Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website
Volume 15 Issue 2 October 2016

Theme for this month

The theme of October 2016 Newsletter is:

Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America.

Table of Contents of October Newsletter

  • Paper on the theme.Paper on the theme.

  • Front Page.Front Page.

  • Chapter I.  Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America.
    Animation of Chapter I Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America.
    Hillary Clinton, the best leader to command the free world. Hillary Clinton, Democrat, an effective global leader as President of the United States of America.
    Text in the animation of Chapter I Text in the animation of Chapter I.
    Images in the animation of Chapter I Images in the animation of Chapter I.
  • Chapter II.  Donald Trump hopes to resolve local and global issues by playing a game of Dice with extreme solutions and no good outcomes for America. Donald Trump hopes to resolve local and global issues by playing a game of Dice with extreme solutions and  no good outcomes for America.
    Animation of Chapter II Donald Trump hopes to resolve local and global issues by playing a game of Dice with extreme solutions and  no good outcomes for America.
    Text in the animation of Chapter II Text in the animation of Chapter II.
    Images in the animation of Chapter II Images in the animation of Chapter II.

Global Dialogue 2016 Proceedings (September 1st 2015 to August 31st 2016). Global Dialogue 2016 Proceedings (September 1st 2015 to August 31st 2016).

Global Peace Earth. Global Peace Earth.

Global Community days of celebration or remembering throughout the year. Global Community days of celebration or remembering throughout the year.

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

( see enlargement  Enlargement )

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

John Scales Avery, David Bollier, Tyler Burchett, Finian Cunningham, Sarah Daren, Jeremy Hance, Ana de Ita, Derrick Jensen, Brian Kahn, George Por, Anandi Sharan, Dr. David Suzuki (2), Eric Zuesse

John Scales Avery, Fossil Fuels: At What Price? Fossil Fuels: At What Price?
David Bollier, Global Enclosures In The Service Of Empire Global Enclosures In The Service Of Empire
Tyler Burchett, How Fire Made Us Human. How Fire Made Us Human
Finian Cunningham, US In Denial Over Sponsoring Terrorism Is Why War On Syrian Rages On US In Denial Over Sponsoring Terrorism Is Why War On Syrian Rages On
Sarah Daren, A Bacteria That Produces Fuel? Welcome to the Future of Sustainable Energy A Bacteria That Produces Fuel? Welcome to the Future of Sustainable Energy
Jeremy Hance, Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems
Ana de Ita, Using “Protected Natural Areas” To Appropriate The Commons Using Protected Natural Areas To Appropriate The Commons
Derrick Jensen, The Conservative Belief in Human Supremacy Is Destroying Our Planet The Conservative Belief in Human Supremacy Is Destroying Our Planet
Brian Kahn, 167 Tiny Maps Tell the Major Story of Climate Change 167 Tiny Maps Tell the Major Story of Climate Change
George Por, School Of Commoning School Of Commoning
Anandi Sharan, Work, Energy, Money And Climate Change Work, Energy, Money And Climate Change
Dr. David Suzuki, From Ecosystems to Species to Cultures, Diversity Is Key to Survival From Ecosystems to Species to Cultures, Diversity Is Key to Survival
Dr. David Suzuki, Humans Are Super Predators, but Unlike Wild Predators, We Can't Manage Complex Ecosystems Humans Are Super Predators, but Unlike Wild Predators, We Can't Manage Complex Ecosystems
Eric Zuesse, U.S. Caves To Russia On Syria — Won’t Continue Protecting Al Qaeda U.S. Caves To Russia On Syria — Won’t Continue Protecting Al Qaeda

Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
  September 8, 2016
US In Denial Over Sponsoring Terrorism Is Why War On Syrian Rages On

by Finian Cunningham, Information Clearing House

Marathon 10-hour talks this weekend between the US and Russia in Geneva failed to produce a comprehensive plan to end the brutal Syrian war.
Cutting through diplomatic jargon, the fundamental problem is that the US remains in denial about its criminal role in fueling the war.

It is this role by the US and various foreign allies in supporting illegally armed groups that ensures the continuance of the conflict, which has been running for nearly six years with hundreds of thousands killed.

Washington and its allies – in particular this week Turkey – claim to be fighting terrorism. But the myriad global networks of weapons, cash, oil smuggling and military intelligence all testify to systematic state sponsorship of terrorism in Syria – in spite of random apparent anti-terror operations by these same sponsor-states.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said they were continuing to work on details for a breakthrough to end the violence. These precise details were not revealed, but it is reported that American and Russian military and technical experts are liaising on resolving them.

Kerry and Lavrov have obviously good personal rapport, and there seems to be an earnest mutual respect between the diplomats to find a solution in Syria. But how can a solution be found when one of the parties is part of the problem? Not only that, but the guilty party is in utter denial about its nefarious role.

In this way, the discussions between Kerry and Lavrov are more resembling of the relationship between a patient and a therapist, in which Lavrov is having to painstakingly work through the details about which Kerry suffers cognitive dissonance.

Part of the logistical problem in implementing a ceasefire in Syria is the ongoing failure by the US to provide any distinction between terrorist groups and militia that it claims are “moderate rebels”.

That is a main factor for why the earlier ceasefire called in February fell apart. Syrian government forces and their Russian ally maintain that they have the legal right to continue attacking internationally recognized al Qaeda-linked terrorist brigades. For which Washington then turns around and accuses Syria and Russia of targeting “moderate” insurgents.

However, absurdly, Washington has not or cannot provide Russia with any maps or locations showing where its “moderate” militias are.

In a press conference with Lavrov in Geneva, Kerry ducked a question on how a modality could be found for making such a distinction. Kerry gave this tellingly vague response: “It is not a helpful situation, and we’re expressing concern about it with the Russians and working on ways to deal with it.”

In other words, Washington hasn’t a clue about any realistic distinction between the plethora of armed groups trying to topple the Syrian government.

That vacuity from Washington vindicates the Syrian and Russian assessment as essentially correct: the vast majority of the anti-government opposition are terrorist entities. They may have countless different names, but they share the same extremist ideology and methods; and ultimately they share the same sponsors among foreign states for weapons and funding. Chief among these sponsors is Washington, Britain and France, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies.

The Western media indulge in the same bankrupt, mendacious thinking by referring to “inter-mingling” between “moderates” and “extremists”. This is plainly a delusional narrative that has no bearing on reality in Syria. More than this it is a psychological operation of deception to conceal criminality of governments from their citizens.

The disclosure by former US intelligence chief Lt General Michael Flynn that the Obama administration was well aware from as early as 2012 that its covert support to anti-government militants in Syria was fomenting jihadist terrorism was a rare moment of honesty. Obama’s Secretary of State at that crucial time was Hillary Clinton. In that regard, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is right to say that Obama and Clinton “created” Islamic State and other related jihadist terrorist groups.

But Clinton’s successor John Kerry remains in apparent blissful denial of this systematic link between US foreign policy, regime change in Syria and the sponsorship of terrorism. Kerry arrogantly equivocates with diplomatic language about vague details for ending the conflict, without the slightest sign of shame over his nation’s culpability in fueling that conflict.

Associated Press quoted US officials who said that it is imperative that Russia pressures the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad to concentrate its military attacks on Islamic State and the other main al Qaeda-linked organization, Al Nusra.

“For their part, US officials say they are willing to press rebel groups [sic] they support harder on separating themselves from the Islamic State and Al Nusra,” reported AP.

That sounds like the American side is prepared to give nothing but the same old empty procrastination over “un-mingling” of terror brigades.

Nevertheless, there are indications that Lavrov’s “therapy” is succeeding in incrementally nursing the American side towards some truth acceptance.

Reuters reported on the latest Geneva encounter thus: “Assad's future is not part of the current talks. Instead, discussions are focused on finding an effective and lasting solution to end the violence, which would open negotiations on a political transition in Syria.”

That “Assad’s future is not part of the current talks” is a significant concession by the Americans. No doubt, Washington still wants its prize of regime change – which is the original objective for inciting this war. However, it is notable that Kerry reportedly has now dropped the “Assad must go” mantra in his meetings with Lavrov.

Russia has consistently told the Americans that the issue of Syria’s president and government is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people alone. That is an inviolable legal principle underpinned by UN resolutions.

On that score, Washington appears, at last, to be overcoming its cognitive disconnect by finally shutting its mouth on illegal demands about the Syrian presidency.

Now the next phase of diplomatic “therapy” from Lavrov will need to coax his American patient into coming to terms with the truth of its complicity in terrorism. The causal connections between policy makers in the Obama administration and CIA weapons supply to terrorist clients are documented and disclosed, as in the case of Lt General Flynn.

What is needed is for people like John Kerry and other Western government leaders to stop living in denial and to realize the truth: They are part of Syria’s problem, not the solution.

And their problem stems from criminal covert support to terrorist proxy armies in their equally criminal intrigues for regime change in Syria.

Without this systematic accountability for Washington and its various allies over the conflict in Syria, all diplomatic talk about “ending the violence” is just futile nonsense.

The ceasefire first announced six months failed because of this Western mentality of denial and deception. There is no reason to think that new efforts for another ceasefire will somehow succeed.

Because the delusional minds of the terror sponsors so far seems to be beyond any form of remedial influence – despite the best efforts of Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov.

A good dose of Western public anger demanding prosecutions for war crimes might help provide some remedy though, and bring an end to Syria’s torment.

  Read US In Denial Over Sponsoring Terrorism Is Why War On Syrian Rages On
  August 30, 2016
Using “Protected Natural Areas” To Appropriate The Commons

by Ana de Ita, Countercurrents


Even as worldwide pressures mount to protect sites with high biological diversity, indigenous peoples and local communities are redoubling their struggles of resistance against a “solution” that claims to protect ecosystems, the establishment of protected natural areas (PNAs). The policy of establishing PNAs, which seeks to maintain the best conserved redoubts of the planet, is often at odds with the rights of native peoples, since many of those redoubts exist in the first place only because indigenous communities have conserved, recreated, and maintained them.

In Mexico, half the national territory, some 106 million hectares, is the property of ejidos andcomunidades agrarias,  home to peasants and indigenous peoples. Although the discourse of protecting nature is familiar to the ways of thinking of such communities, PNAs have become a threat to their territories and to their autonomy or self-determination, which is their main demand.

PNAs are established by the decree of any level of government and are considered to be of public utility, which according to Article 27(VI) of the Constitution means that lands can be expropriated. In PNAs the rights of persons who possess the territory are legally inferior to the decrees regulating the area, management programs, or environmental land use regimes. In addition, the possessors whose lives depend on these territories, which they use and tend, do not have priority over any other person or social group involved; they are merely considered one more stakeholder. Nor do the possessors have any right to veto management rules, nor to have the guaranteed right to give or withhold their free, prior, and informed consent, even if they are indigenous peoples.

Moreover, PNAs do not even guarantee that conservation objectives will prevail over moneyed interests, for highly contaminating activities such as oil operations and mining are not prohibited. Nor is the appropriation of water or any other resource by any economic actor prohibited; all that is required is that the commercial uses “not cause degradation to the ecological balance.”

In the PNAs government administrators, international conservation organ­izations such as Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, and The Nature Conservancy, and even private companies such as Coca Cola, breweries, hotels, and many others wrest control over decisions on the territory and resource use from the assembly of ejidatarios and comuneros, making it ever more difficult for the government to establish them.

Up until the year 2010, the National Commission on Protected Natural Areas (Conanp: Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) administered 174 PNAs in Mexico covering 25.4 million hectares in all. According to a World Bank study, 95 percent of the PNAs are situated in areas of common use, both ejidos and comunidades agrarias, and at least 71 of them are on the territories of 36 indigenous peoples. Of the more than 152 priority terrestrial areas for conservation, covering some 51 million hectares, at least 60 overlap with indigenous territories.

In the late 1980s, the government, upon announcing plans to establish PNAs, were confronted by the ejidos and comunidades possessing the territories that were proposed as “voluntary” conservation areas. There are now 177 voluntary areas in 15 of Mexico’s 31 states, encompassing approximately 208,000 hectares, and at least nine indigenous peoples participate in them. Most are located in Oaxaca, with 79 voluntary certification areas.

Yet in 2008, the General Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection introduced a change, making voluntary conservation areas one more category of protected natural area. The lands were declared to be under federal jurisdiction and of public utility – and then new conditions for their management imposed. This included promoting the entry of newcomers to the lands and giving them decision-making authority over resources used in common – which the communities had specifically sought to prohibit.      

The 2008 law has sparked major conflicts in the territories between the communities and the Conanp. Each has its own model of conservation and structure of government. One seeks conservation from within the communities, with the regulations decided by agreement of the assembly, based on consensus-building. The other seeks conservation from outside, with government decisions imposed on the territories. When the communities have sought to terminate their commitment to “voluntary conservation,” they have found that it is in fact mandatory, and that they must either wait for the commitment period to run its course or else pay for a technical study to justify their refusal to do so.

In 2010, just before the Conference of Parties in Nagoya, on the Biodiversity Convention, and in Cancún, on climate change, several indigenous peoples – Kuna, Kichwa Kayampi, Q’eqchi de Livingston, Bene Gulash, Ñu Savi – began to circulate what was called the Declaration of Heredia. It demanded that no more protected natural areas be established in indigenous territories; that the ones decreed to date be canceled; and that those lands and territories be returned to the communities and peoples from whom they were taken. The Declaration stated: “No government, no environmental policy or legislation can be imposed above our territorial rights, which are guaranteed in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The establishment of PNAs has become a modern instrument of colonization that regards indigenous and peasant territories as empty “no-man’s land” that the state can manage as it sees fit.


  • World Bank. 2001. Diagnósticos sociales y planes de desarrollo de pueblos indígenas en las ANP. Mexico City.
  • Boege Eckart. 2008. “El patrimonio biocultural de los pueblos indígenas de México.” INAH, CDI.
  • The General Law on Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, Article 59, amended in May 2008.
  • Declaration of Heredia, Pronouncement in defense of Mother Earth and against environmental policies, Costa Rica, September 24, 2010, available athttp://www.eed.de/fix/files/doc_Analysis_15_Protected_Areas_2010_eed_web….
  • 1.Ejidos denotes a common or collective possession of land or forest that includes private use rights. During colonialism, rights and obligations with respect to land and forests – i.e., the relationships among the Spanish crown, its local represenatives and indigenous peoples – were handled through ejidos. The Mexican constitutions of 1917 underlined and widened the importance of ejidos (Article 27). During the government of President Lazaro Cardenas (1934–1940), about 18 million hectares of land were newly distributed and handed over to ejidatarios for their indefinite, unlimited use. A communidades agraria is another form of collective ownership over land and forests. In has the same essential features of the traditional ejido system but uses another institutional framework.

Ana de Ita (Mexico) is an activist for peasant life and Indigenous autonomy. She is researcher at and founder of the Centro de Estudios para el Cambio en el Campo Mexicano (Ceccam) [Research Center for Change in Rural Mexico]. She is a backer of the Red en Defensa del Maíz [Corn Defense Network], opposing transgenic crops, and a doctoral candidate of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at National Autonomous University of Mexico.

First published in The Wealth Of The Commons

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  Read Using Protected Natural Areas To Appropriate The Commons
 September 7, 2016
Fossil Fuels: At What Price?

by John Scales Avery, Countercurrents


We often read comparisons between the prices of solar energy or wind energy with the prices of fossil fuels. It is encouraging to see that renewables are rapidly becoming competitive, and are often cheaper than coal or oil. In fact, if coal, oil and natural gas were given their correct prices renewables would be recognized as being incomparably cheaper than fossil fuels.

Externalities in pricing

The concept of externalities in pricing was first put forward by two British economists, Henry Sidgwick  (1838-1900) and Arthur C. Pigou (1877-1959). In his book “The Economics of Welfare!, published in 1920, Pigou further developed the concept of externalities in pricing which had earlier been introduced by Sidgwick. He proposed that a tax be introduced to correct pricing for the effect of externalities.

An externality is the cost or benefit of some unintended consequence of an economic action. For example, tobacco companies do not really wish for their customers to die from cancer, but a large percentage of them do, and the social costs of this slaughter ought to be reflected in the price of tobacco.

The true environmental costs of fossil fuel use are much greater than those of smoking. Unless we stop burning fossil fuels within one or two decades, we risk a situation where uncontrollable feedback loops will lead to catastrophic climate change regardless of human efforts to prevent the disaster. If we do not act very quickly to replace fossil fuels by renewables, we risk initiating a 6th geological extinction event. This might even be comparable to the Permian-Triasic extinction, during which 96% of all marine species and 70% of all vertebrates were lost forever.



Subsidies to fossil fuel companies

Far from being penalized for destroying the global environment and threatening the future of all life on earth, fossil fuel companies currently receive approximately $500,000,000,000 per year in subsidies (as estimated by the IEA). They use part of this vast sum to conduct advertising campaigns to convince the public that anthropogenic climate change is not real.



Betrayal by the mainstream media

If we turn on our television sets, almost nothing that we see informs us of the true predicament of human society and the biosphere. Programs like “Top Gear” promote automobile use. Programs depicting ordinary life show omnipresent motor cars and holiday air travel. There is nothing to remind us that we must rapidly renounce the use of fossil fuels.

A further betrayal by the mainstream media can be seen in their massive free coverage of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is an infamous climate change denier.

Despite the misinformation that we receive from the mainstream media, we must remember our urgent duty to leave fossil fuels in the ground. If threats to the future are taken into account, their price is prohibitive.

Some suggestions for further reading









John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.  In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm.  He can be reached at avery.john.s@gmail.com

  Read Fossil Fuels: At What Price?
  September 8, 2016
Global Enclosures In The Service Of Empire

by David Bollier , Countercurrents


In September 2010, a group of NATO brass, security analysts and other policy elites held a conference called “Protecting the Global Commons.” Attendees were described as “senior representatives from the EU institutions and NATO, with national government officials, industry, the international and specialised media, think-tanks, academia and NGOs” – surely one of the oddest group of “commoners” ever assembled.

The event, hosted by a Brussels-based think tank called Security & Defence Agenda, had its own ideas about what the commons is. Let’s just say it doesn’t regard the commons as a self-organized system designed by commoners themselves to serve their own needs. No. To NATO decision makers, the “global commons” consists of those empty spaces and resources that lie beyond the direct and exclusive control of nation-states. In other words: NATO sees these spaces as no-man’s land without governance. To NATO, the key “global commons” are outer space, the oceans and the Internet. The problems posed by these “commons,” conference organizers suggest, is that they must somehow be dominated by NATO countries lest hostile countries, rogue states and pirates interfere with US and European commercial and military activities. Hence the need for NATO’s military supervision.

A bit of accuracy is in order: Outer space, the oceans and the Internet are common-pool resources. They don’t belong to anybody individually nor to any state individually. But they are not commons. Commonsrequire the active participation of the people in formulating and enforcing the rules that govern them. Or “the consent of the governed,” as the US Declaration of Independence puts it. That’s not really a NATO priority. Instead, as the conference program put it:

What are the political, policy, and operational challenges faced by NATO in the Global Commons? Is the Alliance adequately prepared to execute its responsibilities in a world where the space, maritime, and cyber domains are increasingly vital to the interests of member states and to the day to day peacetime and wartime operations of the Alliance? What capabilities and responsibilities will the Alliance need to develop to sustain its relevance in a world where the global commons are increasingly important?

In a sense, NATO gets it right: space, the oceans and the Internet must be available to all. They are, in its words, the “vital connective tissue in a globalized world.” However, the question that didn’t seem to get asked at the conference, at least according to its stated agenda and available documentation, is: How shall ordinary citizens and their representatives participate in these deliberations and make sure that governance will serve their interests? That, after all, is what a democratic society is all about.

NATO misconstrues the meaning of the term “commons” by casting it as an ungoverned free-for-all – precisely the error that biologist Garrett Hardin made in his famous 1968 essay on the “tragedy of the commons.” Hardin’s error poisoned the meaning of the commons for at least a generation, something that NATO may in fact be eager to perpetuate; defining oceans, space and the Internet as “commons” in Hardin’s sense of the term, would give it license for dominating these resources. Geopolitical supremacy is the goal. As the program notes put it, “Oceans today are as much a chess board for strategists as a global common. What are the key dynamics of today’s maritime domain? What are those of tomorrow? What are the implications for the Alliance?”

NATO’s misuse of “commons” is starting to get some traction. In 2011, MIT political scientists Sameer Lalwani and Joshua Shifrinson held a Washington policy briefing at the New America Foundation that proposed that the US “pare back its forward-based naval presence in many regions while retaining ‘command of the commons.’ It can accomplish this by relying more on regional powers to help in securing the freedom of the seas while maintaining sufficient over-the-horizon naval power to serve as the security guarantor of last resort.”

Has no one at the Pentagon, NATO or defense think-tanks read Elinor Ostrom’s work? Please, NATO: Simply refrain from using the word “commons.” Alternatively, why not begin to imagine new types of global commons institutions that could transcend the parochial, self-serving interests of national governments and their concern for commercial interests over ecological or civic interests? Why not build some creative new transnational governance structures that could truly represent the commoners?

This will not be the last time that commercial or governmental interests attempt to co-opt the term “commons.” Which is all the more reason why we need to point out Hardin’s error yet again, insist upon the real meaning of the commons, and get institutions like NATO to talk to some real, live commoners every once in a while.

First published in The Wealth Of The Commons

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

David Bollier (USA) is an author, activist and independent scholar of the commons. He is Co-Founder of the Commons Strategies Group and the author of ten books, including Viral Spiral,Brand Name Bullies and Silent Theft. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and blogs athttp://Bollier.org.

  Read Global Enclosures In The Service Of Empire
  September 11, 2016
U.S. Caves To Russia On Syria — Won’t Continue Protecting Al Qaeda

by Eric Zuesse , Countercurrents


On Friday, September 9th, America’s Secretary of State John Kerry, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came to an agreement on Syria, for the second time. (The previous agreement fell apart). Like the first ‘cease-fire’, this one concerns the ongoing occupation of many parts of Syria by foreign jihadists, who have been hired by America’s allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in order to overthrow Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. (It’s nothing like a democratic revolution there; it’s a war over pipelines.)

The main sticking-point in these negotiations has been much the same as it was the first time around: America’s insistence that Russia and Syria be prohibited from bombing Al Qaeda in Syria, which is the international group under the name of “Al Nusra” there. The United States has not tried to protect ISIS in Syria — only Al Nusra (and their subordinate groups), and it protects them because Nusra has provided crucial leadership to the jihadist groups that the United States finances in Syria for overthrowing and replacing Assad. Whereas the U.S. government doesn’t finance all of the jihadist groups in Syria (as the allied royal owners of Saudi Arabia and of Qatar do), the U.S. does designate some jihadist groups as ‘moderate rebels’, and this second round of cessation-of-hostilities will protect these groups (but this time not the Nusra fighters who lead them) from the bombings by Syria and by Russia. This new agreement is a complex sequence of sub-agreements laying out the means whereby Syria and Russia will, supposedly, continue to bomb Nusra while avoiding to bomb the U.S.-financed forces in Syria. Now that the U.S. has 300 of its own military advisors occupying the parts of Syria that the U.S.-sponsored jihadists control, Nusra will (presumably) no longer be quite so necessary to America’s overthrow-Assad campaign.

In the joint announcement on Friday night in Geneva, Secretary Kerry said, “Now, I want to be clear about one thing particularly on this, because I’ve seen reporting that somehow suggests otherwise: Going after Nusrah is not a concession to anybody. It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target al-Qaida — to target al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which is Nusrah.”

However, as the Washington Post had reported on February 19th regarding the impasse  during the negotiations for the first round of cessation-of-hostilities: “Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing.” The reason for this protection was that Nusra’s “forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups.” However, the reporter there didn’t mention that Nusra was “intermingled” because it was providing essential military leadership for these ‘moderate rebel groups’. In other words: the U.S.-designated ’moderate rebel groups’ were providing cover for America’s support, actually, of Al Qaeda in Syria.

America’s main international ally in the Syrian conflict is the Saud family, and during the lead-up to the first round of cessation-of-hostilities, back on 8 December 2015, I had headlined “The Saud Family to Select West’s ‘Moderate’ Jihadists Who Will Take Over Syria”, and I reported that “The Saud family, Saudi Arabia’s royals, have called together a meeting on December 15th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of their fellow fundamentalist Sunnis who are fighting against the secular Assad government to take over Syria, and the Sauds will announce after the conference which groups will have the West’s blessings.” They selected Jaysh al-Islam, a group that’s committed to the same principles as Al Qaeda is, but that doesn’t have the same foreign-reputational problems; and, moreover, their leaders, the Alloush family, have agreed to present themselves to the West as posing no threat outside the Muslim world, so as not to scare off Western publics.

Then, on 25 January 2016, I headlined “U.S. & Allies Make bin Laden Admirer a Negotiator in Syria Peace Talks”, and I reported that “The Saud family actually required Alloush to head the anti-Assad delegation,” but that “Kerry and the rest of the West weren’t entirely comfortable with that demand. A ‘compromise’ was reached: there will be two heads: Alloush, and another figure supported by the Sauds: Asad al-Zoubi.” I closed by observing that “Lavrov faced a bad choice: either take the blame for preventing the peace talks, or else accept the Saud family’s ‘compromise’ position; and he chose the latter.”

Gareth Porter bannered on February 16th, “Obama’s ‘Moderate’ Syrian Deception”, and he reported that, “Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it,” and he stated that “instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA’s hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.” Porter was pretending that the U.S. leadership originated at the CIA, instead of at the White House — which was actually the case. The CIA was simply doing what the U.S. President wanted it to do there. Porter continued his upside-down attribution of leadership and responsibility in the matter, by adding that, “President Obama is under pressure from these domestic critics as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other GCC allies to oppose any gains by the Russians and the Assad regime as a loss for the United States.” In no way was/is it obligatory for the U.S. President to adhere to “domestic critics” and “GCC [royal Arabic] allies,” much less for him to be ordered-about by his own CIA — quite the contrary: “The buck stops at the President’s desk.” Obama isn’t forced to hire and promote neoconservatives to carry out his foreign policies — he chooses them and merely pretends to be blocked by opponents.

On February 20th, Reuters headlined “Syrian opposition says temporary truce possible, but deal seems far off”, and reported that, “A source close to peace talks earlier told Reuters [that] Syria’s opposition had agreed to the idea of a two- to three-week truce. The truce would be renewable and supported by all parties except Islamic State, the source said. It would be conditional on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front no longer being attacked by Syrian government forces and their allies.” In other words: up till at least that time, the U.S. was still at one with the Sauds’ insistence upon protecting Al Qaeda in Syria.

On March 1st, Steve Chovanec headlined, “Protecting al-Qaeda”, and he made clear that the group that Obama was backing, the Free Syrian Army (so named with assistance from their CIA minders), were almost as despised by the Syrian people as were ISIS itself. Citing a Western polling firm’s findings, he noted that, “According to a recent poll conducted by ORB, it was found that most Syrians more or less hold both ISIS and the FSA in equal disdain, 9% saying the FSA represents the Syrian people while 4% saying that ISIS does. The similarity in [Syrians’] opinion is reflective of the similarity in [those two groups of jihadists’] conduct.” Furthermore, as I have noted, both from that polling-firm and another Western-backed one, the vast majority (82%) of Syrians  blame the U.S. for the tens of thousands of foreign jihadists who have been imported into their country, and 55% of Syrians want Assad to be not only the current President but their next President, as a consequence of which the U.S. government refuses to allow Assad to run for the Presidency in the next election. (Indeed, that’s largely the reason why Obama has been trying to overthrow Assad and replace him with a jihadist government, like the Sauds.)

On March 3rd, results were summarized from a poll in the U.S., Germany, France, and UK, on the question, “Which country has played a leading role in the fight against ISIS?”

Each respondent was asked to list three countries. “About 80% of Americans believe that Washington is the main force in the fight against the terrorist organizations ISIS and ‘Jabhat al-Nusra’ in Syria. In second place, according to residents of the US, is France (36%), the third — Great Britain [percentage not mentioned].” But, “in the opinion of the citizens of Germany, Russia and the United States contribute almost equally to the fight against terrorists in Syria (36% and 38% respectively). In third place according to the survey is France (25%).” The article noted that, “according to the Pentagon, Russia, just in February 2016, inflicted 7725 airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria, while the US conducted 3267.”

Clearly, the U.S. Government’s top objective in Syria is to overthrow Assad, whereas the Russian Government’s top objective there is to prevent America’s allies from seizing the country. As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has well explained and documented, the U.S. CIA has been trying ever since 1949 to overthrow Syria’s government and replace it with one that the Sauds (and etc., including U.S. oil, gas, and pipeline companies) want. So, this is normal American foreign policy. This doesn’t mean that our Presidents have to behave this way — only that they do (even if the U.S. ‘news’ media don’t report it, and many U.S. ‘historians’ likewise ignore it decades later).

  Read U.S. Caves To Russia On Syria — Won’t Continue Protecting Al Qaeda
 September 8, 2016
Work, Energy, Money And Climate Change

by Anandi Sharan , Countercurrents


I was travelling in Europe last month, and was very disappointed by what I saw and heard. There is a lack of unity between Western workers and the workers of the world. The gap between the prosperity of a few highly professionalised workers in the West who are more and more aligned with the capitalists and managers, and the rest of us, has unfortunately increased in recent years. One way to find a new unity among workers is to explain again the mathematics of social and ecological destruction and how the failures of capitalism concern even the highest paid workers, and indeed even the bosses.

Work: The ability to do work and is common to all living things. A human being consumes 2500 kilocalories of energy a day from plant and animal matter. Expressed in Watts for an easy comparison with electricity for example, it allows a person to do 2500 kilocalories / 860 kilocalories = 2.9 kWh of work per day. As there are 24 hours a day a living breathing person is expending 121 Watt per day to live. Living can mean such things as idly consuming or producing information from or for the internet, operating weapons of mass destruction, or it can be digging a field, climbing a tree, making love, or sleeping. The work can be done using machines run on commercial energy, or it can bethe work of looking after children, families, or natural forests that live and grow in ecosystems. Work that does not involve commercial energy is much more likely to contribute to a social system that contributes to balanced carbon cycles of sequestration and release of carbon dioxide. Even if in the long run there may be ecological degradation, it takes much longer to degrade an ecosystem if the group has only the physical work of its members at its disposal.

Unlike capitalist production based on herding workers into machine rooms, it takes much skill and love and patience to create and maintain associations of independent producers who support each other to do manual work in a productive and non-destructive metabolism with nature.

Commercial energy: A litre of diesel has an energy value of 16700 kilocalories. Thus a litre of diesel mined from the earth displaces the work of 16700 kilocalories /2500 kilocalories = 6.67 person days.

Money: Under capitalism a litre of diesel is valued at around Rs 60, or let us say one Swiss Frank / United States Dollar / European Euro / UK Pound. So if a capitalist has to pay more than 1 SFr / 6.67 = 15 cents/10 Indian Rupees for a day of the work of a person, she is better off paying a machine that runs on diesel to get the work done.

Climate change: 1 litre of diesel when burnt emits 2.6 kg of carbon dioxide. Combined with the damage to flora and fauna at the place where fossil fuels are extracted, the damage to ecology of mining and burning coal and petroleum products has resulted in an average global temperature rise on earth of 1.63 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. The Sam Carana website and others pessimistically calculate that under adverse combinations of all parameters and combined with feedback factors, the temperature rise from burning fossil fuels may be ten degree Celsius by 2026. Others agree, with discussions focused on the contribution of each of the various elements causing temperature rise directly and due to feedback effects. The majority of predictions, however, mention lower values, but the alarm at what is already happening is very great amongst all common people, policy makers and scientists.

Much can be said about these numbers and the relationship between work, energy, money and climate change. For example, trade unions and professional bodies have successfully managed to raise the wages of those workers who handle machines on behalf of capitalists to a level above the natural wage as calculated above. Or, commercial energy can be renewable and does not cause climate change. All this, and its significance, can be debated. For example, renewable energy technologies can be manufactured with renewable energy, but certainly not under capitalismnor in the short time frame set by the feedback effectsin the climate system that are already happening. Worst of all, under the present system, there is overwhelming evidence that renewable energy is simply being used to produce products not really needed for human consumption and at the same time they cause the emission of carbon dioxide when produced, distributed and used.

No man-made energy conversion system, whether renewable energy technology, fossil fuelsor nuclear energy can do the work of ecological processes which functionas part of the natural ecology that human beings are intended for. When we do manual work and look after other living things, when we live and die as joyous workers using only our hands and bodies to engage with all other living things around us, we contribute to the ecological wealth of which all living things are a part. When we use commercial energy we are cranking the global heat machine.

Conclusion: 80% of us live by doing manual labour. In the interest of human survival and the survival of the remaining plants and animals, we must refuse to work on machines running on commercial energy, whether such machines are computers or car assembly robots let alone weapons of war. We must unite to overthrow the system which gives overwhelming priority to the growth of private property of capitalists and focus on the social, cultural, material means to do peaceful physical work on the land.

The best kind of physical work involves building up soil, growing food, and supporting the natural cycle of carbon sequestration and release in natural forests and other natural ecosystems of which we are a part. It involves, for example, swimming in the oceans and catching fish. Whether you call it the landscape approach, as biodiversity conservationists do, or land redistribution like landless labourers, or de-growth, or revolution, it all amounts to the same thing. We must overthrow capitalism, which may or may not be possible now. We must, however, at the very least put it under strict social control; if we don’t most human beings except for those in very favourable ecological niches with old cultures will most likely be wiped out along with most other fauna and flora.

Anandi Sharan lives and works in Bangalore

  Read Work, Energy, Money And Climate Change
  September 10, 2016
School Of Commoning

by George Por , Countercurrents


“How would we know when we are commoning?” a young woman asked me at Contact Summit 2011, a major unconference running concurrently with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, October 2011. (An “unconference” is a gathering based on participant-generated content.)

When I announced the invitation to my session on commoning, I introduced it by quoting the motto of our School, “Education for Commons Culture & Social Renewal.” I explained: “Creating a commons culture is re-inventing all our social institutions for serving the whole, not the few as they do today. Let’s find out how commoning can help us achieve that.”

Members’ driving questions are the key initial resource of any ad hoc learning commons. In such a commons, “we know we are commoning” when we create and maintain an issues list, a collection of burning questions and engage in action-oriented, collaborative inquiries to address them. Therefore, we started by exploring the questions that participants had about three stages that characterize commoning:

  1. The ensemble of practices used by people in the course of managing shared resources and reclaiming the commons. In its simplest form, commoning is creating and maintaining something collectively.
  2. Moving from the Me to the We, where people become capable of thinking, feeling and acting as co-creative collective entities, without surrendering their individual autonomy.
  3. Recognizing the inherent connectedness of humanity as a whole, and keeping our individual and collective “center of gravity” one with it.

The School of Commoning is a commons-based social enterprise established in London under UK law, as a Community Interest Company, in May 2011. Our mission is to enhance individual and collective competences in the creation, protection and governance of commons of all types – natural, cultural and intellectual.

We are running workshops, seminars, retreats, online courses, and creating educational materials in print, video, and a Commoning Game. The School plans to provide training programs for commons facilitators and customized curricula for institutions of higher education.

The School of Commoning maintains a wiki-based Knowledge Garden, one of the largest repositories of commons-related non-academic documents of global relevance. Special sections are dedicated to the commons movement and the issues of a transition to a commons-based society, as well as a questions-driven introductory module for those who are new to the commons. This is a Creative Commons-licensed space1 where users can browse, add to, quote, reuse and remix resources. We also host a regular Commoning Café in London, a networking event that, for many, serves as a first point of entry to the world of commons.

Our educational activities have included an online/onsite workshop on “Reclaiming the Commons as a Social Theory of Collective Action” that we facilitated at the Occupy Wall Street Forum on the Commons in New York. Along with the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, we organized an intense “12 days, 12 seminars” program led by James Quilligan, who is also an advisor to our School, on various issues involving the shift towards a commons-based economy. The kick-off seminar was hosted, where else…in the House of Commons.

Our series, the “Commons in Our Life,” is aimed at fostering the emergence of new commons, in various areas of social practice. Each event will be dedicated to understanding and supporting the commons in one particular domain of social regeneration that we care about, e.g., health, land use and urbanism, finance, etc. Our Commons Advisory Services work with an international network of leading thinkers and practitioners to provide commons design and consulting services to organizations in civil society, and the public and private sectors.

Commoning is also partnering. Our partners include CommunityIntelligence, Global Commons Trust, Kosmos Journal, Notre Dame University, the P2P Foundation, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. If our work inspires your group and you want to explore a collaborative relationship with the School of Commoning, let us know.

George Pór (UK) is an evolutionary thinker, researcher in collective intelligence and strategic learning partner to changemakers and visionary leaders in civil society, business and government. He is Director of School of Commoning (http://www.schoolofcommoning.com), Fellow of Future Considerations and founder of CommunityIntelligence.


First published in The Wealth Of The Commons

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  Read School Of Commoning
 August 26, 2016
The Conservative Belief in Human Supremacy Is Destroying Our Planet

by Derrick Jensen, AlterNet


The following is an excerpt from the new book The Myth of Human Supremacy by Derrick Jensen (Seven Stories Press, 2016): 

"The modern conservative [and, I would say, the human supremacist] is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." —John Kenneth Galbraith

I’m sitting by a pond, in sunlight that has the slant and color of early fall. Wind blows through the tops of second-growth redwood, cedar, fir, alder, willow. Breezes make their way down to sedges, rushes, grasses, who nod their heads this way and that. Spider silk glistens. A dragonfly floats a few inches above the water, then suddenly climbs to perch atop a rush.

A family of jays talks among themselves.

I smell the unmistakable, slightly sharp scent of redwood duff, and then smell also the equally unmistakable and also slightly sharp, though entirely different, smell of my own animal body.

A small songbird, I don’t know who, hops on two legs just above the waterline. She stops, cocks her head, then pecks at the ground.

Movement catches my eye, and I see a twig of redwood needles fall gently to the ground. It helped the tree. Now it will help the soil.

Someday I am going to die. Someday so are you. Someday both you and I will feed—even more than we do now, through our sloughed skin, through our excretions, through other means—those communities who now feed us. And right now, amidst all this beauty, all this life, all these others—sedge, willow, dragonfly, redwood, spider, soil, water, sky, wind, clouds—it seems not only ungenerous, but ungrateful to begrudge the present and future gift of my own life to these others without whom neither I nor this place would be who we are, without whom neither I nor this place would even be.

Likewise, in this most beautiful place on Earth—and you do know, don’t you, that each wild and living place on Earth is the most beautiful place on Earth—I can never understand how members of the dominant culture could destroy life on this planet. I can never understand how they could destroy even one place.


Last year someone from Nature [sic] online journal interviewed me by phone. I include the sic because the journal has far more to do with promoting human supremacism—the belief that humans are separate from and superior to everyone else on the planet—than it has to do with the real world. Here is one of the interviewer’s “questions”: “Surely nature can only be appreciated by humans. If nature were to cease to exist, nature itself would not notice, as it is not conscious (at least in the case of most animals and plants, with the possible exception of the great apes and cetaceans) and, other than through life’s drive for homeostasis, is indifferent to its own existence. Nature thus only achieves worth through our consciously valuing it.”

At the precise moment he said this to me, I was watching through my window a mother bear lying on her back in the tall grass, her two children playing on her belly, the three of them clearly enjoying each other and the grass and the sunshine. I responded, “How dare you say these others do not appreciate life!” He insisted they don’t.

I asked him if he knew any bears personally. He thought the question absurd.

This is why the world is being murdered.


Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture. A central unquestioned belief of this culture is that humans are superior to and separate from everyone else. Human supremacism is part of the foundation of much of this culture’s religion, science, economics, philosophy, art, epistemology, and so on.

Human supremacism is killing the planet. Human supremacists—at this point, almost everyone in this culture—have shown time and again that the maintenance of their belief in their own superiority, and the entitlement that springs from this belief, are more important to them than the well-being or existences of everyone else. Indeed, they’ve shown that the maintenance of this self-perception and entitlement are more important than the continuation of life on the planet.

Until this supremacism is questioned and dismantled, the self-perceived entitlement that flows from this supremacism guarantees that every attempt to stop this culture from killing the planet will fail, in great measure because these attempts will be informed and limited by this supremacism, and thus will at best be ways to slightly mitigate harm, with the primary point being to make certain to never in any way question or otherwise endanger the supremacism or entitlement.

In short, people protect what’s important to them, and human supremacists have shown time and again that their sense of superiority and the tangible benefits they receive because of their refusal to perceive others as anything other than inferiors or resources to be exploited is more important to them than not destroying the capacity of this planet to support life, including, ironically, their own.


Especially because human supremacism is killing the planet, but also on its own terms, human supremacism is morally indefensible. It is also intellectually indefensible. Neither of which seems to stop a lot of people from trying to defend it.

The first line of defense of human supremacism is no defense at all, literally. This is true for most forms of supremacism, as unquestioned assumptions form the most common base for any form of bigotry: Of course humans (men, whites, the civilized) are superior, why do you ask? Or more precisely: How could you possibly ask? Or even more precisely: What the hell are you talking about, you crazy person? Or more precisely yet, an awkward silence while everyone politely forgets you said anything at all.

Think about it: if you were on a bus or in a shopping mall or in a church or in the halls of Congress, and you asked the people around you if they think humans are more intelligent than or are otherwise superior to cows or willows or rivers or mushrooms or stones (“stupid as a box of rocks”), what do you think people would answer? If you said to them that trees told you they don’t want to be cut down and made into 2x4s, what would happen to your credibility? Contrast that with the credibility given to those who state publicly that you can have infinite economic (or human population) growth on a finite planet, or who argue that the world consists of resources to be exploited. If you said to people in this culture that oceans don’t want to be murdered, would these humans listen? If you said that prairie dogs are in no way inferior to (or less intelligent than) humans, and you said this specifically to those humans who have passed laws requiring landowners to kill prairie dogs, would they be more likely to laugh at you or agree with you? Or do you think they’d be more likely to get mad at you? And just think how mad they’d get if you told them that land doesn’t want to be owned (most especially by them). If you told them there was a choice between electricity from dams and the continued existence of salmon, lampreys, sturgeon, and mussels, which would they choose? Why? What are they already choosing?


This is too abstract. Here is human supremacism. Right now in Africa, humans are placing cyanide wastes from gold mines on salt licks and in ponds. This cyanide poisons all who come there, from elephants to lions to hyenas to the vultures who eat the dead. The humans do this in part to dump the mine wastes, but mainly so they can sell the ivory from the murdered elephants.

Right now a human is wrapping endangered ploughshares tortoises in cellophane and cramming them into roller bags to try to smuggle them out of Madagascar and into Asia for the pet trade. There are fewer than 400 of these tortoises left in the wild.

Right now in China, humans keep bears in tiny cages, iron vests around the bears’ abdomens to facilitate the extraction of bile from the bears’ gall bladders. The bears are painfully “milked” daily. The vests also serve to keep the bears from killing themselves by punching themselves in the chest.

Right now there are fewer than 500 Amani flatwing damselflies left in the world. They live along one stream in Tanzania. The rest of their home has been destroyed by human agriculture.

This year has seen a complete collapse of monarch butterfly populations in the United States and Canada. Their homes have been destroyed by agriculture.

Right now humans are plowing under and poisoning prairies. Right now humans are clearcutting forests. Right now humans are erecting mega-dams. Right now because of dams, 25 percent of all rivers no longer reach the ocean.

And most humans couldn’t care less.

Right now the University of Michigan Wolverines football team is hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers. More than 100,000 humans are attending this football game. More than 100,000 humans have attended every Michigan home football game since 1975. There used to be real wolverines in Michigan. One was sighted there in 2004, the first time in 200 years. That wolverine died in 2010.

More people in Michigan—“The Wolverine State”—care about the Michigan Wolverines football team than care about real wolverines.

This is human supremacism.


I just got a note from a friend who was visiting her son. She writes, “Yesterday morning when I emptied the compost bucket, the guy next door called out to ask if that was ‘garbage’ I was putting on the pile. I told him it was ‘compost.’ We went back and forth a couple of times. Then he said, ‘We don’t want no [sic] animals around here. I saw a raccoon out there. There were never any animals around here before.’ What better statement of human supremacism?”


Recently, scientists discovered that some species of mice love to sing. They “fill the air with trills so high-pitched that most humans can’t even hear them.” If “the melody is sweet enough, at least to the ears of a female mouse, the vocalist soon finds himself with a companion.”

Mice, like songbirds, have to be taught how to sing. This is culture, passed from generation to generation. If they aren’t taught, they can’t sing.

So, what is the response by scientists to these mice, who love to sing, who teach each other how to sing, who sing for their lovers, who have been compared to “opera singers”?

Given what the ideology of human supremacism does to people who otherwise seem sane, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the scientists wanted to find out what would happen if they surgically deafened these mice. And we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the mice could no longer sing their operas, their love songs. The deafened mice could no longer sing at all. Instead, they screamed.

And who could blame them? This is human supremacism.


Or there’s this. Just yesterday I spoke with Con Slobodchikoff, who has been studying prairie dog language for more than thirty years. Through observing prairie dogs non-intrusively in the field, he has learned of the complexity of their language and social lives. But he has done so, he said, without the aid of grants. Time and again he was told that if he wanted to receive money for his research—and if he wanted to do “real science” instead of “just” observing nature—he would have to capture some prairie dogs, deafen them, and then see how these social creatures with their complex auditory language and communal relationships responded to their loss of hearing. Of course he refused. Of course he didn’t receive the grants.

This is human supremacism.


And then today I got an email from a botanist friend who has worked for various federal agencies. His work has included identifying previously unknown species of plants. He said this work has not been supported by the agencies, because the existence of rare plants would interfere with their management plans, including the mass spraying of herbicides. His discoveries have been made on his own time and on his own dime.

It’s a good thing science is value free, isn’t it?

I told him Slobodchikoff had said to me that the scientific establishment makes it very difficult for people to manifest their love of the world. Slobodchikoff said this as someone who loves the earth very much.

My botanist friend agreed. “Science makes it very hard to love the world. Most scientists want the world to fit nice, clear, linear equations, and anything that doesn’t fit is ignored, unless you can get a publication out of it. Love isn’t a concept that would even come to mind concerning the natural world. The natural world is just a means to an end. A thing to be dissected, so they can get tenure. I was talking to a local botany professor, about how geology can drive speciation/change, and he was actually surprised to consider anything outside of genetic mechanisms. I was surprised at his surprise: his view just seemed so limited. A plant to him is an isolated, discrete entity, rather than the expression of the complex interactions and relationships between all the entities/factors in the environment going back 3.5 billion years.”


Or there’s this. I just saw a snuff video of scientists pouring molten aluminum into an anthill to reveal the shape of the tunnels. Then the scientists marveled at the beauty of the shape of the anthill they just massacred to the last ant.

This is human supremacism.


Or there’s this. The air around the world has recently been declared to be as carcinogenic as secondhand smoke. The leading cause of lung cancer is now industrial pollution.

This is human supremacism.

  Read The Conservative Belief in Human Supremacy Is Destroying Our Planet
  September 2, 2016
Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems

by Jeremy Hance, AlterNet

Ohio Residents Clash With State and County Government in Fight to Ban Fracking via the Ballot

For years, local Ohioans have been told by courts and elected officials that they have no control over fracking - "it is a matter of state law." However, groups of determined residents are refusing to accept this argument, taking steps to establish local democratic control over what they see as vital societal questions of health, safety,…


Jeremy Hance is a senior correspondent for Mongabay as well as being a blogger for the Guardian and a freelance journalist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He started his journalism career with Mongabay in 2009 and served as an editor on the site for six years. In 2010, Mongabay published a book of his articles entitled "Life is Good: Conservation in an Age of Mass Extinction."

  Read Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems
  September 6, 2016
167 Tiny Maps Tell the Major Story of Climate Change

by Brian Kahn, AlterNet


Climate change just got another telling visual courtesy of the famed temperature spiral creator. But rather than a graph, it’s a series of 167 maps.

Alone, they each tell the story of whether a year was mostly hot or mostly cold or mostly average. Together, they show unequivocally how much our planet has warmed since the 1850s, including the rapid rise over the past three decades.

Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, is responsible for the latest visual. You may remember him from the temperature spiral that went viral earlier this year. Turns out he’s still turning out compelling graphics to show the impact humans are having on the place we call home.

Using a technique called “small multiples” developed by data visualization expert Edward Tufte, Hawkins mapped out the annual average temperature anomaly for every year from 1850 through 2016 using data from the UK Met Office.

The technique allows viewers to consume a lot of information and then start searching for patterns in the data. It makes a lot of sense to use when it comes to climate change, which has driven up surface temperatures across the world but in a non-uniform way.

There are patterns galore to dissect. The series of maps reads like a greatest hits collection of climate. You can see the ebb and flow of El Niño and La Niña in the tropical Pacific, punctuated by the flaming red record El Niño of 1997-98. The rapid warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of the globe is also clear as deep reds become more and more common there over the years.

And then there’s the back-to-back-to-back record hot years of 20142015 and 2016 (in all likelihood anyways). Oh, and there’s that odd patch of persistent coolness off the tip of Greenland in recent years, which scientists think might be due to a massive influx of freshwater from the island’s melting ice sheet.

Hawkins colored any square where six months of data is missing as a light gray. That adds yet another layer to the visualization, showing how much better our record keeping has become thanks to more ships, satellites and thermometers taking measurements around the world.

Taken together, these images tell a bigger story. They chronicle the history of a planet that’s become warmer and warmer as humans have filled the atmosphere with carbon pollution


Brian Kahn is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central. He previously worked at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and partnered with climate.gov to produce multimedia stories, manage social media campaigns and develop version 2.0 of climate.gov. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Grist, the Daily Kos, Justmeans and the Yale Forum on Climate Change in the Media.

  Read 167 Tiny Maps Tell the Major Story of Climate Change
 September 4, 2016
From Ecosystems to Species to Cultures, Diversity Is Key to Survival

by Dr. David Suzuki, AlterNet


It’s been shocking to watch news of the Brexit vote in Britain, Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and the ongoing threats and violence against ethnic minorities in many parts of the world. I’m not a political or social scientist, but my training as a biologist gives me some insight.

When I began my career as a scientist, geneticists were starting to analyze the molecular properties of single genes within a species. When we started looking at highly evolved species such as fruit flies, we thought we would find that their genes had been honed through selection over time, so they would be relatively homogeneous within single species. Examining one kind of protein controlled by a specific gene, we expected to find them all pretty much the same. Instead, we learned there was a great deal of heterogeneity, or diversity. A gene specifying a protein could exist in a number of different states.

This is now called “genetic polymorphism” and is considered to be the very measure of a species’ health. Inbreeding or reduction of a species to a small number reduces genetic polymorphism and exposes harmful genes, thereby rendering the species more susceptible to sudden change. In other words, genetic polymorphism confers resilience by providing greater possibilities as conditions shift.

Within ecosystems, species diversity provides greater flexibility to adjust to disturbances. Around the planet, ecosystem diversity has enabled life to flourish under different conditions. Like nested Russian dolls, life seems to have been built on diversity within diversity of genes, species and ecosystems.

Over time, conditions on the planet have not remained static. In response to change, life has had to adapt or disappear. The sun is 30 percent warmer today than it was when life arose four billion years ago. The atmosphere changed from oxygen-free to oxygen-rich after plants evolved. Continents have moved, collided and pulled apart. Oceans have filled and emptied. Mountains have risen up and worn down. Life spread from the oceans to land and into the air. Ice ages have punctuated warm periods. And all the while, life fluctuated and flourished because of the resilience conferred by diversity.

Human beings have added another level of diversity: culture. Cultural diversity has enabled our species to survive and flourish in regions as different as deserts and Arctic tundra, wetlands and steaming tropics, prairies and mountains.

Monoculture—the spreading of a single gene, species, ecosystem or idea—runs counter to the biological principle that diversity confers resilience. It creates vulnerability to change, especially sudden change. As a biologist, I believe we should encourage, spread, maintain and celebrate diversity. The drive to restrict immigration of people with different beliefs and the hostility to people of different ethnic, religious or cultural background are extremely dangerous.

In Canada, the apparently well-meant exhortation for Indigenous people to abandon their remote communities reflects the failure to see the enormous value offered by a sense of connection to place and accumulated cultural knowledge. As newcomers to these lands over the past five centuries, many of us lack the deep ties to place that are critical in a time of vast ecological change and degradation.

The United States is built on colonization and destruction of the diverse cultures that existed on this continent before European contact. That nation has evolved on the assumption that it’s a “melting pot,” where newcomers shed their identity of origin and blend with the dominant culture as Americans.

Similarly, Canada developed with a policy of growth while maintaining immigration dominated by a British majority. Under Pierre Trudeau’s government, Canada deliberately embraced the notion of the “cultural mosaic,” valuing diversity within society. I believe this is an exciting experiment in nation-building based on fundamental scientific truths. The challenge is to ensure that we can celebrate our diversity while recognizing our place as a country without elevating some groups above others.

From the microscopic level of genes to large-scale biological systems, and from natural ecosystems to human communities, diversity brings strength and resilience in the face of ever-changing conditions. In today’s world, that’s more important than ever. We must resist attempts to reduce diversity in all its forms.

This article was originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 27 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the long-running CBC television program The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His written work includes more than 52 books, 19 of them for children. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife, Dr. Tara Cullis, and family in Vancouver, B.C.

  Read From Ecosystems to Species to Cultures, Diversity Is Key to Survival
 September 9, 2016
A Bacteria That Produces Fuel? Welcome to the Future of Sustainable Energy

by Sarah Daren, AlterNet


More than ever before, people are understanding the crucial importance of renewable energy for the overall benefit of our planet. A Gallup poll published in March found that a 73 percent of Americans now prioritize alternative energy over oil and gas, the highest percentage since Gallup first asked the question in 2011.

But the U.S. still has a long way to go. In 2015, less than 10 percent of the nation's energy came from a renewable source. And with melting ice caps, hurricanes, heat waves, floods and many other worrisome signs that climate change is rapidly changing things for the worse, it is imperative to move the nation—and the world—to a low-carbon economy sooner than later. According to the EPA, burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation accounts for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the nation.

The good news, however, is that according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the nation is projected to acquire 52 percent of its energy from a renewable source by the year 2040—most of it due to expansion in solar and wind.

With recent scientific advances—like artificial leaf technology, which takes cues from natural photosynthesis to create hydrogen, and carbon-based fuel and propane technology generated from bacteria—the future of sustainable energy is bright. As as Stockholm’s recent World Water Week demonstrated, efforts to increase the responsible use of hydropower are more prevalent than ever.

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier this year, "We all know that renewable energy is limitless and will last forever." While that may be true, harnessing it, using it sustainably and justly across all communities and scaling it so that society can be moved to a low-carbon system are things for which the world cannot wait any longer.

Check out the infographic below created by Ohio University's Engineering Management master's program to get a glimpse at the future of sustainable energy.

Daren has been a consultant for small businesses in multiple industries, including sustainability, health and wellness and education. 

  Read A Bacteria That Produces Fuel? Welcome to the Future of Sustainable Energy
 September 7, 2016
Humans Are Super Predators, but Unlike Wild Predators, We Can't Manage Complex Ecosystems

by Dr. David Suzuki, AlterNet


Humans are the world’s top predator. The way we fulfil this role is often mired in controversy, from factory farming to trophy hunting to predator control. The latter is the process governments use to kill carnivores like wolves, coyotes and cougars to stop them from hunting threatened species like caribou—even though human activity is the root cause of caribou’s decline.

Predation is an important natural function. But as the human population has grown, we’ve taken over management of ecosystems once based on mutually beneficial relationships that maintained natural balances. How are we, a “super predator,” as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation dubs us, aligning with or verging from natural predation processes that shaped the world?

One way to tell is to examine the extent to which we emulate natural processes. This principle is applied in biomimicry, where humans base inventions on natural forms and functions. (Think Velcro, patented in 1955 after George de Mestral studied the burrs on his dog’s back.) Some resource-management disciplines employ biomimicry. For example, forestry management is often based on trying to imitate disturbances caused by natural events such as fires.

If we are to emulate natural predators, we must look at the types of prey killed. Non-human predators usually take down the injured, old or young. This leaves the strongest genetic material to be passed on. Human predators often target the largest males (trophy hunting) or entire packs (predator control).

In the wild, non-human predators rarely kill top predators. A Science report concluded humans kill large predators at nine times the rate at which carnivores typically kill each other.

There are also differences in how prey are killed. Natural predation is violent. But human predation often goes to another level. In addition to using aerial shooting and poison baits, reports indicate British Columbia employed “Judas wolves,” radio-collared wolves used to track down packs so they can be killed. The Judas wolves are left alive so that if they join a new pack, those wolves can be killed, too. It’s hard to see how this fits within the boundaries of natural predation. (The B.C. government denies using Judas wolves.)

Human management regimes such as predator control and trophy hunting disrupt healthy predator-prey dynamics and damage ecosystems. Sadly, this is often a moot point: Alberta and B.C. use predator control because the landscape has been so pummelled by industrial activity that the large, intact forests caribou need to survive and avoid predation no longer exist. Predators are targeted as scapegoats for human activities.

Predators usually kill for sustenance. For millennia, Indigenous peoples have also relied on hunting to maintain traditional ways of life. But with trophy hunting, the government’s impetus is to make money. Governments that allow continued resource extraction in imperilled caribou habitat are using predator control as a stopgap measure to keep caribou alive.

In ecosystems managed by natural processes, and not for resource extraction, predators play a key role in maintaining the environment’s health. In Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Enric Sala notes that predators “can regulate the structure of entire communities.”

Ultimately, natural predator-prey relationships are symbiotic. Predators not only keep prey populations in check and maintain natural cycles, they can even heal degraded ecosystems. Wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 restored the natural biodiversity that had diminished in their absence. To avoid predation, elk spent less time in valley bottoms, which allowed plants and trees to regenerate, in turn attracting birds, bears and beavers. Vegetation stabilized riverbanks, beavers altered waterways and soon turtles, amphibians and river otters returned.

When judged by this dynamic of upholding natural balances, humans are failing terribly as predators. It’s hubris to think we can manage complex ecosystem dynamics using simple-minded band-aid approaches.

What can we do to become better? We can stop looking for scapegoats and look in the mirror at the primary cause of species’ decline across Canada. We can end trophy hunting. We can end predator control by maintaining and restoring the habitat that caribou need to survive and recover. We can plan to operate within natural limits. 

It’s shocking that Western society villainizes predators like wolves, even though they’re highly intelligent, social creatures that play a critical role in regulating nature. The predator we need to control is us.

This article was originally published at the David Suzuki Foundation.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 27 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the long-running CBC television program The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His written work includes more than 52 books, 19 of them for children. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife, Dr. Tara Cullis, and family in Vancouver, B.C.

  Read Humans Are Super Predators, but Unlike Wild Predators, We Can't Manage Complex Ecosystems
  September 9, 2016
How Fire Made Us Human

by Tyler Burchett, AlterNet


What would life be like without fire? That's a question that could be applied to many things we often take for granted.

Even today we burn natural resources as a way to produce energy, and we burn fuel to propel our vehicles through the land, air and sea. Think about it:

  • Our electronics run on energy produced via fire.
  • We prepare and preserve food with fire.
  • We manufacture millions of products each day with fire.
  • Farmers scorch and renew the earth with fire.
  • We mold and shape the world with fire, from industrial manufacturing to simple decorations.

It is a timeless and unlimited commodity. You might say we use fire to shape the world around us, but it is fire that has truly made us human. Fire is, without a doubt, the source of our humanity.

Lighting a trail to our origins

Wherever we have gone in the world, we have carried two things with us: language and fire.

Recent discoveries show that the oldest evidence of firemaking in Europe dates back roughly 800,000 years, when prehumans living in southeastern Spain lit controlled fires in caves. This has led scientists to believe that early members of the human genus have been using this resource for at least a million years.

Fire shaped our nutritional intake and diet

In our earliest days, we consumed food in a raw state like many animals. It was the only option at the time. Like animals, our digestive and immune systems were accustomed to the parasites and bacteria because it was a natural part of the human diet.

But eating raw food took considerable energy. That uncooked cuisine took longer to chew and break down, resulting in humans spending hours each day chewing. We see this in primates and other animals who spend great lengths of time chewing and breaking down raw foods, especially plants, so they can be more easily digested.

Scientists believe the early harnessing of fire contributed to the unprecedented increase in brain size hominids experienced more than 1.8 million years ago—a change that would have required a substantial caloric and nutrient-rich intake.

We know that fire changes the density of nutrients and carbohydrates in food once cooked. Research has shown that only a fraction of calories from raw foods are absorbed by the body, whereas the body gets roughly 30 percent more energy from cooked oats, wheat and starches and as much as 78 percent more from sources like the protein in eggs. Animals who consume cooked food gain more weight than animals fed the same amount of raw food.

Fire's impact on brain development

The majority of calories we take in are used to power the primary and secondary functions within our bodies, especially brain development. While at rest, the brain uses nearly a fifth of your energy.

When humanity began harnessing fire for food, there was less time spent on chewing (less energy) and a higher caloric intake meant a greater amount of nutrients and energy could be devoted to brain development.

Expanding on mankind's quality of life

As early humans began to manipulate and control fire, they experienced changes beyond diet; they began to understand how to use this blaze to improve their quality of life.

Fire brought people down from the trees, using its light to deter nocturnal predators who stalked prey from the protection of the darkness. It allowed humans to expand civilization along the ground, a process that contributed to the evolution of bipedalism.

Fire brought endurance to early humanity

The use of fire also brought warmth to Homo erectus. They could thrive in cooler environments and had to rely less on furs. Without these heavy garments, early people were able to learn to run faster and longer. This, along with higher caloric intake providing extended energy, expanded their ability to hunt prey without exhausting themselves.

Fire evolved community and had lasting cultural impact

We enjoy a campfire with friends or a gathering around a fire with family to share stories and roast smores or share food. These are the same activities early humans performed around fire that led to cultural evolution.

Fire extended our days and became the focal point for social interaction and social traditions.

It promoted harmony and equality among tribes and sparked primal people's imaginations, helping them envision a larger sense of community both with distant people and the spirit world. Fire became a source of bonding, both emotionally and spiritually.

Gathering around fire and cooking shaped the social relationship between men and women, between hunters and gathers. From the division of labor to sexual intimacy and communication, all things revolved around food and fire. Men focused on hunting, while women took to gathering and cooking; this led to the eventual division of gendered labor and our practice of sharing food or providing for one another as a collective community.

Fire has always been the source of our humanity

By day, there was a great deal of work to be done; this is something that hasn't changed for hundreds of thousands of years.

But at night, humanity settled. The productivity available during the day would cease. No work could be done. As fire was harnessed, the human race's circadian rhythms adapted. People stayed awake longer and shifted their activity to something more social. Stories were told, conversations developed and the gathering around fire influenced the cognitive education and imagination of mankind.

Humans did not invent fire, but over the course of a million years, we have learned to harness and control it. We used it for cooking and for staying warm. It influenced language, social structure and communication. Over time, fire led to the manufacture of tools both in trade and in war, as well as innovations in industry and technology.

The way people harnessed fire and heat was nuanced and no less sophisticated than the way we employ it today. Fire has become a prominent and permanent part of who we are.

Despite all the advances in our technology, fire is deeply ingrained in our lives. Even today, we find solace, comfort and bonding in fire. Like our ancestors more than 800,000 years ago, we apply it and take control of it within our homes. Ultimately, we come together to share stories and warmth around the same rippling flames that shaped our world and made us human.


This article was produced by Angie's List.

Tyler Burchett is a member of the creative team at Angie's List.

  Read How Fire Made Us Human

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