Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website


Volume 14 Issue 7 March 2016

Theme for this month

My Global Community

My Global Community is about the protection of all life and establishing women rights being equal to men rights in society here and abroad.


SoulLife God
and by
Taki: producer and editor
Yukie: speech, editor and music

Animated movie for the theme:
mp4 (32.6 MB) video My Global Community

International Women's Day (IWD)
International Women's Day (IWD) has been celebrated on March 8 every year. The focus of the celebrations is of respect, appreciation, and love towards women and to women's economic, political, and social achievements. In this Newsletter, Global Community shows its appreciation to the struggle of women worldwide for their human rights.

Images of what it means to be a woman in our global society.

To be a woman (pdf format).
To be a woman (Power Point format).

Images, text and speeches in the animation.

My Global Community front page.

Politics and Justice without borders.

Peoples of all places, cultures and religions, and all other life forms on our planet are members of the Global Community.

Global Community framework for Earth governance.

I am SoulLife God. We the Peoples of the Global Community are reaffirming faith in the equal rights of men and women.

Human rights can be changed depending on new circumstances and are rather flexible and adaptive, and they can evolve.

Marriage should be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

Cultural and religious differences cannot be a reason or an excuse or a pretext for not respecting human rights. Diversity enriches us if it respects the dignity of each individual, and if it takes account of human rights.

(enlargement SoulLife God )

Life on Earth is being threatened with extinction.

Global life-support systems are no longer capable of supporting all life species. The effects that human activities have had on our planet have become a major concern.

Our world is facing crises of fresh water, clean air, lack of food, deforestation, global ocean health, and land lost by climate change, wars and development. We need leadership in the absolute protection of all our natural resources, in peril because of what we do and what that does to our planet.

While carbon emissions from fossil fuels pollute the air, land and our global ocean, we are facing the global warming crisis, and climate change.

But all these crises are due to our ways of doing business and trade, and of consuming resources. And that is threatening the security of all life on our planet.

(enlargement SoulLife God  )

Artwork by Germain Dufour
February 2016

Global Community stands against Shariah Muslim law

ISIS is an ideology now growing everywhere in the world. From their perspective, killing other people is a logical and religious solution. The Islamist group is implementing Sharia Law, rooted in eighth century Islam, to establish a society that mirrors the region's ancient past. This group is known for killing dozens of people at a time and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts. These modern day Islamist extremists use modern tools like social media to promote reactionary politics and religious fundamentalism. These Islamists are a real threat to the world and especially to women. The following article explains the reality of Shariah Muslim law.

Germain Dufour

Joys of Muslim Women

By Nonie Darwish (written by a woman born in Egypt as a Muslim)

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

John Scales Avery, Helen Camakaris, Finian Cunningham, Larry Elliott, Philip Giraldi, Drew Hansen, Dahr Jamail, Michael Klare, Yves Arsène Kouakou, Jennifer Krill, John Light, Reynard Loki, Torben Lonne, Bobby Magill, Bill McKibben, Celito Medeiros, Dr Shalu Nigam, Rudy Panko, Beyond Pesticides, Dr Gideon Polya, Assaad W. Razzouk, Cindy Shogan, Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava

John Scales Avery, The Urgent Need For Complete Abolition Of Nuclear Weapons The Urgent Need For Complete Abolition Of Nuclear Weapons
Helen Camakaris, Paradise Lost: How the Climate Catastrophe May Be Tied to a Fatal Flaw in Human Evolution Paradise Lost: How the Climate Catastrophe May Be Tied to a Fatal Flaw in Human Evolution
Finian Cunningham, EU Refugee Crisis: Stop Illegal Wars, Don’t Blame The Victims EU Refugee Crisis: Stop Illegal Wars, Don’t Blame The Victims
Larry Elliott, Climate Change Disaster Is Biggest Threat to Global Economy in 2016, Say Experts Climate Change Disaster Is Biggest Threat to Global Economy in 2016, Say Experts
Philip Giraldi, The Distortion of Russia The Distortion of Russia
Drew Hansen, Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050
Dahr Jamail, Scientists warn that we are entering uncharted territory when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice. Scientists warn that we are entering uncharted territory when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.
Michael Klare, There Will Be Chaos: Big Oil's Collapse and the Birth of a New World Order There Will Be Chaos: Big Oil's Collapse and the Birth of a New World Order
Jennifer Krill, Methane Madness: Porter Ranch Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg Exposing Catastrophic Impacts of Natural Gas Methane Madness: Porter Ranch Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg Exposing Catastrophic Impacts of Natural Gas
John Light, The New Keystone Lawsuit Is a Perfect Example of Why Environmentalists Are Wary of Obama's Secretive Trade Deals The New Keystone Lawsuit Is a Perfect Example of Why Environmentalists Are Wary of Obama's Secretive Trade Deals
Reynard Loki, Josh Fox: What We Have to Do to Prevent Climate Apocalypse Josh Fox: What We Have to Do to Prevent Climate Apocalypse
Torben Lonne, Incredible Infographic Reveals 50 Fascinating Facts About the Ocean Incredible Infographic Reveals 50 Fascinating Facts About the Ocean
Bobby Magill, All Creatures Great and Small: Why Protecting Animals Is Key to Protecting the Climate All Creatures Great and Small: Why Protecting Animals Is Key to Protecting the Climate
Bill McKibben, Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World
Celito Medeiros, Quelle est l'origine des Guerres? Qual a origem das Guerras? What is the origin of wars? ¿Cuál es el origen de las guerras? Quelle est l'origine des Guerres? Qual a origem das Guerras? What is the origin of wars? ¿Cuál es el origen de las guerras?
Dr Shalu Nigam, The Privileges Of Being A Hindu, Upper Caste And Elite Class, Male In India The Privileges Of Being A Hindu, Upper Caste And Elite Class, Male In India
Rudy Panko, Goodbye Petrodollar: Russia Accepts Yuan, Is Now China's Biggest Oil Partner Goodbye Petrodollar: Russia Accepts Yuan, Is Now China's Biggest Oil Partner
Beyond Pesticides, Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S. Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S.
Dr Gideon Polya, Free University Education Via Accredited Remote Learning – All Education Should Be Free For All Free University Education Via Accredited Remote Learning – All Education Should Be Free For All
Assaad W. Razzouk, 5 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be the Year the Fossil Fuel Era Enters Terminal Decline 5 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be the Year the Fossil Fuel Era Enters Terminal Decline
Cindy Shogan, I Heart the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Here’s Why You Should Too I Heart the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Here’s Why You Should Too
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, Women Decide To Worship In Shani Shingnapur Temple:An Effort For Religious Equality Women Decide To Worship In Shani Shingnapur Temple:An Effort For Religious Equality


Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  January 7, 2016
The Distortion of Russia

by Philip Giraldi, Information Clearing House

With relations between Washington and Moscow at a low ebb, can simply talking to Russians provide hope that there might still be room for cooperation?

I recently returned from spending a few days in Moscow, speaking at a conference hosted by RT International, Russia’s global television news service. One of the few major countries I have never visited, Russia proved to be quite a pleasant surprise. Moscow was modern, clean and far removed from its gray socialist roots, a very “European” city in every sense. As my wife and I were driven into the city from the airport, the road turned on a bend in the Moscow River and suddenly the Kremlin walls, surmounted by the golden domes of the churches within appeared bathed in late afternoon sunlight. It was a once in a lifetime vision combining place, time and context that can be unforgettable, like the first time one recalls Gibbon’s words while looking out over the Roman Forum.

Admittedly, we conference attendees were being entertained in VIP style, to include a fabulous gala dinner with entertainment provided by the Russian Army Chorus and an opera singer performing pieces from Borodin’s Polovtsian dancers. Mikhail Gorbachev and Paata Shevardnadze were in attendance and President Vladimir Putin was a surprise speaker. The sponsors worked hard to create a good impression for the speakers, who came from twelve countries, and in that they were eminently successful as their hospitality was exceptional.

Did we know we were being manipulated? Of course, but we were careful not to regurgitate propaganda. On my panel, “Information, Messages, Politics: the Shape-Shifting Powers of Today’s World,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke by video link from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

I argued that security and privacy could indeed coexist in most countries but that it would require governments to reign in the extralegal powers that they have accumulated over the past fifteen years in their respective “wars on terror” and the creation of a clearly defined set of rules for police intervention into one’s privacy. Namely, one must go back to the old practice in many countries requiring convincing a judge to issue a warrant or the equivalent to undertake a clearly defined limited action based on probable cause. And, I added, the judge should work in consultation with something like an ombudsman, a non-government adviser, whose sole responsibility would be to make the case for not violating someone’s civil liberties. I concluded pessimistically that I see no chance of any American president doing the right thing, noting that President Barack Obama had basically rejected reasonable corrections on surveillance proposed during the past year.

I should perhaps unnecessarily point out that no speaker at the conference was coached in any way to adhere to a line, while many of the enduring insights derived from the experience were obtained from mixing with the Russian people. That was relatively easy to do because, even though my Russian is elementary, Russians have for some time been learning English in their schools from the first grade on up and are, unlike Americans, very well informed on what is going on in the world.

In my previous life I encountered many Russians overseas and so was prepared to note yet again that they are by and large like what most Americans believe Americans to be—hard working, friendly and somewhat chatty. Like nearly everyone else on this planet, the talk of Russians turns quickly to their children, schools, where they live and what kind of lives they want to have. They are quick to produce photos of their pet dogs and cats. They are also increasingly religious, with the Russian Orthodox church playing a leading role in the state. Christmas lights were on display everywhere, churches destroyed by Stalin are being rebuilt and there was even a bustling Christmas Market in Red Square.

But there was also a dark side that kept surfacing. Both ordinary Russians and those who are journalists or teachers kept coming around to the same issue: why does the United States hate Russians so much and why does the American press seemingly have nothing good to say about them? They were questions I could not answer in any coherent way. I observed somewhat defensively that Russia under Vladimir Putin had become more authoritarian, that the media has lost much of its freedom and that the old Yeltsin style gross systematic corruption has reportedly been replaced by a newer, more subtle cronyism version of something similar. And I mentioned both Crimea and Ukraine as sometimes mishandled in the government’s undeniable agitprop while also conceding that the Russian case was legitimate on many levels. I expressed my own view that the crisis had been engineered by Washington in the first place, seeking to bring about regime change in Kiev. Concerning RT International itself, I mentioned to several of its spokesmen and reporters that its coverage was frequently unreliable on subjects that are close to home as it was skewed to adhere to the government line. They did not disagree with me.

But somehow none of the back and forth seemed to answer the question and in retrospect I don’t think I have a good response. President Vladimir Putin has numerous critics inside Russia but he remains wildly popular and is viewed as a genuine nationalist of the old school, meaning that for most citizens he is perceived as behaving in terms of Russia’s actual interests. That has made him an appealing figure on the world stage. A recent opinion poll in the United Kingdom revealed that four out of five Britons would vote for Putin rather than their own Prime Minister David Cameron if given the choice. I wonder how a similar poll would play out in the U.S. as the Obama Administration does little to inspire, believing as it does in globalism rather than nationalism. Nor does it admit to many genuine national interests in foreign policy instead choosing to encourage tokenism combined with a bizarre desire for constant agitation to create new democracies.

As for the negativity regarding Russia, to be sure there are many older Americans entrenched in the media and government as well as in the plentitude of think tanks who will always regard Russia as the enemy. And then there are the more cunning types who always need the threat of an enemy to keep their well-paid jobs in the government itself and also within the punditry, both of which rely on the health and well-being of the military-industrial-congressional complex. And there will always be reflexive jingoists like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

But all that hardly explains why there appears to be little understanding in the media and inside the Beltway that a good relationship with Russia is indispensable, and not only because Moscow has the power to incinerate the United States if it is ever backed into a corner and motivated to do so. Russia has proven to be a good partner in Syria where it negotiated and carried out Damascus’s elimination of its chemical weapons in early 2014. It is also the driving force behind current negotiations to end the conflict completely. It has consistently been a reliable ally against terrorism, in recognition of its own vulnerability to ISIS and other Islamic militants. What Russia’s elected leaders do inside their own country should be largely irrelevant to America’s interests, but somehow the cart has been put before the horse, a practice not uncommon in the U.S. media.

Other speakers at the conference were as dismayed as I was by the negativity towards Russia and also provided some additional insights into why Americans just don’t get it. One European speaker joked that U.S.A. could stand for United States of Amnesia in that developments elsewhere in the world are subjected to a superficial 24-hour news cycle before being completely forgotten. Professor Peter Kuznick of American University observed that students in the U.S. rank low on science and math scores, which makes the news, but the area in which their scores are actually lowest is history. He quizzed a class of top students on the Second World War and asked how many Americans died in the conflict. The response was 90,000, which is nearly 300,000 short of the true number. How many Russians? The answer was about 100,000, which is 27,900,000 short. Not knowing something about that number means not understanding what motivates Russia. Kuznick observed that roughly 3,000 Americans died on 9/11. To use the numbers of 9/11 as a basis for appreciating the impact of the Russian war deaths would require the U.S. to experience a 9/11 attack every day for the next 24 years.

But there maybe is hope. I returned to Washington to read a short New York Times article by Professor Jeffrey Sommers of the University of Wisconsin:

The Syrian crisis presents an opportunity for a real ‘reset’ with U.S.-Russia relations. Policy and opinion makers in both countries poorly understand each other… maintaining progress can only advance in a stable world, not through upending states from Egypt, Iraq, Libya to Syria, while hoping democracy follows… The architect of U.S. Cold War policy, George Kennan, warned at the end of his life, in 1998, that President Clinton’s policy of advancing NATO east risked war… It’s clear Putin never intended to seize Ukraine, or even the Donbass. Instead, Putin’s actions signaled that the status quo over NATO’s forward movement must change. The Donbass was his leverage. Putin is a tough nationalist, but rather than fueling the fire of Russian revanchism, Putin is actually the one carefully dousing those flames. Putin wants partnership with the West, but is not willing to be its supplicant… The United States and Russia will not reconcile their worldviews soon. Yet they can pursue common objectives in the Syrian-ISIS crisis that over time could expedite resolution of that challenge.

One does not have to love Mother Russia or Vladimir Putin to appreciate that it is in America’s interest to develop a cooperative relationship based on shared interests. Ukraine, which is every bit as corrupt as Russia if not more so, is not a vital U.S. interest while working with Russia is. The regime change in Ukraine, which was engineered by the United States, created the current crisis, not Putin. Putin several times asked for dialogue, asking only that Washington show some respect to Moscow, a reasonable plea. This year, he has stated very clearly that his country wants to work with the United States. It is an offer that should not and cannot be refused by anyone who genuinely cares for the United States of America and the American people.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

  Read The Distortion of Russia
 January 28, 2016
EU Refugee Crisis: Stop Illegal Wars, Don’t Blame The Victims

by Finian Cunningham, Information Clearing House

 Europe is on a dangerous, slippery slope of increasing xenophobia and racism engendered by the influx of refugees. Denmark’s new confiscation law is a sign of the brooding, baleful climate.

But the real answer to the problem is dealing with Europe’s support for Washington’s criminal wars.

In other words, citizens of Europe should be addressing the root cause of the problem, not reacting to the symptoms. We should be shaming the villains, not blaming the victims.

We should be demanding legal sanctions and prosecution of government leaders over what are gross violations of international law.

European governments stand accused of war crimes, yet we allow them to get away with mass murder. Then when we incur secondary problems such as the massive displacement of refugees from wars and conflicts – that our governments have fomented – we illogically and cravenly focus on blaming the victims of our governments’ criminality.

Part of the public shaming of the villains would involve holding those European members of the US-led NATO military alliance accountable to international law. Individual government and military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against peace. The inculpating evidence is out there. The fact that European governments have waged dubious overseas wars – with impunity – is the real shame and root of the problem.

Wars in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, as well as drone assassinations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, plus covert military operations in Mali, Niger and Ivory Coast have all involved complicity of European member states. Britain and France in particular have been most prominent in carrying out US-led NATO military interventions, both overt and covert, as in Libya and Syria, respectively.

The countless millions of people displaced across Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa are a direct result of European militarism in conjunction with that of Washington. Even the French intervention in Mali and Central Africa Republic are questionable under international law. Both were launched without United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Over the past five years, Libya perhaps represents the most egregious case of illegal war conducted by NATO and its European members, including Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy in addition to Britain and France. Along with the US, these countries violated a UN mandate to bomb Africa’s most prosperous and stable country into a bloody shambles. Thousands of civilians were killed in the seven-month US-EU blitzkrieg, culminating in the brutal murder of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya was ransacked into a failed state, over-run by illegally armed extremist groups, and it was European governments who authored the descent into barbarism. Where are the calls for justice for these atrocious crimes in so-called civilized, law-abiding, Nobel-prize-winning Europe?

Yet last week, American and European military chiefs were calling for even more military intervention in Libya and Syria. This declaration of military intervention – regardless of its stated purpose of “fighting terrorism” – is in itself an act of illegal aggression under international law; according to respected war crimes lawyer Christopher Black, speaking to this author. So, where was the public outrage and calls for prosecution over this flagrant bout of more criminality by our European governments and their American ally?

Even where countries have not been directly hit by NATO’s military, such as Eritrea, Sudan and Cameroon, refugees coming from such places are doing so largely because of the lawless gateway-to-Europe that Libya was turned into by NATO’s destruction.

This week we see the Danish parliament voting into law measures which allow its police to confiscate assets of asylum-seekers worth more than $1,400. The move has caused international controversy out of concern that the Danish authorities are infringing on human rights.

The Danish law is only one in a litany of grim signs that Europe is becoming an increasingly hostile place towards refugees. Countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Austria are closing their borders. Even formerly more open Germany and Sweden are restricting the intake of refugees and sending many back to where they came from.

On one hand, it is understandable that residents in different countries are alarmed by the surge in the numbers of foreign nationals. Especially when the foreigners are visibly different in color, dress and religious practice. Let’s cut to the chase. Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East are of concern for many Europeans.

The spate of sex assaults in German and Swedish cities allegedly carried out by “Arab-looking young men” has fueled a popular backlash. But there is a danger of hysterical over-reaction that feeds political interests of racist groups. A French magazine cartoon depicting the little Syrian boy who died from drowning as a grown-up sex attacker is a despicably irresponsible incitement.

So too is tarring refugees as “terrorist sympathizers”. Following the jihadist terror attacks in Paris on November 13, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate assaults reported in Britain and France. The Paris terrorists may have infiltrated with the droves of Syrian refugees into Europe. But surely the real focus should be on why and how these jihadists went to Syria in the first place. And why are millions of people being displaced from that country.

This week it was also reported that asylum-seekers in Britain are being forced to wear brightly colored wristbands in order for them to qualify for food handouts. The visible form of identity has led to the wearers being abused on the streets, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Previously, asylum-seekers in the British town of Middlesbrough had their house doors painted red by a local authority. Again, the discrimination led to attacks by racist thugs.

Whether officially or unofficially, Europe is becoming a racist, xenophobic fortress. Given the continent’s own history of war, displacement, fascism and genocidal persecution it should be deeply troubling that it is once again on a slippery slope to such nihilistic mentality. It is doubling worrying when we hear apologists for hard-line measures against refugees talking about “preserving European blood and culture.” Given Europe’s millennia of migrations, what “pure blood” is there to talk of apart from malign mythical notions?

To compare Europe to a sinking boat overloaded with teeming migrants is also asinine and irresponsible. Europe’s intake of one million refugees last year amounts to 0.2 per cent of its total 500 million population. Denmark’s intake of 21,300 asylum-seekers last year constitutes less than 0.4 per cent of its national population.

Europe’s refugee “crisis” is turning into an irrational, xenophobic panic that is not justified by facts. It is misleading people into dangerous political territory of persecution, racist discrimination and ultimately fascist societies that infringe on all our rights as citizens.

But far more importantly, the misplaced hysteria over refugees is a distraction from the real issue. Which is that European states are complicit in illegal wars of aggression and covert regime-change interventions.
Political leaders like Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande, as well as Nicolas Sarkozy before him should be prosecuted in an international court for crimes against peace. European citizens not holding their rogue governments to account is the real problem.

Shame the villains, don’t blame the victims. If we don’t stand up to lawless tyranny, then we are its next victims.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

  Read EU Refugee Crisis: Stop Illegal Wars, Don’t Blame The Victims
 February 3, 2016
Goodbye Petrodollar: Russia Accepts Yuan, Is Now China's Biggest Oil Partner

by Rudy Panko, Information Clearing House

Russia is now the top crude exporter to China, the largest (or second largest, depending on whom you ask) oil demand growth country in the world.

At the start of the decade, Saudi Arabia enjoyed a 20% share of Chinese crude imports, while Russia was lagging far behind with 7%. Now the Saudis find themselves neck and neck with Moscow for the lead in Chinese market share, with both performing in the 13-16% range. But Russia's share continues to rise, as The Kingdom struggles to maintain a foothold.

Why? Analysts attribute Russia's huge market share growth to its willingness to accept yuan, while Saudi Arabia is still clinging to blood-soaked dollars. As Business Insider notes:

Interestingly, part of Russia's success in China has been attributed to its willingness to accept Chinese yuan denominated currency for its oil.

This is consistent with earlier forecasts about Russia's market share in China. Bloomberg reported back in July:

Following Russia’s recent acceptance of the renminbi as payments for oil, we expect more record high oil imports ahead to China,” Gordon Kwan, the Hong Kong-based head of regional oil and gas research at Nomura Holdings Inc., said in an e-mail, referring to the Chinese currency. “If Saudi Arabia wants to recapture its number one ranking, it needs to accept the renminbi for oil payments instead of just the dollar.”

As both the head of the Eurasian Economic Union (and founding member of BRICS), as well as a major energy exporter, Russia is leading the charge against the dollar. And now other nations are following suit: Iran and India announced last month that they intend to settle all outstanding crude oil payments in rupees, as part of a joint strategy to dump the dollar and trade instead in national currencies.

The dollar is slowly losing its privileged place in international transactions. What this means for the United States is anyone's guess.

  Read Goodbye Petrodollar: Russia Accepts Yuan, Is Now China's Biggest Oil Partner
 February 10, 2016
Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050

by Drew Hansen, Information Clearing House

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

  • Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.

Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.

A new generation of companies are showing the way forward. They’re infusing capitalism with fresh ideas, specifically in regards to employee ownership and agile management.

The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance

Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.

On the other hand, startups have been willing to distribute equity to employees. Sometimes such equity distribution is done to make up for less than competitive salaries, but more often it’s offered as a financial incentive to motivate employees toward building a successful company.

According to The Economist, today’s startups are keen to incentivize via shared ownership:

The central difference lies in ownership: whereas nobody is sure who owns public companies, startups go to great lengths to define who owns what. Early in a company’s life, the founders and first recruits own a majority stake—and they incentivise people with ownership stakes or performance-related rewards. That has always been true for startups, but today the rights and responsibilities are meticulously defined in contracts drawn up by lawyers. This aligns interests and creates a culture of hard work and camaraderie. Because they are private rather than public, they measure how they are doing using performance indicators (such as how many products they have produced) rather than elaborate accounting standards.

This trend hearkens back to cooperatives where employees collectively owned the enterprise and participated in management decisions through their voting rights. Mondragon is the oft-cited example of a successful, modern worker cooperative. Mondragon’s broad-based employee ownership is not the same as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. With ownership comes a say – control – over the business. Their workers elect management, and management is responsible to the employees.

  Read Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050
  January 26, 2016
Women Decide To Worship In Shani Shingnapur Temple:An Effort For Religious Equality

by Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, Countercurrents


Today on republic day, about 1500 women decided to worship in Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra where women are barred from worship. A bold step, a collaborated effort, an effort for justice and equality, the chosen day is day of equality, hence their efforts are genuine, arduous and symbol of strengthened civil society and women’s power. The recent news is that ‘Women activists headed to Shani temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra were stopped at Supa village, 70 km from the shrine. Police later confirmed that Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai has been detained and taken to Supa Police Station. Pune-based women’s outfit, Ranragini Bhumata Brigade on Tuesday went ahead with its plan to offer worship at the Shani Shingnapur temple, defying strong local opposition and administrative diktat.’ (The Hindu, 26th Januarry 2016, http://www.thehindu.com)

The fact at the ground level is that there is not only gender discrimination but there is also caste discrimination because dalits are not allocated same status as the upper castes Hindus are allocated in the temple worshipping.

The truth is that women and dalits are not allocated similar status in several of the temples although constitution clearly states equality. As read: under article 25 (1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. (2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law—(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.
Why is it so then? Answer lies in the fact that constitutional values have not been adopted by most of the people of different religions. Moreover intellectual bases of Hindu religion have also been misused; the religious bases of Hinduism in deep ancient times originated with the efforts of Rishis who in Vedic age had no gender discrimination as Ananya, Ghosha, Apala like Rishi Girls maintained equal status with males but things started to decline in Later Vedic period when establishment of structured caste system occurred, a transition from functional caste system, helped upper caste people to capture the power. They now decided to formulate rules and regulations for the Hindu community. They formulated these for their own benefits and segregated the lower castes from religious affairs, women were also put at lower status. Thus Hindu religion in fact became the Brahminical religion which had the base of inequality among the human beings as the equal treatment to all would have diluted their power system, hence Hindu religion gradually became the religion of only few. This system has still continued. Dalits and women got such treatment as these were weak and unoraginsed.

Even in the recent time the influence of this class was so strong that they opposed the abolition of Sati System for which Raja Ram Mohan Roy had to go Britain to tell the legislators what the truth was. In fact upper caste Hindu Brahmins had placed their argument to British authorities that such abolition will be intervention in their religion, thus monopolizing the Hindu religion, finally Raja Ram Mohan Roy prevailed; but the reality is that this segment of Hindu society has made rules for all including the Hindu widows and several thousands of widow women, having been persecuted in every manner, are living horrible life due to perverted rules of in Mathura-Vrindavan area.

Dalits have realized that they will not get equal status in the Brahmin dominated Hindu religion, hence they are shifting from Hindu religion to more equalized religion of Buddhism. The major problem of Hindu religion is that its rules, regulations are made by upper castes. Its institutions are controlled by upper castes. Several top religious authorities of the religion are also not in mood to reform the religion. They on the other hand treat Hindu religion as their personal fiefdom.

Supreme Court has clearly spelt out that only basic and integral tenets of any religion are important. In this background to make rules for the temple, to decide the dress code for temple entry, to decide the living ways for the widows and to create lower castes and segregate lower castes on the basis of castes are not true tenets of Hinduism. As Supreme Court has clearly defined that Hinduism is a way of life. It is therefore not based on any conservative thoughts and everyone has equal share in it.

With these arguments it is necessary that Hinduism should be reformed by the liberal forces within the religion. The discriminatory rules should be challenged by all, finally Hinduism is not a religion of any single caste or gender and none has authority to lower women and dalits.

The truth of ages is that no religion can ever be based on discrimination. There is great need to emphasise that India as a country cannot progress as long as the Hinduism is not properly reformed in which equality of every sort is granted to all. It is so because as long its major religion is unequal till then its people will remain unequal. There is clash between constitutional values and religious values but constitution overpowers all.

Hence there is need to understand the long term impact of women’s efforts for temple entry. The base of human civilization cannot be singular that male will only possess authority but the civilisation can progress only when all the people without any gender discrimination or castes discrimination are allocated equal value. This needs to be understood by those who run the business for the religion.

Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Assistant Professor, CSJM Kanpur University (affiliated College) and Vice Chairman CSSP, e mail-vpy1000@yahoo.co.in

  Read Women Decide To Worship In Shani Shingnapur Temple:An Effort For Religious Equality
  January 31, 2016
Free University Education Via Accredited Remote Learning – All Education Should Be Free For All

by Dr Gideon Polya, Countercurrents

Education is a basic human right and all education should be free. Free university education  has been adopted by about 20 variously rich or poor countries for all or a substantial proportion of their university  students. However the Anglosphere countries (the UK, the US, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand) ) are peculiar in imposing a huge and unjust education debt on university students  as well as  imposing  a huge and inescapable Carbon Debt on young people through disproportionately huge greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. However Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) via Free Universities (FUs) (e.g.  an Australian Free University) can circumvent this pro-One Percenter, neoliberal perversion.

Education underpins science-based personal and societal changes to maximize personal and societal health, happiness, dignity and opportunity, and accordingly all education should be free, whether pre-school (kindergarten), primary education (elementary school),  secondary education  (high school), tertiary education (university, technical training) or life-long learning. Indeed all education can and should be free.  Education is regarded as a basic human right [1-3] , which is why all developed countries make basic primary and secondary education free (although Educational Apartheid in some countries  determines differential access to good quality education  depending upon parental wealth, race or home location) [4, 5].

Thus Article 26 of the Universal  Declaration of Human Rights states: “(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” [2].

Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states in part: “1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;  (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;  (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;  (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children” [3].

Nevertheless  the world is currently dominated by a pro-One Percenter  neoliberal philosophy  that demands maximum freedom for the smart and otherwise advantaged  to exploit natural and human resources   for personal  aggrandisement. This presently dominant neoliberal philosophy   means that  most governments charge obscenely over-priced fees to (mostly young)  students who are bettering themselves and society by doing accredited university courses  (e.g. science, engineering, medicine, arts, commerce, law etc)  or technical and further  education (TAFE) courses (e,g. electrician, building, plumbing, hospitality, hair dressing etc). This pro-One Percenter, neoliberal approach is not only unfair and anti-social, it is also profoundly dishonest because, as amplified below,  top quality, accredited,  lecture-based tuition can actually be  provided for free (apart from a modest fee for accrediting examination) [1, 6].

However there is another approach to education, economics and societal organization in general  that can be variously described as social  humanism, socialism or the welfare state  and which involves evolving social contracts at the local, national and global levels  to  maximize the health, happiness, dignity, and opportunity of all people. Scandinavian countries provide  good examples of   relatively conservative countries  applying this social humanist philosophy to achieve a good social safety net as well as free university education [1, 7, 8].  

At the outset the pro-One Percenter neoliberals assert that universities are expensive institutions and that students should accordingly pay for the tuition that will enhance their future  earning prospects. However a reductio ad absurdum here would be that all children should be  heavily taxed from birth in direct proportion to  the IQs , wealth and socio-economic status of their parents.

Further, all nations need to have a complement of expert scholars and scientists for variety  of economic, health, national security  and national prestige reasons  - but one must  ask why impoverished, circa 20 year old undergraduate students  should have to pay for this  expert complement that disproportionately and  immediately  benefits the mature adult population  and the richer and older citizens in particular.

All education can and should be free. All university  education can and should be free.  All education can be free as empirically exampled by the dozen or so countries from rich to poor that have made  it so. All education should be free to promote the social humanist goal of maximizing the health, happiness, dignity and opportunity of all people and the societies of which they are a part [7, 8]

Many countries, both rich and poor,  have  made tertiary education free for their citizens, the list including (GDP per capita  in US dollars in brackets; mostly UN data, 2014): Argentina ($12,645) , Brazil ($11,387), China ($7,617), Cuba ($7,274), Czech Republic ($19,470), Denmark ($61,294), Ecuador ($6,346), Estonia ($20,122), Finland ($49,678), France ($42, 802), Germany ($47,966), Greece ($21,414), Libya ($6,602), Mauritius ($9,945), Norway ($97,226),  Scotland ($24,060) and Sweden ($58,856) [9, 10]. In addition, Chile ($14,528)  gives free university education to students from its 50% poorest families [11, 12]  and  in Nigeria ($3,203), university education is free for Science, Education and Technology students [13]. However in stark contrast, free university education is presently rejected by the rich,  pro-One Percenter, neoliberal Anglosphere countries of Australia ($62,290), Canada ($50,169), Ireland ($53,648), New Zealand ($44,189), UK ($46,461) and the US ($54,306).

Australia had free university education when university fees were abolished by the reformist Whitlam Labor Government before it was removed in a CIA-backed Coup in 1975. Fees were re-introduced by the pro-US, neo-liberal Hawke Labor Government but with a Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) enabling students to repay their education debt in small instalments when able to do so through suitably rewarded future employment. Australian students presently have an average HECS debt of $15,200 which is repaid over an average of 8.3 years  but the present ultraconservative Coalition Government (with the support of nearly all vice-chancellors) wants to deregulate fees and increase the interest rate on the HECS debt with the prospect  of $100,000 degrees under the extreme right wing, pro-war, war criminal, pro-coal, pro-gas, climate criminal  Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Government now led by the charming and articulate but nevertheless “lipstick on a pig”, pro-war,  pro-fossil fuels and anti-science Prime Minister  Malcolm Turnbull [14].   


The Australian university system has 43 accredited universities comprising 40 state-funded universities, two international universities, and a smaller private speciality university. The  8 top high quality state-funded universities (the Big Eight)  have very competitive entry and garner most of the available research grants [15]. The high-cost, corporatized, money-obsessed   Australian university system  is run by bean-counting career academic administrators who can be seen as   parasitic, grossly over-paid refugees from scholarship who cravenly do the bidding of successive anti-intellectual, neoliberal governments. The Australian university system caters for 985,000 local, HECS-paying students and 329,000 full-fee overseas students (2014)[16]  and  is  characterized by unjustifiably high fees, declining academic standards, academic censorship,  lowered entry standards,  bullying of academics, academic downsizing, academic casualization, egregious corruption and extraordinary  censorship that grossly violates the fundamental academic ethos [17-31].


Censorship is utterly anathema to traditional academics but is now entrenched in the corporatized Australian university system [23, 26-31] and elsewhere [32, 33]. Thus Western democracies have become pro-One Percenter and Neocon American and Zionist  Imperialist   (NAZI)-perverted and subverted Plutotocracies, Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies, Corporatocracies, , Kleptocracies and Dollarocracies in which Big Money purchases people, politicians, parties, policies, public perception of reality and more political power and hence more profit. Western universities and academics censor in deference to the   pro-One Percenter and Neocon American and Zionist  Imperialist   (NAZI)-perverted and subverted Establishment.   Thus, for example, the cases of censorship of outstanding  anti-racist Jewish American academic Dr Norman Finkelstein by the Catholic De Paul University [32] and of anti-racist Australian academic Dr Sandra Nasr by the London School of Economics (UK) and the Catholic Notre Dame University (Australia) [33] , both in deference to the Zionist Lobby. Indeed the right-wing Australian Coalition Opposition (now the Coalition Government) stated that they would cut off research funds from  academics supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against nuclear terrorist, racist Zionist-run, genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel [34, 35].  As I concluded  in a detailed analysis of academic censorship : “Finally, we should publicly insist that universities that constrain free speech are not fit for our children” [23]. Why should student pay outrageously big bucks to learn at institutions with a censoring  culture?  

The rich Anglosphere countries that do not have free university education are imposing a huge education debt on their young citizens while permitting massive tax avoidance by national individuals, national corporations and multinational corporations. Further,  Anglosphere countries, specifically the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia , are notable for  having an increasing One Percenter and Ten Percenter share of annual national income. As revealed by Professor Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the Twenty First Century”, the share in total income  of the top 1% in France, Germany, Sweden and Japan declined from about 20% in 1910 to about 8% in 1950 and thence  remained low (Figure 9.3, p317).  In contrast, in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia a similar decline occurred from about 20% in 1910 to 6-9% in 1970 but after 1980 the One Percenter share of total income variously increased to 10-18%. A similar pattern obtains with the top 10% in these countries, a phenomenon that Piketty describes as “the rise of the supermanager: an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon” (Figures 9.2-9.8, pp315-324) [36-38].

It gets worse. The rich Anglosphere countries that refuse to provide free university  education for their young citizens are also among the world's worst greenhouse gas (GHG) polluters and follow the Australian example of imposing  a huge, inescapable and ever-increasing Carbon  Debt on their young. Thus the annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution for all countries (tonnes CO2-e per person per year;  the world average being 63.80 billion tonnes CO2-e / 7.137 billion people in 2013 = 8.9 tonnes CO2-e per person per year) is as follows New Zealand (53.2), Australia (52.9; 116 if including its huge GHG-generating  exports), Canada (50.1), Ireland (41.4), United States (41.0), and the UK  (21.5) [39]. Scotland is a notable exception – it has abolished university fees and is committed to 100% renewable energy by 2020 [40, 41].

Climate criminal Australia's  damage-related Carbon Debt due to accumulated greenhouse gas (GHG)  pollution now totals $7.5 trillion, is increasing at $400 billion each year  and will inescapably have to be paid by young Australians  and future generations,  with the Carbon Debt for under-30 year old Australians increasing by $40,000 per head each year.  By way of comparison, the World has a Carbon Debt of $360 trillion that is increasing at $13 trillion per year [42].  Assuming a damage-related Carbon Price of $200 per tonne CO2-e [43], the values of annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution for Anglosphere  countries  quoted above correspond  to the following annual per capita increases  in Carbon Debt (in brackets): New Zealand ($10,640), Australia ($10,580; $23,200 if including its huge GHG-generating  exports), Canada ($10,020), Ireland ($8,280), United States (8,200), and the UK  ($4,300). Of course this remorselessly  increasing Carbon Debt will have to be paid by the young and future generations.


Here are 3 examples of how the present corporatized university  system could rapidly transit from the present dishonest rip-off to much  free-er tertiary  education: 

(1). All those running lecture-based  courses in state-subsidized universities should  place lectures notes, a book/chapter/page-based syllabus, sample answers to model exam questions  and other teaching materials on the web for free access for all,  and provide minimum cost  accrediting examinations that anyone can sit for free or for a modest, real cost-based fee.

(2).   Current on-campus undergraduate education can be provided at 10% of the current cost using part-time academic teaching staff (e.g. from other institutions, industry or from early retirement).

(3), Current on-campus undergraduate education can be provided at 1% of the current cost  simply through provision by experts (e.g. from hospitals, other institutions, industry, public universities or private universities) of minimum-cost, accrediting examination of  student understanding  of the top quality courses  (Massive Open Online Courses,  MOOCs) put on the web for free by top universities like 157-Nobel-Laureate Harvard and 85-Nobel-Laureate Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Of course if existing institutions won't act decently as suggested  above then collectives of currently employed academics, retired academics,  scholars, scientists  and other experts(e.g. in Australia, an Australian Free University  or Free University of Australia) should simply place lectures notes, a book/chapter/page-based syllabus, sample answers to model exam questions  and other teaching materials on the web for free access for all,  and provide minimum cost  accrediting examinations that anyone can sit for free or for a modest, real cost-based fee [1, 6, 44, 45]. I have set out such a scheme that I have variously described as Reading-Only Tertiary Education (ROTE) [6] , Distance Learning (DL) or Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) [44, 45]. Such an off-campus system  is not just honest and effective but potentially immensely  empowering for the disabled (notably people who are deaf, blind or immobilized) , mature age students, life-long learners, geographically isolated people, refugees in refugee concentration camps,   or other incarcerated people (e.g. people judicially sentenced to imprisonment   or Occupied Palestinians, half of whom are children,  brutally confined to West Bank ghettoes or the Gaza Concentration Camp).  


University academics, university administrators and apprised politicians resolutely lie by omission to the public over current academic realities in which on-campus, fee-paying students mostly do not attend lectures and their study is heavily based on reading downloaded lecture notes, other downloaded materials and  prescribed texts (this approach  is crucial for many overseas students in Australia  with a much better reading comprehension than their aural comprehension of English and of the Australian accent in particular). Thus most of the 1.3  million student enrolled for  expensive  on-campus courses at Australian universities are in effect doing the off-campus learning I have described as  Reading-Only Tertiary Education (ROTE) [6], Distance Learning (DL)  or  Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) [44, 45] but paying a fortune for the privilege.  

The progressive corporatizing of Western universities has meant that they are now dominated by ruthless  academic administrators who can be seen as parasitic and  grossly over-paid refugees from scholarship who do the bidding of dishonest, greedy, pro-One Percenter, neoliberal governments in perverting scholarly institutions, maltreating  scholars , deceiving the public and ripping off students. The gross deception of students, parents and society over the need for university fees is a good illustration of Polya's 3 Laws that mirror the 3 Laws of Thermodynamics of science and are (1) Price minus COP (Cost of Production) equals profit; (2) Deception about COP strives to a maximum; and (3) No work, price or profit on a dead planet [46]. These fundamental laws also help  expose the resolute  failure of neoliberal capitalism in relation to Carbon Debt,  wealth inequality, massive tax evasion by multinational corporations, and  horrendous avoidable deaths from poverty and pollution culminating in general ecocide, speciescide, climate genocide, omnicide and terracide [46-50].

Final observations.

"Free university education" is actually a double entendre - we must implement free university education and in so doing free universities from the clutches of corporatist university administrators   and anti-science, anti-scholarship, spin-driven and anti-truth neoliberal  governments. The British Labor Party under its  humane and progressive new leader  Jeremy Corbyn now has a policy of free  university education [51, 52] as do the similarly pro-peace, pro-equity  and pro-human rights Australian Greens [53].


Students should not just be concerned about the immense cost of university education that should actually be provided for free. They should also be concerned about what they are getting for their money. Thus a good example is provided by the the WW2 Bengali Holocaust in which the British with Australian complicity deliberately starved 6-7 million Indians to death for strategic reasons in the 1942-1945 man-made Bengal Famine, with Australia withholding food from starving India from its huge wartime grain stocks and as many as 0.3 million starving Bengali women and girls subject to civilian or military sexual abuse [54-59]. The Bengali Holocaust was the first WW2 mass atrocity to be described as a “holocaust” (by N. G. Jog in his  1944 book “Churchill's Blind Spot: India”) [55] but has been largely white-washed from history and general  public perception by several generations of British academic historians [59].


In a recent analysis of tackling Educational  Apartheid and social inequity [5] I concluded: “The adult world is failing to address the worsening climate crisis and it seems now inevitable that we will be bequeathing a severely damaged and threatened world  to our children and grandchildren … The least we could do is to educate the next generations to enable them to best deal with the mess we have left behind. Voters should insist that all education should be free and good.” Decent people who care for young people and future  generations must  reject the lying, Humanity-abusing neoliberal politicians and support the Greens and Socialists in their demand for free university education and indeed free education for all.

  Read Free University Education Via Accredited Remote Learning – All Education Should Be Free For All
 February 8, 2016
The Urgent Need For Complete Abolition Of Nuclear Weapons

by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents


On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 in the morning, an atomic bomb was exploded in the air over the city of Hiroshima in an already-defeated Japan. The force of the explosion was equivalent to twenty thousand tons of T.N.T.. Out of a city of two hundred and fifty thousand people, almost one hundred thousand were killed by the bomb; and another hundred thousand were hurt.

In some places, near the center of the city, people were completely vaporized, so that only their shadows on the pavement marked the places where they had been. Many people who were not killed by the blast or by burns from the explosion, were trapped under the wreckage of their houses. Unable to move, they were burned to death in the fire which followed.

As Suano Tsuboi, one of the survivors of the Hiroshima nightmare, remembered later, “I had entered a living hell on earth. There were people crying out for help, calling for members of their family. I saw a scchoolgirl with her eye hanging out of its socket. People looked like ghosts, bleeding and trying to walk before collapsing. Some had lost limbs. There were charred bodies everywhere, including in the river. I looked down and saw a man clutching a hole in his stomach, trying to stop his organs from spilling out. The smell of burning flesh was overpowering.”

Three days later, Nagasaki was also detroyed. The motive for the nuclear bombings seems to have been, not so much to defeat Japan, as (in the words of the Manhatten Project's military commander, General Leslie Groves) “to control Russia”.

A few days after the terrible events of 6 and 9 August, 1945, the French writer Albert Camus commented: “Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests. Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only battle worth waging. This is no longer a prayer, but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments - a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason.”

Even if the horrible nuclear destruction of the two Japanese cities had been justified as a means of ending the war quickly, even if Japan had not already been sueing for peace, the end does not justify the means. In Gandhi's words, “The means may be likened to a seed, and the end to a tree; and there is the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree.”

Mahatma Gandhi's assertion that the end achieved iinevitably reflects the means used to achieve it is confirmed particularly clearly by the history of nuclear weapons. The terrible destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was tragic in itself, but even more disastrous is the nuclear arms race which followed. It continues to cast an extremely dark shadow over the future of human civilization and the biosphere.

In 1946, the United States proposed the Baruch Plan to internationalize atomic energy, but the plan was rejected by the Soviet Union, which had been conducting its own secret nuclear weapons program since 1943. On August 29, 1949, the USSR exploded its first nuclear bomb. It had a yield equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT, and had been constructed from Pu-239 produced in a nuclear reactor. Meanwhile the United Kingdom had begun to build its own nuclear weapons.

The explosion of the Soviet nuclear bomb caused feelings of panic in the United States, and President Truman authorized an all-out effort to build superbombs using thermonuclear reactions - the reactions that heat the sun and stars. The idea of using a U-235 fission bomb to trigger a thermonuclear reaction in a mixture of light elements had first been proposed by Enrico Fermi in a 1941 conversation with his Chicago colleague Edward Teller. After this conversation, Teller (perhaps the model for Stanley Kubrick’s character Dr. Strangelove) became a fanatical advocate of the superbomb.

After Truman’s go-ahead, the American program to build thermonuclear weapons made rapid progress, and on October 31, 1952, the first US thermonuclear device was exploded at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It had a yield of 10.4 megatons, that is to say it had an explosive power equivalent to 10,400,000 tons of TNT. Thus the first thermonuclear bomb was five hundred times as powerful as the bombs that had devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lighter versions of the device were soon developed, and these could be dropped from aircraft or delivered by rockets.

The Soviet Union and the United Kingdom were not far behind. In 1955 the Soviets exploded their first thermonuclear device, followed in 1957 by the UK. In 1961 the USSR exploded a thermonuclear bomb with a yield of 58 megatons. A bomb of this size, three thousand times the size of the Hiroshima bomb, would be able to totally destroy a city even if it missed it by 50 kilometers. Fall-out casualties would extend to a far greater distance.

A 15 megaton thermonuclear device, detonated by the United States at Bikini Atol in the Marshall Islands in 1954, caused fallout that produced radiation sickness and fatalities on the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, which was 130 kilometers distant from the explosion. In England, Prof. Joseph Rotblat, a Polish scientist who had resigned from the Manhattan Project for for moral reasons when it became clear that Germany would not develop nuclear weapons, was asked to appear on a BBC program to discuss the Bikini test. He was asked to discuss the technical aspects of H-bombs, while the Archbishop of Canterbury and the philosopher Lord Bertrand Russell were asked to discuss the moral aspects.

Rotblat had became convinced that the Bikini bomb must have involved a third stage, where fast neutrons from the hydrogen thermonuclear reaction produced fission in a casing of unenriched uranium. Such a bomb would produce enormous amounts of highly dangerous radioactive fallout, and could be made arbetrarily large with little expense because of the use of unenriched uranium. Rotblat became extremely worried about the possibly fatal effect on all living things if large numbers of such bombs were ever used in a war. He confided his worries to Bertrand Russell, whom he had met on the BBC program.

After discussing the Bikini test and its radioactive fallout with Joseph Rotblat, Lord Russell became concerned for the future of the human gene pool if large numbers of such bombs should ever be used in a war. To warn humanity of the danger, he wrote what came to be known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

On July 9, 1955, with Rotblat in the chair, Russell read the Manifesto to a packed press conference. The document contains the words: “Here then is the problem that we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?... There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

Lord Russell devoted much of the remainder of his life to working for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Here we see him speaking to a CND demonstration at Trafalgar Square. Image source: mueralainteligencia.com

Lord Russell devoted much of the remainder of his life to working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, as did Joseph Rotblat. In 1995, 50 years after the tragic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Joseph Rotblat was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong efforts to abolish both nuclear weapons and war itself. He shared the prize with Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an organization which had been established as a consequence of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

In his acceptance speech, Sir Joseph (as he soon became) emphasized the same point that had been made in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto - that war itself must be eliminated in order to free civilization from the danger of nuclear destruction. The reason for this is that the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons can never be forgotten. Even if they were eliminated, these weapons could be rebuilt during a major war. Thus the final abolition of nuclear weapons is linked to a change of heart in world politics and to the abolition of the institution of war.

The testing of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific half a century ago continues to cause cancer and birth defects in the Marshall Islands today. Fallout from the bombs contaminated the island of Rongelap, one of the Marshall Islands 120 kilometers from Bikini. The islanders experienced radiation illness, and many died from cancer. Even today, half a century later, both people and animals on Rongelap and other nearby islands suffer from birth defects. The most common defects have been “jelly fish babies”, born with no bones and with transparent skin. Their brains and beating hearts can be seen. The babies usually live a day or two before they stop breathing.

The environmental effects of a nuclear war would be catastrophic. A war fought with hydrogen bombs would produce radioactive contamination of the kind that we have already experienced in the areas around Chernobyl and Fukushima and in the Marshall Islands, but on an enormously increased scale. We have to remember that the total explosive power of the nuclear weapons in the world today is roughly half a million times as great as the power of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What is threatened by a nuclear war today is the complete breakdown of human civilization.

Besides spreading deadly radioactivity throughout the world, a nuclear war would inflict catastrophic damage on global agriculture. Firestorms in burning cities would produce many millions of tons of black, thick, radioactive smoke. The smoke would rise to the stratosphere where it would spread around the earth and remain for a decade. Prolonged cold, decreased sunlight and rainfall, and massive increases in harmful ultraviolet light would shorten or eliminate growing seasons, producing a nuclear famine. Even a small nuclear war could endanger the lives of the billion people who today are chronically undernourished. A full-scale war fought with hydrogen bombs would mean that most humans would die from hunger. Many animal and plant species would also be threatened with extinction.

Today, the system that is supposed to give us security is called Mutually Assured Destruction, appropriately abbreviated as MAD. It is based on the idea of deterrence, which maintains that because of the threat of massive retaliation, no sane leader would start a nuclear war.

Before discussing other defects in the concept of deterrence, it must be said very clearly that “massive nuclear retaliation” is a form of genocide and is completely unacceptable from an ethical point of view. It violates not only the principles of international law, common decency and common sense, but also the ethical principles of every major religion.

Having said this, we can turn to some of the other faults in the concept of nuclear deterrence. One important defect is that nuclear war may occur through accident or miscalculation, failures of computer systems, misinterpretation of radar signals, insanity of a person in charge of the weapons, uncontrollable escalation of a conflict, or because of terrorism. This possibility is made much greater by the fact that, despite the end of the Cold War, 2,000 missiles are kept on “hair trigger alert” with a quasi-automatic reaction time measured in minutes. There is a constant danger that a nuclear war will be triggered by an error in evaluating the signal on a radar screen.

Incidents in which global disaster is avoided by a hair's breadth are constantly occurring. For example, on the night of 26 September, 1983, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, a young software engineer, was on duty at a surveillance center near Moscow. Suddenly the screen in front of him turned bright red. An alarm went off. It's enormous piercing sound filled the room. A second alarm followed, and then a third, fourth and fifth, until the noise was deafening.

The computer showed that the Americans had launched a strike against Russia. Petrov's orders were to pass the information up the chain of command to Secretary General Yuri Andropov. Within minutes, a nuclear counterattack would be launched. However, because of certain inconsistent features of the alarm, Petrov disobeyed orders and reported it as a computer error, which indeed it was. Most of us probably owe our lives to his brave and coolheaded decision and his knowledge of software systems. The narrowness of this escape is compounded by the fact that Petrov was on duty only because of the illness of another officer with less knowledge of software, who would have accepted the alarm as real.

Narrow escapes such as this show us clearly that in the long run, the combination of space-age science and stone-age politics will destroy us. We urgently need new political structures and new ethics to match our advanced technology.

Modern science has, for the first time in history, offered humankind the possibility of a life of comfort, free from hunger and cold, and free from the constant threat of death from infectious disease. At the same time, science has given humans the power to obliterate their civilization with nuclear weapons, or to make it uninhabitable through anthropogenic climate change. The question of which of these paths we choose is literally a matter of life or death to for ourselves or our children.

Will we use the discoveries of modern science constructively, and thus choose the path leading towards life? Or will we produce more and more lethal weapons, which sooner or later, through s technical or human error, or through uncontrollable escalation of a conflict, will result in a catastrophic nuclear war? The choice is ours to make. We live at a critical moment of history, a moment of crisis for civilization. No one alive today asked to be born at a time of crisis, but history has given each of us an enormous responsibility to future generations.

Of course we have our ordinary jobs, which we need to do in order to stay alive; but besides that, each of us has a second job, the duty to devote both time and effort to solving the serious problems that face civilization during the 21st century. We cannot rely on our politicians to do this for us. Many politicians are under the influence of powerful lobbies. Others are waiting for a clear expression of popular will. It is the people of the world themselves who must choose their own future and work hard to build it. No single person can achieve the changes that we need, but together we can do it.

The problem of building a stable, just, and war-free world is difficult, but it is not insoluble. The large regions of our present-day world within which war has been eliminated can serve as models. There are a number of large countries with heterogeneous populations within which it has been possible to achieve internal peace and social cohesion, and if this is possible within such extremely large regions, it must also be possible globally.

We must replace the old world of international anarchy and institutionalized injustice by a new world of law. We also need a new ethic, where loyalty to one's family and nation is supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole.

We know that war is madness. We know that it is responsible for much of the suffering that humans experience. We know that war pollutes our planet and that the almost unimaginable sums wasted on war prevent the happiness and prosperity of mankind. We know that nuclear weapons are insane, and that the precariously balanced deterrence system can break down at any time through human error or computer errors or through terrorist actions, and that it definitely will break down within our lifetimes unless we abolish it. We know that nuclear war threatens to destroy civilization and much of the biosphere.

The logic is there. We must translate it into popular action. The peoples of the world must say very clearly that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil; that their possession does not increase anyone's security; that their continued existence is a threat to the life of every person on our planet; and that these genocidal and potentially omnicidal weapons have no place in a civilized society.

Modern science has abolished time and distance as factors separating nations separating nations. On our shrunken globe today, there is room for one group only - the family of humankind.

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 avery.john.s@gmail.com

  Read The Urgent Need For Complete Abolition Of Nuclear Weapons
 February 10, 2016
The Privileges Of Being A Hindu, Upper Caste And Elite Class, Male In India

by Advocate Dr Shalu Nigam, Countercurrents


When Peggy McIntosh[1] referred to the term `White Male Privilege’ she describes conditions that systematically `overempower certain groups’ and `confers dominance, gives permission to control, because of one’s race or sex’, in a Western society. These privileges according to her are unjust and unearned. She stated that, "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group". Similarly, in a conservative, patriarchal, stratified, casteist, hierarchical, unequal modern Indian society, the undeserved `Male Privileges’ besides the unwarranted advantage of being a `Hindu’ hailing from an `Upper Caste’ and `Elite Class’ plays a significant role in defining the social status of a person which accordingly confers him the voice, the dominant position, the decision making authority and the power to exercise control over others. These socially sanctioned prerogatives conferred to a person operate together to legitimize his superior and authoritative position, on the basis of which he may tend to subjugate others including poor, women, minorities and those from lower caste or deprived classes. Also, a particular episode of violence that occurs because of such unbalanced power equation is often seen in its micro context without realizing the undesirable systemic macro-structure in which it happens. McIntosh in her paper argued that in `the same way men are not taught to acknowledge the ways in which they enjoy the benefits of being a male, similarly whites are conferred with privileges that they are taught not to recognize’. Likewise, in the present Indian society, these systematic structured unearned privileges of being a Hindu, a male, hailing from an upper caste and an elite class operate unjustifiably, invisibly and visibly, knowingly or unknowingly, where those privileged are neither taught to recognize the plight of `others’ nor the prerogatives conferred to them. These matrixes of privileges are inter-related, interconnected, intersecting, interlocked and operates together in a manner to reiterates, and strengthens the structures of oppression. Thus, patriarchy, religious hegemony, casteism and wealth inequalities, all operate together to reinforce the culture of domination in an unconscious and invisible manner though the Constitution of India as well as the legal system is premised on the principles of equality, substantive equality and social justice. This essay looks at these systemic oppressions or the set of privileges which are structural, inbuilt, institutional and often remain hidden or unnoticed and unrecognized in social, political or legal debates relating to marginalization of subaltern groups. It is accordingly suggested to recognize, acknowledge and work around these privileges in order to comprehend the unarticulated darkness surrounding it and to gain a holistic perception of the prevalent structural and systemic exploitation with the aim to reconstruct the egalitarian society where social structure is free from conditions that favours a few at the cost of majority of `Others’.

Hierarchies, Inequalities and Hidden Privileges

The systemic structural oppression fuelled by the hegemony of patriarchy, casteism, religion and economic forces are interlocking and intersecting and work together to oppress marginalized people, is not new in a stratified Indian society. Historically, the nation has a record of being ruled by the kings, the nobles and the aristocrats, mostly feudal males[2], who were accorded with authority and power to govern, thus creating two distinct categories of people – the ruler and the ruled, the kings and their subjects or the privileged and the masses. This divide was further augmented by the British rulers who segregated the society not only on the basis of religion as `Hindu oppressors’ and `Muslim outsiders’ but also on the basis of the social status, as elite and the poor, dominant and the underprivileged, landlords or land owners and the landless peasants, the so called civilized, elegant, educated and superior and those who could not fit in the category of the cultured or could not adopt as per Western, imperial, colonial notions. The foreign rulers replaced feudal lords and aristocratic nobles with elite, English speaking, bureaucratic and technocratic establishment and thus played a significant role in making of a dominant, elite, Hindu, upper caste, educated, male dominated, urban society that is different and apart from the rest of rural, illiterate, poor, women, minorities, backward and others thus separating India along many lines and divisions.

Though with expanding education, social mobility could have increased and societal barriers could have been evaded, however, this has not happened because Maculay’s system of education was not designed to create independent thinking adults rather it was intended to create a breed of slaves who could serve their colonial masters. After, India gained independence, this elite dominant group retained its supremacy, while emulating the set of prejudices and chauvinistic attitude as depicted by their foreign masters and followed the ominous colonial agenda by considering itself as a representative of millions of Indians across the country. The liberal western ideology practically could not influence the working of successive governments which came to power in independent India and alienated the masses further deepening the already entrenched inequalities while excluding millions who were further caught in a vicious circle of dealing with hunger, poverty or survival on day to day basis and failed to participate in process of governance or fulfill aspirations for social mobility.

In the modern, cosmopolitan India, inequalities, discrimination and hierarchies continue to operate together in a fragmented, stratified, multi-layered society to the benefit of particular groups who acquire unseen and unyielding power over the vulnerable `others’. Often, these systemic structural exploitations like patriarchy, caste apartheid, religious hegemony, capitalism and class based inequities operate in synchronization with each other through intersecting and interlocking mechanism to create an oppressive, exploitative social institutions and structures which marginalize and subjugate those who do not fit within this tyrannical system. Thus, casteism thrives on the pillars of patriarchy and religious hegemony and it is fuelled by the capitalism which propagates economic inequities in order to pushes its exploitative agenda. Similarly, patriarchy or capitalistic patriarchy in the modern world operates because of exploitative culture propagated by hegemonic casteist, religious and economic forces.

In order to maintain status quo and superiority of this exploitative system, violence is often used as a tool to oppress those dare to raise their voice besides instilling fear among those at receiving end. The culture, the media, the propaganda, the folklores, the rituals, the practices, the daily life style, the history, the language, the ideologies, all are manipulated to reinforce and reiterate the anarchy of these oppressive, exploitative paradigm in timeless and borderless manner making it an ubiquitous phenomenon. The Hindu, elite, upper caste and male dominant oppressive cultural codes and norms like dowry, son preference, lavish weddings, all are silently universalized and normalized and spread like evil monster adversely affecting even those communities who were earlier not practicing these. Thus, misogyny shows it virulent forms in many oppressive practices like female foeticide, honour killing, child marriage, rape, sexual harassments, assaults, coercion, beatings, bodily harm, murders before or after birth and strictures issued to control sexuality and reproduction among women to maintain social order. Often these forms of oppression are inflicted by the families, the communities and the state. Material deprivation and denial over use of economic and the political resources are the techniques that are being deployed to assert control and exclude women[3]. Even in situations of conflict, war or ideological battle, women’s bodies are used as systemic tool to intimidate the weak, establish superiority and assert power and domination[4]. State sanctioned violence to crush the spirit of insurgence. Often lower caste women are being raped by upper caste men, Muslim women are raped by Hindu men, tribal women are raped by non tribals to assert domination over the particular community. Torture and abuse of women in naxalite areas, sexual abuse and humiliation of women[5] while using apparatus of coercion or use of third degree torture techniques in prisons over vulnerable inmates[6], all happened on daily basis to assert dominance of one community over the other. And these violations are not only restricted along with these lines of social division but also reveal their dark nature when the state and business ally together to inflict injury to` others’ in order to grab control over natural resources. The business and the corporate are allowed to flourish in the manner while neglecting rights of masses as evident in the Bhopal Gas tragedy[7], struggles to protect Narmada and Niyamgiri or at various other places. Hence, all these situations taken together reflect the manner in which state sanctioned brutalities, religious sanctioned hostilities, culturally sanctioned viciousness, economically sanctioned vulnerabilities, politically sanctioned denials, intellectual exclusion, social alienation, emotional invalidation and physically sanctioned cruelties or humiliations operate collectively to establish superiority of those in power over those who are the vulnerable, the `others’ and the weak.

However, besides using the divisive tools of violence, inducing fear, instilling discrimination, perpetuating inequalities and hierarchies, this exploitative system also uses certain hidden weapons like granting privileges or unearned advantages to those who are the powerful in this oppressive paradigm. These privileges are like a matrix of general hypothetical postulations that confer invisible authority to some while denying these to others. According to McIntosh, “privileges entails something beyond a favoured state which is conferred by birth or luck” and may include a form of “systematic conditions to overpower certain groups”[8]. Therefore, in a patriarchal Indian society, male members enjoy privileged status within private as well as in public spaces on the basis of their sex. Similarly, in a casteist society, Brahmans are given undue advantages over others by the virtue of their birth in an upper caste family like rich avail special benefits in a capitalistic society on the basis of their ability to pay. Privileges often act to alienate and exclude people who are already on margins. The social system is build upon and works around the imaginary assumptions which govern the dominant cultural forms. McIntosh argued that, “Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color”. Similarly, in a stratified Indian society, being a Hindu, upper caste, elite class, male entails that one is granted with protection from hostility, violence or alienation. Also it arm them systemic dominance and immunity because of their background which `other’ members of community are deprived of as these `others’ feel `unconfident, uncomfortable, isolated and alienated’ within the oppressive system.

These hidden privileges or unearned advantages are the inherent benefits that a person gains from the systemic and structural biases that empower him and put others in an intrinsic unfavorable position. Often, these privileges operate in a subtle and hidden manner as compared to violent oppression, exploitation and discrimination. These prerogatives or rewards of being born in a particular community grant certain people social, economic and political advantages or entitlements and often operate institutionally in embedded and invisible forms. W.E. B. Du Bois in his seminal work `The Soul of Black Folk’ examined the consequences of racism and discrimination and argued that these lead to separate spheres of life, physical abuse, paternalism and economic disenfranchisement besides certain less visible consequences yet equally detrimental like angst, conflicted identity, self hate, self doubt, a lack of industriousness and self reliance. He wrote that the `psychological wages’ of being white enable poor white to feel superior as compared to poor black. Likewise, in an Indian society, the `psychological wages’ of being born as a rich, Hindu, upper caste, male entitles one to feel superior and thus at an advantageous position.

Legal scholar Ansley[9] while elucidating on the concept of white supremacy explained that, “By "white supremacy" I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings”. She further illustrated that “The class domination model has a "political face" in addition to its economic one. Its political aspect points out that white supremacy not only allow super-exploitation of blacks, but also blocks potential class-based action by splitting the working class. It is axiomatic that exploited classes divided against each other have less power compared to the relatively united exploiting classes. The constant reminder to whites that others are willing to work for less (because they are forced) makes minority workers into a helpful instrument of discipline to be used against their relatively privileged white counterparts”[10]. Similarly, in Indian situation, there exists a social, economic, political and cultural system that allows control of this privileged group over power and material resources as well as authority to determine ideologies that split exploited classes and thus operate to invisibly benefit those in command.

These systematic oblivious advantages often are unspoken of and operate in a vicious cycle where group members deny existence of the same and may work consciously or unconsciously to protect these special hidden `unearned privileges’ and unjustified advantages. Undue advantages to a particular segment of the society though are unjustified and unreasonable yet these become the part of collective psyche and are inherently internalized by both the parties – those who enjoy the benefits of the privileged position and those who do not. Thus, for an example, when women’s movement in India demanded reservation for seats in the parliament, most of the male legislators deployed clever tactics to oppose this claim. Also, the Supreme Court of India, dominated by all male judges, while adjudicating about the issue of appointment of judges failed to see that only a few women are being given the opportunity to be appointed as judges[11]. These are the clear example of the manner in which privileges operate in public spaces to protect the group from sharing its benefits with others. Thus, many of those who are powerful and privileged occupy the major positions as the policy makers and the implementers and therefore are concerned about protecting their own prerogatives rather than being anxious about the issues relating to `others’ or the masses. Similarly, in private sphere too, strict endogamy system is maintained while arranging marriages in order to avoid sharing prerogatives with others.

Privileges, Benefits and Entitlements

The benefits available to privileged include special concessions in terms of tools, significant positions, networks, relationships, opportunities, decision making powers, control over social, economic and political resources, control over determining, defining and shaping ideologies, policies, procedures and principles besides various other provisions of which members of other communities are denied and deprived of. In the words of McIntosh, “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks”[12]. McIntosh argued that systemic privilege entails dominance, confers power, grants license and permission to control though it may not add moral strength, traits or qualities of being survivors which the `Others’ who are at receiving end possess. While distinguishing between systemically unearned privilege and power with the earned strength she further describes that those who have unearned advantages by being the members of privileged group may appear as “foolish, ridiculous, infantile or dangerous”[13] in contrast to those who are not. In Indian scenario too, a handful enjoy unearned, illegitimate power and undue advantages rather than earned social, moral or legitimate strength possessed by millions others who are struggling to survive on daily basis. When Rudyard Kipling wrote “White Man’s Burden”, though it has been construed differently, however, rhetorically it is satirically interpreted to be opposing imperialism as a noble enterprise to colonize and rule other nations for the benefit of colonial people in terms to achieve Western aspirations and to improve and industrialize countries. Similarly, all such groups which are in position of power often see themselves as being superior while consider `Others’ as inferiors and in order to dominate and uphold their power do everything possible to negate and debase existence of others.

Privileges therefore entail much more deeper meaning than the individual act of cruelty, selfishness, atrocity or an episode of violence against the marginal communities. It is also a larger term which expands beyond the scope of discrimination and entails micro-aggression, insults, humiliations, invalidation or negation of individuality on day to day basis. This is because privileges are invisible and confers unseen power to certain groups just because they are the members of those communities. McIntosh illustrates that “disapproving of the system won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals change their attitudes; many men think that sexism can be ended by individual changes in their daily behavior toward women. But a man’s sex provides an advantage for him whether or not he approves of the way dominance has been conferred on his group”. She explains that this is because the system of privilege is nurtured by “the myth of meritocracy and by the myth that democratic choices are available to all”. Thus in a country like India, where privileges operate in a ubiquitous but indiscernible manner, a section of society always is in a position to enjoy unseen unjust benefits in spite of existence of constitutional provision of equality which apparently and theoretically seems to have done away with discrimination on the grounds of sex, caste, class, religion or other situations[14]. However, whenever an episode of violence took place, it is seen in its micro-context without recognizing the role of systemic discriminatory structure in which it took place. Therefore, the Nirbhaya rape incident, hanging of two dalit girls or Rohit Vemula’s suicide, both are seen as episodic incidents rather than contextualizing these issues in the larger social context where patriarchy, fundamentalism, caste based discrimination, all intersect and correlate to provide fertile ground to suppress and subjugate those who are weak and vulnerable.

Often, these layers of denials are invisible in a systemic and ordered oppressive society in the manner of its structures and institutional arrangements. This is evident in the form of male member being given superior power within families as the head in a patriarchal society. In the public institutions like judiciary or Parliament, it is men who occupy almost all the top positions, in public places men control resources, make decisions and define or shape ideologies. Likewise, in a capitalistic economy it is the male, able bodied worker within a particular age group who is considered as a provider of resources and fits within the category of `worker’ therefore enjoys a privilege in terms of getting preference in employment. Also, in a geographical territory dominated by the Hindus, those professing this religion have been trying to maintain their hegemony using different tools to assert their superiority over those practicing other faiths and beliefs. Therefore, being born as a male in a Hindu upper caste family, a person may enjoy privilege like an easier access to temples and shrines which a Hindu upper caste female[15] or a Dalit male may not get as evident in the recent incidents. Rather, the concept of purity and pollution is utilized ingeniously to deprive women and dalits the access to public places. Thus those in power deployed clever strategies to deny and negate the existence of those who are not the part of it. Frequently, these prerogatives are imbibed within the society through the institutions like family, schools, workplaces, media, movies etc. through emphasizing pride and supremacy in being male, rich, hailing from upper caste or being a member of religious majority while considering others as inferior and therefore may be a target of humiliation or abuse. Hence, the elite dominant Indian class never bothers to address deeply entrenched socio-economic inequalities thus issues like poverty, hunger, malnutrition, farmers suicide, gender justice, caste atrocities, worker’s rights, dignity of labour, right to live with human dignity all are neglected by those in power.

Deeply internalized regressive hierarchical practices operate to determine and shape not only day to day practices and behavior but also this is evident in institutional practices, norms and attitudes. Therefore, when the accused in the Bhanwari Devi’s gang rape matter were acquitted because they were upper caste people who could not rape lower caste women is a live example of the manner in which privileges guide the mindset, attitude and dominate the decision making ability. Similarly, in the Mathura rape case the court acquitted the police men for raping a tribal girl Mathura on the pretext that the girl was habitual and she did not protested or in Rameeza Bee’s Rape case or more recently when a khap panchayat penalized two sisters to be raped and paraded naked because their brother eloped with a upper caste girl[16] reflects not only patriarchal biases but also the manner in which privileges operated deep down in the society stratified on the basis of sex, caste, class or religion. The privileges in fact act in an obnoxious manner where in the guise of modernity and secularism what is propagated is discriminatory humiliating practices for example those hired as maids or drivers are not respected or treated well in a society because they to the category of `others’[17].

Unearned and Undue Advantages of Being a Male in a Patriarchal Society

In a patriarchal society like India, men are positioned as superior beings. The celebrations on the birth of a son is a lively example of the manner in which male privilege operates whereas girl child is being killed before or after birth, rejected or abandoned thus resulting in a skewed sex ratio. Men enjoy undue advantages within the domain of household as being served best food, health, education and other such resources of which women are deprived of and also men enjoy more freedom and liberty as compared to women in the terms of formulating networks and relationships or even mobility. Restrictions are being placed on women, the sexuality and reproductive rights are controlled by the families, the communities and the socio-political institutions including the courts and the legislature. Paternalistic approach is used to confine women. The songs, the advertisements, the messages conveyed through media, business group, religious leaders, political personalities, all deploy the ideology of commodifying, objectifying and controlling women. Virginity and chastity of a woman is associated with her moral character. At the workplace, men enjoy privileges of accessing the opportunity to earn and are entitled to higher wages in comparison to women workers for similar work. Property share or family resources are often allowed to be carried forward through male lineage in spite of the fact that laws have been amended to ensure rights of daughters over family property as through Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005.

Often, these privileges exist not only within private domains of families but also in larger social arena and also the state is implicated in such behavior when it upholds male prerogative by passing lesser sentences in cases of crime against women or favouring the dominant notions while deciding civil cases. From work place to place of worship the privileges work in the hegemonic mischievous style in a structure that is against women as happens in TERI’s sexual harassment case[18] or in the matter where the law intern was harassed by the judge also reflect on biases and privileges that operate to undermine women. Within the free trade market economy, women are hardly treated as an agent with capabilities to make choices or negotiate their rightful entitlements either as a worker, a service provider or as a consumer. The cultural system that predominates in the society is marked by the emphasis on competition, objectivity and merit all of which are masculine traits. The manly behavior and attitude which emphasize on aggression, violence and ambition is prized over feminine values of intuition, feeling and subjectivity in general thus granting clear undue advantage to men. As Anne Jardim while commenting on glass ceiling in business because of which women are denied top positions commented, “The ceiling isn’t glass. It’s a very dense layer of men”[19]. Similarly, in Indian situation it may be said that it is a dense layer of men and masculinity which prevent women to be taken seriously in the public domain or at workplace. Often, women’s role as an intellectual contributor, as an artist or as a professional is negated. Frequently exploitative practices and thought processes are deployed deliberately, and at times, unintentionally to silence women’s voices, negate women’s subjectivities and sufferings and suppress women’s struggles. The laws, the constitutional provisions, policies, guidelines all are made and implemented in manner to deprive women of their rightful dues. Thus, while amending the law on the recommendations of Justice Verma committee constituted after Nirbhaya rape case, attempts are made to deprive women of their legitimate claims by not recognizing marital rape as crime[20]. Also the manner in which laws are implemented in the court rooms or outside clearly shows the manner in which legal rights are violated. Gender dynamics operate to see women as a lesser citizen, be a court room or a police station, university or a workplace, private or a public domain women’s existence is devalued[21].

Thus, when a woman is raped, these influential privileged people blame her for provoking and the solution they could point out therefore lies only in encaging women. In the name of safety, what is curtailed is women’s liberty by those who occupy privileged positions in the prevalent oppressive system. The religious and the political institutions attempt to push the ideology of control to dominate women’s bodies, their reproductive capacities, their daily life style, their sexuality, decision to marry, age at which they should marry, whom to marry, number of children they produce, the way they carry themselves, the manner to dress, so on and so forth using violence, deprivation, abuse, fear and other tools. The women who comply with such norms are glorified and awarded and those who rebel or fail to fit in the system are out casted. Moral policing to protect and promote ideology that is anti-people and anti-women is being promoted rather than social auditing to create gender just, poverty less, disease free and hunger free healthy society or swaraj or self governance based on the principles of equality, transparency and people’s participation. Male domination or patriarchy is preserved not only in the domestic sphere but also in public domain using inevitable rationalizations ranging from biological and psychological to social and evolutionary reasons. Justifications like lack of experience to religious rituals, traditional and conservative notion all are deployed to deny women their rightful dues. Mcintosh elaborates, “Virtually all men deny that male overeward alone can explain men’s centrality in all the inner sanctums of our most powerful institutions. Moreover, those few who will acknowledge that male privilege has over-empowered them usually end up doubting that we could dismantle this privilege systems. They may say that will work to improve the women’s status, in society or in the university, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s”[22]. Hence, in a country like India, refuting women’s claims to share power in panchayats[23] to Parliament all are justified to protect male prerogative.

The capitalist patriarchy further exploits women. Women employed on contractual basis in factories and industries are being exploited as they are being paid less wages and are compelled to work beyond prescribed hours in unhealthy hazardous work conditions and are prone to sexual harassment and abuse. Women employed in garment industries, in SEZs as unorganized labourers are often compelled to work overtime with limited wages and are deprived of protections available in terms of law or being a member of a trade union. Porn industry, cosmetic industry, marriage market, surrogacy trade and all similar business ventures manufacture oppression by profiting from women’s bodies. Trafficking, sexual or economic enslavement, selling of women and girls, all are techniques used to affirm male power and legitimacy. Women farmers and agricultural labourers suffer more disadvantages as compared to men in terms of availability of resources or absence of social security measures and so do tribal women are being harassed by the virtue of their birth and are deprived of advantages as their male counterpart. The privileges of being a male therefore operate in a tyrannical manner to subjugate and oppress women, their voices, their opinions, their subjectivities and their sufferings even if claims are made of attaining women’s equality and empowerment.

The Hinduization and the Majority Factor

Hinduism as being practiced over past few thousand years is different from the one that has been evolved later as the idea propagated by the Hindutava forces. While the former respects women and values the natural resources, the later do not. The modern Hinduism that has been designed a few thousand years back is more masculine, divisive, aggressive, violent and the one that is based on the principles of discrimination, division, fragmentation and institutionalization of hierarchies. Premised on the colonial ideology of divide and rule, it sees India as a Hindu nation and called it as Hindustan thus asserting its religious identity though the constitution visualizes India as a secular nation. Hindu community is therefore seen as a majority community that asserts it numerical superiority and thus those proclaiming themselves as the keepers of Hindu religion assert dominance through complex system of beliefs, behavior, practices, use of language and policies. The disruptive ideology is based on the concept of Hindu rashtra, jati and sanskriti, (Nation, caste, culture and civilization) fosters hostility while alienating and excluding many. Unscrupulous exploitation of religious sentiments to sow the seeds of hatred for the vested political interest is the main interest to promote communal based sectarian division. The ideology of communalism and fundamentalism has been advanced in the modern secular country to create a heterogeneous nation not on the basis of true religious spirit of harmony but on the basis of detestation and violence against `others’. The ideology and politics of Hindutava reproduces hierarchies and breed inequality where women are treated as slaves besides it considers caste as a basis of categorizing sects of Hindus. The reign is sanctioned to the upper caste Hindu male who is considered as superior by the virtue of his birth as a Brahmin.

The religion, as pushed today, thus accords certain special privileges to a Hindu, Brahmin male. A Hindu male is a preferred progeny and the society in the zeal of son preference allows families to kill daughters. Female foeticide, female infanticide and sex selection technologies are being used to favour the birth of the male child. The religious prerogatives are vested in a male as a carrier of family lineage besides holding him as a superior being who is ultimately responsible for salvation after death. The religion not only denies entry of women in temples and places of worship but also vest power in male priests and pujaris while maintaining the belief of purity and pollution. Female sadhvis are denied of many of the powers male sadhus are vested with and are merely seen as agents of patriarchy propagating values to relegate and subjugate the women rather than to work for women liberation. Women are considered as impure and unclean, more specifically the women in the fertile age group who should be seen as biologically superior because of their natural power to beget children are specifically demeaned and devalued as impure and unclean. Fertility is celebrated only when a woman bears sons and sacrifice girl child, the species of her own group, to prove her allegiance to the patriarchal religious forces. As a mother of sons, she is further forced to reiterate these conservative traditional rituals and practices as an agent of patriarchy which may include inflicting violence on her own daughters or daughter in laws. The patriarchy thus denies women not only their dignified human existence but also further subjugates and downgrades them to the extent of harming the species of their own kind. Khap panchayats, consisting or elderly males, dictating unreasonably to push its unjustified norms are several of the examples of manner in which local culture, religious practices and traditions operate to deny human existence to those who are not powerful.

The religious supremacy is weaved to create divide on the basis of caste thus putting Brahmin on the higher pedestal and Shudra at the lowest rung of the ladder. A man or a woman from the lower caste is thus mistreated, humiliated and subjected to violence besides s/he is compelled to face the cultural, moral and the social brutalities, inequalities and discriminations. Banning entry into places of worship to denial of taking water from the village pond, beating furiously over interacting with upper caste girls to denial of admission into educational institutions and other opportunities are all examples of divisive ideologies. The prerogative of religion further discriminates against men and women from religion other than that in majority in a given territorial realm. The violence resulted from banning beef to worshipping cows rather than respecting human beings, Muzzafar Nagar riots or Hashimpura Massacre, Dadri incident to killing of Prof Kalburgi, Mr Dhabolakar and Govind Panesera, Gujarat riots to Babri Masjid Demolition, inculcating hatred against neighbour countries on the grounds of religion to casting individuals practicing faith different than those of Hindus as terrorists, all are the ways in which religious supremacy is asserted by the fascist forces while reiterating communal rifts and striving to create hegemony of the religion.

Further, the Supreme Court in its recent judgement[24] while pronouncing its verdict regarding the application of Hindu Succession Act raised that, “it was pointed out that in spite of guarantee of Constitution, Muslim women are subjected to discrimination. There is no safeguard against arbitrary divorce and second marriage by her husband during currency of first marriage resulting in denial of security and dignity to her”. The court while quoting the decision in Javed v State of Haryana, argued that “a Bench of three judges observed that practices of polygamy is injurious to public morals and can be superseded by the state just as practice of sati”, and therefore suggested for filing a PIL on such issue overlooking the fact that Hindu law or any other personal law has its own biases and none of the personal laws grant high status to women. Rather, adultery, bigamy, dowry, violence against women are the common phenomenon and the Hindu law does not provide solution to the same, apart the Hindu law celebrates and allow for lavish wedding celebrations, dowry and in fact does not protect women at the time of divorce which Muslim law does[25]. Therefore, while pointing out the issues in Muslim Personal law relating to divorce, the court failed to overlook the problems that exist within the Hindu Personal laws and also could not realize the fact that merely amending the law applicable to one religion is not going to help unless the patriarchal, biased mindset it changed.

The Caste Domination: Asserting Supremacy of Brahamanism

The manner in which Hinduism is twisted, tweaked and mis-operated has created an institutional bias and segmented the society into various factions based on caste based divisions. The dented notions of morality, purity, pollution, hierarchical inequities all are damaging the culture and fabric of the country. Casteism is a doctrine that reiterates dominance and superiority of one caste over the other – Brahmins over Dalits, upper caste over lower caste and it extends beyond when the dominance is asserted by non tribals over tribals. Caste identities are reproduced and recreated within the social system and are defined by the birth of a person in a particular community. Such caste based biases breeds arrogance and hatred while fragmenting the community into groups and sub groups in a manner that mobility from one group to the other becomes extremely difficult even if one attempts to marry a person from a different caste. The recent suicide of Rohit Vemula in the campus of Hyderabad University and the political controversy surrounding it is a recent direct example of such humiliation based on casteist slur[26]. Just as male privilege operates to provide undue advantages to men, similarly, caste privilege works to provide unwarranted gains to those born in upper caste families. Undue hidden advantages on the basis of caste operate to negate the claims of those who hail from lower caste since ages, earlier in the form of untouchability and lately in the form of unjust humiliating treatment being meted to them in variety of ways. Besides caste based violence, atrocities or discrimination, the caste privileges operate silently to disallow dalits to opportunities to study or occupy top positions in employment private sector units. Such unjust approach prevents tribals to participate in events like sports or promote culture that foster local sport, handicraft, skills or similar such vocations that utilize local indigenous practices based on local knowledge.

The Economic and the Class Bias

Earlier with the feudalism, then with the beginning of capitalism, and now with the advent of globalization, neo-liberalization, privatization and corporatization, inequality is deepening in its virulent form. This neo liberal free trade economy is widening the gap between rich and the poor. Those rich are powerful, control the resources and define the mechanism in which the economy operates, on the basis of their capacity to pay. Redistribution of wealth is not seen as a solution to economic problems rather the feudal landlords in the agrarian economy and rich businesses in the neoliberal economy prevented social and economic reforms that could alleviate poverty or reduce inequalities thus liberating billion of people languishing in backwardness. The affirmative land reform, promoting agrarian economy, fostering indigenous people’s right to forests, redistribution of wealth and equal distribution of benefits of growth, all these were never thought of as achievable goals by successive governments rather what has been promoted is vested elite, feudal, corporate interest in accumulating wealth while depriving millions. The battle of Niyamgiri or Narmada Bachao Aandolan therefore reflects the manner in which the state and the corporate join hands against poor and work on anti-people agenda. The decision of court in the matter of Bhopal gas tragedy could not provide justice and various other decisions like that in case of Salman Khan, reveal the manner in which fairness operates within the given system.

The forces of modern education, urbanization or modernization have not defeated inequities rather the forces of capitalism and economic development have restructured and accentuated the social divisions. Thus in the anonymity of a city, which provides an opportunity to weaken the caste hierarchy, the wealth division flourishes to alienate those who are on margins. In fact, the capitalistic system is built on the basis of pre-existing entrenched inequities where discrimination continued in its deeper and darker form. The free market economy allow only those to succeed who already are in advantageous position because of their English speaking abilities and education or wealth to clout with those in power. In a city which perpetuate inequality and lack a sense of egalitarianism those in privileged position enjoy the benefits in terms of access to resources, employment, housing, health care, public services, positive response from law enforcement agencies among other which are defined and shaped on the basis of socio-economic status of a person. Economic entitlements determine relationships and legitimize inequalities.

The ideology of wealth accumulation through unscrupulous means while depriving the needy has been consciously promoted by powerful, in collusion with state, which is benefitted by keeping the masses illiterate and backward in order to gain undue advantages and reap the benefits. The debt driven economy based on material competition, loans, maximum exploitation of natural resources, while oppressing tribals and poor all to generate profit in terms of economic wealth is contributing to deepening inequalities in an already unequal segmented society. The neo-economy model not only further the capitalist patriarchy and feudal model in order to survive but also create a privileged class which is more concerned about self interested, career oriented generation which measures and financial success on the basis of material achievement and for the purpose may indulge in greedy selfish unethical behavior[27]. The privileged are those who are less altruistic and less empathetic. Often, in urban areas, public spaces are created to entertain only rich and elite sections of society. For instance, Malls are considered to be spaces earmarked for rich where poor and homeless are denied entry, also gated housing complexes and flat systems are created which are exclusive urban spaces meant for privileged class people who can afford to pay for luxurious lifestyle. Thus, existence of poor is negated. Development programmes are planned to eradicate poor rather than attacking on poverty. Social security measures and welfare provisions intending to help poor are being rolled back while subsidies are being given to corporate sector. Attempts are being made to grab agricultural land and forest with the aim to profit shareholders in big companies. Thus, the state is colluding with the rich and privileged to deny poor their rightful entitlements over social and economic resources.

Other Forms of Privileges

This concept of privilege also applies to other categories like being a heterosexual, married, able-bodied male in the productive age group which make such person powerful as he is seen as one capable of supporting others within the social system. The person born with disability therefore may be denied employment or other privileges as compared to a person who is not. Similarly, family dynasties operate to ascertain privileges and undue advantages to those who hail from a particular family. This is a common factor evident in most of the fields from politics to business families, from industry like film or media to others where the privileges becomes automatically available by the birth. Similarly, in each state of India, some or the other community consider itself more privileged as compared to others like Marathi Manoos in Maharashtra, Bhadralok in West Bengal, Business communities in Gujarat, and Jaats, Gujjars or Yadavs in other North Indian states, Tam Bram or Tamilian Brahmin elsewhere, so on and so forth assert their domination on the basis of being member of that particular community. This entangling web of unearned advantage of a group results in oppression of others is complex because each form of privilege based on class, caste, sex, religion, family or social background has its own repercussions which may adversely damage the social fabric, yet, when these factors run in parallel, in the institutionalized, systemic and embedded form these are seen as danger to integrity of the society.

Thus in a segregated, fragmented, divided Indian society, privileges exist though theoretically, the number of such people who are privileged are minuscule as compared to millions of those who are on the `other’ side and constitute the marginalized groups. However, there are situations when those who are `the others’ once gain power in a given situation may become part of the privileged group and may therefore act accordingly. Thus, there are a group of women who may choose to exploit and oppress other women because they may enjoy the benefits of patriarchal system. A dalit police constable may act oppressive against women, tribals or poor and a woman given the position of a bureaucrat may eventually end up making a policy unjust and against poor and tribals. Similarly, there may be a poor person who after acquiring wealth may choose to overlook the problems majority in the community face and likewise the reverberations echo in other marginalized communities too. The privileges therefore are internalized and inbuilt into the system and those who join the system acquire the same by the virtue of being a part of it.

Resistance to Privileges

To end this systemic dominance, McIntosh suggested that “individual acts can palliate, but cannot end these problems. To redesign social systems we need to first acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about inequality and inequity incomplete, protecting unearned advantages and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects”. Similarly, considering the Indian situation it may be said that often silence and denials surround the privilege confer dominance to different groups which they seek to protect knowingly or unknowingly. Thus many privileged men argue that system is equally oppressive to them or that affirmative policies or laws in place are misused or abused by women, dalits, tribals and other marginalized sections. Thus debates on equality therefore, at times, ignore the concept of substantive equality or social justice.

Further, the unchecked power or privileges granted to a few, are not helping those who possess these. As there are rich people who are not happy or contended, or men in order to be masculine and patriarchal need to behave aggressively and violently to prove and defend their masculinity. Similarly, the power granted to religion has not helped to achieve the goal of peace, or the concept of purity or pollution as propagated by the casteist society has not helped humanity in any manner. The need therefore is to recognize these systemic structural privileges organized ideologically and materially around religion caste, class, sex and social status. The struggles for resistance need to be accompanied by the recognition of privileges by those who are benefitted by it. However, there are people within both the groups – the privileged and the unprivileged, who are breaking these taboos rather than trying to fit in the given structure. Therefore, the so called feminists, though seen as men hating individuals are actually pointing out to misogynist society while holding patriarchy responsible for abuse, violence against women. Similarly, those fighting against the privileges of caste, class or religion are making attempts to visualize the systemic structures of oppression are vilified and disparaged by those who feel threatened and do not wish to share the power. Yet, the rules of unquestioning conformity to norms are being broken by those who are audacious, insolent and courageous who make responsible choice to cultivate the spirit of order and peace rather than confusion or chaos. As Maya Angelou in her famous work titled `Still I Rise’ wrote,

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

The author currently is practicing as an advocate in Delhi and is also working as an author, researcher and activist. She has written books, articles, notes on issues relating to Gender, Law, Rights and Governance. She may be contacted at shalu_nigam@rediffmail.com

  Read The Privileges Of Being A Hindu, Upper Caste And Elite Class, Male In India
  January 14, 2016
There Will Be Chaos: Big Oil's Collapse and the Birth of a New World Order

by Michael Klare, TomDispatch, AlterNet


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As 2015 drew to a close, many in the global energy industry were praying that the price of oil would bounce back from the abyss, restoring the petroleum-centric world of the past half-century.  All evidence, however, points to a continuing depression in oil prices in 2016 -- one that may, in fact, stretch into the 2020s and beyond. Given the centrality of oil (and oil revenues) in the global power equation, this is bound to translate into a profound shakeup in the political order, with petroleum-producing states from Saudi Arabia to Russia losing both prominence and geopolitical clout.

To put things in perspective, it was not so long ago—in June 2014, to be exact—that Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, was selling at $115 per barrel.  Energy analysts then generally assumed that the price of oil would remain well over $100 deep into the future, and might gradually rise to even more stratospheric levels.  Such predictions inspired the giant energy companies to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in what were then termed “unconventional” reserves: Arctic oil, Canadian tar sands, deep offshore reserves, and dense shale formations. It seemed obvious then that whatever the problems with, and the cost of extracting, such energy reserves, sooner or later handsome profits would be made. It mattered little that the cost of exploiting such reserves might reach $50 or more a barrel.

As of this moment, however, Brent crude is selling at $33 per barrel, one-third of its price 18 months ago and way below the break-even price for most unconventional “tough oil” endeavors. Worse yet, in one scenario recently offered by the International Energy Agency (IEA), prices might not again reach the $50 to $60 range until the 2020s, or make it back to $85 until 2040. Think of this as the energy equivalent of a monster earthquake -- a pricequake -- that will doom not just many “tough oil” projects now underway but some of the over-extended companies (and governments) that own them.

The current rout in oil prices has obvious implications for the giant oil firms and all the ancillary businesses -- equipment suppliers, drill-rig operators, shipping companies, caterers, and so on -- that depend on them for their existence. It also threatens a profound shift in the geopolitical fortunes of the major energy-producing countries. Many of them, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela, are already experiencing economic and political turmoil as a result. (Think of this as a boon for the terrorist group Boko Haram as Nigeria shudders under the weight of those falling prices.) The longer such price levels persist, the more devastating the consequences are likely to be.

A Perfect Storm

Generally speaking, oil prices go up when the global economy is robust, world demand is rising, suppliers are pumping at maximum levels, and little stored or surplus capacity is on hand. They tend to fall when, as now, the global economy is stagnant or slipping, energy demand is tepid, key suppliers fail to rein in production in consonance with falling demand, surplus oil builds up, and future supplies appear assured.

During the go-go years of the housing boom, in the early part of this century, the world economy was thriving, demand was indeed soaring, and many analysts were predicting an imminent “peak” in world production followed by significant scarcities.  Not surprisingly, Brent prices rose to stratospheric levels, reaching a record $143 per barrel in July 2008.  With the failure of Lehman Brothers on September 15th of that year and the ensuing global economic meltdown, demand for oil evaporated, driving prices down to $34 that December.

With factories idle and millions unemployed, most analysts assumed that prices would remain low for some time to come.  So imagine the surprise in the oil business when, in October 2009, Brent crude rose to $77 per barrel.  Barely more than two years later, in February 2011, it again crossed the $100 threshold, where it generally remained until June 2014.

Several factors account for this price recovery, none more important than what was happening in China, where the authorities decided to stimulate the economy by investing heavily in infrastructure, especially roads, bridges, and highways. Add in soaring automobile ownership among that country’s urban middle class and the result was a sharp increase in energy demand. According to oil giant BP, between 2008 and 2013, petroleum consumption in China leaped 35%, from 8.0 million to 10.8 million barrels per day. And China was just leading the way.  Rapidly developing countries like Brazil and India followed suit in a period when output at many existing, conventional oil fields had begun to decline; hence, that rush into those “unconventional” reserves.

This is more or less where things stood in early 2014, when the price pendulum suddenly began swinging in the other direction, as production from unconventional fields in the U.S. and Canada began to make its presence felt in a big way.  Domestic U.S. crude production, which had dropped from 7.5 million barrels per day in January 1990 to a mere 5.5 million barrels in January 2010, suddenly headed upwards, reaching a stunning 9.6 million barrels in July 2015.  Virtually all the added oil came from newly exploited shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. Canada experienced a similar sharp uptick in production, as heavy investment in tar sands began to pay off. According to BP, Canadian output jumped from 3.2 million barrels per day in 2008 to 4.3 million barrels in 2014.  And don’t forget that production was also ramping up in, among other places, deep-offshore fields in the Atlantic Ocean off both Brazil and West Africa, which were just then coming on line. At that very moment, to the surprise of many, war-torn Iraq succeeded in lifting its output by nearly one million barrels per day.

Add it all up and the numbers were staggering, but demand was no longer keeping pace.  The Chinese stimulus package had largely petered out and international demand for that country’s manufactured goods was slowing, thanks to tepid or nonexistent economic growth in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. From an eye-popping annual rate of 10% over the previous 30 years, China's growth rate fell into the single digits. Though China’s oil demand is expected to keep rising, it is not projected to grow at anything like the pace of recent years.

At the same time, increased fuel efficiency in the United States, the world’s leading oil consumer, began to have an effect on the global energy picture. At the height of the country’s financial crisis, when the Obama administration bailed out both General Motors and Chrysler, the president forced the major car manufacturers to agree to a tough set of fuel-efficiency standards now noticeably reducing America’s demand for petroleum.  Under a plan announced by the White House in 2012, the average fuel efficiency of U.S.-manufactured cars and light vehicles will rise to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, reducing expected U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels between now and then.

In mid-2014, these and other factors came together to produce a perfect storm of price suppression.  At that time, many analysts believed that the Saudis and their allies in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would, as in the past, respond by reining in production to bolster prices.  However, on Nov. 27, 2014, OPEC confounded those expectations, voting to maintain the output quotas of its member states.  The next day, the price of crude plunged by $4 and the rest is history.

A Dismal Prospect

In early 2015, many oil company executives were expressing the hope that these fundamentals would soon change, pushing prices backup again. But recent developments have demolished such expectations.

Aside from the continuing economic slowdown in China and the surge of output in North America, the most significant factor in the unpromising oil outlook, which now extends bleakly into 2016 and beyond, is the steadfast Saudi resistance to any proposals to curtail their production or OPEC’s.  On December 4th, for instance, OPEC members voted yet again to keep quotas at their current levels and, in the process, drove prices down another 5%.  If anything, the Saudis have actually increased their output.

Many reasons have been given for the Saudis’ resistance to production cutbacks, including a desire to punish Iran and Russia for their support of the Assad regime in Syria.  In the view of many industry analysts, the Saudis see themselves as better positioned than their rivals for weathering a long-term price decline because of their lower costs of production and their large cushion of foreign reserves.  The most likely explanation, though, and the one advanced by the Saudis themselves is that they are seeking to maintain a price environment in which U.S. shale producers and other tough-oil operators will be driven out of the market. 

“There is no doubt about it, the price fall of the last several months has deterred investors away from expensive oil including U.S. shale, deep offshore, and heavy oils,” a top Saudi official told the Financial Times last spring.

Despite the Saudis’ best efforts, the larger U.S. producers have, for the most part, adjusted to the low-price environment, cutting costs and shedding unprofitable operations, even as many smaller firms have filed for bankruptcy. As a result, U.S. crude production, at about 9.2 million barrels per day, is actually slightly higher than it was a year ago.

In other words, even at $33 a barrel, production continues to outpace global demand and there seems little likelihood of prices rising soon, especially since, among other things, both Iraq and Iran continue to increase their output.  With the Islamic State slowly losing ground in Iraq and most major oil fields still in government hands, that country’s production is expected to continue its stellar growth.  In fact, some analysts project that its output could triple during the coming decade from the present three million barrels per day level to as much as nine million barrels.

For years, Iranian production has been hobbled by sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union (E.U.), impeding both export transactions and the acquisition of advanced Western drilling technology.  Now, thanks to its nuclear deal with Washington, those sanctions are being lifted, allowing it both to reenter the oil market and import needed technology.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iranian output could rise by as much as 600,000 barrels per day in 2016 and by more in the years to follow.

Only three developments could conceivably alter the present low-price environment for oil: a Middle Eastern war that took out one or more of the major energy suppliers; a Saudi decision to constrain production in order to boost prices; or an unexpected global surge in demand.

The prospect of a new war between, say, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- two powers at each other’s throats at this very moment -- can never be ruled out, though neither side is believed to have the capacity or inclination to undertake such a risky move. A Saudi decision to constrain production is somewhat more likely sooner or later, given the precipitous decline in government revenues. However, the Saudis have repeatedly affirmed their determination to avoid such a move, as it would largely benefit the very producers -- namely shale operators in the U.S. -- they seek to eliminate.

The likelihood of a sudden spike in demand appearsunlikely indeed.  Not only is economic activity still slowing in China and many other parts of the world, but there’s an extra wrinkle that should worry the Saudis at least as much as all that shale oil coming out of North America: oil itself is beginning to lose some of its appeal.

While newly affluent consumers in China and India continue to buy oil-powered automobiles -- albeit not at the breakneck pace once predicted -- a growing number of consumers in the older industrial nations are exhibiting a preference for hybrid and all-electric cars, or for alternative means of transportation.  Moreover, with concern over climate change growing globally, increasing numbers of young urban dwellers are choosing to subsist without cars altogether, relying instead on bikes and public transit.  In addition, the use of renewable energy sources -- sun, wind, and water power -- is on the rise and will only grow more rapidly in this century.

These trends have prompted some analysts to predict that global oil demand will soon peak and then be followed by a period of declining consumption.  Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the energy and sustainability program at the University of California, Davis, suggests that growing urbanization combined with technological breakthroughs in renewables will dramatically reduce future demand for oil.  “Increasingly, cities around the world are seeking smarter designs for transport systems as well as penalties and restrictions on car ownership. Already in the West, trendsetting millennials are urbanizing, eliminating the need for commuting and interest in individual car ownership,” she wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year.

The Changing World Power Equation

Many countries that get a significant share of their funds from oil and natural gas exports and that gained enormous influence as petroleum exporters are already experiencing a significant erosion in prominence. Their leaders, once bolstered by high oil revenues, which meant money to spread around and buy popularity domestically, are falling into disfavor.

Nigeria’s government, for example, traditionally obtains 75% of its revenues from such sales; Russia’s, 50%; and Venezuela’s, 40%.  With oil now at a third of the price of 18 months ago, state revenues in all three have plummeted, putting a crimp in their abilityto undertake ambitious domestic and foreign initiatives.

In Nigeria, diminished government spending combined with rampant corruption discredited the government of President Goodluck Jonathan and helped fuel a vicious insurgency by Boko Haram, prompting Nigerian voters to abandon him in the most recent election and install a former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, in his place.  Since taking office, Buhari has pledged to crack down on corruption, crush Boko Haram, and -- in a telling sign of the times -- diversify the economy, lessening its reliance on oil.

Venezuela has experienced a similar political shock thanks to depressed oil prices.  When prices were high, President Hugo Chávez took revenues from the state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., and used them to build housing and provide other benefits for the country’s poor and working classes, winning vast popular support for his United Socialist Party.  He also sought regional support by offering oil subsidies to friendly countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.  After he died in March 2013, his chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, sought to perpetuate this strategy, but oil didn’t cooperate and, not surprisingly, public support for him and for Chávez’s party began to collapse.  On December 6th, the center-right opposition swept to electoral victory, taking a majority of the seats in the National Assembly.  It now seeks to dismantle Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” though Maduro's supporters have pledged firm resistance to any such moves.

The situation in Russia remains somewhat more fluid.  President Vladimir Putin continues to enjoy widespread popular support and, from Ukraine to Syria, he has indeed been moving ambitiously on the international front.  Still, falling oil prices combined with economic sanctions imposed by the E.U. and the U.S. have begun to cause some expressions of dissatisfaction, including a recent protest by long-distance truckers over increased highway tolls. Russia’s economy is expected to contract in a significant way in 2016, undermining the living standards of ordinary Russians and possibly sparking further anti-government protests. 

In fact, some analysts believe that Putin took the risky step of intervening in the Syrian conflict partly to deflect public attention from deteriorating economic conditions at home.  He may also have done so to create a situation in which Russian help in achieving a negotiated resolution to the bitter, increasingly internationalized Syrian civil war could be traded for the lifting of sanctions over Ukraine.  If so, this is a very dangerous game, and no one -- least of all Putin -- can be certain of the outcome.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, has been similarly buffeted, but appears -- for the time being, anyway -- to be in a somewhat better position to weather the shock.  When oil prices were high, the Saudis socked away a massive trove of foreign reserves, estimated at three-quarters of a trillion dollars.  Now that prices have fallen, they are drawing on those reserves to sustain generous social spending meant to stave off unrest in the kingdom and to finance their ambitious intervention in Yemen’s civil war, which is already beginning to look like a Saudi Vietnam.  Still, those reserves have fallen by some $90 billion since last year and the government is already announcing cutbacks in public spending, leading some observers to question how long the royal family can continue to buy off the discontent of the country’s growing populace.  Even if the Saudis were to reverse course and limit the kingdom’s oil production to drive the price of oil back up, it’s unlikely that their oil income would rise high enough to sustain all of their present lavish spending priorities.

Other major oil-producing countries also face the prospect of political turmoil, including Algeria and Angola.  The leaders of both countries had achieved the usual deceptivedegree of stability in energy producing countries through the usual oil-financed government largesse.  That is now coming to an end, which means that both countries could face internal challenges.

And keep in mind that the tremors from the oil pricequake have undoubtedly yet to reach their full magnitude.  Prices will, of course, rise someday. That’s inevitable, given the way investors are pulling the plug on energy projects globally.  Still, on a planet heading for a green energy revolution, there’s no assurance that they will ever reach the $100-plus levels that were once taken for granted.  Whatever happens to oil and the countries that produce it, the global political order that once rested on oil’s soaring price is doomed.  While this may mean hardship for some, especially the citizens of export-dependent states like Russia and Venezuela, it could help smooth the transition to a world powered by renewable forms of energy.

  Read There Will Be Chaos: Big Oil's Collapse and the Birth of a New World Order
 January 15, 2016
5 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be the Year the Fossil Fuel Era Enters Terminal Decline

by Assaad W. Razzouk, Huffington Post, AlterNet


2015 was a landmark year for climate action. Its many highlights were topped by a Paris agreement where 195 countries set themselves on a low-carbon path via economy-wide plans sure to be developed and strengthened every year. 

In the meantime, climate chaos continues to build: 2015 was the warmest year of the warmest decade since we started recording temperatures. 2016 is forecast to be even warmer. The number of climate refugees are swelling and everywhere popular movements against more pollution and irresponsibility are strengthening. 

Expect the following broad trends to accentuate in 2016.

Clean Energy can no Longer be Stopped
Notwithstanding the low price of coal and oil, solar power and other forms of clean energy will continue their onward march in 2016 and quasi-monopolize additions to electricity supply worldwide.

Order books for new clean energy power plants are up sharply in the United States, China, India, as well as in the developing economies of Africa and Latin America. India, for example, with current electricity grid capacity of less than 300 gigawatts (GW), is on its way to building 100 GW of solar power by 2022 (from 5 GW currently), double the current solar capacity of China. 

Meanwhile, cheaper battery technology will continue to drive clean energy costs down, while changing the way people think about energy: We will produce more electricity from solar power, but also store and manage it ourselves. This foretells nothing short of a revolution in the way our modern society fuels itself, upending previous assumptions about the need for large fossil fuel plants connected by an expensive, inefficient electricity grid.

Renewables up, Fossil Fuel Stocks Down
The gap will begin to close between the stock market value of coal, oil and gas companies - still a massive $5 trillion - and that of the renewable energy sector, a tiny $300 billion.

While we are not going to get rid of fossil fuels right away, market signals are spreading, slowly but surely, to financial markets that have been mostly deaf to the increasingly strident will of the world to wean itself off fossil fuels. The capital markets will find themselves caught in a pincer movement by renewables costs that continue to drop and oil prices that continue to be volatile.

More money will be lost in fossil fuel stocks and bonds; more investors will divest; and more oil and gas exploration projects will be abandoned, forever.

More Carbon Markets
In 2016, new carbon markets will continue to emerge around the world.

In the US, carbon emission trading markets are the most likely mechanism that states will use to comply with the Clean Power Plan. Elsewhere, more countries will price carbon to align their actions with their Paris climate agreement commitments. Countries as varied as China, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Korea and New Zealand are opting for carbon pricing within systems tailored to suit their national circumstances.

While carbon prices worldwide remain a few years off, the signal to investors is clear: Carbon pricing is accelerating, increasing the costs of fossil fuels while making renewables more and more competitive.

Global Green Jobs Boom
Expect the green economy to continue to create jobs by the bucket load. This in turn will conquer politicians' remaining allegiance to fossil fuel interests and infrastructure. 

The solar industry, for example, is already creating eight times more jobs than the coal and natural gas industries in the United States. This advantage is even starker in developing economies like India. 

Subsidy cuts are threatening solar jobs in the UK at the moment, but the sector as a whole can still thrive on private investments and will continue to create jobs in the long run.

And clean energy doesn't only create jobs - it empowers people, especially in poorer countries where electricity is a precious commodity. In Tanzania, for example, education is being brought to students living in remote, off-the-grid locations via a fleet of mobile, solar-powered classroom trucks. In Kenya, solar-powered ovens are allowing women to literally bake their way to a better life. Other examples abound because human ingenuity is allowing them to proliferate.

Health Concerns Will Drive More Local Action
Health concerns also strengthen the dash for clean energy in many countries.

Signs of a fundamental pushback against fossil fuels on health grounds abound. China, for example, recently announced that it will stop approving new coal mines for the next three years, and cut production, because of pollution considerations. Public health is under threat in major cities ranging from Paris to Delhi to Hanoi, strengthening the imperative to electrify our car and bus fleets. In a telling sign, Toyota, the world's largest car company, decided to end all production of petrol and diesel cars by 2050.

We are on track for a wholesale shift to electrification in the 2030s and Volkswagen's cheating is but an example of panicked rear-guard action.

Utility-scale solar can already be had for 5 US cents / kWh, compared to gas at 5 to 8 US cents and coal at 6 to 15 US cents. When the full health impact of coal and gas is priced in, solar and wind energy (as well as other forms of clean energy) are vastly superior. So why would anyone want to build a coal-fired or a gas-fired power plant in 2016?

Tolling bells, drum fills as we march into the end of the age of oil (and gas, and coal), and the rise of the age of green energy.



Assaad W. Razzouk is a Lebanese-British clean energy entrepreneur, investor and commentator. He is Group Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, a global clean energy company headquartered in Singapore; the Chairman of the Board of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA); a Board member of the Climate Markets & Investment Association (CMIA); and a commentator on climate change, natural capital and clean energy.

  Read 5 Reasons Why 2016 Will Be the Year the Fossil Fuel Era Enters Terminal Decline
  January 9, 2016
Scientists warn that we are entering uncharted territory when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.

by Dahr Jamail, Truthout, AlterNet


Arctic sea ice is melting at a record pace - and every summer looks grimmer. This past summer saw the ice pack at its fourth-lowest level on record, and the overall trend in recent decades suggests this will only continue.

"Using satellites, scientists have found that the area of sea ice coverage each September has declined by more than 40 percent since the late 1970s, a trend that has accelerated since 2007," according to the recent report "Arctic Matters: The Global Connection to Changes in the Arctic" by the National Research Council of the National Academies.

The report added that by the end of each of the eight summers from 2007 to 2014, Arctic sea ice extent was over less area than at any time in the preceding three decades.

In addition to rapid melting of the sea and land ice in the Arctic, temperatures there are warming at least twice as fast as those of the rest of the planet - provoking other dramatic changes.

"Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm."

Massive wildfires on frozen ground, resulting from increasingly dry conditions caused by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), are becoming common; this phenomenon is unprecedented over at least the last 10,000 years.

These and other recent changes across the Arctic are making the weather and climate patterns there - and across the rest of the planet - more difficult to predict.

As Arctic Matters reports, "Changes in the Arctic have the potential to affect weather thousands of miles away. Because temperatures are increasing faster in the Arctic than at the tropics, the temperature gradient that drives the jet stream is becoming less intense."

This causes the jet stream to weaken and shift away from its typical patterns, which then leads to weather patterns becoming more persistent and lasting longer in the mid-latitudes. This then results in longer droughts, more intense heat waves, and far longer and deeper cold snaps, such as those witnessed in the Northeastern United States and Europe during the last two winters.

Truthout interviewed several leading scientists on these issues, seeking a consistent expectation for what the dramatic changes in the Arctic mean. The verdict? If there's one thing that all the scientists' predictions have in common, it is significant change.

The Vanishing Arctic Ice Pack

Dr. Julienne Stroeve is a senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. She specializes in the remote sensing of snow and ice, and works in the Arctic measuring changes in the sea ice.

"Eventually we should see an Arctic Ocean ice free in summers as global temperatures continue to warm," Stroeve told Truthout. She expects us to begin seeing summer periods of an ice-free Arctic ice pack around the year 2040.

The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change.

He believes that while there will most likely be some small areas of year-round ice clinging to far northern Canada for decades to come, "I would expect a summer in the next 20 to 30 years in which sea ice covers as little as 10 percent of the Arctic for at least a few days in August or September," he said.

Everything in the planet's climate system is linked, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

Henson pointed out that if we extrapolate data and make predictions from more recent conditions in the Arctic, the timeline for seeing a total loss of sea ice seems faster, but he said we will most likely see summer sea ice declining "in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, with record ice loss in some years (as in 2007 and 2012) and a temporary, partial 'recovery' in other years (as in 2009 and 2013)."

Regardless of the specifics of the timeline, many agree that an ice-free Arctic will appear before the next century begins.

Dr. Steven Vavrus at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focuses on the Arctic and serves on the science steering committee for the Study of Environmental Arctic Change. "The precise timing is nearly impossible to pin down, but most estimates range from around 2040 until the end of this century," he told Truthout. "I would be very surprised if seasonally ice-free conditions during summer do not emerge by 2100."

Dr. David Klein is the director of the climate science program at California State University, Northridge. Like others, he pointed out how the Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet, and pointed out how ice loss there is "proceeding more rapidly than models have predicted."

"The loss of sea ice decreases albedo [reflectivity] and results in greater absorption of energy in the water, and the warm water then heats the air above it," Klein told Truthout. "NASA's CERES satellites have observed an increase of 10 watts per square meter of solar radiation absorbed by the Arctic Ocean from 2000 to 2014."

By way of comparison, overall net planetwide warming from greenhouse gases thus far is only one-twentieth that amount of heating. 

While that might not sound like very much, as James Hansen has pointed out, cumulatively that amount corresponds to 400,000 Hiroshima atom bombs per day, 365 days a year, across the planet.

Changing Global Weather Patterns

Stroeve explained why the Arctic is vitally important in terms of its impact on the global climate system.

"The Arctic is typically covered by snow and ice year around," she said. "Snow and ice have a high albedo, meaning they reflect most of the sun's energy back out to space, helping to keep the region, and the planet, cooler than [they] otherwise would be. As the sea ice melts, or snow [and] glaciers melt, it lowers the albedo, allowing more of the sun's energy to be absorbed by the ocean and land surfaces, further warming the region."

Hence, all of our large-scale weather and ocean patterns are tied to the temperature difference between the poles, which receive less solar input, Stroeve said, and the equator, which receives most of the solar input.

"If that temperature difference changes, we would expect the large-scale weather patterns, i.e. the jet stream pattern, to respond," she added. "This would then [have an] impact on precipitation patterns, perhaps frequency of extreme weather events etc."

Hansen warned that we are entering "uncharted territory" when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.

"The ice loss in recent years has been unprecedented since satellite coverage began in the 1970s, and all signals point to a continued decline in summer sea ice over the next few decades," he said. "We may already be seeing the effects of Arctic sea ice loss in mid-latitude weather patterns."

Henson warned that in the coming decades, an Arctic Ocean that is completely open for even a few days or weeks per year, could well shape the atmosphere "in ways that are not yet fully understood."

"The 'climate system' is a complex interconnection of air, land, plants, sea and ice," he said. "Any transformation to this system as large as the loss of summertime Arctic sea ice should concern all of us, especially since it could reverberate in yet-unknown ways."

Vavrus explained how the Arctic is the "refrigerator" of the global climate system, acting as the cold region that balances out the hot tropics.

"In this role, the Arctic helps to regulate the energy balance of the climate system and the weather circulation patterns both within high latitudes and elsewhere," he said.

He went on to point out that the most common expectation among scientists about the impact that the loss of summer sea ice will have on global climate patterns is that more solar energy will be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean and land, and the added heat from the earth's surface will then be released back into the atmosphere during autumn and winter.

"That will then make the region much warmer during those seasons than in the current climate," Vavrus said. "That will likely lead to a weakening of jet-stream winds and probably a wavier jet-stream flow pattern."

This will then result in shifting jet-stream winds, and lead to more persistent and extreme weather patterns both within and outside of the Arctic, he added.

Extreme weather patterns don't necessarily mean a universal trend toward hot weather. Henson pointed out that research by some scientists is showing that sea ice loss may be helping to cause colder mid-latitude winters like those seen recently in the Northeastern United States. Why? According to Henson, this could be because "the heat released from the newly opened ocean may be helping to slow and weaken the polar jet stream."

Another mechanism Henson mentioned is how open water in the Barents and Kara Seas may be moistening the autumn atmosphere over Siberia, leading to heavier autumn snows and triggering a chain of events leading to midwinter Arctic outbreaks.

Stroeve said that while exact ramifications of an ice-free Arctic continue to remain unclear, "There is some thought that the warming Arctic has already led to a slowing down of the zonal wind speeds, and perhaps also causing a wavier jet-stream pattern, which would allow for more extreme (or 'stuck') weather patterns to persist."

Klein pointed to how the melting Arctic sea ice "can disrupt normal ocean circulation because of the influx of freshwater from the melted ice, and rising air heated by the water can change wind patterns and even perturb the jet stream, which in turn might alter weather patterns thousands of miles away."

Some current research states that this contributes to the extreme "polar vortex" weather events we've seen in recent years, in addition to the extreme drought plaguing much of the western United States.

Klein also pointed out another dramatic impact the loss of ice is having within the Arctic itself.

"With ice no longer stabilizing land along coasts, erosion will increase and fragile permafrost areas will release more greenhouse gases," he said. "Permafrost coasts [permanently frozen soil next to open water bodies] comprise a third of the world's coastline. This is another positive feedback leading to further warming."

We Have Been Warned

Stroeve pointed out that people should be concerned about the upcoming summer periods of an ice-free Arctic Ocean due to the fact that everything in the planet's climate system is linked together, and when one part of it changes, all the other parts will respond.

"It also causes our planet to warm further, changes [in] species' habitat/range, perhaps leading to extinction for some species," she explained. "A change in our precipitation patterns will impact food and water security. Then, of course, there are people who live in the Arctic and are being directly impacted by these changes."

Dr. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University's Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences whose research is focused on the Arctic, pointed out how the Arctic sea ice plays a critical role in the region's climate system and marine ecosystem. And as we're learning, its disappearance "is having broad effects well beyond the Arctic."

Impacts range "from weather patterns to animal migrations to ocean current systems to food webs," Francis told Truthout. "Its loss will be felt directly and indirectly by billions of people."

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009, and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

  Read Scientists warn that we are entering uncharted territory when it comes to the loss of Arctic sea ice.
 January 14, 2016
Methane Madness: Porter Ranch Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg Exposing Catastrophic Impacts of Natural Gas

by Jennifer Krill, EcoWatch, AlterNet


Natural gas is not cleaner than coal.

But thanks to boatloads of advertising and campaign contributions, oil and gas lobbyists has convinced many politicians, including President Obama, that replacing coal with natural gas is a viable way to stave off catastrophic climate change.

But it isn’t. The now-famous Aliso Canyon methane leak, its impacts on thousands of residents of near Porter Ranch and its damage to the climate is just the latest and most public example showing that we need to keep natural gas in the ground, not burn it.

The oil and gas industry’s argument for natural gas boils down to this: to generate electricity, burning natural gas is cleaner than burning coal. While that is true, it’s only part of the story. But it’s the only part industry tells because it’s the only part they like. Unfortunately for all of us, though, natural gas is far more than just a replacement utility-scale fossil fuel.

SoCalGas, a division of Sempra Energy, provides natural gas not just to power plants, but to 21 million customers in Southern California. “Now you’re cooking with gas,” is the Bob Hope adage from the 30’s and 40’s as natural gas began to be piped into homes for heating and cooking. To look at it another way, the leaking Aliso Canyon gas storage facility supplies millions of kitchen ovens with the blue flame prized by home chefs.

But to see the true cost of natural gas we need to look beyond the burner.

The environmental and community health damage caused by fracked natural gas extraction is well known at this point, and science is confirming its danger with every new peer-reviewed study.

Californians’ attention turned to the problem of aging pipeline infrastructure in our cities, when a suburban neighborhood in the town of San Bruno was destroyed in a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion. Then Nathan Phillips at Boston University used gas analyzers to develop 3-D “methane maps” in urban environments, estimating 7-15 percent of global manmade methane pollution could be coming from pipes in cities bringing natural gas to consumers.

Until Aliso Canyon, we weren’t looking at the step in the supply chain before urban pipelines—storage facilities. Refined natural gas has been stored in former oil wells at Aliso Canyon since the 70’s; when the oil wells were emptied, they were repurposed for storage of natural gas. The volcano of methane that is now California’s largest single source of greenhouse gases is coming from a broken well that was last inspected in 1976. The LA Weekly reports that the well’s safety valve was inexplicably removed in 1979. Among the hundred at the facility, other wells also lack safety valves.  

Aliso Canyon was a disaster waiting to happen. The facility was old, poorly managed and experienced abysmal oversight. Gov. Jerry Brown finally declared a state of emergency last week, directing state agencies to take unprecedented action on underground gas storage in the Golden State.

There are more than 300 similar facilities around the country. We need to to make sure that we don’t have other climate and health disasters waiting to happen in California and around the U.S. We need:

  • An emergency statewide effort to shut down facilities that lack basic safety equipment, including Aliso Canyon. Gas storage wells that lack shut off valves should be taken offline before other Porter Ranches happen.

  • Increased oversight and management of these facilities.

  • Support for residents affected by pollution, including health care as well as financial compensation.

  • A rapid transition for consumers away from gas.The Solutions Project has mapped out a 100 percent fossil fuel free plan by 2050. This transition would protect communities from underground storage risks, gas line leakage and explosions like the one in San Bruno.

We’ve already wrapped our heads around a rooftop solar revolution and what it might mean for distributed energy generation rather than big boxes of fossil fuels. Now it’s time to start planning to get rid of the blue flames on our stovetops, water heaters and furnaces. There is an electric or solar electric alternative to every natural gas appliance. We can’t just cut natural gas’s electric cord; we have to cut the pipeline too.

As program director at Rainforest Action Network, Jennifer Krill helped lead campaigns to protect old growth forests and break America’s oil addiction. She is currently the executive director of EARTHWORKS, an advocacy group that focuses on the negative impacts of mineral and energy extraction.
  Read Methane Madness: Porter Ranch Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg Exposing Catastrophic Impacts of Natural Gas
 January 22, 2016
Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S.

by Beyond Pesticides, AlterNet


Native bees are on the decline in some of the major agricultural regions in the United States, according to a new study. The study scientists produced the first national map of bee populations and identified numerous trouble areas. Since 2006, honey bees and other pollinators in the U.S. and throughout the world have experienced ongoing and rapid population declines. The continuation of this crisis threatens the stability of ecosystems, the economy, and food supply, as one in three bites of food are dependent on pollinator services.

The study, titled Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States and published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, for the first time aims to assess the status and trends of wild bees and their potential impacts on pollination services across the U.S. and found that between 2008 and 2013 bee abundance declined across 23% of the nation’s land area. The decline is generally associated with conversion of natural habitats to row crops. The researchers also list pesticide use, climate change, and disease as other threats to wild bees. The researchers specifically cited 139 counties as especially worrisome, with wild bee numbers decreasing while farmland for crops dependent on such pollinators is increasing. The counties include agricultural regions of California such as the Central Valley, as well as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi river valley.

Last year, researchers at Cornell University found that as the use of pesticides on apple orchards in New York State increased, the abundance of wild bees declined significantly. The researchers analyzed wild bee populations on 19 apples orchards across the state of New York between 2011 and 2012. Data was broken down by class of pesticide (fungicide, insecticide, herbicides), and timing of applications (before, during, and after flower bloom). Researchers also analyzed the percentage of natural areas within the surrounding landscape. Wild bee numbers declined significantly as pesticide use increased, but the overall impact of pesticides on wild bees was found to be highest in generations following pesticide exposure, indicating that pesticides affect bee reproduction or offspring. Further, researchers found that fungicides, widely regarded as having low toxicity to bees, had a measurable impact on wild bee abundance.

“High and repeated exposure was the likely explanation” for this finding, according to the study. Fungicide applications prior to apple flower blooming resulted in the steepest decline in wild bee abundance and diversity. This result indicates that wild bees are visiting orchards before apple trees begin to bloom. Further, researchers found insecticide applications affected bees the mostly after bloom occurred. The authors explain that, while honey bees are placed in orchards for a short time during bloom, wild bees are more frequently exposed to chemical pesticides because they continue to forage in and around apple orchards before and after the bloom period.

In this latest study, the counties grew crops such as almonds, pumpkins, squashes, blueberries, watermelons, peaches and apples that are highly dependent on pollinators, or had large amounts of less-pollinator-dependent crops including soybeans, canola and cotton.

According to US News, Taylor Ricketts, Ph.D., director of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, said the 139 counties represent 39% of the pollinator-dependent crop area of the United States and most likely will face inadequate pollination in the future. “Wild bee declines may increase costs for farmers and, over time, could even destabilize crop production,” Dr. Ricketts said.

Their decline may prompt greater dependence on commercial honeybee colonies for pollinating crops, but honeybee numbers also are falling, added Gund Institute researcher Insu Koh, PhD, the lead author of the study.

“Our results highlight the need for strategies to maintain pollinator populations in farmland, and the importance of conservation programs that provide flowering habitat that can support wild bees and other pollinators,” said Michigan State University entomologist Rufus Isaacs, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Integrated Crop Pollination Project.

The study follows a 2014 memorandum by Barack Obama creating a task force to study pollinator losses. The task force in May called for preserving wide swathes of pollinator habitats, yet falls short of recommendations submitted by Beyond Pesticides, beekeepers, and others who stress that pollinator protection begins with strong regulatory action and suspension of bee-toxic pesticides.

  Read Native Bee Populations on Decline on U.S.
 January 8, 2016
The New Keystone Lawsuit Is a Perfect Example of Why Environmentalists Are Wary of Obama's Secretive Trade Deals

by John Light, Moyers & Company, AlterNet


On Wednesday, TransCanada, the Canadian fossil fuel company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, announced that it is suing the Obama administration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The case will be decided by an international tribunal. The corporation also filed a separate suit at the US Federal Court in Dallas.

“TransCanada has been unjustly deprived of the value of its multi-billion-dollar investment by the U.S. Administration’s action,” the company said in a press release, declaring that it hopes to recover $15 billion in US taxpayer money as compensation for lost profits. (The federal court suit, the company explained, “does not seek damages, but rather a declaration that the [administration’s] permit denial is without legal merit and that no further Presidential action is required before construction of the pipeline can proceed.”)

The NAFTA suit takes advantage of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a way corporations can sue foreign governments for damages that’s a feature of many trade agreements — and which many environmental groups staunchly oppose.

ISDS filings increased over the last two decades. (From “Recent Trends in Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” by Rachel Wellhausen)

ISDS was an idea conjured up by European investors in the mid-20th century, when companies worried that revolutionary governments would nationalize an investment, like a coal mine. They wanted a way to hold governments accountable for their losses. But in the last two decades, as the number of trade deals containing ISDS has increased, suits have been put to a broader use, with companies alleging lost profits and suing not just when a government seizes a company’s property but also when a government changes regulations in a way that seems to target one company.

In large part because of ISDS, groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have become outspoken opponents of Obama’s current deal with Pacific Rim countries — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and another trade agreement with European countries that is still being negotiated, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The environmentalists argue that while the administration is pursuing agreements with countries like China and India to cut emissions, and backing action through the UN Paris climate pact, it simultaneously is pushing new trade deals that, like NAFTA, would allow foreign fossil-fuel companies to sue to protect their interests and keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

These groups argue that the TPP runs completely counter to the goals of the Paris climate pact, which will be signed by nearly 200 countries in April, and which requires every signatory to voluntarily commit to reducing their fossil fuel consumption. “The challenge is that we need to be clearing the path so all countries can put in place the most ambitious climate policies possible in order to meet and exceed those goals. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if put into law, would essentially put new road blocks in the way that would threaten or slow the ability to make the changes our economy needs,” says Ilana Solomon, who heads the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

To illustrate her point, Solomon pointed to a suit against Germany by a Swedish energy giant, Vattenfall. In 2009, after the German government imposed stricter water regulations on a Vattenfall-owned coal plant near Hamburg, the company used ISDS to sue for €1.4 billion, saying the regulations violated Vattenfall’s rights under the multilateral Energy Charter Treaty. The case was ultimately settled after Vattenfall won a victory in a separate suit in German courts. Under the settlement, Germany weakened the regulations in a way that the EU later said was harmful to protected fish species.

“In the halls of power where the [Paris] deal was being crafted there was very little discussion of trade and there’s a real challenge that these two issues — climate and trade — are operating in separate silos. In the trade negotiations, climate change is totally absent from the discussions,” says Solomon, noting that the TPP doesn’t mention the term “climate change” or lay out specific ways to encourage countries to cut emissions.

That, in fact, is the point, argues James Salzman, a professor at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA School of Law, and a member of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee that counsels the EPA and the US Trade Representative. The TPP is a trade deal, not a climate deal, he says, “driven in part by geopolitical concerns. China has an increasing influence on the Pacific Rim in terms of commerce, and [China is negotiating] investment agreements with these countries with no environmental provisions.

“In order to get these countries to go along, the US has pushed what in trade parlance, and given traditional trade agreements, is actually pretty strong stuff. Not what the Sierra Club wants, for sure, and it’s not the agreement Sierra Club would have negotiated. But of course no country would have signed on to the agreement Sierra Club would have negotiated.”

(Other environmental groups, notably the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, have cautiously announced support for the TPP, which contains provisions aimed at improving how some developing countries approach conservation.)

It’s not a given that suits like TransCanada’s will win the money they’re looking for. In fact, companies only win their ISDS suits outright about a third of the time. But recent research by Rachel Wellhausen, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, finds that companies and individual governments also settle about a third of the time. Because settlements usually involve some compensation for the suing company or a relaxation of regulations related to its business, lawyers often see them as at least a partial victory for the company. That was the case in the Vattenfall ISDS settlement.

And, while ISDS is meant to encourage investment by giving companies an extra sense of safety if they invest in a country, there isn’t solid proof that it does anything to spur investment, writes Wellhausen for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog.

On the other hand, the possibility of being sued through ISDS might create a chilling effect, especially among poor countries already at a disadvantage when it comes to cutting back pollution. “Governments might think twice about updating regulations in order to avoid getting sued,” says Wellhausen in an email. In fact, some countries, including, notably, Brazil, have started avoiding agreements that contain ISDS.

“Is it going to chill the US? No. Is it going to chill Germany? I doubt it. Is it going to chill a smaller country? Maybe,” says Salzman, pointing to a case in which cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris is suing Uruguay for $25 million because it mandates graphic health warning labels on cigarette packages. “Philip Morris is asking an enormous compensation, and it isn’t because they’re going to win. I think they’re trying to send a message,” says Salzman.

The TransCanada suit is part of a larger shift among fossil fuel companies. In a speech earlier this week, American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard made clear that, faced with a growing movement of climate activists, his lobbying organization is ready to push back aggressively in 2016.

“The demonization of the Keystone XL pipeline remains a powerful cautionary tale of the dangers of energy policy driven by ideology rather than economic reality,” Gerard said. “Emboldened by their ability to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, anti-fossil-fuel advocates have set their sights on all energy infrastructure projects.”

If TransCanada is suing the US, a powerful country that has never yet lost an ISDS suit, then there’s no reason to believe that fossil fuel companies won’t be even more aggressive with less-powerful countries under new multilateral trade deals. Mexico, for instance, is also party to NAFTA, and might be paying attention to TransCanada’s actions. “I would indeed suspect that Mexican officials would think twice about instituting a similar policy to the one that got the US in trouble,” says Wellhausen.

After much wrangling between the Obama administration and Congress, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely be up for a vote this year. The deal is being “fast tracked,” which means Congress won’t get to tweak the agreement, it will only be able to approve or shut it down.

And so, environmental groups are raising their voices about ISDS: If these sorts of suits become more common, there’s a very real chance that the task of cutting emissions will become even harder for poor countries. “If we’re really serious about taking on the climate crisis,” says Solomon, “we have to stop entering into trade agreements that constrain our ability to do so.”

John Light is a writer and digital producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared in a bunch of places, including The Atlantic, Grist, Slate, Vox, Mother Jones, Al Jazeera, Public Radio International. He's a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.

  Read The New Keystone Lawsuit Is a Perfect Example of Why Environmentalists Are Wary of Obama's Secretive Trade Deals
 January 18, 2016
Climate Change Disaster Is Biggest Threat to Global Economy in 2016, Say Experts

by Larry Elliott, The Guardian, AlterNet


European Union leaders came under pressure to strike a deal aimed at bolstering Brussels as a trailblazer in fighting global climate change as negotiations went down to the wire

A catastrophe caused by climate change is seen as the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016, according to a survey of 750 experts conducted by the World Economic Forum.

The annual assessment of risks conducted by the WEF before its annual meeting in Davos on 20-23 January showed that global warming had catapulted its way to the top of the list of concerns.

A failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation was seen as likely to have a bigger impact than the spread of weapons of mass destruction, water crises, mass involuntary migration and a severe energy price shock – the first time in the 11 years of the Global Risks report that the environment has been in first place. 

The report, prepared by the WEF in collaboration with risk specialists Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, comes a month after the deal signed in Paris to reduce carbon emissions. The WEF said evidence was mounting that inter-connections between risks were becoming stronger. It cited links between climate change and involuntary migration or international security, noting that these often had “major and unpredictable impacts”.

Espen Barth Eide, the WEF’s head of geopolitical affairs, said there was a risk of Europe fragmenting as a result of “people on the move”.

Speaking at a press conference in London to launch the report, Eide said: “I am concerned about the continued support in national politics for keeping Europe together.”

Eide added that if enough countries decided to pursue a non-integrated approach to coping with migration it would have “profound effects on Europe’s politics and its economy”, and would have a knock-on impact on the rest of the world. “If things unravel at the core, what does it mean in other parts of the world?”

Cecilia Reyes, Zurich’s chief risk officer, said: “Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks. 

“Meanwhile, geopolitical instability is exposing businesses to cancelled projects, revoked licences, interrupted production, damaged assets and restricted movement of funds across borders. These political conflicts are in turn making the challenge of climate change all the more insurmountable – reducing the potential for political cooperation, as well as diverting resource, innovation and time away from climate change resilience and prevention.” 

The WEF said the broad range of risks – from environmental to geopolitical and economic – was unprecedented. 

It added that risks appeared to be rising, with global average surface temperatures increasing by more than 1C over pre-industrial levels for the first time, and the number of forcibly displaced people at 59.5 million – almost 50% more than in 1940, when the second world war was being fought. “Data from the report appears to support the increased likelihood of risks across the board, with all 24 of the risks continuously measured since 2014 having increased their likelihood scores in the past three years,” the WEF said.

When asked which risk was most likely to materialise in 2016, respondents chose large-scale involuntary migration. This follows last year’s refugee crisis, in which hundreds of thousands of people arrived in Europe fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and north Africa.


This was followed by extreme weather events, climate change, interstate conflict with regional consequences, and major natural catastrophes.

“Events such as Europe’s refugee crisis and terrorist attacks have raised global political instability to its highest level since the cold war,” said John Drzik, president of Marsh Global Risk and Specialties. 

“This is widening the backdrop of uncertainty against which international firms will increasingly be forced to make their strategic decisions. The need for business leaders to consider the implications of these risks on their firm’s footprint, reputation and supply chain has never been more pressing.”

Drzik said at the press conference: “Most risks are rising. It’s a riskier world right now.”

  Read Climate Change Disaster Is Biggest Threat to Global Economy in 2016, Say Experts
 January 19, 2016
Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World

by Bill McKibben, TomDispatch, AlterNet


To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

When I was a kid, I was creepily fascinated by the wrongheaded idea, current in my grade school, that your hair and your fingernails kept growing after you died. The lesson seemed to be that it was hard to kill something off -- if it wanted to keep going.

Something similar is happening right now with the fossil fuel industry. Even as the global warming crisis makes it clear that coal, natural gas, and oil are yesterday’s energy, the momentum of two centuries of fossil fuel development means new projects keep emerging in a zombie-like fashion.

In fact, the climactic fight at the end of the fossil fuel era is already underway, even if it’s happening almost in secret. That’s because so much of the action isn’t taking place in big, headline-grabbing climate change settings like the recent conference of 195 nations in Paris; it’s taking place in hearing rooms and farmers’ fields across this continent (and other continents, too).  Local activists are making desperate stands to stop new fossil fuel projects, while the giant energy companies are making equally desperate attempts to build while they still can. Though such conflicts and protests are mostly too small and local to attract national media attention, the outcome of these thousands of fights will do much to determine whether we emerge from this century with a habitable planet. In fact, far more than any set of paper promises by politicians, they really are the battle for the future.

Here’s how Diane Leopold, president of the giant fracking company Dominion Energy, put it at a conference earlier this year: “It may be the most challenging” period in fossil fuel history, she said, because of “an increase in high-intensity opposition” to infrastructure projects that is becoming steadily “louder, better-funded, and more sophisticated.” Or, in the words of the head of the American Natural Gas Association, referring to the bitter struggle between activists and the Canadian tar sands industry over the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, “Call it the Keystone-ization of every project that’s out there.”

Pipelines, Pipelines, Everywhere

I hesitate to even start listing them all, because I’m going to miss dozens, but here are some of the prospective pipelines people are currently fighting across North America: the Alberta Clipper and the Sandpiper pipelines in the upper Midwest, Enbridge Line 3, the Dakota Access, the Line 9 and Energy East pipelines in Ontario and environs, the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines in British Columbia, the Piñon pipeline in Navajo Country, the Sabal Trail pipeline in Alabama and Georgia, the Appalachian Connector, the Vermont Gas pipeline down the western side of my own state, the Algonquin pipeline, the Constitution pipeline, the Spectra pipeline, and on and on.

And it’s not just pipelines, not by a long shot. I couldn’t begin to start tallying up the number of proposed liquid natural gas terminals, prospective coal export facilities and new oil ports, fracking wells, and mountaintop removal coal sites where people are already waging serious trench warfare. As I write these words, brave activists are on trial for trying to block oil trains in the Pacific Northwest. In the Finger Lakes not a week goes by without mass arrests of local activists attempting to stop the building of a giant underground gas storage cavern. In California, it’s frack wells in Kern County. As I said: endless.

And endlessly resourceful, too. Everywhere the opposition is forced by statute to make its stand not on climate change arguments, but on old grounds. This pipeline will hurt water quality. That coal port will increase local pollution. The dust that flies off those coal trains will cause asthma. All the arguments are perfectly correct and accurate and by themselves enough to justify stopping many of these plans, but a far more important argument always lurks in the background: each of these new infrastructure projects is a way to extend the life of the fossil fuel era a few more disastrous decades.

Here’s the basic math: if you build a pipeline in 2016, the investment will be amortized for 40 years or more. It is designed to last -- to carry coal slurry or gas or oil -- well into the second half of the twenty-first century. It is, in other words, designed to do the very thing scientists insist we simply can’t keep doing, and do it long past the point when physics swears we must stop.

These projects are the result of several kinds of momentum. Because fossil fuel companies have made huge sums of money for so long, they have the political clout to keep politicians saying yes. Just a week after the Paris accords were signed, for instance, the well-paid American employees of those companies, otherwise known as senators and representatives, overturned a 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports, a gift that an ExxonMobil spokesman had asked for in the most explicit terms only a few weeks earlier. “The sooner this happens, the better for us,” he’d told the New York Times, at the very moment when other journalists were breaking the story of that company’s epic three-decade legacy of deceit, its attempt to suppress public knowledge of a globally warming planet that Exxon officials knew they were helping to create. That scandal didn’t matter. The habit of giving in to Big Oil was just too strong.

Driving a Stake Through a Fossil-Fueled World

The money, however, is only part of it. There’s also a sense in which the whole process is simply on autopilot. For many decades the economic health of the nation and access to fossil fuels were more or less synonymous. So it’s no wonder that the laws, statutes, and regulations favor business-as-usual. The advent of the environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s introduced a few new rules, but they were only designed to keep that business-as-usual from going disastrously, visibly wrong. You could drill and mine and pump, but you were supposed to prevent the really obvious pollution. No Deepwater Horizons.  And so fossil fuel projects still get approved almost automatically, because there’s no legal reason not to do so.

In Australia, for instance, a new prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, replaced the climate-change-denying Tony Abbott. His minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, was a particular standout at the recent Paris talks, gassing on at great length about his “deeply personal” commitment to stopping climate change, calling the new pact the “most important environmental agreement ever.” A month earlier, though, he’d approved plans for the largest coal mine on Earth, demanding slight revisions to make sure that the habitat of the southern black-throated finch would not be destroyed. Campaigners had hung much of their argument against the mine on the bird’s possible extinction, since given the way Australia’s laws are written this was one of the few hooks they had. The fact that scientists have stated quite plainly that such coal must remain in the ground if the globe is to meet its temperature targets and prevent catastrophic environmental changes has no standing. It’s the most important argument in the world, but no one in authority can officially hear it.

It’s not just Australia, of course. As 2016 began in my own Vermont -- as enlightened a patch of territory as you’re likely to find -- the state’s Public Service Board approved a big new gas pipeline. Under long-standing regulations, they said, it would be “in the public interest,” even though science has recently made it clear that the methane leaking from the fracked gas the pipeline will carry is worse than the burning of coal. Their decision came two weeks after the temperature in the city of Burlington hit 68 on Christmas eve, breaking the old record by, oh, 17 degrees. But it didn’t matter.

This zombie-like process is guaranteed to go on for years, even decades, as at every turn the fossil fuel industry fights the new laws and regulations that would be necessary, were agreements like the Paris accord to have any real teeth. The only way to short-circuit this process is to fight like hell, raising the political and economic price of new infrastructure to the point where politicians begin to balk. That’s what happened with Keystone -- when enough voices were raised, the powers-that-be finally decided it wasn’t worth it. And it’s happening elsewhere, too.  Other Canadian tar sands pipelines have also been blocked. Coal ports planned for the West Coast haven’t been built. That Australian coal mine may have official approval, but almost every big bank in the world has balked at providing it the billions it would require.

There’s much more of this fight coming -- led, as usual, by indigenous groups, by farmers and ranchers, by people living on the front lines of both climate change and extractive industry. Increasingly they’re being joined by climate scientists, faith communities, and students in last-ditch efforts to lock in fossil fuels. This will undoubtedly be a key battleground for the climate justice movement. In May, for instance, a vast coalition across six continents will engage in mass civil disobedience to “keep it in the ground.”

And in a few places you can see more than just the opposition; you can see the next steps unfolding. Last fall, for instance, Portland, Oregon -- the scene of a memorable “kayaktivist” blockade to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs bottled up in port -- passed a remarkable resolution. No new fossil fuel infrastructure would be built in the city, its council and mayor declared. The law will almost certainly block a huge proposed propane export terminal, but far more important, it opens much wider the door to the future. If you can’t do fossil fuel, after all, you have to do something else -- sun, wind, conservation. This has to be our response to the living-dead future that the fossil fuel industry and its allied politicians imagine for our beleaguered world: no new fossil fuel infrastructure. None. The climate math is just too obvious.

This business of driving stakes through the heart of one project after another is exhausting. So many petitions, so many demonstrations, so many meetings. But at least for now, there’s really no other way to kill a zombie.

Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign, and the winner of the 2014 Right Livelihood Award.

  Read Night of the Living Dead, Climate Change-Style: How to Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry From Wrecking Our World
 January 22, 2016
Josh Fox: What We Have to Do to Prevent Climate Apocalypse

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet


The so-called fracking revolution has transformed America’s energy landscape. With more than 100,000 oil and gas wells drilled and fracked since 2005, the nation has secured cheap and plentiful energy, forcing a drop in natural gas prices. The oil giant BP believes that with this surging production of shale oil and gas, the U.S. could become energy self-sufficient by 2030, escaping the grip of OPEC, the Saudi-led oil cartel that currently accounts for 35 percent of American oil imports.

But as advocates hail fracking as a savior that can unlock the nation’s energy independence, opponents have raised the alarms about this method of extracting natural gas for its harmful effects on public health and the environment. Fracktivists have also warned that the focus on fracking has derailed the ultimate goal of moving to a low-carbon economy powered primarily by renewable energy. The anti-fracking movement has steadily grown, bringing together environmentalists, public health advocates, supporters of renewable energy and local communities across the country that have felt the negative impacts of fracking projects.

One of the early mobilizers of the nationwide anti-fracking movement was the 2010 Emmy Award-winning documentary Gasland, written and directed by Josh Fox, whose journey into fracking started in May 2008, when he received a letter from a natural gas company offering to lease his family's land in Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas. In his new film, How to Let Go of The World (And Love All the Things Climate Can't Change), which premieres this month at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Fox travels to 12 countries on six continents to examine climate change through a fresh lens and uncover personal stories of hope.

I had a chance to ask Fox some questions about the current state of fracking, the grassroots anti-fracking movement, his new film and his thoughts on the future.

Reynard Loki: On a scale of 1 to 10, how you would grade COP21, the international climate talks held in Paris last month?

Josh Fox: I'd give it both a 10 and a 1. As far as what governments have pledged and said that they were capable of doing, in a lot of ways, it's the best we could hope for. Having said that, government's approach to this question for the past 25 years has been so lame, so problematic, so full of undue influence by the fossil fuel industry and not heeding or listening to the science — we're in such bad shape. In many ways, this agreement is a step backwards from the 2009 debacle in Copenhagen, which pointed the world toward the idea that we were going to limit climate change to 2° of warming. The INDCs — the “intended nationally determined contributions” — to the current agreement are leading us down a path of between 3.5-3.7°.

That's apocalyptic. It's nowhere near sufficient.

RL: How much of the problem is politics?

JF: The agreement points to the wide gulf between what science and nature are telling us we have to do, and what politics at that level is willing to do. It's simply ineffective. These are not legally binding agreements, let's not forget that. These are aspirational. The idea that somehow this agreement is going to lead us down the path of a 2° warmed world, or a 1.5° warmed world, is completely nonsensical. It is one of the most expensive diplomatic agreements in the history of humankind and is very strong-worded in terms of its language, but it doesn't actually make this problem stop.

We know that the Republican Party will not take serious action on climate change. If the Paris agreement had to be ratified by Congress, it would fail. Congress is so stuck on stupid, and so completely out of touch with the rest of the world, that we know that's not going to happen. We have to get serious in this country about actually stopping fracked gas, stopping all of the other fossil fuels and making the transition toward 100 percent renewable energy.

RL: How dangerous is climate denialism?

JF: The fossil fuel industry has led us down the path of denial of the very thing that runs our entire civilization, which is science. Our civilization runs on science. It doesn't necessarily run on fossil fuels, but it definitely runs on science. When you have the fossil fuel giants creating an atmosphere that is so damning of the very building blocks of civilization, it signals that these people have to go. That system has to be changed, and those proponents are not only both fiscally and environmentally responsible, but I would argue, have a degree of criminal negligence.

If these people know that what they're doing is destroying the planet, and they continue to do it, I would say that that's a case for criminal negligence, as it was with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as it is with all of these fossil fuel disasters that happen on the ground, this is a fossil fuel disaster that's happening in the sky. We have to understand that these people continue to be responsible as they continue to campaign that climate change doesn't exist.

RL: Were you surprised that the Paris accord agreed to the 1.5° mark?

JF: I thought that was a surprise, but I don't think it is a surprise if you know the strength of the environmental indigenous network that made that goal such a prominent part of the Paris talks. It was the indigenous people from the Pacific Islands and the Amazon who were saying, "Listen, two degrees is a crazy idea." A 2° warmer world is so dangerous and such a problem that you simply cannot aspire to a 2° warmer world, because 2° is not a limit. It's an average.

RL: What does a 2° warmer world mean?

JF: A 2° warmer world on average means that Africa is going to warm by three or four degrees. Desmond Tutu came out and said if you agree to two degrees, you agree to cooking the continent. Similarly, our coastal cities in the United States would suffer a six-meter rise in sea level. That's the end as we know it for New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami, Washington DC. You're talking about an East Coast that no longer has a stable coastline. That's unimaginable, even just for the United States, let alone thinking about the Marshall Islands, or Tuvalu or Samoa or Fiji — all of these places across the southern Pacific.

Here's the problem, though: We already have warmed the earth by about a degree right now. Carbon dioxide sits in the atmosphere for 30 or 40 years or longer. We already have enough CO2 in the atmosphere right now to get us to 1.5°. A 1.5° limit means shut off all emissions right now. That's not happening.

RL: What’s the alternative?

JF: There is one way to start to get toward that 1.5° goal. That's by radically reducing methane emissions. Methane emissions warm the earth faster, and it sticks around for less time. If you cut methane emissions, it's your fastest way toward cooling the planet back down. Unfortunately, the United States is in the process of making a wholesale transition from coal to natural gas. What we should be doing is making a transition from coal and natural gas to renewable energy immediately.

RL: Can natural gas act as a lower carbon bridge from coal to renewable energy, as President Obama and others have suggested?

JF: You've got 300 new gas power plants being proposed in the United States alone. This is a disaster. It is a total contradiction to the Obama administration's stated goal of keeping the planet well below 2°. John Kerry was a big part of saying, "We need to keep the planet well below 2°." We can't do that and build 300 new fracking power plants. We can't do that and frack two million more wells for natural gas and build hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines, compressor stations and LNG [liquefied natural gas] terminals — and lift the oil export ban.

All of these things the United States is doing are in direct contradiction with its aspirational goals stated in Paris. We should be phasing out natural gas—period. Not planning for its future. We cannot possibly keep using fossil fuels if we want to keep our major cities on the East Coast from going underwater. Period. That story has been written.

We know how much methane will go into the atmosphere. We're already at 1.5 degrees. We have no budget left for carbon at all. Even if you stopped all the methane, you're still talking about half the carbon of coal. Even if you stopped and you built those power plants, you're still talking about huge emissions of carbon dioxide. There's simply no way around it. You have to start to convert immediately to 100 percent renewable energy and do that on a very fast time scale.

RL: So what has to happen?

JF: Actual participatory democracy in the streets. Right now all of those power plants, pipelines, compressor stations and LNG terminals have really significant opposition at the local level. People in upstate New York are fighting the Constitution pipeline. In Massachusetts they’re fighting the NED pipeline. In Seattle and Portland and across the Gulf Coast, they're fighting LNG terminals. In Denton, Texas, the birthplace of fracking, they're fighting fracked gas power plants. These local fights have to be invested in and supported by the elements that support the fracking fight, by the people who are supporting the climate change fight.

RL: Who should be financing the movement?

JF: There are millionaires and billionaires and ordinary people who are putting tons and tons of money out there to try to create this movement against climate change, and movement for global environmental justice. Those fights at the local level in the United States have to be supported. We're talking about hundreds of groups across the United States that are fighting these fights at an individual level. It's like Keystone XL times 100. It's like Tom Steyer, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg and all those powerful people who believe that climate change is a bad thing. They need to start talking to the activists because fracked gas running the show in the United States for the next 40 years definitely means we're going underwater here in New York. We're going underwater in Philadelphia. We're going underwater in Miami. That's what it means.

You're signing the death warrant for those cities unless you realize that fracked gas is the worst possible fuel for climate.

RL: Is natural gas really cleaner than coal?

JF: Fracked gas at the power plant burns cleaner in terms of less CO2 and has less particulate matter than coal. However, methane itself, natural gas, fracked gas, is according to IPCC, 86 times more potent a global warming agent than CO2 is in the atmosphere. That means that if you're leaking significant portions of natural gas directly into the atmosphere rather than having it all burned, then the leaked methane plus burned CO2 adds up to a worse greenhouse gas emission profile than coal. What we're seeing out there in the field is huge amounts of natural gas, fracked gas, are leaking out of the process at every stage. Gas lines leak, the compressor stations leak, the fracked gas drilling process itself liberates and vents methane directly into the atmosphere. It's something that we reported on in Gasland 2. Scientists at Cornell estimated several years ago that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of all the gas harvested through fracking and shale gas, leaked into the atmosphere at methane. That means that when you combine the total emissions profile for fracked gas, with respect to climate change, you're actually doing worse than coal. Fracked gas is substantially worse than our worse fuel.

Look at what's happening right now in Porter Ranch in California — a methane geyser that has erupted out of a natural gas storage facility that currently is the largest single climate emissions source in the world. It is emitting 25 percent of California's methane every single day. That is one facility that went awry. There are hundreds of thousands of these facilities across America right now with antiquated equipment.

RL: But coal isn’t better than natural gas.

JF: I'm not campaigning for coal. I think coal is a disaster. We have to phase out coal. Unfortunately, however, 10, 15 years ago, the natural gas industry's propaganda was so pervasive and insidious that they were able to misinform the world that they were cleaner than coal in terms of climate change emissions. It is absolutely 100 percent not true. That is a myth that the natural gas, the fracked gas industry, propagated out into the world to get people to buy into the idea that natural gas, or fracked gas, is clean. Fracked gas is anything but clean. It pollutes the groundwater when you do the fracking. It pollutes the air in the sites all around it and causes health problems.

We know now that so much of this process leaks, that we're talking about something that's worse than coal, especially if you're talking about expanding it. Methane's not even a part of the Paris agreement, okay? That's a huge problem. It's all about carbon. Right now, we're talking about a huge, huge upswing in methane emissions in the United States that will only get worse if we permit these frack gas power plants, these frack gas pipelines, and these LNG terminals.

RL: How close are we to getting the entire nation powered by renewable energy?

JF: Very far away. I think it's something like less than 10 percent. But when Americans have had our backs up against a wall, we've done the impossible over and over again. When JFK said we're going to put a man on the moon, we did it, and we did it really fast. We did it inside of a decade. When the Nazis were militarizing in Europe, FDR went to the automobile industry and said, Okay, we're going to build the largest war machine the world has ever seen because we need to defeat fascism in Europe.

The car industry went back to FDR and they said, Well, we're going to try our best, but it's going to be pretty hard to do that at the same time as we make all these cars. FDR said, No, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. We're going to ban the sale of private automobiles in this country.

In seven years, they built the largest war machine that the world has ever seen and defeated the Nazis in Europe. We did that in six years. We can do this.

RL: Let’s talk about China for a moment. According to new data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, for the first time ever, developing countries account for the majority of global clean energy investment. Over the last year, China alone outpaced renewable energy investment in the U.S., U.K. and France combined.

JF: China’s decision to close down 1,000 coal mines and not open any new coal mines — that's really significant. If America did the same thing, and said we're going to stop doing coal, and we're going to stop doing our fracked gas, our new infatuation with fracked gas, then we're talking about something that could really be meaningful. The Chinese just committed last year to building one terawatt of renewable energy by 2030. One terawatt of renewable energy by 2030 is about 20 percent of Chinese electricity generation. In the United States, that's 100 percent. If the Chinese can build one terawatt in 15 years, why can't we build it in 10? There's no reason. It's simply the political will on the ground.

We've seen these types of transformations sweep through our society time and time again. Fifteen years ago, no one had a cellphone. Now it's unimaginable that you don't have a supercomputer in your pocket. Don't tell me it's not possible to do. However, it's certainly impossible if we build these fracked gas power plants.

RL: In your new film, How to Let Go of The World (And Love All the Things Climate Can't Change), you travel to 12 countries on six continents. On your website, you say that “the film acknowledges that it may be too late to stop some of the worst consequences and asks, what is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?”

Are you hopeful or pessimistic about the future?

JF: That's a day-to-day question. In the new film, I go through the whole gamut of emotions, from deepest despair to dancing in the street, literally. This film is about the answer. I think when you really encounter the depths of the problem, there's nothing but despair and sorrow and grief, that it has to take you over. However, the depths of that emotional responsibility led me to meeting some of the most inspiring, positive, innovative, creative, willful and resilient people on the planet.

The film takes you to the Amazon, where you're with the indigenous environmental monitors who are trying to get the story out about oil spills that are poisoning the fish in their villages and jungles. We take you to the Pacific Climate Warriors blockading the Port of Newcastle against the largest coal export facility in the world. These people are indomitable. People fighting for human rights in China. People fighting for stopping the fracking and tar sands expansion in America. The stories are incredibly emotionally powerful, and so it's a rollercoaster ride.

RL: What’s the film’s central message?

JF: The idea is how to let go of the world. Well, we've got to let go of the world of greed and competition. We've got to let go of that world to give birth to another one. Climate change is going to claim a lot of places. It's going to create a lot of suffering. It's going to create a lot of havoc. What are all the things that climate can't change? Well, those are community, love, resilience, human rights, democracy, basic decency and generosity. These are the things that we have to pull upon.

When you look in the depths of your heart and the depths of your soul, what are the things that make life worth living? Those are the things that climate can't change.

RL: Those are all great ideals, but isn’t the reality on the ground different in terms of people who are busy dealing with their everyday lives and own struggles?

JF: What we're saying to people is, don't fool yourself right now. This is not going to be an easy task. This is something that you're going to have to sacrifice for, and this is something that you're going to have to actually work for. That means one to two hours a week as a volunteer at your local organization. That means one to two hours a week ... It might mean missing your kid's Thursday night soccer game once in awhile. Well, if that's what it means, fine. It means creating a stronger, and a safer, and a more healthy planet for their future. That's what is required and nothing less. At the same time, this is really just an invitation to a party. The movement is culture. The movement is music. The movement is film. It's having your neighbors over for dinner. That's what this is.

RL: What would you say to someone who’s concerned about climate, but hasn’t yet made the personal leap to become active in the climate movement?

JF: What did other movements do in the history of movements? Look at the civil rights movement. Look at the suffragettes. Look at feminism. Look at the movement to get children out of the workforce in the coal mines. What did those movements do? The answer is everything. They had songs. They had stories. They had plays. They had movies. They had marches. They had civil disobedience. They had conversations around your coffee table. This is what it means to be a participant in democratic civilization. This is what it means to be a citizen, and this is the biggest challenge that democracy and human organization has ever faced.

Of course it's going to take some time, and it's going to take some willingness, but the good part of that is, that's going to be a meaningful experience. It's going to be a fun experience. It's going to be something that brings us closer to what makes life worth living.

Watch the trailer for How to Let Go of The World (And Love All the Things Climate Can't Change):

  Read Josh Fox: What We Have to Do to Prevent Climate Apocalypse
 February 5, 2016
I Heart the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Here’s Why You Should Too

by Cindy Shogan, The Cleanest Line, AlterNet


Full disclosure. As the executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, I’m slightly biased when it comes to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska Wilderness League exists today with the mission to “lead the effort to preserve wild lands and waters in Alaska by engaging citizens and decision makers with a courageous, constant, victorious voice for Alaska,” but when the League was born more than 20 years ago, protecting the Arctic Refuge from the imminent threat of development was the number one priority. The Arctic Refuge is an unparalleled landscape, one of the most pristine and beautiful places on Earth, and one that can and should be mentioned in the same breath as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park in terms of iconic American destinations.

Seeing firsthand the beauty of a place still untouched by humankind and working side by side with the Gwich’in people to whom the Arctic Refuge and its Coastal Plain are sacred, these are the reasons why it holds a special place in our hearts. The League’s goal has always been to obtain the strongest possible protection for the Arctic Refuge and its biological heart, the Coastal Plain. And it always will be.

Disclosure complete, the question, then, is why YOU should care about the Arctic Refuge—and the reasons are many. Truly enjoying the great outdoors is only possible when we recognize the importance of respecting and protecting North America’s last great wild places. The Arctic Refuge is just that—a sweeping landscape, bursting with wildflowers and framed by the awe-inspiring Brooks Mountain Range. It is unparalleled throughout the world.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the ultimate outdoors destination. There are no roads, no landing strips, no comforts of home. It is a place where the lagoons, beaches and salt marshes of the Arctic Ocean coast lead inward to broad expanses of low-lying plants along the Coastal Plain. Where traversing up and over the majestic Brooks Range will lead you south into the interior of Alaska, and into boreal forest as far as the eye can see. It is a place where all three species of North American bears—black, polar and grizzly—can be found. Where caribou roam the land, completing the longest land migration route of any land mammal on Earth, and where as many as 160 species of migratory birds patrol the skies.

And yet, its very existence remains under constant threat from outside interests that would plunder it for short-term profit from oil.

We are proud to have partnered with retailers like Patagonia and organizations like the Conservation Alliance to keep the Arctic Refuge protected through the years. Getting people outdoors and enjoying America’s wild places is at the heart of the outdoor industry, and Patagonia and others recognize that we must conserve and protect our public lands so that we always have the chance to enjoy camping, hiking, bicycling, fishing, kayaking or wildlife viewing, and the myriad of other outdoor activities that these lands provide. After all, these places don’t belong to oil industry execs, or politicians, or the wealthiest of the wealthy. They belong to all Americans in equal measure.

December 6, 2015, marked the 55th anniversary of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And with it comes renewed hope for its long-term protection. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama officially recommended that Congress protect the Arctic Refuge and its Coastal Plain as Wilderness, the highest level of conservation protection possible for America’s public lands. And now Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Ed Markey of Massachusetts are acting on that recommendation by introducing legislation that would protect the Coastal Plain now and into the future.

Today, there is overwhelming public support for protecting the Arctic Refuge and the momentum, thanks in large part to businesses like Patagonia and outdoor enthusiasts across the country, continues to grow. Let your Senators know that you care about this wild place too. The time is now to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, once and for all.

  Read I Heart the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Here’s Why You Should Too
 February 5, 2016
All Creatures Great and Small: Why Protecting Animals Is Key to Protecting the Climate

by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, AlterNet


As go toucans, spider monkeys and tapirs, so goes the climate.

Put another way, the hunting and poaching of tropical animals could change the face of rainforests such as the Amazon, diminishing their ability to store global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 percent.

Those are the findings of research published Friday by a team of scientists at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil showing that the decline of large animals in tropical forests may be directly connected to the Earth’s ability to withstand climate change.


Spider monkeys are threatened by hunting and poaching in tropical forests.

Hunting and poaching threatens 19 percent of all tropical forest vertebrates, with large vertebrates, including frugivores, disproportionately favored by hunters, the study says. As the frugivore population declines — a process called “defaunation” — fewer seeds of carbon-dense trees are spread throughout the forest, study co-author Mauro Galetti, a Sao Paulo State University ecologist, said.

“The result is a new forest dominated by smaller trees with milder woods which stock less carbon,” study lead author Carolina Bello, a Sao Paulo State University PhD student, said in a statement.

Tropical forests, especially the Amazon, Brazil’s Atlantic forest and Africa’s tropical rainforests, are the earth’s largest and densest natural carbon sinks. These forests act as the lungs of the earth, inhaling more than 25 percent of humans’ carbon dioxide emissions and storing them in tree trunks and roots.

Defaunation may reduce a tropical forest’s ability to store carbon by between 5 and 20 percent, depending on the tree species that compose the forest in a given area, Galetti said. More research is needed, however, before scientists can quantify the full effects of defaunation, he said.

Scientists unaffiliated with the study said it provides even more evidence that biological diversity and healthy forest ecosystems are critical to a healthy climate.

José Maria Cardoso da Silva, an environmental geography professor at the University of Miami, said many studies, including some of his own research, have been published over the last 15 years showing that big, carbon-dense trees could go extinct without the large animals that spread their seeds.

(image: Sao Paulo State University, Brazil)

“We demonstrated that by eliminating the big frugivorous birds, the big trees in the region will move towards extinction,” Silva said. “All studies afterwards have confirmed the trend. (Bello and Galetti’s) paper adds one more step to the chain. It shows that if the big trees go extinct, then the capacity of the forest to store carbon is reduced. If forests cannot store carbon in the way that they usually did, then the negative effects of climate change can be exacerbated.”

Matthew C. Hansen, a remote sensing scientist and geography professor at the University of Maryland, said the study is “compelling and important.”

He likened its results to the improvement in biological diversity and density of trees in Yellowstone National Park after wolves were reintroduced there. It shows that each part of an ecosystem is dependent on another, and if one is removed, the effects spread to other ecosystem functions and result in unintended consequences.

“The study shows that we cannot look at carbon stocks in isolation,” Hansen said. “We will also need to value ecosystem co-benefits to carbon and account for them in our management of forests moving forward.  Either the rainforests, as ecosystems, are important or they are not – a narrow carbon-centric management goal may not in fact be viable for fully realizing the stated goal of climate change mitigation.”

Francis Putz, a biology professor at the University of Florida, said small animals such as bats could prevent some of the tree extinctions the study forecasts, and it’s more likely some large tree species will grow in different places than they do today rather than go extinct.

However, “recognition of the proposed link between defaunation and forest carbon sequestration should serve to keep proponents of forest-based climate change mitigation interventions from disregarding wildlife,” he said.

  Read All Creatures Great and Small: Why Protecting Animals Is Key to Protecting the Climate
 February 5, 2016
Incredible Infographic Reveals 50 Fascinating Facts About the Ocean

by Torben Lonne, DIVE.in AlterNet


The ocean is the most mysterious environment on Earth. As the oceans cover over 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, there is a huge amount of water to research and understand: Only 5 percent of the oceans have been explored. Still, we have already learned so much.

Did you know that we sent astronauts to the Moon before we sent divers down to the depths of the ocean to study the mid-ocean ridge, which is the largest mountain range on Earth?

The ocean holds many wonders. Many incredible facts are contained in the infographic below, created by online scuba diving magazine DiveIn.com. These facts will not only leave you astounded, but help you understand more about how amazing — and critical to life — the ocean really is.


  Read Incredible Infographic Reveals 50 Fascinating Facts About the Ocean
 February 5, 2016
Paradise Lost: How the Climate Catastrophe May Be Tied to a Fatal Flaw in Human Evolution

by Helen Camakaris, The New Internationalist, AlterNet


Humankind is facing existential environmental problems: the climate is changing and, indeed, change has become the new norm. Global temperatures are increasing, the Arctic is melting and oceans are rising. Reports of catastrophic weather events are now a regular part of the news cycle. Paradise, if not yet lost, is severely under the weather. So why are we failing to set things right? Could it be that our problems are an intrinsic consequence of the evolutionary process itself? Could evolution have an Achilles’ heel and, if so, can it be mended? 

Life has been evolving on Earth for billions of years, stretching from the first primitive cell in an unbroken thread to each and every one of us. Evolution can only tinker with whatever is available at the time, so we are the result of the millions of tiny upgrades that natural selection judged to be a good idea at the time. 

Intelligence was a defining adaptation in our evolution, but it was largely shaped by selection in the ancestral environment. Most of our evolution occurred before or during the Stone Age, and for 99 per cent of our prehistory we were hunters and gatherers. Evolved intelligence certainly underpinned progress, but progress had a fatal flaw when human psychology still carried the indelible imprint of a Stone Age past.

Cognitive shortcomings

As the only animal that can contemplate its origins and imagine its future we owe it to ourselves, to future generations and to the natural world to consciously seek ways of dealing with the global problems we face.

Our capacity for foresight is limited; we tend to ignore evidence that conflicts with our view of a just world; and we assign individuals to 1 of 2 groups, ‘them’ and ‘us.’ We lack the ability to accurately gauge probability and risk, and we struggle to grasp large numbers and exponential growth. When we make decisions we draw firstly upon instinct and cultural norms, only calling upon reasoning to justify our initial response or for analytical tasks.

Our brains encourage us to compete for status, reproduce with no thought for the long-term future, and over-consume resources, come what may. This behaviour is further reinforced by social and religious norms, and the pervasive influence of memes — ideas with the power to persist and be passed on. 

Could it be that an intellect forged alongside our other inherited dispositions, over countless aeons, has bequeathed us a poisoned chalice, and indeed, could this be the inevitable outcome of evolution whenever and wherever it occurs? For here we are, the ‘paragon of animals’, rapidly degrading our only home, teetering on the edge of a precipice, whilst gazing into space and wondering about other civilizations. 

Climate change and sustainability challenge our instinctive beliefs and values, and threaten our world-view of a continuing status quo. We are the victims of shortcomings in our cognition and innate behaviour, a simple consequence of evolution’s Achilles heel – its inability to anticipate the future. As the only animal that can contemplate its origins and imagine its future we owe it to ourselves, to future generations and to the natural world to consciously seek ways of dealing with the global problems we face. Understanding the implications of living in a finite world requires intellectual reasoning, and solutions need new strategies. 

Climate change requires global solutions, but most solutions conflict with perceived self-interest. They are therefore a particular challenge to our evolved altruism, which is circumscribed by benefits to kin or expectations of reciprocal reward and an obsession with fairness. Global problems are therefore not readily addressed by the old paradigm where each country only looks after its own affairs. The strategies available to different countries for dealing with such problems depend upon their model of government. In a dictatorship, monarchy or a country led by a single-party government, action depends upon the beliefs and resolve of the leader or leadership group. We in the Western world value the institution of democracy, but it does present particular problems.

Overcoming political challenges

Modern democracies have been a successful model for government during the 20th century, providing stability and development. Representative democracy was the political system that most successfully exploited capitalism for the generation of wealth, but in recent years it has been compromised by the power of corporations through lobbying and donations, and has proved to be an unsatisfactory vehicle for generating equity and for responsiveness to long-term problems.

Movement toward a system where sustainability and defeating climate change are high priorities will require public education, with an important role for the media, particularly television.

We are all subject to the Prisoner’s Dilemma: it may be in our best interest to take action on an issue like climate change, but it’s not in any individual country’s economic interests to act first. Even within a country, individual citizens face the same dilemma and want to see the burden shared equitably. Currently we rely on leaders to take a strong position but, in democracies, leaders compete for re-election every few years. Creating responsible policy is therefore difficult, as opposing parties tend to appeal to the instinctive self-interest of the electorate.

The first hurdle for political contenders in a democracy is to be elected. Only too aware of human nature, parties pander to the hip-pocket nerve, and put domestic and national interests above global interests. Short 3- or 4-year terms discourage planning for the long-term future, and democracy’s adversarial structure discourages consensus, rendering politics in countries like the U.S. and Australia almost unworkable in the 21st century. 

A way forward that would encourage rational decision-making and the generation of consensus for long-term issues would be to set up a multi-party committee within government, advised by non-government experts, or alternatively, an external independent body of experts. Such an independent statutory body might be seen as analogous to the Federal Reserve in the US or the Reserve Bank of Australia. In this instance, it might reasonably include scientists, economists, political scientists and social psychologists, and be charged with the task of recommending long-term policy. Government would need sound reasons for rejecting such advice. One might hope for an outcome similar to the Climate Change Act in Britain, which was enacted in 2008, and has targets out to 2050.

In Britain, the Committee on Climate Change became responsible for ongoing advice on progress toward these targets. The National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee in the US and the Climate Change Authority in Australia have responsibility for providing reviews and advice, but lack the power to create policy. 

The creation of a multi-party committee or independent body responsible for policy on climate change could be achieved by election of a party whose platform promotes such a plan, or perhaps by referendum. Either strategy might achieve significant support since most people want the government to tackle climate change but nobody wishes to be treated unfairly. Perhaps some element of participatory democracy such as citizens’ assemblies would not only increase feelings of adequate representation but help make effective policy decisions.

Tackling climate change

But is it possible for such a committee to find policies that might deliver rational solutions? Indeed, there are many ideas worthy of consideration. Such a multi-party committee could consider the merits of an emissions trading scheme, a carbon tax, natural capital accounting and ‘cradle-to-grave’ pricing — together with clever strategies like compensation or tax breaks to guide behaviour while still providing choice. This was the winning formula used by the Multiparty Committee in Australia in Julia Gillard’s government, where the Carbon Tax satisfied our desire for fairness by including incentives and disincentives. This encouraged behavioural change amongst the major polluting industries and the public, but was coupled with compensation for most citizens and some industries. 

Another possible strategy that would satisfy the self-interest test might be free home audits with subsidies to correct identified deficits, so that people benefit from savings, alongside cuts in emissions. Extra tax revenue to fund such policies, to expand green research and infrastructure, and to secure our future could come in part from resource and company profits. In Norway the Resource Super Profits Tax sits at 78% for oil, with the income going toward the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund. 

Revenue could also come from increased personal taxation of extremely high salaries, the introduction of death duties on wealthy estates, and an end to negative gearing. The phenomenon of richly compensating CEOs and financiers emerged in the 1980s as a means of attracting the best candidates, but has escalated beyond the bounds of reason. Such excessive remuneration now distorts career choice and has created dynasties and enormous inequity, where a small percentage of the population holds a disproportionate amount of the wealth. This has devalued the contribution to society of other workers, including professionals in other industries, such as education, medicine, engineering, science and politics and indeed, the tradespeople and blue-collar workers who are indispensible to a functional society.

Encouraging change

Governments must recognize that they carry responsibility toward those beyond their borders, as well as toward citizens of future generations

Excellence in leadership and professional performance could still attract a modest bonus or be rewarded by Honours and Awards. Philanthropy and service to the community could similarly earn status. Benefit Corporations, which accept their primary responsibility to society and the environment rather than maximizing profit for owners or shareholders, could be encouraged. Co-operatives in which skill, time or goods are traded directly could continue to grow in importance. Indeed, in a finite world, governments need to move away from the use of GDP as a national indicator, and toward indicators that value national and ecological wellbeing. 

Governments might also consider reduced working hours as an optional alternative to increased salaries as a way to moderate consumption, ease unemployment, reduce inequity and increase leisure time. Happiness does not increase above a modest income, but is a product of the quality of our relationships, the opportunity to pursue our interests and our engagement with community. 

Movement toward a system where sustainability and defeating climate change are high priorities will require public education, with an important role for the media, particularly television. Advertising should be used to encourage activities that add meaning to people’s lives through responsible travel, education, hobbies and the purchase of quality goods, rather than the promotion of consumption and inbuilt obsolescence. Education within schools should include critical thinking, climate science, ecology and psychology, and should nurture a view of self that encourages compassion, so that future citizens and leaders can make informed, equitable decisions.

If most countries adopted similar policies then international action would become easier. Trust between countries could also be engendered by incremental reciprocal agreements, using reciprocal altruism to satisfy our desire for fairness. Indeed, if the proxy for relatedness that drives kin-based altruism is perceived proximity, our shrinking world might go some way to promoting altruism toward our fellow humans, offering some hope for the future. 

Governments must recognize that they carry responsibility toward those beyond their borders, as well as toward citizens of future generations. Developing nations will be the most vulnerable with respect to rising sea levels and changing climate, even though many of them have contributed little to the problem. These countries must still be supported in their quest for basic human rights such as sanitation, healthcare, adequate food and water, and access to ‘green’ electricity. Solutions to these problems will, in turn, assist in the demographic transition, helping the world move toward stable population, and reducing conflict.

We need leaders who are both aspirational and inspirational, and who recognize that the changes we need go far beyond setting emissions targets. If we are to survive as a successful civilization on Earth we must pool our intellectual resources to bring about fundamental changes in democracy and the economic system. Our genetic and cultural inheritance is a liability. We may be half-baked, but let’s hope that our goose is not cooked.

Dr. Helen Camakaris is a microbiologist and visiting scholar at the School of Biosciences at the University of Melbourne, where she received her Ph. D. and studied, for several decades, how bacteria regulate genes in response to their environment. She is currently studying and writing in interdisciplinary areas that relate to sustainability, climate change, evolution and psychology.

  Read Paradise Lost: How the Climate Catastrophe May Be Tied to a Fatal Flaw in Human Evolution
  February 4, 2016

by Ambassadeur de la Paix Yves Arsène Kouakou, Côte d'Ivoire , AlterNet


La vie passe
avec son décor
qui brise mes espoirs
je vis
dans la géhenne
d'un lendemain sans demain
je vis
j’acquiesce à ma condamnation
Mes lèvres ne peuvent qu'embrasser
le désespoir
je vis
je porte ma douleur
dans un cœur qui ne désire pourtant que la paix

je vis
je désire la paix
et pour tous les peuples du monde.


Pasa la vida
con una decoración
que rompe mis esperanzas

en el infierno
un día sin mañana

Asentí con la convicción
Mis labios no pueden besarse
la desesperanza

Me pongo mi dolor
en un corazón que quiere, sin embargo, la paz

Yo deseo la paz
hoy en día
y para todos los pueblos del mundo.

Compreendendo o Mundo

A vida passa
com decoração
que quebra as minhas esperanças

Eu vivo
no inferno
um dia sem amanhã

Eu vivo
Eu balancei a convicção
Meus lábios não pode beijar

Eu vivo
Eu uso a minha dor
em que, no entanto, um coração quer a paz

Eu vivo
Eu desejo paz
e para todos os povos do mundo.

Понять мир

Жизнь проходит
с декором
что нарушает мои надежды

Я живу
в аду
день без завтрашнего дня

Я живу
Я кивнул убеждение
Мои губы не могут целоваться

Я живу
Я ношу мою боль
в центре, тем не менее хочет, которые мир

Я живу
Я желаю мира
и для всех народов мира.


Life passes
with decor
that breaks my hopes

I live
in hell
a day without tomorrow

I live
I nodded my conviction
My lips can not kissing
the despair

I live
I wear my pain
in a heart which nevertheless wants peace

I live
I desire peace
and for all the peoples of the world.
 February 7, 2016
Quelle est l'origine des Guerres? Qual a origem das Guerras? What is the origin of wars? ¿Cuál es el origen de las guerras?

by Ambassadeur de la Paix Celito Medeiros, Brésil , AlterNet

Quelle est l'origine des Guerres?

Le mensonge est le grand ennemi de la vérité.
La guerre le grand ennemi de la paix.
Créances incontestées.

Nous voulons connaitre les principes fondamentaux.
Nous ne voulons pas des mensonges couvrant la vérité.
Qui contrôle et trompe les gens?

La haine vient avant les guerres.
L'amour existait avant la haine.
Quand les guerres ont elles commencées?

Cherchez la raison fondamentale
Ne pas blâmer quelque chose ou quelqu'un
Sans avoir les réponses.

L'origine des guerres est dans le domaine des peuples.
Pas dans l'ordre moral, de la religion ou de l'économie.
Il est la différence des coutumes, des courses ou des sociétés.

Tout le monde peut trouver les mensonges couvrant la vérité.
Lorsque les valeurs viennent du domaine, le statut, le pouvoir et l'argent?
Voici la clé dans laquelle les peuples commencent à comprendre!

Personne ne va vaincre ceux qui ont des connaissances et de l'expérience.
Pas une offre de mauvaises choses pour tromper tout le monde.
La liberté et la paix viendront par la décision des peuples.

Qual a origem das Guerras?
A mentira é a grande inimiga da verdade.
A Guerra a grande inimiga da Paz.
Afirmações incontestáveis.

Nós queremos saber os fundamentos.
Não queremos mentiras encobrindo a verdade.
Quem está controlando e enganando os Povos?

O ódio vem antes das Guerras.
O amor existia antes do ódio.
Quando iniciaram as Guerras?

Busquem a razão fundamental
Não culpem nada e ninguém
Sem antes ter as respostas.

A origem das Guerras está no domínio dos Povos.
Não está na ordem moral, na religião ou na economia.
Não está na diferença de costumes, raças ou sociedades.

Todos podem encontrar as mentiras encobrindo a verdade.
De onde vem os valores do domínio, status, poder e dinheiro?
Aqui está a chave em que os Povos já começam a compreender!

Ninguém derrotará quem tenha conhecimento e experiência.
Ninguém oferecerá coisas ruins para enganar a todos.
A Liberdade e a Paz virão pela decisão dos Povos.

What is the origin of wars?

The lie is the great enemy of the truth.
The War the great enemy of peace.
Undisputed claims.

We want to know the fundamentals.
We do not want lies covering up the truth.
Who is controlling and fooling the people?

Hatred comes before the Wars.
Love existed before the hate.
When they started the wars?

Seek fundamental reason
Do not blame anything or anyone
Without having the answers.

The origin of wars is in the field of Peoples.
Not in the moral order, religion or economy.
It is the difference of customs, races or societies.

Everyone can find the lies covering up the truth.
Where the domain values comes, status, power and money?
Here is the key in which the peoples are beginning to understand!

No one will defeat those who have knowledge and experience.
No one offer bad things to fool everyone.
Liberty and Peace will come by the Peoples' decision.

¿Cuál es el origen de las guerras?

La mentira es el gran enemigo de la verdad.
La guerra del gran enemigo de la paz.
Reclamaciones indiscutibles.

Queremos saber los fundamentos.
No queremos mentiras encubrir la verdad.
¿Quién está controlando y engañando a la gente?

El odio viene antes de las Guerras.
El amor existido antes de la odio.
Cuando empezaron las guerras?

Busque razón fundamental
No culpes a nada ni a nadie
Sin tener las respuestas.

El origen de las guerras es en el campo de los Pueblos.
No en el orden moral, la religión o la economía.
Es la diferencia de costumbres, razas o sociedades.

Cada uno puede encontrar las mentiras que cubren la verdad.
Cuando los valores de dominio viene, estatus, poder y dinero?
Aquí está la clave en la que los pueblos están empezando a entender!

Nadie va a derrotar a aquellos que tienen el conocimiento y la experiencia.
Nadie ofrece cosas malas para engañar a todos.
Libertad y Paz vendrán por la decisión de los Pueblos




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