coal plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%. See ‘Companies Driving the World’s Coal Expansion Revealed: NGOs Release New Global Coal Exit List for Finance Industry’ and ‘Proposed Coal Plants by Country’.
24) 72 billion land animals (mainly chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, geese, turkeys, sheep, goats and beef cattle) were killed for food. In addition, between 37 and 120 billion fish were killed on commercial farms with another 2.7 trillion fish caught and killed in the wild. See ‘How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day?’
Apart from that, more than 100 million animals were killed for laboratory purposes in the United States alone and there were other animal deaths in shelters, zoos and in blood sports. See ‘How Many Animals Are Killed Each Year?’
In addition, according to Humane Society International, about 100 million animals (particularly mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and rabbits) were bred and slaughtered in fur farms geared to supplying the fashion industry. In addition to farming, millions of wild animals were trapped and killed for fur, as were hundreds of thousands of seals. See ‘How Many Animals are Killed Each Year?’
25) Farming of animals for human consumption released 7.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent into Earth’s atmosphere; this represented 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. About 44% of livestock emissions were in the form of methane (which was 44% of anthropogenic CH4 emissions), 29% as Nitrous Oxide (which was 53% of anthropogenic N2O emissions) and 27% as Carbon Dioxide (which was 5% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions). See ‘GHG Emissions by Livestock’.
26) Human use of fossil fuels and farming of animals released more than 3.2 million metric tons of (CO2 equivalent) nitrous oxide (N2O) into Earth’s atmosphere. See ‘Nitrous oxide emissions’.
27) Despite largely successful efforts by the elite-controlled IPCC to delude people into believing that the global mean temperature has increased by only 1.0 degree celsius, in fact, since the pre-industrial era (prior to 1750) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have already caused the global temperature to rise by about 1.73 degrees celsius. See ‘How much warmer is it now?’
Among a lengthy list of adverse outcomes, this has caused the melting of Arctic permafrost and undersea methane ice clathrates resulting in an incalculable quantity of methane being uncontrollably released into the atmosphere, including during 2019, with the quantity being released getting ever closer to ‘exploding’. See ‘Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates?’, ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’, ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’ and ‘Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf’.
In fact, the methane threat is already so extreme that the forecast El Niño event for 2020 could be the catalyst to trigger huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean precipitating human extinction this year. See ‘Very early warning signal for El Niño in 2020 with a 4 in 5 likelihood’ and ‘Extinction in 2020?’
28) Glaciers and mountain ice fields – whether located in Greenland or other regions of the far north, the Himalaya, at the Equator, in southern latitudes or Antarctica – are all melting at unprecedented and accelerating rates, losing billions of tonnes of ice in 2019. For a discussion of the details and the implications of this, see ‘Our Vanishing World: Glaciers’.
29) The ongoing destruction of Earth’s oceans continued unabated and accelerated in key areas.
An incalculable amount of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes was discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths – see ‘Staggering level of toxic chemicals found in creatures at the bottom of the sea, scientists say’ – and generating ocean ‘dead zones’: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms. See ‘Our Planet Is Exploding With Marine “Dead Zones”’.
In addition, however, another problem that has been getting insufficient attention is the result of the expanding impacts of the rapidly increasing levels of ocean acidification, ocean warming, ocean carbon flows and ocean plastics. Taken in isolation each of these changes clearly has negative consequences for the ocean. All these shifts taken together, however, result in a rapid and serious decline in ocean health and this, in turn, adversely impacts all species dependent on the ocean including fish, mammals and seabirds. Moreover, on top of these problems is the issue of oxygen availability given that oxygen in the air or water is of paramount importance to most living organisms. As the recently released report ‘Ocean deoxygenation: Everyone’s problem. Causes, impacts, consequences and solutions’ describes in some detail, oxygen levels are currently declining across the ocean, not just in ‘dead zones’.
And to elaborate the plastics problem briefly: at least 8 million metric tons of plastic, of which 236,000 tons were microplastics, was discharged into the ocean. So severe is the problem that there are now five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world covering large swaths of the ocean; the plastic patch between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas. See ‘Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean’ and ‘Plastics in the Ocean’.
30) Earth’s fresh water and ground water was further depleted and contaminated.
The depletion is a primary outcome of the ongoing deforestation of the planet and is manifesting in several ways including as localized droughts, which are becoming increasingly common as a number of cities and regions around the world can attest. According to the World Resources Institute, half of the surface water in some countries – mainly in Central Asia and the Middle East – was depleted between 1984 and 2015, with agriculture using an average of 70% of the water. 36 countries are ‘extremely water-stressed’ and water is now a major factor in conflict in at least 45 countries. See ‘7 Graphics Explain the State of the World’s Water’.
Separately from depletion, fresh water was contaminated by bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens; radioactive waste from nuclear tests (some of it stored in glaciers that are now melting); and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used. See ‘Groundwater contamination’, ‘Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s’ and ‘Fracking chemicals’.
31) The longstanding covert military use of geoengineering – spraying tens of millions of tons of highly toxic metals (including aluminium, barium and strontium) and toxic coal fly ash nanoparticulates (containing arsenic, chromium, thallium, chlorine, bromine, fluorine, iodine, mercury and radioactive elements) into the atmosphere from jet aircraft to weaponize the atmosphere and weather – in order to enhance elite control of human populations, continued unchecked. Geoengineering is systematically destroying Earth’s ozone layer – which blocks the deadly portion of solar radiation, UV-C and most UV-B, from reaching Earth’s surface – as well as adversely altering Earth’s weather patterns and polluting its air, water and soil at incredible cost to the health and well-being of living organisms and the biosphere. See ‘Geoengineering Watch’, including ‘Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey’.
For a discussion of the military implications of geoengineering, see ‘The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use’.
And for discussions of the research, and implications of it, by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt and Dr. Stephenie Seneff (Senior Research Scientist at MIT), which considers damage to the biosphere and human health caused by the geoengineering release of a synthesized compound of nanonized aluminium and the poison glyphosate that creates a ‘supertoxin’ that is generating ‘a crisis of neurological diseases’, see ‘World-Renowned Doctor Addresses Climate Engineering Dangers’, Dr Stephenie Seneff, ‘Autism Explained: Synergistic Poisoning from Aluminum and Glyphosate’ and ‘Extinction is Stalking Humanity: The Threats to Human Survival Accumulate’.
32) The incredibly destructive 5G technology, which a vast number of scientists (currently totaling more than 188,000 individuals and organizations from 203 nations and territories: see ‘International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space’) are warning will have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth, is now being rapidly introduced without informed public consultation and despite ongoing protests around the world.
The following articles and videos will give you a solid understanding of key issues from the viewpoint of human and planetary well-being. See ‘5G Satellites: A Threat to all Life’, ‘5G Danger: 13 Reasons 5G Wireless Technology Will Be a Catastrophe for Humanity’, ‘5G Technology is Coming – Linked to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Death’, ‘20,000 Satellites for 5G to be Launched Sending Focused Beams of Intense Microwave Radiation Over Entire Earth’, ‘Will 5G Cell Phone Technology Lead To Dramatic Population Reduction As Large Numbers Of Men Become Sterile?’, ‘The 5G Revolution: Millions of “Human Guinea Pigs” in Big Telecom’s Global Experiment’ and ‘5G Apocalypse – The Extinction Event’.
33) As one outcome of our dysfunctional parenting model and political systems, fascism continued to rise around the world. See ‘The Psychology of Fascism’.
34) Despite the belief that we have ‘the right to privacy’, privacy (in any sense of the word) was ongoingly eroded in 2019 and is now effectively non-existent, particularly thanks to Alphabet (owner of Google). Taken together, ‘Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Tinder, Apple, Lyft, Foursquare, Airbnb, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Angry Birds… have turned our computers and phones into bugs that are plugged in to a vast corporate-owned surveillance network. Where we go, what we do, what we talk about, who we talk to, and who we see – everything is recorded and, at some point, leveraged for value.’ Moreover, given Google’s integrated relationship with the US government, the US military, the CIA, and major US weapons manufacturers, there isn’t really anything you can do that isn’t known by those who want to know it. In essence, Google is ‘a powerful global corporation with its own political agenda and a mission to maximise profits for shareholders’ and it partly achieves this by expanding the surveillance programs of the national security state at the direction of the global elite. But Google isn’t alone and it isn’t just happening in the USA. See ‘Everybody’s Watching You: The Intercept’s 2019 Technology Coverage’, ‘Google’s Earth: How the Tech Giant Is Helping the State Spy on Us’, the articles by John W. Whitehead on ‘Surveillance’ and the documentary ‘The Modern Surveillance State’.
35) The right to free speech, accurate information and conscience-based nonviolent activism was ongoingly eroded in 2019 as efforts, by governments and corporations particularly, to control speech, information and political action accelerated. Whether this took the form of censorship, restrictions on access or violent acts directed against those whose views or actions were seen as dangerous or wrong, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and other organizations documented an endless series of setbacks for free speech and political activity in a wide variety of countries around the world with individuals and journalists imprisoned for telling the truth, nonviolent activists assaulted and killed, critics silenced by defamation laws or ‘disappearance’, and the closure of newspapers, television stations and the internet to prevent rapid promulgation of information, among other infringements. See, for example, ‘Free Speech’, ‘The supply chain of violence’, ‘Environmental activist murders double in 15 years’ and ‘Enemies of the State? How governments and businesses silence land and environmental defenders’.
36) Believing that we know better than evolution, and following the birth in 2018 of the first gene-edited babies in China – see ‘Why we are not ready for genetically designed babies’ and ‘China’s Golem Babies: There is Another Agenda’ – in 2019, further human gene-editing was done as well as gene-editing experiments intended to explore possibilities for more complex gene-editing of humans. Why? According to the authors of one report: ‘To extend the frontier of genome editing and enable the radical redesign of mammalian genomes’ (emphasis added). This experiment allowed ‘for the simultaneous editing of >10,000 loci in human cells’. See ‘Enabling large-scale genome editing by reducing DNA nicking’.
Needless to say, at least some responsible scientists are well aware of the possibly horrific consequences of this technology in the hands of those without ethics and are calling for a moratorium of at least five years on heritable human gene editing to allow time ‘to engage in proactive, rather than reactive, discussions about the future of such technology’. Of course, despite the calls for caution, ‘some researchers are forging ahead’. See ‘NIH Director on Human Gene Editing: “We Must Never Allow Our Technology to Eclipse Our Humanity”’.
37) Incalculable amounts of waste of every conceivable kind – including antibiotic waste, military waste, nuclear waste, nanowaste and genetically engineered organisms, including ‘gene drives’ (or ‘mutagenic chain reactions’) – were released into Earth’s biosphere, with an endless series of adverse consequences for life. See ‘Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?’
Not content to dump our junk on Earth, an incalculable amount of junk was also dumped in Space which already contains 100 trillion items of orbiting junk. See ‘Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?’ and ‘Space Junk: Tracking & Removing Orbital Debris’.
38) Ongoing ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence against children – see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’– ensured that more people will grow up accepting (and quite powerless to challenge) our dysfunctional and violent world, as described above.
39) The global elite’s corporate media, schooling and film/television industries continued to distract vast numbers of people from reality with an endless barrage of propaganda respectively labeled, depending on the context, ‘news’, ‘education’ and ‘entertainment’ ensuring that most people remain oblivious to our predicament, devoid of the capacities to investigate, comprehend and analyze this predicament as well as their own role in it, and to respond to this predicament powerfully. See, for example, ‘Media’s Deafening Silence on Latest from WikiLeaks about the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fake Douma Report Blaming Syria’, ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ and ‘The Most Important Free Press Stories of 2019’.
40) Finally, as a direct outcome of these last two points but most tragically of all, virtually all of the individuals who self-identify as ‘activists’ continued to waste their time begging the global elite (or their agents) to fix one or other of our crises – starkly illustrated by those thousands of climate ‘activists’ who traveled to Madrid, mostly using fossil fuels, and then complained when the outcome was, predictably, pitiful: see the powerless civil society ‘Statement on COP25’ – despite the overwhelming evidence that the global elite will not take action to ‘fix’ any of these crises. See ‘Why Activists Fail’. And, for more detail in two key contexts, see ‘The Global Climate Movement is Failing: Why?’ and ‘The War to End War 100 Years On: An Evaluation and Reorientation of our Resistance to War’.
Moreover, even if it was inclined, the elite is now powerless to avert extinction given that, if we are to have any chance given the advanced nature of the crisis and the incredibly short timeframe, we must plan intelligently to mobilize a substantial proportion of the human population in a strategically-focused effort. Nothing else can work.
Highlights of 2019
But so that the picture is clear and ‘balanced’: were there any gains made against the onslaught outlined above, particularly given we were driven inexorably closer to extinction?
Considering the elite and its agents: Zero gains were made of which I am aware. I have found no record of official efforts during the year to plan for the development and implementation of a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace although there was plenty of rhetoric in some quarters, often by those without any actual power to make a difference.
Separately from this, there have been some minor activist gains: for example, some western banks and insurance companies are no longer financially supporting the expansion of the western weapons industry and the western coal industry, some superannuation (pension) funds have divested from weapons and fossil fuels, some rainforest groups have managed to save portions of Earth’s rainforest heritage, and activist groups continue to work on a variety of issues sometimes making modest gains.
In essence however, as you probably realize, many of the issues above are not even being tackled and, even when they are, activist efforts have been hampered by inadequate analysis of the forces driving conflicts and problems, limited vision (particularly unambitious aims such as those in relation to ending war and the climate catastrophe), and unsophisticated strategy (necessary to have profound impact against a deeply entrenched, highly organized and well-resourced opponent), with the endless lobbying of elite institutions, such as governments and corporations, despite this effort simply allowing the absorption and dissipation of our dissent, as is intended. As Mark Twain once noted: ‘If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.’ Another problem was the failure to make the difficult decisions to model and promote necessary solutions that are ‘unpopular’.
Fundamentally, these ‘difficult decisions’ include the vital need to campaign for the human population, particularly in industrialized countries, to substantially reduce their consumption – by 80% – involving both energy and resources of every kind, while increasing our individual and community self-reliance, as the central feature of any strategy to curtail destruction of the environment and climate, to undermine capitalism and to eliminate the primary driver of war: violent resource acquisition from Middle Eastern and developing nations for the production of consumer goods for consumers in industrialized countries.
So here we stand at the brink of human extinction (with 200 species of life on Earth being driven to extinction daily) and most humans utterly oblivious to (or in denial of: see ‘The Psychology of Denial’) the desperate nature and timeframe of our plight. And the fundamental reason why this is the case is simple to identify: unconscious fear is making people, including activists, incapable of behaving sensibly in the crisis. Instead, people are doing what they were terrorized into doing as a child: obeying their parents, teachers, religious figures and, ultimately, the elite. Why? Because when the choice is between obedience on the one hand and punishment on the other, obedience almost invariably wins. And so now we obediently ask the elite, perhaps by lobbying one of their governments, to ‘fix’ things for us – to save the climate, to end war… – and meekly accept it when they ignore us or refuse. After all, that is what most parents and teachers do – ignore us or refuse us – and we have fearfully learned to ‘accept it’. Which is why the idea of behaving powerfully ourselves never really occurs to most people.
‘But I am not afraid’ you (or someone else) might say. Aren’t you? Your unconscious mind has had years to learn the tricks it needed when you were a child to survive the onslaught of the violent parenting and schooling you suffered – see ‘Why Violence?’, ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ and ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ – among the many other possibilities of violence, including those of a structural nature, that you will have also suffered.
But your mind only learned these ‘tricks’ – such as the trick of suppressing awareness of your fear and hiding it behind the permitted and encouraged overconsumption: see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’ – at great cost to your functionality and it now diverts the attention from reality of most people so effectively that they cannot even pay attention to the obvious and imminent threats to human survival.
In any case, there is a simple test of whether or not you are afraid.
If you feel able to act powerfully in response to this complex and multifaceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to join (but now using a substantially accelerated timeframe) those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’, which outlines a simple plan for you to systematically reduce your consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding your individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all threats to the biosphere are effectively addressed.
If you are also interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to systematically address one of the issues identified above, you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. And, for example, you can see a basic list of the strategic goals necessary to end war and halt the climate catastrophe in ‘Strategic Aims’.
If you want to know how to nonviolently defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault, you will learn how to do so in ‘Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy’.
If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children’.
To reiterate: capitalism, war and destruction of the biosphere are, fundamentally, outcomes of our dysfunctional parenting and education of children which distorts their intellectual and emotional capacities, destroys their conscience and courage, and actively teaches them to over-consume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.
This explains why Gandhi’s example, set more than 100 years ago, to minimize his own possessions and consumption as symbolized by his wearing of khadi, together with his observation ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need, but not for every person’s greed.’ have never had the widespread impact that was needed to achieve some level of sustainability about the human presence on Earth. The dysfunctional emotional attachment to possessions and consumption is overwhelming for most people.
If your own intellectual and/or emotional functionality is the issue and you have the self-awareness to perceive that, and wish to access the conscience and courage that would enable you to act powerfully, try ‘Putting Feelings First’.
And if you want to be part of the worldwide movement committed to ending all of the violence identified above, consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
In summary: if we do not rapidly, systematically and substantially reduce our consumption in several key areas and radically alter our parenting model, while resisting elite violence strategically on several fronts, Homo sapiens will enter Earth’s fossil record in 2020 or soon after. Given the fear, self-hatred and powerlessness that paralyses most humans, your choices in these regards are even more vital than you realize.
Or, if the options above seem too complicated, consider committing to:
The Earth Pledge
Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:
Very soon now, the overwhelming evidence is that Homo sapiens will join other species that only exist as part of the fossil record. For other summaries of our predicament, see ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’,‘Doomsday by 2021?’and ‘Extinction in 2020?’
Our chance of escaping this fate is now remote.
Which is why I am compelled to forecast the following: As is overwhelmingly demonstrated by any consideration of the historical evidence in relation to human behavior, fear will prevent the vast bulk of human beings considering the evidence offered above as well as that cited. Moreover, even among those who do consider it, few will have the capacity to act sensibly and powerfully in response, particularly given the comprehensive range of strategies in so many different contexts that are now necessary.
Hence, absent the intellectual and emotional capacities necessary to respond strategically to this complex and multifaceted crisis, human extinction will occur imminently.
Obviously, I hope I am wrong (and I will be doing everything I can to make it so).
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.
|January 20, 2020||
Richest 1% own more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, says report.
by Countercurrents Collective, in World
A super-rich one percent of the world’s population has accumulated twice as much wealth as the remaining 90 percent, said a new report by Oxfam, a global charity. The report has been released on January 20, 2020 on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The gap between the filthy rich and the rest of humanity has reached grotesque proportions, according to the report.
The report, Time to Care, focuses on the largely unpaid care work many women and girls take upon themselves.
The report said: The world’s top 22 richest men have now more wealth than all the women in Africa.
It added: At the bottom of the economy, women and girls, especially women and girls living in poverty and from marginalized groups, are putting in 12.5 billion hours every day of care work for free, and countless more for poverty wages. Their work is essential to our communities. It underpins thriving families and a healthy and productive workforce.
The report said: This great divide is based on a flawed and sexist economic system that values the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men, more than the billions of hours of the most essential work – the unpaid and underpaid care work done primarily by women and girls around the world. Tending to others, cooking, cleaning and fetching water and firewood are essential daily tasks for the wellbeing of societies, communities and the functioning of the economy. The heavy and unequal responsibility of care work perpetuates gender and economic inequalities.
It said: This broken economic model has accumulated vast wealth and power into the hands of a rich few, in part by exploiting the labor of women and girls, and systematically violating their rights.
There are only 2,153 billionaires in the world, according to the report, but their wealth matches that of more than 4.6 billion people, or about 62 percent of the world’s population, estimated to stand at 7.7 billion.
The gap between the wealthy and all those who fare less well looks even more prominent if to compare the combined income of the richest of the rich – the top one percent – to that of some 6.9 billion people.
According to the report, the one-percenters boast more twice as much wealth as nearly 90 percent of the global population.
It said: At the top of the global economy a small elite are unimaginably rich. Their wealth grows exponentially over time, with little effort, and regardless of whether they add value to society.
Tax the rich
Oxfam said: The only way to tackle inequality is to raise taxes. Taxing additional 0.5 percent of wealth of the top 1 percent over the next decade will provide governments with enough funds to create 117 million of jobs in health, education, elderly care and other sectors.
It said: Governments must act now to build a human economy that is feminist and values what truly matters to society, rather than fuelling an endless pursuit of profit and wealth. Investing in national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls and introducing progressive taxation, including taxing wealth and legislating in favor of carers, are possible and crucial first steps
It added: One reason for these outsized returns is a collapse in taxation of the super-rich and the biggest corporations because of falling tax rates and deliberate tax dodging. At the same time, only 4% of global tax comes from taxation of wealth, and studies show that the super-rich avoid as much as 30% of their tax liability. Extremely low corporate taxation helps them cream the profits from companies where they are the main shareholders; between 2011 and 2017 average wages in G7 countries increased by 3%, while dividends to wealthy shareholders grew by 31%.
While Oxfam did not call any names in its report, it appeared to have taken a thinly-veiled jab at Amazon CEO and founder of Blue Origin space company Jeff Bezos, the on-and-off planet’s richest man, who, however, slipped to the second place this week, behind the chairman and CEO of French luxury giant LVMH Bernard Arnault.
Less than $5.50 a day
The report cited World Bank estimates: Almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day, and the rate of poverty reduction has halved since 2013.
The Oxfam report said: Many people are just one hospital bill or failed harvest away from destitution. Inequality is one of the major reasons for this; a huge share of global income growth consistently accrues to those at the top, leaving those at the bottom further and further behind.
The report cites Thomas Piketty and his team: Between 1980 and 2016, the richest 1% received 27 cents of each dollar of global income growth. This was more than twice the share of the bottom 50%, who secured only 12 cents of every dollar.
The report said:
Oxfam has proposed the following six actions to help realize the rights of carers and to start closing the gap between unpaid and underpaid care workers and the wealthy elite who have profited most from their labor.
The report’s recommendations are:
1)Invest in national care systems to address the disproportionate responsibility for care work done by women and girls:
Governments must invest in cross-governmental national care systems, in addition to investing in and transforming existing public services and infrastructure. National care systems must include the provision of universal access to safe water, sanitation and domestic energy systems, and investments to deliver universal childcare, eldercare and care for people with disabilities. These should also include access to quality healthcare and education, as well as the provision of universal social protection, such as pensions and child benefits. As part of national care systems governments must ensure a minimum of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and the progressive realization of one year of paid parental leave, including a phase of use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave.
2)End extreme wealth to end extreme poverty: Extreme wealth is a sign of a failing economic system. Governments must take steps to radically reduce the gap between the rich and the rest of society and prioritize the wellbeing of all citizens over unsustainable growth and profit, to avoid a world that caters only to a privileged few and consigns millions of people to poverty. Governments must take bold and decisive steps by taxing wealth and high incomes and cracking down on loopholes and the inadequate global tax rules that allow rich corporations and individuals to escape their tax responsibilities.
3)Legislate to protect the rights of all carers and secure living wages for paid care workers:
As part of their national care systems, governments must ensure legal, economic and labor market policies are in place to protect the rights of all carers and paid care workers, in both formal and informal sectors and monitor their implementation. This must include ratifying ILO Convention 189 on the protection of domestic workers and policy to ensure that all care workers are paid a living wage and working towards the elimination of gender wage gaps.
4) Ensure that carers have influence on decision-making processes:
Governments must facilitate the participation of unpaid carers and care workers in policy-making fora and processes at all levels, and invest resources into collecting comprehensive data that can better inform policymaking and evaluate the impact of policies on carers. This should be alongside consulting women’s rights actors, feminist economists and civil society experts on care issues, and increased funding for women’s organizations and movements working to enable their participation in decision-making processes. These measures are important building blocks of national care systems.
5) Challenge harmful norms and sexist beliefs:
Harmful norms and sexist beliefs that see care work as the responsibility of women and girls lead to an unequal gendered distribution of care work, and perpetuate economic and gender inequality. As part of their national care systems governments need to invest resources to challenge these harmful norms and sexist beliefs, including through advertising, public communication and legislation. Further, men need to step up to equally fulfill their responsibilities on care work to address the disproportionate amount of care done by women within households and communities.
6) Value care in business policies and practices: Businesses must recognize the value of care work and sustain the wellbeing of workers. Further, they should support the redistribution of care through the provision of benefits and services such as crèches and childcare vouchers and ensure living wages for care providers. Companies and business should assume their responsibility for contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by paying their fair share of taxes, implementing family-friendly employment practices such as flexible working hours and paid leave, and using progressive advertising and public communication to challenge the gendered distribution of care work.
A broken economy
The report said:
“If the economic system is left to distribute the fruits of growth so unevenly, we will never eliminate poverty.”
“Unequal and unbridled growth is also unsustainable and makes it impossible to live within the environmental boundaries of our planet.”
“Economic inequality is also built on gender inequality, and the majority of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid are women. Women and girls are more likely to be found in poorly paid and precarious employment, and they do the bulk of unpaid and underpaid care work.”
“The dominant model of capitalism actively exploits and drives traditional sexist beliefs that disempower women and girls, counting on them to do this work, but refusing to value them for it.”
Commenting on the findings, Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said that while unpaid or poorly paid care work mostly done by women serves as the “hidden engine” that fuels the global economy, “broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women.”
|January 20, 2020||
Voice of the world capitalist system from Davos.
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents Collective, in World
With usual high hope and promise, the Davos annual ritual is on the stage. But, the promise and hope appear false.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Switzerland meeting beginning from January 21 has become one of the voices of the world capitalist system as it considers itself “the foremost creative force for engaging the world’s top leaders […] to shape global, regional and industry agendas […].” But, with capitalism as the dominating force in the world, what can be shaped other than destruction of lives on this planet? Shall the Davos elites question capitalism?
The meet and the WEF’s Global Risk Report are two of the significant weather-meters to gauge the weather the system is bumping into. Many capitans of the capitalist system express their perception about the situation they are facing – “the most pressing issues on the global agenda”. These are actually the fear and the uncertainty the system is failing to get rid of. The participants include the world’s top politicians, academics, and business and NGO leaders.
The 2020 meeting theme is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”. Its cherished commitment is “to improve the state of the world”. A capitalist world system can never be cohesive and sustainable and it can’t improve the world as the system breeds incoherence and chaos. The system itself is the evidence.
The Davos Report – Global Risks Report 2020 (GRR 2020) – fails to hide the hopeless condition the world capitalist system is experiencing. The report’s “The Fraying Fundamentals” chapter cites the facts:
Downward pressure on the global economy from macroeconomic fragilities and financial inequality continued to intensify in 2019. The global economy is at increasing risk of stagnation. Tense geo-economic and geopolitical landscape, and domestic challenges have exacerbated uncertainty. There’s, according to the IMF-speak, “synchronized slowdown” – weakened growth among the world’s economies. A gradual deceleration was already underway. The slowdown of the world economy has further materialized. By the third quarter of 2019, six of the world’s largest seven economies (Japan is the exception), which together represent more than half of global production, had decelerated. The outlook is also precarious for other G20 economies. Most of these economies are growing at a rate below 2%. There’s risk of a prolonged slowdown of the world economy. The IMF has lowered its last five estimates of world output for 2019 and expected a growth rate of 3.0% – a sharp decline from 3.6% in 2018 and the slowest since the 1.7% contraction in 2009. For 2020, the IMF had also downgraded its forecast from 3.7% to 3.4% [The figure 2.1].
Source: IMF, 2018 and 2019, World Economic Outlooks and quarterly updates, cited in the GRR 2020
“Nationalist” policies are challenging low trade barriers, fiscal prudence and strong global investment. Rising trade barriers, lower investment and high debt are straining economies around the world. Global trade is slowing down. World Trade Organization (WTO) data for the first three quarters of 2019 show that total world merchandise trade decreased 2.9% from the previous year. It decreased in the world’s top ten traders. [The figure 2.2] Reduced trade volumes are largely the result of what the WTO has called “historically high levels of trade restrictions”. Turning trade to a weapon of rivalry may persist.
Source: WEF estimates from WTO data, https://data.wto.org/, accessed on January 8, 2020, cited in the GRR 2020
Globally, investment has been affected by low expected returns, uncertainty about economic policy in major economies, and ongoing and emerging geopolitical tensions. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) remains lower than it was before the 2008-’09 crisis. It has decreased for the last three years. In 2018, net FDI inflows were down 38% compared to 2017, and less than half of the level, they were in 2015. The sharpest decline has been in the euro area [the figure 2.3], where less appealing yields, lower production and uncertainty surrounding Brexit have led net FDI inflows to the region to fall to a record low since the euro was adopted in 1999.
Private and public debt has been accumulating since the crisis. According to the IMF, the global ratio of debt-to-GDP increased by 11 percentage points between 2009 and 2017. Across G20 economies, public debt is expected to reach 90% of GDP in 2019 – the highest level on record – and to grow even more, to 95% in 2024 [the figure 2.5]. Private debt has built up on the basis of lower interest rates – particularly in China and the US, where more than 40% of total private debt is located. In the second quarter of 2019, non-financial corporate debt reached 156% of GDP in China. In the US, non-financial corporate debt reached 47% of GDP in the third quarter – the highest level ever recorded – according to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data. The IMF has listed “rising corporate debt burdens” as a key vulnerability in the global financial system.
There’s a risk that the tools previously used to brake economic slides may no longer be available. Financial market stress and strained public finances are creating uncertainty as to whether conventional monetary and fiscal policy instruments could be as effective in the future.
Interest rate cuts have fostered higher debt and riskier rent-seeking, which affect financial market stability. In 2019, most central banks persistently cut interest rates to very, sometimes historically, low levels. In the US, the Fed lowered its target interest rate from 2.50% in December 2018 to 1.75% currently. The European Central Bank (ECB) cut its deposit rate to a historic low of -0.50% in September 2019. The Bank of Japan’s deposit rate has remained at -0.10% since February 2016. Such low rates raise concerns about the soundness of banking systems. The ECB has warned that decreasing profits are challenging Europe’s banking sector; in the second quarter of 2019, European banks yielded an average return-to-equity of 7.0%, compared to 12.1% in the US.
The role and reach of monetary policies are also challenged by wider factors such as technological change, climate change and rising inequality.
The margin for fiscal stimulus in most of the world’s main economies has narrowed. Public debt in 15 of the 20 largest economies has increased every year since the 2008–’09 crisis.
Deteriorated business confidence
Business confidence has deteriorated during 2019. The Business confidence index – constructed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) using production data and business sentiment to anticipate future performance – signals that the state of the global economy is expected to worsen in the short term. At the time of writing the GRR 2020, the index had declined for 14 consecutive months, dropping below the no-change threshold for the first time since 2016 and reaching a 10-year low in October of last year [the figure 2.4].
Source: OECD Data, Business confidence index, https://data.oecd.org/leadind/ business-confidence-index-bci.htm, accessed on January 3, 2020, cited in the GRR 2020
Note: Numbers above 100 suggest an increased confidence in near future business performance, and numbers below 100 indicate pessimism towards future performance.
Concern about inequality underlies recent social unrest on almost every continent. Domestic income inequality has risen in many countries, particularly in advanced economies, and reached historical highs in some. The OECD reports “income inequality in OECD countries is at its highest level for the past half century.” Many of those protesting have long been excluded from their country’s wealth and share frustration that the elite have captured gains at the expense of others.
Inequality hinders growth and damages macroeconomic fundamentals, as the IMF has pointed out: it slows down economic activities and casts doubt on a country’s stability. This damages investor confidence and undermines political capital – both fundamental conditions for prosperity, especially in times of economic volatility. In France, for example, the persistence of the “gilets jaunes” movement had caused businesses more than US$11.4 billion in losses by December 2019. The protests in Chile cost businesses over US$1.4 billion. “[S]ocial incidents dealt [Hong Kong] a very severe blow”.
The profound political consequences of inequality can also undermine economic growth by making a country harder to govern – in ways ranging from legislative impasses to complete government paralysis. This risk is accentuated by the decentralized and spontaneous nature of recent demonstrations: with pop-up protests, it is difficult for governments to negotiate with demonstrators and develop concrete measures to meet their demands.
Weak public finances could aggravate already hard-felt social tensions. The European sovereign debt crisis has shown that drastic fiscal corrections and public austerity measures can shrink the welfare state with political and social consequences that many governments would be neither willing nor able to incur.
Systems have failed to promote economic advancement for all. Profound citizen discontent – born of disapproval of the way governments are addressing economic and social challenges – has sparked protests throughout the world. There’s a widespread domestic discontent with current economic systems, perceived to be rigged and unfair.
Polarization and confrontation
The Global Risks Perception Survey finds “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarization” as the top risks in 2020. “Economic confrontations between major powers” is the most concerning risk for 2020.
According to the survey participants, “recession in a major economy” most likely to increase in 2020.
The survey finds, “protectionism regarding trade and investment” and “populist and nativist agendas” most likely to increase through 2020.
The WEF’s Executive Opinion Survey finds, “fiscal crises” are the top-rated risk for businesses globally over the next 10 years.
The WEF’s expert community perceives, “domestic political polarization” most likely to increase in 2020.
With this background, the GRR 2020 said:
“Unless the global economic system is reformed to be more socially conscious, the twin risks of prolonged slowdown and stronger defiance towards the current economic model will continue to exacerbate each other.”
In today’s capitalist world system, there’ll be slowdowns, and these will be prolonged. The factors behind these slowdowns are within the system. The system breeds the factors. The GRR 2020 talks about stagnation, slowing of trade, etc. The point the elite-minds miss is: “mature monopoly capitalist economy as one that is subject to, and indeed dominated by, a basic contradiction: the very growth of its productive potential puts insuperable obstacles in the way of making full use of available human and material resources for the satisfaction of the needs of the great mass of the population. What this means is (1) that in the absence of sufficiently powerful counteracting forces, the normal state of the system in its monopoly capitalist phase is determined by the interaction of the tendency to stagnation and the forces acting counter to this tendency.” (Paul M Sweezy and Harry Magdoff, The Irreversible Crisis, “”Stagnation and the financial explosion”, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1988)
And, the elites aspire for, as the report said, “a prompt and smooth transition to a more cohesive and sustainable model of ‘stakeholder capitalism’.”
The issue of public debt demands a brief observation made more than 150 years ago: “The public debt becomes one of the most powerful levers of primitive accumulation. As with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, it endows barren money with the power of breeding and thus turns it into capital, without the necessity of its exposing itself to the troubles and risks inseparable from its employment in industry or even in usury.” (Marx, Capital, vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1977)
With contradiction within, contradiction with the labor, contradiction with the great masses of people, the capitalist system can never turn cohesive and sustainable. Similarly, its transition will never be smooth as the system itself continues creating hurdles on the path of its transition, which is nothing but the system’s dissolution. Moreover, the term “stakeholder capitalism” needs no elaboration as capitalists and their retinues are its primary stakeholders. Other than this parasitic group, none, the people, the labor has any stake in the system. The latest Oxfam report – Time to care, Unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis – narrates a small fragment about the nature of this parasitic group. It’s horrible, it’s shameful, it’s beyond all ethical standards of all ages!
With this “holy” aspiration – “stakeholder capitalism” – the Davos elites are getting engaged with seven key themes that include “Healthy Futures”, “How to Save the Planet”, “Better Business”, “Beyond Geopolitics” and “Tech for Good”. Their discussions include “Averting a Climate Apocalypse” and “How to Turn Protest into Progress”.
With capitalism dominating the planet, there’s no healthy future of this planet. This planet’s only future that looms over the horizon is apocalypse as long as capitalism is the world system as the system’s only survival mode is destroy everything around. The system can’t survive without ever expansion, and it can’t expand without destroying all around. As long as there’s imperialism, there’s imperialism’s never-ending hunger for survival, there’s no scope for going beyond geopolitics. But, the GRR 2020 doesn’t look into that fact. It’s identifying risks partially, but declining to look at roots of the risks – a real dream in a real world. The elites like to dwell within this dream.
Mainstream likes to play with words, and dislikes to dig truths. That’s to hoodwink the commoners. So, one of the foremost tasks is to tear down covers of mystery the mainstream puts on facts concerning life, on issues in economy and politics. Its play with terms like public debt, cohesion, sustainable, interest is to be exposed. The brutal facts with the terms are to be discussed among the commoners. These discussions will help expose hollowness of the mainstream.
Despite use of tricky terms, the GRR 2020 fails to hide the reality as it admits failure to promote economic advancement for all, citizens’ profound discontent with current economic systems perceived to be rigged and unfair. The mainstream-mouth is uttering the facts. That’s the “beauty” of the GRR 2020. The reality doesn’t allow the elites to hide all facts. However, it “beautifies” itself by hiding its ugly class character, notorious class partisanship and political power.
Note: All statements not cited are quoted from the GRR 2020.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.
|January 21, 2020||
Global Ecological Restoration: The Leaves of the Tree Will Heal the Nations .
by Dr Glen Barry , Countercurrents Collective, in Counter Solutions
The ecological fabric of being is fraying and Earth is at imminent risk of become uninhabitable. The collapse of major ecological systems that provide for the well-being of all life is intimately entwined with the personal despair, and political and social chaos, roiling global societies. Many growing social ills such as poverty, violence, and addiction are ultimately driven by environmental decline; and can only worsen if nature is not protected and restored.
Here I will first review our ecological predicament, before referring (as an atheist) to biblical wisdom as to the role trees play in our healing.
The Age of Industrial Affluence whereby illusory human material advancement briefly occurred through the liquidation of natural ecosystems is ending. We are well into the Age of Ecocide as drawdowns of natural capital – water, soil, atmosphere, fish, wildlife – have exceeded their regenerative capacity. Everywhere the ecologically attuned eye looks, tawdry natural plant communities and wildlife populations are collapsing and dying.
Humanity has surpassed the carrying capacity of the atmosphere, ecosystems, and the biosphere.
Simultaneously, and as a direct result, human societies are distressed. Shocking levels of inequality exist whereby billions lack basic needs as a small group of billionaires live a life of grotesque opulence. Both extremes further squeeze the Earth.
The economic bubble of an industrial growth economy based upon ecocide has burst. Violence, drug dependency, sexual abuse, depression, suicide, perma-war, racism, and even a resurgence in slavery are rife. All are related to the lessened prospects of material comfort for the lower and middle classes as there exists fewer natural areas to plunder for money. And to a general sense of lack of meaning in lives devoid of nature. The entire premise of capitalism, that an economy can grow forever by razing natural systems, has been revealed to be nonsensical malarkey that threatens to kill us all.
Exponential growth in population and consumption drive the fatally unsustainable resource consumption that liquidates natural ecosystem habitats. This relentless growth in everything at the expense of the natural world is the ultimate source of biodiversity loss, ecosystem diminishment, a fatally diminished climate, and ultimately a decline in human prospects for meaningful, universal, and lasting advancement.
Entering this new era of natural scarcity had led to greater competition between both individuals and nations, and to spiraling conflict and malignancies of all types. The final assault upon the Planet’s last natural ecosystem engines can only lead to collapse of societies and the biosphere.
And the end of being.
The key point: human well-being (and indeed all life) is intimately dependent upon natural ecosystems. Indeed, humanity is part of the ecological whole, as goes nature goes humanity. Critically we have gone from a state of nature surrounding humanity, to humanity enveloping sickened natural remnants. As ecology has dwindled under a centuries old assault, human mid-to-long term prospects have declined in tandem.
After years of human advancement in liberty, human rights, and equality; the current rise of authoritarian fascism is the natural consequence of a sick global environment. In the global rise of right-wing anti-science populism we are witnessing fits of petulance when people and nations hit the limits to growth and can’t have infinitely more of everything for everybody. Ignorance, including regarding ecology, has lead to serious misdiagnoses of societal problems.
Humanity is hell-bent upon destroying their habitat and the natural capital which makes possible and enriches their existence. As the collapse of global ecosystems intensifies, together we face a brief period of unimaginably grim social strife that threatens decades of conflict and pain; before humanity, all life, and the biosphere die.
Unless we plant more trees to restore the environment and our culture.
The decline in natural ecosystems, and the reduction in economic opportunity from their clearance, is a driving force behind a range of social ills including perma-war, violence, addiction, depression, suicide, and poverty. Only widespread tree planting to regenerate natural and agro-ecosystems in an Age of Ecological Restoration can avoid collapse of societies and ultimately the biosphere.
Leaves Heal Nations
As an atheist rejecting worship of mythical ghosts, I’m not one to quote scripture. My spirituality is found in self-evident truths such as nature. Yet I recently became aware of the bible verse “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,” and it deeply resonates with me. The quote occurs within the context of Revelation’s grim self-fulfilling prophecy of the end of the world as a result of sinful pestilence and war.
Stripped of Abrahamic myth, the quote contains an important secular truth that nations and their peoples are ultimately dependent upon the productivity and ecological health of their land, water, air, and seas. From trees and related natural ecosystems come the food, fiber, air, water, and livelihoods upon which the well-being of human and kindred life is utterly dependent. And when societies are in despair, it is ultimately nature and trees which can best heal the wounds of greed, war, and personal pain.
Innumerable cultural traditions – many of them massacred by christians – have understood humanity’s oneness with, and utter dependence upon, trees and nature. Destroying your shared environment is the ultimate sin for which redemption may not be possible if you wait too long.
The core nugget of universal, objective truth found in this bible verse is that tree leaves can heal nations. Tree planting will help heal all nations and restore a personal state of natural awe and well-being. More tree and other plant leaves will lead inexorably to more fertile soil, plentiful water, full stomachs, sustained wildlife, full employment, peace, prosperity, and an operable climate. While planting trees is good, doing so with the intent of restoring natural forest and agro-ecosystems is even better.
There exists tremendous potential to restore local ecosystems in a manner that improves landscape health and ultimately allows nature to once again provide the context for humanity. Remaining natural ecosystem fragments can have their margins secured to allow natural succession and their expansion to occur. This natural regrowth can be augmented with the planting of dominant natural tree species. Ecosystem restoration along with simultaneous rapid reductions in fossil fuel emissions (covered in other essays) are humanity’s only remaining hope to avoid destroying our one shared biosphere home.
Several large contiguous large forest wildernesses, and significant fragments of natural ecosystems, remain and for now are the ecosystem engines that are powering the global environment. Despite the fragments being nearly universally distributed; they are often small, isolated, and are thus unable to provide the full range of ecological and economic benefits necessary for the well-being of human and all life. And wherever old trees stand they continue to be assaulted under the quasi-religious dogma of economic development.
These last naturally evolved ecological gems can be eliminated in a futile attempt to prop up continued exponential growth. Or the pressure can be taken off of the leaves of the trees; as natural ecosystems are assisted to regenerate, expand, reconnect, and ultimately become fully productive again.
Multiple goals can be pursued. Core ecological areas that are large and connected enough to maintain the entire panoply of life, and which provide ecosystem services upon which all life depends, must be protected and/or re-established. Within this landscape matrix areas of production of food and fiber can co-exist. This will run the gamut from perma-culture gardens of fruits, nuts, and vegetables; to natural plantations of fiber for shelter and other necessities, all enmeshed within the core areas. Local species and genotypes will be favored, yet due to abrupt climate change it may be necessary to use species assemblages that occur together in nearby hotter climates.
There exist hundreds of millions of denuded acres globally that can immediately be marked as zones of ecological restoration (given consent of local peoples and plans for their economic benefit). In many areas, small tawdry patches of naturally evolved plant stocks remain, that if the pressure were taken off, could quickly regenerate, particularly in the tropics. And huge areas can be planted with diverse poly-cultures of native species and other species of use to humans. There will be millions of jobs for local peoples in plant nurseries; and tree planting, care, and harvest. While some core areas must remain involatile to remain ecologically intact, small communities of forest keepers will live sustainable, fulfilling lives throughout the rest. And critically indigenous land tenure, including to stolen lands, will be restored and solidified.
Ecosystem restoration of landscapes across bioregions can ultimately lift the souls of dispirited citizens, provide continuously for their righteous livelihoods, regenerate the health and well-being of entire nations, while ensuring sustainability of our one shared biosphere.
The Age of Global Ecological Restoration
Please hear the clarion call of millions already working to usher in an Age of Global Ecological Restoration. We must come together as a global family to restore ecologically the places we inhabit and which we and our forebearers have senselessly allowed to be destroyed. One last time lets beat guns into ploughshares, to make the shovels necessary to plant the trees whose leaves we need to cool the frustrations of diminished prospects and restore hope in a mortally threatened world.
By reconstituting ecology, society will reconnect to the wonders of nature. A sense of communal well-being will come; as guns, hard drugs, suicide, and over-consumption fade away. The focus will be upon shared advancement, well-being, and experience rather than insular, anxious lusting for the accumulation of more stuff. As planting of trees brings you closer to nature, it may provide spiritual wonderment and awe, and become a form of ritual worship for some.
In many a glen, after a day of hard work planting and caring for trees, people will gather in new forests of their making for feasts under the moon and stars; and again find community and make love.
We will marvel at creation and the miracle of being as we work for her continuation. Once again, we will feel in our very cells our own intimate connection with kindred species with which we share this billions of years long evolutionary journey. There will be a resurgence in self-expression as art, sport, music, theater, science (and other knowledge), and the written word rise in prominence. Emerging technologies will be used appropriately, and only to the extent that they augment ecology, and are used exclusively for social good.
Frequent long-distance travel, the military-industrial complex, fossil fuels, big government, abject despair, extreme poverty, and social want will fade away as a more just society based upon equitable and sustainable bioregional plenty re-emerges.
Together the human family has arrived at the point where only the leaves of the tree can heal the nations. We have one last chance, and a closing window of opportunity, to restore the ecosystems that humans need to both survive and thrive. We must power down, demilitarize, reject industrial ecocide, and embrace centuries of ecological restoration as the penultimate focus of human endeavors.
Only more leaves on the trees can heal your and our many nations’ brokenness. Please plant trees, restore ecosystems, and love nature and others.Dr. Glen Barry is the President and Founder of Ecological Internet (EI). He is recognized internationally by the environmental movement as a leading global visionary, ecological policy critic and public intellectual committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises – and related justice, rights and equity issues – while actively organizing with others sufficient solutions.
|January 25, 2020||
What Europe Can Do to Avoid WW III?: Say ‘No!’ Now, to Its Start.
by Eric Zuesse , Countercurrents Collective, in World
The U.S. Government, which had lied its way into invading and destroying Iraq in 2003 (with a little help from UK and Europeans), wants Europeans to pitch-in for more U.S.-run invasions. Europeans find this disturbing, but not repulsive enough to say, flat-out, “No!” to it. However, only that “No!” can stop the onrush toward a massive U.S. war against both Iran and Iraq, which would spread ultimately into a global nuclear war between U.S. and Russia.
On January 6th, Barbara Wessel, a columnist for Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), headlined a common European sentiment: “Trump has Europeans caught in a trap: Europe is suffering under the way Donald Trump makes political decisions on the fly. The only option left is to appeal to Iran’s interest in self-preservation”. But Iranians can’t stop the sanctions against itself, and can’t stop Trump’s other outrageous aggressions. Wessel’s false underlying assumption was that Europe must lecture Iranians. That’s like lecturing to Jews during WW II: “The only option left is to appeal to Jews’ interest in self-preservation.” Victims already do everything they can to stop their being victimized; they cannot stop the victimizer from victimizing them. They don’t cause it. Europe must, at last, say “No!” to U.S., the tyrant over the entire world — Bolivia, Venezuela, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and more. Wessel, however, understood, at least, that the dangerousness actually comes far more from the U.S., than it does from Iran. So, she recognized that her thinking on this whole matter was confused. She stated:
Any illusions about the possibility of an even partially rational cooperation on foreign policy with the government in Washington have long been shattered. Cynical remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who accuses the Europeans of not giving enough support in the Middle East, underline their helplessness. … Even experienced observers of US Middle East policy have been unable to explain how this [Trump’s “bring American soldiers home”] fits in with the strike against Soleimani. … Europeans find themselves in the trap of a kind of US foreign policy that is marked by the emotional eruptions of an unpredictable president and his power-drunk neocon supporters. … Basically, their [the U.S. Government’s] only explanation for killing Soleimani is: “Because we can.” … Granted, Europe looks weak and helpless when, in joint statements, Europeans call for de-escalation after their presumed partner, the US, has just done everything it can to escalate the situation. … The new year will quickly show how strong the current tendency to suicide is among all those involved. …
The presumption on which such sentiments are based is that things must go on as before, and EU must continue to be allied with U.S., instead of with the rest of the EurAsian Continent — but this presumption (EU with U.S. instead of with all the rest of EurAsia) has been false ever since the U.S. Government went wild in its response to the mainly Saudi Arabian 9/11 assault against the U.S. and Israel cheered that event, and Iran got blamed by the U.S. government for 9/11 as being “The top state sponsor of terrorism” (which was yet another lie), and Obama perpetrated a coup replacing Ukraine’s democratically elected Government with a U.S.-imposed fascist and rabidly anti-Russian government such as Obama wanted to be next-door to Russia. He even was intending to replace Russia’s largest naval base, which is in Crimea, by yet another U.S. naval base, to be installed there. None of this is in Europe’s interest. Nor is it even discussed in Europe or in any other vassal-region of the U.S. empire. It’s censored-out there.
Germany, France, Italy, Spain and all the rest of Europe, actually belong with all the rest of the EurAsian Continent, rather than with the formerly democratic but now fascist United States across the Atlantic Ocean. A federal EurAsia, composed of free and independent states within a wider United States of EurAsia, would have 4.618 billion population, almost half of the entire world, and wealth to match that, and economic growth which far exceeds that of what will then be left of the U.S.-and-its-allied-countries: UK, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. All other nations would ally either with EurAsia or with that U.S. group — American and those three core allies (Saudi Arabia, Israel, and UK). NATO is America’s aggressive alliance, which routinely invades countries that pose no threat to either U.S. or Europe (such as Iraq). America’s plan for NATO is to expand it worldwide, so that the U.S. will automatically have European allies for invasions in places such as Latin America. NATO needs to be replaced by a united EurAsian defense force, which will be able to counterbalance, within its sphere, the world’s largest military. The U.S. has around 1,000 military bases, of which around 300 are inside U.S. Though officially the U.S. spends 37% of the global military budget, it actually spends around half of all global military expenditures, but hides around one-third of its annual military spending by listing those costs in other federal Departments, such as the U.S. Treasury Department, so as not to seem as militaristic as the U.S. Government actually is. It’s actually a global empire — the largest that the world has ever known. Europe is, and can only be, vassals in that empire. The alternative requires new thinking, and is not to spend more money on the military, but to recognize that when Russia ended the Cold War in 1991, the war secretly continued, and still does continue, on the U.S. side — and Russia and China recognize that this is America’s intention. Europe must stop the Cold War, because only Europe can do that.
Barbara Wessel’s commentary presumes, instead, that Europe’s leaders have no ability to say no to the U.S. That presumed passivity is only bad habit, inherited from a Europe which was wrecked by WW II. That’s no longer the reality today. Instead, Europe, joined with Asia, will be the global superpower that can finally end America’s endless wars —simply by not joining them. EurAsia will be the world’s dominant power, if Europeans want a future that is better than the past, instead of catastrophic. Either way, the future won’t be much like the past. Europe needs to wake up now, from its vassalage since WW II ended. Simply continuing that would produce a horrible future.
Another DW columnist on January 6th, Konstantin Eggert, headlined “Opinion: Putin’s power games may get out of hand”, and he was even more supportive of Germany’s vassalage to the U.S. regime. He presented a strong case that by murdering Soleimani, Trump had pulled the trump card in the U.S.-v.-Russia game by eliminating the key person upon whom Putin had been relying in order to transfer dominance in the Middle East away from U.S. and toward, instead, Russia. Soleimani was that key individual for Putin’s success in this. “According to sources in Moscow, Putin knew Soleimani very well: He played a key role in creating the Russian-Iranian alliance that saved Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria from what seemed in 2015 an imminent demise.” With Soleimani now gone, Eggert predicted that regardless of what Iraq’s Government might want, the U.S. would refuse to terminate its occupation of that country, and Iran would be in a much weaker position than before. He said that “Putin has every reason to wish the Iranians backed off from confrontation with the United States,” so as for Russia to avoid being drawn into World War III. “Putin’s best chance to avoid this drama is to play peacemaker — not alone but in the company of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey’s Erdogan, who are rushing to meet him in the coming two days. Berlin and Ankara do not want to see the Middle East explode and will be asking Putin to use his close ties in Tehran to hatch a deal and fend off confrontation.” In this sense, the missile that hit Soleimani on January 3rd hit not only Iraq and Iran but EU and Turkey. Eggert therefore advises America’s vassals to remain America’s vassals because Russia now is trapped and Putin might not fold his hand and might not simply let Iran become ultimately swallowed-up — Merkel etc. should urge Putin to fold his hand, is the implication here. Eggert’s implication is that, in the final analysis, might makes right, and that therefore any resistance against it (for example, if Putin continues to resist) would only be harmful. Or, as he puts it: “With the Iranian regime massively undermined or destroyed, Moscow’s position in the Middle East and Vladimir Putin’s personal prestige as the world’s topmost authority on stopping ‘regime change’ and someone who never leaves allies in the lurch, will be badly hit and revealed as much weaker than it seems.” Eggert sees Trump’s assassination of Soleimani as, in effect, a master-stroke, which has severely weakened Putin. Of course, if Europe’s leaders will act this way, then Eggert’s might-makes-right view will be vindicated, by them.
Europe is the U.S. regime’s indispensable ally. If EU breaks away from U.S. and joins with the rest of the EurAsian continent instead, at least the possibility will exist for avoiding a hellish future of continued and accelerating vassalage to the U.S. regime for the entire world. Passivity and might-makes-right slants such as “Putin’s power games may get out of hand” (instead of “America’s assassination of Soleimani places entire world in danger”) are choices — not inevitable — and Europeans will ultimately be the individuals who will be making the choices here. Europeans will decide whether the U.S. is the world’s enemy; or, instead, whether Russia, China, Iran, and, really, all the rest of Asia, will be treated as if they were that (like the U.S. regime wants). Ganging-up against the victims — if that is to be the European response — would be a choice, not an inevitability (such as DW implies). It will be up to Europeans whether to order all U.S. troops to leave, and to tariff all imports from America, and to sanction and boycott U.S. brands and increasingly replace them with EurAsian ones instead. Trump can be trumped, but only Europe has the clout to do it. The future will be decided by Europeans. The voices of passivity, such as DW, are doing the bidding of Europeans’ enemy — not of the entire world’s future: a EurAsian-led world.
|January 25, 2020||
The Time for Postponing Climate Action Is Over.
by David Korten, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
In 1962, Rachael Carson warned us, with the publication of Silent Spring, that the indiscriminate use of pesticides was disrupting critical ecosystems and causing severe damage to human health.
Her message led to a ban on the use of DDT in the United States and eventual restrictions on its use in much of the world. Her warning also helped launch the environmental movement and its call to humanity to accept responsibility for the consequences of our impact on Earth.
Ten years later, in 1972, the book The Limits to Growth, by an MIT research team led by Donella and Dennis Meadows, again focused global attention on humanity’s environmental responsibility. Presented as a report to the Club of Rome, the book used computer modeling to demonstrate that sustained economic growth on a finite planet would lead to environmental and economic collapse in the early- to mid-21st century. It sold more than 3 million copies in some 35 languages.
The book stirred significant public debate at the time and had a defining influence in shaping the lives and thinking of many members of my generation. It came under withering critique, however, from a corporate establishment that profits from growth, and from neoliberal economists who provided intellectual cover for the establishment. To the detriment of people and planet, and unlike Carson’s book, The Limits to Growth had no discernible impact on public policy.
Yet, over the next 20 years, concern for the growing human threat to Earth’s essential living systems gained in status to become the dominant scientific consensus. In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a proclamation, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” signed by more than 1,700 scientists, including a majority of the then-living Nobel Laureates in the sciences. Its message was clear and unambiguous:
“The earth is finite…. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.”
In November 2017, exactly 55 years after Silent Spring, 45 years after the Limits to Growth, and 25 years after the “Warning to Humanity,” the Alliance of World Scientists issued a new proclamation: “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” This one was signed by more than 20,000 scientists in 184 countries. It concluded:
“We face deforestation, ocean acidification, diminishing fresh water supplies, the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, exponential human population growth, overconsumption and a climate system veering outside of the conditions within which human civilization developed.”
Less than a year later, in October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report calling for dramatic action on climate change along with specific targets required to avoid catastrophic and irreparable consequences. The New York Times summarized the key findings and recommendations:
“To prevent 2.7 degrees [Fahrenheit] of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. It also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.”
BBC environmental correspondent Matt McGrath pointed out last July that to achieve the UN’s initial target of a 45% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 will require decisive global action by the end of this year—2020. His point is that reaching that initial target in just 10 years will require massive changes. So, if we don’t get going immediately, we will not make it.
Humanity is reawakening to a basic truth understood by earlier humans, by many Indigenous people today, and now confirmed by the leading scientists: We are born of and members of a living Earth community.
We are now awakening to the responsibilities that come with our distinctive ability to consciously create our future. The environmental consequences of our neglect of this responsibility have been known for more than half a century, but for many people, the urgent need to act is just now sinking in.
Science is significantly advancing understanding of how this community works. We now know, for example, that Earth’s early microorganisms sequestered Earth’s excess carbons and toxins deep underground to create surface conditions that later would support more complex life forms, including humans.
In the arrogance of our quest to bend the living Earth to our will, we have organized much of our economy around extracting these carbons and toxins and releasing them back into Earth’s air, waters, and soils. This, and many other human assaults on the planet’s regenerative systems, demand immediate remedial action.
As we awaken to the consequences of our self-destructive relationship to Earth, we confront a fundamental truth of our past 5,000 years of history: The past civilizations we have celebrated as affirmations of the greatness of human accomplishment centralized power to exploit people and nature to benefit the rulers at the expense of everyone else. Each of these civilizations collapsed—and our present one is headed in that direction, too—imposing yet more suffering on massive numbers of people over the course of history.
Now, for the first time in the human experience, we are a global species with an interdependent global civilization. But the basic pattern of imperial domination continues. The dominant institutions are now corporations rather than governments and the dominant rulers are financiers and corporate CEOs rather than kings and emperors.
The basic dynamic remains much the same, however, and the consequences are playing out on an unprecedented scale, rendering ever more of Earth’s once-livable places unlivable, and driving millions of people from their homes. Current events are only a foretaste of what lies ahead if we continue to hold to our current path.
With luck and collective determination, we may have time to avoid self-extinction and even create a world of joy and meaning. But that will happen only if we prioritize healing over consuming, and cooperation over competition; embrace our individual and collective responsibilities to one another and the Earth; and remake our culture, institutions, technology, and infrastructure in recognition that we are part of a living Earth community. We have just entered humanity’s decisive decade. This is our time to step up to the challenge of our age and to create a future consistent with our reality as living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth.
|January 27, 2020||
The Fate of the Earth – See Page Five.
by Tom Engelhardt, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
Let me betray my age for a moment. Some of you, I know, will be shocked, but I still read an actual newspaper. Words on real paper every day. I’m talking about the New York Times, and something stuck with me from the January 9th edition of that “paper” paper. Of course, in the world of the Internet, that’s already ancient history — medieval times — but (as a reminder) it came only a few days after Donald Trump’s drone assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani.
So you won’t be surprised to learn that its front page was essentially all Iran and The Donald. Atop it, there was a large photo of the president heading for a podium with his generals and officials lined up on either side of him. Its caption read: “‘The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,’ President Trump said Wednesday at the White House.” Beside it, the lead story was headlined “U.S. and Iranians Lower Tensions, at Least for Now.” Below were three more Iran-related pieces, taking up much of the rest of the page. (“A President’s Mixed Messages Unsettle More Than Reassure,” etc.)
At the bottom left, there was a fifth Iran-related article. Inside that 24-page section of the paper, there were seven more full pages of coverage on the subject. Only one other piece of hot news could be squeezed (with photo) onto the bottom right of the front page. And whether you still read actual papers or now live only in the world of the Internet, I doubt you’ll be shocked to learn that it focused on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, already involved in a crisis among the British Royals that was almost Iranian in its intensity. The headline: “In Stunning Step, Duke and Duchess Seek New Title: Part-Timers.”
Had you then followed the “continued on page A5” below that piece, you would have found the rest of the story about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (including a second photo of them and an ad for Bloomingdales, the department store) taking up almost all of that inside page. If, however, you had been in a particularly attentive mood, you might also have noticed, squeezed in at the very bottom left of page 5, an 11-paragraph story by Henry Fountain. It had been granted so little space that the year 2019 had to be abbreviated as ’19 in its headline, which read in full: “’19 Was the 2nd-Hottest Year, And July Hottest Month Yet.”
Of course, that literally qualified as the hottest story of the day, but you never would have known it. It began this way:
As Fountain pointed out, however briefly, among the records broken in 2019, “The past five years have been the five warmest on record” (as had the last decade).
In another world, either that line or the actual headline should reasonably have been atop that Times front page in blazing letters. After all, that’s the news that someday could do us all in, whatever happens in Iran or to the British royal family. In my own dreamscape, that piece, headlined atop the front page, would have been continued on the obituary page. After all, the climate crisis could someday deliver an obituary for humanity and so many other living things on this planet, or at least for the way of life we humans have known throughout our history.
If you live online and were looking hard, you could have stumbled on the same news, thanks, say, to a similar CNN report on the subject, but it wasn’t the equivalent of headlines there either. Just another hot year… bleh. Who’s going to pay real attention when war with Iran lurks just beneath the surface and Harry and Meghan are heading for Canada?
To give credit where it’s due, however, a week later when that climate news was confirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it did finally hit the front page of the January 16th edition of the paper Times. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if it had been the day’s blazing headline, but that honor went to impeachment proceedings and a photo of the solemn walk of the seven House impeachment managers, as well as the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, delivering those articles to the Senate.
That photo and two stories about impeachment dominated the top of the page. Trump’s “phase 1” trade deal with China got the mid-page area and various other stories (“Warren Confronts the Skeptics Who Fear Her Plans Go Too Far”) were at page bottom. Stuck between the impeachment headliners and the Warren story was, however, a little insert. You might think of it as the news equivalent of a footnote. It had a tiny chart of global temperatures, 1880 to 2019, a micro-headline (“Warmer and Warmer”), and a note that read: “In the latest sign of global warming’s grip on the planet, the past decade was the hottest on record, researchers said. Page A8.” And, indeed, on that page was Henry Fountain’s latest story on the subject.
As it happened, between the 9th and 16th of January, yet more news about our heating planet had come out that, in a sense, was even grimmer. A new analysis found that the oceans, sinkholes for the heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions, had also experienced their hottest five years on record (ditto for the last decade). In their case, however, 2019 was the very hottest, not the second hottest, year so far. And that, too, was a Times story, but only online.
Two Kinds of Time
Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me here. The New York Times is anything but a climate change-denying newspaper. It has some superb environmental and global-warming coverage (including of Australia recently) by top-of-the-line journalists like Somini Sengupta. It’s in no way like Fox News or the rest of Rupert Murdoch’s fervently climate-denying media organization that happens to control more than 70% of newspaper circulation in burning Australia.
The situation I’ve been describing is, I suspect, far more basic and human than that and — my guess — it has to do with time. The time all of us are generally plunged into is, naturally enough, human time, which has a certain obvious immediacy for us — the immediacy, you might say, of everyday life. In human time, for instance, an autocratic-minded showman like Donald Trump can rise to the presidency, be impeached, and fall, or be impeached, stay in office, and pass on his “legacy” to his children until something new comes along to make its mark, fail or end in its own fashion, and go the way of… well, of all of us. That’s human history, again and again.And then there’s the time-scape of global warming, which exists on a scale hard for us mortals to truly take in. After all, whatever Donald Trump might do won’t last long, not really — with two possible exceptions: the use of nuclear weapons in an apocalyptic fashion or the help he’s offering fossil-fuel companies in putting yet more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, while working to limit the development of alternative energy, both of which will only make the climate crisis to come yet more severe.
Otherwise, his time is all too human. With our normally far less than century-long life spans, we are, in the end, such immediate creatures. Climate change, even though human-caused, works on another scale entirely. Once its effects are locked in, we’re not just talking about 2100 or 2150, dates hard enough for us to get our brains (no less our policy-making) around, but hundreds of years, even millennia. Though we’ve known about climate change for many decades now, we’re dealing with a time scale that our brains simply aren’t prepared to fully take in.
When weighing an Iranian drone assassination or a presidential impeachment or the latest development in election 2020 against news of the long-term transformation of this planet, no matter how disastrous, the immediate tends to win out, whether you’re a New York Times editor or just about anyone else.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that it’s been so difficult to truly grasp the import of the warming of this planet, because its effects have, until now, generally been relatively subtle or challenging to grasp. When The Donald is in the White House or Harry and Meghan cause a stir or an Iranian major general is assassinated, that’s riveting, graspable, headlines. Those heating waters, those warming temperatures, the bleaching of coral reefs, the melting of ice shields in Greenland, the Arctic, and the Antarctic leading to rising sea levels that could one day drown coastal cities, maybe not so much, not deep down, not where it truly counts.
The real question is: When will climate change truly enter human time — when, that is, will the two time scales intersect in a way that clicks? Perhaps (but just perhaps) we’re finally seeing the beginning of an answer to that question for which you would, I suspect, have to thank two phenomena: Greta Thunberg and Australia’s fires.
In August 2018, all alone, the 15-year-old Thunberg began a Friday school strike in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm to make a point: that however all-encompassing the present human moment might seem, she understood in a way that mattered how her future and that of her peers was being stolen by the adults in charge of this planet and the climate crisis they were continuing to feed. The movement of the young she sparked, one that’s still sparking, was a living, breathing version of those two times intersecting. In other words, she somehow grasped and transmitted in a compelling way how a future crisis of staggering proportions was being nailed in place in human time, right at that very moment.
And then, of course, there was — there is — Australia. But one more thing before I get to the devastation of that country. I began writing this piece in New York City on a weekend in January when the temperature hit a record-breaking 65-69 degrees, depending on where in the metropolitan area you were measuring. (A couple of hundred miles north in Boston, it hit 74 degrees!) It was glorious, spring-like, idyllic, everything a human being in “winter” could want — if, that is, you hadn’t made it past Meghan and Harry or Suleimani and Trump, and so didn’t have a sense of what such records might mean on a planet threatening to heat to the boiling point in the coming century. We’re talking, of course, about a world in which Donald Trump and crew were responding to climate change by attempting to open the taps on every kind of fossil fuel and the greenhouse gas emissions that go with their burning. Meanwhile, despite the news that, by 2100, parts of the North China plain with its hundreds of millions of inhabitants could be too hot for habitation, China’s leaders were still pushing a global Belt and Road Initiative that involves the building of at least 63 new coal-fired power plants in 23 countries. Huzzah! And remember that China and the United States are already the top two emitters of greenhouses gases.
Of course, tell that to the Australians whose country, by the way, is the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels. For the last month or more, it’s also been a climate-change disaster area of a previously unimaginable sort. Even if you haven’t taken in the acreage that fire has already destroyed (estimated to be the size of South Korea or the state of Virginia) — fire that, by the way, is making its own weather — you’ve certainly seen the coverage of the dead or hurt koalas and roos, right? Maybe you’ve even seen the estimate by one scientist — no way to confirm it yet — that a billion creatures (yes, 1,000,000,000) might already have died in those fires and it’s still not the height of the Australian summer or fire season.
In some fashion, as a climate-change disaster, Australia seems to have broken through. (It probably doesn’t hurt that it has all those cute, endangered animals.) Looking back, we earthlings may someday conclude that, with Greta and with Australia burning, the climate crisis finally began breaking into human time. Yes, there was that less than Edenic November of 2018 in Paradise, California, and there have been other weather disasters, including hurricanes Maria and Dorian, that undoubtedly were heightened by climate-change, but Australia may be the first time that the climate-change time-scape and human history have intersected in a way that truly mattered.
And although, in the midst of winter, this country isn’t burning, we do have something else in common with those Australians: a nation being run by arsonists, by genuine pyromaniacs. After all, earlier in his coal-fired career, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison brought a literal lump of coal into that country’s parliament, soothingly reassuring the other members that “this is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”
In the election he won in 2019 (against a Labor Party promoting action on climate change), he was in big coal’s back pocket. And like our president, his government has been messing with international attempts to deal with the climate crisis ever since. Again like our president, he’s also been an open denier of the very reality of climate change and so one of a crew of right-wing global leaders seemingly intent on setting this planet afire.
Years ago, in my apartment building, someone dozed off while smoking in bed, starting a fire a couple of floors below me. I noticed only when the smoke began filtering under my door. Opening it, I found the hall filled with smoke. Heading downstairs wasn’t an option. In fact, a couple who had tried to do so were trapped on my floor and I quickly took them in. I barely had time to panic, however, before I heard the sirens of the first fire engines. Not long after, the doorbell rang and two firemen were there, instructing me to open all the windows and stuff towels at the bottom of the door to keep the smoke out. I’m sure I’ve never been so happy to greet someone at my door.
That fire was, in the end, contained inside the apartment where it started and I was in no danger, but peering into that smoke-filled hallway I would never have known it. The memory of that long-lost afternoon came back to me in the context of burning Australia, a country where fire fighters had been desperately at work for weeks without being able to douse the hundreds of blazes across that drought-stricken land, which has also recently experienced record high temperatures. It’s been the definition of a living nightmare.
And here’s what I began to wonder on this newest version of planet Earth: Are we all in some sense Australians, whether we know it or not? I don’t mean that as an empathetic statement of solidarity with the suffering people of that land (though I do feel for them). I mean it as a statement of grim fact. Admittedly, it won’t be fire for all of us. For some, it will be rising sea levels, flooding of a never-before-experienced sort, storms or heat waves of a previously unimagined ferocity, and so on.
Still, right now, Australia is our petri dish and unless we get rid of the arsonists who are running too many countries and figure out a way to come together in human time, we’re likely to enter a world where there will be no fire fighters to save us (or our children and grandchildren). Climate change, after all, looks to be nature’s slo-mo version of nuclear war.
In movie terms, think of Australia as the previews. For most of us, the main feature is still to come. The problem is that the schedule for that feature may not be found in your local paper.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the
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Originally published in TomDispatch.com
Copyright 2020 Tom Engelhardt
|January 27, 2020||
How Is Washington ‘Liberating’ Free Countries.
by Andre Vltchek, Countercurrents Collective, in Imperialism
There are obviously some serious linguistic issues and disagreements between the West and the rest of the world. Essential terms like “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberation”, even “terrorism”, are all mixed up and confused; they mean something absolutely different in New York, London, Berlin, and in the rest of the world.
Before we begin analyzing, let us recall that countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other Western nations, have been spreading colonialist terror to basically all corners of the world. And in the process, they developed effective terminology and propaganda, which has been justifying, even glorifying acts such as looting, torture, rape and genocides. Basically, first Europe, and later North America literally “got away with everything, including mass murder”.The native people of Americas, Africa and Asia have been massacred, their voices silenced. Slaves were imported from Africa. Great Asian nations, such as China, what is now “India” and Indonesia, got occupied, divided and thoroughly plundered.
And all was done in the name of spreading religion, “liberating” people from themselves, as well as “civilizing them”.
Nothing has really changed.
To date, people of great nations with thousands of years of culture, are treated like infants; humiliated, and as if they were still in kindergarten, told how to behave, and how to think.
Sometimes if they “misbehave”, they get slapped. Periodically they get slapped so hard, that it takes them decades, even centuries, to get back to their feet. It took China decades to recover from the period of “humiliation”. India and Indonesia are presently trying to recuperate, from the colonial barbarity, and from, in the case of Indonesia, the 1965 U.S.-administered fascist coup.
But if you go back to the archives in London, Brussels or Berlin, all the monstrous acts of colonialism, are justified by lofty terms. Western powers are always “fighting for justice”; they are “enlightening” and “liberating”. No regrets, no shame and no second thoughts. They are always correct!
Like now; precisely as it is these days.
Presently, the West is trying to overthrow governments in several independent countries, on different continents. From Bolivia (the country has been already destroyed) to Venezuela, from Iraq to Iran, to China and Russia. The more successful these countries get, the better they serve their people, the more vicious the attacks from abroad are, the tougher the embargos and sanctions imposed on them are. The happier the citizens are, the more grotesque the propaganda disseminated from the West gets.
In Hong Kong, some young people, out of financial interest, or out of ignorance, keep shouting: “President Trump, Please Liberate Us!” Or similar, but equally treasonous slogans. They are waving U.S., U.K. and German flags. They beat up people who try to argue with them, including their own Police Force.
So, let us see, how the United States really “liberates” countries, in various pockets of the world.
Let us visit Iran, a country which (you’d never guess it if consuming only Western mass media) is, despite the vicious embargos and sanctions, on the verge of the “highest human development index bracket” (UNDP). How is it possible? Simple. Because Iran is a socialist country (socialism with the Iranian characteristics). It is also an internationalist nation which is fighting against Western imperialism. It helps many occupied and attacked states on our planet, including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia (before), Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just a few.
So, what is the West doing? It is trying to ruin it, by all means; ruin all good will and progress. It is starving Iran through sanctions, it finances and encourages its “opposition”, as it does in China, Russia and Latin America. It is trying to destroy it.
Then, it just bombs their convoy in neighboring Iraq, killing its brave commander, General Soleimani. And, as if it was not horrid enough, it turns the tables around, and starts threatening Teheran with more sanctions, more attacks, and even with the destruction of its cultural sites.
Iran, under attack, confused, shot down, by mistake, a Ukrainian passenger jet. It immediately apologized, in horror, offering compensation. The U.S. straightway began digging into the wound. It started to provoke (like in Hong Kong) young people. The British ambassador, too, got involved!
As if Iran and the rest of the world should suddenly forget that during its attack on Iraq, more than 3 decades ago, Washington actually shot down an Iranian wide-body passenger plane (Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus-300), on a routine flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai.In an “accident”, 290 people, among them 66 children, lost their lives. That was considered “war collateral”.
Iranian leaders then did not demand “regime change” in Washington. They were not paying for riots in New York or Chicago.
As China is not doing anything of that nature, now.
The “Liberation” of Iraq (in fact, brutal sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation) took more than a million Iraqi lives, most of them, those of women and children. Presently, Iraq has been plundered, broken into pieces, and on its knees.
Is this the kind of “liberation” that some of the Hong Kong youngsters really want?
No? But if not, is there any other performed by the West, in modern history?
Washington is getting more and more aggressive, in all parts of the world.
It also pays more and more for collaboration.
And it is not shy to inject terrorist tactics into allied troops, organizations and non-governmental organizations. Hong Kong is no exception.
Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, but also many other countries, should be carefully watching and analyzing each and every move made by the United States. The West is perfecting tactics on how to liquidate all opposition to its dictates.
It is not called a “war”, yet. But it is. People are dying. The lives of millions are being ruined.
[First published by China Daily – Hong Kong]
|January 28, 2020||
Wuhan seafood market may not be source of coronavirus spreading globally.
by Countercurrents Collective, in World
New research suggests that the Wuhan coronavirus, which has killed at least 100 people, may not have originated in the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
The virus is zoonotic, meaning it can be passed from animals to humans. So experts thought people in Wuhan likely caught the virus from snakes in a wet market, where meat is sold alongside live animals, often in poorly regulated conditions.
However, a new report – “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China” – by Prof Chaolin Huang, MD, Yeming Wang, MD, Prof Xingwang Li, MD, Prof Lili Ren, PhD, Prof Jianping Zhao, MD, Yi Hu, MD, et al. (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5) a group of Chinese scientists, published in the medical journal The Lancet on January 24, 2020, challenges that idea, suggesting that the virus could have originated elsewhere before entering the Wholesale Seafood Market.
Looking in detail at the cases of the first 41 people hospitalized with the coronavirus, the scientists found that 13 cases had no link to the marketplace, including the first case of the virus on December 1, Science magazine reported.
“That’s a big number, 13, with no link,” Daniel Lucey, an infectious-diseases specialist at Georgetown University, told Science.
Lucey told the magazine it was possible that the first cases occurred in November and that the virus could have spread undetected among people before it was found in the first group of cases from the wet market.
One way to establish for certain whether the virus outbreak originated at the market would be to take samples from the animals in the market as well as local animal populations, but the market has been cleared and disinfected, a group of microbiology professors wrote in The Conversation.
In The Lancet, the scientists write:
All patients with suspected 2019-nCoV were admitted to a designated hospital in Wuhan. We prospectively collected and analyzed data on patients with laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection by real-time RT-PCR and next-generation sequencing. Data were obtained with standardized data collection forms shared by the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium from electronic medical records. Researchers also directly communicated with patients or their families to ascertain epidemiological and symptom data. Outcomes were also compared between patients who had been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and those who had not.
The study has been funded by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
Health officials in Wuhan closed the market on January 1 and have banned the sale of live animals at wet markets.
The virus has spread to at least 12 other countries, including the U.S., Australia, Japan, and Thailand.
The paper, written by a large group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
In the earliest case, the patient became ill on December 1, 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report.
“No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases,” they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace.
Earlier reports from Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) had said the first patient had onset of symptoms on December 8, 2019, and those reports simply said “most” cases had links to the seafood market, which was closed on January 1.
Lucey says if the new data are accurate, the first human infections must have occurred in November 2019 – if not earlier – because there is an incubation time between infection and symptoms surfacing. If so, the virus possibly spread silently between people in Wuhan – and perhaps elsewhere – before the cluster of cases from the city’s now-infamous Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was discovered in late December. “The virus came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace,” Lucey asserts.
The Lancet paper’s data also raise questions about the accuracy of the initial information China provided, Lucey says. At the beginning of the outbreak, the main official source of public information were notices from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. Its notices on January 11 started to refer to the 41 patients as the only confirmed cases and the count remained the same until January 18. The notices did not state that the seafood market was the source, but they repeatedly noted that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission and that most cases linked to the market. Because the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission noted that diagnostic tests had confirmed these 41 cases by January 10 and officials presumably knew the case histories of each patient, “China must have realized the epidemic did not originate in that Wuhan Hunan seafood market,” Lucey tells Science Insider. (Lucey also spoke about his concerns in an interview published online yesterday by Science Speaks, a project of the Infectious Disease Society of America.)
Kristian Andersen, an evolutionary biologist at the Scripps Research Institute who has analyzed sequences of 2019-nCoV to try to clarify its origin, says the December 1 timing of the first confirmed case was “an interesting tidbit” in The Lancet paper. “The scenario of somebody being infected outside the market and then later bringing it to the market is one of the three scenarios we have considered that is still consistent with the data,” he says. “It’s entirely plausible given our current data and knowledge.” The other two scenarios are that the origin was a group of infected animals or a single animal that came into that marketplace.
Andersen posted his analysis of 27 available genomes of 2019-nCoV on January 25 on a virology research website. It suggests they had a “most recent common ancestor” – meaning a common source – as early as October 1, 2019.
Bin Cao of Capital Medical University, the corresponding author of The Lancet article and a pulmonary specialist, wrote in an email to Science Insider that he and his co-authors “appreciate the criticism” from Lucey.
“Now it seems clear that [the] seafood market is not the only origin of the virus,” he wrote. “But to be honest, we still do not know where the virus came from now.”
Lucey notes that the discovery of the coronavirus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome, a sometimes-fatal disease that occurs sporadically, came from a patient in Saudi Arabia in June 2012, although later studies traced it back to an earlier hospital outbreak of unexplained pneumonia in Jordan in April 2012. Stored samples from two people who died in Jordan confirmed they had been infected with the virus. Retrospective analyses of blood samples in China from people and animals – including vendors from other animal markets – may reveal a clear picture of where the 2019-nCoV originated, he suggests. “There might be a clear signal among the noise,” he says.
Another new study provides insights on the potential origins of the most recent outbreak of viral pneumonia in China, which started in the middle of December and now is spreading to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan.
Findings of the study – “Homologous recombination within the spike glycoprotein of the newly identified coronavirus may boost cross‐species transmission from snake to human” – by Wei Ji, Wei Wang, Xiaofang Zhao, Junjie Zai, Xingguang Li have been published online in Journal of Medical Virology, 2020 (DOI: 10.1002/jmv.25682).
Emerging viral infections – from bird flu to Ebola to Zika infections – pose major threats to global public health. Understanding origins of these can help scientists design defensive strategies against future outbreaks.
The study notes that patients who became infected with the virus, which is a type of virus called a novel coronavirus as determined by sequencing the viral RNA genome, and has been named 2019-nCoV by the WHO, were exposed to wildlife animals at a wholesale market, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.
The study report said: The current outbreak of viral pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, China, has been caused by the 2019‐nCoV. Many patients were potentially exposed to wildlife animals at the Huanan seafood wholesale market, where poultry, snake, bats, and other farm animals were also sold.
To determine the possible virus reservoir, the scientists have carried out comprehensive sequence analysis and comparison in conjunction with relative synonymous codon usage (RSCU) bias among different animal species based on existing sequences of the 2019‐nCoV.
The study report said: Results obtained from analyses suggest that the 2019‐nCoV appears to be a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin‐unknown coronavirus. The recombination occurred within the viral spike glycoprotein, which recognizes cell surface receptor. Additionally, the findings suggest that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019‐nCoV based on its RSCU bias resembling snake compared to other animals. Taken together, the study results suggest that homologous recombination within the spike glycoprotein may contribute to cross‐species transmission from snake to humans.
By conducting a detailed genetic analysis of the virus and comparing it with available genetic information on different viruses from various geographic locations and host species, the investigators concluded that the 2019-nCoV appears to be a virus that formed from a combination of a coronavirus found in bats and another coronavirus of unknown origin. The resulting virus developed a mix or “recombination” of a viral protein that recognizes and binds to receptors on host cells. Such recognition is the key to allowing viruses to enter host cells, which can lead to infection and disease.
The scientists found evidence that the 2019-nCoV likely resided in snakes before transmitted to humans.
“Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,” the authors wrote. “New information obtained from our evolutionary analysis is highly significant for effective control of the outbreak caused by the 2019-nCoV-induced pneumonia.”
An accompanying editorial notes that although the ultimate control of emerging viral infections requires the discovery and development of effective vaccines and/or antiviral drugs, currently licensed antiviral drugs should be tested against the 2019-nCoV.
|January 29, 2020||
The Destruction of Libya: Posturing Predators; Lethal Lies.
by Robert Snefjella, Countercurrents Collective, in World
Premeditated criminal violence has been around for a long time.
Deliberate criminal violence has motive, involves planning, and is cruel and harmful. The motive often involves the attempt at some real or imagined gain, or forceful seizure. Surprise attacks are favored.
Because the evil of such violence is obvious if in clear view, criminals usually attempt to hide such acts, or to obscure their crime with lies. Secrecy and dishonesty are generally indispensable basic tactics for the success of violent criminality. An exception historically is the criminal violence of those who rule tyrannically; their crimes are sometimes brazen, ‘in your face’.
Wars of aggression are criminal violence on a massive scale. During the period after the 2nd WW, the last seventy five years that is, there have been lots of those. There is as yet no effective justice served to those who wage wars of aggression. Once a war has been initiated, one can surrender, or fight back, and hope for the best. Prevention is the best cure.
Curiously enough, wars of aggression are often undertaken by countries that are members of the United Nations, and who are sworn to refrain from wars of aggression. The very words United Nations are of course misleading, as the member nations are not united, but in any case, they are all supposed to “refrain from … the threat or use of force against … any state.” (part of UN Article 2.4)
When intending or conducting a war of aggression, apart from the prerequisite war machines and logistics and soldiers, a basic disinformation template is habitually deployed: The public in the aggressor countries are subjected to propaganda, a blizzard of lies and distortions and spin, with tactical censorship of unhelpful info. The intent of preparatory and ongoing propaganda is to program the ‘home team’ to at best support, or at least not oppose, the impending or actual war of aggression.
The leader of the designated target country will be denounced repeatedly as a monster, and accused of a compendium of personal defects, dastardly intentions, and vile deeds. The country itself will be subject to serial vilification by the intended predators, and usually, whatever can be done will be done to weaken the intended prey. Then, as preface to launching the war, one or more incidents will be staged, or declared, the now proverbial ‘false flag event’, and this will be used to ‘galvanize’ the aggressor’s public, and ‘justify’ the ‘response’. Public fear, anger, desire for revenge, and ‘war fever’, will all be cultivated. But a further effort to dignify and even sanctify the criminal violence is often employed. Sometimes even prior to the atrocities, but usually after the fact, outstanding perpetrators of atrocity will be ceremoniously honored. Warmonger Obama’s Nobel Prize for Peace is an example of the former. This entire process will call forth the fullest repertoire of the human capacity for hypocrisy and emitting falsehoods and sanitizing evil with simulated sincerity.
I’ve chosen Libya as the particular focus for the rest of this article. Its history and present circumstances are illustrative and instructive pertaining to the general observations above.
At the time of its founding in 1954, Libya was a very poor and very large (17th largest on Earth) monarchy with a population of just over a million people. In 1959 the great blessing and curse of oil was discovered in Libya, and the corporations moved in. Libya became ‘significant’ in planetary corporate, financial and power politics calculations. King Idris III of Libya was no hindrance to the flow into corporate pockets of the considerable profits to be made from the Libyan oil. The people of Libya remained poor.
In 1969 a young Colonel, Muammar Gaddafi, led a bloodless coup in Libya, and soon thereafter nationalized the oil: the profits now flowed towards the Libyan people and state.
This nationalization occurred after a post 2ndWW period of extensive de-colonization in many parts of Earth, and no immediate savage response was unleashed against the Libyan people. But the Powers That Be were not amused, and began a perpetual process of covert and overt hostile acts.
In the decades that followed, Libya was subjected to calumny, subversions, attacks, sanctions and the like, but even so made great general progress in many respects. To jump forwards a bit, by 2010 Libya had achieved really remarkable progress, leading the UN’s human development index for Africa. Many other counties could only dream of what Libya had achieved. But before getting into that, let’s retrace our steps back to 1986, and examine just one episode of the denigrating depictions and criminality that Libya so frequently faced.
We learn from former Mossad agent and whistleblower Victor Ostrovsky, in his book The Other Side of Deception, that in 1986 the Israelis surreptitiously set up a transmitter near Tripoli in Libya and used this device, called Trojan, to transmit false terrorism messages. The Americans were duped into thinking that they were listening in on Libyan terrorism plots. A terrorist attack in Berlin was duly blamed on Libya, and ‘the world’s policeman’, at that time led by acting United States President Ronald Reagan, ‘took action’. In April of 1986 over a hundred American planes dropped tens of tonnes of bombs on various locations in Libya. Some reports have given the number of people killed at over a hundred, and unknown numbers were wounded by the attack.
But we also learn from former CIA official and whistleblower John Stockwell in his book The Praetorian Guard that Gaddafi and Libya were deliberately demonized preceding the bombing. The American people were repeatedly polled to make sure they had been primed sufficiently to accept or cheer an attack on Libya. Stockwell notes that Reagan harbored a visceral personal animosity towards the accomplished Libyan leader. Stockwell cites author Lloyd DeMause in the book Reagan’s America as describing Reagan’s reaction to the 1986 bombing of Libya as “exultation”. Given Reagan’s background as actor, was the exultation feigned or genuine? In any case, it is reminiscent of American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s cackling approval of the brutal murder of Gaddafi in 2011. Serious personality and spiritual disorders do not seem a hindrance to political prominence.
Ostrovsky notes that the bombing of Libya by Israel’s useful idiot the United States also elicited self-congratulatory glee in Israel.
By 2010, as noted, Libya had created an extraordinary national success story, despite the never ending animosity and subterfuge from so many directions.
And here we introduce to our narrative two outstanding, truly honorable, brave citizens of the United States. JoAnne and Jimmy Moriarty were American business people who had developed an effective technology and substances to clean up oil spills and oil messes, and furthermore, their technology could increase oil production efficiency. They had first gone to Libya on business in 2007, and made several trips there for the following four years, developing their business.
Much of the information that follows is gleaned from one of their films and many interviews and lectures they have given over the past several years, including an interview they granted me, as well as from their website libyanwarthetruth.com. In the midst of the NATO 2011 war upon Libya the Moriartys went to Libya as part of a fact-finding commission, and they became trapped in Libya for over 100 days.
They witnessed night after night NATO bombing of civilian housing and infrastructure, and the weapons used included the use of ‘illegal’ weapons such as horrific fuel air explosives. The bombing continued for months, and along with critical infrastructure and civilians, even targeted hospitals and schools. Many tens of thousands of heavily armed mercenaries were brought into the country from ships. The mercenaries committed atrocities, mass murder and mass rape along with mutilation and beheadings. The country was left in ruins and hundreds of thousands of Libyans were killed or wounded. Many fled the country.
The Libya that the Moriartys experienced prior to the NATO and mercenary war upon it had been one of the most hospitable and successful countries on Earth, and they had grown to deeply admire and love the country and the people. The vast majority of then nearly six million Libyans, by 2010, were happy participants in a unique and independent and quite incredible experiment in societal and political development.
Many development projects were underway in housing and infrastructure and agriculture in a society that was not debt based. Mortgages were paid at the rate of 10% of income, and completed in twenty years. Marriages received a 46,000 dollar marriage gift, and births were rewarded by several thousand dollars. Gasoline and transportation was extremely inexpensive, and health care and education were free. The latter included expenses paid for health care or education out of country.
Women were emancipated, literacy was very high, and religious extremism discouraged.
The bank of Libya was independent of the western private banking cabal, and Libya had built up savings worth hundreds of billions of dollars. By 2010, Libya was making preliminary steps towards establishing a gold based currency and alternative credit and financial system for Africa, with the intent of facilitating beneficent, not parasitic, financial help for the many financially-beleaguered countries of Africa.
Muammar Gaddafi had stepped down from power in 2006, and taken up the role of wise elder statesman in the country. As a reflection of Gaddafi’s personal political philosophy, elements of direct democracy had been woven into Libya’s political proceedings.
The Moriartys were captured by the mercenaries while on their fact-finding commission during the NATO bombardment and learned from an Arab speaker that their captors had slated them for execution, dismemberment, and burning of their remains. They just managed to escape Libya by the skin of their teeth, thanks to good luck and some friendly people. Upon returning ‘home’ the Moriartys first turned with naiveté to any US government official they could manage to contact, in order to tell them what was actually happening in Libya. But they were rebuffed at just about every turn, and those who appeared to respond with friendly overtures usually turned out to be “poisonous snakes in the grass”, in the words of the Jimmy Moriarty. They are wiser today.
Despite all this, and their own government’s subsequent success at destroying their livelihood, the Moriartys have continued their work of telling the truth about Libya and explaining current events in Libya. Go to their website for real current information about what is happening in Libya. They need support. The Moriartys have been granted the status of official spokespeople in the United States for the Tribes of Libya, and have remained in constant touch with the suffering, brave people of Libya since 2011.
In the words of Jimmy Moriarty: “Here’s what actually happened; here’s what we witnessed: A beautiful country destroyed, atrocities by the attackers; lies piled on lies.”
In a just world, Libya should have been respected and even honored, not preyed upon. Libya offered practical instruction to us all. Libyan cultural and political arrangements were unique and highly successful. They were a very peaceful society. Their form of Islam was moderate. They had built, and were further building, an admirable country.
The destruction of Libya was planned years previous to the actual war upon it in 2011. In 2007 General Wesley Clark, in an interview on Democracy Now, told us that he had been informed that Libya was among a whole series of countries in the Middle East and surrounding areas that would over the next several years be ‘regime changed’.
The western public was told that NATO was there to save the Libyan people from Gaddafi’s atrocities. A UN Security Council Resolution, based on lurid lies about the Libyan government and what was happening in Libya, established a no-fly zone over Libya. This no-fly zone was used to bomb and commit mass murder and mass maiming and mass destruction in Libya.
The so-called “Arab Spring” in Libya existed only in the fantasies and duplicities of mass media and propagandistic agents of government. There was no popular uprising in Libya. There was no civil war. The ‘peaceful protesters’ in the words of the western propaganda system were actually murderous orchestrated saboteurs. Lurid lies were told to the global public that Libyan soldiers were harming their own people and that Libya was a terrible place. There was however a supremely evil attack by external forces on Libya, a war of aggression, defined in International Law as the Supreme Crime.
In 2018 an investigation by a British Parliamentary Commission into the destruction of Libya found that the reports of Libyan and Gaddafi atrocities, prior to the NATO war upon Libya, were falsehoods. This confirmed Russian satellite surveillance of Libya in 2011, which saw no evidence for the lurid descriptions of Libyan atrocities invented to stoke ‘humanitarian’ war against Libya.
The mass media of the west set the stage for the atrocities through decades of demonizing propaganda; and they gave the NATO atrocities the supreme phony facelift, describing a murderous war of aggression and the destruction of Libya as the salvation of the Libyan people. This is eerily reminiscent of the doctrine of destroying villages and exterminating the villagers of Vietnam, in order to ‘save’ the villages.
We learned from Wikileak’s that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her emails indicated that one main motive for destroying Libya was to destroy the gold backed Libyan banking initiative, and thus in effect to destroy their financial independence.
Under pressure from sanctions and propaganda, Libya had in the years before being attacked eliminated much of their military. This was yet another vile tactic to make them easier prey for the planned predation.
Gaddafi had initiated a lawsuit on behalf of Africans, suing the colonial powers for trillions of dollars of compensation for their egregious exploitation and harm of Africa. This too was put to at least a temporary end by the destruction of Libya.
Now, in January of 2020, we have the very perpetrators of the destruction of Libya, meeting in Berlin to decide what to do about the Libya problem, without the Libyan people being asked or being present, let alone empowered there. And we have Turkey recently sending thousands more mercenaries into Libya in support of those trying to prevent Libyans from retaking full control of their country.
Despite so many obstacles, beginning from such a difficult place, over the course of two short generations a successful and unique modern societal arrangement was achieved in Libya by 2011. That was a wonderful admirable accomplishment. The destruction of lovely humane Libya, however, is not just about Libya and the horrific suffering of the Libyan people. It is symptom of much more extensive pathology.
The years-long planning of a war upon Libya, and the onset of the attack in 2011, and the many countries directly and indirectly complicit, and the absence of condemnation of it to this day, are yet again proof of a deeply pathological criminality dominating western political processes and societies. This pathological criminality is not being held accountable for its atrocities. Until now, it has not been effectively stymied, let alone overcome. And this pathology seeds dysfunction and danger in every direction, in all places it touches, including close to home. Can we not do better than to remain complicit with and subject to this?
Robert Snefjella is a retired Canadian farmer and contractor
|January 29, 2020||
The U.S. Is Recycling Its Big Lie About Iraq To Target Iran.
by Nicolas J S Davies, Countercurrents Collective, in World
Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, most Americans understand that it was an illegal war based on lies about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” But our government is now threatening to drag us into a war on Iran with a nearly identical “big lie” about a non-existent nuclear weapons program, based on politicized intelligence from the same CIA teams that wove a web of lies to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In 2002-3, U.S. officials and corporate media pundits repeated again and again that Iraq had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that posed a dire threat to the world. The CIA produced reams of false intelligence to support the march to war, and cherry-picked the most deceptively persuasive narratives for Secretary of State Colin Powell to present to the UN Security Council on February 5th 2003. In December 2002, Alan Foley, the head of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), told his staff, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.”
Paul Pillar, a CIA officer who was the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, helped to prepare a 25-page document that was passed off to Members of Congress as a “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. But the document was written months before the NIE it claimed to summarize and contained fantastic claims that were nowhere to be found in the NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 specific sites in Iraq where chemical and biological weapons were stored. Most Members read only this fake summary, not the real NIE, and blindly voted for war. As Pillar later confessed to PBS’s Frontline, “The purpose was to strengthen the case for going to war with the American public. Is it proper for the intelligence community to publish papers for that purpose? I don’t think so, and I regret having had a role in it.”
WINPAC was set up in 2001 to replace the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center or NPC (1991-2001), where a staff of 100 CIA analysts collected possible evidence of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development to support U.S. information warfare, sanctions and ultimately regime change policies against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and other U.S. enemies.
WINPAC uses the U.S.’s satellite, electronic surveillance and international spy networks to generate material to feed to UN agencies like UNSCOM, UNMOVIC, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who are charged with overseeing the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The CIA’s material has kept these agencies’ inspectors and analysts busy with an endless stream of documents, satellite imagery and claims by exiles for almost 30 years. But since Iraq destroyed all its banned weapons in 1991, they have found no confirming evidence that either Iraq or Iran has taken steps to acquire nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
UNMOVIC and the IAEA told the UN Security Council in 2002-3 they could find no evidence to support U.S. allegations of illegal weapons development in Iraq. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei exposed the CIA’s Niger yellowcake document as a forgery in a matter of hours. ElBaradei’s commitment to the independence and impartiality of his agency won the respect of the world, and he and his agency were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Apart from outright forgeries and deliberately fabricated evidence from exile groups like Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) and the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), most of the material the CIA and its allies have provided to UN agencies has involved dual-use technology, which could be used in banned weapons programs but also has alternative legitimate uses. A great deal of the IAEA’s work in Iran has been to verify that each of these items has in fact been used for peaceful purposes or conventional weapons development rather than in a nuclear weapons program. But as in Iraq, the accumulation of inconclusive, unsubstantiated evidence of a possible nuclear weapons program has served as a valuable political weapon to convince the media and the public that there must be something solid behind all the smoke and mirrors.
For instance, in 1990, the CIA began intercepting Telex messages from Sharif University in Tehran and Iran’s Physics Research Centre about orders for ring magnets, fluoride and fluoride-handling equipment, a balancing machine, a mass spectrometer and vacuum equipment, all of which can be used in uranium enrichment. For the next 17 years, the CIA’s NPC and WINPAC regarded these Telexes as some of their strongest evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran, and they were cited as such by senior U.S. officials. It was not until 2007-8 that the Iranian government finally tracked down all these items at Sharif University, and the IAEA inspectors were able to visit the university and confirm that they were being used for academic research and teaching, as Iran had told them.
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the IAEA’s work in Iran continued, but every lead provided by the CIA and its allies proved to be either fabricated, innocent or inconclusive. In 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies published a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in which they acknowledged that Iran had no active nuclear weapons program. The publication of the 2007 NIE was an important step in averting a U.S. war on Iran. As George W Bush wrote in his memoirs, “…after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”
But despite the lack of confirming evidence, the CIA refused to alter the “assessment” from its 2001 and 2005 NIEs that Iran probably did have a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. This left the door open for the continued use of WMD allegations, inspections and sanctions as potent political weapons in the U.S.’s regime change policy toward Iran.
In 2007, UNMOVIC published a Compendium or final report on the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq. One key lesson was that, “Complete independence is a prerequisite for a UN inspection agency,” so that the inspection process would not be used, “either to support other agendas or to keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness.” Another key lesson was that, “Proving the negative is a recipe for enduring difficulties and unending inspections.”
The 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on the U.S. intelligence failure in Iraq reached very similar conclusions, such as that, “…analysts effectively shifted the burden of proof, requiring proof that Iraq did not have active WMD programs rather than requiring affirmative proof of their existence. While the U.S. policy position was that Iraq bore the responsibility to prove that it did not have banned weapons programs, the Intelligence Community’s burden of proof should have been more objective… By raising the evidentiary burden so high, analysts artificially skewed the analytical process toward confirmation of their original hypothesis – that Iraq had active WMD programs.”
In its work on Iran, the CIA has carried on the flawed analysis and processes identified by the UNMOVIC Compendium and the Robb-Silberman report on Iraq. The pressure to produce politicized intelligence that supports U.S. policy positions persists because that is the corrupt role that U.S. intelligence agencies play in U.S. policy, spying on other governments, staging coups, destabilizing countries and producing politicized and fabricated intelligence to create pretexts for war.
A legitimate national intelligence agency would provide objective intelligence analysis that policy-makers could use as a basis for rational policy decisions. But, as the UNMOVIC Compendium implied, the U.S. government is unscrupulous in abusing the concept of intelligence and the authority of international institutions like the IAEA to “support other agendas,” notably its desire for regime change in countries around the world.
The U.S.’s “other agenda” on Iran gained a valuable ally when Mohamed ElBaradei retired from the IAEA in 2009, and was replaced by Yukiya Amano from Japan. A State Department cable from July 10th 2009 released by Wikileaks described Mr. Amano as a “strong partner” to the U.S. based on “the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA.” The memo suggested that the U.S. should try to “shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy.” The memo’s author was Geoffrey Pyatt, who later achieved international notoriety as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was exposed on a leaked audio recording plotting the 2014 coup in Ukraine with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
The Obama administration spent its first term pursuing a failed “dual-track” approach to Iran, in which its diplomacy was undermined by the greater priority it gave to its parallel track of escalating UN sanctions. When Brazil and Turkey presented Iran with the framework of a nuclear deal that the U.S. had proposed, Iran readily agreed to it. But the U.S. rejected what had begun as a U.S. proposal because, by that point, it would have undercut its efforts to persuade the UN Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on Iran.
As a senior State Department official told author Trita Parsi, the real problem was that the U.S. wouldn’t take “Yes” for an answer. It was only in Obama’s second term, after John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that the U.S. finally did take “Yes” for an answer, leading to the JCPOA between Iran, the U.S. and other major powers in 2015. So it was not U.S.-backed sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but the failure of sanctions that brought the U.S. to the table.
Also in 2015, the IAEA completed its work on “Outstanding Issues” regarding Iran’s past nuclear-related activities. On each specific case of dual-use research or technology imports, the IAEA found no proof that they were related to nuclear weapons rather than conventional military or civilian uses. Under Amano’s leadership and U.S. pressure, the IAEA “assessed” that “a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003,” but that ”these activities did not advance beyond feasibility studies and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.”
The JCPOA has broad support in Washington. But the U.S. political debate over the JCPOA has essentially ignored the actual results of the IAEA’s work in Iran, the CIA’s distorting role in it and the extent to which the CIA has replicated the institutional biases, the reinforcing of preconceptions, the forgeries, the politicization and the corruption by “other agendas” that were supposed to be corrected to prevent any repetition of the WMD fiasco in Iraq.
Politicians who support the JCPOA now claim that it stopped Iran getting nuclear weapons, while those who oppose the JCPOA claim that it would allow Iran to acquire them. They are both wrong because, as the IAEA has concluded, and even President Bush acknowledged, Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. The worst that the IAEA can objectively say is that Iran may have done some basic nuclear weapons-related research some time before 2003 – but then again, maybe it didn’t.
Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in his memoir, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, that, if Iran ever conducted even rudimentary nuclear weapons research, he was sure it was only during the Iran-Iraq War, which ended in 1988, when the U.S. and its allies helped Iraq to kill up to 100,000 Iranians with chemical weapons. If ElBaradei’s suspicions were correct, Iran’s dilemma since that time would have been that it could not admit to that work in the 1980s without facing even greater mistrust and hostility from the U.S. and its allies, and risking a similar fate to Iraq.
Regardless of uncertainties regarding Iran’s actions in the 1980s, the U.S.’s campaign against Iran has violated the most critical lessons U.S. and UN officials claimed to have learned from the debacle in Iraq. The CIA has used its almost entirely baseless suspicions about nuclear weapons in Iran as pretexts to “support other agendas” and “keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness,” exactly as the UNMOVIC Compendium warned against ever again doing to another country.
In Iran as in Iraq, this has led to an illegal regime of brutal sanctions, under which thousands of children are dying from preventable diseases and malnutrition, and to threats of another illegal U.S. war that would engulf the Middle East and the world in even greater chaos than the one the CIA engineered against Iraq.
Nicolas J S Davies is a freelance writer, a researcher for CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.
|January 31, 2020||
Seafood and Population.
by Sally Dugman, Countercurrents Collective, in Resource Crisis
This July 2019 photo provided by Peter Westley shows carcasses of chum salmon lie along the shore of the Koyukuk River near Huslia. Alaska scientists and fisheries managers are investigating the deaths of salmon that may be tied to the state’s unusually hot, dry summer. (Peter Westley, University of Alaska Fairbanks via AP)
You plan on eating Pacific Ocean seafood given that Tepco plans on dumping more than a million tons of irradiated water? And what are the thoughts on dumping the next million tons after that and the next million tons after that second major deliberate dumping event?
Please don’t think that the Atlantic Ocean is much better since it is increasingly filled with micro-plastic and other pollution that’s consumed by ocean life. Does anyone want to knowingly eat that mix?
Baltic is bad too due to WW ll bombs and ships sunk there after the war. (A dumb waste of crucial resourses too was in the ignorant shortsighted action.) .Want to eat that poison in seafood?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for other regions to step up: Gulf Coast at west coast of Florida has dangerous chemicals and hidden oil still in the water from the BP spill. And healthy stocks of seafood near Australia cost too much to purchase unless one is extremely wealthy and likes imports from far away places as in my case since I live in North America …
Meanwhile the Pacific Ocean already has irradiated salmon due to Tepco. FYI: Half of the world’s salmon presently originate from Alaska. Well, that condition is not going to last for long as Yukon river is too hot for them to swim and so lots of them die before mating. Another major bay for salmon returning home to breed is being turned over to Pebble Mine, which will support copper and gold mining. Thanks to Trump, the governor of Alaska and some others, especially those who want to make lots of money from mining or simply have a job in mining even if low in pay
(And how about lung diseases from mining? Who is going to pay their costs?)
Yet jobs do presumably need to be had as the human population keeps rising in number and using up more and more resources like gold and copper.
Caught in that rumination, I think of an elderly man who I overheard proudly say that he had 37 grandchildren. Perhaps he and his wife had six children and they each had six except for one that had seven children.
Let’s say that that his grandchildren each have six or seven offspring due to cultural or religious beliefs. Maybe just plain stupidity was involved like one’s self being caught up in the moment and neglecting to use a birth control item.
In any case, the UN population group suggests that we may have 15.8 billion people by century’s end. I doubt it since we have many resource deficits looming today. And accordingly resource wars and people fighting to stay alive, like poor fisherman around the world, will increasingly exist, I suspect.
Sally Dugman lives in MA, USA.
|February 10, 2020||
War in the Arctic?
by Michael T Klare, Countercurrents Collective, in World
In early March, an estimated 7,500 American combat troops will travel to Norway to join thousands of soldiers from other NATO countries in a massive mock battle with imagined invading forces from Russia. In this futuristic simulated engagement — it goes by the name of Exercise Cold Response 2020 — allied forces will “conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions,” or so claims the Norwegian military anyway. At first glance, this may look like any other NATO training exercise, but think again. There’s nothing ordinary about Cold Response 2020. As a start, it’s being staged above the Arctic Circle, far from any previous traditional NATO battlefield, and it raises to a new level the possibility of a great-power conflict that might end in a nuclear exchange and mutual annihilation. Welcome, in other words, to World War III’s newest battlefield.
For the soldiers participating in the exercise, the potentially thermonuclear dimensions of Cold Response 2020 may not be obvious. At its start, Marines from the United States and the United Kingdom will practice massive amphibious landings along Norway’s coastline, much as they do in similar exercises elsewhere in the world. Once ashore, however, the scenario becomes ever more distinctive. After collecting tanks and other heavy weaponry “prepositioned” in caves in Norway’s interior, the Marines will proceed toward the country’s far-northern Finnmark region to help Norwegian forces stave off Russian forces supposedly pouring across the border. From then on, the two sides will engage in — to use current Pentagon terminology — high-intensity combat operations under Arctic conditions (a type of warfare not seen on such a scale since World War II).
And that’s just the beginning. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Finnmark region of Norway and adjacent Russian territory have become one of the most likely battlegrounds for the first use of nuclear weapons in any future NATO-Russian conflict. Because Moscow has concentrated a significant part of its nuclear retaliatory capability on the Kola Peninsula, a remote stretch of land abutting northern Norway — any U.S.-NATO success in actual combat with Russian forces near that territory would endanger a significant part of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and so might precipitate the early use of such munitions. Even a simulated victory — the predictable result of Cold Response 2020 — will undoubtedly set Russia’s nuclear controllers on edge.
To appreciate just how risky any NATO-Russian clash in Norway’s far north would be, consider the region’s geography and the strategic factors that have led Russia to concentrate so much military power there. And all of this, by the way, will be playing out in the context of another existential danger: climate change. The melting of the Arctic ice cap and the accelerated exploitation of Arctic resources are lending this area ever greater strategic significance.
Energy Extraction in the Far North
Look at any map of Europe and you’ll note that Scandinavia widens as it heads southward into the most heavily populated parts of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As you head north, however, it narrows and becomes ever less populated. At its extreme northern reaches, only a thin band of Norway juts east to touch Russia’s Kola Peninsula. To the north, the Barents Sea, an offshoot of the Arctic Ocean, bounds them both. This remote region — approximately 800 miles from Oslo and 900 miles from Moscow — has, in recent years, become a vortex of economic and military activity.
Once prized as a source of vital minerals, especially nickel, iron ore, and phosphates, this remote area is now the center of extensive oil and natural gas extraction. With temperatures rising in the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet and sea ice retreating ever farther north every year, offshore fossil-fuel exploration has become increasingly viable. As a result, large reserves of oil and natural gas — the very fuels whose combustion is responsible for those rising temperatures — have been discovered beneath the Barents Sea and both countries are seeking to exploit those deposits. Norway has taken the lead, establishing at Hammerfest in Finnmark the world’s first plant above the Arctic Circle to export liquified natural gas. In a similar fashion, Russia has initiated efforts to exploit the mammoth Shtokman gas field in its sector of the Barents Sea, though it has yet to bring such plans to fruition.
For Russia, even more significant oil and gas prospects lie further east in the Kara and Pechora Seas and on the Yamal Peninsula, a slender extension of Siberia. Its energy companies have, in fact, already begun producing oil at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea and the Novoportovskoye field on that peninsula (and natural gas there as well). Such fields hold great promise for Russia, which exhibits all the characteristics of a petro-state, but there’s one huge problem: the only practical way to get that output to market is via specially-designed icebreaker-tankers sent through the Barents Sea past northern Norway.
The exploitation of Arctic oil and gas resources and their transport to markets in Europe and Asia has become a major economic priority for Moscow as its hydrocarbon reserves below the Arctic Circle begin to dry up. Despite calls at home for greater economic diversity, President Vladimir Putin’s regime continues to insist on the centrality of hydrocarbon production to the country’s economic future. In that context, production in the Arctic has become an essential national objective, which, in turn, requires assured access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Barents Sea and Norway’s offshore waters. Think of that waterway as vital to Russia’s energy economy in the way the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, is to the Saudis and other regional fossil-fuel producers.
The Military Dimension
No less than Russia’s giant energy firms, its navy must be able to enter the Atlantic via the Barents Sea and northern Norway. Aside from its Baltic and Black Sea ports, accessible to the Atlantic only via passageways easily obstructed by NATO, the sole Russian harbor with unfettered access to the Atlantic Ocean is at Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula. Not surprisingly then, that port is also the headquarters for Russia’s Northern Fleet — its most powerful — and the site of numerous air, infantry, missile, and radar bases along with naval shipyards and nuclear reactors. In other words, it’s among the most sensitive military regions in Russia today.
Given all this, President Putin has substantially rebuilt that very fleet, which fell into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union, equipping it with some of the country’s most advanced warships. In 2018, according to The Military Balance, a publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it already possessed the largest number of modern cruisers and destroyers (10) of any Russian fleet, along with 22 attack submarines and numerous support vessels. Also in the Murmansk area are dozens of advanced MiG fighter planes and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft defense systems. Finally, as 2019 ended, Russian military officials indicated for the first time that they had deployed to the Arctic the Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, a weapon capable of hypersonic velocities (more than five times the speed of sound), again presumably to a base in the Murmansk region just 125 miles from Norway’s Finnmark, the site of the upcoming NATO exercise.
More significant yet is the way Moscow has been strengthening its nuclear forces in the region. Like the United States, Russia maintains a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), long-range “heavy” bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Under the terms of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed by the two countries in 2010, the Russians can deploy no more than 700 delivery systems capable of carrying no more than 1,550 warheads. (That pact will, however, expire in February 2021 unless the two sides agree to an extension, which appears increasingly unlikely in the age of Trump.) According to the Arms Control Association, the Russians are currently believed to be deploying the warheads they are allowed under New START on 66 heavy bombers, 286 ICBMs, and 12 submarines with 160 SLBMs. Eight of those nuclear-armed subs are, in fact, assigned to the Northern Fleet, which means about 110 missiles with as many as 500 warheads — the exact numbers remain shrouded in secrecy — are deployed in the Murmansk area.
For Russian nuclear strategists, such nuclear-armed submarines are considered the most “survivable” of the country’s retaliatory systems. In the event of a nuclear exchange with the United States, the country’s heavy bombers and ICBMs could prove relatively vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes as their locations are known and can be targeted by American bombs and missiles with near-pinpoint accuracy. Those subs, however, can leave Murmansk and disappear into the wide Atlantic Ocean at the onset of any crisis and so presumably remain hidden from U.S. spying eyes. To do so, however, requires that they pass through the Barents Sea, avoiding the NATO forces lurking nearby. For Moscow, in other words, the very possibility of deterring a U.S. nuclear strike hinges on its ability to defend its naval stronghold in Murmansk, while maneuvering its submarines past Norway’s Finnmark region. No wonder, then, that this area has assumed enormous strategic importance for Russian military planners — and the upcoming Cold Response 2020 is sure to prove challenging to them.
Washington’s Arctic Buildup
During the Cold War era, Washington viewed the Arctic as a significant strategic arena and constructed a string of military bases across the region. Their main aim: to intercept Soviet bombers and missiles crossing the North Pole on their way to targets in North America. After the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, Washington abandoned many of those bases. Now, however, with the Pentagon once again identifying “great power competition” with Russia and China as the defining characteristic of the present strategic environment, many of those bases are being reoccupied and new ones established. Once again, the Arctic is being viewed as a potential site of conflict with Russia and, as a result, U.S. forces are being readied for possible combat there.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first official to explain this new strategic outlook at the Arctic Forum in Finland last May. In his address, a kind of “Pompeo Doctrine,” he indicated that the United States was shifting from benign neglect of the region to aggressive involvement and militarization. “We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic,” he insisted, “complete with new threats to the Arctic and its real estate, and to all of our interests in that region.” To better protect those interests against Russia’s military buildup there, “we are fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence in the area… hosting military exercises, strengthening our force presence, rebuilding our icebreaker fleet, expanding Coast Guard funding, and creating a new senior military post for Arctic Affairs inside of our own military.”
The Pentagon has been unwilling to provide many details, but a close reading of the military press suggests that this activity has been particularly focused on northern Norway and adjacent waters. To begin with, the Marine Corps has established a permanent presence in that country, the first time foreign forces have been stationed there since German troops occupied it during World War II. A detachment of about 330 Marines were initially deployed near the port of Trondheim in 2017, presumably to help guard nearby caves that contain hundreds of U.S. tanks and combat vehicles. Two years later, a similarly sized group was then dispatched to the Troms region above the Arctic Circle and far closer to the Russian border.
From the Russian perspective, even more threatening is the construction of a U.S. radar station on the Norwegian island of Vardø about 40 miles from the Kola Peninsula. To be operated in conjunction with the Norwegian intelligence service, the focus of the facility will evidently be to snoop on those Russian missile-carrying submarines, assumedly in order to target them and take them out in the earliest stages of any conflict. That Moscow fears just such an outcome is evident from the mock attack it staged on the Vardø facility in 2018, sending 11 Su-24 supersonic bombers on a direct path toward the island. (They turned aside at the last moment.) It has also moved a surface-to-surface missile battery to a spot just 40 miles from Vardø.
In addition, in August 2018, the U.S. Navy decided to reactivate the previously decommissioned Second Fleet in the North Atlantic. “A new Second Fleet increases our strategic flexibility to respond — from the Eastern Seaboard to the Barents Sea,” said Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson at the time. As last year ended, that fleet was declared fully operational.
Deciphering Cold Response 2020
Exercise Cold Response 2020 must be viewed in the context of all these developments. Few details about the thinking behind the upcoming war games have been made public, but it’s not hard to imagine what at least part of the scenario might be like: a U.S.-Russian clash of some sort leading to Russian attacks aimed at seizing that radar station at Vardø and Norway’s defense headquarters at Bodø on the country’s northwestern coast. The invading troops will be slowed but not stopped by Norwegian forces (and those U.S. Marines stationed in the area), while thousands of reinforcements from NATO bases elsewhere in Europe begin to pour in. Eventually, of course, the tide will turn and the Russians will be forced back.
No matter what the official scenario is like, however, for Pentagon planners the situation will go far beyond this. Any Russian assault on critical Norwegian military facilities would presumably be preceded by intense air and missile bombardment and the forward deployment of major naval vessels. This, in turn, would prompt comparable moves by the U.S. and NATO, probably resulting in violent encounters and the loss of major assets on all sides. In the process, Russia’s key nuclear retaliatory forces would be at risk and quickly placed on high alert with senior officers operating in hair-trigger mode. Any misstep might then lead to what humanity has feared since August 1945: a nuclear apocalypse on Planet Earth.
There is no way to know to what degree such considerations are incorporated into the classified versions of the Cold Response 2020 scenario, but it’s unlikely that they’re missing. Indeed, a 2016 version of the exercise involved the participation of three B-52 nuclear bombers from the U.S. Strategic Air Command, indicating that the American military is keenly aware of the escalatory risks of any large-scale U.S.-Russian encounter in the Arctic.
In short, what might otherwise seem like a routine training exercise in a distant part of the world is actually part of an emerging U.S. strategy to overpower Russia in a critical defensive zone, an approach that could easily result in nuclear war. The Russians are, of course, well aware of this and so will undoubtedly be watching Cold Response 2020 with genuine trepidation. Their fears are understandable — but we should all be concerned about a strategy that seemingly embodies such a high risk of future escalation.
Ever since the Soviets acquired nuclear weapons of their own in 1949, strategists have wondered how and where an all-out nuclear war — World War III — would break out. At one time, that incendiary scenario was believed most likely to involve a clash over the divided city of Berlin or along the East-West border in Germany. After the Cold War, however, fears of such a deadly encounter evaporated and few gave much thought to such possibilities. Looking forward today, however, the prospect of a catastrophic World War III is again becoming all too imaginable and this time, it appears, an incident in the Arctic could prove the spark for Armageddon.
Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, including the just-published All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change (Metropolitan Books), on which this article is based.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.
Originally published by TomDispatch
Copyright 2020 Michael T. Klare
|February 10, 2020||
Kicking The Habit.
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents Collective, in Uncategorized
Our addiction to fossil fuels can kill us
The Industrial Revolution marked the start of a massive human use of fossil fuels. The stored energy from several hundred million years of plant growth began to be used at roughly a million times the rate at which it had been formed. The effect on human society was like that of a narcotic. There was a euphotic (and totally unsustainable) surge of growth of both population and industrial production. Meanwhile, the carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels began to duplicate the conditions that lead to the 5 geologically-observed mass extinction events during each of which more than half of all living species disappeared forever.
We all know that drug addicts can die from their addiction. The world’s scientists are unanimous in telling us that unless we take immediate action to kick the habit, our addiction to fossil fuels will kill human society and much of the biosphere.
Immediate action is needed to save the future
The central problem which the world faces in its attempts to avoid catastrophic climate change is a contrast of time scales. In order to save human civilization and the biosphere from the most disastrous effects of climate change, we need to act immediately. But it is difficult to mobilize public opinion behind urgently needed action because the most severe effects of global warming belong to the long-term future. Immediate action is needed because without it, feedback loops, such as the albedo effect and yjr drying out and burning of tropical rain-forests, will take over, making human efforts futile.
Greta Thunberg told to “study economics”
At the 2020 Davos Forum, teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg urged business leaders to divest from the catastrophic activities of the fossil fuel industries. She was rebuked by the US Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchen, who said, “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us”. Thunberg’s response to tweet a UN graph showing that the world’s remaining carbon budget will be used up by 2027 unless emissions are curbed. “You don’t need a college education to understand the graph”, she said.
The exchange is interesting because it shows the stark contrast between the demands of our current economic system, and what has to be done to save human civilization. Economics has been called “the science of growth”, but growth is killing us. The size of the human footprint has become too large for our environment to support.
Our entire economic system is currently based on the use of fossil fuels, but our addiction to coal, oil and gas will surely kill us unless we can kick the habit in time. Mnuchen is saying, “You will damage the economy”. Thunberg is saying, “Perhaps so, but we have to stop emissions immediately to save the long-term future of human society and the biosphere”. We can gain hope from the fact that, if massive government subsidies to fossil fuels were removed, renewables would already be cheaper than fossil fuels, and the urgently-needed transition to renewables would be driven by economic forces alone.
Trump was tried for the wrong crimes
The impeachment trial of Donald Trump has now come to an end, with no witness allowed, and Republican senators voting along strict party lines to acquit the obviously guilty president. Many people, myself included, feel that Trump was tried for minor crimes, whereas he ought to have been tried for his major ones.
There is so much wrong with Donald Trump that one hardly knows where to start. He is a bully, braggart, narcicist, racist, mysogenist, habitual liar and tax evader, in addition to being demonstrably ignorant. He has contempt for both domestic and international law, as well as the US Constitution. In the words of Michael Moore, he is a “part-time clown and full-time sociopath”. However, it is Trump’s climate change denial, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and sponsorship of the fossil fuel industry that pose the greatest threats to human society and the biosphere. The general support of the Republicn Party for the fossil fuel industry is the reason why Prof. Noam Chomsky called the party “the most dangerous organization in history”.
Destroying the world for profit
Does it make sense to destroy the world for the sake of profit or personal advantage? This is exactly what our governments and business leaders are doing today. This is what very many ordinary people are doing. But does it make sense?
Does it make sense to saw off the branch on which you are sitting? Does it make sense to jockey for a place at the Captain’s table on board an iceberg-struck Titanic? Whoever contributes to the destruction of the world has to live in the world that they have destroyed.
Perhaps a short-term advantage can be gained; perhaps a small private Utopia can be created by acts that harm the general future; but all individual fates will sink like stones in a deep sea, if society as a whole sinks. Individual fates will be lost in the general fate. There will be no protection for anyone, if the world as a whole goes to pieces. We must hope that the world’s leaders will wake up and begin to think about the long-term future. After all, they too love their children and grandchildren.
John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (19881997).
|February 11, 2020||
Antarctic continent suffers from record temperature of 18.3°C.
by Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
Aerial view of melting glaciers on King George Island, Antarctica. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed that the Antarctic likely saw a new temperature record of more than 18°C on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, spokesperson Clare Nullis from the WMO, said that the record reading taken in the north of the continent, would be considered unusual, even during the current warmer summer months.
“The Argentine research base, which is called Esperanza, it’s on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula; it set a new record temperature yesterday: 18.3°C, which is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica even in summertime. This beat the former record of 17.5°C, which was set back in 2015.”
Experts at WMO will now verify whether the temperature extreme is a new record for the Antarctic continent, which is defined as the main continental landmass.
It should not be confused with the Antarctic region, which is everywhere south of 60 degrees latitude, and where a record temperature of 19.8C was recorded on Signy Island in January 1982.
The WMO experts are expected to examine the meteorological conditions surrounding the event, particularly whether it is associated with a weather phenomenon known as “foehn”.
A common feature of life in Alpine regions, episodes of foehn often involve high winds at altitude and the rapid warming of air as it heads down slopes or peaks, driven by significant air pressure differences.
“It’s among the fastest-warming regions of the planet”, Ms. Nullis said of the Antarctic. “We hear a lot about the Arctic, but this particular part of the Antarctic peninsula is warming very quickly. Over the past 50 years it’s warmed almost 3°C.”
Amid steadily warming temperatures, Ms. Nullis also noted that the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet “increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017”.
Most of this ice loss happens when ice shelves melt from below, as they come into contact with relatively warm ocean water, she explained.
Melting is especially marked in west Antarctica, according to WMO, and to a lesser extent along the peninsula and in east Antarctica.
Accelerated glacier retreat
Turning to glacier melt, Ms. Nullis warned that around “87 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years, with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years”.
Concern is particularly high over the main glacier tributaries to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in particular the Pine Island glacier, where two large rifts that were first spotted in early 2019 have each grown to some 20 kilometers long.
“There’s quite a lot of conversation on Twitter at the moment; the satellite image showing cracks in the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica”, said Ms. Nullis. “They’ve been growing rapidly over the past few days. The European Union has a satellite called Sentinel that’s been measuring and monitoring these, and there are pretty dramatic images.”
Roughly twice the size of Australia, the Antarctic is cold, windy and dry. The average annual temperature ranges from about minus 10C on the Antarctic coast to minus 60C at the highest points of the interior.
Its immense ice sheet is up to 4.8 kilometers thick and contains 90 per cent of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea level by around 60 meters, were it all to melt.
|February 12, 2020||
by Sally Dugman , Countercurrents Collective, in Life/Philosophy
Tribalism is rampant on both the micro and macro scale. Whether in contentious actions by individuals or entire nations, it kicks into play as a survival mechanism by biological evolutionary roots.
This because through it, people ensure that their own group gets the power, territory and goods. So of course there is going to be racism, casteism, hatred of people of other cultures and religions, etc.
While helpful in cave days to keep one’s own clan alive vs another one doing so if in competition for food and rights, it has supposed value still today and in other time periods post cave days. So think of peasant revolutions throughout history such as in France, people on streets with knives and guns killing the perceived “other”, people being burned or gunned down in places of worship and wars where the theme is my group vs yours so as to gain resources and geopolitical (territorial) control.
Then there are the pariahs kicked out of the tribe like the peaceful pacifist Quaker killed by hanging during the USA Civil War for nonconformance to expectations by his side in the war or the family member abandoned for the same deviance related to not fitting into the group (I.e., a gay child or someone who just doesn’t act right according to norms in place). These people exist everywhere across the globe.
I don’t have much tribalism in me as I welcome all sorts of people Into my life. However, don’t start me on psychopaths as I definitely don’t want them in the tribe.
The othering and tribalism took place in Nazi Germany. Today we do it with all of the creatures and plants that we consume, as well as other resources that we destroy. It is a necessity to stay alive.
And who would not think that terrorists have a sense of othering and tribalism? Certainly it is not I.
Then how do we rid ourselves of this orientation? Predictably It seems to be only through our getting rid of contenders and prey notions. Likewise it is about our getting to deeply understand the one initially perceived as the other in my view. Moreover it is someone or something viewed as not like one’s own kind and worthy of shunning or destruction that must me mastered as a concept and feeling.
Sally Dugman lives in MA, USA
|February 13, 2020||
Concentration of CO2 Hits Record High of 416 ppm.
by Jessica Corbett, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record high Monday, a reading from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that elicited fresh calls from climate activists and scientists for the international community to end planet-heating emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation.
According to NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory, an atmospheric baseline station in Hawaii, the daily average of CO2 levels on Feb. 10 was 416.08 parts per million. In recent years, soaring rates of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have signaled that the world is not ambitiously addressing the climate crisis.
Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, who founded the global youth-led climate action movement Fridays for Future, tweeted Tuesday of NOAA’s new finding that “the saddest thing is that this won’t be breaking news.”
“And basically no one understands the full meaning of this. Because we’re in a crisis that’s never been treated as a crisis,” added the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Thunberg was not alone in using social media to draw attention to the figure. Belgian climate scientist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, who has been involved with multiple reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wrote on Twitter Tuesday that the record was not something “to be proud of.”
Instead, van Ypersele said, it is a reminder that “emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation need to be reduced to ZERO to stop this trend!”
A German-based Parents for Future group—made up of adults who support the movement Thunberg founded—shared the new number alongside a video of children calling for bold climate action.
The video features several children mouthing along to a speech that Thunberg delivered in December 2018 at the U.N. COP24 climate talks in Poland. Calling for systemic change on a global scale to the tackle the climate emergency, Thunberg warned in her address that “we cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.”
The United Kingdom’s national weather service, the Met Office, warned in January that “a forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.”
The Met Office said that “the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May,” noting that the anticipated increase is due in part to emissions from the bushfires that have devastated large swaths of Australia since late last year.
“Although the series of annual levels of CO2 have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests,” explained professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Center and University of Exeter.
“The success of our previous forecasts has shown that the year-to-year variability in the rate of rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is affected more by the strength of ecosystem carbon sinks and sources than year-to-year changes in human-induced emissions,” he added. “Nevertheless, the anthropogenic emissions are still the overall driver of the long-term rise in concentrations.”
Originally published by CommonDreams.org
|February 14, 2020||
An amoral foreign policy.
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents Collective, in World
A responsible voice from the US foreign affairs establishment now tells: US foreign policy is amoral. Ms. Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine, has made the observation.
She was speaking on February 12, 2020 at Georgetown University on receiving an award of excellence in diplomacy from the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. The 33-year diplomatic veteran has worked under every US president since Reagan.
The former ambassador said:
“Right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills. The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion.”
“We need to be principled, consistent and trustworthy. To be blunt, an amoral, keep-‘em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust, cannot work over the long haul. At some point, the once unthinkable will become the soon inevitable, that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners. [….]”
She said: “Truth matters.”
Other than the possibility of alienating allies, Ms. Yovanovitch discussed some other issues that included vacancies going unfilled, officers “increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy even behind closed doors”, “a competitive and complex time”.
It’s not an Empire-critic’s observation. It, thus, can’t be brushed out easily by the mainstream.
It’s, actually, not only a current-situation-assessment; and, not only a single leader-centric observation. To see foreign policy as limited to current situation and centering a single leader is erroneous. Because a single person doesn’t frame foreign policy overnight. Foreign policy comes out from an economy, the interests the economy tries to secure. It grows out of detailed exercises by an elaborate establishment.
The veteran diplomat’s observation exposes a chronic disease, which is a concern for the Empire, its allies and lackeys. The Empire can’t unburden its deeds. The allies have options to realign. But, for the lackeys? It’s a hopeless situation.
The issue – amoral foreign policy – needs no elaboration or referring to examples spanning decades and countries: Threat, coercion, conspiracy, espionage, assassination, coup, interference, civil disturbance, aggression. These are much documented and cited. An imperialist economy at its mature phase in an increasingly competitive world has to tread these back streets.
A few points Ms. Yovanovitch mentioned are special: lack of vision and skill, decisions emanating with little discussion, unsafe feeling. The special questions are: When and why do these happen? What’s its source? Is it due to a person or a system?
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.
|February 15, 2020||
Humanity Means Being Humane.
by Pratap Antony, Countercurrents Collective, in Life/Philosophy
Humanity means *“the quality of being humane, benevolent”, it also meansbeing kind, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic, gentle and generous.
But weseem to have forgotten what humanity really means. To us, nowadays, humanity only means that we are human i.e. bipedal primate mammals.
Not only that, we ridicule those do have humane character traits and consider them impractical misfits. We think they are kinky little oddballs who must be humoured and treated with indulgent compassion for their hopeless and naive unawareness of reality.
We become inhumane when we appreciate and celebrate the killing of criminals by the State. And we are so drunk with bloodlust that we congratulate cops for murder and bay for blood, like hounds chasing game for our pleasure. And we reason with ourselves and justify this lust for vengeance and then we applaud killing and executions by the judiciary and consider it justice.
We seem to have a strong desire to kill. We have gone back to the uncouth times when killing was a spectator sport and we have become the bloodthirsty spectators who watch and cheer while battlers kill each other or are killed by animals in an arena.
We have lost our collective conscience and rejoice in murder by the State. We have become merciless, brutal and pitiless killers. We have become ‘the lynch mob’.
We have become hard-hearted and callous and we have lost our sense-of-values, our conscience, and our capacity for empathy and understanding.
We have lost our humanity when we prefer cruelty and violence to compassion, and when we prefer viciousness and hatred to sympathy and kindness to others.
There is no other explanation, or excuse, for our joy in State sponsored executions. And though killings, executions and assassinations are decreed by law; they make us complicit in murder. We participate in the taking of a life.
It’s time we take stock of ourselves and retrieve our misplaced understanding of the value of human life; attempt to regain our humanityby reaching within ourselves to recover our inherent instincts of compassion, and,recapture our lost conscience by respecting ourselves and caring for all living beings.
We can become humane by consciously not being cruel and hurting otherpeople, animals and our environment, and by treating others the way we would like to be treated ourselves, and by putting ourselves in others’ shoes and feeling their pain.
We can become humane again by regaining the generosity of our hearts and by being positive; by being compassionate; by not harming anyone or anything deliberately, and by understanding that all creatures on this earth only have one life.
Pratap Antony writes on ecology and environment, social justice and pluralism, management ideas and issues, jazz and western classical music and Indian classical dance.
|February 15, 2020||
A bold step forward in Mexico City for international socialist regroupment.
by Stephen Durham, Countercurrents Collective, in World
Participants in the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS) Conference that preceded the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) Meeting in Mexico City. PHOTO: Courtesy POS
In December, Bob Price and I traveled to Mexico City with Nancy Kato to represent the U.S. and Australian sections of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) in a series of formal and informal international gatherings that culminated in a two-day meeting of the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR). Partido Obrero Socialista (POS) of Mexico hosted the get-togethers.
Capitalism’s long, downward spiral provided the backdrop to discussions on a wide variety of topics, including women’s unprecedented rebellion against patriarchal oppression and workers’ increasing anger over austerity, government corruption and repression. Especially important were discussions held by women comrades from Argentina and Mexico with Kato; these consolidated CRIR’s support for autonomous organizing by revolutionary women and unequivocal backing of a clear socialist feminist stance.
I left Mexico City optimistic that the global storm clouds now gathering are opening new possibilities for a socialist shake-up.
The POS International Conference. The first meeting was held in the former art studio of José Orozco, the renowned muralist of the Mexican Revolution. In a room flooded with natural light, Kato and I joined attendees from Argentina, Mexico and Brazil in assessing the political situation in each of our countries. Among the POS members, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles from northern and southern Mexico to attend, were union leaders from Oaxaca who are on the front lines defending public education. Notable among guests were Arturo Campos, a long-jailed indigenous political prisoner from Guerrero; feminist contingents from Mexico City and Chihuahua; a three-woman Argentinian delegation from the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSL) and Mujeres por La Libertad; and a representative from the Brazilian Movimento Revolucionario Socialista.
Speaking for the Freedom Socialist Party, I summarized the key themes of the 2019 FSP Political Resolution (see text of resolution here). The Argentinians described the country’s deteriorating living conditions for workers and the poor due to escalating inflation, growing unemployment and an epidemic of violence directed against women. After four years of rule by a right-wing government whose austerity measures engendered growing rebellion, Argentina’s power brokers closed ranks to put forward a populist Peronist alternative to head off a major social explosion.
Juan Reséndez, speaking for the POS, described the crisis facing Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). After receiving an unprecedented 30 million votes, and despite having a majority in the federal legislature, AMLO has been unable to enact his neoliberal agenda due to the opposition of workers and campesinos who supported his election and, emboldened by his victory, now make their dissatisfaction known! A successful strike by 60,000 maquila workers and a revolt by campesinos, who surrounded and shut down the House of Deputies, have added to AMLO’s woes. His deference to Trump on trade and immigration have contributed to a nosedive in his popularity.
POS activist Eréndira Mungía from Oaxaca testified to the recent upsurge of feminist rebellion across Latin America. A new generation of young women is rising, she said, to protest government inaction in the face of sexual violence and murder. She cited as an example the mishandling of sexual abuse cases by professors at UNAM in Mexico City (for more on women, see Kato’s article here).
CRIR weighs the state of Trotskyism. The two-day CRIR meeting convened in the POS’s local headquarters — a third-floor apartment in a working-class neighborhood. The first item of business was an analysis of the state of the revolutionary Left in Argentina, Mexico and the U.S.
Silvia Zapata, a labor union activist and leader in Partido Socialismo y Libertad, described the crisis of Trotskyism in Argentina where the major parties have abandoned revolutionary politics and opted for electoral campaigns devoid of socialism.
A similar process has occurred over decades in Mexico. The revolutionary Left has been decimated by the emergence of the social democratic Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), Cuauhtémoc Ruiz told attendees.
Bob Price, speaking for the FSP, detailed the rise of social democratic reformism in the U.S. where Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns and the sudden growth of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have exerted a conservative pull on revolutionary organizations. Unfortunately, this is occurring, Price explained, while there still exists a high degree of sectarianism on what is left of U.S. Trotskyism.
CRIR members also discussed the decline of the social democratic, “Pink Tide” regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Despite their anti-imperialist rhetoric, each regime put into place anti-working-class and neoliberal policies emanating from Wall Street and Washington, D.C. In this, CRIR disagrees with the neo-Stalinists who believe any criticism of these regimes is a capitulation to imperialism.
Protocols for dealing with sexual abuse. A principle strength of CRIR is that the current members are revolutionary socialist feminist parties. Each recognizes that, given women’s position under the patriarchy, no organization—regardless of how revolutionary sounding—is immune from the problem of the sexist mistreatment of women. Support for women is a fundamental prerequisite of building a revolutionary movement.
After learning of widespread sexual abuse on campus, in labor unions and left parties, CRIR drafted a set of protocols which would protect women’s rights to sensitive and fair treatment and present a method for groups to address this issue. These were discussed by the membership of each group and adopted in Mexico City. In the coming months, CRIR will publish the protocols as a tool for activists.
Continuing the Old Man’s work. CRIR delegates decided on several actions to strengthen our outreach and consolidate our functioning. Among them responding enthusiastically to the Brazilian Movimento Revolucionario Socialista and groups in Honduras and Chile that want to open communications with us. We also plan to launch a publication to address events as they unfold in the class struggle.
A post-meeting visit to the Trotsky Museum was a reminder of the importance of our work. The museum is the house where the great leader of the Russian Revolution was assassinated in 1940 while working tirelessly to regroup revolutionaries.
Durham, International Secretary of the FSP, can be reached at email@example.com.
The Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) brings together revolutionary organizations of different countries to work toward founding a new socialist international. Read CRIR’s program here. Contact: CRIRinter@gmail.com.
|February 15, 2020||
Traditional Indigenous And White Man’s Conflicting Rules Of Law: A Coming To Terms That Hasn’t Been Resolved Since First Contact.
by Irwin Jerome, Countercurrents Collective, in World
The controversy now erupting throughout Canada over the issue of the construction of the Coastal Oil/Gas Pipeline & TransMountain Oil Pipeline is an old one that once again reveals a fundamental unresolved impasse that has existed since first contact in the New World between the opposing philosophies and rules of law of the New World’s traditional indigenous peoples and all the colonizers of the Old World, Europeans or otherwise, who since have arrived on the shores of what traditional peoples otherwise variously still refer to as Turtle Island, Gondwana, Azatlan and still many other ancient names.
This writer’s recollection of what, fifty years ago when he first became introduced to traditional Native American & First Nation peoples, defined the chief differences that then existed between those deemed ‘traditionals’ or ‘non-traditionals’. The traditionals were those who were chiefly wedded to ‘the old ways’, predicated more upon ‘self-reliance’ and ‘independence’ from, what they was commonly referred to as ‘the white man’s ways’ of thinking, doing and being, which had less to do with the need to ‘find a job’, because a job was simply what one did to live a well and full life, feeding and caring for one’s family and prosper, as their ancestors once did in a more inter-dependent with nature, in a different way than what ‘prosper’ means today to be beholden to an outside ‘job’ commonly reffered to then as the white man’s world & way of life. Those described as traditionals were, on the whole, those who were more pure=bloods among their people and consequently darker-skinned than their mixed-blooded relatives. The old saying back then was that ‘in the white man’s world’ they were generally said to be “the last ones hired and the first one’s fired” because they didn’t fit in as well with the modern outside world’s ways of thinking, being and doing.
With that, in regard to the current dispute between the Government of Canada and the traditionals among the hereditary chiefs among the Wet’suewet’en First Nation and their dispute over the continued construction of the Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline, this controversy brings into focus seminal issues such as: the meaning and purpose of existence, life and the future survival of all living beings, and Mother Earth herself. Once again what is revealing itself in the bush, in hamlets,, towns, cities and urban areas all across Canada are some basic issues. For starts, the name Canada, itself, is an Iroquoian word (“Kanata”) that simply means ‘Home’. This same controversy also continues to ripple around the world among Climate Crisis advocates of a diametically different way of life and thinking to the modern corporate world and a similar meaning of what HOME ON MOTHER EARTH means for them now and in the future.
ENDLESS EXTRACTION OF THE EARTH’S NATURAL RESOURCES OR CONSERVATION
More and more native and non-natives continue to be drawn to the ancient wisdoms of traditional indigenous peoples that all over the New World commonly use the traditional expression “KEEP IT IN THE GROUND” representing a world view based upon a deep respect and reverence for the sanctity of the earth and its preservation.
Of course this ancient philosophy and way of seeing life in a more constant, stable state of being forever flies in the face of those forces in the corporate world of commerce and business who represent a diametrically opposite mind-set and world view that long before the Old World’s discovery of the New World, and ever since, has advocated an opposite philosophy that believes that for the human race to perpetually grow and expand human society must constantly “MINE IT, PUMP IT & EXTRACT IT’ to keep up with an endless, unstoppable population expansion and growth model of ever greater dimensions in all its forms and shapes. The one view believes in leaving as its legacy to their descendants in as pristine a way a possible, a world that has been bequeathed to them by their ancestors while the other view believes in the legacy that chooses to, forget the legaceis of those ancestors and otherwise believe in those ancestors who instead advocated, “Bigger is Better and More of Everything is Even Better Still”.
For over two hundred years the dialectic art of thoroughly investigating and discussing the truth that lies behind the opposite opinions of both these world views has never yet been fully aired in the general society. Nor have the courts snd legal systems of the colonizers anywhere in North and South America, or in Australia and the South Pacific, ever held a full inquiry into the fundamental contradictions between these two world views and their potential solutions, or how the actions of the opposing social, political, cultural and legal forces and concepts of each can co-exist.
But now, front and centre before Canada and the world to try to grapple with this basic issue is the impasse of the current Trans Mountain Canada Oil Pipeline between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and the Government of Canada. The earlier Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis between the Lakota Sioux Nation and the U.S. Government was a precursor but instead of opening up this much needed dialectic instead led to more of the same kind of brutality and savagery that the Americans had a propensity to perpetrate against so many traditional indigenous peoples of previous centuries.
IDEOLOGICAL RULE OF LAW CLASH BETWEEN WET’SUEWET’EN NATION & CANADA
Th ideological war that is unfolding between the Wet’suewwt’en Nation and Government of Canada, the rest of British Columbia’s governing bodies and the world’s corporate, political and cultural concept of what the world should look like, is once again creating still more opening salvos that nations like the Lakota and others also continue to press for the sake of their own survival and that of their people. If the world will truly listen carefully to what these salvos represent they will better understand how that the battle is for them as well.
It should be a wake-up call to the world that these same issues are part and parcel of the many contentious Climate Crisis rebellions that already engulf the world. It’s a universal struggle begging the question of how much more will the leaders of the world and their followers continue to “MINE IT, PUMP IT & EXTRACT IT’ before it’s all gone and life on earth is but a figment of what it once was? They constantly call attention to such absurd hypocrisies in the mainstream world as those that pay lip service to wanting to do something progressive to positively address climate change, yet, at the same time, on every television set around the world, every minute of every day and nightime, during every sports cast, sports match, sit-com or major cultural event, and in every movie theatre around the world during every pre-show, numerous slick, sophisticated commercials continue to woo and brainwash the people to buy every larger, more expensive, more resource development driven flashy automobiles and unnecessary products that need more and more oil to produce and run.
The Wet’suewwt’en First Nation, the Lakota Nation and many others like them, along with their allies in the Climate Rebellion Movement are the point men and women showing us the way forward, if, indeed, the Survival of All of Life is what is to be the operative directive of the future. This represents the simplest and clearest example of the inflexibility of ‘the white man’, an expression still used by many traditional indigenous peoples today to describe the rapacious colonizers of whatever color, race or creed.
Jerome Irwin is a Canadian-American activist-writer who, for decades, has sought to call world attention to problems of environmental degradation and unsustainability caused by excessive mega-development and the host of related environmental-ecological-spiritual issues that exist between the conflicting philosophies of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Irwin is the author of the book, “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey”, a spiritual sojurn among the native peoples of North America, and has produced numereous articles pertaining to: Ireland’s Fenian Movement; native peoples Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance Movement; AIPAC, Israel & U.S. Congress anti-BDS Movement; the historic Battle for Palestine & Siege of Gaza, as well as; innumerable accounts of the violations constantly waged by industrial-corporate-military-propaganda interests against the World’s Collective Soul
|February 16, 2020||
Climate Crisis Could Cause a Third of Plant and Animal Species to Disappear Within 50 Years.
by Jessica Corbett, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
The human-caused climate crisis could cause the extinction of 30% of the world’s plant and animal species by 2070, even accounting for species’ abilities to disperse and shift their niches to tolerate hotter temperatures, according to a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
University of Arizona researchers Cristian Román-Palacios and John J. Wiens analyzed data on 538 plant and animal species and 581 sites worldwide, focusing on species surveyed at the same locations over time, at least a decade apart. They found that 44% of the species had local extinctions at one or more sites.
“The study identified maximum annual temperatures—the hottest daily highs in summer—as the key variable that best explains whether a population will go extinct,” said a statement from the university. “Surprisingly, the researchers found that average yearly temperatures showed smaller changes at sites with local extinction, even though average temperatures are widely used as a proxy for overall climate change.”
As Wiens explained, “This means that using changes in mean annual temperatures to predict extinction from climate change might be positively misleading.”
Lead author Román-Palacios laid out their key findings in a series of tweets Thursday:
“By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct,” Román-Palacios said in the statement. “We also estimated how quickly populations can move to try and escape rising temperatures. When we put all of these pieces of information together for each species, we can come up with detailed estimates of global extinction rates for hundreds of plant and animal species.”
The university statement noted that “previous studies have focused on dispersal—or migration to cooler habitats—as a means for species to ‘escape’ from warming climates. However, the authors of the current study found that most species will not be able to disperse quickly enough to avoid extinction, based on their past rates of movement.”
The researchers found that species were able to tolerate hotter conditions at their original locations to a point, but the local extinction rates increased as maximum temperatures did. About half of the species they studied experienced extinctions if the maximum temperature rose over 0.5°C; that figure jumped to 95% of species when maximum temperature rose by over 2.9°C.
“Given dispersal alone, many of these species (∼57–70%) may face extinction. However, niche shifts can potentially reduce this to only 30% or less,” according to the study. Considering both dispersal and niche shifts, the researchers projected that 16–30% of the 538 studied species could disappear within the next 50 years.
While the researchers’ new projections are similar for plant and animal species, they found that extinctions could be up to four times more common in the tropics compared with more temperate regions. Román-Palacios said that “this is a big problem, because the majority of plant and animal species occur in the tropics.”
“In a way, it’s a ‘choose your own adventure,'” said Wiens. “If we stick to the Paris agreement to combat climate change, we may lose fewer than two out of every 10 plant and animal species on Earth by 2070. But if humans cause larger temperature increases, we could lose more than a third or even half of all animal and plant species, based on our results.”
Some scientists and climate advocacy groups have long criticized the landmark 2015 Paris accord as too weak to adequately address the planetary emergency—and, as Common Dreams reported in December 2019, the latest global negotiations about implementing the agreement were denounced as an “utter failure.” At the time, nearly 100 civil society groups called out polluting industries and wealthy countries for “throwing gasoline on the fire of the climate crisis.”
Ahead of the COP 25, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered on his promise to ditch the Paris agreement by beginning the one-year withdrawal process in November 2019. Climate experts and activists condemned the move as “irresponsible and shortsighted” but also looked ahead to the November 2020 election and emphasized that the next president could recommit the United States to the accord and fight for even more ambitious action on a global scale.
The new study comes as young people take to the streets worldwide to demand bolder climate policies, experts warn that the climate crisis is an “existential danger,” and scientists contribute to the growing body of research showing how global heating is expected to affect species and the environment. One of those studies, published last week, found that the rate at which bumblebees are declining due to extreme heat is “consistent with a mass extinction.”
Originally published by CommonDreams.org
|February 17, 2020||
Nature, Bonbibi, American cetologist in the Sundarbans.
by Zeenat Khan, Countercurrents Collective, in Life/Philosophy
To find answers about how to define the idea of nature, French anthropologist Philippe Descola went to the depths of the Amazon to find the Achuars, an indigenous tribe of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian descent. He was interested in finding why they lived remote from others, isolated in their respective groups, under the domination of nature. In the process, he found out how human and the natural world immersed together. He came away seeing in what manner the Achuars balanced the ecosystem. He wanted to discover whether nature exists or not. He refuted the established theory that is different from his, ‘nature is everywhere, we are part of nature but we forget it.’ In contrast, his hypothesis is that nature is the invention of the European mind.
Since the Paleolithic Age, another innate question has been what is the interconnection between nature and mythology? Finding an exact theory about connection has been an essential part in finding answers to the unknown. Mythology often enables human’s relationship with nature and its elements. The place of nature in mythology is extremely important; as nature has always been looked with aversion as the mysteries that may never be solved. Nature versus myth can give rise to ennobling thoughts. People claim those to be valid when assessing one against the other.In the modern days, when science fails to explain various natural phenomena, mythology is used as a medium to explain the obscure questions. I came across one of Sundarbans’ mythical entity, Bonbibi (the lady of the forest), while reading Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide. In the Sundarbans, mystical elements are mixed in and entwined with the lives of people who depend on the mangrove forest for their livelihood and survival. On both sides of the Sundarbans, which crosses India and Bangladesh, islanders seriously believe in Bonbibi. She is perceived as a mother to humans and tigers. Whether Bonbibi is real or just a myth, her spirits govern the nature – all the people who enter the jungle believe that they are at her mercy.
Thousands of years ago, when humans moved away from the power of the elements such as earth, fire, water, and the wind, they started to create spiritual entities and personalized them with human forms like Bonbibi. They put their trust in such deities, who they believed are in control of the natural elements of the universe.Similarly, another example is Poseidon; a god from the Greek mythology who was in control of the sea and rivers, a creator of storms and flood. His brother Hades ruled the land of the dead, known as the underworld. The inhabitants of the tide country believe that Bonbibi tames the nature to protect humans from the fury of the wild animals that roam the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. Bonbibi has the status of a Muslim deity, who is worshipped by the islanders – the Muslims, Hindus and the Christians. The landscapes of the Bengal coast of the Sundarbans have been treated with respect, reverence and fear because of its mythical elements.
A 19th century booklet called Bonbibi Johuranama, written in Bengali, tells the story of Bonbibi, a daughter of a Sufi fakir. ‘Bonbibi is the great adversary of Dokkhin Rai, literally a southern lord. Rai is a zamindar who takes the form of a tiger to prey on the inhabitants of the Sundarbans. Allah chooses Bonbibi to end Dokkhin Rai’s tyranny – a task accomplished easily enough after a short trip to Mecca and Medina. The Bibi, however, decides not to kill Rai and instead makes him promise that he will not harm anyone who worships her.’ In the Sundarbans, since animal attacks are a cause of human fatalities, its inhabitants have worshipped Bonbibi as protection from the jungle’s many dangers. This practice is a centuries-old ritual. The legend has it down as follows; a very greedy villain gives his young nephew to the demon in exchange for all the honey in the forest. When a tiger approaches to devour the boy, Bonbibi swoops in time and saves the child from getting eaten. That story remained, and the islanders to this day pray to Bonbibi to protect them before entering the jungle to cut wood or to collect wild honey.
In Bengal, both Hindus and the Muslims have a tradition of living in communal harmony. The rough terrains of the Sundarbans unify people of various religions and beliefs. The syncretic culture is based on Bonbibi myth and worshipped across religions. In debating modernity versus syncretism, the entity of Bonbibi appears to be a myth to many. But even as an old time story, at the backdrop of today’s political climate in India, believing in such a myth can bring different communities with different religious beliefs closer. One can think of Bonbibi as a cross communal character, who is protective of both Hindus and Muslims.
According to Indian tradition, a village or a town is considered uninhabitable if there is no temple for worship. In Bokkhali, a small tourist resort at the edge of the Indian Sundarbans, there is a Bonbibi mandir, and the tourists stop to worship before taking boat rides around the Sundarbans. The temple is a bustle of noise and activity visited by people of different religions. There is also a sweet shop which is called ‘Bonbibi mishti ghar.’ The Muslim Bengalis on the Bangladesh side, however, see the worship of Bonbibi against the dictates of Islam as idol worship is forbidden in the scripture. The Indian tourists are enamored by Bonbibi. Those who take trips to the Sundarbans area, either for a day trip, or to stay at the village theme resort, pray to Bonbibi for their safety before starting their journey. The mud-built cottages depict the traditional village atmosphere where worship is a major part.
It is believed Bonbibi blesses all her devotees, irrespective of religion. In Ramrudrapur, an upland area of the Sundarbans where the forest has receded, there is a yearly Bonbibi festival day. On the day of the festival, Hindu and Muslim women fast throughout the day. They offer traditional sweets to her idol; some pray earnestly to conceive a child, askfor the well-being of their families, for better harvest, and bring their babies for the deity’s blessings. A cultural program follows where people sing Bengali folk songs about mythological characters ruling the jungles. However, in the low-land areas of the Sundarbans, the islanders always worship Bonbibi with simplicity and passion. They fear death every time they enter into the jungle, and call on her when they are afraid. There, Bonbibi’s role is to protect the islanders that consist of fishermen, wood-cutters and honey-gatherers from the dangerous animals.
In the novel, The Hungry Tide, Amitav Ghosh uses Bonbibi’s legend as a metaphor ‘to create and define a relationship between human beings and the natural world. Nowhere does a term equivalent to Nature figure in the legend of Bonbibi, yet nowhere is its consciousness absent.’ In the story, a headstrong Indian-American cetologist (a biologist who studies whales and dolphins) named Piyali Roy, a PhD researcher, with a small grant from the university, goes to the Indian part of the Sundarbans. She plans to be there for two weeks to conduct a survey on the behaviour of a rare species of river dolphin called Orcaella.
Piya was born to Bengali parents from Calcutta; she grew up in Seattle, and does not speak Bengali. That did not prevent her from pursuing her dream. Upon arriving in Calcutta, she boards a train bound for the Sundarbans. She carries with her a backpack which contains data sheets, camera, binoculars, drinking water and energy bars. She enlists the help of a middle-aged translator named Kanai, director of a translation bureau in Delhi. She hires a local crab fisherman named Fokir as her boatman. Kanai knows the Sundarbans intimately, as he was sent there when he was ten, to live with his aunt and uncle. Near a place called Garjontola, they all sit in Fokir’s fishing boat, as they wait for the sightings of the Irrawaddy dolphins. Piya also discovers that through body language and facial expressions she can understand what Fokir is saying to her. Later it becomes an indicator (body language) that she is attracted to Fokir. Kanai and Fokir stand in stark contrast when they communicate with her. Believing in her conservation efforts, Piya takes a long and arduous journey with two unknown men. Throughout this journey, Amitav Ghosh reflects on the myth of Bonbibi, and the islanders’ religious and cultural values. Piya also notices the ‘merging of the cultural rites’ when Fokir prays to both Bonbibi and a Muslim Pir.
During high tide, the dolphins come in hundreds. Sometimes only a mother/calf pair shows up. Piya watches in amazement how a newborn catches a fish, only to toss it in the air, a typical behaviour of these mammals playing with the prey. Piya soon realizes in order to come to a correct hypothesis – ‘that the dolphins had adapted their behaviour to suit the ebb and flow of the water’ by observing the dolphins’ movements; she will need to stay there a whole cycle of tides to collect supportive data. That will require years of field research.
In between waiting for the dolphins, Piya and Kanai have a lot of philosophical discussions about the ‘connections and interrelations’ of different aquatic mammals. During their nature versus nurture debates, many unrequited queries tinkle in Piya’s inquisitive head. Kanai tells Piya, once in these islands in the Bay of Bengal, people lived in fear of getting eaten alive by the tigers. Every week, poor people who went into the forests in search of food and firewood, used to be killed by tigers. It happened so frequently that such killings went unreported because these people were too poor ‘to matter.’
Piya and Kanai have an emotional discussion about keeping the earth free of animals, where there will be total dominance by the humans, while Fokir and his young son Tutul make chapati to be eaten with honey. Father and son are totally oblivious of Piya and Kanai’s critical thinking and reasoning. Piya opposes Kanai’s logic, and reasons other species matter as much. They also chat about how tigers in America exist in captivity, not in the wild.Piya, as a cetologist, is in favor of preserving endangered species in captivity, in zoos and animal reserves as her profession calls for it. She passionately argues that it is lesser of two evils where there is a possibility of total extinction.
Throughout her extra ordinary journey, Piyali Roy realizes that in order to save the dolphins, one has to save the Sundarbans’ habitat first. The symbiotic relationships between the aquatic mammals and the ecosystem can only be sustained by keeping a balance. This remarkable environment is the only place where river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins are found together. She figures that conservation efforts do not have to happen at the cost of the poor people in the islands. She recognises that her dissertation data will help the locals immensely in preserving the dolphins, and increasing awareness among the communities for protecting these beautiful mammals. Afterwards, she chooses to share her research findings with the Babadon Trust that helps towards community development. It becomes obvious that the joint collaboration in implementing the plan can be a scenario where everyone in the tide country wins.
Zeenat Khan writes from Maryland, USA
|February 17, 2020||
Pakistan puts press freedom at the core of struggle for new world order.
by Dr James M Dorsey, Countercurrents Collective, in Human Rights
Sweeping new regulations restricting social media in Pakistan put freedom of expression and the media at the heart of the struggle to counter both civilizationalist and authoritarian aspects of an emerging new world order.
The regulations, adopted without public debate, position US social media companies like Facebook and Twitter at the forefront of the struggle and raise the spectre of China’s walled off Internet with its own state-controlled social media platforms becoming the model for a host of illiberals, authoritarians and autocrats.
The regulations, that take effect immediately, embrace aspects of a civilizational state that defines its legal reach, if not its borders, in terms of a civilization rather than a nation state with clearly outlined, internationally recognized borders that determine the reach of its law and that is defined by its population and language.
The regulations could force social media companies to globally suppress criticism of the more onerous aspects of Pakistani law, including constitutionally enshrined discrimination of some minorities like Ahmadis, a sect widely viewed as heretic by mainstream Islam, and imposition of a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy.
The new rules force social media companies to “remove, suspend or disable access” to content posted in Pakistan or by Pakistani nationals abroad that the government deems as failing to “take due cognizance of the religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan.” The government can also demand removal of encryption.
Social media companies are required to establish offices in Pakistan in the next three months and install data servers by February 2021.
The government justified the rules with the need to combat hate speech, blasphemy, alleged fake news and online harassment of women.
The Asia Internet Coalition, a technology and internet industry association that includes Facebook and Twitter, warned that the regulations “jeopardize the personal safety and privacy of citizens and undermine free expression” and would be “detrimental to Pakistan’s ambitions for a digital economy.”
The introduction of the regulations reflects frustration in government as well as Pakistan’s powerful military with social media companies’ frequent refusal to honour requests to take down content. Pakistan ranked among the top countries requesting Facebook and Twitter to remove postings.
On the assumption that Facebook, Twitter and others, which are already banned in China, will risk being debarred in Pakistan by refusing to comply with the new regulations, Pakistan could become a prime country that adopts not only aspects of China’s 21st century, Orwellian surveillance state but also its tightly controlled media.
The basis for potential Pakistani adoption of the Chinese system was created in 2017 in plans for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$60 billion plus crown jewel of the Belt and Road, an infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven initiative to tie Eurasia to China.
The 2017 plan identifies as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. The plan appears to question the vibrancy of a system in which competition between parties and interest groups is the name of the game.
It envisions a full system of monitoring and surveillance to ensure law and order in Pakistani cities. The system would involve deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”
A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media that would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.” The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”
Critics in China and elsewhere assert that repression of freedom of expression contributed to China’s delayed response to the Coronavirus. China rejects the criticism with President Xi Jingping calling for even greater control.
Pakistan’s newly promulgated regulations echo Mr. Xi’s assertion during the Communist party’s January 7 Politburo Standing Committee meeting that “we must strengthen public opinion tracking and judgment, take the initiative to voice, provide positive guidance, strengthen integration, communication and interaction, so that positive energy will always fill the Internet space… We must control the overall public opinion and strive to create a good public opinion environment. It is necessary to strengthen the management and control of online media.”
Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, an adjunct senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute of Fan Culture
|February 18, 2020||
Methane Leakage Makes Australia A World Leading Per Capita Greenhouse Gas Polluter.
by Dr Gideon Polya, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
Methane (CH4) is 85% of natural gas, leaks, and has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 105 times that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts included. Such considerations reveal that Australia with 0.33 % of the world population has revised annual Domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are 2.5% of the world’s, and annual Domestic plus Exported GHG emissions that are 5.4% of the world’s annual GHG pollution.
Australia is among world leaders in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution [1, 2], is a major exporter of GHG pollution-implicit coal, gas and iron ore, and has become the world’s largest exporter of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) as well as of coal. However, depending upon the degree of systemic gas leakage, burning gas for power may be worse greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise than burning coal because methane (CH4, about 85% of natural gas) has a global warming potential (GWP) that is 105 times that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts included [3-6]. However a remorselessly neoliberal, anti-science and anti-environment Australia is committed on a bipartisan political basis (i.e. with the support of the Right-Extreme Right Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Government and the Right-Centrist Labor Party Opposition) to massive exploitation of conventional and non-conventional natural gas reserves for Export and Domestic use. Only the Greens oppose this Gadarene, ecocidal, speciescidal, and potentially omnicidal and terracidal profligacy that is driven by remorseless neoliberal greed and racism.
Australia is a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution [1, 2] and both its Coalition Government and Labor Opposition are committed to unlimited coal and gas exploitation for Export [1, 2]. Australia is a key player in a dangerous global coal to gas transition that is a deadly and dishonest neoliberal alternative to the complete cessation of fossil fuel exploitation demanded by scientists in the face of the worsening climate emergency. The ideal target of no more than a 1.5C temperature rise agreed to at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference is now set to be exceeded on present trends within 10 years [3, 4]. A plus 2C temperature rise – that all governments (except for the idiotic, dangerous, anti-science and climate change denialist US Trump Administration) agree would be catastrophic – is now effectively unavoidable [5-7]. While Humanity can still take action to make the now inevitable plus 2C future “less bad”, there is a looming threat of global warming causing massive release of methane (CH4) from the Arctic, a ticking “Methane Bomb” set to utterly devastate Humanity and indeed all life on earth in the coming century because CH4 has a Global Warming Potential 105 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a 20 year time frame with aerosol effects included [8-11].
Australia continues to be devastated by high intensity, destructive and deadly 2019-2020 bushfires across the continent , conflagrations that recently threatened lives and homes in Australia’s national capital Canberra in which an unprecedented emergency was declared. Scientists have been warning for decades that global warming and consequent increased temperature, dryness and drought will increase the probability of forest fires [6, 13-19]. However this is variously contested by the climate change denialist or effective climate change denialist Coalition politicians ruling Australia [20, 21]. Indeed at the height of the Australian bushfire catastrophe, pro-coal PM Scott Morrison (who notoriously flourished a lump of coal in Parliament, idiotically declaring “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared” ) announced Government underwriting of 2 new gas-fired power stations next to population centres, and raised the possibility of backing some new coal-fired power stations as well . Utter stupidity.
Thanks to the homicidal greed of climate criminal countries such as Australia, the present plus 1.1C temperature rise is already devastating Island Nations, and a catastrophic plus 2C warming is now effectively unavoidable on present trends. Climate criminal Australia is among world leaders for the following 16 climate criminal activities or parameters: (1) annual per capita greenhouse gas pollution, (2) live methanogenic livestock exports, (3) natural gas exports, (4) recoverable shale gas reserves that can be accessed by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), (5) coal exports, (6) land clearing, deforestation and ecocide, (7) speciescide or species extinction], (8) coral reef destruction , (9) whale killing and extinction threat through global warming impacting on krill stocks , (10) terminal carbon pollution budget exceedance, (11) per capita Carbon Debt], (12) ultimately GHG generating iron ore exports, (13) climate change inaction, (14) climate genocide and approach towards omnicide and terracide, (15) increasing Domestic GHG pollution despite Paris commitments to lower GHG pollution, and (16) complicity in 8 million annual air pollution deaths from burning carbon fuels, Australia’s share being 75,000 overseas and 10,000 Domestically [24-26](for detailed documentation see ). Australia with 0.3% of the world’s population contributes about 4.5% of global GHG pollution (including that due to the burning of Australia’s world leading gas and coal exports) .
Australian actions to “tackle climate change” would involve mitigatory action in all 16 areas but for the climate criminal Australian Coalition Government it is “business as usual” (BAU) – the climate criminal Australian dog-in-the-manger is simply BAU-wowing to a world facing a worsening Climate Emergency and a worsening Climate Genocide (already 1 million people die from climate change each year in a worsening Climate Genocide that will involve 10 billion deaths this century en route to a sustainable human population in 2100 of merely 0.5-1.0 billion) .
Now in his latest anti-science atrocity Australian PM Scott “Scomo” Morrison has announced a $2 billion [Australian dollars] “gas deal” with Premier Gladys Berejiklian of Australia’s largest state, New South Wales (NSW). Phillip Coorey of the Australian Financial Review: “The federal government and NSW have reached a $2 billion energy deal which will require NSW to free up massive amounts of gas for domestic use in return for the construction of new interconnectors, the underwriting of new non-coal power generation, and funding for emissions reduction projects.…Pivotal to the deal will be the NSW government having to find an extra 70 petajoules of gas per year [1.29 Mt gas per year] for the east coast domestic market. This could be done by either the government importing more gas through Port Kembla but it is far more likely to give the green light to extract gas from the Narrabri [NSW coal seam] gas fields” .
Prime Minister Scott Morrison utterly incorrectly stated: “There is no credible plan to lower emissions and keep electricity prices down that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel”  . However his utterly false position has been slammed by science-informed critics. Thus Georgina Woods (from the anti-fracking, anti-coal seam gas, farmer’s group “Lock The Gate”: “Rural communities should not be forced to sacrifice land, water and their economic security in the name of quick and dirty resource exploitation. Coal seam gas is a heavily polluting industry that leaks vast amounts of methane and won’t do anything to bring down carbon emissions” . NSW Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi : “It threatens the Great Artesian Basin, farmer’s livelihoods, food security and the mighty biodiverse Pilliga Forest. It’s clear that the federal and NSW governments have already made a political decision to allow this project to go ahead” . Adam Bandt (Federal Greens MP): “NSW is doing a climate deal with the devil, locking in pollution that will blow Australia’s emissions targets and put us on a path to climate catastrophe. As a global warming gas, methane is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The Prime Minister is trying to hoodwink people with his supposed climate action, but today’s announcement amounts to little more than climate criminality” .
How does this latest bit of Australian Coalition climate criminality stack up with the science? Set out below is a detailed quantitative analysis showing (among many other surprising things) that the investment of a once-off A$2 billion of taxpayer funds into the PM Morrison-Premier Berejiklian “gas deal” will result in an inescapable annual Carbon Debt of A$3.1 billion for future generations, or A$31 billion over the next decade (noting that the annual Australian defence budget is about A$35 billion and a similar amount is spent annually on subsidies for organized religion).
(1). 2.6% CH4 leakage is as polluting GHG-wise as burning the remaining CH4.
Methane (CH4) is the major constituent of natural gas and has a molecular weight of about 16, CO2 has a molecular weight of about 44, and carbon (C) has an atomic weight of 12. Combustion of CH4 yields CO2 and H2O ( CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O) and thus 16 tonne CH4 yields 44 tonnes of CO2 and combustion of 1 tonne CH4 yields 2.75 tonne CO2. By way of comparison, combustion of coal (carbon, C) yields CO2 (C + O2 -> CO2) and thus 12 tonnes C yields 44 tonnes CO2 and combustion of 1 tonne C (coal) yields 3.7 tonnes CO2. Thus per tonne combusted, coal yields 1.3 times more CO2 than gas. Further, coal burning produces more toxic pollutants than gas burning, notably carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), radioactivity, heavy metals and fine carbon particulates ( notably PM2.5). Accordingly the fossil fuel industry and their Mainstream media, politicians, academic and commentariat supporters advocate a transition from coal to an assertedly “cleaner” gas en route to an eventual zero fossil fuels future. However they are wrong – while gas burning produces less toxic pollutant than coal burning, massive systemic gas leakage(5.4% in the US) and a Global Warming Potential for CH4 105 times that of CO2 (on a 20 year time frame) means that gas burning can be dirtier than coal burning GHG-wise, as set out below.
(2) At 2.6% systemic gas leakage, burning gas yields 2 times more CO2-equivalent as burning coal.
CH4 is a gas, leaks and has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) 105 times that of the same mass of CO2 on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts considered . One can readily calculate (assuming gas to be 100% CH4 or CH4 equivalent) that on this basis a systemic gas leakage of 2.6% would contribute as much GHG pollution as generating the greenhouse gas CO2 by burning the remaining 97.4% of the gas . Thus burning 1 tonne carbon yields 3.7 tonnes CO2 and combustion of CH4 with zero leakage yields yields 2.75 tonne CO2. However combustion of 1 tonne CH4 with 2.6% leakage yields 2.68 tonne CO2 (from burning 97.4% of the CH4) plus 2.68 tonne CO2-equivalent (from the GHG effect of the leaked CH4) = 7.2 tonnes CO2-equivalent . One can crudely estimate that with a mere 2.6% of systemic leakage, burning 1 tonne of gas generates nearly 2 times the CO2-equivalent produced from burning 1 tonne of coal.
(3). Australian Government and business grossly under-estimate CH4 leakage from unconventional production at 0.1% (54 times less than overall gas leakage in the US).
One notes that systemic gas leakage in the Boston urban region in the US is about 2.7% . It is estimated that gas leakage in the US is about 2.3% of overall production . Dr Robert Howarth ( Nobel Laureate Cornell University) in an extensive review states (2015): “Over the past decade, shale gas production has increased from negligible to providing .40% of national gas and 14% of all fossil fuel energy in the USA in 2013… emissions from the natural gas industry, including both conventional gas and shale gas, could best be characterized as averaging 5.4% (±1.8%) for the full life cycle from well to consumer” [33, 34]. However according to a report from the Melbourne Energy Institute authored by gas expert Tim Forcey, Australia claims gas leakage from unconventional gas production at a mere 0.1% , 54 times less than the 5.4% overall gas leakage in the US [33, 34]. Tim Forcey: “Looking specifically at methane emission rates from unconventional gasfields, measurements in the US are up to 10-25 times higher than rates reported by the Australian Government to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]“ .
(4). Damage-related Carbon Price US$200 per tonne CO2-equivalent (considering all major GHGs excepting H2O).
Climate economist Dr Chris Hope of 90-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University has estimated a damage-related Carbon Price (in US dollars) of $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent . Professor James Hansen (of 96 Nobel Laureate Columbia University): “One ppm of CO2 is 2.12 billion tons of carbon or about 7.77 billion tons of CO2. Recently Keith et al. (2018) achieved a cost breakthrough in carbon capture, demonstrated with a pilot plant in Canada. Cost of carbon capture, not including the cost of transportation and storage of the CO2, is $113-232 per ton of CO2. Thus the cost of extracting 1 ppm of CO2 from the atmosphere is $878-1803 billion. In other words, the cost, in a single year, of closing the gap between reality and the IPCC scenario that limits climate change to +1.5°C is already about $1 trillion. And that is without the cost of transporting and storing the CO2, or consideration of whether there will be citizen objection to that transportation and storage. This annual cost will rise rapidly, unless there is a rapid slowdown in carbon emissions… cost of CO2 storage… has been estimated as $10-20/tCO2” . Taking Professor Hansen’s data, and including his estimates of the cost of transport and storage of CO2, indicates that this “best so far” cost of atmospheric CO2 draw-down is $123-252/tCO2, similar to Dr Chris Hope’s econometrics-based estimate of $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent .
(5). For a 300 ppm CO2 draw-down target, the world has an upper estimate Carbon Debt of $200 trillion that is increasing at $13 trillion per year.
Many scientists and science-informed activists demand a reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe and sustainable level for all peoples and all species of about 300 ppm CO2 (roughly the pre-Industrial Revolution level and the maximum observed over the last 1 million years until recent decades) [38, 39]. The upper estimate of the Carbon Debt for a transition from the present monthly mean of 412 ppm CO2 (and increasing a 2-3 ppm CO2 per year)  to 300 ppm CO2 is 112 ppm CO2 x $1,803 billion per ppm CO2 = $202 trillion.
This inescapable Carbon Debt for future generations is increasing at 2-3 ppm per year x $1,803 billion per ppm CO2 = $3.6-5.4 trillion per year. . However this estimate does not take other GHGs, notably CH4, into account. World Bank analysts have reconsidered annual GHG pollution taking land use into account and assuming a GWP for CH4 of 86 on a 20 year time frame, this estimate increasing annual GHG pollution from 41.8 Gt O2-e per year to 63.8 Gt CO2-e per year . Thus on this basis the global Carbon Debt is increasing annually at 63.8 billion tonnes CO2-e x $200 per tonne CO2-e = $12.8 trillion per year.
(6). Australia’s 2017-18 Domestic and Exported GHG emissions from natural gas exploitation alone totalled 471 Mt CO2-e.
Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports totalled 59.7 Mt in 2017–18 . Assuming for computational and didactic simplicity that this is all CH4 (or CH4 equivalents) , then on combustion it would yield 59.7 Mt CH4 x 44 t CO2/ 16 t CH4 = 164.2 Mt CO2. However assuming a gas leakage of only 2.6%, the warming effect of the leaked CH4 equals that from burning the remaining CH4 (see (1)). Thus the total warming effect of Australia’s LNG Exports in 2017-18 is that of 2 x 0.974 x 164.2 Mt CO2 = 320 Mt CO2.
However gas used Domestically in Australia in 2017-18 totaled 28.2 Mt CH4  that on combustion yielded 28.2 Mt CH4 x 44 t CO2/ 16 t CH4 = 77.6 Mt CO2. The total warming effect of Australia’s Domestic gas use in 2017-18 is that of 2 x 0.974 x 77.6 Mt CO2 = 151.2 Mt CO2.
Accordingly the GHG emissions due to Australia’s Domestic and Exported gas alone in 2017-18 = 320 Mt CO2 + 151 Mt = 471 Mt CO2 as compared to the total annual GHG emissions of about 535 Mt CO2-e in 2017-18 reported by the Australian Government (it has been steadily rising contrary to Paris Agreement demands since the Coalition Government was elected in 2013) [44-48]. One notes that the Australian Government conveniently ignores Australia’s huge Exported GHG emissions, largely ignores huge fugitive CH4 emissions, ignores huge GHG contributions from bushfires , and assumes a GWP for CH4 on a 100 year time frame (initially 21, now 25 and 4-5 times lower than the 105 on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts considered).
(7). Australia’s 2018-19 Domestic and Exported GHG emissions from natural gas exploitation alone totalled 502 Mt CO2-e (similar to the government’s asserted total Domestic emissions of 540 Mt CO2-e in 2018-19).
In 2018-19 total Australian gas production was 93.6 Mt CH4 (5,082 petajoules) and there was a record LNG output of 75 Mt million tonnes ( 4,070PJ). Domestic gas use in 2018-2019 was accordingly 18.6 Mt CH4 (1,012 PJ) . In 2019 Australia exported 77.5 Mt LNG worth A$49 billion and became the largest LNG exporter in the world .
The 75 Mt gas exported in 2018-19 would on combustion yield 75 Mt CH4 x 44 t CO2/ 16 t CH4 = 206.3 Mt CO2. Again, assuming a gas leakage of only 2.6%, the warming effect of the leaked CH4 equals that from burning the remaining CH4 (see (1)). Accordingly the total warming effect of Australia’s LNG Exports in 2017-18 is that of 2 x 0.974 x 206.3 Mt CO2 = 401.9 Mt CO2.
The gas used Domestically in 2018-19 = 18.6 Mt CH4 x 44 t CO2/ 16 t CH4 = 51.2 Mt CO2 on combustion. The total warming effect of Australia’s Domestic gas use in 2018-19 is that of 2 x 0.974 x 51.2 Mt CO2 = 99.7 Mt CO2. Accordingly the GHG emissions due to Australia’s Domestic and Exported gas alone in 2018-19 = 402 Mt CO2 + 100 Mt = 502 Mt CO2. By way of comparison, the Australian Government’s asserted total annual GHG emissions totalled about 540 Mt CO2-e in 2018-19 .
Several scholars have predicted that Australia’s Domestic GHG emissions are set to fall to about 530 Mt CO2-e by mid-2021 if renewables deployment continues at the present rate . However Australian LNG export production may max out at about 88 Mt LNG per year  with this translating (if realized in the coming decade) to an annual 472 Mt CO2-e Exported plus about 100 Mt CO2-e from Domestic use for a total of 572 Mt CO2-e in emissions from gas alone in the coming few years.
(8). Australian Coalition Government’s one-off A$2 billion investment for gas exploitation in New South Wales (NSW) will add an estimated Carbon Debt of A$2 billion per year, A$20 billion per decade…
Australian PM Scott Morrison is spending $2 billion on a “gas deal” that will a inject an extra 70 petajoules of gas per year (1.29 Mt gas per year) for Domestic use [28, 29]. This means CO2 release on combustion of 1.29 Mt CH4 x 44 t CO2/ 16 t CH4 = 3.5 Mt CO2. Assuming a leakage of 2.6% the GHG effect of this = 2 x 0.974 x 3.5 Mt CO2 = 6.8 Mt CO2-e. At a damage-related Carbon Price of US$200 per tonne CO2-e (A$299) the cost of this climate criminal adventure to future generations will be A$299 per tonne CO2-e x 6.8 Mt CO2-e per year = A$2.0 billion per year. However while the Australian Government is making a once-off investment of A$2 billion, the cost to young Australians of the future will be A$2 billion per year, A$20 billion for the next decade, and A$100 billion over the 50 year life-time of the gas-exploiting infrastructure (coal seam gas extraction systems, pipelines and gas-fired power stations) [54-56].
(9). Revised annual GHG emissions (Gt CO2-e): 1.57 (Australia Domestic), 3.15 (Australia Domestic plus Exported) and 63.8 (world).
Australia’s annual per capita GHG pollution as reported by the Australian Government is presently (2018-19) 538.9 Mt CO2-e / 25.2 million people = 21.4 tonnes CO2-e per person per year . The world population is presently 7.7 billion (2019) and the world’s greenhouse gas emissions total 43.1 Mt CO2 (2019) [58, 59]. Wikipedia reports that in 2017 Australia’s GHG emissions totalled 580 Mt CO2-e and represented 1.3% of the world’s total of 45.3 Gt CO2-e , noting that Australia’s population is 25.2 million x 100/ 7,700 million = 0.33% of the world’s population i.e. rich Australia disproportionately pollutes the world GHG-wise by a factor of 3.9. However this disparity gets much worse if one considers the global warming impact of fugitive emissions (leakage) of CH4 from natural gas exploitation as set out below.
The present Australian Government in estimating annual GHG emissions of 540 Mt CO2-e conveniently ignores or underestimates GHG contributions from (a) land use (Australia is among world leaders in land clearing [61, 62], (b) fugitive emissions of CH4 (it formerly estimated this at 0.1%, and more recently revised this to 0.7% [57, ] whereas it is 5.4% in the US [33, 34]), (c) global warming potential of CH4 (it assumed 21 and revised this recently to 25 relative to the same mass of CO2 on a 100 year time frame, whereas it is 105 on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts included ), and (d) it ignores emissions from bushfires (that have, so far, added an estimated 750 Mt CO2-e to Australia’s annual GHG pollution in financial year 2019-2020 ).
World Bank analysts carefully re-evaluated the contribution of livestock production to world annual GHG pollution and found that the world’s annual total rose from 41.76 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent (CO2-e) as estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to 63.80 billion tonnes CO2-e, with livestock production contributing over 51% of the higher figure . A key element of their analysis was to use a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane (CH4) relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2) of 72 on a 20-year time frame rather than the 25 on a 100 year time frame used by the FAO . Indeed the World Bank analysis evidently still understates the GHG pollution because NASA scientists have re-evaluated the GWP of CH4 as 105 on a 20 year time frame with aerosol impacts considered .
Accordingly, more properly taking land use into account Australia’s revised annual per capita GHG pollution was estimated in 2015 (t CO2-e per person) at 52.9 and 116 if including its huge GHG-generating exports [1, 2]. Assuming a population of 25 million this adjusts Australia’s annual GHG pollution to 1,323 Mt (Domestic) and 2,900 Mt (Domestic plus Exported).
However to this we must add a further 250 Mt CO2-e due to the fugitive emissions of CH4 from gas exploitation (assuming 2.6% leakage and thus contributing about 50% of Australia’s 500 Mt CO2-e of GHG emissions due to Australia’s Domestic use and Export of gas as set out in (7) above). Assuming Australian responsibility for gas fugitive emissions both at home and on route to foreign consumers, then this adjusts Australia’s annual GHG pollution to 1,573 Mt (Domestic) and 3,150 Mt (Domestic plus Exported).
(10). Australia (0.33% of world population) generates 2.5% of upwardly revised global GHG emissions (Australian Domestic use only) and 5.4% (Australian Domestic plus Exported GHG emissions).
Assuming the revised estimate of global GHG emissions of 63.8 Gt CO2-e [1, 2, 41], and revised estimates of Australia’s GHG pollution taking land use into account [1, 2], one can estimate that Australia (0.33% of world population) has Domestic emissions that are 1.573 Gt x 100/63.8 Gt = 2.5% of the world total, and Domestic plus Exported emissions that are 3.15 Gt x 100/63.8 = 4.9% of global emissions. Thus Australia disproportionately pollutes GHG-wise 7.6 fold more (Domestic pollution) and 14.8-fold more (considering Domestic plus Exported pollution). However it gets worse on closer inspection.
(a). The land use-accommodating, revised estimate of Australian annual Domestic GHG emissions (1,323 Mt CO2-e; see section 9) must be revised upwards by adding the fugitive emissions from Domestic gas exploitation (99.7 Mt CO2-e; see section 7) to yield a total of 1,423 Mt CO2-e.
(b). The revised estimate of Exported GHG emissions (1,577 Mt CO2-e ; see section 9) must be updated as follows:
(i). Australian coal exports totalled 391.2 Mt (2016) and on combustion generated 996.8 Mt CO2-e .
(ii). Australian oil crude exports totalled 10.3 Mt (2016), and on combustion generated 33.4 Mt CO2-e .
(iii) Australian exported liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in 2016 that on combustion generated 3.5 Mt CO2-e .
(iv) Australia exported 75 Mt LNG in 2017-18 corresponded on combustion to 401.9 Mt CO2-e (this taking an assumed 2.6% leakage into account; see section 7 ).
(v) Australia exported 830 Mt of iron ore (Fe2O3) in 2018 , this corresponding to 579.2 Mt CO2-e (based on an upper estimate of steel manufacture being responsible for an upper estimate of 5% of global CO2 emissions)[65, 66] .
The total Exported GHG emissions is 2015 Mt CO2-e. Domestic GHG plus Exported GHG = 1,423 + 2015 = 3, 438 Mt CO2-e , this corresponding to 3,438 x100/ 63,800 = 5.4% of the global annual total of 63,800 Mt CO2-e .
(11). Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution make it the third worst annual per capita GHG polluter in the world.
Australia’s annual per capita GHG pollution (t CO2-e per person per year) taking fugitive emissions into account is 1,423 Mt CO2-e/25 million persons = 56.9 (considering Domestic pollution only) and 137.5 (considering Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution). By way of comparison, 137.5 t per person per year puts Australia third in the world after Belize (366.9) and, Guyana (203.1). In t CO2-e per person per year China is 7.4 and India 2.1 (2015 analysis) [1, 2].
This is set to get worse. Thus Australia’s Domestic and Exported GHG pollution through gas exploitation is set to increase significantly in coming years , notwithstanding pleas from scientists that the world must rapidly stop fossil fuel exploitation [9, 11, 67-71]. Eminent physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking (90-Nobel–Laureate University of Cambridge) has succinctly identified the 2 existential threats to Humanity and the solutions: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” .
(12). Gas is dirty energy, gas burning can be dirtier GHG-wise than coal burning, a coal-to-gas transition is disastrous: stop burning all fossil fuels ASAP.
Gas is not clean energy [9-12, 64] and, as outlined above, gas burning can be dirtier GHG-wise than coal burning. However pro-gas politicians and commentators arguing for a coal-to-gas transition are arguing for massive investment in 30-year-lifetime gas-fired power plants that may be worse GHG-wise than coal-fired power plants depending upon the degree of gas leakage . Yet in climate criminal Australia the Coalition PM Scott Morrison responded to the horrific bushfire tragedy by promising government support for 2 new gas-fired power stations and indeed did not rule out such support for new coal-fired power stations [23, 72]. Indeed President Barack Obama oversaw a massive shift from coal to gas in the US based on the false premise that gas was “clean-er” whereas it is not only dirty but can in fact be much dirtier than coal GHG-wise depending on the degree of gas leakage (see section 2 above) .
There is indeed a strictly limited interim role for gas as an emergency back-up for solar and wind-based power until hydrological, battery, solar thermal and hydrogen-based storage systems are emplaced on a large scale. Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel: “But, there is a limit to how much solar and wind we can use and still retain a reliable system. Ultimately, we will need to complement solar and wind with a range of technologies such as high levels of storage, long-distance transmission, and much better efficiency in the way we use energy. But, while these technologies are being scaled up, we need an energy companion today that can react rapidly to changes in solar and wind output. An energy companion that is itself relatively low in emissions, and that only operates when needed. In the short-term, as the Prime Minister and Minister [for Energy and Emissions Reduction] Angus Taylor have previously stated, natural gas will play that critical role. In fact, natural gas is already making it possible for nations to transition to a reliable, and relatively low emissions, electricity supply” . However as demonstrated in this essay, gas is not “relatively low in emissions” as asserted by Dr Finkel because (a) combustion of 1 tonne of CH4 (85% of natural gas) yields 2.75 tonne CO2 as compared to combustion of 1 tonne of carbon (about 90% of coal) yielding 3.7 tonne CO2, and (b) depending upon the degree of gas systemic leakage, gas burning can actually be much dirtier GHG-wise than coal burning (see section 2).
Final comments on combatting falsehood, deceit and climate change inaction.
As perceived by the 2-day Australian National Climate Emergency Summit 2020 held on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 February 2020, Australia and the world are facing a Climate Emergency demanding urgent action (see [75, 76]). Unfortunately the fossil fuel Lobby supported by an army of Mainstream journalist, politician, academic, commentariat and lobbyist supporters has the political upper hand, most notably in climate criminal Trump America under climate change denialist Donald Trump and in its pro-coal, pro-gas lackey Australia under an effective climate change denialist pro-coal Coalition Government. Nevertheless the science is clear and indeed is obvious to any sensible, science-informed high school student, as exampled by the wonderfully articulate and straight-talking Greta Thunberg .
The success of the denialists and effective climate change denialists is a deadly and disastrous example of Polya’s Second Law of Economics, to whit ”Deceit about the Cost of Production strives to a maximum”. The Second Law of Economics is based on the fundamental Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that entropy (disorder, chaos, lack of information content) strives to a maximum . The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has exposed massive deceit in stating that while a damage-related Carbon Tax of $75 per tonne CO2 would be an effective way of addressing the climate threat, the present global average Carbon Price is only $2 per tonne CO2. The average price on global emissions is currently $2 a ton, a tiny fraction of what is needed for the 2°C target” [25, 54, 79]. Science-trained Pope Francis has stated: “Yet only when the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations, can those actions be considered ethical” [54, 80, 81]. Climate economist Dr Chris Hope (of 120-Nobel-Laureate Cambridge University) and climate scientist Professor James Hansen (of 96-Nobel-Laureate Columbia University) have independently estimated a damage-related Carbon Price of about $200 per tonne CO2-e [36, 37, 54].
Eminent economist Lord Nicholas Stern has described this massive deceit thus: “The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay. Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. We risk damages on a scale larger than the two world wars of the last century. The problem is global and the response must be a collaboration on a global scale” . This massive corporate and political deceit in ignoring the gigantic economic externality measured by a damage-related Carbon Price has created a huge, inescapable and assiduously ignored Carbon Debt for future generations of $200-250 trillion that is increasing each year by 63.8 Gt CO2-e per year x $200 /t CO2-e = $13 trillion annually [55, 64].
Young Australians will have to pay a gigantic Carbon Debt that has been estimated at $40,000 per head per year for under-30 year old Australians . However this estimate needs correction taking fugitive emissions, land use and a 20 year-based Global Warming Potential (GWP) for CH4 into account. Thus Australia’s revised annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is 3,438 Mt CO2-e that corresponds to 3,438 Mt CO2-e x $200 /t CO2-e = $688 billion per year. The Carbon Debt for Australian is thus increasing at $27, 520 (A$41,000) per head per year for every Australian, at $70,000 (A$105,000) per head per year for 9.816 million under-30 year old Australians , and at $146,000 (A$218,000) per head per year for 4.7 million 0-14 year old Australian children . The annual increase in Australia’s Carbon Debt of $688 billion will ultimately be borne by these 0-14 year old children and is increasing at the rate of $146,000 per head per year (A$218,000).
Young Australians are increasingly aware of how badly they have been betrayed by their profligate elders but when they are cognizant of an inescapable Carbon Debt that is increasing at over A$100,000 per head per year for under-30s they will be out in the streets in their millions. Unlike Conventional Debt , which can be expunged by default, bankruptcy or printing money, Carbon Debt is inescapable because, for example, unless sea walls are built at huge expense, arable land and cities will be inundated as the world heads towards a long-term equilibrium sea rise of 25 +/- 12 metres from present conditions of increased CO2 and warming similar to those of the Pliocene era 4 million years ago . Young Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you!” just begins to express the indignation to come over this massive intergenerational injustice [55, 86] that is heading towards a Climate Revolution (peaceful and non-violent one hopes) . For the world as a whole (population 7.6 billion) the inescapable Carbon Debt is increasing at about $12.8 trillion annually or at $1,684 per head per year, noting that the GDP (nominal) per capita for the World is merely $11, 355 and that for India is merely $2, 171 . Global warming is a commonly shared imposition and many countries are already failing to match the Carbon Debt imposed on them annually by rich, profligate countries like Australia.
A damaging plus 1.5C of warming will come in the coming decade, and a catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise is now effectively unavoidable [68-71], but we are obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for future generations. In Australia and other profligately climate criminal countries, decent people will utterly reject the climate criminal climate change deniers and effective climate change deniers at the ballot box. Decent people around the world will subject disproportionately climate criminal people, politicians , parties, collectives, corporations and countries to Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Decent countries will subject climate criminal people, corporations and countries to legal actions via the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. Time is running out.
|February 19, 2020||
Conservative Islamic views are gaining ground in secular Bangladesh and curbing freedom of expression.
by Anders C Hardig, Countercurrents Collective, in South Asia
Perpetrators of these attacks have included people from privileged backgrounds. News reports indicate they were all motivated by the idea that Islam is under attack by secularists and must be defended.
This is significant in a country that was founded in 1971 on principles of secularism following an independence war with neighboring Pakistan.
My research on Islamist social movements has taken me to Bangladesh regularly for the past seven years. Over that time, I have found, conservative Islamic views have come to play a more central place in Bangladesh’s politics and society.
The birth of Bangladesh
When the Indian subcontinent gained independence from the British Empire in 1947, it was partitioned into two states, creating Pakistan out of the Muslim-majority regions of British India. The newly formed Muslim country was split in two parts, West and East Pakistan, separated by the vast landmass of northern India.
While these two parts of Pakistan shared a common faith, Islam, there were significant cultural, linguistic and political differences between them. The population in the eastern region – predominantly ethnically Bengali and speaking their own language, Bangla – was politically marginalized by the western region.
In 1971, the people of East Pakistan launched a war for independence and founded the “Land of Bangla” – Bangladesh.
While language and culture was at the core of Bangladeshi national identity, most people still identified as religious. In other words, it was a secular country founded by people of faith. “Secularism” in Bangladesh did not imply absence of religion, but rather that the state be neutral toward religion.
Islamists and political power
Since then, my research shows, Islam has come to be a prominent political force in the country.
Islamists, a broad label that covers political parties, preachers and militant groups, among others, actively promote a more conservative version of Islam.
The most influential Islamist party is Jamaat-e-Islami, whose name means “Islamic gathering.” Though it has never won many parliamentary seats, Jamaat-e-Islami has come to exert considerable influence in government.
Bangladesh’s parliamentary system requires mainstream parties to ally with smaller ones to gain the majority necessary to form a government. Because of this, major political parties in Bangladesh have at different times relied on alliances with Jamaat to secure a parliamentary majority.
Mobilization against secularism
Other Islamists use “street power” to promote their agenda.
In February 2013, a high-ranking official with Jamaat-e-Islami received a life sentence for war crimes committed during the 1971 independence struggle. This was considered by some as too light a sentence. A few days later, protesters began rallying in the streets to demand the death penalty for this official.
These secular-minded supporters of the war tribunal wanted local collaborators of the Pakistani army to be punished for atrocities they committed against Bengalis and religious minorities.
Most of those being tried by the tribunal came from the ranks of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami.
The protesters wanted local collaborators of the Pakistani army to be punished for atrocities they committed against Bengalis and religious minorities. They demanded that Jamaat-e-Islami be banned and their financial interests, including Islamic banks, be dismantled.
This mobilization, however, was soon met with a coordinated counterprotest led by a movement known as Hefazat. As many as 500,000 people shut down major roads to the capital and interpreted the protesters demands as defaming Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
In a 13-point list, the Hefazat demanded the death penalty for blasphemy. The group also asked for an end to Bangladesh’s education policy, which, in its view, prioritized “secular” subjects like science and math over religious studies. The group also wanted compulsory Islamic education.
Islam under threat
To appease Islamist interests, the government agreed to meet some of the demands.
One major concession was expanding the government’s ability to crack down on those who “hurt religious beliefs” and for “acts of defamation.”
Under this revised law, called the Information and Communication Technology Act, Bangladesh has arrested at least eight bloggers since 2013. The alleged crimes of these bloggers include writing articles critical of the Saudi government and posting derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammed online.
Police have used the defamation clause of the Information and Communication Technology Act and its replacement, the Digital Security Act of 2018, to silence criticism of the government. Over 1,200 people have been charged under this law between 2013 and 2018.
Educational policy too has shifted toward Islamic education.
The Islamic revival
Hefazat did not see all their demands met, but my research shows it moved Bangladesh away from its secularist ideals.
In truth, the shift in Islam’s role in politics and society really began as early as 1975 when Bangladesh’s founder and first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated in a military coup.
After that, Bangladesh experienced considerable political instability and was ruled by successive military governments until 1990, when a nonviolent mobilization ushered in a return to democracy.
During the dictatorship years, however, military rulers began to gradually open up politics to Islamists.
A ban on Islamist political parties was lifted in 1975, which allowed Jamaat-e-Islami to run candidates for office and establish itself as a legitimate Bangladeshi political party.
In 1979, the commitment to secularism was removed from the preamble of Bangladesh’s constitution. In 1988, Islam was made the official state religion.
Reliable data is missing for the vast majority of private madrasas in Bangladesh, which operate without any curricular control from the state.
Changes in society
In today’s Bangladesh, there is another influential group: preachers who aspire to shape society according to their interpretations of what constitutes “pure” Islam.
Popular Islamic televangelists reach millions across the Muslim world, spreading the notion that Islam in the Indian subcontinent must be “purified” of non-Arab elements. They believe Arabic is God’s language and to be properly pure, Muslims should use Arab practices and the language whenever possible.
For example, Muslims in South Asia commonly say “Khuda Hafiz” when parting, a phrase derived from Persian, meaning “God be your protector.” Now, a popular Islamic televangelist, Zakir Naik, has revived an old argument that emerged in the 1980s in Pakistan, saying that “true Muslims” should use the Arabic version “Allah Hafiz” instead.
Similarly, as several Bangladeshis have told me, it is not uncommon in today’s Bangladesh to be corrected when using the Persian “Ramzan,” when referencing the Muslim holy month. The Arabic is “Ramadan.”
These may seem like minor semantic changes, but they are representative of a broader “corrective movement” that seeks to “purify” Islam of perceived “un-Islamic” tendencies.
In my view, Bangladesh’s secularism, a constitutional concept meant to guarantee the separation of religion and state, has become so vilified by Islamists that it has come to mean something akin to “atheistic” or “anti-Islamic.”
Anders C. Hardig, Professorial Lecturer, American University, does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
This article is from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts, February 18, 2020.
|February 19, 2020||
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis.
by Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents Collective, Environmental Protection
In 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, produced a report that called for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming and move towards sustainable agricultural practices.
In addition to the devastating impacts on human health, the two authors argued that the excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, the destruction of the natural enemies of pests and the reduction in the nutritional value of food. They drew attention to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides and expressed concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged and the huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.
At the time, Elver said that agroecological approaches, which replace harmful chemicals, are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. The two authors added that it was time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.
The authors were adamant that access to healthy, uncontaminated food is a human rights issue.
And this is not lost on environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason who has just sent a detailed open letter/report to Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK – ‘Open Letter to the National Farmers Union About Fraud in Europe and the UK’. Mason’s report contains a good deal of information about pesticides, health and the environment.
Health impacts aside, Mason decided to write to Batters because it is increasingly clear that pesticides are responsible for declines in insects and wildlife, something which the NFU has consistently denied.
In 2017, the Soil Association obtained figures from FERA Science Ltd under a freedom of information request. Using data extracted for the first time from the records of FERA Science Ltd, which holds UK Government data on pesticide use in farming, it was found that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops have increased markedly. The data covered British staples wheat, potatoes and onions. Far from a 50% cut – which the NFU had claimed – the increase in active ingredients applied to these crops range from 480% to 1,700% over the last 40-odd years.
Health of the nation
Mason’s aim is to make Batters aware that chemical-dependent, industrial agriculture is a major cause of an ongoing public health crisis and is largely responsible for an unfolding, catastrophic ecological collapse in the UK and globally. Mason places agrochemicals at the centre of her argument, especially globally ubiquitous glyphosate-based herbicides, the use of which have spiralled over the last few decades.
Batters is given information about important studies that suggest glyphosate causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals (diseases skip a generation before appearing) and that it is a major cause of severe obesity in children in the UK, not least because of its impact on the gut microbiome. As a result, Mason says, we are facing a global metabolic health crisis that places glyphosate at the heart of the matter.
And yet glyphosate may be on the market because of fraud. Mason points out that a new study has revealed the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg has committed fraud in a series of regulatory tests, several of which had been carried out as part of the glyphosate re-approval process in 2017. At least 14% of new regulatory studies submitted for the re-approval of glyphosate were conducted by LPT Hamburg. The number could be higher, as this information in the dossiers often remains undisclosed to the public.
In light of this, Angeliki Lyssimachou, environmental toxicologist at Pesticide Action Network Europe, says:
“The vast majority of studies leading to the approval of a pesticide are carried out by the pesticide industry itself, either directly or via contract laboratories such as LPT Hamburg… Our 140+ NGO coalition ‘Citizens for Science in Pesticide Regulation’ regularly calls on the (European) Commission to quit this scandalous process: tests must be carried out by independent laboratories under public scrutiny, while the financing of studies should be supported by industry.”
Mason then outlines the state of public health in the UK. A report, ‘The Health of the Nation: A Strategy for Healthier Longer Lives’, written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity found that women in the UK are living for 29 years in poor health and men for 23 years: an increase of 50% for women and 42% for men on previous estimates based on self-reported data.
In 2035, there will be around 16 million cases of dementia, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and cancers in people aged 65 and over in the UK – twice as many as in 2015. In 10 years, there will be 5.5 million people with type 2 diabetes while 70% of people aged 55+ will have at least one obesity-related disease.
The report found that the number of major illnesses suffered by older people will increase by 85% between 2015 and 2035.
Batters is also made aware that there is an insect apocalypse due to pesticides – numerous studies have indicated catastrophic declines. Mason mentions two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars that have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The research adds to growing evidence of what some scientists have called an “insect apocalypse”, which is threatening a collapse in the natural world that sustains humans and all life on Earth. A third study which Mason mentions shows plummeting numbers of aquatic insects in streams.
The survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects.
Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the charity Buglife, says:
“These new studies reinforce our understanding of the dangerously rapid disappearance of insect life in both the air and water… It is essential we create more joined up space for insects that is safe from pesticides, climate change and other harm.”
Of course, it is not just insects that have been affected. Mason provides disturbing evidence of the decline in British wildlife in general.
Conning the public
Mason argues that the public are being hoodwinked by officials who dance to the tune of the agrochemical conglomerates. For instance, she argues that Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has been hijacked by the agrochemical industry: David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta to the board of CRUK in 2010 and he became Chairman in 2011.
She asserts that CRUK invented causes of cancer and put the blame on the people for lifestyle choices:
“A red-herring fabricated by industry and ‘top’ doctors in Britain: alcohol was claimed to be linked to seven forms of cancer: this ‘alleged fact’ was endlessly reinforced by the UK media until people in the UK were brainwashed.”
By 2018, CRUK was also claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers and that obesity was due to ‘lifestyle choice’.
Each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers. Mason says that treatments are having no impact on the numbers.
She argues that the Francis Crick Institute in London with its ‘world class resources’ is failing to improve people’s lives with its treatments and is merely strengthening the pesticides and pharmaceutical industries. The institute is analysing people’s genetic profile with what Mason says is an “empty promise” that one day they could tailor therapy to the individual patient. Mason adds that CRUK is a major funder of the Crick Institute.
The public is being conned, according to Mason, by contributing to ‘cancer research’ with the fraudulent promise of ‘cures’ based on highly profitable drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies whose links to the agrochemical sector are clear. CRUK’s research is funded entirely by the public, whose donations support over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK. Several hundred of these scientists worked at CRUK’s London Research Institute at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Clare Hall (LRI), which became part of the Crick institute in 2015.
Mason notes that recent research involving the Crick Institute that has claimed ‘breakthroughs’ in discoveries about the genome and cancer genetics are misleading. The work was carried out as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project, which claims to be the most comprehensive study of cancer genetics to date. The emphasis is on mapping genetic changes and early diagnosis
However, Mason says such research misses the point – most cancers are not inherited. She says:
“The genetic damage is caused by mutations secondary to a lifetimes’ exposure to thousands of synthetic chemicals that contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – a global mass poisoning.”
And she supports her claim by citing research by Lisa Gross and Linda Birnbaum which argues that in the US 60,000-plus chemicals already in use were grandfathered into the law on the assumption that they were safe. Moreover, the EPA faced numerous hurdles, including pushback from the chemical industry, that undermined its ability to implement the law. Today, hundreds of industrial chemicals contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – in the US and beyond.
Mason refers to another study by Maricel V Maffini, Thomas G Neltner and Sarah Vogel which notes that thousands of chemicals have entered the food system, but their long-term, chronic effects have been woefully understudied and their health risks inadequately assessed. As if to underline this, recent media reports have focused on Jeremy Bentham, a well-respected CEO of an asset management company, who argued that infertility caused by endocrine disrupting chemicals will wipe out humans.
Mason argues that glyphosate-based Roundup has caused a 50% decrease in sperm count in males: Roundup disrupts male reproductive functions by triggering calcium-mediated cell death in rat testis and Sertoli cells. She also notes that Roundup causes infertility – based on studies that were carried out in South America and which were ignored by regulators in Europe when relicensing glyphosate.
Neoliberal global landscape
Mason draws on a good deal of important (recent) research and media reports to produce a convincing narrative. But what she outlines is not specific to Britain. For instance, the human and environmental costs of pesticides in Argentina have been well documented and in India Punjab has become a ‘cancer capital’ due to pesticide contamination.
UN Special Rapporteurs Elver and Tuncak argue that while scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge, especially given the systematic denial by the pesticide and agro-industry of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals.
In the meantime, we are told that many diseases and illnesses are the result of personal choice or lifestyle behaviour. It has become highly convenient for public officials and industry mouthpieces to place the blame on ordinary people, while fraudulent science, regulatory delinquency and institutional corruption allows toxic food to enter the marketplace and the agrochemical industry to rake in massive profits.
Health outcomes are merely regarded as the result of individual choices, rather than the outcome of fraudulent activities which have become embedded in political structures and macro-economic ‘free’ market policies. In the brave new world of neoliberalism and ‘consumer choice’, it suits industry and its crony politicians and representatives to convince ordinary people to internalise notions of personal responsibility and self-blame.
Colin Todhunter is an independent writer
|February 24, 2020||
Gender equity and human rights are pivotal for advancing progress on SDGs.
by Shobha Shukla , Countercurrents Collective, in Patriarchy
The Nairobi Statement endorsed to mark 25 years of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) gives renewed hope and stronger thrust to gender equity and human rights. Achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage; zero unmet need for family planning information and services, and universal availability of quality, accessible, affordable and safe modern contraceptives; zero preventable maternal deaths and maternal morbidities; and zero gender based violence, are some of the key promises that were made last year at ICPD25.
With less than 130 months left to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), forthcoming 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, provides an opportunity to do a reality check on progress made (or lack of) on gender equality and human rights, and strategise to ensure that the region is on track to deliver on these promises.
Nairobi Statement of ICPD25 echoes the commitments enshrined in UN Population Fund (UNFPA)’s “One Vision, Three Zeroes” initiative (zero unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices such as child marriage by 2030). Goals of “One Vision, Three Zeroes” initiative by 2030 cannot be achieved without providing voluntary rights-based services to women in Asia and the Pacific region, as well as globally, averred Björn Andersson, UNFPA regional director for Asia and the Pacific region.
Although there has been a 56% decrease in maternal mortality over the past 20 years, still 10 women are dying every hour in this region. As per UNFPA Report 2018 there were 127 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and this has to be brought down to less than 70/100,000 live births by 2030 as per SDGs.
Close the gap for unmet need for family planning
Even though the use of modern methods of family planning for contraceptives has increased to 67% in the region, we still have 140 million women with unmet needs for family planning. “If we have to close the gap for unmet needs for family planning services, high quality modern contraceptives must be made accessible and affordable in a voluntary rights-based manner to all those who need them. Also healthcare providers should provide high quality counselling that is done in a very respectful and confidential manner for both men and women,” said Björn Andersson to CNS (Citizen News Service).
Ensuring rights and choices for all
The ICPD Programme of Action (PoA) also says that every woman and every individual should be able to decide freely when and with whom and how many children they would like to have (or not). While increase in economic growth and development usually leads to lower fertility rate among women, it should not restrict their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and family planning services.
Then again, while adolescent pregnancies have reduced overall by almost 50% (mostly due to reduction in child marriage in South Asia, especially India), the rates have stagnated or risen in many parts of South East Asia. The drivers of adolescent pregnancies in the sub-regional parts of Asia Pacific are complex indeed and a palette of interventions are needed to tackle the problem of adolescent pregnancies, said Björn Andersson of UNFPA.
“Countries must be able to ensure that there is no stigma around using modern contraceptives and that young adults/ adolescents have access to them and buy them without any fear of stigma. This is also linked to laws and policies of the countries,” he added.
Zero gender-based violence is a human rights imperative
Gender based violence too is unacceptably high in the region at 21%. In the Philippines, Laos and Bhutan, it is down to 15%, but in some countries in the Pacific, especially in the island countries, it is over 60%.
In many countries of South Asia, including India, the rates of girl child marriage are coming down, which is a positive sign. But in Bangladesh, girls marrying before the age of 18 is almost 60%, in Nepal it is 40% and in Afghanistan it is 35%.
“We can never accept a pushback on our agenda” of gender equality and human rights
Asia and the Pacific is a very diverse region in terms of norms and values, economic growth and social development. It is ironical that while the region has seen tremendous economic growth during the last two decades, age old traditions, societal values and discriminatory norms have not changed much in most parts of the region. Björn Andersson is rightly concerned that inequities have increased – whether they be gender inequalities between men and women, between those living in urban and rural areas, between different groups of people like ethnic minorities or other groups who are living under vulnerable situations. In fact in many countries of the region there has been a pushback on access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights. Social conservatives have different thinking around how people should have access to sexual and reproductive health services.
Incorporating comprehensive sexuality education (or family life skills education) in school curricula in a rights-based manner can go a long way in not only addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights but also reducing gender inequity. Around 25 countries in this region, including Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand, and many Pacific Island countries are spearheading discussions around comprehensive sexuality education.
According to Björn Andersson, “There is a misconception that if students have access to comprehensive sexuality education, their sexual activity increases. On the contrary it really tells how you can protect yourself from HIV or from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), how not to become pregnant as a teenage girl and more importantly it gives you a training to interact between human beings. It is about having discussions around gender based violence and gender harassment and about communication and negotiations between people. It is a foundation for boys to be told that they cannot harass girls or women, and that we have to respect one another irrespective of our gender. It helps one to strengthen their negotiation skills in their relations and it is also about decision making and that each and every one should be able to choose their partner.”
He strongly feels that human rights and gender equality are something on which we need to work constantly to make sure that there is no backlash. It is absolutely key to understand what is happening in societies in terms of a pushback by conservative people affecting a pushback. “We can never accept a pushback on our agenda” by conservative societies and governments. We need to understand the pushback, and where it is coming from in societies, as it can basically erode the gains overnight that have been made over the years when we have a change in governments’ views on women, gender equality, human rights and on key populations.
At the end of the day it is a combination of implementing progressive policies and laws and creating a conducive atmosphere to bring about behavioural changes from within societies, that will bring us closer to achieving a more equitable society, rightly opines Björn Andersson.
Shobha Shukla is the Manging Editor at CNS (Citizen News Service) and has written extensively on health and gender justice over years. Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or visit www.citizen-news.org
|February 24, 2020||
A thinking imperfection we brought with us into this New Age.
by David Anderson, Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change
Scientists are now warning us that irreparable damage is being done to our planet. Continuing human existence is in question. Yet most of us go about our daily lives with no sense of fear for the future.
This brings us to the question of our Age:
Do we all psychologically neurologically have the ability to develop by means of some sort of Transformational Experience a form of synchronous thought and behavior that can establish for Homo sapiens coexistent unity and inter active equilibrium on our planet with all life and nonlife?
An examination of our evolutionary timeline can be of help:
This is our problem today. It is the reason that we have become a threat to our existential existence. Many are aware of this, but for most the realization is far distant and even questionable. The reason: Most of us have no fear for the future.
Why is this so?
The answer is deeply implanted in our DNA eukaryotic chromosome brain cage. That implantation was developed over several million years. It is a neurotic/psychotic “Disney World” defect that is now preventing us from becoming aware of our future.
This fearless psychological neurological response mechanism was once our strength. It was with us when we abandoned our arboreal attachment and moved on to outlying territory. It enabled us to confront the challenges before us. For Homo sapiens over its evolutionary history the fear of failure was subsumed into the far reaches of its cranial memory bank. It was given second place.
When we brought it with us out of Africa into our New Age, it gave us enormous confidence. In every sphere of our activity it allowed us to move unhesitatingly forward. It allowed us to try again and again regardless of pain of failure.
This is the reason why most of us today have no fear of the possibility of our extinction. There is discussion at many levels, but in time it fades into inconsequence. An example: The 2015 COP21 agreement in Paris made headlines and then faded. The Pope’s environmental encyclical that same year the same.
|February 24, 2020||
By 2030, 2·3 billion people are projected to live in fragile or conflict affected contexts.
by Countercurrents Collective, in World
A World Health Organization (WHO)-United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-The Lancet Commission report said: Rising inequalities and environmental crises threaten political stability and risk international conflict over access to resources. By 2030, 2·3 billion people are projected to live in fragile or conflict affected contexts.
The commission’s report – A future for the world’s children? (www.thelancet.com, published online on February 18, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736 (19)32540-1) – has warned: “Climate change, ecological degradation, migrating populations, conflict, pervasive inequalities, and predatory commercial practices threaten the health and future of children in every country,” a new report warned.
Not a single country working to ensure children’s future
The WHO-UNICEF-The Lancet Commission report has found: Not a single country on the planet is properly working to ensure safety, wellbeing, health and suitable environment for their children.
The commission’s report was released on Wednesday.
“Despite dramatic improvements in survival, nutrition, and education over recent decades, today’s children face an uncertain future,” said the report.
The report recalled that successful societies invest in their children’s futures and protect their rights. However, many politicians and governments in the world still do not consider such an investment as a priority.
It said: Even in rich countries, many children, especially in marginalized groups including indigenous people and ethnic minorities still suffer from hunger or live in conditions of total poverty.
The experts based their work on the observation of and recommendations for four key areas: the investment in children’s health and education, greenhouse gases, the issue of “commercial harm” done to children, and the role decision-makers ought to play to protect children.
The report said: “Our children […] stand on the precipice of a climate crisis.”
The report said: Wealthy countries are threatening the future of all the children in the world through carbon pollution.
The report observed the largely negative impact the commercial sector on the well-being of children in all countries, with companies promoting “addictive or unhealthy commodities,” such as fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and social media. Companies make huge profits from marketing products directly to children and promoting addictive or unhealthy commodities, all of which are major causes of non-communicable diseases.
The commission’s report said:
The commercial sector’s profit motive poses many threats to child health and wellbeing, not least the environmental damage unleashed by unregulated industry. Children around the world are enormously exposed to advertising from business, whose marketing techniques exploit their developmental vulnerability and whose products can harm their health and wellbeing. Children’s large and growing online exposure, while bringing benefits in terms of information access and social support, also exposes them to exploitation, as well as to bullying, gambling, and grooming by criminals and sexual abusers.
Industry self-regulation does not work
The report said:
Industry self-regulation does not work, and the existing global frameworks are not sufficient.
The commission suggested:
A far stronger and more comprehensive approach to regulation is required.
The commission called for the development of an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (i.e., an additional component to the treaty that must be independently ratified), to protect children from the marketing of tobacco, alcohol, formula milk, sugar-sweetened beverages, gambling, and potentially damaging social media, and the inappropriate use of their personal data.
Countries who have led the way in protecting children from the harms of commercial marketing, supported by civil society, can support a protocol for adoption by the UN General Assembly, providing impetus for further legal and constitutional protections for children at national level.
Many hungry children in rich countries
The report said:
Even in rich countries, many children go hungry or live in conditions of absolute poverty, especially those belonging to marginalized social groups — including indigenous populations and ethnic minorities. Too often, the potential of children with developmental disabilities is neglected, restricting their contributions to society. Additionally, many millions of children grow up scarred by war or insecurity, excluded from receiving the most basic health, educational, and developmental services.
Wealthy countries’ GHG emission
Wealthy countries generally have better child health and development outcomes, but their historic and current greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions threaten the lives of all children. The ecological damage unleashed today endangers the future of children’s lives on our planet, their only home. As a result, our understanding of progress on child health and wellbeing must give priority to measures of ecological sustainability and equity to ensure we protect all children, including the most vulnerable.
The commission said:
The poorest countries have a long way to go towards supporting their children’s ability to live healthy lives, but wealthier countries threaten the future of all children through carbon pollution, on course to cause runaway climate change and environmental disaster. Not a single country performed well on all three measures of child flourishing, sustainability, and equity.
Except the USA
The report said:
The rights and entitlements of children are enshrined within the CRC ratified by all countries, except the USA.
The report recommended that the CRC adopt a new protocol to protect children from commercial harm.
The report said: The world’s countries agreed in 2015 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to leave future generations with a cleaner and healthier world. Yet the SDG agenda is so far still paralyzed.
The report’s authors are: Helen Clark, Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Anshu Banerjee, Stefan Peterson, Sarah L Dalglish, Shanthi Ameratunga, Dina Balabanova, Maharaj Kishan Bhan, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, John Borrazzo, Mariam Claeson, Tanya Doherty, Fadi El-Jardali, Asha S George, Angela Gichaga, Lu Gram, David B Hipgrave, Aku Kwamie, Qingyue Meng, Raúl Mercer, Sunita Narain, Jesca Nsungwa-Sabiiti, Adesola O Olumide, David Osrin, Timothy Powell-Jackson, Kumanan Rasanathan, Imran Rasul, Papaarangi Reid, Jennifer Requejo, Sarah S Rohde, Nigel Rollins, Magali Romedenne, Harshpal Singh Sachdev, Rana Saleh, Yusra R Shawar, Jeremy Shiffman, Jonathon Simon, Peter D Sly, Karin Stenberg, Mark Tomlinson, Rajani R Ved and Anthony Costello.
Children at the heart of SDG
The report said:
This Commission presents the case for placing children, aged 0–18 years, at the centre of the SDGs: at the heart of the concept of sustainability and our shared human endeavor. Governments must harness coalitions across sectors to overcome ecological and commercial pressures to ensure children receive their rights and entitlements now and a livable planet in the years to come.
Invest in children’s health
The report said:
“Early investments in children’s health, education, and development have benefits that compound throughout the child’s lifetime, for their future children, and society as a whole. Successful societies invest in their children and protect their rights, as is evident from countries that have done well on health and economic measures over the past few decades.
The report said:
Decision makers need a long-term vision. Just as good health and nutrition in the prenatal period and early years lay the foundation for a healthy life course, the learning and social skills we acquire at a young age provide the basis for later development and support a strong national polity and economy. High quality services with universal healthcare coverage must be a top priority.
The benefits of investing in children would be enormous, and the costs are not prohibitive: an analysis of the SDGs suggests a financing gap of US$195 per person. To ensure stronger economic and human development, each government must assess how to mobilize funding using instruments that help the poorest pro portion of the population to meet this gap for children, and frame these as the most powerful investments a society can make.
Not just monetary
The report said:
Investments are not just monetary: citizen participation and community action, including the voices of children themselves, are powerful forces for change that must be mobilized to reach the SDGs. Social movements must play a transformational role in demanding the rights that communities need to care for children and provide for families.
The report said:
Government has a duty of care and protection across all sectors. Countries that support future generations put a high priority on ensuring all children’s needs are met, by delivering entitlements, such as paid parental leave, free primary health care at the point of delivery, access to healthy — and sufficient amounts of — food, state funded or subsidized education, and other social protection measures. These countries make sure children grow up in safe and healthy environments, with clean water and air and safe spaces to play. They respect the equal rights of girls, boys, and those with nonconforming gender identities.
Policy makers in these countries are concerned with the effect of all policies on all children, but especially those in poorer families and marginalized populations, starting by ensuring birth registration so that the government can provide for children across the life course, and help them to become engaged and productive adult citizens.
Countries might provide these entitlements in different ways, but their realization is the only pathway for countries to achieve the SDGs for children’s health and wellbeing, and requires decisive and strong public action.
Since threats to child health and wellbeing originate in all sectors, a deliberately multisectoral approach is needed to ensure children and adolescents survive and thrive from the ages of 0–18 years, today and in the future.
Investment in sectors beyond health and education — such as housing, agriculture, energy, and transport — are needed to address the greatest threats to child health and wellbeing.
The report said:
Political commitment at executive level is needed to coordinate across sectors and leverage synergies across the life course, ensuring universal health coverage; good nutrition and food security for all; thoughtful urban planning; safe and affordable housing and transport; clean energy for all; and equitable social welfare policies.
Multisectoral governance might take different forms in each country, but it will require strategic partnerships, cabinet level coordination across ministries, and management of diverse partners, with clear roles for each, including for non-state actors and the private sector.
Heads of state and PMs
The report said:
Heads of state or prime ministers must designate a crosscutting government ministry or equivalent to ensure joined up action and budgeting for pro-child policies and to demand harmonized assistance from global stakeholders, whose support is currently fragmented and inefficient.
The report suggested to measure: How countries’ GHG emissions are destroying their future.
The commission assessed the feasibility of monitoring countries’ progress through a new child flourishing and futures profile, developed on the basis of survive and thrive SDG indicators reported by 180 countries, territories, and areas, and future threats to children’s wellbeing using the proxy of GHG emissions by country. It complemented the profile with existing measures of economic equity.
Children, hope for the future
Children and young people are full of energy, ideas, and hope for the future.
Children are angry
Children are angry at the state of the world. Worldwide, schoolchildren and young people are protesting about environmental threats from fossil fuel economies.
Amplify children’s voices
The commission said:
We must find better ways to amplify their voices and skills for the planet’s sustainable and healthy future. The SDGs require governments to place children at the very centre of their plans to address this crisis.
No time to lose
This Commission said:
We have no time to lose, and no excuses if we fail. A new global movement for child and adolescent health is today an urgent necessity.
It should be mentioned that Dr Bhan of the commission died in January 2020.
|February 20, 2020||
Toxic Air: Pollution from fossil fuels costs 5.4% of India’s GDP annually.
by Rohin Kumar, Countercurrents Collective, in Environmental Protection
(Coal fired power plants in India have repeatedly missed the emission deadline set by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change)
For the first time, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) have quantified the global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels, finding that it has reached an estimated US$8 billion per day, or 3.3% of the world’s GDP. While coal, oil and vehicle companies continue to push outdated technologies, public health and our communities are paying the price.
It is found that the China Mainland, the United States and India bear the highest costs from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide, at an estimated US$900 billion, US$600 billion and US$150 billion per year, respectively.
Report is an astonishing revelation that exposure to fossil fuel generated fine particulate matter (PM2.5) alone is attributed to an estimated 1.8 billion days of sick leave annually.
This report, ‘Toxic air: The price of fossil fuels’, assesses the impacts on global health and the economic cost of air pollution from the continued burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Using data published in 2019 – including the first study to assess the contribution of fossil fuels to global air pollution and health – the report provides a global assessment of the health impact of air pollution from fossil fuels in 2018 and a first-of-its-kind estimate of the associated economic cost.
Air Pollution from burning fossil fuels
Historically, energy from fossil fuels has dominated power generation (Figure. 2), but as the cost of establishing and maintaining renewable sources of power (such as wind and solar) continues to fall, These options are now frequently less expensive than the fossil fuel alternative.
Global active power plant capacity
[Data: Toxic Air: The Price of Fossil Fuel Report]
Research by the International Renewable Energy Agency published in 2018 took into account the lifetime cost of electricity in its calculations of cost comparisons to generate power from renewable sources versus fossil fuels. Although in most parts of the world newly commissioned power plants that use renewable sources, such as wind and solar, will be cheaper or at a similar cost than from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas18, companies continue to push outdated technologies with the outcome that fossil fuels continue to dominate, creating air pollution when cleaner alternatives are readily available.
Evidence from public health studies suggests that exposure to an air pollutant or combination of air pollutants, such as PM2.5, NO2 or ozone, is associated with increased incidence of diseases including ischaemic heart disease (IHD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, lower respiratory infections, premature birth (preterm birth), type II diabetes, stroke and asthma. Health impacts from air pollution generate economic costs from the cost of treatment, management of health conditions, and from work absences.
Commenting on the report Minwoo Son, Clean Air Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia said, “Air pollution is a threat to our health and our economies. Every year, air pollution from fossil fuels takes millions of lives, increases our risk of stroke, lung cancer and asthma, and costs us trillions of dollars. But this is a problem that we know how to solve, by transitioning to renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel and petrol cars, and building public transport. We need to take into account the real cost of fossil fuels, not just for our rapidly heating planet, but also for our health.”
The properties and effects of air pollution vary from country to country; different locations are affected by different pollutants, pollution sources and environmental conditions. Combined with differences in population and lifestyle, the health impacts from air pollution change significantly depending on the geographical location. For example, a computer modelling study looked at seven different sources of PM2.5 and ozone air pollution: industry; land traffic; residential and commercial energy; biomass burning; power generation; agriculture; and natural. Using the model, the researchers calculated premature mortality resulting from air pollution generated by each of the seven sectors. Of premature deaths attributed to air pollution globally in 2010, almost one-third were attributable to exposure (while outdoors) to air pollution from residential and commercial energy, which was the principal source of air pollution-related premature deaths in India and China Mainland. Globally, land traffic was attributable for 5% of air pollution-related premature deaths and power generation for 14%.
The Indian Case
According to the report, India is estimated to bear 10.7 lakh crore (US$150 billion), or 5.4% of India’s GDP annually, the third highest costs from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide.
The analysis also suggests that an estimated one million deaths each year and approximately 980,000 estimated preterm births, equating to an annual economic loss of 10.7 lakh crore (US$150 billion) is attributed to air pollution from fossil fuel in India. Another source of economic costs is that approximately 350,000 new cases of child asthma each year are linked to NO2, a by-product of fossil fuel combustion. As a result, around 1,285,000 more children in India live with asthma linked to fossil fuel pollution. Exposure to pollution from fossil fuels also leads to around 49 crore days of work absence due to illness.
“The country spends around 1.28% of the GDP on health while air pollution from burning fossil fuels costs an estimated 5.4% of India’s GDP. This year the central government allocated only Rs 69,000 crore for the health sector in the union budget. This makes it clear that as a country we must fix our priority and stop burning fossil fuels which are harming our health and economy both,” said Avinash Chanchal, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace India.
It must be noted that coal fired power plants in India have repeatedly missed the emission deadline set by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. In 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) legislated new standards to restrict and reduce hazardous emissions from coal-fired power plants giving them two years timeline till 7th December 2017. MoP (Ministry of Power) and APP (Association of Power Producers) extensively argued for extending and diluting the norms using unsound arguments on science and timelines which helped them secure an extension for implementation of the norms running from 2019 to 2022 in a staggered timeline.
According to the phasing plan for installing FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurisation) 16410 MW capacity out of total 166472 MW should have installed it by December 2019 but only 8% of this target is achieved so far which shows complete ignorance of public health emergency of air pollution in northern India by the power generators and the government.
Analysis of 440 plants across the country pointed out that bids for FGD have been awarded for only 36560 MW out of 166472MW which is only 22% of the target. Notices for inviting tenders (NIT) were issued for 99195 MW units only. The percentage of bids awarded by Central, State and Private sector were 38%; 2% & 4 % respectively out of the capacity to be retrofitted for respective sectors.
“Strict action must be taken against non-compliance of thermal power plants. The government must ensure the construction of new coal-fired power plants is halted and existing plants must be shut down in phases. Moving our energy generation sector from fossil fuels to renewables would help to prevent premature deaths and vast savings in health costs. A just energy transition to renewable energy is feasible, and we can’t afford to wait any longer. Government and fossil fuel companies need to take action now.,” Chanchal concluded.
Rohin Kumar is a journalist