Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website


Volume 14 Issue 2 October 2015

Theme for this month

On the issues of land ownership and sovereignty within Global Community, and their applications in the Artic.

Germain Dufour
September 2015
Complete Paper found at

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

John Scales Avery, Tom Bawden, Noam Chomsky, Alexandra Cousteau, Andrea Germanos, Emily J. Gertz (2), Jon Kofas, Reynard Loki (3), José María LOPERA , Anne Meador, Jon Queally, Mark Ruffalo, Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, John Zangas

John Scales Avery, A New Economic System, A New Society A New Economic System, A New Society
Tom Bawden, New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo Will Be Under Water If All Fossil Fuel Is Burned New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo Will Be Under Water If All Fossil Fuel Is Burned
Noam Chomsky, "The Iranian Threat": Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace? The Iranian Threat: Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace?
Alexandra Cousteau, The nation's water systems are increasingly at risk of nutrient pollution The nation's water systems are increasingly at risk of nutrient pollution.
Andrea Germanos, NASA: World 'Locked Into' At Least 3 Feet Of Sea Level Rise NASA: World 'Locked Into' At Least 3 Feet Of Sea Level Rise
Emily J. Gertz, Heartbreaking Photo of a Starving Polar Bear Has Become the New Icon of Climate Change Heartbreaking Photo of a Starving Polar Bear Has Become the New Icon of Climate Change
Emily J. Gertz, While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean
Jon Kofas, Socialism Vs Capitalism : Past, Present, And Future Socialism Vs Capitalism : Past, Present, And Future
Reynard Loki, The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests
Reynard Loki, Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic
Reynard Loki, World's Biggest Economies Devise Plan That Spells Doom for Planet Earth World's Biggest Economies Devise Plan That Spells Doom for Planet Earth
José María LOPERA, Peace Peace
Anne Meador, Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable
Jon Queally, 100% Renewables By 2050 Is Possible 100% Renewables By 2050 Is Possible
Mark Ruffalo, Fossil Fuels Fuel Inequality, but There Is a Solution Fossil Fuels Fuel Inequality, but There Is a Solution
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, US Empty Rhetoric In GLACIER Conference US Empty Rhetoric In GLACIER Conference
John Zangas, Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable


Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
 August 22, 2015
A New Economic System, A New Society

by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents.org

A New Economic System, A New Society

By John Scales Avery

22 August, 2015


We need a new economic system, a new society, a new social contract, a new way of life. Here are the great tasks that history has given to our generation:

We must achieve a steady-state economic system

A steady-state economic system is necessary because neither population growth nor economic growth can continue indefinitely on a finite earth. No one can maintain that exponential industrial growth is sustainable in the long run except by refusing to look more than a short distance into the future.

Of course, it is necessary to distinguish between industrial growth, and growth of culture and knowledge, which can and should continue to grow. Qualitative improvements in human society are possible and desirable, but resource-using and pollution-producing industrial growth is reaching its limits, both because of ecological constraints and because of the exhaustion of petroleum, natural gas and other non-renewable resources, such as metals. The threat of catastrophic climate change makes it imperative for us to stop using fossil fuels within very few decades.

We discussed Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen 's reasons for viewing our present economic system as unidirectional and entropic: Low-entropy resources are converted into high-entropy waste, a unidirectional process. By contrast, to be sustainable in the long run, a process must be cyclic, like the growth and regeneration of a forest.

Georgescu-Roegen's list of disiderata remains valid today: We need drastic cuts in weapons production, thereby releasing productive forces for more constructive purposes. We need immediate aid to underdeveloped countries and gradual decrease in population to a level that can be maintained by organic agriculture. We also need avoidance, and strict regulation if necessary, of wasteful energy use. Finally, we need to abandon our attachment to extravagant gadgetry and fashion, and we must cure ourselves of workaholic habits by re-balancing the time spent on work and leisure.

Today, the distinguished economist Herman Daly (a student of Georgescu-Roegen) continues to write perceptive aricles and books documenting the need for a steady-state enconomy. Among his books, the following are noteworthy: “Steady-State Economics” (1977); “For the Common Good” (1989, with John B. Cobb, Jr.); “Valuing the Earth” (1993, with Kenneth Townsend); “Beyond Growth” (1996); “Ecological Economics and the Ecology of Economics” (1999); “Local Politica of Global Sustainability” (2000, with Thomas Prugh and Robert Costanza), and “Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications” (2003, with Joshua Farley. Prof. Daly is a recipiant of the Right Livelihood Award, which is sometimes called the Alternative Nobel Prize.






We must restore democracy

It is obvious, almost by definition, that excessive governmental secrecy and true democracy are incompatible. If the people of a country have no idea what their government is doing, they cannot possibly have the influence on decisions that the word “democracy” implies.

Governmental secrecy is not something new. Secret diplomacy contributed to the outbreak of World War I, and the secret Sykes-Picot agreement later contributed to the bitterness of conflicts in the Middle East. However, in recent years, governmental secrecy has grown enormously.

The revelations of Edward Snowden have shown that the number of people involved in secret operations of the United States government is now as large as the entire population of Norway: roughly 5 million. The influence of this dark side of government has become so great that no president is able to resist it.

Many modern governments have become very expert in manipulating public opinion through mass media. They only allow the public to hear a version of the “news” that has been handed down by powerholders. Of course, people can turn to the alternative media that are available on the Internet. But on the whole, the vision of the world presented on television screens and in major newspapers is the “truth” that is accepted by the majority of the public, and it is this picture of events that influences political decisions. Censorship of the news by the power elite is a form of secrecy, since it withholds information that is needed for a democracy to function properly.

The frantic efforts of President Obama to capture and punish whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that the secrets that the US government is trying to hide are by no means limited to the massive electronic spying operations that Snowdon revealed.

Snowden has already said most of what he has to say. Nevertheless, Washington was willing to break international law and the rules of diplomatic immunity by forcing its European allies to ground the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales following a rumor that Snowden was on board. This was not done to prevent Snowden from saying more, but with the intention of making a gruesome example of him, as a warning to other whistleblowers.

Furthermore, President Obama has initiated an enormous Stasi-like program called “Insider Threats”, which forces millions of federal employees, in a wide variety of agencies, to spy on each other and to report anything that looks like a move towards whistleblowing.

According to an article written by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay of the McLatchy Washington Bureau, ``...It extends beyond the US national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration, and the Education and Agriculture Departments."

Apparently the US government has very many secrets to hide, and very many potential whistleblowers that it fears. But who are they? Who are the potential whistleblowers who must be forced into terrified silence by the examples made of Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange?

Are these potential whistleblowers CIA agents who have stories to tell about dirty wars and assassinations in Latin America? Are they people who know the details about how John and Robert Kennedy were shot? Are they people who know how Martin Luther King Jr. was killed? Are they the New York firemen who heard a series of explosions as the buildings of the World Trade Center collapsed? Are they the people in New York who collected samples of the dust that was collected from the falling buildings; dust that was shown by chemical analysis to contain nanothermite, a powerful heat-producing compound that could have melted the steel structures of the buildings? Are they the CIA insiders who could give evidence that the US government knew well in advance of the planned 9/11 attacks, and made them worse than they otherwise would have been by planting explosives in the World Trade Center buildings? Are they people who know Obama's own secrets?

Whoever these potential whistlelblowers are, it is clear that Obama fears them, and that the US government has many secrets. But if it has many secrets, then the present government of the United States cannot be a democracy.

In a democracy, the power of judging and controlling governmental policy is supposed to be in the hands of the people. It is completely clear that if the people do not know what their government is doing, then they cannot judge or control governmental policy, and democracy has been abolished. There has always been a glaring contradiction between democracy and secret branches of the government, such as the CIA, which conducts its assassinations and its dirty wars in South America without any public knowledge or control.

The gross, wholesale electronic spying on citizens revealed by Snowdon seems to be specifically aimed at eliminating democracy. It is aimed at instilling universal fear and conformity, fear of blackmail and fear of being out of step, so that the public will not dare to oppose whatever the government does, no matter how criminal or unconstitutional.

The Magna Carta is trashed. No one dares to speak up. Habeus Corpus is trashed. No one dares to speak up. The United Nations Charter is trashed. No one dares to speak up. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is trashed. No one dares to speak up. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution is trashed. No one dares to speak up. The President claims the right to kill both US and foreign citizens, at his own whim. No one dares to speak up.

George Orwell, you should be living today! We need your voice today! After Snowden's revelations, the sale of Orwell's “1984” soared. It is now on the bestseller list. Sadly, Orwell's distopian prophesy has proved to be accurate in every detail.

We must restore democracy wherever it has been replaced by oligarchy. When we do so, we will free ourselves from many evils, including excessive economic inequality, violation of civil rights, and the suffering produced by perpetual wars.

We must decrease economic inequality

In his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis said: “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity.”

“This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.”

“Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

In a recent speech, Senator Bernie Sanders quoted Pope Francis extensively and added: “We have a situation today, Mr. President, incredible as it may sound, where the wealthiest 85 people in the world own more wealth than the bottom half of the world's population.”



The social epidemologist Prof. Richhard Wilkinson, has documented the ways in which societies with less economic inequality do better than more unequal societies in a number of areas, including increased rates of life expectancy, mathematical performance, literacy, trust, social mobility, together with decreased rates of infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teenage births, obesity and mental illness, including drug and alcohol addiction.



We must also remember that according to the economist John A. Hobson, the basic problem that led to imperialism was an excessively unequal distribution of incomes in the industrialized countries. The result of this unequal distribution was that neither the rich nor the poor could buy back the total output of their society. The incomes of the poor were insufficient, and rich were too few in number.

We must break the power of corporate greed

When the United Nations was established in 1945, the purpose of the organization was to abolish the institution of war. This goal was built into many of the articles of the UN Charter. Accordingly, throughout the world, many War Departments were renamed and became Departments of Defense. But the very name is a lie. In an age of nuclear threats and counter-threats, populations are by no means protected. Ordinary citizens are just hostages in a game for power and money. It is all about greed.

Why is war continually threatened? Why is Russia threatened? Why is war with Iran threatened? Why fan the flames of conflict with China? Is it to “protect” civilians? Absolutely not! In a thermonuclear war, hundreds of millions of civilians would die horribly everywhere in the world, also in neutral countries. What is really being protected are the profits of arms manufacturers. As long as there are tensions; as long as there is a threat of war, military budgets are safe; and the profits of arms makers are safe. The people in several “democracies”, for example the United States, do not rule at the moment. Greed rules.

As Institute Professor Noam Chomsky of MIT has pointed out, greed and lack of ethics are built into the structure of corporations. By law, the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation must be entirely motivated by the colective greed of the stockholders. He must maximize profits. Nothing must count except the bottom line. If the CEO abandons this single-minded chase after corporate profits for ethical reasons, or for the sake of humanity or the biosphere or the future, he (or she) must, by law, be fired and replaced.

Occasionally, for the sake of their public image, corporations seem to do something for other motives than their own bottom line, but it is usually window dressing. For example, Shell claims to be supporting research on renewable energy. Perhaps there is indeed a small renewable energy laboratory somewhere in that vast corporation; but the real interest of the organization is somewhere else. Shell is sending equipment on a large scale to drill for more and more environment-destroying oil in the Arctic.




We must leave fossil fuels in the ground

The threat of catastrophic climate change requires prompt and dedicated action by the global community. Unless we very quickly make the transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, we will reach a tipping point after which uncontrollable feedback loops could take over, leading to a human-caused 6th geological extinction event. This might even be comparable to the Permian-Triassic event, during which 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates became extinct.

New hope that such a catastrophe for human civilization and the biosphere can be avoided comes from two recently-released documents: The Encyclical “Laudato Si' ” by Pope Francis, and the statistics on the rate of growth of renewable energy newly released by the Earth Policy Institute.

Arctic sea-ice is melting at an increasingly rapid rate, because of several feedback loops. One of these feedback loops, called the albedo effect, is due to the fact that white snow-covered sea-ice in the Arctic reflects sunlight, while dark water absorbs it, raising the temperature and leading to more melting.

Another feedback loop is due to the fact that rising temperatures mean that more water is evaporated. The water vapor in the atmosphere acts like a greenhouse gas, and raises the temperature still further.

If we consider long-term effects, by far the most dangerous of the feedback loops is the melting of methane hydrate crystals and the release of methane into the atmosphere, where its effects as a greenhouse gas are roughly twenty times great as those of CO2.

When organic matter is carried into the oceans by rivers, it decays to form methane. The methane then combines with water to form hydrate crystals, which are stable at the temperatures which currently exist on ocean floors. However, if the temperature rises, the crystals become unstable, and methane gas bubbles up to the surface.

The worrying thing about methane hydrate deposits on ocean floors is the enormous amount of carbon involved: roughly 10,000 gagatons. To put this huge amount into perspective, we can remember that the total amount in world CO2 emissions since 1751 has been only 337 gigatons.

Despite the worrying nature of the threats that we are facing, there are reasons for hope. One of the greatest of these is the beautiful, profound and powerful encyclical that has just been released by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis tells us that the dictates of today's economists are not sacred: In the future, if we are to survive, economics must be given both a social conscience and an ecological conscience. Nor are private property and profits sacred. They must be subordinated to the common good, and the preservation of our global commons.

Less focus on material goods need not make us less happy. The quality of our lives can be increased, not decreased, if we give up our restless chase after power and wealth, and derive more of our pleasures from art, music and literature, and from conversations with our families and friends,

Another reason for hope can be found in the extremely high present rate of growth of renewable energy, and in the remarkable properties of exponential growth. According to figures recently released by the Earth Policy Institute, the global installed photovoltaic capacity is currently able to deliver 242,000 megawatts, and it is increasing at the rate of 27.8% per year. Wind energy can now deliver 370,000 megawatts, and it is increasing at the rate of roughly 20% per year.
Because of the astonishing properties of exponential growth, we can calculate that if these growth rates are maintained, renewable energy can give us 24.8 terawatts within only 15 years! This is far more than the world's present use of all forms of energy.
All of us must still work with dedication to provide the political will needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, the strong and friendly voice of Pope Francis, and the remarkable rate of growth of renewable energy can guide our work, and can give us hope and courage.

The award-winning author and activist Naomi Klein has emphasized that the climate crisis changes everything. Environmentalists and antiwar activists must unite! We need a new economic system! The people of the world don't want climate change; they want system change!

According to the World Resources Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme, “It is estimated that since World War II, 1.2 billion hectares...[of agricultural land] has suffered at least moderate degradation as a result of human activity. This is a vast area, roughly the size of China and India combined.” This area is 27% of the total area currently devoted to agriculture 5 . The report goes on to say that the degradation is greatest in Africa.

David Pimental and his associates at Cornell University pointed out in 1995 that “Because of erosion-associated loss of productivity and population growth, the per capita food supply has been reduced over the past 10 years and continues to fall. The Food and Agricultural Organization reports that the per capita production of grains which make up 80% of the world’s food supply, has been declining since 1984.”

Pimental et al. add that “Not only is the availability of cropland per capita decreasing as the world population grows, but arable land is being lost due to excessive pressure on the environment. For instance, during the past 40 years nearly one-third of the world’s cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned because of soil erosion and degradation. Most of the replacement has come from marginal land made available by removing forests. Agriculture accounts for 80% of the annual deforestation.”

The phrase “developing countries” is more than a euphemism; it expresses the hope that with the help of a transfer of technology from the industrialized nations, all parts of the world can achieve prosperity. An important factor that prevents the achievement of worldwide prosperity is population growth.

In the words of Dr. Halfdan Mahler, former Director General of the World Health Organization, “Country after country has seen painfully achieved increases in total output, food production, health and educational facilities and employment opportunities reduced or nullified by excessive population growth.”

The growth of population is linked to excessive urbanization, infrastructure failures and unemployment. In rural districts in the developing countries, family farms are often divided among a growing number of heirs until they can no longer be subdivided. Those family members who are no longer needed on the land have no alternative except migration to overcrowded cities, where the infrastructure is unable to cope so many new arrivals. Often the new migrants are forced to live in excrement-filled makeshift slums, where dysentery, hepatitis and typhoid are endemic, and where the conditions for human life sink to the lowest imaginable level. In Brazil, such shanty towns are called “favelas”.

If modern farming methods are introduced in rural areas while population growth continues, the exodus to cities is aggravated, since modern techniques are less labor-intensive and favor large farms. In cities, the development of adequate infrastructure requires time, and it becomes a hopeless task if populations are growing rapidly. Thus, population stabilization is a necessary first step for development.

It can be observed that birth rates fall as countries develop. However, development is sometimes blocked by the same high birth rates that economic progress might have prevented. In this situation (known as the “demographic trap”), economic gains disappear immediately because of the demands of an exploding population.

For countries caught in the demographic trap, government birth control programs are especially important, because one cannot rely on improved social conditions to slow birth rates. Since health and lowered birth rates should be linked, it is appropriate that family-planning should be an important part of programs for public health and economic development.

A recent study conducted by Robert F. Lapham of Demographic Health Surveys and W. Parker Maudlin of the Rockefeller Foundation has shown that the use of birth control is correlated both with socio-economic setting and with the existence of strong family-planning programs. The implication of this study is that even in the absence of increased living standards, family planning programs can be successful, provided they have strong governmen support.

Education of women and higher status for women are vitally important measures, not only for their own sake, but also because in many countries these social reforms have proved to be the key to lower birth rates. As Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University has pointed out, the changes needed to break the cycle of overpopulation and poverty are all desirable in themselves. Besides education and higher status for women, they include state-provided social security for old people, provision of water supplies near to dwellings, provision of health services to all, abolition of child labor and general economic development. The money required to make these desirable changes is a tiny fraction of the amount that is currently wasted on war.

In order to avoid a catastrophic future famine, it is vitally important that all of the countries of the world should quickly pass through a demographic transition from a situation characterized by high birth rates and high death rates to a new equilibrium, where low death rates are balanced by low birth rates.

We must eliminate the institution of war

The problem of achieving internal peace over a large geographical area is not insoluble. It has already been solved. There exist today many nations or regions within each of which there is internal peace, and some of these are so large that they are almost worlds in themselves. One thinks of China, India, Brazil, Australia, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the European Union. Many of these enormous societies contain a variety of ethnic groups, a variety of religions and a variety of languages, as well as striking contrasts between wealth and poverty. If these great land areas have been forged into peaceful and cooperative societies, cannot the same methods of government be applied globally?

But what are the methods that nations use to achieve internal peace? Firstly, every true government needs to have the power to make and enforce laws that are binding on individual citizens. Secondly the power of taxation is a necessity. Thirdly, within their own territories, almost all nations have more military power than any of their subunits. For example, the US Army is more powerful than the State Militia of Illinois.

This unbalance of power contributes to the stability of the Federal Government of the United States. When the FBI wanted to arrest Al Capone, it did not have to bomb Chicago. Agents just went into the city and arrested the gangster. Even if Capone had been enormously popular in Illinois, the the government of the state would have realized in advance that it had no chance of resisting the US Federal Government, and it still would have allowed the “Feds” to make their arrest. Similar considerations hold for almost all nations within which there is internal peace. It is true that there are some nations within which subnational groups have more power than the national government, but these are frequently characterized by civil wars.

Of the large land areas within which internal peace has been achieved, the European Union differs from the others because its member states still maintain powerful armies. The EU forms a realistic model for what can be achieved globally in the near future by reforming and strengthening the United Nations. In the distant future, however, we can imagine a time when a world federal authority will have much more power than any of its member states, and when national armies will have only the size needed to maintain local order.

Today there is a pressing need to enlarge the size of the political unit from the nation-state to the entire world. The need to do so results from the terrible dangers of modern weapons and from global economic interdependence. The progress of science has created this need, but science has also given us the means to enlarge the political unit: Our almost miraculous modern communications media, if properly used, have the power to weld all of humankind into a single supportive and cooperative society.

It is useful to consider the analogy between the institution of war and the institution of slavery. We might be tempted to say, “There has always been war, throughout human history; and war will always continue to exist.” As an antidote to this kind of pessimism, we can think of slavery, which, like war, has existed throughout most of recorded history. The cultures of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were all based on slavery, and, in more recent times, millions of Africans were captured and forced into a life of slavery in the New World and the Middle East. Slavery was as much an accepted and established institution as war is today. Many people made large profits from slavery, just as arms manufacturers today make enormous profits. Nevertheless, despite the weight of vested interests, legal slavery has now been abolished throughout most of the world.

Today we look with horror at drawings of slave ships, where human beings were packed together like cordwood, and we are amazed that such cruelty could have been possible. Can we not hope for a time when our descendants, reading descriptions of the wars of our own time, will be equally amazed that such cruelty and stupidity could have been possible? If we use them constructively, the vast resources now wasted on war can initiate a new era of happiness and prosperity for the family of man. It is within our power to let this happen. The example of the men and women who worked to rid the world of slavery can give us courage as we strive for a time when war will exist only as a dark memory fading into the past.

New ethics to match new 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 through infectious disease. At the same time, science has given humans the power to obliterate their civilization with nuclear weapons, or to make the earth uninhabitable through overpopulation and pollution. The question of which of these paths we choose is literally a matter of life or death for ourselves and our children.

Will we use the discoveries of modern science constructively, and thus choose the path leading towards life? Or will we use science to produce more and more lethal weapons, which sooner or later, through a technical or human failure, may result in a catastrophic nuclear war? Will we thoughtlessly destroy our beautiful planet through unlimited growth of population and industry? The choice among these alternatives is ours to make. We live at a critical moment of history, a moment of crisis for civilization.

No one living today asked to be born at such a moment, but by an accident of birth, history has given us an enormous responsibility, and two daunting tasks: If civilization is to survive, we must not only stabilize the global population but also, even more importantly, we must eliminate the institution of war. We face these difficult tasks with an inherited emotional nature that has not changed much during the last 40,000 years. Furthermore, we face the challenges of the 21st century with an international political system based on the anachronistic concept of the absolutely sovereign nation-state. However, the human brain has shown itself to be capable of solving even the most profound and complex problems. The mind that has seen into the heart of the atom must not fail when confronted with paradoxes of the human heart.

We must replace the old world of international anarchy, chronic war and institutionalized injustice, by a new world of law. The United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court are steps in the right direction, but these institutions need to be greatly strengthened and reformed.

We also need a new global ethic, where loyalty to one’s family and nation is supplemented by a higher loyalty to humanity as a whole. The Nobel laureate biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi once wrote:

“The story of man consists of two parts, divided by the appearance of modern science.... In the first period, man lived in the world in which his species was born and to which his senses were adapted. In the second, man stepped into a new, cosmic world to which he was a complete stranger.... The forces at man’s disposal were no longer terrestrial forces, of human dimension, but were cosmic forces, the forces which shaped the universe. The few hundred Fahrenheit degrees of our flimsy terrestrial fires were exchanged for the ten million degrees of the atomic reactions which heat the sun.”

“This is but a beginning, with endless possibilities in both directions; a building of a human life of undreamt of wealth and dignity, or a sudden end in utmost misery. Man lives in a new cosmic world for which he was not made. His survival depends on how well and how fast he can adapt himself to it, rebuilding all his ideas, all his social and political institutions.”

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

He 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. He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com

Also Read



  Read A New Economic System, A New Society
 August 27, 2015
NASA: World 'Locked Into' At Least 3 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

by Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams.org, Countercurrents.org

New research underway indicates that at least three feet of global sea level rise is near certain, NASA scientists warned Wednesday.

That's the higher range of the 1 to 3 feet level of rise the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave in its

Sea levels have already risen 3 inches on average since 1992, with some areas experiencing as much as a 9-inch rise.

"Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more," said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of NASA's interdisciplinary Sea Level Change Team. "But we don't know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer."

The Greenland ice sheet has contributed more greatly to sea level rise, losing an average of 303 gigatons of ice a year over the past decade, while the Antarctic ice sheet has lost an average of 118 gigatons a year. But scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine warned last year that glaciers in the West Antarctic "have passed the point of no return."

Glaciologist Eric Rignot of the UC-Irvine and NASA's JPL, and lead author of the West Antarctic study, stated Wednesday that East Antarctica’s ice sheet remains a wildcard.

"The prevailing view among specialists has been that East Antarctica is stable, but we don’t really know," Rignot stated. "Some of the signs we see in the satellite data right now are red flags that these glaciers might not be as stable as we once thought."

Exactly how much rise will happen and when is uncertain, they say. "We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly," said Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We’re seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we’re in a new era of rapid ice loss."

  Read NASA: World 'Locked Into' At Least 3 Feet Of Sea Level Rise
 September 3, 2015
US Empty Rhetoric In GLACIER Conference

by Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, Countercurrents.org

US President Barack Obama has accepted that climate change has almost come to destroy the human civilization. In his speech in Anchorage’s Dena’ina Center Alaska, where GLACIER conference (Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience) was organized by the government with participation of diplomatic representatives from the countries related to Arctic region, he accepted the truth of our age. The conference was aimed to ponder over the environmental impact on the Arctic region.

US President warned that climate change was to be the defining threat of this century and the world was nor very fast to deal this alarming issue. He further stated that climate was being destroyed by the human activity and that once distant threat is now very much near. President Barack Obama has usually followed a pragmatic climate policy.

The paradox is that Obama was speaking in a conference where likely threats on the region were being talked about. President Obama’s speech in the conference was enlightening one but a truth also exists suggesting that statements of high order are in reality are empty words. A report in Guardian says that “meanwhile on the other side of the Arctic Ocean, Shell’s small corporate navy is nearing its destination in the Chukchi Sea, north of Alaska. This week the Obama administration granted the world’s second largest oil company final approval to restart its search for Arctic oil, and its platforms will soon begin to drill 2,400 metres deep. The exploration season is short and the dangers great, but after 10 years of trying and $7bn spent hoping to unlock the region’s resources, Shell clearly still believes it can find and exploit a giant new oil field to secure its future for decades.”
( John Vidal,Shell will despoil the Arctic. But Barack Obama is the real villain here, The Guardian,21 August ,2015)

USA seems to have played a clever policy on Arctic, first to control the area as the administration treats it as a vital region serving its national interest, then to exploit the resources, as about166 bn barrels of oil equivalent may be present here. The Telegraph in its report had stated that “Shell’s plan for the Chukchi may involve using two rigs to reach production of around 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, roughly half the UK’s current output of oil from the North Sea. Tapping oil and gas reserves held under the Arctic will be vital to meeting expected global energy demand beyond 2040.”
(Andrew Critchlow, Barack Obama gives Shell go-ahead to drill for oil in Alaskan Arctic, The Telegraph, 31 March 2015)

USA is chairman of Arctic Council during 2015-17. In the Arctic meet on April 24, 2015 at Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the new Chair of the Arctic Council, stated, “There’s only ‘one Arctic’ and all of us – the United States, other nations, indigenous peoples, and Arctic communities - must join together to ensure responsible stewardship of this incredible region.”

This is a holy statement but USA if really wants to show the true leadership in the climate change problem and Arctic issue in particular; it must redefine its policies. It needs to introspect. Shell drilling is not free with the risks. The conditions applied on the Shell are not in a position to save the Arctic ecosystem and its environment, perhaps because so far no man made system has been developed which allows the exportation of the resources simultaneously protecting the ecosystem in its original and purest form. Hence the speech of President Barak Obama does not carry the credibility with respect to the interests of Arctic region.

In fact not only the USA but all the countries having stake in the region must ponder with true spirit to understand the adverse consequences of the exploration and exploitation of the region. All nation states are in the same boat in which USA has boarded; future awaits for human civilization where such boats will capsize in the ocean of disasters, not in remote future but in the years to come.

Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, presently Assistant Professor in CSJM Kanpur University[affiliated college],Vice Chairman CSSP, email: vpy1000@yahoo.co.in

  Read US Empty Rhetoric In GLACIER Conference
 August 21, 2015
100% Renewables By 2050 Is Possible

by Jon Queally, CommonDreams.org, Countercurrents.org

With scientists and experts from around the world telling world leaders with increasing urgency ahead of upcoming climate talks in Paris that "It must be done," a new report says "It can be done."

As the planetary impacts of global warming become more apparent with every passing day, the goal of building and maintaining an energy system run on 100 % renewable power has become one of the driving demands of the world's environmental and climate justice movements, new research presented by Greenpeace on Monday shows that if the political will can be mustered, there are neither technological nor economic barriers preventing humanity from building a fossil fuel- and nuclear-free world by 2050.

"The phase out of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy is not only needed, but can be achieved globally by mid-century," said Kelly Mitchell, the climate and energy campaign director for Greenpeace USA. "In the US, we must prioritize keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground while accelerating the transition to clean energy like wind and solar. Doing so would both create new jobs and ensure a healthier planet for future generations."

According to the report:

100% renewable energy for all is achievable by 2050, and is the only way to ensure the world does not descend into catastrophic climate change. Dynamic change is taking place in the energy sector. Renewable energies have become mainstream in most countries, and prices have fallen dramatically. The report shows we could transform our energy supply, switching to renewables, which would mean a stabilization of global CO2 emissions by 2020, and bringing down emissions towards near zero emissions in 2050.

Produced in collaboration with researchers at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the new Greenpeace report—titled World Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook 2015—is the latest global energy analysis which shows that not only is the transition to cleaner energy sources possibly in the coming decades, the actual financial costs of taking on a such a massive transition would actually be cheaper over the coming decades than retaining the "dirty energy" status quo in the face of climate change.

Greenpeace admits the cost of its plan is "huge" but that "the savings are even bigger." According to their estimates, the global average of additional investment needed in renewables is roughly $1 trillion a year until 2050. However, because renewables don’t require continuous fuel inputs, the savings over the same period would be $1.07 trillion a year, more than covering the costs of the required up-front investment.

Calling for a strategic phase-out of both fossil fuel and nuclear energy by mid-century, the Greenpeace plan targets the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels first—including lignite and coal—before moving on to less-polluting sources like oil and gas.

"We must not let the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. "I urge all those who say ‘it can’t be done’ to read this report and recognize that it can be done and must be done for the benefit of people around the world."

What's more, the group says, this energy transformation would be a source of millions upon millions of jobs, more than enough to replace those lost by the shuttering of the coal, oil, and gas industries.

The report says that nearly 20 million jobs in the renewable energy sector could be created between now and 2030, because of strong growth and investment in renewables. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry alone, the research estimates, will provide 9.7 million jobs, equal to the number of people now working in the coal industry today. In the wind sector—which has shown unprecedented growth in recent years--job growth will continue grow to over 7.8 million jobs, twice as many as are employed in oil and gas today.

"The solar and wind industries have come of age, and are now cost competitive with coal," said Greenpeace’s Sven Teske, the lead author of the report. "It is very likely they will overtake the coal industry in terms of jobs and energy supplied within the next decade. It’s the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry to prepare for these changes in the labor market and make provisions. Every dollar invested in new fossil fuel projects is high risk capital which could end up as stranded investment."

With the UN climate talks in Paris fast-approaching, Greenpeace says the urgency of the crisis must compel political leaders to finally act—and act boldly—on the message that the scientific community and civil society leaders have been issuing with growing levels of intensity in recent years.

With their new report as a blueprint for what's possible, said Naidoo, "the Paris climate agreement must deliver a long term vision for phasing out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy by mid-century, reaching the goal of 100% renewables with energy access for all."

Read the full report here:

  Read 100% Renewables By 2050 Is Possible
 September 23, 2015
Socialism Vs Capitalism : Past, Present, And Future

by Jon Kofas, Countercurrents.org

Contemporary civilization and its progress under capitalism are measured largely, though not exclusively, by stock market indicators and the wealth index of corporations and millionaires that mainstream media celebrates. All other issues are only significant if they enhance or diminish corporate wealth. This includes the political, social, environmental issues that may either entail greater profit opportunities or instability and lower profits. “Accordingly, the extent to which corporate democracy represents general, social interests or narrow, profit-oriented interests is largely a function of political contestation and state policy.”

Carl Gershenson, “Protecting Markets from Society: Non-Pecuniary Claims in American Corporate Democracy” Politics and Society (March, 2015, vol. 43, no. 1)

This “corporate measure” of the social contract in modern society is to the exclusion of the misery index in what Frantz Fanon once called “The Wretched of the Earth”, referring to the manner that imperialism determines social class in Africa and the masses’ reaction to create a more socially just society. The conditions Fanon described pertaining to Algerian struggle against French colonialism pertains today to conditions that capitalism universally creates and perpetuates as it always has since its nascent phase in the 15th century when European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade began. An African-American youth shot by the police in the ghetto in 2015 is just as much a victim of the same class formation that capitalism creates as an Algerian youth fighting against French colonial rule in the 1950s.

The corporate measure of the social contract and a successful civilization based on linear econometric progress of corporations is a sharp deviation from the humanist values of the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment in Western Civilization rooted in creativity, intellectual achievements in everything from the arts to natural sciences, and to the welfare of humanity as a whole. The corporate measure of the social contract is an assertion of elitism and inequality and a rejection of humanist values and social justice.

Apologist of capitalism would of course give credit to capitalism as a system for unlocking human creative potential of such scientific and technological innovation. Since the transition in the 15th century from the Feudal/Manorial social order/mode of production to capitalism there have been phenomenal technological and scientific inventions intended to improve everything from human health and comfort to unlocking the secrets of the universe. The same apologists, however, do not fault capitalism for structural poverty that persists on a world scale; for the countless wars in the name of capturing markets and increasing profits that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions in the last five centuries; for societal violence emanating from socioeconomic inequality; and for human rights abuses and absence of social justice that are invariably at the core of capitalism.

In the post-Communist era, the specter haunting the entire world is neo-liberalism, driving many people to seek alternatives in some form of Socialism. The fall of Communist regimes had their experiments with one-party states and “command economies” in the name of the proletariat in the 20th century. Those regimes failed for a variety of reasons including constant assault from capitalist countries at every level from the costly arms race to counterinsurgency operations and ideological propaganda campaigns. In the early 21st century many people are wondering if the “End of History” celebrating the US Cold War victory over Communism (Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man) that marked capitalism’s triumph means anything more than hegemony of the wealthy over the rest of the world’s population in every domain from economy and politics to the arts for profit.

Capitalism under neoliberal policies is indeed without rivals throughout the planet in the post-Communist era where the US remains the world’s sole superpower despite China’s economic challenge. Communism as it operated during the Maoist era no longer exists even in contemporary China that practices capitalism and abides by the same rules of the international market economy and its institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization. The “end of history” is indeed the end of Communist regimes but merely another step in society’s evolution and the continued struggle between the hegemonic capitalist class and the masses seeking social justice.

Do people around the world look to established Socialist parties for salvation (about 60 countries have socialist parties), or must citizens continue looking and creating grassroots socialist movements to find the best possible “social contract”? Socialist Party politicians know that there is absolutely no resemblance between a European Socialist Party today and the First International (International Workingmen’s Association, 1864-1876), or even the Second International (1889-1916) that dissolved because some European Socialists were more nationalistic than they were Marxist internationalists. Throughout Europe, political parties calling themselves Socialist are no different in representing finance capital to the detriment of the rest of society than conservative parties pursuing neoliberal policies.

Using the argument that Socialist parties are committed to social justice, defending trade unions, defending the poor, defending minorities, defending collective bargaining, and guarding against the abuses of capitalism, Socialist parties were able to keep their popular base in the post-WWII era, while securing the support of capitalists who understood the significance of social harmony under a social contract where labor and the lower middle class enjoyed some benefits and believed the system served them as well as the capitalists. However, the triumph of the US over the Communist bloc emboldened the neoliberals eager to crush even the remnants of Keynesian policies left over from the early Cold War. During the Reagan and Thatcher decade, the US and UK followed by other governments began to dismantle the social welfare state in order to strengthen defense and the corporate welfare state.

Socialist parties changed their agendas and went along with neoliberals by the 1990s. No matter the Socialist rhetoric while they are in the opposition or even when they are in government their policies are hardly any different than those of the conservatives representing a tiny minority of the population. The only resistance, a rather modest one at that, to neo-liberalism does not come from Socialist parties or Socialist governments whether in France, Spain, Portugal or Greece, but from nationalist regimes such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and a few others, and this largely for geopolitical considerations as well as domestic sociopolitical dynamics.

Socioeconomic equality, social justice and the welfare of the entire society are the themes in the debate between Socialism and capitalism. Socialist theory contends that capitalism creates and perpetuates socioeconomic inequality, social injustice and elitism against society’s collective interests. Advocates of capitalism insist equality of opportunity for the individual is of paramount importance in the social contract that guarantees safety and security from domestic and foreign enemies. Socialist theory advocates a strong central government to safeguard social justice and the interests of all people in society, while capitalism advocates a weak central government and a hegemonic capitalist class whose interests the state safeguards by maintaining inequality through fiscal and labor policy among other mechanisms. Just as Socialism entails a social order based on a value system and a code of ethics centered on human welfare, similarly, capitalism is rooted in a social order based on a value system of amassing private profit in an unfettered marketplace where the very few benefit to the detriment of the many.

From schools and churches to sports and entertainment, from market relationships to human relationships, all institutions operating under capitalism embrace its rules in order to survive. Unless it adopts the corporate model of governance and orientation that includes links with the business world, the university seeking large endowments from wealthy people and corporations, it is not likely to survive in a competitive field. It is simply not practical to have an enclave of a prototype antithetical to capitalism in just about any domain in society because the superstructure operating under capitalist rules, values, and code of ethics would ultimately crush or make irrelevant the antithetical prototype. This is something many have discovered in the last two centuries from Robert Owen and his followers that popularized the term Socialism in the 1820s to the present.

Socialists of varying types in the 19th century amid industrialization of society understood that capitalism is a new system of servitude that dehumanizes workers for the sake of amassing wealth for capitalists. There is a gap between the promise of capitalism to provide riches for all while society becomes more industrialized, scientifically, and technologically advanced, and the reality of a system creating wealth for a small percentage of people. The majority of the world’s population is left behind to dream of becoming wealthy while subsisting in daily misery, while a middle class as a buffer between the masses and capitalists helps to maintain the social order. What happens however when the middle class begins to decline as it has in the US and across much of Western Europe in the last three decades? According to the Economic Policy Institute, the bottom 90% of Americans experienced 5% income growth between 1979 and 2007, while the top 1% of Americans enjoyed 390%, illustrating how capitalism slowly destroys itself by undermining the buffer middle class.

Werner Sombart, Krieg und Kapitalismus, (1913), and Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) analyzed the dynamics of capitalism’s contradictions, using the Marxian concept of “creative destruction” to explain the evolutionary process of the mode of production and contradictions inherent in the system. While they were both reacting to 19th century Industrial capitalism and the destruction of wars of imperialism that the capitalist system created ultimately leading to WWI, elements of the theoretical foundations of their works are applicable in our time.

In the early 21st century when capitalism prevails triumphantly under a neoliberal ideological and policy orientation, the fundamental question is what does the majority of the population want from a social contract? Because people are born into a capitalist system with the state as its guardian and promoter throughout the world, it is extremely difficult to bring the system down and replace it with any degree of ease as some believe. Those who enjoy power, wealth and privilege throughout the history of all civilizations rarely surrender what they enjoy for the sake of the good of society as some believe simply because it is the right thing to do for the welfare of society.

Human Nature and Capitalism

Is capitalism consistent with human nature and does it reflect it as apologists argue, or do institutions under capitalism simply reinforce human nature's atomistic and irrational aspects as detractors insist? In short, is capitalism in existence for five centuries because it closely reflects human aspirations, greed, irrational proclivities, the desire to amass material possessions and to live in a hierarchical society where there are few rich people and many are poor? Is humanity indeed carrying the seeds of evil from Adam and Eve as some in Western Christian tradition believe, or do human beings create structures that mold human behavior?

During the ancient times, whether 5th century B.C. Athens or 1st century A.D. Rome, prevailing ideas and culture that we know about today are those of the elites and have nothing to do with peasants, workers, or slaves. Culture makers were the elites, not the peasants, workers and slaves who carried out manual labor so that the leisure classes could devote time for their endeavors. The same holds true of the Middle Ages when the temporal and spiritual Lords prevailed in society in every respect controlling all institutions from church to the military and economy and determining everything from values to how people married and often whom they married. In short, the elites pass on to the rest of society values and code of ethics as a means of maintaining a given social order.

It is not much different with capitalism; in fact, it is much clearer under the capitalist system because the evidence is ubiquitous in all segments of society’s dominant culture. People have ingrained in their minds that institutions and the existing social order is “natural”. Just as the serfs in the Middle Ages believed God meant for them to be in servitude because this is what priest and Lord reinforced, similarly Plato argued that some human beings are meant to be slaves, dismissing the idea that slavery is a manmade institution resulting from private property and war. Under capitalism, the idea has been inculcated into the minds of the masses that if they are poor it is not because there is an economic system based on socioeconomic inequality and social injustice but it is simply their fault for any number of reasons, all of them having to do with personality traits and individual responsibility.

Going beyond the arguments of Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan and John Locke, Two Treatises of Government about whether human beings are inherently evil and prone to disharmony in the state of nature (Hobbes), or inherently good and prone to rational behavior, there is the larger issue of how the dominant culture molds the minds and behavior of people in general and how the institutional structure rewards conformity and punishes dissidence. In other words, people merely wishing to survive will conform. Palmiro Togliatti pointed out (Lectures on Fascism) that a worker will accept Fascist Party membership, brushing aside ideology that may be rooted in humanist values and code of ethics.

This is a theoretical domain to which Antonio Gramsci (Os Intelectuais e a Organização da Cultura) also made significant contributions, analyzing how the dominant culture helps to perpetuate the social order. The dominant culture of our time shaped by five centuries of capitalism has the distinct advantage just as the Feudal/Manorial Christian culture of the Middle Ages prevailed to keep the vast majority believing it was God’s will for them to be oppressed and subsist in misery finding relief only in the afterlife. Despite systemic obstacles to change in society, capitalism exists in fixed time of civilizations in different parts of the world.

Like previous systems it has developed contradictions and it will begin to decline and ultimately give way to a new order. The enemy of capitalism and the culprit of its downfall is the system itself, not Communists, Socialists, jihadists, nationalists, ultra-left guerrillas, or any external force attacking and undermining it. However, this is hardly visible not only to capitalists but to workers as well who may be fatalistic, nihilistic, apathetic, or have turned to inward spiritual endeavors as a substitute for what is lacking in the social contract.

Just as the French serf in the 10th century once believed God meant for the social order to exist as it did and there was no alternative to it. Similarly, the insurance office manager in New York City and the farm worker in southern France may be convinced by the media that capitalism is above history and will exist until the sun becomes extinct. This is what the dominant culture has ingrained into the minds of the masses so this is what they hold to be dogmatic truth in the early 21st century. This is not to say that there are not those in our time, just as there were in the Middle Ages that opposed tyranny and the absence of social justice. The dominant culture silences or minimizes the impact of dissident voices about the need for social justice and an alternative social order. Not just the Holy Inquisition, but the Lords and Bishops dealt effectively with heretics of the Medieval Era, just as the modern state under capitalism has always dealt effectively with dissidents.

The masses are much more willing than many among the elites realize to bring about change in society that would end oppression, discrimination and inequality. Although academic studies show that it takes many years, in some cases decades as in China from the First Opium War (1839-1842) to the warlords (1916-1928) to Mao’s rebel movement (Jiangxi Soviet Republic of China, 1929–1934), popular uprisings ultimately do take place as history has demonstrated. In defying elites and the dominant culture, invariably they will follow an authority figure (s) challenging the status quo, as did theologian Thomas Müntzer (1489 –1525) who took a leading role in the German Peasants’ War. The same holds true from the French Revolution to the Cuban Revolution when the masses proved more willing to support social change than the elites assumed or wanted to believe. Social change is very slow while social discontinuity as Western Europe experienced from the 14th to the 16th century comes so slowly that it is hardly noticeable when a new social order and mode of production evolves.

Historical Synoptic Perspective of Capitalism vs. Socialism

Why should people vote for Socialist parties after they have proved again and again since the 1980s that they are as neoliberal as the conservative parties rooted in the Reagan-Thatcher ideology? By what right do people vote for Communist candidates after the fall of Communist regimes in the late1980s-early 1990s, and the Chinese Communist Party promoting millionaires and billionaires as the new saviors of society? How dare leftists cling to a discredited ideology associated with disruption, if not destruction of the bourgeois social order in Russia, Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, and Cuba in the 20th century?

The answer for those advocating some version of Marxism rests in the reality that the various political regimes under which capitalism has operated in the past 500 years have always left people aspiring for social justice and the goal of serving the welfare of all people instead of the privileged few, a view that the French bourgeois intellectuals promoted in the 18th century in their struggle against the privileged nobility and upper clergy. The quest for equality and social justice that the social contract must embody is as true and timeless today as when Thomas More wrote Utopia during the transition from the Feudal/Manorial social order/institutional structure to capitalism. Certainly the question of capitalism vs. socialism manifested itself in the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, German Peasants’ War in the 1520s, both long before the bourgeois French Revolution, manifested aspects of Socialism as an alternative.

From the French Revolution of 1789 to the environmental movement of the 21st century, people who believed in some form of Socialism have contributed to worker and child safety, slavery abolition, eight-hour work day, social security, rights of women and minorities, and much more. Above all, socialists of varying types have always struggled to keep bourgeois political parties a bit less hostile to labor, women, and minorities, fighting against tyrannical regimes that used brutal force to repress dissidents demanding human rights, and social justice as was the case with the European Revolutions of 1848 and the nascent American labor movement in the 1880s and 1890s. Socialists envisioning a society rooted in humanist values and not capital accumulation for the tiny minority endeavored to tame the capitalist system from within with reforms and from the outside with protests so that it does not leave as many children and their parents destitute in soup kitchens and in back alleys sleeping in cardboard boxes, especially during hard times of deep recessions.

Despite the fact that wars of imperialism from 1870 to 1914 led to the First World War and Second World War, which was in many respects a continuation of the first; despite the fact that capitalism is predicated on inequality and the state in many countries throughout the world, from 19th century Russia and Mexico to 20th century US has led campaigns against workers through violent means; despite that capitalism keeps promising “the promise land” only to deliver wretchedness for the masses whether in sub-Sahara Africa or rural Mississippi, its apologists continue to eulogize this as the best and only system fit for a decent society. The marketing and selling of capitalism under the neo-liberal panacea was helped enormously by the downfall of Communism, by the US campaign on terrorism that fed the defense industry, and by the idea that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism anywhere in the world, considering that China as part of the global marketplace goes along with international market rules, with the World Bank and the IMF.

Capitalism has prove resilient because it has demonstrated that it can operate under varieties of regimes, from Absolutism in early modern Europe, to parliamentary bourgeois democracy in the 19th century, to Fascism, Nazism, and varieties of authoritarian governments in the 20th century. What all of these regimes have in common is that the role of the state is not to fulfill the social contract as conceived by liberal and democratically-minded political philosophers of the Enlightenment era, but to serve, protect, and strength capitalism and its institutions in their evolving state. Since the late 19th century, finance capital with the backing of the state as an instrument of absorbing capital through the fiscal structure has as its first priority to maintain the hegemony of the markets by allowing them to operate freely during the expansionary cycle of the economy, and providing capital to sustain them amid contracting cycles.

Under such role of the state, socialism is an arch-enemy that capitalism is constantly at war against. In practical terms this means that the enemy of capitalists are the masses aspiring to a social contract that includes them – again, a bourgeois concept that the Enlightenment introduced (Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, What is the Third Estate? 1789), but one that opened the Pandora’s box for mass politics after the European Revolutions of 1848. Does the social contract include only the privileged elites the state represents - before 1789 in France the secular and spiritual nobility, now the capitalists – and are they the nation and embodiment of the national interest, or are all people included in the social contract?

1. Is the United States really becoming a socialist country, or is this propaganda? Democrats and Republicans might differ with social spending, but do both parties support a free market without regulations?

There is absolutely no evidence that Democrats and Republicans differ on their adamant opposition to Socialism not only as regime, but even as a third political party with any legitimacy, or a social movement that has popular support. Differences in the two parties are limited to the degree that there must be regulatory mechanisms the state must impose in order to rationalize the capitalist system as far as Democrats are concerned while protecting the weaker classes and maintaining a middle class. As far as Republicans are concerned the less government the better in every domain except defense, domestic security, intelligence operations, and criminal justice system. There are Libertarian Republicans who would have no problem simply handing over government agencies, and to a degree this is a reality with outsourcing government tasks, to the private sector although this means a much higher cost to the taxpayer and much less efficient public service.

The ideological convergence of neoliberals with right wing elements that include the Christian fundamentalists and those supporting the militarist Jewish lobby is a reflection of a strategy to co-opt as much popular backing as possible to forge a popular base from which to oppose any inklings of Socialism. For a functioning representative democracy to continue serving capitalism, while projecting the image of democracy, a popular political base that includes segments from the Christian right to the petit bourgeois professionals is essential. At the same time, there is complete convergence of the elite political class and elite socioeconomic class – people in both coming from the same bourgeois class and representing the same interests.

Even the self-proclaimed progressive politicians from the FDR Democratic wing in the 1940s until Bernie Sanders in our time represent the same capitalist interests and their continued hegemony. However, they differ on cultural/lifestyle issues and the degree to which the fiscal system must be structured to sustain a sound safety net for the poor while maintaining middle class incomes. Because of the Cold War that was effectively used by both Republicans and Democrats to forge popular consensus and maintain the status quo against any movement advocating social justice and equality, and because of the “war on terror” campaign since the end of the Cold War, the American political pendulum has been swinging to the right.

Blatant racism, xenophobia, sexism, ethnocentrism, and anti-labor sentiment once camouflaged behind political correctness rhetoric are now part of the Republican public dialogue. This is not an accident or simply “politics as entertainment” as many inthe “liberal media” like to dismiss it instead of analyzing the issues in depth. On the contrary, the mainstream media, including the so-called “impartial” New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, PBS and NPR, to mention only a few, all with a long history of helping to forge popular consensus in support of capitalism and support for militarist foreign policies in the name of liberal democracy, have helped to bring the public toward a more rightist orientation. While the media as integral part of the capitalist system can only eulogize it so it can survive, it actually presents itself to the public as “objective”, as though its coverage and news analysis represents all people and not exclusively the socioeconomic and political elites.

It is not so much the fanatic rightwing ideologues that make no secret that they approve of the Confederate flag in public buildings, but the “liberal” media presenting itself as the “progressive voice of the people” that has really been responsible for guiding the public toward an increasingly rightist orientation in domestic and foreign policy. The journalistic and moral bankruptcy of media outlets can be seen as much when they never raise social justice as a core campaign issue by questioning presidential candidates on it, any more than they question the bombing of children and women killed en masse by drone warfare across the Middle East and Africa. While many may not see a correlation between foreign policy and domestic, the reality is that the former is a reflection of the latter and neoliberal policies drive both. The US as a status quo imperial power aspiring to maintain Pax Americana status does not want structural change at home any more than it does abroad where it wishes to preserve its role as the world’s policeman.

There are many well-paid “opinion makers” that insist the US is “Socialist” because Franklin Roosevelt established a social safety net during the New Deal that many people then and today regard as a Socialist. The Democrat candidate for president in 1972 Sen. George McGovern among other Democrats including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are also “Socialist”, although both of these individuals were well within their party’s mainstream as their voting records indicate when it came to supporting capitalism and its institutions. The US has moved so far to the right in the last four decades that it is slowly slipping toward a quasi-police state largely to push through very unpopular neoliberal policies and military solutions to international political conflicts that any voice opposing militarism and neo-liberalism is baptized “Socialism”.

Anti-Socialism rhetoric has persisted from the Gilded Age and the famous labor strike by the American Railway Union against the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894 until the 1980s when Reagan adopted a series of anti-labor and anti-union policies the political and business establishment has fought to crush any traces labor rights that compromise capital accumulation. While the labor movement had a number of labor leaders, including Socialist Eugene Debs in the 1890s, today America has very weak trade unions and thoroughly co-opted by the Democrat Party serving big capital and adamantly opposed to any aspect of Socialism Debs advocated more than a century ago. Just in the era of Debs the entire political and justice system, including the Supreme Court always side with big business against labor.

2. Do Americans really understand socialism?

The vast majority of the American people have not studied in depth the theory and history of capitalism and socialism, nor do they really need to do so in order to understand that the current social contract does not represent them no matter what the Constitution promises about equality. The prevailing view in society is that capitalism is “natural” to human nature while Socialism is antithetical and destructive to society. This view comes not just from the vast majority of the teachers from elementary school all the way to graduate school, but from the community, church, politicians and above all the media.

Let us assume that the American people understood in varying degrees both capitalism and socialism. Does this mean that the majority would opt against capitalism? There are very well educated people, including progressive economists and social scientists in general that realize the destructive nature of capitalism and its anti-human pro-capital orientation. Yet, they cannot wait to line up behind any institution that sings the praises of established policy in any domain and represents the promotion of the existing institutional structure because only in this manner is the professional social scientist, journalist, etc. able to achieve the dream of a successful career. No matter how rational, how brilliant, how sound and humane the ideas are of an individual, they are worthless if not dangerous unless they promote or at least do not hinder the status quo. In short, capitalist institutions promote opportunism and co-optation of everyone from the politician to the musician who must commercialize her art to survive.

Raising class consciousness is paramount for political action, but this too comes from the realities of daily life just as it did for the millions who followed 20th century revolutionaries rather than reading the works of any socialist theoretician. The oppressed Chinese peasant did not need to have a copy of the Communist Manifesto next to her to know exploitation any more than a Maquiladora factory worker today in Mexico, or the American farm worker in Alabama. Working three part time jobs just to feed the family while the owners of the companies are making millions constitutes sufficient proof that the system is stacked against labor and in favor of capital. An ideological framework helps to place everything into a coherent perspective in order to mobilize popular support for a grassroots movement. This was the position of the Enlightenment thinkers before the French Revolution and it was just as true in 20th century revolutions. Marginalizing, discrediting, ridiculing, or silencing dissenting voices that demand social justice and stigmatizing them as “Socialists” because they pose a threat to the capitalist status quo allows the mass media to exert influence over public opinion in favor of capital and against labor.

The same strategy the media and politicians adopt to impose conformity on domestic issues also holds true when it comes to foreign affairs. For example, the media and mainstream political and academic establishment present the pacifist dissenter advocating a political solution to US-engendered instability in the Middle East as irrational, unrealistic, unpatriotic and dangerous to national security. Meanwhile, those advocating unilateral or multilateral military intervention are pragmatic voices of reason simply because defense companies make money when government adopts military solutions rather than diplomacy. The reward for the militarist is a high-paying consulting job, chair at one of the various think tanks funded by corporate money, advertisements in the newspaper or TV supporting military solutions, etc. People, especially young college graduates, see who is rewarded and who is left behind in society. Naturally, they follow the pursuit of self interest over what the media describes as idealism that will never make the American Dream a reality. After all, American millionaire dreams are not made by doing or saying, or writing what is in the best interests of all people in society, but only what will retain the privileges of capitalists.

Socialism and capitalism reside under the wing of democracy. Which out the two systems works best and why?

Democracy is a word the ancient Greeks invented to refer to popular sovereignty. However, when the Athenians implemented it into practice (Cleisthenes father of Athenian democracy, 508 B.C.), popular sovereignty was limited to adult males only, to the exclusion of women, foreigners and slaves. When it came to decision-makers, Athenian “radical democracy” (direct vote and participation rather electing representatives) entailed that the individual had to be somewhat well off to have an education so he could actually rise to speak in the assembly to influence the opinion of the rest. In reality, democracy was limited to the properties classes and it was always a struggle between the landowners and the merchants and shipping interests.

In 1689, England took a major step toward representative government with a strong Parliament and weak executive, but the legislative branch was the domain of the landowners, merchants, bankers and shipping interests, to the exclusion of the vast majority. While the American Revolution had a Constitution guaranteeing freedoms and liberties for all, it excluded Native Americans, women, and of course slaves, while the poor farmers and workers were hardly in position to participate and have their voice heard. The French Revolution was the first attempt in Western civilization to introduce popular sovereignty, but it quickly collapsed.

The age of mass politics of the 19th and 20th century in the Western World entailed extending voting rights to people previously marginalized, but the reigns of political power remained with the propertied classes. In short, empirical evidence throughout history does not indicate that democracy was ever a system of government that truly meant popular sovereignty to be all-inclusive and to guarantee social justice. On the contrary, history shows that democracy has been a form of government intended to serve capitalist interests, although there are immense variations between the Norwegian model that takes the working class into account and the American model that is strictly a system limited to the very wealthy with only lifestyle/cultural freedoms extended to the rest of the population.

Socialism is a very broad concept because there varieties of Socialist theories from Christian Socialism rooted in Western tradition that dates back to the Black Death, to Scientific Socialism that Marx and Engels introduced in the Communist Manifesto, coinciding with the Revolutions of 1848. In the age of mass politics, aspects of Socialism have become part of the bourgeois mainstream because the capitalist system could not survive otherwise as John Maynard Keynes realized during the Great Depression. The social fabric could not possibly hold together in the absence of the state intervening much more heavily than it ever had in the economy to absorb surplus capital in private hands, combined with deficit financing and use such resources to stimulate the capitalist economy.

This policy mix that some call “Socialist” emerged from the realization that capitalism left to its own devices would collapse without the state to buttress it. If the state withdraws its support, whether through central bank interest policy making liquidity available for businesses to borrow cheap capital, subsidies of all sorts from export to building infrastructure or facilities, as well as direct bailouts amid recessionary times, then the capitalist system would decline and ultimately fall. The only pillar maintaining it is the state that has been an instrument of redistributing income from the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid up toward the capitalists.

The question is how long can the state remain the pillar of capitalism before collapsing? It could be argued that this could continue another two or three centuries. However, the mounting public debt not just of the US at more than 100% of GDP or of Japan at more than 200% debt to GDP ratio, but also other countries around the world will at some point entail a global crisis of such magnitude that the system will cave in. The combination of public and private debt will reach unsustainable levels to the degree that monetary inflation will reach levels not so different than what people witnessed in the Western Roman Empire during the “Third Century Crisis” that represents the start of a transition toward the Feudal/Manorial social order.

Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire correctly asked the question how did the Roman Empire with the combination of financial, economic, political and military collapse actually survive as long as it did. Nevertheless, the Fall of Rome in the long 5th century did mark social discontinuity. I am convinced that similar patterns with some variations are applicable in the 21st century. The capitalist system will reach a point when it will be unable to operate under a pluralistic bourgeois model that accounts for a thriving middle class and it will only be able to sustain itself under a form of authoritarianism. This is already a reality in a number of countries including the US in 2015 where downward socioeconomic mobility is accompanied by an increasingly corporatist state relying on the military and police-state methods to preserve the dream of an unsustainable and waning Pax Americana.

3. What has caused more financial turmoil in the past century, corrupt forms of socialism or unrestrained capitalism?

Corruption among political parties with the label “Socialist” in France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, among other countries including the most egregious cases in developing nations, has been an undeniable reality. Corruption in the former Soviet Republics, especially Romania but also in the USSR were indeed egregious to the degree that they undermined the moral fiber of the entire system and betrayed the ideology that indentifies corruption with bourgeois regimes. There is no doubt about systemic corruption in bureaucratic Socialist countries any more than there is in countries operating under Socialist parties but well within the capitalist economic system. For 25 years before he fled Romania, President Nicolae Ceausescu (1965-1989) had pillaged the country to the detriment of the vast majority of the people in the name of Communism.

The cult of personality cultivated by 20th century Communist leaders and the corruption that accompanied it dealt a blow to the system as much in Romania as in North Korea and China. China’s pro-capitalist Communist party is one of the most corrupt in the world and it admits the problem is real and not anti-government propaganda. In Power and Prosperity, Mancur Olson argues that communist regimes are even more prone to corruption than capitalist dictatorships. However, corruption has been an endemic part of capitalism in both private and public sectors for centuries, but the system remains in place and has not collapsed like Communism. Corruption by itself was not a catalyst to the downfall of Communism any more that it played a prominent role in Socialist parties opportunistically embracing neo-liberalism so they would be able to govern by serving capitalism even better than conservatives that do not have an ideological claim to the masses’ interests.

Unrestrained capitalism, which includes endemic corruption in both public and private sectors, has actually caused far greater damage to financial turmoil from 1637 during the “Dutch tulip market bubble” until the sub-prime disaster of the first decade in this century that caused the worst global recession since the Great Depression. Despite such shocks in the market that drive unemployment high and living standards low for the majority, apologists of capitalism insist this is the best possible of all systems to serve mankind. One reason for this is that under neo-liberalism we are re-living the Gilded Age.

During the Gild Age (1870-1900), which coincided with the American industrial revolution and the Westward Movement and Reconstruction, there was indeed enormous corruption, partly owing to lobbying. Everything from the infamous Tammany Hall (corrupt machine politics), to the manner that trusts and cartels were free to do as they pleased at the expense of society. Politics became increasingly a business of catering to business of those politically connected at the expense of the rest of society from consumers to labor organizers demanding safe working conditions and fair wages so they could live above the poverty level.

The response by Republican and Democrat Progressive Era politicians was to expand government through more and larger bureaucracies and make it more merit-based so it could better serve capitalism as a whole, including balancing the interests of disparate sectors. A major goal of the Progressives was the overall growth of the capitalist economy with the state as the pillar of support while at the same time protecting the consumer to a small degree and addressing some needs of the middle class that viewed big business as predatory. Progressivism projected as a “reform” movement managed to co-opt a segment of the population in support of capitalism.

Although the expansion of the middle class accounted for the reforms under Progressivism, Gilded Age monopolies and oligopolies continued to prevail in formulating public policy, while government remained their protector. Throughout the 1920s, lobbying became more organized and intensive. Operating in a pro-business climate, lobbyists used more high-pressure tactics to secure passage of legislation by targeting committees and regulatory commissions. With capitalism collapsing in 1929, the New Deal and WWII entailed greater regulatory measures and centralization of government. The New Deal de-radicalized the masses and co-opted them into the Democrat party in support of capitalism.

However, the trend to restore the preeminent role of business in public policy returned with the Truman administration. The Cold War followed by the “war on terror” became the pretext to permit as much laissez-faire latitude as possible so that capitalism becomes stronger. Unrestrained capitalism in the last four decades is responsible for downward social mobility and the fact that even in 2015 with 5% official unemployment rate in the US income levels are below what they were in 2007 when the Lehman Brothers scandal broke and the stock market crash followed in 2008. Unrestrained capitalism is what neoliberals want and what mainstream politicians represent.

In the first week of June 2015, the media celebrated the momentous occasion of Jimmy Diamond, head of J.P. Morgan, who joined the billionaire’s club. This is of course very typical of the media to celebrate such individuals without regard to their record of corruption and destructive actions that negative impacted not just the US economy but the world. As head of J. P. Morgan, this individual has a history of corrupt practices that range from fixing rates and manipulating interest rates to hedge funds manipulation the led to the sub-prime lending crisis of 2008, to the more recent Justice Department allegations that FIFA soccer association used this bank among others Wall Street firms to launder money.

Predatory capitalists of our time – Barbarians at the gate dressed in expensive suits - will do anything from launder drug money in the billions, promote conflict to sell weapons to governments, manipulate interest rates and currency rates and securities, and payoff government officials for favors, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump candidly admitted. The barbarians in suits that the media and the dominant culture revere and eulogize ad nauseam fear the people, dread popular sovereignty, and detest a social contract and policies that encompasses the interests of all and not just the socioeconomic elites.

Why do free market economists fear socialism?

Economists are a microcosm of the rest of society and reflect the dominant cultural and political influences and ideology. I do not believe that anyone should be surprised that the majority of them embrace capitalism in some form, whether under a Libertarian system, a dictatorship, a representative democracy or a social democracy with a strong social safety net. Just to survive in society and have a thriving career, economists have little choice but to embrace capitalism, otherwise, they teach and remain content with the idealism derived from their chosen profession influencing young minds.

All economists know that socialism means the means of production rest with the state on behalf of all people, or common ownership. They may not like state control or they may think it is bad for society because it promotes principles of collectivism instead of individualism, but at least they know the gist of socialism. Economists also know that socialist production is not geared to maximize profits in every sector from luxuries to weapons manufacturing, but to meet human needs. They may detest the idea because they may not believe in egalitarianism, or they may believe this is just a deceptive theory never implemented in practice as preached in writing. Economists also know that the role of the state is catalytic in so far as it determines how to meet the needs of all people collectively and not to permit production, distribution and exchange of everything from the high-end luxury market to weapons and handguns, to Hedge Funds that realize parasitic profits for a few individuals.

It is understandable that economists as apologists of capitalism fear socialism because they fear popular sovereignty. The existing system is predicated on capital accumulation and hegemony of a small percentage of the population that owns most of the wealth. As it undergoes periodic expansionary and contracting cycles more people experience downward mobility. Only state intervention through a policy mix that dilutes free market economics can reverse such a trend, something neoliberals detest and equate with Socialism. Market economists dread any policy mix that suggests the only way to save the political economy and social order is to dilute it.

In the US especially, opposition to Socialism is also a function of historical tradition rooted on the Puritan work ethic and the idea of self-reliance and individual pursuit. Government interfering to provide health and welfare for the poor is an anathema to the “Puritan work ethic” advocates who have no problem when government provides hundreds of billions to bail out banks and insurance companies, guaranteed loans, tax breaks, direct subsidies, lucrative government contracts for everything from sanitation to intelligence outsourcing, etc.

4. Do free market economists confuse the term ‘regulation with socialism’? Is regulation and socialism the same thing?

Chancellor Otto von Bismarck put into policy a number of the platforms from the German Socialists because he realized this is was the best way to preserve the status quo and pursue German capitalist interests at home and abroad. Health and disability to pension plans were Socialist demands that the chancellor whom his Liberal opponents accused of promoting “state socialism” – social welfare policies that eventually all of the Western nations adopted – put into place during the 1880s when the German Empire was thriving. Of course, I must emphasize that what 19th century German Liberals and other apologists since then call state socialism is in essence state capitalism and indeed the only effective method of preserving capitalism with relative sociopolitical harmony.

The European conservative and liberal political admission that capitalism must co-opt the masses in the age of representative democracy spread to the US during the Progressive Era, although the US did not opt for as much regulatory mechanisms under Theodore Roosevelt as it did under Franklin Roosevelt. Opponents of regulations to protect workers, the environment, consumers, children, the mentally ill and the elderly argue this is socialism. The demand an end to as many government regulations on the market as possible and removal of as many government obstacles to movement of goods, services and capital as possible, allowing the market as much freedom to play by its own rules uninterrupted by the state and acting on the laws of 'supply and demand'. On the one hand, this sounds great to the businessman because who wants red tape interfering with wealth-creation mechanisms. But is it not businesses that invite the state's intervention in: a) subsidies, b) tax breaks, c) bailouts, d) barriers on foreign goods that are competitively priced, e) intervention against monetary policies of countries enjoying competitive advantages, f) and a host of other areas from research and development paid for by taxpayers to infrastructural development?

Deregulation under neo-liberalism also means de-unionization of the labor market, canceling workers' rights achieved in the first half of the 20th century, and imposing wages that are as close to subsistence as possible. The rationale is that the US, EU, Japan, etc. must become competitive because China is rapidly out-competing the advanced countries. How do developed countries become competitive? They bring wage levels down so that they can maintain high profits and keep market share. When they speak of 'competitive', they mean lowering wages and benefits and securing tax breaks and subsidies.

5. What countries show the greatest aspects of capitalism and the greatest aspects of socialism? Of these countries, which ones seem more socially stable, the capitalist run economies or the socialist run economies?

Capitalism is and always has been an international system seeking constant expansion which means that all countries in the world, especially in the post-Communist era of globalization, are operating under its rules within varying degrees. If we exempt the unique regime and political economy of North Korea heavily dependent on China for its existence, there are no countries today that are Socialist. There are self-described Communist states like China, Vietnam, Cuba and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. However, these are totally integrated into the world capitalist system and practice capitalism with a strong presence of the state in the private sector. There are capitalist countries that have policy mix many describe as socialist, including Norway, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.

The reason for the Scandinavian countries earning the socialist label is because of the considerable focus on a strong welfare state that accompanies corporate welfare in order to maintain social and political harmony. In other words, there are countries today that are much more committed to a model of democracy that takes into account the lower classes social and economic interests while supporting capitalism at the national and international levels. All Scandinavian countries and Holland of course are excellent examples of this paradigm. Even Canada has a very strong social safety net in comparison with the US. Nevertheless, Canada is very much committed to buttressing corporations and assisting them in securing market share throughout the world by supporting policies just as neoliberals in the US.

From its formative phase until the present, the market economic system has been predicated on global integration and asymmetrical relationship between the strongest economies of the core and the weaker ones in the periphery. Under neo-liberalism, the asymmetrical relationship has intensified, although the myth of the neoliberal apologists is that the gap between rich and poor countries will close rapidly. Not only is the gap wider now than it has ever been between the 20 richest nations and all the rest, but it is widening as the southern and eastern European nations are experiencing debt problems and they have been compelled to adopt austerity measures whose ultimate goal is to impose greater conformity to neoliberal policies. The structural problems that brought the periphery EU countries (Portugal, Spain and Greece) under austerity have now spread to a number of Latin American republics with Ecuador appearing as the most vulnerable and Venezuela amid falling oil prices. With depressed commodity prices, the growth-by-debt cycle is gradually now turning into an austerity nightmare for many developing nations.

The least stable countries are the capitalist ones with a weak state structure, a weak national capitalist class, externally dependent for loans and investment needed for development, and a propensity toward reliance on the police and/or military to maintain political power and social order. The weak state structure is a manifestation of external dependence or neo-colonial conditions prevailing in countries that include most of Africa, much of Latin America and parts of Asia, but also much of Eastern and southeastern Europe as well. The integration models for such countries make them vulnerable to exploitation by patron states.

According to an OECD report (2014), the best years of capitalism are over for this century at least. The developing countries will experience growth and development in the next fifty years as they industrialize and try to catch up with the advanced nations. As migrant labor moves from the poor nations to the wealthy ones by the millions in the next fifty years, the OECD expects modest growth just under 3% but also continued inequality to persist at great levels. Like most think tanks, OECD assumes rapid scientific and technological advancements that will be driving growth in the 21st century, but it also assumes the US and EU absorbing 30 million migrants so that there is no disruption in workforce and tax base needed to sustain the economy. Considering the long history of racism and xenophobia in the US and Europe, the migrant issue will contribute to sociopolitical polarization already evident in the political arena today.

The anomaly of slums next to skyscrapers in major industrial cities, including New York, Los Angeles, etc. is something that we can expect at even more dramatic rates than we have witnessed so far. “Third World” conditions are already an integral part of developed societies and will be even more so in the coming decades. This is a manifestation of socioeconomic polarization becoming more prominent that would further expose the contradictions in capitalism as the system becomes increasingly weaker.

There is a huge gap between what apologists of capitalism that promised dreams of riches for all in post-Communist world of globalization and neo-liberalism and the reality of social polarization. Mongolia is an excellent example of a society where in the recent years (Mongolian Revolution ended Communism in 1990) capitalism has created very few extremely rich people while an estimated 60% live in abject poverty not just in rural areas of nomads but in the capital Ulaanbaatar of 1.3 million where the masses are in tents next to mansions of billionaires and millionaires. Socioeconomic polarization in Mongolia is typical of many former Communist countries and it is a reflection of where society is headed in this century across the world.

The OECD report (2014) predicting increased inequality on a broad level is in direct conflict with optimistic scenarios that politicians and business people project through the media when they ask for the public’s continued support of the system. If the OECD report becomes reality and the PR “war on poverty” is in fact war on the poor because of the nature of centralization and concentration of capital, then everything from healthcare and education, to the criminal justice system and quality of life in general will deteriorate for the bottom half of the population, precipitating social polarization. At the same time, institutions increasingly will be marginalizing the masses and the state will become more authoritarian to deal with the social, economic and political challenges, thus creating new dynamics for social discontinuity.

6. Conclusions

From the Persian Empire (Achaemenid, 550-330 B.C.) to ancient Rome (27B.C.-410 A.D.), from modern imperial Japan under the Meiji Restoration (18681945) to the British Empire (mid-16th to mid-20th century), the fall of empires can be attributed to military spending outpacing economic strength on a chronic basis. This is a topic that Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989) analyzes in depth, and it will be of no surprise to anyone that the US falls within this pattern. From the war against Mexico during the Polk presidency in the 1840s until the present the US has committed itself to imperial status and like all empires in history it has been devoting resources to defense at the expense of the civilian economy.

In all wars, the arms merchants are propagating conflict, always in the name of security and lofty idealist principles rather than their profits. If Dante lived in the 20th century of mass wars, he would probably have to create a tenth circle of Hell for his Inferno where all arms merchants, arms manufacturers, politicians advocating arms buildup, opportunistic consultants, lobbyists, journalists, and academics advocating militarism whose victims are by far innocent civilians; well-worth the human sacrifice, of course, because the arms industry remains profitable, while the masses continue to believe it is for the sake of freedom, democracy and the welfare of humanity.

Just as developing the agrarian, mining, and manufacturing sectors in the 19th century propelled the US into Great Power status by the outbreak of WWI, unsustainable defense spending has eroded US economic status in the world in the 21st century. Such spending under corporate welfare and neoliberal policies will continue to erode the civilian economy as time passes and the political establishment continues to cater to the defense contractors that so handsomely reward politicians with campaign contributions, military officers with jobs after retirement, and consultants advocating for an even greater defense budget and more militaristic policies. American militarism in itself is not a catalytic dynamic for social discontinuity because capitalism is an international system and it can continue thriving in the rest of the world as it declines in the US. However, the US militarist course will force other countries to continue spending on defense as well and the cumulative effect of eroding the civilian economy on a world scale has a much bigger impact on the mode of production.

Utopian societies do not exist, and at this point in our civilization it appears highly doubtful human beings will ever be able to create a society based on complete equality because elites will always exist in some form. The question is whether a more just society rooted in social justice is even possible. How has humanity come to this point where the quarterly reports of multinational corporations are equated with societal progress? Is it simply because this is what the corporate media, mainstream bourgeois politicians, consultants and academics working for various institutions such as the Brookings Institution, and other organizations all under the corporate purview define as progress and success in civilization? If humanity and civilization have been reduced to econometric models of the IMF and Goldman Sachs that measure the wealth of the wealthy and equate them with human welfare what is humanity’s future and what does this say about our civilization?

In The Poverty of Historicism (1957), Karl Popper denied the Hegelian thesis that there are laws of human history and these are an indicator or predictor of the future. The prophet of modern neo-conservative ideology (combining capitalist economics with imperial-militarist foreign policy), Popper denied the validity of the materialist notion of interpreting history and the class struggle. Advocating a natural order of inequality and perpetual war to strengthen capitalism neo-conservatives following Popper view communitarian ethics and collective welfare as an anathema, asserting the primacy of egoism and self-interest as the ultimate moral principle antithetical to altruism that Socialists advocate.

The extent to which the morality, or more correctly immorality of egoism has been taken can be illustrated by the fact that a number of billionaires and millionaires are spending enormous sums to outfox the aging and even death. Capitalists spend more than $80 billion annually in the anti-aging industry, although there is no proven way at this juncture that human lifespan can be expanded and if so in any form of what we would qualify as “quality of life”.

Lower global poverty, gender equality, basic education and health care, and a sustainable future for all people are desirable goals of many human-centered rather than market-focused people for the past two centuries. The question is which development model can achieve such goals if the political economy is structured to serve capitalist interests and not the general welfare. Not any time in the near future, or in the next half century do I expect systemic changes in the neoliberal political economy, although the evolution toward social discontinuity is continuing.

Statistics indicate that there is regression in the areas of social progress and this is expected to grow not narrow no matter what the goals of the UN Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty in the next decade. The socioeconomic and political (military/police) elites will do everything in their power to maintain their privileges against the broader masses of the population demanding social justice and equality. Concessions will be made to the broader masses only when absolutely necessary to preserve the status quo but the road of social discontinuity will not be interrupted as the system slowly decays from within just as did the Feudal/Manorial system that no longer served the needs of society and capitalism came to replace it.

The natural evolution of capitalism taking its course will simply crumble under its own destructive contradictions and people will remove it because they will have no choice as it will cease to serve society, minus a handful of very wealthy – 80 people currently controlling more wealth than half of the world’s population subsisting at or below poverty levels. Because capitalism is predicated on perpetuating socioeconomic and geographic inequality while promising all people that they too can be the “millionaire next door”, what will happen during the next inevitable deep recession, perhaps depression like the 1930s, when people worldwide demand systemic change and segments of the population engage in various forms of resistance from peaceful to guerrilla warfare?
Will governments acting on behalf of a capitalist system use the armed forces and the police to suppress their own citizens as they have done in the past? Will they opt for “reforming” capitalism so that wealth is not as concentrated but the system survives? Will they resort to a form of dictatorship? This is an inevitable scenario because capitalism is a system operating on expansion and contraction cycles with each cycle imposing downward socioeconomic mobility. The only question is how the political and socioeconomic elites as well as the general population in each country will react to this inevitability.

As Joseph Schumpeter argued in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Socialism will prevail because of “creative destruction” that entails accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism would lead to its demise. How long it would take for Socialism to take hold in society, and how fast and how far it would spread around the world are difficult questions to answer. Nevertheless, neoliberal policies are taking hold around the world and hasting the road to the demise of capitalism and the transition toward a new social order. A new synthesis of Marxism and Existentialism rooted in each country's culture, traditions, and needs of workers and not just the bourgeoisie may produce successful leftist regimes in the future. Socialism in some form, which has been around before civilization, will eventually prevail.

Jon Kofas is a retired university Professor from Indiana University.

  Read Socialism Vs Capitalism : Past, Present, And Future
 September 19, 2015
Heartbreaking Photo of a Starving Polar Bear Has Become the New Icon of Climate Change

by Emily J. Gertz, TakePart

Even as researchers confirm another summer with near record melting of Arctic sea ice, a photo gone viral of an emaciated polar bear has become a new icon of climate change.

German photographer Kerstin Langenberger sighted the bear stranded on an ice floe, its bones visible through its wet fur, in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle. She posted the image to Facebook on Aug. 20, writing that the bear’s terrible condition was not an unusual sight.

The photo quickly made its way from Facebook to other social and viral news media sites.

Photographer Kerstin Langenberger's image of a starving polar bear in Svalbard has become an icon of the threat of climate change. (Photo: Kerstin Langenberger/Facebook)

For the polar bear to survive in the wild, the Arctic must remain extremely cold and largely covered in ice year-round. Unless nations slash burning of coal and oil for energy in the next few decades, scientists believe, Arctic summer sea ice will likely disappear by midcentury, and much of the region will become too warm year-round for polar bears and the ice seals they prey on to thrive.

Extreme warmth in the Arctic has also disrupted the jet stream in recent years, causing severe winter weather in eastern North America and Southeast Asia, and is implicated in this year’s massive wildfire season in Alaska and Canada.

The Svalbard islands are in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean bordered by Scandinavia and Russia. Sea ice there has diminished even more quickly in the past 35 years than on the side of the Arctic bounded by the United States and Canada, putting polar bears in increasing peril.

“I do not have scientific data to proof my observations, but I have eyes to see—and a brain to draw conclusions,” Langenberger wrote about the starving polar bear. “Climate change is happening big deal here in the Arctic.”

Polar bear biologist Geoff York agreed to a point. “Bears get sick,” he said. “Bears get injured. Bears get old, and bears die. Attributing cause is difficult even when we can handle those animals.”

The negative impacts of climate change on the Arctic and on polar bears, however, are beyond argument, said York, senior director of conservation for the nonprofit Polar Bears International, who has 14 years of field experience studying the species. But that doesn’t make it certain that global warming–driven starvation is what caused this polar bear’s deterioration.

“If someone wanted to point a finger to one large fire in California and say that’s climate change, it would be hard to do,” he said. “It’s the same thing here.”

Still, he emphasized, the bear’s condition was consistent with expert forecasts of what is happening as the species becomes cut off from sea ice and seals for longer periods of time. 

“There have always been good and bad years in the Arctic for polar bears, and we’re expecting more bad years,” York said, noting that the Barents Sea is now ice-free for 20 weeks more every year than it was in 1979, when satellite measurements of Arctic sea ice began. “Scientists in that part of the world are starting to see effects of that rippling up the food chain.”

On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, summer sea ice dwindled to an area of 1.7 million square miles as of Sept. 11, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. This is its fourth-lowest extent on record, with all four lows occurring since 2010. The extent of 2014–15 winter ice was the lowest ever recorded.

With temperatures in the Arctic warming at twice the rate of lower latitudes, Arctic Ocean ice pack has dropped by 40 percent overall since the late 1970s.

A 2014 study in the journal Nature Geoscience noted, however, that even though 2012 witnessed the lowest summer sea ice extent recorded, the amount of ice recovered substantially in 2013 and 2014. These unexpected freezes were a sign, the authors said, that the Arctic may be able to recover if the world acts quickly to curb climate change.


Photographer Tells Amazing Story Behind Photo of Polar Bear Mom Nursing Two Cubs

The U.S. and Russia Team Up to Save the Polar Bear

Burning All Fossil Fuels Will Melt Entire Antarctic Ice-Sheet, Study Shows

Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic

Emily J. Gertz is TakePart's associate editor for environment and wildlife. She has reported on environment, science and technology for over a decade, for publications including The Guardian, Popular Science, OnEarth, Scientific American, Talking Points Memo, Grist and more. She has also co-authored two books for Maker Media on DIY environmental monitoring and contributed to The Science Writers' Handbook as well as Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century.

  Read Heartbreaking Photo of a Starving Polar Bear Has Become the New Icon of Climate Change
  August 27, 2015
While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean

by Emily J. Gertz, TakePart

Imagine Manhattan buried under a thousand feet of ice. That’s how much of Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier fell into the Arctic Ocean last week, becoming a 7.8-square-mile iceberg.

image: NASA

“As a single event, this is a fairly rare size,” said Twila Moon, an ice sheet scientist at the University of Oregon. But the phenomenon isn’t unusual, she said, because glaciers in Greenland “pulse” seasonally. That means they break off at their edges and retreat inland in summer, and move back toward the ocean in winter.

Still, the ongoing retreat of the Jakobshavn Glacier is another sign that climate change is further destabilizing the ice sheet covering Greenland, one of the world’s biggest repositories of freshwater. Even with temperatures in the Arctic rising at nearly twice the global average, scientists have been surprised in recent years by the fast melt rate of Greenland’s land-bound ice, which contributes to sea-level rise.

Since the 1990s, the Jakobshavn has failed to regain the ground it loses in summer, and the glacier’s leading edge is now further inland than it has been in 135 years of record-keeping, said Moon.

Between 1850 and 1964, the Jakobshavn Glacier, Greenland's largest outlet glacier, retreated at a steady rate of around 984 feet a year, according to NASA. After holding steady for more than 30 years, in 2001 the ice front retreated rapidly by around 9,800 feet (1.9 miles) and has continued to recede dramatically almost every year since. (Image: NASA)

“It is not difficult to say that this continued retreat is in line with what we expect to happen with climate change, with the Jakobshavn as well as the many other glaciers around Greenland and the rest of the Arctic,” she added. “Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any glaciologists who were surprised by this event.”

NASA and European Space Agency satellites photographed the ice mass calving off the glacier between Aug. 14 and Aug. 16. The ESA estimated that the iceberg was 4,590 feet thick.

The United Nations climate agency has forecast that unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut sharply in the next 35 to 50 years, the ice sheets on both Greenland and West Antarctica will begin to completely collapse, speeding up rates of sea-level rise. Scientists estimate that together, they are losing 300 billion tons of ice annually owing to rising temperatures.

“I do think it’s important for people to understand that this not a surprise event,” Moon said. “This is a signal that is consistent with what we expect from climate change. It’s a reminder that we should act, not that we should give up.”


Global Warming Is Causing Rain to Melt the Greenland Ice Sheet

Arctic Ice Melting Faster and Earlier as Scientists Demand Action

Are You Ready for the Biggest Environmental Catastrophe of Our Lifetime?

Scientists Worried as Antarctica Glaciers Are Melting Faster



Emily J. Gertz is TakePart's associate editor for environment and wildlife. She has reported on environment, science and technology for over a decade, for publications including The Guardian, Popular Science, OnEarth, Scientific American, Talking Points Memo, Grist and more. She has also co-authored two books for Maker Media on DIY environmental monitoring and contributed to The Science Writers' Handbook as well as Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century.

  Read While You Were on Vacation, a Chunk of Ice the Size of an Asteroid Fell Into the Ocean
 August 27, 2015
The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

Two Republican bills currently making their way through Congress should anger any American who cares about the nation's forests. Introduced this summer, both bills are pro-industry and anti-environment, and seek to eliminate public participation in federal decisions about forest management that could negatively impact local communities, ecological health and wildlife.

The first bill, HR 2647, the so-called Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4). It passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate. The other bill, S 1691, called the National Forest Ecosystem Improvement Act of 2015, was introduced Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). Hearings held last month by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has consistently supported corporate interests over the environment and wildlife.


Both bills would suspend or weaken several federal environmental laws and clear the way for the timber industry to dramatically increase commercial logging across U.S. national forests.

Empowering corporations, disenfranchising citizens

Introduced on June 4, HR 2647 is a pro-industry bill that seeks to streamline the process by which commercial logging projects are managed by the federal government. One of the ways it wants to accomplish this is by limiting public debate on timber projects, effectively excluding the American public from their legal right to generate and review agency actions regarding forest management. HR 2647 appears to favor the rubber-stamping of industrial logging projects in national forests by establishing several worrisome environmental review requirement exclusions from such projects. These exclusions would effectively remove critical opportunities for American voters to participate in governmental decisions regarding how forests are managed by federal executive departments such as the Department of Agriculture and the Interior Department.

Specifically, HR 2647 would:

  • Create new categorial exclusions from review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
  • Introduce provisions to limit opportunities for judicial review by creating attorneys' fee recovery provisions and bonding requirements that would effectively impede access to the courts
  • Lower the membership of resource advisory committees that advise the Forest Service on land use decisions, from 15 to six, which would significantly reduce the diversity of stakeholders.

Outdoor Alliance, a non-profit coalition that represents the interests of millions of Americans, said that the bill "elevates a single interest — timber — over the diverse activities that take place on national forests, including recreation."

A track loader operates in the log yard at a conifer log mill near Roseburg, Oregon. Pro-industry logging bills in Congress seek to increase logging in America's national forests and exclude citizens from decision-making about forest management. (image: TFoxFoto/Shutterstock.com)

In a letter sent last month to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Adam Cramer, executive director of Outdoor Alliance — which includes the Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, International Mountain Biking Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Mountaineers and the American Alpine Club — sharply criticized the bill:

This measure shortcuts critical public participation requirements for management decisions on National Forests and BLM lands that have the potential for severe negative impacts on outdoor recreation, the outdoor recreation economy, and conservation values. Public lands management requires a balanced approach to sometimes-competing uses and values; this bill upsets this balance and inappropriately limits the ability of a full array of stakeholders to participate in the management process and, where necessary, initiate judicial review of agency actions. pp

In the letter, Cramer recognized the importance of the timber industry, but also pointed out that the outdoor recreation economy — which depends on the health of and access to the nation's forests — is "responsible for $646 billion in consumer spending annually and directly employs 6.1 million Americans." He called on Congress to set aside legislation that "unfairly and unnecessarily harms opportunities for public participation in forest management decision-making."

Cramer also expressed his disappointment that HR 2647 fails to fully address the problem of the persistent lack of funding for wildfire suppression, an issue that has been fastidiously contemplated in, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015, a Senate biil introduced in January that currently enjoys strong and which has been praised by a broad coalition of conservation, timber, tribal and recreation groups, including the Outdoor Alliance, Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy.

HR 2647 was co-sponsored by 13 representatives, all Republicans but one: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), who has been called out by the League of Conservation Voters for over a dozen anti-environment votes since 2009.

Senate launches its own forest attack

Just weeks after the House bill was introduced, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate, on June 25. S 1691 seeks to "establish a reliable and predictable timber supply from the National Forest System that can be harvested, processed, and sold as wood products." Like HR 2647, the Senate bill hands power to corporate timber interests while excluding the voices of American voters and reducing environmental safeguards.

Last month, Mike Matz, the director of U.S. Public Lands at the Pew Charitable Trusts, gave testimony on the bill to the Senate Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee, chaired by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Barrasso. Matz said that Pew is unable to support the bill in its current form, saying that the legislation "would undermine key provisions of the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NMFA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) … [and] inappropriately limit citizen access to the federal courts."

Similar to HR 2647, the bill would require anyone who files a lawsuit challenging forest projects still subject to judicial review to post a bond equal to the anticipated costs, expenses and legal fees of the U.S. Forest Service as a defendant. As litigation costs can be exorbitant, this provision effectively prevents the majority of individuals and organizations from access to the courts on matters of forest management.

Additionally, a provision in S 1691 allows for the clear-cutting of up to 5,000 acres of national forests with limited environmental review on the impacts these operations would have on water and land quality. LIke its House counterpart, the Senate bill seeks to give a freer hand to corporate timber interests in pillaging America's forests for profit while ignoring science, conservation and public input. In concluding his testimony, Matz called on Sen. Barrasso to "craft a forestry bill that more adequately balances the needs of national forests and the communities and wildlife that depend upon them."

An assault on forests, threatened species — and taxpayers

Earth Island Institute's John Muir Project, a non-profit forest advocacy group named after the famed naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, sharply criticized both bills. JMP highlighted how the architects of these bills have capitalized on the public's fear of wildfires and have used the ongoing myth that wildfires are not part of a natural and ecological process.

In fact, wildfires are necessary not only for forest health, but for the survival of many species, several of them threatened.

"Anti-environmental Republicans, joined by some Democrats from logging regions, are attempting to use the public’s fear and misunderstanding of wildland fire to mount one of the most extreme attacks ever on our National Forests," JMP says. "Their views are outdated and scientifically inaccurate. The evidence that has been gathered over the past decade shows that (a) large mixed-intensity fires are ecologically beneficial; (b) we now have far less mixed-intensity fire in forests than we had historically; and (c) patches of high-intensity fire create 'snag forest habitat,' which supports levels of native species richness and wildlife abundance that rival or exceed those of old-growth forest."

One native species that has been harmed by the scientifically unsound practices of post-fire logging and fire suppression is the California/Oregon and Black Hills subspecies of the Black-backed woodpecker. These birds require snags (dead standing trees) to survive. In 2012, JMP and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to list this rare bird as threatened or endangered under the ESA to protect it from further habitat loss.

Fire suppression and post-fire logging have destroyed much of the natural habitat of the Black-backed woodpecker, a threatened species that needs fire-killed trees to survive. (image: Rachel Fazio

"One pair of Black-backed woodpeckers generally needs at least 200 acres, typically with at least 100 standing fire-killed trees per acre, on average, in order to have enough of their prey — native wood-boring beetle larvae which live under the bark of fire-killed trees — to survive," according to JMP. "Once relatively common, before fire suppression and post-fire logging, this species is now extremely rare, and there are no meaningful protections for its habitat on either public or private lands. It is estimated that as few as 1000 pairs remain in California (600 pairs)/Oregon (400 pairs) with less than 500 pairs remaining in Black Hills of South Dakota."

Rachel Fazio, JMP's associate director, told AlterNet that the California spotted owl also is "adversely affected by both green-tree thinning (which destroys or degrades both nesting and foraging habitat) and post-fire logging (which destroys its preferred foraging habitat) — both of which tend to result in territory abandonment."

In December, JMP and WildNature Institute filed a petition to list the California spotted owl under the ESA. Fazio said that they anticipate a positive finding next month. Last week, Sierra Forest Legacy and Defenders of Wildlife filed a separate similar petition.

JMP argues that these two bills, by "dispensing with environmental review, oversight by the courts, and doubling or tripling logging levels, will only mean further threats to these species and an overall reduction in native biodiversity in both green and burned forests."

"Let's face it," Fazio said, "Any way you cut it, these bills would be devastating for imperiled wildlife species."

Once common throughout the Sierra Nevada and Southern California ranges, the California spotted owl has declined in part because its forest habitat has been destroyed by logging. (image: Rachel Fazio/John Muir Project)

The group asserts that these bills will not only "cost taxpayers many millions, if not billions of dollars," but also "perpetuates the myth that fire is not a natural process." The end result of the bills, they warn, "will be harm to native biodiversity and increased costs to taxpayers while a few towns and mills in the west enjoy a couple of subsidized boom years."

John Muir, an early advocate of wilderness preservation in the United States known as the father of the national park system, wrote in his journal that "the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." If GOP lawmakers get what they want, that path may soon become a thing of the past.

  Read The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests
 August 23, 2015
Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

Last Monday, just weeks after he gave Royal Dutch Shell final approval to go ahead with its controversial plan to resume oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, President Obama greenlighted a request by the company to drill even deeper for oil than it ever has before. Granted through the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the approval lets Shell start drilling in the Arctic for the first time in since 2012, when it was forced to halt drilling operations amidst a series of accidents, culminating in the washing ashore of its drilling rig Kulluk on Sitkalidak, a pristine uninhabited island off the Alaskan coast.

Kulluk aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island on January 1, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard

President Obama's decision to let Shell resume its Arctic operations stands in stark contrast to his efforts to combat climate change, particularly the recent release of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which environmentalists hailed as the nation's strongest ever climate action. Even more puzzling is the fact that the Shell approval comes just days before the president is scheduled to make a landmark visit to Anchorage for a State Department-sponsored conference on the Arctic, at which he is expected to talk about the dangers of climate change. It begs the question: When it comes to the environment, where does Obama really stand?

terrible signal to the rest of the world for the United States to be using public resources to promote [Arctic] development," said Niel Lawrence of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "We have to make clear to the rest of the world that we are all in on a clean energy future. And we've got to stop giving the rest of the world license to go exploring by permitting Shell to do it."

Could Obama's decision help fuel an international Arctic oil rush? Under international law, four other countries besides the U.S. — Canada, Norway, Russia and Denmark (via Greenland) — have Arctic exploration and resource rights to areas within 200 nautical miles of their coasts. In Norway, the fear of oil spills in the Arctic have made lawmakers push back on the plans to let oil companies press further northward into the Arctic Circle. But Russia is going full bore, with plans to deploy a floating nuclear reactor to power its Arctic drilling operations by October 2016. Canada has a similar plan to power its remote mining projects.

“Shell shouldn’t be drilling in the Arctic, and neither should anybody else,” said Franz Matzner, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Beyond Oil program, in an email. “President Obama’s misguided decision to let Shell drill has lit the fuse on a disaster for our last pristine ocean and for our climate.”

RT if you agree. Then join our protest here: This is a disaster," said Kristin Brown, director of digital strategy at the League of Conservation Voters, in an email. "Shell has an awful safety track record — even the Interior Department says there’s a 75 percent risk of a large oil spill if these leases are developed, and in the unpredictable Arctic Ocean, cleanup would be next-to-impossible."

Brown noted Obama's bewildering about-face regarding the climate crisis:

Earlier this month, we had an amazing victory when President Obama finalized the Clean Power Plan, putting in place the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It's the single biggest step our country has ever taken to tackle climate change. President Obama has demonstrated time and again that he cares about our environment — that’s why this decision doesn’t add up. Arctic drilling is completely incompatible with President Obama’s leadership on climate.

Not only does Shell have the final permit it needs to drill off of Alaska's northwest coast — right in the heart of the fragile habitat of the threatened polar bear — but thanks to the recent approval, according to Fuel Fix, the energy giant now has Obama's blessing to "burrow into potential oil-bearing rock thousands of feet below the seafloor that previously was off limits." The modified permit gives Shell until September 28 to conduct exploratory drilling below the bottom of the last stretch of pipe set in the well. The company has spent $2.1 billion on leases in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea, and upwards of $7 billion on exploration in both Chukchi and the nearby Beaufort Sea.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, hailed Obama's decision, saying that it helps ensure her state remains "a major energy supplier well into the future." The Arctic waters off of Alaska are estimated to contain 24 billion barrels of oil and 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Obama to threatened Arctic wildlife: Screw you

Even though Obama's approval was expected and doesn't give Shell an unrestricted license to drill in one of the most ecologically sensitive regions in the world —Interior Department regulators ruled that existing wildlife protections require a 15-mile buffer zone between active drilling rigs — it was a stinging defeat for environmentalists, who have long warned that oil drilling in this region will harm a number of threatened and endangered species, including the mascot of Arctic conservation, the polar bear.

The approval of Shell's Arctic drilling is another recent nail in the coffin for this iconic species: Last month, Obama moved to essentially clear the way for a polar bear extinction when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed a polar bear "recovery" plan that allows for a shocking 85 percent drop in the polar bear population. Conservationists were quick to slam the proposal, with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) saying in a recent email that it "looks more like an extinction plan," calling it a "perverse twist" following Obama's Arctic drilling approval. "Under the plan all of Alaska's polar bears could disappear," warned the CBD. The group recently launched a public petition urging Mary Colligan, Chief of Marine Mammals Management at the USFWS, to "seriously reconsider" the current recovery plan for polar bears, saying that it is "simply not acceptable" that it "allows a 10 percent probability that polar bears in each of the four ecoregions will go extinct."

  Read Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic
 August 24, 2015
The nation's water systems are increasingly at risk of nutrient pollution.

by Alexandra Cousteau, EcoWatch

As we enjoy the last of summer, I find myself reflecting on the last few months with bittersweet memories. While swimming in the Pacific Ocean and sailing on Lake Champlain, Vermont, I have enjoyed the best our water resources have to offer. News reports across the U.S., however, have been a reminder that our water systems are increasingly at aa Algal bloom on Lake Erie. (image: Peter Essick, National Geographic/Resource Out of Place Visualization 2015)

North Carolina’s Chowan River, the Great Lakes and the entire Pacific coast have experienced hazardous algal blooms this year that have prevented recreational activity, threatened the health of aquatic species and even endangered the health of communities living along these waterways.

I cannot imagine, and do not want, a future where our water is too polluted to enjoy the gifts it brings our lives.

Changing the course of our water future requires a collaborative approach that informs and empowers everyone—from national leaders and scientists to community groups and individual citizens. While efforts like the U.S. Open Water Data Initiative are championing unprecedented transparency of water information, there is a need to translate the complex science behind water data into tangible and accessible opportunities to increase the general public’s understanding of the state of water in the U.S.

With today’s innovative technology achievements, we know its possible to bring the power of storytelling and the science of water data together to inform communities and disturb the water management status quo.

Helicopter view of a dense green macroalgal bloom (either Ulva or Enteromorpha) in Buttonwoods Cove, Warwick, Rhode Island. (image: Chris Deacutis, Integration and Application Network.

The U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Blue Legacy International hosted the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge where solvers produced creative and compelling interpretations of nutrient water data demonstrating the possibilities for communicating risks, impacts and solutions related to nutrient pollution.

The visualization created by Matthew Seibert, Benjamin Wellington and Eric Roy of Landscape Metrics won the first price in the challenge for its interactive tutorial about algal blooms on Lake Erie, a water body that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts will see algae growth this year that could rival the record-setting 2011 bloom.

Between government policy and engagement like the Visualizing Nutrients Challenge, momentum is building and public awareness of water issues is improving. Now is the time to come together around kitchen counters, in city halls and across conference tables to take collective action toward a more sustainable water future that is championed by each and every one of us.

A National Geographic "Emerging Explorer," filmmaker and globally recognized advocate on water issues, Alexandra Cousteau continues the work of her renowned grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau and her father Philippe Cousteau, Sr. In 2008, she launched the non-profit Blue Legacy International project to “empower people to reclaim and restore the world's water, one community at a time.”

  Read The nation's water systems are increasingly at risk of nutrient pollution.
  September 9, 2015
World's Biggest Economies Devise Plan That Spells Doom for Planet Earth

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

More than 80 of the world's leading scientists, environmentalists, indigenous leaders, farmers, philanthropists and authors have signed a letter to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, current president of the G20 group of the world's major economies, saying that they are "deeply concerned" about the G20’s focus on mobilizing as much as $60-$70 trillion of investments in large infrastructure projects over the next 15 years.

The plan to overhaul global infrastructure was devised at the last G20 meeting, held in Brisbane in November. While it may have good intentions — more roads, bridges, dams, power plants, airports, seaports, pipelines, sewers and telecommunications systems to support a rapidly growing human population — large infrastructure projects can be damaging to the environment, animal habitat and the communities they are meant to serve. From roads slicing up pristine wilderness and highways disrupting critical wildlife corridors to dams flooding rain forests, ruining freshwater biodiversity and forcing people to relocate, many mega-infrastructure projects have ultimately caused more harm than good.

"This unprecedented level of investment in a 21st-century economy must be approached with the highest sense of scrutiny and analysis," reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Foundation Earth, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that promotes an Earth-centered economy. "Trillions of dollars spent in pursuit of typical megaprojects in the energy, transportation, agriculture and water sectors could put in place infrastructure that eliminates wildlife habitat, destroys fisheries, undermines vital ecosystems and further destabilizes the Earth’s climate," it warns. The letter's signatories include a who's who of international environmental leaders, among them Buddhist author Joanna Macy, Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson, Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, and Indian eco-activist Vandana Shiva. 


Survival of the unfittest in the age of megaprojects

Today we are experiencing the biggest-ever infrastructure boom, with total global megaproject spending at $6-$9 trillion annually, which amounts to 8 percent of total global GDP. To be sure, a good number of these projects are worthwhile. "Sewage and water-supply systems, for example, keep diseases such as cholera at bay," write Nicklas Garemo, Stefan Matzinger and Robert Palter, directors of McKinsey & Company offices in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Toronto, respectively. "Much of the Netherlands would be under water without the North Sea Protection Works, which guards that low-lying country’s landscape."

The increase in number and size of megacities like Shanghai have caused a host of environmental issues. (ArtisticPhoto/Shutterstock.com)


But the vast majority of megaprojects should not have been built at all. In a paper published in April of last year in Project Management Journal, Bent Flyvbjerg, an economic geographer at Oxford University, wrote about his research analyzing 70 years of data to conclude that there is an “iron law of megaprojects”: Not only are they are almost always “over budget, over time, over and over again,” they are also subject to the “survival of the unfittest,” with the worst projects getting built, not the best.

"The problem is not that projects worth undertaking do not exist," he writes, citing as examples of worthwhile projects the Paris-Lyon high-speed rail line, the London Docklands light railway extension and the Basque Abandoibarra urban regeneration project, which includes the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. "The problem is that the dubious and widespread practices of underestimating costs and overestimating benefits used by many megaproject promoters, planners, and managers to promote their pet project create a distorted hall-of-mirrors in which it is extremely difficult to decide which projects deserve undertaking and which do not." Flyvbjerg adds some advice the G20 would do well to heed: "Never has it been more important to choose the most fitting projects and get their economic, social and environmental impacts right."

"We are living in the most explosive era of infrastructure expansion in human history," write William Laurance of Australia's James Cook University and his colleagues in the March 2015 issue of the journal Current Biology. They call attention to nine specific issues that must be considered in order to have any hope of limiting the environmental impacts of the G20 infrastructure plan. These include keeping wilderness areas road-free, considering projects' "secondary effects" in environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and making banks incorporate the input of environmental and social experts in their infrastructure investment decisions. "By mid-century, it is expected that there will be 25 million kilometers of new paved roads globally — enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times," they write. "Nine-tenths of these new roads will be in developing nations, which sustain many of the planet's most biologically rich and environmentally important ecosystems."

The researchers highlight the fact that the danger to wilderness is significantly greater when one adds the numerous illegal developments taking place to the growing list of officially sanctioned projects. (The Brazilian Amazon has three times the amount of illegal roads than legal ones.) A 2013 study found that approximately 10,000 miles of roads were built every year in Brazil between 2004 and 2007. This unchecked, irresponsible development has been cited as a major contributor to deforestation and habitat loss in one of the planet's most biodiverse regions. "Knowing where the roads are and the speed at which they are built is key to predicting deforestation," said Rob Ewers, Imperial College London scientist and co-author of the study. "An understanding of road networks is the big missing gap in our ability to predict the future of this region."

A road cuts through the Amazon rainforest. Roads like this contribute to deforestation, with potential impacts for the local ecosystem, including cutting off critical wildlife corridors and destroying natural habitats that also support local economies. (image: Dr. Toby Gardner/Imperial College London)

"Roads that penetrate into wilderness areas often have particularly serious effects, often opening a Pandora's Box of environmental problems — such as promoting habitat conversion and fragmentation, poaching, illegal mining, wildfires and land speculation," the researchers said.

Laurance's paper is central to the arguments put forth in the Foundation Earth letter to the G20. Randy Hayes, the founder of Rainforest Action Network and a consultant at the World Future Council who is also the executive director of Foundation Earth, said Laurance's research is "a seminal effort, and it's going to have a huge impact in policy circles….The fight for a better world will not be easy, but this analysis gives us concrete actions and strategies for reducing the impacts of this global tsunami of new infrastructure."

Privatizing the profit while socializing the risk: Infrastructure as asset class

There is another dark side to the environmental threats inherent in the G20 infrastructure plan: The G20 leaders want to "assess the development of infrastructure as an asset class." Specifically, the infrastructure framework promotes a financing model that uses alternative investment to offset risks to partnering private firms. By creating investment vehicles around the building of roads, bridges, dams and other megaprojects, financial institutions will be able to sell financial products to investors that consist of a portfolio of public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The signatories warn that these types of financial instruments "bear a scary resemblance to financial schemes involved in the subprime mortgage bundles that causes the global economic meltdown of 2008," adding that the financialization of infrastructure will "enable risky assets to be packaged with safe ones so that investors do not know the real value of the product they are investing in."

Furthermore, they point out that "much of the corporate profit is falsely realized because they externalize the ecological and social costs onto the backs of other people and ecological systems." Citing pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and chemical runoff into waterways and oceans as examples of such unaccounted externalities, the signatories criticize the current economic model for infrastructure development as "privatiz[ing] the profit while socializing the risk."

The price of petroleum is set below its true cost to society, as it does not include the externalities of air pollution, climate change and the health and environmental problems associated with these negative effects. (image: nampix/Shutterstock.com)

"Corporate-led economic globalization hasn’t delivered nearly enough for at least two of the more than seven billion people on Earth," they assert. "It has transferred and consolidated power, effectively crippling the people’s governing rights. It has concentrated wealth within the top 1 percent and caused record-setting gaps between rich and poor. While many accomplishments have been made in raising living standards and advancing technologies, they have also come at a great price to the health of the planet."

They urge the G20 to "seek top advisors with commensurate political power who understand earth systems," warning that "if corporate executives and finance ministers drive this agenda with a flawed ideology, our future may be doomed to rapid ecological deterioration with limited chance for recovery."

Nancy Alexander, director of economic governance at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, an independent political foundation affiliated with the German Green Party and headquartered in Berlin, writes, "Without democratic controls, investors may privatize gains and socialize losses, while locking in carbon-intensive and other environmentally and socially damaging approaches."

A tired, old saw: economy vs. environment

Although ostensibly an economic cooperation group, the G20 isn't always so blatantly ignorant about the environment. oo In November, G20 leaders, including President Obama, forced Australia to include stronger climate change language in the Brisbane Summit Communiqué, after Australian PM Tony Abbott told the summit that as the leader of one of the world's biggest coal producers, he would be "standing up for coal."

In a remarkable statement made before the Brisbane meeting, Abbott insisted that economic growth must take precedence over environmental concerns at the summit, conflicting with the U.S. position that climate change is a central issue for the global economy.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets with President Obama at the White House in June 2014. Abbott has been criticized by environmentalists for his defense of the coal industry. (image: White House)Among the major western nations, Australia is the worst carbon emitter per capita — a worrisome statistic that may not change any time soon, considering Abbott's head-scratching statement in October 2014 that "coal is good for humanity." Only two nations, coal-loving Australia and Saudi Arabia — the world's top petroleum exporter — opposed the inclusion of climate in the summit agenda.

Notwithstanding those two outliers, the G20 affirmed its commitment to acting on climate change in the communiqué:

We support strong and effective action to address climate change. Consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its agreed outcomes, our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth, and certainty for business and investment. We will work together to adopt successfully a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015. We encourage parties that are ready to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions well in advance of COP21 (by the first quarter of 2015 for those parties ready to do so).

But its infrastructure plan, many experts argue, is short-sighted, unscientific and goes against sustainable development, failing to recognize exactly how megaprojects impact ecosystems. "Unless managed with extreme care, it would be an environmental disaster wrapped in a catastrophe," William Laurance says of the proposal.

To help further their cause and devise a strategy to influence the G20 investment plan, Foundation Earth has hosted two roundtable discussions that included universities, NGOs and environmental organizations.

"Our survival, or our quality of life, may directly depend on the decisions these investments will set in motion," the signatories warn.

The Brisbane communiqué opens with a noble goal: "Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world." Unfortunately, the G20 leaders have missed an important point: Without a healthy, functional and stable planetary environment, that goal is meaningless.RELATED STORIES The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests.

  Read World's Biggest Economies Devise Plan That Spells Doom for Planet Earth
 September 16, 2015
Fossil Fuels Fuel Inequality, but There Is a Solution

by Mark Ruffalo, Huffington Post

As the nations of the world tackle the problem of inequality, remember this: clean energy is part of the solution.

Much of the world is still held captive by last century's dirty-energy system that has a long history of locking inequality into place, economically and politically. Look across the world and you will find the vast majority of people subject to the whims of a very few. And they are forced to pay exorbitant prices just to keep their lights on and water flowing. Here in the United States, this dirty, old-energy system has protected the profits of special interests while continuing to pollute our water and air -- essentially making the rest of us carry the health costs. This hits the poorest the hardest, whose asthma rates are skyrocketing and who have to choose between their health and putting food on the table. And this system has propped up despots and oligarchs, creating some of the least egalitarian, least democratic nations in the world.

But what if everyone had the freedom to create and control their own energy? Imagine a world where we were not dependent on ever-more costly fuels controlled by the ever-shrinking few? Imagine a world where the "fuel" was limitless, free and healthy.


This is not a pipe dream. It is happening in communities around this country and world, who are embracing energy democracy. In New York State, organizations like PUSH Buffalo are helping families reduce high energy bills through efficiency and solar energy, while creating new living-wage jobs for local residents. In Los Angeles, LAANE and the unions came together to triple the budget for energy efficiency and create a pipeline into good jobs targeted to those workers who have been on the bench the longest.

Wind turbines in South Dakota. >

In Iowa and South Dakota, residents are harnessing the wind to produce more than a quarter of their electricity and creating economic opportunity for farmers in the process. In Arizona, Barry Goldwater, Jr. is fighting for rooftop solar because, as a standard bearer for the Republican Party, he believes every American has the right to capture and use energy from the sun. In South Carolina, Boeing employees make airplanes using clean renewable energy, strengthening pathways to the middle class through manufacturing.


From neighborhoods to states, from the suburbs to the city, and from farms to factories, people are blazing a clean-energy path to economic growth and greater equality. Affordable clean energy for everyone is 100 percent possible and it is up to our leaders in government, business, and in communities around the world to make it so.

When people are provided the opportunity to produce their own energy in a way that grows the economy and protects their health and the environment, every person has a chance at a better life. And since the fuels involved -- like the sun and the wind -- are free and can never run out, clean energy opens the door to generations of sustainable growth. This is exactly the kind of development the United Nations is trying to achieve through its new global Sustainable Development Goals.

And as clean technology's costs continue to fall, a wonderful possibility emerges: developing countries can leapfrog fossil fuels entirely, skipping the dirty-energy sources of the past and going right to the cutting-edge clean and renewable-energy sources of the future. It happened with cell phones -- developing countries might not have much in the way of landline systems, but everyone has a mobile. If it happens with clean energy and localized ownership is prioritized, this world will be a very different place.

Solar lamps provide new opportunities for families in India. (image: Swayam Shikshan Prayog/USAID)

And just as mobile phones have been a force for democratization, so too will local renewable energy. Just imagine a world where the people own and control their own energy, instead of having to rely on a troubled regime or faraway company for power.

More than a billion people still lack access to electricity. It's hard to envision ending poverty, hunger, and want -- or achieving any of the other Sustainable Development Goals -- if a billion people can't turn on a light when they need one, much less a computer.

Clean renewable energy offers a way to bring people out of darkness, while developing local jobs and local economies -- and all this without doing damage to the planet or to the health of those who share it. It offers a way to unleash the human spirit -- the most powerful and equitably distributed energy of all.


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New York-based actor and father Mark Ruffalo co-chairs the 100% campaign, a project of The Solutions Project, on whose board he sits. More information can be found at 100.org.

  Read Fossil Fuels Fuel Inequality, but There Is a Solution
Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable

by Anne Meador, John Zangas, DC Media Group

The repercussions of climate disruption are still not being acknowledged fully, warned climatologist Dr. James Hansen, addressing an audience of Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation climate activists on September 9.

“We’ve now got an emergency,” he told about 150 “elder activists” at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, who were participating in hh Grandparents Climate Action Day.

Hansen — formerly NASA’s head climate scientist, now adjunct professor at Columbia University — is probably best known for bringing definitive evidence of global warming to Congress in testimony in 1988. In July of this year, he released a report with sixteen co-authors studying glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Unlike previous models, the new report takes into account some feedback loops which may be hastening the loss of ice sheet mass far faster than anticipated.


Dr. James Hansen speaking at Grandparents Climate Action Day (image: Anne Meador/Flickr CC)

Time is running out to transition to renewable energy, Hansen said, yet the most “relevant” people in power aren’t aware of the situation’s gravity. “Even people who go around saying, ‘We have a planet in peril,’ don’t get it. Until we’re aware of our future, we can’t deal with it.”

Mass species extinction, extreme weather events, dry spells and fires are climate change impacts which are happening now. A warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans can lead to stronger storms, he explained. Superstorm Sandy, for example, remained a hurricane all the way up the Eastern seaboard to New York because Atlantic waters were abnormally warm.

“Amplifying impacts” and feedback loops will accelerate the changes, according to Hansen. “It will happen faster than you think,” he said. If major coastal cities become “dysfunctional” because of sea level rise, as he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.

Flickr CC)

It is therefore imperative to stop using coal, oil and gas as energy sources now. “We’ve already burned as much as we can afford,” he said. Fossil fuels already burned will continue to have impacts, because the climate system “has inertia.” “We’ve only felt the warming for half of the gases that are up there,” he said.

The use of fossil fuels is still on the rise in spite of the dangers, he said, because governments subsidize them and don’t make companies bear the real costs to society. The only viable way to make the price of fossil fuels “honest,” in his opinion, is to implement a “fee and dividend” system.

While Hansen denounced “unfettered capitalism”and “scary” trade agreements in the works, he believes government regulation can steer captains of industry onto the right path. “We’ve got to make the system work for us,” he said. “If you properly harness the market, it will work for you.”

He gave an example of incentives and tax breaks for solar panels, which he has on his own home, and how he contributes electricity to the grid. Yet one audience member took issue with a corruption-free scenario. “Come to Virginia, I dare you!” he said. (In Virginia, where Dominion Virginia Power has a stranglehold on state politics, ll “standby” fees and other barriers stifle solar panel installation by individuals.)

Hansen, a grandparent himself, was the keynote speaker at Grandparents Climate Action Day, an event to mobilize elder activists and promote a policy agenda aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hansen believes elders possess resources and wisdom which, combined with the zeal of youth, can help find solutions to climate change. “Older people have a lot of clout, a lot of votes, and time,” he said. With more older people getting involved, there will be more pressure to make needed changes.

Fellow speaker John Sorensen, co-founder of the Conscious Elders Network, echoed this point. The 80 million elders in the U.S. — 25 percent of the population — are living longer and healthier lives with more time and resources to devote to activism.

Hansen is supporting a lawsuit in which 21 young people are suing the U.S. government. (One of the plaintiffs is his granddaughter Sophie.) The lawsuit alleges that the federal government knew decades ago that burning fossil fuels and climate were linked, but continued on the same course anyway.

In his testimony for Youth v. Obama, Hansen said, “In my opinion, this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal, nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

The judiciary, he believes, is the only viable recourse left for the younger generation, “because the courts will be less under the thumb of the fossil fuel industry.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.”

“Young people have all these rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to look at, and I think this may be our best chance to force the government to do its job,” he said.

Most of the elders participating in Grandparents Climate Action Day probably won’t live to see the worst effects of climate change, yet they were eager to learn about the earth future generations will inherit. One participant explained her reason for being there. After working with children for her whole career, she realized that “all of it mean[s] nothing if we don’t have a livable planet.”

This story was originally published by DCMediaGroup.


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Anne Meador is a co-founder of DC Media Group, a grassroots collective of journalists devoted to reporting news and issues from the people's perspective.

John Zangas is an advocate for veterans, human rights and repressed people everywhere. John’s interests includes renewable energy sources, solar power, science and literature.

  Read Climate Expert James Hansen: The Planet May Become Ungovernable
  September 16, 2015
New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo Will Be Under Water If All Fossil Fuel Is Burned

by Tom Bawden, Independent, UK

London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong are some of the cities that would be submerged under the sea if the world burns all of its accessible fossil fuel reserves, a new report has warned.

The carbon emissions given off by the coal, oil and gas would fuel global warming to such an extent that virtually all of the Antarctic ice sheet would melt, pushing the sea level up by 60 metres and flooding the homes of more than a billion people worldwide, the researchers found.

Most of the focus on the Antarctic ice sheet has been on the west, where the melting is far more advanced. This is the first research to look at the impact of fossil fuel burning on the entire sheet and finds that the east sheet also gives cause for alarm.

“The West Antarctic Ice Sheet may already have tipped into a state of unstoppable ice loss ... But if we want to pass on cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Calcutta, Hamburg and New York as our future heritage, we need to avoid tipping in east Antarctica,” said Professor Anders Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, added: “Most previous studies of Antarctic have focused on the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Our study demonstrates that burning coal, oil and gas also risks loss of the much larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

“If we do not want to melt Antarctica, we can’t keep taking fossil fuel carbon out and just dumping it into the atmosphere as CO2 ... If we don’t stop dumping our waste CO2 into the sky, land that is now home to more than a billion people will one day be under water,” he added.

Professor Anders told The Independent he thought it was unlikely that the world will burn all its fossil fuel reserves. But he suggested a sizeable portion could be burnt, posing a significant risk to the ice sheet. “If we continue to increase the emissions every year by the same [amount] as we did in the past, we will have burned everything in about 150 years,” he said.

The research, published in the journal Science Advances, also included researchers from the University of California Riverside.

It found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes “unstable” if carbon emissions continue at current levels for 60 to 80 years, representing only 6 to 8 per cent of the 10,000 billion tonnes of CO2 that would be released if all remaining fossil fuels are burnt.

The study does not predict greatly increased rates of ice loss for this century, but found that average rates of sea level rise over the next 1,000 years could be about three centimetres a year, pushing the sea level up by about 30 metres by the end of the millennium.

“It’s much easier to predict that an ice cube in a warming room is going to melt eventually than it is to say precisely how quickly it will vanish,” said Professor Ricarda Winkelmann, of the Potsdam Institute.


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Tom Bawden is Energy and Resources Correspondent for The Independent and Evening Standard.

  Read New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo Will Be Under Water If All Fossil Fuel Is Burned
  September 21, 2015

by José María LOPERA

How terrible is the anger of the men that kill,
of the volcano that inside melts down feelings,
’til souls break in a crater of extermination!
What storm, what thunder, what flash of violence
seeks to kill or mutilate those who are innocent!

Where is the light of the smile, placed
by God into mankind that it may love?
And where is it, the light of awakening,
that shines between men when they live in harmony?
Where is it, Peace? Tell me. Where is it?

Time itself cries complaint in the seconds when
a shell delays even the terror that you feel,
and when it goes off, in its smoke you can breathe
the pleasure to feel life amongst the dead.

I knew as a child the smell of my blood
in the horrible panic of the whistling bomb.
I overflowed with the hurt of my wounded flesh,
the lacerating fear that time does not cancel,
and the scream that I bear that curses war.

And you who speak so much of God,
who invoke Him so often against the rest,
who worship Him so much in his justice,
what rubbish soul do you keep Him in?

Tell me. What race, what land, remains
for you to defend or else to attack
with fangs of fratricidal hate
if your fanaticism isn’t worth
the dying breath of a single child?

If God is the LIGHT of life in HARNONY
And an eternal source of a LIBERTY sublime…
Where is the PEACE that he put in your spirit?
With what seed of hate did you sow it,
that yields blades of death from the wounded earth?
  Read Peace
 August 22, 2015
"The Iranian Threat": Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace?

by Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch


Chomsky writes: "Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany."

hroughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

There are, however, striking exceptions to the general enthusiasm: the United States and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. One consequence of this is that U.S. corporations, much to their chagrin, are prevented from flocking to Tehran along with their European counterparts. Prominent sectors of U.S. power and opinion share the stand of the two regional allies and so are in a state of virtual hysteria over “the Iranian threat.” Sober commentary in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum, declares that country to be “the gravest threat to world peace.” Even supporters of the agreement here are wary, given the exceptional gravity of that threat.  After all, how can we trust the Iranians with their terrible record of aggression, violence, disruption, and deceit?

Opposition within the political class is so strong that public opinion has shifted quickly from significant support for the deal to an even split. Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the agreement. The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Senator Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals among the crowded field of presidential candidates, warns that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an Electro Magnetic Pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United States, killing “tens of millions of Americans.”

The two most likely winners, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are battling over whether to bomb Iran immediately after being elected or after the first Cabinet meeting.  The one candidate with some foreign policy experience, Lindsey Graham, describes the deal as “a death sentence for the state of Israel,” which will certainly come as a surprise to Israeli intelligence and strategic analysts -- and which Graham knows to be utter nonsense, raising immediate questions about actual motives.

Keep in mind that the Republicans long ago abandoned the pretense of functioning as a normal congressional party.  They have, as respected conservative political commentator Norman Ornstein of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute observed, become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal congressional politics. 

Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, the party leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilizing parts of the population that have not previously been an organized political force.  Among them are extremist evangelical Christians, now probably a majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding states; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society -- though not from the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.

The departure from global standards, however, goes far beyond the bounds of the Republican radical insurgency.  Across the spectrum, there is, for instance, general agreement with the “pragmatic” conclusion of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Vienna deal does not “prevent the United States from striking Iranian facilities if officials decide that it is cheating on the agreement,” even though a unilateral military strike is “far less likely” if Iran behaves. 

Former Clinton and Obama Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross typically recommends that “Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving towards a weapon, that would trigger the use of force” even after the termination of the deal, when Iran is theoretically free to do what it wants.  In fact, the existence of a termination point 15 years hence is, he adds, "the greatest single problem with the agreement." He also suggests that the U.S. provide Israel with specially outfitted B-52 bombers and bunker-busting bombs to protect itself before that terrifying date arrives.

“The Greatest Threat”

Opponents of the nuclear deal charge that it does not go far enough. Some supporters agree, holding that “if the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.” The author of those words, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, added that “Iran, in its national capacity and as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement [the governments of the large majority of the world’s population], is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy.” Iran has signed “a historic nuclear deal,” he continues, and now it is the turn of Israel, “the holdout.”

Israel, of course, is one of the three nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, whose weapons programs have been abetted by the United States and that refuse to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Zarif was referring to the regular five-year NPT review conference, which ended in failure in April when the U.S. (joined by Canada and Great Britain) once again blocked efforts to move toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Such efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years.  As Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, leading figures in the promotion of such efforts at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, observe in “Is There a Future for the NPT?,” an article in the journal of the Arms Control Association: “The successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT.”  The NPT, in turn, is the most important arms control treaty of all.  If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Repeatedly, implementation of the resolution has been blocked by the U.S., most recently by President Obama in 2010 and again in 2015, as Dhanapala and Duarte point out, “on behalf of a state that is not a party to the NPT and is widely believed to be the only one in the region possessing nuclear weapons” -- a polite and understated reference to Israel. This failure, they hope, “will not be the coup de grâce to the two longstanding NPT objectives of accelerated progress on nuclear disarmament and establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.”

A nuclear-weapons-free Middle East would be a straightforward way to address whatever threat Iran allegedly poses, but a great deal more is at stake in Washington’s continuing sabotage of the effort in order to protect its Israeli client.  After all, this is not the only case in which opportunities to end the alleged Iranian threat have been undermined by Washington, raising further questions about just what is actually at stake.

In considering this matter, it is instructive to examine both the unspoken assumptions in the situation and the questions that are rarely asked.  Let us consider a few of these assumptions, beginning with the most serious: that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace.

In the U.S., it is a virtual cliché among high officials and commentators that Iran wins that grim prize.  There is also a world outside the U.S. and although its views are not reported in the mainstream here, perhaps they are of some interest.  According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States.  The rest of the world regards it as the gravest threat to world peace by a large margin.  In second place, far below, is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote.  Iran is ranked below those two, along with China, Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

“The World’s Leading Supporter of Terrorism”

Turning to the next obvious question, what in fact is the Iranian threat?  Why, for example, are Israel and Saudi Arabia trembling in fear over that country?  Whatever the threat is, it can hardly be military.  Years ago, U.S. intelligence informed Congress that Iran has very low military expenditures by the standards of the region and that its strategic doctrines are defensive -- designed, that is, to deter aggression. The U.S. intelligence community has also reported that it has no evidence Iran is pursuing an actual nuclear weapons program and that “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

The authoritative SIPRI review of global armaments ranks the U.S., as usual, way in the lead in military expenditures.  China comes in second with about one-third of U.S. expenditures.  Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are nonetheless well above any western European state.  Iran is scarcely mentioned.  Full details are provided in an April report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which finds “a conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have... an overwhelming advantage of Iran in both military spending and access to modern arms.”

Iran’s military spending, for instance, is a fraction of Saudi Arabia’s and far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades.  The CSIS report adds: “The Arab Gulf states have acquired and are acquiring some of the most advanced and effective weapons in the world [while] Iran has essentially been forced to live in the past, often relying on systems originally delivered at the time of the Shah.”  In other words, they are virtually obsolete.  When it comes to Israel, of course, the imbalance is even greater.  Possessing the most advanced U.S. weaponry and a virtual offshore military base for the global superpower, it also has a huge stock of nuclear weapons. 

To be sure, Israel faces the “existential threat” of Iranian pronouncements: Supreme Leader Khamenei and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously threatened it with destruction.  Except that they didn’t -- and if they had, it would be of little moment.  Ahmadinejad, for instance, predicted that “under God’s grace [the Zionist regime] will be wiped off the map.”  In other words, he hoped that regime change would someday take place.  Even that falls far short of the direct calls in both Washington and Tel Aviv for regime change in Iran, not to speak of the actions taken to implement regime change.  These, of course, go back to the actual “regime change” of 1953, when the U.S. and Britain organized a military coup to overthrow Iran’s parliamentary government and install the dictatorship of the Shah, who proceeded to amass one of the worst human rights records on the planet.

These crimes were certainly known to readers of the reports of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, but not to readers of the U.S. press, which has devoted plenty of space to Iranian human rights violations -- but only since 1979 when the Shah’s regime was overthrown.  (To check the facts on this, read The U.S. Press and Iran, a carefully documented study by Mansour Farhang and William Dorman.)

None of this is a departure from the norm.  The United States, as is well known, holds the world championship title in regime change and Israel is no laggard either.  The most destructive of its invasions of Lebanon in 1982 was explicitly aimed at regime change, as well as at securing its hold on the occupied territories.  The pretexts offered were thin indeed and collapsed at once.  That, too, is not unusual and pretty much independent of the nature of the society -- from the laments in the Declaration of Independence about the “merciless Indian savages” to Hitler’s defense of Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles.

No serious analyst believes that Iran would ever use, or even threaten to use, a nuclear weapon if it had one, and so face instant destruction.  There is, however, real concern that a nuclear weapon might fall into jihadi hands -- not thanks to Iran, but via U.S. ally Pakistan.  In the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, two leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian, write that increasing fears of “militants seizing nuclear weapons or materials and unleashing nuclear terrorism [have led to]... the creation of a dedicated force of over 20,000 troops to guard nuclear facilities.  There is no reason to assume, however, that this force would be immune to the problems associated with the units guarding regular military facilities,” which have frequently suffered attacks with “insider help.” In brief, the problem is real, just displaced to Iran thanks to fantasies concocted for other reasons.

Other concerns about the Iranian threat include its role as “the world’s leading supporter of terrorism,” which primarily refers to its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.  Both of those movements emerged in resistance to U.S.-backed Israeli violence and aggression, which vastly exceeds anything attributed to these villains, let alone the normal practice of the hegemonic power whose global drone assassination campaign alone dominates (and helps to foster) international terrorism. 

Those two villainous Iranian clients also share the crime of winning the popular vote in the only free elections in the Arab world.  Hezbollah is guilty of the even more heinous crime of compelling Israel to withdraw from its occupation of southern Lebanon, which took place in violation of U.N. Security Council orders dating back decades and involved an illegal regime of terror and sometimes extreme violence.  Whatever one thinks of Hezbollah, Hamas, or other beneficiaries of Iranian support, Iran hardly ranks high in support of terror worldwide.

“Fueling Instability”

Another concern, voiced at the U.N. by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, is the “instability that Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program.” The U.S. will continue to scrutinize this misbehavior, she declared.  In that, she echoed the assurance Defense Secretary Ashton Carter offered while standing on Israel’s northern border that “we will continue to help Israel counter Iran’s malign influence” in supporting Hezbollah, and that the U.S. reserves the right to use military force against Iran as it deems appropriate. 

The way Iran “fuels instability” can be seen particularly dramatically in Iraq where, among other crimes, it alone at once came to the aid of Kurds defending themselves from the invasion of Islamic State militants, even as it is building a $2.5 billion power plant in the southern port city of Basra to try to bring electrical power back to the level reached before the 2003 invasion.  Ambassador Power’s usage is, however, standard: Thanks to that invasion, hundreds of thousands were killed and millions of refugees generated, barbarous acts of torture were committed -- Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century -- leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls.  Meanwhile, sectarian conflict was ignited, tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the creation of the monstrosity that is ISIS.  And all of that is called “stabilization.”

Only Iran’s shameful actions, however, “fuel instability.” The standard usage sometimes reaches levels that are almost surreal, as when liberal commentator James Chace, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explained that the U.S. sought to “destabilize a freely elected Marxist government in Chile” because “we were determined to seek stability” under the Pinochet dictatorship.

Others are outraged that Washington should negotiate at all with a “contemptible” regime like Iran’s with its horrifying human rights record and urge instead that we pursue “an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states.”  So writes Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor to the venerable liberal journal the Atlantic, who can barely conceal his visceral hatred for all things Iranian.  With a straight face, this respected liberal intellectual recommends that Saudi Arabia, which makes Iran look like a virtual paradise, and Israel, with its vicious crimes in Gaza and elsewhere, should ally to teach that country good behavior.  Perhaps the recommendation is not entirely unreasonable when we consider the human rights records of the regimes the U.S. has imposed and supported throughout the world.

Though the Iranian government is no doubt a threat to its own people, it regrettably breaks no records in this regard, not descending to the level of favored U.S. allies.  That, however, cannot be the concern of Washington, and surely not Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

It might also be useful to recall -- surely Iranians do -- that not a day has passed since 1953 in which the U.S. was not harming Iranians. After all, as soon as they overthrew the hated U.S.-imposed regime of the Shah in 1979, Washington put its support behind Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who would, in 1980, launch a murderous assault on their country.  President Reagan went so far as to deny Saddam’s major crime, his chemical warfare assault on Iraq’s Kurdish population, which he blamed on Iran instead.  When Saddam was tried for crimes under U.S. auspices, that horrendous crime, as well as others in which the U.S. was complicit, was carefully excluded from the charges, which were restricted to one of his minor crimes, the murder of 148 Shi’ites in 1982, a footnote to his gruesome record.

Saddam was such a valued friend of Washington that he was even granted a privilege otherwise accorded only to Israel.  In 1987, his forces were allowed to attack a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Stark, with impunity, killing 37 crewmen.  (Israel had acted similarly in its 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.)  Iran pretty much conceded defeat shortly after, when the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian ships and oil platforms in Iranian territorial waters.  That operation culminated when the USS Vincennes, under no credible threat, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in Iranian airspace, with 290 killed -- and the subsequent granting of a Legion of Merit award to the commander of the Vincennes for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and for maintaining a “calm and professional atmosphere” during the period when the attack on the airliner took place. Comments philosopher Thill Raghu, “We can only stand in awe of such display of American exceptionalism!”

After the war ended, the U.S. continued to support Saddam Hussein, Iran’s primary enemy.  President George H.W. Bush even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production, an extremely serious threat to Iran.  Sanctions against that country were intensified, including against foreign firms dealing with it, and actions were initiated to bar it from the international financial system.

In recent years the hostility has extended to sabotage, the murder of nuclear scientists (presumably by Israel), and cyberwar, openly proclaimed with pride.  The Pentagon regards cyberwar as an act of war, justifying a military response, as does NATO, which affirmed in September 2014 that cyber attacks may trigger the collective defense obligations of the NATO powers -- when we are the target that is, not the perpetrators.

“The Prime Rogue State”

It is only fair to add that there have been breaks in this pattern. President George W. Bush, for example, offered several significant gifts to Iran by destroying its major enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.  He even placed Iran’s Iraqi enemy under its influence after the U.S. defeat, which was so severe that Washington had to abandon its officially declared goals of establishing permanent military bases (“enduring camps”) and ensuring that U.S. corporations would have privileged access to Iraq’s vast oil resources.

Do Iranian leaders intend to develop nuclear weapons today?  We can decide for ourselves how credible their denials are, but that they had such intentions in the past is beyond question.  After all, it was asserted openly on the highest authority and foreign journalists were informed that Iran would develop nuclear weapons “certainly, and sooner than one thinks.” The father of Iran’s nuclear energy program and former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was confident that the leadership’s plan “was to build a nuclear bomb.” The CIA also reported that it had “no doubt” Iran would develop nuclear weapons if neighboring countries did (as they have). 

All of this was, of course, under the Shah, the “highest authority” just quoted and at a time when top U.S. officials -- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger, among others -- were urging him to proceed with his nuclear programs and pressuring universities to accommodate these efforts.  Under such pressures, my own university, MIT, made a deal with the Shah to admit Iranian students to the nuclear engineering program in return for grants he offered and over the strong objections of the student body, but with comparably strong faculty support (in a meeting that older faculty will doubtless remember well).

Asked later why he supported such programs under the Shah but opposed them more recently, Kissinger responded honestly that Iran was an ally then.

Putting aside absurdities, what is the real threat of Iran that inspires such fear and fury? A natural place to turn for an answer is, again, U.S. intelligence.  Recall its analysis that Iran poses no military threat, that its strategic doctrines are defensive, and that its nuclear programs (with no effort to produce bombs, as far as can be determined) are “a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Who, then, would be concerned by an Iranian deterrent?  The answer is plain: the rogue states that rampage in the region and do not want to tolerate any impediment to their reliance on aggression and violence.  In the lead in this regard are the U.S. and Israel, with Saudi Arabia trying its best to join the club with its invasion of Bahrain (to support the crushing of a reform movement there) and now its murderous assault on Yemen, accelerating a growing humanitarian catastrophe in that country. 

For the United States, the characterization is familiar.  Fifteen years ago, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard, warned in the establishment journal Foreign Affairs that for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower... the single greatest external threat to their societies.” Shortly after, his words were echoed by Robert Jervis, the president of the American Political Science Association: “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” As we have seen, global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin.

Furthermore, the mantle is worn with pride.  That is the clear meaning of the insistence of the political class that the U.S. reserves the right to resort to force if it unilaterally determines that Iran is violating some commitment.  This policy is of long standing, especially for liberal Democrats, and by no means restricted to Iran.  The Clinton Doctrine, for instance, confirmed that the U.S. was entitled to resort to the “unilateral use of military power” even to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” let alone alleged “security” or “humanitarian” concerns.  Adherence to various versions of this doctrine has been well confirmed in practice, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.

These are among the critical matters that should be the focus of attention in analyzing the nuclear deal at Vienna, whether it stands or is sabotaged by Congress, as it may well be.

  Read The Iranian Threat: Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace?




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