Theme for this month, October 2019.
As global crises of all sorts further intensify, Global Civilizational State may have no alternative but to show solidarity and help each other out of crises, and such solidarity can only be built on the basis of harmony and moderation, and on respecting the political and cultural diversity of our troubled world. A Global Civilizational State dependable and trustworthy leadership for all life on Earth has been on the horizon consistently doing good work. Let us all lead the world toward Global Civilizational State.
Ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution, global crises have aggravated beyond safety bounds. Several important causes of global warming, climate changes, and the life extinction crisis have brought about an existential threat to humanity and of the other life forms on our planet. Mitigation involves attempts to slow the process of global climate change, usually by lowering the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So far this attempt has not been successful.
In a finite world, economic and population growth cannot continue indefinitely and must end when resources are exhausted.
Capitalism has been a failure of our democratic system of governance. Capitalism is this system that can only lead us to our annihilation. Capitalism is an economic system based on exponential growth world over. This system is forcing us to work harder to surpass previous years Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers, and is driven by competition, which creates more pollution that impairs life, and the CO2 that's heating the biosphere will end life on Earth if the system is maintain to its exhaustion. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now, and Global Civilizational State also strongly opposes environmental, economic, population, and military warfares.
But today, many countries have already prioritized economic growth over social, environmental and human right aspects of life. Free trade is itself a fragrant abuse of democracy. Corporate America overriding goal is maximal profits and not the needs and welfare of future generations. The enormous productive capacities and market forces of the planet have been committed to satisfying human needs and desires with little regard to the short and long terms future of life on the planet.
Earth environmental governance can only be achieved successfully within the larger context of sustainable development and Earth management because human activities are all interconnected and dependent to one another. A legally imposed contraction of the fossil energy supply and a rapid conversion to renewable energy, are necessary steps toward savings humanity. The goal of the developed nations must be to overturn our present expansionary economic system by fostering de-growth. To accomplish this people must control and manage Earth resources at all stages: exploration, development, production, transportation, manufacturing, and distribution.
And we need a complete turn around of our ways of doing business and trade, in global development, and in the management of global resources. Global Civilizational State has included morality and ethics into our ways of doing business and trade, and into consumer understanding and use of each product on the market. Furthermore and most importantly, we must replace the United Nations by Global Parliament with the immediate action to form the Global Trade and Resources Ministry as promoted by Global Civilizational State, a more meaningful union in the form of nine or more Global Governments. A Global Government is concerned not only with economics and trade, but also with the environment, social, cultural and many other essential services. The Federation of Global Governments is the place of meeting between them.
Dr Glen Barry,Countercurrents Collective (4), Tom Engelhardt (2), Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Dr Andrew Glikson (2),Chris Hedges (2), William Hawes, Robert Hunziker (2), Michael T Klare, Sweta Lakhani, David B Lauterwasser, Dan Lieberman, Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Dr Marianne de Nazareth, Dr Gideon Polya, Floyd Rudmin ,Binay Sarkar, Anandi Sharan (2), Shobha Shukla, Andre Vltchek.
Dr Glen Barry, On Amazon Fires: It’s the Ecology Stupid.
Countercurrents Collective, #ClimateStrike kicks off in Australia and Pacific, millions across the globe join.
Countercurrents Collective, Climate crisis, the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced, wake up and face the facts: Greta Thunberg.
Countercurrents Collective, Devastating decline in Arctic ice over past 35 years
Countercurrents Collective, Inevitable climate crisis: Adaptation can deliver $7.1 trillion in benefits, says global report
Tom Engelhardt, Invasion! Who Are the Real Invaders on Planet Earth?
Tom Engelhardt, On the Precipice: The Collective Asteroid of Human History.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Putin offers Russian missile defense system to protect Saudi oil installations.
Dr Andrew Glikson, Portents of 21st century global warming.
Dr Andrew Glikson, Inferno: From climate denial to planetary arson.
Chris Hedges, The Last Act of the Human Comedy
Chris Hedges, The Capitalists Are Afraid.
William Hawes, Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism
Robert Hunziker, Killing the Ocean
Robert Hunziker, Extinction Rebellion: What is it?
Michael T Klare, A Formula for Catastrophe in the Arctic.
Sweta Lakhani, How Indigenous Knowledge Systems can play a crucial role in environment protection and sustainable development (In Indian context).
David B Lauterwasser, Global collapse has begun, but this doesn’t mean we have to give up hope
Dan Lieberman, Is Israel a Democracy or a Kleptocracy?
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Fighting democracy’s crisis and the capitalist state. A Manifesto
Dr Marianne de Nazareth, Ocean scientists and fishermen team up to document seal and fishing net interactions.
Dr Gideon Polya, Review: “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker – Climate Genocide & Avoidable Mortality Holocaust Ignored
Floyd Rudmin, Even Skeptical Climate Science Shows We are in a Dire Crisis
Binay Sarkar, Nature And Human Beings
Anandi Sharan, Climate Change Facts – from Climate Change to Runaway Global Heating
Anandi Sharan, The Global Green New Deal is a Plan for Genocide
Shobha Shukla, Inside out: Climate change induced migration.
Andre Vltchek, Western media portrays Hong Kong hooligans as heroes. But are they?
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|September 21, 2019||
Inside out: Climate change induced migration
by Shobha Shukla, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
Climate change greatly impacts the lives of migrants in different parts of the world. According to the United Nations, by 2050, up to 1 billion people could be driven away from their homes due to the worsening impacts of climate change. Both, sudden and slow onset weather events, affect the migrants.
Migrants face numerous challenges around their livelihood, safety, mobility and access to health/ and social services. Migrants are also impacted when climate changes affect their families back home, as they have to then provide increased financial support to their families to cope with the aftermath of such events.
However, these issues are not properly documented and migrants’ voices are often not much heard. A workshop on understanding climate change and its impacts on migrants and their families was organised by the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) during the recently concluded International Solidarity Conference on the Rights of Climate Migrants (Beyond Labels, Beyond Borders), held in Philippines by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, IMA, Kalikasan and Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development.
Here is a snapshot of some examples of the causes and consequences of climate induced migrations shared by the participants.
Rising sea levels
A returning migrant from Saudi Arabia, Anisur Rahman Khan from Bangladesh, shared that an estimated 15 million Bangladeshis will migrate internally and externally by 2050 due to climate change. One major cause for internal migration in Bangladesh is the rising sea level.
Statistics show that rising sea levels will wipe out more land in Bangladesh than anywhere else in the world. As a result, rice production is expected to drop by 10% and wheat production by 30% by 2050. Many coastal areas will be submerged, forcing more people to migrate from rural to urban areas, which are already bursting at the seams. Food, housing and drinking water insecurity are the major emerging problems that the government will have to deal with.
Reverend Emmanuel Chikoya from Council of Churches in Zambia shared that nature has blessed Zambia with huge deposits of minerals, which has attracted investors (or rather infesters as he prefers to call them) for extractive mining activities. This in turn has led to a massive reduction in forest cover due to felling of trees; contamination of underground water, making water unsafe for human consumption; and serious health hazards. Unplanned construction of dams is drying up the rivers. Even those who sacrificed their ancestral land for construction of electricity plants, are not the beneficiaries of the electricity generated. All this has resulted in large scale displacement of people to areas which do not have even the basic necessities. To top it all, local communities lack the knowledge and expertise to negotiate with the multinational corporations, and more often than not are taken for a ride.
Of late, Zambia has been receiving much less rain which has adversely impacted food grain production. Focus on production of crops like tobacco, instead of food crops like maize, has added to the problem. In an exclusive interview given to CNS (Citizen News Service), Reverend Emmanuel said that: “All religious bodies, including the Church, can play an important role in protecting the climate. In Zambia, the Council of Churches believes in helping people to live a dignified life on this earth, rather than preparing them for a life after death. It is the primary mandate of the Church that all human beings must be good stewards of the natural resources given to us by God and use them responsibly. Increase in agricultural production has to go hand in hand with soil and environmental protection. Religion must not only remove myths and wrong perceptions, but also use the principle of ‘love one another’ to promote good practices, clean energy and clean environment.”
Triple tragedy: Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown
Luisito Pongos from Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) Japan who facilitated this workshop, reflected that one of the worst natural disasters that Japan experienced was an earthquake in 2011 that hit its north east region- which is called the rice bowl of Japan- followed by a devastating tsunami that also led to a nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. There were an estimated 22,000 deaths and more than 70,000 people, mostly migrants- 9000 of them being Filipinos- were affected. A large majority were marriage migrants- women of neighbouring countries legally married to Japanese men. Those who survived faced an acute shortage of food and shelter. Many migrants lost their documents, which resulted in losing their jobs and/or not being able to go back to their home country because they did not have their regular travel documents.
Even though the affected people were relocated to other safer areas, the disasters affected the livelihoods of many migrants settled in Japan, thereby also affecting their families in their home countries.
One silver lining has been the closure of several nuclear power plants in Japan. Currently only 9 out of the 54 nuclear power plants are in operation and the country is moving towards cleaner alternative energy sources, thanks to a strong people’s movement.
Human activities abet natural disasters
Eni Lestari and Iweng Karsiweng from Indonesia shared that Indonesia is a disaster prone country. In 2018 alone there were 5 big tsunamis and earthquakes. But no government support or compensation was given to the affected families to rebuild their lives. As many migrants working abroad came from 3 of the affected areas, it put them under an additional pressure to send more money back home to help their families.
Apart from adverse weather events, multinational corporations are adding to the problems. They have indulged in a lot of land grabbing in Indonesia. More than 300,000 hectares of forests have been burned down to make way for other lucrative businesses. This has led to high pollution levels resulting in severe respiratory health problems in the communities. The construction of numerous electric power plants is destroying the marine life of the oceans and forcing fisherfolk to migrate elsewhere. Also, large scale conversion of farmlands into palm oil plantations has depleted the water level and made surrounding areas dry, resulting in forced migration of people.
In 2013, Philippines suffered one of its greatest natural disasters when Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban and many other neighbouring cities. More than 7,360 people were dead or missing and some 4.1 million were displaced. Some of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan had families living in Cavite. After Haiyan, the survivors’ families in Cavite planned to go back to Tacloban and help their relatives with reconstruction and rehabilitation. However, fearing the loss of his workforce, the Mayor of Rosario, a municipality in Cavite, offered to relocate the Haiyan survivors to Cavite instead. Isla Paglaum, a beach resort, was converted into a relocation site for the survivors. As of 2018, there are some 150 families living in this area together with a few families coming from other parts of Cavite.
The way forward
A common consensus that emerged from the discussions was the urgent need to conduct and document evidence based studies that investigate the effects of climate change on internal and external migration, and to engage with governments at local and regional level to come up with sustainable solutions that address the causes and effects of climate migration.
And let us not forget that, more often than not, human activities like uncontrolled mining, faulty urban planning, depletion of forest cover, unplanned construction of dams, are all perfect precursors to worsening weather conditions like droughts, floods, landslides, water and air pollution… the list is endless!
Political decisions are overriding the interests and safety of the majority of the people for the benefit of a select few. We need to have well-informed and knowledgeable citizens who can unite and #RiseUp to change mindsets and hold governments to account.
Shobha Shukla – CNS (Citizen News Service)
The Last Act of the Human Comedy
by Chris Hedges, Information Clearing House,
September 02, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - There is nothing new to our story. The flagrant lies and imbecilities of the inept and corrupt leader. The inability to halt the costly, endless wars and curb the gargantuan expenditures on the military. The looting of a beleaguered populace by the rich. The destruction of the ecosystem. The decay and abandonment of a once-efficient infrastructure. The implosion of the institutions, from education to diplomacy, that sustain a functioning state. The world has seen it before. It is the familiar disease of the end of a civilization. At first it is grimly entertaining, even amid the mounting suffering. But no one will be laughing at the end.
Human nature does not change. It follows its familiar and cyclical patterns. Yes, this time, when we go down the whole planet will go with us. But until then we will be mesmerized by fools and con artists. What are demagogues like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, positive psychologists and Candide-like prognosticators such as Steven Pinker other than charlatans who insist the tragedy facing us is not real? What are the technocrats and scientists arguing that education and Western civilization can turn us into rational beings other than shamans? What are the corporate titans who make their fortunes off the arms, chemical, fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries that are destroying the natural world other than high priests demanding human sacrifice?
There is one human story. Dressed in new clothing and using new tools, we endlessly relive it. If we still read philosophy, literature, history, poetry and theology we would not be surprised that greed, hedonism and hubris have easily defeated empathy and reason. But because we do not, because we spend hours each day getting little bursts of dopamine from electronic screens, we think we are unique in human existence. We are unable to see that the climate conditions that allowed civilizations to flourish during the last 10,000 years will soon be replaced by a savage struggle to survive.
Human beings have inhabited the planet for about 200,000 of its 4.5 billion years. For most of those 200,000 years, humans did not radically alter the ecosystem. But the Industrial Revolution, which began about two and a half centuries ago, saw human beings extract fossil fuels, tapping into a hundred million years of sunlight stored in the form of coal and petroleum. The energy from fossil fuels provided unparalleled wealth and military superiority to the planet’s industrialized north, which used its power to subjugate most of the rest of the globe to cheaply extract resources and abuse cheap labor. The human population rapidly climbed to over 7 billion. The air, water and ice have seriously degraded under the onslaught as the planet shifts from one climate to another, a climate that will no longer be hospitable to human habitation.
The only existential question left is how we will choose to wait out the finale. But to pose that question is to defy the cultural mania for hope, the yearning for collective self-delusion. If reality is grim, you banish it. You invent impossible scenarios of inevitable salvation. Which explains how we ended up where we are.
Most of the climate activists and operatives of democracy see themselves, like the wider consumer culture, as being in the business of selling hope. Without hope, they argue, people would succumb to despair. People would not resist the looming catastrophe. Of course, the opposite is true. Hope, or rather false hope, exacerbates despair and lethargy. It infantilizes the population. Carbon emissions may continue to rise, the polar ice caps may continue to melt, crop yields may continue to decline, the world’s forests may continue to burn, coastal cities may continue to sink under rising seas and droughts may continue to wipe out fertile farmlands, but the messiahs of hope assure us that all will be right in the end. Only it won’t. We will not be able to adapt. Those who sell you the false hope that we can adapt are as self-deluded as those who brand global warming a hoax. And, at least subconsciously, many people know it.
The longer we publicly deny the bleak reality before us and privately cope with our existential dread and pain, the more crippling despair becomes. This schizophrenic existence is a form of emotional abuse. It is imposed on us by a dominant culture that will not allow us to speak this tragic truth. This censorship forces us to struggle with reality in solitude, eroding our confidence in our perceptions and judgments.
Andrea Dworkin in her essay “A Battered Wife Survives” wrote of effects of sustained abuse, saying that “one’s mind is shattered slowly over time, splintered into a thousand pieces. The mind is slowly submerged in chaos and despair, buried broken and barely alive in an impenetrable womb of isolation. This isolation is so absolute, so killing, so morbid, so malignant and devouring that there is nothing in one’s life but it, it. One is entirely shrouded in a loneliness that no earthquake could move.”
She went on to ask “What is reality?” and then answered.
Compared with the earth, none of us are around for very long. We are, to the cosmos, ephemerons. Our little lives blink on for a moment and then go dark. Nothing truly important can be achieved in a single lifetime. We must work toward something greater than ourselves. We must live fully, as Dworkin did, by summoning the courage to confront the starkness of the human condition and demanding justice, not because it will be achieved, since in its perfect form it will never be achieved, but because it defines us as distinct and sentient individuals. Justice cannot be fought for in the abstract. It must be grounded in a concrete confrontation with power—which is almost always embedded in white, male patriarchy—on behalf of the oppressed. This means sustained acts of defiance and civil disobedience that shut down city roads, airports and pipelines. Corporate capitalism and imperialism, which created the ecological debacle, will be destroyed or these forces will kill us in an unprecedented global genocide.
“The struggle for climate justice is a struggle at the crossroads of historic and present injustices and a looming disaster that will prove to be, if allowed to unfold unchecked, the mother of all injustices,” writes Wen Stephenson. “Because the disaster that is unfolding now will not only compound the suffering of those already oppressed (indeed, is already compounding it); it may very well foreclose any hope of economic stability and social justice for current and future generations. Why, then, does the term ‘climate justice’ barely register in the American conversation about climate change? Lurking in that question is a tension at the heart of the climate struggle: a tension between the ‘mainstream’ climate movement (dominated by largely white, well-funded, and Washington-focused green NGOs) and those—most often people of color—who have been fighting for social and environmental justice for decades.”
Resistance grounded in action is its own raison d’être. It is catharsis. It brings us into a community with others who are coping with the darkness by naming it but refusing to submit to it. And in that act of resistance we find emotional wholeness, genuine hope and even euphoria, if not an ultimate victory.
“The certitude that there is no salvation is a form of salvation, in fact is salvation,” wrote E.M. Cioran. “Starting from here, one might organize our own life as well as construct a philosophy of history: the insoluble as solution, as the only way out.”
As the Grand Inquisitor pointed out in “The Brothers Karamazov,” those who possess the emotional and intellectual fortitude to face what lies before them will always be in the minority. There is a numbing comfort that comes with surrendering moral autonomy for abject servility and obedience, and this comfort is especially attractive in a crisis.
“No doubt there will be free societies in the future as there have been in the past,” writes the philosopher John Gray in “Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals.” “But they will be rare, and variations on anarchy and tyranny will be the norm. The needs that are met by tyrants are as real as those to which freedom answers; sometimes they are more urgent. Tyrants promise security—and release from the tedium of everyday existence. To be sure, this is only a confused fantasy. The drab truth of tyranny is a life spent in waiting. But the perennial romance of tyranny comes from its promising its subjects a life more interesting than any they can contrive for themselves. Whatever they become, tyrannies begin as festivals of the depressed. Dictators may come to power on the back of chaos, but their unspoken promise is that they will relieve the boredom of their subjects.”
And yet, no more than 3% to 5% of the population need be engaged to challenge despotic power. This means, first, naming and accepting reality. It will not be easy. It means grieving for what is to come, for there is certain to be mass death. It means acting, even if defeat is certain, to thwart those who would extinguish us. Extinction Rebellion plans to occupy and shut down major city centers around the globe in October. This is a good place to start. By defying the forces of death, we affirm life.
Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. https://www.truthdig.com/author/chris_hedges/
|September 09, 2019||
The Capitalists Are Afraid.
by Chris Hedges, Information Clearing House,
"Information Clearing House" - Capitalists seek to maximize profits and reduce the cost of labor. This sums up capitalism at its core. It is defined by these immutable objectives. It is not about democracy. It is not, as has been claimed, about wealth creation for the working class. It has nothing to do with freedom. Those capitalists, especially in corporations, who are not able to increase profits and decrease the cost of labor, through layoffs, cutting wages, destroying unions, offshoring, outsourcing or automating jobs, are replaced. Personal ethics are irrelevant. Capitalists are about acquisition and exploitation.
Capitalists go to absurd lengths to lie about capitalism’s true nature. It is why Business Roundtable’s most recent version of its Principles of Corporate Governance, signed by 181 major CEOs—including the heads of Amazon, General Motors and Chevron, all three of which paid no federal income tax in 2018—rivals the doublespeak of the worst totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
If maximizing profit means turning the oceans into dead zones, filling the atmosphere with carbon emissions and toxins that render the climate unfit for humans, pumping chemicals and waste into the soil, water, air and food supply that ensure that cancer is an epidemic, buying off elected officials and judges to serve the exclusive interests of capital and privatizing social services, including health care, transportation, education and public utilities, to gouge the public, that is the price of business. If reducing the cost of labor means forcing workers to remain unorganized and abolishing work, health and safety regulations, if it means moving industry overseas where foreign workers toil like 19th-century serfs, if it means suppressing wages at home to force an impoverished population into debt peonage, that is the price of business.
It is not accidental that the United States now has the worst income inequality since the 1920s. This was engineered by the capitalist class. But what Business Roundtable’s Aug. 19 statement reveals is that the capitalists are frightened they have been found out. Capitalism free of external restraints and with no internal restraints will pillage and exploit a captive population until it rises up in fury. It is such an eruption that today’s capitalists worry is on the horizon.
Capitalism, because it is such a socially destructive force, saturates the media landscape with advertising to misinform and manipulate the public. It uses its vast wealth to buy up the press, domesticate universities, nonprofits and think tanks and demonize and muzzle its critics. It funds pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-economists who tirelessly propagate the ideology of neoliberalism, the belief that transferring wealth upward into the hands of the ruling oligarchs is beneficial to society. It forms global monopolies that prey on the public. It wages endless wars in its quest for profit. It equates anti-capitalist agitation with terrorism, meaning, for example, that anyone in the U.S. who attempts to photograph or film the savagery and cruelty of industrial agriculture—one of the primary causes of carbon emissions—can be charged under terrorism acts. And when its pyramid schemes, frauds and financial bubbles collapse, it loots the national treasury and leaves taxpayers with the bill. (In the U.S. economic crisis of 2008, corporations gobbled up $4.6 trillion in public money.)
Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, if unregulated and unfettered, is a revolutionary force. It first creates a mafia economy, as Karl Polanyi wrote, and then a mafia government. It was the greed of the capitalist class that turned our cities in decaying hulks and impoverished more than half the country. It was the greed of the capitalist class that set us on a course of ecocide. It was the greed of the capitalist class that created the mechanisms of internal repression, including police that function as rogue paramilitary units in our internal colonies, wholesale surveillance of the public, a vastly expanded system of mass incarceration and the agencies, including the National Security Agency, Homeland Security and the FBI, that spy on the public to thwart resistance. It was the greed of the capitalist class that dismantled the democratic institutions of the United States. It was the greed of the capitalist class that gave us Donald Trump. This disdain for the common good and democracy makes these capitalists traitors.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase and chairman of Business Roundtable, conceded in the press release containing the “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” that “the American dream is alive, but fraying.” He assured us, however, that “major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”
Alex Gorsky, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson and chair of the Business Roundtable Corporate Governance Committee, added that the statement “affirms the essential role corporations can play in improving our society.”
Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, called the statement “tremendous news” and said it would “result in shared prosperity and sustainability for both business and society.”
The sententious and self-congratulatory passages in the statement can be summed up by the opening paragraphs:
Capitalists such as Dimon (net worth $1.4 billion), whose company has paid more in regulatory fines than any other in America, and Gorsky, whose corporation was charged with helping fuel Oklahoma’s opioid crisis and then ordered by a court to pay $572 million in restitution in that state, would, in a functioning democracy, be in prison. Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Pfizer and McKesson together are responsible for the deaths of many thousands of Americans—more than 130 people died every day in the U.S. from opioid-related drug overdoses in 2016 and 2017, according to the federal government.
The financial crimes of Dimon alone are numerous and notorious. They include underwriting fraudulent securities in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crash, overcharging members of the military on mortgages and mortgage refinancing transactions, overcharging customers for overdraft fees, manipulating bidding on California and Midwest electricity markets, overcharging homeowners for flood insurance, billing customers for nonexistent credit card monitoring services, charging minorities higher rates and fees on mortgages than those paid by white borrowers and failing to pay overtime to company workers.
So, what is this statement—which is equivalent to Al Capone insisting the mob ran a benevolent society in Chicago—about?
It is about the capitalists running scared. They know the reigning ideology of neoliberalism no longer has any credibility. Its lies have been exposed. They know the ruling institutions, including the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, are dysfunctional and despised. They know the media, Wall Street and the big banks are distrusted and hated. They know the criminal justice system, which criminalizes poverty and legalizes corporate fraud, is a sham. They know social mobility is, in effect, nonexistent. And, most importantly, they know that the financial system, built on the scaffolding of trillions lent to them by the government at marginal interest rates, is not sustainable and will trigger another recession, if not a depression. They also know they are to blame.
The capitalists are determined to protect their wealth. They are determined, and probably able, to block left-leaning candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders from obtaining the Democratic nomination for president. But they are also aware that politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden who have spent their careers serving corporate power are harder and harder to sell to the electorate. The mendacity and hypocrisy of the Democratic Party are evident in the presidency of Barack Obama, who ran as an outsider and reformer in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Obama—whom Cornel West called “a black mascot for Wall Street”—callously betrayed the party’s base. Actions by him, Clinton and other Democratic leaders after the 2008 financial debacle opened the door for the demagogue Donald Trump, who, although a con artist and inveterate liar, was astute enough to tell voters, especially from the white working class, what they wanted to hear.
Business Roundtable’s August statement is a pathetic attempt to reframe the capitalists’ roles in society, to give these corporate grifters gentler, kinder faces. It will not work. The capitalists have the power to destroy, but no longer to create. And out of their relentless destruction, which they are incapable of halting, will come the social unrest they fear and monstrosities more terrifying than Donald Trump.
Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. https://www.truthdig.com/author/chris_hedges/
This article was originally published by "Truthdig" - -
|August 21, 2019||
Global collapse has begun, but this doesn’t mean we have to give up hope
by David B Lauterwasser, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org,
David B. Lauterwasser writes: Very few people today think that our global civilization is on the brink of collapse. Most of the news consist of disturbing stories on increasingly overwhelming issues that, plainly spoken, seem impossible to solve. And yet, no one even recognizes that it is collapse that’s started to unfold all around us.
Only the fewest today think that global civilization is on the brink of collapse — but it’s doubtful that the Romans, the Greek, the Mayans or the Mesopotamians saw their own fall coming either. We hear about new obstacles on a daily basis; most of the news consist of disturbing stories on increasingly overwhelming issues that, plainly spoken, seem impossible to solve. And yet, no one even recognizes that it is collapsethat starts to unfold all around us.
Civilizations are characterized by the emergence and expansion of cities, as the Latin root of the word suggests (lat.: “civis” = inhabitant of a city), that, in some instances, turn into states. A city is a permanent settlement of humans where more humans live than their immediate environment can support. Therefore, the city requires the import of food and other resources from the surrounding area. The use of the term ‘require’ hereby implies that if the rural population doesn’t agree on exporting the product of their work, the city comes and forcefully takes it (Scott, 2017; Jensen, 2006). The city continuously expands as its population grows, requiring evermore resources from the rural surrounding, and therefore depleting an ever-increasing radius of land.
Civilizations can, by definition, not be sustainable, since every expansion on a finite planet logically has a limit — and “colonizing other planets” is obviously nothing but science fiction. Earlier civilizations reached this limit after a few hundred or thousand years, but with the advancement of technology we repeatedly found loopholes that allow us to artificially modify conditions in our favor. As we slowly reach the limit of technological, physical and biological possibilities to further expand as a civilization, it is of utmost importance to understand what is happening and why.
Think for a second. I guess you will be able to come up with a current example for each of the points listed above in under a minute. If not, here are a few examples:
Virtually every environmental crisis ever recognized as such in the last century has since worsened. All goals set by the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro (1992), its follow-up Rio+20 (2012), the Kyoto Protocol (1997), the Copenhagen Agreement COP15 (2009), and the Paris Agreement (2016) have failed to make a considerable difference.
At the latter event, politicians agreed that climate breakdown must be mitigated, and half-hearted promises were made to set utopian goals for a reduction in CO2 emissions.
No matter what you look at, may it be deforestation, atmospheric carbon levels, species extinctions, polluted rivers, every aspect has gotten worse year after year. Governments doesn’t seem to be able to solve this crisis, and neither is the public. Recently the Global Carbon Project announced that, despite all the efforts and the fact that overall carbon emissions from fossil fuels and industry have experienced only “flat growth” over the last two years (a sign of hope for many), the carbon emissions will once again grow by 2% in 2017 — and the trend is expected to continue next year.
Forests all over the world continue to be destroyed in the name of economic growth, progress and development, and we civilized humans set in motion what some call the Sixth Mass Extinction Event. In the past 40 years, we lost half of the world’s wildlife, and species extinctions proceed at an unprecedented rate — estimated at 10,000 species per year (WWF), or about one species per hour.
Simultaneously, the decrease of insect populations across Europe by over 70%, already bearing the label Insectageddon, is believed to have disastrous impacts on human crops and ecosystem stability in the coming decade.
We logged over 75% of all forests in the 10,000-year history of our culture, and logging continues at breathtaking speed (currently deforestation proceeds at a rate of 48 football fields per minute, while we concomitantly lose 30 football fields of topsoil per minute).
POLLUTION & EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS
The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has skyrocketed to 400ppm (the highest in over 800,000 years), and the emissions from today will stay there for another century.
Despite extensive lobbying, it is now known that the biggest 15 ships produce as much pollution as all the cars in the world. They burn the dirtiest of all fuels, and have to pay surprisingly low taxes for it. But nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel, yet new airports are build and existing ones extended, and the number of airplanes in the sky on any given day continues to rise.
The world’s hunger for oil and the companies’ increasing difficulty to meet the demands by conventional means have created over one trillion liters (!) of highly toxic sludge from tar sand processing in Canada. Those ponds cover an area of over 220 km2 — as big as 73 Central Park’s.
But those are not the only extremely hazardous black lakes there are — a giant lake filled with thick, black sludge in China was recently dubbed “the worst place in the world”. It is a result of our worrying dependency on smartphones: in inner Mongolia, the ‘rare earth’ minerals needed to build them are processed, and the vast amounts of biohazardous and radioactive waste is discharged arbitrarily into the landscape right next to the factories.
Even if the industry would disappear tomorrow, their carcinogenic waste would stay with us for centuries, polluting skies, rivers and soil.
Microplastics are found not only in the oceans, but in alarming quantities in most tap water all around the world. They even made it into the atmosphere, making it literally impossible to escape the plastic particles small enough to enter the cells of your body, where their toxicity increases the chance of cancer and other diseases.
All those problems will, due to climate breakdown, only get worse in the future (Lynas, 2009). Positive feedback systems now lead to unstoppable changes on the surface of the planet. Rapidly melting ice caps mixed with increased air pollution leaves a dark layer of dirt on the surface, enhancing further warming and melting of the ice. Forest fires all around the world contribute to an ever-hotter climate, which in turn leads to even bigger, more devastating forest fires.
Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said: “The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long term warming trend. We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.”
Sea levels have already risen considerably, and even the most pessimistic forecasts have proven to be true. In his 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore claimed that sea level rise will flood the 911 memorial — at that time ridiculed — which actually happened during hurricane Sandy.
Hurricanes increase in intensity every year, leaving behind post-apocalyptic landscapes like seen in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.
Resources such as oil, phosphorus, antimony, indium, silver, copper, sand, and others long have peaked, hence officials do what they can to ensure the public that everything is alright and no problems are ahead — it would cost them their jobs and render their occupations superfluous if they said the truth.
The only “official” numbers on how much oil remains are presented annually by — you guessed it — BP. Not very convincing. Those numbers are presented in confusing fashion, since BP’s calculations are based on “current consumption levels”. But guess what, consumption is increasing, and despite so-called renewable energies having a small share of the overall energy created, our world still relies heavily on fossil fuels. This is not going to change anytime soon.
If you do the same calculation with the average growth rate in oil consumption, you’ll end up at a date somewhat 15 years earlier (2052). And remember: this is only if all discovered oil fields can successfully be exploited, whether they are under the Arctic ice shield or in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. Furthermore, this is supposed to be the day where we arrive at zero barrels of crude oil, so scarcity will start much sooner.
For years they have been pushing back the date of when exactly the world will run out of oil, because they constantly seem to find new reserves. Even if that might be the case, it is worth noting that those newly discovered oil fields are in the most inaccessible places, since all the fields that are easily exploited are already empty. Those new oil reserves require increasingly dangerous, expensive and destructive technology: offshore drilling, fracking, and the extraction of oil from tar sands.
War over resources are supposed to increase, and it is even the most basic resources that inspire conflict. With the Tibetan glaciers melting, China, India, and all countries around the Mekong River can expect serious water shortages in a few years. In China alone, over 28.000 rivers have dried up already, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
All in all, an estimated 2 billion (!) people are in danger.
“Many experts say that wars were fought over land before, but nowadays, wars are fought over energy and soon there will be wars fought over water,” said Lobsang Sangay, the head of the Tibetan Administration in Exile.
At a time where even pro-business and pro-development Forbes Magazine writes that “Capitalism Will Starve Humanity Until 2050” (unless it “changes” — whatever that means — but this big change is yet to come), it should be clear that we’re very close to the total collapse of global food supply. In the article, the only problem addressed is overfishing of the oceans (not even the ongoing acidification or pollution is included).
A sophisticated simulation called ‘Food Chain Reaction’ was built by experts of the State Department, the World Bank, and multinational agrobusiness giant Cargill, along with other independent researchers and specialists. It involved the participation of 65 officials from countries all over the world, as well as key multilateral and intergovernmental institutions.
“By 2024, the scenario saw global food prices spike by as much as 395 percent due to prolonged crop failures in key food basket regions, driven largely by climate change, oil price spikes, and confused responses from the international community.”
The importance of this simulation lays in the fact that it was created partly by powerful organizations, who would lie to the public but not to themselves — as it was the case with Big Oil publicly denying climate breakdown, but internally preparing for its effects. They might tell the public that we have another 40 years or so worth of oil in the ground, but they themselves know that 2024 would be a much closer call for either scenario.
Now, remember, all those factors examined here are interrelated. No oil means consequently no food in the supermarkets. You can imagine what would happen.
According to reports by a government contractor, “the US national security industry already plans for the impact of an unprecedented global food crisis lasting as long as a decade.”
The world is, in contrast what humanists and futurists might say, vastly overpopulated (Their error is to think the planet is empty and just waiting to be filled up with humans). That means we have exceeded the carrying capacity of this planet by several billion people. There is no way that such number of people could ever live in a sustainable relationship with their environment.
The numbers are staggering: “The built world that sustains us is so vast that, for every pound of an average person’s body, there are 30 tons of infrastructure: roads, houses, sidewalks, utility grids, intensively farmed soil, and so forth”, says Jedediah Purdy, author of After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene. Without this enormous construct to sustain our current population levels, we would fall back somewhere between ten and two hundred million. If anything would happen to any part of the infrastructure listed above, the consequences would be severe.
When we talk about overpopulation, we also have to include the fact that domestic animals for human use outweigh wild terrestrial mammals by a factor of 25 to one. Civilized humans come with a lot of luggage.
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL UNREST
Saying that society falls apart is no longer an exaggeration. Every day there are huge protests and clashes with the police all around the world. The public is divided into ever more fractions that are unable to come to any compromise. Whether left or right, conservative or liberal, pro- or anti gun, refugee, abortion, vaccines, or climate change, the two opposing fractions are doing nothing but hardening their own hearts against the other side. They are trapped in echo chambers on social media that only confirm what they already believe to know, and therefore intensifies their conviction of their own righteousness.
This year alone, there were over 50,000 (!) recorded incidents of gun violence in the United States — 307 of which were mass shootings.
Radical groups, sometimes militarized, are on the rise all over the planet. Whether patriot groups in the US, FARC in Colombia, pirates at the coast of Somalia, ISIS in the Philippines, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or underground right-wing terror cells in Europe, everyone seems to prepare for some final war.
Technology, once viewed almost exclusively in positive terms, encounters more and more skepticism as Big Tech tightens its grip around our personal lives. A large number of people in the developed world is seriously addicted to smartphones — no wonder, since they are in turn specifically designed to make us addicted. More studies emerge every week showing the huge downside of advanced technology, that most of us so far have simply overlooked. The effects of our highly technologized society on our children are spine-chilling — and its consequences even more.
Managers, CEOs, bankers, politicians and other members of the upper class systematically avoid paying taxes, therefore robbing the public of money that is desperately needed in the communities. The leak of millions of documents, called the Panama- and Paradise Papers shows the sheer scale of this peerless fraud. A global plutocracy has reached unimaginable power. Oligopolies control the economy, politics and society. Dystopia is here.
On an international level, democracy doesn’t seem to work anymore. With the emergence of more and more authoritarian leaders such as Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Chan-Ocha, Duterte, and Órban, the world slowly starts shifting towards an uncertain future.
How many times have we witnessed governments change from liberal, to conservative, and to liberal again, all ruled for by people who really believed that this election will finally set things straight. It is unbelievable to me that people still fall for this.
Economic collapse is imminent, not only because of all the bubbles yet to burst (like the debt bubble, the student-loan bubble, the tech bubble, or the giant real estate bubble that caused China’s double-digit growth and led to vast half-finished ghost towns for millions of inhabitants — China used more cement in three years than the US in the entire 20th century for those projects, which in turn is one of the reason the world is running out of sand), but simply because economic growth is reaching its absolute limit.
We are trapped in a dilemma: we collectively decided that we “need” economic growth, yet economic growth destroys the planet and continues to deprive us of the last freedoms and resources. There is no logical approach to solving this fundamental crisis that undermines even the most basic assumptions about ourselves and our place in this world. If our economy is not growing anymore, what else is there to do? If, after all the cumulative effort, the contraption we’ve built will collapse in on itself anyway, where’s the point? Good question.
Global inequality is worse than ever — and probably even worse than that. Poverty is a trap, and being rich literally pays off. Banks take money from those in debt (the poorer you are the more you have to pay), and pay money to bigwigs, who receive more money the richer they are.
The many other gaps between men and women, black and white, East and West, developed and developing are nowhere near closed as well.
With the erratic Donald Trump as president of the United States, and Putin, who wants to keep up with the United States renewal of their nuclear arsenal, a nuclear arms race has once again started that was already called a Cold War 2.0.
The climate between Pakistan and India (both nuclear powers) is as tense as ever, with India showing increasing concern about possible conflict with China in the future, too. China is involved in an ongoing genocide in Myanmar, for the sake of building a pipeline through the country to supply China with oil.
Israel still doesn’t let anyone inspect their nuclear weapons arsenal and their increasingly fascist government is a ticking timebomb in the Middle East.
The infamous ‘Doomsday Clock’ is again at two and a half minutes to midnight — the closest since 1953.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria might have been defeated on the ground, but the ideas and the hate will sure stay, inspiring new jihadi movements to sprout up. In a vicious cycle of violence, terrorist attacks in the West are answered with bombing campaigns, which in turn fuel the propaganda of radical Islam.
Warfare itself changes, too. There is a tendency towards automation, and digital warfare is an increasingly real threat.
Ever more powerful weapon technologies are being built despite international agreements on their ban — and used, as seen with the sarin gas attack in Syria and the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ dropped on a mountainside in Afghanistan by the Trump administration.
Public health isn’t increasing either, and pollution might be the number one reason — pollution now kills more people than smoking, hunger, natural disasters, war, murder, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria together. While we continue to destroy Nature, this very act unleashes more diseases.
The nutritional value of our food is at a historic low, vital phytonutrients have virtually disappeared from our daily meals, industrial sugar in almost every processed food poisons generations, and biodiversity declines as a direct result of conventional agriculture. We, as a society, are “overfed but undernourished” — for the first time in human history there are now more over- than underweight people in the world.
The air in New Delhi, a city with a population of 26 million people, has reach a toxicity equal to smoking 50 cigarettes per day. The most polluted cities on earth are almost exclusively located in India, China and Saudi Arabia.
There seems no way out of the opioid crisis in the US — Big Pharma lobbied doctors and lawmakers into easily prescribing them, getting millions of people addicted, and now, as the Trump administration cracks down on painkillers, those people are forced into use of heroin and fentanyl.
The World Health Organization and numerous other experts have continuously warned of the disastrous consequences of a post-antibiotic world, where even the smallest infection might end deadly and surgery is not an option anymore. Yet no one can think of a way to reduce antibiotic prescriptions by doctors or the use of antibiotics in factory farming. Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”, who will most likely kill millions in the next decades, emerge on a worrying scale in China, India, and even in the Western world.
Everyone, this is how collapse looks like. It may take years or even decades, but we have already set it in motion. We are at the beginning of a gradual downwards spiral, that accelerates as it spins on into the abyss. Watch it slowly unfold over the next few years, and better make plans for what you will do — because many members of the upper-class elites who know and understand the world on a global level are already making emergency plans for the coming cataclysm.
You see, I am by far not the only one who thinks like this (there are Theodore Kaczynski, Paul Kingsnorth, Derrick Jensen, Edward Abbey, and John Zerzan, just to name a few more popular advocates), nor the first one to point this out (just think about Thomas Malthus, who warned of collapse in 1826).
A NASA-funded study focusing on only two issues concluded that “Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed. […] The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses.” According to the researchers, “collapse is difficult to avoid. […] Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.”
From collapses of past societies we now know that in most cases, there is not one single factor that we can attribute this collapse to, but rather a series of interrelated events (Scott, 2017).
Our globalized society shows not only some, but all of the factors that led to collapse of past civilizations, and through the use of advanced technology we have been able to create conditions worse than any other civilization ever had to endure. Some might think, “Well, if technology has brought us so far, it will sure bring us further”, and they might even be right — but only for the next few years. It is obvious that the techno-industrial system can’t continue to try to fix occurring issues forever. There are simply not enough resources left. Like the Roman Empire when it began to decline, we’re in a period of overshoot, that will inevitably be followed by collapse (Tainter, 1988).
Time is running out.
In the past, when a civilization was in the process of collapsing, other surrounding societies could take advantage of their vulnerability, and sometimes merge the remains with their own empire. This is not an option anymore in times of global interdependency on international trade and transportation. If one goes down, the others follow. The Domino Theory of collapse.
It is also impossible to recreate our civilization, since we already burned all the fossil fuels needed for the technological advancements that allow a global civilization to temporary sustain itself.
Fantasies of “colonizing the universe” are not helping us either — we humans evolved over millions of years to fit exactly into the conditions found here on Earth — this atmosphere, this temperature, this chemical composition of solids, liquids and gasses, this gravity, this UV intensity — and it is absurd to think that we could create a functioning ecosystem on an entirely different planet all by ourselves in a matter of decades. Even the most ambitious plans for colonizing Mars will fail because of resource depletion and any given combination of all factors leading to collapse listed above. If, against all odds, anyone gets to “escape” Earth, it will not be you, anyway — it will be the one that pays the most.
Free energy is nowhere around the corner, neither is truly sustainable energy.
Solar panels are made from sand, which is running out. The production of photovoltaic plates for solar panels requires tremendous amounts of energy, involves the excessive use of highly toxic chemicals and creates vast amounts of waste products such as silicon tetrachloride (three to four tons of which are produced for every ton of the desired polysilicon), which forms hydrochloric acid upon contact with water, is often casually dumped somewhere and already devastated landscapes in China.
Furthermore, all of the above technologies depend on the same old, dirty system of mining, transporting, smelting, refining, shipping, assembling, manufacturing, distributing and constructing.
The only sustainable form of energy on this planet comes in form of calories.
You might call me a pessimist now, but I don’t think you would find enough positive news to outweigh the above. This is not pessimism, this is what actually happens.
Neither is this alarmism. The only alarming thing is that there are people blind enough to think that everything will work out just fine, as long as we just recycle, invest more money in solar companies, drink fair-trade coffee, buy a brand-new Tesla, or drive a bicycle to work.
Politicians continue to ensure us that “the best days are yet to come”, yet most of us feel the opposite — it is the worst days that are yet to come. And worse those days will be. As with earlier collapses, the aftermath must be horrifying. But would it be really that bad?
I’ve heard people calling the announcement of collapse ‘elitist’, since, according to the logic they apply, you automatically approve of millions — if not billions — of people dying. They hold the unquestioned assumption that it will be “the others” who will suffer the most, which is true — but only as long as civilization exists and continues to suppress and exploit them. Millions, maybe billions, will die anyway if this system continues to wreak havoc on this planet.
Actually, it will be the global elite which will be hit the worst: the urban populations of the Western world with no knowledge of basic survival or the ecosystem around their cities.
The global rural poor might actually be better off without the capitalist system stealing their land or exploiting and enslaving them. Consider the words of Anuradha Mittal, former co-director of Food First, who said that former granaries of India now export dog food and tulips to Europe. Same goes for many of the urban poor, who live in slums not by choice but because they were forced to relocate, thanks to the actions of multinational corporations and banks — they still have the knowledge of how to live a life as subsistence farmer.
The ones hit hardest by global collapse will be those in the highest ranks of our civilizations’ hierarchy.
Feeling hopeless yet? Despite the overwhelming horror all this might induce at first, there is no need for nihilism and despair.
A New Hope
But not all is lost — as presented by James C. Scott and Joseph Tainter, the “Dark Ages” following previous collapses were often a time were personal freedom flourished, and repressive systems were replaced by community efforts to support each other.
Civilized culture might not have any plans for the event of collapse of infrastructure, trade, industry and medicinal and food supply. Most people imagine some kind of post-apocalyptic ‘Mad Max’ scenario where the ones with the most guns rule and a more primitive but still civilized lifestyle emerges that brings back the horrors of our own civilized past — famine, plague, slavery, and the “law of the strongest” (sometimes falsely called “the law of the jungle”). This nightmarish tale was the inspiration for a number of Hollywood movies that further put focus on the alleged inevitability of some chaotic, violent future for humanity (Think about “The Book of Eli”, “World War Z”, “12 Monkeys”, “I Am Legend”, “The Day After Tomorrow”, “The Matrix”, “Oblivion”, “28 Days Later” and even kids’ movies like “WALL-E”).
As a response to those nightmarish scenarios, some buy ammunition and canned food in anticipation of the cataclysm — but when the last bullet is fired and the last can of beans emptied, they are back at exactly the point where they started.
What we lack is an idea of what to do, a short- and long-term plan for when things go south. We seem to have all the knowledge in the world, but yet we lack the simple knowledge of how to live.
But you can call of the search and cancel the think tank meetings: There already is a truly sustainable lifestyle, proven successful for three million years and counting and custom-tailored for us humans by the indisputable power of evolution: tribalism.
Evolution came up with a social organization for every animal, carefully selected through trial and error until reaching the optimum. It organized whales in pods, baboons in troops, wolves in packs, buffalo in herds, birds in flocks, ants in colonies, bees in hives, school in fish — and humans in tribes. There is a way for every single animal that works for this animal within the limits of its ecological niche (and therefore for all the other animals inhabiting this niche, too).
Who are we to think that after only a few thousand years we came up with something better, more successful?! There was no rational impulse to carefully construct something considering any possible limits and boundaries, people just started building like fury! The one big long-term study on whether civilizations are sustainable enough to successfully replace tribalism will soon come to a final conclusion: No.
We have to get off our high horse and come in contact with the Earth once again. We have to realize the huge mistake we made, the “worst mistake in the history of the human race”, as anthropologist and best-selling author Jared Diamond called it. We have to remember the “original affluent society”, as another anthropologist, Marshall Sahlins, famously wrote.
Most modern-day anthropologists are already united in the ability to see through the racial bias of earlier times, and come to surprisingly positive conclusions about the exact same people that were considered “savages” whose lives were “nasty, brutish and short” in times of colonialization. They see people who are peaceful, content, and happy, who carefully consider their actions, avoid confrontation, and have no significant impact on their environment. If you think I am perpetuating the “Noble Savage Myth”, just watch a documentary about any primitive tribe, or read a book by someone who experienced their life first hand.
Without even one exception, all of the problems listed in the first part of this essay are directly motivated by and justified with the unquestioned assumption that we humans can do with this world as we please — we can destroy, improve, relocate, build, dam up, extract, cut down, construct, dig out, burn, and dump as much as we want, like gods, shaping the world to fit our desires. This misbelief, called anthropocentrism, is what caused all those terrible things in the first place.
The underlying theme of our own culture’s mythology was formulated by Daniel Quinn as follows: “The world was made for man, and man was made to conquer and rule it.” We have lived by those words until now, and it almost killed us. It has shattered this once beautiful and thriving planet into pieces, dust and trash.
But this is no inherently human belief. It is the belief of only one single culture. A culture that rose from the first agrarian settlements to a globalized techno-industrial civilization.
As you may have noticed, I purposely avoided to make general claims about humanity, and therefore used terms like “civilized humans” in my argumentation. I did this to stress the fact that ‘we’ do not represent humanity (Quinn, 1996). There is nothing wrong with humans as a species. For 99% or our species’ time on this planet, we have been nomadic hunter-gatherers, and this most successful of all lifestyles continues to this day, where dozens of uncontacted tribes make it clear that they are not interested in the development our civilization has to offer in exchange for their home, the forest.
Those primitive people, as long as they are left alone by the people of our culture and live in “voluntary isolation”, are living proof that the lifestyle does still work — so good in fact that it is worth defending with their very lives. And there is more: primitive life doesn’t only work for humans (who enjoy a varied organic diet and therefore superiorhealth, ample leisure time and low levels of stress because of a lifestyle characterized by play), it works for other animals, as well as plants, rivers, and mountains.
Some may now claim that I “romanticize the past”, but this accusation is usually made by people who think it is more ‘grown up’ to romanticize the future.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not proposing to “go back to the Stone Age” (which of course is physically impossible), nor do I want everyone to become a hunter-gatherer. But there is a lot we can learn from those (ab)original people, because they have the most important knowledge of all, the knowledge that we lack: they know how to live, without devastating their environment on which we depend for our very survival.
I do advocate self-sufficiency, autonomy, independence, simplification, localization and rewilding. Knowing the plants around you, the movement of the mammals and the language of birds. Reading Nature’s signs, predicting the weather and listening to the wind in the leaves. Doing things yourself and not relying on people you don’t know. Feeding yourself, planting trees, building your own house, creating and nurturing a community and caring about the people you love. Carving a flute and mastering it. Reading and educating yourself and others. Playing games and laughing. Drinking tea when it’s cold and taking a bath when it’s hot.
I advocate trying to do everything yourself, from materials that you yourself collected and processed. I advocate quitting your job, going back to the countryside, breathing the fresh air, feeling the sun on your skin, and letting go. Breaking out of the cage. Being as free as you can.
I cannot provide you with a final solution to all of our problems, but I can tell you were to look for answers to those problems. I say we make the best of our situation, we embrace collapse, and use the opportunity to create something better — something that works. The possibilities are endless.
I have looked for answers, and I found many of them answered by simplifying every possible aspect of my life, spending plenty of time in the garden inspecting and observing plants and animals, and looking to the indigenous people in whose area I now live if I have any further questions. Not to imitate them, but to understand them and learn from them.
And it works! Since I quit my civilized life four years ago, I became stronger and healthier than ever before, have more freedom and free time, eat better, use much less money, worry less, and am generally more happy and content.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward.
Daniel Quinn: The Story of B (Bantam, 1996)
Derrick Jensen: Endgame, Vol. 1 (Seven Stories Press, 2006)
James C. Scott: Against the Grain — A Deep History of the Earliest States (Yale University Press, 2017)
Joseph Tainter: The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1990)
Mark Lynas: Six Degrees — Our Future on a Hotter Planet (Fourth Estate, 2009)
Michael Williams: Deforesting the Earth — From Prehistory to Global Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
Ronald Wright: A Short History of Progress (House of Anansi Press, 2004)
This article was first published on feunfoo.org.
|August 23, 2019||
Fighting democracy’s crisis and the capitalist state. A Manifesto
by Bhabani Shankar Nayak, in World, Countercurrents.org,
What is happening to democracies across the globe? Neoliberalism and the rise of authoritarianism are moving together and, by dismantling social harmonies and states, are threatening democracy’s very existence. In fact they are combining and consolidating in different forms, of which three look more remarkable.
First, there is the rise of nationalist populism. The success of Donald Trump in the USA, Narendra Modi in India, Boris Johnson in Britain, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Jair Messias Bolsonaro in Brazil and many others is not only an example of the symptoms but also the result of a democratic deficit in the present world. Old political forces are losing ground (for instance traditional conservative, liberal, and social democratic parties) and, following Gramsci, “the field is open for violent solutions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic ‘men of destiny’.” Local, national and international politics is increasingly driven by ethnic, racial and religious conflicts in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East; examples are the wars in Kashmir and Myanmar, or the ‘proxy’ wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The populist upheavals have not changed the old-world order; they are rather reinforcing it more vigorously, by imposing a harsher neoliberalism and creating an illusion of welfare only for the national/religious/ethnic community of choice. Religious fundamentalism, national glory, lawlessness, vulgar wealth and huge inequalities are five common features between old and modern world. They have laid the foundations for reactionary nationalism and authoritarian capitalism across the globe;democracy and states have become tools of such a dangerous worldwide process.
Together with nationalist populism, the world has witnessed the rise of two other types of authoritarian political form. In Europe, the continental union has increasingly imposed its rules as a technocratic infrastructure mainly aimed at incorporating Eastern and later Southern European countries into a neoliberal (more specifically, or do liberal) system in which democratic choices are marginalised in the name of a repressive ideology of austerity masked as ‘technocracy.’ Far from being a neutral instrument for the common good, rule by experts has proved instrumental to the wishes and interests of Western European corporations, their supporters in ‘core’ countries (especially Germany), and their allies in the so-called ‘periphery.’ The third type of authoritarian neoliberalism has emerged in countries where authoritarianism was already a reality (for example, China, Russia, Central Asian states), and in which it has taken on more nationalist, protectionist, and repressive features, mostly as a response to pressure coming from the neoliberalising West. Russia and the various ex-Soviet -stan have embraced more authoritarian forms after being catapulted to neoliberalism in the 1990s. China has become more authoritarian in reaction to its growing engagement with the global economy, and also to defend the economic benefits, if limited, its hundreds of millions of citizens have earned over the last four decades.
Authoritarianism, in short, is spreading in a variety of forms.
The pioneers of globalisation and lovers of free market argued that they would bring peace and prosperity by ending war and conflicts. They also argued that it would help in the growth and establishment of vibrant and multicultural democracies, and even put an end to history itself. In reality, globalisation has expanded the conflicts and old world inequalities. The rich have become richer and the poor, poorer. The class, gender, race, caste and regional fault lines continue to grow. The neoliberal capitalist project has out manoeuvred the ideal alternatives of the October and French revolutions and the promises of anti-colonial struggles. All idealisms are in a downward spiral. How do we analyse these upheavals? Is it a sign of the Westphalian nation state’s end?
It is impossible to offer alternatives for a better tomorrow without understanding the present predicaments and their history.
Lineages and transformations of the state
The democratic deficit of the state is embedded within the history of the capitalist and Westphalian nation state. The peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 set the conditions for the emergence of capitalist forces by establishing states based on the idea of territorial sovereignty. It helped to end thirty years of savage war in Europe and complemented the changes leading to the industrial revolution in Britain. Together with later peace treaties (for example, Utrecht in 1713), it also helped Europe plunder other continents with colonial rule in different parts of the world. The resources of the colonies were used to establish different institutions of economic development and democratic governance in Europe. Therefore, ‘Westphalian’ states are innately colonial, capitalistic and authoritarian by nature but dressed up as democracies. Their democratic deepening depended to a large extent on the exploitation of vast regions of the world, clearly a non-democratic process. The referendum results and debates over Britain leaving the European Union (EU) are a classic example of democratic deficit and its relationship with European capitalism as embodied by the EU.
The post-colonial states emerged after the success of anticolonial struggles. The post-colonial states promised democratic governance based on ideals of liberty, equality, justice and welfare of all their citizens. Nehru’s India or Nkrumah’s Ghana are just two examples of a variety of new political forms that attempted to combine liberty and equality, national unity and non-Western ideas of cosmopolitanism. The anticolonial struggle had positive influence on European states. It transformed the nature of the states in Europe by making them more democratic, secular and multicultural in terms of citizenship rights with welfare orientations. Similar processes occurred in the USA, where the 1960s where the age of the ‘Great Society’ and witnessed the struggle and emancipation of women, African-Americans, and other minorities. Yet since the late 1970s the neoliberal Washington consensus has led to the universalisation of neoliberalism by ending ideals of democratic welfare state. The centralisation and securitisation of state became the order of the day to uphold the interests of the private capital which has grown enormously since the implementation of neoliberal policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
We live in a world where Vox Populi, Vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God) is replaced by the order of capitalism where market and money dominate the social, economic, political, cultural and even religious sphere. It is within this context that democracy and the state face challenges. Neoliberal authoritarianism emanates from a political and economic project that creates a culture of democratic deficit and a privatised state. The legitimacy crisis of the state creates the vacuums where ruling and non-ruling elites control the masses and all the resources with the help of securitised, centralised and authoritarian states. The ideological narrative of neoliberalism was based on individual freedom but in reality, we live in a society where people are in free prisons of market where prices are independent and free. It means the dead capital is free and lively labour in chains.
The quest for an alternative manifesto
The crisis created by democratic deficit, neoliberal authoritarianism and rise of reactionary right wing politics is a global phenomenon. Local and national contexts are important in the search for alternatives, even if the current political and economic crisis needs international solutions. It is imperative to develop a pluriversal praxis that is applicable to the world today. With this aim, four steps are particularly important.
The first step is to dismantle the structures of the Westphalian capitalist state system and all its affiliated supranational and international organisations. This is only possible by creating a solidarity of all grassroot movements for alternative democracy, for peace, the environment, development and prosperity as inalienable citizenship rights. International institutions should become fully democratic and inclusory, starting with those dealing with peace and development such as the United Nations and the European Union. It is also important to have a continuous solidarity of struggles to develop conditions for non-discriminatory, pluriversal and inalienable rights based on progressive and scientific ideas.
The second step is to develop conditions where local communities can control and manage their local resources based on their needs and desires with egalitarian distributive mechanisms. For example, Kurdish communities in Northern and Eastern Syria are currently at the heart of a system in which private property serves the needs of communities and is complemented by strong elements of cooperation and egalitarianism.
The third step is to develop local, national and international struggles against all conflicts, wars and industries affiliated with them including nuclear weapons. The defence industry (the ‘military-industrial complex’, still existent despite the end of the Cold War thirty years ago) creates wars to expand its profits. According to SIPRI, the USA spends on the military a staggering 649 billion dollars annually, more than the sum of the other nine top spenders. At the same time, the USA ranks 35 out of 37 OECD countries in terms of poverty and inequality.
The fourth one is a continuous struggle against all forms of authoritarianism and all forms of discrimination in every sphere of life. Racism, gender-based discrimination, persecution of LGBT groups, and disrespect for any diversity have regained ground in the West and much beyond it. International institutions should fight them more effectively and promote inclusion at all levels.
Gramsci A (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: International Publishers.
Nordensvard J and Ketola M (2015) Nationalist Reframing of the Finnish and Swedish Welfare States – The Nexus of Nationalism and Social Policy in Far-right Populist Parties. Social Policy & Administration 49(3): 356-375.
Teschke B (2003)The Myth of 1648. Class, Geopolitics, and the Making of Modern International Relations. London: Verso.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK
Ernesto Gallo, Regents University, London
|August 29, 2019||
Climate Change Facts – from Climate Change to Runaway Global Heating
by Anandi Sharan, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
In the light of the recent IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems, (Ref 1), it is interesting to recap some of the salient features of the runaway global heating emergency that we humans find ourselves in.
Slow changes of carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen concentrations and temperatures in the atmosphere, over hundreds of thousands or millions of years, are normal. The biosphere reacts over millions of years; species come and go.
Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the biosphere emerged around 3 billion years ago after the young earth started to cool down. The biosphere is a super-organism that is self-regulating. Chemical processes (the elements) interact with physical processes (sunlight, gravity, waves, particles and their behaviour) to create biological organisms (bacteria, animals; plants). Chemical changes affect biological changes.
2-3 billion years ago cyano bacteria came into existence. They are sometimes considered algae, but they are actually bacteria (prokaryotic), where the term “algae” is now reserved for eukaryotic organisms. They derive their energy through photosynthesis, but lack a nucleus or membrane bound organelles like chloroplasts. They produced the world’s first oxygen that replaced the sulphurous atmosphere or archaic earth.
Around 2 billion years ago eukaryotes came into existence. Each cell contains a nucleus enclosed within a membrane, unlike prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea). Eukaryotic cells also contain other membrane-bound organelles such as mitochondria and the golgi apparatus. Some cells of plants and algae contain chloroplasts. Unlike unicellular archaea and bacteria, eukaryotes may also be multicellular and may be organisms consisting of many cell types forming different kinds of tissue. Such primitive eukaryotes are the ancestors of humans.
Animals and plants are the most familiar eukaryotes. Eukaryotes can reproduce both asexually through mitosis and sexually through meiosis and gamete fusion. 800 million years ago eukaryotes became very common. Sexual reproduction ensures that pests are unable to adapt to one specific genetic profile of the species. The human female retains genetic marks from male offspring too, a mechanism that may play a similar role in boosting immunity for the mother or for subsequent offspring or both. There is of course the question of what all this marvellous ability by humans to resist disease, – as they evolved from around 2 million years ago until the present -, implies, now that there will soon be 10 billion of us. What does earth have in store for the species?
55 million years ago there occurred the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). For around 2000 years, volcanoes spewed out around 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (1 GtCO2 yr-1), and caused the average global temperature to rise by 5-8 degrees Celsius over the next seven million years. For reasons no one really knows, the percentage of oxygen in earth’s atmosphere has been 21% since then, a percentage that is suitable for many forms of organisms, including mammals. Perhaps oxygen began being retained in the atmosphere at a steady percentage once enough ozone was accumulated in the upper atmosphere. This shielded life from the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Over the last 800,000 years, CO2 concentrations have been as low as ~180 ppm, and during the Eemian interglacial that began around 130,000 years ago they were as high as ~300 ppm. The biosphere regulates its temperatures through homeostasis. Here you see the direct relationship between changes in CO2 , methane (CH4) and temperature from measurements taken from ice cores in Vladivostok, at thousand year intervals from 160’000 years ago to the present.
The blue arrow indicates the levels of concentrations today. CO2 is at 415 ppm and CH4 is off the chart at 1866 ppm. When carbon dioxide levels go up due to volcanic eruptions, plants grow more abundantly, and thus over time they again reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and again bring down temperatures. When carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere dip to as low as 180 ppm as they did in the past, processes are triggered to push concentrations up again, including processes such as the decomposition of organic matter, fires and the release of CH4. The last time CO2 concentrations were around 400 ppm was about 3.5 million years ago during the mid-Pliocene. Now compare these rates of change to what the human species is doing as seen in the graph.
The self-regulating system of the biosphere, that has been oscillating within ~180 ppm to ~300 ppm for at least 800’000 years, a system known as natural homeostasis, has now been disturbed again, this time by around 200 private and publicly owned companies that extract, refine, produce, distribute and sell, fossil fuels in the form of oil, coal, gas and nuclear energy.
The difference between the present climate change event, – which is a global heating emergency -, and previous events, is that the present event is happening over a few decades, unlike all previous events that took from hundreds of thousands of years to millions of years to unfold.
In 1953 the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were still at the upper natural level of 300 ppm, a level that had not been exceeded for 200’000 years. But from 1953 to 2019 the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere suddenly began going up very dramatically until today it is rising by 2-3 ppm per annum and currently stands at 415 ppm, the highest concentration of CO2 for 4.5 million years.
The causes of the steep rise of concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 19th and first part of the 20th century, were deforestation, slaughter of other animals and native humans, and burning of coal for industrialisation and for the expansion of the civilisation of white Europeans in Europe and North America.
Then from 1953 to 1992 the CO2 emissions continued to rise in industrialised countries, such that in 1988 when the United Nations decided to work towards an international climate treaty, the concentrations were already at 350 ppm.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992. The UNFCCC takes 1990 as the base year against which CO2 levels have to be reduced. In 1990 the production, consumption and distribution of fossil fuels contributed to the following average emissions from industrial and energy sources in selected countries in tCO2 /person/yr: Canada 17, USA 23, India 0.5, Nigeria 0.4, China 1, Germany 11.6. The total for all countries was 21 GtCO2 . (1 GtCO2 .= 1 billion tonnes CO2 .)
The 219 countries that signed the UNFCCC expressed their commitment to work towards the objective of the UNFCCC. Article 2 of the UNFCCC states that “The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”
Sadly, because the purpose of the capitalist system is borrow money from banks and pay back the debt and the interest, and to earn a profit for the borrower, the industrialised countries refused to cooperate with the developing countries to work towards meeting the objective of the UNFCCC. Since the beginning of the capitalist system in the 19th century, GDP had steadily gone up as CO2 has gone up, and vice versa. The two growth curves are impossible to delink. Only by eradicating capitalism and creating a system with or without money that makes humans work to support sinks, can runaway global heating be avoided. Developing countries urged the industrialised countries to consider adopting such a different form of democratic ecological social system, that, unlike industrial capitalist society, would not adversely affect people who depend on forests and agriculture. But sadly since 1992 not a single country has chosen to close down companies that specialise in extracting and selling fossil fuel products, despite the fact that their production systems cause such rapid rises of CO2 concentrations and the associated runaway global heating.
In 2018 the total emissions from all companies and countries were 37.1 GtCO2 . This should be compared with the 1 GtCO2 . yr-1 during the PETM. Today a temperature rise of 10 degrees Celsius is is programmed into the biosphere due to an accumulated 2000 GtCO2 in the atmosphere from anthropogenic emissions, 1000 GtCO2 of which was put there by irresponsible developed country governments since 1988 alone. Not one of the 200 odd fossil fuel companies that supply this commercial energy that is so dangerous to human survival has been closed down. It is very likely that 10 degrees C temperature rise will occur in the next 100 years, possibly even sooner.
Some experts advocate a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy to address all this. Sadly it is too late for this option. Let us examine why.
Assuming that all wind, solar, wave and other commercial renewable energy technologies are manufactured using fossil fuels, and assuming a rate of 0.06 kWh of energy required for manufacturing and transporting every kWh of such renewable electricity generation, and assuming every sovereign nation in the world is going to implement the Green New Deal (GND), we can calculate the global temperature rise planned into this proposal.
I am assuming an installed capacity per person of 2 kW wind and a net capacity factor for wind of 50% and 4 kW of PV and 2000 sunshine hours for PV per annum, so annual electricity consumption per person in the world is 8760 kWh for wind and 8000 kWh from PV, so lets take 8000 kWh consumption per person per year of RETs electricity consumption.
In this scenario we are ignoring the fact that electricity is not as versatile a fuel as petroleum. We are assuming the GND is going to supply 8000 kWh/person/yr energy for cooking, heating, cooling, water pumping and charging an electric bicycle. This is up from 1149 kWh/yr for Indians, down from 81,800 kWh/ year/person in the USA and compares to the 7251 kWh/person out of around 28’000 kWh that is renewable energy in the EU. Thus the GND is around 20’000 kWh/person/yr less energy consumption than what is currently consumed in the EU, and 73’800 kWh of energy consumption/yr /person less than what Americans consume. In the UK 5243 kWh/person/yr is from RETs out of total present energy consumption of round 20’000 kWh. In Switzerland the present total energy consumption is 29125 kWh/person/yr of which RETS is around 3000 kWh. In China energy consumption is 26013 kWh per person per year.
The global GND would involve a complete change in the kind of work a person does. Instead of working on machines powered by commercial energy, all human beings would be working in forestry and agriculture with just some small quantities of renewable energy for water pumping and cooking energy. However if we look at the plan in more detail, we find that, even if all excess consumption of commercial fossil fuel energy is given up, and even if we make these major changes to they type of work we all do, global GND will not keep emissions down enough.
This can be proved by calculating whether or not sources and sinks can be balanced. We are assuming an emission factor of 1 kgCO2 / kWh of fossil fuel energy. So the total GtCO2 emissions from the global GND are calculated as 8000 kWh/person/yr * 0.06 kWh of petroleum or coal or nuclear based energy required for manufacturing and transporting this RETs infrastructure, * 1 kgCO2 / kWh from such non-renewable energy, = 0.06 kWh * 8000 = 480 kgCO2 /person/yr. So that is 480 kg * 10 billion people is 4.8 GtCO2 / yr from the global GND. Adding 1 kgCO2 every day from 10 billion people breathing, adding up to a total of 5.1 GtCO2 yr-1.
Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) activities accounted for 12.0 +/- 3.0 GtCO2 e yr-1 of total net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs during 2007-2016 (Sources). The natural response of land to human-induced environmental change caused a net sink of around 11.2 GtCO2 yr-1 during 2007-2016. (Sinks). Thus there is 0.8 GtCO2 +/- 3.0 GtCO2 deficit of sinks without taking into account the 25 GtCO2/yr of GHG emissions from fossil fuels. (Ref 1)
In fact land is simultaneously a source and a sink of CO2 due to both anthropogenic and natural drivers and due to direct effects and positive feedback, and this makes it difficult to separate anthropogenic from natural fluxes. Global models estimate net CO2 emissions of 5.2 ± 2.6 Gt CO2 yr-1 from land use and land-use change during 2007-16. These net emissions are mostly due to deforestation, and they are only partly offset by afforestation / reforestation, and emissions and removals by other land use activities. (Ref 1)
Remembering that we want the biosphere to keep engaging in its natural system of homeostasis even now as we have already programmed 10 degrees Celsius temperature rise in the next century into the system, how can we allow ourselves to add 5.1 GtCO2 yr-1 emissions into the atmosphere; and in addition to continue to cause an additional net emission of 5.2 ± 2.6 Gt CO2 yr-1 from land use and land-use change in excess of the sink capacity of the biosphere?
Let us recap. The biosphere is a living system that maintains homeostasis in waves of time and space that extend over the whole earth and that interact with the cosmos, for example mainly by absorbing solar rays, over periods of millions of years. The concentrations of carbon dioxide today are higher than at any time since the mid-Pliocene 4.5 million years ago. As temperatures rise and fall in sync with concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, and as 10 degrees Celsius temperature rise is already programmed into the system, does it make sense to have a global plan for emissions of 5.1 GtCO2 yr-1 from manufacturing more industrial infrastructure using fossil fuels to do so? It does not. Not only must we not emit any more CO2 , we must work to protect forests and create more sinks to the tune of at the least avoiding a additional net emission of 5.2 ± 2.6 Gt CO2 yr-1 from land use and land-use change.
The Biosphere consists of plants that breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide, (sinks) and animals that breathe out carbon dioxide and breathe in oxygen (sources). The biosphere regulates the oxygen and carbon dioxide in order to maintain homeostasis. As seen in the Vladivostok ice cores, for the last 160’000 years until 1950 the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere never exceeded 300 ppm. But as we are already at CO2 concentrations of 415 ppm and global temperature averages are already more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial, and as 10 degrees Celsius temperature rise is already programmed into the system, there are questions about how the biosphere will behave. The natural flux in the biosphere such as in the last 200’000 years is around 10 Gt CO2 yr-1. How will the biosphere’s sinks and indeed the sources of greenhouse gases such as CH4 behave now that every year three to four times as much CO2 yr-1 is being added from manmade sources every year? We already know that the Early Eocene did not have any ice cover, and it appears that soon earth will again be without ice.
So whilst it is true that plants grow faster with higher carbon dioxide concentrations, this may only be in the longer term. In the shorter term it may be uncertain whether the sink will persist. For example, forest fires may be part of the natural feedback effects of temperature rise and continued deforestation, and CH4 emissions from melting permafrost, that are already exceeding by a factor of 5 the anthropogenic emissions of CO2 , are also rising at exponential rates due to feedback effects in the biosphere.
There is much more information about all this in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. It can be downloaded from the internet. The information in the report is extremely alarming. (Ref 1)
To be clear. AFOLU activities accounted for 12.0 +/- 3.0 GtCO2 e yr-1 of total net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs during 2007-2016 (sources), and the natural response of land to human-induced environmental change caused a net sink of around 11.2 GtCO2 yr-1 during 2007-2016 (sinks), a sink deficit of 0.8 GtCO2 +/- 3.0 GtCO2 ( all this without taking into account the 37.1 GtCO2/yr of GHG emissions from fossil fuels). And global models estimate net CO2 emissions of 5.2 ± 2.6 Gt CO2 yr-1 from land use and land-use change during 2007-16. Then how can we even in our wildest dreams conceive of continuing to emit any CO2 except what we exhale after breathing in oxygen?
Indeed a final nail in the coffin of the global GND idea is the slow rate at which the capitalist market installs RETS. Annual installation rates have never been more than 171,000 MW/yr. Assuming 1/3 new capacity is from wind and 2/3 from PV, we would need to install 34 million MW of RETS under the global GND. For this the capitalist market would take 198 years at existing rates of installation. And not only that. If we assume that business as usual continues under capitalism until everyone has 8000 kWh of renewable energy 198 years from now, the corporations and their consumers will be adding at least 37.1 GtCO2 yr-1 for 198 years into the atmosphere. Thus the rate of increase of concentrations of CO2 will continue rising for another 198 years. Assuming a growth rate of 1%, the annual rate of increase will go up from 2.11 ppm in 2019 to 15 ppm per annum 198 years from now. Over these 198 years the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will add up to 1745 ppm, a level not seen since the early Eocene 54 to 48 billion years ago, when levels were between 1,000 and 2,000 ppm.
Trees such as birch, cedar, chestnut, elm, and beech flourished during the Eocene Epoch in some regions. In western India dipterocarp elements occurred along with taxa such as swintonia, pterospermum, diospyro and others. The earth must have been completely covered in forests. Aquatic and insect life were much the same as today. It is difficult if not impossible to know whether or how the human species or any other species will evolve and adapt to temperatures rises of 10 degrees C and to carbon dioxide levels of 1000 – 2000 ppm as prevailed during the Eocene Epoch and as will prevail in the next century.
And it is even more difficult to know what will happen to the few remaining animal and plant species that humankind has not yet caused to go extinct. Will they survive in the coming years of rapid global heating? Will new species evolve or is the global heating caused by fossil fuel burning causing changes that are much too rapid for most species to adapt to in the short term? Could all living beings barring perhaps bacteria go extinct in the near future, until over millions of years the biosphere settles back into a new and different type of homeostasis with very different common species?
It is impossible to know.
And because of all this uncertainty, it is better to avoid fossil fuels and avoid industry and avoid nuclear energy and all other forms of industrial capitalist practices. Instead it would be better to give all humans land based work, so that humans emit just the CO2 emissions from breathing and nothing more.
If we could adopt such land based and forest based lifestyles now, if we avoid machines; if all corporations and Governments that produce fossil fuels and nuclear energy are abolished and if our work is to disperse seeds to support sinks: then we might live on. We don’t know if we will live on if we do everything right; but if we continue doing everything wrong as we are today we are 100% certain to go extinct very soon.
All human beings need to take a patch of land to work on, to grow our own food, as well as food and sinks for the remaining wild animals around us. We must abolish private property and live within the homeostatic system of the biosphere.
One kilogram of carbon (C) weighs 44/12 kilograms of CO2. 1 kilogram of any kind of biomass from any form of plants, like trees, grasses, plankton or algae weighs around 1/2 kg of C. So every 1 kg of plant matter that is grown absorbs ! * 1/2 * 44/12 = 1.83 kg of CO2.
If the land on earth is used equally by humans, each human can disperse seeds on around 2 hectares of land. The total carbon fluxes on earth are around 10 GtCO2. That means 10 billion humans must each guard over and look after 1 tCO2 sources and sinks per annum. This CO2. and CH4 must only come from plants and animals. A human emits 1 kg CO2 when breathing. So of the 1000 kg CO2 plants that grow and decay under the watchful eye of every human every year, 365 kg CO2 is made up of the emissions from breathing. And this carbon dioxide is absorbed by 365 kg CO2 / 44/12 / 0.5 = 199.45 kg of plant food out of the 1000 kg or so plant food we grow and eat per person per year. Thus compared to the average CO2 emissions per person in industrialised countries of around 10-20 tCO2 per year, the sustainable level is 0.365 tCO2.. The rest of each person’s 1tCO2 carbon flux of 0.635 tCO2..is for, and from, the emissions from wild animals and decaying plants on our 2 hectares, which we must protect and nurture as do all living and non-living beings.
Living and non-living beings are cooperative beings that cooperate within the greater system of the biosphere for our own good and the good of all things. If we do things right in ways that don’t harm other living and non-living beings (unlike what industrial capitalists have done in the last centuries), we are bound to be able to go along with whatever other symbiotic changes between all living and non-living beings occur.
There can thus be a a human role in the sustainable carbon cycle even for 10 billion humans, provided we become human animals in the best possible sense.
And we must grow these trees extremely quickly to protect us from the 10 degrees Celsius global heating that is going to take place in the life time of children born this century. Our fate is in god’s hands. But our actions and choices are within our control.
|August 30, 2019||
Nature And Human Beings
by Binay Sarkar, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
“Capitalism tends to destroy its two sources of wealth: nature and human beings” – Karl Marx
“Man lives on nature — means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.” ~ Karl Marx, 1844.
Engels asserts that humans have thus become distinguished from animals by their ability to manipulate nature in manifold and dynamic ways, as opposed to fitting into a singular ecological niche. He notes that “whole continents” have been reconfigured through human industry, and that even plants and animals themselves have been transformed by selective breeding to the extent “that they become unrecognizable.”
However, he cautions against the conceptualization of nature as standing in opposition to humanity in any sense, writing, “Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”
“The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. … The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!” – Marx & Engels, Manifesto
Time is slipping away
100 Month and Counting…
We have 100 months to save the planet. When the clock stops ticking we could be beyond the climate’s ‘tipping point’, the point of no return.
Binay Sarkar is a retired college teacher
|September 3, 2019||
The Global Green New Deal is a Plan for Genocide
by Anandi Sharan, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
This article is a criticism and condemnation of a self-declared “major” “modern money theory – green new deal initiative” written by the economist Bill Mitchell and disseminated on his website. According to his wikipedia page William Francis Mitchell was born March 1952 and is a professor of economics at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia and a notable proponent of modern monetary theory. The page says that Bill Mitchell coined the term, “modern monetary theory”, also known as, “MMT”.
In a blog on September 1 2019, which is being shared across quite a few green leftist groups on social media in the Anglo-Saxon culture, he reported that he and others are “putting together a major MMT-green new deal initiative in Australia which will have global ramifications. It will bring together MMT with climate action and indigenous rights interests. .. we will issue a ‘white paper’ in the coming months to articulate what we conceive as a jobs-first, equity-first MMT-green new deal might look like.” (Reference 1)
His message is being shared amongst other places in a group called “The Gower initiative for modern money studies” who laud it because there is “the growing acceptance of the modern monetary theory (MMT) position that reliance on monetary policy has not been a success and that a period of fiscal dominance is emerging. Part of that shift in policy focus should be to frame the challenges of the green new deal in a much more sensible way – avoiding ridiculous questions such as ‘how are we going to pay for it’ and statements such as ‘we cannot afford it’ when the proponents are constructing those questions purely in terms of not having ‘enough currency’ to facilitate the required real resource shifts. #GreenNewDeal #ClimateCrisis #MMT.” (Reference 2)
Another group, the global institute for sustainable prosperity, avidly proposes that “it is possible to truly have a sustainable economy on top of improving basic social and health services throughout the United States. We are here to help encourage communities to take part in educating others. Lecture will begin with an introduction to understanding modern monetary theory (MMT) by Fadhel Kaboub. During the theory into action half of the presentation with Steven B. Larchuk, the focus will be on health care, infrastructure, education, climate change, and a proposal for breaking the ice through federal funding of 100% of Medicaid” (Reference 3).
They also recommend that people attend another economist Stephanie Kelton’s “sustainable prosperity conference” in Adelaide, Australia, sometime this year. (Reference 4)
Of course the most famous advocates of the global green new deal are politicians of the Democratic party in the USA including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and their advisors and supporters.
In his August 8 2019 blog entitled “[t]he green new deal must wipe out precarious work and underemployment”, Bill Mitchell says that “[i]n mapping out what I think are the essential aspects of a social transformation that we might call a green new deal, eliminating precarious work is one of the priorities – it is intrinsic to creating a more equitable society in harmony with nature.”
Though Bill Mitchell calls it a social transformation, one of my fundamental disagreements with Bill Mitchell and the Gower initiative for modern money studies and the other groups and economists and politicians mentioned, is their belief that whether or not there will be a social transformation, what is really needed more than anything else is a benign state with absolute sovereign power and agency.
That Bill Mitchell has such a belief is evident from the title of his book Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017). I have not read it, but the existence of the sovereign state is clearly thus in his view a necessary precondition for implementing his “major” “MMT – green new deal”. He wants to reclaim the state. He needs a state in order to exercise absolute sovereign power over the citizens, in order that, amongst other things, his state can have monopoly control over the national currency, its creation and management. He says that “[t]he green new deal will require a massive fiscal stimulus and many new job categories created and filled.”
Before assessing the money part, – which I may not even do in this article, or at all, because why should I enter into a discussion on how much money and from where and for what should be made available by the various national and presumably international and possibly even global financial authorities for the global green new deal, when I consider this exercise a fundamentally genocidal proposition -, it is important to assess the ecological part.
No more money can be put into circulation than is feasible. There are resource limits. Even MMT economists accept that. And one resource limit for the global money supply is the stable atmosphere. Another is land. A third is population, a fourth is nitrogen, and so on.
The stable atmosphere is preserved if the activities of humans and animals are part of a flux of around 100 – 120 billion tonnes of carbon (360 – 440 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide) circulating in the biosphere every year.
As an aside we should mention that this flux has not much to do with the overall amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Humans and animals breathe in the oxygen deposited in the atmosphere over a period of half a billion years or so. Sometime 55 million years ago the part of oxygen in the atmosphere stabilised at 21%. Even if all living beings on earth were burnt to cinders and there were no more plants exhaling oxygen, the part of oxygen in the atmosphere would barely change by a tenth of a percent or two. Like fossil fuels in the ground, the oxygen in the air was deposited there over half a billion years or so and is not likely to be affected by the annual carbon flux very much.
On the other hand, the short term average global temperature of the earth that is linked to the carbon dioxide concentrations and the methane concentration in the atmosphere is a different resource all together. This resource, the resource of a stable temperature, has been destabilised multiple times over geological time, but never so far terminally for humans, since the first appearance of homo habilis two point eight million years ago.
For the last 200’000 years the 360 – 440 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that are exchanged between the atmosphere and the plants and animals and rocks and oceans every year have kept the concentrations in the atmosphere within the broad range of 180 – 300 parts per million. Then suddenly after the 19th century period of deforestation, industrialisation and the removal of fossil fuels from underground, the concentrations shot up to 350 ppm by 1988 and 415 ppm by 2019. The last time carbon dioxide concentrations and the matching methane concentrations in the atmosphere were at this level was 3.5 million years ago.
One may think a few parts per million here or there does not make much difference. But organisms whether they are small like humans or large like the biosphere are delicately balanced chemical systems. Police in the town of Riga in Latvia once picked up a man with 7.22 parts per million of alcohol in his blood. The report went on to say that an average person would vomit at around 1.2, lose consciousness at 3.0 and stop breathing at a level of about 4.0 parts per million. Thus if the norm for the biosphere is 180 – 300 ppm, and the present level is 415 ppm, and the projected levels are between two or three or up to five times this, this is a potentially lethal dose for those animals such as humans that are not made either for such levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere nor for the matching levels of methane to go with that or the potentially upto 10 degrees Celsius warming that goes with such levels too.
Assuming we as a human species do want to make a concerted effort to stop concentrations from going any higher than 415 ppm, and supposing we want to call into being a programme to bring the concentrations back down to between 180 and 300 ppm, would the continued emissions of carbon dioxide and methane that would be associated with manufacturing the machines needed for a global green new deal be part of any even half-way responsible plan? No. All emissions of carbon dioxide have to stop now. After all carbon dioxide molecules sit in the atmosphere for 100 – 200 years. There are still around 2000 billion tonnes of excess carbon dioxide, from burning fossil fuels since 1953, in the atmosphere, the impacts of which are yet to come.
I have published the calculations of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the proposed global green new deal before, but I repeat them here.
In 2018 the total emissions from all companies and countries added thirty seven point one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This should be compared with the one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year in the two thousand years during the during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum when temperatures shot up and stayed up for six million years after the event. Today our capitalist forest and fossil fuel burning event, that has been taking place since the 1750s or so, has a temperature rise of ten degrees Celsius programmed into the system. Not one of the two hundred odd fossil fuel companies that have been supplying this commercial energy since the beginning of the twentieth century has been closed down despite the fact that we know that it is very likely that ten degrees Celsius temperature rise due to their pollution will occur in the next one hundred years, possibly even sooner.
Now assuming that wind, solar, wave and other commercial renewable energy technologies are manufactured for the global green new deal using fossil fuels, and assuming a rate of sixty Watt hours of energy required for manufacturing and transporting every one thousand Watt hours of such renewable electricity generation, and assuming every one in the world is going get the green new deal implemented for them, we can calculate the global carbon dioxide emissions planned as a constituent element of this proposal.
I am assuming an installed capacity per person of two thousand Watt of wind and a net capacity factor for wind of fifty percent, and four thousand Watt of photovoltaic electricity generation capacity and two thousand sunshine hours for the solar electricity systems per annum, so annual electricity consumption per person in the world will be eight million seven hundred and sixty thousand Watt hours for wind and eight million Watt hours for solar electricity. So lets take eight million Watt hours consumption per person per year from electricity consumption supplied under the New Green Deal.
In this scenario we are leaving aside the fact that electricity is not as versatile a fuel as petroleum. We are assuming that the green new deal is going to supply eight million Watt hours per person per year for energy for cooking, heating, cooling, water pumping and charging an electric bicycle. This is seven times more than all the energy Indians are using today, ten times less than what Americans are using, five times less than energy consumption in the European Union, four times less than in the UK, five times less than in Switzerland and four times less than in China.
The global green new deal would involve a complete change in the kind of work a person does. Instead of working on machines powered by commercial energy, all human beings would be working in forestry and agriculture with just some small quantities of renewable energy for water pumping and cooking energy. However if we look at the plan in more detail, we find that, even if all excess consumption of commercial fossil fuel energy is given up, and even if we make these major changes to they type of work we all do, global green new deal will not keep emissions down enough.
This can be proved by calculating whether or not sources and sinks can be balanced. A sink is a plant or tree that absorbs carbon dioxide and gives out oxygen, and a source is an animal or water body or other ecosystem that is emitting carbon dioxide from breathing or methane and carbon dioxide from decomposing. We are assuming an emission factor of one gram of carbon dioxide emitted for every Watt hour of fossil fuel energy burnt. So the total carbon dioxide emissions from the global green new deal are calculated as eight million Watt hours per person per year multiplied by 60 Wh of petroleum or coal or nuclear based energy required for manufacturing and transporting this renewable energy infrastructure multiplied by 1 gramme of carbon dioxide which is 60 multiplied by eight million multiplied by one which is four hundred and eighty million grammes or four hundred and eighty kilograms of carbon dioxide per person per year. So if we multiply that by ten billion people that is four point eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year from running electricity on the global new green deal. If we add our breathing of one kilogram of carbon dioxide every day per person from ten billion people, that adds up to a a total of five point one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted from the use of renewable energy every year.
Now what about the sinks? Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities were the source of between nine and fifteen billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere every year in the years from 2007 to 2016. The natural response of plants and forests and other land based sinks to this human-induced environmental change was to absorb in their sinks around eleven point two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in those same years. Thus there are between eight hundred thousand billion tonnes and three point eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide sequestration missing in this system. And this is without taking into account the thirty seven point one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere every year from burning fossil fuels, which is not being absorbed by any plants or forests at all.
In fact land is simultaneously a source and a sink of carbon dioxide due to both human and natural activities and due to direct effects and positive feedback, and this makes it difficult to separate human from natural fluxes. Global models estimate that if all the oceans, forests and land are taken together, there were between two point six and seven point eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from land use and land-use change being added to the atmosphere every year from the year 2007 to 2016. These emissions are mostly due to deforestation, and they are only partly offset by afforestation / reforestation, and due to emissions and removals by other land use activities.
Thus even if the thirty seven point one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions this year from burning fossil fuels were stopped instantly next year, we would still be emitting between two point six and seven point eight tonnes of carbon dioxide too much globally every year from faulty land use practices.
Thus remembering that we want the biosphere to keep engaging in its natural system of homeostasis even now as we have already programmed ten degrees Celsius temperature rise in the next century into the system, can we really allow ourselves to add another five point one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from some global green new deal?
And how can we, in addition, continue to use land in such a way as to cause additional emissions of between two point six and seven point eight billion tonnes every year, emissions that are destroying plants instead of growing them and thus destroying the sink capacity of the biosphere?
Leaving everything else aside, – for example, that plants grow faster with higher carbon dioxide concentrations, that this may only be in the longer term, that we do not even know whether sinks will persist at all or not, or what other natural feedback effects of temperature rise and continued deforestation will be, that therefore all calculations may be off completely, and that we humans have no idea how to reverse the ten degrees Celsius warming already programmed into the system but that the biosphere may have plans that we have no idea about, – the only sensible and sane course of action to adopt is to err on the side of caution and not emit any greenhouse gases of any kind any more into the atmosphere other than what we emit as part of the natural carbon flux between plants and animals of which we are a part.
A final nail in the coffin of the global green new deal idea is the slow rate at which the capitalist market installs renewable energy systems. Annual installation rates have never been more than one hundred and seventy-one thousand million watts capacity every year. Assuming one third new capacity is from wind and two thirds from solar under the global green new deal, we would need to install thirty four million million watts of renewable energy capacity under the global green new deal. For this the capitalist market would take one hundred and ninety eight years at existing rates of installation. And not only that. If we assume that business as usual continues under capitalism until everyone has eight million Watt hours of renewable energy 198 years from now, the corporations and their consumers will be adding at least the existing thirty seven point one billion tonnes carbon dioxide every year for 198 years into the atmosphere until every has completed the switch over. Thus the rate of increase of concentrations of carbon dioxide will continue rising for another one hundred and ninety eight years. Assuming a growth rate of one percent, the annual rate of increase will go up from two point one one parts per million in 2019 to fifteen parts per million per annum one hundred and ninety eight years from now. Over these one hundred and ninety-eight years the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will add up to one thousand seven-hundred and forty five parts per million, a level not seen since the early Eocene fifty four to forty eight billion years ago, when levels were between one thousand and two thousand parts per million.
Trees such as birch, cedar, chestnut, elm, and beech flourished during the Eocene Epoch in some regions. In western India dipterocarp elements occurred along with taxa such as swintonia, pterospermum, diospyro and others. The earth must have been completely covered in forests. Aquatic and insect life were much the same as today. It is difficult if not impossible to know whether or how the human species or any other species will evolve and adapt to a temperature rise of ten degrees Celsius and to carbon dioxide levels of one thousand to two thousand parts per million as prevailed during the Eocene Epoch and as will prevail in the next century.
And it is even more difficult to know what will happen to the few remaining animal and plant species that humankind has not yet caused to go extinct. Will they survive in the coming years of rapid global heating? Will new species evolve or is the global heating caused by fossil fuel burning causing changes that are much too rapid for most species to adapt to in the short term? Could all living beings barring perhaps bacteria go extinct in the near future, until over millions of years the biosphere settles back into a new and different type of homeostasis with very different common species?
A worldwide mobilisation against the global green new deal is likely to bring out the stark and irreconcilable contradictions and conflicts and the inherent opposition between industrial workers on the one side and agricultural and forestry workers in the world on the other. It is a conflict between developed and developing countries, between urban and rural workers, and between god fearing realists and technological optimists. It is actually a conflict between those who trust in behaving like animals in the best possible sense, and those who are willing to continue on the genocidal path of runaway global heating by emitting man-made carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.
|September 4, 2019||
Killing the Ocean
by Robert Hunziker, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
The oceans are “crying for mercy,” a fact that is starkly revealed in a telling 900-page draft of a forthcoming UN report due for release September 25th. The draft report obtained by Agence France-Presse (AFP) assesses the status of the oceans and cyrosphere. It’s a landmark UN report, and it’s not a pretty picture.
In the final analysis, the report amounts to self-destruction that’s largely ignored by most of the leading countries throughout the world. It’s all about greenhouse gassing as a result of human interference in the climate system, thus, evidence that humans are heat machines!
The opening statement in AFP’s news release states: “The same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel.” (Source: Oceans Turning From Friend to Foe, Warns Landmark UN Climate Report, Agence France Presse, August 29, 2019)
This Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “Special Report” states “destructive changes are already set in motion,” referencing loss of fish stocks, a 100-fold increase in super-storm damage, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising sea levels. A 100-fold increase of super-storms plus 100s of millions of displaced should draw immediate political action, like a WWII Marshall Plan to fight anthropogenic climate change, but will it happen?
Not only that, powerful evidence of the human link to radical biological shifts in the world’s oceans is poignantly described in Dahr Jamail’s brilliant book: The End of Ice(The New Press, 2019)
Dahr describes a personal visit with Bruce Wright, senior scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association and former section chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for eleven years, to wit:
By 1975, the water in the Gulf of Alaska had already warmed up 2c. At the time the entire biological system shifted, causing the Alaska Fish and Game Department to “shut down the fisheries to protect what was left… The dramatic shift across the biological system in the Gulf of Alaska in the 1970s was the first evidence of profound change that Wright witnessed and he attributed it directly to the waters being warmed by climate disruption.” (Jamailpg. 60)
Thereafter, Dahr fast-forwards to 2016 with shocking descriptions of the ravages of human-generated climate change, Jamail pgs.60-64, as follows below:
“This last summer, the gulf warmed up 15°C warmer than normal in some areas,’ Wright told me, ‘Yes, you heard me right, 15°C. And it is now, overall, 5°C above normal in both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and has been all winter long.”
“My head swam (Jamail). The biological shift that caused the fisheries to close in the 1970s came from a 2°C change in water temperature… Imagine what is going on out in the Gulf of Alaska right now,’ he said, giving several examples, including die-offs among fin whales.”
“We (Jamail and Wright) spoke about the declining numbers of halibut… The massive die-off of murres across the entirety of Alaska had been dominating the local news… witnessing the largest murre die-off in the state’s recorded history… starvation… striking numbers, by tens of thousands…the result of water temperatures so high that ‘we not only had extensive paralytic shellfish poisoning, we had a huge bloom of Alexandrium… sand lances had become toxic from feeding on marine PSP toxin… These toxins moved up the food chain. Nearly every animal, from salmon to whales to cod to diving birds, like puffins, auks, cormorants, and terns eat the sand lances or the larvae… Sea otters, steller sea lions, and northern fur seals have all seen shocking population declines across western Alaska… All of our oceans are being affected by these toxic, harmful algal blooms now.”
“Later that summer, National Geographic reported how toxic algal blooms (as a result of warming oceans) were spreading across the planet, poisoning both people and marine life.”
“Wright was certain the driving factor was climate disruption, which was warming the North Pacific and Bering Sea and leading to a dramatic increase in PSP. Anyone foolish enough to come to the Aleutians and eat forage fish is playing Russian roulette with their life, he said. Alaska Division of Public Health states clearly that ‘some of these toxins are 1,000 times more potent than cyanide, and toxin levels contained in a single shellfish can be fatal to humans.”
Meanwhile, “Earth’s oceans continue to absorb over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” It’s that source of ocean heat that’s primarily extinguishing marine life.
As such, civilization in toto is subjecting itself to suicidal behavior by failing to listen to scientists and failing to enact emergency measures to convert fossil fuels to renewables. It’s a deadly situation, but stillnot resonating nearly enough to save the oceans.
Additionally, according to the aforementioned AFP report, without cuts in human-caused emissions, at a minimum, 30% of the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost will melt this century, which would release billions upon billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere,which is already filled to the brim with greenhouse gases, thereby accelerating global warming.
All in all, the overall tragedy of the ocean crisis prompts obvious questions: What does it take for world political leadership (especially in America, purportedly, the leader of the free world) to push the big red emergency buttons? Should political leaders be transported to see first-hand sea animal deaths? Should world leaders be “challenged” to eat Alaskan forage fish?
Seabirds are literally falling out of the sky along the West Pacific Coast (For Five Years Running Now, Mass Seabird Mortality Events Continue in Alaska Waters Which Continue to be Warmer Than Normal, Alaska Nature & Science, August 2019); sea lion carcasses line beaches from Vancouver Island to Southern California (Surge in Sick, Hungry Sea Lions Off California’s Coast Puzzles Marine Biologists, The Sacramento Bee, July 4, 2019) ; whale deaths are disturbingly too frequent (Feds Declare Emergency as Grey Whale Deaths Reach Highest Level in Nearly 20 Years, Phys.org, June 4, 2019); the largest toxic algal bloom ever recorded shut down California’s crab industry for months; Alaska is experiencing spikes in deaths of sea otters (Officials Investigate Otter Deaths in Southwestern Alaska, KTOO, Public Media, March 2018) as well as abrupt deaths of several whale species.
Mass sea animal deaths, year after year,are not normal!
The world community must hold its political leaders accountable for abject failure to react. If it were otherwise, meaning, listening to science and acting accordingly, then emergency governmental acts would be underway all across the globe… they’re not!
After all, it’s truly a life and death matter that is hidden from public view, as global warming hits hardest where the fewest people live but where the world’s most elementary and primary food chain is rapidly coming apart at the seams.
Imagine toxins 1,000 times more toxic than cyanide spreading throughout the world’s oceans. Actually, no imagination is necessary because it’s already started in Alaska. For Pete’s sake, first-hand evidence is readily available by simply talking to “locals,” similar to what Dahr Jamail did prior to writing his book.
At some point in time in the near future, it is highly probable that environmental degradation will “force the hand” of the public into open rebellion. Throughout history, it happens “out of the blue.” Ka-boom!
Postscript: The Trump administration is changing how the federal government “implements key laws” under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Henceforth, governmental agencies will be able to (1) “ignore” climate change implications of their actions as well as (2) “avoid” public disclosure of theirscheming. This is extremeradical departure from the original“legal intent” of the NEPA.
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.
|September 4, 2019||
Portents of 21st century global warming.
by Dr Andrew Glikson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
“we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it”… “Now we probably don’t even have a future anymore, because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once. You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard. Greta Thunberg
The extreme GHG and temperature rise rates since the mid-1970th raise questions over linear climate projections for the 21st century and beyond. Under a rise of CO2-equivalent reaching +500 ppm and 3.0Wm-2 relative to 1750, the current rise rates of CO2 by 2.86 ppm per and recent global temperature rise rate (0.15-0.20°C per decade) since 1975 are leading to an abrupt shift in state of the terrestrial climate and the biosphere. By mid-21st century at >750 ppm CO-e climate tipping points indicated by Lenton et al. 2008and Schellnhuber 2009 are likely to be crossed.Melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has increased by a factor of more than 5 since 1979–1990. As the ice sheets and sea ice melt the albedo flip between reflective ice surfaces and dark infrared-absorbing water results in significant increase of radiative forcing and complete removal of Arctic sea ice would result in a forcing of about 0.7 Wm−2 (Hudson, 2011). The confluence of climate events, including a breach of the circum-Arctic jet stream boundary and a polar-ward migration of climate zones at a rate of 56-111 km per decade, induce world-wide extreme weather events including bushfires, methane release from Arctic permafrost and sediments.For a climate sensitivity of 3±1.5°C per doubling of atmospheric CO2, global warming has potentially reached between +2oC to +3oC above mean pre-industrial temperatures at a rate exceeding the fastest growth rate over the last 55 million years. As ice melt water flow into the oceans temperature polarities between warming continents and cooling tracts of ocean would further intensify extreme weather events under non-linear climate trajectories. The enrichment of the atmosphere in GHG, constituting a shift in state of the terrestrial climate, is predicted to delay the onset of the next glacial state by some 50,000 years.
A. GHG and temperature rise
The paleoclimate record suggests that no event since 55 million years ago, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), when global temperatures rose by more than +5 to +8oC over a period of ~20,000years, with a subsequent warming period of up to 200,000 years, has been as extreme as atmospheric disruption since the onset of the industrial age about 1750 AD (the Anthropocene), accelerating since 1975. During this period greenhouse gas levels have risen from ~280 ppm toabove >410 ppm andto 496ppm CO2-equivalent (Figure 1),the increase of CO2 reaching near-47 percent above the original atmospheric concentration. However linear climate change projections are rare in the recent climate history (Figure 2) and linear future climate projections may not account for the effects of amplifying feedbacks from land and oceans. Givenan Anthropocene warming rate faster by ~X 200 times than the PETM (Figure 3), linear warming trajectories such as are projected by the IPCC mayoverlook punctuated tipping points, transient reversals and stadial events.
Figure 1.Growth of CO2-equivalent level and the annual greenhouse gas Index (AGGI). Measurements of CO2 to the 1950s are from (Keeling et al., 2008) and from air trapped in ice and snow above glaciers. Equivalent CO2 amounts (in ppm) are derived from the relationship between CO2 concentrations and radiative forcing from all long-lived greenhouse gases.
According to NOAA GHG forcing in 2018 has reached 3.101 Wm-2 relative to 1750 (CO2 =2.044Wm-2; CH4= 0.512 Wm-2; N2O = 0.199Wm-2; CFCs = 0.219Wm-2) with a CO2-equivalent of 492 ppm (Figure 1). The rise in GHG forcing during the Anthropocene since about 1800AD, intensifying since 1900 AD and sharply accelerating since about 1975, has induced a mean of ~1.5oC over the continents above pre-industrial temperature, or >2.0oC when the masking role of aerosols is discounted, implying further warming is still in store.
According to Hansen et al. 2008 the rise in radiative forcing during the Last Glacial Termination (LGT –18,000 -11,000years BP),associated with enhancing feedbacks, has driven GHG radiative forcing by approximately ~3.0 Wm-2and a mean global temperature rise of ~4.50C (Figure 2),or, i.e. of similar order as the Anthropocene rise since about 1900. However the latter has been reached within a time frame at least X30 times shorter than the LGT, underpinning the extreme nature of current global warming.
Figure 2(Hansen et al. 2008).Glacial-temperature and GHG forcing for the last 420,000 years based on the Vostok ice core, with the time scale expanded for the Anthropocoene. The ratio of temperature and forcing scales is 1.5°C per 1 W/m2. The temperature scale gives the expected equilibrium response to GHG change including slow feedback surface albedo change. Modern forcings include human-made aerosols, volcanic aerosols and solar irradiance.
The CO2-equivalent levels and radiative forcing levels constitute a rise from Holocene levels (~280 ppm CO2) to >410 ppm compared withMiocene-like levels (300-600 ppm CO2),at a rate reaching 2 to 3 ppm/year, within a century or so, driving the fastest temperature rise rate recorded since 55 million years ago (Figure 3).
Figure 3.A comparison between rates of mean global temperature rise during: (1) the last Glacial Termination (after Shakun et al. 2012); (2) the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, after Kump 2011); (3) the late Anthropocene (1750–2016), and (4) an asteroid impact. In the latter instance temperature due to CO2 rise would lag by some weeks or months behind aerosol-induced cooling
Considering the transient mitigating albedo effects of clouds, seasonal land surface albedo, ice albedo, atmospheric aerosols including sulphur dioxideand nitrate,the potential rise of land temperature could have reached -0.4 to -0.9 Wm-2in 2018, masking approximately 0.6 to 1.3oC potential warming once the short lived aerosol effect is abruptly reduced.
B. Accelerated melting of the ice sheets
The fast rate of the Anthropocoene temperature rise compared to the LGT and PETM (Figure 3) ensues in differences in terms of the adaptation of flora and fauna to new conditions. The shift in state of the Earth’s climate is most acutely manifested in the poles, where warming leads to weakening of the jet stream boundaries which are breached by outflow of cold air fronts,such as the recent “Beast from the East” event,and penetration of warm air masses.
As the poles keep warming, to date by a mean of ~2.3oC, the shrinking of the ice sheets per year has accelerated by a factor of more than six fold(Figure 4).Warming of the Arctic is driven by the ice-water albedo flip, where dark sea-water absorbing solar energy alternates with high-albedo ice and snow, and by the weakening of the polar boundary and jet stream.
Greenland.The threshold of collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, retarded by hysteresis,is estimated in the range of 400-560 ppm CO2, already transgressed at the current 496 ppm CO2equivalent (Figure 4). The Greenland mass loss increased from 41 ± 17 Gt/yr in 1990–2000, to 187 ± 17 Gt/yr in 2000–2010, to 286 ± 20 Gt/yr in 2010–2018, or six fold since the 1980s, or 80 ± 6 Gt/yr per decade, on average.
Antarctica. The greenhouse gas level and temperature conditions under which the East Antarctic ice sheet formed during the late Eocene 45-34 million years ago are estimated as ~800–2000 ppmandup to 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial values, whereas the threshold of collapse is estimated as600 ppm CO2 or even lower. The total mass loss from the Antarctic ice sheet increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/yr in 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/yr in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/yr in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/yr in 2009–2017. Based on satellite gravity data the East Antarctic ice sheet is beginning to breakdown in places (Jones 2019), notably the Totten Glacier(Rignot et al., 2019), which may be irreversible. According toMengel and Levermann (2014) the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 3–4 meters.
Figure 4.(A) New elevation showing the Greenland and Antarctic current state of the ice sheets accurate to a few meters in height, with elevation changes indicating melting at record pace, losing some 500 km3 of ice per-year into the oceans; (B) Ice anomaly relative to the 2002-2016 mean for the Greenland ice sheet (magenta) and Antarctic ice sheet (cyan). Data are from GRACE; (C)the melting of sea ice1978-2017, National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NCIDC)
C. Migration of climate zones
The expansion ofwarm tropical zonesand the polar-ward migration of subtropical and temperate climate zones are leading to a change in state in the global climate pattern. The migration of arid subtropical zones, such as the Sahara, Kalahari and central Australian deserts into temperate climate zonesensues in large scale droughts, such in inland Australia and southern Africa. In the northern hemisphere expansion of the Sahara desert northward, manifested by heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe (Figure 5)
Figure 5(A) Migration of the subtropical Sahara climate zone (red spots) northward into the Mediterranean climate zone leads to warming, drying and fires over extensive parts of Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, and to melting of glaciers in the Alps.Migration, Environment and Climate Change, International Organization for MigrationGeneva – Switzerland (GMT +1);
Figure 5(C) Dryingparts of southern Australia, including Western Australia, South Australia and parts of the eastern States, accompanied with increasing bushfires.https://environmentalmigration.iom.int/maps
D. Climate extremes
Since the bulk of terrestrial vegetation has evolved under glacial-interglacial climate conditions, where GHG range between 180 – 300 ppm CO2, Global warming is turning large parts of Earth into a tinderbox, ignited by natural and human agents. By July and August 2019, as fires rage across large territories, including the Amazon forest, dubbed the Planet’s lungs as it enriches the atmosphere in oxygen. When burnt the rainforest becomes of source of a large amount of CO2 (Figure 6B), with some 72,843 fires in Brazil this year and extensive bush fires through Siberia, Alaska, Greenland, southern Europe, parts of Australia and elsewhere,the planet’s biosphere is progressively transformed. As reported: ‘Climate change is making dry seasons longer and forests more flammable. Increased temperatures are also resulting in more frequent tropical forest fires in non-drought years. And climate change may also be driving the increasing frequency and intensity of climate anomalies, such as El Niño events that affect fire season intensity across Amazonia.’
Extensive cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and fires (Figure 6B) increasingly ravage large tracts of Earth.However, despite its foundation in the basic laws of physics (the black body radiation laws of Planck, Kirchhoff’ and Stefan Boltzmann), as well as empirical observations around the world by major climate research bodies (NOAA, NASA, NSIDC, IPCC, World Meteorological Organization, Hadley-Met, Tindale, Potsdam, BOM, CSIRO and others), the anthropogenic origin, scale and pace of climate change remain subject to extensively propagated denial and untruths.
Figure 6.(A) Extreme weather events around the world 1980-2018, including earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts. Munich Re-insurance. (B) A satellite infrared imageof South America fires (red dots) during July and August, 2019, NASA.
E. An uncharted climate territory
Whereas strict analogies between Quaternary and Anthropocene climate developments is not possible, elements of the glacial-interglacial history are relevant for an understanding of current and future climate events. The rise of total greenhouse gas (GHG), expressed as CO2–equivalents, to 496 ppm CO2-e (Figure 1),within less than a century represents an extreme atmospheric event. It raised GHG concentrations from Holocene levels to the range of the Miocene (34–23 Ma) when CO2 level was between 300 and 530 ppm. As the glacial sheets disintegrate, cold ice-melt water flowing into the ocean ensue in large cold water pools, a pattern recorded following peak interglacial phases over the last 450,000 years, currently manifested by the growth of cold regions in north Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and in the Southern Ocean fringing Antarctica (Figure 7).
Warming of +3oC to +4oC above pre-industrial levels, leading to enhanced ice-sheet melt, would raise sea levels by at least 2 to 5 meters toward the end of the century and, delayed by hysteresis, likely by 25 meters in the longer term. Golledge et al. (2019) show meltwater from Greenland will lead to substantial slowing of the Atlantic overturning circulation, while meltwater from Antarctica will trap warm water below the sea surface, increasing Antarctic ice loss. Whereas the effect of low-density ice melt water on the surrounding oceans is generally not included in many models, depending on amplifying feedbacks, prolonged Greenland and Antarctic melting and consequent cooling of surrounding ocean sectors as well as penetration of freezing air masses through weakened polar boundaries may have profound effect on future climate change trajectories (Figure 8).
Figure 7(A) Global warming map (NASA 2018). Note the cool ocean regions south of Greenland and along the Antarctic. Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center; (B) 2012 Ocean temperatures around Antarctica (NASA 2012).
Climate projections for 2100-2300 by the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report, 2014 portray predominantly linear to curved models of greenhouse gas, global temperatures and sea level changes. These models however appear to take limited account of amplifying feedbacks from land and ocean and of the effects of cold ice-melt on the oceans. According to Steffen et al. (2018) “self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold” and “would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene”.
Amplifying feedbacks of global warming include:
A. The albedo-flip of melting sea ice and ice sheets and the increase of the water surface area and thereby sequestration of CO2. Hudson (2011) estimates a rise in radiative forcing due to removal of Arctic summer sea ice as 0.7 Watt/m2, a value close to the total of methane release since 1750.
B. Reduced ocean CO2 intake due to lesser solubility of the gas with higher temperatures.
C. Vegetation desiccation and burning in some regions, and thereby released CO2 and reduced evaporation and its cooling effect. This factor and the increase of precipitation in other regions lead to differential feedbacks from vegetation as the globe warms (Notaro et al. 2007).
D. An increase in wildfires, releasing greenhouse gases (Figure 6).
E. Release of methane from permafrost, bogs and sediments and other factors.
Linear temperature models appear to take limited account of the effects on the oceans of ice melt water derived from the large ice sheets, including the possibility of a significant stadial event such as already started in oceanic tracts fringing Greenland and Antarctica (Figure 7) and modelled by Hansen et al, (2016).In the shorter to medium term sea level rises would ensue from the Greenland ice sheet (6-7 meter sea level rise) and West Antarctic ice sheet melt (4.8 meter sea level rise). Referring to major past stadial events, including the 8200 years-old Laurentian meltand the 12.7-11.9 younger dryas event, a protracted breakdown of parts of the Antarctic ice sheet could result in major sea level rise and extensive cooling of southern latitudes and beyond, parallel with warming of tropical and mid-latitudes (Figure 8) (Hansen et al.. 2016). The temperature contrast between polar-derived cold fronts and tropical air masses is bound to lead to extreme weather events, echoed among other in Storms of my grandchildren (Hansen, 2010).
Figure 8.(A) Model Surface-air temperature (oC) for 2096 relative to 1880–1920 (Hansen et al 2016).The projection betrays major cooling of the North Atlantic Ocean, cooling of the circum-Antarctic Ocean and further warming in the tropics, subtropics and the interior of continents; (B) Modeled surface-air temperatures (°C) to 2300 AD relative to 1880–1920 for several ice melt rate scenarios, displaying a stadial cooling event at a time dependent on the ice melt doubling time (Hansen et al., 2016). Courtesy Prof James Hansen;.
Within and beyond 2100-2300 projections (Figure 8A, B) lies an uncharted climate territory, where continuing melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, further cooling of neighboring sectors of the oceans and climate contrasts with GHG-induced warming of land areas (Figure 8A), ensue in chaotic climate disruptions (Figure 8B). Given the thousands to tens of thousands years longevity of atmospheric greenhouse gases (Solomon et al., 2009; Eby et al 2009), the onset of the next ice age is likely to be delayed on the scale of tens of thousands of years (Berger and Loutre, 2002) through anexceptionally long interglacial period (Figure 9).
These authors state:‘The present day CO2 concentration (now >410 ppm) is already well above typicalinterglacial values of ~290 ppmv. This study models increases to up to 750 ppmvover the next 200 years, returning to natural levels by 1000 years. The resultssuggest that, under very small insolation variations, there is a threshold value ofvalue of CO2 above which the Greenland Ice Sheet disappears. The climate system may take 50,000 years to assimilate the impacts of human activitiesduring the early third millennium.In this case, an “irreversible greenhouseeffect” could become the most likely futureclimate. If the Greenland and west AntarcticIce Sheets disappear completely, then today’s “Anthropocene” may only be atransition between the Quaternary and thenext geological period.’
Figure 9.Simulated Northern Hemisphere ice volume (increasing downward) for the period 200,000 years BP to 130,000 yearsin the future,modified after a part of Berger and Loutre 2002. Time is negative in the past and positive in the future. For the future, three CO2 scenarios were used: last glacial-interglacial values (solid line), a human-induced concentration of 750 ppm(dashed line), and a constant concentration of 210 ppminducing a return to a glacial state (dotted line).
As conveyed by leading scientists “Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences” (Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber) …“We’ve reached a point where we have a crisis, an emergency, but people don’t know that … There’s a big gap between what’s understood about global warming by the scientific community and what is known by the public and policymakers”(James Hansen).
Climate scientists find themselves in a quandary similar to medical doctors, committed to help the ill yet need to communicate grave diagnoses. How do scientists tell people the current spate of extreme weather events, including cyclones, devastating islands from the Caribbean to the Philippine,floods devastating coastal regions and river valleys from Mozambique to Kerala, Pakistan and Townsville, and fires burning extensive tracts of the living world can only intensify in a rapidly warming world? How do scientists tell the people that their children are growing into a world where survival under a mean temperatures higher than +2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial temperatures) is likely to be painful and, in some parts of the world, impossible, let alone under +4 degrees Celsius projected by the IPCC?
F. Summary and conclusions
The author, while suggesting the projections made in this paper are consistent with the best climate science with which he is aware, sincerely hopes the tragic implications of these projections would not eventuate.
where a physical property lags behind changes in the effect causing it
Andrew Glikson, Earth and climate scientist, Australian National University, email@example.com
|September 6, 2019||
Invasion! Who Are the Real Invaders on Planet Earth?
by Tom Engelhardt, in World, Countercurrents.org,
He crossed the border without permission or, as far as I could tell, documentation of any sort. I’m speaking about Donald Trump’s uninvited, unasked-for invasion of my personal space. He’s there daily, often hourly, whether I like it or not, and I don’t have a Department of Homeland Security to separate him from his children, throw them all in degrading versions of prison — without even basic toiletries or edible food or clean water — and then send him back to whatever shithole tower he came from in the first place. (For that, I have to depend on the American people in 2020 and what still passes, however dubiously, for a democracy.)
And yes, the president has been an invader par excellence in these years — not a word I’d use idly, unlike so many among us these days. Think of the spreading use of “invasion,” particularly on the political right, in this season of the most invasive president ever to occupy the Oval Office, as a version of America’s wars coming home. Think of it, linguistically, as the equivalent of those menacing cops on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, back in 2014, togged out to look like an occupying army with Pentagon surplus equipment, some of it directly off America’s distant battlefields.
Not that many are likely to think of what’s happening, invasion-wise, in such terms these days.
Admittedly, like so much else, the worst of what’s happening didn’t start with Donald Trump. “Invasion” and “invaders” first entered right-wing vocabularies as a description of immigration across our southern border in the late 1980s and 1990s. In his 1992 attempt to win the Republican presidential nomination, for instance, Patrick Buchanan used the phrase “illegal invasion” in relation to Hispanic immigrants. In the process, he highlighted them as a national threat in a fashion that would become familiar indeed in recent years.
Today, however, from White House tweets to the screed published by Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white nationalist who killed 22 people, including eight Mexican citizens, in an El Paso Walmart, the use of “invasion,” or in his case “the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” has become part of the American way of life (and death). Meanwhile, the language itself has, in some more general sense, has continued to be weaponized.
Of course, when you speak of invasions these days, as President Trump has done repeatedly — he used the word seven times in less than a minute at a recent rally and, by early August, his reelection campaign had posted more than 2,000 Facebook ads with invasion in them — you’re speaking of only one type of invasion. It’s a metaphorical-cum-political one in which they invade us (even though they may not know that they’re doing it). Hundreds of thousands of them have been crossing our southern border, mostly on their own individual initiative. In some cases, however, they have made it to the border in “caravans.” Just about every one of them, however, is arriving not with mayhem in mind, but in search of some version of safety and, if not well-being, at least better-being in this country.
That’s not the way the White House, most Republicans, or right-wing media figures are describing things, however. As the president put it at a White House Workforce advisory meeting in March:
Or as Tucker Carlson said on Fox News, “We are so overwhelmed by this — it literally is an invasion of people crossing into Texas”; or as Jeanine Pirro plaintively asked on Fox & Friends, “Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time, or will our leaders sit passively back while the invasion continues?” The examples of such statements are legion.
The True Invaders of Planet Earth
Here’s the strange thing, though: in this century, there has been only one true invader on planet Earth and it’s not those desperate Central Americans fleeing poverty, drugs, violence, and hunger (for significant aspects of which the U.S. is actually to blame).
The real invader in this world of ours happens to be the United States of America. I’m speaking, of course, about the only nation in this century whose armed forces have, in the (once) normal sense of the term, invaded two other countries. In October 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush responded invasively to a nightmarish double act of terrorism here. An extremist Islamist outfit that called itself al-Qaeda and was led by a rich Saudi (whom Washington had, in the previous century, been allied with in a war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan) proved responsible. Instead of organizing an international policing operation to deal with bin Laden and crew, however, President Bush and his top officials launched what they quickly dubbed the Global War on Terror, or GWOT. While theoretically aimed at up to 60 countries across the planet, it began with the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden and some of his crew were indeed there at the time, but the invasion’s aim was, above all, to overthrow another group of extreme Islamists, the Taliban, who controlled most of that land.
So, Washington began a war that has yet to end. Then, in the spring of 2003, the same set of officials did just what a number of them had been eager to do on September 12, 2001: they unleashed American forces in an invasion of Iraq meant to take down autocrat Saddam Hussein (a former U.S. ally who had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda). In fact, we now know that, within hours of a hijacked jet crashing into the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already thinking about just such an invasion. (“Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not,” he reportedly said that day, while urging his aides to come up with a plan to invade Iraq.)
So American troops took Kabul and Baghdad, the capitals of both countries, where the Bush administration set up governments of its choice. In neither would the ensuing occupations and wars or the tumultuous events that evolved from them ever truly end. In both regions, terrorism is significantly more widespread now than it was then. In the intervening years, millions of the inhabitants of those two lands and others swept up in that American war on terror were displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands killed or wounded as chaos, terror, and war spread across the Greater Middle East (later compounded by the “Arab Spring”) and finally deep into Africa.
In addition, the U.S. military — equally unsuccessfully, equally long-lastingly, equally usefully when it came to the spread of terrorism and of failed or failing states — took action in Libya, Somalia, Yemen (largely but not only via the Saudis), and even Syria. While those might have been considered interventions, not invasions, they were each unbelievably more invasive than anything the domestic right-wing is now calling an invasion on our southern border. In 2016, in Syria, for instance, the U.S. Air Force and its allies dropped an estimated 20,000 bombs on the “capital” of the Islamic State, Raqqa, a modest-sized provincial city. In doing so, with the help of artillery and of ISIS suicide bombers, they turned it into rubble. In a similar fashion from Mosul to Fallujah, major Iraqi cities were rubblized. All in all, it’s been quite a record of invasion, intervention, and destruction.
Nor should we forget that, in those and other countries (including Pakistan), the U.S. dispatched Hellfire missile-armed drones to carry out “targeted” strikes that, once upon a time, would have been called “assassinations.” In addition, in 2017 alone, contingents of the still-growing elite Special Operations forces, now about 70,000 personnel, had been dispatched, in war and peace, to 149 countries, according to investigative journalist Nick Turse. Meanwhile, American military garrisons by the hundreds continued to dot the globe in a historically unprecedented fashion and have regularly been used in these years to facilitate those very invasions, interventions, and assassinations.
In addition, in this period the CIA set up “black sites” in a number of countries where prisoners, sometimes literally kidnapped off the streets of major cities (sometimes captured in the backlands of the planet), were for years subjected to unbearable cruelty and torture. U.S. Navy ships were similarly used as black sites. And all of this was just part of an offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice set up by Washington, whose beating heart was a now notorious (and still open) prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Since 2001, the U.S. has succeeded in squandering staggering amounts of taxpayer dollars unsettling a vast swath of the planet, killing startling numbers of people who didn’t deserve to die, driving yet more of them from their homes, and so helping to set in motion the very crisis of migrants and refugees that has roiled both Europe and the United States ever since. The three top countries sending unwanted asylum seekers to Europe have been Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, all deeply embroiled in the cauldron of the American war on terror. (Meanwhile, of course, we live in a country whose president, having called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his election campaign in 2015, has done his best to follow through on just such a Muslim ban.)
And by the way, those original invasions and interventions were all surrounded by glorious explanations about the bringing of “democracy” to and the “liberation” of various societies, explanations no less bogus than those offered by the El Paso killer to explain his slaughter.
Still in the Land of the Metaphorically Invaded
Invaders, intruders, disrupters? You’ve got to be kidding, at least if you’re talking about undocumented immigrants from south of our border (even with the bogus claims that there were “terrorists” among them). When it comes to invasions, we should be chanting “USA! USA!” Perhaps, in fact, you could think of this country, its leadership, its military, and its war on terror as a version of the El Paso killer raised to a global scale. In this century at least, we have been the true invaders and disrupters on planet Earth (with the Russians in Crimea and the Ukraine coming in a distant second).
And how have Americans dealt with the real invaders of this world? It’s a reasonable question, even if seldom asked in a country where “invasion” is now a matter of almost obsessional discussion and debate. True, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, a striking number of Americans had the urge not to go to war. The streets of major cities and small towns filled with protesters demanding that the Bush administration not do what it was obviously going to do anyway. When the invasion and occupation happened, it should have quickly been clear that it would be a destructive disaster. The initial shock-and-awe air campaign to “decapitate” Saddam Hussein’s regime, for example, managed not to touch a single key Iraqi official but, according to Human Rights Watch, killed “dozens of civilians.” In this way, the stage was set for so much of what would follow.
When the bad news (Mission Unaccomplished!) started coming in, however, those antiwar protestors disappeared from the streets of our country, never to return. In the years that followed, Americans generally ignored the harm the U.S. was doing across significant parts of the globe and went on with their lives. It did, however, become a tic of the times to “thank” the troops who had done the invading for their “service.”
In the meantime, much of what had transpired globally in that war on terror was simply forgotten (or never noted in the first place). That’s why when, in mid-August, an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up at a wedding party in Kabul killing at least 63 people, the New York Times could report that “weddings, the celebration of union, had largely remained the exception” to an Afghan sense of risk-taking in public. And that would be a statement few Americans would blink at — as if no weddings had ever been destroyed in that country. Few here would remember the six weddings U.S. air power had obliterated in Afghanistan (as well as at least one each in Iraq and Yemen). The first of them, in December 2001, would kill about 100 revelers in a village in Eastern Afghanistan and that would just be the beginning of the nightmare to come. This was something I documented at TomDispatch years ago, but it’s generally not even in the memory bank here.
In 2016, of course, Americans elected a man who had riled up what soon be called his “base” by launching a presidential campaign on the fear of Mexican “rapists” coming to this country and the necessity of building a “big, fat, beautiful wall” to turn them away. From scratch, in other words, his focus was on stopping an “invasion” of this land. By August 2015, he was already using that term in his tweets.
So, under Donald Trump, as that word and the fears that went with it spread, we became the invaded and they the invaders. In other words, the world as it was (and largely remains) was somehow turned on its head. As a result, we all now live in the land of the metaphorically invaded and of El Paso killers who, in these years, have headed, armed with military-style weaponry, for places ranging from synagogues to garlic festivals to stop various “invaders” in their tracks. Meanwhile, the president and a bipartisan crew of politicians in Washington continued to pour ever more money into the U.S. military (and into little else, except the pockets of the 1%).
As for me, in all those years before Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, I had never watched his reality TV shows. Though I lived in New York City, I had never walked into Trump Tower. I had never, in other words, invaded his space, no matter how metaphorically. So, with invasions in the air, I continue to wonder why, every day in every way, he invades mine. And speaking of invasions, he and his crew in Washington are now getting ready to invade the space not just of people like me, but of endangered species of every sort.
Of course, the president who feeds off those “invaders” from the south doesn’t recognize me as a species of anything. For him, the only endangered species on this planet may be oil, coal, and natural gas companies.
Believe me, you’re in his world, not mine, and welcome to it!
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).
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.
|September 20, 2019||
#ClimateStrike kicks off in Australia and Pacific, millions across the globe join.
by Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
Protesters in Townsville joined more than 100 other Australian towns urging action on climate change.
Climate strike has kicked off on Friday 20 September across continents. Millions of people and students from Sydney to Delhi and Melbourne to London and New York have marched/are marching for urgent action on climate crisis.
Students and citizens of different ages and from different occupations have joined the strike in hundred of cities. Many mobilizations of people in cities were unprecedented in number. Observers called those historic.
The protests are part of a global strike movement led by a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The global day of action, led by Greta Thunberg, is happening three days before the UN Climate Change Summit in New York.
Countercurrents presents reports below compiled from media and readers.
The climate strike kicked off in Australia and the Pacific region.
Thousands of young Australians walking out of their classrooms to demand action on climate change have been joined by thousands more adults in cities and towns around the nation.
Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan said, “politics should be kept out of the classroom”.
Demonstrations were officially registered in all eight capital cities and 104 other towns across Australia.
Australian school protesters want the Federal Government to commit to:
More than 2,500 Australian businesses have pledged to participate in the action, either closing their doors or allowing their employees to walk off the job.
The businesses signed on to Not Business As Usual, an alliance which said it was a “group of Australian and global businesses pledging to support worker participation in the climate strike”.
Tens of thousands turned out at The Domain in Sydney for the rally there.
There were reports of packed buses with students with signs coming into the city, with huge numbers marching through the CBD.
The movement has been controversial in Australia, with some teachers being accused of bias and bringing politics into the classroom, and the Government linking the demonstrations to flagging test results.
In Hobart, thousands of protesters gathered at the lawns outside Parliament House.
Johanna Ellis, 21, said her workplace had closed for the day, “but we’re still getting paid to rally”.
In Alice Springs, more than 500 people attended the climate strike in the Todd Mall, with school students making up a large portion of the crowd.
The protesters focused on affects of climate crisis on the Indigenous people in remote communities.
Speaking to the crowd, Barbara Shaw, Deputy Chair of the Central Land Council said it was getting warmer in remote areas, with the temperature reaching 50 degrees in some communities during summer.
“There needs to be an emergency on climate change, if they can have emergency relief for bushfires across Australia, or drought and flooded areas, there needs to be an emergency response on climate change,” she said.
Hundreds of people rallied in Townsville during the morning, many missing work and school in a peaceful demonstration.
“It’s our future and we care so much about our future and that is why we are here,” 13-year-old Ella Rizos said.
“Australia on track to meet targets”, claims Australia’s education minister
The protests have been spurred on by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last year that detailed a catastrophic future of extreme weather events if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were not reined in.
The UN released a report in February showing that the 20 warmest years on record had all been in the past 22 years.
Australia endured its hottest summer on record during 2018-19, according to the Climate Council, when more than 200 extreme weather records were broken across the country.
Australia is a signatory to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the global deal to combat climate change, and pledged to reduce the country’s emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Australia’s environment minister Sussan Ley said if the purpose of the protest was to draw Government attention to climate change “I can assure everyone that our attention is already there”.
“We are taking real and coordinated global action on climate change, while ensuring our economy remains strong,” she said in a statement.
“We are on track to overachieve on our 2020 target by 367 million tons and our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package maps out to the last ton how we will meet our 2030 target.”
In a statement, Australia’s education minister Dan Tehan drew a link between the global strike movement and flagging test results around the country.
“While protesters will miss a third day of school this year, student results for Years 7 and 9 NAPLAN writing tests are below the 2011 test benchmark,” he said.
“Students should be active citizens but their education shouldn’t suffer as a result. Politics should be kept out of the classroom.
“The true test of the protesters’ commitment would be how many turned up for a protest held on a Saturday afternoon.”
An elderly caller suggested the children’s minds are being manipulated just like those of the Hitler Youth in Germany decades ago.
Warming to the theme, Jones had a Goebbels quote on hand. “I will remind our listeners that his minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels also said it would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and the psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas in disguise. This is what’s going on here isn’t it? Immensely disturbing I have to say. Immensely disturbing.”
The Brisbane rally keeps growing. People are still streaming in 30 minutes after the posted start time and police have had to shut roads on two sides of Queens Park. Hard to guess at a crowd figure, but comfortably over 10,000 at this point.
This is not, of course, an anti-government rally, but there’s certainly no love for the coal embrace of the Queensland government. And notably, there are at least a half dozen left-wing unions here.
The Electrical Trades Union has just taken a swipe, officials complaining the government has let the private sector do the heavy lifting on renewables, and giving a strong endorsement of climate action.
Meanwhile the Brisbane protest has broken its banks and people are streaming down the streets.
Ben Smee (@BenSmee)
Drew Pavlou (@DrewPavlou) Brisbane #ClimateStrike
Rebecca Ratcliffe in Delhi writes:
Student protesters in India have a long list of demands for their political leaders. The air in many of its cities is infamously toxic, poor waste management is putting lives at risk and water shortages have reached crisis levels.
Last year India was ranked among the bottom five countries on the environmental performance index produced by Yale and Columbia universities and the World Economic Forum.
“We are in September now and we would be usually subjected to monsoon rains at this time but the rainfall is so erratic,” said Jacintha Thota, 14, who lives in Hyderabad.
On Friday 200 students from her school and some of their teachers are expected to march together. Hyderabad is one of tens of locations, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, where protests are expected to take place.
The Fridays for Future movement is much smaller than other more established environmental campaigns in India, but students say it is growing in popularity, thanks partly to social media.
In Delhi, protesters are planning seven days of action, which includes marching to the ministry of urban affairs and housing on Friday. On Sunday, protesters will meet at Bhalswa landfill, the second biggest dump yard in the city, while next week they will protest at other key political buildings.
Bhavreen Kandhari, an environmental activist from Fridays For Future India will take part. “We have beautiful laws on the paper but none of it is being executed,” she said.
Five years ago, when her daughters had an X-ray, she discovered the impact of Delhi’s pollution. “Their lungs were black in color; they should be pink. For a child who is born and brought up in Delhi for 10 years this is the damage that they suffer,” she said. Her twin daughters, 15, will also be attending the march in Delhi.
“The rich think ‘Oh I’ll put a mask on my child’, ‘I’ll get an air purifier’, and the poorest they can barely make two meals [a day].”
Big turnout in Thailand – and a reminder that many of the protests in Asia will be kicking into gear soon as well.
A participant informed:
The Melbourne #ClimateStrike starts in Treasury Gardens soon. Fatima, 19: “Whatever we do in the next few months will decide what the future is going to look like.
“We can put our all in to switch to renewables and go down a greener path, or it’s going to be bad for everyone.” pic.twitter.com/JH704W6qD4
Dan Ilic (@danilic)
There’s already a crowd at Treasury Gardens for the Melbourne school strike which kicks off at 2pm. Thea Hamilton, 16, is one of the organizers.
“I’m really excited and hopefully we’ll be able to get some really good action out of this and get more people involved in climate action and climate justice,” she says.
She says young people “are looking for a space to be heard and to really feel represented by this global movement so we can call for climate action at the UN global climate summit on the 23rd”.
In Sydney, Daisy, 17, tells the crowd their frustration has never been about people working in the fossil-fuel industry. Their demand is “about acting to halt this crisis while creating safe and meaningful work for all of us”.
The mobilization in Sydney was getting big till writing this report, which is visible only from the air.
Jonathan Pryke (@jonathan_pryke)
Other regions in Australia found similar mobilizations.
More photos from Lismore from Frewoini Baume:
They’re showing their passion in Lismore. Photograph: Freiwoni Baume
Marchers out in force in Lismore. Photograph: Freiwoni Baume
And these beautiful pictures from Katherine in the NT:
The crowds gather in Katherine. Photograph: Charlotte Pickering, Tom Browell and Alena Goldbach
And here’s Albury:
Dr Juliette Milbank (@juliettemilbank)
Perth and Canberra aren’t too shabby either:
Paul Castle (@SleeperPService)
Simon Corbell (@SimonCorbell) writes:
The biggest strike Tasmania has ever seen
This is the third nationwide climate strike in Australia – after November 2018 and March 2019. They get bigger every time.
Phoebe Hosier (@HosierPhoebe)
Amelia Neylon, 16, informs from the place of mobilization:
The crowd is reportedly over 22,000. Bob Brown at this count has said it is larger than the Franklin River rally. Making this the largest rally in Tasmania held to date.
It’s all happening.
Ben Smee (@BenSmee) Brisbane. #ClimateStrike
Alex Lee (@alex_c_lee)
Nick Evershed (@NickEvershed)
Q to & A from EnergyAustralia
The following Q & A is an example of students raising voices:
EnergyAustralia has agreed to take a question from a climate striker. Along with Queensland’s Stanwell Corporation, it is the other one of Australia’s top 10 carbon emitters to agree to take a question.
Josh O’Callaghan, 15, from Adelaide asks:
What are the future initiatives that your company plans to put in place to have 100% renewable energy production?
Mark Collette, the head of EnergyAustralia’s customer business:
Thanks Josh. Designing and building a 100% renewable energy system is a huge challenge for Australia. I think Australians are up for the challenge. Your home state of South Australia has solar and wind already providing over half of the electricity supplied to South Australians.
In planning for 100% renewables, the first 50% is easier than the second 50%. Solar and wind generation follow the sun and the wind, so when it is not sunny and windy we can’t produce power for customers.
I reckon that above about 50% renewables for Australia we need to find ways to move the power from the sun and the wind to dark and still times, or use it immediately.
One way we do this is storage. Already we have two of the largest batteries in the country in Victoria, and we are working on two large pumped hydro projects – one of which is in your state of South Australia.
Another way we are exploring is helping customers use power when it is available from the sun and the wind. We can time pool pumps and hot water systems to run just through these times.
There’s a long way to go but we like tackling tough problems, like the second 50%.”
|September 7, 2019||
Review: “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker – Climate Genocide & Avoidable Mortality Holocaust Ignored
by Dr Gideon Polya, in Book Review, Countercurrents.org,
“Enlightenment Now” by neoliberal, Canadian-American One Percenter Steven Pinker argues that the 17th century onwards European Enlightenment that promoted reason , science and humanism resulted in huge scientific, technological and moral advances with ultimately huge improvements in the human condition in many areas. However Pinker scoffs at Greens and leftists, supports the neoliberal capitalist order, and ignores horrendous realities from the current Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (15 million deaths from deprivation annually) and the mass species extinction of the present Anthropocene Era to the worsening Climate Genocide (10 billion to die this century en route to a sustainable human population of 0.5-1.0 billion by 2100).
“Enlightenment Now. The case for reason, science, humanism and progress” by Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard , is well-written, well argued, endlessly interesting, very readable, lengthy (573 pages), well indexed (31 pages of Index), well annotated (36 pages of Notes), well referenced (31 pages of References), and well organized into 3 Parts (encompassing 23 Chapters). In section I, “ Enlightenment ”(Chapters 1-3) and in Section III “Reason, Science and Humanism”(Chapters 21-23) Pinker describes the 17th century onwards Enlightenment project involving empirical observation, reason, science and humanism as a productive and humane substitute for superstition- , faith- and xenophobia-based irrationality.
In the intervening Part II “Progress” (Chapters 4-20) Pinker entertainingly but arguably sets out the evidence for the improvement of the human condition in numerous areas thanks to the Enlightenment, this being superbly illustrated by 75 Figures from Figure 4-1 “Tone of the news, 1945-2010”, Figure 5-1 “Life expectancy, 1771-2015”, Figure 5-2 “Child mortality, 1751-2013”, Figure 5-3 “Maternal mortality, 1751-2013”, Figure 5-4 “Life expectancy, UK, 1701-2013) and Figure 6.1”Childhod deaths from infectious diseases, 2000-2013” to Figure 18-1 “Life satisfaction and income, 2006”, Figure 18-2 “Loneliness, US students, 1978-2011”, Figure 18-3 “Suicide, England, Switzerland , and US, 1860-2014”, Figure 18-4 “Happiness and excitement, US, 1972-2016”, Figure 19-1 “Nuclear weapons, 1945-2015”, and Figure 20-1 “Populist support across generations, 2016” (the full list of 75 Figures is usefully set out in pages xi-xiii ).
However “Enlightenment Now” suffers from major counter-Enlightenment flaws that its author so cogently criticizes, notably culturally- and ideologically-based bias, and the ignoring of massive realities. Thus the scientific method that is at the heart of the Enlightenment involves the critical testing through empirical observation of potentially falsifiable hypotheses. Contrary to the scientific method is anti-science, spin-based analysis involving the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position. Pinker undermines an otherwise erudite, evidence-based argument about Enlightenment benefits, with the primary data set out in 75 Figures, by ignoring a veritable Herd of Elephants in the Room as set out below in this review.
Steven Pinker is an atheist but comes from a Canadian Jewish family  and is notorious for opposing peaceful and ethical academic Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel on the Harvard campus and elsewhere [3, 4]. Having a major Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, I determined that the 23 Chapter text of “Enlightenment Now” is replete with a total of about 130 Jewish-related references (to Jews, Judaism, Jewish culture, the Nazis, anti-Jewish anti-Semitism, and the WW2 Jewish Holocaust), and yet only made about 6 references to Israel, 1 reference to Zionism, and only 1 reference to Apartheid (of the Apartheid South African variety but not of the Apartheid Israel variety ). “Enlightenment Now” made zero (0) reference to substantially ethnically cleansed Palestine, Israeli Apartheid, the sorely oppressed Palestinians or the ongoing Palestinian Genocide – obscenities that represent a huge stain on Pinker’s rosy view of Enlightenment outcomes.
Here is a concise summary of what Pinker did not report about the Palestinian Genocide that like all genocides grossly violates the ideals of the Enlightenment. 2.2 million Palestinian have died from violence, 0.1 million, or from imposed deprivation, 2.1 million, since the British invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 in WW1. In 1880 there were about 500,000 Arab Palestinians and about 25,000 Jews living in Palestine of whom half of the latter were immigrants [5-7]. The genocidally racist British invaders and genocidally racist Zionist colonizers have been variously responsible for a Palestinian Genocide involving successive mass expulsions (800,000 in 1948 and a further 400,00 Arabs in 1967) , ethnic cleansing of 90% of the land of Palestine, and an estimated 2.2 million Palestinian deaths since 1914 from violence (0.1 million) or from violently-imposed deprivation (2.1 million) [5, 8-11]. There are now 7 million Palestinian refugees, and of 14 million Palestinians (half of them children, three quarters women and children) about 50% are forbidden to even step foot in their own country on pain of death, only 1.9 million Palestinian Israelis are permitted to vote for the government ruling all of the former Mandated Palestine, and 5 million Palestinians have zero human rights  as Occupied Palestinians in West Bank ghettoes or Bantustans under Israeli military rule (3 million) or in the Gaza Concentration Camp (2.0 million). However the “lucky” Israeli Palestinians are Third Class citizens subject to over 60 Nazi-style, race-based laws [13, 14]. The land of Palestine has now been 90% ethnically cleansed. The per capita GDP is a deadly $3,000 for Occupied Palestinians as compared to $40,000 for Israelis [5, 8-11]. While Indigenous Palestinians represent about 50% of Apartheid Israeli subjects, nearly three quarters of them cannot vote for the government ruling them – egregious Apartheid that is declared by the UN to be a crime against Humanity .
Pinker on Muslims, Western colonialism and Zionism: “Correlation is not causation, but if you combine the fact that much of Islamic doctrine is anti-humanistic with the fact that many Muslims believe that Islamic doctrine is inerrant [incapable of being wrong] – and throw in the fact that the Muslims who carry out illiberal policies and violent acts say they are doing it because they are following those doctrines – then it becomes a stretch to say that the inhuman practices have nothing to do with religious devotion and that the real cause is oil, colonialism, Islamophobia, Orientalism, or Zionism (page 440 . Utterly ignored by Pinker except for brief mentions of Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the ongoing Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust in which 32 million Muslims have died from violence, 5 million, or from imposed deprivation, 27 million, in 20 countries invaded by the US Alliance since the Zionist-beholden US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity that killed 3,000 people [16-18]. Eminent Americans Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve) and Professor Noam Chomsky (linguistics, MIT) – coming from the political right and the left, respectively – have both expertly opined that the Iraq atrocity was about oil [19-21].
The Enlightenment Paradox is that associated with the rise of humanism and love of fellow Humanity was the rise of science and an increasing technological capacity for mass destruction of humanity. This is cogently described in the children’s story about Little Red Riding Hood who encounters the Wolf in bed dressed up as Grandma and comments on Grandma’s big ears (“The better to hear you with” replies the Wolf), on Grandma’s big eyes (“The better to see you with” says the Wolf) and on Grandma’s big teeth (“The better to eat you with” replies the Wolf, who then gobbles her up). By 1945 Humanity had achieved the ability to completely destroy itself and most of the Biosphere with nuclear weapons, and today we have the further existential threat from man-made climate change as discussed in detail later.
In Chapter 11 “Peace”, Pinker argues from flawed and limited data sets that the spread of the Enlightenment from the 18th century onwards was associated with a decline in wars between great powers as dubiously measured as percentage of years the great powers fought each other, aggregated in 25 year periods. This dubious manipulation claims such an incidence of circa 90% in 1500-1700 and then a steady decline to almost zero by 2000 (Figure 11.1, page 157 ). However this manipulated view obfuscates the massive high technology 18th century world war between France and England involving state-of-the-art cannons, guns, navies and strategic deployments of huge armies that concluded with the defeat of the French Enlightenment hero Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo. This obscenely manipulated view also ignores the huge deaths (including huge civilian deaths from war-imposed deprivation)  associated with genocidal colonial wars, WW1, WW2 and of post-WW2 American wars against over 50 countries [22, 23]. The Americans have invaded 72 countries (52 after WW2), as compared to the British 193, Australia 85, France 82, Germany 39, Japan 30, Russia 25, Canada 25, Apartheid Israel 12, China 2, Korea arguably none, and Iran none since the 7th century CE [22-28].
Poverty kills and imposed deprivation through hegemony, subversion, sanctions and war is deadly. Thus 15 million people die avoidably from deprivation each year on Spaceship Earth with an endlessly greedy and merciless America in charge of the flight deck . In countries invaded by the US Alliance since 1950, civilian deaths from imposed deprivation exceed violent deaths of Indigenous people, and vastly exceed deaths of the invading military. Thus, for example, in Iraq (1990-2011), 4.6 million Iraqis died from violence, 1.7 million, or from war- or sanctions-imposed deprivation, 2.9 million [18, 19] , and in Occupied Afghanistan 7 million people have died from violence or deprivation since 2001 [18, 29], whereas US Alliance combatant deaths have totalled about 4,900 in Iraq and 3,600 in Afghanistan . Indeed the US subverts all countries and has over 700 military bases in over 70 countries . If the US succeeds by deadly sanctions and subversions to overthrow the democratically-elected Venezuelan and Iranian Governments [32, 33] these will be the 68th and 69th of such US removals of other governments, many of them democratically elected . In 2017, 5.4 million children under the age of 5 died world-wide, with an additional 0.9 million deaths occurring among children aged 5−14 [35, 36] – this is part of the price of world domination by “Enlightenment Now” America.
I must reiterate that assessment of deaths from wars must necessarily include not just violent deaths but also collateral avoidable mortality (mainly of civilians) due to war-imposed deprivation. Further, in describing mass murder, the term “holocaust” implies a huge number of deaths whereas the term “genocide” is defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” . War is the penultimate in racism but genocide is the ultimate in racism. Politically correct (PC) Pinker rightly deplores racism (numerous references in the Index) but follows the rigidly applied and utterly dishonest convention of the Zionist-subverted Western Mainstream culture that there is but one holocaust, The Holocaust (i.e. the WW2 Jewish Holocaust; see pages 161 and 397 ) . The WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million deaths from violence or imposed deprivation) was part of a wider WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Roma killed) that is overwhelmingly ignored by the Western Mainstream as are the WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians starved to death by the British with Australian complicity) and the WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35 million Chinese killed under the Japanese, 1937-1945) .
Deaths in holocausts and genocides deriving from actual violence or from imposed deprivation are given in brackets as follows for the following alphabetically listed atrocities: 1788 onwards 21st century Afghan Genocide and Afghan Holocaust (7 million), 15th – 19th century African Holocaust (slave trade; 6 million), 16th century onwards Amerindian Genocide (90 million), WW1 Armenian Genocide (1.5 million), post-1950 Asian Holocaust due to Australia-complicit US Asian Wars (40 million), 1914-1924 Assyrian Genocide (Syriac Genocide; 0.2-0.3 million), 1788 onwards Australian Aboriginal Genocide and Aboriginal Ethnocide (2 million), WW2 Bengali Holocaust, WW2 Bengal Famine and WW2 Indian Holocaust (6-7 million), 1971-1972 Bengali Holocaust (3.0 million), 1990s Bosnian Genocide (circa 0.1 million), 1969-1998 Cambodian Genocide (6.0 million), 19th century Chinese Holocaust (Opium wars and Tai Ping rebellion; 20-100 million), WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35 million), 1958-1961 Chinese Holocaust of the Great Leap Forward (20-30 million), 1960 onwards Congolese Genocide and Congolese Holocaust (20 million), WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Roma killed), 1941-1950 German Genocide and German Holocaust (9 million), Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (1,500 million since 1950), 1757-1947 Indian Holocaust (1,800 million), 1947 Indian Holocaust due to Partition (1.0 million), 21st century Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (2.7 million), 1990-2011 Iraqi Genocide and Iraqi Holocaust (4.6 million), WW2 Jewish Holocaust, Shoa (5-6 million), 1950-1953 Korean Genocide and Korean Holocaust (5.2 million), 1840s Irish Famine (2 million), 1955-1975 Laotian Genocide (1.2 million), 2011 Libyan Genocide (0.2 million), 21st century Muslim Genocide and Muslim Holocaust (32 million), 1900s Namibian Genocide (0.1 million), 17th – 19th century North American Indian Genocide (up to 18 million), WW1 onwards Palestinian Genocide and Palestinian Holocaust (2.2 million), WW2 Polish Genocide and Polish Holocaust (6 million), 21st century Rohingya Genocide (circa 0.1 million), 1930-1953 Russian Holocaust under Stalin (20 million), 1994 Rwandan Genocide (0.9 million), 1992 onwards Somali Genocide and Somali Holocaust (2.2 million), 1930-1953 Soviet Holocaust under Stalin (20 million), 1955-2018 Sudan Genocide and Sudan Holocaust (13 million), 2011 onwards Syrian Genocide (1.0 million), 1975-1999 East Timorese Genocide (0.3 million), 1930s Ukrainian Famine, Holodomor (7 million), 1945-1975 Vietnamese Genocide and Vietnamese Holocaust (15.3 million), and the 2015 onwards Yemeni Genocide (circa 0.1 million) (my sincere apologies for any absences) (updated from ).
Pinker and the oh so Enlightened and politically correct Mainstream Western culture ignore most of this horrendous carnage – mostly perpetrated in the 18th century onwards Enlightenment era – and compound this genocide ignoring and holocaust ignoring by referring to The Holocaust (aka the WW2 Jewish Holocaust) to the exclusion of the numerous other horrendous holocausts listed above. Genocide ignoring and holocaust ignoring are far, far worse than repugnant genocide denial and holocaust denial because the latter at least permit public refutation and public debate.
Pinker ignores horrendous collateral civilian deaths from deprivation in his Figure 11.2 “Battle deaths, 1946-2016)” (page 159 ) that could persuade the reader that war deaths were largely eliminated after 1990 – this ignoring the horrendous carnage (deaths from violence or deprivation in brackets) of the Afghan Holocaust (7 million post-2001), Iraqi Holocaust (4.6 million post-1990), the Muslim Holocaust (32 million post-2001), the Somali Holocaust (2.2 million post-1992) and indeed of the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust (15 million avoidable deaths from deprivation annually and about 300 million such deaths in the last 2 decades) . Indeed Pinker’s Figure 11.3 “Genocide deaths, 1956-2016”(page 161 ) would have us believe that genocide had almost vanished from the world after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (1994, 0.9 million violent deaths).
In Chapters 4-20 “Enlightenment Now “ presents scores of Figures that claim that thanks to the Enlightenment life has been getting better in all kinds of ways (e.g. nutrition, life expectancy, health) in the US, the West or in the world in general. Two general criticisms can be made of this huge set of interesting data: (1) the improvement trends do not belie the absolute magnitude of the various bad realities (e.g. the laudable decline in poverty in the US (Figure 9.6, page 116 ) does not belie the reality that 27% of African Americans live in poverty  ), and (2) the improvement trends in the US or the West do not belie the horrible realities in the impoverished global South (e.g. of the world’s 7.6 billion people, 800 million are under-nourished, 2,200 million suffer from micronutrient deficiency, and 15 million people die avoidably each year from deprivation [22, 40]).
A major achievement of the Enlightenment has been emplacement of major international conventions or institutions that protect Humanity e.g. (1) the UN Charter , (2) the UN Genocide Convention , (3) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , (4) the Geneva Conventions , (5) the Convention on the Rights of the Child , (6) the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the crime of Apartheid , (7) the International Court of Justice, and (8) the International Criminal Court. While Chapters 4-20 “Enlightenment Now “ (the bulk of the book) sets out in great detail how things have been improving in the US in all kinds of areas, it steers clear of US and US Alliance violation of these major conventions and institutions of Humanity, e.g. (1) US invasion of 52 countries since 1945 in violation of the UN Charter; (2) US violation of the UN Genocide Convention in US-invaded countries, notably Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan; (3) US violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at home and abroad in occupied or devastated target countries; (4) horrendous avoidable mortality from deprivation in US-occupied Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia has evidenced gross violation by rich America of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War that unequivocally demand that an Occupier must supply its conquered Subjects with life sustaining food and medical requisites “to the fullest extent of the means available to it”; (5) US passive mass murder of infants and children in US-occupied countries (notably Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia) is in gross violation of the Rights of the Child Convention; (6) the US is fervently pro-Apartheid Israel and hence of Israeli Apartheid; (7) the US has used military might on 160 occasions to have its way with other countries, with Brian Toohey observing: “A 2016 Congressional Research Services study found the US has used armed force 215 times overseas since 1798. The tempo has stepped up, with force used 160 times since the Cold War ended in 1991” ; and (8) the US refuses to allow its citizens to be subject to the International Criminal Court
At the start of Chapter 10 “The Environment” Pinker states: “But is progress sustainable?… As in the chapter on inequality, I won’t pretend that all the trends are positive or that the problems facing us are minor. But I will present a way of thinking about these problems that differs from the lugubrious [looking or sounding sad and dismal] conventional wisdom and offers constructive alternatives to the radicalism and fatalism it encourages… [and] Romantic reverence for nature” (page 121 ), and continues in this insulting, overblown and offensive vein: “Starting in the 1970s, the mainstream environmental movement latched onto a quasi-religious ideology, greenism, which can be found in the manifestoes of activists as diverse as Al Gore, the Unibomber, and Pope Francis. Green ideology begins with an image of the Earth as a pristine ingénue [an innocent or unsophisticated young woman] which has been defiled by human rapacity” (page 122 ) and “The fate of the black rhinoceros and the well-being of our descendants in the year 2525 are significant moral concerns, but worrying about them now is something of a luxury” (page 24 ). Pinker scorns “ecopessimists”, adopts a position of being “conditionally optimistic” and concludes “Problems are solvable… we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets , international governance, and investments in science and technology” (page 155 ).
Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker’s solutions to decarbonisation are (1) a deliberately insufficient carbon tax (as opposed to Pope Francis who correctly argued that the cost of pollution should be “fully borne” by the polluters) , and (2) nuclear energy (that is prohibitively expensive, dangerous, highly polluting , a major nuclear terrorism security threat, involves use of a non-renewable uranium and thorium ore resources, and involves massive greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution – while nuclear fission per se does not involve GHG pollution, in our present carbon economy the rest of the nuclear cycle is highly GHG polluting at the levels of uranium mining, transport, and refining, building the plant, safe disposal of extremely long-lived waste, and ultimate safe demolition and disposal of the plant) . In order to continue carbon pollution Pinker offers geoengineering solutions (e.g. fertilizing the oceans to increase algal CO2 sequestration, and generating global dimming atmospheric sulphate aerosols) that are variously extremely expensive, dangerous and damaging)  and carbon capture and sequestration (that is extremely expensive and yet to be applied industrially on a large scale) [49, 50]. Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker in preferring spin-based, neoliberal, and capitalist “conditional optimism” dumps on the core Enlightenment demand for science-based analysis. Pinker further dumps on the Enlightenment ideals of commitment to truth and beauty by obfuscating the current horrendous mass species extinction event – with a species extinction rate that is 100-1,000 times greater than normal) [51-53] it has resulted in the present era being named the Anthropocene Era. Indeed the key, Elephant in the Room terms “Anthropocene”, “Biodiversity”, “Climate Emergency” and “Climate Genocide” are missing from the Index of “Enlightenment Now”.
Given continued current rates of pollution the Paris Climate Change Agreement target of 1.5C will be reached within 10 years and plus 2C is effectively inevitable (however we are obliged to do everything to make the future “less bad” for our children and future generations) . The IPCC (2018): “B4.2. Global warming of 1.5°C is projected to shift the ranges of many marine species, to higher latitudes as well as increase the amount of damage to many ecosystems. It is also expected to drive the loss of coastal resources, and reduce the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture (especially at low latitudes). The risks of climate-induced impacts are projected to be higher at 2°C than those at global warming of 1.5°C (high confidence). Coral reefs, for example, are projected to decline by a further 70–90% at 1.5°C (high confidence) with larger losses (>99%) at 2ºC (very high confidence). The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C or more (high confidence) ” [54, 55]. However “conditionally optimistic” and “things are great” Panglossian cognitive psychologist Pinker glibly and dismissively asserts: “Though many species remaining precarious straits, a number of ecologists and paleontologists believe the claim that humans are causing a mass extinction like the Permian and Cretaceous is hyperbolic” (page 133 ).
Humanity is existentially threatened by nuclear weapons and man-made climate change (and of course the universe ends for the 15 million people who die avoidably from deprivation each year in the soon to worsen Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust). Low-lying Island Nations and major mega-delta countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and China are particularly threatened by global warming, attendant sea level rise and storm surges from more intense tropical and sub-tropical storms. While Island Nations beg the world to keep temperature rise under 1.5C , it now appears that 1.5C will be reached in 10 years’ time, a catastrophic plus 2C is unavoidable on present trends, and national commitments to the Paris Agreement imply plus 3.2C by 2100 [56-62]. Expert predictions of a sustainable human population of only 0.5-1.0 billion by 2100 imply 10 billion deaths in a worsening Climate Genocide this century if global warming is not requisitely addressed .
Neoliberal and Panglossian cognitive psychologist Pinker is conditionally optimistic, has faith (!) that science and the capitalist market will find the solutions, and scorns “alarmism”, “ecopessimists”, “climate justice warriors”, the Greens and the Left. However this is in stark contrast to the succinct warning has been repeatedly given by outstanding physicist Stephen Hawking: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63].
In Chapter 19 “Existential threats” Pinker admits the existential threat from nuclear weapons and climate change but does so in a flippant, “jokey” way: “A second hazard of enumerating doomsday scenarios is that humanity has a finite budget of resources, brainpower and anxiety. You can’t worry about everything. Some of the threats facing us, like climate change and nuclear war, are unmistakable and will require immense effort and ingenuity to mitigate. Folding them into a list of exotic scenarios with miniscule or unknown probabilities can only dilute the sense of urgency. Recall that people are poor at assessing probabilities , especially small ones” (pages 291-292 ). Just as he absurdly blamed Nobel Laureate Al Gore for contributing to climate change denialism by being a Democrat “who stamped climate change with a left-wing seal” (page 382 ) , so Pinker obscenely states that “The historian Paul Boyer found that nuclear alarmism actually encouraged the arms race by scaring the nation into pursuing more and bigger bombs” (page 311 .
Pinker agues for “soft” conversations and actions: “As we saw with climate change, people may be likelier to acknowledge a problem when they have reason to think it is solvable than when they are terrified into numbness and helplessness. A positive agenda for removing the threat of nuclear war from the human condition would embrace several ideas. The first is to stop telling everyone they’re doomed. The fundamental fact of the nuclear age is that no atomic weapon has been used since Nagasaki. If the hands of a clock point to midnight for seventy-two years , something is wrong with the clock [the Doomsday Clock maintained since 1947 by associates of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]” (page 311 ). However reason dictates that we consider not just the low but finite and calculable annual empirical probability of nuclear war (2 nuclear bombings and 200,000 killed in 1945 and none since) but also the several US-USSR near-misses [56, 59, 61], the contingency plan of genocidally racist Apartheid Israel to detonate a nuclear bomb in Egypt in 1967 (as revealed by Israeli Brigadier General Itzhak Yaakov [64, 65]), and the likely destruction of nearly all of Humanity and the Biosphere in a post-nuclear war nuclear winter .
Rather than the expertly advocated banning of nuclear weapons and denuclearisation, Pinker argues for a reduction of the nuclear threat rather than the banning of nuclear weapons and total denuclearisation as expertly advocated by the Nobel Prize-winning ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) that was founded in my city of Melbourne (the location of the “no survivors” nuclear holocaust novel “On the Beach” by Neville Shute and the famous movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner). One can only repeat Professor Stephen Hawking’s succinct, expert and urgent warning: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63].
Pinker commences Chapter 13 “Terrorism” thus: “’ When I wrote in the preceding chapter that we are living in the safest time in history, I was aware of the incredulity those words would evoke. In recent times highly publicized terrorist attacks and rampage killings have set the world on edge and fostered an illusion that we live in newly dangerous times. In 2016 , a majority of Americans named terrorism as the most important issue facing the country” (page 191 . Table 13-1(page 192 ) sets out annual deaths from various causes in the US, Western Europe and the World in circa 2012, with the data for the US being as follows: terrorism (44) [jihadi terrorism (4)], war (28), homicide (15,696), motor vehicle accidents (35,398), all accidents (136,053), all deaths (2,626, 418) .
However this catalogue ignores the reality that the average annual number of deaths due to jihadi terrorism in America post-9-11 is 4 . Further, 1.8 million Americans die preventably each year from a variety of “life-style” and ”political choice reasons”, the 2019 updated breakdown (with some overlaps) being (1) 480,000 (smoking related), (2) 440,000 adverse hospital events in hospitals each year), 300,000 (obesity-related), (4) 200,000 (air pollution), (5) 75,000 (alcohol-related), (6) 70,000 (drug-related), (7) 60,000 (non-drug, non-poison and non-vehicular accidents), (8) 45,000 (lack of medical insurance), (9) 37,000 (motor vehicle accidents), (10) 31,000 (gun-related), (11) 30,000 (suicide with 7,000 being US veterans), (12) 21,000 avoidable under-5 infant deaths, (13) 15,000 (homicide) and (14) 4 (jihadi attacks in America) [66, 67].
While the evil of non-state terrorism has been largely successfully countered in Western countries by top-down state action involving education, high technology intelligence, intra-national and international intelligence sharing, and skilled counter-terrorism forces, countering the vastly more deadly evil of state terrorism (e.g. deadly US state terrorism, UK state terrorism, French state terrorism, Saudi Arabian state terrorism and Israeli state terrorism) requires peaceful, bottom-up action by billions of ordinary people world-wide through (a) overcoming the mendacious Wall of Silence of Mainstream media, politician, commentariat ad academic presstitutes, and (b) applying Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against people, politicians, parties, corporations and countries involved in deadly state terrorism [27, 28]. Thus since the US Government’s 9-11 false flag atrocity that killed 3,000 people , 32 million Muslims have died from violence or imposed deprivation in 20 countries invaded by the US Alliance and 1.8 million per year x 18 years = 32 million Americans have died preventably from “lifestyle” or “political choice” reasons [66, 67]. Successive US Administrations have committed to the over $6 trillion long-term accrual cost of the War on Terror [68, 69], and this fiscal perversion has been associated with killing 32 million Muslims abroad instead of keeping 32 million Americans alive at home – double whammy US state terrorism. Repugnant jihadi non-state terrorism (some variously US-backed as in Kosovo, Syria, Libya, the Yemen and in Russian-invaded Afghanistan) has been of major assistance to US state terrorism because every jihadi atrocity provides an excuse for disproportionate US devastation of the Muslim world.
I have confined my review of Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” to the biggest and deadliest issues that he failed to address properly or at all. For all its 75 Figures showing how the Enlightenment has contributed to improving the human condition, “Enlightenment Now” ignores massive deadly realities and in doing so uses selected asserted facts to support a partisan position i.e. a spin-based approach that subverts the Enlightenment-introduced scientific method of inquiry that involves the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses. Pinker ignores massive realities to support a neoliberal, capitalist, “we live in the best of times” Panglossian and evolutionary One Percenter Establishment approach to the immense and indeed existential problems of the world involving no systemic change but merely blind faith (!) that science, technology and the market will continue to provide “more improvements”. Pinker dangerously ignores massive realities such as a multiplicity of genocides and holocausts, the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust, the Muslim Holocaust, the acute seriousness of nuclear weapons, and the worsening Climate Genocide that may kill all but 0.5-1 billion of Humanity this century [56, 57].
Some other critical reviewers of have come to much the same conclusion. Thus Landon Frim and Harrison Fluss: “Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now is a manual for liberal self-congratulation. This preening tome professes a pragmatic and quantitative approach to the world’s problems. For Pinker, modern capitalist democracy has basically gotten things right, and activism should at most consist of pushing for minor improvements, mitigating bad symptoms around the edges. Systemic critique, ideologies, and “big ideas” are downright dangerous. Criticism of liberal capitalism is thus the provenance of hysterical populists on both the Left and the Right. What “Marxist professors” and racist Trump supporters have in common is that they just don’t know (or want to admit) how good they have it. Pinker is passionate in his tepidity, and contemptuous of anyone daring to criticize the present world order” . In similar vein, John Gray: “Pinker is an ardent enthusiast for free-market capitalism, which he believes produced most of the advance in living standards over the past few centuries… The message of Pinker’s book is that the Enlightenment produced all of the progress of the modern era and none of its crimes” . Conor Lynch: “In the end, “Enlightenment Now” is an erudite defense of the status quo and an apology for global capitalism (not surprisingly, the second-wealthiest man in the world as of this writing, Bill Gates, has named Pinker’s new book his “new favorite book of all time”)” .
The current neoliberal order espoused by Pinker involves maximizing the freedom of the smart and advantaged to exploit human and natural resources for private profit – as opposed to social humanism (socialism, ecosocialism, communalism, communism, “Greenism”, the welfare state) that he variously scorns and which aims to maximize human happiness, opportunity and dignity through evolving intra-national and international social contracts [73-76]. Capitalist greed has brought us to a point at which both Humanity and the Biosphere in general are existentially threatened by nuclear weapons and climate change – again, as Stephen Hawking puts it: “We see great peril if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change” [62, 63]. As of 2019 science informs us that presently in a continuing Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust 15 million Third World people die avoidably from deprivation each year on Spaceship Earth with the First World in charge of the flight deck , that there will be a predicted 10 billion deaths this century if a worsening Climate Emergency and Climate Genocide is not requisitely addressed, that there is a remorselessly worsening mass species extinction event in our present Anthropocene era, and of the present need to urgently restore atmospheric CO2 to the pre-industrial level of circa 300 ppm CO2 and for 50% negative population growth and negative economic growth (degrowth) [77-79] , with estimates of a sustainable human population by 2100 of merely 0.5-1 billion .
Neoliberal One Percenter Pinker condemns such estimates as “alarmist” and advocates an evolutionary, business-as-usual, neoliberal, capitalist One Percenter approach to the existential threats of climate change and nuclear weapons. However a one-person-one-vote third chamber of world government (in addition to the UNGA and the UNSC) is needed to urgently address these dire circumstances and dire threats [79-81] . Nevertheless Pinker with characteristic sarcasm dismisses scientist calls for world government thus: “Many scientists are naifs when it comes to policy and cook up non-starters like world government, mandatory licensing of parents, and escaping a befouled earth by colonizing other planets” (page 390 ) – however one notes the science-based counterarguments that acutely threatened Humanity urgently needs a one-person-one-vote world parliament [79-81], that 50% of Apartheid Israeli children are variously physically, psychologically and sexually abused, with comparable data from pro-Apartheid Israel and hence pro-Apartheid US and similarly pro-Apartheid Australia [82-84], and that an eminent scientist such as Stephen Hawking argues for settling other solar system bodies given the high likelihood of a massive asteroid strike mass extinction event in the next 100 million years .
In Chapter 2 “Entro, evo, info” Pinker adduces the key Enlightenment-derived concepts of entropy (disorder, lack of information content), evolution (through natural selection of favourable mutated genes or through societal selection of favourable behaviours and ideas or memes), and accurate information (the key to science-based analysis). It is clear to scientists that life involves decreasing entropy by extracting free energy from an increasingly chaotic universe. Indeed if there is any approximation to “purpose” for us it is surely to create order, beauty and truth in defiance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states that the entropy of the world inexorably increases (thus one can imagine being a non-sentient vegetable for all of 10 seconds, and then adopt the alternative, not without pain, of defying the Second Law through creating truth and beauty). However I have translated the 3 laws of Thermodynamics, to whit, (1) conservation of energy, (2) entropy increases to a maximum, and (3) zero motion at Absolute Zero, to Polya’s 3 Laws of Economics, to whit (1) Profit = Price minus Cost of Production), (2) Deceit about Cost of Production increases to a maximum, and (3) no life, work, price or profit on a dead Planet . Unfortunately, the neoliberalism that Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” espouses violates the core Enlightenment principles of profound respect for truth, beauty, scientific method and accurate information. Thus we must not destroy what we cannot replace, any one species is accordingly priceless, and the Cost of Production in our present Gadarene, One Percenter-dominated, mendacious and anti-science neoliberal world means huge suffering and premature death for the assertedly “deficient” and “uncompetitive” Ninety Percenters, mass speciescide and mass ecocide leading the Earth towards omnicide and terracide.
|September 7, 2019||
Extinction Rebellion: What is it?
by Robert Hunziker, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org,
The climate crisis is turning average law-abiding people into raging law-breaking eco rebels, by boatloads. Extinction Rebellion (ER) is at the forefront, demanding that governments declare climate emergencies and take urgent action.
In that regard, ER, which started in the UK, says government must reduce carbon emissions to Net Zero by 2025, or else! Social chaos will spring loose from within the darkened shadows of a raging climate, bringing civilized society to its knees and within current lifetimes. For proof,read the science, which says it all. We’re doomed without taking action to cut greenhouse emissions to Net Zero.
In that regard, in November 2018 ER activist extraordinaire Jenny Shearer super glued herself to a railing outside the glorious golden-trimmed gates of Buckingham Palace in expectation that: “This will get the Royal family to come and join us.” Meanwhile, another 2,000 ER activists brought a coffin, which symbolized a“sure-fire death sentence” facing the “next generation” vestiges of the present-day crisis.
For ER warriors, the climate crisis is like a freight train with failing brakes barreling down a mountainside headed for a massive wipe out of society. Regrettably, it’ll happen way too soon to take comfort today.
This coming October 31st marks the one-year anniversary of ER from beginnings on Parliament Square on October 31st2018 when the ER leaders announced a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government, expecting a couple hundred people to attend. Surprisingly, 1,500 showed up to exercise their right to peaceful civil disobedience whilst breaking the law and getting arrested.
Shortly thereafter, 6,000 ER activists peacefully blocked five major bridges across the River Thames. They planted trees in the middle of Parliament Square, and dug a hole for a coffin. Additionally, they lie down in streets or at entryways to public buildings, bringing parts of London and other UK cities to a standstill.
Roger Hallam, an organic farmer and Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University and Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion, was recently interviewed on BBC’s Hard Talk hosted by Stephen Sackur d/d August 2019.
When asked why ER?
Hallam responded: “Millions of people around the world have realized, or have come to the point where something drastic has to happen… And, um… nothing is happening, and that means you have to start breaking the law in order to make change happen.”
According to Hallam, people are waking up to the fact that governments have been lying about the issue of global warming for the past 30 years and experts have been lying about the consequences, fudging the data or low-balling. Over the years, elites and governments have said carbon emissions would go down, but they haven’t; they’ve gone up 60% since 1990, and they’re still going up. This was supposed to be the decade when all sorts of positive stuff would happen, but it’s not happening.
“As a result, people are very angry. People are in a rage. People don’t want their kids to die. There are no words to describe how serious it is.”
According to Hallam, other organized groups, like Greenpeace, have “fundamentally failed” to alter the climate crisis. Across the board, everybody has failed.
“The fact of the matter is we are facing mass starvation within the next 10 years, social collapse, and the possible extinction of humans. It couldn’t be worse. This situation has come about after 30 years of failure, failure by the elites, failure by the governments, and failure by campaigners.” (Hallam)
As a result, the table has been set for a powerful aggressive hands-on approach to resolving the crisis, andER is the most successful climate change movement in the UK. In the first year, 100,000 people signed up. As such, ER has changed the conversation in the UK because it is “dedicated to telling the truth,” and the truth is governments and elites have been lying to people for 30 years.
The truth is all about hard physics… the science is real, meaning:“We face social collapse as and when weather systems around the world collapse because of rampant climate change.”
As Hallam describes it, if there is no fundamental change in the structure of the global economy in the next ten years, then we’re headed for global catastrophe, and for certain mass social collapse with concomitant mass starvation.
BBC’s Sackur challenged ER’s ability to gain public support for its radicalized programs by utilizing a negative approach. In response, Hallam explained how before 1,200 arrests of ER eco radicals in the streets of London in April of this year in the biggest civil disobedience demonstration in British history, the British public didn’t have any opinion on climate emergency. Afterwards, 67% of the British public agreed there is an emergency. That is a remarkable achievement and enormously telling of hidden awareness by the general public.
Not only, but according to Hallam, the capitalistic system is in the process of destroying itself because it is destroying the climate. Increasingly, people in the streets are aware of this.Thus, socialism is no longer irreverent, as it gains credibility because the capitalist state of affairs ignores the crisis, and in fact feeds into it, which the general public understands much better than realized.
In celebration of a year’s resounding success, this coming October 2019 there will be thousands of people in massive civil disturbances in the streets of London, nonviolent, respectful, but disruptive. That’s ER’s methodology, and it works, as it additionally spreads to America and the world.
According to Hallam, unless governments and elites undertake immediate action, the trajectory for the planet is the death of six billion people this century.
Still, ER has experienced defections.Simon McKibbin, a lecturer at Cambridge University, left ER because of Hallam’s plan to shut down Heathrow Airport with drones. McKibben said: Flying drones into busy airspace is a departure from nonviolence. It threatens people and creates the potentialof losing the good will of the public.
However, Hallam, who said he is not yet committed to using drones at Heathrow, is resolute, stating that if nonviolence does not work, then the next hurdle for society is bound to be the desperation of violence, which ER avoids. He says it is inevitable that ER will win the hearts and minds of the public as they awaken to the fact that their governments have failed them in this crucial life and deathstruggle.
After all, climate change/global warming is one of the most recognizable things in human history, but maybe that’s part of the problem, as familiarity nurtures solace. Which is one more reason why Extinction Rebellion is so important in rescuing civilization from falling into thesurrealismof a very strange rabbit hole.
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.
|September 19, 2019||
How Indigenous Knowledge Systems can play a crucial role in environment protection and sustainable development (In Indian context).
by Sweta Lakhani, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org,
Currently, India stands out at the Global Environment Performance Index due to an enhanced rate of air, water, and land pollution. The emergence of industrialization and urbanization brutally impact the environment around us. The loss of biodiversity due to such constant transformation has become a global concern. Around the world, people have initiated countless measures to promote alternatives to protect the environment.
Contrarily, in many parts of India, indigenous people have inherited the tradition of love and duty of protecting nature through ages. The proponents of the rich traditional knowledge associated customs of intimate contact and a sense of belonging towards their habitat. Indigenous knowledge contributes to biodiversity conservation, maintenance, and restoration of ecosystems, sustainable water management, tropical ecological restoration and management of other resources. Conservation and management of plants and animals is not a new concept for the indigenous communities. Today, in the world full of ecological crisis, it is important for us to understand and encourage such contribution.
There are many ways in which traditional communities are helpers in combating environmental degradation and climate change.
Traditional farming practices are sustainable and innovative. Techniques used for cultivation are economically viable and safeguards land dilapidation. The sustainable lifestyle, local diet, and dependence on rain-fed irrigation have influenced local communities to cultivate and conserve traditional cultivars and landraces. By selecting and conserving the seeds from one season to the next helps conserve the biodiversity and be self-reliant in sustaining. For example, an indigenous community in India uses a mixed cropping system to prevent soil erosion.
Traditional Medicine and HealthCare System
The traditional health care practices involve the usage of the plants, leaves, fruits, mineral, herbs and other resources with healing properties. These practices are holistic in nature and effective as
well. Many of such practices are also considered better than allopathic medicines available in the market with mostly causing side effects after longer usage. Other than the medication in any form, exercises and postures are also included in such a health care system. Instances of usage of such traditional medicines and methods can be explored from many ancient scriptures available in many languages. The easy access to such practices not only helps in health care but continues usage also facilitates in conserving significant biodiversity around.
Conserving Flora and Fauna
The practice of using the leaves of the neem tree as a mosquito repellant and coffee beans produced from a type of an animal are some popular illustrations of handy ways to involve nature into our lifestyles. Other instances like one of the indigenous communities predominantly utilize dry leaves of pine trees to get stable organic production and sustain agro-ecosystem. The womenfolk of this tribe collect the dry leaves of both these trees. Adding on, these communities are involved in protecting animals around the vicinity as part of their customs and practices.
Traditional Methods for the Weather Forecast
Sounds and change in water-flow, the direction of the wind and behavioral change in wildlife are some of the famous methods adopted by traditional communities to predict the time and weather.
Traditional Religious Beliefs
Religious beliefs and practices attached to trees, rivers and sacred groves play a huge role in protecting biodiversity. Religious practices followed by these communities have not only helped in maintaining ecological balance but also conserving the biodiversity. Sacred groves are found all over India especially in regions where indigenous communities reside and are managed by them on traditional and religious grounds. For instance, there are many tribes that consider forestlands, ponds, and lakes to be sacred in nature and are also prohibited for the commons to visit.
Nowadays traditional knowledge systems have been traded with the modern changes in the lifestyles. The displacement of native communities specifically from the forests due to development planning related to the construction of dams, bridges, highways, national parks, railways or due to mining activities have led to the deterioration and extinction of traditional knowledge.
At the same time, there are prominent the patent claims for the usage of neem and turmeric. Such cases of misappropriation confirm the need for stronger legal awareness amongst the traditional communities as well as protection of such invaluable knowledge. Such acts of bio-piracy raise a need to prevent exploitation. In a situation like these, we need to promote these communities and their contribution towards protecting our environment as it is vital to evolve mechanisms so that these systems benefit the community at large
Sweta Lakhani is currently working as a Senior Research Fellow at Jindal Global Law School and Research Fellow at Jindal Institute of Behavioral Science, O.P.Jindal Global University. She has a master’s degree in Intellectual Property Rights from O.P.Jindal Global University, Sonipat and B.Com LL.B (Hons) from Nirma University, Ahmedabad. Her areas of interest include Intellectual Property Rights, Technology law and Environment Law.
|September 19, 2019||
Even Skeptical Climate Science Shows We are in a Dire Crisis
by Floyd Rudmin , in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
Berkeley Earth is an autonomous NGO research institute largely funded by grants from foundations. For example, they report that their initial 2010 funding came from the US Dept. Of Energy ($188,587), The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund ($10,000), William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation ($100,000), Bill Gate’s Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research ($100,000), Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000), and The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000).
These last two have links to the petroleum industry.
One of the founding principles of Berkeley Earth is transparency in climate science. They therefore make their data publicly available, and they grant permission (free of charge) for others to use their data and to reproduce their materials with acknowledgment of Berkeley Earth and with links to their website ( http://www.berkeleyearth.org ).
The graph below is reproduced from Berkeley Earth’s online “Global Temperature Report for 2018“. As can be seen, annual average temperatures (blue dots) fluctuate year to year. The bar above and below each dot shows the confidence interval, or error range, based on how many places on the planet had temperature reports that year. In the 1800s, there were fewer sites recording temperatures; hence, the error ranges are larger. Since 1980, there have been many thousands of sites recording temperatures, and the error ranges are smaller. Each small segment of the red line shows the average temperature for the preceding 10 years.
This ten-year moving average smooths out the year-to-year fluctuations so that the trend is easier to see. Since 1910, the trend is upwards.
The vertical axis on the right shows how much our atmosphere has heated relative to the temperatures of the pre-industrial baseline (1850 to 1900). Since 2014, global average temperatures are more than 1EC (1.8EF) above that baseline.
A dotted linear trend line is projected to 2060. “Since 1980, the overall trend is +0.19°C /decade (+0.34 °F/decade) and has changed little during this period,” says Berkeley Earth’s “Global Temperature Report for 2018″. Thus, Berkeley Earth’s data and trend line predict that by 2035 our planet will be 1.5EC (2.7EF) hotter than it was in the 1800s, and by 2060 we will live in a world 2EC (3.6EF) hotter than our ancestors ever knew.
These predictions, by a center serving climate science skeptics, is alarming. Most climate scientists, and many national and international panels, consider a 1.5EC (2.7EF) increase above pre-industrial temperatures to be an upper limit for stable, livable climates. Heating our Earth to 2EC (3.6EF) will trigger runaway climate heating, for example, by forest fires, by loss of solar reflection at the polar ice caps, by releases of methane from Arctic permafrost and seabeds, by more moisture in the
But, actually, Berkeley Earth’s analyses show that our situation is worse than their trend line predicts. If you look at the graph, you will see that three of the last four years (2015, 2016, 2017) are above the linear trend line, and Berkeley Earth predicts that 2019 will also be above the trend line. If the atmosphere were heating at a linear trend, then there would be as many data points above the trend line as below, like the balance of blue data points above and below the red moving average.
Accelerating increases in global temperatures are also evident in Berkeley Earth’s historic land temperature data going back to 1750 (http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/global-land ). They tabulated the “Mean Rate of Change” in degrees per century:
Since 1760, +0.43EC (+0.77EF) increase per century. Since 1810, +0.79EC (+1.42EF) increase per century. Since 1860, +0.91EC (+1.64EF) increase per century. Since 1910, +1.11EC (+2.00EF) increase per century. Since 1960, +2.16EC (+3.89EF) increase per century. Since 1990, +2.78EC (+5.00EF) increase per century.
If global land temperature increases were on a linear trend, then the increases per century would be constant. But they are not constant. The closer we come to the present, the greater are the increases in temperature. That describes an accelerating trend.
It is not easy to understand linear trends vs. accelerating trends. Consider the analogy of driving a car down a road and passing a sign that says, “Danger! Dead-end ahead!” If cruise control is on, then the speed of the car stays constant, say, a constant 60 miles per hour. That is like the constant 0.34EF per decade for the linear trend that Berkeley Earth reported. If the dead-end is 60 miles ahead, then our car, set on 60 mph cruise control, will hit the dead-end in one hour.
A sensible driver would stop the cruise control and start to slow down. That is what governments said we would do in 1992 in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and again in 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol. We would stop business-as-usual and start to slow down our carbon emissions in order to slow down global warming. But we didn’t. We increased carbon emissions. In 2016, in the Paris Agreement, our governments again said we will slow down. But they have been pushing on the gas pedal not on the brake pedal. This is like increasing our car speed to 61 mph, 63 mph, 67 mph, etc., going faster and ever faster. Obviously, by accelerating, we will hit the dead-end before one hour. And we will hit 1.5EC (2.7EF) before 2035, and 2EC (3.6EF) before 2060.
The following graph from Berkeley Earth’s online “Global Temperature Report for 2018” shows increases in atmospheric temperatures above land (in red) and separately above sea (in blue). The upward bending curve of an accelerating trend is easy to see in the land temperatures. Increases in land temperature are not straight-line linear. They are increasing faster and faster, and have been doing so for 100 years or more.
The highest data point in the upper right is the average land temperature for 2016. It shows that we have already increased global land temperature 2EC (3.6EF) above the pre-industrial baseline.
Our governments are in the driver’s seat of our planetary vehicle, and they are not slowing down our greenhouse gas emissions. We are accelerating towards a dead-end. We need new drivers who will take their foot off the gas pedal, cut the cruise control, and hit the brakes. Now.
Floyd Rudmin, Professor Emeritus, Social & Community Psychology University of Tromsø, Norway
|September 19, 2019||
Climate crisis, the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced, wake up and face the facts: Greta Thunberg.
by Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
Greta Thunberg delivered a 15-minute address to around 150 people, rounding off her two-day tour of Capitol Hill, Washington DC.
The teenage activist from Sweden took the lectern under a giant chandelier in a grand committee room and smiled as she resumed her call to arms against the climate crisis.
“The USA is the biggest carbon polluter in history,” Thunberg told the audience. “It is also the world’s number one producer of oil. It is also the only nation to signal its intention to leave the Paris climate agreement because it was ‘a bad deal’.”
Speaking softly, she modulated her voice slightly to make clear she was quoting, disapprovingly, Donald Trump with the words “a bad deal”.
Thunberg invoked Martin Luther King’s struggle for civil rights and John F Kennedy’s goals that included landing a man on the moon – “not because they are easy, but because they are hard”, – to plead with Washington to lead in the fight, even if it seems impossible. “Giving up can never be an option,” she said.
Existential emergency: green jobs and industries are not enough
Thunberg emphasized the need for urgent intervention and called politicians to step outside their comfort zones and start “treating this crisis like the existential emergency it is”. Dreams, including promises of green jobs and industries, are not enough, she added.
“Dreams cannot stand in the way of telling it like it is, especially right now… Wherever I go, I seem to be surrounded by fairytales.”
The teenager activist accused business leaders and others of telling “stories” intended to soothe people and make them go back to sleep. “The problem now is we need to wake up. It is time to wake up and face the facts, the reality, the science.”
Thunberg added: “This is, above all, an emergency, and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced and we need to treat it accordingly… Stop telling people ‘everything will be fine’… Stop pretending you, your business idea, your political party or plan will solve everything.”
Changing one disastrous energy source for “a slightly less disastrous one” is not progress, she continued. “Richer countries need to do their fair share and reduce their emissions much more and much faster.”
The speech was greeted with a standing ovation and followed by a panel discussion.
Thunberg, was scheduled to take a train to New York on Wednesday night, was asked about her observations of the way Washington works. She replied: “It’s definitely more calm than I thought. Everything is just happening so slow and people are just repeating the same things over and over again.
“I have heard so many politicians here say the same things over and over again. If it continues like that, we’re not going to get anywhere. We need to move forward from that and transform words into actions. My impression is it’s very calm, slow and diplomatic, which has its ups and downs.”
She also had a message for those who feel depressed or paralyzed by the scale of the crisis. “I started to do something, take action, try to make a difference instead of sitting in despair. That changed my life. It gives your life meaning. To know you can have impact, it makes you feel a lot better.”
Asked what her imagined future 60 years from now looks like, Thunberg replied: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far.”
The move is going on in the backdrop of the UN Climate Action Summit.
UN Climate Action Summit
UN Climate Action Summit has been billed as the defining political event for climate in 2019.
UN secretary general António Guterres is hosting a climate summit in New York on 23 September to ramp up global efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
The high-level meeting at the UN headquarters is a critical moment for political leaders to show their willingness to increase their climate plans and deepen the decarbonisation of their economies.
The summit will take place over three days 21-23 September at UN Headquarters in New York, with a culminating summit of national leaders on Monday 23.
A youth climate summit on Saturday 21 September will open the meeting, bringing together young activists, entrepreneurs and change-makers on the day following the world’s first global climate strike.
On Sunday, the nine coalitions are due to meet to take stock of their recent work and finalize details before Monday’s big reveal.
Monday’s plenary meeting, the main event, will be a combination of presentations from the best national plans and coalition initiatives being showcased on stage.
Despite commitments by governments to tackle the climate crisis, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise year on year.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledged to limit global temperature rise “well below” 2C of warming. But current national commitments will struggle to hold warming below 3C by the end of the century.
Countries have also agreed to review and update their climate plans every five years, with a view to progressively increase their emissions reductions targets. The first stage of this process is due next year.
To galvanize political leadership for ambition at a time when much of the world is gripped by a surge of nationalism and turning inwards, Guterres personally convened the summit, backing it with the full force of the UN machine.
It is expected to be a critical moment for climate diplomacy, intended to kick-start the process of increasing countries’ climate plans.
“Bring plans, not speeches,” Guterres told countries.
In a letter sent to every head of state, the UN chief set-out his expectations for the summit, urging governments to come with concrete and meaningful plans for action.
Excerpts of the letter, showed Guterres asked all leaders to come “ready to announce the plans that they will set next year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050”.
His demands, in line with the tougher 1.5C goal of the Paris deal, set a high benchmark for ambition. Reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 is something only a handful of largely developed countries have so far committed to do.
Guterres also called on countries to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, end fossil fuel subsidies and ban new coal plants after 2020 – a set of asks unusually prescriptive for the head of the UN.
Governments have to say
Countries are expected to compete for the spotlight with only the most ambitious and meaningful plans being showcased on stage on Monday 23, with the aim to spur a race to the top.
Between 80 and 100 countries have suggested they were ready to increase their climate plans ahead of schedule, with some countries signaling they could make an announcement at the summit, according to the UN.
Special envoy for climate change Luis Alfonso de Alba said a number of countries had told the UN they were “committed to be reaching new [climate] plans but they might not be ready to do that by the summit”.
The UN is also expecting countries to set-out how they are going to meet their targets and plan to increase them.
Indications of what large emitters might bring to the summit remain mixed. Days before the summit, de Alba said he was “very confident” that China will come to the summit with clear commitments and “a much higher level of ambition”.
The UN has repeatedly pointed to a statement signed by China, France, and Guterres on the margins of the G20 as an indication of Beijing’s plans. It included a commitment to increase their climate plans and publish their “long-term mid-century low greenhouse gas emissions development strategies by 2020”, something Beijing could flesh out at the event.
In a communiqué released last week, EU Commission outgoing vice-president for the energy union Maroš Šefčovič said the EU will bring “the fruit of our work”, which he described as “a realistic perspective of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, backed by ambitious policies set in binding legislation.”
The Commission is hoping members states can agree on the target by early next year, but must overcome resistance from some holdouts.
The U.S. is not part of the conversation at the moment.
For China and the EU, the ultimate deadline to come up with more ambitious plans will be next year’s climate talks. And yet, without a strong indication that the world’s largest emitters are ready to take more robust climate action, the summit’s success could be compromised.
This is not competition
This is not competition. This is about cooperation.
Besides, a push for countries to increase their climate plans, preparation for the summit have seen the creation of nine tracks – or coalitions – under which governments together with businesses, NGOs and other international organizations are expected to present meaningful, realistic and scalable initiatives.
The tracks have been led by national governments and include mitigation (Chile), energy transition (Denmark and Ethiopia); industry transition (India and Sweden); climate finance and carbon pricing (France, Jamaica and Qatar), infrastructure, cities and local action (Turkey and Kenya); nature-based solutions (China and New Zealand), resilience and adaptation (UK and Egypt), youth engagement and public mobilization (Marshall Islands and Ireland) and social and political drivers (Peru and Spain).
Each track is led by an alliance of countries working with a range of partners, including businesses and civil society. The proposals emerging from these tracks should be “transformational”, the UN said, in a way that doesn’t leave communities who depend on fossil fuels for their livelihood behind.
Heads of States
Sixty heads of states are expected to take the podium to announce more ambitious plans – or at least plans to plan in time for next year’s climate talks.
Some of those expected to make an appearance include India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, France’s president Emmanuel Macron, the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson and German chancellor Angela Merkel. China is due to send a lower-ranking minister than initially anticipated – and the foreign minister is expected to be in attendance.
Neither US president Donald Trump, nor Australian prime minister Scott Morrison will attend the summit despite both attending the UN’s assembly general later in the week. Foreign minister Marise Payne and ambassador for the environment Patrick Suckling are expected to represent Australia, while US state department officials are also due to attend.
Besides business and civil society representatives, more than 500 young people have been selected to attend the summit, with youth due to play a key role throughout the event. The UN has funded travel “as carbon-neutral as possible” to New York for 100 young climate leaders from across the world.
Greta Thunberg, who crossed the Atlantic on a race boat as an alternative to flying, is also due to have a speaking role during the three-day event.
A political moment
The summit is a political moment for world leaders to take concrete steps to ramp up ambition. It doesn’t replace the annual climate negotiations talks, which this year are taking place in December in Santiago, Chile.
Instead, the summit marks an additional step for countries to build momentum ahead of the 2020 climate talks – the most important negotiating moment since the Paris Agreement when countries are due to announce how they are going to update their climate plans.
Following the summit, Guterres is expected to write an analytical report about the meeting’s achievement in securing additional emissions reduction pledges and the support needed to implement the proposed initiatives.
The report is due to be presented at Cop25 in Chile.
|September 8, 2019||
Inferno: From climate denial to planetary arson.
by Dr Andrew Glikson , in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
The Arctic Circle is suffering from an unprecedented number of wildfires in the latest sign of a climate crisis. With some blazes the size of 100,000 football pitches, vast areas in Siberia, Alaska and Greenland are engulfed in flames. The World Meteorological Organisation has said these fires emitted as much carbon dioxide in a month as the whole ofSweden does in a year. The world is literally on fire – so why is it business as usual for politicians?
The recent spate of regional to continent-scale fires, in Brazil, Siberia, California,southern Europe, Queenslandand elsewhere, represents temperature rises over tinder-dry regions of Earth where forests, originally developed under Mediterranean to sub-polar climate conditions, are overtaken by heat waves associated with the polar-ward migration of tropical and subtropical climate zones. For over 40 years, fully cognizant of but ignoring the stern warnings by climate scientists, the ‘powers that be’, including so-called ‘progressive governments’, have continuedto allow and commonly enhance the fatal greenhouse gas overloadingof the planetary atmosphere, leading to global fires and a climate state destroying the habitability of large parts of Earth for a myriad species, including ‘Homo sapiens’.
A. Wildfires in the Arctic often burn far away from population centers, but their impacts are felt around the globe. From field and laboratory work to airborne campaigns and satellites, NASA
B. Thermal effects of aerosol form biomass burning in Siberia and the Arctic@CopernicusEU
As the globe warms, to date by a mean of near ~1.5 oC, or ~2.0oCwhen the masking effects of sulphur dioxide and other aerosols are considered, and by a mean of ~2.3oCin the Polar Regions, the expansion ofwarm tropical latitudesand the polar-wardmigration of climate zones ensue in large scale droughts in subtropical latitudes such as in inland Australia and southern Africa. A similar trend is taking place in the northern hemisphere where the Sahara desert is expanding northward, with consequent heat waves across the Mediterranean and Europe.
Since 1979 the planet’s tropics have been expanding poleward by 56 km to 111 km per decade in both hemispheres. A leading commentator called this Earth’s bulging waistline. Future climate projections suggest this expansion is likely to continue, driven largely by emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon, as well as warming in the lower atmosphere and the oceans. This expansion is associated with heating and drying at the expense of originally temperate habitats rich in flora and fauna.
Turning the Earth into a gas chamber.
Whereas in ‘good old’medieval times the poisoning of wells constituted a hanging offence, nowadays despite of overwhelming scientific and empirical evidence, overloading of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and acidification of the water is fully legal and constitutes the foundation of great Big Oil economic empires, and through that decisive political influence.
Human resistance to this reality is weak. Regardless of politicallabels, two fundamental forces can be identified to operate in societies:
It is not a coincidence that movements which promote injustice, racism and war are commonly oblivious to the protection of nature orpromote poisoned power, including carbon-overloading of the atmosphere and a dissemination of radioactive isotopes in the biosphere, despite theirimmense consequences. By contrast these object to clean solar and wind energy, for supposedly ‘economic’ reasons, unware there can be no ‘economy’ in a +4 degrees Celsius world.
This nexus is consistent. However there exists a third group, those who pay lip service to the reality of the global climate calamity but, when in power, rarely place limits or try toreverse the deleterious effects of environmentaldevastation.
Unfortunately, in a heating world dangerous fires can only become a norm, requiring fire-fighting defense on the scale no less than that of the current military. Worldwide however, the powers that be are too busy creating enemies and diverting resources for military defense, co called, aimed at yet another catastrophe.
Dr Andrew Glikson, Earth and climate scientist, ANU Climate Change Institute, ANU Planetary Science Institute
|September 10, 2019||
Is Israel a Democracy or a Kleptocracy?
by Dan Lieberman, in World, Countercurrents.org,
Israel followers seek advantage by adding praiseworthy phrases after the word “Israel,” such as, “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East;” “Israel’s IDF, the most humane army in the world”; “Israel, the only country in the Middle East that has religious freedom.” Hogwash!
No nation means no democracy.
Does not meet accepted definitions of democracy.
United Nations (UN) decisions that accuse Israel of severe human rights violations (https://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2010/01/27/rogue-state-
Human Rights Watch (HRW) surveys of Israel policies
B’Tselem documentation (
Amnesty international (AI) reports (https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-
Without a written constitution, Israel’s laws discriminate against its minorities and separate its citizens.
Human Rights violations are not limited to non-Jewish communities. On January 18, 2010, over 5,000 young Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters marched through central Jerusalem to protest against racism and discrimination. Government studies conducted in conjunction with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that “a job applicant with an Ashkenazi-sounding name has a 34 percent higher chance of being hired by an employer than a person with a Sephardi-sounding name applying for the same position. … [and also that] over 22% of employers openly stated that they actively discriminate against applicants with Arab-sounding names.”
Israel has a chaotic political system that features personalities establishing poitical Parties and re-aligning the political system in free and fair elections. Due to mergers, official desertions, and leadership changes, it is difficult to know with exactitude the Party programs. Usually, it does not matter, most of the political Parties’ platforms and votes concerns three issues — how to take over all the West Bank, creation of Greater Israel, and challenges to Israel’s adversaries. Those most affected by voter concerns, Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, cannot vote and are unable to guide their fate. A description of essential Party platforms is shown in the following table.
If Israel is not a democracy, how is it best characterized?
Israel has gone further than Raubwirtschaft, using it as a springboard for Transnational Corruption — having its citizens extend the illicit activities to global networks of money laundering, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and general crime.
Here is a broad brush of Israelis involvement in Transnational Corruption over the years.
Blacklisted 16 years ago, Israel has gained entry to the Financial Action Task Force, yet new immigrants can bring in unreported income for 10 years and vast scams go unprosecuted. Not to mention complaints from law enforcement in places like France and the United States that Israel is not cooperating sufficiently on international financial crimes.
Ariel Marom, a Belorussian-born former banker and social justice activist who lives in Israel and frequently travels throughout Russia and Eastern Europe for work, told The Times of Israel he believes that hundreds of millions of dollars of dirty money from the former Soviet Union is being smuggled into Israel, including by new immigrants, a phenomenon he fears may have been lost on the FATF. There are certain branches of large Israeli banks, he said, that have developed a reputation among newcomers for looking the other way.
“Much of it is black money — smuggled out of Russia or the Ukraine, Moldova or the Baltic countries that has been stolen from the government budget or constitutes the proceeds of prostitution, drug sales, weapons sales or oil sales in contravention of international law. Israel is one of the financial havens for this black money,” he claimed, based on his conversations with businessmen and politicians in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. A small percentage of this money is used to corrupt Israeli politicians, he charged. “Russians — and this is no secret — fund the campaigns of a number of politicians, not just one party.”
Two Israelis shot dead in Mexico City were involved in money laundering and had links to local mafias, Mexico’s government said on Friday.
Fourteen Israelis are suspected by Colombian authorities of running a child sex trafficking ring which marketed tour packages from Israel to the Latin American country aimed at businessmen and recently discharged soldiers, according to reports on Monday.
In the recent past, Israel was faced with a severe phenomenon of human trafficking for prostitution. Since the mid-1990’s until around 2005, women were “imported” to Israel from poverty-stricken countries and forced into prostitution by criminal groups. According to police estimates, 3,000 women were trafficked for prostitution in the year 2003 alone, and there were 300-400 operating brothels and escort services. Other sources believe that these numbers were even greater.
In its annual report for 2012, the International Narcotics Control Board lists Brazil and Israel among the “countries that are major manufacturers, exporters, importers and users of narcotic drugs.”
Oded Tuito was alleged to be a global pill-pusher, whose Israeli mafia group was the biggest operator in a booming international trade in the lucrative “hug drug.”
“The profits were ploughed into Israeli real estate, being sent there from the US or Barcelona,” a police spokesman said. Police forces in various parts of the world said Mr Tuito’s arrest confirmed the alleged growing global influence of Israel’s loose-knit, but expanding, crime organisations.
Israel is at the center of international trade in the drug ecstasy, according to a document published last week by the U.S. State Department.
A seriously embarrassing record for a nation that was created to be “a light among all nations,” and claims to represent world Jewry.
How would Israel shape itself as a genuine democracy?
With the Palestinians recognized as equal partners in the population, many of those who lived from the benefits of the occupation and those who lived by seeing themselves as “God’s chosen people” would leave Israel. Russians may be attracted to helping Putin develop the robot tanks he desires. Techies might learn that their skills are better remunerated in Silicon Valley, Maryland’s I-270 corridor, and Boston’s technical institutions. Western oriented Israelis might seek a western culture. Even Falasha Ethiopians might want to return to their origins and once again practice the religion in the manner of their ancestors. The Jewish population of Israel will be reduced, and, eventually, Gaza and the West Bank will join with Israel in a new nation — Israel/Palestine, where all citizens, no matter their religion or ethnicity will be treated equally and fairly, without the Golan, which will be returned to Syria, its rightful owners. Tensions with Arab neighbors will cease and the new Israel will be welcome to the Middle East.
Israel apologists will categorize this discourse as stupid and naive; not recognizing that the argument is not between naivete and their “law of the jungle,” and that it is between does Israel want to be an abnormal and illegal kleptocracy or a normal and justified democracy? Is it naive to believe that an oppressed group will not resist? is it naive to believe that Israel can continue its battles with the Arab world for eternity without finally succumbing? If Egypt and Syria had a much stronger military during the 1970s would Israel have survived? A relatively few Zionists placed millions of Jews in jeopardy. Is it smart to bring the Palestinians to destruction based on false concepts and continually jeopardize lives of the worldwide Jewish population?
An Israel fear that Palestinians will gain control and inflict a serious retribution is a projection of Israeli thought and action, and a convenient defense for their kleptocracy. Just as crime benefits criminal elements, kleptocracy benefits Israel. Democracy, the rule of law, benefits those who believe that laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. This Israel is not a democracy and never can be — a true democracy that has effective rule of law will create another Israel, a nation that reverses theft of Palestinian lands, resources, and patrimony, all of which began in 1948, and is proving to be non-ending.
Dan Lieberman edits Alternative Insight, a commentary on foreign policy, economics, and politics. He is author of the book A Third Party Can Succeed in America, a Kindle: The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name). Dan can be reached at
|September 9, 2019||
Ocean scientists and fishermen team up to document seal and fishing net interactions.
by Dr Marianne de Nazareth, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org,
We tend to feel that it’s only the sea creatures that suffer at the hands of fishermen, bulk fishing their food. But, when seals and other marine animals prey on fish caught in these fishermen’s net, we as lay people do not realise that it can be costly both economically and ecologically. It can reduce the amount of sell-able fish, damage fishing gear, and lead to the lethal entanglement of seals and other protected marine mammals in fishing nets.
Reading up on the net one learns that seals are found along most coasts and cold waters, but a majority of them live in the Arctic and Antarctic waters. Harbor, ringed, ribbon, spotted and bearded seals, as well as northern fur seals and Steller sea lions live in the Arctic region.
The only time you’re likely to catch sight of a seal is when it’s lounging on a beach – but in fact, they only come to land to breed, to escape predators, or in the case of the elephant seal, shed their skin. These curious animals show many signs of complex cognition. They employ impressive means to find food and escape danger, and have even been known to push drowning pets to safety. Sadly, their great intelligence is often exploited for the purposes of entertainment.
There are 33 different species of seals. The largest of these is the elephant seal, weighing up to 8,800 pounds! At a mere 150 lbs, the ringed seal is the smallest cousin. All species give birth to their young on land.Seals are carnivores,feeding mainly on fish, squid, seabirds, shellfish and crustaceans, seals have a carnivorous diet. Some (such as the Leopard Seal) even eat other seal species.
One of the tough realities of commercial fishing is that fishermen and seals sometimes compete for the same fish. And when they do, interactions between the animals and fishing nets can occur, leaving fishermen with ruined catches and damaged fishing gear, and seals with the possibility of lethal entanglements.
To come up with new ways to prevent such interactions between marine animals and fisheries, ocean scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) are working with local fishermen on Cape Cod to understand exactly what happens when seals and other marine mammals invade a fishing net to forage.
“Fishermen are a great source of knowledge and a big part of the conservation equation here in New England, where the commercial fishery is so important,” said Alex Bocconcelli, a research specialist at WHOI. “But they are also facing hard issues related to both lost catch and lost fishing opportunities from depredation. So, we’re leveraging the strong relationships we have with the local commercial fishing industry to figure out what’s going on, and more importantly, what can be done to help reduce the economic and ecological impacts.”Commercial fisherman Doug Feeney (left) and scientist Owen Nichols from the Center for Coastal Studies mount one of five underwater cameras on the headrope of a gillnet before setting it into open waters off Cape Cod, Mass. They have been working with scientists from WHOI to film underwater interactions between seals and fishing nets in order to find ways to prevent them. (Photo by Andrea Bogomolni, Shoals Marine Laboratory)
The costs of depredation, when marine animals prey on fish caught in nets the losses can be high on both fronts. On the economic side, it can reduce the amount of sell-able fish and lead to torn fishing nets.
“A five-inch opening in the net can quickly become a 15-inch hole when a seal gets caught and tries to free itself,” said Doug Feeney, a commercial fisherman based in Chatham, Massachusetts.
When fishermen spend time mending nets and sorting through their catch for fish they can sell, they often lose valuable fishing time, which compounds the financial hit. From an ecological standpoint, the incidental by-catch of gray seal, which occurs even when they’re not preying on fish caught in the net, is the cause of numerous dead seals and other protected marine mammals.
“With the successful rebound of marine mammal populations in New England, seals in particular, fishery interactions and resulting frustrations build,” said Andrea Bogomolni, a faculty member of Shoals Marine Laboratory who previously studied marine mammal and ocean health science at WHOI. “We’ve worked with our commercial fishing partners to ask questions and design experiments together, relying on each of our unique areas of expertise to address these interactions.”
Bocconcelli and Bogomolni have been working with Feeney and scientists from CCS to document the behavior of seals and other animals in and around fishing nets just east of Cape Cod. This is an area that has seen steady growth in gray seal populations over the past few years. The team has mounted an array of five underwater cameras across the top or “headrope” of a gillnet—a ten-foot tall wall of mesh netting that extends as wide as the wingspan of a 747 jumbo jet—to get an unprecedented view of the encounters. They are also relying on the use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to periodically survey the nets. The ROV takes real-time video snapshots of activity below the surface to supplement the top-mounted cameras.A gillnet is a wall of mesh netting that hangs in the water column, typically made of monofilament or multifilament nylon. (Graphic by NOAA Fisheries)
“This is the first time anyone has captured video of active sink-gillnet fishing in the northeast U.S. that we know of,” said Owen Nichols, director of Marine Fisheries Research for CCS. He says that assessing and documenting depredation by seals and other marine animals is often done by human observation on deck. “In general, we don’t know much about what goes on around the fishing gear until we see what comes over the rail,” he said. “That’s when we can see the bite marks and other catch damage in the net, as well as occasional damage to the fishing gear itself.”
The underwater imagery has the potential to facilitate a shared learning experience between the scientists and fishermen, but capturing clear footage isn’t without its challenges. The gillnet site is so rich with marine life, the cameras are often filming through a thick fog of fish biomass. Turbulence from surrounding ocean currents can distort the view even more by pushing suspended sediment and organic material around like confetti. Fortunately, the cameras are mounted on tightly-anchored nets, which helps to minimize the amount of camera movement and resulting visual confusion.
Once the nets are pulled up, the team examines the catch for bite marks and other visible injuries that may have occurred. “Seals will often bite into the belly of the fish to eat the livers,” said Bocconcelli. Then, the researchers review the video footage for any depredation events, and can later correlate the imagery with stomach content analysis data if necessary to verify what a particular animal was feeding on. Gray seals aren’t always the culprits, spiny dogfish and harbour seals are among the other predators known to scavenge from fishing nets as well.
The study, which is funded through grants from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Marine Mammal Commission, was launched last summer and is expected to run through the end of 2019. Feeney says the collaboration so far has been strong, something he credits to mutual respect between him and the scientists. “We’re all on the same even playing field, and no one is pulling the ‘I’m a scientist’ or ‘I’m a fisherman’ card,” he said. “Commercial fishermen and seals need to coexist, so we’re all just working hard to come up with answers.”
The cameras have collected close to 100 hours of video footage, which is still being analyzed. The researchers feel that the cameras are invaluable in documenting the behavior of seals attacking the netted fish, and thus helping to inform commercial fishermen on measures they can take to prevent loss of so much of their catch.
“If we see that most interactions happen at a certain time, it might help the fishermen tune their fishing to maximize their catch without having to worry as much about the presence of predators,” said Nichols. “Or maybe they can reconfigure their gear if they see a lot of interactions happening at the top or bottom of their nets. It puts the knowledge and decision-making ability in the fisherman’s hands.”
Bocconcelli agrees and says another measure that fishers could take is shortening their soak times, the amount of time nets are set on the seafloor, to give seals and other predators less time to get at the catch. This could also lower seal mortality rates associated with entanglements.
“If we can empower the commercial fishing community even a little, we can extend this out to other fisheries and encourage even more collaboration on this important local issue,” he said.
Marianne Furtado de Nazareth is Former Assistant Editor, The Deccan Herald, freelance Science and Environment Journalist and adjunct faculty, St. Joseph’s College of Mass Communication, Bangalore
|September 9, 2019||
Devastating decline in Arctic ice over past 35 years
by Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
An unusually hot summer worldwide has led to an extreme rate of Arctic ice melt, NASA said on Friday.
NASA has released a visualization of sea ice in the Arctic that shows a devastating loss of perennial ice in the Arctic Circle within the last 35 years.
NASA scientist Nathan Kurtz said the Greenland ice sheet is experiencing extreme levels of ice melt.
NASA would not go as far as saying 2019 will set a new record for Arctic ice loss, but the year is on track to be one of the top five in the 40-year satellite record, according to NASA.
Nathan Kurtz said NASA technology identified a rapid melting trend earlier than usual this year.
“And in May they were seeing a lot of melt ponds that were forming on the surface. This was an indication that melt had started very early. This melt usually doesn’t start until typically June or July and then July into August. Substantial part of the Greenland ice sheet was melting. About 90 percent was melting,” he said.
He called the melting ice “alarming”.
While Arctic sea ice extent was tracking at record low levels in July and August, the pace of ice loss slowed considerably after the middle of August, despite above-average air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean.
By August 14, extent started tracking above levels observed in 2012, resulting in the second lowest August extent in the satellite record. Although Arctic air temperatures are now falling below freezing, sea ice loss will likely continue for several weeks as heat stored in the ocean melts the underside of sea ice. Winds can also compress the pack further reducing sea ice extent. As of this post, the rate of sea ice loss has sped up again.
Northern communities are eroding away into the ocean, and Polar Bears are flooding south into more Canadian cities.
If it continues — and Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow & Ice Data Center, says it’s almost certain that it has gone on too long to reverse the effects — we may be learning to navigate a drastically changed world by the 2050s.
“Probably a few decades from now, you’ll go out and look at the Arctic and there won’t be any sea ice there at all,” Serreze told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “(This data) means that we are headed to a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean.”
New sheets of sea ice spread and melt with the seasons, but the Arctic Circle has always been covered with a percentage of older ice, or perennial ice, which survives seasonal changes. This is why in the dead of summer there is still ice at the top of the world.
According to the new data, accumulated by the NSIDC and visualized by NASA, in the first week of January in 1984, the area in the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice older than four years was over 3.1 million square kilometers.
By contrast, in the first week of January in 2019, NASA found that the area covered by the older sea ice had plunged down to only 116,000 square kilometers.
This means that perennial ice in the Arctic Circle has shrunk by more than 95 per cent in only 35 years.
Serreze said that if someone were to stand today at Point Barrow — the northern-most point of the U.S., in Alaska — and look out to the north, they would “find no sea ice for probably 450 miles.
“Normally you should find it still fairly close to the shore at this time of the year,” he said. “That’s kind of an example of these huge changes we’re seeing.”
The ramifications of this could be massive, Serreze said, from environmental effects to cultural ones, threatening the safety and livelihoods of entire communities.
“The people who live (in northern communities) are being affected because their Indigenous hunting practices are being affected,” Serreze said. “They can’t get out onto the ice. Same with the polar bears and the walrus can’t get out on the ice.”
He added that coastal erosion is becoming more and more of a problem in parts of the Arctic, explaining that some “coastal areas are basically sediments that are glued together by permafrost.” Not only is the permafrost being affected by global temperatures increasing in the air and the water, but also the loss of sea ice cover is exposing these areas to harsher waves and physical punishment from the ocean.
“You’re seeing areas along the coast of Alaska that are receding 15 to 25 feet a year,” Serreze said. “Because of the loss of the sea ice cover.”
The continued loss of sea ice will have effects on everything “from plankton all the way through the top predators,” according to Serreze.
“The take home message is that climate change is real,” he said. “It is not something that is out there 30 years from now, 50 years from now that our children or grandchildren are going to have to deal with — it is here and it is now.”
Deniers of climate change often point to seasonal variations in phenomenon such as mass ice melting and global temperatures as a sign that the world is not undergoing a human-created crisis, but is merely balancing itself out naturally.
This is not the case, according to the data.
Serreze said that when they looked at the levels of perennial sea ice, they did not find a smooth decline, but instead many ups and downs. This is due, he acknowledges, to the “natural variability in climate.”
However, this natural variability is “all superimposed upon those overall trends towards less ice and thinner ice.”
The dramatic overall change is most clear in NASA’s visualization.
The visualization shows the top of a spinning Earth, and as the weeks track by year after year, the Arctic ice shrinks and grows with the seasons.
The color of the ice in the visualization indicates the age of the ice — brand new ice that spreads across the top of the globe into Russia and Canada every winter and then melts in the spring is a darker blue, while ice in the Arctic Circle that is older than four years is colored in white. Shades of pale blue in between the two extremes indicate ice of one, two or three years of age.
The seasonal variation is fairly consistent, but as the years go by, the visualization shows the patches of older white ice growing smaller and smaller, until it is barely a pale streak in the blue.
It’s not just the diminishing amount of square kilometers covered that is a problem, but the quality of the ice itself. The ice cover is thinning now, and Serreze said that all the old ice is almost entirely gone.
“If you were to go out into the Arctic Ocean, say 40 years ago, you might find ice that had been drifting around the Arctic Ocean for 10 years or more,” he said.
As the landscape changes, so would the meaning of the Arctic itself, Serreze said.
“The Arctic is becoming very important strategically and economically because as the Arctic loses its ice cover, we’re going to be opening the region to shipping,” Serreze said, “to extraction of oil and gas reserves that we couldn’t get to before because of the ice. So as we lose that ice cover, this is going to have some big effects.”
When exactly we could see an ice-free summer Arctic depends in part on our actions right now, Serezze said.
We could slow it, or put it off completely, “but if you look at what the different projections are based on the greenhouse gas emissions rate we’re seeing these days, we keep coming up with somewhere in the 2050s.
“But some projections are from much earlier than that,” he said. “I’ve been on record saying as early as 2030, we might see (a seasonally ice-free Arctic).”
The NSIDC has been studying the Arctic and other frozen realms for decades, piecing together a growing picture of the uncertain future humanity is building.
NASA’s visualization, with the alarming shrink of ice so clearly laid out on our planet, may come as a shock to some. But Serreze is not surprised by this data.
“We have always known that as climate change takes hold, it’s the Arctic that would be leading the way. It’s the Arctic where you’d see the changes first and where they’d be the most pronounced,” he said.
“And here we are. It’s exactly what we see. And it’s sort of a case where we hate to say, we told you so, but we told you so.”
|September 11, 2019||
Western media portrays Hong Kong hooligans as heroes. But are they?
by Andre Vltchek, in World, Countercurrents.org,
Whenever Hong Kong protesters are destroying public property, there are no cameras of Western media outlets in sight. But when police decide to intervene, protecting their city, Western media crusaders emerge in full force.
On September 08, 2019, huge US flags were waving in the air. A massive demonstration, consisting of mainly young people, was moving up from the old British-built downtown area of the city towards the US Consulate General, often erroneously called the “embassy.”
The temperature was well over 30 degrees Celsius, but the number of ‘protesters’ kept growing. Many of the main arteries in Hong Kong were entirely blocked.
Western media were there in full force, wearing yellow fluorescent vests, their ‘Press’ insignia, helmets and masks. They mingled with the crowd, filming US flags, clearly enjoying the show.
“President Trump, Please Liberate Hong Kong,” I read on several posters.
“Liberate from whom?” I asked a cluster of protesters, all of them in ninja outfits, metal bars in their hands, black scarves covering their faces.
Several of them replied, mumbling something incomprehensible. One girl shouted defiantly:
“But Hong Kong is China, isn’t it?” I asked. “How could it be liberated from itself?”
“No! Hong Kong is Hong Kong!” came a ready-made reply.
Nearby, I spotted British Union Jack, with old colonial-era Hong Kong coat of arms.
The big demonstration was clearly treasonous. Its members delivered a petition to the US consulate general, demanding that the US Congress pass legislation that would require its government to monitor and decide whether Hong Kong is ‘autonomous enough’ from the PRC, and whether it should then qualify for US trade and economic benefits.
All over the downtown area, hundreds of ‘ninjas’ were shouting pro-Western slogans. Here British-era HK flags were being waved, alongside the US flags.
I approached a young couple among the protesters, who were resting on a bench:
“Do your friends realize how brutal, undemocratic and oppressive was British rule? Do they know in what misery many Hong Kong citizens had to live in that era? And about censorship, humiliation…?”
“No!” They shouted at me, outraged. “It is all propaganda!”
“Whose propaganda?” I wondered.
“The propaganda of Beijing!”
At least they spoke some English. A bizarre thing about Hong Kong is that, while some people here would like to (or are perhaps paid to say that they’d want to?) have the British colonial administration back, a great majority of the people hardly speak any English now, while also refusing to speak Mandarin. Little wonder that Hong Kong is quickly losing its edge to the pro-Chinese and highly cosmopolitan Singapore!
But the demonstration was not where ‘the action’ really was and I knew it, intuitively.
The flag-waving march was a big staged event for the Western mass media.
There, ‘pro-democracy’ slogans were chanted in an orderly manner. Nothing was burned, vandalized or dismantled wherever Western press cameras were present!
A few blocks away, however, I witnessed monstrous vandalizing, of one of the entrances to the Central subway (MTR) station. Hooligans who call themselves ‘protesters’ were ruining public property, a transportation system used by millions of citizens every day.
While they were at it, they also dismantled public metal railings that separate sidewalks from roadways. Metal bars from this railing were later utilized for further attacks against the city infrastructure, as well as against the police.
Umbrellas in the hands of ‘protesters’ were covering the crime scene. Umbrellas similar to those used in 2014, during the previous, so-called ‘Umbrella Uprising.’
No foreign reporters were in sight! This was not for the world. This was raw, real, and brutal.
“Don’t film!” covered mouths began shouting at me.
I kept filming and photographing. I was not wearing any press jacket or helmet or Press insignia. I never do, anywhere in the world.
They left me alone; too busy destroying the street. As they were dismantling public property, their backpacks, stuffed with portable players, were regurgitating the US national anthem.
My friend from Beijing wrote me a brief message:
“They are selling their own nation and people. We have very bad words for them in Chinese.”
But it is not only mainland China that is disgusted with what is happening in Hong Kong. Three major Hong Kong-based newspapers, Wen Wei Po, Ta Kung Pao and Hong Kong Commercial Daily, are all pro-Beijing, pro-police and are defining ‘protesters’ as “rioters” or “troublemakers” (in Chinese).
Among the big ones, only Ming Pao and Apple Daily, which are traditionally anti-Beijing, are defining ‘protesters’ as ‘gatherers’, ‘protesters’ and even “liberators.”
Local citizens are mainly (as they’d been during the 2014 riots) hostile to the ‘protests’ but are scared to confront the mainly young, covered and armed (with metal bars and clubs) gangs. Some tried to, even in a luxury mall in the center of the city, and were brutally beaten.
‘Protesters’ seem to be on adrenalin, and in a highly militant mood. They gather and move in hordes. Most of them refuse to speak.
What is important to understand is that, while the rioters are trying to spread the message that they are ‘fighting for democracy,’ they are actually highly intolerant to all those who disagree with their goals. In fact, they are violently attacking those with different opinions.
Furthermore, and this I have to spell out, after covering protests in literally hundreds of cities worldwide, from Beirut to Lima, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Paris, Cairo, Bangkok and Jakarta: what is happening in Hong Kong is extremely mild when it comes to police responses! Hong Kong police run well and fast. It created human chains, flashed a lot of light and sporadically used tear gas. It defends itself when attacked. But violence?
If you compare police actions here to those in Paris, it is all politeness and softness. Hardly any rubber bullets. Tear gas is ‘honest’ and not mixed with deadly chemicals, like it is in many other places, and administered in small doses. No water cannon spitting liquid full of urine and excrement, as in many other cities of the world. Trust me: I am an expert in tear gas. In Istanbul, during the Gezi Park uprising, protesters had to use gas masks, so did I. Otherwise you’d faint or end up in a hospital. People are also fainting in Paris. No one is fainting here; this is mild stuff.
As for the ‘other side,’ the level of violence from the protesters is extreme. They are paralyzing the city, ruining millions of lives. The number of foreign arrivals in Hong Kong is down 40 percent. Reception at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is right next to Sunday’s battles, told me that most of the rooms are now empty, and during the ‘events’, the hotel is cut off from the world.
And what about their traitorous demands? Would this be accepted anywhere in the world? Flying flags of a foreign country (in this case, of the USA) and demanding intervention?
Hong Kong “pro-democracy activist leaders” like Joshua Wong are clearly colluding with Western interests and governments. He and others are spreading, constantly, what anywhere else would be described as fake news. For instance, “My town is the new Cold War’s Berlin,” he recently declared. Yes, perhaps, but not because of the HK government, but because of his own actions and the actions of people like himself.
Coverage of events by Western mass media is clearly selective and that is putting it mildly. Actually, many media outlets from Europe and North America are ‘adding fuel to the fire.’ They are encouraging rioters while exaggerating the actions of local police. I am monitoring and filming their work and what I see is outrageous!
I am writing this report in Tai Kwun Center. Now world-famous art complex (of the “new, Chinese Hong Kong”), this used to be the Central Police Station under the British occupation, as well as so-called Victoria Prison Compound.
Mr. Edmond, who works for the center, explains:
“If there was a referendum now, the so-called protesters would not win. They would lose. This is an internal issue of China, and it should be treated as such. A continuation of the 2014 events. What changed this time is that the protesters are opting for extreme violence now. People of Hong Kong are scared; scared of them, not of the authorities.”
Here, prisoners were confined and executed, during British rule. Not far away from here, monstrous slums were housing deprived subjects of the queen. After the Brits left, those slums were converted to public parks.
Life in Hong Kong improved. Not as fast as in neighboring Shenzhen or Guangzhou, but it improved. The reason Hong Kong is being ‘left behind’ is because of its antiquated British-era laws, rules and regulations, its extreme capitalist system; because of “too little of Beijing”, not “because of too much of it.”
These hooligans are going against the interests of their own people, and their own people are now cursing them. Not loudly, yet, as rioters have clubs and metal bars, but cursing.
Western media chooses not to hear these curses. But China knows. It hears. I hear Hong Kong people, too.
Chinese curses are terrifying, powerful. And they do not dissolve in thin air.
[First published by RT – Russia Today]
|September 11, 2019||
Inevitable climate crisis: Adaptation can deliver $7.1 trillion in benefits, says global report
by Countercurrents Collective, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
Climate impacts – such as super-charged hurricanes, floods, and wildfires – are becoming an increasingly urgent reality. Global leaders have called for urgent action on climate adaptation, and a global commission finds adaptation can deliver $7.1 trillion in benefits
The Global Commission on Adaptation has warned Tuesday: Nations rich and poor must invest now to protect against the effects of climate change or pay an even heavier price later.
The GCA report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience, finds that investing $1.8 trillion globally from 2020 to 2030 in five areas of climate adaptation could yield $7.1 trillion in net benefits.
The report highlights many economic, social and environmental benefits of adaptation
The last generation, the first generation
“We are the last generation that can change the course of climate change, and we are the first generation that then has to live with the consequences,” former UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who chairs the commission, said at the report’s launch in Beijing.
“Delay and pay, or plan and prosper,” he said, sharing a catchphrase from the commission.
“I sincerely hope that President Trump will return to Paris climate agreement and do something good for humanity,” said Ban.
At the launch, Chinese environment minister Li Ganjie – whose country is the world’s top carbon polluter – called adaptation practices “an inherent requirement of China’s sustainable development”.
“Global actions to slow climate change are promising but insufficient,” the report stated. “We must invest in a massive effort to adapt to conditions that are now inevitable.”
Leaders from the GCA have called on governments and businesses to take urgent action to innovate and advance climate adaptation solutions in light of new research findings.
The report puts forward a bold vision for how to transform key economics systems, making them more resilient and productive.
The Commission finds that climate adaptation can produce significant economic returns: the overall rate of return on investments in improved resilience is high, with benefit-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 10:1, and in some cases even higher.
The five areas of climate adaptation the report considers are: early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient. These represent just a portion of the total investments needed and total benefits available.
Recent events have shown that climate change affects people everywhere. Furthermore, without action, millions of people will be pushed further into poverty, leading to increased conflict and instability.
“Climate change doesn’t respect borders: it’s an international problem that can only be solved with co-operation and collaboration, across borders and worldwide. It is becoming increasingly clear that in many parts of the world, our climate has already changed and we need to adapt with it,” said Ban Ki-moon.
“Mitigation and adaptation go hand-in-hand as two equally important building blocks of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” he added. “Adaptation is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to boost economic growth and create a climate resilient world.”
Positively, climate adaptation can deliver a “triple dividend”— it avoids future losses, generates positive economic gains through innovation, and delivers additional social and environmental benefits.
Without action by 2030, climate change could push more than 100 million people in developing countries below the poverty line, said the report.
The report further calls for adaptation that addresses underlying inequalities in society and brings more people, especially those most vulnerable to climate impacts, into decision-making on adaptation. The reality is that the people and communities most affected by climate change did the least to cause the problem, making adaptation imperative.
Launched with events in over 10 capitals and cities around the world, including Majuro, Beijing, New Delhi, Geneva, Mexico City, Ottawa, Wainibuka, Washington D.C., among others, the Commission’s report highlights the many economic, social and environmental benefits of climate adaptation. For example:
Restore mangrove forest
At least a third of the mangrove forests globally have been uprooted for tourism or aquaculture.
Restoring mangrove forests in places like Thailand, India and the Philippines protects coastal communities from deadly storm surges while providing critical habitats to local fisheries and boosting prosperity.
Room for the River
The Netherlands “Room for the River” strategy moved dikes inland, widened rivers and created water-absorbing plazas. These projects manage and slow floodwaters, while providing innovative public use spaces and revitalizing neighborhoods.
In Zimbabwe, farmers using drought-tolerant maize were able to harvest up to 600 kilograms more maize per hectare than with conventional maize. The additional harvest was enough to feed a family of six for nine months and provided US $240 in extra income, helping them send their children to school and meet other household needs.
Reducing flood risks in urban areas lowers financial costs, increases security, and makes investments more viable that would otherwise be too vulnerable to climate risks. London’s Canary Wharf and other developments in East London would have been impossible without flood protection from the Thames Barrier.
In order to ensure that climate impacts, risks and solutions are factoring into decision-making at all levels, the report calls for revolutions in three areas: understanding, planning and finance.
It also explores how these major system changes can be applied across seven interlocking systems: food, the natural environment, water, cities, infrastructure, disaster risk management, and finance.
At the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September, the Commission will make several announcements and unveil additional “Action Tracks,” outlined in the report, covering areas from food security to resilience, disaster risk management, and finance.
Year of Action
On 24 September, at an event hosted by the Dutch Government at UN Headquarters, the Commission will also announce the start of the “Year of Action”, which aims to build on the report’s recommendations to mobilize action on climate change ahead of the Climate Adaptation Summit in October 2020 in The Netherlands.
The GCA aims to inspire heads of state, government officials, community leaders, business executives, investors and other international actors to prepare for and respond to the disruptive effects of climate change with urgency, determination and foresight.
Composed of 34 Commissioners and convened by 20 countries, the GCA brings together leaders from political, business, multilateral, and scientific worlds to identify solutions and drive action.
Led by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva the GCA is co-managed by the Global Center on Adaptation and the World Resources Institute.
Adaptation trailed far down the agenda
In the 25-year history of UN climate negotiations, adaptation has trailed far down the agenda compared with “mitigation”, or the reduction of carbon emissions.
It was long seen as an issue only affecting poor and developing nations.
Wealth is not an adequate shield
Recent massive inland flooding and a string of record-breaking hurricanes in the U.S. along with ferocious heatwaves in Europe and Japan have shown that wealth is not an adequate shield.
Dominic Molloy, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Global Centre for Adaptation, said the new focus should not detract from the need to slash carbon pollution.
“We absolutely need to do both, reduce emissions and adapt,” Molloy told AFP. “The purpose of this commission was to raise the visibility of adaptation, not shift away from mitigation.”
Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change noted that the two are inextricably linked.
“A failure to reduce emissions will mean mounting costs of adaptation,” he told AFP.
The report’s $1.8 trillion adaptation price tag for the period 2020-2030 is not an estimate of global needs. It covers only warning systems and the four other areas identified.
The $7.1 trillion dividend is based on the World Bank calculation that the value of damage caused by climate crisis is increasing, averaged across the globe, at about 1.5 percent per year.
|September 12, 2019||
Death by a Thousand Trumps: The Logical End Point of Capitalism
by William Hawes, in World, Countercurrents.org,
“The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?”
-Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Ant-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
There is a fairly typical and recurrent notion among many Americans that Donald Trump and his administration is some sort of aberration. As if his brutal, venal, racist, and bullying nature is something new, or different from previous leaders. For those not inclined to look at the historical record; one only has to look beyond our borders to view the authoritarian personality type that Trump represents in power all over the world: Modi, Orban, Erdogan, Jinping, Duterte, and Bolsonaro being the most obvious comparisons.
Our president is not an exception but the logical culmination of a nation built on genocide, slavery, empire, and capitalism. His virulent nationalism, his racist and sexist attitudes, and unbelievably fragile ego are all undisputable proof that millions of people enjoy, tolerate, or acquiesce to his behavior. Liberal pieties and paeans towards restoring normalcy don’t move the needle for most center-left voters either, as it is at least tacitly/subconsciously understood that after Trump and Brexit there is no going back towards “liberal democratic” rule. A threshold has been crossed.
Trump and his billionaire cronies are simply doing what capitalists do best: doling out more death and destruction, which many US citizens are all too comfortable eliding; except for the understandable shock and anger over the most outrageous travesties, such as the burning of the Amazon or children in concentration camps on our southern border. Even then, there is no programmatic analysis of what caused the problem (capitalism and empire) and very little visionary leadership with any social power or pop-cultural relevancy to propose realistic solutions.
It’s crucial to look outside the borders of the US to see how capital really operates. Western multinationals pay foreign governments to murder, ethnically cleanse, pillage, rape, and despoil entire nations and natural habitats. US transnational corporations as well as federal funding for various authoritarian regimes (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.) pay for their militaries, private security forces, death squads, proxy terrorists and spies, as well as corporate espionage.
For these reasons and many more it cannot be considered hyperbole to call the USA a fascist state. For those unconvinced, I suggest reading Umberto Eco’s 1995 essay “Ur-Fascism” to understand why. Henry Giroux uses the term “neoliberal fascism” and his recent book American Nightmare, which I reviewed for New York Journal of Books, spells out in detail the deepening spirals of violence and ignorance American society is succumbing to.
The near total focus on purely domestic policies in mainstream media and by our politicians is excruciating, maddening, and cringe-inducing. The constant domestic policy myopia contradicts any statements that liberals and conservatives actually understand, or have genuine interest or empathy for foreign causes or solidarity with those in need around the globe.
One only has to find old news programs, for example, from the fifties through the eighties to remember that news media for all its flaws then was much more informed and nuanced about international relations compared to today. Dissidents, counterculture figures, communists, and radicals appeared regularly on TV talk shows and were generally encouraged or at least tolerated by liberal establishment journalists, whereas today there is a huge zero. Foreign wars and overseas events were covered more extensively.
There’s no doubt many liberals earnestly want Trump gone for his racist border policy and global warming denialism, among other issues. Yet, of course much of the outrage revolves around the pseudo-moralizing, a way of saying: “He doesn’t represent us, the good-hearted progressive people in the USA.”
A petty, corrupt, racist, chauvinistic, violent grifter is exactly the type of person to represent the United States. It needs to be said, and repeated, over and over.
There are tens of millions of mini-Trumps all over the nation, exploiting, killing, jailing, and materially and mentally impoverishing working people. Here’s something to ponder. How many US citizens would support kicking out all undocumented immigrants in our country? Almost certainly the number is in the millions, if not tens of millions of people.
Where do US citizens think this is all leading towards? Have we not been locked in a death spiral, circling the drain for centuries, and have our leaders not plundered, murdered, enslaved, and ruthlessly exploited fellow humans, nature, and resources at a horrifying and increasing rate? Even further back, isn’t this where Western civilization has been headed towards for 6,000 years: a system based on brutal and authoritarian hierarchies propped up by organized religion, barbaric racism and tribalism, imperial delusions of grandeur, and myths about a world full of limitless resources?
Also, the ruling classes have been getting more ignorant, more venal, less philanthropic, and less empathetic. There are studies that can confirm this: for instance, through measuring emotional intelligence (EQ), it has been found than in corporate firms, positions above middle management show a dramatic drop in EQ. Of course, we know most CEOs and corporate owners are borderline if not full-blown psychopathic or sociopathic. The ownership of our nation are perfectly willing and able to exploit workers, cut benefits, destroy public programs, ignore the poor and minorities, and breed mass alienation at a level unseen since the Gilded Age.
There are about 585 billionaires in the US, about 175,000 people with over 25 million in total (0.05% of the population), 1.4 million individuals with wealth over 5 million (0.42% of the population), and it’s estimated there are about 12 million millionaires in the US (about 3.6% of the population). They are on the other side of a class divide that is widening more every year.
The 2016 election clearly showed white voters turned out in droves for Trump, but what mostly went unmentioned is that for all voters making over 50k a year, the edge also went to Trump, 49% to Clinton’s 47%. So much for the idea that those with wealth are part of a enlightened and tolerant “meritocracy” as our corporate overlords and their media puppets like to constantly remind us: rather, those with just a little bit of money, unconsciously or not, use their vote to crush the lower classes through Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and trade wars, etc.
Umberto Eco also points this out: he correctly demonstrates that one of the features of fascism is an “appeal to the frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups”. Erich Fromm also mentions this phenomenon at length in his classic Escape from Freedom.
The insatiable desires of the elites and the economic leverage the “Global North” holds furthers absolutely dirt-cheap prices for all manners of consumer goods, by externalizing the costs onto faraway nations, the environment, and the poor who inhabit nearby industrial or manufacturing sites, and other “sacrifice zones”.
This accounts for the burgeoning phenomena of the worker as an “independent contractor”, a model touted by Silicon Valley and venture capitalists. The new model is to cut as many benefits as possible and use low-wage service work or the threat of falling into this precariat as leverage to squeeze as much work and productivity as possible out of what remains of the middle class.
Small businesses which serviced the rich in previous eras are now forced to compete more fiercely or die, and thus compelled into deflationary business models with price wars, etc.; while the large-sector service corporations effectively have monopolies and can force workers to accept low pay due to the reserve army of labor.
Perhaps soon, the majority of the rich will be forced to acquiesce due to popular demand on issues such as free college or universal health care. Yet, they will never, ever choose voluntarily to surrender their basic model of economic power or to restructure corporate America. Freedom without economic equality is impossible. The majority of us are relegated to a form of serfdom, with no prospects for democracy in the economy and the workplace.
Another point worth mentioning is that reform is never going to happen in time through legislative and judicial means. The amount of hoops to jump through, in our constitution and in the legislature, to structurally change the system will take way too long, sap momentum, and destroy any movement based in electoral politics however good the intent.
Requiring any mass movement to follow every legalistic framework for change is just another form of elitism: forcing the multitude to advance at the glacial page of the legal system is simply an authoritarian call for law and order to cement unjust property rights. Any form of reformist policies will be denied by appealing to the status quo of existing laws, and their deluded obsession with following corrupt legal procedures and bureaucratic red-tape written by corporations and lobbyists. Rather, citizen assemblies, general strikes, direct action, and public referenda should be used as much as possible to counter the dirty tricks of the elites.
The main strivings of the members of our government, Democrat or Republican, are for power, money, and fame: they are not any substantially or qualitatively different from Trump in this respect. Their warped, huge, and fragile egos have convinced themselves that they really are the right people for the job, regardless of their obvious corrupt nature, lack of knowledge, and moral failings. Rather than being devoted to public service, their actions imply that they view themselves as doing the public a favor by simply existing and choosing to run for office to provide us with an “enlightened” political class, rather than those scary “populists”.
There is an unacknowledged anti-democratic strain in US society which insists every public policy position must be run by an expert, a technocrat, despite all evidence suggesting these professional-managerial class types (personified by Obama, his reign marking the apotheosis, the high-water mark of meritocratic and liberal democratic ideology) are craven, corrupt sycophants beholden to the power elite.
Apparently there are about 5 million people in the US who hold clearance to view classified material. There are about 1.3 million military and about 700,000 police officers. So that’s 7 million right there which constitute the national security state. The 21st century Praetorian Guard, if you will. If you count the defense corporations, fossil fuel multinationals, and various conglomerates which profit off the destruction and exploitation of workers and the environment, and all the sub-contractors which rely on the largesse (trough) of defense, fossil fuel, and other anti-life industries, that’s a few more million easily.
What I’m getting at is dislodging Trump, or any figurehead president, is small potatoes, because there are at least 10-30 million Americans with a shitload of guns and money who do not want to see any, and I mean any fundamental progressive changes. Without a mass base advocating for socialist and revolutionary democratic policies, there is nothing the ruling classes won’t do to protect their privileges.
Forget an imbecile like Trump. The power elite would rather re-animate the corpse of Genghis Khan than have Bernie Sanders or anyone left of him in charge. Believe that. They would rather use the power of capital flight and take their money to Swiss bank accounts or the Cayman Islands and bankrupt our entire country than see any socialist in power. Bank on it. Forget elections as the exclusive means towards dismantling the power structure. Only mass movements in the streets can fight the barbarism we are confronted with.
William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents, Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and more. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com.
|September 12, 2019||
On Amazon Fires: It’s the Ecology Stupid.
by Dr Glen Barry, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org,
Global Ecological Sustainability depends critically upon ending the logging and burning of old forests and letting them recover, expand and reconnect
|September 13, 2019||
A Formula for Catastrophe in the Arctic.
by Michael T Klare, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
The Pompeo Doctrine– How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Donald Trump got the headlines as usual — but don’t be fooled. It wasn’t Trumpism in action this August, but what we should all now start referring to as the Pompeo Doctrine. Yes, I’m referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, when it comes to the Arctic region, he has a lot more than buying Greenland on his mind.
In mid-August, as no one is likely to forget, President Trump surprised international observers by expressing an interest in purchasing Greenland, a semi-autonomous region of Denmark. Most commentators viewed the move as just another example of the president’s increasingly erratic behavior. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen termed the very notion of such a deal “absurd,” leading Trump, in an outburst of pique, to call her comments “nasty” and cancel a long-scheduled state visit to Copenhagen.
A deeper look at that incident and related administration moves, however, suggests quite a different interpretation of what’s going on, with immense significance for the planet and even human civilization. Under the prodding of Mike Pompeo, the White House increasingly views the Arctic as a key arena for future great-power competition, with the ultimate prize being an extraordinary trove of valuable resources, including oil, natural gas, uranium, zinc, iron ore, gold, diamonds, and rare earth minerals. Add in one more factor: though no one in the administration is likely to mention the forbidden term “climate change” or “climate crisis,” they all understand perfectly well that global warming is what’s making such a resource scramble possible.
This isn’t the first time that great powers have paid attention to the Arctic. That region enjoyed some strategic significance during the Cold War period, when both the United States and the Soviet Union planned to use its skies as passageways for nuclear-armed missiles and bombers dispatched to hit targets on the other side of the globe. Since the end of that era, however, it has largely been neglected. Frigid temperatures, frequent storms, and waters packed with ice prevented most normal air and maritime travel, so — aside from the few Indigenous peoples who had long adapted to such conditions — who would want to venture there?
Climate change is, however, already altering the situation in drastic ways: temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet, melting parts of the polar ice cap and exposing once-inaccessible waters and islands to commercial development. Oil and natural gas reserves have been discovered in offshore areas previously (but no longer) covered by sea ice most of the year. Meanwhile, new mining opportunities are emerging in, yes, Greenland! Worried that other countries, including China and Russia, might reap the benefits of such a climate-altered landscape, the Trump administration has already launched an all-out drive to ensure American dominance there, even at the risk of future confrontation and conflict.
The scramble for the Arctic’s resources was launched early in this century when the world’s major energy firms, led by BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Russian gas giant Gazprom, began exploring for oil and gas reserves in areas only recently made accessible by retreating sea ice. Those efforts gained momentum in 2008, after the U.S. Geological Survey published a report, Circum-Arctic Resources Appraisal, indicating that as much as one-third of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas lay in areas north of the Arctic Circle. Much of this untapped fossil fuel largess was said to lie beneath the Arctic waters adjoining Alaska (that is, the United States), Canada, Greenland (controlled by Denmark), Norway, and Russia — the so-called “Arctic Five.”
Under existing international law, codified in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal nations possess the right to exploit undersea resources up to 200 nautical miles from their shoreline (and beyond if their continental shelf extends farther than that). The Arctic Five have all laid claim to “exclusive economic zones” (EEZs) in those waters or, in the case of the United States (which has not ratified UNCLOS), announced its intention to do so. Most known oil and gas reserves are found within those EEZs, although some are thought to be in overlapping or even contested areas beyond that 200-mile limit, including the polar region itself. Whoever owns Greenland, of course, possesses the right to develop its EEZ.
For the most part, the Arctic Five have asserted their intent to settle any disputes arising from contested claims through peaceful means, the operating principle behind the formation in 1996 of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental organization for states with territory above the Arctic Circle (including the Arctic Five, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden). Meeting every two years, it provides a forum in which, at least theoretically, leaders of those countries and the Indigenous peoples living there can address common concerns and work towards cooperative solutions — and it had indeed helped dampen tensions in the region. In recent years, however, isolating the Arctic from mounting U.S. (and NATO) hostilities toward Russia and China or from the global struggle over vital resources has proven increasingly difficult. By May 2019, when Pompeo led an American delegation to the council’s most recent meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, hostility and the urge to grab future resources had already spilled into the open.
Reaping the Arctic’s Riches
Usually a forum for anodyne statements about international cooperation and proper environmental stewardship, the lid was blown off the latest Arctic Council meeting in May when Pompeo delivered an unabashedly martial and provocative speech that deserves far more attention than it got at the time. So let’s take a little tour of what may prove a historic proclamation (in the grimmest sense possible) of a new Washington doctrine for the Far North.
“In its first two decades, the Arctic Council has had the luxury of focusing almost exclusively on scientific collaboration, on cultural matters, on environmental research,” the secretary of state began mildly. These were, he said, “all important themes, very important, and we should continue to do those. But no longer do we have that luxury. We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic, complete with new threats to the Arctic and its real estate, and to all of our interests in that region.”
In what turned out to be an ultra-hardline address, Pompeo claimed that we were now in a new era in the Arctic. Because climate change — a phrase Pompeo, of course, never actually uttered — is now making it ever more possible to exploit the region’s vast resource riches, a scramble to gain control of them is now officially underway. That competition for resources has instantly become enmeshed in a growing geopolitical confrontation between the U.S., Russia, and China, generating new risks of conflict.
On the matter of resource exploitation, Pompeo could hardly contain his enthusiasm. Referring to the derision that greeted William Seward’s purchase of Alaska in 1857, he declared:
“Far from the barren backcountry that many thought it to be in Seward’s time, the Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, and an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources.”
Of equal attraction, he noted, was the possibility of vastly increasing maritime commerce through newly de-iced trans-Arctic trade routes that will link the Euro-Atlantic region with Asia. “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” he enthused. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days… Arctic sea lanes could come [to be] the 21st century’s Suez and Panama Canals.” That such “steady reductions in sea ice” are the sole consequence of climate change went unmentioned, but so did another reality of our warming world. If the Arctic one day truly becomes the northern equivalent of a tropical passageway like the Suez or Panama canals, that will likely mean that parts of those southerly areas will have become the equivalents of uninhabitable deserts.
As such new trade and drilling opportunities arise, Pompeo affirmed, the United States intends to be out front in capitalizing on them. He then began bragging about what the Trump administration had already accomplished, including promoting expanded oil and gas drilling in offshore waters and also freeing up “energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” a pristine stretch of northern Alaska prized by environmentalists as a sanctuary for migrating caribou and other at-risk species. Additional efforts to exploit the region’s vital resources, he promised, are scheduled for the years ahead.
A New Arena for Competition (and Worse)
Ideally, Pompeo noted placidly, competition for the Arctic’s resources will be conducted in an orderly, peaceful manner. The United States, he assured his listeners, believes in “free and fair competition, open, by the rule of law.” But other countries, he added ominously, especially China and Russia, won’t play by that rulebook much of the time and so must be subject to careful oversight and, if need be, punitive action.
China, he pointed out, is already developing trade routes in the Arctic, and establishing economic ties with key nations there. Unlike the United States (which already has multiple military bases in the Arctic, including one at Thule in Greenland, and so has a well-established presence there), Pompeo claimed that Beijing is surreptitiously using such supposedly economic activities for military purposes, including, heinously enough, spying on U.S. ballistic missile submarines operating in the region, while intimidating its local partners into acquiescence.
He then cited events in the distant South China Sea, where the Chinese have indeed militarized a number of tiny uninhabited islands (outfitting them with airstrips, missile batteries, and the like) and the U.S. has responded by sending its warships into adjacent waters. He did so to warn of similar future military stand-offs and potential clashes in the Arctic. “Let’s just ask ourselves, do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims?” The answer, he assured his listeners, is “pretty clear.” (And I’m sure you can guess what it is.)
The secretary of state then wielded even stronger language in describing “aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic.” In recent years, he claimed, the Russians have built hundreds of new bases in the region, along with new ports and air-defense capabilities. “Russia is already leaving snow prints in the form of army boots” there, a threat that cannot be ignored. “Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness. It need not be the case. And we stand ready to ensure that it does not become so.”
And here we get to the heart of Pompeo’s message: the United States will, of course, “respond” by enhancing its own military presence in the Arctic to better protect U.S. interests, while countering Chinese and Russian inroads in the region:
“Under President Trump, we are fortifying America’s security and diplomatic presence in the area. On the security side, partly in response to Russia’s destabilizing activities, we are 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.”
To emphasize the administration’s sincerity, Pompeo touted the largest NATO and U.S. Arctic military maneuvers since the Cold War era, the recently completed “Trident Juncture” exercise (which he incorrectly referred to as “Trident Structure”), involving some 50,000 troops. Although the official scenario for Trident Juncture spoke of an unidentified “aggressor” force, few observers had any doubt that the allied team was assembled to repel a hypothetical Russian invasion of Norway, where the simulated combat took place.
Implementing the Doctrine
And so you have the broad outlines of the new Pompeo Doctrine, centered on the Trump administration’s truly forbidden topic: the climate crisis. In the most pugnacious manner imaginable, that doctrine posits a future of endless competition and conflict in the Arctic, growing ever more intense as the planet warms and the ice cap melts. The notion of the U.S. going nose-to-nose with the Russians and Chinese in the Far North, while exploiting the region’s natural resources, has clearly been circulating in Washington. By August, it had obviously already become enough of a commonplace in the White House (not to speak of the National Security Council and the Pentagon), for the president to offer to buy Greenland.
And when it comes to resources and future military conflicts, it wasn’t such a zany idea. After all, Greenland does have abundant natural resources and also houses that U.S. base in Thule. A relic of the Cold War, the Thule facility, mainly a radar base, is already being modernized, at a cost of some $300 million, to better track Russian missile launches. Clearly, key officials in Washington view Greenland as a valuable piece of real estate in the emerging geopolitical struggle Pompeo laid out, an assessment that clearly wormed its way into President Trump’s consciousness as well.
Iceland and Norway also play key roles in Pompeo’s and the Pentagon’s new strategic calculus. Another former Cold War facility, a base at Keflavik in Iceland has been reoccupied by the Navy and is now being used in antisubmarine warfare missions. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has stationed several hundred combat troops at bases near Trondheim, Norway, the first permanent deployment of foreign soldiers on Norwegian soil since World War II. In 2018, the Pentagon even reactivated the Navy’s defunct Second Fleet, investing it with responsibility for protecting the North Atlantic as well as the Arctic’s maritime approaches, including those abutting Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. Consider these signs of heating-up times.
And all of this is clearly just the beginning of a major buildup in and regular testing of the ability of the U.S. military to operate in the Far North. As part of Exercise Trident Juncture, for example, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and its flotilla of support ships were sent into the Norwegian Sea, the first time a U.S. carrier battle group had sailed above the Arctic Circle since the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. Similarly, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer recently announced plans to send surface warships on trans-Arctic missions, another new military move. (U.S. nuclear submarines make such journeys regularly, sailing beneath the sea ice.)
The Irony of Arctic Melting
Although Secretary Pompeo and his underlings never mention the term climate change, every aspect of his new doctrine is a product of that phenomenon. As humanity puts more and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperatures continue to rise, the Arctic ice cap will continue to shrink. That, in turn, will make exploitation of the region’s abundant oil and natural gas reserves ever more possible, leading to yet more burning of fossil fuels, further warming, and ever faster melting. In other words, the Pompeo Doctrine is a formula for catastrophe.
Add to this obvious abuse of the planet the likelihood that rising temperatures and increasing storm activity will render oil and gas extraction in parts of the world ever less viable. Many scientists now believe that daytime summer temperatures in oil-producing areas of the Middle East, for instance, are likely to average 120 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, making outdoor human labor of most sorts deadly. At the same time, more violent hurricanes and other tropical storms passing over the ever-warming waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico could imperil the continuing operation of offshore rigs there (and in other similarly storm-prone drilling areas). Unless humanity has converted to alternative fuels by then, the Arctic may be viewed as the world’s primary source of fossil fuels, only intensifying the struggle to control its vital resources.
Perhaps no aspect of humanity’s response to the climate crisis is more diabolical than this. The greater the number of fossil fuels we consume, the more rapidly we alter the Arctic, inviting the further extraction of just such fuels and their contribution to global warming. With other regions increasingly less able to sustain a fossil-fuel extraction economy, a continued addiction to oil will ensure the desolation of the once-pristine Far North as it is transformed into a Pompeo-style arena for burning conflict and civilizational disaster.
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. His new book, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change (Metropolitan Books), will be published in November.
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.
|September 17, 2019||
Putin offers Russian missile defense system to protect Saudi oil installations.
by Abdus Sattar Ghazali, in World, Countercurrents.org,
In the aftermath of Houti rebels drone attack on Saudi oil installations, President Vladimir Putin Monday offered Russian missile system to Saudi Arabia which now relies on American armaments including Patriot Missile system.
“We are ready to provide respective assistance to Saudi Arabia, and it would be enough for the political leadership of Saudi Arabia to make a wise government decision – as the leaders of Iran did in their time by purchasing S-300 and as (Turkish) President (Tayyip) Erdogan did by purchasing the latest S-400 ‘Triumph’ air defense systems from Russia,” Putin said after talks in Ankara with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish president Tayyab Erdogan.
These Russian weapons would protect any infrastructure facilities of Saudi Arabia, Putin added.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin meets in Ankara with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Monday Russia and China have called for de-escalation of tensions in the aftermath of the Drone attack on major Saudi oil installations claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels but blamed on Iran by the United States.
Russia has warned against a hasty reaction to the drone strikes. “We call on all countries to avoid hasty steps or conclusions that could exacerbate the situation, and on the contrary keep to a line of conduct that will help soften the impact of the situation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Moscow also warned other countries against putting the blame on Iran for the attack and said that plans of military retaliation against Iran are unacceptable.
In a similar fashion, the China’s foreign ministry said it was “irresponsible” to blame anyone for the weekend attack on Saudi Arabia, given the absence of a conclusive investigation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was opposed to the intensification of any conflict. “We call on the parties concerned to avoid actions that could escalate regional tensions,” Hua said.
U.S. officials have released satellite images of the damage at Saudi Arabia’s crucial oil processing plant and a key oil field, claiming that the pattern of destruction suggested the attack on Saturday came from either Iraq or Iran.
Bernard Hudson, a former director of counterterrorism for the CIA, was quoted Monday by media as saying that the attacks probably involved a mix of drones and cruise missiles.
“It used to be that only governments had air forces, but drones have democratized violence from the sky,” said Hudson, now a fellow on gulf security issues at Harvard University. “The Houthis, with help and advice from Iran, have perfected it to a level no one else has done.”
Hudson called the counter-drone industry “exceptionally immature.” For military personnel, he said, the biggest problem is “detection at a distance. . . . If you don’t detect it until it’s on top of you, you have very little time to respond.”
Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks?
On Monday RT published an article by Finian Cunningham, who said that US officials are blaming Iran for the devastating blitz on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry because of Washington’s spectacular failure to protect its Saudi ally.
Cunningham went on to say: “The Trump administration needs to scapegoat Iran for the latest military assault on Saudi Arabia because to acknowledge that the Houthi rebels mounted such an audacious assault on the oil kingdom’s heartland would be an admission of American inadequacy.
“Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in recent years purchasing US Patriot missile defense systems and supposedly cutting-edge radar technology from the Pentagon. If the Yemeni rebels can fly combat drones up to 1,000 kilometers into Saudi territory and knock out the linchpin production sites in the kingdom’s oil industry, then that should be a matter of huge embarrassment for US “protectors.”
“American defense of Saudi Arabia is germane to their historical relationship. Saudi oil exports nominated in dollars for trade – the biggest on the planet – are vital for maintaining the petrodollar global market, which is in turn crucial for American economic power. In return, the US is obligated to be a protector of the Saudi monarchy, which comes with the lucrative added benefit of selling the kingdom weapons worth billions of dollars every year.”
Notably too, most US media reported initially that the attacks were by drones flown from Yemen, Cunningham argued and added: Associated Press reported a level of sophistication in the attacks whereby drones were used first to disable the US Patriot radar systems before other UAVs proceeded to execute the air strikes. It therefore seems that US officials are attempting to switch the story by blaming Iran. It is reckless scapegoating because the logical consequence could elicit a military attack against Iran, in which event Tehran has warned it is ready for war.
According to Cunningham, a timeline shows that the Houthis are more than capable of launching ever-more powerful ballistic missiles and deeper penetrating drones into Saudi territory. The rebels have been using drones from the beginning of the war which the US-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched on the southern Arabian country in March 2015.
Over the past four years, the Houthi aerial firepower has gradually improved. Earlier, the Saudis, with American defense systems, were able to intercept drones and missiles from Yemen. But over the last year, the rebels have increased their success rate for hitting targets in the Saudi interior, including the capital Riyadh.
In May this year, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline. Then in August, drones and ballistic missiles were reported to have struck the Shaybah oil field near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the Dammam exporting complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
The attacks on Aramco’s main crude processing facility knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily oil production for Saudi Arabia, or more than 5% of the world’s daily crude production.
According to the New York Times, “oil prices rose about 10 percent on Monday as investors reacted to a weekend attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil facilities that could cripple petroleum exports for days or even weeks. But experts say that a severe shock to energy markets and the world economy would be unlikely.”
“The attack on the Abqaiq processing facility and another plant, deep in Saudi territory, displayed the vulnerability of the kingdom to tensions in the Persian Gulf region,” the NYT added while Eurasia Group said that Saudi Arabia’s air defense systems are designed to defend against traditional threats but are ill-equipped to tackle asymmetrical aerial threats from drones.
|September 17, 2019||
On the Precipice: The Collective Asteroid of Human History.
by Tom Engelhardt, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org,
Worlds end. Every day. We all die sooner or later. When you get to my age, it’s a subject that can’t help but be on your mind.
What’s unusual is this: it’s not just increasingly ancient folks like me who should be thinking such thoughts anymore. After all, worlds of a far larger sort end, too. It’s happened before. Ask the dinosaurs after that asteroid hit the Yucatán. Ask the life forms of the Permian era after what may have been the greatest volcanic uproar the planet ever experienced.
According to a recent U.N. global assessment report, up to one million (that’s 1,000,000!) species are now in danger of extinction, thanks largely to human actions. It’s part of what’s come to be called “the sixth extinction,” a term that makes the point all too clearly. Except in our ability to grasp (or avoid grasping) our seeming determination to wipe away this version of the world, we’re in good company. Five great moments of obliteration preceded us on Planet Earth.
And by the way, that impressive figure for endangered species should probably be upgraded to at least one million and one (1,000,001!). As anthropologist Richard Leakey said years ago, “Homo Sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims.” In other words, it’s evidently not enough for us to turn ourselves into the modern equivalent of the asteroid that took down the dinosaurs, ending the Cretaceous period. It looks as if, in some future that seems ever closer, we might be our own asteroid, the one that will collapse human civilization as we’ve known it.
Planet on Fire
While there are deep mysteries in our present situation, its existence is — or at least should be — anything but a mystery. It’s not even news. After all, in 1965, more than half a century ago, a science advisory committee reported to President Lyndon Johnson with remarkable accuracy on the coming climate crisis. That analysis was based on the previous two centuries in which we humans had been burning fossil fuels in an ever more profligate manner to fashion and develop our way of life on, and command of, this planet. As one of those scientists told Bill Moyers, Johnson’s special assistant coordinating domestic policy, humanity had launched a “‘vast geophysical experiment.’ We were about to burn, within a few generations, the fossil fuels that had slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years.”
In the process, we would put ever more carbon emissions into the atmosphere and so change the very nature of the planet we were living on. Ignored at the time by a president soon to be swept away by an American war in Vietnam, that report would offer remarkably accurate predictions about how those greenhouse gas emissions would change our twenty-first-century world. A small footnote here: since 1990 — stop a second to take this in — humanity has burned approximately half of all the fossil fuels it’s ever consumed. As my father used to say to me, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” And by the way, in the age of Donald Trump, U.S. carbon emissions are once again surging (as they are globally as well).
By now, it should be clear enough that this planet is in crisis. That reality may finally be sinking in somewhat here, as CNN’s recent seven-hour climate-change town hall for Democratic presidential candidates suggested (even after the Democratic National Committee rejected the idea of a televised debate on the subject). And yet this crisis continues to prove a surprisingly hard one for humanity to get its head(s) fully around.
And that’s no less true of the mainstream media. A Public Citizen report, for instance, recently offered a snapshot of the then-nonstop coverage of Dorian, the monster Category 5 hurricane that, at one point, had wind gusts up to 220 miles an hour and obliterated parts of the Bahamas before moving on to the U.S. Even though the storm’s intensified behavior fit the expectations of climate scientists to a T, the report found that “climate [change] or global warming was mentioned in just 7.2% of the 167 pieces on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox.” In the 32 newspapers Public Citizen followed that were covering the storm, “of 363 articles about Dorian…, just nine (2.5%) mentioned climate change.” And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that Fox News went out of its way to denigrate the very idea that there might be a connection between Dorian’s ferocity and the warming of the planet.
One reason awareness of the crisis has sunk in so slowly is obvious enough. Climate change has not been happening in human time; it hasn’t, that is, been taking place in the normal context of history on a timescale that would make it easier for us to grasp how crucial it will prove to be to our everyday lives and those of our children and grandchildren. It’s operating instead on what might be thought of as planetary time. In other words, autocrats or, in the case of our president, potential ones, come and go; their sons take over (or don’t); a revolt topples the autocracy only to turn sour itself; and so it goes in human history. However disturbing such events may be, they are also of our moment and so familiarly graspable.
The climate crisis, however, has been taking place on another timescale entirely and the planet that it’s changing will assumedly feel global warming’s version of autocracy not for a few years, or even a century to come, but potentially for thousands or tens of thousands of years. The results could dwarf what we’ve always known as “history.”
Given the immediacy of our lives and concerns, getting us to focus on predicted events decades or even a century away remains problematic at best. If, as predicted, by 2100 the North China Plain, with its tens of millions of people, becomes partially uninhabitable or Shanghai is drowned thanks to rising sea levels, that’s beyond horrific, but hard to focus on when you’re a government or a people plunged into an immediate trade war with the globe’s other great power; hard to react to when the needs of today and tomorrow, this year and next, seem so pressing, and when you’re still exporting hundreds of coal-fired power plants to other parts of the world.
It shouldn’t be surprising that it’s been so difficult for most of us to respond to the climate crisis over these last decades when its effects, while noticeable enough if you’re looking for them, hadn’t yet impinged in obvious ways on most of our lives. It seemed to matter little that what was being prepared for delivery might be the collective asteroid of human history.
Consider this the ultimate sign of how difficult it’s been to take in a crisis that, in its magnitude and span, seems to mock the human version of time: in these years, vast numbers of people haven’t hesitated to elect (or support) a crew of pyromaniacs as their leaders. From the U.S. to Brazil, Poland to Australia, Russia to Saudi Arabia, coming to power in these years across significant parts of the planet are men — and they are men — who seem intent on ignoring or rejecting the very idea that we are altering the planet’s climate at a rapid rate. They have, in fact, generally been strikingly transparent in their blunt urge not just to overlook the climate crisis, but to actually increase its intensity through the greater use of fossil fuels, while often trying to deep-six or ignore alternative forms of energy.
In other words, blind to our future fate and that of our children and grandchildren, humanity has been installing in power leaders who are the literal raw material for ensuring that the collective asteroid of human history will indeed be delivered. In an ongoing gesture of self-destruction, humanity has been tapping what might be thought of as Pyromaniacs, Incorporated, to run the world.
The Greatest Crime of All
All that may be changing, however, for an obvious reason — even if the first sign of that change couldn’t have been more modest or less Trumpian: a 15-year-old Swedish girl who, in 2018, began skipping school, Friday after Friday, to perch on the steps of the Swedish parliament building, holding a handmade banner (“school strike for climate”). Not even her parents initially encouraged her “Fridays for Future” protest against what this planet’s adults were visibly doing: stealing her generation’s future. In the end, Greta Thunberg would unexpectedly spark a movement of the young, increasingly aware that their future was in peril, that, in various forms, spread (and is still spreading) across the planet. It may prove to be the most hopeful movement of our times.
As it happened, Thunberg began that strike of hers at a crucial juncture, just at the edge of the moment when climate change would start to enter human time as a crisis in everyday life. In retrospect, we may come to see the summer of 2019 as a turning point in the reaction to that phenomenon. This summer, almost anywhere you lived, climate change seemed to be in view. The Brazilian Amazon was burning (as were similar rain forests in Africa and Indonesia); Alaska, too, was burning, its sea ice gone for the first time in history, its fire season extended by two months. Burning as well in record fashion were areas across much of the rest of the Far North, especially Siberia, where forests and peatlands sent vast plumes of smoke into space (while releasing startling amounts of carbon into the atmosphere); flooding hit the American Midwest in an unparalleled fashion, while record summer heat, drought, and an early fire season clobbered Australia; water scarcity struck areas of the planet in new ways, including Chennai, an Indian city of nine million that practically lost its water supply to drought; and Europe experienced three unprecedented heat waves, with temperatures soaring across the continent. Much of this seemed to be happening at a pace that exceeded the predictions of climate scientists. The government of Iceland held a “funeral” for the first glacier lost to global warming, while Greenland’s ice sheet experienced what may prove to be a record melt and sea ice continued to disappear at a startling clip in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The Arctic was already heating at double the rate of the rest of the planet, as was Canada. And don’t forget that, as the globe’s oceans continued to warm in a striking fashion, storms like Dorian were intensifying (and the numbers of weather-displaced people hitting record levels globally).
And so it went. We humans were no longer simply living with predictions about what might happen in 2030, 2050, 2100, or thereafter, about possibilities that, while grim, seemed far away when the endless crises of everyday life beckoned. We were suddenly in an increasingly overheated present, one visibly changing, visibly intensifying in ways we hadn’t previously experienced.
In the summer of 2019, from the tropics to the poles, we found ourselves, in short, on an already burning, melting planet and it showed, even in opinion polls in this country. An acceptance that climate change was actually happening and mattered was clearly growing. It would prove increasingly visible in the Democratic rollout for the 2020 election and even, as the New York Times reported, in the secret worries of Republican strategists that younger conservative voters, “who in their lifetimes haven’t seen a single month of colder-than-average temperatures globally, and who call climate change a top priority,” might in the future be alienated from the party.
In a remarkable recent article, Stephen Pyne, historian of fire, offered a vision of what’s happening as humans, a “keystone species for fire,” essentially toast the planet. Historically speaking, as he points out, the crucial development was that, with the industrial revolution, humans turned
And if, from Paradise, California, to Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, we have indeed already entered the Pyrocene Age, expect the pyres only to grow. After all, the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is almost literally setting fire to the Amazon rain forest (a job that human arsonists may have started, but that those forests could self-destructively end all on their own). Similarly, in the U.S., the Trump administration has been reversing climate-change-related rules or regulations of every sort, trying to open ever more American landscapes to oil and natural gas drilling, and working to ensure that yet more methane, a particularly powerful greenhouse gas, will be released into the atmosphere. And that’s just to begin a list of such horrors.
Keep in mind as well that the brutal summer of 2019 is guaranteed to prove anything but “the new normal.” In fact, there can be no new normal as long as those greenhouse gases continue to pour into the atmosphere. Admittedly, we humans are a notoriously clever species. Who could doubt that, if we ever truly mobilized, launching the equivalent of World War II’s Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb — the other way we’ve found to asteroid ourselves to death — something might indeed happen? Various methods might be found to deal with or sequester carbon emissions, while far more effort might be put into developing non-carbon-emitting forms of energy.
In the meantime, from Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro to the CEOs of all those fossil-fuel companies, we’re still left with the pyromaniacs largely in charge. If they have their way, they will undoubtedly take their pleasures and profits and not give a damn about turning much of this world into an oven for the Greta Thunbergs of the future.
Think of this as a planet on the precipice. If Pyromaniacs, Inc., succeeds, if the arsonists are truly able to persevere, there will have been no crime like this in history, none at all.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).
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.