"This movie was titled "Timeless Global Community values" because Global Community is always helping the formation of life in all places and times throughout the universe. Then life is let to evolve. Evolution and adaptation are the main driving forces of life. Advantages that explain the evolutionary success of humans include a large brain which enable high levels of abstract reasoning, language, arts, problem solving, sociality, and culture through social learning.
Global Community values did not all exist at first in the first stage of human evolution. But most of them gradually developed over time. Humans have survived over time because of those well developed human values.
Humans started to separate from the rest of the great apes 7 million years ago. The first modern form of humans, the Homo sapiens, evolved 200,000 years ago. Cave and rock paintings began to emerge on multiple continents about 30,000 years ago.
Over time, humans have established various forms of government, religion, and culture around the world, thus unifying people within a region and leading to the development of states and empires. "
John Scales Avery (3), Willy Blackmore, Farooque Chowdhury, Ronnie Cummins, Finian Cunningham,
Marie DAVID-C., Tom Engelhardt,Jeff Hayward, Chris Hedges, Richard Heinberg,
Michael Hudson, Cheryl Katz, Stephen Lendman,
Emma Rae Lierley, Reynard Loki, Roberto Lovato,
GaborMate,Chandra Muzaffar, Arthur Neslen, Katherine Paul, Dr Gideon Polya,
Hassanal Noor Rashid, Sheldon Richman, Paul Craig Roberts,
Sukumaran C. V., David Suzuki, Mark Taliano,
Andre Vltchek(2), John W. Whitehead, James Wright, YES! Magazine ,Eric Zuesse
John Scales Avery, Paris And The Long-Term Future
John Scales Avery, We Need System Change!
John Scales Avery, Culture, Education And Human Solidarity
Willy Blackmore, Plants Could Save Us From Climate Change — but Not in the Way Scientists Expected
Farooque Chowdhury, Empire Exposed Once Again: The Syria Intervention Case
Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins, The U.S. — a primary driver of the climate crisis — still isn't on board with this historic climate agreement
Finian Cunningham, Russia Vindicated by Terrorist Surrenders in Syria
Marie DAVID-C., Je n’ai qu’un rêve la paix Eu tenho um sonho de paz I have a dream of peace
Tom Engelhardt, How Climate Change Is Wreaking Havoc on the American Empire
Jeff Hayward, 6 Big Takeaways From the Paris Climate Agreement
Chris Hedges, Chris Hedges: We Must Refuse to Participate in the Destruction of the Planet.
Richard Heinberg, Can We Have Our Climate And Eat It, Too?
Michael Hudson, The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia
Cheryl Katz, On Thin Ice: Big Northern Lakes Are Being Rapidly Transformed
Stephen Lendman, Saudis Form Pro-ISIS Block
Emma Rae Lierley, Corruption, Human Rights Violations and Unchecked Pollution: At COP21, Growing Concern Over UN’s Forest Climate Program
Reynard Loki, Huge Questions About Paris Climate Agreement as Rich Nations and Giant Polluters Exercise Control
Roberto Lovato, COP21: International Rights of Nature Tribunal Finds Corporations, Governments Guilty of Crimes Against Nature
Gabor Mate, The Amazing Power of a Plant from the Amazon—and the Respect It Demands
Chandra Muzaffar & Hassanal Noor Rashid, Geopolitics, Refugees And A Trade Agreement
Arthur Neslen, Why We're Going to Have to Start Sucking Pollution Out of the Air to Save the Climate
Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins, The U.S. — a primary driver of the climate crisis — still isn't on board with this historic climate agreement
Dr Gideon Polya, Paris Climate Agreement Betrays Humanity Which Must Apply Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions (BDS) Against Climate Criminal People, Corporations & Countries
Chandra Muzaffar & Hassanal Noor Rashid, Geopolitics, Refugees And A Trade Agreement
Sheldon Richman, A Conspiracy of Fear-Mongers
Paul Craig Roberts, Why WWIII Is On The Horizon
Sukumaran C. V., God Is Not In His Heaven And All Is Wrong With The World
David Suzuki, Healing Humanity's Grief In The Face Of Climate Change
Mark Taliano, War Fraud: The Great Lies Behind Imperial Warfare in the 21st Century
Andre Vltchek, Why The West Can Never Defeat or “Forgive” Russia
Andre Vltchek, Syria Is The Middle Eastern Stalingrad
John W. Whitehead, What’s In Store For Our Freedoms In 2016? More Of Everything We Don’t Want
James Wright, The Bogus Climate Change Deal Reached in Paris Isn't Historic — It’s a Death Sentence
YES! Magazine, Leading the Way: Here Are 3 of World's Most Sustainable Communities
Eric Zuesse, America's Now-Aggressive War Against Russia
|Day data received||Theme or issue||Read article or paper|
|December 15, 2015||
A Conspiracy of Fear-Mongers
by Sheldon Richman, Information Clearing House
December 15, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - Over the
weekend CNN breathlessly reported as "Breaking News"
-- it breathlessly reports everything as "Breaking
News" -- a new poll indicating that people are
increasingly frightened about terrorism. The
accompanying web story
stated, "Terrorism has eclipsed the economy as
voters' top pick for the biggest issue facing
America, a New York Times/CBS News
poll has found. Last month only 4% of Americans
said terrorism was the most important problem,
according to the New York Times. Now nearly one in
five -- 19% -- believe it is."
Following terrorist attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California, the poll said Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001....
More than four in 10 Americans -- 44% -- believe an attack is "very" likely to happen in the next few months. And 70% say that ISIS is a major threat to America's security.
Nearly 60% of people are "very" concerned about the threat of terrorism against Americans committed by elements entering the U.S. from other countries. And 63% are "very" concerned about the threat of terrorism against Americans committed by people currently living in the U.S. who are inspired by foreign extremists."How likely is an American to be a victim? Curiously, CNN never bothers to say.
In fact, the likelihood is so low that the saturation coverage -- which is better described as fear-mongering -- looks ridiculous. Commonplace things are far more likely to kill Americans than terrorism -- from any source -- yet you won't learn that by watching TV or reading the daily newspaper.
It's not as though qualified interviewees would be hard to find. John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart have been putting the terrorist threat in perspective for years. Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism is their latest attempt to cool things down.
"Although [over the last 40 years] the yearly chance an American will be killed by a terrorist within the country is about one in 4 million under present conditions," Mueller and Stewart write, "around 40 percent of Americans have professed, in polls taken since late 2001, that they worry they or a family member will become a victim of a terrorist." ["For the period since 2001, the chances are one in 110 million."]
Of course. The media work overtime to make them afraid. But getting killed by an asteroid is more likely. Richard Jackson of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Zealand says we have more to fear from bathtubs and vending machines.
After the attacks, American officials from the president on down sounded repeated alarms about how many al-Qaeda operatives (2,000-5,000) and sleeper cells were in America and about a coming second wave of terrorism. The lack of evidence was considered evidence. No operatives or cells were found and no second wave took place, yet no official apologized.
Thus the U.S. government's expenditure of trillions of dollars since 9/11 is shown to be outrageous.
We've been through this before. In the 1980s a group of right-wing "experts," aided by the media, tried to scare Americans into believing that Soviet-trained terrorists were among us. If so, they preferred living here peacefully to creating mayhem.
Why do the government, the media establishment, and an assortment of consultants traffic in fear?
It's not a hard question. Many people profit from fear-mongering about terrorism. Politicians and bureaucrats gain more power. They also gain access to more money (through borrowing, that is, taxation of future generations). That money ends up in the terrorism industry, a constellation of firms that sell the government endless quantities of goods and services.
No presidential candidate dare tell the truth because rivals will portray him or her as a weak-kneed, head-in-the-sand appeaser. Fear-mongering brings the worst to the top.
Finally, the news media and the "sham 'terrorism expert' industry" it fosters have every incentive to exaggerate any danger. Fear-mongering attracts viewers and builds circulation. Why would CNN report something that might prompt viewers to change the channel?
Regular Americans pay a heavy price -- in stress (which is a killer), in lost liberty and privacy, and in prosperity forgone. Fear of terrorism also makes people more willing to support American militarism in the Middle East, which creates more would-be terrorists than it destroys and keeps the scam going.
What will it take to change this perverse system that thrives on power, war, and fear?
Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!
(Cross-posted at the Center for a Stateless Society.)
|December 15, 2015||
Saudis Form Pro-ISIS Block
by Stephen Lendman, Information Clearing House
December 15, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - Saudi Arabia and Turkey are key US allies, fostering endless Middle East wars.
They’re involved in recruiting and directly aiding ISIS and other takfiri terrorists throughout the region – mainly in Syria and Iraq, now beginning to establish a foothold in war-torn, chaotic Libya, with elements in Yemen and elsewhere.
Riyadh wants more regional power along with control over oil reserves outside its borders. Together with Washington and other partners, it’s using ISIS and other terrorist groups to advance its objectives, not oppose a universal scourge.
It’s so-called new 34-nation “Islamic military alliance” against terrorism is a laughable on its face, a deceptive PR hoax. It named the following nations as partners:
Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Palestine, Nigeria, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Turkey, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen along with its own regime.
A Saudi-controlled news agency said “(t)he countries here mentioned have decided on the formation of a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.”
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya and Yemeni territory controlled by US-installed puppet Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi are part of the problem, not the solution. Other countries listed aren’t involved in US-led regional war OF terrorism, at least not enough to matter.
Riyadh claiming the so-called coalition has “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorize the innocent” is pure propaganda, ignoring its central role in creating, financing and fostering regional terrorism.
The only nations combating it are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russia. Washington, its imperial NATO partners, Israel, and other regional rogue states support what they claim to oppose.
America’s so-called 65-nation anti-terrorism coalition is pure fiction. US air and ground forces along with Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Israel and Australia are attacking Syrian and Iraqi sites, not ISIS or other terrorists.
Turkey is striking Syrian and Iraqi Kurds on the pretext of combating ISIS, perhaps government targets in both countries along with Washington and other rogue coalition partners.
Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova minced no words, saying “(w)e can state the (US-led) coalition is simulating the fight against ISIS and real terrorism and acts on its own politicized approach to the situation, which runs counter to international law, at least in Syria.”
During over a year of illegal US bombing of Syria, terrorist groups made substantial territorial gains. Their oil smuggling and other illicit operations flourished – protected, not attacked by America.
In early December, Russia’s General Staff Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy cited clear evidence, showing US-led bombing in Syria isn’t striking ISIS targets, notably permitting its oil smuggling cross-border to Turkey to operate freely.
In contrast, Russia is waging real war on terrorism in Syria, making a strategic difference on the ground. Key is cutting off these groups’ sources of funding, especially from illicit oil sales, complicit with Turkey, permitted by Washington to continue despite claims otherwise.
Moscow so far unsuccessfully urged the formation of a global coalition against terrorism, mainly with America and other Western countries, – involved for a common purpose, defeating the scourge of terrorism, not possible with US-led Western and rogue regional support.
Riyadh’s announced phony Islamic military alliance against terrorism followed its failed December 8 – 10 anti-Assad conference – attended by regional rogue states and notorious terrorist groups, including ISIS.
Along with Washington and rogue partners, Saudi rulers want Assad ousted, Hezbollah neutralized and Iran isolated. Russia’s all-out efforts for regional peace have no chance to succeed as long as US-led Assad enemies want escalated aggression to oust him illegally.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html - Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.
|January 5, 2015||
America's Now-Aggressive War Against Russia
by Eric Zuesse, Strategic-culture.org, Countercurrents
America's aristocracy is determined to take over Russia. Ever since the end of the Soviet Union and of its communism, the Cold War has become replaced by an increasingly hot war in which the U.S. and its allies are expanding NATO right up to Russia's borders, and imposing against Russia what the U.S. refused to accept being imposed upon itself during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: nuclear checkmate!
The direction of aggression since the end of communism has reversed, and the aggression itself has considerably intensified. Though the ideological excuse for the conflict is thus entirely gone, the aggression against Russia is far more than the Soviet Union ever dreamt of even trying against America. It's so blatant. This is raw aggression, for nothing else than conquest ideology has nothing to do with it. First, Russia's allies are assassinated or otherwise overthrown; then, Russia is to be in the cross-hairs, isolated as much as possible: Russia's ally Saddam Hussein in Iraq was killed in 2003; Russia's ally Muammar Gaddafi in Libya was killed in 2011; America and its allies (Sunni-fundamentalist nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey) tried to kill Russia's ally the non-sectarian Shiite Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2013 but failed; and the U.S. perpetrated a coup that overthrew the Russia-friendly President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014. In each instance, chaos and an enduring hell for the victim-nation's public have resulted, but America's rulers are psychopaths, and they keep up the propaganda and the lies alleging the U.S. regime to be good and the regimes they overthrow to have been bad and deserving' of the American-and-allied aggression. The regimes they overthrew were bad, but not nearly so vile as America has imposed after them. In Syria, Russia itself interceded in order to defeat the jihadists that the U.S.-led operation has been using to bring down Assad. Only the U.S-and-allied nonstop propaganda fools the publics in U.S.-allied countries to think that their own rulers were well-intentioned' but misled by poor intelligence.' The suckers don't even notice that it happens again and again: there is clearly a pattern to these mistakes.' These weren't mistakes; they were aggressions, for spreading conquest. This is an increasingly hot war; to call it the new Cold War' is to lie, yet again.
The U.S. and its allies (the Sunni-Islamic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish aristocracies) are the world's aggressors now; and Russia and its allies (who have emerged as being the Shia-Islamic, Russian Catholic, Confucian, Tao, and Hindu aristocracies) are in the West's' gunsights, to be forced by the American aristocratic gang to capitulate, as the former capitalist-v.-communist Cold War has increasingly (ever since 1990) morphed into an increasingly aggressive and increasingly hot war for brute conquest, by the U.S. and its allies, taking over, one-by-one, without overthrowing but instead playing simply upon residual fears against the long-expired communist Soviet Union, Russia's former allies, who were: Czech, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia; and soon: Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzevogina, Ukraine, and Georgia. The aim of all of this is ultimately to take over Russia itself, to become the vestigial whipping-boy for Soviet crimes. (Whereas the U.S. wants all of the former Warsaw Pact countries in its NATO, the U.S. has consistently refused to accept Russia into NATO though that had been verbally promised to Gorbachev.) This isn't actually retribution based on vengeance; it is instead aggression based on the craving that America's aristocrats have for sheer global conquest.
This is not a grab for added wealth and power by any public anywhere the non-aristocrats (the public) are basically just servants and/or suckers to the aristocracy, in any country. The public in each country are overwhelmingly comprised of the servers and the mere fools of that country's aristocracy. The aristocracy include the people who own the news' media, and who (as servers are paid to) slant their news' reporting' (to the multitudes of mere suckers) in order to block from national power any politician who resists continuing rule by the given nation's aristocracy regardless of any politician's particular political party within that country. These news' media are, in turn, being paid by other aristocrats, the advertisers, and so the entire aristocracy controls each and every one of them, and thus collectively decides which news' gets published, and which (like this) does not. The editors whom the aristocrats hire won't publish this, but that doesn't mean its false and the lies they publish are true. It simply means that the truth is suppressed.
Here is the best documentary introduction to this global war, and this documentary is only 22 minutes long; so, a viewer might want to replay and investigate on his/her own some of the passages that whiz by in it. I have found that everything in it is honest and true: this documentarian, Aaron Hawkins (or Storm Clouds Gathering), is far more careful to exclude fabricated information' than are the vast majority of documentarians and videographers especially about such sensitive' geopolitical subjects. False and fake sources are carefully excluded by Hawkins; only the most-solid sources are employed in his documentaries. In the 22 minutes of this one are the most-important global historical events since the start of Richard Nixon's massively history-shaping Presidency. The changes that Nixon pioneered are rising to a crescendo today, and some of them are explained in that documentary.
As I myself have documented in an earlier article, the U.S. war against Russia started in 1990 while the Administration of the then-U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush was negotiating with the Administration of the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev the conditions for the re-unification of Germany, and the end of the Cold War: Bush told his negotiators to make certain promises; but, then, once Gorbachev's people said yes to these understandings, Bush instructed his people to move forward on the basis of ignoring what they had just promised, and they all did so and there was nothing that Russia now could do about it, because Russia had just disbanded (and this is Putin's big lament about Gorbachev) not only the Soviet Union, but even the broader Warsaw Pact the military alliance that had been the USSR's equivalent to America's NATO alliance. Gorbachev actually trusted the West he didn't know that the U.S., which leads the West, was no longer a democracy; he didn't know that the aristocracy had retaken it. He wasn't prepared for the reality that the U.S. had recently been restored to aristocratic control after the brief period of post-Civil-War democracy in the U.S., 1932-1972. And now, the U.S. is more in the grip of its aristocracy than ever since the country had started, back in 1776. U.S. President Jimmy Carter is correct that today's U.S. is a dictatorship. But publics in the U.S.-allied nations haven't yet figured that out.
From the end of the Soviet bloc (1991) till the present time, each successive U.S. President has run a foreign policy that continues from George Herbert Walker Bush's exquisitely engineered deceit, which was designed ultimately to surround Russia, and to swallow it up. That's the plan, and Barack Obama is utterly devoted to it to such an extent that, according to the great investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, who had been in on the planning for the operation to overthrow the Russia-friendly leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, quit over Obama's determination to continue the operation until Assad is removed and replaced by a leader who will do what the U.S. aristocracy wants (which is to allow the gas-pipeline from Qatar into Europe to be built and to run through Syria.
Russia is the world's most resource-rich nation. The U.S. aristocracy wants to control it. And Qatar and Saudi Arabia want to weaken their biggest oil-and-gas competitor: Russia.
When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia became ruled by the drunkard Boris Yeltsin, who accepted guidance from Washington, and privatized the Russian nation's most valuable assets, in deals that spun them off to corrupt operators who shared their bonanzas with American aristocrats, including even some of the Harvard economists who were basically making the decisions and overseeing the entire process of this stripping from the Russian public their key national assets and enriching the most grubby U.S.-subservient new Russian aristocrats. Both the wealth and the welfare of the Russian people immediately plunged, and then started slowly climbing back up to what it had been before the breakup. The U.S. operation of Russia was an absolute disaster for the Russian people.
But here is what the agents for America's aristocrats said about Yeltsin's rule of Russia (as quoted in pages 3-5 of Stephen F. Cohen's 2001 Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia:
The Russian prospect over the coming years and decades is more promising than ever before in its history. David Remnick, journalist, 1997 [now the editor of the New Yorker].
Optimism prevails universally among those who are familiar with what is going on in Russia. U.S. Vice President Al Gore, 1998.
Only a few years from now what will be left standing is the towering edifice of Yeltsin's achievement. Leon Aron, biographer, 2000.
At the same time (also on those same pages from Cohen) was being published outside the U.S. the depressing reality inside Yeltsin's Russia:
A human crisis of monumental proportions is emerging in the former Soviet Union. U.N. Development Program, 1999.
Will we continue looting and destroying Russia until nothing is left? God forbid these reforms should continue. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 2000.
Look at the reality, and you'll see in the statistics of Russia, what was blatantly obvious to everyone except Americans (who are so deluded by the agents for America's aristocracy). For examples of this human crisis of monumental proportions: Between 1991 when Yeltsin took over, and 1993 a mere two years later, Russia's male life expectancy plunged from 63 years down to less than 58 years. When Putin took over in 2000, it was 59 years. By 2010, it was back again to 63 years. By 2014, it was 66 years. an all-time-record high. But America's propaganda says that Putin is bad and Yeltsin was good.
Per-capita GDP was 39% of America's in 1991, and was 20% of America's in 1998, while Americans were praising Yeltsin's rule. By 2010, after 10 years of Putin, it had risen to 39% of America's. It kept rising until Obama slammed on the economic sanctions in 2014.
Pew Global polling shows unfavorable opinions of Putin everywhere but in Vietnam, China, India, and Philippines (and they didn't show their figure in Russia itself, where Pew had actually found an 88% approval-rating for Putin) and strongly negative ratings in all of the U.S.-allied countries. However, earlier than the February 2014 Obama coup that replaced a Moscow-friendly with a Washington-run President of Ukraine, Pew found no such international hostility toward either Putin personally or Russia nationally. All of this hostility was manipulated by the U.S. as part of Obama's all-out campaign to cripple and isolate Russia so as to cause Putin to lose power ultimately and become replaced by a U.S. stooge.
The U.S. government propaganda services, quite understandably, brag about how effectively they've demonized Putin. They have, indeed, done a terrific job for their aristocratic masters. They've convinced billions of suckers, that white is black, black is white, up is down, and down is up.
And that's the news, about the news.'here is more, just in case someone still really believes the U.S. aristocracy's lie that the sanctions against Russia are based on international criminality by Russia's leadership, and not on international criminality by America's leadership. The truth here is too hot to handle: the U.S., just like it was internationally recognized to be in the only global opinion poll on the subject, is overwhelmingly recognized as constituting the greatest threat to peace in the world today.
And that's news the U.S. aristocracy and its allied aristocracies don't report; they suppress. It's also why the pollster, which was hired by them for this poll, buried it, instead of headlined with it. (Perhaps if as America's aristocrats might have been hoping Russia had been named there as #1 instead of the U.S., that would have been the headline. But Russia wasn't even listed among the top 5 there. News like that always gets buried. Just as does the news that the only scientific analysis of the evidence about the overthrow of Yanukovych proves that it was a U.S. coup, no authentic revolution.')
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
|December 18, 2015||
The IMF Changes its Rules to Isolate China and Russia
by Michael Hudson , Information Clearing House
The nightmare scenario of U.S. geopolitical strategists seems to be coming true: foreign economic independence from U.S. control. Instead of privatizing and neoliberalizing the world under U.S.-centered financial planning and ownership, the Russian and Chinese governments are investing in neighboring economies on terms that cement Eurasian economic integration on the basis of Russian oil and tax exports and Chinese financing. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) threatens to replace the IMF and World Bank programs that favor U.S. suppliers, banks and bondholders (with the United States holding unique veto power).
Russia’s 2013 loan to Ukraine, made at the request of Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian government, demonstrated the benefits of mutual trade and investment relations between the two countries. As Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov points out, Ukraine’s “international reserves were barely enough to cover three months’ imports, and no other creditor was prepared to lend on terms acceptable to Kiev. Yet Russia provided $3 billion of much-needed funding at a 5 per cent interest rate, when Ukraine’s bonds were yielding nearly 12 per cent.”
What especially annoys U.S. financial strategists is that this loan by Russia’s sovereign debt fund was protected by IMF lending practice, which at that time ensured collectability by withholding new credit from countries in default of foreign official debts (or at least, not bargaining in good faith to pay). To cap matters, the bonds are registered under London’s creditor-oriented rules and courts.
On December 3 (one week before the IMF changed its rules so as to hurt Russia), Prime Minister Putin proposed that Russia “and other Eurasian Economic Union countries should kick-off consultations with members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a possible economic partnership.” Russia also is seeking to build pipelines to Europe through friendly instead of U.S.-backed countries.
Moving to denominate their trade and investment in their own currencies instead of dollars, China and Russia are creating a geopolitical system free from U.S. control. After U.S. officials threatened to derange Russia’s banking linkages by cutting it off from the SWIFT interbank clearing system, China accelerated its creation of the alternative China International Payments System (CIPS), with its own credit card system to protect Eurasian economies from the shrill threats made by U.S. unilateralists.
Russia and China are simply doing what the United States has long done: using trade and credit linkages to cement their geopolitical diplomacy. This tectonic geopolitical shift is a Copernican threat to New Cold War ideology: Instead of the world economy revolving around the United States (the Ptolemaic idea of America as “the indispensible nation”), it may revolve around Eurasia. As long as the global financial papacy remains grounded in Washington at the offices of the IMF and World Bank, such a shift in the center of gravity will be fought with all the power of the American Century (indeed, American Millennium) inquisition.
Imagine the following scenario five years from now. China will have spent half a decade building high-speed railroads, ports power systems and other construction for Asian and African countries, enabling them to grow and export more. These exports will be coming on line to repay the infrastructure loans. Also, suppose that Russia has been supplying the oil and gas energy needed for these projects.
To U.S. neocons this specter of AIIB government-to-government lending and investment creates fear of a world independent of U.S. control. Nations would mint their own money and hold each other’s debt in their international reserves instead of borrowing or holding dollars and subordinating their financial planning to the IMF and U.S. Treasury with their demands for monetary bloodletting and austerity for debtor countries. There would be less need for foreign government to finance budget shortfalls by selling off their key public infrastructure privatizing their economies. Instead of dismantling public spending, the AIIB and a broader Eurasian economic union would do what the United States itself practices, and seek self-sufficiency in basic needs such as food, technology, banking, credit creation and monetary policy.
With this prospect in mind, suppose an American diplomat meets with the leaders of debtors to China, Russia and the AIIB and makes the following proposal: “Now that you’ve got your increased production in place, why repay? We’ll make you rich if you stiff our New Cold War adversaries and turn to the West. We and our European allies will help you assign the infrastructure to yourselves and your supporters, and give these assets market value by selling shares in New York and London. Then, you can spend your surpluses in the West.”
How can China or Russia collect in such a situation? They can sue. But what court will recognize their claim – that is, what court that the West would pay attention to?
That is the kind of scenario U.S. State Department and Treasury officials have been discussing for more than a year. The looming conflict was made immediate by Ukraine’s $3 billion debt to Russia falling due by December 20, 2015. Ukraine’s U.S.-backed regime has announced its intention to default. U.S. lobbyists have just changed the IMF rules to remove a critical lever on which Russia and other governments have long relied to enforce payment of their loans.
The IMF’s role as enforcer of inter-government debts
When it comes down to enforcing nations to pay inter-government debts, the International Monetary Fund and Paris Club hold the main leverage. As coordinator of central bank “stabilization” loans (the neoliberal euphemism for imposing austerity and destabilizing debtor economies, Greece-style), the IMF is able to withhold not only its own credit but also that of governments and global banks participating when debtor countries need refinancing. Countries that do not agree to privatize their infrastructure and sell it to Western buyers are threatened with sanctions, backed by U.S.-sponsored “regime change” and “democracy promotion” Maidan-style.
This was the setting on December 8, when Chief IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice announced: “The IMF’s Executive Board met today and agreed to change the current policy on non-toleration of arrears to official creditors.” The creditor leverage that the IMF has used 2KillingTheHost_Cover_ruleis that if a nation is in financial arrears to any government, it cannot qualify for an IMF loan – and hence, for packages involving other governments. This has been the system by which the dollarized global financial system has worked for half a century. The beneficiaries have been creditors in US dollars.
In this U.S.-centered worldview, China and Russia loom as the great potential adversaries – defined as independent power centers from the United States as they create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to NATO, and the AIIB as an alternative to the IMF and World Bank tandem. The very name, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, implies that transportation systems and other infrastructure will be financed by governments, not relinquished into private hands to become rent-extracting opportunities financed by U.S.-centered bank credit to turn the rent into a flow of interest payments.
The focus on a mixed public/private economy sets the AIIB at odds with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its aim of relinquishing government planning power to the financial and corporate sector for their own short-term gains, and above all the aim of blocking government’s money-creating power and financial regulation. Chief Nomura economist Richard Koo, explained the logic of viewing the AIIB as a threat to the US-controlled IMF: “If the IMF’s rival is heavily under China’s influence, countries receiving its support will rebuild their economies under what is effectively Chinese guidance, increasing the likelihood they will fall directly or indirectly under that country’s influence.”
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov accused the IMF decision of being “hasty and biased.” But it had been discussed all year long, calculating a range of scenarios for a long-term sea change in international law. The aim of this change is to isolate not only Russia, but even more China in its role as creditor to African countries and prospective AIIB borrowers. U.S. officials walked into the IMF headquarters in Washington with the legal equivalent of financial suicide vests, having decided that the time had come to derail Russia’s ability to collect on its sovereign loan to Ukraine, and of even larger import, China’s plan for a New Silk Road integrating a Eurasian economy independent of U.S. financial and trade control. Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the NATO-oriented Atlantic Council, points out:
The IMF staff started contemplating a rule change in the spring of 2013 because nontraditional creditors, such as China, had started providing developing countries with large loans. One issue was that these loans were issued on conditions out of line with IMF practice. China wasn’t a member of the Paris Club, where loan restructuring is usually discussed, so it was time to update the rules.
The IMF intended to adopt a new policy in the spring of 2016, but the dispute over Russia’s $3 billion loan to Ukraine has accelerated an otherwise slow decision-making process.
The Wall Street Journal concurred that the underlying motivation for changing the IMF’s rules was the threat that Chinese lending would provide an alternative to IMF loans and its demands for austerity. “IMF-watchers said the fund was originally thinking of ensuring China wouldn’t be able to foil IMF lending to member countries seeking bailouts as Beijing ramped up loans to developing economies around the world.” In short, U.S. strategists have designed a policy to block trade and financial agreements organized outside of U.S. control and that of the IMF and World Bank in which it holds unique veto power.
The plan is simple enough. Trade follows finance, and the creditor usually calls the tune. That is how the United States has used the Dollar Standard to steer Third World trade and investment since World War II along lines benefiting the U.S. economy.
The cement of trade credit and bank lending is the ability of creditors to collect on the international debts being negotiated. That is why the United States and other creditor nations have used the IMF as an intermediary to act as “honest broker” for loan consortia. (“Honest broker” means in practice being subject to U.S. veto power.) To enforce its financial leverage, the IMF has long followed the rule that it will not sponsor any loan agreement or refinancing for governments that are in default of debts owed to other governments. However, as the afore-mentioned Aslund explains, the IMF could easily change its practice of not lending into [countries in official] arrears … because it is not incorporated into the IMF Articles of Agreement, that is, the IMF statutes. The IMF Executive Board can decide to change this policy with a simple board majority. The IMF has lent to Afghanistan, Georgia, and Iraq in the midst of war, and Russia has no veto right, holding only 2.39 percent of the votes in the IMF. When the IMF has lent to Georgia and Ukraine, the other members of its Executive Board have overruled Russia.
After the rules change, Aslund later noted, “the IMF can continue to give Ukraine loans regardless of what Ukraine does about its credit from Russia, which falls due on December 20. 
Inasmuch as Ukraine’s official debt to Russia’s sovereign debt fund was not to the U.S. Government, the IMF announced its rules change as a “clarification.” Its rule that no country can borrow if it is in default to (or not seriously negotiating with) a foreign government was created in the post-1945 world, and has governed the past seventy years in which the United States Government, Treasury officials and/or U.S. bank consortia have been party to nearly every international bailout or major loan agreement. What the IMF rule really meant was that it would not provide credit to countries in arrears specifically to the U.S. Government, not those of Russia or China.
Mikhail Delyagin, Director of the Institute of Globalization Problems, understood the IMF’s double standard clearly enough: “The Fund will give Kiev a new loan tranche on one condition that Ukraine should not pay Russia a dollar under its $3 billion debt. Legally, everything will be formalized correctly but they will oblige Ukraine to pay only to western creditors for political reasons.” It remains up to the IMF board – and in the end, its managing director – whether or not to deem a country creditworthy. The U.S. representative naturally has always blocked any leaders not beholden to the United States.
The post-2010 loan packages to Greece are a notorious case in point. The IMF staff calculated that Greece could not possibly pay the balance that was set to bail out foreign banks and bondholders. Many Board members agreed (and subsequently have gone public with their whistle-blowing). Their protests didn’t matter. Dominique Strauss-Kahn backed the US-ECB position (after President Barack Obama and Treasury secretary Tim Geithner pointed out that U.S. banks had written credit default swaps betting that Greece could pay, and would lose money if there were a debt writedown). In 2015, Christine Lagarde also backed the U.S.-European Central Bank hard line, against staff protests.
IMF executive board member Otaviano Canuto, representing Brazil, noted that the logic that “conditions on IMF lending to a country that fell behind on payments [was to] make sure it kept negotiating in good faith to reach agreement with creditors.” Dropping this condition, he said, would open the door for other countries to insist on a similar waiver and avoid making serious and sincere efforts to reach payment agreement with creditor governments.
A more binding IMF rule is that it cannot lend to countries at war or use IMF credit to engage in warfare. Article I of its 1944-45 founding charter ban the fund from lending to a member state engaged in civil war or at war with another member state, or for military purposes in general. But when IMF head Lagarde made the last IMF loan to Ukraine, in spring 2015, she made a token gesture of stating that she hoped there would be peace. But President Porochenko immediately announced that he would step up the civil war with the Russian-speaking population in the eastern Donbass region.
The problem is that the Donbass is where most Ukrainian exports were made, mainly to Russia. That market is being lost by the junta’s belligerence toward Russia. This should have blocked Ukraine from receiving IMF aid. Withholding IMF credit could have been a lever to force peace and adherence to the Minsk agreements, but U.S. diplomatic pressure led that opportunity to be rejected.
The most important IMF condition being violated is that continued warfare with the East prevents a realistic prospect of Ukraine paying back new loans. Aslund himself points to the internal contradictions at work: Ukraine has achieved budget balance because the inflation and steep currency depreciation has drastically eroded its pension costs. The resulting lower value of pension benefits has led to growing opposition to Ukraine’s post-Maidan junta. “Leading representatives from President Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc are insisting on massive tax cuts, but no more expenditure cuts; that would cause a vast budget deficit that the IMF assesses at 9-10 percent of GDP, that could not possibly be financed.” So how can the IMF’s austerity budget be followed without a political backlash?
The IMF thus is breaking four rules: Not lending to a country that has no visible means to pay back the loan breaks the “No More Argentinas” rule adopted after the IMF’s disastrous 2001 loan. Not lending to countries that refuse in good faith to negotiate with their official creditors goes against the IMF’s role as the major tool of the global creditors’ cartel. And the IMF is now lending to a borrower at war, indeed one that is destroying its export capacity and hence its balance-of-payments ability to pay back the loan. Finally, the IMF is lending to a country that has little likelihood of refuse carrying out the IMF’s notorious austerity “conditionalities” on its population – without putting down democratic opposition in a totalitarian manner. Instead of being treated as an outcast from the international financial system, Ukraine is being welcomed and financed.
The upshot – and new basic guideline for IMF lending – is to create a new Iron Curtain splitting the world into pro-U.S. economies going neoliberal, and all other economies, including those seeking to maintain public investment in infrastructure, progressive taxation and what used to be viewed as progressive capitalism. Russia and China may lend as much as they want to other governments, but there is no international vehicle to help secure their ability to be paid back under what until now has passed for international law. Having refused to roll back its own or ECB financial claims on Greece, the IMF is quite willing to see repudiation of official debts owed to Russia, China or other countries not on the list approved by the U.S. neocons who wield veto power in the IMF, World Bank and similar global economic institutions now drawn into the U.S. orbit. Changing its rules to clear the path for the IMF to make loans to Ukraine and other governments in default of debts owed to official lenders is rightly seen as an escalation of America’s New Cold War against Russia and also its anti-China strategy.
Timing is everything in such ploys. Georgetown University Law professor and Treasury consultant Anna Gelpern warned that before the “IMF staff and executive board [had] enough time to change the policy on arrears to official creditors,” Russia might use “its notorious debt/GDP clause to accelerate the bonds at any time before December, or simply gum up the process of reforming the IMF’s arrears policy.” According to this clause, if Ukraine’s foreign debt rose above 60 percent of GDP, Russia’s government would have the right to demand immediate payment. But no doubt anticipating the bitter fight to come over its attempts to collect on its loan, President Putin patiently refrained from exercising this option. He is playing the long game, bending over backward to accommodate Ukraine rather than behaving “odiously.”
A more pressing reason deterring the United States from pressing earlier to change IMF rules was that a waiver for Ukraine would have opened the legal floodgates for Greece to ask for a similar waiver on having to pay the “troika” – the European Central Bank (ECB), EU commission and the IMF itself – for the post-2010 loans that have pushed it into a worse depression than the 1930s. “Imagine the Greek government had insisted that EU institutions accept the same haircut as the country’s private creditors,” Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov asked. “The reaction in European capitals would have been frosty. Yet this is the position now taken by Kiev with respect to Ukraine’s $3 billion eurobond held by Russia.”
Only after Greece capitulated to eurozone austerity was the path clear for U.S. officials to change the IMF rules in their fight to isolate Russia. But their tactical victory has come at the cost of changing the IMF’s rules and those of the global financial system irreversibly. Other countries henceforth may reject conditionalities, as Ukraine has done, and ask for write-downs on foreign official debts.
That was the great fear of neoliberal U.S. and Eurozone strategists last summer, after all. The reason for smashing Greece’s economy was to deter Podemos in Spain and similar movements in Italy and Portugal from pursuing national prosperity instead of eurozone austerity. Opening the door to such resistance by Ukraine is the blowback of America’s tactic to make a short-term financial hit on Russia while its balance of payments is down as a result of collapsing oil and gas prices.
The consequences go far beyond just the IMF. The fabric of international law itself is being torn apart. Every action has a reaction in the Newtonian world of geopolitics. It may not be a bad thing, to be sure, for the post-1945 global order to be broken apart by U.S. tactics against Russia, if that is the catalyst driving other countries to defend their own economies in the legal and political spheres. It has been U.S. neoliberals themselves who have catalyzed the emerging independent Eurasian bloc.
Countering Russia’s ability to collect in Britain’s law courts
Over the past year the U.S. Treasury and State Departments have discussed ploys to block Russia from collecting under British law, where its loans to Ukraine are registered. Reviewing the repertory of legal excuses Ukraine might use to avoid paying Russia, Prof. Gelpern noted that it might declare the debt “odious,” made under duress or corruptly. In a paper for the Peterson Institute of International Economics (the banking lobby in Washington) she suggested that Britain should deny Russia the use of its courts as an additional sanction reinforcing the financial, energy, and trade sanctions to those passed against Russia after Crimea voted to join it as protection against the ethnic cleansing from the Right Sector, Azov Battalion and other paramilitary groups descending on the region.
A kindred ploy might be for Ukraine to countersue Russia for reparations for “invading” it, for saving Crimea and the Donbass region from the Right Sector’s attempt to take over the country. Such a ploy would seem to have little chance of success in international courts (without showing them to be simply arms of NATO New Cold War politics), but it might delay Russia’ ability to collect by tying the loan up in a long nuisance lawsuit.
To claim that Ukraine’s debt to Russia was “odious” or otherwise illegitimate, “President Petro Poroshenko said the money was intended to ensure Yanukovych’s loyalty to Moscow, and called the payment a ‘bribe,’ according to an interview with Bloomberg in June this year.” The legal and moral problem with such arguments is that they would apply equally to IMF and US loans. Claiming that Russia’s loan is “odious” is that this would open the floodgates for other countries to repudiate debts taken on by dictatorships supported by IMF and U.S. lenders, headed by the many dictatorships supported by U.S. diplomacy.
The blowback from the U.S. multi-front attempt to nullify Ukraine’s debt may be used to annul or at least write down the destructive IMF loans made on the condition that borrowers accept privatizations favoring U.S., German and other NATO-country investors, undertake austerity programs, and buy weapons systems such as the German submarines that Greece borrowed to pay for. As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted: “This reform, which they are now trying to implement, designed to suit Ukraine only, could plant a time bomb under all other IMF programs.” It certainly showed the extent to which the IMF is subordinate to U.S. aggressive New Cold Warriors: “Essentially, this reform boils down to the following: since Ukraine is politically important – and it is only important because it is opposed to Russia – the IMF is ready to do for Ukraine everything it has not done for anyone else, and the situation that should 100 percent mean a default will be seen as a situation enabling the IMF to finance Ukraine.”
Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the Committee for International Affairs at the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament) accused the United States of playing “the role of the main violin in the IMF while the role of the second violin is played by the European Union. These are two basic sponsors of the Maidan – the symbol of a coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014.”
Putin’s counter-strategy and the blowback on U.S.-European and global relations
As noted above, having anticipated that Ukraine would seek reasons to not pay the Russian loan, President Putin carefully refrained from exercising Russia’s right to demand immediate payment when Ukraine’s foreign debt rose above 60 percent of GDP. In November he offered to defer payment if the United States, Europe and international banks underwrote the obligation. Indeed, he even “proposed better conditions for this restructuring than those the International Monetary Fund requested of us.” He offered “to accept a deeper restructuring with no payment this year – a payment of $1 billion next year, $1 billion in 2017, and $1 billion in 2018.” If the IMF, the United States and European Union “are sure that Ukraine’s solvency will grow,” then they should “see no risk in providing guarantees for this credit.” Accordingly, he concluded “We have asked for such guarantees either from the United States government, the European Union, or one of the big international financial institutions.” 
The implication, Putin pointed out, was that “If they cannot provide guarantees, this means that they do not believe in the Ukrainian economy’s future.” One professor pointed out that this proposal was in line with the fact that, “Ukraine has already received a sovereign loan guarantee from the United States for a previous bond issue.” Why couldn’t the United States, Eurozone or leading commercial banks provide a similar guarantee of Ukraine’s debt to Russia – or better yet, simply lend it the money to turn it into a loan to the IMF or US lenders?
But the IMF, European Union and the United States refused to back up their happy (but nonsensical) forecasts of Ukrainian solvency with actual guarantees. Foreign Minister Lavrov made clear just what that rejection meant: “By having refused to guarantee Ukraine’s debt as part of Russia’s proposal to restructure it, the United States effectively admitted the absence of prospects of restoring its solvency. … By officially rejecting the proposed scheme, the United States thereby subscribed to not seeing any prospects of Ukraine restoring its solvency.”
In an even more exasperated tone, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev explained to Russia’s television audience: “I have a feeling that they won’t give us the money back because they are crooks. They refuse to return our money and our Western partners not only refuse to help, but they also make it difficult for us.” Adding that “the international financial system is unjustly structured,” he promised to “go to court. We’ll push for default on the loan and we’ll push for default on all Ukrainian debts.”
The basis for Russia’s legal claim, he explained was that the loan was a request from the Ukrainian Government to the Russian Government. If two governments reach an agreement this is obviously a sovereign loan…. Surprisingly, however, international financial organisations started saying that this is not exactly a sovereign loan. This is utter bull. Evidently, it’s just an absolutely brazen, cynical lie. … This seriously erodes trust in IMF decisions. I believe that now there will be a lot of pleas from different borrower states to the IMF to grant them the same terms as Ukraine. How will the IMF possibly refuse them?
And there the matter stands. As President Putin remarked regarding America’s support of Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and other ISIS allies in Syria, “Do you have any idea of what you have done?”
Few have calculated the degree to which America’s New Cold War with Russia is creating a reaction that is tearing up the world’s linkages put in place since World War II. Beyond pulling the IMF and World Bank tightly into U.S. unilateralist geopolitics, how long will Western Europe be willing to forego its trade and investment interest with Russia? Germany, Italy and France already are feeling the strains. If and when a break comes, it will not be marginal but a seismic geopolitical shift.
The oil and pipeline war designed to bypass Russian energy exports has engulfed the Near East in anarchy for over a decade. It is flooding Europe with refugees, and also spreading terrorism to America. In the Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015, the leading issue was safety from Islamic jihadists. Yet no candidate thought to explain the source of this terrorism in America’s alliance with Wahabist Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and hence with Al Qaeda and ISIS/Daish as a means of destabilizing secular regimes seeking independence from U.S. control.
As its allies in this New Cold War, the United States has chosen fundamentalist jihadist religion against secular regimes in Libya, Iraq, Syria, and earlier in Afghanistan and Turkey. Going back to the original sin of CIA hubris – overthrowing the secular Iranian Prime Minister leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 – American foreign policy has been based on the assumption that secular regimes tend to be nationalist and resist privatization and neoliberal austerity.
Based on this fatal long-term assumption, U.S. Cold Warriors have aligned themselves not only against secular regimes, but against democratic regimes where these seek to promote their own prosperity and economic independence, and to resist neoliberalism in favor of maintaining their traditional mixed public/private economy.
This is the back story of the U.S. fight to control the rest of the world. Tearing apart the IMF’s rules is only the most recent chapter. The broad drive against Russia, China and their prospective Eurasian allies has deteriorated into tactics without a realistic understanding of how they are bringing about precisely the kind of world they are seeking to prevent – a multilateral world.
Arena by arena, the core values of what used to be American and European social democratic ideology are being uprooted. The Enlightenment’s ideals of secular democracy and the rule of international law applied equally to all nations, classical free market theory (of markets free from unearned income and rent extraction by special vested interests), and public investment in infrastructure to hold down the cost of living and doing business are to be sacrificed to a militant U.S. unilateralism as “the indispensible nation.” Standing above the rule of law and national interests, American neocons proclaim that their nation’s destiny is to wage war to prevent foreign secular democracy from acting in ways other than submission to U.S. diplomacy. In practice, this means favoring special U.S. financial and corporate interests that control American foreign policy.
This is not how the Enlightenment was supposed to turn out. Classical industrial capitalism a century ago was expected to evolve into an economy of abundance. Instead, we have Pentagon capitalism, finance capitalism deteriorating into a polarized rentier economy, and old-fashioned imperialism.
The Dollar Bloc’s financial Iron Curtain
By treating Ukraine’s nullification of its official debt to Russia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund as the new norm, the IMF has blessed its default on its bond payment to Russia. President Putin and foreign minister Lavrov have said that they will sue in British courts. But does any court exist in the West not under the thumb of U.S. veto?
What are China and Russia to do, faced with the IMF serving as a kangaroo court whose judgments are subject to U.S. veto power? To protect their autonomy and self-determination, they have created alternatives to the IMF and World Bank, NATO and behind it, the dollar standard.
America’s recent New Cold War maneuvering has shown that the two Bretton Woods institutions are unreformable. It is easier to create new institutions such as the A.I.I.B. than to retrofit old and ill-designed ones burdened with the legacy of their vested founding interests. It is easier to expand the Shanghai Cooperation Organization than to surrender to threats from NATO.
U.S. geostrategists seem to have imagined that if they exclude Russia, China and other SCO and Eurasian countries from the U.S.-based financial and trade system, these countries will find themselves in the same economic box as Cuba, Iran and other countries have been isolated by sanctions. The aim is to make countries choose between impoverishment from such exclusion, or acquiescing in U.S. neoliberal drives to financialize their economies and impose austerity on their government sector and labor.
What is lacking from such calculations is the idea of critical mass. The United States may use the IMF and World Bank as levers to exclude countries not in the U.S. orbit from participating in the global trade and financial system, and it may arm-twist Europe to impose trade and financial sanctions on Russia. But this action produces an equal and opposite reaction. That is the eternal Newtonian law of geopolitics. The indicated countermeasure is simply for other countries to create their own international financial organization as an alternative to the IMF, their own “aid” lending institution to juxtapose to the U.S.-centered World Bank.
All this requires an international court to handle disputes that is free from U.S. arm-twisting to turn international law into a kangaroo court following the dictates of Washington. The Eurasian Economic Union now has its own court to adjudicate disputes. It may provide an alternative Judge Griesa‘s New York federal court ruling in favor of vulture funds derailing Argentina’s debt negotiations and excluding it from foreign financial markets. If the London Court of International Arbitration (under whose rules Russia’s bonds issued to Ukraine are registered) permits frivolous legal claims (called barratry in English) such as President Poroshenko has threatened in Ukrainian Parliament, it too will become a victim of geopolitical obsolescence.
The more nakedly self-serving and geopolitical U.S. policy is – in backing radical Islamic fundamentalist outgrowths of Al Qaeda throughout the Near East, right-wing nationalist governments in Ukraine and the Baltics – the greater the catalytic pressure is growing for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, AIIB and related Eurasian institutions to break free of the post-1945 Bretton Woods system run by the U.S. State, Defense and Treasury Departments and NATO superstructure.
The question now is whether Russia and China can hold onto the BRICS and India. So as Paul Craig Roberts recently summarized my ideas along these lines, we are back with George Orwell’s 1984 global fracture between Oceanea (the United States, Britain and its northern European NATO allies) vs. Eurasia.
Michael Hudson is President of The
Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends
(ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst,
Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the
University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of
Killing the Host (2015), The
Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The
Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003),
Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009)
and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst
many others. -
|December 29, 2015||
Why WWIII Is On The Horizon
by Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House
Why WWIII Is On The Horizon
By Paul Craig Roberts
December 29, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave birth to a dangerous American ideology called neoconservativism. The Soviet Union had served as a constraint on US unilateral action. With the removal of this constraint on Washington, neoconservatives declared their agenda of US world hegemony. America was now the “sole superpower,” the “unipower,” that could act without restraint anywhere in the world.
The Washington Post neoconservative journalist Charles Krauthammer summed up the “new reality” as follows:
“We have overwheming global power. We are history’s designated custodians of the international system. When the Soviet Union fell, something new was born, something utterly new–a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe. This is a stagering new development in history, not seen since the fall of Rome. Even Rome was no model for what America is today.”
The staggering unipolar power that history has given to Washington has to be protected at all costs. In 1992 top Pentagon official Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz penned the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which became the basis for Washington’s foreign policy.
The Wolfowitz Doctrine states that the “first objective” of American foreign and military policy is “to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat [to US unilateral action] on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.” (A “hostile power” is a country sufficiently strong to have a foreign policy independent from Washington’s.)
The unilateral assertion of American power begin in ernest during the Clinton regime with the interventions in Yugoslavia, Serbia, Kosovo, and the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq. In 1997 the neoconservatives penned their “Project for a New American Century.” In 1998, three years prior to 9/11, the neoconservatives sent a letter to President Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq and “the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” Neoconservatives set out their program for removing seven governments in five years. http://www.globalresearch.ca/we-re-going-to-take-out-7-countries-in-5-years-iraq-syria-lebanon-libya-somalia-sudan-iran/5166
The events of September 11, 2001, are regarded by informed people as “the new Pearl harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary in order to begin their wars of conquest in the Middle East. Paul O’Neil, President George W. Bush’s first Treasury Secretary, has stated pubicly that the agenda of President Bush’s first meeting with his cabinet was the invasion of Iraq. This invasion was planned prior to 9/11. Since 9/11 Washington has destroyed in whole or part eight countries and now confronts Russia both in Syria and Ukraine.
Russia cannot allow a jihadist Caliphate to be established in an area comprising Syria/Iraq, because it would be a base for exporting destabilization into Muslim parts of the Russian Federation. Henry Kissinger himself has stated this fact, and it is clear enough to any person with a brain. However, the power-crazed fanatical neoconservatives, who have controlled the Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes, are so absorbed in their own hubris and arrogance that they are prepared to push Russia to the point of having their Turkish puppet shoot down a Russian airplane and to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Ukraine that was on good terms with Russia, substituting in its place an American puppet government.
With this background, we can understand that the dangerous situation facing the world is the product of the neoconservative’s arrogant policy of US world hegemony. The failures of judgment and the dangers in the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts are themselves the consequences of the neoconservative ideology.
To perpetuate American hegemony, the neoconservatives threw away the guarantees that Washington gave Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch to the East. The neoconservatives pulled the US out of the ABM Treaty, which specified that neither the US nor Russia would develop and deploy anti-ballistic missiles. The neoconservatives re-wrote US war doctrine and elevated nuclear weapons from their role as a retaliatory force to a pre-emptive first strike force. The neoconservatives began putting ABM bases on Russia’s borders, claiming that the bases were for the purpose of protecting Europe from non-existent Iranian nuclear ICBMs.
Russia and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, have been demonized by neoconservatives and their puppets in the US government and media. For example, Hillary Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, declared Putin to be “the new Hitler.” A former CIA official called for Putin’s assassination. Presidential candidates in both parties are competing in terms of who can be the most aggressive toward Russia and the most insulting toward Russia’s president.
The effect has been to destroy the trust between nuclear powers. The Russian government has learned that Washington does not respect Washington’s own laws, much less international law, and that Washington cannot be trusted to keep any agreement. This lack of trust, together with the aggression toward Russia spewing from Washington and the presstitute media and echoing in the idiotic European capitals, has established the ground for nuclear war. As NATO (essentially the US) has no prospect of defeating Russia in conventional war, much less defeating an alliance of Russia and China, war will be nuclear.
To avoid war, Putin is non-provocative and low-key in his responses to Western provocations. Putin’s responsible behavior, however, is misinterpreted by neoconervatives as a sign of weakness and fear. The neoconservatives tell President Obama to keep the pressure on Russia, and Russia will give in. However, Putin has made it clear that Russia will not give in. Putin has sent this message on many occasions. For example, on September 28, 2015, at the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, Putin said that Russia can no longer tolerate the state of affairs in the world. Two days later Putin took command of the war against ISIS in Syria.
The European governments, especially Germany and the UK, are complicit in the move toward nuclear war. These two American vassal states enable Washington’s reckless aggression toward Russia by repeating Washington’s propaganda and supporting Washington’s sanctions and interventions against other countries. As long as Europe remains nothing but an extension of Washington, the prospect of Armegeddon will continue to rise.
At this point in time, nuclear war can only be avoided in two ways. One way is for Russia and China to surrender and accept Washington’s hegemony. The other way is for an independent leader in Germany, the UK, or France to rise to office and withdraw from NATO. That would begin a stampede to leave NATO, which is Washington’s prime tool for causing conflict with Russia and, thereby, is the most dangerous force on earth to every European country and to the entire world. If NATO continues to exist, NATO together with the neoconservative ideology of American hegemony will make nuclear war inevitable.Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Neoconservative Threat To International Order: Washington’s Perilous War For Hegemony, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.
|Decmber 31, 2015||
War Fraud: The Great Lies Behind Imperial Warfare in the 21st Century
by Mark Taliano, Information Clearing House
December 31, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Off Guardian" - The “War On Terror” and “The War On Drugs” are both fraudulent, and they are both related. In a classic example of “reverse projection”, ”the War on Terror” is literally a “War for Terror”, and the “War on Drugs” is literally a “War for Drugs”.
Terror, coupled with the illegal trade in narcotics, particularly heroin, is enabling the orchestration, and funding, of illegal warfare which serves the interests of an international oligarch class as it destroys humanity.
The barbarity of the military operations conducted by the West is beyond the imagination of most domestic audiences, even when details are publicized.
Broadly speaking, we can decode the 9/11 terror wars using a simple formula:
NATO imperialists engineer or exploit problems to create reactions, with a view to creating previously planned solutions. Typically, problems (i.e 9/11 crimes) serve to engineer public consent (reaction) for illegal invasions (solution).
The “end-game” also contradicts publically stated goals. Evidence demonstrates that the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, as well as the war in Ukraine, were launched and prosecuted with a view to destroy each country through invasion, occupation, plunder, and to establish military footholds. The popular notion that the wars are being prosecuted for humanitarian purposes is absolutely ridiculous.
In Afghanistan, for example, drug-trafficking warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were used to create extremist “jihadist” armies (mujahideen) to destroy the Soviet-protected socialist republic. The long-standing CIA-terror group alliance, which pre-dates Afghanistan, continues to be empowered by profits from illegal drug trafficking: According to U.S sources, the production of opium (which is eventually processed into heroin) has increased “40-fold” since the initial invasion of Afghanistan.
So, the invasion destroyed a secular, socialist government and filled the vacuum with extremist drug-trafficking terrorist warlords. But imperialists gained a military foothold in the country.
We all know now that the fraudulent “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” pretext was used for the criminal invasion of Iraq. The engineered problem was followed by mixed reactions from a less gullible public, but the invasion (solution), was launched (on the heels of genocidal sanctions) anyways.
Joe Quinn reports that in this invasion, US Death Squads manufactured a civil war to divert attention from the real culprits: the occupiers. A 10,000 strong “Shia militia” under US command is used to terrorize the population and to destroy Iraqi grass-roots resistance. Often, the terrorists bomb civilian targets and falsely blame innocent groups — false flag tactics — which in turn create engineered friction and retaliation. Black propaganda operations are a CIA specialty. Consequently, Iraq is now an unstable terrorist quagmire, whereas before the invasion it was a modern, well-developed country free of any identifiable terror groups.
The NATO invasion of Libya, previously the wealthiest country in Africa, was also a product of repeated Western lies, and now, it too, is a hotbed of terrorism, vice, and drug trafficking. Erin Banco reports in “Drug And Human Trafficking In ‘Lawless’ Libya Is Funding ISIS” that the West’s “lack of foresight has enabled different groups of fighters to traffic a continuous supply of arms, drugs and people across Libya’s borders, helping to bankroll some of the world’s most violent terrorists.”
The invasion of Syria is following predictable patterns as well. A constellation of extremist, mercenary terror groups, including ISIS – all supported by the West – are trying to destroy Syria. Drug trafficking, stolen oil and artifacts are being used to finance the mass murder, and death squads, often under the cover of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are being used to create a “civil war”, and to destroy President Assad’s government. The terror and mass murder are primarily orchestrated externally with a view to making Syria safe for Wahhabism, barbarity, and a NATO military presence.
A Wikileaks cable indicates that since 2011, more than 230,000 people have died and a million have been injured. But despite the so- far- successful alliance of Syria, Iran, and Russia in destroying the mercenary terrorists and in saving Syria, the West can take some consolation: the US already has a military foothold in the country. Only time will tell if the West succeeds in creating and sustaining yet another unstable, terrorist-infested vassal state.
Despite what naysayers might think, the NATO-perpetrated holocaust is in many respects a neo-con success story: a succession of previously independent countries has been destroyed, and a NATO presence has been installed. In fact, the wars for Terror and Drugs are winning, despite ostensible set-backs.
The whole process of death and destruction is not rational or moral, and the degeneracy is beyond evil. Commentators call it imperialism.
|December 31, 2015||
Russia Vindicated by Terrorist Surrenders in Syria
by Finian Cunningham, Information Clearing House
December 31, 2015 " As Syrians gather in their capital Damascus to celebrate, there is a sense that the New Year will bring a measure of peace – the first time such hope has been felt over the past five years of war in the country.
Russia’s military intervention to help its Arab ally at the end of September has been the seminal event of the year. After three months of sustained Russian aerial operations in support of the Syrian Arab Army against an array of foreign-backed mercenaries, there is an unmistakable sense that the «terrorist backbone has been broken as Russian President Vladimir Putin recently put it.
This past week sees several local truces being implemented across Syria with evacuation of militants from towns which they have held under armed siege. The civilian populations in these locations have been effectively held hostage as human shields by the militants, thus preventing Syrian army advances up to now. The Western media, such as US government-owned Voice of America, invert reality by claiming that it is the mercenaries themselves who have been under siege from the Syrian army instead of the fact that the mercenaries have been holding civilians in their midst as hostages, as was the case earlier in the siege of Homs, which was eventually also broken.
What has changed dramatically is the advent of Russian air power – over 5,000 sorties in three months – which has enabled the Syrian army to wipe out militant bases, oil smuggling and weapons supply routes in northern Syria along the Turkish border. This has left militants further inland to wither from the severance of supply lifelines. Hence the readiness now to accept truces and evacuation deals – under the auspices of the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross.
Thousands of anti-government insurgents are being bussed out of locations around Damascus, including Zabadani, al Qadam, Hajar al Aswad and Yarmouk.
An air strike reportedly by Russia forces killing the commander of the Jaish al-Islam militant group, Zahran Alloush, in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, dealt a devastating blow to morale among the self-styled jihadists. Alloush was reportedly killed along with several other commanders. That strike translates into «the game is up».
What is interesting is how the Western news media are reporting all this. Their reportage of the truces and evacuations are straining to minimize the context of these developments. This BBC report is typical, headlined: «Syria fighters’ evacuation from Zabadani ‘under way’».
The British state-owned broadcaster tells of hundreds of «fighters» being relocated from the town of Zabadani as if the development just magically materialized like a present donated by Santa Claus. What the BBC fails to inform is that that truce, as with several others around Damascus, has come about because of Russia’s strategic military intervention in Syria dealing crushing blows against the militant networks. The Western media have preoccupied themselves instead with claims from the US State Department that Russia’s military operations have either been propping up the «Assad regime» or allegedly targeting «moderate rebels» and civilians.
The disingenuous Western narrative, or more prosaically «propaganda», then, in turn, creates a conundrum when widespread truces and evacuations are being implemented. That obviously positive development signaling an end to conflict thanks to Russia’s military intervention has to be left unexplained or unacknowledged by the Western media because it negates all their previous pejorative narrative towards Russia and the Assad government.
Furthermore, the Western media are obliged to be coy about the exact identity of the «fighters» being evacuated. As noted already, the militants are variously described by the Western media in sanitized terms as «fighters» or «rebels». But more informative regional and local sources, such as Lebanon’s Al Manar, identify the brigades as belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front. These are terror groups, as even defined by Washington and the European Union. So, the Western media has to, by necessity, censor itself from telling the truth by peddling half-truths and sly omissions.
The Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), whose commander was killed, is also integrated with the al-Qaeda terror network. Jaish al-Islam is funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and serves as a conduit for American CIA weapons to the more known terrorist outlets. Notably, Voice of America referred to the terror commander Zahran Alloush with the euphemistic cleansing term as a «rebel leader».
What the Russian-precipitated truces and termination of sieges is demonstrating is that the western side of Syria, from Daraa in the south, through Damascus and up to the northern Mediterranean Sea coast around Aleppo and Latakia, are infested with the terror brigades of IS and Al-Nusra and their myriad offshoots.
Western media have repeatedly accused Russia of conducting air strikes against «moderate rebels» and not the IS brigades, which they claim, were concentrated in the east of Syria. It is true that the IS is strongly based in eastern cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, from where its oil smuggling operations are mounted.
Russia has stepped up its air strikes on IS smuggling routes in eastern Syria with devastating results. But also integral to the air operations is the cutting off of weapons routes in the northwest to fuel the insurgents along the entire western flank, including around Damascus.
The surrender of the various mercenary brigades and the breaking of sieges around Damascus is vindication of Russia’s military tactics; and also its narrative about the nature of the whole conflict in Syria.
The Western notion of «moderate rebels» and «extremists» is being exposed as the nonsense that it is. And so Western media are compelled to evacuate any meaningful context from their coverage of recent events in Syria.
Riad Haddad, Syria’s ambassador to Russia, spoke the plain truth in recent days when he said: «We are at a turning point in the Syrian army operations against terrorists – namely the transition from defense to attack… [because of] the effective work of the Russian air force in Syria». But the ambassador’s comments were scarcely, if at all, reported in the Western media. Simply because those words vindicate Russia’s military intervention and its general policy towards Syria.
Also missing or downplayed in the Western media coverage of the truces across Syria is the question of where the surrendering mercenaries are being evacuated to. They are not being bussed to other places inside Syria. That shows that there is no popular support for these insurgents. Despite copious Western media coverage contriving that the Syrian conflict is some kind of «civil war» between a despotic regime and a popular pro-democracy uprising, the fact that surrendering militants have no where to go inside Syria patently shows that these insurgents have no popular base.
In other words, this is a foreign-backed war on Syria; a covert war of aggression on a sovereign country utilizing terrorist proxy armies.
So where are the terrorist remnants being shipped to? According to several reports, the extremists are being given safe passage into Turkey, where they will receive repair and sanctuary from the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and no doubt subsidized by the European Union with its $3.5 billion in aid to Ankara to «take care of refugees».
Again, this is another indictment of the state-terrorist links of NATO-member Turkey, which the EU is recently giving special attention to for accession to the bloc.
Russia is not only vindicated in Syria. The Western governments, their media and their regional client regimes are being flushed out like the bandits on the ground in Syria.
If the UN-sponsored peace process due to start in the New Year succeeds to end the conflict in Syria, it will be largely down to Russia’s military campaign that has wiped out the terrorist proxies working on behalf of the Western criminal enterprise for regime change in that country.
|December 10, 2015||
Can We Have Our Climate And Eat It, Too?
by Richard Heinberg, CommonDreams.org, Countercurrents
As much as world leaders would like to focus attention on their economies, terrorism, or winning the next election, the heat is rising. Each new release of data on melting glaciers and extreme weather seems more dire than the last, and each governmental COP meeting organized to come up with an agreement on what to do about the climate crisis is freighted with more hopes and fears.
Because it is so urgent, climate change is leading to divisions within and among societies. There is of course a divide between those who take climate science seriously and those who don’t (here in the United States, the latter are so politically powerful as to have effectively blocked, for now, the possibility of a legally binding global emissions pact). Then there is the division between wealthy nations, such as the US and UK (that are responsible for the bulk of historic carbon emissions, and that therefore should rightly reduce fossil fuel consumption more rapidly—though they don’t want to) and poorer nations like India (that bear little responsibility for existing surplus atmospheric carbon, and that would like to be able to burn more coal for the time being so as to grow their economies).
Yet another rift is developing between the military and the rest of society: military emissions are not counted in official UN climate statistics due to lobbying by the United States, yet that country’s military establishment is the single largest sub-national consumer of fossil fuels on the planet; further, it is difficult to imagine how the US government could afford to subsidize the transition to carbon-free electricity, agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation without tapping into its trillion dollar-per-year military and intelligence budget.
Each of these divides is likely to deepen as global warming becomes less of a forecast and more of a harsh reality. But there is one more division of opinion and action that I propose to explore for the remainder of this essay; it turns on the question of whether we can maintain economic growth while stabilizing the climate.
On one side of this divide are those who wish to preserve (or who see the usefulness of promising to preserve) the economic status quo while reducing carbon emissions. They are driven by the belief that political realism requires minimal interference with industrial lifestyles and priorities—particularly economic growth. Business as usual can be maintained, it is said, through the deployment of one or more of a suite of technologies.
The first set of these technologies consists of wind and solar electric power generators. Renewable energy technologies comprise a disruptive, unstoppable juggernaut that out-performs fossil fuels and creates growth and jobs, according to their most boosterish advocates. An almost entirely wind-and-solar future is entirely affordable; indeed it will be cheaper than a status-quo fossil fueled future. The energy transition will thus entail only benefit and no sacrifice.
Other technofixers, who think solar and wind are incapable of fully replacing fossil fuels in the time we have for the transition (because they produce power intermittently), instead praise the potential for nuclear power. New versions of atomic reactors (modular mini-reactors, thorium reactors, fast breeder reactors) are now on the drawing boards and, if the promotional literature is to be believed, they will to be cheaper and safer than existing models.
Still others say fossil fuels are so central to our present economy that they cannot be abandoned altogether, or not quickly enough; the technofix in this case is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). We can continue burning coal while catching and burying the carbon released from its combustion before it can do any harm to the climate. The technology has been proven on a small scale; all that’s required is sufficient investment. Other variations on this theme include burning biomass and burying the CO2 underground (BECCS), enhanced weathering (EW), and direct air capture (DAC).
If all else fails, say the technofixers, geoengineering can remove carbon from the atmosphere by seeding the oceans with iron, or it can make the planet’s atmosphere more reflective so as to reduce heating.
Clearly, not all of the groups I have described here see eye to eye: for example, many renewables advocates are anti-nuclear, anti-CCS, and anti-geoengineering. And only some renewables advocates can be described as technofixers (though the lion’s share of nuclear, CCS, and geoengineering boosters fairly can). More on that shortly.
In the Other Corner: Managed Powerdown
The other side of the divide argues that catastrophic climate change cannot be averted without a steep reduction in global energy use, and such a reduction will in turn inevitably mean economic contraction. Technology can assist in our adaptation to a new energy regime and a smaller economy, but it cannot realistically propel further industrial expansion of the kind seen during the 20th century.
Many powerdown proponents see climate change as a symptom of the deeper problem described in the 1972 Limits to Growth scenario studies. As population and per capita consumption increase, a point will inevitably be reached when resource depletion and environmental pollution make further growth impossible. According to this view, climate change is an expression of the pollution dilemma inherent in the expansion of population and per capita resource consumption; low-carbon technologies might be able to slow the trend toward ecosystem collapse driven by unbridled economic growth, but they cannot by themselves prevent collapse; only efforts to reduce population and consumption undertaken sufficiently early in the trend could accomplish that. Ecological footprint and planetary boundaries analysis offer confirmation, showing that current human population and consumption levels are drawing down Earth’s biocapacity and interfering with its natural support systems.
It is important to note that many renewable energy advocates are powerdowners who regard solar and wind power as insufficient by themselves to halt catastrophic climate change, absent fundamental economic change that would see per capita use of energy and materials decline significantly in industrial nations.
Others with a powerdown perspective say that while CCS and geoengineering are unworkable, carbon sequestration could indeed be accomplished via basic changes to agriculture that would enable farmers to build soil rather than destroying it (which is the net effect of current practices). Humanity has removed 136 Gt of carbon from soils through agriculture and other land use during the industrial era. There is the potential to reverse the trend by minimizing tillage, planting cover crops, encouraging biodiversity, employing crop rotation, expanding management intensive pasturing, and introducing properly made biochar to soils. But that would mean rapidly revolutionizing the entire global agricultural system—in effect, partially (and intelligently) de-industrializing it.
According to its advocates, although powerdown goes against the grain of near-universal preference for further industrial expansion, it is a strategy that has one significant advantage: it is a proven way to slow and reverse climate change, since historic economic recessions have correlated closely with slower growth in carbon emissions. If economic contraction were managed, its unwanted adverse human consequences could be minimized, while its environmental benefits could be maximized.
The fact that I wrote a book titled Powerdown may tell you on which side of this divide I personally fall.
Reality Chooses Sides
Were technofix and powerdown to be put to a vote today, there is little doubt which side would win. Most people in industrialized nations prefer to continue living essentially as they do now, while most in poorer countries aspire to join them by consuming more manufactured goods and becoming more mobile. But controversies are often decided ultimately not by the relative popularity of the ideas in play, but by the accuracy with which those ideas reflect physical reality. Just as the ongoing controversy over whether climate change is real and caused by humans is mooted by the very real impacts of increasing atmospheric carbon levels, the hope that new machines can protect cherished lifestyles in the face of climate chaos may be destined for a similar fate.
First, the speed and scale of emissions reduction that is actually required probably cannot be achieved while preserving the economic status quo. As climate scientist Kevin Anderson points out in a recent Nature Geoscience paper:
Those 650 gigatons of carbon equate to just 19 years of continued business-as-usual emissions from global fossil energy use. The notion that the world could make a complete transition to alternative energy sources, using only a scant two-decade fossil energy budget, while avoiding significant economic disruption, can be characterized as optimistic to a degree that stretches credulity. In fact, it is becoming clear that the 2° Celsius target may now be politically unachievable (it looks as though commitments delivered to the COP 21 meetings in Paris will only be capable of hitting a target of around 2.7° C); the closer to 2° C that future negotiators are able to come in their commitments, the more economic compromise will have to be accepted. If the target were to be revised down to 1.5° C—a goal that seems to be gaining traction at COP21 as I write—the challenge will be even greater.
Also, while solar and wind power are getting cheaper, their current rate of deployment is far too slow to replace coal, oil, and natural gas quickly enough to keep warming anywhere near the still-official goal of 2° C. That means far more investment is needed, which only a wartime level of government intervention in the economy is likely to organize. And these energy sources still pose technical challenges at high rates of penetration in the overall energy mix. While solar and wind energy production is greatly expandable, these sources yield energy variably and uncontrollably. It takes additional technology and capacity redundancy to adapt these sources to our 24/7 energy demand patterns. If societies could get by on baseload power from hydro, geothermal, biogas, and biomass, a transition to renewables would be much more affordable and systems would be easier to engineer. This is the case in countries like Uruguay, which hasmade headlines recently for generating 95% of its electricity from renewable energy. But that would mean using much less energy overall—which leads us back again to the powerdown argument.
Nuclear power capacity is expensive to build, and the nuclear waste problem is yet to be solved. Few nations are expanding their fleets of reactors, while the ongoing Fukushima crisis continues to highlight the risks and costs of existing nuclear technology. Tellingly, the nuclear industry seems incapable of delivering new plants on time and on budget. In order for the nuclear industry to grow sufficiently so as to replace a significant portion of energy now derived from fossil fuels, hundreds of new plants would be required, and soon. The enormous investment needed for such a build-out would probably preclude simultaneous large-scale government financial support for solar and wind generators. More realistically, given the expense and long lead-time entailed in plant construction, the nuclear industry may do well merely to build enough new plants to replace old ones that are nearing retirement and decommissioning. In short, it would simply be unrealistic to expect a nuclear renaissance as an alternative to a massive shift toward renewable energy in addressing the climate dilemma.
Carbon Capture and Storage technology (often advertised as “clean coal”) is likewise proving too expensive and impractical. Despite a massive public relations offensive by the coal industry, the technology is currently used only where there is a robust market for carbon dioxide (notably in the oil and soft drinks industries). If carbon were priced sufficiently high to make CCS financially sensible, the resulting electricity price would far exceed that of wind and even solar PV power. Other forms of carbon capture are untested at scale or are likely to carry prohibitive costs.
Meanwhile geoengineering presents risks on a nearly unprecedented scale (the only obvious precedent being climate change itself). Every technology has unintended consequences; technologies designed to change the chemistry of the atmosphere or oceans could have unintended consequences as serious as the climate crisis they are intended to address.
Finally, technofixers nearly always appeal to the phenomenon of economic decoupling (wringing more and more economic growth from less and less energy and materials throughputs) as a way to achieve the logically impossible, citing evidence of modest past decoupling as proof that far more robust decoupling is possible in the future. However, that past evidence is challenged in a paper published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which attributes much of it to false accounting. Realistically, while efficiency may help at the margins, it can’t enable us to continually grow the economy while using less energy and consuming less stuff.
The energy transition entails not just building boatloads of solar panels and wind turbines; we will need alternative transport infrastructure, much of which does not exist yet (when was the last time you saw a hydrogen-powered airliner?), and alternative farming practices and industrial processes as well. The cost of this new energy-using infrastructure is seldom counted in transition proposals, which tend to focus just on energy supply requirements. And some manufacturing (e.g., cement making) and transport (aviation) may only work on a much smaller scale than today in an all-renewable future. All of this taken together suggests that the energy transition will inevitably require not only time, investment, and the replacement of an extraordinary amount of infrastructure, but profound economic reorganization as well.
In the end, though the technofix view has many proponents, when examined closely it fails for lack of time, money, and simple physical feasibility.
Can We Unite Around Reality?
In a recent New York Times opinion piece titled “Imagining a World Without Growth,” Eduardo Porter summarized briefly the arguments of scientists who say we must leave economic growth behind. He then listed all of the social benefits that have flowed from growth in recent decades and concluded:
Porter gets this exactly wrong. For “zero-sum world” (which is a socio-political construct) substitute the words “finite planet” (which better describe our factual, physical context). If our market economy cannot work on a finite planet, it is the economy that will give way, though the planet will also suffer in the process. Porter is effectively telling us that the global economy is an airplane incapable of controlled descent, a car without brakes. While degrowth advocates do make an ethical argument, the core of their concern is pragmatic: nothing can grow forever in a limited space with limited resources, and we are seeing urgent signals (climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, ecosystem failure) warning that we have already grown too much. In his article, Porter does not show how infinite economic growth is possible; he merely insists we must have more growth because . . . well, we must. If pressed, he would no doubt cling to one or another of the technofixes we have already questioned. But that’s just not a rational response to the logical and practical necessity of coming to terms with limits.
However difficult it may be, our primary task as a species this century will be to do (as much as we can) precisely what Porter says is impossible—to shrink the economy and rein in population while promoting human well being. We can do so as we minimize climate change by reducing energy consumption and by replacing fossil fuels with renewable resources, while also transforming agriculture and downsizing transportation and manufacturing. Otherwise we get climate chaos and an economy that collapses rather than adjusting.
Where’s the evidence that controlled degrowth is possible? Admittedly, there are few historic examples, none of them closely paralleling our current situation (Cuba in the 1990s and the Edo period in Japan come to mind). Nevertheless, we know that people can live satisfactory lives with much less energy than folks in industrialized nations currently do, because everyone did so only a few decades ago and the entire population was not miserable. True, in those days many people suffered from hardships and diseases that we would not want to resurrect, but we have vastly more knowledge today than ever before about how to wring more social benefit (which is not the same as GDP) from less energy use. That knowledge has less to do with technology (though the appropriate technology movement of the 1970s still has a great deal to teach us) and more to do with economic equity, political accountability, public health, and the promotion of sharing and caring. Just compare the rankings of nations according to the Human Development Index, the Genuine Progress Indicator, or the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare with their ranking by GDP: there are some surprising differences (the United States ranks first in terms of nominal GDP but below Costa Rica in the2015 World Happiness Report, which is yet another alternative index of societal well being). It is in the exploration of those differences that our greatest opportunities may lie.
One final tactical point: it is my impression, gleaned from personal conversations, that many savvy renewable energy advocates are deliberately downplaying the technical hurdles and greatly overstating the potential of solar and wind technologies. They observe that the forty-three-year-old Limits to Growth discourse has failed to inspire reductions in global population and material throughput, instead provoking the sort of denialism epitomized in Eduardo Porter’s article. Their gambit instead is to cheerlead renewable energy installation—getting as much of it as possible, in as short a time as possible—while avoiding discussion of deeper questions about planetary limits. Is this a wise tactic? Obviously, that’s a matter of opinion. Renewables advocates face strong pushback from entrenched and powerful fossil fuel interests, so their resort to public relations messaging strategies is understandable. Nevertheless, my own view is that if solar and wind are oversold and their potential problems are glossed over, there will eventually be a backlash in policy and public opinion. A more transparent and honest approach could prevent that. Meanwhile the planetary limits discussion is more urgent than ever.
Climate change may divide us. But if we are to avert the worst of it, we must unite behind strategies that will actually work in the real world to preserve the planet’s life support systems as well as the best of what we enjoy as modern humans. But that’s going to entail some material sacrifice for just about everyone—especially those who currently consume the most. Here’s the thing: the sooner we accept reality, the smaller the sacrifice and the greater the benefit.
Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of twelve books, including his most recent: Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels.Previous books include: Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future; The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies; Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines; and The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
|December 11, 2015||
Healing Humanity's Grief In The Face Of Climate Change
by David Suzuki, Straight.com, Countercurrents
An image from the recent devastating flood in Chennai, India
The tragedy we’re witnessing in so many places around the world is heartbreaking. Responses on the ground and in the media to events in Paris, Beirut, Syria, and elsewhere have ranged from inspiring to chilling. Too often, people express fear and distress as anger, suspicion, and scapegoating.
For many reasons and in many ways, people and nature are in distress. Quaker activist and author Parker Palmerimplores us to ask, “What shall we do with our suffering?” The way we deal with our pain has critical implications. Whether we project it outward as war or murder or absorb it as despair and self-destruction, “Violence is what we get when we do not know what else to do with our suffering."
The interplay of environmental degradation and geopolitics has had alarming repercussions. Over the past decade alone, millions of people have been displaced by war, famine, and drought. The world is shifting rapidly as a result of climate change and there’s little doubt we’ll see increasing humanitarian crises. We must face this new reality as a global community.
Climate change is one of the most destabilizing forces in human history. We must deal with carbon emissions but we must also deal with human suffering. In Canada, Inuit are feeling the impacts disproportionately. Ice appears much later in the season and melts earlier. Changing wildlife migration patterns disrupt community livelihoods, land-based activities, and cultural practices.
Cape Breton University Canada research chair Ashlee Cunsolo Willox is working with Inuit to understand their communities’ climate-related mental and emotional health impacts, documenting anxiety, despair, hopelessness, and depression, increased family stress, drug and alcohol use, and suicide attempts. People are grieving for a way of life that is changing with the landscape.
Together with the Nunatsiavut communities of Labrador, Cunsolo Willox produced a documentary film, Attutauniujuk Nunami/Lament for the Land. Residents describe how ice, when it forms, is often not thick enough to hunt, gather wood, or travel by snowmobile.
The land is part of who they are, a source of solace, peace, identity, and well-being. Hunting and fishing and spending time on the land help Inuit feel grounded and happy. When residents can’t get out of town, they feel “stuck”, “lost”, and “less like people”.
Although global warming discourse typically ignores our intense feelings and grief in the face of environmental change, Cunsolo Willox argues it can expand our capacity to act. “Re-casting climate change as the work of mourning means that we can share our losses, and encounter them as opportunities for productive and important work,” she says. “It also provides the opportunity to stand up and publicly object to injustice.” Shared experiences of grief can build solidarity, support healing and inspire collective action.
With the Paris UN climate talks underway, we have an opportunity to expand the conversation to include environmental grief and loss. Today’s social and environmental leaders need to understand the psychological implications of a world in distress. Geographer and research scientist Susanne Moser predicts future leaders will need more than professional expertise and political savvy. They must be “steward, shepherd, arbiter, crisis manager, grief counselor, future builder.”
Instead of knee-jerk reactions that so often accompany fear and emotional pain, what if we summoned the courage to experience our sadness, disorientation, and grief in all its fullness? More importantly, what if we did this together? The feelings surrounding change and loss highlight our shared vulnerability and expose our connections to one another. We can consciously foster a heightened sense of human and ecological fellowship.
The late environmental scientist Donella Meadows believed the process of experiencing feelings is far from trivial. “Feelings, like knowledge, don’t directly change anything. But if we don’t rush past the feelings or stuff them down, if we take time to admit even the most uncomfortable ones, to accept them, share them, and couple them with knowledge of what is wrong and how it might be fixed, then feelings and knowledge together are motors for change.”
The suffering we’re witnessing because of loss of land, culture, ways of life, and identity may portend what is to come for all of us. Now is the time to come together and decide how we will respond. Let’s make sure it’s the best humanity has to offer.
David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian scientist, broadcaster and environmental activist. Davidsuzuki.org
© 2015 David Suzuki
|December 11, 2015||
Paris And The Long-Term Future
by John Scales Avery , Countercurrents
We give our children loving care, but it makes no sense do so and at the same time to neglect to do all that is within our power to ensure that they and their descendants will inherit an earth in which they can survive. We also have a responsibility to all the other living organisms with which we share the gift of life.
Human emotional nature is such that we respond urgently to immediate temptations or dangers, while long-term considerations are pushed into the background. Thus the temptations of immediate profit or advantage motivate politicians and the executives of fossil fuel corporations; and the temptations of continued overconsumption and luxury blind the general public. Public fears of terrorism have been magnified by our perfidious mass media to such an extent that the equally perfidious French Government has been able to use this fear as an excuse to exclude democracy and proper care for the long-term future from the Paris Climate Conference.
However, our generation has an urgent duty to think of the distant future. The ultimate fate of human civilization and the biosphere is in our hands. What we really have to fear, for the sake of our children and grandchildren and their descendants, is reaching a tipping point, beyond which uncontrollable feedback loops will make catastrophic climate change inevitable despite all human efforts to prevent it.
A feedback loop is a self-reenforcing cycle. The more it goes on, the stronger it becomes. An example of how such a feedback loop could drive climate change and make it uncontrollable is the albedo effect: When sunlight falls on sea ice in the Arctic or Antarctic, most of it is reflected by the white surface of the snow-covered ice. But when sunlight falls on dark sea water, it is almost totally absorbed. This cycle is self-reenforcing because warming the water reduces the ice cover. This is happening today, especially in the Arctic, and we have to stop it.
Another dangerous feedback loop involves the evaporation of sea water, which itself is a greenhouse gas. However, if we think of the long-term future, by far the most dangerous feedback loop is that which involves the melting of methane hydrate crystals, releasing the extremely powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. Discussion of this highly dangerous feedback loop seems to be almost completely banned by our mass media.
When organic matter is carried into the oceans by rivers, it decays to form methane. The methane then combines with water to form hydrate crystals, which are stable at the temperatures and pressures which currently exist on ocean floors. However, if the temperature rises, the crystals become unstable, and methane gas bubbles up to the surface. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is much more potent than CO2.
The worrying thing about the methane hydrate deposits on ocean floors is the enormous amount of carbon involved: roughly 10,000 gigatons. To put this huge amount into perspective, we can remember that the total amount of carbon in world CO2 emissions since 1751 has only been 337 gigatons.
A runaway, exponentially increasing feedback loop involving methane hydrates could lead to one of the great geological extinction events that have periodically wiped out most of the animals and plants then living. This must be avoided at all costs.
The worst consequences of runaway climate change will not occur within our own lifetimes. However, we have a duty to all future human generations, and to the plants and animals with which we share our existence, to give them a future world in which they can survive.
We can also fear a catastrophic future famine, produced by a combination of climate change, population growth and the end of fossil-fuel-dependent high-yield modern agriculture.
These very real and very large long-term disasters are looming on our horizon, but small short-term considerations blind us, so that we do not take the needed action. But what is at stake is the future of everyone's children and grandchildren and their progeny, your future family tree and mine, also the families of Francois Hollande and the executives of Exxon. They should think carefully about the consequences of making our beautiful world completely uninhabitable.
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at email@example.com
|December 14, 2015||
We Need System Change!
by John Scales Avery , Countercurrents
Calling for 'system change,' civil society members hold a sit-in at the Paris climate talks.
WE NEED SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE! Civil society, excluded from the COP21 conference by the French government, carried banners with this slogan on the streets of Paris. They did so in defiance of tear-gas-using black-clad police. System change has been the motto for climate marches throughout the world. Our entire system is leading us towards disaster, and this includes both economic and governmental establishments. To save human civilization, the biosphere and the future, the people of the world must take matters into their own hands and change the system.
Our present situation is this: The future looks extremely dark because of human folly, especially the long-term future. The greatest threats are catastrophic climate change and thermonuclear war, but a large-scale global famine also has to be considered. All these threats are linked.
Inaction is not an option. We have to act with courage and dedication, even if the odds are against success, because the stakes are so high. The mass media could mobilize us to action, but they have failed in their duty. Our educational system could also wake us up and make us act, but it too has failed us. The battle to save the earth from human greed and folly has to be fought through non-violent action on the streets and in the alternative media.
We need a new economic system, a new society, a new social contract, a new way of life. Here are the great tasks that history has given to our generation: We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy. We must decrease economic inequality. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce the global population. We must eliminate the institution of war. And finally, we must develop a more mature ethical system to match our new technology.
What are the links between the problems facing us? There is a link between climate change and war. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. But nevertheless, the stuggle for the world's last remaining oil and gas resources motivated the invasion of Iraq, and it now motivates the war in Syria. Both of these brutal wars have caused an almost indescribable amount of suffering.
ISIS runs on oil, and the unconditional support of Saudi Arabia by the West is due to greed for oil. Furthermore, military establishments are among the largest users of oil, and the largest greenhouse gas emmitters. Finally, the nearly 2 trillion dollors that the world now spends on armaments and war could be used instead to speed the urgently needed transition to 100% renewable energy, and to help less-developed countries to fave the consequences of climate change.
There are reasons for hope. Both solar energy and wind energy are growing at a phrnomenal rate, and the transition to 100% renewable energy could be achieved within a very few decades if this growth is maintained. But a level playing field is needed. At present fossil fuel corporations receive half a trillion dollars each year in subsidies. Nuclear power generation is also highly subsidized (and also closely linked to the danger of nuclear war). If these subsidies were abolished, or better yet, used to encourage renewable energy development, the renewables could win simply by being cheaper.
We can also take inspiration from Pope Francis, whose humanitarian vision links the various problems facing us. Pope Francis also shows us what we can do to save the future, and to give both economics and government a social and ecological conscience.
None of us asked to be born in a time of crisis, but history has given great tasks to our generation. We must rise to meet the crisis. We must not fail in our duty to save the gifts of life and civilization that past generations have bequeathed to us.We must not fail in our duty future generations.
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|December 14, 2015||
Paris Climate Agreement Betrays Humanity Which Must Apply Boycotts, Divestment And Sanctions (BDS) Against Climate Criminal People, Corporations & Countries
by Dr Gideon Polya, Countercurrents
The weak, non-binding and dishonest Paris Climate Agreement will have delighted climate criminal and war criminal nations like
According to the BBC: The measures in the agreement included: (1) To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. (2) To keep global temperature increase "well below" 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C. (3) To review progress every five years. (4) $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future .
The BBC pointed out that the temperature rise by 2100 would be 4.5C (if countries do not act), 3.6C (following current policies), or 2.7C (based on
As summarized below, the
1. Zero net carbon emissions in 2050 2100 but this ignores sequestration costs and methane emissions from agriculture and the warming
Largely absent from Mainstream media, politician and academic discussion of global carbon emissions is methane (CH4) from leaking gas systems, the melting tundra, sea bed clathrates, rotting vegetation from deforestation and from livestock. Methane (CH4) (about 85% of natural gas) is 105 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (GHG) on a 20 year time frame and taking aerosol impacts into account. Methane leaks (3.3% in the US based on the latest US EPA data and as high as about 8% for methane from fracking coal seams) and a 2.6 % leakage of CH4 yields the same greenhouse effect as burning the remaining 97.4% of CH4. Using this information one can determine that gas burning for electricity can be much dirtier than coal burning greenhouse gas-wise (GHG-wise). While gas burning for power generates twice as much electrical energy per tonne of CO2 produced (MWh/tonne CO2) than coal burning, and the health-adverse pollution from gas burning is lower than for coal burning, gas leakage in the system means that gas burning for power can actually be worse GHG-wise than coal burning. Yet the
A re-assessment of global GHG pollution taking livestock production into account has found that annual GHG pollution is 64 Gt CO2-e rather than the previously determined 42 Gt CO2-e, with livestock production contributing over 51% of the bigger figure  i.e. we must stop methanogenic livestock production if we want to get to zero carbon emissions. A looming problem is methane leakage from the melting tundra and from
CO2 sequestration via re-afforestation has limited applicability for zero net carbon emissions in a hungry world, and CO2 sequestration via biochar production or through carbon capture and storage can cost much more than the financial benefit from burning fossil fuels in the first place. The present low cost of burning fossil fuels is because the huge environmental and human costs are not considered if they were then the true cost of power from burning coal could be 4 times greater than the highly subsidized present market price.
2. Keep warming to 1.5C to 2C - yet plus 1C is already catastrophic for some and 2C is catastrophic and unavoidable.
The present plus 1 degree C temperature rise is already catastrophic for some island and megadelta communities and the Paris-declared goal of a 1.5 to 2 degree C temperature rise is catastrophic and also inevitable. Thus the IPCC ( UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Climate Change 2014 [AR5] Synthesis Report, Approved Summary for Policy Makers stated: About 450 ppm CO2-eq, likely to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels  but unfortunately Professor Ron Prinn (Professor of Atmospheric Science in 85-Nobel-Laureate MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science (CGCS), Co-Director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change (JPSPGC)) stated (2013): In the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE), we continuously measure over 40 of these other GHGs [greenhouse gases] in real time over the globe. If you convert these other GHGs into their equivalent amounts of CO2 that will have the same effect on climate, and add them to the NOAA measurements of CO2, you find that we are actually at 478 ppm of CO2 equivalents right now . Many scientists now think that it is too late to avoid a catastrophic 2 degree C warming [10, 11] as exampled below:
Jay Gulledge (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Todd Sanford (Union of Concerned Scientists), Peter Frumhoff (Union of Concerned Scientists), Amy Luers (Skoll Global Threats Fund) (2014): It is time to acknowledge that global average temperatures are likely to rise above the 2 degree C policy target and consider how that deeply troubling prospect should affect priorities for communicating and managing the risks of a dangerously warming climate .
Dr. T. Goreau (President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, an international NGO for restoration of coral reefs, and a member of the Jamaican delegation to UNCCC; previously Senior Scientific Affairs Officer at the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development, in charge of Global Climate Change and Biodiversity issues, where he contributed to the original draft of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change): The long-term sea level that corresponds to current CO2 concentration is about 23 meters above today's levels, and the temperatures will be 6 degrees C or more higher. These estimates are based on real long term climate records, not models .
Dr Andrew Glikson (an Earth and paleoclimate scientist, a Visiting Fellow at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, an Honorary Professor at the Center for Excellence in Geothermal Research, The University of Queensland, and affiliated with the Climate Change Institute and the Planetary Science Institute, Australian National University) (2012): Greenhouse gases have increased by near 40% since 1750 (from ~280 to 392 ppm CO2 at a rate increasing to ~2.6 ppm/year by 2010). At the current rate of increase, the climate could return to greenhouse Earth conditions within 50 to 200 years Earth may be committed to an ice-free state As atmospheric CO2 is reaching a level unknown for the last three million years, the disconnection between science and the human response is growing. Despite warnings over the last 30 years, we are still developing global infrastructures to extract every economically accessible ton of coal, barrel of conventional or shale/sand oil and cubic meter of natural gas and coal-seam gas Good planets are hard to come by .
Professor Michael E. Mann (Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, contributor to the International Panel on Climate Change work that received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (2014): ".Although the earth has experienced exceptional warming over the past century, to estimate how much more will occur we need to know how temperature will respond to the ongoing human-caused rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. Scientists call this responsiveness equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). ECS is a common measure of the heating effect of greenhouse gases. It represents the warming at the earth's surface that is expected after the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles and the climate subsequently stabilizes (reaches equilibrium) An ECS of three degrees C means that if we are to limit global warming to below two degrees C forever, we need to keep CO2 concentrations far below twice preindustrial levels, closer to 450 ppm. Ironically, if the world burns significantly less coal, that would lessen CO2 emissions but also reduce aerosols in the atmosphere that block the sun (such as sulfate particulates), so we would have to limit CO2 to below roughly 405 ppm. We are well on our way to surpassing these limits. In 2013 atmospheric CO2 briefly reached 400 ppm for the first time in recorded historyand perhaps for the first time in millions of years, according to geologic evidence. To avoid breaching the 405-ppm threshold, fossil-fuel burning would essentially have to cease immediately .
3. Review progress every 5 years yet plus 2C is catastrophic and now unavoidable.
As discussed above, the present plus 1 degree C temperature rise is already catastrophic for some megadelta and island communities  and the Paris-declared goal of a 1.5 to 2 degree C temperature rise is catastrophic and also inevitable. Indeed , based on a Carbon Price of only $100 per tonne CO2-e and assuming a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 105 for CH4 relative to CO2 (on a 20 year time frame and considering aerosol impacts), it can be estimated that in a mere 2 years the whole world will have exceeded its 2010-2050 Terminal Carbon Pollution Budget of 600 Gt CO2-e that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [12-14].
The Global Risk and Opportunity Indicator (which provides measures of seriousness of the climate emergency based on data from the latest UN IPCC AR5 report) describes itself thus You can use it to calculate and visualize the risk our planet is facing with regards to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Choose parts per million (PPM) of greenhouse gases in the menu to the left, and the average temperature rise in degrees Celsius in the menu to the right. In the third menu you can compare the probability for climate change with other events, such as fatal flight accidents, and display them both on the meter. Thus, for example, the latest IPCC Summary for Policymakers (2014) offers a RCP2.6 scenario that will limit greenhouse gas concentrations to low levels (about 450 ppm CO2-eq, likely to limit warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels). However, using the Global Risk and Opportunity Indicator one finds that the Exceedance Probability for a 2C temperature rise with an equilibrium greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration of 450 ppm CO2-eq (CO2-equivalent) is 58.4% , and that if this were the annual probability of fatal flight accidents there would be 17,520,000 fatal flight accidents per year instead of 30 per year. Similarly, the Exceedance Probability for a 2C temperature rise with an equilibrium greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration of 500 ppm CO2-eq is 72.5% , and that if this were the annual probability of fatal flight accidents there would be 21,750,000 fatal flight accidents per year instead of 30 per year .
The Exceedance Probability for a 1.5C temperature rise with an equilibrium greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration of 450 ppm CO2-eq is 77.6% , and that if this were the annual probability of fatal flight accidents there would be 23,280.000 fatal flight accidents per year instead of 30 per year indeed if this were the annual probability of being killed by lightning there would be 53,723,077 such strikes per year instead of 9,000. The atmospheric CO2-eq is currently in excess of 478 ppm CO2-eq .
4. $100 billion per year in climate finance for Developing Countries.
This was an area in which the
A variety of political and economic figures have spun and lauded the failed
Julie Bishop (Foreign Minister of an
Barack Obama (President of the
Jean-Claude Juncker (president of the European Commission, noting that EU countries are major GHG polluters): Today the world is united in the fight against climate change. Today the world gets a lifeline, a last chance to hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies. This robust agreement will steer the world towards a global clean energy transition  (pigs might fly).
John Kerry (
Christine Lagarde (International Monetary Fund chief) stated : Governments must now put words into actions, in particular by implementing policies that make effective progress on the mitigation pledges they have made. That is why my key message is to price carbon right and to do it now  (one notes that Dr Chris Hope of 90-Nobel-Laureate
Jim Yong Kim (World Bank Group president): We welcome the historic agreement that has just been reached in
Prakash Javadekar (Indian environment minister): We have opened a new chapter of hope in the lives of 7 billion people on the planet. We have [the planet] on loan from future generations. We have today reassured these future generations that we will all together give them a better earth .
Paul Polman (chief executive of Unilever, historically a major GHG polluter via rain forest destruction for palm oil production): Today's agreement demonstrates without question that it is possible for us to come together in common cause to address the greatest challenges we face, preventing tragedy for the many millions of people vulnerable to the effects of climate change and securing the economic prosperity of the world in the 21st century. The result is an unequivocal signal to the business and financial communities, one that will drive real change in the real economy. The billions of dollars pledged by developed countries will be matched with the trillions of dollars that will flow to low carbon investment  (but zero carbon is needed not low carbon) .
Even some climate activists have responded positively to the
Tim Flannery (Australian Climate Council): We have witnessed something incredible today. Finally, we can feel hopeful that we are on a path to tackling climate change. In the first ever universal climate agreement, leaders the world over have marked the end of the fossil fuel era and provided a catalyst for what could be the greatest period of technological innovation in the history of mankind. The era of renewable energy is upon us" 
Kelly O'Shanassy (CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation): "It's a historic day today... for the first time humanity has united around a goal to reduce pollution, ultimately to zero, so that we can actually have a safe climate for all life on Earth. So it's going to mean a better future, and it's also going to mean a better future for our children and for things that we love like the Great Barrier Reef that will die off with global warming if we let too much more pollution up into the atmosphere" .
Kumi Naidoo (executive director of Greenpeace International): "The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in
May Boeve (executive director of 350.org): This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now" .
Erwin Jackson (deputy CEO of the Australian Climate Institute): "Much will be written over the days, weeks and years ahead about today and what got us here. At its heart is about people. Communities around the world have been embracing clean energy. This has driven down costs, accelerated policy change and allowed business to invest with confidence in the now unstoppable transition away from traditional fossil fuels .
Kellie Caught (of WWF Australia): By including a long-term temperature goal of well below 2C of warming with a reference to a 1.5C goal, the latest draft text sends a strong signal that governments are committed to being in line with science. What we need now is for their actions, including emission reductions and finance, to add up to delivering on that goal" .
But others have condemned the betrayal of Humanity and the Biosphere by the
Nick Dearden (director of Global Justice Now): "It's outrageous that the deal that's on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world's most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations" .
Naomi Klein (anti-racist Jewish Canadian activist, author and board member of 350.org): [The] agreement, as we knew it would, puts us on a course towards disastrous levels of warming. We heard our leaders say many of the right things over the last two weeks in beautiful speeches and yet despite their words, they remain trapped in a broken system and a crashing worldview based on dominance of people and the planet. That world view simply does not allow them to align their words with their actions. And so the gap is immense between the rhetoric and the goal of safety, and the reality of the epic danger they are allowing to unfold .
Thom Mitchell (environment reporter for New Matilda,
What should betrayed Humanity do?
The Paris Climate Agreement has delighted climate criminal and war criminal nations like
The Paris betrayal of Humanity and the Biosphere now requires a peaceful but resolute world-wide Climate Revolution for climate justice and intergenerational equity [32-34] demanding rapid cessation of carbon pollution , rapid implementation of 100% renewable energy , rapid cessation of the obscene food for fuel biofuel genocide  and the carbon fuel burning that kills 7 million people annually .
Humanity must demand a rapid reversal of climate change with a return of atmospheric CO2 to the pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2 from the present dangerous and damaging circa 400 ppm CO2 [39-41] and a full carbon price reflecting the full environmental and human cost of carbon fuel burning , as advocated by scientists, science-informed activists and indeed by scientifically-trained Green Left Pope Francis .
Crucially, Humanity must utterly reject the lies and slies (spin-based untruths) of the corporate climate criminals and their politician lackeys, and urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations and countries disproportionately involved in climate criminal and terracidal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.
A guide to the bad nations is given by (a) the latest Climate Change Performance Index Results ranking 58 countries from Denmark (1, best) to the worst, including Canada (53), Korea (54), Japan (55), Australia (56), Kazakhstan (57) and Saudi Arabia (58) ; (b) annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution (thus annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in units of tonnes CO2-equivalent per person per year is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 10 (China), 7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 24 (Canada), 27 (the US) and 25 (Australia; or 90 if Australia's huge Exported CO2 pollution is included) [27, 29]; and (c) annual GDP per capita in the context of a global carbon economy with the worst per capita GHG polluters like the US and Australia having very high annual GDP per capita .
Our leaders have failed us at
Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis,
) and Ongoing Palestinian Genocide in The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan,
|December 18, 2015||
Why The West Can Never Defeat or “Forgive” Russia
by Andre Vltchek, Journal-neo.org, Countercurrents
Historically and intuitively, Russia has fought for the survival of humanity. Of course, things are not always pronounced or defined in such terms. However, already on several occasions, this enormous country has stood up against the most mighty and evil forces that have threatened the very survival of our Planet.
During the Second World War, the Soviet people, mainly Russians, sacrificed at least 25 million men, women and children, in the end defeating Nazism. No other country in modern history has undergone more.
Right after that victory, Russia, alongside China and later Cuba, embarked on the most awesome and noble project of all times: the systematic dismantling of Western colonialism. All over the world oppressed masses stood up against European and North American imperialist barbarity, and it was the Soviet Union that was ready to give them a beacon of hope, as well as substantial financial, ideological and military support.
As one oppressed and ruined nation after another was gaining independence, hatred against the Soviet Union and the Russian people was growing in virtually all the capitals of the Western world. After all, the looting of non-white continents was considered a natural right of the “civilized world”.
In the USA and Europe, such words as “colonialism” and “imperialism” were rapidly gaining extremely negative connotations, or at least on the surface. It would have been counter-productive to attack, to demonize the Soviet Union for supporting liberation struggles in all those continents. Instead, elaborate theories about the “Evil Empire” were erected.
Russia has always been “ in the way”; a colossal country spoiling the brutal plans of Washington, Berlin, London and Paris – plans to control and plunder the entire planet.
But the nobler were its deeds; the more insulting the attacks against it.
Russia always possessed tremendous capacity to mobilize itself, to throw all its resources at achieving one single, humanistic, and deeply moral goal. There has been something sacred in its struggles, something “higher”, and totally essential.
“Stand up, enormous country, stand up to a deadly fight!” This is how one of the greatest patriotic songs of the Second World War begins. When Russia fights, then all that matters is victory. No price is too high.
Fate selected Russia to struggle for the entire world. If you don’t believe in “fate”, you will never understand the “Russian soul”. It is not about religion – Russia is mainly anarchic and “atheist”. But it believes in and accepts fate.
Moreover, most of the time Russia has really no choice. It has been faced either with the victory or the end of humanity. And when the world and its survival have been threatened, Russia has always stood up: outraged, frightening but also extremely beautiful in its wrath and determination. It has fought with each pore, each speck of its land, and each heart of its people. It has almost always won, but at a horrific price, burying millions of its sons and daughters, stricken afterwards by indescribable sorrow and pain.
And there was never anyone standing by, to console it. As the fires were still raging, as tears were still covering the faces of mothers and wives who lost their loved ones, the country was spat at, ridiculed and humiliated by the Western Machiavellian regimes and their propaganda.
Its heroism was belittled, its sacrifice mocked. It was repeated that its millions who died for humankind, actually died in vain.
In return for its heroic struggles, Russia never asked for anything, except for two essential things: recognition and respect. It never received either!
Now once again, Russia stands up, launching its epic fight against ISIS; that horrendous parody in the Muslim religion – created and armed by the West and its vicious regional lackeys.
Russia had to act. Because if it didn’t, who would? After centuries of Western crusades and the most appalling colonialist practices, there is hardly anything left of the Middle East, this marvelous part of the world, which can only be described as one of the cradles of our civilization. Plundered and humiliated, the Middle East has been reduced to a pathetic mosaic of client states, serving the West. Tens of millions have been murdered. Everything has been plundered. Socialist and secular governments have been cornered and overthrown.
I have worked intensively in this part of the world, and I can testify that save Africa, there is no other area of the world that is so scarred and brutalized by Western greed and barbarism.
Hopeless, mortally injured and desperate, two ancient countries that have been lately suffering the most –Syria and Iraq – approached Russia, asking for its help.
And Russia agreed to help them.
Yes, of course, I can already hear that cacophony of noises coming from Europe and North America about: “Russian interests” and its “sphere of influence”. Because in the West, nothing is, and nothing can be, sacred. Because everything has to be tinted with dark sarcasm and nihilism… If the West is acting like a thug, then the rest of the world has to be portrayed in the same colors and shades. After all, the West does not have allies, it doesn’t have feelings; only interests. I did not invent this; I was told this, again and again, when I lived and worked in destroyed parts of Africa.
But I don’t give a damn what they say in Paris or Washington. What matters is what is said in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And I will tell you how it is there: if you go to a barber shop there, and you say that you are Russian, people get up, and they embrace you, and some cry!
Russia will never attack other countries, but if attacked, its wrath can be horrendous, especially when it is in the middle of fighting a war. “Whoever will come to us with a sword, from a sward they will perish,” proclaimed Alexander Nevsky, the 13th Century Prince of Novgorod.
The recent downing of a Russian bomber over Syria by Turkish Air Forces has increased the danger of a much wider regional war.
Turkey, a NATO member nation, is spreading terror all over the region: from Libya and Somalia, to Iraq, Syria and its own Kurdish territory. It is torturing people, murdering many including journalists, robbing millions of their natural resources, and spreading the most extremist, mainly Qatari-backed, jihadi teachings.
I met Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, many years ago in the early 1990s in Istanbul, when he was the then mayor of the city, and when I was “licking my wounds” in between my writing on how the West was systematically destroying Yugoslavia.
“Do you speak Turkish?” he asked me during one of our meetings.
“Not well”, I replied. “Just a little.”
“But you know perfectly well how to pronounce the name of our party! That shows how important we are.”
From our first meeting, I knew that he was a megalomaniac, a man full of inferiority complexes, and an aggressive scum. I had no idea he would ‘go so far’. He did. Because of him, millions are suffering, all over the region.
Now he has shot down a Russian bomber and invaded Iraq.
Turkey has fought Russia on several occasions, and almost always lost. Then, in between two world wars, it managed to survive only because of the help provided to it by the Soviet Union. Turkey should think twice about its next steps.
Russia does not just ‘fight wars’. Its fights for the survival of mankind are nothing short of an enormous work of art, of poetry or a symphony. It is hard to explain but it is so. Everything is intertwined.
To shoot the Russian SU-24 from behind is like shaking those 25 million who died during the Second World War. It is horrendous, as it is unwise. In Russia, this is not how things are done. You want to fight, then come out and fight, face to face.
But if you kill like a coward, and if you invade neighboring and already devastated countries, you may, one day, find yourself facing not just some SU-24’s, but a bunch of heavy strategic bombers.
Russia cannot be defeated. There are many reasons for it. One is pragmatic: it is a nuclear superpower. Another is, because it usually fights for just causes. And it does so with all its might and with its whole heart.
If it were not for Russia, there would be no Planet Earth, at least as we know it. The West and its fascist Christian states would be fully in control of the world. The “un-people”, the “non-whites” would be treated like animals (even worse than they are treated now): there would be no control left, and no boundaries to the theft and destruction.
The so-called “civilized world” (the one that builds its theatres and schools from the rivers of blood and corpses of others) would be marching, unopposed, towards absolute control over the Planet.
Fortunately, Russia exists. And it cannot be defeated. And it will never be defeated. However, it can also never be forgiven by the West, for standing on the side of the wretched of the earth.
|December 28, 2015||
Culture, Education And Human Solidarity
by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents
Cultural and educational activities have a small ecological footprint, and therefore are more sustainable than pollution-producing, fossil-fuel-using jobs in industry. Furthermore, since culture and knowledge are shared among all nations, work in culture and education leads societies naturally towards internationalism and peace.
Economies based on a high level of consumption of material goods are unsustainable and will have to be abandoned by a future world that renounces the use of fossil fuels in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, a world where non-renewable resources such as metals will become increasingly rare and expensive. How then can full employment be maintained?
The creation of renewable energy infrastructure will provide work for a large number of people; but in addition, sustainable economies of the future will need to shift many workers from jobs in industry to jobs in the service sector. Within the service sector, jobs in culture and education are particularly valuable because the will help to avoid the disastrous wars that are currently producing enormous human suffering and millions of refugees, wars that threaten to escalate into an all-destroying global thermonuclear war.
Human nature may contain primitive tribal emotional elements which make it easy for demagogues to lead their populations into war; but humans also have a unique aptitude for cooperation. Our success as a species is due to the sharing and preservation of cultural achievements.
Human nature has two sides: It has a dark side, to which nationalism and militarism appeal; but our species also has a genius for cooperation, which we can see in the growth of culture. Our modern civilization has been built up by means of a worldwide exchange of ideas and inventions. It is built on the achievements of many ancient cultures. China, Japan, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Islamic world, Christian Europe, and the Jewish intellectual traditions all have contributed. Potatoes, corn, squash, vanilla, chocolate, chilli peppers, and quinine are gifts from the American Indians.
We need to reform our educational systems, particularly the teaching of history. As it is taught today, history is a chronicle of power struggles and war, told from a biased national standpoint. We are taught that our own country is always heroic and in the right. We urgently need to replace this indoctrination in chauvinism by a reformed view of history, where the slow development of human culture is described, giving credit to all who have contributed. When we teach history, it should not be about power struggles. It should be about how human culture was gradually built up over thousands of years by the patient work of millions of hands and minds. Our common global culture, the music, science, literature and art that all of us share, should be presented as a precious heritage - far too precious to be risked in a thermonuclear war.
We have to extend our loyalty to the whole of the human race, and to work for a world not only free from nuclear weapons, but free from war. A war-free world is not utopian but very practical, and not only practical but necessary. It is something that we can achieve and must achieve. Today their are large regions, such as the European Union, where war would be inconceivable. What is needed is to extend these.
Nor is a truly sustainable economic system utopian or impossible. To achieve it, we should begin by shifting jobs to the creation of renewable energy infrastructure, and to the fields of culture and education. By so doing we will suport human solidarity and avoid the twin disasters of catastrophic war and climate change.
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at email@example.com
|January 2, 2015||
God Is Not In His Heaven And All Is Wrong With The World
by Sukumaran C. V., Countercurrents
2015 can be described as the most atrocious year in the new millennium so far. The monstrous ISIS and its coldblooded atrocities against humanity terrified the ‘civilised’ world in 2015. It seems that the world is in the vicious grip of terrorist violence and the coldblooded violence against the innocent all over the world testifies that Browning is wrong and Yeats is right.
In the wake of the Paris terror strikes in November 2015, the entire world was ‘shocked’ more than it has been shocked when terror struck Mumbai in the same fashion years ago, when innocent people were blown apart in the Turkish capital Ankara in October 2014, when more than 130 little children in a Peshawar school were shot dead in December 2014, when the hapless Yzidi girls were being raped and made sex slaves and the Yazidi people were virtually being eliminated by the IS monsters, when nearly 40 people were killed and more than 180 injured in the Lebanese capital Beirut hardly two days ago of the Paris tragedy. Mumbai, Ankara, Peshawar and Beirut couldn’t get the attention of the world media as Paris got. That doesn’t matter, because, it has been long since that the world became Euro or West-centric. What matters is that the lasting solution to this coldblooded violence should also come from the West, because, this coldblooded inhumanity spawns from the Western interference in the financial and political affairs of each and every country of the world, especially the Middle East.
In October 2014, two suicide bombs exploded in the Turkish capital Ankara and killed more than 100 people. In December 2014, a horde of gun-wielding people entered into a school in Peshawar (Pakistan) and killed 130 kids firing indiscriminately. On November 12, 2015, forty people were killed and more than 180 injured in two suicide bomb attacks in a residential area of the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut. Hardly two days later, 130 people were killed and many more injured in a series of terror strikes in the City of Lights—Paris, the capital city of France. (The Yazidis worship the Peacock Angel and live in the remote villages of Northern Iraq. The Yazidi religion blends elements of Sufism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. This combining of various belief systems, known religiously as syncretism, is hated by the ISIS bigots. In his article “Yazidis, Ethnic Cleansing and the Denial of Death”, Michael Mountain says that ‘driven from their homes in Iraq by the murderous Islamic State militia,’ they are ‘raped, thrown into mass graves, even crucified and buried alive.’)
What is wrong with the world? Is violence the salient feature of the ‘civilisation’ we are proud of? We blame the terrorists. But do the terrorists manufacture weapons? Who manage the weapons industry? How do the sophisticated weapons reach in the hands of the terrorists or fanatics? Is it the fault of our ‘culture’ that seeks profit by hook or by crook? Is it the fault of the religion(s)? The democracies of the world should retrospect. It is high time we stopped this business of retaliation and counter attacks. Counter terror has only intensified the terror of the fanatics. Enough is enough. Terror is terror, whether it is counter terror or fanatic terror. Why doesn’t the world learn the simple truth that violence breeds violence?
All the blood-thirsty terrorist outfits in the world like the IS and the Al-Qaeda are the creations of the Western interference in the Middle East. The Frankenstein’s monsters wreak havoc on the innocent and yet the Western countries don’t introspect and think for an everlasting solution to end this spread of coldblooded violence in the world. As long as the West under the leadership of the U.S. continues to have their selfish and predatory foreign policy, the monsters like the IS will not be contained successfully. The world is today not under democracy, but under militarism and militarism ‘has failed the human race in every way imaginable’ as an American Citizen, James Peters, wrote in an open letter to President Carter.
It was in the beginning of 1991, 10 years before the WTC terrorist attack, the U. S. invaded Iraq. Howard Zinn describes the result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in “A People’s History of the United States”: “The consequences of the war became shockingly clear after its end, when it was revealed that the bombings of Iraq had caused starvation, disease, and the deaths of tens of thousands of children. A U.N. team visiting Iraq immediately after the war reported that “the recent conflict has wrought near-apocalyptic results upon the infrastructure…Most means of life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous….””
If young people from Iraq are willingly recruited into camps of the ISIS, can we blame them? Can we stop the violence of ISIS (which originated in Iraq as a result of the devastation of the country by the military strikes of the U.S. and its allies) by invigorated military action?
Let me quote the sane words of an American woman, Amber Amundson, whose husband, an army pilot, was killed in the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, 2001: “I have heard angry rhetoric by some Americans, including many of our nation’s leaders, who advise a heavy dose of revenge and punishment. To those leaders I would like to make clear that my family and I take no comfort in your words of rage. If you choose to respond to this incomprehensible brutality by perpetuating violence against other innocent human beings, you may not do so in the name of justice for my husband.” (Quoted from Howard Zinn)
Another sane voice is that of Alex Molnar, the father of a twenty-one-year-old Marine who was sent to Iraq to wage war against the Iraqis. In an open letter to President Bush, Molnar asked: “Where were you, Mr. President, when Iraq was killing its own people with poison gas? Why, until the recent crisis, was it business as usual with Saddam Hussein, the man you now call a Hitler? Is the American “way of life” that you say my son is risking his life for the continued “right” of Americans to consume 25 to 30 percent of the world’s oil?...I intend to support my son and his fellow soldiers by doing everything I can to oppose any offensive American military action in the Persian Gulf.” (Howard Zinn)
Robert Bowman, a former lieutenant colonel in the U. S. Air Force, wrote even three years before 9/11: “We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism….Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children…In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would bomb us?” (Howard Zinn)
The ‘democratic’ governments world over should listen to the sane and tolerant voices of the people like the wife of the army pilot, the father of the U.S. Marine, and the lieutenant colonel and learn that the permanent solution for the terrorist menace overpowering the world lies outside the field of military action.
Let's mourn for those killed in the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks, Let's mourn for the victims of Paris terror strikes, and Let's mourn for the victims of each and every terrorist attack that occurs in any part of the world. But Let's equally mourn for the victims of U.S. and NATO bombings and air strikes in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, and in every part of the world too. If today God is not in his Heaven and all is wrong with the world, the responsibility mainly goes to the U. S. and its European allies whose interventionist policies wreak havoc in the Middle East. God is not in the heaven because He has fled fearing the humans and their destructive ways.
In the chapter titled “Why civilization is killing the world, Part I”, of his book “Endgame”, the American writer Derrick Jensen says: “In Vietnam, the CIA set up its notorious Operation Phoenix, a systematic program of assassination, terror, and torture. It condoned confining prisoners in “tiger cages,” five-by-nine-by-six-foot stone compartments, where three to five men would be shackled to the floor, beaten, mutilated. Their legs would wither, and they would become paralyzed, or at best reduced for the rest of their miserable lives to scuttling like crabs. Buckets of lime were emptied upon them. Elsewhere in Vietnam, CIA assets applied electric shocks to victims’ genitals and threw victims out of helicopters in order to force their associates to talk. More recently in Afghanistan, U.S.-backed troops loaded 3,000 prisoners into container trucks, sealed the doors, and left these to stand for days in the sun. A U.S. commander ordered an Afghan soldier to shoot bullets through the containers’ walls to provide air holes. Soon enough, blood began to stream from the containers’ bottoms. Those victims who survived were dumped in the desert and shot …”
Howard Zinn says in “A People’s History of the United States”: “It seemed that the United States was reacting to the horrors perpetrated by terrorists against innocent people in New York by killing other innocent people in Afghanistan…A journalist with the “Boston Globe”, writing from a hospital in Jalalabad, wrote: “In one bed lay Noor Mohammad, 10, who was a bundle of bandages. He lost his eyes and hands to the bombs that hit his house after Sunday dinner….The hospital’s morgue received 17 bodies last weekend….yesterday, a bomb’s damage could be chronicled in the life of one family. A bomb had killed the father. In one bed his wife who had severe head injuries….Around her, six of her children were in bandages…One of them, Zahidullah, 8, lay in a coma.””
If the people of Afghanistan are willingly recruited into the camps of ISIS, can you stop them by military action? Can you intimidate people like the young boy Zahidullah by military action, when they were forced to be terrorists by the same monster called military action? Violence breeds violence. The so called ‘war on terror’ started immediately after the 9/11and it has been going on relentlessly ever since. But the coldblooded terror is still not only contained, but also it strikes in every part of the world at will. The reason is that we can’t eliminate a disease without eliminating the sources from where it springs, without totally removing the reasons that cause it. The world is waging the war on terror without addressing the reasons that create the terror. As long as this attitude is not changed, both the war on terror and the terror will continue to rip the world apart and the innocent will continue to be the victims of both—the cold blooded violence of fanatics and the cold blooded violence of the war on terror.
Those who killed the innocent people in Ankara, those who killed the little kids in Peshawar, those who killed the people in Beirut and in Paris commit such coldblooded killings in the name of the religion. It is said that the fanatic outfit IS has re-established the Caliphate under its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is said that they believe in Islam. But if their version of the religion is Islam, it means that the first Caliph, the real and benign Abu Bakr is not an Islam. Because his directions to the ‘Army of God’ ran as the follows: “Be just; the unjust never prosper. Be merciful; sly neither old men, nor women, nor children. Destroy neither fruit trees, nor grains, nor cattle. Keep your word even to your enemy. Molest not those men who live retired from the world”
In “The Historical Role of Islam”, M. N. Roy writes: “There is no end of testimonies to prove that even in the predominantly martial period of their history, the Muslims were far from being barbaric bands of fanatical marauders, spreading pillage and rapine, death and destruction in the name of religion. Then, the period of conquest was short, as compared to the long period of learning and culture that flourished subsequently under the patronage of the Khalifs…”
Then how is it possible for ‘barbaric bands of fanatical marauders’ like the IS operate in the name Islam? Is it the fault of the religion or the result of the Western interference in the Middle East? Deborah Root, the author of “Cannibal Culture” says that ‘we must face the possibility that something is dreadfully wrong with society and that this is somehow connected to the bloody history of Western culture, a bloodiness that surpasses all others.” The U.S. foreign policy has been the curse of the world long since. Almost all the human-right violations and atrocities committed on the people world over since the Second World War are either by the U.S. or by the monsters like Al-Qaeda and ISIS (and even the terrorists who wage ‘holy war’ against India with the help of Pakistan) that are indirectly spawned by the U.S. foreign policy. Analyzing the U.S. bombing on Tripoli (1986), Stephen Shalom wrote in his book “Imperial Alibis” (1993): “If terrorism is defined as politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets, then one of the most serious incidents of international terrorism of the year was precisely this U.S. raid on Libya.”
The U.S. hasn’t still stopped its international terrorism. That said, we should not put all the blame on the U.S. alone and take rest. We should analyze why such atrocious organizations ‘whose members take pride in carrying out beheadings’ spawn in the name of religion. In the name of religion, why these heinous fellows are beheading innocent people, raping the hapless girls and women and tell them either to convert or to die?
The world today direly needs love and tolerance and non-violence. To have such a world, the U.S. and the West should retrospect and shun their predatory economic policies that create terror and terrorists. And the true followers of Islam should try to free the religion from the grip of the fanatics and democratise it. Then
God may again be in His heaven and,
Sukumaran C. V. is a former JNU student and his articles on gender, communal, environemenatl and other socio-political issues are published in The Hindu, Mainstream etc. Email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
|January 2, 2015||
Syria Is The Middle Eastern Stalingrad
by Andre Vltchek, Countercurrents
Day and night, for years, an overwhelming force has been battering this quiet nation, one of the cradles of human civilization.
Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions have been forced to flee abroad or have been internally displaced. In many cities and villages, not one house is left intact.
But Syria is, against all odds, still standing.
During the last 3 years I worked in almost all of Syria’s perimeters, exposing the birth of ISIS in the NATO-run camps built in Turkey and Jordan. I worked in the occupied Golan Heights, and in Iraq. I also worked in Lebanon, a country now forced to host over 2 million (mostly Syrian) refugees.
The only reason why the West began its horrible destabilization campaign, was because it “could not tolerate” Syria’s disobedience and the socialist nature of its state. In short, the way the Syrian establishment was putting the welfare of its people above the interests of multi-national corporations.
More than two years ago, my former Indonesian film editor demanded an answer in a somewhat angry tone:
“So many people are dying in Syria! Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier and better for Syrians to just give up and let the US have what it is demanding?”
Chronically petrified, this young woman was always searching for easy solutions that would keep her safe, and safe with significant personal advantages. As so many others in this time and age, in order to survive and advance, she developed a complex system resting on betrayals, self-defenses and deceptions.
How to reply to such a question?
It was a legitimate one, after all.
Eduardo Galeano told me: “People know when it’s time to fight. We have no right to tell them … but when they decide, it is our obligation to support them, even to lead them if they approach us.”
In this case, the Syrian people decided. No government, no political force could move an entire nation to such tremendous heroism and sacrifice. Russians did it during World War Two, and the Syrians are doing it now.
Two years ago I replied like this: “I have witnessed the total collapse of the Middle East. There was nothing standing there anymore. Countries that opted for their own paths were literally leveled to the ground. Countries that succumbed to the dictates of the West lost their soul, culture and essence and were turned into some of the most miserable places on earth. And the Syrians knew it: were they to surrender, they would be converted into another Iraq, Yemen or Libya, even Afghanistan.”
And so Syria rose. It decided to fight, for itself and for its part of the world.
Again and again, it retained itself through the elections of its government. It leaned on its army. Whatever the West says, whatever the treasonous NGOs write, the simple logic just proves it all.
This modest nation does not have its own powerful media to share the extent of its courage and agony with the world. It is always the others who are commenting on its struggle, often in a totally malicious way.
But it is undeniable that whilst the Soviet forces stopped the advance of the German Nazis at Stalingrad, the Syrians have managed to stop the fascist forces of Western allies in its part of the world.
Of course Russia got directly involved. Of course China stood by, although often in the shadow. And Iran provided support. And Lebanon-based Hezbollah put up, what I often describe as, an epic fight on behalf of Damascus against the extremist monsters invented and armed by the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
But the main credit has to go to the Syrian people.
Yes, now there is nothing left of the Middle East. Now there are more tears than raindrops descending on this ancient land.
But Syria is standing. Burned, wounded, but standing.
And as is being widely reported, after the Russian armed forces came to the rescue of the Syrian nation, more than 1 million Syrian people were able to return home … often to encounter only ashes and devastation, but home.
Like people returned to Stalingrad, some 70 years ago.
So what would my answer be to that question now: “whether it would be easier the other way”, to surrender to the Empire?
I guess something like this:
“Life has meaning, it is worth living, only if some basic conditions can be fulfilled. One does not betray great love, be it love for another person or love for one’s country, humanity or ideals. If one does, it would be better not to be born at all. Then I say: the survival of humankind is the most sacred goal. Not some short-time personal gain or ‘safety’, but the survival of all of us, of people, as well as the safety of all of us, humans.”
When life itself is threatened, people tend to rise and fight, instinctively. During such moments, some of the most monumental chapters in human history are written.
Unfortunately, during these moments, millions tend to die.
But the devastation is not because of those who are defending our human race.
It is because of the imperialist monsters and their servants.
Most of us are dreaming about a world without wars, without violence. We want true kindness to prevail on earth. Many of us are working relentlessly for such a society.
But until it is constructed, until all extreme selfishness, greed and brutality are defeated, we have to fight for something much more “modest” – for the survival of people and of humanism.
The price is often horrible. But the alternative is one enormous gaping void. It is simply nothing – the end, full stop!
In Stalingrad, millions died so we could live. Nothing was left of the city, except some melted steel, scattered bricks and an ocean of corpses. Nazism was stopped. Western expansionism began its retreat, that time towards Berlin.
Now Syria, quietly but stoically and heroically, stands against Western, Qatari, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish plans to finish the Middle East.
And the Syrian people have won. For how long, I don’t know. But it has proven that an Arab country can still defeat the mightiest murderous hordes.
|December 29, 2015||
Geopolitics, Refugees And A Trade Agreement
by Chandra Muzaffar & Hassanal Noor Rashid, Countercurrents
The protracted conflicts in Syria and many parts of West Asia have been a fertile ground for the rise of extreme militants professing their own barbaric distortion of the Islamic Faith. The involvement of two major powers in what can only be described as a cold war of attrition against these militants further highlights the complexity of the issue and the many secret hands that are exploiting the conflict in Syria in particular as a means to their own ends.
Whichever side of the fence one may be aligned to, it cannot be denied that these issues are in many ways connected, and even crafted.
From the rising trend of Islamophobia that has blighted the Western world through many burgeoning right –wing groups, to the aforementioned war in Syria that has sparked one of the most catastrophic human tragedies of the 21st century, these issues are all connected in some form or another, weaving a tale of a perpetual conflict reflective of a grand strategy which seeks to dominate the world through the exercise of power and hegemonic influence.
Daesh and Geopolitics
Daesh, also known as IS or ISIS or ISIL, has risen to become the new face of terrorism in the modern world, outshining Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
While the group claims to be Islamic, their practice and rhetoric strikingly resembles the caricatures of Islamin medieval Europe to the point that it is almost cartoonish in nature, perfectly fitting the bill of the stereotypical evil Muslim bogeyman.
Daeshhas struck with remarkable efficiency in many corners ofWest Asia and North Africa (WANA). Libya, Iraq and Syria have seen swathes of their territories fall under its occupation, and the group,having established a sophisticated media network, training camps and even administrative structures, continues to exert authority and control.From a military standpoint, the terrorist group has been able to hold on to its conquest --- though it has in recent weeks lost some land to the US led coalition bombarding the areas it controls in Iraq and Syria.
However, the real challenge to Daesh particularly in Syria is not from the US but Russia. The effective air-cover afforded by the Russian air force since September2015 has enabled the Syrian army of Bashar Al-Assad and its ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah to regain control over significant parts of Homs, Latakia and parts of Aleppo from Daesh and other terrorist outfits closely linked to either Saudi Arabia, or Turkey or Israel or the US and other Western powers. It is because outfits linked to them are losing control of parts of Syria that some Western and Turkish leaders have launched a massive propaganda war against Russia. The downing of the Russian military plane in Syrian airspace by the Turkish air force in November 2015 should be viewed in this context.
Indeed, the battle-lines are clearly drawn now with Syria as the battlefield in a new confrontation between the US, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other. In a sense, this is the first major conflict between the two protagonists of the 40 year Cold War that ended in 1989. On the side of the US are other Western powers such as Britain and France, backed by their regional allies such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. On the side of Russia, is of course the Syrian government, Iran, the Hezbollah and increasingly, the Iraqi government in Baghdad which feels that Russia is more sincere in fighting the terrorism that threatens Iraq and the region than the US or Turkey.
The conflict involving these two sides, which unfortunately also exhibits a Sunni-Shia dimension, could potentially engulf the whole of WANA and indeed the world in a huge conflagration leading to even a world war. For the time being that danger has been checked by the UN Security Council Resolution on a Syria Peace Plan adopted unanimously by the Council in December 2015. Resolution 2254 (2015) not only calls for a ceasefire and negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition but also expresses its support for free and fair elections within the framework of a sovereign, independent, and territorially united Syrian nation.
If it is implemented successfully, the death and destruction that has been Syria’s fate for the last four years may come to an end. It will certainly bring to an end the tragic sight of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing hearth and home, trying to reach safer shores in Europe.
From another perspective, it is this refugee crisis which also includes Iraqis, Libyans, Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, apart from Somalis, Malians and Nigerians, among others, that is now impacting upon politics in Europe and the United States.
The Refugee crisis, Right Wing Politics and Donald Trump
In the initial stages Germany was the most open among European countries to the refugees from WANA and other parts of Asia and Africa. Chancellor Merkel garnered much praise among the international community for Germany’s “Willkommenskultur” (Open Door Policy). This charitable endeavour was short lived however. Almost overnight, border control measures were implemented, train services to Germany were temporarily halted, and tens of thousands of refugees found themselves stranded in other European countries.
Still, the situation in Germany was not as bad as in the rest of Europe.The border control measures of countries like Hungary had left 170,000 refugees stranded, sparking diplomatic tensions with its neighbours, such as Croatia and Slovenia. This had also sparked criticisms from the international community many of them condemning the reprehensible manner in which the Hungarian government had treated the refugees.
Countries like France, on the other hand, had opened their borders to the refugees. Nonetheless,there has been criticism of France’s policy seen as discriminatory since it allegedly favours only the Christian groups who are viewed --- wrongly --- as being more persecuted than other religious groups.
This discriminatory attitude is obviously directed against Muslim refugees who are in the majority. It is a reflection of the growing anti-immigrant sentiment fuelled by a number of radical right-wing groups in Europe in recent years. There is perhaps a historical root to this. It is embedded in Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam, which has been part of the European consciousness for more than athousand years.
What has exacerbated Islamophobia especially in France is the 13 November terror attack by Muslim extremists in Paris which resulted in the death of 130 innocent civilians. Because it happened on the heels of the refugee crisis, it has also led to renewed fears about Muslim migrants. Politicians and media analysts are now speculating that some of these refugees may be “terrorists”.
Such senseless speculation has only strengthened popular sentiments against Muslims. Unpleasant incidents that target Arab looking males or hijab clad females have become more rife and rampant. It has further widened the chasm between the communities. Right-wing activists are even pushing for a movement to stem the “Islamization of Europe.”
In the US, Islamophobia is having a direct impact upon the presidential elections. The front-runner in the Republican camp has been quite candid about his fears of Muslim immigrants and the threat of Muslim terrorism. He has called for the outright ban of Muslims from entering America, for mosques to be torn down or monitored, and for Muslims in America to have special IDs.
Trump, it is apparent, has an audience. His anti-Muslim rhetoric resonates with a big segment of the middle and lower income White population. Victims of economic and social stagnation in the last two decades, scapegoating “the other” in this manner appeals to these Whites because they feel that once these “threats” are dealt with, “America will be great again”, which is Trump’s slogan, and their own situation will improve tremendously.
Thus we see how the exploitation of domestic fears rooted in the socio-economic situation by politicians seeking high office can actually serve the hegemonic agenda of a superpower. The Trump slogan of making America great again has widespread appeal within the populace since American dominance of the world is accepted as a given, as something good for humanity. Both Republican and Democratic aspirants recite this mantra about America’s leadership of the planet.
TPPA and Economic Hegemony
In what can be considered the other side of the world, there is another event which highlights another part of the grand strategy to assert the hegemonic power of the United States of America.
The controversial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a “trade” agreement among 12 Asia-Pacific countries helmed by the US which has negative ramifications for copyright laws, health care costs, local industries and national sovereignty. The TPPA excludes China, the Asia-Pacific’s most important economic power in every sense. This is why the TPPA is not so much about trade or economics. It is essentially about power and politics. It is a well-orchestrated strategy to contain and curtail the rising power and influence of China within its own neighbourhood. Two important signatories to the TPPA, Australia and Japan, have recently declared openly that they support the US “pivot to Asia” to contain “China’s aggressive influence and posturing.”
The TPPA may mask itself as a trade deal (and a bad one at that), but it cannot disguise its ulterior geopolitical motive. It is a motive that may subject its signatories, including Malaysia, to external hegemonic agendas that may undermine the interests of our own people.
The tentacles of the hegemon are spread across two fronts.One, in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) where it is determined to maintain its dominant power and influence. The stakes are high. It is not just oil and gas. It is the only region in the world where three continents meet and where some of the world’s most vital waterways are situated. But most of all, WANA is where Israel is. No other country is as important to the US and the West. The US is prepared to confront a big military power like Russia and a middling regional power like Iran in order to perpetuate its hegemony in the region.
Two, in the Asia-Pacific region where the hegemon seeks to contain and curtail the ascendancy of the world’s most dynamic economic power. For the US, the economic challenge posed by China has political and military significance in the medium and long-term which is why it wants to ensure that its own economic clout in the Asia-Pacific region which is still considerable will remain and expand.
For the hegemon, WANA and the Asia-Pacific are two regions where itsright to rule the world has come to the fore. It will not allow anyone to question, let alone challenge, that right.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
Hassanal Noor Rashid is Program Coordinator of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
|December 29, 2015||
What’s In Store For Our Freedoms In 2016? More Of Everything We Don’t Want
by John W. Whitehead, Countercurrents
As I illustrate in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we in the emerging American police state find ourselves reliving the same set of circumstances over and over again: egregious surveillance, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc.
What remains to be seen is whether 2016 will bring more of the same or whether “we the people” will wake up from our somnambulant states. The following is just a sampling of what we can look forward to repeating if we don’t find some way to push back against the menace of an overreaching, aggressive, invasive, militarizedsurveillance state.
More militarized police. Americans will continue to be rendered powerless in the face of militarized police. As police forces across the country continue to be transformed into extensions of the military, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.
More surveillance. We are now in a state of transition with the police state shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state. In such an environment, we are all suspects to be spied on, searched, scanned, frisked, monitored, tracked and treated as if we’re potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other. Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, now the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.
More police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve.
More costly wars.The military industrial complex that has advocated that the U.S. remain at war, year after year, is the very entity that will continue to profit the most from America’s expanding military empire. Thus far, the U.S. taxpayer has been made to shell out more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
More attempts by the government to identify, target and punish so-called domestic “extremists.”In much the same way thatthe USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, the government’s anti-extremism program will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist. To this end, police will identify, monitor and deter individuals who exhibit, express or engage in anything that could be construed as extremist before they can become actual threats. This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.
More SWAT team raids. More than 80% of American communities have their own SWAT teams, with more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, kill citizens, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually some small amount of drugs.
More debt. Currently, the national debt is somewhere in the vicinity of a whopping $18.1 trillion and rising that our government owes to foreign countries, private corporations and its retirement programs. Not only is the U.S. the largest debtor nation in the world, but according to Forbes, “the amount of interest on the national debt is estimated to be accumulating at a rate of over one million dollars per minute.”
More overcriminalization.The government’s tendency towards militarization and overcriminalization, in which routine, everyday behaviors become targets of regulation and prohibition, have resulted in Americans getting arrested for making and selling unpasteurized goat cheese, cultivating certain types of orchids, feeding a whale, holding Bible studies in their homes, and picking their kids up from school.
More political spectacles. Americans continue to naively buy into the idea that politics matter, as if there really were a difference between the Republicans and Democrats (there’s not). As if Barack Obama proved to be any different from George W. Bush (he has not). As if Hillary Clinton’s values are any different from Donald Trump’s (with both of them, money talks). As if when we elect a president, we’re getting someone who truly represents “we the people” rather than the corporate state (in fact, in the oligarchy that is the American police state, an elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots). Politics in America is a game, a joke, a hustle, a con, a distraction, a spectacle, a sport, and for many devout Americans, a religion. In other words, it’s a sophisticated ruse aimed at keeping us divided and fighting over two parties whose priorities are exactly the same.
More drones. As corporations and government agencies alike prepare for their part in the coming drone invasion, it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry.
More dumbed down, locked down public schools. Our schools have become training grounds for compliant citizens, teaching students to be test-takers rather than thinkers. Making matters worse is the heavy police presence in schools, which have become little more than quasi-prisons in which classrooms are locked down and kids as young as age 4 are being handcuffed for “acting up,” subjected to body searches, and suspended for childish behavior.
More corruption.If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.
More censorship. First Amendment activities are being pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remains the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”
More fear.We’re being fed a constant diet of fear, which has resulted in Americans adopting an “us” against “them” mindset that keeps us dividedinto factions, unable to reach consensus about anything and too distracted to notice the police state closing in on us.
No matter what the politicians say about the dire state of our nation, you can rest assured that none of the problems that continue to plague our lives and undermine our freedoms will be resolved by our so-called elected representatives in any credible, helpful way in 2016.
“We the people”—the citizenry, not the politicians—are the only ones who have ever been able to enact effective change, and there is a lot that needs to change.
All of the signs point to something nasty up ahead.
About John W. Whitehead: Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book Battlefield America: The War on the American People(SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at email@example.com. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.
Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission: John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain reprint permission.
|December 31, 2015||
Empire Exposed Once Again: The Syria Intervention Case
by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents
Intervention in Syria once again exposes the Empire. Not only its imperialist policy is exposed; its inner contradictions and limitations are also revealed. As an extra output, once again, the Empire’s trustworthiness is going to be questioned by its allies, and by the broader society. Exposure by Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has done the job.
Seymour Hersh writes in London Review of Books: the US president Barack Obama’s administration, in particular the CIA, has knowingly armed militant Islamists in Syria including the Islamic State. Citing a document and a former senior adviser to the US Joint Chiefs the report “Military to Military” (LRB, vol. 38, number 1, January 7, 2016) by Seymour Hersh says: “[W]hat was started as a covert US program to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical program for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey. […T]here was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.”
The journalist famous for his report on the My Lai Massacre by the US armed forces during the Vietnam War writes:
“Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood ISIS’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’”
The report says:
“‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.”
Hence, the Empire’s policy options/limitations, ways/limitations in executing policy or strategy or tactics, inner-contradictions, contradictions between geopolitical aim and leverage with allies, and similar aspects, all of which are critical issues for consideration, come to light. The level of democracy, scope for expressing dissent within the machine is a question as “[t]he Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’”, and one reaction to the prevailing environment is also clear as US intelligence is provided “to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army”, which is considered as enemy by the forces backed by the US and a few its allies.
The report presents further bitter facts as it says:
“American intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdogan government had been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for Islamic State.”
The US finds its limit with one of its allies – Turkey – and is forced to live with the reality. It claims of fighting back the IS, but can’t/doesn’t control its ally that aids the IS. The reality of duality not only exposes the Empire, but undercuts its political position also. Moreover, it finds its other allies are distanced, which is revealed in the following incident cited in the report:
“Obama defended Turkey’s right to defend its borders; Hollande said it was ‘a matter of urgency’ for Turkey to take action against terrorists.… The JCS adviser told me that one of Hollande’s main goals in flying to Washington had been to try to persuade Obama to join the EU in a mutual declaration of war against Islamic State. Obama said no. The Europeans had pointedly not gone to NATO, to which Turkey belongs, for such a declaration. ‘Turkey is the problem,’ the JCS adviser said.”
The European approach that was reflected through Hollande touches broader area – NATO – having implication in other areas. The Libya-intervention found strong NATO-unity while it’s absent in the latter case.
An official from the US tells Seymour Hersh: “‘Turkey can disrupt the balance [in the Middle East] – which is Erdogan’s dream. We told him we wanted him to shut down the pipeline of foreign jihadists flowing into Turkey. But he is dreaming big – of restoring the Ottoman Empire – and he did not realize the extent to which he could be successful in this.’”
Despite the assessment by a section in the Empire the main policy thrust remains unchanged. “The Joint Chiefs and the DIA”, the LRB report says, “were constantly telling Washington’s leadership of the jihadist threat in Syria, and of Turkey’s support for it. The message was never listened to.” The report raises the question for not listening to the message: “Why not?” The question may appear as a riddle, but relations in interest in the Empire provide the answer. There’s a deeply divided Congress on the issue of aggression.
The Turkey conduit is quite old. The report by Seymour Hersh describes the following:
The CIA sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition via Turkey, which went on for more than a year. The arms supply began after Gaddafi’s murder. The operation was run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company, was handling the weapons shipments. Many in the US intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists; and the CIA-sponsored weapons kept going there.
The reality complicates further as the involvement of the ally expands. The report cites a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of jihadists through Turkey and into Syria. Views of the analyst are routinely sought by US senior government officials. The analyst told “Erdogan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favor of their struggle in China. Uighur and Burmese Muslim terrorists who escape into Thailand somehow get Turkish passports and are then flown to Turkey for transit into Syria.” The conflict-reality widens as it pulls China into the conflict-scene. In real term, it narrows down the Empire’s scope for maneuver. With China’s investment and future plans for investment in Pakistan, the Turkey-ally has to follow China. Europe is not now in a position to get into conflict with China. Reports from the economic frontier indicate this.
Dissent is there in the Empire’s vital instrument. “Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office”, says the LRB report, “and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.” “General Dempsey and his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff”, said the report, “kept their dissent out of bureaucratic channels, and survived in office. General Michael Flynn did not. ‘Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria,’ said Patrick Lang, a retired army colonel who served for nearly a decade as the chief Middle East civilian intelligence officer for the DIA. ‘He thought truth was the best thing and they shoved him out. He wouldn’t shut up.’ Flynn told me his problems went beyond Syria. ‘I was shaking things up at the DIA – and not just moving deckchairs on the Titanic. It was radical reform. I felt that the civilian leadership did not want to hear the truth. I suffered for it, but I’m OK with that.’” For the Empire, the problem is deeper, not just Syria or Turkey. However, the immediate output was its Syria intervention as the LRB report cites the following incident:
“‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorized by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdogan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’”
The reality – diminish a presidential policy – is not helpful in an important organ of the state. The report by Seymour Hersh cites Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and member of the House Armed Services Committee:
“In an interview on CNN in October she [Tulsi Gabbard] said: ‘The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and should stay focused on fighting against … the Islamic extremist groups.’
“‘Does it not concern you,’ the interviewer asked, ‘that Assad’s regime has been brutal, killing at least 200,000 and maybe 300,000 of his own people?’
“‘The things that are being said about Assad right now,’ Gabbard responded, ‘are the same that were said about Gaddafi, they are the same things that were said about Saddam Hussein by those who were advocating for the US to … overthrow those regimes … If it happens here in Syria … we will end up in a situation with far greater suffering, with far greater persecution of religious minorities and Christians in Syria, and our enemy will be far stronger.’
“Gabbard later told me that many of her colleagues in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, have thanked her privately for speaking out. ‘There are a lot of people in the general public, and even in the Congress, who need to have things clearly explained to them,’ Gabbard said. ‘But it’s hard when there’s so much deception about what is going on. The truth is not out.’ It’s unusual for a politician to challenge her party’s foreign policy directly and on the record. For someone on the inside, with access to the most secret intelligence, speaking openly and critically can be a career-ender.”
One finds a face of democracy being practiced: “speaking openly and critically can be a career-ender”. Career-ender even speaking openly and critically on an, as Tulsi Gabbard characterizes, “illegal and counterproductive war”, when “there’s so much deception about what is going on”, when “[t]he truth is not out”! Is the political environment helpful to the interests involved with waging the illegal and counterproductive war? No, because dissent helps judge reality and find out better options. Then, it appears, the political system is closing down its doors to a better path. The factors pushing to this situation is a bigger question.
But the fact is known. The LRB report says:
“Obama now has a more compliant Pentagon. There will be no more indirect challenges from the military leadership to his policy of disdain for Assad and support for Erdogan. Dempsey and his associates remain mystified by Obama’s continued public defense of Erdogan, given the American intelligence community’s strong case against him – and the evidence that Obama, in private, accepts that case. ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,’ the president told Erdogan’s intelligence chief at a tense meeting at the White House (as I [SH] reported in the LRB of 17 April 2014).”
The finding comes out as a department, which is vital for the state, is compliant, and there’s no alternate view; although the fact is known: “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria”. The questions are why the state is facing such a situation, what’ll be its consequence, and shall that be helpful to the state? It’s an issue of study on modern day empires equipped with intellectual capacity and modern tools of policy formulation and decision making. The intellectual capacity has grown and developed over centuries. It’s an exposure of the inner-condition/state of working mechanism of an empire.
“State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks show that the Bush administration tried to destabilise Syria and that these efforts continued into the Obama years. In December 2006, William Roebuck, then in charge of the US embassy in Damascus, filed an analysis of the ‘vulnerabilities’ of the Assad government and listed methods ‘that will improve the likelihood’ of opportunities for destabilization. He recommended that Washington work with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to increase sectarian tension and focus on publicizing ‘Syrian efforts against extremist groups’ – dissident Kurds and radical Sunni factions – ‘in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability, and uncontrolled blowback’; and that the ‘isolation of Syria’ should be encouraged through US support of the National Salvation Front, led by Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president whose government-in-exile in Riyadh was sponsored by the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood. Another 2006 cable showed that the embassy had spent $5 million financing dissidents who ran as independent candidates for the People’s Assembly; the payments were kept up even after it became clear that Syrian intelligence knew what was going on. A 2010 cable warned that funding for a London-based television network run by a Syrian opposition group would be viewed by the Syrian government ‘as a covert and hostile gesture toward the regime’.” Another report by Seymour Hersh says: “In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarized law-enforcement organization – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said.…. The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdogan exposed politically and militarily…. Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdogan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating”. (“The Red Line and the Rat Line”, LRB, vol. 36, no. 8, April 17, 2014) Plan was hatched to market Syria-sarin lie after the Bush-Blair-Iraq-WMD lie. “Rat Line, in CIAspeak, a clandestine highway used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition is now well-known. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, a few of which were under the cover of Australian entities.
Do these incidents/acts help as a learning material? Most probably, these do. Countries facing imperialist intervention will find this pattern if a careful search is made. Does India, the biggest economy in south Asia, need to learn from this? Most probably, it needs. Does Bangladesh, a much smaller economy than India, need to learn from it? Most probably, it needs. Other south Asian countries? The same answer. Size of economy, market size, resources and geographic location are creating conditions for imperialist intervention. These are the factors that are here in south Asia for a long time. The emerging important factor is desperate condition of imperialism in the face of intensified competition. The desperate condition allures/provokes imperialism to commit military blunders under the guidance of short-sighted leadership. But peoples in more than one country pay before the military blunder finds its burial ground.
|December 31, 2015||
Je n’ai qu’un rêve la paix Eu tenho um sonho de paz I have a dream of peace
by Marie DAVID-C., et autres membres en PJ, FRANCE
Cercle Univ. Ambassadeurs de la Paix
Je n’ai qu’un rêve la paix
Je n’ai qu’un rêve : la Paix…qu’un pays : le monde
Qu’une race : l’humanité…qu’une envie : faire la ronde
Qu’un chemin : la tolérance…qu’un exemple : la nature
Qu’un regret : l’indifférence…qu’un dédain : l’injure !
Je n’ai qu’un combat : la pédophilie…qu’une loi : le respect
Qu’un regard : l’enfant meurtri…qu’une religion : la fraternité
Qu’un bonheur : l’innocence…qu’une révolte : la trahison
Qu’un désir : l’indulgence…qu’une richesse : le pardon
Je n’ai qu’un amour : la vie…qu’une vérité : mon coeur
Qu’un art : la poésie…qu’une grâce : l’honneur
Qu’un maître : le temps…qu’un interdit : juger un frère
Qu’un mépris : l’argent…qu’un guide : Dieu le père
Je n’ai que ça et pour toujours
J’aime la vie avec « amour »
Je n’ai que ça…. et plein « d’espoir »
C’est ma « richesse » et ma « victoire » ! ! ! !
Eu tenho um sonho depaz
Eu tenho um sonho:paz... que país: em todo o mundo
Como uma raça:humanidade... apenas um desejo: fazer a ronda
O único jeito:tolerância... apenas um exemplo: a natureza
Apenas umarrependimento: indiferença... que desdém: insultar!
Eu tenho uma batalha:pedofilia... que uma lei: respeito
Como um olhar: ofilho machucado... como uma religião: a fraternidade
Como uma felicidade:a inocência... que uma revolta: a traição
Como um desejo: aindulgência... que uma riqueza: perdão
Eu tenho um amor:vida... que verdade: meu coração
Como uma artepoesia... uma graça que: honra
Apenas um mestre: otempo... que um banido: julgar um irmão
Como um desprezo: odinheiro... como um guia: Deus pai
Não tenho muito epara sempre
Eu amo a vida com'amor'.
Eu não tenhotanto... e cheio de "esperança".
É minha 'riqueza' ea minha vitória' '!
Asarace:humanity... only onedesire:maketheround
Onlyway:tolerance... just oneexample:thenature
Ihaveabattle:pedophilia... what alaw:respect
Asalook:thechildbruised... as areligion:thebrotherhood
Asahappiness:theinnocence... that arevolt:thebetrayal
Asadesire:theindulgence... what awealth:forgiveness
Asanart:poetry... what agrace:honor
Asacontempt:themoney... as aguide:Godthefather
I don't have thatmuch... and full "hope".
|December 11, 2015||
Corruption, Human Rights Violations and Unchecked Pollution: At COP21, Growing Concern Over UN’s Forest Climate Program
by Emma Rae Lierley, Rainforest Action, AlterNet
The UN's primary carbon trading program meant to protect forests may actually allow the worst polluters to continue unchecked.
As global leaders gather for the United Nations conference on climate change (COP21) in Paris, some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and governments have announced new initiatives to protect the world’s last rainforests from the expansion of forest commodity production, including development for palm oil and pulp and paper.
On the opening day of the Paris climate talks, global consumer goods brands Unilever and Marks & Spencer have announced plans to join a major public-private partnership, launched and supported by 17 countries including the US, Norway, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia. This public-private partnership seeks to financially reward heavily forested countries or regions that adopt comprehensive policies to reduce deforestation which is resulting from the production of forest commodities like palm oil and pulp commodities. This show of support by corporate and government interests comes amidst a years-long global consumer campaign which is pressuring major brands like Unilever, Marks & Spencer and PepsiCo, all heavy users of palm oil, to adopt stronger deforestation policies.
Forest issues have been a source of focus in the first days of the Paris climate talks, as governments put financial support behind efforts to reduce emissions from the destruction of the world’s forests. Recently, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, commonly referred to as Jokowi, responded to the annual Indonesian forest fire crisis, which reached historic levels of destruction this year. President Jokowi is due to issue a regulation while in Paris that will halt carbon intensive development on peatlands; however, this will only succeed if properly implemented and enforced––something that hasn’t been done before.
At the climate talks, Germany, Norway and the UK just committed $5bn USD into forest programs over the next six years, with funds earmarked to go to forest climate programs and to the REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests) program––a scheme expected to be finalized at this year’s climate talks after 10 years of debate.
REDD+ remains a controversial mechanism to mitigate climate change. Critics have raised serious concerns that the scheme will fuel corruption and human rights violations, including the displacement of indigenous communities in tropical forest countries that currently lack the capacity to enforce adequate safeguards. Despite today’s pledge of funds from the European countries, concerns remain that REDD+ will be primarily financed through carbon trading and used by developed countries as an offset mechanism to allow ongoing “business as usual” development models––effectively allowing the worst polluters to continue unchecked.
Ginger Cassady, Forest Program Director with Rainforest Action Network, said,
The commitments that world leaders are and will continue to make in Paris are critical to stabilizing the climate. There is a clear landscape of opportunity for Indonesia to secure support and provide new incentives to communities and governments that are taking real action to secure land rights and protect rainforests and peatlands from the expansion of industrial palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.
However, there is a risk that these pledges from governments and brands will amount to nothing but lip service. We know that the devil is in the details and the real test is change on the ground. To succeed, climate solutions must be created in partnership with local communities, implementation must be global in scale, transparent, verifiable, include robust protections for Indigenous Peoples, human rights and the workers themselves, and involve collaborative efforts to enforce moratoriums that immediately protect the world’s last forest frontiers, including the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, Sumatra.
Forest destruction is responsible for approximately 20% of global carbon emissions. Continually, Indonesia is at the head of forest loss internationally, making forest protection in that country a top global priority for stabilizing the climate. Collectively, forest fires in Indonesia are one of the largest single sources of carbon pollution worldwide and thus the recurring fire crisis is the responsibility of everyone. Governments, as well as the powerful multinational corporations driving the expansion of palm oil and pulp plantations, must tackle this climate disaster head-on.
Recent announcements by President Jokowi indicate his willingness to drive forward change. Jokowi seeks to address the impacts of the annual fire crises, caused in part by plantation development on Indonesia’s peatlands, but he can not do it alone. This is not just about government action: massive global companies are intricately linked to many of the world’s largest economies and largest greenhouse gas emitters. These private, profit-driven entities must be held accountable for the central role they have to play in saving our planet from climate catastrophe.
|December 10, 2015||
COP21: International Rights of Nature Tribunal Finds Corporations, Governments Guilty of Crimes Against Nature
by Roberto Lovato, AlterNet
Indigenous leaders want to expand the concept of human rights into a movement that will protect animals, rivers and forests.
As the COP21 climate conference comes to its conclusion, many here don’t believe that the agreement to cut emissions will suffice to alter the catastrophic course of the planet. In fact, many will leave believing that what is most important is the continued work to pressure governments not only to reduce greenhouse gases, but to address the inequalities that underly the problem.
"The deal that will be unveiled in less than a week will not be enough to keep us safe,” author and activist Naomi Klein told a crowd gathered for a labor and climate change event. “In fact, it will be extraordinarily dangerous.”
Klein and many others gathered for the COP21 conference believe that the agreement is “going to steamroll over equity red lines, which means that wealthy countries that have been emitting fossil fuels on an industrial scale for a couple hundred years will continue to fail to do our fair share of emission reductions.”
Klein’s sentiments about the COP21 outcomes were shared by people from across the world gathered at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, a movement of indigenous and Western leaders from around the world to ascribe rights to Mother Nature. The tribunal concluded that a confluence of global interests — corporations, governments and multilateral institutions — were guilty of crimes against Mother Nature, including greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of ecosystems, lifeforms and cultures.
Many gathered here feel that the inequities and disasters seen before COP21 will continue and perhaps even get worse, despite some actions such as President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Desmond D’Sa, a Goldman Environmental Prize-winning activist and writer with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said that the apartheid structures that he and his parents grew up with and fought against have not disappeared. In fact, they have been reconfigured — and in some cases worsened — by climate change.
“From its beginnings, the logic of apartheid involved oil extraction through slush funds and secrecy of the apartheid era,” said D’Sa, who presented Durban’s case at the tribunal. “Sadly, it’s still around in the post-apartheid era — even here at COP21. The extractive industry has done us all one better by co-opting the [South African] government, filling its delegation with representatives of the extractive industries and writing the official government positions.”
“What South Africa and other poor countries are doing is positioning themselves to get money from rich countries who will pay them for the right to put toxics and pollute them,” he added. “These offsets are only going to make things worse for children who already face extremely high levels of cancer and other fatal diseases. COP21 means greenwashing, not real solutions.”
In the face of the catastrophic situation faced by South Africans and other people across the earth following COP21, many activists here pointed to the convergence of alternative organizing, seen here as one of the most important outcomes of COP21.
“My hope is that we continue the work of creating the great convergence, a convergence of the movements of indigenous people fighting 500 years of colonialism with the ecological movements with its highest expression in rights of nature and the human rights movement with its highest expression in cultural diversity,” said author and activist Vandana Shiva. “I hope that all these movements become one continuum in the celebration, defense and freedom of all life, and the recognition that those cultures called ‘barbaric’ are in fact the sophisticated cultures that will ensure we act.”
Speaking through a translator on behalf of the indigenous Kayapo people of Brazil, Chief Raoni Metuktire reminded a packed crowd of the urgent need to unite ancient indigenous thought about the rights of nature with the expansion of the Western legal concepts created in Paris following the French Revolution, concepts of human rights many here believe must be expanded to create a similar regime that will ascribe rights to and protect nature.
“We feel the effects of non-action [on climate change] every day” said Chief Raoni. “We feel the effect on our rivers, on our forests, on the animals. Many of you don’t see it. We do. We indigenous continue to speak loudly, but we need your help. We will only stop this madness by working together.”
|December 5, 2015||
Huge Questions About Paris Climate Agreement as Rich Nations and Giant Polluters Exercise Control
by Reynard Loki, AlterNet
The final agreement, they hope, will keep the increase in the Earth's surface temperature to a maximum of 2° Celsius, the level the scientific community believes must not be crossed in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
BBC News environment correspondent Mark McGrath reported that many of the delegates were "relieved that they had at least reached this point, as it marks a critical point after four years of negotiations."
Following the draft's adoption, South Africa's negotiator Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, speaking on behalf of more than 130 developing nations, said, "In the words of Nelson Mandela, it always seems impossible until it is done." His statement was received with loud applause.
"Nothing has been decided and nothing will be left behind," said French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana. "This text marks the will of all to reach an agreement." But, she warned, "We are not at the end of the route. Major political issues are yet to be resolved."
The document, which offers ministers several options regarding the agreement's ultimate long-term goal, is still far from what must be accomplished at the landmark summit. Several critical issues remain. First, delegates have not agreed on the scale or timeline of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which trap the sun's heat on the earth's surface, thereby increasing the global mean temperature. Second, it is unclear which nations should shoulder the brunt of the reductions. And third, it remains unclear how the changes recommended by the agreement will be financed and which nations should pay.
"We now need to summon the political will needed to make the hard decisions required for an effective and durable agreement that protects the most vulnerable among us," said Thoriq Ibrahim of the Maldives, who is chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
Analysts said the key to the agreement is a quinquennial (or five-year) review that allows for nations to strengthen their commitments; what has been called a “ratcheting-up mechanism.” But for the plan to work, the world must move toward a low-carbon economy. For poorer nations, that means money to finance the costly shift to renewable energy technologies and help deal with ongoing impacts of a warming world, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, extreme weather, rising sea level, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss. These climate-related effects are causing sudden shifts in local economies and food security across the world, including agriculture, subsistence farming and fishing.
Under the planned Paris accord, rich nations would be required to move hundreds of billions of dollars to developing nations by 2020.
"Perhaps this is the most exciting time in human history," said actor and environmentalist Sean Penn at a special event at the conference. "Those illusions of having too many difficult choices have always created chaos. Now we live in a time where there are no choices. We have certainty. The days of dreams have given way to the days of doing."
Penn has been working with French environment minister Segolene Royal to restore Haiti, with France funding the actor's major new environmental initiative, Haiti Takes Root, which aims to help the island following the 2010 earthquake, improve soil quality and promote sustainable forestry and renewable energy. After visiting with Royal in Paris in October, Penn said he was optimistic about COP21. But while negotiators remain confident they can avoid the failure of the 2009 U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, there has been strong criticism of the new draft document, particularly its bias toward rich nations.
Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, associate research director at Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based non-profit working to end abuse by transnational corporations, said the following in an emailed statement:
While the draft outcome released this morning for negotiation next week will likely be met with applause by Global North governments and their corporate board room backers, it fails to deliver meaningfully toward the systemic transition climate change requires. At the core of this failure are the obstinate negotiating positions of the U.S. and other Global North governments who are bent on deregulating the global rules applying to them and advancing the financial needs of big business over the survival needs of people.
And, despite the image of hope and action President Obama and other leaders painted on Monday, the chasm between rhetoric and action continues to grow. Whether it’s finance or technology, loss and damage or differentiation, the positions reflected in this text are heavily biased towards the U.S., Japan, EU and other Global North countries, and the emissions-intensive industries they represent.
The U.S. position, for example, reflects the strong limits placed on U.S. climate action by a Congress overrun by the unconstrained campaign spending of Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and other big polluters. As a result, President Obama has said the United States can’t accept a legally binding agreement and is failing to come forward with any new commitments on important issues like finance, technology and capacity.
Rather than advancing the interests of polluters through a weaker climate policy regime this agreement must recognize the historical responsibility of the Global North, provide justice for the Global South and catalyze the rapid transition away from dirty energy. The primary obstacle to these and other policy imperatives is to insulate the policymaking process from the corrosive influence of big polluters, both here at the UNFCCC and at home in national governments. Only then will climate policy truly value people over profits.
Poorer nations, particularly low-lying coastal and island nations that are most at risk for becoming submerged under a rising sea level, prefer the agreement to embrace the much more difficult target of 1.5° Celsius. That target would require the global economy to become fully powered by renewable energy sources by 2050. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the U.S. can generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050, using available technology. But that remains a fantasy as long as renewable energy continues to be economically disadvantaged in favor of fossil fuel: In 2013, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, consumer subsidies to fossil fuels totaled $548 billion, compared to only $121 billion for renewables.
Worryingly, COP21 is hampered by an unprecedented level of corporate sponsorship. “Inviting some of the world’s biggest polluters to pay for the COP is akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house,” said Patti Lynn, executive director of Corporate Accountability International. “We must eliminate this conflict of interest before COPs become corporate trade shows for false market-based solutions.”
The World Wide Fund for Nature, an international non-governmental organization promoting conservation and biodiversity, stresses that climate change "will impact some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, disrupting food production, and threatening vitally important species, habitats and ecosystems."
But as long as the rich nations—and their big polluters—dictate the terms of the Paris accord, maintain unhealthy fossil fuel subsidies and refuse to establish a long-term market for renewable energy that includes putting a price on carbon emissions, a world that protects more vulnerable nations, humans, animals and plants from the impacts of climate change will remain a dream. The science is clear: Unchecked climate change will be devastating for humanity and our fellow species. Two weeks of meetings seems hardly enough time to achieve a meaningful climate agreement with actionable goals that are legally binding. It is highly unlikely that the final accord will please everybody. Hopefully, at the very least, it will move the needle in the right direction.
Tasneem Essop, former provincial minister of environment for Western Cape, South Africa, who is now working on WWF’s Global Climate Deal Network Initiative, said, "We're hoping that in the rush to the end, ministers do not trade ambition for expediency, and remain true to the science."
|December 18, 2015||
Plants Could Save Us From Climate Change — but Not in the Way Scientists Expected
by Willy Blackmore, TakePart, AlterNet
Imagine transforming agriculture from a sector responsible for nearly a third of global emissions into one that captures and stores carbon.
Plants like carbon. Along with light and water, carbon is one of the primary things that they need to grow—and the more of it the better. With more carbon in the atmosphere, some have posited that climate change could be good for plants—whether they be trees in a forest or rows of grain in a field. In a rather elegant solution to climate change, so the thinking goes, the increased growth of plants around the globe could increase the rate that the world’s greenery sucks C02 out of the atmosphere—and help to limit overall emissions.
As the climate negotiators at COP21 hammered out the global deal to slow climate change can attest, science isn't so simple, even if the idea seems logical. And a new study from the University of Minnesota shows that plants aren’t responding to our more carbon-laden world in the expected manner.
The research, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that growth is increasing, yes, but only slightly, and the C02-capture potential that scientists have attributed to plants is likely an exaggeration as a result.
“Current Earth system models assume that global plant growth will provide the tremendous benefit of offsetting a significant portion of humanity’s CO2 emissions, thus buying us much needed time to curb emissions,” William Kolby Smith, a coauthor and postdoctoral fellow, said in an interview with Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “Unfortunately, our observation-based estimates of global vegetation growth indicate that plant growth may not buy us as much time as expected, [so] action to curb emissions is all the more urgent.”
The slower increase in growth may be the result of increased water stress that plants are also experiencing as a result of increased CO2 levels, or a lack of nitrogen and phosphorus—two other elements that are vital to plant growth.
The study is the latest example of the unexpected ways that plants are responding to climate change. A study published in the journal Nature last year found that yields of staple crops like wheat and rice might increase as CO2 levels rise and that extra food will come with diminished nutritional values.
The grains and legumes researchers harvested from test plots surrounded by C02 jets set up to simulate a world where carbon levels are approaching 500 parts per million had between 5 and 10 percent less iron, zinc, and protein. A statement from Harvard University announcing the research, which was conducted by scientists at the school, called the lost nutrition “the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change.”
But not all is bad when it comes to plants and climate change: There is a real potential to grow a solution, or at lease a partial one, to rising temperatures, and it's being incorporated into the Paris deal. Unlike the laissez-faire idea that plants left to their own devices will help to offset human-caused emissions, carbon farming—growing trees or other plants to sequester CO2—is a far more deliberate approach. Similarly, changes to farming food crops can help to turn agriculture from a sector responsible for nearly a third of global emissions into one that both captures and stores carbon.
This article originally appeared on TakePart.com. Reprinted with permission.
|December 6, 2015||
How Climate Change Is Wreaking Havoc on the American Empire
by Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch, AlterNet
Environmental changes are splintering the power structure.
For six centuries or more, history was, above all, the story of the great game of empires. From the time the first wooden ships mounted with cannons left Europe’s shores, they began to compete for global power and control. Three, four, even five empires, rising and falling, on an increasingly commandeered and colonized planet. The story, as usually told, is a tale of concentration and of destruction until, in the wake of the second great bloodletting of the twentieth century, there were just two imperial powers left standing: the United States and the Soviet Union. Where the other empires, European and Japanese, had been, little remained but the dead, rubble, refugees, and scenes that today would be associated only with a place like Syria.
The result was the ultimate imperial stand-off that we called the Cold War. The two great empires still in existence duked it out for supremacy on “the peripheries” of the planet and “in the shadows.” Because the conflicts being fought were distant indeed, at least from Washington, and because (despite threats) both powers refrained from using nuclear weapons, these were termed “limited wars.” They did not, however, seem limited to the Koreans or Vietnamese whose homes and lives were swept up in them, resulting as they did in more rubble, more refugees, and the deaths of millions.
Those two rivals, one a giant, land-based, contiguous imperial entity and the other a distinctly non-traditional empire of military bases, were so enormous and so unlike previous “great powers” -- they were, after all, capable of what had once been left to the gods, quite literally destroying every habitable spot on the planet -- that they were given a new moniker. They were “superpowers.”
And then, of course, that six-century process of rivalry and consolidation was over and there was only one: the “sole superpower.” That was 1991 when the Soviet Union suddenly imploded. At age 71, it disappeared from the face of the Earth, and history, at least as some then imagined it, was briefly said to be over.
The Shatter Effect
There was another story lurking beneath the tale of imperial concentration, and it was a tale of imperial fragmentation. It began, perhaps, with the American Revolution and the armed establishment of a new country free of its British king and colonial overlord. In the twentieth century, the movement to “decolonize” the planet gained remarkable strength. From the Dutch East Indies to French Indochina, the British Raj to European colonies across Africa and the Middle East, “independence” was in the air. Liberation movements were launched or strengthened, guerrillas took up arms, and insurgencies spread across what came to be called the Third World. Imperial power collapsed or ceded control, often after bloody struggles and, for a while, the results looked glorious indeed: the coming of freedom and national independence to nation after nation (even if many of those newly liberated peoples found themselves under the thumbs of autocrats, dictators, or repressive communist regimes).
That this was a tale of global fragmentation was not, at first, particularly apparent. It should be by now. After all, those insurgent armies, the tactics of guerrilla warfare, and the urge for “liberation” are today the property not of left-wing national liberation movements but of Islamic terror outfits. Think of them as the armed grandchildren of decolonization and who wouldn’t agree that theirs is a story of the fragmentation of whole regions. It seems, in fact, that they can only thrive in places that have, in some fashion, already been shattered and are failed states, or are on the verge of becoming so. (All of this, naturally, comes with a distinct helping hand from the planet’s last empire).
That their global brand is fragmentation should be evident enough now that, in Paris, Libya, Yemen, and other places yet to be named, they’re exporting that product in a big way. In a long-distance fashion, they may, for instance, be helping to turn Europe into a set of splinterlands, aborting the last great attempt at an epic tale of concentration, the turning of the European Union into a United States of Europe.
When it comes to fragmentation, the last empire and the first terror caliphate have much in common and may in some sense even be in league with each other. In the twenty-first century, both have proven to be machines for the fracturing of the Greater Middle East and increasingly Africa. And let’s never forget that, without the last empire, the first caliphate of terror would never have been born.
Both have extended their power to shake whole societies by wielding advanced technology in forward-looking ways. Two American administrations have employed remote-controlled drones to target terror leaders and their followers across the Greater Middle East and Africa, causing much “collateral damage” and creating a sense of constant fear and terror among those in the backlands of the planet whom drone pilots refer to as potential “bugsplat.” In its robotic manhunting efforts Washington continues to engage in a war on terror that functionally promotes both terror and terror outfits.
The Islamic State has similarly used remote-controlled technology -- in their case, social media in its various forms -- to promote terror and stoke fear in distant lands. And of course they have their own low-tech version of Washington’s drones: their suicide bombers and suicidal killers who can be directed at distant individual targets and are engines for collateral damage. In other words, while the U.S. is focused on remote-controlled counterinsurgency, the Islamic State has been promoting a remarkably effective version of remote-controlled insurgency. In tandem, the effect of the two has been devastating.
Planet of the Imperial Apocalypse
Between those epic tales of concentration and fragmentation lies history as we’ve known it in these last centuries. But it turns out that, unsuspected until relatively recently, a third tale lurked behind the other two, one not yet fully written that could prove to be the actual end of history. Everything else -- the rise and fall of empires, the power to suppress and the urge to revolt, dictatorship and democracy -- remains the normal stuff of history. Prospectively, this is the deal-breaker.
It promises a concentration of power of a sort never before imagined and fragmentation of a similarly inconceivable kind. At this moment when the leaders of just about all the nations on Earth have been in Paris working out a deal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and slow the heating of the planet, what else could I be speaking of than Emperor Weather? Think of his future realm, should it ever come to be, as the planet of the imperial apocalypse.
In the last imperial age, the two superpowers made “end times” a human possession for the first time in history. The U.S. and then the USSR took the super power of the atom and built nuclear arsenals capable of destroying the planet several times over. (These days, even a relatively modest exchange of such weapons between India and Pakistan might plunge the world into a version of nuclear winter in which a billion people might die of hunger.) And yet while an instant apocalypse loomed, a slow-motion version of the same, also human-made, was approaching, unrecognized by anyone. That is, of course, what the Paris Summit is all about: what the exploitation of fossil fuels has been doing to this planet.
Keep in mind that since the industrial revolution we’ve already warmed the Earth by about 1 degree Celsius. Climate scientists have generally suggested that, if temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius, a potentially devastating set of changes could occur in our environment. Some climate scientists, however, believe that even a 2-degree rise would prove devastating to human life. In either case, even if the Paris pledges from 183 nations to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions are agreed upon and carried out, they would only limit the rise in global temperatures to between an estimated 2.7 and 3.7 degrees Celsius. If no agreement is reached or little of it is actually carried out, the rise could be in the 5-degree range, which would be devastating. Over the coming decades, this could indeed give Emperor Weather his global realm.
Of course, his air power -- his bombers, jets, and drones -- would be superstorms; his invading armies would be mega-droughts and mega-floods; and his navy, with the total or partial melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, would be the rising seas of the planet, which would rob humanity of its coastlines and many of its great cities. His forces would occupy not just one or two countries in the Greater Middle East or elsewhere, but the entire planet, lock, stock, and barrel.
Emperor Weather’s imperial realms would be global on an awe-inspiring scale and the assaults of his forces would fragment the present planet in ways that could make much of it, in human terms, look like Syria. Moreover, given how long it takes greenhouse gases to leave the atmosphere, his global rule would be guaranteed to last an inhumanly long period of time unchallenged.
Heat (think burning Australia today, only far worse) would be the coin of the realm. While humanity will undoubtedly survive in some fashion, whether human civilization as we now know it can similarly survive on a planet that is no longer the welcoming home that it has been these last thousands of years we have no way of knowing.
Keep in mind, though, that like history itself, this is a story we are still writing -- even though Emperor Weather couldn't care less about writing, history, or us. If he truly comes to power, history will certainly end in some sense. There will be no hope of democracy under his rule because he won’t care a whit about what we think or do or say, nor of revolt -- that staple of our history -- because (to adapt something Bill McKibben has long pointed out) you can’t revolt against physics.
This story is not yet engraved in... well, if not stone, then melting ice. Sooner or later, it may indeed be a tale unfolding in environmental feedback loops that can no longer be stopped or altered. But for the moment, it seems, humanity still has the chance to write its own history in a fashion that would allow for a perhaps less welcoming but still reasonably palatable world for our children and grandchildren to live in. And be glad of that.
For that to happen, however, successful negotiations in Paris can only be the start of something far more sweeping when it comes to the forms of energy we use and how we live on this planet. Fortunately, experiments are underway in the world of alternative energy, funding is beginning to appear, and a global environmental movement is expanding and could someday, on a planet growing ever less comfortable, put the heat on governments globally before Emperor Weather can turn up the heat on history.
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Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt
© 2015 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
|December 7, 2015||
Chris Hedges: We Must Refuse to Participate in the Destruction of the Planet.
by Chris Hedges, Truthdig, AlterNet
The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life will disintegrate simultaneously.
The charade of the 21st United Nations climate summit will end, as past climate summits have ended, with lofty rhetoric and ineffectual cosmetic reforms. Since the first summit more than 20 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions have soared. Placing faith in our political and economic elites, who have mastered the arts of duplicity and propaganda on behalf of corporate power, is the triumph of hope over experience. There are only a few ways left to deal honestly with climate change: sustained civil disobedience that disrupts the machinery of exploitation; preparing for the inevitable dislocations and catastrophes that will come from irreversible rising temperatures; and cutting our personal carbon footprints, which means drastically reducing our consumption, particularly of animal products.
“Our civilization,” Dr. Richard Oppenlander writes in “Food Choice and Sustainability,” “displays a curious instinct when confronted with a problem related to overconsumption—we simply find a way to produce more of what it is we are consuming, instead of limiting or stopping that consumption.”
The global elites have no intention of interfering with the profits, or ending government subsidies, for the fossil fuel industry and the extraction industries. They will not curtail extraction or impose hefty carbon taxes to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They will not limit the overconsumption that is the engine of global capitalism. They act as if the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases—the animal agriculture industry—does not exist. They siphon off trillions of dollars and employ scientific and technical expertise—expertise that should be directed toward preparing for environmental catastrophe and investing in renewable energy—to wage endless wars in the Middle East. What they airily hold out as a distant solution to the crisis—wind turbines and solar panels—is, as the scientist James Lovelock says, the equivalent of 18th-century doctors attempting to cure serious diseases with leeches and mercury. And as the elites mouth platitudes about saving the climate they are shoving still another trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), down our throats. The TPP permits corporations to ignore nonbinding climate accords made at conferences such as the one in Paris, and it allows them, in secret trade tribunals, to defy environmental regulations imposed by individual states.
New technology—fracking, fuel-efficient vehicles or genetically modified food—is not about curbing overconsumption or conserving resources. It is about ensuring that consumption continues at unsustainable levels. Technological innovation, employed to build systems of greater and greater complexity, has fragmented society into cadres of specialists. The expertise of each of these specialists is limited to a small section of the elaborate technological, scientific and bureaucratic machinery that drives corporate capitalism forward—much as in the specialized bureaucratic machinery that defined the genocide carried out by the Nazis. These technocrats are part of the massive, unthinking hive that makes any system work, even a system of death. They lack the intellectual and moral capacity to question the doomsday machine spawned by global capitalism. And they are in control.
Civilizations careening toward collapse create ever more complex structures, and more intricate specialization, to exploit diminishing resources. But eventually the resources are destroyed or exhausted. The systems and technologies designed to exploit these resources become useless. Economists call such a phenomenon the “Jevons paradox.” The result is systems collapse.
In the wake of collapses, as evidenced throughout history, societies fragment politically, culturally and socially. They become failed states, bleak and desolate outposts where law and order break down, and there is a mad and often violent scramble for the basic necessities of life. Barbarism reigns.
“Only the strong survive; the weak are victimized, robbed, and killed,” the anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” “There is fighting for food and fuel. Whatever central authority remains lacks the resources to reimpose order. Bands of pitiful, maimed survivors scavenge among the ruins of grandeur. Grass grows in the streets. There is no higher goal than survival.”
The elites, trained in business schools and managerial programs not to solve real problems but to maintain at any cost the systems of global capitalism, profit personally from the assault. They amass inconceivable sums of wealth while their victims, the underclasses around the globe, are thrust into increasing distress from global warming, poverty and societal breakdown. The apparatus of government, seized by this corporate cabal, is hostile to genuine change. It passes laws, as it did for Denton, Texas, afterresidents voted to outlaw fracking in their city, to overturn the ability of local communities to control their own resources. It persecutes dissidents, along with environmental and animal rights activists, who try to halt the insanity. The elites don’t work for us. They don’t work for the planet. They orchestrate the gaiacide. And they are well paid for it.
The Anthropocene Age—the age of humans, which has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species and the pollution of the soil, air and oceans—is upon us. The pace of destruction is accelerating. Climate scientists say that sea levels, for example, are rising three times faster than predicted and that the Arctic ice is vanishing at rates that were unforeseen. “If carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm,” writes Clive Hamilton in “Requiem for a Species,” “after which emissions fell to zero, the global temperature would continue to rise for at least another century.” We have already passed 400 parts per million, a figure not seen on earth for 3 million to 5 million years. We are on track to reach at least 550 ppm by 2100.
The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life—as Tainter chronicles in his study of collapsed civilizations—will disintegrate simultaneously. The infrastructures that distribute food, supply our energy, ensure our security, produce and transport our baffling array of products, and maintain law and order will crumble at once. It won’t be much fun: Soaring temperatures. Submerged island states and coastal cities. Mass migrations. Species extinction. Monster storms. Droughts. Famines. Declining crop yields. And a security and surveillance apparatus, along with militarized police, that will employ harsher and harsher methods to cope with the chaos.
We have to let go of our relentless positivism, our absurd mania for hope, and face the bleakness of reality before us. To resist means to acknowledge that we are living in a world already heavily damaged by global warming. It means refusing to participate in the destruction of the planet. It means noncooperation with authority. It means defying in every way possible consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It means adjusting our lifestyle, including what we eat, to thwart the forces bent upon our annihilation.
The animal agriculture industry has, in a staggering act of near total censorship, managed to stifle public discussion about the industry’s complicity in global warming. It is barely mentioned in climate summits. Yet livestock and their byproducts, as Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn point out in their book, “The Sustainability Secret,” and their documentary,“Cowspiracy,” account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide are rarely mentioned in climate talks, although those two greenhouse gases are, as the authors point out, respectively, 86 times and 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Cattle, worldwide, they write, produce 150 billion gallons of methane daily. And 65 percent of the nitrous oxide produced by human-related activities is caused by the animal agriculture industry. Water used in fracking, they write, ranges from 70 billion to 140 billion gallons annually. Animal agriculture water consumption, the book notes, ranges from 34 trillion to 76 trillion gallons annually. Raising animals for human consumption takes up to 45 percent of the planet’s land. Ninety-one percent of the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest and up to 80 percent of global rain forest loss are caused by clearing land for the grazing of livestock and growing feed crops for meat and dairy animals. As more and more rain forest disappears, the planet loses one of its primary means to safely sequester carbon dioxide. The animal agriculture industry is, as Andersen and Kuhn write, also a principal cause of species extinction and the creation of more than 95,000 square miles of nitrogen-flooded dead zones in the oceans.
A person who eats a vegan diet, they point out, a diet free of meat, dairy and eggs, saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life every day.
The animal agriculture industry has pushed through “Ag-Gag” laws in many states that criminalize protests, critiques of the industry, and whistleblowing attempts to bring the public’s attention to the staggering destruction wrought on the environment by the business of raising 70 billion land animals every year worldwide to be exploited and consumed by humans. And they have done so, I presume, because defying the animal agriculture industry is as easy as deciding not to put animal products—which have tremendous, scientifically proven health risks—into your mouth.
We have little time left. Those who are despoiling the earth do so for personal gain, believing they can use their privilege to escape the fate that will befall the human species. We may not be able to stop the assault. But we can refuse to abet it. The idols of power and greed, as the biblical prophets warned us, threaten to doom the human race.
Timothy Pachirat recounts in his book, “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” an Aug. 5, 2004, story in the Omaha World-Herald. An “old-timer” who lived five miles from the Omaha slaughterhouses recalled the wind carrying the stench of the almost six and a half million cattle, sheep and hogs killed each year in south Omaha. The sickly odor permeated buildings throughout the area.
“It was the smell of money,” the old-timer said. “It was the smell of money.”
“The Sustainability Secret,” a book quoted in this column, has an introduction by Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and was ghostwritten by Truthdig’s books editor, Eunice Wong.
|December 18, 2015||
The Bogus Climate Change Deal Reached in Paris Isn't Historic — It’s a Death Sentence
by James Wright, The Canary AlterNet
The climate change deal reached in Paris is a symbolic cop out, with no concrete plan to reduce emissions.
Branding the agreement as “landmark” and “historic” is true, but only because past action on climate change has been so desperately inadequate. The previous summit in Copenhagen in 2009 ended with no target for aggregate emission reduction, so hardly sets a promising precedent.
The agreement’s acclaimed centrepiece of preventing global average temperatures rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, is non- binding and depends upon ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs). These are voluntary promises made by individual governments to cut emissions, which they say they will act on from 2020 onwards. So while Francois Hollande hails the deal as “the first universal agreement on climate”, the reduction plans are unilateral, inessential and five years away.
Precedents and expectations impaired by the fossil fuel lobby – who fund climate denier groups, bankroll political campaigns and sponsor the summits themselves – are not important. Scientists are saying that in order to meet the 2C target we need to leave at least 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil in the ground. The Paris agreement does not draw a red line here, instead relying on non- binding INDCs. It does not restrict the fossil fuel industry pushing us past the point of no return.
While the Paris talks occurred, the governor of Washington called a state of emergency after severe storms, landslides and power cuts; Britain experienced record-breaking rain, turning towns into swimming pools; a so- called ‘200 year flood’ ravaged southern Norway. Climate change is now actually affecting first world countries, yet the summit still agreed to go back to sleep for the next five years.
However, the immediacy of the crisis is most drastically felt – not by the first world countries largely causing it – but by the developing countries who are contributing least. The former climate negotiator for Bolivia said
Extreme floods in southern India just killed hundreds and turned the great city of Chennai into a “small island”. Rich countries are profiteering through fossil fuels at the expense of poorer countries, so should provide appropriate compensation. Yet, the Paris agreement denies poorer countries this, with a clause stating “no future claim of compensation”. This liberates first world countries from the devastation they are causing, and will continue to cause, developing countries.
The unjust polarisation of the impact of climate change, from the rich perpetrators to the poor sufferers, is encapsulated by the fully privatised artificial island Eko Atlantic, which is under construction. This island city – off the coast of Nigeria – is being built to withstand the rising the sea levels, which wash away thousands of Nigerian houses regularly. While the Paris summit concludes with passivity for the next half a decade, measures like these promise climate apartheid. The pricey accommodation it offers will be too much for the Nigerian public, while the first office block is actually built for a British oil and gas company.
As the Paris agreement announces five years of inaction, the UK government has made it its legal duty to accelerate fossil fuel emissions, looking to “maximise economic recovery” through oil and gas. The international deal proclaims inertia, while the Conservatives put blue rocket boosters behind climate change.
The Paris agreement and the following media firestorm is all just hot air. The deal fails to hold industrialised nations to account for the devastating consequences for developing countries. It fails to include binding obligations for countries to meet the 2C target, which in itself would make large parts of the globe less inhabitable. It fails to act now, while Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that 7 million people die from pollution every year.
Meanwhile, Uruguay makes the whole transition look childishly easy as it moves to 95% renewables for electricity, after launching the initiative in only 2008. Costa Rica maintained 100% renewable energy for electricity for 92 consecutive days earlier this year. European powerhouse Germany is progressively moving to sustainability, with more than a quarter of its electricity coming from renewables. The time for action is now. The way is there, but the will is lacking in the leadership of most developed nations.
|December 12, 2015||
The U.S. — a primary driver of the climate crisis — still isn't on board with this historic climate agreement.
by Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins, AlterNet
France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.K., Germany and Mexico are among more than two dozen countries that have signed on to an agreement that one day may be recognized as the most significant climate initiative in history.
France’s 4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate puts regenerative food and farming front and center in the climate solutions conversation. This is why the Organic Consumers Association, its Mexico affiliate Via Organica, IFOAM Organics International and more than 50 other activist allies across the globe have signed on in support of the Initiative.
Unfortunately, the U.S. government is not yet on board with the plan, even though our country’s toxic, fossil fuel-based, heavily subsidized (with taxpayer money), degenerative industrial agriculture system is a primary driver of global warming.
Global Problem, Global Solution
Leaders from 190 countries convened in Paris on November 30 for the 14-day COP21 Paris Climate Conference. This year, for the first time in over 20 years of United Nations climate negotiations, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) set out to achieve something concrete: “a legally binding and universal agreement to make sure the Earth doesn’t get warmer than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”
To meet that goal, the French government launched the 4/1000 Initiative which, distilled to simplest terms, says this: If, on a global scale, we increase the soil carbon content of the soil by .04 percent each year for the next 25 years, we can draw down a critical mass of excess carbon from the atmosphere and begin to reverse global warming.
Is the French initiative realistic? Yes, even by conservative estimates.
Industrial, degenerative farming practices, which include tilling, deforestation, wetlands destruction and the use of massive amounts of synthetic and toxic fertilizers and pesticides, have stripped 136 billion tons of carbon out of the soil and sent it up into the atmosphere. Using the French government’s modest estimates, we can transfer, via enhanced plant photosynthesis, 150 billion tons of this carbon back into the soil in the next 25 years.
How do we achieve those numbers? All we have to do is help just 10 percent of the world’s farmers and ranchers adopt regenerative organic agriculture, holistic grazing and land management practices — and by help, we mean direct a portion of the billions of dollars earmarked for climate solution projects to farmers who regenerate the world’s soils.
That’s a game changer—but only if enough players get in the game.
The Plan Is Here
According to a December 1 press release from the French agriculture minister’s office: This initiative intends to show that a small increase of 4/1000 per year of the soil carbon stock (agricultural soils, notably grasslands and pastures, and forest soils) is a major leverage in order to improve soil fertility, resilience of farmers and contribute to the long-term objective of keeping the global average temperature increase below 2 degrees.
France’s agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, said that Initiative partners, which so far include the UN, developed and developing states, international organizations, private foundations, international funds, NGOs, consumer, and farmers' organizations, have committed to implementing appropriate soil management practices, and to recognizing the importance of soil health for the transition toward productive, highly resilient agriculture.
Le Foll told the French media that the 4/1000 has become a global initiative, but it’s just the beginning: "We need to keep going and mobilize even more stakeholders in a transition to achieve both food security and climate mitigation thanks to agriculture.”
Will the U.S. become one of those stakeholders? Or will our leaders side with the Monsantos and Bill Gates of the world, and continue to promote an agricultural system that directly and indirectly contributes 50 percent (or more) of the greenhouse gas emissions that are burning up the planet? A system that has failed to feed the world, failed to reduce the use of toxic poisons, failed to bring prosperity to the world’s small farmers, failed to produce healthy, nutritious food—a system whose successes can only be counted in terms of gross profits, shareholder value and political clout.
Whatever It Takes
President Obama, who attended COP21, hasn’t been shy about linking global warming to national security. The President recently told PoliticPro:
“If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is, and sea-levels rising as fast as they are and weather patterns keep shifting in unexpected ways, then before long we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic and military resources not to growing opportunity for our people, but to adapting to the various consequences of a changing planet. This is an economic and security imperative that we have to tackle now.”
If focusing on the economy and national security is what it takes to motivate Obama to tackle climate change, we’re all for it. After all, global warming threatens to displace millions of people, many of who already are in a struggle just to survive.
We’re also all for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which is why we support the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030. Let’s transition from an extractive, fossil fuel-intensive energy system to a clean, renewable alternative. That transition should be a vital part of any global strategy to mitigate climate change.
But reducing emissions solves only half of the problem. We also have to draw down the billions of tons of CO2 currently heating up the atmosphere. Unless we address the climate change elephant in the room — Big Ag — we will fail to solve the climate crisis.
Scientists estimate the world’s soils have lost 50-70% of their carbon stocks and fertility. Modern chemical-intensive, factory-farm, GMO-based industrial agriculture is largely responsible for that loss. Left unchecked, Monsanto and corporate aqribusiness will continue to abuse farm animals, pollute our bodies and eventually take the whole planet down with them.
The French initiative is the most direct, most practical, and only shovel-ready plan for reversing climate change.
We don’t have time to wait for expensive, unproven techno-fixes, some of which haven’t even made it to the prototype stage and many of which could come with unintended consequences. We don’t need a corporate-focused “Climate-Smart Agriculture” scheme that promotes business as usual. And we definitely shouldn’t put our faith in Monsanto’s “carbon-neutral” but “poison-positive” plan.
We need to pressure President Obama to pledge U.S. support for France’s 4/1000 Initiative, now. If we’re going to subsidize any form of agriculture, it should be the regenerative, climate-friendly, healthy, farmer-friendly type.Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.
|December 22, 2015||
The Amazing Power of a Plant from the Amazon—and the Respect It Demands
by Gabor Mate, Globe and Mail, AlterNet
As a Western-trained doctor, I have long been aware of modern medicine’s limitations in handling chronic conditions of mind and body. For all our achievements, there are ailments whose ravages we physicians can at best alleviate. In our narrow pursuit of cure, we fail to comprehend the essence of healing.
Thus the popularity of ayahuasca, the Amazonian plant medicine that many Westerners seek out for the healing of physical illness or mental anguish or for a sense of meaning amid the growing alienation in our culture.
The recent killing by a Canadian during an ayahuasca ceremony at a Peruvian shamanic centre brought unwelcome but perhaps necessary attention to this mysterious brew.A holistic understanding informs many aboriginal wisdom teachings. Like all plant-based indigenous practices around the world, the use of ayahuasca arises from a tradition where mind and body are seen as inseparable.
A woman I know was completely immobilized by an often-fatal autoimmune condition. Two years ago, she began to work with ayahuasca. She now moves about independently and with self-reliant authority.
Another, having made more than a dozen suicide attempts, is today animated by energy and hope.
I have witnessed people overcome addiction to substances, sexual compulsion and other self-harming behaviours. Some have found liberation from chronic shame or the mental fog of depression or anxiety.
The plant is not a drug in the Western sense of a compound that attacks pathogens or obliterates pathological tissue. Nor is it a chemical taken chronically to alter the biology of a diseased nervous system. And it is far from being a recreational psychedelic ingested for escapist purposes.
In its proper ceremonial setting, under compassionate and experienced guidance, the plant – or, as tradition has it, the spirit of the plant – puts people in touch with their repressed pain and trauma, the very factors that drive all dysfunctional mind states. Consciously experiencing our primal pain loosens its hold on us. Thus ayahuasca may achieve in a few sittings what many years of psychotherapy can only aspire to do. People can re-experience long-lost inner qualities such as wholeness, trust, love and a sense of possibility. They quite literally remember themselves.
The unity of mind and body, well-documented by current scientific research, means that such experiential transformation can powerfully affect the hormonal apparatus, the nervous and immune systems and organs such as the brain, the gut and the heart. Hence ayahuasca’s potential healing capacity.
It is not all good news. Ayahuasca can be exploited for financial gain by unscrupulous practitioners or even for the sexual gratification of healers preying on vulnerable clients, most often young women. Such cases are notorious in the ayahuasca world.
Nor is the plant a panacea. Nothing works for everyone. Its very power to penetrate the psyche can awaken deeply repressed hostility and rage. Although ayahuasca-related violence is exceedingly rare – almost unheard of – something like that may have occurred in the recent incident in Peru.
All the more reason, then, to approach ayahuasca with caution, profound respect and only in the right context.
Gabor Mate is a Canadian physician, speaker and author of four books. For more information, visit DrGaborMate.com.
|December 24, 2015||
Why We're Going to Have to Start Sucking Pollution Out of the Air to Save the Climate
by Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, AlterNet
The EU has admitted it has not yet looked into the polices needed to hold global warming to 1.5C, as agreed at the landmark Paris agreement, and will instead ask a UN climate science panel for advice involving ‘negative emissions’ technology.
The bloc’s negotiators had gone to Paris with a mandate for a 2C target but were forced to accommodate more ambitious demands from “the most exposed countries,” the bloc’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Cañete, said.
Several small island states could be swallowed by rising seas if the planet warms by 2C, scientists believe.
“For sure, 1.5C is a trajectory of full decarbonisation and will require accelerated strategies and pathways,” Cañete told a Brussels press conference. “About negative emissions, the IPCC [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] will say when and how.”
Because the emissions cuts pledged in Paris chart a journey to a world warmed between 2.7-3C, the only way many climate scientists can envisage saving smaller island states is with ‘negative emissions’ technology that sucks carbon out of the air, in the second part of this century.
Negative emissions can refer to geoengineering but usually means the mass deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies which bury CO2 in underground fissures. These would be fixed to power plants powered by ‘carbon neutral’ bioenergy, which removes carbon from the air as it grows. More carbon would be saved than re-released into the atmosphere, the theory goes, so creating net zero emissions.
“In the absence of negative emissions, staying below the 2C commitment demands levels of reductions in emissions far beyond anything discussed during the Paris negotiations,” Anderson said.
Cañete said that Europe would not raise its pledge for a 40% emissions cut by 2030, before a five-yearly review process flagged in the Paris agreement begins. The EU hopes this process will start ratcheting up green commitments in 2023, although the bloc is counting on an IPCC snapshot of warming trends five years before that.
“In 2018, there will be a stock take,” Cañete said. “Then in 2020 we can come along with more ambition. It will be for the next commission to lead this process.”
“We will need additional legislation if we have more commitment, that is for sure,” the Spanish commissioner added. But developing world countries will note his reminder that when the EU set out its climate pledge, “we said that if we go further, we will be using international carbon credits.”
For the moment, Cañete will be focused on new legislation to oversee the bloc’s promises on CO2 reductions and clean energy progress, themselves a touchy subject with EU states such as Poland.
Cañete also fired a warning shot to the International Council on Civil Aviation (Icao) where Europe was “concerned at the slow pace of negotiations” on measures to cut airlines’ emissions.
Without action in 2016, the EU would have to take a decision on reimposing carbon fees on international airlines, Cañete added. These were frozen in 2012 to allow diplomats more time to agree on alternative market-based measures.
The EU’s most senior climate official declared himself more sanguine about the durability of the global climate compact in the US. “Even under a Republican administration, if India, China, Brazil stay on board, the US will not be able to stay outside the Paris agreement,” he said.
Arthur Neslen is the Europe environment correspondent at the Guardian. He has previously worked for the BBC, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and EurActiv, where his journalism won environmental awards. He has written two books about Israeli and Palestinian identity.
|December 15, 2015||
Leading the Way: Here Are 3 of World's Most Sustainable Communities
by YES! Magazine , AlterNet
Explore three communities across the world that are leading the way in clean energy.
These towns aren’t waiting for world leaders to take charge on climate change.
Instead, they are doing what they can, right now, to transition away from fossil fuels and work toward an environmentally sustainable future.
This is an episode of “In the World,” an original series by Fusion that features people, places around the world on the cutting edge of the green energy movement.
|December 21, 2015||
On Thin Ice: Big Northern Lakes Are Being Rapidly Transformed
by Cheryl Katz, Yale Environment 360, AlterNet
For more than 25 million years, Lake Baikal has cut an immense arc from southern Siberia to the Mongolian border. The length of Florida and nearly the depth of the Grand Canyon, Baikal is the deepest, largest in volume, and most ancient freshwater lake in the world, holding one-fifth of the planet’s above-ground drinking supply. It’s a Noah’s Ark of biodiversity, home to myriad species found nowhere else on earth. It’s also changing
Baikal’s surface waters are warming at an accelerating pace, rising at least 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over the past quarter century — twice as fast as global air temperatures, new research shows. The ice season, which typically covered the lake from January through May, has been shortened by nearly three weeks since the mid-1800s, and the ice has thinned nearly 5 inches since 1949. By the end of the century, scientists say that Baikal could be ice-free a month or more longer than today.
More than three in four large lakes above the 40th parallel north, roughly the latitude of New York City and Madrid, have undergone summer surface temperature increases of 2.7 F or higher from 1985 to 2009, a new international research collaboration finds. Some lake temperatures rose more than twice that amount. Nearly all have experienced retreating winter ice, a loss that can interfere with internal circulation, reduce oxygen, and help create fertile breeding grounds for harmful algae. These changes, which appear to be accelerating, have potentially profound consequences for water supply, food, and aquatic life.
Among the fastest-changing is Lake Superior, the coldest and northernmost of the Great Lakes. As large as Austria, Superior plunges 1,330 feet deep and is the world’s third-largest lake by volume, holding 11 percent of the planet’s surface water supply. Summer water temperatures have soared by 6.3 Fsince 1906, when a hydropower plant at the lake’s outlet began taking daily measurements. Most of the heat gain has come in the past 30 years, during which “there’s been a significant trend toward lower ice,” said Jay Austin, a physical oceanographer at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. Between 1973 and 2010, Lake Superior’s ice cover shrank by nearly 80 percent.
Warmer winters also tamp down summer circulation in northern lakes. When surface temperatures are near freezing, the cold, dense top layer sinks, mixing oxygen down and nutrients up, an annual event called “turnover.” As the lake surface heats, it “stratifies” into distinct layers that keep oxygen from mixing into the cooler water below, essentially suffocating the depths. The earlier that warming begins, the longer the stratified period, and the larger the hypoxic, or oxygen-depleted, zone where few creatures can live.
So gigantic they can generate weather — like lake-effect snow around the Great Lakes, or Baikal’s relatively balmy microclimate in the midst of Siberia — the earth’s large lakes are not easily perturbed. But once a lake has begun to change, the process could take centuries to stop.
Cheryl Katz is a science writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A former staff reporter for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register, she is now a freelancer specializing in stories about environmental issues and climate change. Her articles have appeared in Scientific American, Environmental Health News, and The Daily Climate, among other publications. Previously for e360, Katz reported on Iceland's renewable energy prospects and the emerging field of energy-scavenging technology.
|December 23, 2015||
6 Big Takeaways From the Paris Climate Agreement
by Jeff Hayward, GreenBiz, AlterNet
After spending two uber-intense weeks in Paris as part of the Rainforest Alliance delegation to the COP21 U.N. climate summit, it was amazing to see how governments, business and civil society came together to forge a historic climate agreement.
It’s far from perfect. There are gaps: The emissions targets aren’t yet ambitious enough, and specific means for strengthening them and financing their implementation are challenges for a future day. But the agreement clearly signals a global pivot to a low-carbon world. Here are six takeaways from Paris that explain why:
1. This time, it’s unanimous
In past United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreements, only developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions. This time, all 196 countries — north and south, large and small emitters alike — have agreed. All countries have different but critical contributions to make. Emerging economies have agreed to a greater share of the responsibility. Nearly all developing and developed countries already have submitted plans for their "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs) to reducing emissions and addressing threats from climate change. About 75 of them include some form of forest protection, especially in tropical countries.
2. Aiming higher (or lower)
Before the Paris climate talks, there was much debate about whether limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius was even realistic. But the Paris Agreement went even further and aimed for a limit of 1.5 degrees. That’s a safer target for avoiding the most dangerous, disruptive and costly climate impacts.
3. Yes, it is legally binding
It’s widely accepted that this is an agreement with legal force, as the 2011 COP17 decision in Durban said it must be. It’s not any less binding than a "treaty"; technically it is a treaty. The Obama administration may downplay that, calling it an "executive agreement" because it doesn’t need to be ratified by the Senate. In fact, many international treaties with the force of law for the U.S. were signed by the president without going to the Senate. Unlike the previous climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, this one won’t be ignored by signatories on the grounds it isn’t ratified.
All 196 countries are obligated to review their emissions reduction every five years, mandating a framework for ramping up goals over time. New ways of reporting and monitoring each country’s progress will provide transparency and help set up a race to the top. Each country still must determine and pass the domestic laws needed to enforce their climate commitments. But the Paris Agreement has given them more confidence and political will to do so.
4. Boardrooms on board
The private sector was more engaged in this process than ever before, with thousands of businesses, investors and trade coalitions involved over the past year. We have climate pledges from 5,000 diverse global companies representing virtually every industrial sector and over 90 countries. They include signatories to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, the CDP/We Mean Business Coalition, the World Economic Form CEOs group, the B Team and many others. All together, companies pledging climate action represent combined annual revenue over $38 trillion — about half of global GDP — and the majority of the world’s market capitalization. Already, the global market for low-carbon goods and services is estimated at $5.5 trillion per year. The agreement should increase investor confidence and help the low-carbon share of the global economy grow.
At the U.N. climate talks, Unilever and other big businesses announced plans to stabilize forest cover by 2030 and restore forest cover to 1990 levels by 2050. Hundreds of major companies are committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, including those conducting about 90 percent of the global palm oil trade. Their support helped cement a prominent place for forest conservation in the Paris Agreement.
5. Forests’ role recognized
Forestry, agriculture and other land use account for nearly a quarter of global emissions, and are a key piece of the climate puzzle. Keeping forests standing has financial value for the carbon they sequester and the other ecosystem services they provide.
The Paris Agreement recognizes this, and devoted a whole section (Article 5) (PDF) to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), sustainable forest management, forest conservation and reforestation. That signals the importance of forests to fighting climate change, and will help strengthen financial mechanisms that provide payments for effective forest conservation.
Meanwhile, negotiators largely punted on reducing emissions from farming and livestock. Even though they’re major emitters, the Paris Agreement doesn’t mention them except in relation to food security. But climate action plans should include revolutionizing food production systems for the billions living at or below the poverty level, so farmers can meet rising food demand and lower their emissions, increasing their yields and incomes on the land they’re working, without clearing more forests.
6. Minding the emissions gap
For all its ambition, there are many other things the agreement does not address, and no guarantees about how we’ll tackle the hard part of actually fulfilling it.
For example, there’s no legally binding obligation for wealthy countries to fulfill their pledges of $100 billion annually starting in 2020 to help developing countries combat and adapt to climate change. But there were some voluntary funding announcements, such as Germany, Norway and the U.K. pledging $5 billion over the next five years to reduce emissions from tropical deforestation.
The agreement doesn’t put a price on carbon. It sets aspirational goals for emissions reduction that national governments will have to plan for and report on. But whether they do it through carbon taxes or fees or trading schemes or something else, and how fast they progress, remains to be seen — it will depend upon the steps of individual countries.
The difference between what the Paris Agreement and INDCs require countries to do, versus what they need to do to keep warming to 1.5 degrees, is called the "emissions gap." It remains wide, and it will take many agreements, and action on many levels — regional, national, subnational, municipal, markets, technology, civil society — to close it.
But Paris clearly marks a turning point, the beginning of a transformation of the previous business-as-usual trajectory towards a sustainable global economy, which governments and businesses will pursue together. We’ll be able to recognize its success by the signs of progress we see in the years ahead.
When the transition to decarbonized energy sources is accelerating; when governments, markets and businesses put a price on carbon pollution and account for it in their books; when land use is sustainable and forests and other ecosystems are restored and protected, then the emissions gap will be bridged and the agreement’s targets will be within reach. That’s when we’ll know it worked. With companies that control half of global GDP and counting already moving towards a low-carbon future, that day could be coming fast.
Jeff Hayward, Rainforest Alliance, Vice President, Climate, is at the climate talks in Paris as part of the Rainforest Alliance COP21 delegation.
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